Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dumfries, Scotland: 29.7.01: Bagpipes and Coronation Chicken

Two rather hard days in Scotland. Very tired yesterday, after an almost completely sleepless night followed by the 5 A.M. rising time, a harrowing trip to Dun Laoghaire for the ferry to Holy Head, and then a long drive up through the industrial north of England to Dumfries. I went to bed very early, before 8, and slept till 8:30.

Dumfries a rather grimy market town on the River Nith. We went to the tourist bureau to ask about Annatland. Never heard of it. Sent hither and yon by a helpful, friendly lady in the bureau—first to a family-history store that turned out to be closed, then to the library, where a wondrously helpful woman found Annatland—a little piece of land belonging to New Abbey. She photocopied the Ordinance Survey map of the area for me.

A meal at a passable Indian place—lamb biryani—which I was too tired to enjoy, and then to bed at a b and b that was a bit dirty-seeming, with one terrible mattress, and a bizarre polyester-covered duvet with misspelt theological sayings on it—e.g., Solea Grace. So much for Dumfries.

Today difficult because of those rows Steve and I inevitably have on vacations. We drove through breathtakingly beautiful landscape arguing all the way.

First to Langholm to see the Armstrong clan museum, which turned out to open at 2. Since it was 11:30 and we wanted to see Thirlstane Castle at Lauder and Lennoxlove House at Haddington, both open 2-5, we drove on.

The Borders scenery on the way to Langholm was especially beautiful—high hills, steep valleys. I stopped on a very narrow country road and picked a blue flower—bluebells?—pressed in the back of this journal. The road had signs to drive slowly and mind the lambs. No fences, and, indeed, there were sheep on it. An elderly man who reminded me of my grandfather Lindsey, in a tweed cap with a beautiful smile.

Thirlstane Castle a beautiful place. The first thing one notices as one gets out of the car—at least in July—is the powerful fragrance of the row of limes on the side of the castle with the car park.

Then upstairs and downstairs…. At the end, we had tea and coronation chicken sandwiches, which turned out to be a chicken salad made with curried mayonnaise.

As we left the castle, a high wind blowing. Not a drop of rain all day, though at times the sky was heavily overcast. As I write this now on a bench outside St. Mary’s church in Haddington, an utterly clear sky and strong sunlight.

But as we left the castle, despite the high wind, the sound of bagpipes so strong and clear I thought the pipers were out in a field in front of the castle.

Not so: turned out they were in Lauder, quite a distance through trees. We drove into the town and after a search, found a group of young pipers practicing in a kind of close with stone walls all around. The sound stirred me deeply, even more so when it seemed to come from the trees and wind, with no humans involved.

On to Haddington, where we toured Lennoxlove House, and have found a comfy b and b, the Schiehallion on Church St. Wanted to see the Lauderdale aisle in the church, and was told there was evensong at 6, but not so. Hence writing on this bench….

Do people live with great pain because they can’t change it and whatever causes it?

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