Four-wheeling through Scotland — Accommodations Part II

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Tips for Seeing the Islands and Highlands in a Wheelchair

In July and August of 2009, I traveled through Scotland with friends, one of whom has a spinal cord injury that caused incomplete quadriplegia. These are some of the resources we found useful. In discussing accessibility, I am not taking bathroom facilities into account, as special accommodations were unnecessary in my friend’s situation. We were most concerned with having a spacious room that could be reached by built-in ramp or with the aid of a portable sidewalk ramp, and doorways and hallways that were easy to navigate. When making your own reservations, let the establishment know your specific needs. I hope our experiences might help others plan their own adventure through Scotland.

Accommodations — Continued

Stonefield Castle Hotel, Tarbert.  This was an emergency lodging.  We were booked for the night in our B&B on Jura.  However, the wayward UPS package made it to Edinburgh on the day we were departing, and we had to wait for it.  The delay caused us to miss our ferry. 

The furious drive across Scotland made for a very difficult, tiring day which was shaping up to be an even worse night, as we had no place to sleep. Dale suggested we sleep in the van in the Caledonian MacBrayne parking lot.  Sara Jean and I weren’t too keen on that idea, but it was difficult to find a wheelchair-accessible B&B in the pretty village of Tarbert. The always-prepared Eagle Scout was not to be deterred — Dale found us a castle.  A rather pricey castle, which we could enjoy for only about ten hours before our departure. Would it be worth it?

Van … castle. Van … castle.

Hmmm…. Tough decision.

Stonefield Castle Hotel, Tarbert

Stonefield Castle Hotel, Tarbert

We dragged into Stonefield Castle too late to appreciate the beauty of the place, but we were able to get a bite to eat in the bar and to sleep in a real bed.  We had another rush to the ferry in the morning, but we did have a nice breakfast before we left.  It was a beautiful hotel in a gorgeous location.  I wouldn’t recommend it unless you can stay long enough to enjoy the atmosphere.

Glenora B&B, Isle of Jura. The Isle of Jura may not be on the top of your list of places to visit, but it should be. This beautiful Hebridean island is home to the Isle of Jura Distillery (said by experts to be the best Scotch in the world – among the experts, Sara Jean), 185 human residents, and thousands of red deer.  George Orwell retreated to Jura to write 1984, and other writers and artists have followed his example.  Jura continues its literary tradition with an annual writer’s retreat.  Jura is also a great place for camping, hiking, angling, and sailing.

Glenora was a lovely B&B run by Mr. and Mrs. Logan.  The accommodations were clean and comfortable, and breakfast was good.  The Logans were extremely nice and helpful.  They also keep a few pet sheep in the yard – that earns points from me.  And Mrs. Logan is a fan of Karen Rose – double points! If I ever make it back to Jura, I would love to stay at Glenora.

Glenora B&B, Isle of Jura

Glenora B&B, Isle of Jura

Navigating the Western Isles — There are no bridges to Jura – or any of the other Hebridean islands with the exception of Skye.  However, the Caledonian-MacBrayne ferries are accessible, extremely comfortable, and well-run by crews of hunky if camera-shy Scots. You should make ferry reservations in advance and let them know your needs so that they can accommodate you. If you plan to tour the Hebrides, your life will be governed by the Cal-Mac timetables. Know them, love them, be there on time. Otherwise, you might find yourself sleeping in a parking lot — or maybe a castle.

Four-wheeling through Scotland — Accommodations Part I

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Tips for Seeing the Islands and Highlands in a Wheelchair

What follows in these posts represents resources we used during our 24-day trip to Scotland in July and August of 2009. I traveled with friends, one of whom has a spinal cord injury that caused incomplete quadriplegia. I am not taking bathroom facilities into account, as special accommodations in her case were unnecessary. We were most concerned with having a spacious room that could be reached by built-in ramp or with the aid of a portable sidewalk ramp, and doorways and hallways that were easy to navigate. There may be other, perhaps even better, resources available, but this is what we found.

