Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stravaigin aboot Dundee

Thursday in Dundee

... Domesticity and a Night on the Town

For those of you who forget where Dundee is ...

a map ...

Here is a map of the city -- the downtown part. If you look closely, you can see the Overgate Centre and the Steeple Church, right in the middle... Yeah, it's a little blurry, but I have learned, through trial and error, that I cannot sharpen the image. Sorry.

Rowan lives outside of the city. She gets to where she needs to go by bus or by taxi or under her own steam.

Rowan writes:

Thursday dawns, and we are to spend a day in Dundee, after the glories of London and Edinburgh. Dundonians are known for being dismissive about their city. I have always been amongst the peeps that have risen to its defence. It is a post-industrial city, now high-flying in its bio-science sphere. There are more people with degrees per head of population in Dundee that anywheres else, seemingly, which is partly due to the bio-science institute and the numbers of staff it is pulling in, as well as the qualified staff employed by Ninewells, the local teaching hospital, and the other professionals and former students scattered in posts throughout the city. There are also those not contributing to the labour market, but still belettered – I am not sure if they are represented in the figures. Anyways – Dundee is a city on the turn.

I remember a favourite Science Fiction book I devoured as a teenager in the Seventies. The Earth had stopped turning, and one half remained in darkness, whilst the other half was bathed in light. The protagonist was a respected scientist on the light side, and when he ambled over to the dark side, he had a flipside life as a magician. Dundee has its light and dark sides. The issue is bringing them together.Dundee is an interesting clash of cultures – the remnants of the meltdown of local industries, resulting in the large numbers of long-term unemployed, often second generation. They have little in common with those who are at the sharp end of the new industries, such as bio-science innovation and medical research. The co-existence is, however, companionable – Dundonians are generally amenable types, shuffling along, conversing openly with strangers at bus stops and in spontaneous chats struck up in shops. Dundee is a curious mix of the old and the very shiny new. Jute dust still seems to blow down some of the old dark streets, where the abandoned jute mills have not yet been converted into tiny, be-broadbanded but claustrophobia-inducing flatlets.

Bob says:
I woke up early and had an on-line chat with my husband. I blearily went downstairs and found that Rowan had made tea to go with the toast and cereal. For some reason, she keeps putting out cheese for me, as if I am a cold-cut eater. I am not, but I politely take a slice of cheese to go with my carbohydrates. I wonder if she thinks that Americans have lunchmeat for breakfast. I take a peep into her refrigerator and look for things that I cannot find at home. Everything dairy has bio-something or others. Like active spoors -- you know, live bacteria to aid in digestion. I like the fact that the nutrition information is in kilocalories. I took my tea upstairs and said good-bye to my husband. I showed him the backyard with the laptop webcam. It is beautiful and green, but very little privacy. You can see into everyone's back yard. Everything is tidy, though. I miss my husband and I miss the kids. On my mobile plan, I can receive texts for free and can send them for about a dime. We have been keeping in touch by texting. I love technology. I told everyone to text me a lot. My sister, husband and kids have all been texting me multiple times a day. It is nice but makes me miss them. They feel a world away – in time and space. It is funny to be eight hours ahead of them – I am not used to being on this side of the time zone.

It is going to be a stay at home sort of day, as we are going back to Edinburgh tomorrow. It is my second to the last day in the UK. I will fly home on Saturday morning.

After breakfast, Rowan and I consider the game plan for the day. We are going to go to get some football scarves for my son and husband and I am interested to see what supermarkets look like in the UK. I love historical places, but I am always interested in how people live. I like to see what is different and the same. I am always a little uncomfortable to see American goods or innovations -- half pleased and half embarrassed. I don't want everything to look like home. It is like when you travel around and see that every strip mall has the same five shops. It is a little depressing -- I like regional differences. International differences are even better. After the store, we are going to go into town and wander around a little and then have lunch and get back to get ready for the evening's festivities. We are going to go see a pantomime, which seems to be a holiday tradition -- I am happy to see what will occur. We get ready to go and leave Rowan's house. I thought that you would like to know that Rowan has a garden gnome hidden in the greenery next to her front walk. I am not sure why he is wearing lipstick, though.

We set off, full of nice warm tea. Lena is in a good mood, holding my hand as we walk along. She is bright as a new penny. She asks questions in her grown-up, considering fashion. I still find her accent adorable. Rowan and I talk about kid’s TV, as Sam and Lena are about the same age -- shows we like and shows we abhor. She comments that you can tell that a show is from the US if the backyard fences are wooden. They would not generally be wooden in the UK, but would be stone or something that will not rot in the damp. I am much struck by this, and start to look around with new eyes. She is right – there are no wooden fences. I have a wooden fence – the desert air has desiccated it to such a degree that it might be petrified or nothing more than wood molecules. If you brush up against it, it might explode like a staked vampire on Buffy.

As we walk to the grocery store, I quiz Rowan about her life and habits. She walks to the store, except for those times that she takes a taxi because there is too much to carry back. It is about a ten-minute walk. When I was young and did not have money for a car, I remember having to take the bus to the store and haaaating it. Once, traveling back from the store, the bag tore and I vividly recall watching my apples roll around the aisles. However, this was when I was single and had only myself to worry about. I cannot imagine schlepping diapers and milk and cereal and youurt and bread to and fro. Yeesh. Rowan is striding along, clearly used to the trip. I again note that there is no grass in Lena’s school playground, which continues to surprise me – the countryside is sooo green, even in the winter. There is no playground at all, really. In the US, some parent would be suing because their first-grader skinned a knee on the blacktop. Again, it is a nice day – brisk and nippy, but not freezing and sleeting down rain. I thought that Scotland was supposed to be rainy. I am vaguely disappointed.

