An old travel diary, day 4: Stirling to Oban

North, today.  To the Highlands, and then west, to the coast.
In the old days there was but one way to get from the lowlands to the highlands, and that was to cross the river Forth at the one spot one could easily build a bridge across it: Stirling.  As with Edinburgh, Stirling is built on and around a massive hill, though by the time one reaches it it’s clearly just one hill among many – and as with Edinburgh, the city is crowned by a great castle, ancient seat of the Stuart kings.
Stirling is an interesting contrast with Edinburgh, too: where the latter is all stone that looks gray in some light and golden in others, the buildings here are a humbler gray stucco that might, in winter, seem positively soul-crushing.  The castle itself, however, was once a literal bright spot in the landscape: a great deal of the thing was, back in the Renaissance, plastered over in a warm honey yellow they called “The King’s Gold.”  Today, only the Great Hall at Stirling is done up in this fashion, but even with twenty years’ fading after the restoration it’s plain just how vivid it must once have been.  (I hear there was some pushback about the color when the restoration happened.  Everyone forgets just how bloody gaudy the Renaissance actually was; how vivid and sometimes clashing the colors actually were.). It is also incredibly windy, or was today.
As seems increasingly likely to be the case everywhere we go, there wasn’t really enough time to see all of Stirling, though we covered a lot of ground, I think.  It’s a popular spot with…well…everyone, it seems.  Kids in princess clothes running around underfoot. A high school band in full Scottish regalia, kilts and all.  And of course the requisite squads of tourists, including ourselves, with all our many languages.  Some of us, as we did, wander the grounds with audio guides, listening to a really rather spiffy retelling of the tale of the ill-fated James V and his succession of French wives, the uncommon canniness of Mary of Guise, and the early life of Mary Queen of Scots.
We also got to hear of the Battle of Bannockburn, wherein Robert the Bruce was on the point of surrendering to the English – greatly outmatched – when one of the Englishmen, doubtless thinking this was his shot at fame, tried to cut him down.  This seemed to remind Robert the Bruce that this is Scotland…the land whose motto is literally Latin for “Nobody fucks with me and gets away with it”…and he chopped the guy’s head just about in half before letting loose his Highlanders on the English in maybe the most iconic ever Highlander charge.  It, uh, didn’t go well for the English.
The restored castle has a number of nifty features.  Costumed actors hang about being people from the Renaissance; we were particularly impressed by a young noblewoman doing embroidery and sharing with us – and everyone else – all the court gossip.  Chambers have been fitted out with furnishings appropriate to the time – in all their gaudy color.  Even the light fixtures, now fitted with electric faux-candles, have some sort of trick to them wherein the fake “flames” quiver as if in a breeze.
One room is hung with massive tapestry recreations of the famous unicorn hunt tapestries; these did not hang here at Stirling originally, but A set of unicorn tapestries did, and since nobody knows what the originals looked like, these were used as a basis for the reproductions.  There’s a whole exhibit devoted to the tapestries, showing weaving and dyeing techniques used, samples of the wool colors, explanations of the iconography – the works.
Another room – intended for the use of James V, who died before he could really settle in – has a crazily-elaborate ceiling set with medallions depicting all sorts of people, from the king himself to the Nine Worthies to fashionable court ladies to Julius Caesar.  These were carved in oak, which had to be imported from Eastern Europe; a previous King had cut down all the mature oaks in Scotland to build a ship. Oops.
We also heard the amusing story of an alchemist who resided at the castle for several years, attempting to turn lead into gold via various means with about as much success as you’d expect.  In a bid to restore his flagging reputation, he announced he would leap off the battlements and fly to France – and made ready to do so, appearing on the big day fully kitted out in…well, a chicken suit.  Let us call a spade a spade.
At the appointed moment, he leapt off the battlements as planned…and plummeted promptly into a bog.  This likely saved his life; he escaped with only a broken leg.  Afterward, he realized his big mistake: chickens are ground-loving birds.  If only he’d used eagle feathers!
Still, it seems that with this stunt he earned himself the right to hang around for a while.  As publicity stunts go it can likely be called a success in that sense.
Anyway, our time at the castle concluded, it was time to make our way cross-country.  This got off to a rough start right away when the GPS accidentally got us pointed toward Glasgow, entirely the wrong way.  However, we reasoned, there was nothing stopping us from just cutting straight across country to Loch Lomond and driving up it to our eventual destination, the seaside town of Oban.
(Yes, THAT Loch Lomond.  And yes, we made the requisite road jokes.)
