This and That

Apart from this (and that) being the name of the most awesomest pizza choice at Kasbah (any 4 ingredients, oh yeah!), it is also a fitting name for a random post on a bit of everything.

The buoyancy aids arrived on Monday (bloody typical!) and I have ordered gumboots for further trips. Yay! No more risking our lives just for the heck of it!!! Pictures possibly coming soon!

Big news!!! Aevelynn Frost has submitted her very first entry into a short story competition! Results in about a months time… Hooray!

Unfortunately, the writing has been slow in the last few days due to several trips, preparations for visitors,… a pain in the neck!!!
It will be slower still when the visitors are here but I’m expecting Aevelynn to be back hard at work next weekend to bring you more scary stories.

Also hooray for the visitors… Bringing cheese, booze and their precious selves so we have someone to take out on a road trip in a seven seater, yaaay?

From the Bonnie Banks to XXXX…

This post tells the story of yet another epic adventure of the Marchmont Road crew of fierce pirates. Only seven days smarter than last week, we avoided the mistake no. 1 and hired a car for this trip, which ended up being an amazing idea.

Due to the parties of the night before, we were low on pancakes (we had none) but high on… well, that’s another story and not one for public consumption so I will just say high on hope, morale, energy and suchlike. Very excited about the trip but as it turned out later, not incredibly optimistic about sighting wallabies.

On yeah, wallabies! How did we come on to that? High indeed you might think…
However, the trip I had planned was all to do with wallabies. Several years ago, I came across an article that kind of mentioned wallabies having been introduced to an island of Loch Lomond in the 1920’s. I found this piece of information useful so I stored it securely in the clean and tidy drawers of my brain. But now that we have the boats, it was ripe and ready to be unleashed upon the world.

We took our hire car to Luss, a little village on the west bank of Loch Lomond, and there we found a conveniently designed river (yes, Tiffanie, this one is for you). By the time our boats were inflated and ready to go, we were pretty wet, shoe and sock and pants wise. Placing our buttocks in the wet boats did the rest. The trip took about an hour each way, both against the wind and waves (thanks Metoffice, you mofo!) but we eventually made it to Inchconnachan, the island of the wallabies.

We left our boats on the local “beach” and relying on the trustworthiness of the locals we headed out to the jungle that was the island. The autumn colours were beautiful and the ground was soft and squishy (and unfortunately wet). After about ten minutes, we no longer cared about not stepping in the omnipresent puddles. We roamed around for about 15 minutes when we decided to dig into our freshly prepared sandwiches from the night before. Not two minutes later, our first sighting occurred. It was a white wallaby, possibly an albino. Helle and I saw it in the distance, watching us from the top of the hill, but only for a second before it hopped away, its white ears flapping in the wind as it moved away at the speed of light. We followed it. I guess that sighting was a little unfortunate as afterwards most of us were looking out for huge motherfucking white things that move. We saw none. Eventually, Philipp, who has been to the Last Continent and was expecting tiny brown thingees spotted a huge grey wallaby and we all had a good look. We took some pictures too but they came out kind of blurry in the darkness of the jungle.
We decided to head for the boats and not five minutes later I was walking past a cluster of trees, where Hellipp walked only a few seconds before, when a wallaby hopped out of the cluster and fled, leaving me with the image of its huge feet and its tail in my head. Then I might have seen it again in the distance, or it might have been another one. Those goddamned marsupials were probably all around us but invisible until they moved.

Happy about the sightings we headed for the boats. To our great relief they were still there and we could commence our voyage back to the mainland, soaked and freezing. Helle had her first go at rowing, but further from the island the waves and the wind were not suited for a beginner rower. It was hard work rowing to the shore; we scared some birds, almost knocked an island into the water, tried and failed to defy the current of the river that brought us in and angered a swan (Helle did anyway). While the boys took the charge of the boats, Helle and I went to get the car and just missed the last heavy rainfall that Metoffice kept secret from us.

