Fogmania and Hogmadoodle (Xmas and NYE)

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Monday, January 1, 2007

This time last year I was traversing the frigid wastes of Siberia on the Trans-Mongolian railway, which is, however you think about it, one bleak and chilly way to spend a Christmas and New Year!

So in the lead up to this year's festive season I was more than a little excited about the toasty and comfy times to be had in the comparative civilisation of London and Edinburgh over the yuletide break. Flights were booked, presents wrapped and friends and family notified of plans.

Now all I had to do was get to London though a thick pea soup that had descended over the south of England just days away from the big day...


It was pretty touch and go that Friday night, heading out to Edinburgh airport in the hope that all flights south hadn't been cancelled. In the end my BA flight to London City (along with many others) did get the chop, but for some reason BA then put us on a competitor's flight to a terminally fog-bound Heathrow which actually got me home by midnight. Nine hours door to door was definitely pushing it, but it certainly beat the fate of a work colleague who ended up stranded on Guernsey Island for the night instead. Some people have all the luck.

Christmas was all the nicer for that, with lots of fine food and booze, a whopping Christmas tree well stocked with presents (just like the ones I remember from childhood) and the requisite over-excited kid. Ainsley, well and truly pregant by now, was a delight to behold with her reassuringly healthy glow, and with the convenient lack of public transport over Christmas and Boxing Day we could laze around and enjoy the company of the visiting six-toed cat - Bishop Odo. Bizarre.

I was 'working from home' (sweet) between Christmas and New Year, so raced back on the 27th to enjoy some of the bright, crisp weather that Edinburgh should really be famous for. I swear the climate up here is better than most of the UK, with some solid hills ensuring that western Scotland cops most of the nasty stuff whilst the east has more than its fair share of fine, reasonably mild and not-so-windy weather - even in winter.

However Swedish friends Olof and Ann arrived in town later the day these pictures were taken, possibly bringing some inclemency from home that would come to haunt us. More on that later, but it was nice to get some good photography in.

As mentioned in a previous entry, Edinburgh has some pretty spectacular sights and architecture, which I promised to show you whilst the Vikings were in town. After some preliminary forays into the festive heart of town, our first stop was St Giles Cathedral which we scuttled into to escape the first of the New Year rainshowers that were to dog our movements in the days ahead. Pretty magnificent from the outside and beautiful internally, the history of this particular church dates back to 1130AD or so, which starts to give you an idea of Edinburgh's extensive history.

More modern was the pipe organ rendition going on at the time (think heavy metal hymn and throttled cat all in one). Olof enjoyed it so much he decided to wait outside in the rain...

Another island in the day's rain-storm was the ever-groovy Scottish Parliament. My mission for a while has been to get a camera in for some happy snaps, which ended up being pretty easy - even inside the strikingly vaulted 'Chamber'. This place is much better during the day because it's easier to appreciate the extreme architecture within and without the building in the daylight. Am not so sure about the bottle motifs on the walls of the Chamber however - could there be some strange correlation between these inspiring the parliamentarians and the number of pavement puke pizzas I see around town? We'll have to let someone else work that out.

A traditional feed of haggis (mmm), neeps (turnips), tatties (potatoes) and the usual two pints of Caledonian 80 for lunch didn't deter us from further adventuring, so next in line was Holyrood Palace - another premium sight that I hadn'tactually caught before. Suprisingly like Stockholm's Drottningholm in reality, Holyrood is one of The Queen's summer houses, so check your visit in warmer months. Being a little gothic myself, the ruined abbey at the east of the residence was my favourite, but some of the internals were quite nice too. Unlike Drottningholm it didn't have much in the way of faux marble finishing, an effect I adore, so I'd have to mark it down on that ;-)

No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to the Castle - a very odd jumble of stately buildings atop the craggy peak that has served as a major strategic point in the region since at least 750BC. The weather looked like it would hold out so the Vikings and I ascended the peak that makes this place famous.

Most of the big events have happened here (as with the rest of Edinburgh) after 1100AD, when the oldest remaining building, the Chapel of St Margaret, was erected. Now there's lots of black guns, turreted walls and grand dining halls as well as the Scottish War Memorial, a War Museum and some working army barracks. It's weird though - plenty to see but not much to take photos of, except the striking War Memorial, but no photos are allowed there.

Not to worry. As the New Year approached plenty of weird and wonderful sights remained. The skating rink is a pretty cute inclusion in the park below the castle and the sun even made a brief appearance on the horizon as we counted down to zero hour. Unfortunately after that howling winds and lashing rain moved in with the darkness, which didn't dobe well for the celebrations ahead...

That wasn't going to stop us foreigners from a BBQ however. I'd searched high and low for a disposable barby and eventually found the last bulk pack of five in town. Even accidentally throwing away the lighting paper didn't deter us - we eventually got the little bugger alight and coaling nicely, in the process smoking out the flat. I don't think Ann was amused! Oh well, after giving the special New Year moose meat a good wash, followed by an indoor barby we finally got some of it the cooked - and all agreed it was a very tasty result indeed*.

Donning our Scotty hats we baked the rest of the moose with Juniper (Swedish=Enbar) berries more conventially in the oven, and when washed down with some fine Australian (Penfold's Kalimna) red vino we were well fortified for the ever-gloomier predictions on the TV. The poor BBC newsman must have been perched atop the castle, being absolutely battered by the wind and rain that roiled over the capital that night. I'm surprised he didn't take off like a modern day Mr Poppins. Unfortunately 9pm came and obviously a contingency milestone was hit, forcing the organisers to cancel Hogmanay, the gig they were hyping as the biggest 'New Year's party in the world'. Even more unfortunately the weather started to abate not long after - New Year's Day was ok and 2 Jan was gorgeous. As they say in showbiz - never work with animals, children or the weather!

As the last of 2006 ticked by, all that was left to do was open my new year present, brought express by Clownair (Ryanair) and the crazy Swedes. It seems the rewards for my fixation with moose have progressed from moose print dishcloths and oven mitts to the skull of a one year old female of the species - a victim of last year's moose hunt - and now affectionately known as Daisy. I very much doubt I will post it back to you when I move Olof, but rest assured that she's here to stay for the time being...

And that was my second new year away from home. Third time hopefully will be a treat!

* as moose is never bar-b-cued in Sweden, generally due to the timing of the autumn moose hunt, I hearby claim this tasty recipe and all subsidiary rights ;-)
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