Finding Accommodations

  • Contact Visit Scotland, the official site of the Scottish Tourist Board, when planning your trip. They helped Dale make the majority of our reservations and were very helpful.
  • Order a copy of Accessible Scotland from the Scottish Tourist Board.
  • If you can’t find suitable accommodations through the Scottish Tourist Board, search for local tourist boards. Not all establishments choose to be listed with the Scottish Tourist Board, and we found the local tourist offices to be very helpful.

Where We Stayed — Edinburgh

Pollock Halls of Residence, University of Edinburgh. During the summer, this dorm becomes a very nice B&B. Our building was newer and very nicely accessible. A full Scottish breakfast (and more) was served daily in the John McIntyre Centre. Wi-Fi is available for an additional fee, but the signal is limited. You could always access the Wi-Fi in the Reception Centre or in the Absorb Café Bar, which offered light meals, snacks, and even a few alcoholic beverages in the evening.

The location is very convenient. My room had a lovely view of Arthur’s Seat. Disabled parking is very limited, and during the crowded days of The Gathering, it was very difficult to find a place to park. Also, a ramp that led from the Reception Hall to our building was closed, so Sara Jean had to go around the building – very inconvenient in the cold, drizzly weather. The Reception Centre staff at Pollock Halls were phenomenally helpful. I would definitely stay there again if I were in Edinburgh during the summer.

Pollock Halls of Residence

Pollock Halls of Residence

Pollock Halls of Residence, University of Edinburgh

Pollock Halls of Residence, University of Edinburgh

Pollock Halls of Residence, University of Edinburgh

Pollock Halls of Residence, University of Edinburgh

Accessiblity is…

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I expected to learn a little about Scottish history and culture while traveling in Scotland. I didn’t expect to have a crash course in what accessibility means to a person with a disability.

When Dale was making reservations for lodging in Scotland, he made sure he informed all concerned that one of our party is in a wheelchair. Although we didn’t require a wheelchair-accessible bathroom, we needed rooms that were both accessible and large enough to maneuver – especially as we had a portable hoist and lots of medical necessities to bring with us.

I quickly discovered that there are many degrees of accessibility.

We were able to get into every room reserved for us, with varying degrees of difficulty. Some of the obstacles we faced were:

  • Doors – newer buildings have larger doorways in order to meet current building codes, but older structures often have very narrow doorways. Often a door won’t stay open without someone holding it, and that someone is just another obstacle to the person in the wheelchair. (Sara Jean is a very good driver, and I have ten working toes as proof.) The size of the opening can be further complicated by
  • Décor – potted plants, umbrella stands, decorative tables often grace doorways and foyers but can be difficult obstacles for someone in a wheelchair.
  • Bed bases – these nifty creations keep you from losing items under the bed. Unfortunately, they also keep the legs of a portable hoist from going under the bed. We developed our own technique for using the portable hoist in these situations. We would move Sara Jean to the corner of the bed, with the legs of the hoist on either side of the bed frame. Sara Jean would lower herself with the remote while we pushed her as far to the center as we could. This would leave her legs dangling and her body at an angle. We would then have to lift her legs and pull her fully onto the bed. To get out of bed, we would reverse the process, with me sitting behind her to provide support as we attached the sling to the lift. Sara Jean has nerves of steel, so she managed the process with no complaint. I can’t say the same for Dale or me.
  • Furniture – dining tables and desks are often too low for a wheelchair to fit under comfortably or have legs that are spaced in such a way that the wheelchair can’t fit between them. Sidesaddle is an uncomfortable way for a woman to ride, and it is an uncomfortable and inconvenient way for a woman to eat her dinner.
  • Steps and thresholds – Concerned about accessibility at some of the sites, Dale had the foresight to ship Sara Jean’s steel curb ramp to Scotland. (Heartfelt thanks to Grant Orton and Barry Stevenson of Allied Mobility in Glasgow, who accepted delivery of our ramp and made sure we had it for the trip. Grant even loaned us his GPS, which we named Karalee after our much-missed friend and which told Dale where to go all through Scotland.) So when we arrived in Glasgow, we were surprised to find that Trevor Pollitt of Wheelchair Travel generously included an aluminum curb ramp in the rental van. (Trevor thoughtfully included several things with our rental van, including a cell phone and emergency kit.  Thank you, Trevor!)  We thought one of the ramps was redundant, but we found that neither went unused, because there were a few places where we needed both ramps to get in and out of the doors. Even a relatively low step or threshold can be a hindrance to a heavy electric wheelchair.

