Monday, April 26, 2010

Where things are from

It's been very interesting to me, who finds odd things interesting, to see where things are from. I'm so used to California having such a variety of things right on our doorstep, with the occasional winter tomatoes and grapes from Chile. But I've had oranges from Egypt. Pears from Holland. Grapes from Brazil. Bell peppers from Israel. And those salad greens from the farmers market last weekend? Quite possibly from the side of the road. Who puts horseradish leaves in salad greens?

And then there's the people. Today at the golf course was a group of eight men, and before they opened their mouths I was quite sure they were American. Was it their haircuts? Their clothing? Stan already knew who they were and they were, likely West Coast given that the sounded just like us. And then the group of three, not American by the clothes and the hair, and I made a guess of Scandinavian origin. Sure enough, when eavesdropping on them their conversation sounded quite like the Swedish Chef from The Muppets. Made me wonder, do I stick out like a sore thumb? I'm tall for this neck of the woods and I'm sure my jeans and white tennies (trainers) are a dead give away for being an American. And my skin makes it a sure bet I'm from California. The women here, no matter their age, have the loveliest skin on their faces and hands. Not sure I'd trade mine, I've earned every wrinkle, but I can certainly envy and admire theirs. It's just where we came from.

Captain's Away Day

We interrupt our regular programming to bring this special golf update. Ladies can turn away, as Julie is preparing a more interesting entry.

I played in the Captain's Surprise Away Day. A coach was waiting at 7:45 to take 28 golfers to a destination unknown for a Captain vs Vice Captain match. The bus took off heading south, through some "unsettled weather". There are many golf courses within 90 minutes of Dornoch and with each passing turnoff the locals began to narrow the possibilities. It was really nice to ride in the coach and sightsee rather than drive and have someone, who will remain unnamed, reminding me "Stay Left, Stay Left." We turned off and headed east through some beautiful farmland and past some tumbling streams. We passed a wonderful herd of "hieland coos", many pheasants in full plumage and an osprey gliding over one of the streams. We arrived at our destination, Grantown on Spey Gold Club. Great! A course I had never played. We were treated to coffee and bacon rolls on arrival and the teams were chosen. My friend Adrian and I partnered against the local dentist and a retired police officer. We were evenly matched, but Adrian and I meshed well and closed them out on the 16th (helped by a great birdie by me on the 7th. I will spare you the blow by blow descriptions of my golf. I save those for Julie when she needs something to put her to sleep). The course was good and scenic, winding through some woods and burns. It is not Royal Dornoch, but nothing else is. We were the last match in and the rest of the gang were in the throes of cocktail hours. I don't care what their handicaps were on the course, these guys were all scratch players at the 19th hole. We had ample time for a couple of adult beverages and a meal was served. The curry was outstanding. The prize giving began. The Vice-Captains team won despite the efforts of Adrian and I. The winners received an airplane size bottle of Famous Grouse and the losers received an airplane size bottle of Famous Grouse. Great laughs all around. Then there were after dinner drinks before we loaded up for the 90 minute drive home. The coach was much livelier on the way home. Many bottles were consumed and tales told. The coach rolled into Dornoch and the occupants poured out. Most stayed on their feet disembarking the bus, but not all. The party moved to the clubhouse for some more. I had had my fill. The next day I found out that the party lasted till the wee hours of the morning. At the 19th hole these guys are not only scratch players, they are professionals!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Being the Last One Picked for Kickball

I entered my first golf event and played today. I felt like the new kid in town not knowing anyone. That is quite an odd feeling that we have all been through. Meeting new people of completely different background and culture always gives that feeling of unease. One probably never comes to terms with that feeling. But nothing ventured nothing gained.

Last night laying in bed with rain splattering the windows and the wind shaking the windows, I thought this is going to be a terrible day for golf. I awoke to wet streets and the wind blowing a "hoolie". I bundled up and made my way to the golf course. The event was a Greensomes Stableford, a partners event in which we both drive off the tee and then play alternate shots from there. I was paired with Iain Fraser, a retired professor of economics. We played with Neil and Adrian. Everybody was quite nice and welcomed me to the group. We had quite a fun game and a close match in spite of weather that would send sane men indoors. It just goes to show that most of those things that cause us to fret are just our mind playing with us and really not a bother at all if we just get on with it. The wind blew and the snow came just as we finished the 18th hole. We got inside cozy and warm with a wee dram (for medicinal purposes only) and watched it really begin to snow. Turns out Neil and Adrian know friends of mine in California. What a small world. I am always amazed at the contacts made through this silly game.

Oh, Iain and I won the event. Maybe I won't be the last one picked after all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's a wee bit chilly!

