maarmie's musings

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Boy, The Family and England, oh my!

The first time I met The Boy, I was sitting in C*'s lounge. The Boy and his mother arrived to drop him off for the weekend. He had seen me on the webcam and talked to me on the phone before, but that was through the safety of the 5,000 miles that separated us. Now I was in his father's living room, and he stood bashfully in the hallway just out of view.

"Go on in. Don't be shy," his father prodded.

Then, he was there, standing in front of me. The Boy who factored heavily into whether or not the relationship between C* and I could continue. We had already discussed it. If The Boy didn't like or accept me, C* and I would be through.

"Hi," he said.

Hi, indeed.

The Boy this past weekend in England with a bowl of ice cream and jelly at Granny Jill's house:

He's cute as a button, and he seems to be a genuinely nice and normal boy. I'm in a precarious position, though, as I continue to be my own worst enemy by automatically forecasting the situation through his eyes in the most negative way possible. Some examples of thoughts that I fear have run or are or will be running through his head at any possible moment:

"That's the bitch who's taking my daddy away from me."

"I want my daddy all to myself again."

"I wish she'd go away."

"I'll make it so that she goes away."

I'm not speaking entirely without experience. My dad had four wives by the time I was 7 years old. The last one stuck, but I couldn't stand her, and I couldn't stand the way the relationship between my father and I changed after she got her meaty hooks into him. I'm not saying that I would ever want the relationship between C* and The Boy to change on account of me, but you never know what The Boy is thinking.

That being said, I never wanted a son. I mean, what do I know about helping to raise a boy? A daughter would have been much more my speed.

Boys pick their boogers and eat them. They play too rough. They are always dirty and stinky. Their hands are always greasy, and they smear that grease on everything. And they talk with their mouths full. Oops. I do that, too.

As far as boys go, though, The Boy seems to be a good one. He can be sweet. He loves to read and draw. We like the same movies. He loves the Simpsons. He travels relatively well. He is mightily inquisitive. He likes to play tennis. And board games. That boy loves his board games.

So, if I were to become a part-time stepmum to The Boy, I think I could handle it. It would definitely always be a balancing act, keeping in mind that I will never be his mother. Where are the boundaries? What is acceptable behavior on both our parts? When will it be appropriate to lay down some rules of my own, especially if C* and I get our own apartment and the space stops being strictly "daddy's space"?

Already, my presence has caused at least one change. This being a one-bedroom apartment, The Boy had gotten used to sleeping in bed with daddy. When I came on the scene, The Boy was told to hit the couch. I told C* that I'd be willing to sleep on the couch on the weekends to avoid any kind of hard feelings. But C* is firm about The Boy sleeping on the couch. Now the wee one wants to know if I moved here would he have to sleep on the couch every weekend? No, we'd move into a bigger place so The Boy would have his own room. But he's a daddy's boy, and I think he liked his place snuggled next to daddy at night.

Things change. But how much change can go on before The Boy starts feeling resentment at what caused the change? Am I overthinking things?

In other news: C*, The Boy and I did the drive to Malvern in the Shire of Worcester (pronounced Wooster) for a visit with Mum, brothers and their family. Already, I'm a huge fan of Mum

and, even after just a long weekend, I like C*'s family and seem to get along with them far better than my own.


Ullapool is a small fishing village on the northwest coast of Scotland. C* and I paid a visit, and, along the way, stopped to chat with some of our new Highland friends, pick up litter along a river and admire the views. As usual, the day was overcast. But the rain held off allowing us a chance to step out of the car often and investigate our surroundings. Click on any of the photos for more detail.

On the way to Ullapool:

Sadly, people don't seem to mind throwing trash on the ground in Scotland. In Inverness, McDonald's bags litter the streets, and beer cans and bottles and food wrappers pollute the environment around the river that runs through it.

On the way to Ullapool, we stopped at several lay-bys and let Woody run amok while we surveyed our surroundings. Though there was a garbage can for use at one lay-by, there was a particularly disdainful amount of garbage on the ground. C* and I took five minutes out of our day to fill a few plastic bags full of rubbish, and we gained all kinds of satisfaction at clearing the area of litter. Mother nature: 1. Litterbugs: 0.