We stayed many places during our journey through Scotland, and all were accessible to some degree, but the best place of all for accessibility was the Ard Mhor Guest House, Salen, Isle of Mull. Owner David Clowes designed his B&B with accessibility in mind. There are three ramps up to the building, although two are strictly for emergency use. The foyer was not cluttered with things that created obstacles to turning. The lights in the hallways were motion-sensitive, so that if you came in at night, there was no fumbling necessary. The beds had access for the portable hoist. (I believe David said that he even had his own portable hoist on the premises.) The bathroom facilities were spacious and appeared very accessible. Even the dining tables in the breakfast room were built at a height to accommodate a wheelchair. Although I loved all of Scotland, Mull was my favorite place, and Ard Mhor Guest House is a terrific place for anyone to spend time on Mull.   If you visit, have some scrambled eggs Escoffier for me.

A right honourable guy…

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In In Search of Hunky Scots, I wrote that I was snubbed by Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, when he gave my companions Homecoming Scotland pins but did not give one to me.

We were waiting for the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from the Isle of Skye to the Isle of Lewis.  Dale had gone searching for something important, like a place to cash travelers checks or to buy a bottle of really good scotch, while I had gone teapot hunting for Sara Jean.  I found the teapot.  Dale found Alex Salmond.

Alex Salmond and his entourage were taking the ferry to Lewis as well, and he seemed happy to find tourists who had come to Scotland for The Gathering, and who subsequently were spending our puny American dollars on scotch and teapots.  He was so happy, he gave Dale a couple of lapel pins and a Homecoming Scotland ink pen.

Dale brought him out to the van where Sara Jean was waiting patiently in her wheelchair.  I was trying to be inconspicuous, as this little pottery venture was close on the heels of the Mull Pottery visit.  Dale was still a little miffed that we left him bleeding while we shopped.  Unreasonable man.  Alex Salmond smiled and shook our hands, then chatted a while with Sara Jean.  I took the opportunity that little distraction afforded to sneak off and finish my transaction.

The pin in question was a lapel pin with the Homecoming Scotland logo. You can see the logo on the Homecoming Scotland website. I collected several pins on our trip — one from the Callanish stones, one from Stirling Castle, one from The Gathering, and several flag pins — all of which I wore proudly, announcing to one and all that I was a tourist before I even opened my mouth. (A few Scots said they loved my accent. Accent? What accent?  Floridians don’t have accents.)

Anyway, the “snub,” which in fairness really wasn’t, became a running joke throughout the trip. But Dale with his heart of gold really felt bad that I didn’t get a Homecoming Scotland pin, so he contacted the office of The Right Honourable Alex Salmond, MSP, MP.  (I am not really sure what the letters stand for, but they look really important.)

Dale didn’t actually talk to Alex Salmond, but he did talk to Michael Birrell, Information and Office Manager for the First Minister of Scotland.   (Alex Salmond was apparently too busy with petty concerns like running a country to deal with a crisis like a pitiable, pinless tourist.)    So Dale explained my plight, and Mr. Birrell assured him he would rectify the situation.

