Pub Culture

I love a bar or what I like to call a joint.  My idea of a great joint is diverse people, good food and good drink cheap.  A place that you don’t mind going to often that is frequented by your friends.  A meeting place, a place to relax, enjoy good conversation and grab a brew.  In the states, we have places like that, but they are not places where you see families, kids etc.  They are usually bars and the real reason for being there is to drink.  Maybe there is some food on the menu.  In Scotland the pub is a part of the Scottish culture.

Pubs were originally called Public Houses and their history can be traced back to Roman taverns. Pubs are a drinking establishment, but because so much information is traded there, in smaller places they can be the focal point of the community.  Pubs are socially and culturally distinct from cafes and bars. Families frequent pubs as they serve good, usually comfort food and spirits cheaply. The biggest difference however, was that pubs also sold spirits and beer in small shops that were attached to the pub.  Once supermarkets and gift shops were able to get licences to sell spirits the shops attached to pubs, colloquially known as the jug and bottle, went away and you are now left with the modern-day gathering establishment that I so enjoyed while in Edinburgh.

While in Edinburg I tried to have a beer at as many pubs as I could.  I loved the atmosphere.  You can sit with friends and have a conversation, catch up and enjoy a beer and a good meal in a happy atmosphere.  I enjoyed how different each pub was from the next.  Some were big spaces with lots of light and maybe some live music and others were smaller, cozy area with comfortable couches and chairs; places you could have a real heart-to-heart with someone.  I loved the fact that all kinds of people came to pubs, families, groups of friends, co-workers, all there to relax and have a good time.  I never once felt the “meat-market” atmosphere that I sometimes encounter in American bars.  I felt comfortable enough in the pubs that I went to in Edinburgh to go to one alone.

The pubs I encountered in Edinburgh had many more beers on tap than in most bars I been to in Maryland.  I enjoyed to cast ale and grew very fond of Innis and Gunn beer.  It  is a cast ale some of which is done in whiskey barrels and some old rum barrels.  Tasty!  I also loved the fact that I could get a half-pint.  Most of the beer is 5 or 6% alcohol and as such I really didn’t need to drink a pint all of the time.  Having the option of a half-pint was great.  I also found pub food to be comfort food.  Most of it was really good and relatively inexpensive so I had another reason to like pubs. I love to eat and the food was good.  What else do you need?

So…if you are every in Edinburgh, stop into the local pub that you see and raise a glass.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.


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Skill Building

I am learning new skills.  The old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” thankfully, I’ve found, does not apply to me.  I have learned more about technology during my trip to Edinburgh than in the last 20 years.  For instance, I am now writing a blog.  Really!?  I had no idea how to do that until last Tuesday and now I am able to sign on and write a blog. I can also Tweet!  That’s right, Tweet, and I do so everyday thank you. And, if I don’t say so myself, some of my Tweets are downright clever! The acquisition of these now common everyday skills may sound trite to some, but when your computer skills were truly limited to e-mail, facebook and ebay, blogging and Tweeting are big steps.

I am now somewhat proficient with a video camera. To be brutally honest I was scared to death of the thing. I was nervous that I would break it or at the very least do something to it that would keep it in some continuous loop or some other strange thing that would force me to buy a new camera. However, I overcame my fear and learned it won’t do anything that I don’t tell it to do. Pure power!  So now, I can put it up, check to see if it is taping correctly and video live performances without asking for help from my younger, more tech savvy classmates.  They are probably happy about that too. Now they can get their own work done and stop helping me. A win-win!

I have successfully used an audio recorder to tape a group interview.  Big deal, all you do is turn the recorder on and off, right?  Well not to the remedial tech person.  I had to practice with the device several times to make sure I was actually recording.  Then I had to check to determine if I could hear what was said. Sadly, after my first practice I heard absolutely nothing. Headphones? Did someone say headphones?  Duh!  You need headphones to hear the audio recording.  So I found some headphones and Wa-la…the practice taping worked!   After doing that about 15 times (repetitive actions help when you just don’t get it) I was finally comfortable with the little hand-held machine and able to interview a group of delightful students from the California Institute of the Arts about their play entitled “Kaspar”. They didn’t even know I’d just learned to work that little recorder that day!   I am now the master of the audio recorder, a skill that belongs to me and no one can divest me of it!.