The smell of coal in the air might just mean we arrived here a bit too soon. That said, had we waited a week we would not be here at all given the mess the volcano in Iceland has created. Blind luck, that was, choosing to fly a week and a half ago rather than a week ago. At first I thought someone had spilled some of what I like to call telephone pole scotch somewhere near the entryway, but then I realized it was the smell of burning coal. And as I sit here looking out the window there's smoke coming out of quite a few chimneys.

The folks in town are so warm and friendly it's more than making up for the high of 46 degrees today. Want something on the dinner menu for lunch? Let me ask the chef, no problem. Need a larger size of something from one of the shops? Came after me as I was leaving to tell me they will happily order it for me. Need to post something on the town bulletin board? Will print up and post a note on it for us for small donation to the charity box. Not a surly attitude in the bunch. Well, there was the delivery man grousing about the lack of a street sign, but he must have been from someplace else.

Am I living in fantasyland? A bit. But I did have to scrub toilets and do laundry over the weekend, so not entirely. And don't even get me started on the laundry!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The comforts of home

Our regular evening at home consisted of Julie working on cross stitch, me working on my crossword and the sounds of Kruk and Kuip and SF Giants. Now you may think this is guy thing, but oh no, Julie is a keen baseball fan. She is a good spectator and it is uncanny the number of times she will make a comment before the announcers say the exact same thing. So it was with some sadness that we would be missing our baseball season. But wait. All is not lost. Technology is a wonderful thing. We signed up for the MLB package. With the purchase of a couple of cables we have our evening entertainment. Kruk and Kuip are such fun to listen to. When they get on a roll they are hilarious. They have cured me of one thing, I will never eat in a stadium again. They always seem to have some jab for the poor guy shoving a hot dog in his face with mustard dripping down his shirt. The poor guy gets his face on TV in front of a huge audience with 2 guys making wisecracks... "Look at that boiler. Hey buddy, could you put anymore relish on that thing. Try and get some in your mouth next time". Then invariably some friend sees it and calls the poor guy on his cell phone. Nope, no more eating at the stadium for me.

Tonight... Kruk, Kuip, Timmy on the hill, A Merle Reagle Crossword (the best from the SF Chron) and my baby. Life is good. All we need is a little Ben and Jerry's.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Random Thoughts After Week1

I took our rental car back on Tuesday. We are officially stranded in the Highlands except for public transportation. Imagine that, two Californians without a car, whatever shall we do? The other side of that coin is we are liberated from $9 a gallon oil prices, insurance and vehicle upkeep. I just did some shopping and got chicken from the butcher, a sweet from the baker and milk and veggies from the grocery and walked a couple of hundred yards.

On the bus back from Inverness an older Scottish gent sat with me. We got to chatting, he had been shopping for his garden. He was a retired welder, just like my father. He had worked for a company out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, my father's hometown. Small world... His stop came and he shook my hand and this little guy had a grip. He squeezed my hand like he was trying to make me say uncle. Funny thing, my Dad has a vise-like grip as well and he likes to squeeze your hand and grind your knuckles. Just like my Dad this Scot had a shit-eating grin on his face as he almost broke my hand. Must be a welder thing!

Went for a long walk on the beach with my sweetie. Walked for 2 miles along a sandy beach and did not see another soul. I got a bicycle route from the bartender at the golf club. It runs from town along Loch Fleet and then up a strath (valley) to another loch (lake). It then winds around through some farmland and back to Dornoch. It was 33 miles total, all on paved roads. Except for the 1 mile on the A-9 (the main north south road in Scotland), I saw 4 cars total. It seems to me that the less we see people, the more civil and polite we are when we do encounter folks.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Random thoughts

It's hard to grasp just what we have done. Six months!! We are here for six months!! After sleeping in until 10 this morning, we returned to the scene of the crime, Golspie, where we spent our first few nights in 1998 with the kids. And I heard, for the first time since then, a skylark. Such a song it sings as it spirals up into the sky, you just have to stop and listen. Some impressions so far . . .

I get the Let's Do the Time Warp Again song rolling through my head when driving past homes built in the 1700s to 1800s and see big screen TVs through the windows.

It's lambing season, and the wee bitty white dots all over the fields are lambs. Cute as can be.

Pheasants in the throes of lust do not look both ways before crossing the street. :-(

Sixty-two degrees in April means short sleeves to Scottish folks. Shirtless, in some cases. It's a heat wave!

Soup and a crusty roll for 2 pounds 50. Life is good.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gee Mr. Wizard

"I really want to go live in a little village in the Highlands of Scotland and golf and ride my bike. Gee, can I Mr. Wizard?"
Well, Mr. Wizard is granting our wish and the time is near to start the next step. My bags are mostly packed and I am packing more clothes than Julie. I will never hear the end of that. My assorted golfing stuff is taking up two checked-on golf bags. You would think I was good with all the stuff I am carting. Dreams can come true. I hope Mr. Wizard is there when it's "time for this one to come home."