Call me Dale Earnhardt...no, better not. He crashed. Here is me and my Peugeot. You will note I am not wearing a cast of any sort.
But the day didn't start here. Ah, first I must report that I finally got my first shower last night. When I arrived I couldn't figure out how to work it. Mrs. Butterfield came up to help me, since the contraption was the same in her bathroom downstairs, but alas. We were stumped. In hers there was a little box attached to the ceiling with a long cord attached. You pull the cord, which turns on the shower machine. Then, in the tub, is the part with the water temperature controls and a stop/start button. The button only works when you have pulled the cord. We could find no box/cord in my bathroom.
Well, thanks to my training in adventure games, I was finally able to locate the hidden ceiling box with cord in a remote corner of the bathroom, behind the door. Thus the grime from my ascent to the Wallace Monument was finally washed away before bed last night. I had begun to think it would be a souvenir.
Anyway, my day began today with the same two charming fellows who picked me up at the airport...Ernest and George. Here they are:
You will notice (thank you, Bob) that they are standing upright.
They came for me today at 10 am with the ultimate goal of getting my rental car. First we swung by the Stirling Methodist Church, where I will be presiding on Sunday. Ernest will be my liturgist and George will be one of the Communion servers. This is the church.
I don't remember the date exactly...something like 1823. For an old building, it has a strikingly modern interior. This is the view of one side from the altar area.
And from the back to the altar area. The piece of wood coming into the picture from the top is the bottom of a large cross on the wall.
You're eyes have not deceived you. Here in an old, historic church (second oldest in Stirling) in stodgy Scotland, they have managed to overcome the resistance to swapping out pews for chairs. Like in the UMC in Exeter, NH, they sometimes bring in tables and have meals right in the sanctuary. Or sometimes they move the altar down and have communion in the round. And yes, Tina and Diana, that is the church library in the upper corner...right there in the sanctuary!
There isn't too much else to the church. There is a small kitchen and fellowship hall behind the altar area and two small rooms in the front. That's about it. There is a balcony (gallery) that is currently being used to store items that they give to the homeless. The kitchen/hall smelled of smoke from the AA group that meets there. So, in true Methodist fashion, the church is reaching out to the community. It is just down the street from a scout building. I had no idea the scouts were international, but there they were...same symbol, same "Be prepared" slogan.
After the church, we headed toward the car rental place to the south of town. It was right next to the Bannockburn Heritage Center, so we went there first for a cup of coffee. I'll go back again later to see the full exhibit, but we did have time to take in the statue of the man for whom my brother is named...Robert the Bruce, King Robert I of Scotland (also our 21st great grandfather).
And here's the one I took that includes his head!
Here is some of the surrounding battlefield. Back then, however, it was not lush field, but bog...which helped Robert win the battle. The artillery and heavy cavalry got stuck and the Scots mowed them down.
There was also a view of Stirling Castle, but you have already seen a hazy picture of Stirling Castle. I will wait until the weather is better. I'm guessing it could be a long wait.
After these stirring moments we went next door to get the car. It wasn't there. The person returning it was late, and was going to be another hour or so. Ernest and George had to be somewhere in the afternoon...they are bowlers...the lawn sort...so we couldn't wait. The company (Alamo) offered to bring the car to me. Good news for me, as it was going to be tricky to navigate my way back to the house. It ended up being several hours (they got lost), but at long last I got the car. I had to leave about a $750 deposit in addition to the car rental fee!
This is the bravest woman in all of Scotland.
If Mrs. Butterfield looks a bit harried here in front of Dunblane Cathedral, it is not because she is looking out over the sea of ancient tombstones in front of the church, contemplating her mortality. It is because she has faced her mortality much more directly by riding with me in my first ever trip on the other side of the road. First she took me to a parking lot where I could get used to where the gears were, and then we were off to nearby Dunblane to see the cathedral.
She was really very kind. She said nothing at all when I shifted her kneecap, and only reached over a couple of times to put on my turn signal. It seems that although you are turning left to go around a roundabout, if you will be exiting at some place after 12:00 on the circle, you signal right. I didn't do that often. Her screams were neither loud nor penetrating, and when her side of the car brushed up against the curb, she acted as if it were routine. Of course, by that point, it was.
After only one wrong turn (which was her fault, not mine) we arrived here:
There was no place to go to get a picture of the whole thing. Like most churches in Scotland, it started out Catholic, got ruined and sacked a bunch of times, and is now part of the Church of Scotland. Most of the current building was finished in the 13th century...that's when it was rebuilt. Here are the aforementioned tombstones.
This charming house across the street was labeled "Cathedral House."
Running behind the Cathedral is the River Allan
A lovely walk along the river finished up our stay at the Cathedral.