Now Floridians may not have accents, but Dale is from Texas, and well… ’nuff said.  A package arrived a short week later, containing a lovely Homecoming Scotland ink pen, not a Homecoming Scotland lapel pin.  It also included a nice publication on the future of Scotland which Dale had requested.  Personally, I think Dale would like to run for office in Scotland, but they have these petty rules against Texans living in Florida running their country.  They really are an unreasonable race, the Scots.

What better prize for a writer than a Homecoming Scotland pen?  I don’t know if he is a hunky Scot, but Michael Birrell is a right honourable guy in my book.  And Alex Salmond, if you are reading this, I thank you.  Now get back to work running your beautiful country.

On Bleeding Overseas…

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My overriding goal during the trip to Scotland was to do everything in my power to keep Sara Jean’s catheter from causing her problems. I knew that if things went badly, it would mean a trip to the hospital.

The catheter worked fine, but we had not one but three trips to medical facilities in Scotland. Only one involved Sara Jean, the others were for Dale.

Dale wounded his shin at some time on the trip. When Sara Jean and I first saw the wound, we told him he had better clean it up and bandage it. Dale was unaware he had even hurt himself, and he did clean and dress the wound.

We were on the Isle of Mull, leaving our B&B in Salen for a much-anticipated day of shopping in Tobermory.

Hairy Coo

Hairy Coo on Isle of Mull

We pulled into Mull Pottery, where Sara Jean hoped to find a tea pot. Dale went into the store first to see if it was wheelchair accessible. In the meantime, I worked on unfastening the wheelchair. After readying the lift, I looked on the ground and saw a fairly large puddle of blood. Oh, crud. What did I do to Sara Jean? The stitches weren’t even out yet on her leg wound – did I injure her again? Frantic, I examined her and myself for signs of bleeding. Nothing. Dale emerged from the store, and I called him over to help me find the wound on Sara Jean.

That’s when I saw the blood on his leg. It was dripping. He propped his leg on the van step to take a closer look, and the blood began to spray. Dale is on Plavix, and he was gushing. I ran into the store to find out the location of the nearest clinic. I knew exactly where Dale had been in the store from the trail of blood on the tile floor. The owner seemed unperturbed and informed me that the nearest clinic was in Salen. Salen? We just came from Salen.

A kind woman who did first-response work was in the store. She came out to the van and found me holding gauze pads against the wound to try to stop the bleeding. She went to her car and returned with a pressure bandage. She got the bleeding under control. Dale sat in the van with his leg propped up. He informed Sara Jean that the shop was accessible and did have tea pots. Well, we all have priorities. Sara Jean and I headed into the shop to buy a teapot. We came out about an hour later. It was a really terrific shop. In our defense, I did check on Dale a couple of times to make sure he had not lost consciousness.

Dale insisted on driving to Salen, so after we had finished shopping, we headed to the clinic. We met a very kind woman with the title Sister on her name tag. We thought she was a nun, but she explained that she was what we might call a Charge Nurse. We didn’t have to wait to be seen. She cleaned and bound Dale’s wound, told him to have it checked in three days, and sent us on our way. No bills. No insurance information. Dale had to twist her arm to take a donation for their emergency fund.

Dale didn’t visit the clinic in three days. He said it would put a wrench in our schedule. He did visit one a week later, this time in Kirkwall in Orkney, when blood started pouring from underneath his bandage. Again, there was no wait, and the people were very nice. A handsome young doctor helped treat the wound, and they gave us a bag with extra bandages and dressings and some little green bed pads for Sara Jean. (I have become a bit of a bed pad hoarder.) Dale pressed them to take some money for their nurse’s fund.

Highland Park Distillery, Kirkwall, Orkney

Highland Park Distillery, Kirkwall, Orkney

Our third visit was to the hospital in Banff, when Sara Jean split her toe. Sara Jean is on Coumadin, and the toe bled profusely. We waited only a few minutes before being shown to a treatment room. Sara Jean was seen both by a nurse and a very nice doctor. The wound was ragged and unable to be stitched, but they cleaned and bound it, gave her a prescription for an antibiotic, and gave us the supplies for changing the dressing. Once again, Dale had to force them to take some money for a Christmas party. No claim forms. No lines. No hassle.

