Monday last week was of course the twenty-fourth & being so far from home & friends & family was a little strange. But it turned out to be a great day (it didn't rain at all for starters) – I tagged along with Thomas as he went to visit his mother up near Inverness for the night. Thomas was great at showing me little things off the beaten track as we went through the highlands; it was particularly nice to spend a bit of time checking out the estate & village nannied for Thomas' family quite some years ago. The heather was out in full force & it smelt divine. Managed to fit in a bit of a walk up a hill to get a cracking view of Newtonmore & the surrounds.
After dropping in on an old school friend of Thomas a little further north at Aviemore (which apparently has very good riding, I must return some time in the not too distant future) we arrived at Sally & Alan's in time for a great venison dinner. Sally & I hadn't seen each other for over twenty years (so that of course means I don't remember too much from then), so it was great to catch up & share stories of our family (stories set presently or in the past) & travels.
We returned to Edinburgh the next day, on a different route to which travelled north – calling in at a couple more friends' houses. This was a tiki-tour that Dad would be proud of – we stopped when we saw things of interest & we went for a couple of walks. I don't really remember the path we took home – but I think it was east of the previous day's roads. I do remember that we went to Balmoral, but didn't get invited in for tea in biscuits. Also early in the day we checked out the historic battlefield of Culloden – very interesting to see it & learn a little Scottish history – this was the site of the last battle in the Jacobite Rising in 1745.
The rest of that week is a bit of a blur of a lot of shows & late nights & walking to & from the flat (my only nod to exercise for a while). Two of the theatre showing I went along to were hour long soliloquies. Both were retrospective from the end of each of the characters' lives. The first was in the shoes of Richard Burton, a very-well known (I had never heard of him) Welsh actor – who was one on the list of “has been married to Liz Taylor”. Not being able to convey what it was like – I'll just say it was a great performance & an hour of just one person talking flew by. The second was in a very small room with about fifteen filled seats in one of them most out-of-the-way venues I had been to yet – well out of the normal venue district, up many floors & unusually we were fed tea, coffee & biscuits while waiting. I digress, we were sitting in a small dark room with the door shut, when who should charge in ranting & raving at 10.30 but some one bearing an uncanny resemblance to Adolf Hitler (we did know this was coming, but I like a bit of build-up)? For over an hour, we had Hitler in his final moments underneath Berlin pretty much summarizing his dreams, achievements, failures & thoughts on many subjects & people – on a factual side it was a very good summary of all that he did (except for the obvious bit of it being in English - thankfully). On a dramatic side (not that I can pretend to know much about the arts) it was a moving performance & as well as the megalomanical tyrant, we could see at times that Hitler, somewhat disturbingly wasn't completely different from the rest of us – a time to consider how it all happened & could it happen again. Talking about the rest of the comedy & the Moscow State Circus (no animals – but I was impressed by the show & acrobatics) that I saw seems a little bit frivolous after that – but I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the festival.
However, I was all show-ed out by the weekend – so doing a little family history research for Mum was a welcome change. I was looking for anything on one of my fore-fathers (I'm not even going to guess how many “greats” are involved) – on Mum's maternal side – who was originally from Italy but was in Edinburgh for a decade or two or three at the beginning of the nineteenth century. I went to four different archives, enjoyed the hunt & looking at documents that looked as though they hadn't seen the light of day for a hundred years. I had moments of discovery (I am waiting the report of how much worth they had), walked around quite a bit of central Edinburgh where my ancestors lived, worked & hopefully had a bit of time for play (I don't think they had mountain-bikes back then, poor souls) & managed to find the church where some of them were baptised & married. It was nice to be doing something different & putting my brain to work for the first time in a while).
The break for the archives was on Sunday, when Thomas & a mate of his, Brinky (who had recently spent the best part of a year in NZ – good stories), were going kayaking. I was happy to tag along & get out in the wilderness & be shuttle-driver (good karma, do unto others & all that) for them. We drove north to the Linn of Tummel (Thomas & I had stopped here on the way north the previous week). The guys put their kayaks in just below a hydro dam & just before about fifteen whitewater rafts went in & I had about an hour to kill before they would go over the falls of the Linn. On the drive down, I saw another group of rafts & kayaks just before I got to the Linn, so I enjoyed going down & seeing them go over the falls. The rafts went over the ~two-metre falls OK – except when the guide standing on the rocks before the falls twisted them around; then they all fell out & capsized & was most amusing & made for some decent photos.
While I was waiting for Thomas & Brinky, I wandered down the road a little & picked some more delicious chanterelles (Thomas & I picked a lot of these delicious yellow mushrooms on Monday). Eventually, the rafters, an earlier group of kayaks & Thomas & Brinky came down the river. I enjoyed being warm & dry as I watched many go over the falls & quite a few end up in the drink. I had my camera on multishot & ended up with way too many photos – here are some of the better ones.