Scotland and Wales 1995


August 11, 1995: Well, we made it to the airport all right. Up to now the trip has been uneventful. I dozed in the limo. I don't want to do too much of that since I want to sleep on the plane. I am trying to convince myself that it is 10:34 PM, though it is still pretty bright outside. Of course locally it is actually 5:34 PM--well now 5:35 PM--but in Edinburgh it is 10:34 PM. If I am figuring correctly, the days are going to get short very fast during this trip. This is a combination of being both at a more northerly latitude, and being the time of year that days change very quickly in length. We will be 55.67 degrees rather than 40.40 North latitude. If my calculation is correct our first day in Britain will have a remarkable 140 more minutes of daylight than our last day.

My traveling companion will be the lovely and talented Ms. Evelyn Chimelis Leeper whom I invite on all my trips purely on the basis of charm. That is she is charming enough that I want her along and I am charming enough to convince her to go along with me. Would I consider traveling with anyone else? I picture myself like Peter Graves at the beginning of Mission Impossible sorting photos of possible candidates to take on the mission. Somehow he always ended up with Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, the outgoing Peter Lupus, Greg Morris, etc. If you thought it was strange that the same team got picked each week, look how strange it is that I always select the versatile and clever Evelyn Leeper, trip after trip. She is the human equivalent of the Swiss Army Knife. I cannot picture choosing anybody else's photo. But it might depend on the mission.

We went to our first real film festival last year. That was the Montreal film festival. I rather enjoyed seeing three, four, or even five films a day, all new, most pretty good. Oh, they did have the horrible Men Lie, but most of the rest were good. The best film I saw was a short film called "The Train." We combined that trip with our visit to the World Science Fiction Convention in Winnipeg. This time we are doing much the same thing except since the Worldcon is in Glasgow. We were to spend about twelve days at the film festival, then move on to Glasgow for five days for the convention, then we would drive around Wales for the remainder of the trip, about a week and a half. The film festival is part of the Edinburgh Festival. There is also the Edinburgh Festival (the main part), and the Fringe Festival. There probably is also a boat show. Why have just one festival? They have a bunch at the same time. And somewhat to her surprise, Evelyn found more things of interest in the Fringe Festival than in the Film Festival. The Fringe is a combination of plays and cabarets. The cabarets are not such an attraction, but the plays are. They often even cheaper than the films, in the peculiar manner of Britain. My theory is that anything technology-intensive is more expensive than Americans expect and things that are labor intensive are less expensive. In any case, plays in Britain are a real bargain by our standards, On our last trip to London we saw Alec Guinness on the stage. And it didn't cost a whole lot. Well, the Fringe Festival has more amateur productions, but plays are cheaper than the films. But the Festival is something absolutely unique in the world. There are plays and concerts and cabarets going on all day long through the festival. There are maybe 600 or more events each day in the Fringe Festival by itself. There are over 300 plays, musicals, and operas (280 just plays) each day to choose from. Most play multiple days, of course. There are also films, comedy acts, circus performances--this thing is huge. All by itself the Edinburgh Fringe is the world's largest cultural event if you do not count the Internet as a cultural event. I think that at one time there was just the Edinburgh Festival. Then some other people set up their own cultural event at the same time and called it the Fringe. The Fringe has grown and grown as Europe's premier cultural event. Plays will have their test runs there, medieval morality plays will be produced there. There may be three different productions of a popular Shakespeare play.

Once again Evelyn and I will probably be going to mostly the same events--plays and films. We didn't plan it that way, but when I chose what sounded like the most interesting plays and showed the list to Evelyn, she had already chosen much the same list. We have very similar tastes, I guess. I decided that it was really not worth the effort to plan different events. Of course these may also be crowded events since if the two of us like something there may be lots of others. Generally we tend to pick stories and films with a fantasy element like Dr. Faustus.

Well, we can tell this is not a domestic flight. We were asked if we wanted smoking or non-smoking. Domestic flights are all non-smoking in America. And just now there is particular attention to smoking since President Clinton is on a campaign to stop teenage smoking and to convince teens that if they do smoke they should not inhale.

We waited for the plane in the same waiting room we used waiting to go to Frankfurt on the way to India. In fact, the plane to Frankfurt took off while we were waiting. Inside the waiting area there is only one thing to walk to, a kiosk featuring many of the world's least interesting books and magazines. Featured are periodicals like Seventeen and Glamour so incredibly boring that they have been known to produce ennui in healthy humans. On the other hand when the pages have been placed on the bottom parakeet cages, the birds have been known to stare at the pictures for hours.

Our plane is British Airways and while the seats are cramped, there definitely seems to be a higher class of service than American airlines have. Each passenger, regardless of where he passengers, gets a survival package of a little tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a sleeping mask, and ... now get this ... a pair of knit socks. I wouldn't lie to you. I don't think the socks will be good for many wearings, but they are probably intended to be used only on the plane.

The plane does fly full. I have an aisle seat, Evelyn is in the middle seat, and the window seat went to a twenty-year-old woman agile enough that when she needed to answer Nature's call she just climbed over the arms of the seats like stepping stones. It is most disconcerting.

Well, I have three novels loaded on my palmtop that I can read with the vertical reader like I am reading a book. Waiting for the limo I started From the Earth to the Moon and a Trip Around It. I have this loaded on my palmtop. A couple of button presses and the vertical reader is displaying it for me with the display shifted 90 degrees so I read it like a paperback. The next page button is just where my thumb falls if I hold the palmtop like a paperback.

Dinner was Caesar salad, jerk chicken (not as spicy as it should have been), cheese cake, cheese and crackers, and a chocolate mint. That is a lot better than United States airlines give. I guess that like bagels, cheesecake has been co-opted by a mainstream that does not appreciate its finer points. You see jalapeno bagels and fruit cheesecake. Somehow people remember that egg rolls are Chinese but not that bagels and cheesecake are Jewish. But what passes for bagels and cheesecake these days Jews have no claim on nor do they want it.

The earphones are more comfortable than what you would find on an American plane. They are electronic, not air-driven, for better control and tone. I really liked Lufthansa when we came back from India. (Of course India might have had something to do with that.) But British Air is certainly better than TWA and TWA is better than United.

August 12, 1995: It took me a few minutes to get to sleep, then I slept right through, which was only about two and a half hours. Some readers will know that my way of fighting jet lag is to stay up all night before the flight and to sleep on the plane. I can't explain exactly why this works so well, but for me it does.

I was awakened to breakfast which was some goy's idea of a bagel served with cream cheese and two nice strawberries. There also corn flakes and some Parmlat milk that had been held in suspended animation. Kellogg's corn flakes are really hot to get people to try them again. Their new slogan is "Try them again for the very first time." That is just another way of saying "Just give them one more chance," but that wouldn't fly as a slogan.

We landed about 7 AM and taxied for ten minutes or so, though it seemed like more. We lined up for customs and that took a few minutes, but when we got to inspection it was just a couple of questions. The ads have a particularly European flair. A computer is claimed to be small yet powerful. The ad sports a picture of a laptop and one of Napoleon. We got #300 at an ATM. From there we took the bus between the terminals. That seemed to take quite a while. Apparently the terminals are widely separated. It is nice being in Britain again, listening to the different manner of speaking. We cannot see too much of the area from the bus, unfortunately. This is August and the sun through the window feels pretty warm even for so early in the morning. We are in early enough that we thought we might switch to an earlier flight at 9 AM. We got put on standby on an earlier plane with the plan to change it back to our 10:40 AM reservation.

Well, we went to the gate, but there was no room on the 9 AM and we almost lost our place on the 10:40 AM. They "accidentally" changed it to standby, even though we already had seat assignments. British Midland apparently overbooks the flights and bumps passengers with full reservations. We saw one very irate family who had a reservation in good standing on the 9 AM flight but who were canceled anyway. At the time I thought the family was being rather obnoxious about what seemed like a clerical error. But when they took our reservation and switched it to standby through another "error" it started to look like a pattern. Luckily we caught it. Of course, we still might find that we are not the only passengers booked for our seats.

Evelyn is feeling a bit jet-lagged and is napping while I catch up on my log waiting for the flight. Now she is waking up. She says she did not really get quality sleep. I think she settled for an off-brand. We boarded the plane and a little after 11 AM had lunch. It was the first food we have had that fully lives up to England's international reputation among gourmets. It was three quarter sandwiches. Now right away I object. When you get a quarter sandwich it means you are sharing your lunch with three people who might be total strangers. These days they might be carrying disease, also. Each quarter sandwich was more nasty than the other two. The first was something like cheese gratings and baked beans. Actually they were probably not baked beans, but I am at a loss as to what else they might have been. The second sandwich was chicken and egg. It is not clear which one came first. The final quarter sandwich was something like corned beef, thin sliced, with mustard and butter. Dessert was better, as a sort of cheesecake with blueberry glaze. There also was a chocolate-covered wafer bar called a Riva. Evelyn put it in her pocket and I warned her if she did that the Riva might flow. It looks like English candy but it is made in Finland and says "Discover the taste of the continent." It conjures up odd mental pictures.

It was a short flight. Nothing in Britain is very far from anything else. It might surprise you if I told you that all of Britain is no larger than the state of Ohio. I know it would surprise me since I doubt that it is true, and usually I am more careful with my facts. But by plane, Britain is small. I probably dozed a little, but I was up for the landing which still came as a shock. It was a hard landing and it woke up even Evelyn, who was dozing herself.

