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!!!

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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!