Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Islay and jura days 2-5

June 19, 2019 Leave a comment

2 nights in gorgeous an cladach bothy. Fires both nights. And on a walk over to see the lighthouse saw a sea eagle. Thought the day had peaked, and then 5 minutes later sea eagle returned, again directly overhead, but this time a peregrine falcon, presumably nesting nearby, attacked it and we had incredible aerial gymnastics from them both! Sea eagle at least 4 times the size, spun in the air several times to evade the mismatched peregrine, except the latter obvs had more to lose and successfully drove off the eagle! Yayy for small fierce things! ;)

Then back to port askaig, via lovely tea shop in ballygrant. Ferry to jura. Camped in hotel grounds – once again the call of a bar won out, especially given the rain. Fabulous community run shop, so got some (beef) square sausage for breakfast :)

Now back on Islay for last few days of this adventure.

Categories: islands, travel

Barvas to callanish via black house museum, Norse mill and kiln, and rebuilt shielding. Outer Hebrides day 3

June 30, 2018 Leave a comment

Breakfast of muesli with boiling water (a kind of porridge which I really like when camping) and tea. Then broke camp, went back to local shop for cheese and a couple of tomatoes, and headed out on road towards callanish.

Almost immediately we came across something that looked interesting on side of road, which turned out to be a rebuilt shielding. Inside was set out as it would have been, with an explanatory leaflet. Shieldings were one room buildings up on the moors where some women and pre school children would go to with the cows for summer pasture. Inside was 2 parts, separated by a wooden bench the width of the building. Behind the bench was the “bed” – a platform with bags of straw for a mattress and wool blankets. The front half had a fire, and basic cooking facilities. Apparently it was an warmly anticipated time away from the oppressive winter life in the black house. I imagined also to be away from the dour men folk!

It was another very warm, sunny day. I’m convinced the Hebrides are always blue sky, bright green hills and sparkling water.

Black house museum was fascinating. Very friendly, helpful, and informative assistant explained that the last person living in a black house had still been there til the 1960s. We’ve seen a lot of ruined ones, just behind post war houses. Poverty kept people from living in modern buildings until very recently.

Surprisingly spacious inside, but the immediate impression was smokey (peat fire kept going) and dark (occasional oil lamps but otherwise no lighting). Incredibly thick walls – double drystone, turf filled for insulation. In from the front door, to the right was the byre. Keeping animals inside must have helped protect from raiding/predation as well as warmth. To the left was large main human room, with peat fire in the centre, over which was a large iron kettle hanging from the ceiling by a chain. Sitting on the long bench down one side of the room I imagined how cosy it would have felt, as well as crowded, especially during the long hebridean winters. Box beds with curtains in front provide some minimal privacy, though clearly they were all multiply shared.

We lunched on bread, cheese and tomatoes.

Further along the road to callanish was a whale’s jaw bone made into an arch.

At 3:15, 7 miles short of callanish, I foolishly believed google maps stating the visitor’s centre (which we hoped would purvey ice cream…) was to close at 4. So I raced ahead to get us both ice cream, and am chuffed that though fully laden, and the road being hilly, I made it by 3:45, to discover they were open til 8 during the summer! Lovely cafe, shop and “story of the stones” exhibition / mini museum, all run by local people as part of a community trust. Good food, good prices and great setting. Most importantly, they do sell ice cream!

Not to seem too “seen it all before”, but I’ve seen a fair few stone circles and they are less exciting to me in general now. So I wasn’t expecting to feel much at callanish stones. We climbed the path up to the site, me feeling blasé, and then… Oh Wow! So many of them, so close together and in this intriguing unique shape. Radiating arms to the compass points, one, an avenue of parallel stones. Such beautiful rock too, studded with white and black crystals. From the 2nd circle, 10 min walk around a bay onto another hill, the main stones were clearly silhouetted across the water on top of their ridge.