The ride back was crazy rainy but by that point Hellipp were comfortably naked under the blankets in the back seat and even though we were still wet, at least we were warm. We made it to Edinburgh ok and still managed to check out the piles of rubble left from the demolition of the Sighthill blocks of flats that detoured us on the way home from the car hire place that morning.

All-in-all an epic day of adventuring. My neck is crazy sore!

Moral of the story: Always take waterproofs and a change of clothing even if it is sunny and beautiful, Metoffice is just messing with you. Mistake no. 2.

Highlight: The motherfucking wallaby!!!

Neish Island trip…

We did it!!! We went to the Neish Island, and we beat the waves, and we rode the Hasslehoff, and we brought Nettlebush back in time for Whistlebinkies. Or was it SeaWhiskitt we rode?

Everything went pretty much as planned! Metoffice got the weather completely wrong earlier but on Saturday it was mostly right.

We hitched a ride from Lochearnhead, thanks to our strategy where the guys were hiding and launched the boat probably just after midday. Being perfectly organised, the guys and I crossed to the island while the girls went to get ginger beer and complimentary Orkney ice-cream. By the time they settled on the pier with provisions (which were not nicked by anyone on the way) I was already on the way back to pick them up.

The crannog was very cool! It’s length twenty meter and width twenty meter. Its sewerage system a marvel to behold. Especially the guest bathroom. It looks like without the trees it could have been home to a large enough house or “castle” as the clans would have called them. The walls are still visible at certain places. A little bay cut into an island was obviously a mooring point, though judging by all the thorn bushes, not for inflatable dinghies…

We had our ginger beer, sandwiches and pancakes, complained about noisy neighbours and did a few rounds of the island. By then it was time to head back… The first trip with the women was tough! The winds were strong and we overshot the pier. Unable to come back to the red pier, we unloaded Princes Nettlebush Soggyfoot and Ginger Hell in the water and I headed back to the island on a rescue mission. The rowing was pretty hard, but by the time I reached the buoys I knew it would be ok… I could always moor at one and rest my arms. But that proved unnecessary. I reached the island alright, recovered the men and my shoes and headed back to shore, this time choosing a more weather appropriate strategy and rowing straight to shore before floating sideways to the pier.

Hitchhiking back proved less successful then hitchhiking there, and we ended up getting a local cab! Thank god we thought of getting the number beforehand. They said they’d “see if one of the drivers could do it”, and in less than 40 minutes we had our ride. The day was concluded with amazing sushi at the new Koyama restaurant.

Moral of the story: Hire a car instead of taking a bus!!!

Highlight: Princess Nettlebush dropping both of her shoes in the loch on two occasions, one on the way there, the other on the way back…

Vampire empire…

I feel like there is a new post due. I have stuff to say but I’m afraid I haven’t been able to compile enough material to put together anything of great value that would not be too vague…

But I have found out this! For only about £18 pounds I can get to Pisa, Italy… and from there for as little at €12 to Constanța, Romania!!!
To be sure, Constanța might be a pretty portal town, but sadly it happens not to be located in Transylvania, which is where I want to get. However, I will for now assume that accommodation and transport in Romania is fairly cheap, until I’ve done some further research. Yeah, you know where this is going…

It appears that in the little villages in Romania, people still treat their dead to food and water for 40 days after their death lest they dislike the discomforts of their dark resting places and come back to life as strigois to haunt their living relatives. An incident occurred back in 2004, when a dead was dug up, his heart impaled on a stick, burned and the ashes, mixed with water were given to his niece to drink. She was the one who’s blood Petre Toma came to feed on every night in her dream.
A more detailed version of this story is available here.

Another story mentions practices that one would not expect to witness in the 21st century. During the time before burial, a corpse has to be guarded in order to make sure no cats, rats, dogs or birds hop over the body. Cats even get locked up because they are always up to no good, aye Whiski? The wife sleeps with a cloth between her legs so her dead husband cannot come back to claim her… Although apparently nothing works as well as a nail through the heart.
It would be good to hear all this from the locals, if its true…

I do not believe in vampires. And it saddens me greatly that they do not exist.
Nevertheless I am aspiring to be a fantasy writer and I’m hoping they would come to life in my stories at least. I have also noticed that I find it much easier to write when I write from experience. Hence my desire to go and see the country for myself. It helps with descriptions, duh!
Even though the story didn’t take place in Transylvania, I always thought just the name sounded cool enough to seek it out. And while I’m there, I may as well check out Vlad the Impaler’s castle, if I can find it. Sounds good? Yeah!