We went to catch the bus for the city and there was Kate Pott. Kate is sharing the flat with us and we expected to meet her there, but she showed up at the airport 90 minutes before we landed to meet us at the airport. We grabbed a bus for downtown Edinburgh, parked our luggage, and went upstairs to look out the front of the bus. The top level front row certainly has the best view of any place on the bus. The road from the airport was unexciting, but it is nice to be in Britain again. Finally we got to the center of Edinburgh and things started to look familiar from the last trip. High on our right was the castle and in front of us was the Scott Memorial. Unfortunately, it too had been attacked by scaffolding moths and it was enclosed in scaffolding. Carrying our luggage from where the bus left us off to Mackay's was a bit of a trudge. Mackay's was the agency through which we rented the flat. We pick up the key and took a taxi to our flat. We knew that by the time we had rented a flat, most that was convenient had been rented. We were out in Leith, about a twenty-minute drive from the center of Edinburgh.

The apartment is small, just kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bath. And I mean just bath--no shower. The other funny thing about the plumbing is very common in Britain, people seem unwilling to mix hot and cold water. I don't know why that is, but we see it other places where there are separate taps. Here there is what at first appears is one faucet. You think that at last people got their act together. Then you see that there are two separate streams that come out of the faucet, one that is hot and one that is cold. They mix only in the basin below, and you can hurt yourself touching the hot water coming out one side.

Well, once we were set up in the apartment we headed out for the grocery to get some food for breakfast in the flat. The supermarket is about a fifteen-minute walk away. It is a lot like our supermarkets. A few brands are different. Some whole products are missing. They do not have frozen orange juice concentrate. They do have a much bigger section of snack and breakfast meats and meat pies: pepperoni, liver pate, ad nauseum. And they have completely gotten rid of refrigerated milk as far as I can see. All milk comes preserved in boxes. We have some of that, but most milk in the United States is refrigerated in cartons.

Back to the flat to put the stuff away. About 5:00 PM we decided to head out for dinner. There was a fish and chips place across the street that we thought would be good. It also was closed for the holidays. It turns out there are not many restaurants around here other than pubs. Out near where the grocery was there was a fish bar--another fish and chips place. Evelyn and I had fish and chips, Kate had ham and eggs and chips. I liked it, but the other two were not so happy. The special of the day was lasagne. Fine. And at 70p more you get lasagne and chips. Lasagne and chips??? The British have a reputation for being reserved. They are not reserved, they are just stiff because they are all full of starch.

Back at the room we compared schedules. Evelyn went to bed about 8 and Kate about half an hour later. I am very drowsy, falling asleep for short moments, but my plan for minimizing jet lag is to go to bed about a normal time. I stayed up the whole night the night before my flight, slept on the plane. Now I am really sleep-deprived but apart from cat naps every now and then when things get slow, I feel that the clock is about right about what time it is. If I can stay up until 11, tomorrow I will feel pretty much acclimated. So I read and hope the BBC has a movie on.

August 13, 1995: I must have slept to about 7 AM. I would say most of my jet lag is gone. (Actually I am somewhat drowsy during the day.) Leith is down on the water and though we cannot see any water from our flat, we do hear seagulls constantly arguing.

Breakfast was in the flat and was Wheetabix flakes and bread with Rhubarb-Ginger jam. The latter was not so tart as I was hoping. It does not sound like a flavor you would likely see in the United States.

We took the bus to the center of Edinburgh. First stop was at the tourist information center, mostly to pick up maps. This is also where night walks are advertised. The last time we were here there were a lot of walking tours where you pay someone to show you the sights. With our love of the grisly we took a ghost walk after dark. That must not be an unusual set of tastes. This time they there are many fewer walks but more ghost walks. One thing that Edinburgh has in abundance is ghosts. Even North Sea oil will sometimes run out because there are only so many dead dinosaurs. But there are an inexhaustible supply of dead Scotsmen. And any dead citizen can be tapped for ghost service for the sake of the tourist business. And none can refuse, being dead. (In fact, if they did refuse, they would only make them more valid subjects for a ghost walk. There's a paradox in there someplace.)

The Fringe Festival Office was our next stop. We purchased some 150 pounds of tickets--uh, in cost, not in weight. The office is computerized and very courteous and efficient. Or perhaps we were just lucky. It should be noted that we were there very, very early, but the clerk we got spent a lot of time with us and was extremely cheerful and helpful. She deserves some sort of commendation.

It was a long walk to Film House; perhaps it should not have been, but we are poor babes in the wood who are easily misled on which is the best way to go. We passed by the statue to Greyfriar's Bobby, the dog who daily stood vigil over his master's grave. It is not clear what was the actual reason, perhaps he was waiting to build up the ambition to dig up the bones.

At Film House, when we finally found it, we made another huge purchase of tickets. There were not nearly so many people here as at their Fringe office.

It was raining when we came out of the Film House so we went for lunch in the pub across the way, The Bull and Bush. Of course, it seemed to me it should have been called The Quail and Bush. I had a sort of Chicken Tikka Masala and a ginger beer. The thing about Scotland I like is that you can get ginger beer. We also shared an order of Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties. Tatties turn out to be mashed potatoes. Neeps turn out to be cooked turnips. Haggis turns out to be haggis. Haggis is grain and offal put into a sheep's stomach and then into mine. It turns out be reasonably tasty, not far from giblet stuffing. I am glad to have finally been able to sample this delicacy. Scotland is not known for its Scottish food restaurants. In fact, with the exception of a few pubs, it is darn hard to find any place that serves Scottish cuisine.

After lunch there was a crowd forming for the Festival opening parade. We toyed with the idea of watching the parade, stood for a little while, then decided this was not the best use of our time. After walking Kate to the base of the hill of the castle we went to the train and bus stations for some information and then began the walk to our first play, an adaptation of Kafka's most famous story. The play is Steven Berkoff's "The Metamorphosis." I am writing this waiting for the play to begin. One thing I always wondered about this story. As long as Gregor Samsa had discovered he had this talent, why didn't he go ahead and turn into something else?

[Since we had on-line the descriptions of each of the Fringe events, Each such event will be prefaced by their own description, then have my comments.]


"Berkoff's Masterpiece. Based on Kafka's short story, follow Gregor Samsa as he turns into an insect and thus faces an extreme, an absurd, alienation."

The play was an amateur production at Southside, a community center that was a reconditioned church. It looked rather like it was going to be a high school production. Well, it was a little more professionally done than that, but it still was some young actors, all perhaps college age. The play was just under an hour long, a bit short for a play that costs #5. It also started late. It was scheduled to begin at 4:05 PM but they did not let anyone in until a minute before that time.

In the film The Producers, the would-be producers read a play that starts "Gregor Samsa awoke one morning to discover he had been transformed into a giant cockroach." Well, for those who didn't recognize it, that was Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. It is actually a good story about the dichotomy of the body and the spirit. There are two different plays based on the story at the Festival.

This play is by Steven Berkoff. The staging has just three chairs on the stage and a scaffolding that is Gregor's room. This allows him to appear to climb the walls. Alex Donald as Gregor uses primarily body language to represent the transformation, though he does have metal caps or studs over his fingers to make them stiff. Beyond that he just dresses in black.

The play seems a fairly straightforward retelling of the Kafka borrowing mime techniques for the physical interpretations of the insect. Without rereading the story it would be difficult to determine if the interpretation is just fairly accurate to the story or more. There were some touches that I did not remember, but they may be just minor quibbles. Certainly the basic story is there of the family slowly turning against the well-meaning Gregor who finds he can no longer support his loved ones and now must be supported.

The production was unpolished, but it conveyed the essential themes.

After the play we went to the bus station to ask some bus questions, but they were closed. We had already been to another bus station to ask bus questions and to a train station to ask train questions. I don't think we asked plane questions at the airport yesterday and I think Evelyn is making up for lost time today.

We went to the park with a view of the castle and wrote for a while. At about 7:05 PM we left for our play, The Lost Continent. There was a big line out the door and I thought we were not going to get in. We asked if this was for The Lost Continent and they said it wasn't. "Are you here for The Lost Continent?" "Yes." Over her shoulder she called "They're here." It gives you a lot of confidence.

The Lost Continent

"Bill Bryson's hilarious best-seller hits the stage. A wickedly funny portrait of America as seen through the eyes of an American ex-patriot. Starring Steve Steen (Whose Line...). Book reviews: 'Hilarious' S Tel 'Hilarious' T.O. 'Hilarious' Today. 'Hilarious' Observer

The play itself is a collection of humorous vignettes of an American who moved to England returning to the United States and traveling around looking for the ideal American city. It is a one-man show recounting his exploits. Most are funny, but it builds to a rather maudlin and not surprising climax. Evelyn said the book was very good. The play was decent but not great.

After that we stopped in Pizzaland for a pricey yet strangely diminutive pizza. Pizza is more popular here than in the United States. It isn't as good. It seems every street has a Pizzaland or a Pizza Express.

We took the bus back to the room, walking the last fifteen minutes of the distance.

August 14, 1995: We had split up with Kate who had her own things to do yesterday. One of them was ride a bus. She did not watch her step and sprained her ankle. Somehow foot injuries seem very common on our trips. I used to get injured a lot. Of late it has been Evelyn more often. She got a bad ankle sprain on a dark stairway in India. Trips are just about the worst time to get an injury that will hamper walking so the foot injury spirits lie in wait.

Our first attraction of a rather crowded day was ...

Shakespeare For Breakfast

"The original and best bring you a tempestuous triumph of coffee, croissants, culture and comedy from Prospero and friends. Start your day the Shakespeare way with this mouth-watering new production from the creators of S4B's first international hit!"

This was a comedy review that included a croissant and coffee while you saw a silly story peopled by characters from Shakespeare with original and pseudo-Shakespearean lines. It is an odd idea to combine Shakespeare and breakfast, but as expected there was no meat in either. The croissants seemed drier than the humor, but at the same time fresher. Generally I cannot say I am fond of audience participation humor. The audience had to provide sound effects, members were called up to read lines, etc. If the story had been merely farce, that would have not been so bad. Shakespeare did farces. But the accent was on weak jokes, not story. "For those who like this sort of thing ..." as they say.