In all, I’m not sorry we made this little unplanned jaunt; it let us have a good look at what seems to be the Scottish equivalent of the Midlands.  Gentle, rolling hills, winding roads, and lots and lots of those little gray stucco houses.  Still, we were all curious as to what the famous loch would look like, and eventually the trees lining the roadside opened up to reveal…
…something that looked rather a lot like it might belong in the Bracebridge area, to be honest.  Oh, the hills were rather steeper, yes, but still, not entirely unfamiliar to the Canadian contingent.
At one point we hopped out of the car to snap a photo and ended up talking to some Australians who ran some sort of metal detector business; as the conversation went on I drifted away from the group and found myself looking at some little pink wild flowers.  Primroses or something, perhaps?  Something that unfurled, slowly, from tight pink bud to paler-pink five-petaled blossom; it seemed poetic to think of, somehow, these little flowers unfolding quiet and unnoticed by the roadside.
We also had our first encounter with a particularly infamous denizen of Scotland: midges.  I miraculously didn’t get bitten, though Mark was less lucky.
From there we took a long, scenic drive through rolling hills along the sea coast.  Spotted no less than two pheasants (one male, one female), two deer, and a number of interesting birds, from mallards to something that might have been an egret.
Scotland’s west coast is dotted as heavily as the rest of it with castles; we drove past Clan Campbell’s seat, which is surprisingly fairytale-style, though we were too late to go in.  This seems to be a bit of a trend; nearly everything of tourist interest in Scotland shuts down no later than six pm, usually by five, meaning that you often find yourself with only twenty minutes or so to see a place.  Ah, well.  It was still cool, even if the Campbells were apparently backstabbing assholes, according to legend.  They reputedly set the MacDonalds up to get slaughtered en masse at Glencoe.
We also stopped briefly at Inverary, a town that was very obviously laid out in the Georgian era: the entire Main Street is composed of solid, white-plastered buildings with black-painted trim.  There’s a historic jail, a pub older than Canada, and one of those sweet shops that seem to be everywhere in Scotland so far, catering to nostalgia for sweets I’ve never heard of, or have only read about in books.  There’s also a bell tower which apparently has some of the most splendid bells in Scotland, though sadly we didn’t get to hear them ring.
From there the road turned north, leading us past many, many small villages, the names of which weren’t always evident.  This is another thing I’ve noticed about Scotland: they do not seem to give a damn either about road signs or about signposting the names of villages.  I suppose if you don’t already know where you are, the general reasoning is you don’t need to; Karen hypothesized that many of these signs may have been taken down to stump the Nazis and then just never put back up again.
We did stop in one called Kilmartin, though: this tiny little village is home to a charming church  with bright-purple doors; a terraced cemetery spirals away from it down the hill.  As we hopped out for a look we noticed that apparently the village is also home to some carved stones dating back to the medieval era; a fortuitous find, and one that made for an interesting addition to our photo collections as we made our final descent into Oban.
Oban is known as “the seafood capital of Scotland,” and is a quaint little seaside town that, like many spots we’ve visited so far, seems heavily slanted toward tourism for its livelihood.  It’s also somewhat baffling to navigate by car, as our GPS kept directing us to roads that had no signage.  Eventually we made our way up a very steep hill to our local lodgings, where we were greeted by our very affable new hosts and shown to our surprisingly spacious rooms.
The landlords were even kind enough to book us a spot at a local seafood place called Ee-usk (the phonetic pronunciation of the Gaelic “iasg,” or “fish”), and so after dropping off our bags we set off down the hill to eat.   Walking the hill really drove home just how steep it truly was; anyone living here must surely have powerful legs.
The tide was out when we arrived in the harbour, but the restaurant was cute; an airy green space and a surprising if intriguing section of the menu where they specified the sources of their fish.  As in, “Our mussels come from Nigel on the Isle of Mull; he grows them on ropes and we don’t know what he does to them, but they’re sweet and tender!” (Loosely paraphrasing there, but only loosely.)
Well, the only thing to do seemed to be to order the sampler plates, then; Mark ordered the fish sampler and I ordered something called the “seafood platter” that offered up a mix of oysters, langoustines (think tiny lobsters), mussels, and a massive crab claw.  It was…seriously delicious; kind of a foodgasm, especially after a convenience-store lunch and on an empty stomach.  Afterward we hauled ourselves all the way back up the cliff and into our B&B, where we crashed into bed.  A rough night as it turned out, but there is always another day, no?