(This is a recent photo, as I did not have one of Rowan's street handy. Spring has engendered lovely flowering trees ...)

Rowan writes:

My house is in a street of post-war houses flung up to be flung down again at some ill-defined point in the future. They are concrete and steel, and faced with sheets of steel, and painted a rather groovy range of yellows. The odd one here and there is a toffee colour, a scattered few a sort of milk chocolate. It is like walking down the two halves of an enormous banana toffee lollipop, or sailing downstream on a river of caramel sauce between matching bergs of vanilla ice cream. It has not been rescinded – the funny steel houses seem to be here to stay.

Not far off, is my local supermarket. I am fairly well stocked up, but Bob wants to get football scarves, and they have very nice Scotland ones in the Asda supermarket. As I do not drive, we will be going by Shanks’s pony. Bob is a good schlepper, as has been established, and she is very city-curious. However, she permits herself a little eye-roll at the schlep through the streets towards superstore retaildom. It is not a schlep of very great interest, I agree, and I see Bob’s point of schlepping to see and experience being a worthwhile end, as opposed to a slog. Trekking to the grocery store without a car is indubitably a slog, much as I attempt to introduce a bit of spin to proceedings and call it a workout. I need to get a car. I need to shrug of the last vestiges of Luddism and hit the open road.

It is a sort of down at heel area. Nice enough, better than it used to be – the houses and gardens mostly very neat and looked after. There is one sporting an abandoned shopping trolley, and I talk loudly and point to something on the other side of the street to divert attention. A nice, sleepy down-at heel area of decent public housing.

Bob says:
(Rowan is secretly delighted by the limos. She finds the pink one all kinds of funny. I cannot imagine negotiating a roundabout in one of these.)

Here are a couple of shots that I took as we walked toward the store. And I should say that Rowan is incorrect when she says that I rolled my eyes at walking to the store. I categorically deny this. I might have been shaking my head at the idea of negotiating children and shopping through the streets of Dundee, but that was not eye rolling. I think that she is projecting ...

Rowan's idea of down at heel and mine are sorta worlds apart. But my mailbox just got tagged, and we used to have speed freaks in the abandoned motel behind our house, so I might be a little jaundiced. To me, down at heel means having only one broken-down vehicle in front of the house.

The houses seem charming and the streets are clean. Yards are well-kempt, with the occasional over-the-top ornamentation. I like it when people take their yards seriously as a part of self-expression, either crowded with toys or brimming with plants and garden statues. People have started to put out Christmas decorations. I miss home for a moment, and wonder if my husband and the kids have thought about putting up the lights.

We cross the streets and emerge next to the Asda store. Rowan can tell you about it, but it has recently been bought by Walmart. And Tesco carries Target brands. Americans are taking over the world, one cheap t-shirt and liter of soda at a time. A couple of months ago, Rowan sent me a football scarf for my daughter and we have managed to misplace it – it was a lovely blue with a St. Andrew’s cross …

We are getting Tartan Army scarves in honor of the National Scottish soccer team. According to the website,

“The Tartan Army are travelling supporters of the Scottish national football team. They were named the World's Friendliest Fans during the 1998 World Cup, and have won numerous awards over the years for their combination of rabid support and friendly nature. This friendly attitude is all the more surprising bearing in mind their team’s track record, which is often neatly summed up as glorious failure. * Some say that the amicability of the Tartan Army is due to the large volumes of alcohol imbibed before, during, and after a game, a fact that few members would dispute. Countries drawn against Scotland welcome the arrival of their fans. Scotland away matches are generally accompanied by a low level of policing due to their good behaviour over the years.”

(* -- does this make anyone else want to say, "This is Sparta!", or is it just me?)

Shoshana said that she got the scarf at Asda, so off to Asda we go.
We go in and the store is smaller than I expected – not even close to the average Walmart. More like a large grocery store than a supercenter, I would say. Maybe a leeetle bit bigger. I have to be really careful, because I am going to sound like a Terrible American Snob. And I don’t mean to, but I gots to calls them as I sees them. Asda looks like a discount store, but at twice the price. I am not being stunned by the prices anymore, but I cannot help calculating the difference between the UK and the US. The Scots are getting gypped, but royally. We wander through the aisles and the selection is only fair – not large at all.

However, I am very pleased at the selections of Christmas Crackers.
I have heard of them, but never actually pulled one open. I was tempted to take a box or two back for the kids, but limited suitcase space and common sense prevailed. As a funny side note, we went to visit friends in Bakersfield over the Winter Break and they had Christmas crackers! We snapped them open and read each other the lame jokes and ended up with lovely paper crowns. Mine was green. It was fetching.

So, as we wandered around the store, I looked to see what was the same and different – different foods and labels. There was practically a whole aisle devoted to sauces that I had never heard of – I was happy to see brown sauce. And curry sauces and frozen things that I don't recognize.

Rowan was still looking for a camera and we stopped to look at those displayed. They were overpriced.

We had a list of things to get, including a paper tube for carrying some posters that I had obtained. I had some maps for Sam, as he loves maps. Rowan very sweetly donated to the map collection and gave me a very cool poster of "Birds of Prey of Great Britian" for a friend of mine who is a falconer. I think he will like it. I forget what else we had to get, but prolly tape, too.