I was a little more confident on the drive home, and Mrs. Butterfield went inside to lie down. I hadn't had a real meal since leaving the US, so I went out (on foot) to forage for food. That's when it started raining. About a mile down the road are a few little shops...a convenience store, a fish and chips take out, an Italian restaurant and some offices. So I went into the Italian restaurant and ordered fish and chips. Quite good.
On the way back, I took a picture of the Wallace Monument from below. Remember their house sits at the bottom of this hill...or really Craig, as it is called...the Abbey Craig. It is mostly rock. By the way, I got the number of stairs wrong yesterday. There are 246 stairs up to the top.
Perhaps one day there will be a picture of it with blue sky, but I wouldn't hold my breath, if I were you.
And then I was back home to watch the news with Mrs. Butterfield. Explosions in Iraq and the flooding of half of the country of Bangladesh made the drive seem a little less harrowing, and then I came upstairs to the painfully long process of loading all of this on a dial-up modem.
This may be the last entry for a couple of days. The rest of the Butterfield family comes home tomorrow about noon for a couple of days before their next excursion. Since I am using John's computer and office (and tying up the church phone line), he may want to actually use his office. So we'll see. In the morning the church organist/pianist is coming by. I called her yesterday with the hymns I had picked for Sunday. They know exactly zero of the ones I picked, and I only picked three while they usually sing five. So tomorrow she and Kofi Annan will be here to see if we can't negotiate a deal. The Butterfields will be home about noon. I'm hoping to get on this handy bus tour of Stirling. You get on the bus, which stops at all the attractions, and you can hop on or off any time you like, just waiting for the next bus to continue the tour. Parking downtown is pretty close to a nightmare, so this seems easiest. I can catch the bus at the Wallace Monument. Until next time!
So to continue the story. When I looked at the blog as it was up on my website, it posted in a different order than I wrote it. Oh well. This part comes after the signpost saying that it was 1/2 a kilometer to the Wallace Monument. The trail began past some of my favorite creatures, right behind the garden wall to the house:
It continued along a wooded trail...
And then came to a dead end. Other paths had led off the main one, so I went back to one of those and followed it. There were no trail markings anywhere that I could see, so I just picked a path each time there was a fork. It got quite steep and I soon found I had embarked on a hike, not a walk. Figures. For a day and a half I wore my trail shoes through airports and bus terminals because they were the bulkiest shoes I had and I didn't want to lose room in my suitcase. Since I set out this morning just to walk down the street, I was just wearing my regular tennis shoes.
Eventually I came out to a paved path and a sign to the Wallace Monument. That was a pretty steep path up, too, and I took it up to this
As you can see, the day is overcast. At some point I'll take a picture of the monument from the ground so you can see how far up I went to get to this. I'm not sure which path was only 1/2 k, but it was much farther the way I ended up going.
Once at the monument, a kindly knight told me the tales of William Wallace (which I already knew from Magnus Magnusson's history of Scotland).
Then I went inside the monument and paid £6 for access to the stairs. There are 234 stairs. After the first third there was a room with some displays and video. The room was incredibly dark and obviously I haven't really figured out how to get my camera to deal with that, but here is a poor attempt at taking a picture of Wallace's sword.
The narrow, winding, stone stairs freaked me out, so I didn't go any higher. Back down I went and took in the view from the front of the monument.
You could also see Stirling Castle through the mist, but the picture didn't load in the right place. It is down below.
I could have walked down the paved path to the parking lot (car park), but then I would have no idea where I was or how to get home. So I found my way back again through the woods and past the sheep, back past the door to the garden behind Craigmill House (yes, that's my finger in the picture!)
(This is the castle. The lighter part is the newly renovated Great Hall)
Finally, a couple of hours later, I was back at the gate where it all began.
And now I'm back from a trip to the grocery store. I felt really stupid. With different brands and different packaging, I had no idea what was in any of the containers. I've not had coffee since I've been here. It seems that the Butterfields (who are currently out on a boat) took the coffee maker with them. So there's only instant in the house. I've made do with tea.
I'm going to experiment with tunafish salad, but there was not a scrap of pickle relish to be found in the store. No sweet pickles to cut up either. There was some sort of brown stuff that claimed to be related to pickles. I got some and will see what it is and if it can go in tuna salad. I did find cinnamon/raisin bagels and cream cheese, so that made for a happy trip. And salad comes in bags there, too. They even had Tropicana Orange Juice.
The afternoon tea tradition is a nice thing. I don't know if the Scots practice it, but the senior Mrs. Butterfield, who is here, is from London, so we have tea about five pm. I am enjoying her company.
Tomorrow morning I will pick up the car, so if there are no more postings for awhile, you'll know I didn't get the hang of that left side of the road thing. I did discover on the paved walk up to the monument that the left side applies to walking as well as driving.