Saturday, January 17, 2015

Buckie, Moray, Banffshire, Scotland

Scots Gaelic isn't spoken much on the east side, Sam informed me yesterday evening. We were relaxing in the sitting room in front of the coal and hardwood fire, watching the live broadcast of the 2015 Masters snooker tournament from Alexandra Palace in London, while Isobel was making dinner (rice noodles with broccoli and pork in a peanut and lime satay sauce, not very Scottish but quite delicious). Sam is married to Isobel, who is the oldest daughter of another of my grandfather's cousins, Kathleen, who died back in 2008, just a few months after Bill and Sheila drove me over here from Beith for my first visit to Buckie. I had asked Sam about the most accurate of three Gaelic phrases I'd found for the name of the white-diagonal-cross-on-blue-field Scottish flag, and he said he had no idea; less than 2% of the population still speaks Scots Gaelic, and though the BBC Alba station faithfully broadcasts bilingually there aren't many (if any, he said) schools that teach it in this region. Over in Glasgow and Beith, the road and town signs are frequently in both English and Gaelic. Here in Bucaidh, you're just welcomed to Buckie. I decided to use Gaelic phrases for this east coast post anyway, in an attempt to make a fairly prosaic review of the week a bit more poetic, in appearance if not always in meaning. A bheil Gàidhlig agaibh?

Èisd ri gaoth nam beann gus an traogh na h-uisgeachan. Madainn mhath!

While the weather in Ayrshire continues to be fairly horrid, with gale force winds blowing trees over, shutting the seaside rail lines down due to high waves, and generally causing havoc, it has been actually rather nice on this side of the island. There was a bit of rain earlier in the week, but the weather has gotten drier, and colder - the rain is falling as snow, when it falls at all. Most days have at least a little bit of sun, and I've been taking long walks to the seashore and into Buckie. Sam walks every morning, leaving before the sun rises. Of course, at this time of year the sun doesn't rise until 9:00am so that's not saying much, I suppose. On Tuesday he took me out just as the sun was coming up to show me the different walking paths leading coastward from this small cluster of houses called Arradoul. We crossed the A98 and went down a narrow paved lane between the fields and across the Burn of Gollachy, towards the small town of Portgordon and past one of the five golf courses in the area. After he pointed out the different roads to Buckie and back, I felt fairly confident setting out on my own. It's hard to get lost when there's only so far you can go without falling into the Moray Firth.

'S e là math a th’ ann. Coinnichidh na daoine far nach coinnich na cnuic.

I'm doing a lot of work on the computer these days, trying to earn enough to pay for the frightfully expensive hotel room near the Aberdeen airport where I'll be staying on Thursday night. My flight leaves at about 10:30am Friday but I decided it would be a good idea to get there a few hours early, in case there's any weirdness with customs or security; they've increased the threat level here in the UK after the Paris shootings, and I want to make sure there's plenty of time to get checked in. The airport's only about an hour away, but I didn't want to ask Sam or Isobel to drive me there in the dark, over possibly icy roads. So I need to stretch my legs and move my arms and shoulders, and keep the blood flowing after long hours at the keyboard, and the two-mile walk to the seashore is quite nice.

On Wednesday, I walked into Buckie along the main roads, past the Inchgower distillery, which doesn't have its own bottling, I think, but just produces a single malt that's used in the blended whiskey sold by Bell's. When I was in Beith, Bill shared his Highland Park whisky with me ("sweet and lingering with heathery notes and subtle smoke") and when I mentioned that on Facebook, a friend from Ashland High gave me the name of another good whiskey he likes, The Balvenie, made in a distillery less than 15 miles away from Buckie, in Dufftown. I picked up a small bottle of their 12-year-old DoubleWood ("sweet fruit and Oloroso sherry notes, layered with honey and vanilla") at Tesco yesterday - an expensive way to do it, but I didn't want to spend $50 on a larger bottle - and will enjoy it with locally-produced haggis this week, for an early Burns Supper.

"Aon ghlainne, chan fheàirrde ’s cha mhiste mo chorp no m’ anam e. Dà ghlainne, ’s fheàirrde mo chorp e, ’s cha mhiste m’ anam e. Trì glainneachan, ’s miste m’ anam e, ’s chan fheàirrde mo chorp e."
- Scottish proverb

A bheil am pathadh ort?