Scotch tape … : D

Rowan did not find that nearly as funny as I did, but she humored me.

Anyway, we were not finding the scarves, and Rowan was getting anxious, so I asked a sales clerk if they had any. Rowan is the type of person who would look forever and then stagger out in an exhausted daze. I ask people. She does not like to put people out, and I figure that is what they are getting paid for. Just another little cultural difference. After due effort, the nice sales lady found the scarves in the back. I got two. As we waited, we looked around, and I tried to soak in the atmosphere.

If you are paying very close attention, you will have noted that there seem to be two main vegetable staples of the Scottish diet. (Or at least Rowan's Scottish diet.)

They are

Now don't get me wrong. I like potatoes as much as the next person.

And, although beans leave me a little cold (a result, I think, too many servings of beenie-weenie-cheesie as a child), I will eat them. My sister calls me a bean hater, but this is not at all true. I just don't love them. I did not see all that many vegetables while traveling in the UK. Actually, I don't even think of potatoes as a vegetable, but I am sure that they must be.

Rowan told me about how, a while back, people were investigating the dietary habits and mortality rates. It was found that people who had lower incomes tended to not have a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet. Theories abounded as to why this would be. Finally some bright spark in the public health department realized that people don't eat these items because they were heavy. And people had to carry them all the way from the bus to their homes. It is funny how things like having a car or good roads impact something like the variety in a diet and therefore health. I was reminded of this when I looked around.

It seems that it is a more pervasive a problem – Rowan sent me an article about how far behind the Scots are in terms of their consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. Asda rolled out a new initiative to try to get the numbers up to snuff.

I think that I can shed a little light on the problem.


The produce in Asda is a bit, well ... um ... Actually, the produce might kinda suck.

There. I said it.

… and costs an arm and a leg and a few other bits and pieces of important anatomy.

Glad that I could help.

Now, I should give a caveat, because the produce at home in Walmart sux. That is just my opinion, so please don't try to sue me. I am entitled, as an American, to have a completely uninformed and closely-held opinion. I will shop at Walmart, but will only buy produce there in dire circumstances. I am not going to mention that I bought bananas there this week and one of them literally exploded in a cloud of little, hostile, persistent fruit flies. Bleck. So, it might just be Asda/Walmart produce quality that I saw. The produce is supposed to be famous in Scotland, but it was not to be found in Asda.

I may have to duck after saying this, but the produce at Asda was very, very, very sad. It all looked unhappy – limp and sparse. And when Rowan mentioned how much better the produce was than it used to be, I just kept my Big Californian Mouth Shut. The produce aisle in Asda made me want to run to the nearest Albertsons produce section and roll around in the oranges and kiwi and strawberries and broccoli. I could feel the nutrition being leached right out of my system. No wonder Scots are a little pale. I think that I got a little pale because of the prices. Granted, I had to do a bit of fancy converting from kilos to pounds and pounds to dollars, but the prices were outrageous. Honestly. If I lived there, I would make my kids suck on the gnawed apple cores – I can see myself admonishing them that the stems are really good! And full of chewy fiber-goodness.

However, I digress.

Rowan writes:

The Asda store is now part of the Walmart chain, or so the large display board outside proclaims. The Asda chain buy in a lot of local stuff, but also tend, like most local supermarkets, to buy in what the customer wants. You can buy potato crisps in any flavour dreamed up by the inventively greedy. Thai green chilli, sweet Thai red chilli, balsamic vinegar and sweet braised onion, roast Peking duck, along with the tried and tested varieties like good old cheese and onion and salt and vinegar. We still have, rather unaccountably, a collection of flavoured hand cooked kettle chips. Hand cooked means under-flavoured, shiny and unacceptably greasy. Who buys them?

They sound up-market, so maybe folks who have never bought them and think they sound good, buy them to give to folks when they go visiting.

We wander amongst the staple wares on show in the supermarket. I often come here for whole roast chickens, with various flavours. I like the garlic and herb and the barbecue. I am keen to know what Bob has to say about the place.

Bob says:

We left the store, after successful forage. I am going to point out that Rowan did NOT tell me about the Peking Duck potato chips, or I would have had some. Even though they sound a little odd. I enjoyed browsing through the newspapers on the way out. We were getting a little hungry and went into town for lunch. We were on a bit of a schedule, as we had to beat Aidan (Rowan’s son) home. Rowan is funny about food – there was a place that looked good – it had been recommended by a taxi-driver and she recognized it. It was a fish and chips place, and once we got there, she peered in and declared that it looked dodgy. I, myself, saw nothing wrong with it.

Rowan writes:

We have to be home in time for my son coming home from school at three. We also want lunch. The time is short – we have two hours to zip into town, eat, and then zip home. At night, we are going to see a pantomime at the local repertory theatre.

We get a taxi into town and quiz the taxi driver about good places to get fish and chips. I have a little café in mind, but have heard through the grapevine that it has undergone a change of management and gone downhill. The chatty taxi driver suggests one of the nice pubs in the Westport area of the city, not far from the wee café. I remember them from teacher-training days – we used to go as a group sometimes for a pub lunch after class. There is a nice one called Mickey Coyles which has a nice roaring fire and good food.

