Monday, June 19, 2006

June 17, 2006


We hadn’t been sitting with our beers for long before the string of uniformed slappers staggered into the Ship’s Inn. Each wore a short pink top, fishnet stockings of various colors, a celebratory banner. They ordered vodka and retired to the patio outside where they smoked and jabbered. We made out a young woman in their midst, a white veil pinned to her hair, and realized that she was no doubt the cause of all the excitement.

We were drawn to the Ship’s Inn at the edge of Stonehaven Harbor by the large crowd of men and women blocking the door and talking noisily. Such a place had to have excellent beer or food, and we hadn’t eaten but a bag of crisps (chips in the US) since landing that morning at Dyce Airport near Aberdeen. Our house in Houston is packed into a container now being loaded onto a boat, leaving us to explore the northern land, taste its food, explore hidden crannies and discover the people and the land’s enchantment. And so we found Stonehaven, a small town built on steep hills, lifted up from the sea by the Highland Fault. In grade school the teacher points to it on the map and says – Stonehaven to Hellensburgh, the line that creates the Scottish Highlands.

We’re surprised to recognize a grayhaired couple in a window seat whom we had encountered earlier on the main street outside a pub. As we considered whether to enter, the man said: “Ye’ll no want tai go in there!” They smiled, seeing that we had found the “right pub.”

The slappers drained their vodka bottles and moved on, heading for the next stop. Above the peaked hill overlooking the harbor the sun broke through the clouds painting the water, fishing boats and stacks of lobster pots with gold. It’s seven in the evening, we’re close to the longest day and the sun won’t set until for four more hours. The bar lady brought us a bowl stacked high with mussels, lobster claws and baked bass with chips. At the first bite, Amber and I looked at each other, and realized that the fresh North Sea catch was of another order. A symphony of flavors you’d better not try and describe. It can only be understood by tasting it. Mussels were steamed in a cream sauce that enhanced their delicate flavor. Lobster claws took all the force of the nutcracker, but the delicate meat rewarded us. From a shelf I picked up an estate publication, and scanned it for properties to lease, not many. A local newspaper sat unread while we savored each morsel.

The World Cup was on everybody’s lips. Go Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil or whoever might defeat England. They discussed players whose names we did not know, but might eventually get to know.

Leaving the Ship’s Inn, we first oriented ourselves by the sun and headed toward the market square. The many shop fronts we passed were darkened. Only the grocery store stayed open past 6 pm. Outside a corner pub we found the uniformed girls, a little more woosy, but unrepentant. The night was young and they had a few more stops waiting for them.

As for Lady Amber:

Yes, well, I think we all know that it’s Sir Paul who orients himself by the sun and for a fact I know too it’s not without the aid of a good map that chaperons him to his destination, but dear me, his wife navigates altogether from a different point of view; indeed miraculous we haven’t had more quarrels considering I can’t even read a map (especially not on the highway at 80 miles an hour) or successfully drive on the wrong side of the road without knocking the tires out of alignment, so I say it’s a good thing he has the sun. Otherwise he wants to know why I’ve told him to turn “here” and my response is a simple, “because it feels like you should turn here, that’s why. What a ridiculous question.”

Anyway, enough of all that, I can’t believe I’m in Europe. I’m finally really actually conclusively doubtless unquestionably in fact in Europe today, on Monday, June 19, 2006….Jordan’s birthday and I’m not on vacation and I’m off to find spices and Palestinian olive oil and good wine and a pulse, my pulse in the City. Meanwhile, everything is stone and old and craggy and uneven and cell phones are expensive and public toilets cost money and the locals drive too fast and they honk their horns all the time, but I’m here in the land of dual faucets and strange looking appliances and T.V. that talks with an accent, I’m blessedly here at last. And so deeply grateful, so genuinely happy. And then there are the seagulls, which will have to wait until tomorrow.

So…there it is for the moment.

i think daddy has forgotten about me. he can communicate by blog now...
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