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So whilst a number of people on my friends list were heading south and west to Newbury for plokta.con I was heading north, to Scotland. Excepting one trip to the Isle of Bute when I was much younger, I'd never been to Scotland before; I've wanted to go, but somehow never got around to it. So this was exciting to start with, and meeting up with hawleygriffen whilst I was there was icing on the cake. It turns out that whichever of the many different possible perspectives you choose, Edinburgh is everywhere interesting to look at, even when it's not beautiful; and that most of the time it is both beautiful and interesting, particularly when the buildings of the old town are glowing in the sunshine.

So I got there, and I got a map, and I made my way to the bruntsfield youth hostel to drop off my things, and then back into town to meet hawleygriffen. Unfortunately, I completely failed to understand that her text message regarding 'the fountain next to Princes Street' meant the great big shining golden thing in the park; she was reduced to calling me from the valley bottom as I walked by at the top, and waving her arms to attract my attention. This obstacle overcome, we went for a very pleasant (despite the best distraction-by-text efforts of deccasanta) dinner, then a quiet drink in a nearby bar/pub/restaurant thing. And that was Saturday evening.

(A brief SFnal interlude: After a flurry of text messages, it transpired that during the acution at plokta.con, snowking had purchased two tickets to next week's invitation-only Clarke Award ceremony. Hurrah! So that's one for him, then, and one for me and greengolux to fight over. Then, taking advantage of the youth hostel's internet connection (!) when I got back on saturday night, I discovered that there is a new Gor title on the way. In a leather-bound edition, no less (fnar). And I browsed the latest issue of Emerald City and read this review of Coalescent; I suppose the best thing that can be said about Cheryl Morgan's reviews is that when she brings prejudices to a book they are at least blindingly obvious, but I'm still at a loss as to how and why that site has been nominated for Hugo awards. And far be it from me to be picky, but I think that characterising a society evolving towards eusociality as 'anarchist' is stretching terminology just a tad...Anyway. Moving on.)

Sunday I woke up earlier than I would have liked, thanks to the constricting, cage-like nature of the cast-iron bed frame the youth hostel provided; although even so, it wasn't early enough to get downstairs before the kitchen closed, and I had to go out to forage for my food. I ended up in a cafe called Two Lean Lads, where I ate a full english breakfast and learnt two invaluable facts from the sunday papers. The first was that 'many experts believe that Friends jumped the shark some time ago'; I love the idea that jumping the shark is now an accepted term in critical discourse. The second was that the streets of Scotland are a dangerous place, roamed by packs of young women with a tendency to binge-drink and indulge in knife fights. Apparently.

I had time to pay a brief visit to nuttyxander's Waterstones and admire the sf section, yet still arrive at the station before hawleygriffen's train; 'at least,' I thought, 'we should spot each other easily enough this time around'. But no! She walked straight past me without recognition! I could be offended - I mean, I didn't think I was that unassuming - but in fairness I think it just makes us equally inept. And we proceeded to have a very enjoyable day indeed. We went up into the castle, home to the scottish crown jewels and more variants of war museum than you can shake a bayonet (or indeed a foam pirates' cutlass) at; and also to a gift shop which helpfully informed me that my name is derived from the word for (wait for it, Angel fans...)...'champion'. Then we walked down to the camera obscura (and associated halls of optical illusions, holograms and such); then it was on to the cinema to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If Philip K Dick had ever written a romantic comedy, it would probably have ended up looking not unlike Sunshine.... It's a clever film, with some truly wonderful moments - emotional and visual - but I think it will take a second viewing to convince me that it truly, completely hangs together.

A great day was brought to a bumpy conclusion by the wrong choice of restaurant: we were hungry, we were cold, the Chocolate Soup cafe was closed, and we ended up in a distinctly sub-par buffet diner, next to a loud birthday table. We ate quickly.

Today I travelled home, reading Francis Spufford's The Child That Books Built on the way. It doesn't exactly map on to my reading experiences, but it's not far off. It's also an excellent, insightful book, and I recommend it to everyone: the hardback is currently available from your local Fopp for a very reasonable three pounds! In London I paused for a tuk-tuk dinner and plokta.con debrief with snowking, twic and greengolux. Tonight I am tired, but relaxed. It's been a good weekend: thanks, Ms Z. :)

And now for something completely different: has anyone got any suggestions as to what I should buy my parents for their 25th wedding anniversary?
 
