Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

Scotland

English hospitality and castle tours

Mine and Matilda’s trip to my Grandpa’s in Newcastle had somewhat of an inauspicious start in our conveyance from Edinburgh. We spent a little too long saying goodbye to everyone from the Hogmanay tour and ended up having to RUN through the city to the sprawling train station where we were supposed to print out our tickets. With three minutes till our train left, we still had no idea where the hell we could print them, and just had to board without them. We then began stressing about the laws regarding such things in the UK. Surely, we thought, they’re too polite here to fine you. Turns out we just had to buy more tickets from the inspector when he came around.

Our folly was punctuated by a sign we saw upon our arrival in Newcastle:


The answer? No. No we can’t.

We met Grandpa at the train station and he took us back to his house, which has a name instead of a number – an English custom I think is really cool! Besides that, it’s the most English-sounding address ever: Turnberry Fairway Rise, Hartford Hall Estate, Bedlington, Northumberland. It has just about every quaint English suffix you can think of.

A little while after we arrived, a whole clan of my extended family arrived to meet me. We were treated to a strange kind of hospitality, whereby the host expresses incredulity to the point of derision if you decline anything:

‘Do you want anything? Tea? Coffee?’

‘No thanks, I’m fine.’

‘Are you sure? Water? I think we’ve got some juice in here somewhere …’

‘No, no, seriously, I’m good.’

‘You don’t want anything? Nothing!?’

‘Nope.’

“Okay then …’

In this fashion I was guilted into Budweiser after Budweiser. It’s like there’s something wrong with you if you don’t want to consume something. I think it has something to do with the British propensity to have tea every five seconds. At any change in circumstance or situation they must be comforted by the consumption of tea. Also possibly an Australian sense of ‘roughing it’ – we drink when we’re thirsty, not when we turn the TV on or arrive home or go out or get up or move rooms.

But the food and the party were great. Towards the end we began fascinating my family with Australian coins and notes and licenses and passports. They couldn’t quite get over the waterproof money, and had to run it under a tap to appreciate its awesome power. I told them it was so we can go surfing with just a note in the pocket of our boardshorts.

That night, a couple of hours after I went to bed, I had my third spew of the trip (the Budweisers mixed with a lunch/dinner of party food and the chips, chocolate and softdrink we’d had to have for breakfast on the train were probably not a good idea).

We spent the following days eating out for lunch and dinner and visiting various castles, although we had perpetual bad luck in this, with Alnwick and Tynemouth being closed.

“Let me innnn!”: Scaling the portcullis.

Luckily we managed to get into Warkworth.


We also visited the cute little village of Alnmouth.

Grandpa and Christine seemed to have a personal cab driver who they’d always call to convey them to dinner if they wanted to drink. His name was Hippie, and he was a proper rough-looking Northerner – a Jordy, I think they might be called? Anyway he had a really low voice and a bikie-style ponytail. So you can imagine our surprise when his phone started ringing and his ringtone was ‘Waterloo’ by ABBA. He didn’t even seem embarrassed. Good on him, haha.

Our time at Grandpa’s was spent in absolute luxury, especially compared with the hostel life we’d become accustomed to. The bed was so comfy I never wanted to get out of it:

We had bacon sandwiches cooked for us every morning, and had lunch and dinner shouted for us every day and night. We lazed and napped and watched bad British television. It was just what we needed to recover in time for our next hostel venture.

