Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blessing Blackburn ~ The Sequel ~ Installment 7

“So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they have not heard they shall consider.” (Isaiah 52:15)

Tuesday, 9/8/09
12:48 pm somewhere over the North Atlantic

Our Sunday junket to Edinburgh coincided with the grand finale of the famous Edinburgh Festival, which had been underway for several weeks. The Festival combines many different sorts of creative and performing arts, and includes opportunities for less-established participants in the Festival Fringe. Susan Boyle had performed in a Fringe musical several years ago. Now she could probably fill all of the venues combined!

Stevieboy49 and Irene picked us up at the Burnview and drove to the train station in Linlithgow. Irene needed to stay with her mother, while Stevieboy49 kindly accompanied us to Edinburgh. He has a wealth of historical knowledge (his specialty as a teacher), and we were blessed with the opportunity to learn so much about the Lothian area and Scotland as a whole. Our train ride took about 20 minutes, during which we sat at a table with Rich, a window cleaner from London, and shared the latest news about Susan Boyle. Rich knew something about her, but we were far more informed. By the time we exited the train, Rich was far more informed, too!

Edinburgh Waverley Station seems a bit smaller than the two stations in Glasgow that Del and I had seen in June. It is located in the heart of Edinburgh, a short walk from the amazing Royal Mile arterial that stretches from Holyroodhouse Palace to Edinburgh Castle. The locals pronounce the word “Edinburuh” – formed with a rolling Scottish R and a silent gh as in through.

Our plan, determined weeks ago, was to watch the final triumphant segment of the revived Edinburgh Riding Of The Marches. Riding the marches (or borders) is a centuries-old yearly practice of reviewing the community boundaries, usually on horses. Many communities in Scotland still do so regularly, and this year’s Edinburgh cavalcade incorporated 250 riders from all over Scotland. The revived Edinburgh event had not occurred since 1946. By the time we reached the High Street section of the Royal Mile, crowds were lining the route and we were temporarily thwarted from crossing the street to grab a Starbucks. Wild horses could not keep us away, however! With fresh, hot brews in hand, we found an open space along the rail just in time for the bagpipe band that was leading the parade up from Holyroodhouse Palace.

Marie and I have loved horses, and occasionally owned them, since childhood. Now that we are busy adults, we don’t really have time for these living works of art, but we always appreciate them. The horses and ponies in the cavalcade were all well-behaved and calm, even as they were led by bagpipes and surrounded by cheering crowds. The riders were sharply dressed in English-style finery, carrying flags and banners and wearing ribbons to indicate their affiliations. We were surprised to see many Paints and Appaloosas – breeds developed by Native Americans. Later, while snacking in a pub along the Royal Mile, Marie reminded me of our twin cousins (seen in the beginning of Slideshow 2), who had arranged for their extended family to present an exquisite Appaloosa stallion to the descendants of the famed Nez Perce, Chief Joseph, in fulfillment of an ancient promise made by their grandfather to the Chief. You can read the account of this special gift at As the cavalcade ended, we were able to see presentations by the Lord Provost (Mayor) and the Captain of the Marches at the Mercat Cross in Parliament Square. The pageantry was impressive, and the printed programs available for sale enabled us to read the words that were being spoken, even though we could not hear them.

The weather was beautiful, and we enjoyed our history-filled stroll up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle. Along the way, we noticed with amusement many Cashmere wool and kilt shops. We were amused not by the kilts but because, for many years, our family had lived in the small town of Cashmere, in Washington State, and all 5 of us siblings are graduates of Cashmere High School. We have not seen that much Cashmere since our high school reunion!

Outside the gates of Edinburgh Castle is the wide cobbled square in which the renowned Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place every year. Del, a music-loving veteran of the United States Marine Corps, has a special place in his heart for the Edinburgh Tattoo, because it was here many decades ago that the Marine Corps Band participated on a world-class level that has enhanced the organization built by John Philip Sousa even to this day!