Once in Ullapool, there wasn't much to see except a few restaurants, touristy-type shops selling expensive Scottish woolens and uninspiring neighborhoods:

For dinner (lunch), we stopped at the local chippy

where I had my second helping of fish and chips and mushy peas since landing in Scotland and dipped my tongue into the local fizzy favorite, Irn-Bru (pronounced Iron Brew), a carbonated beverage that tastes kind of like cream soda. The fish and chips and peas were lovely. I'll take a pass on the Irn-Bru from now on, though.

Our journey back to Inverness was much more fun than our destination was. On the way back, we played like children in the countryside, inspected a farmhouse ruin, trespassed on the grounds of a castle-turned-hostel and got up close and personal with some Highland livestock. I even took a brief turn behind the wheel on a narrow country road.

The above scene was once the view from a farmhouse that has since fallen into ruin:

It was neat inspecting its remains. C* wanted to know what it would feel like to be Santa Claus circa early 1800s.

Never ones to follow a straight road anywhere, C* and I made several detours after stopping at the ruin. In the distance on one road, we spotted a castle. At first, we couldn't find a bridge that would take us across a river and closer to the castle. Just when we thought all was lost a few miles up the road, we crossed a bridge and backtracked toward the castle. Eventually, we happened across it and found that it is a castle-turned-youth hostel housing a fresh supply of newly-arrived teenagers.

We popped in for a view of the interior and made like we belonged there so we could get a closer look. The kids were queuing up for tea (dinner), and I suggested we get in line for some food. We looked around for a bit, instead. All of the spikes hanging from the ceiling hold a single lightbulb in this room filled with camping gear and snacks:

This is quite a large room that looks far too fancy to be a hostel:

Afterwards, we stopped a few more times to commune with some cows, the Highland variety and otherwise.

C* reaches out to a cute, but skittish, baby Highland cow:

The traditional black-and-white variety:

A pen of fully-grown Highland males. This one probably didn't appreciate our presence:

Loch Ness

It's Tuesday, and there's only two weeks and two days between me and a plane headed west. Throughout the past three weeks, I've been in three countries, met The Boy, met C*'s mother and brothers and family and come to discover that I never want to leave here, that I want to make a life here with C*. I'm wondering if C* feels the same. I've already asked him to marry me. His reply? A not-too-uplifting "I'll think about it."


A little more than a week ago, C* took me to the nearby shore of Loch Ness. With dog Woody in tow, we enjoyed a wooded walk around part of the perimeter of the famed loch, but there was nary a monster in sight.

This lake is huge: 23 miles around, to be exact. And it's so deep that no diver has ever been to the deepest part of the bottom of it. The legend of Nessie is still alive and provides a living for at least one weirdo who has set up shop on the lake's shore. He considers himself to be a "researcher," but his method of research where the legendary beast is concerned involves nothing more than looking through his stupid telescope to see if the monster has decided to rear its massive head. He lives in his research van on the lake's shore and sells Nessie souvenirs made out of what looks like bits collected from around the lake. Can anyone say "freak"?

We made the trip to Loch Ness on an overcast day making for dramatic views:

And this:

Woody picked up some tics as he scoured the wooded area sampling all the scents that were to be found. But he had a good day, and so did wheeeeeee!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

PARIS! (day 2)

On day 2, C* and I used the Eiffel Tower as a starting point. Getting there involved a 10-minute walk from the hotel. We climbed halfway up the tameable beast for this view, among others. That body of water, my friends, is the famous Seine:

Afterwards, we strolled arm in arm along the Seine before catching a train to the Louvre. We didn't go into the Louvre, mind you. There were far too many tourists waiting to get in, and we didn't feel like spending our whole day fighting our way through the maze that is the largest museum known to man. Instead, we sat outside:

This photo is in no way representative of the enormity of the Louvre. For better pics, go here.

From there, we did the walk of shame (all tourists, all the time) up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe:

Along the way, I snapped this photo of les jardins des tuileries:

The Champs Elysees is a minefield of tourists and swanky shops. Several high-end car dealerships sit along this row of shops-that-are-way-too-expensive-for-my-meager-budget.