We get out of the taxi and I survey the little cafe from a safe distance. Although famous for good fish and chips, I have never eaten in here before. It is sort of customer-visible – you can see peeps eating if you look through the windows (not to be unexpected, I know...) there is just something sort of grim and Spartan about it. It has an air of seriousness, somehow. And it is generally full of older folks, eating seriously and staring out of the windows…or so it seemed to me when I was a student, schlepping past on my way to uni. Some of that vibe has remained. And it looks small…I like space around me, if I can, in eatery places. Don’t know why...perhaps it is just a little munching anonymity. Just don’t want anyone but my companions seeing how much grub I am actually putting away.

I decide against the little café, feeling a little guilty, as time is short. I want lunch to be nice for Bob, and just wish we had more time to chill over our food, rather than having to rush. We wend out way up to the pubs, all on the same street. I know we will get a nice atmospheric lunch here, and am chuffed. It is a bit of a hike, and Lena is complaining a little, but she is pacified with the thought of a nice lunch. Sadly, when we get to the door, the polite barman informs us that it is not licensed for children. O_o We have to schlep off back toward town and plan C. Plan C? I am hastily searching about for someplace very quick to eat and settle on Debenham’s restaurant. Debenham’s is a department store I like. It has trendy fashionable stuff, very expensive tailored stuff for well-heeled wifies and also nice quality normal stuff for folks like me who like long denim skirts and tops. It caters for all age and budgets, then. I ought to have just said that at the beginning! Anyway, it is a good old-fashioned format of a store, bright and up to date, with an internet café, and stuff.

The restaurant is expensive, and the fish and chips I order are a bit dry and greasy. Bob has something that looks a little more interesting, involving stilton cheese. Lena has a kids’ box filled with bits and pieces. Bob seems to be finding her meal fairly palatable, and I eat mine, as is my wont, greasy or otherwise. We make a sharp exit and get a taxi home to be in time for Aidan getting home from school. The pantomime will start in a few hours – I am hoping it will be entertaining. I had a small part in a pantomime as a child, and enjoyed the experience, though I don’t think I’ve ever been to watch one, as other than a very small child myself. They are a sort of festive tradition in the UK. The pantomime we are going to see is a version of the fairytale Hansel and Gretel. I am sure Lena will like it. She is a bit of a diva, and has a penchant for quality musicals starring Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke.

Bob says:

I find it hilarious that Rowan does not know where to get good fish and chips. I know that I would be able to discuss the merits of the best hamburger in town or the best chimichanga.

This is the intersection that we got out at -- near the Overgate Centre.

Once again, we ended up downtown, near the Steeple Church, which I still love. Hi, Steeple Peeple!

Debenhams is a nice department store – comparable to a Penney’s, I would think. It is funny to see tea towels with Scottish sayings on them and other souvenir-y stuff. It is a little incongruous. We end up in the café and have lunch. Lena is doing well, and selects her lunch with the seriousness such an event merits. She has definite preferences. I select something with chicken and potatoes and Stilton cheese. I have never had Stilton cheese. Rowan says that it is like bleu cheese, but milder. I like bleu cheese, so I try it. In our discussion of food, I discover that Scots like lasagna with chips (fries). Just sayin’. I have never had pasta and potatoes. It violates all kinds of food rules. I am seriously shaken by such an idea. My lunch was fine – sort of cafeteria-type food, which I love. The only thing that I do not like about cafeteria food is when different kinds of food bumps into each other. I avoided this by not getting any rolley food. Rowan’s peas roll into her fish and I feel sorry for her. We shared a Christmas cake with lots of powdered sugar for dessert, (a stollen) as I had never had one. It was pretty darned sweet. But good.

We got back to Rowan’s house and just sort of lazed around until it was time to go to the pantomime. Lena drew some pictures. She is a natural artist, as you can see. Her art is remarkably detailed and pretty advanced, developmentally speaking. What is interesting to me is how she just dashes off her drawings. Her hands have no problem translating what her eyes see – she is nonchalant and often draws while she is doing other things, such as watching TV. Soon it is time to get ready for dinner out and then the pantomime.

Rowan writes:

Pantomime has a loooong tradition in the UK. It has several conventions which are intended to introduce humour and incongruity before the jokes even start to fly. The story being told is related via much slapstick and cross-dressing, in a mildly vulgar and generally all-round silly way. There are levels of jokes for children and parents, sweet throwing, a lot of built up bust-lines and heaps and heaps of greasepaint and wacky wigs, boots and crinolines.

The most important person in a pantomime is the pantomime dame. She is never the named protagonist, but the supporting lead, the powerful female figure, and is played by a man, to comedy effect. The pantomime dame in Aladdin, for example, Widow Twankey, runs a laundry, and has ample opportunity to bemoan the condition of the male underwear and socks which come under her daily scrutiny. There are layers of laughs in pantomime, archaic, and formulaic, but recognisably so. It is sort of “I know” theatre. There is a nice relaxed anticipatory vibe.

The Pantomime Dame is a bloke – the Principal Boy is a woman. She is the male lead. In Aladdin, Aladdin would traditionally be played by a woman, as would the prince in Cinderella. This tradition is changing now, and the roles becoming more familiarly gender-oriented. Panto is losing its light-hearted cross-dressing tradition.

The pantomime we are going to see is at the local repertory theatre.

I have seen some very good performances there over the years, my favourite being the Scots version of Moliere’s play, “Le Malade Imaginaire”, translated as the Hypochondriac. The medical jokes and cynicism flew, the acting was superb. I went back to see it a second time.

