Delicious Scottish food

When I arrived in Glasgow I got a message from an old friend who spends most of the year in Brazil. She said she would be passing through Glasgow Queen Street station and could we meet?

I was so excited at the idea of seeing her after about 4 years absence that I went down there and waited, and waited,  only after half an hour realising that the ‘ thu’ in her message meant Thursday!
So I am off there again today!
But I had a good time in the town centre anyway, shopping and looking at all the amazing buildings

Headed straight for Greggs the baker for an empire biscuit – the ones with cherries on top

Watched a handsome highland piper

Here is the street scene… you see the sun does shine in Glasgow and people sit outside drinking in cafes

There was a chill wind so I had on a borrowed coat from my niece but there were plenty of brave Scottish biddies in tee shirts or vests.

Came home on the wee shoogle….. the Glasgow metro which is small and intimate and cosy

The sky was intense blue and it was quite hard to see in front of me as the light in Scotland is so bright and clear

Later in the evening we went for a wonderful curry in Akbar’s, a famous restaurant which started in Bradford

I have never seen a Naan mountain before. That is my gorgeous niece hiding behind it – hope she doesn’t mind appearing here!   Thank you both for such a fabulous dinner. I dream of curry when I am in Catalunya.

Arrival in Scotland

The Catalan Way is on the road for the next couple of months.

I am travelling around the UK visiting family and friends before arriving in Cornwall and celebrating The Feast of Saint John in Penzance. Otherwise known as Golowan!  Midsummer is  a big celebration in Catalunya too and also centres on the  feast day of Sant Joan but I thought it would be lovely this year to have it in the UK. And there will be several Catalans coming over too. But more on that later!

I have slipped behind with posting – not from lack of ideas but time has suddenly speeded up and I don’t like the feeling of trying to catch up so I am going to just start where I am, right now.

Which, today is Glasgow

 I arrived yesterday at Prestwick airport and as always was surprised by the emotional impact of landing in Scotland. I haven’t lived here since 1980 – 34 years – but I still get a feeling of fullness in my chest when I arrive whether by train, car or plane.  I worked in the airport cafe when I was 16 but it is totally unrecognisable now.  I like this feeling of things changing – when you stay in one place it happens slowly but as soon as you move away it seems to speed up.  I say I like it but sometimes I am not so sure – change means excitement but also loss and I need to feel the balance is right between change and stability otherwise I start to lose my footing.  This visit there will be a lot of change to take in – including storm damage in Penzance, my friends new home in Norfolk and my Cornish cabin with no animals beside me

There is always a feeling of coming home when I arrive in Scotland.

Home.  What does that mean?   There are so many off pat answers but I am still exploring it.  Wouldn’t it be nice to really feel that home is wherever you put your hat?  

I always enjoy the first moments of speaking English and not having to think before I open my mouth. When the man at the sweetie counter said “See you later” I felt something different than when people call out “Hasta luego”  but I don’t really understand why.

Troon station with its new translation into Gaelic which seems odd as noone there speaks it. We are not in the Highlands – it’s Ayrshire!

 Glasgow Central station is impressive as always.  A metallic palace.  Opened in 1879 and now a listed building.

You don’t see so many women wearing headscarves as you used to when I was young

These tiles are a little reminder of Barcelona, as you walk out of the station

There was a chill wind out on the street while I waited for my sister to come and pick me up. Weather and where to live – that is yet another interesting line of thought.   How much does the weather really matter and why was it fine for me when I lived here and now I seem to be all soft and weak and want sunshine? 

I am in the afterweek of my birthday and as always it makes me think too much about age, time and change

Add to that the strong sensations of returning to my birth country and also that I am to travel for a month and you will see that I need perhaps a large whisky, a hot curry and an evening of playing cards with my niece. which is exactly what I have to look forward to this evening! 

See you later!