After the play Kate did not want to do a lot of walking so we sat for a while in the park. Then we headed out for Goblin Market in Bristo Square. We passed some graffiti after my own heart. It said "Stop French tests." It certainly would be a step in the right direction. I remember in school I always hated days when I had a French test myself.

We took the bus to Bristo Square where we spent some time in quaint, old-fashioned little British bookstore called Forbidden Planet. They seemed to be specializing in Judge Dredd items. I wonder if we are returning to an era when law and order will have more respect.

Our play was in a theater on the campus of Edinburgh University. I had a cup of hot chocolate in the shop.

Mother Wild Theatre Company

Goblin Market

"Victorian erotica! Two sisters struggle with suppressed memories of seductive goblins whose forbidden fruits spawn sour reminders of Victorian convention. Inspired by Christine Rossetti's lush poetry, Goblin Market is an enchanting musical journey into sensual self-discovery."

This one surprised me. I do like the poem by the leading pre-Raphaelite poet. It is basically a Victorian seduction fantasy. The play has two sisters creating the story for their amusement, presumably creating the story for their own enjoyment and getting pulled in so that it becomes more than just a story. The poem is most interesting and imaginative in the early part. The way the play is structured this is the least interesting part. The sisters play a sort of memory game describing the fruits that the goblins offer, apparently out of boredom. By playing the game they transfer the boredom to the audience.

However, once the play gets going the poem is given a much better treatment. Really what you have is a very dark operetta, in large part sung, though some is spoken. The story is of two loving sisters, one of whom is seduced to buy the sweet juicy fruits that the goblins sell. Once you buy of their fruits, you dream of nothing but getting more of their juicy, sweet fruit. Young Laura is thus enslaved until sister Lizzie decides she must be saved. Plays do not start on time. Goblin Market started about ten minutes late and plays to about ten people. It was supposed to start at 12:45 PM, but the box office had told some people that it would start at 1 PM so I guess it compromised since it started at 12:55 PM. Nobody showed up at 1 PM. I don't know why the audience was so small. The play had rough edges, but good moments also and it was very well acted. We walked over to Film House for a set of shorts.

The film starting late. We saw them bring in a computer about fifteen minutes before show. I wondered what the computer was for. Five minutes later, at 3:50 PM, they came out and said they were having some problems running the subtitle computer. From inside you could hear someone saying "You must be able to run a Mac floppy on a Gateway. You just need the right software. Computers can do anything. You just need the right software." Actually that is a lie, but it was fun. The shorts started about ten minutes late.

Grim Realities

This was not as nasty as the title implies, but it wasn't a lot better either. It was three shorts on unpleasant themes. "Minka," from Guinea involved a young boy whom everybody in the village likes but his abusive stepfather, the village chief. Village law is on the side of the father. It all ends in tears. "Seven Days Under Mavis," from Australia, is based on a freak incident. When the main character's wife dies she falls on top of him. He cannot get her off of him. He is trapped with neither food nor water for seven days as his wife lies on top and decays. As he lays there he is haunted by images of their lives together. The final film is a forty-two-minute updating of Franz Kafka's "Hunger Artist." It goes just about nowhere. It is some sort of complaint about how the media uses people, making them commodities. It is a slow and painful film to watch. It seems to be getting some cult attention because the title emaciatee is played by a popular Glasgow disc jockey Flash. However for an international crowd there is little real meat in "The Hunger Artist." For those of us who are not up on our Glasgow disc jockeys, it is pretty slim pickings.

We had only something like forty minutes between this film and the next so went rushing out of the theater. I passed by someone who looked a bit like Albert Finney standing there with his glasses half way down his nose. A quick look and I realized it was not actually Finney. It was Brian Cox. Twenty feet more on I said to Evelyn, "That was Brian Cox we just walked by." She didn't see so we subtly walked back to stare at the poor man from around a corner. That may not be a familiar name, but he is one of a small group of actors that I particularly look for in a film. He was a smoldering Hannibal Lector in the film Manhunter. He was also in Hidden Agenda, Rob Roy and the made-for-television films "Sharpe's Rifles" and "Sharpe's Eagles." There generally is something a little sinister (or very sinister) in the characters he plays.

We got Doner Kebab at a local Greek takeout. It was very, very fatty, dripped grease on my pants, but it tasted great. They put something on it here that they don't in the United States. They put on a lot. It is gyros on a pita, but they just don't stop.

Australian Shorts

So many shorts were submitted to the festival from Australia that they made a separate film of just some of what they thought were the best Australian shorts. The shorts were "Urn," "Saxa," "Strap on Olympia," "The Vegetable Mob," "The Vegetable Mob," "What Comes After Why?," "Despondent Divorcee," and "Unforgiving Weight of Anatomy." I won't pretend that I even understood what was going on in the first two. The second one had someone solving a mystery about his father. "Strap on Olympia" is a portrait of a prostitute who tires of the life and after returning to her home town where she fantasizes about doing a sexy dance in front of the local pub patrons she ends up nude as part of a billboard. And these are supposed to be the best of the crop. And speaking of crops, "The Vegetable Mob" is about Italian-Australians who build a community around growing tomatoes. "What Comes After Why?" had real possibilities as a horrific story about a man who loses his son. His reaction is very strange. It takes a grim twist toward the end. It is strange, but does not really add to much. "Despondent Divorcee" is a very short piece about the results of a breakup. There is a little bit of point, making it better than its predecessors. "Unforgiving Weight of Anatomy" is the best of the lot and is a strange little fantasy story involving prophecy of the future.

We had about an hour before our final event of the day. We browsed a bookstore and Evelyn found a book she had been looking for for years, apparently. Of course there are lots of books she has been looking for for years.

Modern Problems In Science

"'A tour de force of comic improvisation' The Herald. Three Chicago performers prove a completely absurd hypothesis provided by the audience. 'Their quick wittedness is prodigious and their entertainment value unbeatable.' The Scotsman."

This turned out to be a much more enjoyable piece of comic improvisation. Most people don't think in terms science people having a great sense of humor. In fact, in an admittedly limited experience, scientists and mathematicians have more creative senses of humor than (say) MBAs or even people in literature. This is a running parody of scientific style complete with having people running around on the floor being spinning electrons. It is all improvised on the spot to prove some absurd idea provided by someone in the audience. There are three comedians, all formerly from somewhere in the sciences. And they really represent different types you do see in the sciences. One is very urbane and stylish and smokes a pipe; one is kink of modish with shoulder length hair; one dresses like a poor graduate student and is balding and hyper.

After the performance which lasted only about 50 or 55 minutes we went to a local restaurant and I had the weirdest dessert I could find: a treacle tart in vanilla sauce. It was expensive but very tasty.

We took the bus back.

August 15, 1995: Well, this was our morning to do a wash. We started with no instructions at all an Evelyn tried to figure out the intricacies of a foreign washing machine. There is one in the flat, but it is a lot like trying to program in a language you don't understand. In the middle the woman we rent the flat from called to find out if there was anything we needed to know. Talk about good timing. She told us that there were instructions left in a black notebook. Fine, we told her. That was what we needed. So we let her go. Then we started to read the instructions. Yes, we saw some things we had been doing wrong. But we still couldn't figure it out. And we have told the owner that we were fine. Gulp. Now what? We thought we had things figured out by the time we left, but the machine had been running a very long time. Hope it stops eventually.

Jew of Malta

"Marlowe's black comedy. A new one hour version. They take away his money because he is a Jew. Because he is a Jew they think he won't complain. Because he is a man, he wants revenge."

Well, that's how they describe it. And I have to admit even Evelyn said that she thought it was surprisingly anti-Christian. But her reason seemed to be that the Christians were so corruptible once the Jew sets them against each other. In fact the Jew is portrayed as being a murderer and a well-poisoner since long before he is wronged at the beginning of the story. It is true that the society is anti-Jewish, but the play justifies that attitude quite well. The production is trimmed down to fit in an hour and to be performed in by six actors. The latter is more of a problem since there are considerably more than six characters and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell apart different characters played by the same actor.

From there we returned to the Fringe Office to get more tickets. In the line we saw, handing out brochures, one of the "scientists" from the Modern Problems in Science panel from the previous night. He remembered us as people who had given him trouble the night before. He remembered me as the person they had dubbed "the grad student" for one of my questions and Evelyn had pointed out numerous mistakes they had made. They also had said that it was just luck they had a prop of a mannequin hand. The stage manager leaves them props at random for them to fit into the act. This one had seemed very fortuitous. We got to hear a little about how they did what they did and what their background was.

Mozart and Salieri

"Before 'Amadeus' there was 'Mozart and Salieri.' Written by Russia's greatest poet Alexander Pushkin; this micro-tragedy tells the tale of one man's terrible envy for a man of genius (and his premature demise). Great Theatre."

This was a performance of the short play in what was basically an alley-way. The problem was that it was a more popular avenue than a venue. We had people walking through, knocking into things, walking in front of the actors during the presentation. One woman walked right over the stage area. The story, which was rumored to be much like Amadeus, proved to be just that, covering the same themes and even having the same style, though the Peter Schaffer version was much expanded and had time to be a little more subtle. The relationship is much like that of Dr. Faustus and Faust.

We took the #6 bus through bumper-to-bumper across town traffic. The lights are cycled for the north-south traffic and only turn green for east-west for a few seconds. There is at least as much traffic going east-west. The man near us is complaining that the lights were programmed by idiots. His wife is telling him to hush up and behave or she will go home. Well, since it is the same actor in Mozart and Salieri as in The Tempest, we don't have to worry too much about traffic holding us up getting to the play. The same traffic will hold him up. We are going to the Quaker Meeting House. It is full of peace posters and "feed the hungry" posters. The play is about ten minutes late getting started.


"An adaptation of Shakespeare's last play is designed and directed by Japan's Risako Ataka--a fusion of East-West theatre techniques--(Indonesian Wayang Kulit; Japanese Butoh, European theatricality). Prospero's recollection a vivid theatrical experience; with Daniel Foley."