We camped on a hillock, once again metres from the sea. Temperature dropped when the sun did, bringing the harr in, so we ended up picnicking in my tent.

Categories: travel

Northumbria trip – Cove, Lindisfarne, Alnwick, Hadrian’s Wall and Flodden

October 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Wood stove with thoughtful lighting box full of tinder.

A sweetie and I both really needed a break so we came to Northumbria for a few days. I’ve wanted to go to Lindisfarne for years, so we’re staying in a super cute converted old caravan a few fields back from the North Sea overlooking Lindisfarne. The hut is tiny, but just to make me happy has a wood burning stove, and is so well thought through that the owners included a kindling box and matches! Its in the grounds of a converted church so we walk through the old graveyard to the back corner, where the hut is secluded away.

On the way south we wanted a picnic break and a place called “Cove” looked to be in the right place and probably scenic. Turned out to be this v cute village with an *18th century tunnel* to walk along to get to the harbour! And the caves off the tunnel had been used by smugglers! And the harbour was pretty and obvs super secluded. Great picnic stop and auspicious was to begin the trip with such a fun discovery.

Thursday we went to Lindisfarne. I love islands in general, and the tidal causeway was pretty cool. We went about 10 mins after the sea had cleared the causeway so the road was still wet from being underwater so recently. Saw the walking route, marked out with tall poles. The road causeway is relatively new (1960s). Lindisfarne itself has been inhabited for centuries, and I presume was before accessed by walking or donkey/pony and cart across at low tides. Must feel cosy and safe, or claustrophobic depending on your perspective, once tide comes back in and the tourists have all left, and nobody else will come (or leave) for at least 12 hours (not sure how long each day causeway is open)

Most of Lindisfarne is about the monastery and priory. Over the centuries between 2-10 monks at a time lived there, including St Cuthbert who found even that too metropolitan and moved to a couple of even smaller islands at various times! There is also a village with shops, cafes and a pub, 9 farms, a harbour with upturned boat shelters, and a medieval castle with proper defensive walls positioned on top of a rocky hillock. And whilst exploring around the latter (and admiring the much more recent scaffolding put up as part of a big repairs works) we came across a large 19th century lime kiln which was open to explore and climb in and out of the ovens! On the way back to mainland (we were last tourists to leave the car park) we stopped so I could run across to the walking route and climb onto the refuge built midway across the path because the fast tide coming across the flat estuary has caught so many people over the centuries. Its a rickety wooden structure with missing step on the wooden ladder, lowish walls, and open to the elements. Not a good place to have to wait out the high tide but better than the alternative!


Causeway with tide creeping back in.


Posts mark the walking route across to Lindisfarne. Tide is getting higher….


Great sign!


Medieval castle in background covered in impressive scaffolding

Friday we first visited Alnwick. Awesome 2nd hand bookshop in an old train station (booo train line closures, but slightly alleviated when they make good use of the infrastructure as in this case, or for cycle paths). Books were higher priced than i’m used to (if ever in glasgow and you like such things check out “voltaire and rousseau”) and seemed more organised for collectors, but really nice place to explore and it had a model railway going above and between the bookcases! Def worth visiting if you’re near by.

Hadrian’s wall made tangible the Roman empire – standing at northern most reach of the roman empire and be at a watch tower right on the wall imagining the soldiers looking out over “not rome” beyond. So many Roman ruins in such a small area. We also saw a temple for a god who sacrificed a bull from whose blood came all of creation. Could easily imagine religious services within the small, dark temple filled with the smells of smoke and warm blood from the sacrifices. And forts to explore with packed quarters for the soldiers and small towns which sprung up outside.


Temple of Midras


Watch tower at Housestead’s fort, part of Hadrian’s Wall, looking out over “not Rome” beyond.


At Hadrian’s Wall. For hundreds of years this was the Northern frontier of the Roman Empire, with “not Rome” to the left.