Bonnie’s Story – Part Four – The High Road to Scotland with a Border Collie

At the end of the last post I was describing how well Bonnie took to her new diet. It was slightly harder for me, a longterm vegetarian.  Butchers shops are not comfortable places for me and ordering things in Catalan was difficult.  I felt I had to pretend the meat was for us humans, especially if I was ordering steak. Buying lots of human grade meat for your dog is not a common practice in Catalunya, maybe not anywhere.
But I did get borrowed kudos when I started enthusiastically asking for less popular animal parts.  Livers, kidneys, hearts….heads and necks….I even spent a few weeks searching for raw tripe only to find the EU has banned its sale.

Did you know that dogs like raw fish – whole and straight from the freezer?  Mackeral was popular.

Finding and storing fresh raw meat is harder when you are on the move. In July we set off yet again in the camper van, this time with our noses pointing north to explore the Highlands of Scotland.  Bonnie was in the best of health and so I took a flexible approach to her diet – dried food here, sausage and chips there, a chicken wing, half a rabbit.

The weather was very hot right from day one and as we drove north we looked for cooler days but it seemed never to happen and the sunshine followed us all the way to Inverness and beyond. We were so lucky to always find inviting waters

Rivers in France rarely disappoint

 Punting in Cambridge. Bonnie was the Queen of the Cam – tourists took photos of her

We passed through London and I showed Bonnie my old home in Stoke Newington. We were going to sleep in the van but our neighbours were still in the same house and invited us to stay overnight. Next morning we walked through the Victorian cemetary that stretches along the back

 My Catalan partner finds this interest in old graveyards totally incomprehensible but I like them and loved the view from the back window of my house

 It was like living beside a nature reserve and in Spring the dawn chorus was amazing

 I have a story to tell about this sculpture but will save it for another time

Visiting Family

We met family all along the route – without planning it we visited almost everyone, even those who are no longer with us.  One niece lives near Folkstone where we landed. Then in London we went to my brothers old home, still full of memories both happy and sad after his death the year before. Then to my sister in Cambridge. Up to the borders and another niece and nephew and grand-nephew.  After that we headed north with the sun still blazing and met another of my sisters in Newtonmore in the Cairngorms.  Close by is the river where my fathers ashes were scattered and as we were also visiting many of his hydroelectric dams we felt that we were really on a family odessey
We were heading for Inverness where I was born but first we took a right turn to Findhorn Bay. It was still incredibly hot and we stopped for some more river swimming before we reached the coast

I was born on the east coast of Scotland but we moved to the west when I was 6.  I hadn’t realised it before but my deepest sense of home is in this north eastern corner. So good to take Bonnie there.
The light feels just the right sort of light and the beaches seem like proper beaches

 We stayed at the long established New Age Centre and Ecological Community, Findhorn, famous at one time for its huge vegetables grown in sand and apparently aided by nature spirits

Of course we visited the house where I was born in Inverness and also went to see the Dolphins that live in the Moray Firth. Every day there are groups of visitors and professional photographers waiting at the point for the tide to come in bringing fish, and dolphins close behind.

All the coast line is magical. 

This is Rosemarkie where I first learned to walk.
My mothers ashes were scattered here so the place is thick with memories and feelings

For the first five years of my life we spent the summers in Rosemarkie. 
The Fairy Glen is just as mysterious 50 years on

One day we met a look-alike puppy even more foxy than ours

We headed west through spectacular mountain scenery. Every day was better than the last
Some fellow campers at Fortrose had recommended the free camping at Shieldaig

Heaven on earth – apart from the midges which finally began to attack us at nightfall
Now we were driving southward and stopped to camp on the Silver Sands near Arisaig

Here began the part of the journey requiring Ferries – Caledonian MacBrayne took us from Skye to Mallaig, Mallaig to Rhum, Ardnamurchan to Tobermory on Mull

And finally from Mull to Oban.

Bonnie is used to boats after all her trips to the Scillies and was a natural island hopper

 On Mull we camped wild, spending some nights alone in the car park above spectacular Calgary Bay

There is a nature reserve with sculptures nearby –  Calgary Art in Nature.
Bonnie with recycled sandpipers

 We stayed with my other sister in Port Appin and then slowly made our way out of the mountains down to Glasgow, stopping off to visit the spirits of our aunts  in Tighnabruich.