Weekend tripping…

The “summer” is drawing to an end and temperatures will now drop to under 10°C instead of 10-15°C, for a while…

So I have started planning another boat trip well in time before the canals and lochs freeze over, or so I hope. My idea is to grab SeaWhiskitt and the “whores”, warm clothes, yummy sandwiches and brews, cameras and a notepad for inspiring moments and take a bus to Lochearnhead on of these Saturdays at a godforsaken hour of 8h55 to arrive there 2 mins before 11. Then proceed to hitchhike to the eastern side of the loch. This is necessary as rowing across would take the best part of the day and we wouldn’t have time to enjoy our provisions.
The village at the other side of the Loch Earn is called St. Fillans and the reason why I want to set sail there is the little island that you can see from the bank there. The Neish Island (dum dum duuum)… a tiny uninhabited islet, supposedly a crannog? It was a refuge for members of Clan Neish until the 17th Century, when they were decimated by their ancient enemies of the fearsome Clan MacNab from Killin.

Here is the story in short, taken from Wikipedia, my flexible friend, extended with bits and pieces of information from other versions of the tale:
One Christmas the chief of MacNabs sent his servant to Crieff for provisions, however on his return he was attacked and robbed of everything he carried. He survived and returned empty handed to the MacNab chief, a man old and frail, but with twelve strong sons. One above all was exceedingly athletic and the mightiest of them all. He was called in gaelic “Iain Min Mac an Aba” or “Smooth John MacNab”.
They waited for a suitable night when there was a full moon, then the chief spoke ” Bhi’n oidche an oidche, nan ghillean an ghillean”… “The night is the night, if the lads are the lads”. Carrying on their shoulders a fishing boat, the brothers set out to climb over the hill from Loch Tay up Ardeonaig Glen and down Glentarken to Loch Earn, where they eventually launched the boat and rowed across to Neish Island (kinda like we will, only faster). Smooth John MacNab kicked open the door of the Neishes house and the MacNabs killed all of the Neishes who were taken by surprise. However two Neishes, a man and a boy, survived by hiding under a bed (cowards!).
Carrying off the heads of the Neishes, and any plunder they could secure, the sons headed off back to Killin but along the way back some way up Glentarken they tired of carrying their boat and abandoned it. It is said the remains of it were to be seen until 1900. When the youths presented themselves to their father, while the piper struck up the Pibroch of Victory (the local version of Reines of Castamere?), the old man said “The night was the night, and the lads were the lads.”
The sigil of the Clan MacNab is the severed head of the Neish clan chief, and alternatively a couple of dudes in a boat… and their motto is “Timor Omnis Abesto” (Let fear be far from all… or Dreadnaught), although I suspect this precedes the boat story.

Anyway… I thought it was a cool place to go and drink beers, but now I am also quite intrigued by the crannog thing. They are a type of ancient loch-dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland. Most are circular structures that seem to have been built as individual homes to accommodate extended families. Today, they appear as tree-covered islands or remain hidden as submerged stony mounds.

The bus goes back to Edinburgh at 17h12 (or two hours later) and that should give us enough time to enjoy the trip. Very convenient…
Now just to find a sunny Saturday without Whiski vet appointments…

And the moral of the story? When the snows fall, and the night is dark and you can hear the soft jingling of bells and the skittish whinny of reindeer in the whistling of the winds, whatever you do… do not mess with Kitteh McNabb!

