Monthly Archives: November 2015

You’re a wizard Harry – The Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail

I am starting to think that my goal of visiting the Dalwhinnie distillery while we are here is doomed to fail. We were so enchanted with Stirling yesterday that we didn’t leave in time to visit on the way to Fort William. Today we slept later than expected & had a wonderful cooked breakfast even later which meant that unless we were going to dedicate the whole day to it the distillery wasn’t going to happen, it might need to be another trip, possibly a solo one.

Today we visited the Glenfinnan Viaduct & hiked the trail with the same name. The Glenfinnan Viaduct is famous for its use in the Harry Potter films, the Hogwarts Express goes over the old bridge thing the children to the school. The weather was gorgeous, perfect blue skies, cool air & no wind. In fact once we got going, the lack of wind had us removing coats & sweaters as we were overheating despite the temperature not being much above freezing.

The walk was perfect, only 2.5 miles, but with the uphill sections it still felt like a decent workout. The view of the viaduct, Loch Shiel and the surrounding mountains with Ben Nevis in the distance were simply delightful. I’ll let the photos do the talking, we just had a nice family time before returning to the cottage for some afternoon laziness (and British chocolate).

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To top off the day of amazing views, we were treated to a rather special sunset reflecting off the side of Ben Nevis (the tallest mountain in the UK), followed by a wonderful evening out to celebrate my Mums anniversary.

Day 2 – Stirling & William Wallace

Our first full day in the UK began in the wonderful small city of Stirling Scotland. After a solid 13 hours sleep for all 3 of us (wow), we headed out from the hotel to Stirling Castle, the city of Stirling is an absolute delight, the picturesque historic old town surrounded by modern conveniences. With a little help from the GPS we made it to the cobbled street that lead to the castle.

The weather was quite pleasant, cold & clear, the air crisp, but when the wind blew it was a little biting, quite a welcome change from Texas. The castle is a fabulously preserved structure, like walking straight into a medieval movie scene, maybe even a Braveheart scene. We arrived halfway between guided tours so we decided to just set off and view the place for ourselves. My daughter loved this as she could run free, up and down the walls checking out every nook and cranny. It was such a joy to watch her, it reminded me of my childhood when castles were such an awe inspiring place to let your imagination run wild.

 

Guarded walls

Tales of old

If they could speak what would they say

Stories of Kings and knights

or foreign tourists from far away?

Battles and wounds

Heros and foes

Or discounted plastic swords?

 

After the castle we drove over to the William Wallace monument & had a bacon roll for lunch, proper bacon, it was wonderful!! Afterwards we climbed the hill unto the monument, it was a nice steep climb up a path covered with wet leaves from the woods it led through. At the top of the hill stood the monument, rising straight up proudly declaring its celebration of Scottish history, the St Andrews cross flag blowing freely in the wind.

The monument is basically an epic stair master, 246 steps on a stone spiral staircase to the top, no I didn’t count them. There were 3 rooms on the way up to take a breather and enjoy some history. The Hall of Arms with some Wallace info and a dramatized of a conversation between Wallace and Andrew de Moray along with some weapons & stuff. The 2nd room up, the Hall of Heroes, contained the extremely large Wallace Sword that may or may not contain some of the original sword. There are also a number of busts of historically significant Scottsmen from poets & clergy men to inventors, engineers & of course Robert the Bruce. In this room was also the only surviving document from Wallace himself along with his personal seal. The 3rd room up, the Royal chamber, has some kids entertainment pieces in it. Finally when you reach the top of the tower, you are treated to some spectacular views of Stirling & the surrounding area. There is a map helping you to spot where the battle of Stirling was fought & won by Wallace & his army.

Once we made our way down to the car we headed off west towards Fort William where we would be meeting my Mum. The drive was utterly spectacular, the scenery is just astounding in its beauty, it reminded me of the rockies, but gentler and with more dramatic color contrasts. The road itself was magnificent, it was work keeping the momentum up in our rental car, it is the sort of road that would be a dream to drive on a cool dry day in a nice speedy 2 door! After a couple of hours we made it to Fort William, the sun had already quit on us for the day. We found the rental cottage without any problems & on arrival was given the opportunity to hug my Mum for the first time in 4 years, the sort of moment that trips like this are all about, the scenery & entertainment are just a side show 🙂

On a side note, if we ever make another trip to Scotland, Stirling will be close to the top of the list for places to make our base, I would really like to spend some more time there.

