Saturday, September 5, 2009
Blessing Blackburn ~ The Sequel ~ Installment 5
“Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:10-11)
10:35 pm in Blackburn, Scotland
After the filming and all of our enthusiastic conversations with Susan’s young fans, we walked back to our room at the Burnview and discovered that Deadline News TV had already posted a video on their site and on YouTube. The clip was brief but well-produced, and we were happy that the overall message of the film itself was accurate.
The purpose of Japan Broadcasting Corporation was to document certain aspects of the worldwide Susan Boyle phenomenon, and our already-planned trip as fans represented that in some ways. As we walked all around Blackburn, we encountered fans who were either looking for us already, or happy to meet us and talk about Susan and receive Susan buttons and Harper’s Bazaars. Indeed, most tourists visiting Susan spots on their own would experience fan solidarity in this way – from place to place, rather than as a group starting at one location and moving through en masse to the end. Fans watching the video (or reading this blog) could picture themselves in our shoes. Marie and I had known the evening before that many local fans were planning to be at the Happy Valley, rather than the small mall, for the filming. That is exactly what happened. And even after the filming was finished and lunch was served, a whole new wave of genuine Susafans found us – the excited school kids whose classes had ended just a few minutes prior!
We spent the next several hours at home, writing blog posts and preparing photos for uploading. I always know that I need to keep going, just keep on going, baby steps, to blog during my visit to Blackburn. I’m happy that Marie is on hand to help (or at least not to mind my typing away at night while she is trying to sleep)! We took a break of a few hours so we could visit the Happy Valley again with fan forum friend Stevieboy49, and we also visited Moran’s – another karaoke venue for Susan. At Moran’s, our YouTube Susan’s Pub friend, Hugh, greeted us warmly, and it was fun to be part of the actual meeting of Susan Boyle fans who participate in separate Susan Boyle internet forums.
Returning home, we analyzed a bus schedule that was supposed to take us from Blackburn through Bathgate and ultimately to Linlithgow in the morning. We settled on the perfect routes and timing needed to reach Linlithgow Cross by 9:30, where we would meet Stevieboy49 and his lovely wife Irene. Then I continued writing the blog so fans could ruminate on Friday’s details while we were off incommunicado, touring the countryside on Saturday.
We awakened bright and early on Saturday, grabbed a couple of breakfast bars, ran through the rain to the bus stop a few minutes ahead of schedule, and eventually realized that the hourly bus had already come and gone. What if the same thing had happened to Susan on her way to Glasgow for the BGT audition?! Global nightmare! In our case, as time passed and no other buses were coming, we decided that we would have to find a taxi. I tried to call the taxi company whose simple number I knew by heart, but couldn’t master the international dialing. We knocked on the door of a shop that wasn’t yet open, and the lady inside very kindly talked to us anyway and agreed to call the taxi. The friendly driver finally arrived, and after 25 minutes of winding through the lovely green sheep-inhabited hills, we reached Linlithgow Cross – 40 minutes early! Time for coffee!
Stevieboy49 and lovely Irene arrived as scheduled, and explained that Linlithgow Cross was not so-named because it was a crossroads, but because of a literal cross that had stood in the middle of this charming town square in ages past. Now there is an ornately carved stone monument.
Linlithgow Palace had been the summer home of the Stewart kings and queens of Scotland since the early 1400s. We learned that a castle is a fortified dwelling, while a palace is much less secure. This palace compound includes a lovely old church that still functions as an active Church of Scotland parish today. The church itself represented Scotland’s transition, pre-reformation to post-reformation. A list of the church leaders from 1240 to the present day hangs on a wall inside, showing that transition. Kings and queens worshiped there, and now regular Scottish citizens and visitors do so, too!
The oft-remodeled and expanded palace was the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots (not the same person as “Bloody Mary”). As we walked through the rooms, now roofless after ancient fires had burned away the timbers, we could imagine the gracious living of royal families taking impressive summer holidays away from their main castles in Edinburgh or Stirling. Linlithgow Palace is situated on a peaceful lake (loch), and in the distance are the gentle hills still laden with crops and livestock. It was a place of heartache, too, as royal families suffered battle losses in a seemingly endless cycle of wars and conquests. We climbed to the top of a tower where Queen Margaret Tudor waited in vain, day after day, for her husband, King James IV, to return safely from battle against the forces of her own brother, King Henry VIII of England. Sadly for Margaret, her husband had perished – and the next year, 1514, she herself would have to flee her homeland. Eventually, one king from this family – James VI, the only child of Mary, Queen of Scots – became the ruler of all England, and departed for London. Wikipedia has this fascinating entry: “In May 1601, King James VI of Scotland attended the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at St Columba's Church in Burntisland, Fife, at which proposals were put forward for a new translation of the Bible into English. Two years later, he acceded to the throne of England as King James I of England.” It is this King James, of Scottish origin, who commissioned the famous 1611 Bible translation later named for him: The King James Bible!
This King James also rebuilt a portion of Linlithgow Palace that had fallen, although he himself did not live to see the completed work. Succeeding kings visited on occasion, but by the late 1600s the last of the royal families had departed for good. A fire later destroyed the wooden roof and floors, but the palace still stands as an imposing royal reminder.
Exiting the palace, we wandered through picturesque Linlithgow and found a nice café, intending only to have coffee. Two of the choices were coffee with milk, or coffee with hot milk. I had never heard of the hot milk option, but Irene insisted that coffee tastes much better with hot milk! So I tried a cup of the delicious thick coffee with cold milk, then a cup with hot milk, and sure enough my unrefined taste could not tell the difference! Either way, it was good, really good. We all decided that this would be an excellent place for lunch, too, so we each enjoyed minestrone soup and crusty bread before heading out to a small museum featuring Scotty of Star Trek – revealed in one episode as being born in Linlithgow! Then we were off to see the swans in Linlithgow Loch – a beautiful and friendly group – before driving back to Bathgate to pick up the music sheets that Marie had ordered to be framed.
It was so, so kind of Stevieboy49 and Irene to drive us all around central Scotland on Saturday, seeing the highlands and the lowlands and the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond (literally!). Scotland is simply gorgeous! After a delectable meal at a small hotel situated above a loch, we wound our way through the hills and valleys for another hour or so, and arrived at our Burnview home from a different direction than we ourselves had ever taken. It’s really valuable to have a local tour guide on the scene! Also very special is the fact – and we can announce it here tonight, ladies and gentlemen – that Stevieboy49 and Irene consented to having their photograph published in our blog slideshow. Keep looking – you’ll see it!