Wales and Scotland—the journey continues
So last week I ended with a promise that I would tell you about a couple of my favourite places from our recent trip to Wales and Scotland. There are three notable spots that I’d like to mention:
Stonehenge isn’t in Wales or Scotland, but our boat docked in Southampton and we had to drive to Swansea. Luckily, Stonehenge was on the way. I’d always wanted to see it for myself, and despite the fact that there’s a huge fence around it and you can’t get that close, and there’s a super-touristy gift shop, it was pretty impressive. There’s a lot of speculation about why and how it was built. Historians now believe it was for ancient pagan religious ceremonies and such, and that they brought stones from as far away as North Wales. Personally, I think it was a guy who was bored and built it for fun, just because he could. Ken does that all the time—for example, he built himself a 16 by 20 workshop just because he wanted to, and he put in dormer style windows in the top. When I asked him why he needed fancy windows for a building where he would be hammering and nailing sh*t, he replied that he’d always wanted to try building something in the “Cape Cod” style. Now of course, it has corbels and architectural detailing, as well as a gazebo to one side that he created using metal that he brought all the way from Woodstock, and which sits overtop of the graves of our last two dogs. In 2000 years, historians will speculate about the purpose and design of “Fix-it Shop”, and wonder whether it was used for animal sacrifices. “It must have been a major centre for many worshippers,” they will say. “Look at the extraordinary number of hammers and screwdrivers—too many for just one man.”
Portmeirion is a village in Wales that was built by one guy, just because he could (see above). It’s the ultimate homage to salvage and it’s absolutely beautiful. The story goes like this: Sir Clough William-Ellis bought 22 acres of land in Wales, and decided to recreate an Italianate village there by going to auctions and buying buildings, statues, and architectural pieces from other British nobles who couldn’t afford the upkeep on their property any more. It became kind of a magnet for pop stars, artists, and writers in the middle part of the 20th century when Sir Clough was still around. Now, it’s a tourist site where you can actually stay in the buildings which have been converted into guest accommodations, wander the property, and buy things at the gift shop. The best part about the place though is that it was used as the set for a bizarre 1960s series called The Prisoner. We watched a few clips of the show, and it was very cool to say, “I stood in that exact same spot!” or “That’s where the giant-ass chess board is now!” Ken and I only have an acre of property, but we do have four outbuildings, so we’re on our way to becoming a mini-Portmeirion. I’m currently in the market for a small grotto, so if you hear of any lord who’s fallen on hard times and has one to sell for cheap, let me know.
3) My own property in Scotland
As you may remember, I am now a Lady, having been presented with the title to 10 square feet of land in a nature reserve in Scotland after complaining that everyone else in the family was nobility except me. K thought it sounded kind of sketchy, but it’s actually true (well, the landownership part if not the “peer of the realm” part), and on our second last day, Ken, K, and I decided to drive up to the Duror area to visit our property. We didn’t know what to expect. We had directions from someone named Stewart, and we were told we were too late to book an actual tour, but we were welcome to come and visit the property. When we got there (down a single-track road, because that’s how you know you’re in the UK), we came out into a parking area with a small, log-style cabin. But there were other cars around, so we knocked on the door. A woman called for us to come in, and then next thing you know, we’d logged into the wifi, downloaded their GPS app, were handed personalized maps of the reserve. It was a lot more high-tech than I imagined it would be. We followed the GPS compass through the dead forest—“dead” because we were told that it had originally been a corporate logging area, and that the North American spruce trees had been planted too close together, causing them to crowd each other out so that none of them could grow properly. The 5 year plan is to take all of them down and plant native Scottish species, but currently, it’s dark and forbidding:
K: Those are like trees that had some terrible disease and died. Who would want to own THAT? It’s like a tree graveyard.
Me: Can you imagine the poor sucker who paid good money to own 10 square feet in THERE?
K and Me: I know, right?! HAHA.
Ken: Um, the GPS says to turn left in 10 metres.
Me: But that would be into the dead forest…
Sure enough, both K’s and my land were in the part of the reserve that’s going to be “rejuvenated” over the next 5 years. But we were pretty happy to discover that our property was on the far edge of the dead forest, where there was a little sunshine and some moss growing:
K: I have a mushroom on my land!
Me: You’re so lucky–I wish I had a mushroom! But I have all this lovely moss. Ooh, there’s a bird in my dead tree!
In truth, the whole place was beautiful, despite the dead trees. There are fields, and rivers, and all kinds of lovely forest creatures. And because it’s been parcelled out, it can never be developed or destroyed, so it was well worth the 85 bucks we each paid for it. K and I each buried toonies (Canadian two dollar coins) in our land so that future civilizations would know that Canadians were capable of crossing the great water. And in five years, when the whole thing has been rejuvenated, I’m coming back and building a tiny castle to oversee my estate. Just because I can.