 

The great European vacation of 2015

The great European vacation of 2015 has begun, for once I took the flight day off, it should have been, as it began, utterly relaxing, however leaving packing until the last minute saw it turn stressful, including realizing I’d left my phone at home 10 minutes into the journey to the airport. We got it recovered & made the flight in time and at this stage I have no items actually forgotten for the trip that i have discovered yet 🙂

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Leg room – yeah about that…

We were flying from Dallas to Edinburgh, via London on British Airways, the DFW to LHR leg is just under 9 hours of flight time and it is never much fun, this particular flight was one of the worst yet. My daughter’s seatbelt was missing part of the latch, we reported it & yay, I got moved, away from my family, to a seat by the bulkhead, with no leg room. I must have been visibly showing my frustrations as the attendant came an apologized several times & told me that I could go back to my family as soon as the seat belt signs went off. The same steward also gave me 2 beers instead of 1 when the drink cart went by, so I almost forgave him. The seats were uncomfortable and far too close together. The plane was clearly designed for less, indicated by the fact that where the seats were fastened to the floor left a pole right where your feet & or bag were supposed to go under them. In the intended configuration I am sure that the seat edges would be in line with the fastenings allowing everyone to have bag space & foot room. I slept very little but forced my self to rest regardless, which aid dividends as I wasn’t too wrecked on arrival.

Our connection in LHR was supposed to be easy, the Edinburgh flight was from the same terminal which should have meant no customs or security according to BA customer service – wrong, we had to clear customs & go back through security to get to the next gate. We made it to our connecting flight with no time to spare, extra delayed as my wife’s shoes in her carry on triggered something required a physical search.

We made it to Edinburgh at around 11 am (5am our time – having left at 4:30pm), after we got our bags we went straight to the terminal Starbucks & confused the poor barristers with our very American requests such as “a cup of coffee” lol. At the car rental place we got the hard sell on upgrades & insurance like I’ve not experienced since about 10 years ago in the states, the guys was good at it, but I really just wanted to get going & was never going to give him another 400 pounds to upgrade to a bigger car, these roads are tiny, I don’t want a bigger car! Once we finally got in our car, oh my the parking lot was packed tight! I made it out with no dings, got on the left (right) side of the road & went to Edinburgh Castle.

IMG_2951The castle served 2 purposes, 1 it is a cool tourist spot that we wanted to go to, 2, it would keep us awake long enough to go to sleep in the evening to get adjusted to the time zone. The castle was fun, it is a magnificent imposing military structure. As a place to visit, it was a little more military & a little more structured museum than I usually like for a castle. The air outside was cool & the wind biting, my daughter had fun running around on the battlements & inspecting cannons, once we got index the war museum though she quickly lost interest. Mon’s meg (the huge medieval canon that could fire a stone ball over 2 miles) was as imposing as you would expect & St Margarets Chapel, the oldest building in the castle – built in the 1130s, got her focus back though. We moved on to the crown jewels, they spent a long time building them up with exhibits, yet once you got to them, a little disappointing, I mean, really cool old stuff, but not exactly the English crown royal jewels, oh well.

 

After the castle we made the hour drive to Stirling where we would spend the night, very tired we ate at the inn next to the hotel, a below average steak & a quite amazing sticky toffee pudding with a pint of carling made me feel very much so back in the UK.

Insomnia

 

Bed, a little later than intended

Not too late

A reasonable night’s sleep should still be achievable

 

Noises

Temperature

Thoughts

He said, she said, I can, I can’t

Do this, do that,

I should, I won’t, I will

Toilet

How’s it been an hour already?

Sleep

You can do it!

Just relax

Maybe pray

Think happy thoughts

Think sad thoughts

Stop thinking

Shut up you’re driving me crazy!

Another hour, really?

 

Benadryl

I wonder if this will work?

Why am I awake?

Nothing is even on my mind

Why?

 

What?

Ugh, the alarm!

I guess I fell asleep eventually

The Start – Again

Oh hey look, writing, yeah about that … I’m not going to sit here & talk about how I am going to get back on the blogging train, I might, but I can’t make promises right now. Somehow, someway I’ve found myself in a strange place.

When I started the blog it was in a time of change, a time of healing, of facing the past & shading those weights that I used to carry around everywhere. It was a good time, therapeutic, life changing, wonderful. I had this great desire to live consciously, not in the old auto-pilot mode that I was always on. Life to me seems better when living it as a writer, not a professional writer, but one that chooses to look at the world, put it in their now words to share it. There is something to be seen in everything, you just have to look.

I was going to begin this post on last Monday, on a work trip to Los Angeles, yet Monday morning as I was getting ready, I looked at my laptop & could not think of a reason to bring it so I left it at home for safety. That there is the reason my blog has slowly died a death, when I have the time, I just don’t think about it, when I don’t have the time, I still don’t think about it. This is not necessarily a bad hing, however this lack of conscious thought is exactly what I had tried (successfully for a while) to get away from.

So do I sit here and list my excuses? Who am I giving them to ? Who am I asking forgiveness from anyway? No, this is a post to hark back to the old days. One that just looks inside to see where it will go, not poetic, not for clicks, for self, for growth.

