Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Quiz Night

Quiz Nights are popular all over Britain. Here in Ulverston they seem to run on Tuesday evenings. We've been to Old Friends quiz night a couple of times now. You buy your own pint (or half-pint in my case). Someone comes around selling raffle tickets for a pound. (I think it's for a free meal.) Form up your team. The first time we went with another couple of Yanks: Team America. This time we took Andy, but were asked by a seasoned quizzer to join them. They had six or seven people, which is approaching unfair, and we had 3. She and a companion with "football knowledge" joined our team. Whoohoo! We had a chance now, with two English people on our team. Our new friends, Jean and Graham, were brilliant. He correctly matched all ten football teams (soccer to you) with their nicknames, and she knew nearly everything else. Our young lad, Andy, had a couple of answers about pop culture. Hal and I each contributed one or two correct answers.

Part One was a quiz sheet - match the ten teams with nicknames. Part Two questions were read by the quiz leader. Jean wrote out our answers. Twenty of those. Then we handed Parts One and Two into the leader for marking, whilst everyone tucked into the sandwiches and soup put out by the pub staff. Free food! And a very nice spread it was, but it was after 9 pm, and we had eaten supper, so we weren't inclined to eat much then. Our quizzes were returned, and rankings were announced. The other two times we've played, the scores had been all over the place. This time all scores were very close. I think there were eight teams, with anywhere from two to five members.

Part Three was another twenty questions. After those were graded, we were tied for second place, which meant a "sudden death" match. A single question, involving a date, was posted. Whichever team gave the leader the correct (or closest) written answer first, would win. So Jean had a single piece of paper, and sat verrrrry close to the announcer. "What year did Isabel Peron become president of Argentina?" Our guess was 1950. The other team's guess was 1960. The correct answer was 1974, so the other team won second place, and we won third. First prize was eight beer tokens (pints); second was four tokens; and third was a bottle of wine. Jean and Graham thought we should take the wine home; perhaps they knew it was "shite." We had great fun, and now have met some more English in their natural habitat.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

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Hal and I took an afternoon trip into the middle of the Lake District. (It seems to be called both Lake and Lakes District.) Ambleside and Keswick are both tourist towns. In the summer it must be mad, maybe even worse than Mystic.
These shots were taken in Ambleside.

The auto is a sweet little number from the early 90s: a Nissan Figaro.

Approaching Keswick, we turned onto a side road for a stone circle. Castlerigg Stone Circle is quite a nice one, surrounded by the Cumbrian Mountains.

One thing all of the stone circles we've seen have in common is beautiful siting.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Andy visits

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Andy arrived by plane and train on Sunday afternoon. Hal (and the satnav) drove us down a few tiny lanes (two-way roads wide enough for a single car) to give Andy a "feel" for the area. I think he was duly impressed with the winding skinny roads. But coming from California, he wasn't as impressed with the sweeping vistas as we were. Connecticut has so few long horizons.

We took the bus to Barrow on Monday and breezed through the Chinese New Year exhibits, saying hello to my Chinese friends. There were stalls selling Chinese goods, and several craft tables were set up for children and families. The place was mobbed with children on school holiday.

At the Orange store Andy bought a UK phone. "No returns." Within an hour of arriving home, major defects were found in the phone. The volume switch got stuck. Believe me, Andy was wearing a different face after that.

The return bus to Ulverston was very cold. To get warm, we went to Gillam's Tea Shop. Enjoying teas and scones beside this upstairs window, we could browse their retail items, including teapots, loose tea, and implements of the trade, such as the all-important teabag squeezer.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


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We are not a spontaneous family, but there are exceptions to every rule. On Saturday morning, Hal found an ad for Celtic Connections music festival, ending Sunday, in Glasgow. Within 2 hours, he had booked a room and concert tickets, and we were on our way to Scotland for the first time.
It had snowed in the north on Friday night, so the mountains on both sides of us were blanketed in it. The Cumbrian Mountains to the west and Pennines to the east. The highest mountain in England is 3200 feet above sea level (Scafell Pike in Cumbria), and the peaks we passed were mostly around 2000 feet. But considering that the coast is so near, they rise at a pretty good pitch. There are many evergreen forests here, apparently planted and managed. Barren fields and hillsides beside well-defined forests. Villages didn't seem as pretty as the ones in Cumbria, but we didn't investigate them on this trip.

Passing through Lockerbie, we both fell silent, with a sense that this was hallowed ground.

We made it to Devoncove Hotel on Sauchiehall ("sawkie" or gutteral "ch" as in "loch") Street in Glasgow in 3 hours. Devoncove is 3-star rated by the Scottish Tourist Board, so what did we get for our 59 GBP?

A clean, tiny room with wifi and en-suite bath. My personal favorite amenity was the heated towel rack. Mmmmmm. It also had a shower-caddy-dispenser, with shampoo, shower gel, soap, and conditioner. Cool! even if it was missing the soap button (still worked). During the night, we discovered that the walls were paper thin. The man next door was hacking up phlegm. I envisioned myself smacking on the wall, (kindly, of course) asking if he needed me to call a doctor. Conversations in the hallway were heard word-for-word.

Full Scottish breakfast was included, but rushed. They stopped serving minutes after we sat down, and fifteen minutes later, we were told they were closing up (meaning: GET OUT).

Sauchiehall Street (left) viewed from our room and the Royal Crescent (right).

Supper was at the Filling Station, an American-style restaurant, ala Ruby Tuesdays, with a Route 66 theme. We got our dose of red meat there.

Our concert was at the Royal Concert Hall. A Scottish man sitting in front of us chatted us up, and called us his colonial cousins from America. He's a storyteller, so we told him about Mystic Seaport and the Sea Chantey weekend.

Front of Royal Concert Hall (left) and view from Royal Concert Hall (right)

Majorstuen, the opening act, is a young Norwegian string band with a great sound and lots of energy.

The headliner was Nuala Kennedy, an Irish "flautist" and singer with backup band. We would have liked less percussion, but it was lovely. We bought a CD from each, including Kennedy's The Books in My Library (mp3).

Hanging around after, we managed to get into the Late Night Session where bands played 15-minute sessions. Quebecois Le Vent du Nord was good with its hurdy-gurdy, a very strange-looking instrument. Our favorite was Jeana Leslie & Siobhan Miller, a young Scottish vocal/fiddle duo.

It's 1.3 miles straight down the well-lit Sauchiehall Street from the Royal Concert Hall to the hotel, a good walk through a shopping district with shoes to die for, or maybe just to break an ankle.

Our return after midnight provided an eyeful for middle-aged parents who are rarely out past nine. The street was lined with young partygoers waiting to get into clubs. Numerous clubs. Astounding number of smokers. Workers were sweeping the pedestrian malls and collecting trash - litter everywhere. Hal couldn't believe the girls out on the town on a freezing night, with no coats, in short, short skirts, and 6-inch heels (see previous photos). What were they thinking? Someone told me that girls leave the coats at home so they don't lose them whilst clubbing. Interesting logic.

The city has some interesting architecture, alongside some horrific 60s buildings. I had fun taking reflective photos in windows.

University buildings

Balustrade view

Proud proclamation

Glasgow taxis

Reflections of the city




Most of the buildings are very dirty looking. It's a gritty working-class town with several universities. Odd mixture, but well worth a return visit.

Wow. I almost forgot to put in some very important photos.

This "truck" hovered over the entrance to a club.

We've been "collecting" O'Neill's in London, York, and Glasgow.

And finally, a reflection of the intrepid travelers.