The Scots and English we met are very proud of their healthcare system, and I can see why. It serves their needs. I did overhear one woman on the Isle of Mull say that she was not getting surgery done because she would have to go to Glasgow for the procedure, and she didn’t want to do that. That was the closest I heard to a negative comment regarding healthcare. Our experience, though limited, was very positive.

Our healthcare debate is big news in the U.K. and Canada. The people I have talked with like their system, and they don’t understand why so many Americans resist it. Americans like me. So why aren’t I sold on nationalized health care? I don’t believe that healthcare is the business of the Federal government. You know, the “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense” stuff. I suppose it could come under the broad heading of “promote the general welfare,” but I believe that less government intrusion in our lives is best. I am skeptical that the government can manage the healthcare system fairly and efficiently. I am not paranoid. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I just look at other government programs (can you say Fannie Mae?) and am uneasy with the thought of a government-run healthcare system.

Still, I must admit, it seems to work in the U.K. If you have to bleed overseas, Scotland is a pretty terrific place to be.

Controlled Substances

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Controlled Substances: Drugs whose general availability is restricted; any one of a number of drugs or other substances which are strictly regulated or outlawed because of their potential for abuse or addiction.

I have a dark secret. As a little girl, I frequently saw my mother take little white crystals and cook them into a solution. When cooled she would then force me to sniff the clear liquid into my nostrils. I remember how it stung, how it sometimes made me cry.

You can’t buy large quantities of this substance in the United States without a prescription. In spite of this regulation, huge quantities of the burning liquid hit the Gulf shores daily, causing discomfort and sometimes death to residents and tourists alike. People like my mother make it in their own kitchens. I am talking, of course, about saline. Salt water.

When I burned my hand last fall, I was surprised to learn that a prescription is needed to buy quantities of normal saline. You can buy small cans or bottles of saline wound wash, or small bottles of saline nasal spray, but to get larger amounts of normal saline for flushing a catheter or washing a wound, you need a prescription. I learned that the same is true in the U.K. In fact, the U.K. is even more careful with their controlled substances. They are painfully aware of the tragic results of … bed pad abuse.

Being so far from home for three weeks, it was important to have everything that we might need for Sara Jean available on our trip to Scotland. To avoid having to carry all the supplies through the airport, Dale shipped many of the bulkier items to Edinburgh by UPS. He sent the box well in advance, allowing plenty of time for the box to get to Edinburgh before our arrival. However, when we arrived at Pollock Halls, the UPS box was not there.

Pollock Halls of Residence, University of Edinburgh

Pollock Halls of Residence, University of Edinburgh

The wonderful people at Pollock Halls worked with us to track down the package, which was stuck in Customs in England. Unsure we would ever get the supplies, I spent the morning of our first full day in Edinburgh visiting pharmacies. I was looking for items that I could pick up fairly readily in a medical supply store in the States – Chucks (plastic-lined cotton pads for the bed), Skin-Prep (a barrier spray), disposable pants, irrigation syringes and saline for flushing the catheter, a plastic basin, no-rinse shampoo and body wash. When I explained our problem to the staff of the different pharmacies, they tried to be very helpful, but we ran into some snags. I could find disposable pants with no problem. I could not find Skin-Prep, the miracle elixir which I was told should be used liberally whenever I was in doubt. I did find a barrier ointment that I substituted. It was heavy and greasy, but I must admit, it did its job. I could not find a liquid no-rinse shampoo or body wash, but I did find the spray powder dry shampoo. But when it came to Chucks, plastic lined bed pads, I hit a brick wall. It seems that many of those supplies, including the bed pads, require a prescription.

