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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The United Kingdom (01/22/09)

TITLE: Blimey...and More
By Joy Bach


Our first glimpse of what we might be in for occurred at the airport check-in counter in Seattle. Since our seat assignments were in the very last row on the plane, my husband, John, asked if we could get our seats changed.

The response given to him, with a very British accent, gave us pause.

“Well, blimey, if you just check with the stewardess, maybe you can get knocked up.”

Welcome to another world.

Nine hours later we landed in London, with a train to catch for Edinburgh, Scotland. But first, we hopped on the underground to take us to the train depot. No one had warned me about how quickly they take off. As I was deciding where to sit, we left the station. Suddenly I was on the lap of a lady who glared at me…my back pack in her face. I removed myself to a proper seat, giggling as I went.

At the train station, the board showed a train to Edinburgh on track 7. We were on our way to Scotland!

Each time the train stopped at a station, the announcement “Mind the gap” was repeated several times. There is a space between the train and the platform. That’s the gap. John designed a whole marketing plan for Gap clothes around the saying “Mind the gap”.

Edinburgh We pulled into Waverly Station and quickly found a taxi. They were lined up in a queue outside the terminal. They looked like they belonged in the 1920’s with a queen inside.

We checked in, ate a meal and then walked a block or two looking for bottled water. Little did I know how hard water was going to be to find. All the water is carbonated. We finally found some “still” water.

The next morning, we walked to Edinburgh Castle, an immense complex towering over the city. They named their walls. One was Floddin; another was Telfer.

Castles were a town unto themselves. Within the Castle walls was everything they needed. The cannon fired at 1:00. They always fired at 1:00 instead of 12:00. You see, that way they didn’t waste 11 cannon balls.

The United Kingdom seems to care about blind people. Their currency is different sizes for the different denominations. In America, all bills are the same size, from the $1 to the $100. Their question, “How can blind people know what they have?” Good question. So at the castle, when we are waiting in line to go into the vault where the Queen’s Jewels are on display, I notice a half wall with models of the crown, staff and rod that we are about to see. These are in metal, with Braille plaques beside them…for the blind people to “see” the Queen’s Jewels.

Cars drive on the wrong side of the street.

Lunch time. I now know Scotland has the best baked potatoes in the world. Then we hopped on a tour bus. There was a sign that said “16 passengers - 0 standees”. Edinburgh was a very friendly place. People would go out of their way to help you.

One thing I discovered…no matter where I go in the world, I still have to put the new roll of toilet paper on the holder.

The word “blimey” became a regular in our conversation.

We stopped at a little shop. I was looking at a map on the wall. The shopkeeper came up and said “You aren’t lost. You are here”. In other words, “Why are you looking at a map?”

Instead of saying “yes”, they say “aye”. A “yield” sign says “Give Way”. When lanes merge, it is called an overtake. No parking on the “verge” means no parking on the “shoulder”. The word “glen” means “valley”. Strath means a big valley. “Brae” means “hill”.

Our tour guide took us to Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland. He said, “And here you have the highest mountain in Scotland and the lowest hanging cloud”. We never saw Ben Nevis.

Everywhere there are clotheslines. People do not use dryers.

There is no time to talk of “Loch Ness” and Braveheart country…or Balmoral and Inverness. There are five million people in Scotland. They seem to have a quest for life, not for money.

All too soon, we are home again. But our perspective is different. I cannot be the same person I was. My mind has been stretched, my viewpoints changed. The world is smaller now. I am a better person. It was wonderful!

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Member Comments
Member Date
Connie Dixon01/29/09
Great descriptions, especially of Scotland. Wish I would have read your story before I wrote mine! Good job!
Diana Dart 01/29/09
Ahhhh, I can't wait to go.... great descriptions and nice form, very casual.
Margaret Gass01/29/09
Your story brought back memories of my sister's time in Scotland...except she was on the verge of tears whenever she had to drive there! :-) Excellent descriptions, and your warm tone conveys the warmth you felt on your visit.
Jan Ackerson 01/31/09
I really got a kick out of this--when I was in England, one of the things that constantly delighted and surprised me was the many, many differences in the "same" language. This was lots of fun to read.
Karlene Jacobsen 02/02/09
Your beginning was quite comical, especially the plane and the train incidents. Very descriptive and fun to read and learn.