It has been an interesting year so far. On the face of it things have been pretty good. I received a long overdue promotion at work (yay) but didn’t get a pay rise (boo). My daughter refuses to stop growing up, both physically & mentally, it is wonderful to watch, but it is all going by so quickly. There have been times this year that I have been a really good husband to my wife & other times that I’ve just been a jerk. It’s almost like I’m human or something 😉 Still I want to be really good a lot more & a jerk a lot less.

I have seen 3 people that I cared about die from cancer this year, a work colleague, a childhood friend & an adult friend who was a close to a father in the USA as I have had.  I think I have dealt with the grief, but then again maybe I just ignored it & moved on like a “normal” guy (not good). I’ve coached my daughter’s soccer team through the wettest spring pretty much ever, it lasted forever due to the cancellations. The downside was not many kids came back this fall, my kid is now playing 1 year up & I had to adjust to being an assistant coach instead of head coach, not easy for several reasons that I won’t go in to. I have played the video game Destiny a lot, too much, it’s been fun, but it might be out of control. Much more has happened, its a lot, this year has been a lot.

Where am at though? Really at? What is going on inside? I guess other than the usual “I’m ok”, the truth is that I’m probably not. I don’t feel the depression returning, life is good, but I’m in an odd place. I’m tired a lot, snappy & grumpy too often. I don’t work out enough, I really don’t make enough time for God & due to business a lot of my relationships are basically on hold.

I see what I did there, where am I at? Let me give you a list of negative things to describe that something is wrong & maybe thats why I don’t write at the moment. There are adjustments I want to make, but I really am doing ok. I have mostly got over the more mentality that has plagued me for ages & am generally pretty content these days. I am really comfortable with just being me, I’m not overly driven professionally, I just do my job really well & try to help others do the same. I don’t want to be that guy who’s life is all about their work. I love my sports still, but in an entertainment, not life dominating kind of way. I say that but this fall it feels completely opposite, between my kid’s soccer, my soccer & other stuff, I don’t have the time (or the energy when I do have time) to do some of the other things that I love. My guitar playing is pretty bad right now, my singing is way off, I haven’t been able to lead worship since August.

Maybe that is the biggest thing, the pace of life, it is tolerable, survivable, but I don’t know if it is ultimately sustainable. I get that having a kid, especially one who is starting to do extra-curricular activities is time consuming. Yet there is a part of me, maybe the very essence of me that needs attention, unfortunately it is the first part that gets brushed aside to make time for what needs to be done. It is the creative side, the part of me that if I’m in a bad mood, or pointlessly bickered with my wife, is instantly soothed by playing guitar. It is the part of me that finds out what is going on by writing about it, because to this day if you ask me I have no idea what is going on inside.

It’s a soul thing, maybe I could make this a spiritual thing too, yes I’m not doing as well as I “should” be with things like prayer & reading the bible. I have got to a strange place with religion again, my belief remains unshaken, but cynicism has crept in, the business of Christianity troubles me. The faith, the truth, the delivering grace of Christ makes my soul smile, but the pretty people making pretty music & writing self help books for a machine of an industry it just troubles me sometimes.

I want my relationship with God to be better than it is right now. I was going to say I want it to be how it was a year or so ago, but maybe that is the problem. He is the God of the new, maybe I am struggling to draw close to Him because I am looking for what was, not what is to come, maybe I just don’t make the time & well, maybe I just don’t know …..

That’s the thing, all these things that I tell myself I should do, that I need to do, it becomes overwhelming, it is so much, can’t I just live life? Do I have to be looking to do something, growth or change of impact or whatever I tell myself it looks like I should be doing? Maybe that’s been part of the draw back to video games, just zoning out on the couch for a couple of hours BSing with friends, it’s bliss. I just… I just don’t know right now.

You see, I don’t really know what I want to be doing with life right now, goals etc, I don’t have any, just be happy. Yet just making it, that’s not going to be good enough long term, I know myself better than that. Maybe I’m just tired, maybe I need more sleep, maybe I need some true rest. I go on vacation soon, for a couple of weeks. I hope to journal it on here, when I did that before it added a lot to my trip, I think it could really help right now.

I’m not going to make any big plans or bold decorations until the dust has settled on that, it’s probably going to end up looking like new years resolutions, but it won’t be, I just know that I want to take better care of me in 2016 so that I can be better for those connected to me. Not that I’m not good now, I just know I can be better & when you are your best around people, you tend to get their best & life in general is just a little more groovy.

Rambling ramble over, not idea what I said or if it was worth saying, no idea when I will write again next, but maybe, just maybe, this is the start of taking care of my creative side again, the start of feeling alive again.