An old travel diary, part 3: Things ancient and nautical

Before I begin, something I forgot to mention last time: ever heard of John Knox?  Big figure in church reform?  His house is a visitor attraction?
Well, he’s buried in Edinburgh, near the Mercat Cross.  This is fine, except there is now a car park there where the cemetery used to be.
…and no, they didn’t move any of the bodies.  And no, nobody besides Knox has a monument.  But he’s got one: a plaque, in spot number 23.  I took a photo to prove it.  I hear a Porsche is normally parked on top of him, but he was visible today.

Our first stop today was the National Museum of Scotland.  This has recently undergone an extensive renovation, and is both huge and rather lovely.  We came to get a grounding in the history of Scotland – and this we did, seeing as there were extensive exhibitions on pretty much everything going all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs.  I don’t associate Scotland with volcanoes, but it was volcanic once; the huge hill they call “Arthur’s Seat” and the spine of the city along which the castle and Royal Mile run are both the remnants of a volcanic age.  (Today, of course, they just look rather rugged and majestic, dotted here and there with flowers.)

Eventually, along come the Picts, or “the painted ones,” of whom we know little; there were several examples of their navigation stones (?) on display.  At least, the plaques assure us that’s what they are; they don’t seem to bear any resemblance to maps of the area.  Instead, they’re covered with strange crescent-moon-like arcs intersecting with combinations of lines and circles; nobody seems to know what they mean, but they’re interesting in an eerie sort of way.
After them come the Celts, as we know them; there was a special exhibition on of Celtic art at the time we happened to be there, and it was, I feel, well worth the ten pounds or so of entrance fee.  Much of their art is lost, of course, as leather, fabric, and wood aren’t known for their sturdiness over thousands of years, but there was a remarkable collection of cloak-pins, torcs and other jewelry in various metals.  (One hoard was found by a guy who literally bought a metal detector, took it out to play with, and walked about seven steps from his car before he got a beep and unearthed a massive trove of bronze and gold jewelry.)
Also on display were the remnants of “carnyxes,” a kind of horn, usually shaped like a boar’s head; there was a video of a man playing a modern reproduction.  It’s a weird, haunting noise,  and it’s pretty easy to imagine it being pretty scary to an enemy army.
Then there was the Gundestrup cauldron, all in silver and lined with panels showing (on the outside) eerie faces set with glass eyes and (inside) some rather mysterious scenes featuring horned men, warriors being perhaps baptized or drowned, and a number of other strange scenes. A hole at the bottom was mended with a silver shield boss depicting a warrior woman that had just finished fighting a lion…though it didn’t look all that dead, rather as though the two of them were taking a nice break.  Clearly it had been well used, though why had it then been tossed into a bog in the end?  Odd.
Anyway, many examples of intricate compass-work, elaborate knots and swirling spirals; other pieces on display showed the ways that Roman and later Christian elements worked their way into the iconography.  The knot work we know today is really a kind of fusion-art, it seems.  Nothing happens in isolation, I guess, especially in Europe.
I mentioned the Romans, and they were next; them you know so I won’t devote a ton of time to them.  After that things start to get more familiar: the clans, Robert the Bruce (we saw a drinking cup of his, which also featured a lion at the bottom, surrounded by shields bearing the insignia of his clan.) Gradually we move toward the unification with England, the Catholic/Protestant troubles, and the insane burst of literary and scientific flourishing that happened during the 1700s (with its darker side of course; the medical school Edinburgh was so known for was also the unfortunate root cause of a good deal of body-snatching.)
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stay to see the whole thing; the day was getting on and we had a lengthy jaunt by bus to make to get out to our next stop – the Royal Yacht Britannia.  A hasty picnic was assembled from ready-made sandwiches and portions of fruit and such, and eaten as we waited for the bus to take us there.
The Royal Yacht Britannia is, or was, the Queen’s residence at sea, and apparently one of the places she’s most fond of; Royal honeymooners like Charles and Diana have used it as well.  It’s a sleek, dark-blue ship with a band of gold running around its edge…literal gold, of the 24 carat variety.  Inside, it’s surprisingly simple, apparently at Her Majesty’s request; everything looks a bit like a somewhat swankier version of a country house as of, say, 1952. Lots of chintz furnishings, bamboo, etc.  I suppose this was the Queen’s equivalent of going to the cottage, though of course when she does, she brings with her something like six tons of luggage.
An extensive entourage, too: the yacht had something like two hundred plus sailors aboard at any given time while it was operational, keeping everything neat and tidy and sort of disturbingly shipshape.  (State dinners with many guests could take up to three hours to set tables for, as someone had to go round with a ruler and make sure everything was just so.). Every teacup and wineglass and fork had its own place, and people could end up changing uniforms up to 16 times in a day, so the laundry was vast.  (Some amusing signs of the humanity of the sailors, though: the lockers in the berths were covered with stickers for everything from bands to some sort of contest for a PlayStation.)
There was even a full band on board at all times, which seems kind of crazy to me.  How often during an average day does one – even the Queen – require a band of marines?
Visiting is a reminder of a couple of interesting differences between the UK and North America.  One: the UK is obsessed with status.  There were no less than four different messes available for the sailors: one for the officers, one for the lesser officers, one for the senior regular shipmen and one for the average seamen.
Two: the UK is a lot more into boats than I am.  I suppose that if you have built an empire on naval power you’re more likely to be all about boats, but there was a great deal of stuff about the glamour of sailing! And sailing technique!  And the glories of the sea! And so on that as a child of a landlocked city I have to admit I don’t really get.  I don’t swim and I don’t share the fondness for The Seaside that many Brits seem to have.
By this time it was getting on to late afternoon/early evening – or, as Mark calls it, The Time It Rains In Scotland.  Feeling a bit tired and hungry we set off for a pub recommended in Karen’s literature, at 9A Holyrood.  She’d gotten it into her head that this was along the Royal Mile, and although I did say a few times that we needed to cut to the right through one of the closes, we’d made it all the way to Holyrood Palace without sighting the place.
At around this point I explained that it was actually parallel to the road we were on, and we trekked back up the hill and left, locating it almost at once.
Dinner was burgers and some cider, both tasty.  Made an abortive attempt to locate a geocache (nearly impossible without data on this thing) before eventually retiring early to plan our drive for the next day.  I feel rather lame for not doing something interesting with our last evening in Edinburgh, but then…who knows, maybe the planning will turn out to have been for  the best, ultimately.