I think I was in sixth grade when I first tried to read Shakespeare. I think my sister had said I might like Macbeth for the horror element and I found the play someplace. I found trying to read it an unpleasant experience and painful experience. It is really tough to pick up Shakespeare and just read him when you are that young. I read only about four or five pages. I mention it only as context for saying that The Tempest was my most unpleasant contact with Shakespeare. Ever.

This is a one-man show done in a Japanese style with long, slow silent sections as Prospero recounts the story, enacting portions with props on the stage. He will have characters played by bottles that he shakes like a child playing with action figures. Other scenes he will voice as we see Indonesian shadow puppets. This robs all characters of their individuality making it very hard to tell them apart. Or you can spend a couple of minutes watching Prospero eat a banana. There are long sections with only whimpering sounds. I can say for a fact that multiple members of the audience were falling asleep. The monster Caliban, incidentally, was sort of a stereotyped Hindu who always appeared to the sound of Indian music. I am not sure that was entirely innocent. Evelyn interpreted the play as having a surprise ending. One of us misunderstood the play, I think, because I was assuming we were supposed to be interpreting the play that way all along. In any case it was the least enjoyable item so far at the Festival.

After the play we found a vegetarian restaurant that Evelyn had seen recommended, Helios Fountain. It is 100% meat-free and free of punctuation in name. The food was not so hot. Evelyn cooks vegetarian a lot better than Helios Fountain and she just does it from a cookbook. Both the play and the dinner that followed were well below expectation. That left us with about two hours before the next event. We sat in Grassmarket and wrote. Then we walked to Gilded Balloon II, the site of our next play.

Eamon--Older Brother Of Jesus

"From the new Radio 4 comedy. After waiting for 2,000 years, it's Eamon's turn to wear the mantle of messiah and return to earth as the Second Coming. (Jesus is ill.) Redmond is 'superb' Guardian, 'hilarious' Scotsman."

Well, you can see the ad above for the concept. This was recommended by a friend we see at science fiction conventions. It is basically a lampoon of religion. The claim is that the whole Christ family was really Irish and that there were Irish living all over the world two thousand years ago. He come out dressed in Biblical robes. Walked directly over to Evelyn and put his hands on her head to bless her. (We had gotten good seats.) He next came to me, started to bless me and noted the thinness of my hair. His presentation was probably aimed in large part at listeners to his radio program. It was about two parts religious humor, one part Irish humor, one part miscellaneous. He described the whole Christ family and noted that they are still around in reincarnations. I am apparently a reincarnation of someone he called Christy Christ (probably familiar to his audiences). He said my beard was a bit grayer. I asked him why he didn't heal it. He came over, laid hand on my chest and told me to look in the mirror at one in the morning, my beard would be healed, but my teeth might fall out.

Of the three comedy shows we have seen, his was the least funny; it was amusing, little more.

After a quick return to the flat (if you can do that) we returned making plans for Wednesday night then went to Fright Nights.

Edinburgh Fright Nights

"Edinburgh's blood-curdling past is recreated in a collection of chilling tales guaranteed to unnerve even the most doubtful cynic. This nail-biting journey into the world of the supernatural will excite, amaze, terrify and thrill. Not for the faint-hearted!"

Basically a few ghost stories told by a very uninteresting actress trying to be mysterious-looking. They also used steam effects but her character seemed like something out of a cheap movie with her long fingernails and her over the top acting. This was a waste of time.

August 16, 1995: I don't know what it is with doors and the British. The more successful the company the taller and narrower the front doors. They have those double doors with knobs right in the middle. You have seen them in adaptations of Dickens, probably. But they are still around. It is like the ultimate in success is considered to have basketball players or Abraham Lincoln (complete with stovepipe hat) as clients.

On the morning bus we climbed to the second floor and to the front windshield. There was a man sitting across the way with a hunch on his back and a few missing teeth. I had the feeling it had been a while since anyone had been pleasant to him, so I smiled and nodded to him. We talked a little. It wasn't much but it was probably more than most people were doing.

Much of the morning was spent in the process of getting tickets, going to box offices and lines in various places. We also spent some time in the Royal Scottish Museum. The Royal family has little power anymore, but when Britain does something like setting up a museum, they say that it belongs to the Royalty and they are just letting you use it. There is always the implicit threat that the Queen will say you can't use here museum anymore. She doesn't, probably realizing that the people who pay the taxes for it would object. When God gives you food it becomes yours. Hence we say "Give us this day our daily bread" instead of "Give us this day your daily bread." But the royalty is not so magnanimous. It remains the Royal Scottish Museum. They corrected that in Communist countries. If Britain were Communist the museum would have been The People's Scottish Museum. It would not have sufficient light, would be falling apart, and would not have anything worth seeing, but that is a different matter.

This is a minor day. Our first activity is ...

Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra

"(Bob Bishop). Fifteen years on, and still the Fringe's unchallenged masters of farce, present an afternoon whimsy combining classic Holmes' sleuthing, traditional Fossick fumbling, and massive rat droppings. Surely an irresistible cocktail?"

That's what they say. Cheeks are larger than most people realize and tongues are longer. You can put a tongue just a bit into a cheek, or a long way. The more tongue-in-cheek a telling, the less I like it, I am afraid. A subtle comic approach is for me much more enjoyable than farce. Farce requires a very subtle hand and perfect timing. It also requires good characterization. Otherwise you end up with a childish skit. This was such a skit with predictable tired gags.

This is the fourth Holmes play from the Fossick Valley Fumblers. As comes as no surprise for a Holmes comedy, both Watson and Lestrade are total bumblers whom the play repeatedly puts in ridiculous and embarrassing but in large part predictable situations. This is just one more production that goes out of its way to make a mystery why Holmes wanted Watson as friend. In this production Holmes appears much older than Watson. We are told that Holmes didn't want this story told and it is only being told to complete the memoirs. The story really has very little to do with the Giant Rat. All around silly and occasionally fun. But still not a good choice.

When that was over we walked to the Film House for a collection of animation shorts. British animated short films are generally fairly clever. On the whole I think they rank better than American animation. They may even be better than Canadian. I usually rate short films poor, fair, good, very good, or excellent. The post office, who sponsors the animation competition asks people seeing the short films to rate them the same way on ballots which are turned in after the films.

McLaren Animation Shorts I

"The Ticker Talker": has a man confronting his heart and remembering his past. It may well have been inspired in part by an old Alka-Seltzer ad in which a man goes to a marriage counselor to resolve conflicts with his stomach. I would rate it G.

"Ennui": This short film about boredom simply shows a woman who is bored and what she does to amuse herself, particularly with a fish bowl and a planter on the table. Rating: F.

"Sweet Heart": This is a peculiar allegory on lookism. An ugly doll is replaced by a Barbie-like doll and plots revenge. Rating: G.

"Selkie Dancing": Those who have seen The Secret of Roan Inish will know the legend of the selkies, the women who live inside sea-lions. This does not add a lot, but it is a nice little telling of a story of men holding on to the female spirits and trying to prevent them from returning to the sea. Rating: VG

"Side by Side": This is a lesser film of two identical twin music hall entertainers talking about Rating: F

"Block": Michaelangelo said that the way he sculpted was to start with a block of stone and remove everything that wasn't art. This seems to be the story of an artist that finds a statue of himself in a block of stone. However, freeing this statue may not be such a great idea. Rating: VG

"Oh, Julie": Two of the beautiful people discover that the beauty is all makeup. Their sex together is funny and a bit repulsive. Rating: VG

"Jumping Joan": This one is done in muted colors and tells of the title character's adventure on a river. It is mostly incoherent. Rating: F

"Abductions": Actual testimony of people claiming to have been abducted by space aliens, illustrated by animations. Fun. Rating: VG

Dinner was at the Golden Bengal at Leith Walk. Actually we had intended to go to another Indian restaurant on Leith Walk, but this place looked like it had a better combination meal. Yes, it did, and more. The fried appetizer pakora was very light; the main course was delicious. I cannot remember a tastier Indian meal ever, even in India. I told the owner that I thought it was very good and he said that the secret was fresh spices. I think, though, that it is more a style of cooking that is different than what I am used to. For one thing the food has more and richer spices than Indian cooking in the United States. It is certainly true that Indian restaurants are a lot better in Britain than in the United States. It must have something to do with the fact that Britain had strong ties with India. Maybe part of Independence said that Britain got the best chefs. I think that on our last trip Indian food was also very inexpensive in Britain. That no longer seems the case. Of course, it seems more expensive than it should be in the United States also, but it is not nearly as good and so I am less willing to pay the price. From there it was back to the room, writing, and planning for upcoming plays. We discovered some that we really would have liked to see, but which will be impossible to schedule. One play we would have liked to see was Beyond All Certainty which hypothesizes a meeting between Wittgenstein and Turing. Oh well. We start by going through the daily diary, which lists everything happening in the Fringe, and a huge list it is, taking everything that is theater look it up in the index to the Fringe guide. We put a page number next to each play and thing grouping them by pages look them up. And we will get something like ten plays we have particular interest in seeing in a two hour period. There is just a tremendous lot of things happening in the Fringe Festival.

We also watched a television program from the BBC, a half-hour comedy. It is mostly because we are taking it easy this evening. We had a heavy meal and are regenerating our energy. It seems real pity, since there is so much happening. This has got to be the largest cultural event in the world.

August 17, 1995: Methought I heard a voice cry "Sleep no more!" Damn seagulls murder sleep.

Though I have not walked down to the water, it is very near and the seagulls put up one heck of a row.

As I got up I found a ladybug crawling on me. This is the summer of the ladybugs in Europe. I am not sure what the cause was, but there is a plague of ladybugs in Europe. I think I heard about it someplace else--I forget where, but Scotland has not been spared. There must be some natural ladybug predator that is having a bad year. And you think of them being innocent, but they do bite. They eat leaves of some sort but they are not smart enough to know what is and is not their food so they occasionally take a nibble of something else, just testing. Also you probably find the odd ladybug with a taste for the exotic.