A prescription? For bed pads? Bed pads are controlled substances? For an instant, my mind wandered to the possible abuses of bed pads, but then I was off to a local physician. I explained the problem, and he wrote a prescription for the missing items. Jubilation! I trotted off to the next pharmacy, thinking my problem was solved.

It was not.

No one buys these types of supplies in Britain. In order to get such things, you go through the District Nurse. I was told I might be able to get them from the largest Boots Pharmacy in town, which also supplies nursing homes.

Unfortunately, this Boots is on Princes Street, and Princes Street was very difficult to reach due to traffic from The Gathering. The streets of Edinburgh are narrow and the parking isn’t plentiful, but with the crowd of tourists that weekend, getting near Princes Street was well-nigh impossible.

The Gathering, Holyrood Park

The Gathering, Holyrood Park

A call to Boots solved our dilemma. Even with a prescription, they needed two to three weeks to get the supplies in… just in time for us to go home. Our only alternative was a trip to the hospital – something Sara Jean was not ready to do. Darlene and Linda, the wonderful nurses back home, gave me ideas of things I could use in a pinch. We lined the bed with plastic bags covered with towels in place of the Chucks, just in case. We planned to visit a pet shop to see if we could find puppy pads for later.

We never had to visit the pet shop. The UPS box arrived on Monday – a story in itself – and it was like Christmas Day. It was a beautiful sight – bottles of no-rinse shampoo and body wash, Skin Prep, Depends, a large, washable bed pad and stacks of lovely blue-lined Chucks. I almost wept for joy.

With nationalized health care, it is tough to find a medical supply store, even in a major city like Edinburgh. If you need something for your health, you visit the local health center or physician. Maybe this isn’t so bad. When I visited the physician’s surgery in search of a prescription, there was no line of patients like I am accustomed to seeing in our waiting rooms, and the physician came out and talked with me readily.

Still, there is a certain freedom that comes from being able to go into a store and choose the products you want. I like being able to buy supplies without needing an appointment or permission from a nurse or doctor.

After all, I don’t have a problem with saline or bed pads. I might use them occasionally, but I can quit any time I want. Really.

Six Tips for Changing Planes at Heathrow Airport

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It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an Airport’ appear. Douglas Adams

When Douglas Adams wrote that, he must have just come through Heathrow. To help other novice travelers face the challenge that is Heathrow, I have written these handy tips.

Six Tips for Changing Planes at Heathrow Airport

1. Don’t. I spoke with several UK citizens who recommend flying through Shannon Airport (Ireland) or even places like The Netherlands, Germany or France – anywhere but Heathrow.

2. If you are reading this, I guess you ignored Tip #1. Too bad for you. Allow at least two hours between flights, three if you are changing terminals. Heathrow is a big airport. Huge. Heathrow is roughly the size of Rhode Island, but without the ocean views. Heathrow services around 64 million passengers a year. I think all of them were there the day we arrived.

3. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Even if you think you may run into Colin Firth, or maybe The Right Honourable Alex Salmond, put your vanity aside and wear running shoes. You’re going to do a lot of running. (See #2)

4. Keep your carry-on baggage light. Checking bags can be a hassle, and with some airlines, it can cost you extra. The temptation is to cram everything you can into your carry-on bag. Don’t. Not unless you regularly are sent on forced marches with a full pack. Have I mentioned that Heathrow is big? You will have to walk, maybe even run, miles and miles with your carry-on bag.

5. Be prepared to wait. We thought we would have an easier time on our return trip, as we had three hours between planes. Then we found that our connecting flight had been delayed three hours. We were escorted to a waiting area where we could sit until someone came to get us for the next leg of the journey from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3.

Imagine the most cliché movie scene in a police interrogation room or inner city county health department. Keep that scene in your mind, because it is prettier than the waiting area in Heathrow. We were taken to a narrow room that had two sections – one sweltering and one freezing. It was good to have a choice. The freezing room featured a large plastic bin full of dirty drip water from the air conditioner unit. Or maybe it was a water sculpture. I am not sure.