Luke

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Schortsch ramblings

Some advice for anyone considering taking the Macbackpackers Hogmanay Highland tour package: 1. DO IT, 2. Ask for Ruthie, and 3. Don’t be sick or jetlagged.
The conditions mentioned in step three rendered our journey to Scotland an ordeal. It was about five hours by train, but I could NOT sleep because of the lack of something I’m beginning to miss increasingly from home, the humble public-transport window ledge:
It may seem small, but this slight protrusion at the base of the window is in fact the single greatest invention in the history of comfort, allowing weary travellers the world over to lean and sleep in luxury. Yes, throughout the protracted period of my total dependence on public transport, from the shabby Railcorp trains to the austere trackwork coaches, I’ve come to depend on this marvel of human ingenuity greatly, and yet, in this country I find it almost completely absent. Truly lamentable.
Anyway, once we actually got there, we had to traverse the most ridiculous set of stairs in the world, that just kept GOING, and of course, the freezing cold of Edinburgh. You see, the medieval builders of Edinburgh putatively reasoned that, if they built their streets like enormous wind tunnels, the frequent subzero gusts screaming through them would carry the plague out of the city into the sea. Needless to say, this didn’t work, and they were left with the coldest city in the worldoutside of Russia.
By the time we found our lodgings, I was ready to crash. Which I did. Fully clothed. On top of the blankets. Face down. The next day we had to be on a bus by eight.
Thus commenced our fantastic Scottish Highlands tour. We were introduced to our tour guide and driver, Scottish pocket rocket Ruthie, pictured below frolicking through a highland glen or some such:
Picture stolen from Jodie Gough.
Ruthie was incredible; she absolutely made the tour. She was a great storyteller, narrating to us from behind the wheel the epics of Scottish mythology (mostly pertaining to beautiful Scottish maidens abandoned by their Irish lovers), history (mostly pertaining to struggles against the hated English), and even some of her own entertaining personal reminiscences (mostly pertaining to ‘wee jobbies’ – I’ll let you Urban Dictionary that one).
I think my favourite story was her explanation of the tale behind the famous Scottish ditty:
Oi’ll teek the haigh rrroad ‘n’ ye’ll teek the lough rrroad
And oi’ll reach Schortland befoooooore ye
Fer me ‘n’ mai treu luff’ll never meet agen
By the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Looooomond
Which for many years was, in my mind:
You take the high road and I’ll take the low road
And I’ll slaughter countless sheep before ye …
due to some secondhand cultural knowledge via Catdog. But anyway, it’s supposedly the story of two Scottish rebels taken prisoner by the English, one old and one young. The ‘low road’ is the road back home from battle, and the high is the spiritual road that the dead take. Wanting to taunt the imprisoned Scots, the English guards tell them that the next day one of them will be hanged, and the other set free, and they must decide which is which. They argue well into the night over the issue, each insisting that they be the one to die. They eventually fall asleep, the matter unresolved, but when the young soldier awakes he finds a note from the old soldier which reads:
‘I’ll take the high road and you’ll take the low road
And I’ll reach Scotland before ye
For me and my true love will never meet again
By the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond.’
When she told the story we all got shivers down our spines; it was really touching.
On the first day of the tour we visited the gateway village of Dunkeld (the ancient capital of Scotland, left), the pass of Killiecrankie (where a fierce battle was fought against the invading English, above), Ruthven Barracks (the site of the shooting of the last British wolf, below), Avie Moor (a modern, purpose-built ski village where we ate the best soup in the world), the Culloden battlefield where the last battle fought on British soil was held, and finally we stopped at Inverness.
There Ruthie had a surprise for us – a shot of whiskey each. I took mine and instantly knew I was going to throw up. My stomach can’t handle shots at the best of times, let alone just after it’s been destroyed by the dodgy Indian curry I mentioned below in ‘Some things that happened in London’, and, in lieu of a nearby toilet, I just vomited into my mouth and ran ludicrously out the front door, pretending in response to people’s questions that I was all right, that I was looking for something I’d dropped. Unfortunately this didn’t really fool anyone.
Our tour bus was literally divided right down the middle. For some reason, perhaps a Western cultural perception that the back of the bus is cooler, all the Asians were sitting at the front. Attempts to bridge the gap proved fruitless, but the cultural differences were interesting. They all seemed to really love taking photos and footage. The pair in front of us filmed the foggy fens we were driving through for forty minutes at a time which, while majestic, they are NEVER going to watch!
So that night the Australians and Kiwis on the tour headed into town for dinner and drinks, where there were a few ‘Inverness Invershnecky Monsters’ – the cougars of Scotland – to be seen.
Next day we went to Loch Ness at dawn and took the DSLR, or ‘the baby’ as we’re calling it, to great effect:
We also visited Eilean Donan castle, and Portree and Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye, the latter of which being our destination for the night.
Eilean Donan Castle

On the way to our accommodation, Ruthie stopped the bus and told us one of the abovementioned stories of a Scottish warrior princess who was abandoned by her Irish lover and showed us a river apparently formed of her tears. It is said that those that dip their faces in will be afforded eternal youth and beauty so, of course, we were obliged to try:

The place we stayed in Kyleakin was called ‘Saucy Mary’s’, after the medieval owner of a nearby castle who allegedly used to have a great iron chain wound across the river, and if you wanted to pass you had to pay her toll, and if you paid a little extra she’d flash you from her tower.

