Wednesday, July 1, 2009

E09: An Inside Kind of Day

With the weather somewhat gloomy I thought, “hey, what better time than to wander through all the many museums and parliament buildings I've been avoiding out of fear of boredom.” Step one, head down to the bottom of the Royal Mile and check out parliament. I'd been told you can see politicians debate, and if I've learned anything from flipping past C-SPAN on my way to more entertaining channels, it's that watching old men scream and curse at each other... well it's not half bad.

Unfortunately parliament was closed today – come back tomorrow!

As I started walking back up the mile, I noticed that people were an awful lot more kiltish today. And the women were very goth-loli. I'm talking tiny little hats with the odd feather and lace, pinned on to the top of their heads, with classy looking dresses. Had i just arrived in Scotland I might think that this was how people dressed everyday, as that is what television has prepared me to assume, but no. I knew better. This style of dress followed me around all day. I was told it might be because the Queen may have come to town today. She does spend the month of July here. No one could tell me for sure, except for those who were dressed to impress. I never thought to ask them.

Stop one on my indoorsey trip (seeing as how my initial destination seemed not to want outlandish tourists traipsing through this day) was The People's Story. Being part of the United Kingdom, most museums, galleries, and other such buildings whose express purpose was to educate, admission was free. I would recommend that anyone who finds themselves in the daring city of Edinburgh with thirty minutes to kill stop on by. It's right on the main tourists strip, so just about everyone is bound to pass by it once or twice.

Mannequins, displays, and audio clips are set up in tableaux representing a number of important stages in Edinburgh's development. The first thing you'll notice is labour rights, and pre-union strikes. Peer into the jail cell and see those who were locked up for daring to stop work in order to force better pay. Upstairs featured information on women's rights, voting, and the workforce, as well as life during world war II Edinburgh.

The most important piece to be found, of course, is Rodney Relax, punk. Why, he uses sugar, egg whites, and soap in his hair to make it stand straight up. He is an attention seeker and his parents do not approve!

If you can stop your giggles after reading Mr. Relax's psychedelic sign you should continue your journey up the Mile to the Children's Museum. This is a museum celebrating childhood, and everything that it entails.

You remember that white and rainbow striped Raleigh bike you owned all those decades ago? They've got one of those proudly on display. Tin soldiers, dolls, alphabet books (a real delight for me), and all the train sits, miniatures, and race cars you could imagine. This is what the museum has to offer. Photography is allowed, and encouraged here... except... EXCEPT in gallery five.

Look, it's not that there's anything particularily fabulous is gallery five that doesn't exist elsewhere. You'll simply find a tableaux of students in a classroom, speaking in unison (how are we speaking class? In unison!) going through their eight times tables. It's not that this is any better than the other toy filled galleries, but because you are told not to take pictures there, it's the only place that you really want to photograph! This is some secret garden, don't eat the apple, stay out of your father office, type stuff going on! ...I may or may not have video recorded said times table repetition.

Well, I'd taken forbidden photographs, failed to get one place I wanted, and succeeded at another. What was I to do no... ohh look, the sun is coming out!

That's right, for a full forty minutes the sun was shining overhead, and my back was warm. I felt good, the day looked good, smiles returned for all. So what else could I do? I went to the park and read some more of my book. If I thought that smiles had returned for me, they must have really returned for the couples in the middle of the grass. It's not so much that they were kissing as it was that they were licking each others tongues. And it's not so much that they were lying next to each other, as it was on each other.

Love was definitely in the air for the couples who were coming up the stairs from Waverly Station, finding themselves ready to... express themselves... under the afternoon sun.

I continued to read my book.

The sun decided that it was no longer wanted, and so it took its ball and went home. Behind clouds. Where it was more happy. As the couples disengaged from one another, I too thought it best to move on. The National Gallery was only a few minutes away, located at Princes Street and the Mound, so I continued to both culture and educate myself in the free galleries of Scotland.

Unlike the two galleries I had visited yesterday, this one was very well established. Walking in, I knew that I had found the best art that Edinburgh had to offer. Unfortunately the best pieces in the whole museum (aside from Mischievous Monkeys, located on the first floor) were kept in the Scottish collection. Now this, to you, may sound fantastic, and it kind of is. It's great that the local art is the shining collection, however it would be nicer if that collection wasn't hidden away in the basement accessible only if you navigate to the end of the main floor, with no real signage. Also, it would be nice if there was air conditioning in that collection too.

I asked an employee with the galleries why the collection was hidden away. She, herself, was confused. This room is a highly recommended stop for anyone interested in the arts. The two highlights for me were both painted by Sir. Joseph Noel Paton, The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania, and The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania. Both of them feature a scene from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and both are so detailed that you could literally spend hours searching through them to discover everything that is going on. Each painting contains nearly one hundred and fifty individual faeries.

I would have loved to purchase poster sized versions of these piece, but there were none available. I did pick up the postcards, but the colours were so dark that they hardly do justice to the piece. I will seek out larger versions in the near future.

Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong!

Five O'clock. Edinburgh was shutting down. Shops were locking up, galleries were shoving people through the doors, parks were closing their gates for the night. Though the light lasts until ten o'clock, the city shuts down quite early. Time for dinner!

And where better than Jimmy Chung's Chinese buffet?! I'd known it was simply a matter of time before I stopped in. Now, let me tell you, this is a Chinese buffet with a twist. The twist being, there are no chopsticks available! What type of Chinese buffet is without chopsticks? Chinese food tastes wrong, feels wrong, is just simply wrong when eaten with a fork. I found myself twirling my noodles as if they were spaghetti. What had I become? Now you can call me a food snob, a purist, obsessive compulsive, but I'll have you know that there was another person there making similar complains.

Mind you the person looked like, despite other aspirations, he would never achieve anything more than bass player in his garage band. Never would he be lead singer. Not even rhythm guitarist. I am defeated.


  1. Chinese buffet Scottish style, how was it? I do agree with you, Chinese food shouldn't be eaten with forks.

    I love hanging out in parks reading but the tongue tasting stints young,eager, couples do can be off-putting.

  2. i tell you, it was one of the better buffets i've had outside of canada - so that's something. a passing man gave me a voucher for a free lunch (well five, needed to trade in for a free lunch) there, so i'll be back.


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