Then there is my own technology.  I so wanted to use pen and paper, they are, after all old and dear friends, but I chose to get up close and personal with both my new tablet and my laptop.  I can use certain things like Word and Angry Birds, but learning to use my laptop to place photos in blogs for instance or my tablet to take pictures was a different story.  Yes, I know how to take pictures,(I had a Brownie camera back in the day that I could manipulate just fine, thank you)  but working with the tablet to get good photos was a test.  I also learned how to take videos with my tablet, a skill of which I am very proud.  Just ask and I will be more than willing to show my latest video.

Last, but not least, is the use of apps.  My apps included the Weather Channel, Jewels and MapMyWalk.  Since being here at the Fringe, my classmates have shown me how to find the times for shows, get a map of Edinburgh, find the nearest Indian food and how to connect to WIFI anywhere, including the bus. Oh joy!  I can be as connected as everyone else in the world! Now if I could only change the ring tone on my Smart phone…

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First Day of a New Adventure

So far “Following the Fringe” has been a great adventure.  Scotland is beautiful.  Every vista is breath-taking especially the one out of my window that looks at Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano that is just beautiful. However, what makes travel so fascinating for me is meeting new people.  I love how many languages I hear while just walking down the street in Edinburgh.  Today turned out to be a boon day for me because I was surrounded by new sights, new sounds and very interesting new people. I awoke to the sound of various conversations that passed my window on the way to breakfast.  I understood very few of them, as they were spoken in languages other than English, but that made the sound lyrical.  Just as I began to get out of bed, I heard voices raised in song; beautiful young African voices singing for all they were worth.  It was a wonderful way to start the day.

On my way to breakfast I met a woman from Australia.  She was lost and trying to find her way to breakfast.  I was lost too, but I acted like I knew where I was going just to have the chance to talk to her.  I learned that she has been visiting many countries for the past few months with her husband and some friends.  We had a nice chat and then she and her party went onto breakfast.

After breakfast, we traveled as a group to visit Venue 13 where we will be working documenting the performances put on by students from the California Institute of the Arts. The venue was being set up by the students from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. While there I met Clare, one of their instructors. We hit it off right away.  She had a big smile and eyes that sparkled when she laughed.  She told me the history of the building that will house Venue 13 as well as the history of the building across the street.  I learned from her that the building under renovation across from Venue 13 was the birthplace of Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations. We hung out at Venue 13 for a while and then we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring Edinburgh on our own.  I spent a delightful day with two of my classmates, Kendra and Melissa.  I have had classes with both of these young ladies, but today gave me a chance to know them better. Although not new to me, I consider spending time with them as one of the gifts of my splendid day.

Later in the day while having coffee,  I met two girls from Vienna, Austria. One young lady was intrigued by my accent and was trying to guess where I was from.  She knew it was the U.S. but was trying to pin down the state.  She was fun and very enthusiastic about being in Edinburgh for the Fringe festival. I enjoyed my conversation with her and her friend. Oh, and by the way, she never guessed what state I was from, I had to tell her I was from Maryland.

While walking to Edinburgh Castle we met a woman named Sarah Guppy . She is an author of short stories who was on the Royal Mile trying to sell her book.  Moreover, she was trying to get people to review her book.  She said that the competition between short story writers was intense and she was chatting with people to try to understand what would make people read collections of short stories instead of novels.  She was intense, focused about her writing and interested in carrying on a conversation with strangers. I found her brave and dedicated to her cause and I hope her book does well.

Around four in the afternoon it was time for a half pint.  Travel and beer go together so well!  The bartender at the Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar was delightful.  This must have been the day for guessing things about people, because she tried to guess the ages of Kendra and Melissa.  At first, while listening to her speak, I thought she was from Scotland.  But as she continued, it was apparent that she was from the U.S., Alabama to be exact. She made us laugh, welcomed us to sit anywhere and made us feel at home. She scored points for bartenders everywhere.

Today renewed my faith in people We hear so much about how poorly folks treat each other. Today I had nothing but great experiences meeting people new people and strengthening ties with my classmates. I hope as my stay continues I will be able to meet more interesting people and create some lasting friendships. That is the best part of traveling.

Picture of Andrea, Kendra and Melissa

Fun in Edinburgh, Scotland

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