Uisge-beatha. Slàinte mhòr agad!

Yesterday I worked all morning at the computer, and after a quick lunch of oatcakes with avocado, set out just after noon for a longer walk. Even at noon, the sun was just a handspan over the low hills behind me, and I wrapped my Farquharson ancient tartan scarf around my ears and chin to ward off the frigid wind from the northeast. The gorse, hardier than I am, was still blooming by the side of the road; the sheep were well protected in their wool, and the Shetland pony that came up to the fence as I passed had grown his own long winter coat, though his taller horse companion sported a quilted blanket. And peacock feathers must be warmer than they look.

Tha mi ann an sunnd math dha-rìribh. Abair spòrs, a h-uile la sona dhuibh ‘s gun la idir dona dhuibh!

Once up the shallow rise of the fields, the land slips away steeply to the rocky shore. I went west up the coast to Portgordon, and was tempted to continue around Spey Bay to Lossiemouth and beyond, but the clouds began piling up off shore, and I could see the snow squalls starting to sheet down into the dark blue water. One day I'll keep going, north and east along the top edge of Moray Firth, and around towards Thurso. The Jumping Goats Dairy is nearby, a small family operation started by another woman who traded computers for cheese; I'd like to work with her, there on the north shore.

Bail' iasgaich. Cait a bheil thu ‘dol?

Instead, I went east to Buckie, following the last (or first, depending on your direction) part of the Speyside Way along the shore. I could also have followed the old railway line that no longer goes into Buckie from Aberdeen and on to Inverness, though it used to, and that's how Bill and Sheila traveled from Glasgow to visit relatives here for many years. Isobel had to pick me up in Keith instead. The tracks have been pulled up, and it's now part of the national cycle and walking path network. I stayed by the sea, hoping to spot some of the seals and dolphins that live in Moray Firth.

Sealladh na tràghad; cluinnidh tu na h-eòin.

Cho gruamach ri madainn diluain.

I didn't see any seals, nor any selkies either; no handsome brown-eyed man met me on the shore, leaving watery footprints in the dry sand. There was a wonderful kelpy smell in the air, but no kelpies. Bill had wanted to take me to Falkirk, at the tip of the Firth of Forth, to see the huge steel sculptures depicting the fairy beasts, but time and weather were against us last week. One more thing to put on my list for the next visit.

Am fear, is fhaide chaidh bho'n bhaile, chual e'n ceòl bu mhilse leis nuair thill e dhachaidh.

It's another two miles or so from Portgordon to Buckie. I didn't go up into the main part of Buckie on that walk, though I spent a little time wandering around the center of town on my first venture, exploring the buildings at the crossing of High Street and Church Street. There weren't many people out and about, but both times I was in town it was midafternoon on a work day. There are places that cater to the tourists who come here to golf and walk, or to look up family history at the Buckie and District Fishing Heritage Centre, as I'll be doing next week, attempting to trace the Farquhar side of the family.

Tha mi às na Stàitean Aonaichte.

Am fosgail mi an uinneag?

Isobel met me in town after my first walk in, outside the post office where I'd managed to find some very old and rather boring postcards (the tourists aren't exactly catered to in that respect, at least not in January). We walked up the High Street towards the Lidl store, where she needed to pick up some groceries and new floor mats for the car, going past the Buckie South and West Church of Scotland, on the other side of which is Farquhars Lane. I nipped around the block to take a quick self-portrait to go with the one from 2007.

There are quite a few churches in Buckie, though I'm not sure how many are still active. You can see the spires of St. Peter's just across the Burn of Buckie that divides Buckie and Buckpool, and the openwork tower of All Saints Episcopal on the center square makes a prominent landmark from land or sea. Tomorrow I'll accompany Isobel to the Methodist church for the 11:00am service; we'll go to the one she attends in the community of Portessie, on the other side of Buckie, where she plays the organ every few weeks. It will be interesting to see how the order of service compares to the one at the Randle United Methodist Church, where I used to play the organ every week, and occasionally attempted to set the altar on fire. I looked up "Scottish Methodist hymns" on line but all that came up were lists titled "suitable for funerals."