Outside this waiting area, there was a huge, glittering mall full of shops and restaurants we could have visited – if we wanted to haul our carry-on baggage with us. You can’t leave your baggage anywhere, not unless you want to end up on BBC news. As two of us would need to carry two carry-on bags, one medical supply bag, one camera case, one laptop case, two heavily-laden purses, an oxygen concentrator, 2 blankets, and 3 heavy coats, all while pushing a wheelchair, Sara Jean and I elected to stay in the waiting area. At least there is Wi-Fi there, for a price.

6. Relax. Meditate. Practice yoga or Tai Chi. Put soothing music on your iPod. If you aren’t too heavily laden, nip over to the glittering mall and pick up an airplane-sized bottle of spirits. Do what it takes to relax, because the workers at Heathrow are, for the most part, frustrated, surly, unhappy people. There were a few very outstanding exceptions – Manuel Garcia, you rock – but don’t expect service with a smile. Can you blame them? You get to leave after only a few grueling hours. They have to keep coming back day after day to the chaos that is Heathrow. My heart goes out to them.

In search of hunky Scots…

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I had promised many of my friends that I would bring home pictures of hunky Scots. We all know that Scottish men throw hammers and tree trunks for fun, right? Should be an easy thing to get some photos of some ripped Highlander.

Not for me. So far, I have been snubbed by two young police officers (they didn’t have their hats, so they were out of uniform, so they said…), one very hunky ferryman (he said he was shy), and no less than the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond. In fairness to The Right Honourable Alex Salmond, I did not ask him for his picture. He did shake my hand and welcome me to Scotland. However, he gave my traveling companions Homecoming Scotland pins. He didn’t give one to me. Nope. Nada. Zilch.

Even Nessie was camera-shy. Sorry, Zack. I do have photos of a couple of obliging men in kilts from The Gathering and a very nice farmer and butcher from Aberdeenshire whom I stalked all over Orkney and who, due to an unsuccessful hip replacement, was unable to outrun me. Ian Thomson, you rock!

Whether or not I was able to charm the Scots, the Scots charmed me. They are a nation of warm and wonderful people. I am very glad I had opportunity to spend some time in their homeland.

Two kind Scots let me snap their photo.

Two kind Scots let me snap their photo.

I need a vacation from my vacation…

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I had hoped to keep a current update on all our exploits, but lack of Internet access and time have prevented me from blogging. I have lots of notes and hundreds of pictures, but I am afraid it will all have to be after-the-fact. Leaving Banff for Stirling by way of Culloden. Already dreading Heathrow on Saturday.

Don’t Panic

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I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

— Douglas Adams

Three days until we leave for Scotland. Panic is setting in — I am not ready. I am not packed. My house is not clean. I still have things to do for work. I didn’t wash my sneakers — and if I try now, they may still be wet by Wednesday.

I haven’t told my kids all the things I want to tell them, how very much I love them — just in case we get caught in a deadly encounter with a speeding clown car on the way to the airport. It could happen.

Today will be spent in a frenzied attempt to prepare. If you hear whimpering noises, take no notice. I am okay. Really.

In case things get hectic and I forget…

To my friends and family — I love you.

To my kids — I love you even more. {HUG} Now clean up this mess!

To Guy — You will be in my prayers. Good luck.

To Kristi — Keep up with that goal setting — I will be watching you. (Mua haa haa!)

To all my girlfriends — Camera batteries are charged — hunky Scot photos will be forthcoming.

To Jeff and all my friends in Tai Chi — keep your Chi up. (Get it? Keep your chin up? Keep your Chi up? Sigh. Oh, nevermind.)

To Mom — Don’t worry! The plane WILL stay in the air. No one attacks Canadians. People like Canadians. They gave us maple syrup and William Shatner.

Okay, back to work. Now where did I put my towel?

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