Halfway between the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe, C* and I decided to rest on a bench. It was there that some maniacal kleptomaniac pilfered C*'s sunglasses and a box containing ONE cigarette right out from under us! The aforementioned items sat between us on the bench, and the lunatic took a seat on the bench behind us facing the other direction. Somehow, he/she managed to secure the glasses and cigarettes in his/her grubby little paws before heading off down the street. We considered ourselves lucky that that's all that was stolen from us during our stay. After all, signs at the Eiffel Tower warn visitors of pickpockets. Those nasty little Frenchies!

After a meal of table wine, cheese, fruit, quiche and bread procured at an outdoor market, C* and I headed back to the hotel beaten by exhaustion. We stayed in the rest of our last night in Paris. The next morning, we hunted for souvenirs before getting back on the train that would take us to the bus that would take us to the plane that would take us to the car that would take us back home.

Side note: Americans hate the French. That's how it is. We mock them. We call them weak. We think they're faggots. We are certain they are rude. I don't think that way, of course, but your average American is brought up harboring a certain disdain for all things French. Lucky for me, I have ignored it all. Instead, I immersed myself in the French language and culture from the time I was in middle school. I studied French throughout middle and high school and got a minor in the romance language in college.

Since I was young, Paris has been the one thing I had to had to had to had to experience to consider my life complete. I have to say after experiencing it that it's everything I ever imagined and more and that America is way, way wrong. All the French people we were fortunate enough to communicate with were helpful and kind. Some even went out of their way when it was obvious they were in a rush to help us get to where we needed to go even though our language skills and accents were way under par.

So, in summation, fuck you, America! I'm siding with the French!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

PARIS! (night 1 and the following day)

C* booked a weekend trip to PARIS! for us a week or so before I flew to Europe. I've always wanted to go to Paris, and I was turning 35 that weekend. What better way to celebrate?

We flew into Beauvais airport an hour or so south of Paris. Ryanair got us there at a cost of 1 pence for each ticket plus taxes. We each ended up paying $25 American for a round-trip ticket, but we had to drive to Glasgow to catch the flight at Prestwick Airport and catch a bus from Beauvais to Paris.

Paris is beautiful. Talk about every view being a postcard! Et voila:

After we found out about the three-day, unlimited-use pass for the subway and got directions (twice) for our maiden subway voyage to the hotel, we got to the hotel, checked in and had a walk around the neighborhood.

We stopped for cigarettes (when in France...) and a couple of pints at the nearest bar where we got a taste of just how expensive things can be in a large European city. Two pints of 1664 cost 13 Euros ($17.57 American)! Added to that was a mystery charge of 3 Euros. We think it was added on because we chose to sit outside but we're not sure, and we didn't want to look cheap and/or stupid by asking. We looked dumb enough trying to order drinks and cigarettes.

The next morning, we headed off to Pere-Lachaise, the final resting place of such notable greats as Apollinaire, Bernhardt, Camus, Chopin, Ernst, Modigliani, Moliere, Piaf, Proust, Seurat, Stein (Gertrude, of course!) and Wilde. The main reason we made the long trek there was to see where Jim Morisson lay, of course.

I had seen TV images of Morisson's grave. The candles, the grafitti. The flowers. The hordes of people travelling from far and wide to offer gifts to the grave of the famous and infamous rock legend. We went there on a quiet day, however. Of anyone's grave, Morisson's definitely attracted the most attention, but, the whole time we were there, there weren't but a dozen visitors at any one time.

Morisson's grave is packed tightly among various other graves making it hard to photograph. It's made even harder by the fact that a metal fence circles it to try and keep the grafitti artists at bay. But the fence was easily climbed. Voici:

After several hours at Pere-Lachaise, we wandered on over to the Sacre Coueur and spent the rest of the day in the part of Paris known as Montmartre. Historically, Montmartre is where so many of the great painters lived and spent their time painting and drinking their lives away. It's widely known as a tourist area now, but plenty of locals still live there. Its narrow cobbled streets and the variety of painters who still peddle their paintings there allow residents and visitors alike a glimpse into the past that's still alive and well there. This is the area I'd want to live in if I ever moved to Paris. I mean, come on! You can still buy absinthe there! How great is that?