An turadh, an t-anmoch, am muir-làn, 's an Dòmhnach. Am thu anns an eaglais a-màireach?

A'bhiast as mutha ag ithe na beiste as lugha.

My walk yesterday ended at the Mair Fish shop, which I first saw in 2007 when Bill bought smoked haddock for Kathleen's famous cullen skink. Isobel and I bought more smoked haddock, two smallish filets, though that was probably one too many since there will only be two of us for tea (dinner/supper) tonight, as Sam is spending the night in Aviemore, after walking the last (or first, depending on your direction) section of the Speyside Way trail; he was gone with a group of friends before I got up this morning, in the predawn darkness at 8:00am. While I was waiting for Isobel to meet me there, I wandered around the shop looking at the old photos on the wall of fishing boats and fishermen, and the women who knitted the woolen jerseys that kept the men warm at sea, and who sorted and processed the catch when the boats came back to shore. And who mourned when the boats and men never returned.

Lost at sea, January 1884: George Farquhar, age 35
Lost at sea, October 1885: William Farquhar Sr., age 38
Lost at sea, October 1885: William Farquhar Jr., age 15
Lost at sea, October 1885: James Farquhar, age 13
Lost at sea, June 1894: William Farquhar, age 25
Lost at sea, December 1959: William George Farquhar, age 45
Lost at sea, May 1974: William Farquhar, age 37

You can see how tracing my particular branch of the Farquhar family tree might get a little complicated - there are a lot of Farquhars around here. Which is actually rather nice.

Iasg locha agus iasg mara - tha an t-acras orm.

The fish shop sells Arbroath smokies, the whole (headless) haddock cured in the towns on the other side of this spit of land jutting into the North Sea, south and a little west of Aberdeen. But they also make their own smoked fish: Scottish kippers, the gutted and split brined and cold-smoked herring that have to be cooked before they're eaten, traditionally at breakfast; plain or peppered smoked mackerel; and hot-smoked salmon that I ate for lunch today, and it was so very good. Tonight, I'm going to flake the smoked haddock and layer it with thin-sliced potatoes and caramelized onions and fresh parsley and thyme, pour some of my nondairy milk over it, and bake it in the oven for an hour until it's hot and tender and bubbling around the edges. Maybe I'll even pour myself a dram of whiskey to go with it, toasting the traditions of the fishing families who hauled in herring for a century or more.

Shìos aig a' chala - tuig thus’ an t-eathar, 's tuigidh an t-eathar thu.

The Buckie Heritage Museum has a collection of interviews with the older residents of the region, done back in the late 1980s, documenting their memories of the days when fish made up most of the local economy. Here's Maggie Cowie, talking about processing the day's catch for sale:

Did gutting hurt your fingers?
Aye, ye hid tae tie yer fingers wi cloots fin ye wir guttin. They used saut, ye see, for saut heerin and ye hid tae tie up them for the saut wid've ruined yir fingers, cut them intae the bane.
It must have been very painful.
Aye, I wid say it wis.
Tell us about packing the herring into the barrels.
Well fin we startit we selectit the herrin, sma, medium an syne large, intae different tubs. Ye hid tae cairry them tae the rosun tub far the packer wis. She hid the job tae pack them. Fin ye laid the first tier in the barrel it hid tae be wiled oot for the best heerin tae be pit in then efter that ye jist packed awa ivery tier. Contered the tiers, ye see, time aboot till ye cam tae the top, then it wis a top tier again.

Well, there's a morning gone with nothing to show for it but this long blog post, but I'm happy anyway, full of smoked fish and memories. It's even colder today than it was yesterday, but the sky is blue from end to end, and there's a lane going inland up into the hills from Arradoul that I haven't explored yet, so I'll leave my financial concerns behind and go collect more memories and photographs. New horizons beckon, new adventures await, here in the land of (some) of my ancestors.

An bratach nàiseanta na h-Alba.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Parting with a Kind Host in the Highlands

When Death's dark stream I ferry o'er, a time that surely shall come,
In Heav'n itself I'll ask no more, than just a Highland welcome.
 - Robert Burns (1787)

I'm not technically in the highlands, but Bill and Sheila have been (and are) all that is kind. I've enjoyed catching up and hearing some family history, eating haggis and drinking single-malt whiskey. Bill is the youngest cousin of my grandfather Farquhar, on the Garden side; my great-grandmother was Jane Garden, known as Auntie Jean here in Scotland before she emigrated with my grandfather in the first part of the 20th century.

