Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - 23 December 2009

At Christmas play and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year.

- Thomas Tusser "The Farmer's Daily Diet

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't Stand So Close to Me

A few years back I was lucky enough to spend a day in Edinburgh, Scotland. We only had time to go through Edinburgh Castle and about half-way down the Royal Mile, so I would love a chance to go back. What we saw was really just wonderful though, it's beautiful and so much history packed into a tiny spot what with the Old Town/New Town thing. "New Town" was created in the over the course of about 100 years (mid-18th to mid 19th centuries).

"Old Town" is basically the strip from Edinburgh Castle on the hill down to HolyRood Palace. (Check out this great website for a better view of the map where you can zoom in). It was of course surrounded by a wall at one point and this caused the population to really pile up on one another. Aristocracy and fishmongers would live in the same building (although I'm sure the inside of their rooms looked really different).

A cool feature of Edinburgh that we learned about was the "Close". A Close is basically what in America you would call an alley. But it goes way beyond alleys that I've lived with - they might be only as wide as a person, they could have stairs in them, they can be open to the sky, or maybe the buildings over top completely cover it. They're named too, maybe after someone who lived nearby, or for where they led to; and there are fortunately still a good amount of them.

One close in particular is extra cool because you can tour it now and see how it looked in the 18th century. What happened was the tenements above were torn down so the Royal Exchange building could be built in 1753, but the lowest floors were left as is and remained the foundation of the Royal Exchange building. This close is Mary King's Close. Mary King is said to have been the daughter of Alexander King, who was a lawyer for Mary Queen of Scots and lived somewhere along the close. I can't verify all that though.

Naturally, it's supposed to be super haunted down there and we did take the tour. You walk down a long staircase and suddenly you're in a dark alley (close) with authentic 18th century laundry hanging overhead. Ok, maybe the laundry is new. But whether you believe in ghosts or not, it's definitely creepy. But also, for an amateur genealogist/historian like me, it's WAY COOL to see something preserved so well like that.

What brought all this up was a book I'm reading now called "Traditions of Edinburgh" by Robert Chambers. He published it in 1824, and revised it a few times. Literally he went around asking old people what they remembered about the Old Town in Edinburgh and he has all these great little stories. It's really interesting to hear him lament about places that were torn down for roads or new buildings, just like we do today! It just goes to show that nothing changes!

Anyway, he was talking about some ghost stories and believe it or not, he had one about Mary King's Close!

Here's the excerpt (he's talking about a "deserted house in Mary King's Close (behind the Royal Exchange"):

"At midnight, as the goodman was sitting with his wife by the fire reading his Bible, and intending immediately to go to bed, a strange dimness which suddenly fell upon his light caused him to raise his eyes from the book. He looked at the candle, and saw it burning blue. Terror took possession of his frame. Turning away his eyes, there was, directly before him, and apparently not two yards off, the head as of a dead person, looking his straight in the face. There was nothing but a head... ...Presently the door opened, and in came a hand holding a candle. This came and stood - that is, the body supposed to be attached to the hand stood - beside the table, whilst the terrified pair saw two or three couples of feet skip along the floor, as if dancing..."

Isn't that cool? I got a kick out of the fact that he was relating this well-established ghost story in 1823 about a place that I walked through in 2007. Don't try to tell me history isn't fun!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Happened?

Some might say, where the hell has the author of this supposedly regularly updated blog been?

Sorry about that, I'm very busy, it really has been extremely busy at work since August, plus this is the time of year we have lots of birthdays and thanksgivings and christmas parties and shopping.

Also, I am very very busy playing games on Facebook.

An intervention might be necessary.

What happened to me? Suddenly it's absolutely VITAL that I harvest my crops, make my sweets, cook for my restaurant, help my mafia, and live my vampire life to the exclusion of all other things. Especially now that christmas (my favorite holiday) is coming, I want to make sure I have christmassy decorations in my restaurants, homes, and farms. Also, I need to exchange virtual christmas presents and cards. I also have a strange fascination with watching my little employees work while in my cafe. I remind myself of Zorg in Fifth Element, thinking, look at all these little things, so busy now!

What's WRONG with me!!!!! :-D

I decided that after Christmas I'm cutting back on the games. I'm pretty sure I can do it, after all, last February 2nd I gave up soda. For good. For real. And let me tell you, I was a hardcore soda drinker. Breakfast, lunch and snack. Every day. Mmmmmmm fountain soda. Yes, fountain soda. You see, I am a soda conneee...conneisuer...connusewer...I can tell the difference in taste between beverages that come from glass, aluminum and plastic containers. (it's the taste buds I inherited from my dad). But best tasting when it comes to soda is the soda that comes straight from the fountain. Maybe it's the better carbonation, I don't know. I still get cravings, but it was surprisingly easy to quit. Since February I've had one drink that was mixed with ginger ale (Pimm's cup) and 1 sip from a bottle of coke produced in mexico so it was made with real sugar, not the corn syrup crap. Mmmmmm, that was a good sip.

Of course, I just replaced the soda addiction with an iced tea addiction so I'm not sure I'm better off....

But I digress, back to my facebook game addiction. I guess it's good because it's truly mindless entertainment to harvest my fields and pet my reindeer and shoot a member of a rival gang while cooking up chicken pot pie and killing werewolves.

Unfortunately, what I've lost is time for my genealogy fun stuff. It's not mindless, so it gets put off until I have enough time to spend on it. Which of course, isn't happening.

So, at christmas, it's bye-bye games and a welcome back to genealogy. I'll be taking several days off so I can just wallow around in all my research and re-aquaint myself with everything. I'm thinking I might have my own personal scanfest of photos.

Now, I won't actually delete the games, because maybe in a few months I'll try out one or two, but it can't be all of these games at once! I'll just hide them for a while and see what happens with all that free time.

Wish me luck!