Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands

My knowledge of Scotland comes from romance novels and movies. I know they have a loch that has a Ness, say “och,” “nae” and “bluidy” a lot, that William Wallace looked like Mel Gibson and James Bond is a Scot.

When Le Hubs suggested the Fergus Scottish Festival as a way to get out of town, I jumped at the chance. Scots are portrayed as rough, rowdy and roguish, perennial harassers of the Brits and clannish to the point of absurdity. No, Outlander didn’t cause this – brief aside, I only got through its first six episodes, not a fan, don’t hate me – just the attraction of the unknown did.

So we get there and there’s men in kilts everywhere. I had never seen so many men in skirts in my life. Costumes! Socks with dirks stuffed in them (not a euphemism)! Plaid! Bagpipes! Plaid! Scotch Eggs! Plaid! Celtic coloured glass! Plaid! Sheep shearing! Plaid! Men flipping logs for sport! Plaid!

If I’d known the dress code was traditional Highland fling, I would’ve made more of an effort, because their national dress is absolutely amazing. Knee high socks, sporrans, pleats, I can see myself Baby One More Time-ing that ish. But I didnae ken. Och well, there’s always next time!

 

 

Reading Rainbow

It’s a good time to be a bookworm. Not that it’s ever a bad time to be a bookworm, but it used to be pricier for me because e-books hadn’t yet been invented, and I had to actually pay to read, because that was the price of being in a book club. (Php 10 for an Avon Romance!) Flash forward a decade or two, and it’s all just point, click and download.  Overdrive and the Toronto Public Library are the gifts that keep giving.

Weirdly, I wasn’t into the whole e-book thing at first – made the usual noises, nothing like the real thing, blah blah blah and crap. But the pros far outweighed the cons. Nightly ablutions + not skipping a chapter? Win. Reading in bed without a lamp? Win. Plus you can’t beat the price of free.

I’ve been tackling my book backlog these past couple of weeks because I needed a break from the Netflix glut and the internet is a minefield of possible GoT spoilers. Books have always been portals to other worlds, windows to peek through and watch glorious ladies in ballgowns sweeping past. Escapism at its best.

This is my idealized self-portrait.

This is me in real life.

So book reviews, the quick-fire edition:

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Tuesdays with Metro

It’s official: it’s nigh on impossible to stay up to date on anything without getting slapped in the face by something Game of Thrones-ish. I’m innocently walking along minding my own business and bam, Daenerys Targaryen. I love the show, and so does everyone else so naturally it’s going to be a major part of the news cycle until this season ends.

I’ve spent the days since of Game of Thrones debuted its seventh season hiding from the internet, for fear of spoilers. Weekly cliffhangers drive me nuts. As always, I prefer to hunker down, wait till everything is over and then spend an entire day and a half watching the season from start to finish.

So, very little to no internet. I’ve been using it the way a rat scrounges for food, scuttling out if its hole in the after hours, nabbing whatever it can eat and racing back to its lair posthaste, all while avoiding as much human traffic as possible.

But a girl needs her daily dose of goings on in the great big world, which is why I picked up a (free! #cheap) Metro on the subway. It was going well, I absorbed the usual happenings in T-town – cyclist hit by car, left for dead, son finds her in a pool of her own blood; TTC put the kibosh on a grassroots movement to share books on the train because their lost and found department doesn’t need more shit to deal with; Toronto real estate market slowly cooling, prices still exorbitant and unfriendly to the 99%; bullets flying at east-end bar sends two people to the hospital. Then I turn a page, and suddenly half of page eight is a photo of Missandei about to get hot and heavy with Grey Worm. Aargh. On a Tuesday!  Shouldn’t they have gotten the inevitable GoT info-dump over with on a Monday? Short of being a Tibetan monk for a month and a half, I’m going to have to be on my guard all the time. Actual, dead-tree newspapers are now verboten, and I have added the neighborhood newsstand (ha! I don’t have a neighborhood newsstand… just the On-the-Go’s in every subway station) to the list of places to avoid.

But now I have questions. (Rhetorical ones. Do not answer until seven weeks have passed.) G.R.R. Martin canon states the Unsullied do turn to the whores of Mereen, but only to cuddle. If the Unsullied are eunuchs, how does Grey Worm do the dirty? Does this mean the Unsullied were left with twigs but not berries, the way dogs get spayed? Does the shaft still work? Do they hold hands? If Grey Worm gets to have sexy times, what about other castratees? Theon Greyjoy? Varys? The Night’s Watch*?