Saturday we meandered back, enjoying the flexibility of having a car and plenty of time. We explored yet more small roads with pretty villages and small towns, the buildings weathered and sturdy, made from blocks of grey stone. Seeing a brown sign we pulled off at Flodden. Of the battle, I knew nothing beyond the name. Reading about it whilst overlooking the valley where at least 14 000 people were killed in one day was heartbreaking. Stupid stupid wars. Such horror and death. Must have been, rightly, terrifying to have been standing where we were, looking across to the troops lined up on the other side, and knowing a bloody clash was about to ensue. A sign at the local church says it functioned for the dead on both sides, which at least was something of an acknowledgement of a shared humanity.

Categories: diary, islands, travel

Back in the SF Bay Area for a few weeks

April 21, 2017 1 comment

I walked to the bus station through the pre dawn light, pack on my back, with enough time to stop off for newly baked morning rolls in my local 24 hour corner shop. The freshness of the early Glasgow air adding to the euphoria I felt just for being on the road again. Its been a hectic and demanding month. I’ve had to organise and run 2 events (anniversary for Rachel Corrie and I hosted a passover seder for 10 people) which I’m finding really stressful lately. And had lots of housing issues to do with building work and incompatibilities in how my flatmate and I deal with things and prefer our household to work. Some of that was resolved the night before I set off, and all the events are over for another year.

There’s a peace I feel when I’m travelling. Contentment. Relief. Awareness of surroundings and mindfulness. The physical movement and momentum is happy food for my brain. Tensions lift.

And the early morning air, the songs of the birds, scent of slightly damp ground, all full of freshness and openings and new energy. A whole new day beginning. Happiness also at my life that enables me to do this, to head off on a new journey. That I purposefully live somewhere enabling me to bracket trips with 20-30 mins of walking between home and the mainline bus or train stations. I can breathe in and feel Glasgow during the transitions between home and away.

Both the planes from Edinburgh to Heathrow, and then the transatlantic to SFO were very empty, explaining why I got such cheap tickets. When the people in front tried to strike up conversation with me after I helped them with food and then displaying skymap for them, I tried to be polite but I couldn’t totally hide my irritation at them interrupting my precious alone traveling zone out. They were intrigued by my life – a home/work system that allows regular traveling and polyamory – which reminded me of how much of a bubble I normally stay in where neither are so unusual!

Last trip to Berkeley, in February, I enjoyed being somewhere that felt so progressive and safe for that. Last Saturday racists, alt-right and Trump supporters exploited their growing numbers and confidence to descend on Berkeley precisely because it is “enemy territory” for them and violently claimed both the university and the downtown. Obviously I never thought Berkeley was some utopian, anarchist stronghold, but this successful invasion by the rightwing underscored how powerful they now are. I guess it felt more intense for me because of being here so recently and feeling like there was some glimmer of light in the darkness that is rapidly overrunning the world.

I am primarily in Berkeley to visit a honey, and to get some R&R, rather than focusing on making political connections or participating in activism. However my sweetie and I will be on tomorrow’s march for science, and I will be visiting local spaces and collectives, and hopefully doing a bit of volunteering in the background. I’ll probably blog more, both about being here, and to catch up on last year’s trips and events.

Categories: diary, politics, travel

Homecoming – Last day in SF bay area (JVP netanyahu demo, and /official/ new friend). Bus ticket drama. Glasgow returning – spontaneous outing to The Lost Boys at amusement park.

February 18, 2017 Leave a comment

JVP Netanyahu demo and Official New Friend

Wednesday. Chilled day with Y. He was working from home. I was lazing about and got snuggles during his breaks. Then I headed into SF for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) demo protesting Trump’s meeting that day with Netanyahu and their shared values of racism, wall-building and hate-mongering. Was cool to be with other Jewish progressives, though a little disappointed there was only about 40-50 there. It was a 2 hour demo and I was only there for last bit so there might have been more attending in total as folks were coming and going. I liked the connection between zionism and to USA rhetoric and policies on migration and borders, which was expressed in chants and handmade placards.