Clutch Foot

In Glasgow we parked the van and finally had a rest from driving. Too late I realised that over 4000km of driving is hard on the legs and I developed tendinitis in my clutch foot which took more than three months to resolve. We visited my niece who lives in a flat overlooking the River Clyde and I felt amazed that this journey had so cleverly wound its way around all the family as well as many of the special places of my childhood.

In early August we arrived in Cornwall – in spite of my ankle we managed to climb Carn Galver

After a month in our lovely cabaña we set off again for Folkstone and the journey through France. My ankle problem meant abandonning the camper van in Cornwall and we bought a little Spanish car in the UK which carried us home.
No more camping so we stayed in hotels.
One rainy night we went dripping into a family hotel in who-knows-where mid France.
They welcomed us and Bonnie with smiles and I had one of the best meals in my life.
Trout with almond sauce.

 We took a new route south and passed over the Millau Viaduct

When I was passenger  I could have Bonnie with me.

We got home in time for the big Independence demonstration on September 11th.
They took my name! – Via Catalana or The Catalan Way!

 I really expect the next episode with be the final one but please don’t avoid it thinking it will be too sad.  I leave you today in the late sunshine of that September on the coast road near Sant Pol. There were many more lovely adventures to come.  I hope you will accompany us to the gentle peaceful and beautiful end of the story.  Till tomorrow my friends

Dancing the Gay Gordons in Granollers

Burns Night is on January 25th and celebrated all over the world, including in Granollers!

Robert Burns, the Scottish national poet, was born on this day in 1759 and lived his short life of 37 years with gusto. He wrote poetry, much of it radical and passionate.  He was a farmer, a radical, a supporter of the French revolution, lover of women, collector of traditional songs and he had a wonderful sense of humour.

Each year on this day thousands if not millions of people all over the world have a special dinner which more or less follows a set pattern.

We had the same group of people as last year with the additional of lovely Lydia who is 3 months old and my friend Cristina from Barcelona who read the Selkirk Grace in perfect Scots

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

 We ate cock a leekie soup thanks to Tiffany, vegetarian haggis flown in from Scotland, neeps and tatties minus the neeps because I could not find a single turnip in Catalunya, and then Cranachan, the raspbery, oats, cream and whisky pudding that is traditional on this night.

We had songs, poems and even a burst of dancing the Gay Gordons.
This video is not of the Gay Gordons dance but as I was searching I found a dance group called the Gay Gordons and I love it. I have a big soft spot for gay men dancing after so many years of learning ballroom and tango and line dancing with them in London.  Great kilts!

Anyway, we had a perfect night,  not only remembering Burns but also introducing him to a wider world.  And seeing Lydia dancing in her Scottish dress – bought last year in Inverary – was a delight.

And here is our Catalan translation by Pep Mogas of one of Robert Burns most famous songs

El meu amor és rosa roja
Que s’obre al juny de nou
El meu amor és melodia
D’un cant dolç que em commou

Com més formosa ets, amor
més enamorat em fas
T’estimaré aixi, fins que
eixuts siguin els mars

Fins que eixuts siguin els mars, amor
I el sol no fongui els rocs
T’estimaré aixi, amor
Mentre em bategui el cor

Que et vagi bé unic amor
Que et vagi bé molt temps
Jo tornaré de nou llavors
deu mil milles faré

Scottish – Catalan Independence

Todays conversation was with the owner of a campsite on the Black Isle near Inverness. He was the first person to say without doubt that he would be voting NO in the referendum next year. He doesn’t want to be seen as a foreigner in England and he believed that the leading politicians in the Scottish Nationalist Party are more left wing than Fidel Castro. He was also worried about the selling off of Scottish utilities to countries like Spain and France and China.
Interesting that on the one hand he was for keeping control of Scottish resources in local hands but against ensuring that those hands were Scottish ones.
He had heard of Catalunya but knew nothing nor seemed very interested in the situation there