The Sacre Coeur:

Looking down on Paris from the steps of the Sacre Coeur:

Painter row in Montmartre:

Painters love their absinthe. I'm thinking it's more expensive now than it was in the 1800s:

The preferred mode of transportation in Paris:

C* posing with his first-ever crepe - with cheese:

The view from where we stopped for a beer in Montmartre:

A gorgeous residential street in Montmartre:

After the cemetery but before hitting the mean streets of the tourist area of Montmartre, C* and I stopped at a lovely little grocery and stocked up on provisions for a picnic in a park. Restaurants are wildly expensive in Europe, so we dined on grocery goods the entire time we were in Paris. This meal included ham and cheese sandwiches, chips and drinks in an urban park frequented by bums and other Parisian weirdos. While we were there, C* made a friend who told him, in French, that he looked like an American. But not just any American. He looked like an American cowboy.

C* and his new Parisian friend:

Before we left Montmartre, we stopped at a museum there dedicated to 300 works by Salvador Dali. St. Petersburg, Florida, holds the highest number of works by Dali outside of Figueres, Spain, but this museum held several of Dali's 3D works, all of which I had never seen, even in a book. He made statues. He made furniture. He even made dresses, none of which I would ever be caught dead in. But the trip to the museum was well worth it as I had a chance to see 2D works by the frazzled genius that were outside the realm of what you'd normally expect from Dali.

One of Dali's sculptures and some 2D works you would never attribute to Dali:

After this long day of walking, we went back to the hotel and stayed in for the rest of the night watching funny French commercials and writhing naked women on the hotel TV.

Next post: Day 2 in Paris

Friday, May 18, 2007

OK. UK! (Inverness)

I am now in the land of quid, fish and chips and mushy peas, a real pint and driving on the left side of the road whilst sitting on the right side of the car.

As I taxied down the runway a week ago last Tuesday, all kinds of crazy thoughts ran through my head. What if they all hated Americans? What if they're really different from me? What if I stick out like a sore thumb that everyone wants to bash with a hammer over and over and over? What if C* doesn't even show up at the airport and I end up having to exchange my return ticket and scoot home heartbroken straight away?

All this worrying was for naught.

They don't all hate Americans. They're not so different. I don't stick out like (such) a sore thumb. They're all too poor from paying $8 American per gallon of gas (about £.94 per litre) to even own a hammer, and they're all too drunk to accurately aim for my head. *wink*

My first impressions of Inverness are that it's a quaint city full of down-to-earth people and overpriced everything - including restaurants. I know the minimum wage here is the equivalent of $10 American, but get this: a free-range omelet and fries and a huge burger with fries and two drinks for the equivalent of $32 American? And that's at a roadside diner in the middle of nowhere!

But everywhere you look in this town, it's like staring at a postcard. And this city's downtown puts Tallahassee's to shame even though Tallahassee has a population nearly three times the size.

I think I like it here. As long as I'm not looking to buy anything. Ever.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


I hadn't been writing because I'd had nothing to say and because I had been super busy with long hours at work. Three months out of the year, we work our asses off in my office. The bad news is that it involves 12- to 14-hour workdays and six- to seven-day workweeks. The good news is that it allows me to accrue tons of comp time that I am now burning with a vengeance with a five-week trip to Scotland to see my sweetie.

This is my first time out of the United States except for a five-day trip to Montreal in 2000. Ever since I was a wee lassie, I had been wanting to go to Europe - specifically to PARIS! I always told myself that I could die happy once I had been to PARIS! - and now I can.

First things first, though. Getting into London.

I almost wasn't allowed into the UK. The immigration control lady at London Gatwick grilled me about who I was going to visit and why. Where was I staying? How did I meet this person? On the Internet? Hm. Seems suspicious. Has he ever been to the US before? Had we ever met in person before? When are you returning to the US? Where's your itinerary? No itinerary? How do I know you plan on going home? ARGH!

The lady finally let me by, and I've been in Scotland since May 8 except for a 3.5 day trip to PARIS! that ended yesterday.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting details (and hopefully photos) about my trip as well as my impressions of the places I have visitied and will be visiting between now and June 14.

Next post: Initial impressions of Inverness
Next next post: PARIS!
Three posts down: The Highlands