An old travel diary, part 2

I begin to fear my hair will never be dry again.

Not because it rained – though it did rain, sort of, off and on for much of the afternoon, interspersing patches of wet with some extraordinarily lovely golden sunlight – but because Edinburgh is even on bright, sunny days sort of quietly damp; no amount of brushing is sufficient to tame the frizzy halo I acquired almost immediately upon stepping outside.

Ah well. There’s a lot to talk about today so I’d better get on it.

Breakfast was…well, I hesitate to say “the full English” for obvious reasons, but yes: the return of the English Breakfast that so haunted Mark during our walk in Cornwall that by the end of it I think he might’ve stabbed someone for a pancake. Still, time dulls all such things, and both of us tucked in rather happily. (We beat the Whitings to breakfast – quite a rarity! They must’ve been very tired indeed.)

Had a chance to talk a bit further with our landlady as well; she’s Hungarian. And there’s been a good bit more talk of the Brexit, as well, as a number of people are sounding a bit panicky over the result. (In the news, anyway; the actual local Scots are uniformly enraged to varying degrees.)

Anyway. Our first stop for today was Edinburgh Castle, at the top of the Royal Mile. Although it was early, the buskers were out in force; a young, hipsterish man made a puppet play the cello, and there was of course the ubiquitous bagpiper. (Something I forgot to mention yesterday: our time to first piper on day one was a whopping…two hours.)

The castle was relatively thronged with visitors today, and I heard a remarkably huge array of languages as we wandered through it. There’s an audio tour that guides you through the various buildings and exhibitions, and it’s surprisingly well-produced – also very informative. Lots of it is of course tangles of dates and times and military actions, but all the same I feel I came away with some highlights. A little cemetery for dogs – the beloved pets and mascots of a variety of regiments, officers, and governors. The remnants of a war prison, including some rooms hung with the hammocks the prisoners would have slept in and some spectacular ships and boxes made of bone and wooden scraps…and even some bone dies meant to be used to forge money, for the very enterprising captives.

A tiny but interesting museum devoted to the Royal Scots regiment, who I think I can say were some remarkably hardcore motherfuckers. The whole place was full of stories like “one of them fell at the Battle of Waterloo while carrying the regimental standard. A comrade tried to take the flag, couldn’t pry it from his grip, and eventually resorted to just carrying bearer and standard both. So impressed were the French by this act of gallantry that they withheld fire until both men were behind their allies’ line.”