Godamnit. Frickin free newspaper.

 

* I am well aware the Night’s Watch aren’t eunuchs, but they took vows. Not that it did anything for Jon Snow and Samuel Tarly. I’m rooting for you, Dolorous Ed! Get yours!

White Noise

We’d driven up north to Tobermory, a town at the tip of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, for an extended weekend getaway. It’s four hours away from Toronto, which led me to realize that I am a big fan of trains and planes, but not automobiles. Not for long distance travel, anyway.

I like to distract myself when I travel – a good book, maybe a couple episodes of a good show, a nap. Not this time around. As designated navigator (navigatrix?) for this particular road trip, staying awake and focused for the whole trip was an occupational hazard.

Things can go south pretty quickly when you’re in the middle of Ontario farmland and there are pockets of dead space. No phone signal? Quelle horreur! Not too horreur, of course. I smugly congratulated myself for growing up analog and having the foresight to download a map of the area before starting out. Who needs step-by-step directions in real-time?  Over-dependence on tech makes people pansies.

Or so I thought.

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Finally, Part Deux (Ex Machina)

Dear Elly G,

Now where was I? Oh yes.

I was beginning to despair. I thought the whole weekend would be a literal wash, because it rained the whole of Thursday and it looked like the sun had dropped the mic and walked out on the whole program altogether. But a little redhead once said the sun would come out tomorrow, and it did, bless that little orphan’s heart. I’m glad it did; we wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the beauty of the Georgian Bay peninsula as much if it hadn’t.

So the second biggest reason A and I went north was to check out Flowerpot Island and the shipwrecks of Tobermory. I had plans to tour the island, but didn’t plan things properly on purpose – the weather was unpredictable and I didn’t know if it would rain. By the time we went to get tickets the island walk-on tours were all booked up and we settled for the non-walk-on tour instead. It wasn’t too bad. I did have a giggle, because their carved statue of a fisherman reminded me of penis.

IMG_3117.JPG
Did someone say bris?

I know, I know. I’m twelve.

Anyway.

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Gorgeous George and Chi-Chee Rodriguez, Une and a Half

Dear Elly G,

I guess when I said “gifs,” I meant “a gif.” Because I don’t want to overwhelm. Or overshare. Or both. Or who cares, it’s driving onto a boat and off of it after an hour and a half or so, and here I am gushing about it because I’m an ignoramus. Anyway, it’s just a really cool way to do it. Of course it’s squeaky clean, has a lounge, a gift shop (a Boatique, awww) and a surprisingly respectable cafeteria. I say respectable because it comes with its own popcorn machine, a nacho bar and a pretzel carousel. That’s on top of the full-service kitchen promising an all-day breakfast, fish and chips and even chicken curry on a bed of steaming basmati. (A: “I really like this boat.”)

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Gorgeous George and Chi-Chee Rodriguez, Part Une

Dear Elly G,

The biggest reason A and I went north last weekend​ was the M.S. Chi-Cheemaun. Ojibwa for Big Canoe, the ship is the only way to get from Tobermory, which is a town at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, to the island of Manitoulin. We didn’t know anything much about it other than its prow being heavily decorated with colourful Native American art, and an advertised relaxing view. (Most of this research was done via quick, cursory glances at ads on the subway; pretty boat, Adirondack chairs, white people in shorts holding beer? Advertising works!)

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White Clouds

This makes me envision a younger, slimmer, version of myself running down an endless beach in euphoric slow motion, scarf trailing in the gentle breeze. Because emotions. And sweet, sweet innocence. I have days when I can hardly remember what it was like to be free from care, and this piece just slammed into all my feelings.

Thighs Wide Shut

I decided to rent a Bixi Bike Share to pedal down to Cherry Beach and watch the sunrise. It seemed like a good idea; spring is here, the weather is tolerable, I don’t really sleep at night so it wasn’t like I had to get up early. I hadn’t been on a bike for at least a year, so for the first ten minutes, I felt like I was on top of the world, thinking happy thoughts, even considering buying a bike of my own. These kind of thoughts are best left to simmer, because about twenty minutes in I couldn’t feel my ass and was congratulating myself on simply renting, and not buying the infernal contraption. I’m going to feel the burn tomorrow. Hell, I already feel it. Still, watching the sun rise and having the beach all to myself was #worthit.