 

Photo by Jodie Gough.

Me being sick and Til still being jetlagged, we retired early and missed out on a crazy night:

But despite retiring at like, ten, I was still kept up till two by the noise of the craziness.
By the next day I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, as Anastasia would say, so I resolved to institute my ‘three litres of water a day till better’ rule. This is a surefire cure for flu and colds – it works for me every time; it’s just that usually I’m doing it at home, not on a tour bus winding through the Scottish highlands. Every time we stopped I had to find somewhere to go for a sneaky wee, like up a mountain in Glen Coe, where the traitorous Campbell clan committed their infamous slaughter of their hosts:
Going up the mountain for a pee.
But these stops were a bit scarce, and at one point I had to get Ruthie to pull over and let me out especially. Out I traipsed into knee-high sleet to calls of ‘yellow snow’ from my companions. But it was pure water passing through me.

It wasn’t all just urination, though. At Glencoe Russell, one of the other people on the tour, got a standard jumping pic of some of us:

Til, me, Courtney, Lisa, Emma, Jodie, and Narelle

The last place we stopped on the tour was Stirling, at the Wallace monument, where we saw the most amazing sunset ever:
That night when we returned we all decided to go to the amazing Edinburgh Hogmanay torchlight procession. After wending our way through the city for some time, I moved literally ten steps in front of Tilly and was lost. We could not find each other. I stood there for forty five minutes looking for her before I gave up and went all the way back to the hostel. That was pretty crap.
Then there was New Year’s Eve itself. We started off the night with a good old game of kings which culminated in this:
Another one pilfered from Jodie Gough.
Then we headed out to the street party pretty tipsy and causing havoc. I introduced the group to ‘the lost emu’, a tactic introduced to us by our friend Marielle at Splendour in the Grass to find people. It goes a little something like this:
By Jodie.
Basically we danced and sang to the music and laughed at fellow tour participant Courtney’s antics, which involved going up to strangers and dancing with them.
Half the group had tickets to go see Biffy Clyro, so at some point we diverged with plans to meet up again at quarter to twelve to be together at New Year. This did not pan out. We made our way to the rendezvous point, but couldn’t find them. It was five to twelve and we were in a crap spot where we wouldn’t be able to see the fireworks or hear any music countdown, and we were absolutely sardined by everyone around us. We decided to make our way back to where we had been, but then midnight was upon us and we celebrated while squished between thousands of other revellers. And to our disappointment, no one sang Auld Lang Syne! We started it up a couple of times on the way back to the hostel, though, and were joined by some people who actually knew the words, not just vague approximations of sounds put to the melody.
The crowd behind us.

New Year’s Day was our last full day in Scotland, so we spent it seeing the obligatory sights of Edinburgh – the castle, the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first couple of Harry Potter books and the nearby graveyard where she got ideas for character names, and we started but didn’t finish a free ghost tour. Thus ended our experience of Edinburgh, the SECOND MOST HAUNTED CITY IN EUROPE, as the ghost tour sign proclaimed (verified by the International Haunting Index).


Re Entry into Australian Life: Reverse Culture Shock

Hey all,

It’s been my first week back at UOW this week and I found myself a little scared to be back! So much had changed and was different and yet so much was still the same! Every now and again I find myself thinking “I’m homesick.” I had this really weird moment the other day, where I was sorting through my UK photos for printing and I thought “I miss being home.” Huh? Was? Ich wohne nicht in London/Scotland/Wales. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still homesick.

I was thinking about what was discussed at the ‘welcome back’ session with Tonia, and I can definitely say that I feel like a bit of a hybrid of an Australian and a British girl now. As I posted on my personal blog, “I love Australia. I love the bush. I love the sun. I love my friends. I love to write Australian bushland poetry and I love going to The National Park for swims and picnics. I even love the song ‘I am Australian’, in particular these stanza’s:

I’m the teller of stories
I’m the singer of songs
I’m Albert Namajira
And I paint the ghostly gums
I’m Clancy on his horse
I’m Ned Kelly on the run
I’m the one who waltzed Matilda
I am Australian.