Kate was late in getting up this morning. And since she is sleeping in the living room, we more or less had to wait in the bedroom until she got up. I took a look at the films coming up and picked one that looked good. Now let's see if we can get tickets.

Our bus driver was a bit of a character. He stopped the bus at Cullen the Baker to pick up his lunch and left the bus waiting. He also whistled the title theme from The Magnificent Seven, what he knew of it at least.

Bulgakov's Moliere

"Oxmad Theatre Company. MOLIERE! Was his Marriage really incestuous? Or was it all a conspiracy? ... masked maidens, fornicating Frenchmen and murderous musketeers ... brilliantly funny, passionate play by fiery Soviet dissident, MIKHAIL BULGAKOV. Music by The Wasp Factory ... Paul Garner designs."

Well, this was the best thing we have seen so far in Edinburgh. The play follows Moliere (Bernard Horsfall) from the height of his popularity to his death. Moliere is a popular writer of comedies and a personal favorite of Louis XIV. But he has made enemies, foremost of which is the Archbishop Charron (Adrian Sharp). It seems that the Church did not like Tartuffe with its theme of religious hypocrisy. The Archbishop complains to Louis and to his shock finds that Louis's punishment for Moliere is a light reprimand and a commission to perform the very play in question. But soon events turn in the Archbishop's favor. The play is by Mikhail Bulgakov, the Soviet dissident who wrote The Heart of a Dog and The Master and Margarita. Horsfall is a stage actor primarily but he appeared in Gold, Gandhi, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Braveheart. His final scene has him on a stage staged stage bed. It appears the character Moliere died on-stage, playing a character who was in bed so we have a piece of a play within a play. When it was over Horsfall picked up the cardboard bed and said to us "this is known as 'take up thy bed and walk.'"

We made our way back to Edinburgh University for a production in English of The Threepenny Opera. We stopped at a Turkish short-order restaurant. I ordered Chicken and Mushroom Pie.

The Threepenny Opera

"Hard hitting new production of Brecht's biting satire set in a world of corruption, gangs and prostitution. Weill's jazz based score wonderfully evokes the atmosphere of decadent 1920's Berlin in this darkly humorous play. Not suitable for young children."

Perhaps the most polished production so far has been the English-language version of Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera. It was a student production at Edinburgh University. The hero, Mack the Knife, a murderer and general scoundrel, gets in and out of trouble with the help of his new father-in-law who wants to see Mackie hanged. His best friend is the lifelong pal Tiger Brown, the chief of police.

I suspect that the great popularizer of The Threepenny Opera was, of all people, Ernie Kovacs, a popular television comedian of the 1950s, long associated with Dutch Masters cigars (as was his wife after his death). He used to work Mack the Knife into his comic routines and that was where a lot of people heard the music the first time. One of Kovacs's trademarks is that you were never sure you were getting the whole joke. In this case we were not. When Kovacs was first considering doing a show for Dutch Masters he was negative on the idea. They wanted to convince him to take the job and the president of the company invited Kovacs to come and talk to him. Kovacs did not think much of someone who sells cigars for a living but came. The head of the company had been to a record store and had bought a record. Trying to gauge the man, Kovacs asked to see the record. It was The Threepenny Opera. Kovacs was impressed enough to take the job. Then as an inside joke he used to play Mack the Knife in his routines.

McLaren Animated Shorts II

The animated shorts the previous day had been good so we thought we would try again. This set tried to be more artistic and were not nearly as enjoyable.

"John's Dream": This one seems to be rendered in chalk on blackboard. The story is of a dream in which everyone looked alike. Not much to it really. Rating: F

"The Path with a Heart": This one is long and extremely dull. Neither Evelyn nor I was sure of the point but it involves a spider and a girl climbing on a cathedral. Rating: P

"The Easter Egg": This is based on a story by Saki. I may go read the story just to figure out what the film was about. Rating: F

"Head": Plays around with images of a head, distorting it. Why? Rating: F

"The Happy Prince": Another incoherent film, this one based on an Oscar Wilde story. Rating: P

"A Swim After Work": Things that look like toys load a boat and then go swimming. Rating: P

"Windward of Ithaca (John Kincaid poetry)": A poem illustrated. The poet hates Glasgow and likes his island. It is described in terms of the Odyssey. Rating: F

"The Insect House": Silhouettes of insects, spiders, and centipedes from a zoo. Rating: F

"Mani's Dying": Touching story of a girl dying of smallpox in India and the reactions of the family. Rating: G

"The Wooden Leg": A girl born with one leg is given a wooden leg. Not much done with the concept. Rating: P

"Greed": A head eats everything in sight, finally eating itself. Rating: G

"A Fishy Tale": Animated goldfish looks at the world. Not very perceptive. Not even about goldfish, since the fish has a horizontal tail like a mammal rather than a vertical one like a fish. Rating: F

"Ah Pook Is Here (Wm Burroughs)": This is a poem by William Burroughs about destruction. Ah Pook is somehow the destroyer of worlds. Rating: F

"Pib and Pog": Aardman has made some very good animated films, in particular "Creature Comforts." This is not nearly up to the same level but it is fun. In a pastiche of banal children's programs to toy people nearly kill each other. Rating: VG

"The Wrong Brothers": Two brothers try to invent flight. Eventually they learn to fly the hard way. Rating: VG

This was a disappointing lineup of short films. Following this we went to a bookstore, planned our next day, had an ice cream, and awaited the next play. The final piece of the day was a Japanese version of Macbeth.


"A fascinating bilingual (English/ Japanese) production of Shakespeare's great drama of fate, ambition, and treachery. A blend of East-West theatre techniques. Stunningly visual, with Daniel Foley, Risako Ataka, Wendy Mok."

The ad inaccurately describes this play as "bilingual." It would be more accurate to say it is Japanese with a few phrases in English. Non-Japanese speakers will have a tough time getting a lot out of it, though knowledge of the play helps a bit. Still, this one was a waste of time and money.

August 18, 1995: We went out a little early and spent our time on bookshops. I found a great book in one little shop. It is in German and called The Planets of the Solar System. It has some large illustrations in much the same style as Chesley Bonestall. The book cost #2 used. The first play is a historical one-woman show.

Elizabeth R

"Written & directed by Lebame Houston, starring Miss Barbara Hird. One-woman show focused on Queen Elizabeth I. Expect the unusual. Here's a Queen alive with passion, pain, anger, wit, love & hate. 'Houston brilliant ... Hird electrifying ... a don't miss hit show'. Vera Evans"

Well, we see two one-person shows today. This one is Elizabeth I talking about her reign, her up-bringing, and the men in her life. Barbara Hird is a forceful actress and of course this is England's finest hour. Elizabeth is worried because her brother-in-law, King Philip of Spain, is sailing north with his Armada to defend Catholicism and wrest the throne from his old chess opponent. The one thing unrealistic is what is also unrealistic about most of these one-person shows. It is hard to believe anyone can talk about himself for forty-five minutes without pausing. Anyway, this was one of the better shows.

From there we headed to Film House to see a collection of short films. As it turned out, we were waiting in the wrong place. The films were being shown in the Cameo, a much nicer theater, considerably fancier and more comfortable.

Comic Shorts

This was just what it said. Nothing serious, but it was one of the most entertaining film programs available. Included was "Five Easy Pizzas." I am not sure what these were all about. They may have been five ads for a pizza delivery shop or just five pieces each of which work in the same pizza delivery man. Of course the first three just barely have him as a character. In the last two the delivery man is the central character.

"Half a Shave": A man is called upon to shave his next-door neighbor who has just recently died. It turns out to be harder than he expected. Rating: VG

"A Poodle Film Without a Poodle": A man waiting for a plane is bothered by a poodle. It seems to be a stuffed toy, but it is unclear if it is supposed to be. Rating: G

"Great Moments in Science": This is an animated film, thank goodness. A science program explores the observation that a cat sustains its greatest injuries if dropped from a height of seven stories, and it sustains fewer injuries if dropped from a greater height. This is a great cartoon for people who secretly hate cats. Rating: E

"I Think I was an Alcoholic": This is another animated film and one we had seen previously. A former alcoholic tells how he hit bottom and rebounded with the animation making light of the situation. Rating: F

"Redback": A neatness fanatic tries to kill every crawly thing in sight. One spider is particularly endangered and eventually fights back. Rating: G

"Swinger": Things have been going bad for our hero and he has ended it all. But suddenly things take a turn for the better. Rating: G

"Five Easy Pizzas: Midday Crisis": A man takes a video course on how to be a private investigator. The job turns out to be different from what he expected. Rating: G"

"Five Easy Pizzas: Gran's Big Adventure": It is moving day and Grandma has a special adventure of her own. Rating: VG"

"Five Easy Pizzas: Bernie's Big Moment": The aptly named Bernie makes the mistake of listening to the football game while ironing. Rating: F

"Five Easy Pizzas: Prickly Heat": Our pizza delivery man is stuck in a traffic jam and everything is going wrong. Rating: VG.

"Five Easy Pizzas: EnvironMENTAL": Our pizza delivery man is just not environmentally conscious. But soon he will be. Rating: G

Overall not a bad collection of films.

Our next piece was a play called "A Celluloid Affair." We might have guessed that something was strange when it was way off the beaten path. We might have guessed that something was strange when it was in a youth recreation center. We might have guessed that something was strange when nobody else seemed to be buying tickets. We didn't.

Waiting for "A Celluloid Affair" I noted a sign which said "Due to one of the two actresses sustaining a back injury during rehearsals 'Lady Macbeth Firmed My Buttocks' has had to be canceled." Gee, whatever happened to "the show must go on?"