 
 
 
 
 
I can't believe you were in the Bruntsfield hostel while I was at plokta mentioning you on panels!! It's about 5 seconds from my flat!
When ARE the ACC awards then exactly?
I can't believe you were in the Bruntsfield hostel while I was at plokta mentioning you on panels!!

...You mentioned me on panels?

It's about 5 seconds from my flat!

Nice area, it seemed. Good big park.

When ARE the ACC awards then exactly?

A week on wednesday. It's probably not physically possible to get through Quicksilver by then, but I should probably at least try to read Maul, just in case... :-)
Geoff Ryman told me that he is planning to (admittedly, re)read Quicksilver in *one* day :-(
I can't believe you were in the Bruntsfield hostel while I was at plokta mentioning you on panels!!

...You mentioned me on panels?


Yup. There was a discussion about livejournal comment threads and their lengths at the fanzines in the net panel, and a couple of your recent posts were mentioned.
A lot of people were taking your name in vain at various times and places over the weekend. Did you not feel your ears burning?
No...but now they're doing overtime to compensate.
Have a chance to see "Edinburgh's Folly"? It is, in fact, a bona fide unintentional folly. I first noticed it from some hilltop or other, and walked all the way over there to find out more.

Also ... since you went to the Castle, did you see that big cannon? Bess, or Meg, or somesuch? Also, the pet cemetary on the Castle grounds?

(yay tourism!)
Heh, it's one of the things on Calton Hill (along with the old Observatory). Athens of the North and all that. Ah well, the pillars are quite nice, though I can't help wondering what they were *thinking* when they decided to build a model of the Parthenon...
Actually, the Folly doesn't seem so irrational when you look at it from a distance, really. In many ways, the hilly nature of Edinburgh makes for some ideal urban vistas, and in that regard, an Edinburgh Parthenon would seem cut from the bolt of romantic naturalist paintings of decaying ruins in ivy-chocked landscapes.

Really, besides being further north, more damp, and considerably colder, Edinburgh is a shoe-in for San Francisco, or Random-Italian-Coastal-City. ;-)
We saw it from the distance, but didn't go up close to look at it. It seems to have a Nelson's column next to it, as well; did the city planners just go on a recreate-great-monuments-binge one decade?
Not one feature on Calton Hill looks like Nelson's column, Niall. And it's not like that has the copyright on columns.
It doesn't look like Nelson's column, but it is nonetheless a Nelson's column. Or tower, I guess.
It's not a column, foo'!
It turns out that from a distance, towers look very much like columns. Who knew?
To BLIND people.
and now my handiwork is done ... 2-3 simple questions that set off a firestorm of commentary!

Woo-hoo!
Oh, and I'm pretty sure the cannon's called Meg. Though living here, I've only been inside the Castle once and that when we were helping relatives be touristy.
It's Mons Meg, I think. And in spite of having lived in Edinburgh till I was 18 (with a 6-year gap in early life), I only recall doing the castle-visit thing about once, when I was maybe eight :-P
Mons Meg, yes. Big gun, that is.

I discovered when I got home that there's a cannon they fire every day at 1pm. Except on Sundays, which means that since I arrived after 1pm on Saturday and left before 1pm on Monday, I didn't hear it! Boo hiss.
That cannon would be Mons Meg. You can tell a person's nationality when it goes off - Americans hit the floor, while locals look at their watches ;)

I ended up in a cafe called Two Lean Lads, where I ate a full english breakfast

Ahem! That's a fried breakfast to you, sir.
The menu said 'english', so I'm sticking with 'english'. So there. :-p
Bah ;-)
Nah, Meg is the ye olde cannone with a 2 food thick barrel or something. The One O'Clock Gun is a wee modern light artillery piece.
Is it? Oh, I feel so cheated :-(
You Foo'!

Mons Meg was the Polaris Missile of its day. Big, scary, and almost completely useless. ;-)

Also, to fire Mons Meg today is to almost assure its own destruction...and much of the Castle for good measure.
Ah, see, I heard that in a time of peril, if Mons Meg was fired towards Salisbury Crags, then King Arthur et al would ride out to save Edinburgh. But lately I am informed that Arthur and co are in fact resident in Alderley Edge, Cheshire - so we'll see! ;-)
there's a cannon they fire every day at 1pm

That'd be the One O'Clock Gun. I have a feeling I saw that from the castle, too, and found it was disappointingly modern and little, considering it makes such a noise every day. I hadn't realised it didn't do its thang on Sundays, but then Sunday at 1 is usually lunch at Granny's if I'm in Edinburgh!