While the company has been lovely, the weather hasn't been, for the most part. The third of three storms this week is just starting to blow through off the Atlantic from the west-southwest, and I am not at all tempted to leave this cozy house to wander around Beith this afternoon. There were spells of clear weather earlier this week, during which I was able to take some photos. Yesterday the wind shifted around to the north, bringing freezing temperatures and blizzards of snowflakes alternating with showers of small hailstones. I did my mandatory thrice-weekly brisk walk anyway, going from the top of the hill down through the center of town, then around through the bedroom-community suburb area and back up again. My brisk walk was even brisker in the frigid wind, though the weather didn't stop the dedicated footballers at practice on the field at the bottom of town.

Bill and Sheila live just across from Trinity Church (photo above left), built in 1883 but no longer active, though it's a lovely old building. They're not sure what's going to happen to it when it's sold: it could be turned into luxury flats, or a community hall, or even a pub, as sometimes happens. It's a bargain at £175,000 - I wouldn't mind living there.

The even older chapel at the top of the high street hasn't been used for worship in decades, but it holds a spot on American history-focused tourist trails, as a memorial to John Witherspoon, who was the minister there before he moved to "the Colonies" and helped form the Presbyterian church in New Jersey. He also helped found Princeton University, was elected to Congress, and signed the Declaration of Independence.

Sheila and I went to the Beith High Church (below, built in 1807) this morning, where all of the people who formerly attended Trinity Church now go. The minister used the Paris shootings this week to talk about how violence is not the answer to anything; I sang along with the two hymns I knew the tune to, "O Worship the King" and "I the Lord of Sea and Sky." I had to sing an octave down, as I have apparently lost the ability to reach any pitch over A440. I pray I get it back.

Sheila contributed to the "Beith High Church Cookery Book" a few years ago, a typewritten spiral-bound collection of recipes sold as a fundraiser. I copied out her recipe for Grandma's 14 Day Slaw.

Make ahead coleslaw, 10-12 servings.
Prepare at least 1 day in advance. Use large covered container.
     1 medium cabbage
     1 medium onion
Shred or grate cabbage and onion. Pour hot dressing over mixture - cover and refrigerate.
To serve, lift out with slotted spoon.
DRESSING
     1/2 cup Vinegar             1/2 cup white Sugar
     1/2 cup Vegetable Oil    1/2 teasp. Celery Seed
     1 teasp. Salt                  Dash of Pepper
Put into saucepan and stir till boiling.
Grated carrot, chopped green pepper, chopped celery are often added to this kind of Slaw.

I arrived on Monday evening, and Tuesday was forecast to be the only nice day. I'd thought about trying to get to the Isle of Arran but it would have been a long bus trip with the possibility of getting stuck on the island if the storm arrived early and the ferry stopped running. However, it cleared off (more or less) in the afternoon and Bill suggested we go down to Alloway, south of Ayr, to visit the Robert Burns museum and Burns' birthplace, a long low cottage made of wood and thatch. The museum used to be in a smallish building next to the cottage, but a new fancy interactive-exhibit-filled museum opened recently as part of the whole Burns experience in Alloway, walking from the new museum to the Brig o' Doon, a medieval arched bridge across the River Doon; I wish I'd known about that, as I would have liked to take a picture. Tourists can then go past the "auld kirk" and walk along Poet's Path to the cottage where Burns was born in 1759. We drove, and parked in the nearly deserted lot. Sheila said that in the summer both the museum and cottage site are swarmed by sightseers, but there was no one but a National Trust employee shivering in his information booth at the cottage when we arrived.

Robert Burns appears on the Bank of Scotland ten-pound note, and more images and paintings are scattered through the museum. They have original folios of his published works, not all of which are suitable for polite company in either Georgian or modern times. I learned that Burns had a great interest in erotic poetry and bawdy ballads, and collected and/or wrote many in a work titled "The Merry Muses of Caledonia." They've got one copy for sale at Powell's on Burnside, or you can click here to read the lyrics to the charming ditty "Nine Inch Will Please a Lady." Bill's got an old book of Burns poetry and collected traditional songs that I skimmed through the other day, carefully turning the brittle pages; I came across a song titled "The Piper" that reminded me of Leah, who wanted at one point to learn to play the bagpipes, something that Kate did not encourage.