There’s also rather a lot of fuss over a gentleman I’d never heard of named Charles Ewart, whose claim to fame is capturing the French standard at the Battle of Waterloo. (Literally, capturing the flag.) For this he’s earned himself a painting hung in the great hall at Edinburgh Castle, with its unusually well-preserved medieval hammer-beam ceiling and a built-in spy hole for the laird to keep an eye on his nobles.

It is rather easy to forget, living as I do in modern day Canada, exactly how heavy the emphasis once was on war and soldiering as intensely honorable, even honor-bound, but good lord is it impossible to escape in the UK. Edinburgh Castle contains a pretty remarkable reminder or two, the aforementioned museum included of course, but there’s also an extraordinary war memorial the size of a small cathedral, a really rather beautiful example of 20s/30s design which honors, of course, the men who died in “The Great War.” It is both sort of poetic to see, and also sort of tragic, knowing as I do that less than twenty years later another conflict along even grander lines would come along.

A huge block of green marble holds a silver casket containing a register of the honoured dead, with St. Michael above with his nets, and each panel of the walls of the place is elegantly inscribed with a variety of the war dead (chaplains, the naval men with “no grave but the sea,” etc.) above a bronze relief showing them in action. Below that, a “register of honor” – a list of names, bound in red leather on a lectern.

Also housed in Edinburgh Castle are the “Honours of Scotland” – the Crown Jewels. Yes, Scotland has its own and here they are, displayed alongside the Stone of Destiny, upon which Scottish monarchs sit to be crowned. Unlike England’s Crown Jewels, these escaped destruction at the hands of Cromwell – there are a variety of stories about how they got smuggled out of the Lord Protector’s reach, including ‘stashed under someone’s dress’ and ‘disguised in a bundle of seaweed.’ When Scotland joined the United Kingdom, the Honours Scotland were placed inside a giant chest – easily large enough to hold a refrigerator – and sealed away until, many years later, Sir Walter Scott spearheaded an effort to go dig them up.

Astonishingly, they were in pretty great shape and all the pieces were still there. Even more astonishingly, there was a piece there that wasn’t there before: a wand, tipped with crystal and made of the same precious materials as everything else. To this day nobody has any idea what on earth this was for or how it got there. Paging Kenneth Hite.

What else do they keep at a castle? Guns, of course. There is, of course, “the one o’clock gun,” first conceived as an auditory signal for the boats in Leith harbour to accompany a visual one. (Why one and not noon? Well, as the guide says, the Scots are famous for their thrift, and ammunition is expensive.) The one o’clock gun is still fired today, though the modern artillery piece is a far cry from the cannon that must once have served this function.

Speaking of cannons, there’s an epic example at the castle as well: “Mons Meg,” a bloody HUGE thing that fired stones about the width of my torso and weighed something like six tons. Somewhat impractical to use, of course, and so as armament technology improved she was increasingly only fired on special occasions until at last a charge blew a hole in her side; too heavy even to smelt down, she was left to rust for some time. After some time away in England for display she was eventually welcomed home – literally, with some degree of pomp – to the castle battlements, where she’s still on display, hole in the side and all.

At around this point it was lunchtime, so we stopped at a small cafe (haggis, again!) before stopping in at the Writers’ Museum.

This small but fun for book people museum is nestled into the former home of a wealthy lady, and features exhibitions on Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. All of them are fascinating little collections of paraphernalia of the lives surrounding each author: Robert Burns’s sword cane, Scott’s canes (he was lame from a childhood illness), Stevenson’s ring inscribed with the name given to him by the Samoans among whom he passed his last days (I forget the word, but it translates into “Teller of Stories.” If I were to swipe, Nathan Drake-like, a ring from a museum, this would be the one.)

There was also a cabinet on display. Unremarkable in itself, but the plaque revealed that this cabinet had once stood in Stevenson’s bedroom…and that it had once belonged to Deacon Brodie. Brodie was a model deacon by day…but by night, a dissipated man of many vices. Sound familiar? If it does, it’s because he’s the probable inspiration behind Stevenson’s tale of Jekyll and Hyde.

Also in the room? A cool little diorama of the Jekyll and Hyde tale, left anonymously at the museum by some interested patron. Better still, it’s one of many that this person left anonymously at different literary sites around Edinburgh, with inscriptions on the back that these items were meant to honor libraries, books and reading. Awesome, anonymous artist. I hope that whoever you are you’ve seen that the museum has your work on display.