Friday: Bats in the Belfry
When Ken, K, and I were in Wales, we visited this manor house/castle and went for a tour. The tour guide told us that the one place we couldn’t go was into the attic, because there were bats up there. Essentially, the bats sh*t all over everything, including the top side of the elaborate ceiling on the third floor with glass inserts, and you could see the bat guana, but the National Trust people couldn’t clean it until the bats “migrated for the winter” because—wait for it—“bats are a protected species”. In what possible world is a creature that’s half mouse, half insane miniature dinosaur protected from being removed from any premises without its consent? Well, the “possible world” is the UK, where bats are seen as lovely denizens of the night, rather than bitey little assholes. The tour guide even had a dead bat in a box that she insisted on showing us. His name apparently was Cecil, and I was like, “Is naming a dead bat corpse a Welsh thing?” One English guy on the tour was really up in arms, and told me that if you wanted to convert a barn into a residence but there were bats, you had to call in a special agency, who, for the cost of around 10, 000 pounds, would do a study and tell you whether or not you had to make special provisions to ensure the bats would be safe. I was like, “I’m from Canada. We just exterminate them,” and he was like, “I wish! Bloody bats!” He seemed a little over-invested, so maybe he’d been dinged with a large bat-bill from the bat conservation people. Personally, I feel bad that sometimes it’s necessary to “get rid” of the bats, but hey—I don’t go hanging around in their caves, pooping on THEIR floors, so they can just stay out of my space or pay the price. My only previous experience with bats was a couple of times one has gotten in the house, and Ken has been able to shoo it out the open door, so I’ve been a lot more sympathetic to the little creatures of the night. But then on Friday, Ken was away, and K and I were alone in the house. About midnight, I heard scrambling in the same cupboard as a few weeks ago, and I ran upstairs to K in a panic:
Me: There’s something in the chimney again!
K: It’s probably a bird. Let’s go see!
Me: Don’t you dare open the cupboard door!
We raced each other downstairs, but then when she heard the noise, she saw sense and we decided that the best plan of action was to close the door to the back room and wait for Ken to come home. The next day, Ken came back from the computer camp he was running, and after a while, I mentioned to him that there was something in the chimney again. “I’ll go look,” he said, and I hid behind the door, as one does. “Holy sh*t! It’s a bat. It’s just hanging on the inside of the cupboard door,” he said.
“Is it moving?”
“No. I think it’s asleep. Come and look.”
So I did, and there it was in all its creepy glory. “Take a picture of it,” I said.
Ken took one picture, then he tried to zoom in for another, at which point the bat stared straight at him, bared its teeth (zoom in on the picture to see how terrifying it truly is) and hissed. I didn’t know regular bats actually HAD teeth—I thought that was just vampire bats, but now I was living in f*cking Transylvania and this bat looked just like Gary Oldman only without the weird white wig.
Me: Shut the door! Get out!
Ken: I can’t shut the cupboard door—I might hurt his wing!
Me: His WING??!! Fine—don’t come crying to me when he bites your neck and turns you into the undead!
So we shut the door to the room, opened the patio doors, and hoped that the bat would be sensible and leave. Later, when I made Ken go back and look, there was no sign of the bat. So now I don’t know if it’s a) still in the chimney b) hiding in the room somewhere c) plotting its revenge.
The Irony of the KKK—a throwback.
With recent events in the news, I thought I might re-share some of my thoughts from previous posts regarding the stupidity of racists in general, the KKK, and its offshoot, the KKK lite, who are people that can’t afford bed sheets but don’t like anyone who’s not white…
…Isn’t it the biggest irony of all that David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, has a Jewish first name? All those crazy anti-Semites out there, and most of them are named after Hebrew people. I wonder if they realize that. Although from the idiocy I’ve seen and read coming from the so-called “alt-right”, I highly doubt it…
Imaginary KKK rally
David Duke: All right, white virgins—time to put on your silly hoods. Aaron, Adam, Ben—you guys are in charge of leading the chanting. Dan, Ethan, and Gabe—you can set the cross on fire.
All: Yeehaw! That’ll show those foreigners with their weird-ass names and strange, cultish behaviour.
David Duke: Look at me! Whee! I’m a wizard!
…the KKK confuses me. Are they supposed to be Christian? Cuz their leader is a male witch, and that sounds really magic-y to me. Plus, why do they burn crosses? These guys are just FULL of irony. Or stupidity. It’s hard to differentiate with the KKK…
Imaginary conversation with the KKK.
Me: Why are you dressed like a cheap-ass ghost? You know Hallowe’en isn’t until October, right?
KKK guy: I’m not a ghost. I’m a wizard. A grand wizard.
Me: Whoa there, Hogwarts. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. You haven’t done any magic yet. Can you turn lead into gold? Where’s your wand? Is it hiding under your Ikea bed sheet?
KKK guy: Ergh. Immigrants are taking all the good jobs.
Me: What job? You can’t even do a card trick. You’re a sh*tty wizard–an immigrant could do YOUR job better.
KKK guy: Please don’t punch me. Also, the bagpipe music is frightening me.
Me: As it should, you dumb f*ck.
Oh, and by the way, there’s no such thing as either “White Nationalists” or the “Alt-Left”. They are either “Nazis”, or “normal people who care about other human beings”, respectively. All we can hope for is that the former angrily inbreed themselves into extinction, and the latter keep happily standing up for humanity.