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Thursday, August 25, 2016

378: Monkey business

Monkey business. Mass noun. Informal. It means mischievous or deceitful behaviour.
I chose to have my blog title with the word monkey in it because yesterday evening, on the way to the shops for provisions, I saw a man with a pet monkey on a long lead. The monkey was up a tree eating leaves, as they do. It was just so unexpected. The things you see as you travel the world.

Last weekend I went to Olsztyn, about 2½ hours away by train. It is the beginning of the Polish Masurian lakes and has a big lake of its own. I stayed in a nice 2* hotel called pod zamkiem (under the castle). It had eccentric architecture and decor and they layed a nice table for breakfast. My little room was up in the attic so I had to be careful not to bang my head. I enjoyed Olsztyn very much: the lake, the old town and the new town. Of course many of the old towns in Poland are not old at all, having been razed to the ground by either German or Soviet soldiers. I read that in Olsztyn 40% of the town was destroyed. It's so difficult to imagine, and less than 100 years ago. Unfortunately we can't even say, oh well, that was then and wars don't happen any more. 'cos they do.

And, just to finish.....

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

377: Eilean Dubh

Being a language teacher I sometimes try and introduce a language element into my blogs. I forgot to mention that last week I was forever telling the Welsh speakers that the Welsh for Good Morning was the same as the Russian for beard (bore da = борода). This week I am in Scotland and the title of the blog is in Scots Gaelic. It means "The Black Isle". I went for a walk there yesterday with an old and valued friend. I say old because I've known him, on and off, for almost 44 years. I decided I was neither physically nor mentally fit enough to attempt a Munro during this particular visit to Scotland so we settled for a coastal walk along the Black Isle instead.
It's not an island but a peninsula to the North of Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands.
We reached it from the North, on a tiny 2-vehicle ferry which took 10 minutes to cross the Firth between Nigg and Cromarty. To get my little Astra and an estate car on we were marshalled that close to each other that you couldn't have squeezed a fag-paper between us. This was no conventional Ro-Ro ferry but a drive on and reverse off - both manoeuvres being conducted very sedately and under the expert guidance of the 'loadmaster'.
We drove to Fortrose (pronounced forTROSE)and topped up with coffee and cake before setting off to walk the short distance to Avoch (pronounced Och- the a and v are silent!) and back again.
After lunch, a locally sourced crab salad, we went for another walk but this time in a different direction.

Somewhat stupidly, because it had been dry in the morning, we thought we would leave our waterproof jackets in the car. This turned out to be an unwise thing to do as there was a light rain on the walk back along the coast from Rosemarkie to Fortrose. Lady Luck was looking down on us - the really heavy stair-rod rain only came from the heavens as we were driving home.
Two things worthy of note on the walk back: the first happened when we saw a family on the beach. The man was using a metal detector and we could hear it beeping every few yards to indicate the 'treasure' buried under the sand. His wife and daughter were being very patient with him - I can't really imagine metal detecting being much of a spectator sport. As well as that there was a view, across the water, of Fort George. It brought back memories for me as I was stationed there in the early seventies - a bleak and windswept place. It is still in use today as a military barracks.

what a shame I was driving!

To finish off, a wee song about a drunken Scot and what he wears, or doesn't wear, under his kilt!