A recipe for an unexpected meal

Edinburgh Expeditions

Following the success of The Recipe Given to Us by the Stoned Irishman back in May (onions, garlic, courgette, pasta and salmon in a cream sauce), we decided that we would have our entire meal planned by strangers. This included a toast, cocktail, and a three course meal.

Armed with a notebook, pen and bouquet of yellow roses, my friends and I hit the streets of Edinburgh to have locals and tourists alike plan our dinner party.

The cocktail was given to us first by a group of skateboarders in Bristo Square. The cocktail? A Jakeyboy, half Buckfast and half cider. We couldn’t find Buckfast, so this was nixed in favour of traditional cocktails.

An elderly gentleman gave us the starter–“You’ll want a soup,” he said. “A nice Scotch broth. Or perhaps borscht.” With the suggestion of borscht we also got a story about dining in restaurants in communist Russia. “And the ice cream. You never think of ice cream when you think of communist Russia, but they had the best ice cream.”

Our main was chicken/vegetarian curry (standard Scottish affair, but delicious nevertheless). The dessert a molten chocolate cake–I wasn’t around for either of these suggestions.

Our toasts came from a busker on the Royal Mile, a Portuguese saw-player who wears a top hat. “Salud” is the only one of the three I can remember. Other toasts came from ourselves, the British Navy of Nelson’s era (fittingly, the Sunday toast is ‘to absent friends’ and the occasion for the dinner was a going away party), and a favourite of one of my recently departed American friends which is not repeated in polite company.

We collected stories to tell through the night, including a very sweet one about what you see when you are falling asleep from one of the Royal Mile vendors. One of my friends is an accomplished harpist, so that night when I told the story, we had musical accompaniment.

We gave each person a yellow rose as a thank you for their contribution. The leftovers we used to make bouquets, and the roses are still going strong, sitting on one of the tables in my flat, fully blooming and only slightly touched by brown.

An eclectic evening, but a fantastic one, filled with friends, laughter and the happiest of memories touched with the sadness of our friend’s departure–but her adventures will be wonderful and I look forward to hearing about them.

One year as an expat.

Edinburgh Expeditions

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

I’ve lived in the UK for a year now. One year, with only a brief sojourn back to the States. One year.

One year. One year. Living on my own. Responsibilities. Education. Academia. Heartbreak. Making friends. Seeing these friends move away. Interviews. Starting jobs. Design. Worrying. Worrying about if the government will let me stay here, or if I’ll have to return to the States. Will I get to immigrate? Will I have to return to the land of my birth (I don’t call it ‘home’)?

Trips to London. Trip to the Highlands. Pilgrimage to Manchester. Concerts. Theatre. Adventures. Swing dancing. Saying hello. Saying good bye. Moving. Leases. Commutes. Thoughts too complex to be expressed as any more than phrases. Moments. Music. Friends. Poetry. Film-making. Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Fish and chips. Forays into vegetarianism. Bacon beckons. Tea. Biscuits. Brie. Late night chats. Early morning conversations. Sometimes the same thing. Mistakes. Regrets.

Laughter. Tears. Sobs into the night. Loneliness. Frustration. Disappointment. Elation. Love. Token American. Belonging.

The (formerly) Non-poetry Fan’s Adventures at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh Expeditions

They say that Edinburgh is the Festival City. Well, it’s true. And if it’s the Festival City, then August is the Festival Month. The Fringe, the most famous of the (four? five?) festivals running this month, is loud, obnoxious, and rather in your face. Tourists course through the streets, making each trip twice as long as it needs to be (my legs are in great shape now that I’ve taken to the hills to avoid them. Really. Hilly streets run parallel to the main ones). Drunks sing outside my window at all hours of the night and morning. And it is really, really loud.

Within this manic, energetic, mildly obnoxious madness, there is an oasis of calm. Located on the far side (for me) of George Street in Charlotte Square is the International Book Festival, the ultimate place for a book-toting, pen-wielding blogger and former English major. The white tents, the deck chairs, the yurts, the green, the books…oh the books. There are at least three book stores. Everyone clutches at a book, one they have purchased, one they have had signed, or one that they wish to leave for another to enjoy.

I’ve only attended two events so far at the Book Festival. The first was last Wednesday. It was an improv poetry slam, the first of its kind I’d attended. Not being a fan of poetry (or so I thought until this May’s Poetry Marathon), I had never even been to a slam. I loved it. I laughed. How I laughed! I drew portraits of the poets, chatted briefly with them after, generally had a lovely time.