After the demo a couple of Bay Area friends I had originally connected with from Gaza (from my trip in 2003) met me and I really enjoyed how easy and grounded in affection these relationships are. Partly I think it might be that usa (partic west coast?) culture is more emotionally demonstrative anyway, so i might just be experiencing that and feeling it as “ooo these people like me, its safe for me to open up to them too”. But regardless I’m starting to really value these other reasons for being in bay area besides Y, and this works well as both Y and I like spending time with other people too when we’re together.

I had this waffle/diner food craving, and as this was my last opportunity for it for a while, we headed to Mel’s. Mel’s is both fun, and cliched/OTT, but I’m a tourist and I kinda enjoy the OTT so I love sitting in a Happy Days set! We even used the booth side jukebox! Excitingly someone joined us who I’ve only before met with when I’ve been also meeting her partner who is an old friend of mine. We both agreed that meeting without him made us now Official Friends. She was also excited to be in SF itself, as she does the common Easy Bay resident thing of hardly ever coming over into the city.

Y joined us, and then a bit later New Official Friend, Y and I decided to go for Mexican food in the Mission – hey its my last night! I’m totes allowed 2 suppers! Then we went for a wander and ended up at the top of Dolores Park enjoying the view over the city before grabbing Indian deserts on our way to the last BART back to the East Bay. For I still needed to pack and then get up at 6am for my flight home!

Bus ticket drama

At SFO I was probably over excited by the TSA dog – so cute, though it looked pretty skinny. Luckily the excitement was not reciprocated so I got through security uneventfully, though the same was not true about getting from Edinburgh airport back to Glasgow…

So I’d managed to lose my purse containing my return bus ticket and debit card at Reykjavik airport on the way out. Pop quiz: a) I did the responsible thing and phoned lost property about it as soon as i realised, or b) I procrastinated making the scary phone call and then decided I’d just see them when I transited on my way back home only to find out that the lost property office was only open at 8:30am, was after my 4am-7am transit time? Ooops! Of course I had a chain of backup plans in case my purse wasn’t even in the airport:

1) pick up return bus ticket with bank card in iceland.
2) use debit card stored in chrome to buy bus ticket online and choose sms ticket option
3) use Y’s credit card to buy bus ticket online
4) convert $20 at edin airport (and take on chin the double commission whammy of both converting a small amount and an airport booth – I just need £11:60 for the bus ticket…)
5) once am in uk and time is more respectable (i landed 9am) start calling round friends to either buy me a bus ticket online / rescue me from airport
6) hitchhike – lots of Glasgow folks use Edinburgh airport and I was due to land at peak time (9am)

Ok, fine, so I couldn’t get my bus ticket or debit card… i just drop to option 2. After all I’ve used my card online so often I never even have to look at the CVC anymore. It turns out that my memory of that 3 digits is perfect unless its 5am and I’m on dodgy airport wifi with no way to just look at the back of the goddamned card! Fine, I’ll use Y’s credit card – he’d given me one that was about to expire anyway in case options 1 or 2 fell through. Except it turns out the citylink website doesn’t accept non uk billing addresses. Argh! More time passes and I’m like, bugger this, I need coffee[0] and then realised i could get citylink tickets on megabus website too. So off I go but now I’m struggling with the verified by visa password and Y is busy.

However the coffee was def working – some more googling and it turns out you can buy bus tickets at edinburgh airport’s tourist information booth! They’re bound to accept card payments, and Y’s given me his pin so i’m sorted! There are buses at 9:30 and 10:00 and I’m desperate to just get to my own bed by this time.