Before the panto, we have our evening meal in the little restaurant in the theatre foyer. Bob has pizza with anchovies, and I have a Moroccan dish which has lumps of sweet potato in it. It is spicy and very nice. Lena is feeling very important, and gets to sit and crayon as she eats. As I have somehow booked us in for the meal too early for us to go straight into the theatre, Bob suggest a short walk through the pre-Christmas shopping centre close by, to stretch our legs. Sitting contemplating yet another coffee is not her style. There is a nice new Starbucks in the centre, and we will have our coffee on the hoof.

It is a nice crispy cold evening. The centre is busy with Christmas shoppers, although it is early in the month. We queue in Starbucks, and view the wares on show. Lena has flavoured milk, at “children’s temperature” which I think is a nice idea. Bob and I have coffee. I find it very nice indeed, and we schlep back along the bright corridor of the shopping mall towards the theatre. An unexpected but interesting interlude and yummy beverage-dom.

Bob says:

Rowan has explained about the cultural aspect of pantomimes, and I am happy to be going. Lena has not been to one before, and she is excited. We get to the theater and have a nice dinner. Rowan eats like a Brit, with her fork upside down, smushing little bits of everything onto the back, using her knife as food-pusher. It is pleasantly unfamiliar. It is like watching Iron Chef, when the judges use a fork, but you see that they way they use the fork is a little different. Rowan does not hold her fork like someone used to chopsticks, but it is just not the way an American would.

We finished and had time to get some coffee. I have not had a real cup of coffee in days, and the Starbucks is calling to me. It was delicious – I could feel the bite of the caffeine and a pleasant little buzz when it hit my bloodstream. Maybe I was just woozy from spending about seven dollars for it … but it was worth every penny.

We hustled back to the theater – it was just starting to fill up. The sidewalks were crowded – little groups and families with girls were dressed up in their theater best. One group was scampering along, coatless, trying to get into the warmth of the foyer. Theater-wear is not warm, and I shivered for the girls in their spaghetti-straps and high-heeled sandals. We passed a group of adolescents with hats decorated with Christmas lights and lit-up candy canes. Lena was excited. There were brightly colored houses on the walls inside of the foyer, colored, I would guess, by local school children. Lena looks them over with interest. I am guessing that she is already mentally designing hers.

Rowan writes:

Once inside, the pantomime unfolds. The audience are ready for a laugh. The stage-set is dark, very gothic, a sort of Black Forest, minus the gateau, although there are lots of those later, cakes and sweets galore. The gingerbread cottage is well-made, the acting good. It is all just a little dark for me. I don’t know why…perhaps it is just a little too far away from the traditional pantomime light-heartedness I remember from my youth. Light, colour, laughter ..frothy yellows and reds. Silly dance routines. Inexplicable water. Men in fake wigs and padded bras commenting on their lot in life. Somehow, it didn’t undermine – as someone who spent many years researching feminist issues in old dramas it would have jarred, if any jarrage was visible. it was just of itself, for itself, and extremely silly.

The Pantomime dame role in this panto was played by a woman – a dark role, as she was a malicious character, interesting in itself. I am having to rein myself in seriously here – doing an Odysseus tied to the mast sort of thing. The Sirens are singing, but don’t let me write a Marxiofeministpostmoderist critique of a jolly children’s show. I am just going to say that I was sort of ambivalent about it. Found it a wee bit overly vulgar in places, though it wouldn’t normally bother me – now, could that be that the toilet humour is usually the male reserve? Was there more of it than expected? Perhaps. One or two little things spooked me a little. Still, the sets were very good, the acting good, and the kids all enjoyed themselves.

We get a taxi home, and I wonder what Bob thought of the performance. We don’t really discuss it in detail. It is late, and we are still feeling a bit tired from all our jaunts of the previous days. The taxi driver is again jolly. Taxi drivers in Dundee generally are!

We made it home, and have a wee chat with mum who has been babysitting, then turn in. Friday will be another nice sightseeing away-day – we are going back to Edinburgh have a closer look at the Mile and St Giles. Yo!

Bob says:

Okay – about the pantomime. It was fun and a bit different. The crowd was clearly into it and was obvious that there are time-honored traditions that are observed – expected audience reactions. Lots of candy was thrown around. I enjoyed it, despite the fact that the humor was pretty broad. I found myself getting a little tired, though. The days of traveling were starting to catch up a little. We caught a taxi home and the driver and Rowan talked about the show. Lena managed to give a pretty good synopsis of the whole thing – she has a good memory for detail and explained the play with panache. I am glad that I got to see the pantomime and Lena had a good time. I crawled into bed with a sigh of relief. It was not too late, but I want to get up early tomorrow. It will be a busy day.

Tomorrow we go back to Edinburgh.

I am going to do a quick update, as it is spring already. Rowan sent me some lovely pictures, and I thought you might like to see them. First, she would like to emphasize the fact that one can get Mexican food in Scotland. She sent me this picture from Asda.

Yikes. And that is all I can say.

On a more aesthetic note, here are some lovely pictures of Dundee in the Spring. This is a picture of the Howff, which is a very old cemetery in town. I love this picture.

And a final picture of The Steeple Church in bloom. A very nice note to end on...


rowan said...

Love the pictures once again! I heart the Howff one too. Wish the tree-blossoms lasted longer. They're beginning to fall now...it is like confetti.