Our next stop was all the way down at the other end of the Royal Mile: Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s home when she’s in Scotland. This will, incidentally, be in about a week, so it’s probably a good thing we happened along now.

Holyrood is an intensely symmetrical place. Lots of pains taken to present balance – and, in the apartments open to the public, to present an avenue of increasing opulence and impressiveness for visitors to be escorted through on their way to meet the monarch. Plaster ceilings and painting after painting after painting of James and Charles (both Jameses and Charleses, really) and tapestries of increasing impressiveness eventually culminate in…the King’s Bedroom, a room in which the King almost certainly did not actually sleep, but rather conducted very small and intimate meetings in the presence of a preposterously elaborate and expensive bed. Odd choice of a meeting room but I suppose that is the 1700s for you. Amusingly, the king who designed it also had it done up with paintings that liken the monarch to various mythic heroes, including Hercules.

Beyond that is a long gallery. Which is…exactly that; a long, long gallery full of paintings. These have a certain similarity of style to them, and as the audio guide explains this is because they were all painted by the same Dutchman, who was commissioned to do a portrait of all of the king’s ancestors going all the way back to the 300s. That’s a lot of kings and queens; enough that he was banging these out at about a painting a week. (Part of me wishes I could see the writeup of that job on Clients From Hell.)

Also in the palace are the apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots, who as we know had a hard time picking a good man and suffered greatly for it; his ambitions are shown plainly in a heart-shaped bauble on display in the chambers, along with many other trinkets of the time. Lots of memento mori jewelry, a lock of Mary’s hair, hand-embroidered purses and such by the queen, etc. (One item was labeled only “Memento mori of the Winter King.” What a Feylord was doing there I’ve no idea, but it seems something like that should be less unassuming.)

The special exhibition this time was absolute Karen Nirvana by the way: an exhibition of gowns and hats worn by the Queen at various times throughout her reign, accompanied by an array of fashion plates and such. As a costume fan myself I also enjoyed these, though maybe not AS much as my mother in law. (I have to say, though, NOBODY’s hat game is as good as Her Majesty’s.)

On our way to dinner we stopped for an unusual errand: locating the grave of Adam Smith so Mark could add him to the list of philosophers at whose grave sites he’s been photographed. As it happens, we took the wrong turn to start with, and a long rainy few minutes were spent hunting up the grave – but we did find it and the photo was taken; amusingly, people have scattered a good bit of money at the gravesite, as though so doing might bring economic mojo to the one making the offering. (We added a Canadian nickel to the collection.)

A quick dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant later it was time for the ghost walk. This too was amusingly touristy, if well-presented; our guide was a young lady from Surrey named Amandine who regaled us over the next few hours with gruesome tales of torture (Mark got to serve as demonstrator for her digression on flogging), local ghosts, and the body snatchers…well, serial killers…Burke and Hare.

We toured the “vaults” in the process, demonstrating one of Edinburgh’s most curious features: the place is built in layers. Here, the vaults that supported a massive bridge were eventually walled in as the city grew (and the bridge is indistinguishable in most places from an ordinary street.). These, naturally, became havens for all sorts of unsavoury types, and are reputedly haunted by all manner of things, from lost children to a mysterious angry thing they simply called “The Watcher.”

I don’t think we saw anything in the way of actual manifestations or anything, but it was a diverting evening, and it concluded with a drink in a rather cute little cellar-pub at the end, where more stories were told for a time before they turned us out into the night (and we promptly discovered that you can’t simply go south if you want to go south, as going south and down might mean you end up below the level of the street you want to be on.). Eventually we returned home for an hour and some of writing (for me) and for Mark watching the Brits be conflicted about Brexit, some terrible game shows, and a bit of Predator 2.

It’s that kind of day

“That kind” being “the kind that is celebrated with one or more prescribed elements, usually requiring the expenditure of money.”

I am going to quietly opt out – though I am planning a special meal this evening – and instead offer up this rather charming example of nerdy matchmaking:

Inkwell Ideas’ “Distinguishing RPGs Chart.”

Now you, too, can find the system that is destined to be your soul mate.

Or, you know, perhaps we can all eat honey-based products instead.  St. Valentine is the patron of beekeepers after all, as well as the patron saint of engaged couples and epileptics…