Another day I just hung out at the Festival. A friend was interviewing a writer for her magazine, and I tagged along for a bit (not for the interview–I stayed in the Spiegeltent and drew). While waiting for her to get out of an event, and for another friend to arrive, I simple sat and read from the latest 44 Scotland Street book, before having a lovely conversation with two sisters in their 60s who sat at my table. You meet such wonderful people when you smile.

Today, I attended a presentation by Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s current makar (national poet). She spoke about her work, about her background, about the importance of learning poetry in schools. I felt rather embarrassed, not really knowing her work but knowing her name. Doubly embarrassed because, as a former English major, I had never studied poetry in a university setting. Triply embarrassed because I have an appalling memory and cannot remember any of the poems I ought to have memorized as a child. Also felt a bit silly as I didn’t have much to say when I met her after, apart from “I really enjoyed the presentation” and “My name’s Beth…no, short for Bethany.”

My next adventure at the book festival is this Friday, where I am to hear one of my favourite discoveries of the last few months speak. Carol Ann Duffy, the British poet laureate. Her collection of poetry, Rapture, is one of my favourite works, regardless of genre. I am so looking forward to attending her reading. I really ought to pick up a copy of Rapture this week, a second reward for finishing my dissertation, so that I’ll have something for her to sign, should she do a signing.

London Review of Books tent

(C) Bethany Wolfe

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Edinburgh Expeditions

Last night, my dad and I went to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. We’ve talked about going to this event for years, since I started playing the bagpipes back in the early 2000s (I don’t play any more). Finally, circumstances brought us to Edinburgh (well, my living here and his being in Scotland for work).

Around 8.30, we joined the throng walking up the Royal Mile, the maddening bunch of tourists, a few locals, masses of students. I felt a bit like a salmon swimming up river, particularly as I had to go up hill to get to the Castle Esplanade. It was chilly, a sharp contrast to the day’s comfortable weather and Saturday night’s warmth. Sitting up where we were, it was slightly windy, but not nearly so bad as on top of the seats–the flags flew wildly.

The Tattoo started at 9 with a fighter jet flyover, which I unfortunately could not see. Not a real loss though, we could hear the four jets. They fly over the Meadows, and I’ve seen them fly by before.

Spilling from the Castle

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

I didn’t really know what to expect from the Tattoo. Bagpipes, obviously, military bands, yep. Highland dancing mixed with modern dance to interpret the Industrial Revolution? Nope, did not expect that–nor did I particularly enjoy it. It was entertaining and shiny, but, quite frankly, watching modernish dance bores me a bit. As does ballet, to a degree. I digress.

Top Secret Drum Corps

(C) Bethany Wolfe

My favourite part of the evening was when the Top Secret Drum Corps of Basel, Switzerland. I had seen a video of their 2006 performance and was hopinghopinghoping that they would be performing at this year’s Tattoo. Lo and behold, they were! It was a fantastic performance. I grinned ear to ear the whole time. “You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?” my dad said to me during the drum-stick-stage-fighting portion. I could only nod.

Top Secret Drum Corps

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

After the Top Secret Drum Corps came the King of Norway’s personal guard, a fantastic drill team and band. I like the patterns and movements created by drill teams, the precision and exactness (a bit strange that I can be bored watching choreographed dance and yet I really enjoy drum lines and drill teams…oh well).

Pipers and Others

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

The Tattoo ended with the lone piper on the Castle ramparts, playing a hymn for the fallen.

The Lone Piper

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

A Dissertation: A Story in Five Songs

Edinburgh Expeditions

As my dissertation draws into a close (at this point, the thing is printed, bound and submitted), I realized that my odyssey can be recounted in five songs. It’s more the feeling (and title) of the song than the lyrics, but enjoy away.

May-June

No class! I can do whatever I want! It’s sunny, I can research outside! Mum and sister are in town, I can take some time off!

June-July

Things aren’t going quite as I anticipated…

July-August

As the deadlines draw nearer…

16 August 2012

The thing is in…and I am so tired…it’s a cold and its a broken hallelujah…now to recovery and celebrate with the friends I’ve been ignoring for the last few weeks.

And as it finally sets in…

FREEEDOM! Now I’m off to enjoy the sunny weather, the Fringe, and time with friends before I become a responsible adult.

Thoughtcrime: A New Film

Edinburgh Expeditions

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is the moment you have all been waiting for. It’s the premiere of my first film, Thoughtcrime. Loosely based on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, it plays on the themes of surveillance, love, and honesty.

The film was written, directed and edited by yours truly and is my first film. I advise that you watch it wearing headphones, the sound quality is not the best.