A Celluloid Affair--Spyfinger & First Dance

"Two original comedy pastiches that celebrate select cuts of prime British cinema. Espionage, intrigue and romance from two sparkling era's of the silver screen lovingly recreated complete with spellbinding soundtrack."

This turned out to be two skits put on by teenagers. There were other people in the audience, but I suspect they were friends and family. I have never been to a play before that they came looking for me and Evelyn when the play was about to begin. It was two skits, one a satire on James Bond movies, one on the Brief Encounter sort of wartime romance. The spellbinding score was a compilation of film music. It was mostly John Barry music for "Spyfinger," the Bond spoof. At one point I asked Evelyn to identify the music being played. When she was not sure I told her it was from The Lion in Winter. She said "My God, you're right." Given what it was, the play wasn't too bad. There were genuinely funny moments, but not enough.

Following this we walked to the Stockbridge area for our next play and looked for a place to eat dinner. There was a small cafe in the theater. I had a mincemeat and scallion pie. It was okay but a bit greasy.

Zany of Sorrow

"Irrepressible pleasures, flamboyant wit, brilliant writing - this new solo show recreates Oscar Wilde as our most phenomenal contemporary. 100 years after the trials, relish kisses and conundrums that still inspire convulsions."

This is another one-person show covering the life of Oscar Wilde. It was written and performed by Paul O'Hanrahan. The play was under 90 minutes and covered 46 years of Wilde's life. This averaged two minutes for each year of life. Some years clearly deserved a better two minutes than they got. The actor shifted from Wilde talking to other people talking about Wilde to quotations from the works. It was not always clear who was talking or what was going on. If it was Wilde supposedly talking, some was from beyond the grave since it included conversations after his death. It clearly expected that the audience would be more familiar with the body of Wilde's work than the three or four works I know.

We came for the Edinburgh Film Festival originally, but as yet I had not seen a single feature film. That was soon to be remedied. From there it was over to the M.G.M. for Carrington. It was a fancy theater and Drambuie, the major sponsor of the film festival, was giving samples. Evelyn took one. (I hate the taste of alcohol in just about any form so did not partake.)

Kate met us at the theater. She had been on a tour of the area and had nearly fallen into Loch Loman. The producer and one of the actors was present. The following is my Internet review.


Capsule: Production values are absolutely first rate, but the story is worthy of Harold Robbins. This is a true story populated with supposed geniuses, but we learn little about them except about their sex lives. With this budget, Emma Thompson, and Jonathan Pryce, somebody should have asked if this story was really worth the telling. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4)

This is the true story of a woman who made all her own choices. She chose to love a man who (in addition to being much older and a bit repulsive) was gay and could not give her a sexual relationship. She chose her lovers, ruining their lives. Yet she still ended unhappy because a gay man could not love her back the way she wanted. It seems to be the point of view of the film that we should feel very sorry for Dora Carrington. But you know, life is tough. In spite of the best efforts of the filmmaker to make Carrington a sympathetic character there is roughly 98% of humanity more deserving of sympathy. And the tears that some audience members shed for her could have been much better spent.

Dora Carrington (played by Emma Thompson) is a young but very promising art student when she first meets Lytton Strachey (Jonathan Pryce). Strachey is a most disagreeable and self-centered man. For reasons never really shown in the film Carrington falls in love with him. Their relationship is mostly platonic since Strachey is gay and not interested in sex with her. However at this point in life Carrington is not interested in sex at all, so his orientation is not a problem. That will change. It is to be presumed that their relationship is on a higher and more intellectual plane, though writer/director Christopher Hampton does painfully little to us show this. Later when Carrington decides that she does like sex after all, she takes a husband to whom both she and Strachey are attracted and apparently tries to make up for lost time. Even more fascinated by sex as she gets older, Carrington takes multiple lovers including her husband's best friend. She apparently has the looks to attract men and is little fettered by contemporary (1930s) morality or even decency.

In all this time we see little of Carrington's supposed intellect. Hampton shows us far more of her body than we see of her mind. Her talent for painting seems to be channeled mostly into home decoration. Her attraction to Strachey is never explained since he seems to have the sex appeal of an old book consumed by mildew. His conversations are more cutting than clever. Through the middle of the film nearly every scene seems to concern in some way the sex lives of the characters.

Much of Carrington seem well photographed, though at times there are disturbing and obvious shifts in filters giving some scenes a disagreeable yellow tint. The directing and acting are quite up to what you would expect for the prestige production this was intended to be. Jonathan Pryce gives an appealing portrait of a most unappealing character. Emma Thompson never gives a bad performance, but did not noticeably show us anything new in her acting besides a willingness to take her clothes off. She shows us too much of the flesh of Dora Carrington and not enough of the person.

When I saw this film, it had already won a Special Jury Prize and a Best Actor Award to Pryce at Cannes. I had high expectations and I certainly expected better than what was basically a Harold Robbins sort of sex story, only set in the first third of the century and made with high production values. I cannot rate this higher than a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Kate really liked the film. Evelyn more agreed with me that there was not much there to like. She's got good taste, that one. Evelyn and I caught the last bus back.

August 19, 1995: Breakfast of cereal and cheese and out.

The Unveiling

"Best friends, sex and drowning frogs--chilling Theatre of the Absurd from Vaclav Havel, former dissident, now president of the Czech Republic. 'The Unveiling' draws on Havel's experiences as a writer determined to be true to himself despite state repression."

To be honest, I am not all that fond of Bill Clinton's saxophone playing. If he weren't in politics nobody would care about it. Vaclav Havel on the other hand writes a terrific play. It was quite funny. Michael and Vera have fixed up their apartment. They have put a lot of time into decorating it. Now Michael is ready to show it to Ferdinand, Michael's best friend. And once they show him how great they can do just the right thing with their apartment, they are ready to go ahead and fix up everything that is wrong in Ferdinand's life.

Surprisingly enough, considering it was written by someone now a politician, this is a pretty good play, both funny and serious. Ed Errington was very funny as Ferdinand in what was obviously a painful situation. It is a short play so they included a sandwich, a drink, and a candy bar. The lunch was good--I had hummous and black current drink--but the play didn't need it, in spite of the fact it was only 40 minutes. This is one of the more recommendable plays at the Fest.

Our next event was the film The Search for Eric Campbell. Who is Eric Campbell? He was one of the perennial villains in the Charlie Chaplin silent films. He was a tall, beefy, oval-faced man with exaggerated eyebrows.

The Search for Eric Campbell

This was a very disappointing presentation since basically they were saying that they have found out very little about Campbell. They know he was Scottish and from Dunoon. Little has been found out about him beyond that other than what is known about the films he was in. He is best known as the thug in Easy Street that Chaplin knocks out with gas from a street light. He was in The Floorwalker as the owner of the store and became a favorite villain in Chaplin film, sometime with Walrus moustache, always with upturned eyebrows that were his trademark after using them in a production of The Mikado. He was almost a foot taller than Chaplin, 6'5" to Chaplin's 5'6". Stan Laurel is quoted saying he was a nice guy. He was married to one wife for fifteen years, and when she died he remarried an heiress within one month. The second marriage lasted only two weeks and he was divorced for cruelty. He liked to drive his car too fast and on December 20, 1917, his car going 60 MPH hit a car going 40 MPH. An actress and screenwriter in his car were badly hurt, Campbell was killed. Other than this sparse information and some reports that they were following leads, little is known about the beefy comedian.

We stopped for dinner at an Italian restaurant, Laszio's, across the street from the theater.


"Anouilh's masterpiece relates the tense and dramatic events leading to Henry II's betrayal of his friend Thomas Becket in war-torn medieval Europe. This highly physical and exhilarating production emphasizes the sinister qualities of one of Europe's greatest modern plays."

This was a student production and those generally are better avoided. I would have liked to see the play performed by a good cast, but I think I would have enjoyed seeing the film more than seeing a student production--which is really what this was. The play opens with a nude scene as Henry II waits to do penance for his complicity in the murder of Thomas Becket. I think that the actor misread the play. Henry II should be circumspect, not circumsized. The play is done partially in modern dress, with actors smoking cigarettes or wearing modern fur coats. Becket at first wears jacket and tie. It is somewhat distracting. Actually the two main actors were fairly decent, though the others were in varying degrees less so. There were major characters who smirked out of context, others exaggerated accents or facial gestures. Some woman in the audience kept trying to break up the actors on the stage and much of the time she succeeded. There was a horrible sound effect that was supposed to sound like the surf. It sounded more like a whistling teakettle. Just as a note, the actor who played Becket looked a bit like Burton. It was also a bit strange seeing an Indian actress playing Eleanor of Aquitaine. I guess I am of mixed minds about casting so much against type for ethnic balance. Like sorting garbage for recycling wastes, it is a politically approved sacrifice that I would prefer I wasn't asked to make. In summary this is an amateur production and even for an amateur production it was pretty amateur.

Pacific Overtures

"By Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman. A thought-provoking musical and challenging look at a tiny island in the pacific, that through a world's arrogance, became the most successful nation in the world--Japan."

If I understand what this play is, it is an American impression of a Japanese impression of an American Broadway play style telling the story of what happened in Japan when the Americans arrived trying to spread Western culture in Japan. Sondheim does some very strange stuff. While there were parts of this production that certainly require patience, it is one of the most intelligent Broadway musicals one could hope for. When four American ships are seen pulling up to Japan's shores things start changing in Japan and they never stopped. The Japanese are bewildered by the presence of the ships and the more so since the court philosophers prove that it cannot possibly have happened. This is what in science fiction is called a "first contact" story, but the alien culture is not extraterrestrial, it is the Japanese whose culture is more alien than many fictional cultures in writers' imaginations.

The man who sat next to me was wider than his seat and I was also. We spent the whole play trying not to lean against each other. I could tell from his grimaces that he thought the whole thing was my fault. It was really the fault of small seats and the hot un-air-conditioned auditorium were really where the fault was. I was seated there first anyway so he chose to sit next to me. I was there first and seating was not reserved. These rooms are 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That makes watching the plays seem particularly unpleasant.

