In the thickest Scottish accent I’ve ever heard, as he drives me to my hotel, my cabbie asks what I think of Bush. I answer cautiously that I am not his biggest fan. “Fuckin’ prick, ‘e is, that one!” My cabbie yells over his shoulder. I laugh, and we discuss the exit of Tony Blair and the inauguration of a Scottish Prime Minister.
I decide to skip a portion of the afternoon sessions to be a tourist. I hop into a cab from the Hilton and ask for the Scotch Whiskey Heritage Center. There is a pause. He mumbles something and starts driving. I say again, half-question, half-repetition, “Scotch Whiskey Heritage Center?”
“Scaaatch,” the cabbie retorts, mocking my American pronunciation.
“Scotch whiskey,” I try again in my best Scottish imitation.
“I understood ya’, I joos had ta think about it a wee bit.”
At the booze museum (for what else is it, really?), I meet a Canadian named Dean with whom I have lunch after the tour. We do a flight of scotch drams from the four regions of Scotland: Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, and the Islands. According to an extremely scientific blind experiment, I can identify two of the four by smell, and all four after tasting. I win a 1 pound bet with him about whether our waitress was Scottish or Irish. Sláinte mhath!
The conference excursion takes us to Stirling Castle, where we have a guided tour followed by champagne in the garden and a banquet in The Great Hall. The meal begins with an Ode to Haggis. A bagpipist, instrument singing, leads in a waiter holding a plate of haggis aloft. The plate is adorned with napkins curled up like the ends of a viking long boat. The musician then recites Burns’s “Address to a Haggis“, in the most exaggerated accent he can muster.
The Edinburgh chapter of my travels is nearly at a close, and I will depart for London shortly after I post this. Pictures forthcoming once I settle in London and move them off my camera. I should really get a flickr account…