Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Flushing on the Left and Other Curiosities of Living Abroad

I have never spent too much time considering flush toilets unless I have been in desperate need of one. That being said, I am a big fan of flush toilets and indoor plumbing in general, having been introduced at a very young age to the realities of an outhouse. Daddy had to do some quick talking to convince me that he wasn't kidding when he told me that little building truly was the bathroom I had to use.

Anyway, there is a curious thing about said flush toilets here in Scotland. The handle is on the left side, as opposed to the right side in the States. You wouldn't think this would be a big deal, but trust me when I say that the first few days of this was a bit disorienting. Who knew that such a simple action as flushing the toilet was so ingrained in our muscle memory? If you don't believe me, take a few moments the next time you are in a bathroom and note where that handle is!

Another curiosity to me is the lack of window screens anywhere I have looked. They are, of course, ubiquitous in the States, particularly in the South, where flying bugs can carry off your first-born if they so desire. Not so in Scotland.

I didn't think too much about it until I went to make application for the flat I will be moving into this week. It is on the ground floor (perfect for my dachshunds Asher and Joseph) but has no screens (not so perfect for my cat Timothy, since it fronts a busy street). I remembered to ask the letting agent if there were screens for the windows. I got an utterly blank look in response and the words, "There are window coverings." I had to clarify that I meant wire mesh screens to keep the cat in.

"The windows are elevated," said he, trying to be helpful.

"He is a cat," said I.

"Oh," he responded. "There are no screens."

It is not a complete loss, however. I have located screen kits online that I will have time to purchase and install with magnets before my boys arrive. And I -- I will have the only screens on the block, as far as I can tell. Won't I be special?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Some Photos for Your Enjoyment

I have shared with you tidbits from the Gathering that happened the weekend that I arrived, so thought you should see some of them.

There are pictures of some of my Clan Gunn men in their full rigs, of a presentation made by the Maori family of one of our men who emigrated to New Zealand and married a Maori woman, of one of the groups present at the Highland Games, and of me with my favorite author, Diana Gabaldon.

A Wedding, A Funeral, and A Sunday In Between

I have now been employed by the Church of Scotland for two weeks. I made my way to St. Anne's Parish Church on Saturday, August 1, to be sure I could make it there on the bus come Sunday morning. When I got there, a wedding party had gathered for a service MaryAnn Rennie, pastor of St. Anne's, was doing. I had intended to nip in and drop off my preaching robe, have a look around, and head out. Instead, MaryAnn asked if I would like to stay for the wedding service to observe.

I was a bit surprised -- then she explained to me that weddings work a bit differently here for the most part. The vows and the party are often separated by several hours. If you are invited to the party, you may or may not attend the first part with the vows. Most anyone can attend the vows, whether or not you have been invited and only some people dress up for the occasion.

For this wedding, the groom and groomsmen were all in kilts and very nice jackets. Somehow I knew I was in Scotland. The actual vows came early in the order of service and the Scripture readings and short message was done later -- just the opposite of how I have known things to be done. There was also a gift given to the bride and groom from the church. This time, MaryAnn had chosen Ma Broon's Cookbook.

Come Sunday, the day began with the 9:30 a.m. Family Service. This service proved to be a very informal time that is extremely child friendly. MaryAnn plans an activity for the service that will involve everyone who wants to be involved then does a shorter message.

Tea and cake (and coffee) in between services -- and a lot of friendly, welcoming faces who have promised me that they will remind me of their names frequently!

The 11:00 a.m. service was much more formal. Yet it was a comfort to be there, to hear voices raised in song together, to be saying prayers that were familiar. This was followed by lunch with MaryAnn, her husband Keith, and their children Calum and Aileen at the manse (church-owned housing provided for the pastor and family). Then it was off to a short service at a nearby assisted-living facility. Again, some things sound much the same in any country. Sounds of group living and words of encouragement are some of those things.

Come Monday, I was off to a funeral with MaryAnn. For the first time, I attended a service at a crematorium. Cremation is the preferred method of dealing with the body in the city areas here and so, just the way that we frequently have services at funeral homes in the States to make it easier to deal with moving the body around, here they often have services at the crematorium and the body is simply lowered from the upper level of the facility to the lower one. There were no pall bearers, only staff members who brought in the casket. There was music -- both recorded and organ. Once again -- same and different all at the same time.

It was a busy first weekend.