I’m the hot winds of the desert
I’m the black soils of the plain
I’m the mountains and the valleys
I’m the droughts and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky,
The rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land
I am Australian.

But see the UK and Ireland have my family and they have the culture we don’t have.”

I decided in light of how I’m feeling at the moment I’ll sum up the things I liked best about the UK using pictures.

1. Seeing real snow for the first time and understanding the meaning of ‘proper cold.’


A day trip to Loch Ness


Stuck in a snow storm without an umbrella in London.

2. Meeting my relatives overseas in both Ireland and England for the first time!

3. My flatmates and our weird and wonderful adventures.

Halloween at Flat 12!

4. The history and culture in the UK

All those old buildings and churches were so awesome. One fond memory is of my American flat mate and I doing a guided tour of Lancaster castle with a truly creepy guide who seemed ghoulishly obsessed with death. On the entertainment front, I went to the theatre four times when I was in the UK itself! That’s a play a month! I couldn’t help it. The tickets were so much more affordable then back home and I loved the atmostphere. And after all, who wouldn’t have fun trying to explain the three hour plot of Les Miserables in London’s West End to their Chinese flat mate throughout the entire performance without annoying everyone around us?


My two play Guides. One for Hamlet and one for Season’s Greetings with some of the cast’s autographs.

5. Real Christmas Markets.

Market and fair in Edinburgh, Scotland. I took this on the actual ferris wheel.

It’s funny. When I got towards the end of my trip in the UK I was so homesick and just wanted to come home to Australia. After a week or two I instantly wanted my travelling life back! Anyone else going through this?


Scotland

Another morning here in Dundee!

It’s been incredible over here. 

Well into my first month now, so much has happened!

First week:

I remember arriving in Edinburgh and seeing snow! Silly that I sound so excited, but its my first time seeing snow! From Edinburgh, I headed into Dundee, where its all ice instead of snow.

Defnitely did feel homesick, but I made an effort to get out and explore my surroundings for abit.

Over the week, I met my other housemates and their friends who’re really good fun and uber friendly. One of my housemate friends were exchange students from Belgium, but sadly they were finishing their semester and were preparing to leave. Although we’re just a couple of week old friends, I was really glad to have known them. I remembered my first night, they came and ask me to hang out with them, and at 2am in the morning to bake apple crumble! They were so spontaneous and random! But good fun nontheless.

Second week:

Uni’s begun. Over time, I met a few other exchange students as well – Sophie from Tasmania and a coupla others from Newcastle, Canadians, Americans and of course Scottish!

There was an international event called a Ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee’), which was a traditional Scottish dance. There are various dances, and its pretty simple once you get the hang of it, as its pretty repetitive. And it can go on and on, making you super exhausted! We got to try some Haggis as well, which was their Scottish traditional dish, made of lamb offal, intestines, stomach, those kind of stuff we normally wouldn’t eat. But I apparently love haggis! The thought of it may sound gross, but its really not that bad as you may be imagining now (:

Third week:

Bascially getting into the routine of Uni now, and exploring Dundee and its surroundings. Our favourite hangout is at DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) its a really unique place, with only two cinema theatres, and they show artsy, historical, meaningful movies here (e.g King’s speech, Hereafter, Black Swan, Nenette etc.) and its cheap!

The main highlight was heading to Saint Andrews for the weekend! Goodness, it was beautiful. I really love it there, and apparently St. Andrews University was where Kate Middleton and Prince William met! We went to St. Andrews castle (which was bascially ruins really, but holds much history), the cathedral, climed St.Rules Tower which gave a spectacular 360 view of the town.

Fourth and fifth week:

The fourth week, was bascially getting my lab reports done, so not very exciting there. But I’m really enjoying my modules here. Yesterday was Valentines, and hope you all had a lovely one! As for mine, I celebrated it with my housemates, made  Thai curry, had a Belgium chocolate cake and wine for dessert and ended with a movie. Also, whats planned for this week is horseriding this weekend! And am really excited for that! So for now that sums up what’ve been up to in Dundee but pictures tell a better story anyway, so enjoy!

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Cheers!

Joan