Yep - our national diet is not good. Have made a mid-year resolution to eat citrus fruit and something green daily. I won't cheat and include limeade, mint choc chip and green M&Ms in the latter category.

My garden gnome is proud as punch to be featured. I am kinda miffed, cos I bought a lovely mosaic mushroom with a butterfly on top, and it was stolen last night...Gordon Gnome is keeping shtoom, cos he's kinda 'out there'.Am wondering why they didn't appropriate him as well!

Hee hee on the dried Mexican food. Well, we did try. I did see flour tortillas - thet are new - but didn't photograph them cos there was a shopguy looking at me funny by then. I would like to try some genuine Mexican fare.

Sheena said...

Hello there! This is very interesting once again. Glad you got to see a pantomime, dr Bob. It was very nice to see Lena's drawings on the website. That is great! It is nice to have your talents appreciated when you are small!

bamaborntxbred said...

Oh I LOVED this post!!! I'm very much like you Dr. Bob...I fer sure want to see the sights, historical structures, museums, etc., but my favorite thing when visiting elsewhere is to experience the culture. I'm so glad I got to see a little bit what it's like to live in Dundee. I've been sooo curious!

I'm living vicariously through these posts!

Okay, so I've eaten some of the ketchup flavored potato chips you sent Rowan. Ummm...the jury's still out on whether I like them or not. They are very interesting and I don't NOT like them...it's just different I guess.

I haven't tried the brown sauce yet. I haven't had anything handy (bacon sandwiches) to eat it with.

AND- I'm checking the mail everyday for Cadbury's!

Anyhow- I wish you could visit TX for some good Mexican food. I would take you to the authentic places and the more Tex-Mex type places. Yummy!

P.S. Wonder if we'll ever see Lena's work hanging in the National Gallery...hmmm....

Dr. Bob said...

Sheena -- I am glad that you like seeing Lena's pictures up. She is an interesting little person, isn't she? Her artwork is really great. There is something different about the way that she approaches drawing that is different from most kids. I will be interested to see how this talent matures.

(it is nice to see you again!)

Dr. Bob said...

Bama, you have dibs on Rowan for Texican food, but I reserve the right to show her New Mexican grub. It is so nice to see you here. I am glad that you have enjoyed the posts -- hopefully we are an odd little corner of monkbotdom.

I love the flowering trees. We don't get a spring here in the desert. Every once in a while we get verbena, but mostly it is just brown. Sigh.

rowan said...

Whoo hoo! Looking forward to my New Mexican and Tex/Mex foodfest. As it stands, I wouldn't knoe a fajhita from an enchilada. The former isn't even spelt correctly. I have only had chilli filling in my baked potato in Spudulike, which is mince boiled up with chilli powder and kidney beans. It is nice and hot, and nicely eye-watering, but that is more due to the actual temperature than the amount of spice, I think.

I would like to try the floury tacos which have just come into the supermarket. I suppose if I actually cook one day and put some strips of stir-firied chicken in a sauce and wrapped it up in one of these, with some peppers, that might be yummy? i could buy one of those cans of "Old El Paso" sauce visible in the yellow display of "Mexican" food in Asda! Know it would only be a very pale and unrealistic imitation of the real thing, though.

Anonymous said...

Okay gals, to keep me going until I manage to visit, please put together for me a virtual Texan and Mexican meal. :D

Thanks for the rolling cafeteria food solidarity, Bob. I hadn't thought of it being purely a cafe phenomenon, but it kind of is. Maybe cos the peas are dried up and free to roll.

Bama...the brown sauce is kind of harsh. Typically British, but yes, a sort of motorway cafe condiment liberally applied by truckers to plares of bacon, egg, sausage fried tomatoes and chips. Nice on a fried-egg or bacon roll, or a fried-egg and bacon roll...yuuuum..

rowan said...

yikes, I didn't mean to be Anonymous! Some stranger might abscond with my cyber Tex and Mex dinners..

rowan said...

And I have to come clean and say that "beany weenie cheesy" sounds kind of, um, yummy....:D What was it, Dr Bob, if you can go there?

bamaborntxbred said...

I think "beany weenie cheesy" sounds good too. We could only afford "beany weenies" with no cheese...sad. Ours was made with cut up hotdogs mixed into baked beans.

I LOVED it. Still do. I make it every once in awhile. It's cheap eats!

Rowan your Tex-Mex meal begins with tortilla chips, fresh salsa/and or pico de gallo, and guacamole.

You should also have some tortilla soup, or Sopa de Frijol (bean soup).

Then we'll move on to the main course(s), my favorite meal: a spinach enchilada with sour cream sauce and a shredded brisket taco with avocado. Served with rice and refried beans! Yum! We'll also have the ever popular: FAJITAS! A mix of beef, chicken and shrimp. Served with FRESHLY made flour tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, grilled onions and bell peppers and if you like...we can throw in a little shredded cheese and sour cream...but I don't think they need them!

For dessert we'll have sopapillas with honey!

And of course, all of this will be washed down with margaritas or Dos XX and lime!

Ohhh...I'm hungry now....

Dr. Bob-It's yer turn for the New Mexican feast!

rowan said...

YEEEEEUUUUMMEEEEEEE! Thanks very much! :D A cyber feast indeed. What's a sopapilla? Is an enchilada like canneloni? Dr Bob, did you mention spinach as a fave ingredient too?

