Scottish Referendum

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the Scottish Referendum. The Scots will be voting on September 18th to decide the future of their country. Will they stay united with England and Great Britain or break away and become independent? History is in the making. This month.

Frequent debates are being aired on the BBC. Blue YES signs are posted throughout the Highlands and in the south too. I’ve seen one VOTE AYE. I’ve seen fewer NO’s or NO THANKS. I wish I would have caught the following on camera, WE’RE PROUD TO BE SCOTS, DELIGHTED TO BE UNITED, so that I could post the signage as a remembrance. The catchy phrase is a polite British sounding “no”, wouldn’t you say?

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Do you see the Yes signs posted on the buildings? This is one of Inverness’ main streets in the town centre.

The proprietor of our guesthouse in Pitlochry wasn’t shy about sharing his views. Pitlochry is situated in Scotland’s lower Highlands—between Inverness and Stirling. The thoroughly Scottish gentleman has a background in Economics. He said, “Six and one-half billion pounds is too much for Scotland to come up with.” A pragmatic point of view. (I’ll share more on the concept of point-of-view later—an important writer’s concept.) And then our sixties-something gregarious host went on to explain that the Scottish King James (Oh fiddle sticks, I don’t remember if it was James V or James VI of Scotland also known as James I of England), united the two countries.

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This portrait of James VI of Scotland, aka James I of England hangs in Edinburgh Castle. (The placard next to this portrait says:  On 5 April 1603, the guns of Edinburgh Castle fired a salute to James VI as he left Scotland to become James I of England. He promised to return home every three years. He did not keep his word. James just made one visit in 1617 to celebrate his Golden Jubilee.)

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Edinburgh Castle

Our new Scottish friend asked, “Why would we want to undo the union? We were the ones that chose joining together in the first place.” Did he say it exactly like that?

Confession. Instead of gleaning dialogue as I should have been doing, I was concentrating on his message. I still need to work on my powers of keen awareness, not only catching visual clues but also auditory pieces of information. Detecting non-verbal gestures as well as conversational cues is a vital skill to develop. In other words, living in the present, gaining insight and intentionally imbedding the memory strengthens creativity.

The inspiration for Sir Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Joseph Bell, a well-loved physician who taught medicine at the University of Edinburgh and who taught Doyle, is known for saying, “You see, but you do not observe,” to his students.

So in Dr. Joseph Bell fashion, if I can, I try to observe and to scribble the wee bit down, even on a napkin. But if that’s not possible, the trick of associating an idea with an object helps. Have you tried it? Just don’t forget the item you’ve chosen as a prompt. Haha!

I wonder what Bell would say about what Scotland is facing now. Apparently, he was a bright spark in Scotland’s not too distant past. He died in 1911. And his funeral was the largest one ever attended in Edinburgh. My Scottish friends, how do you think he would vote?

Shinraggie.

We couldn’t have ordered a more desirable day for our journey on the Stenaline Ferry from Belfast, Ireland across the North Channel to Cairnryan, Scotland. Sunny warmth tempered cool breezes that washed over us as we snapped photos on the outside deck. Yet to stave off the chill, I tugged on my black London Fog hood that cradled my face. Until a stranger agreed to take our picture, off came my monk-like persona. Ordinarily I wouldn’t care, but I promised myself that while on this trip I’d not allow anymore cheerless pictures of me taken in the black get-up as I’ve appeared in almost every Kodak moment taken while touring the UK. I’ve proven the statement—we are creatures of habit—to be true. Perhaps the sunglasses are an improvement. 

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Writers collect information. I’m no different. So, throughout the day, I’ve penciled tedious details into my tiny paperback journal. Ridiculous notes—such as the condiments on the table in the Customs House restaurant and pub, in Stranraer, where we ate dinner. Ketchup, mayonnaise, malt vinegar, salad cream. See, I wasn’t kidding. What are malt vinegar and salad cream? I’ve tried to be incognito while jotting down inconsequential tidbits. I don’t want to become a writerly bore.

As soon as we returned to our Bed & Breakfast Guesthouse after a two-mile long walk along Loch Ryan, I recorded the names of handsome houses overlooking the seaside. Clever tags on gates, stuccoed walls, and stone fences caught my eye.P1040229

The oddities are similar to the little signs ornamenting cute little cottages in England, but here, the choice terms are uniquely Scottish. Duncliffe, Water’s Edge, Ryanbank, Shinraggie (one of my favorites), P1040240Broadstone House, Briarbrae, Glenorchy and Seaforth. Naming home-sweet-home makes sense. Why not? Residents of Stranraer or any other village, hamlet or town can say, meet me at Seaforth. Or Glenorchy. So sensible. 

Byways.

In the back roads of England, white quirky signs point drivers in the direction of their destination. Sometimes the arrows are lopsided. Choosing the right way can be a higgledy-piggledy challenge. But, if you’re the navigator, take heart, the worst that can happen is that you get lost in the heavenly, enchanted Shakespearean-like world of thatched cottages and hidden farm yards. Except, if your driver is well . . . already tired . . . and threatening to nix the cute little tea room on your itinerary. Then, you have an entirely different problem. Need I say more?

This week, my husband, Mark and I, are exploring Ireland and Scotland, to see firsthand the bonny green hills of both Ireland and Dumfries/Galloway, Scotland. Then, we embark up along the western coast of Scotland, to the Highlands. He’s driving. I’m confident in his abilities because he’s driven the roads of England numerous times. But, we may be reversing, modulating plans, taking byways, not on the map. But, it won’t be because of his lack of his excellent driving skills. It will be because of my slow reflexes. Stay tuned.

Since my first novel isn’t set in Scotland, but in the Lake District of England, which is tucked under the west wing of the Scottish lowlands, this isn’t a formal research trip for Book One. It’s already completed. But, I’ll be collecting ideas and research for future manuscripts and I have another story that is percolating. Also, we’re looking forward to experiencing the Scots version of British culture—seeing their ancient castles, fishing villages, lochs, rugged country, bagpipes and of course eating oatcakes at teatime!

On our way back down through the midlands, we’ll visit Edinburgh. I hope to check out the Writer’s Museum, the Castle that oversees the Royal Mile, and search for a used bookstore. Wouldn’t it be great to find an old diary? We will venture into England, past Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman wall and defensive fortification built in AD 122, for a stay in Carlisle. My fictional city of Weston, in Book One, is a combination of Carlisle and York. I’ve been to York more than once, but never to Carlisle. So this will be a real adventure for me and my awesome husband. He’s not only a great driver but an entertaining guy. We’re celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, which was last year! Haha!

Will you get lost with us? I hope so. Let’s go find those byways—not on the map, where real life happens and ideas for fiction brew, along with a cuppa’ tea.