Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Pints and Drams

Done a bunch of extremely British - and Scottish - cultural things in the past week. Among them, going to two Oxford Formal Halls with my friend at LMH(one of the Oxford colleges). Those were fun - an excuse to get dressed up and have a nice dinner in one of the those big, grand old Harry Potter-esque halls with portraits and rafters. Incidentally, I did get to see the real Harry Potter main hall...it's not that big! And the staircase in front is positively tiny. Funny tricks of perspective.

We also went to pubs/bars like "The Duke of Cambridge" and "The Eagle and Child." That latter was frequented, or so I heard, by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. I got to see all the students finishing their exams, walking around in sub-fusc covered in eggs and feathers and such, or sometimes riding bikes. I've never seen so many formally dressed people on bikes in my life!

In London, I did all the sorts of things you might expect - visited the British Museum, which is really a great place, totally free, well-lit and designed, and generally just an excellent museum. I used to think they ought to return the Rosetta Stone and the head of Ramses II - no more. The Egyptian museum was a disaster. I think most things are better off in London, where they will be seen, safe, and clean.

I took the bus from Oxford to Edinburgh last night - almost 11 hours, all told, and they dropped us off in Milton Keynes for an hour to change lines. What a dismally bizarre place. It's some kind of strange English planned city, and it was all weird mall architecture, highways like landing strips and nobody to be seen. There were about 15 rabbits on every corner - it was like Watership Down or something. And as I sat waiting in coachstation, just a little turn-off from the highway with a closed coffee stand, I saw some really weird stuff. A white unmarked van pulled up and idled, and then about 15 minutes later a really nice Audi station wagon. An older white dude in white tie climbs out, goes into the back of the van, emerges 10 minutes later next to some Indian guy in jeans with a bunch of suits in drycleaner bags, and they both speed off. Bizarre. And then there was another station wagon parked nearby, and 3 separate cars pulled up, people got into the wagon, talked for a bit, and then left. Weirdest thing...I guess Milton Keynes coachway is where you buy drugs.

Now I'm in Scotland, and I've walked up to the Edinburgh Castle, hiked through the moors of Holyrood Park, and tried the scotch at the Dome, a grand old Victorian bank converted into a cool bar with a soaring dome roof.

Oh, and I had a haggis.