Look forward to much feasting when I come over. Whoo hoo! Heinz Mean Beanz Mexican style are kind of embarrassing next to such riches. Raises imaginary margarita and diet coke to Bama and Dr Bob. Um - do I have to have salt on the glass, and does it have to have a worm in it - even if it is lucky? Or is that Tequila? ;)

bamaborntxbred said...

No worms in margaritas my dear! And, no, you do not have to have salt on the rim!

This is a sopapilla. It's soft and bready, hollow in the middle, deep fried, tossed in cinnamon sugar, served hot. You tear them open and drizzle them with honey (but you don't have to). Delish!

An enchilada is usually made with corn tortillas. You fill the tortilla with ingredients and roll it up...sorta like a canneloni. Then you place them in a casserole dish and cover with the sauce of your choice and bake. At least that's how I cook 'em!

Here's a pic of
spinach enchiladas
. I prefer mine with more sauce. I'm saucy like that.

Duuuuude. I've been talking about food for waaaay too long! Somebody stop me!

rowan said...

Ooooh, thanks for the links! Those foodstuffs look amazing. Fabbydoo! Sopapillas are my new must try food. Are they what Calamity Jane asked for when she strolled up to the bar? If not, then she clearly ought to have asked fir a sopapilla with her sasparilla.:D

rowan said...

Hey - we could have invented a new fad diet here - the SA rhyming food diet. You can eat as much of you like of foods that rhyme and not gain weight cos you feel silly about ordering second helpings, and the toungue-twisterish possibilities mean that the first order may not be comprehended either...

rowan said...


bamaborntxbred said...

Hahaha! Leave you here alone for five minutes and look what you come up with!

Unfortunately, sopapillas are prounounced like: sopa-PEE-ah. So they don't rhyme with
Sasparilla. Sorry!

Of course, Calamity coulda ordered her sopapillas with iced tea-ah. :)

Still-I think your diet idea is BRILLIANT!

rowan said...


Um...sopapillas and Tia Maria?

bamaborntxbred said...

Sure! 'Cept I don't know what Tia Maria is....

Where's Dr. Bob??? She's missing all the fun food talk!

rowan said...

Tia Maria ia a coffee chocolate liqueur - yummy!

Bob - you are missed! Saving your sopapillas for you, but they are calling to me. The waiters have tied me to my chair, like Odysseus to the mast,and I can't reach your plate, but they are still singing their song of cinnamon...The cords won't bind a foodie like me for long...

Dr. Bob said...

I leave you two alone for two seconds and ...

Sorry, been a tad busy at work. Okay, first, beenieweeniecheesie is just baked beans and hot dogs with colby cheddar melted in. Just one of the ways to enjoy hot dots -- we ate a LOT of hot dogs when I was growing up, because they were really cheap. Some day, I will share the other sixteen ways I can make 'em.

New Mexican feast? Hmmmm. Posole with fresh tortillas to begin (yummmm), green chili stew and enchiladas, new mexican style, stacked with an egg on top. With papitas and pinto beans. And sopapillas to accompany (no cinnamon and sugar -- only honey. Bunelos have cinnamon and sugar, never sopapillas). You eat the sopapillas with the honey to counteract the Hatch green chile -- great! (in my best brogue).

To drink -- not sure. Beer, prolly. If we wanted to be really authentic, we would barbecue a whole goat or pig and have a real party.

And new mexican hot chocolate and biscochitos for dessert. Mmmmm..

rowan said...

Wahey! That does inded sound great. There are clearly quite a number of differences bwtween the regions in terms of food-preferences (Rowan tries to sound detached and professional whilst slavering into keyboard -zap - ouch!)

Biscochitos is a cute word - are they biccies?

A whole goat or pig? You folks know how to party. I am getting retro lapsed vegetarian vibes. Do you get whole quorn goats? Jist kiddin. I have never very liked goats. they seem to be the scapegoats for everything..every programme about tiger watching - there's a goat. they are sort of bleathy and straggly, or downright impudent and butt you in the kidneys when you go to visit hippy craft centres on remote Hebridean Islands. Their eyes are scuury. Goats ar kind of meh.

Whoo hoo to Tex-Mex and New Mexican feasts! What are papitas and bunelos? Don't suppose i can get them in Asda....

rowan said...

Okaay...I have a rusty tin of kidney beans and two wee tins of green chilli in the cupboard. No whole goats or pigs in these parts, but I do have hot dogs and tvp circa 1985. Think I'll just wait and sample the real McCoy when I come over :D

bamaborntxbred said...

Yeah, I'm not much for whole roasted animals.

I do as much as I can to forget that I'm ingesting animals in the first place. I don't think I could handle chewing on Mr. Piggy while looking him in the eye. That would send me over the edge.

Dr. Bob said...

Sawry, I don't come up with the traditions, I just report 'em. I have not actually buried said animal in the backyard in a fire pit, but it is a time-honored tradition. I personally prefer my protein in tidy plastic and Styrofoam packages. I wonder just how much beer I would have to drink before attempting that type of party.

rowan said...

Well - at least the buried animals are indigenous. Bought some sliced chicken in the supermarket - the very cheapy range, cos I figured it all looked the same, but when I got it home, noticed that the label was drawing attention to the fact it was from Thailand. I happily eat foods from all lands and cultures, it was just -- tere was something sorta crazy about the resources involved in bringing it over most of the earth's surface, when there must be plenty of chickens here in the UK. To save a few pence, all those resources...I dunno. Feeling pondery today..not to say ponderous.