Having seen Linlithgow Palace on Saturday, it was fascinating to visit on Sunday the primary fortified home of the same generations of royals who had vacationed in Linlithgow. Edinburgh Castle, with its 900-year-old chapel and later structures, is enormous – a complex of many buildings inside high walls melded to a pinnacle of steep volcanic rock. We opted out of the interior tour, which would have cost about $20 each for tickets, but spent much time in the gift shop filled with clan paraphernalia and reference books. Homecoming Scotland 2009 was in full force at the Edinburgh Castle gift shop – with something for anyone in the worldwide diaspora of Scottish heritage. I settled on a deck of clan tartan cards for Del, along with a history of Edinburgh Castle. For Gulia, I was delighted to find the same history book, printed in the Russian language (her second tongue, after Kyrgyz)! This book notes that the most significant event in the castle’s history was the birth there of James VI, who became James I, the first Scottish king of all England. As we had learned on Saturday, he was also the king who commissioned the translation of the King James Bible.

We still had several hours before the start of the Festival Fireworks. As we made our way back down the Royal Mile, we were privileged to see some talented Festival Fringe performers – a violin and guitar duo, and an escape artist whose entire livelihood depends on freeing himself from heavy locked chains – all within 2 minutes. Dare we hope that he will qualify for next season’s BGT?

It was mid-afternoon, and we opted for a snack at one of the many pleasant dining establishments along the Royal Mile. Over a combo appetizer plate, we discussed Susan’s singing and career as if we were in Susan’s Pub or the fan site forum. It’s simply amazing to consider everything that is happening to her, and to all of the fans who have been drawn to her. As I said in the BBC video, I really think God is doing something. How else can we explain it all?

We were eager to see the rest of the Royal Mile, and proceeded down the route, which was cobbled in places and paved in others. There were many shops selling wool, tartans, kilts and souvenirs, alongside pubs, historic structures, churches and memorial plaques. Finally we reached the new Scottish Parliament Building, a modern work with dominant style elements that we could not understand without a written description. Designed by a Spanish architect, the building is controversial among Scots but represents an interesting move toward more Scottish self-government.

Across the street is the Queen’s Gallery, an ancient building housing some of Queen Elizabeth’s extensive art collection. Public access is possible, but not at the time of our visit. A hundred yards beyond, past the Abbey, the Royal Mile begins or ends with the Holyroodhouse Palace, which is the official royal residence in Scotland. Holyroodhouse Palace was also the home of royals who lived in Edinburgh Castle and Linlithgow Palace. Unlike these other two dwellings, Holyroodhouse Palace is still used by monarchs. Queen Elizabeth lives here for a few days each year. On this particular weekend, she has been staying in a more northern royal residence while on hand, as always, for the annual Braemar Gathering Highland Games that culminates the dozens of highland games events held throughout Scotland (and even the world) each year.

As twilight approached, we caught a taxi to a nice restaurant recommended by the driver. Marie ordered vegetarian haggis that was not cooked in a sheep’s stomach, and pronounced it delicious. I wondered how it could accurately be called haggis with neither the ingredients nor the methodology, but I wasn’t about to compare it to the real thing in order to prove my point!

Following dinner, we walked briskly through the rainless night to the nearby apartment of Fran, a gregarious Spanish teacher with whom Stevieboy49 had worked several years ago. How fortuitous, that Fran’s apartment had several windows with a perfect view of the Festival Fireworks, and that he graciously allowed us to join his watching party, among the 200,000 viewers citywide! All of the lights were out, with seating arranged to face the windows and the local radio station providing live coverage of the event. Moments after we arrived, the show began! It marked the end of the Edinburgh Festival and also the 250th anniversary of the death of George Frederick Handel. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus performed various works of Handel, in perfect live synchronization with the fireworks. Handel’s Messiah has long been my favorite musical masterpiece, even to the point of the Hallelujah Chorus being my cell ringtone! Sure enough, the spectacle concluded with the most glorious fireworks accompanied by the full orchestra and choir. Having visited the venues of passing generations of Scottish royals for the entire weekend, I gained an even greater appreciation for these words: “Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: And He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings, and Lord of lords. Hallelujah!” (Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16)

We enjoyed pleasant conversation and pastries with Fran and his guests, then caught a cab to the train station before the last train left for Linlithgow. Irene was waiting for us in the car, bless her heart, and Marie and I were back home at the Burnview before the clock struck 12:00.

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