All Hallows Eve

"A provocative adaptation of a Scottish myth by the sister company of Fringe First Shoestring Players. A tale of love, violence and magic. As the young and beautiful Jennet MacKenzie battles the Fairie Queen for the soul of her lover Tam Lin."

This was a bit of a surprise. As you take your seat in a darkened theater, hooded spirits tug at you clothes and then retreat in ghostly childish laughs. That sets the tone for the whole story done with weird interpretive dance combined with acting and loud crashing sound effects from a one-person bend. The story is about Tam Lin, a man who had been captured by the Faerie Queen seven-times-seven years ago. Now a woman must rescue him from the grip of the Faerie Queen. It really is a spell-binding production.

Well, following that we made the biggest mistake of the day. We went to a local vegetarian restaurant. We were there for about an hour. I had a very good veggie-cheeseburger. But that put us out at 12:30 AM, just when the Tattoo ended. The Tattoo is the nightly pipe and drum show that attracts about 8000 people. I think it attracted even more because it was Saturday night. Trying to get a cab was a real mess. It took almost an hour.

August 20, 1995: Nothing special about the morning. Our first play is not a play at all but a comic routine.

The Complete History of America

"500 Years in 90 Minutes--The Mother of All History Lessons. From Washington to Watergate, from Civil War to Civil Liberties, the RSC's cultural guerrillas speed through the glorious quagmire of America's struggle. 'Breathlessly paced ... slapstick merriment' New York Times."

This is a combination Stan Freberg, the Smothers Brothers, and the Firesign Theater. It is a brief history of the United States, mostly stand-up comedy schtick and little skits about historic subjects. They start by splitting "American" into "A," "Mer," and "I can": "A" for the first, "Mer" for the great sea(I forget why), and "I can" for the attitude. After some jibes at Amerigo Vespucci they are off and running.

No single part is all that funny, but the whole may be more than the sum of its parts. They were asking for questions from the audience, so I gave one that I thought was an interesting novelty. I asked why the Siege of Gibraltar considered part of the American Revolutionary War. They farbled about it, tried to change it to the Siege of Baltimore, as if there was such a thing, and eventually dropped the ball. Actually few Americans are aware of this chapter of the American Revolution. The Spanish thought that the British were pinned down fighting the colonists in America and decided it was the right time to take back Gibraltar. Actually the British have to be very pinned down not to be able to hold Gibraltar against the Spanish. The Spanish gave it the old college try and failed.

After that we had the choice of watching the greatest assembly of bagpipe pipers ever assembled--I think it is something like 8000--for a parade. Tempting, but I think it was mostly over by the time we got out of "History of America." We decided to go instead and see The Lark.

The Lark

"Rouen, 1431. The trial of Joan of Arc. Anouilh's powerful play, translated by Christopher Fry. From mysterious hillside 'voices' to triumphant coronation a politically, spiritually and sexually charged production as much about 'playing' history as history itself."

I am really impressed with a young actress I have seen here. When Justine Waddell is on the stage it is hard to tear attention away from her. I think she is just a student actor, but I want to see her in something else again soon. She listens with better acting talent than most actors can muster to speak. She give a performance of incredible intensity and hypnotic power. I have seen actors better paid at the Fringe, but nobody has given a performance of strength that has even come close.

This play by the playwright of Becket tells of the trial and persecution of Joan of Arc, recounting her story. As with Becket, the story is told in flashback. Joan is given a double nature of the innocent country girl led by her voices and an almost too clever manipulator of people. She makes it believable that people would follow Joan. Her ability to make people do what she want belies her supposed origins but seems completely believable. She find the Dauphin Charles a weak child lacking self-esteem and makes him believe in her with her enthusiasm. Late in the play it bogs down a bit in philosophical discussion, but Waddell's high-energy performance makes every instant watchable. I do hope we hear from her again. It is hard to see someone as young as she is give so mesmerizing a performance and not expect her to have an impressive acting career ahead of her.

We had a couple of hours free after the play and so went to the park to hear Scottish folk music, they are having a rambunctious concert, but I put in ear plugs long enough to write about The Lark. Scottish folk music sounds a lot like Irish folk music. I guess it comes out of the same Celtic tradition.

Evelyn had arranged a passive cancellation dinner with Jack Campin and Kate at the Golden Bengal. Unfortunately the parade was still diverting buses. Neither of our guests showed up. However a large group did show up and came in ahead of us so service was very slow. The meal was good, but we had to forego the desert that came with it, to catch a bus that did not seem to come. After throwing down the money without benefit of getting the check, so we left a little extra, we ran to the bus stop and stood waiting for twenty minutes. Finally we got the bus and rushed to the Film House. There we found that there was a large crowd of people waiting to see these two films. The films were 3 and "The Hunger Artist." Now we had already seen the latter, but were anxious to see 3. Waiting at the bus stop I predicted to Evelyn that the films would start fifteen minutes late and that "The Hunger Artist" would run first. And it happened just as expected. We ran out of the restaurant 7:30 PM to make a movie that really didn't start until 9:15 PM. There was a big crowd there to see the film, mostly young people, many made up in strange neo-pagan-looking costumes. The reaction seemed to be like we have in the United States for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But we were not sure why this film, premiering tonight, would already be a cult favorite. Sitting through "The Hunger Artist" was a real pain. This is particularly true since the theater was something like 90 degrees. There is a lot of that going around. Scotland is having record hot temperatures and few of the theaters are air conditioned. If you put a lot of hot people in a theater, you end up with a very uncomfortable theater.

3 and "The Hunger Artist"

Finally the film 3 came on. This is clearly not a very polished film. I saw elements of The Wicker Man, Carnival of Souls, and The Last Wave. But it was done considerably cheaper. A graphics designer wakes up on the beach and his life seems to have entered the Twilight Zone. He keeps being followed by some sort of shaman that nobody else sees. This all seems focussed around neo-pagan rituals. The feeling one gets is that this is almost a recruitment film for neo-paganism, which seems to be very popular at the current moment. The character goes to the Beltane celebration and finds some sort of fulfillment there. In the end he seems to adopt paganism. All along the film is punctuated with puppet interludes to make a commentary on the action.

Somehow it seems a false step, but the point seems to be made in 3 that pagan ways are environmentally sound. I am not convinced that if you advance pagan ways into the present that they really are as environmentally sound as is suggested. The druids do worship nature, but it is one thing to worship something, it is another to treat it for its own good. Pagan ceremonies like bringing logs into houses are not necessarily what is best for nature. One could make a case that in the 11th Century, Christian customs were actually what we would now consider to be the more environmentally sound. That did not prevent a predominantly Christian culture from developing a society that has global warming.

As for 3, I rate it a zero, though it is fairly interesting as a film. Afterwards there was a question and answer session that we attended with the director. I asked if the neo-pagan movement was taken religiously or as a recreation of cultural heritage. Apparently there are people who see it each way. I mentioned the three films that it had reminded me of, without saying that it really wasn't up to the quality of any of them. The director had, as expected, seen The Wicker Man. She had seen Carnival of Souls after having made this film and did not see much similarity. I pointed out the character seems to be pulled into a dream world where he is haunted by a mysterious person who seems to be haunting him. In fact, if you replace paganism with death it is a very similar story. The actor who played the shaman said that he was not really a neo-pagan, he was a communist. Someone else brought up that there is a link between shamanism and communism. Oh, really? They also made the claim that William Blake, the poet, was the last great shaman. Did he know it?

The whole time we were talking there was the loud rhythmic thumping. Toward the end they invited the group in. It turns out that it was a related activity. The people who had come dressed as pagans were having some sort of ceremony which involved dancing and capering to a loud drumbeat. They were invited in and danced wildly around the room, then returned to the outer room. It really was reminiscent of a Bacchanal. Apparently there are a lot of people who take neo-paganism very seriously. There is a real revival of the Old Religions. We certainly have neo-pagan friends in the United States. I don't pass judgment. I do pass judgment on the supposed link between communism and shamanism. They would have to go a long way before they could show me a link there.

After the Q&A most of the people joined the ceremony in the outer room. We slipped out in time to catch the last bus. Kate had not been able to get to the restaurant in time due to the lockup in the bus system. We talked till about 1 AM.

August 21, 1995: I saw an odd sign from the bus. A church had put up a bill showing a red-faced, angry God standing on a cloud throwing down lightning bolts. "Is this your God? Come and meet ours." Now this is an interesting concept. The idea seems to be that you choose a religion by liking its interpretation of God. It is a very subjective image of God. If God is a vengeful God, will changing churches make him more pleasant and amiable? It is like saying "If your church says that chickens have only two legs and you like drumsticks, come to our church. We teach that chickens have six legs." Are there really people who believe that you can change the actual nature of God by interpretation? I am not pushing any particular interpretation of God, but if there really is one, it seems to me He is either vengeful or not and joining a different church will not change Him.

Religion is a speculation about something in a box within a vault behind a curtain. What people do this side of the curtain does not change the contents of the box. Someone with a more comforting philosophy about what is in the box is no more likely to be correct. Anyone who tells you they have been able to figure out on this side of the curtain what is in the box is lying to you. The world's greatest expert on the subject, you, and someone who has never even thought about the subject all have exactly equal knowledge about what could be in the box.

We got up late and went to see Victory.

Victory - Choices in Reaction

"Carapace presents Howard Barker's violent and exhilarating depiction of revenge and subterfuge within the court of Charles II. Innovative and darkly confrontational, this atmospheric and energetic promenade production features live music and a strong ensemble cast."