There came a piper out o' Fife
I wat na what they ca'd him;
He played our cousin Kate a spring
When fient a body bade him;
And eye the mair he hotched and blew
The mair that she forbade him.

One roof covered the young Robert Burns and the cows and chickens that provided food for his family. At the far end of the cottage there's an open space where hay and tools were stored, and where the cows went in and out of the stalls built into the middle of the cottage, which is also where Burns' mother did the milking and cheesemaking for family consumption and sale. They grew kale and cabbages in a garden that runs along the southwest wall, and cooked them in the kitchen at the other end of the cottage, the kitchen that was also the bedroom and bathroom (for washing up, in any event), all in about 15 square feet of stone-flagged space. Between the cowshed and the kitchen the family could receive visitors in the spence, or parlor; according to the museum's website, this is also where young Robert was taught reading, writing, mathematics, and Latin. The family only lived there until Burns was 7 years old, and apparently the building was turned into a pub in the 19th century before the National Heritage people stepped in and restored it to its original 18th-century look.

Words from some of Burns' poems are painted on the walls throughout the cottage, and as you enter through the door the animals used there are recordings of cows mooing and chickens clucking. A young boy recites his lessons and Bible verses in the spence area, and the sound of a crackling fire and a pot being stirred bring life to the kitchen area. There's not much else to see in the cottage, but the grounds would be a pleasant place for a picnic in better weather.

Sheila keeps encouraging me to come back at any time, saying that the guest room's always open to me. I'd like to visit again, and maybe make the mealy puddings from her mother's handwritten recipe collection:

1 lb medium oatmeal
1/2 lb beef suet
2 or 3 small onions finely chopped
salt & pepper

Toast the oatmeal in oven, stirring up occasionally to keep a nice even colour. Half cook the finely chopped onions then mix all together & season well. Put into basin & Boil for 2 hours.
Bill asked if there was anything else I wanted to see, and I requested a quick stop by the shore, so he drove us into Ayr and parked the car on the waterfront. While he and Sheila stayed out of the wind, I spent a few minutes just breathing in the clean cold air, looking out across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Arran in the distance, a destination for another day.

  From thee, Eliza, I must go,
  And from my native shore;
  The cruel fates between us throw
  A boundless ocean's roar:
  But boundless oceans, roaring wide,
  Between my love and me,
  They never, never can divide
  My heart and soul from thee.
  Farewell, farewell, Eliza dear,
  The maid that I adore!
  A boding voice is in mine ear,
  We part to meet no more!
  But the latest throb that leaves my heart,
  While Death stands victor by, -
  That throb, Eliza, is thy part,
  And thine that latest sigh!
     - Robert Burns (1786)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Starting Again From 0º

Well, I didn't get back to the British Museum, so that will have to go on my to-do list for the next time I'm in London. What with the holidays and the weather I've spent most of my time here at the house, with the cats. Monday I'll catch a train from Euston Station to Glasgow, and then will hail a taxi for the short ride from the train station to the bus station; it's walkable, and I've done it before, but not with all my bags, and if I remember correctly there's only about 30 minutes between when the train arrives and when the bus leaves for Beith, a half an hour away. Bill and Sheila have an internet connection - or at least they did back in 2007 - but I don't believe they have wi-fi, so I may be off line for a week. The local library offers wi-fi for its members, so if Sheila has a library card I might try to borrow it, but I think that's going to be my only option, unless I take the bus back in to Glasgow and look for an internet café.

I did go in to the city a few times, and walked by Buckingham Palace. There were two guards standing stiffly at their stations, and two hundred tourists taking pictures of them through the spokes of the tall iron fence around the courtyard. Didn't you used to be able to go right up to them and make faces and try to get the guards to smile? Perhaps the gates are open sometimes, but they weren't that afternoon. Queen Victoria's eternal unsmiling stare surveys The Mall bordering St. James's Park, and I followed her direction, though I wish I'd gone down into the park itself and walked along the edge of the lake instead.