Fantazia…

This has been a most unproductive week at work, thanks to Ancestry and my search for across-the-pond relatives, which has lead to a few amazing discoveries. But they gradually became fewer while the frustration at not being able to access documents was almost continuous by the end… Eventually I spent most of the time researching living families which could really just complete all the info in a blink of an eye should they bestir themselves and reply to my messages. Gah, (prospective) family! Typical!
Today is the last day of free access and tomorrow, I think, I will get ancestry membership. I am still considering leaving it until I get more info from the Slovakian archive but who am I kidding, I’m way too curious!

Either way, after a week of spending my evenings (and days) in front of a computer screen, tonight I decided to read instead. And the autobiographical piece Dreamsongs by my favourite author George R R Martin,  inspired me to writing my own novel. I have to say that writing a book has always been something I wanted to do. As a child I even wrote a short adventure “book” which I submitted… somewhere… but obviously never heard back, because in the hindsight it was truly atrocious. Nevertheless, they could have at least returned the manuscript, bastards! (So I could burn it and pretend it never happened.)
Yet I like to think I have come a long way since that shameful time. The desire to write and publish something is still there, the inability to write is gone… or so I have to hope. Surely I am a bit more skilled now and a bit less pretentious.
For one, I don’t want to start with a book this time. A short story, with lots of action and a twist or a revelation at the end would be sufficient. And sex, there has to be sex. I sure hope there was no sex in the “book”.

And because I am now much less confident than I was as a kid, I will have a chance to come up with a cool pseudonym! Ideas?

History week…

I have randomly come across the information that there is a free search week on Ancestry (thanks Facebook), only because my family tree website Geni has restricted its viewing and editing options and I wanted to find out what the hell was going on (so thanks Geni too I guess but I still hate you)…

I have finally looked into what has been bugging me ever since I started building my family tree… ancestry found a mention of a certain Zuzanna Brasen on the New York passenger lists but they are normally only accessibly for a fee. I have indeed found the Zuzanna in question but she seemed to have been a generation younger than my great great grandmother.

The idea that followed was to try and discover the identities of the family members that have reportedly emigrated to the US and haven’t been heard from much since. My grandmother tells a story of a sister or half sister of her mothers who left chasing the American Dream and she also recalls the letters this aunt had been sending to her brother Harmaniak, my gran’s half brother. Apparently they contained ridiculously small amounts of money and silly gift, such as chewing gum. Not knowing whether this great great aunt was a Micik(ova) or a Harmaniak(ova) or even her first name, I started looking blindly for someone… anyone…
Eventually me search lead to a girl of about the right age (born in cca. 1887) called Zuzanna Micik, an 18 year old servant girl who took passage on Kronprinz Wilhelm from Bremen to New York where she landed on January 16th, 1906. What caught my interest was that she, one amongst numerous other Miciks, came from Parnica, a little village in Slovakia, then a part of Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which coincidentally is where my grandmother comes from and where I assume her mother came from before her…

Along with Zuzanna who reported to be going after her sister-in-law in Chicago, came Jan (cca. 1870) and Ondrej (cca. 1876) Harmaniak and Jan Suvada (cca. 1888), all from Parnica. There was also a certain Jan Chilka, whom I have never heard of before but a 51 year old widow Zuzanna Micik-Chylka from Parnica took passage to Boston, MA in 1921. I assume all these Parnica families are somehow related, if a few generations back.

Out of interest I tried to look up other people from Parnica and I came across Andrej (Andrew) Micik (born May 9th, 1877) who traveled to New York with $15 in cash to join his brother John Micik in Port Chester, NY in 1903/04 and became a naturalised American later on. His wife ‘Susan’ was also form Austro-Hungarian Empire and they had 6 children together (at the time of the issue of the naturalisation documents in 1924): Mildred (1907), Mary (1913), Katie (1915), Emil (1918), Adolph (1920) and William (1922). Once again thanks to facebook I have been able to track down their direct descendants. I have contacted one of them yesterday, hoping that she will be able to help fill in the gaps, but haven’t heard back yet. I have a strange feeling that we are related to this family, Andrej Micik from Parnica and my grandmother Maria Micikova were probably more than namesakes… cousins maybe? uncle and niece?

I am hoping to find out more from the archives of Parnica when I get a chance  —>  TO DO List!