Hey - you American gals have inspired me to cook a baked sweet potato, which is too nice to sully with beans or cottage cheese. Please help - in need of sweet potato filling suggestions!

rowan said...

But -- maybe you don't actually fill them up with stuff. Maybe they are too nice and stand as themselves - no extraneous variables required. I just ate it baked with a bit of salt and salad. There is one left in the bag, though, so open to any sweet potato garnishing ideas. Going...going...

Dr. Bob said...

Sorry Shoshana -- I did not mean to leave you hanging on the whole baked sweet potato filling question. I don't think that people fill them over here. Actually, people don't really fill non-sweet potatoes here, either. Butter and salt and pepper is most common, maybe with sour cream. If you are completely going nuts and throwing caution and good health to the wind, you would add bacon, cheese, and perhaps chives(or green onion) to those.

However, I am unaware of fillings for sweet potatoes. Mostly, people bake them with marshmallows on top in a casserole. Sorry for being no help at all -- I don't really eat sweet potatoes. They make nice fries, though. And they are used for chips. I will eat them that way.

Dr. Bob said...

(Bunuelos are fried bread with cinnamon and sugar and papitas are fried potatoes. And biscochitos are yummy anise cookies rolled in powdered sugar -- a traditional new mexican holiday cookie. Mmmmm ...) I left those tins of green chile for you, I was going to bring some green chile stew, but was skeered of getting it confiscated in customs. I will have to come over and make you something with them.

rowan said...

Yay!Thanks :D

Knew I wouldn't have bought the chillies...unless I have an alter-ego who can cook, but that is waaay to far-fetched. Hee hee. Green chilli stew...yeeummee. And biscochitos are indeed biccies! High class ones to boot.

Bunelas and Papitas are music to the finely-honed Scottish pancreas and coronary arteries. Do you think I may have some Mexican genes? That food is really callin to me! Just had a baked potato and cottage cheese for dinner AGAIN. Bleck.

Hey, though - wait a meenit - I have, believe it ir not, collected star anise from an actual HEDGEROW. Itcwas growing wild in the form of Sweet Cecily, the Old English aniseed herb.

rowan said...

So, are bunuelos (excuse my former spelling) a form of flat sopapilla?

btw -- I am the 30th haverer on this thread and claim my mystery prize.

bamaborntxbred said...

Sopapillas are hollow in the middle...I think bunuelos are more like donuts. Am I wrong or right Dr. Bob?

Dr. Bob said...

Hey Bama -- I think that bunelos are more like unflat sopapillas. They look like Navajo fry bread -- mmmmmm.

rowan said...

This is too much, you guys. You and your fancy carbs. I want bunelos ans sopapillas - Navajo fry bread has tipped me over the edge completely. The slice of thick wholemeal bread and cheese spread with marmite which I just ate for brekky does not quite have the same vibe. Ah for Wonkavision...oh well, if I can't eat them via cyber-transport, will just have to come over and sample=demolish them all. :D

bamaborntxbred said...

Come on ovah! America is waiting with open shores! Food glistening from every mountaintop!

rowan said...

Hee hee! I am trying to recall if there is anything in the wording of the very lovely inscription on the Statue of Liberty (which a teacher once read to us) that says anything about welcoming the obese and befuddled masses. I am glad to see that this is so, however, by the open-hearted generosity of my fellow transatlantic haverers. Yo! Will need to lose a bit of my post-Cadbury blow-out weight-gain, tho, cos I can't afford to pay for two seats. Any Texan or Mexican recipes for jazzing up apples and cottage cheese and jaded celery..and beans....

Dr. Bob said...

Bama, you bring the balloons and I will bring the confetti. Celery and peanut butter ... mmmmm. Don't ask me why I love that combo, but I do. Apples and peanut butter are good, but I love peanut butter and celery. Salt and pepper on cottage cheese (but salsa is also good). Ixnay on the eansbay, though.

rowan said...


Peanut butter is yummy.

Was in the supermarket last night, buying a food item which cost 98 pence. The Special offer was buy two for two pounds. O_o I avoided buying two, cos I would have had to say at the checkout that I wanted to rescind my right to being charged 4 pence extra for bulk buying. I am a meek shopper. It was funny tho. Just thought I'd share. :D

rowan said...

You guys are great! Hands steaming mugs of Earl Grey to Bob and Bama. Smiles expectantly as they drink out of politeness, but wishing it was coffee.(Takes pity and swaps tea for a large take-out Starbucks...with a slice of their fab iced carrot cake. I am in the UK after-all, and have to uphold certain traditions. :D ) Just out of interest...do Starbucks seel gooey cakes in their US outlets, or is is just for us carBrithydrants?

Dr. Bob said...

Of course Starbux sells cakes and other stuff. Their scones are far inferior to the ones I had in the UK, though.

rowan said...

Ah. Just wondered, ye ken. Just thought it might be more seriously coffee-orientated, and to take out rather than sitty-doon. Thank you, on behalf of the UK, for the scone appreciation. I do a meean scone myself...and vanilla tablet...and that's the extent of my meagre repertoire. :D

bamaborntxbred said...

I miss y'all! We need another post Dr. Bob!

Dr. Bob said...

Hey Bama!

Am actually almost done with the next entry. I always wonder if I should break them up -- do a couple of short ones rather than a long one ...

Anyway you should see it up soon. Some of the pictures are really nice, I think.

rowan said...

Great! Look forward to seein the pics and huvin anither braw blether wi ma haverin freends. :)