Next door to the 300-year-old fancy food (and other things) shop Fortnum & Mason is the 200-year-old bookstore Hatchards, a name that will be familiar to anyone who reads silly books (if they're set in London, in any event). I have spent more time than I should have reading this past week, instead of writing. A little literary holiday. When I sent my Australian client the December invoice this morning I realized that I spent much more last month than I earned, which is not good. (England is expensive!) My 2015 focus needs to be on work as much as play, if not more; writing rather than reading, exercising rather than eating. Towards the end of 2013 I found a 12-month "get in shape" plan somewhere on line, and cut and pasted each month's directions into images I then used for my desktop background throughout the year. Unfortunately I didn't actually do any of the things outlined in the plan. I'd change the image at the beginning of each month, read through the plan, and think, "yes, that is a really good idea" but never implemented any part of that plan. I'm going to give it another go this year. Here's the January routine:

  • three 30-minute sessions of fast walking per week
  • stretching for 5 minutes after each walk
  • core and balance exercises twice a week
  • 30-60 minutes of yoga per week

They also recommend making a calorie count three times a week, tracking food intake, but I'm not going to do that. Simply eating a bit less will have to do, and that's probably going to be accomplished merely through eating on other peoples' schedules again. None of this all-day snacking that has been my London lifestyle.

Brisk walks will be even brisker due to the weather; it's in the 40s in Beith and Buckie right now, the 30s in Flekkefjord, and I doubt February will bring a sudden warm spell. It's even colder in Budapest. But I have a good wool coat and lots of scarves, two fleece pullovers and two pairs of gloves. I'll survive.

I don't plan on doing any sightseeing in Glasgow, though I'd like to meet up with my second (third? twice removed?) cousin Siobhan for a coffee, if she's in town and not touring around. And there's a bus from Beith to the Isle of Arran, or at least to Ardrossan, where there's a ferry over to the island. Arran is in the Firth of Clyde off the west coast of Scotland; the Aran Islands (famous for fancy cabled knitting patterns) are in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland.

I'll go to Ireland, some day, if time allows.

Arran has a dairy where they make cheese, not far from the ferry port. There's a local bus that goes there, and then up to the north of the island, where if the weather's good I might be able to hike out to take a picture of Hutton's Unconformity for Mom. It's not far from the town of Lochranza, which also has a whiskey distillery (which I would of course have to go visit, for blogging purposes) and a lovely ruined castle. I hope I'll have time to do everything I'd like to do while I'm there, before the ferry goes back across to the mainland. I don't know if Bill and Sheila would be interested in a quick island trip, but I'll certainly invite them to join me, and if it's sunny it would be a nice day trip. I'm not sure how much walking they're up for, however, and there's an almost $50 surcharge to take a car over on the ferry. But that's next week, so I'm not going to worry about it now.

I was so happy that the giant blue rooster is still in Trafalgar Square. I'd seen a picture of it on a friend's Facebook page and knew I had to go see it for myself. I thought about taking a picture of one of the iconic lions as well, but there were children crawling all over them. I walked to the Charing Cross station instead, and caught the next train to Kidbrooke. There are two different trains that run through Kidbrooke; one goes to London Bridge and Charing Cross, and the other veers westward past Nunhead to Victoria Station. That's where I went last week to meet my friend Pascoe for lunch - we met at La Tasca again, since we both enjoyed the food the last time, and I know how to get there now. I arrived a bit early, so I went across the street to Westminster Cathedral, which is not Westminster Abbey by the river (which I also didn't visit this time, or back in August). Westminster Cathedral is small, as cathedrals go, and very very dark. It's made of brick, and the ceiling is all brick in the nave, a black roof over the gilded chapels below. Since I wasn't there during a service perhaps it wasn't as well-lit as it could have been, but my impression was that the ceiling is just that undecorated brick. The gold and enamel mosaics that cover the walls and ceilings of the chapels are ornate enough, and seem to be still in progress. The cathedral was only built a little over a century ago, and I don't think it's entirely finished.