A day earlier, and there'd have been the chance to watch the Beltane Fire Festival start from the Parthenon (locals tend to call it the Acropolis) and weave its way around Calton Hill... See several of the Edinburgh LJs for details....
If you're still in Scotland, get something suitably wooly, buttery, and kitsch. A Highland Cow perhaps? ;-)

Otherwise, you could calculate the entire value of money your parents have poured into you, calculate interest earned, and give them a promisory I.O.U. ;-)
(Deleted comment)
I do believe you'll find that there is already an invitation in the post for you, so the three of you won't have to fight.

OK, I wasn't expecting that. Thank you!

I'm looking forward to meeting you.

Likewise.
After a flurry of text messages, it transpired that during the acution at plokta.con, Hoggy had purchased two tickets to next week's invitation-only Clarke Award ceremony.

Ooh. You lucky jammy gits, you.

Also, my local Fopp has neither Ilium nor The Child That Books Built for £3 - if someone would be prepared to purchase them for me and not mind keeping them till June-ish when I can pick them up that would be rather nice.

Edinburgh nice. Ms Z also nice. :)
...at plokta.con, Hoggy had purchased two tickets to next week's...

That's not what I wrote! :-p
No, it's not. :p
And why is it not what I wrote, exactly?
Becuase I'm lazy, and it was quicker to delete snowking and type in Hoggy than it was to put the lj tags back in?

Of course, this subthread has now consumed far more time and effort than if I'd just put the tags back in, so meh.
Well at least she was true to your spelling mistake ;)
Damn your eyes, sir. Damn them straight to hell.
I haven't read Coaslescent (and don't feel inclined to, to be honest, as baxter doesn't seem to work for me) so I can't tell exactly what it is about Cheryl Morgan's review you object to, apart from the fact that you disagree with some of her interpretations.

Can you explain a bit about why you don't like her writing? I thought she made a lot of very good points in her Eastercon report.
Admittedly, a stronger example is probably this review, which was followed up by this discussion. She has a tendency to criticise authors, not books, or to assume that a book represents an author's point of view; and she is deeply intolerant of any viewpoint that is different from her own.

In this particular case: saying she doesn't like the types of characters Baxter has created in Coalescent is fine; implying that it is a bad book that is only getting recognition because these dysfunctional characters also exist in influential positions in real life is cheap. Then there's what might be considered 'basic knowledge' such as recognising what the society Baxter is creating is. Hint: it's not anarchist. And the fact that the subsequent books will chart different evolutionary futures (admittedly, Amazon might possibly be out of date on that, but I haven't heard differently from any other sources). And I can't decide whether her reading of the gender issues in the book is deeply simplistic (because it's far more balanced than she would like you to think), or far too deep (because when you get down to it, it's about biology first and gender second).

(I don't say I can necessarily do better; in fact, I know I've made similar errors in the past, and people have called me on them.)
(despite the best distraction-by-text efforts of korovyov_x)

Hee. deccasanta is too too funny. <3

The first was that 'many experts believe that Friends jumped the shark some time ago'; I love the idea that jumping the shark is now an accepted term in critical discourse.

What about the idea that there are Friends experts?

But no! She walked straight past me without recognition!

Not without recognition. Whole 'nother ball game of observational terribleness: I didn't see you.

I could be offended - I mean, I didn't think I was that unassuming - but in fairness I think it just makes us equally inept.

Feh.

(or indeed a foam pirates' cutlass)

Arrrrr!

I so should have got one.
Hee. korovyov_x is too too funny. <3

Not that the rest of us get to share in the funny. Not that I'm bitter. ;-)

What about the idea that there are Friends experts?

That also is good news. There might be room for an Angel expert!

Not without recognition. Whole 'nother ball game of observational terribleness: I didn't see you.

*sulks*
Not that the rest of us get to share in the funny. Not that I'm bitter. ;-)

Oh, you so are. But that's okay. I forgive you.

That also is good news. There might be room for an Angel expert!

......I should've known.

*sulks*

Yeah, right. It was more amusing than anything. I say 'amusing' so I don't think too much and cringe at what I did. :D
Not without recognition. Whole 'nother ball game of observational terribleness: I didn't see you.

For your next trick, will you be going to London for a walk around Trafalger Square without seeing Nelson's Column? :)
*blinks*

There's a column at Trafalgar Square? Wow. Never noticed it.