[09:00] Luckily our flight lands a bit early and I race through immigration and to the booth (in post coffee alertness at Reykjavik I’d pre-memorised the route from the online airport map)

[09:15] Possibly over sharing I tell the v friendly “welcome to scotland” person that i’ve just arrived back from travel abroad and so don’t have cash yet and so want to buy the bus ticket using my credit card and am hoping to make the 09:30 bus. She says she’s going to make sure she can give me the ticket before taking my money and then has to boot the computer an go through the complex online system. “I don’t think we have to waste time filling in your phone number and email address. I’ll just tick that you refused to give them to me”

[09:18] The printer is jammed and after several minutes she gives up trying to fix the feed and goes to another machine which thank the universe spits out the ticket.

[09:23] I put Y’s credit card into their card reader, but instead of asking for the pin, it says “payment accepted. signature required” and directs me to remove the card. So she prints the receipt and asks me to sign it. I squiggle “Praveen Kumar”[1] and hand it back.

[09:24] She flicks over the card (d’oh! of course she was going to do that! i’d forgotten that was even a thing. when was last time you signed for a card payment???) and the signature panel is blank… “Do you have any other ID with you?” Me, feigning calmness but running lateness “Oh no, I don’t have an other ID with me!”

Lets recap : 1) I’ve told her I’ve just landed off an international flight. 2) As far as she’s concerned she’s addressing a white female with an English accent. 3) The card is for an American bank with an Indian male name.

“Well I think you’ve been kept waiting long enough trying to get it printed. Turn right and then right again to get to the bus stop”

I LOVE BEING BACK IN SCOTLAND!!!! And I am very appreciative that I have bucketloads of white privilege which I am benefitting from – doubt this would have been so easy had Praveen Kumar been trying to use a card with a white chick’s name on :(

Friday – Spontaneous outing to The Lost Boys at amusement park

I arrived home at about 11am. Obviously first thing I did was put the kettle on. Ah tea, now things seem more reasonable. Ok, so I’ve had maybe 6 hours sleep since Wednesday, and I should probably change my clothes, but all I need to do today is stay awake til 8ish, go to the bank to get cash out across the counter, and get a few groceries in for the weekend. Then I’ll sleep like a baby and wake up some time tomorrow, go to the LGBTQ boxing club, and my timezone should be all fixed ready for 12 hour shift on Sunday. By 4:30pm I’ve done bank and shop chores and have cash and am planning a quiet evening and then sleeeeeeeep.

img_20170217_194454517.jpgAnd then, this being Glasgow, a friend invites me to a Glasgow Film Festival screening of The Lost Boys in a secret location, buses leaving from the GFT in 90 mins. So much for the early night plan! Accompanied by motorbikes revelling as they rev their engines to full blast we are transported to M&Ds amusement park. We bump into another friend and play on the rides opened up specially for the occasion, the park packed with excited adults in vampire/hunter dress-up squirting holy-water-pistols at each other on the big wheel and maximal audience participation through a favourite teenage movie. Much glee!

Walking home from the bus, much sleep deprived but very content with how lucky I am to come back to Glasgow, where being “cool” means showing your exuberance, participating to the max. Not sneering, but rather thrilling at and cheering on others’ dorkiness and throwing themselves into the spirit of whatever hijinks is going on.



[0] food and drink seems to feature a lot in today’s blog… To add more, as wow air doesn’t give any food on the flight I’d packed another really good picnic; hard boiled eggs, oranges, humus and veg wrap (didn’t taste good on the flight though – i know taste buds are supposed to be different on flights), smoked tofu and jerky. This time didn’t have the conveniently under 100mls water-tight containers i had last time, and the liquor store seemed confused about why i’d want a *small* bottle of alcohol (merkans and their super-sizing!) so decided to buy booze in duty-free as obvs you can carry that onto the plane. Except then I realised once aboard that i wasn’t sure if i’d be allowed to carry it onto my second flight if i took it out of the heat sealed duty free bag and opened it. so i relied on snoozing and copious pre downloaded star trek to get me through instead. I’d turned down a pal’s offer of a “medicated” jelly bean which given the TSA doggie (such cute eyes!) was lucky!

[1] Name changed to another Indian male name for privacy reasons.