There are more than a hundred different types of marble used inside the cathedral, many of which were brought from overseas by stone merchant and adventurer William Brindley, who researched and sought out existing and abandoned quarries. White marble from Carrara in Italy (which I'll see in situ next May, if I can figure out how to get there), pink marble from Norway (much further north than I'll be at the end of the month), black and green marble from Ireland, dark blue marble (lapis lazuli) from Chile. Brindley spent weeks in the desert in Egypt, riding camels with his wife and their Bedouin guides. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Geologic Society in 1888; his wife didn't get any recognition, but I hope she at least had a good time on the trip.

British explorers helped create the great British Empire, which at the time Westminster Cathedral was being built covered nearly a quarter of the world's land surface and contained nearly a fifth of the global population. Many of the people responsible for getting people to the colonies in Africa, Australia, Canada, and India were trained at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, originally a hospital for sailors established at the end of the 17th century, and now the site of the University of Greenwich and the Trinity College of Music. I didn't go in to the massive complex, but continued to the Royal Observatory, which has been perched on the hill above since 1675.

This is where time starts, where East meets West: 0° 0' 0'' at the Prime Meridian. Where I'm sitting right now typing this post is at 0° 2' 7.5228", less than three arcminutes towards the east, and all my travels will be eastward for the next few months, after a quick jog west to Glasgow Monday. I'm quite pleased that I remembered the term "arcminute" - the random access database in my brain tossed that term to the top of my head as I was typing, though I did confirm that it's the correct terminology before publishing this post. It's amazing, what's stored in the mind and memory.

So off I go, setting sail again, collecting more memories, in a looping 3,500-mile spiral that finishes in the heart of France, in Paris where part of my heart remains, before making the final 3,500-mile journey back to the United States. And it's only because my heart is lonely for the people that I love that I'm even considering going back; yes, there are other practical considerations, but I could overcome them. I could look for work (or work exchange) in Ireland starting in June, and could stay there for six months without a visa, and without spending much money. I could apply for a new passport at one of the consulates. I could skip getting a new driver's license, since I'm not driving anyway; I could buy a new computer on line if and when necessary and get it shipped to me.

But I will go back, and it will be good. And I will stay as long as I need to, enjoying whatever I end up doing while thinking about and planning where to go next. Japan, maybe, if I get my credentials together enough to be able to market myself as a French-style cheese consultant to startup dairies over there. China has a burgeoning cheese industry as well, but I don't know if I want to go to China - a lot will depend on the political situation in 2016. What happens in November 2016 will also affect my plans; if, gods forbid, there is a Republican president, with or without a Republican majority in the House and Senate, I will leave again, and this time I don't think I'd make any plans to go back.

Enough of that! For now, it's a sunny day, my laundry is drying, there's a house to clean and two suitcases to reorganize (again), there are cats to pet and paper towels to buy and cheese notes to finish typing in. 2016 is too far away to worry about, and there's too much to look forward to in 2015 to even bother with coming up with things to start worrying about in the future. Time to move on. Eastward Ho!

QUICKSILVER: 'Sfoot, man, I am a gentleman, and may swear by my pedigree, God's my life! Sirrah Golding, wilt be ruled by a fool? Turn good fellow, turn swaggering gallant, and "let the welkin roar, and Erebus also." Look not westward to the fall of Don Phoebus, but to the east — Eastward Ho! "Where radiant beams of lusty Sol appear, and bright Eous makes the welkin clear." We are both gentlemen, and therefore should be no coxcombs; let's be no longer fools to this flat-cap, Touchstone, — Eastward, bully! — this satin belly and canvas-back'd Touchstone. 'S life, man! his father was a malt man, and his mother sold gingerbread in Christ Church.

GOLDING: What would ye ha' me do?

QUICKSILVER: Why, do nothing; be like a gentleman, be idle; the curse of man is labor. Wipe thy bum with testones, and make ducks and drakes with shillings. What, Eastward Ho! Wilt thou cry, "What is 't ye lack?" — stand with a bare pate and a dropping nose, under a wooden penthouse, and art a gentleman? Wilt thou bear tankards, and mayst bear arms? Be rul'd; turn gallant. Eastward Ho! — Ta ly re, ly re ro!

- from the 1605 play "Eastward Ho" by Ben Jonson, George Chapman, and John Marston