Northward travels in Scotland
While in Edinburgh I decided to have my tongue pierced. I seemed like a really good idea because I wanted to remember my experience in Scotland and I’ve never been one for tattoos.
I’ve never been one for tattoos fora very good reason!
When I was growing up my mother told me rather firmly on a number of occasions that if I ever got a tattoo she would disown me.
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This was an extremely effective method because although over the years I looked at tattoos and even consulted a tattoo artist on one or two occasions, I never actually put ink to skin.
Some years later, on her annual pilgrimage to wherever I happened to be living at the time, my mother said ‘Show us your tattoo’
To which I replied, ‘I don’t have any tattoos because you terrorised me about them when I was growing up’
‘Well do you want to see mine?’ was her cheeky reply!
Since then she’s had a number more. Once on a skype call, I noticed something on her wrist so I asked her what it was… ‘Oh, that’s my ovarian cancer ribbon tattoo. But it’s more like the testicular cancer colour, so I’m supporting them too’
And the final time was while holidaying with our Mums in Thailand, she was inspired by the tattoo our travel agent who was booking our boat trips had ‘Live Life, Never Give Up’
He was also a cancer survivor…
But I digress…
To this day I don’t have any tattoos, but I’ve had a number of piercings and my hair has been all sorts of colours and styles… Primarily because piercings can be removed and hair can be cut or coloured, or basically grows out. They’re not permanent modifications, but tattoos are with you for life, and I’ve seen too many ill-thought-out tattoos. (Don’t get me started on facial tattoos!)
So I got my tongue pierced by a cute, gothic-looking Scottish lady in a little piercing parlour (are they parlours?) in Edinburgh.
I thought I was prepared, having had my last meal of a crusty baguette beforehand and equipped with powdered mashed potato and bananas to mash for my subsequent meals…
But my god! What a lot of pain, blood and saliva from such a little hole!
Well, I guess it was a metal bar going right through my tongue, which is a muscle that you use to talk, swallow and eat…
Saltwater mouth gargles are your friend. But don’t think that mashed bananas are! Even when quite well mashed you still need to chew those guys a fair amount to get them down. So mashed potato it was for much of the next week.
Then it was time to do the tourist thing and take in the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye with the 3-day ‘Haggis Backpackers’ tour.
So I joined a busload of mostly Australians, with a few Americans, Canadians and English mixed in for good measure. And Wow! Scottish people really don’t like the English! I pity the FEBs on that bus (in case you’re wondering. F***ing English B******s)
Our guide was a Scotsman with a dry sense of humour, somewhat resembling either of the Proclaimer brothers, who dubbed himself The Sperm of Satan, I forget for what reason.
His entire patter, other than the actually informative stuff about the Highlands and Scotland in general, revolved around bladder control, how we were missing great monuments and beautiful scenery behind the regular banks of fog and mist that blocked our view and the strange way that he held the microphone against his chin when he was presenting the tour.
Now the scenery in Scotland was magnificent, however, the weather, even in what was supposedly their summer, was atrocious.
We did not get scenes like the one above, this was taken by one lucky, or perhaps persistent, photographer.
The microphone on-chin thing was actually a cunning ploy. On the first day of the trip, he told a story about how, on a previous tour, some of his passengers had put mascara on the microphone which had ended up on his chin looking like a goatee and everyone had laughed at him…
So on the second or third day of our trip together I noticed one of the Australian girls on the tour doubled up in her seat with laugher because she had just put mascara on the microphone…
Of course, The Sperm of Satan knew what had just happened, yet dutifully continued with his charade and rubbed that microphone over his chin and spent the rest of the day apparently unaware that he had given himself a mascara goatee.
But really it was all a masterful plan to draw us into his narrative and put mascara on the microphone.
He was certainly a funny guy, and he won that busload of foreigners over in a big way. I had my signed Haggis Backpack Tours t-shirt for a number of years and wore it until the signatures all washed out.
After the tour of the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye, it was time to visit Ireland. I headed to Belfast on the ferry, meeting a cute English University student on the way. She told me the name of the pub where she worked in Belfast and that she was from the East Midlands but wouldn’t elaborate any more than this.
After I settled at a hostel in Belfast I found the pub where she worked and had a drink or two with the locals.
One old Irishman, whose name I still remember as Gus, obviously fancied my chances with the East Midlands girl more than I did, and offered me his bed, with clean sheets, should I happen to get lucky.
I thought he was very kind but also missed the signs, or lack of, even worse than I usually did.
I liked Belfast a lot as a city, it’s where my Grandad John had come from. It has a river through the middle as Hamilton does, and despite the recent ‘Troubles’, it felt strangely familiar.
In retrospect I could have stopped and worked a few weeks or a month in a pub job in each place I liked, replenishing or building up some extra cash as I travelled, but this didn’t occur to me at the time and instead, I continued to venture forth on my journey, with ever-dwindling financial reserves.
Before leaving Northern Ireland I continued north to the Giants Causeway, a wonderous natural formation of rocks that grew from the Irish coast in octangular columns of stone. To be fair I thought the giants weren’t that big, but then I’m from New Zealand, where we may not have many people, but some of them are pretty massive!
Part 3 of Expat Kiwi’s onward Travels – Back South – is coming soon!
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