Victory is a play of the "maggots in a rotting corpse spewing bile" school of storytelling. It intentionally pushes its punches. There are no real sympathetic characters, though there are certainly some you are really hoping will meet some nasty fate. It is the Restoration and Charles II soldiers are running around raping, killing, and using their imaginations on how to be particularly nasty. The wife of a leading Roundhead goes off looking for available parts of her husband whose head and torso are featured in separate public art exhibitions. Meanwhile in Charles's court people are fascinated with sex and little else. And the nice thing about all this joy is that the audience is right in the center of it. The play takes place in a dark room and the audience is herded around and none too gently. This is history with all the rough edges honed.

We walked to the Cafe Royal (home of the Bar Sinister?) for the play Borrowed Plumes. We stopped at a bakery to get a drink. I got a bottle of Snapple. They didn't have the tea. I would have thought they would have carried Snapple tea here, but I didn't see it. I think it may be because Snapple Tea has an illustration of the Boston Tea Party on the label. They are not so pleased about the event in Britain.

Borrowed Plumes

"True story of William Henry Ireland, 18th Century Shakespeare forger. 'Andrew Stanson plays the part to perfection ... best monologue I've seen in longer than I care to remember ... undiscovered gem of the 1993 Fringe' The Stage 'Compelling' Evening News" (one of many plays by John Cargill Thompson at the Fringe).

This is a one-person play about William Henry Ireland, the a 18th Century playwright. He was the son of a Shakespeare scholar and researcher. His father was desperate to find something written by the Bard himself. Just a single line in Shakespeare's own handwriting. Ireland provided it and things got out of hand. Ireland ended writing an entire play for Shakespeare in Shakespeare's absence. Ireland was eventually exposed, of course, though the play did not make that really clear to me. I thought I had dozed off, but we bought a copy of the play and I remember every word; it just ended abruptly and inconclusively.

The buying was because on the way out the author was selling the play along with four others by him, and threw in a T-shirt for #4.50. Evelyn likes T-shirts so she took him up. Thompson talked to us a little while about why he thought that the Fringe Festival has gone downhill. Of course, we did not have a lot to compare it with. He thought that what was happening was that the Fringe was charging too much to the people putting on the plays and that the ticket price was going too high. Also it was not obvious to the play-goers what were the professional troupes and which were amateurs. With the price differential people were paying #5 for what were basically amateur productions. The standard price for a play used to be #3. In just three or four years it has gone up to #5. He thought that the festival was becoming too expensive. It certainly is true that this is the most expensive vacation, day-for-day, that we have had in a long time.

Because I was feeling a little drowsy in the play, I stopped to get an orange juice and at the same time took a caffeine pill. It was the first one this trip, but the late nights have been causing problems. From there we went to the Cameo for a film.

One of the sponsors of the film festival has been Phileas Fogg Tortilla. We would call them "tortilla chips." I am a little surprised they are not called "tortilla crisps" here, but they are just called "tortilla." The Film House and the Cameo each have a large basket, more a hamper, out front with sample packets of tortilla. There are multiple flavors: plain, nacho, tomato basil, and extra hot. Toward the beginning of the festival the ones that were the harder to find were the extra hot. I know because that was my favorite flavor. But you did not see them because it is the least popular flavor. Even Kate and Evelyn refuse to eat the extra hots. Then the festival office ran out of the other flavors, now it is just the extra hots that you can get. I am trying to control myself. But they do indicate that in Britain you can get hot food if you know where to look. They are not the hot food cowards that United States restaurants and food companies are. Americans make a big fuss if their food is too hot for them. As a result it is really tough to find restaurants that are willing to serve spicy food.

Strange Stories

There are two films showing here. Advertised was only Strange Stories. But they threw in longish short called "Isle of the Voices." The latter is based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson. It concerns a ne'er-do-well whose father-in-law is a sorcerer with a supply of gold. The gold turns out to be from a magical island and the sorcerer has a box that takes him there. It turns out to be not such a good place to be.

The film we had come to see was Strange Stories. Unfortunately, it is one of those films that you cannot tell what it is about without spoiling the film to some extent. It is an anthology film with three stories, but there is very little of interest in the stories besides the basic concept. They really don't develop the ideas very well. So skip down to the end of the review if you do not want the story ruined.

A man is on a train with his teenage daughter who asks her father to tell her stories. The father tells three stories that reflect concerns about the state of the world. The first story is about a man who did not pay his air bill so the air company turns off his air supply. It is not clear how they do this, but he is suffocating on a busy street while others beside him, presumably who have paid their bill, can breath perfectly well. He must rush to the air company, suffocating all the way, to pay his bill. The second story is about a woman who is lonely so goes to the meat section of her local grocers where they sell men. The third story deals with two families, one slobs, one snobs, who do not get along and things get worse and worse. The film was amusing but much more could have been done with the stories. I give it a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.

After that we went to an Asian noodle shop we had been seeing to try noodle dinner. There is apparently not much of an Asian population here. The meal was at best mediocre.

Back at the room we wrote, and watched an episode of Michael Moore's TV Nation, which had among other things a story about a boy who had gotten school credit for gay-bashing. We mostly wanted wait up for Kate to hear how she liked what she saw. She was seeing The Lark and 3. Generally Kate's taste is not very much like ours. After I recommended The Lark, I wanted to see if Kate liked it as much as I did. More. She said that Justine Waddell gave the best performance she had ever seen on a stage. Kate was crying toward the end of the play. I wish there was some way to buy stock in Justine Waddell's career.

Kate liked 3 better than we did, seeing mystical meaning beyond the mysticism we saw.

August 22, 1995: There is not a lot to say about most of the mornings here. Today we helped Kate pack the box of books she had bought. I rather suspected that it would come to a large sum of money to ship a heavy box. The books in the bookstores (particularly the used bookstores) are cheap. They hauled the box to the bookstore and it turned out to be #57 or about US$91 in postage. Evelyn claims we should be paying about 10% for the one book we have. Perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration. I don't think our book was 10% of the weight. But we are spending US$9 in postage for a book that cost us US$3.20.

Our first play of the last really full day is Reunion.


"By David Mamet. Blue Angel Productions returns to the Fringe with a penetrating exploration of the fragmented, tender, potentially explosive relationship between a recovering alcoholic and the daughter he abandoned. By the acclaimed author of Oleanna and The Cryptogram."

Reunion is three short plays by David Mamet. Actually it is one play padded out with a short play before it and one after it. There seemed to be little sense in the two short plays. Nothing seemed to be resolved and frankly neither of us really understood the point of them.

"The Sanctity of Marriage": A married couple with a marriage in trouble talking about their past together as the husband is about to leave for someplace unspecified.

"Reunion": This was the real play, and except by comparison to the other two, it is a fairly minor effort. It has a father and his daughter getting together years after the father abandoned his family to become a full-time alcoholic. The daughter has always blamed the father and the play explores his background as he sunk into alcoholism, and her reaction and unwillingness to accept him after he rejected her.

"Dark Pony": Same two actors, but now the woman plays a little girl to whom the father tells a story as he drives her home. Again, there didn't seem to be much point. As the chapters progressed the woman goes from being wife, to grown child, to young child of the man. She didn't really have the range.

The British Air magazine had an article on the proper etiquette of queues. The myth is that the British are used to queues and respect the rules. That is the myth anyway. There are any number of things that I respect the British about. This whole festival is something that one would not see in the United States. But, sorry, there are a very sizable number of the British who just know nothing at all about the etiquette of queues or just ignore them. When we travel they have no respect for the concept of queues. They push right into the front of the line. Of course, this is Britain. The Americans who don't like queue etiquette are less likely to be here, but even in Africa, it seemed the American tourists had more respect for lines than most Europeans. Even the British cut in front of us in line, though the British seemed better than, say, the Italians. What prompts this is that there were some locals who stood by the door and jumped the queue when the time went to go in. On the other hand, I cannot complain about the seats I got.

Lovecraft: To Cthulhu and Beyond

"A tribute to H. P. Lovecraft, master of the supernatural in the true Gothic tradition. A journey to the outer darkness of human experience. Dynamic, Physical, Inventive. Astonishing visual theatre from this powerful young company."

This is a student production with a lot of rough edges and some effective moments. As the play begins the inmates of an asylum are pacing around for longer than is actually interesting to watch. They are wearing black striped makeup for no particular reason that has much to do with the plot and it seems an artificial effect. Even the doctors of the asylum are wearing crudely applied grease paint. The tale purports to be a case history of an inmate who escaped from the asylum. One quickly realizes that the story is one more adaptation of Lovecraft's only novel, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Jarring is the use of rock music and the hearing of so many British accents in a story set in Providence, Rhode Island. That would not have been a serious problem. There was a problem of not enough rehearsal so there were misdelivered lines and problems like the sound effects overwhelming the narrator. Some effects were not as effective as they might have been including the actors storming audience and the use of black light effects. Overall, it falls short does not deserve the overly optimistic title "Cthulhu and Beyond." I think it fell short of Cthulhu.


"Tom Stoppard throws Lenin, James Joyce, Tristram Tzara and 'The Importance of Being Ernest' together in wartime Zurich. What results is a fiendishly clever, sharp and witty comedy of errors. 'A cast and director of coolness and confidence' The Scotsman"

Tom Stoppard writes (at least) two kinds of plays. He writes the straightforward story type of play and the philosopher's chestnut sort of play. The latter is not to be taken literally it is more a set of puzzles and paradoxes. His best known of the latter variety is Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, but he has written others. Travesties is just such a play. The play starts with four people seated at a table picking up words at random from scraps of paper and making sentences of them. Part of the point of the play is to decide if these nonsense phrases constitute art. Stoppard is asking us to define what art is and particularly what its boundaries are. And is the distinction between art and a random process really important? And so the play goes, playing with the audience and exploring attitudes about art. ("Art is extremely over-rated by the artist. Art is extremely over-rated by everyone else.") Stoppard playfully throws in puns ("my art belongs to Dada"). At one point the dialogue shifts to having the actors talking in limericks. The story is not the point and certainly any similarity to characters like Lenin and their historical counterparts is purely coincidental. This is a play you should not see performed. You really want to read the play to give you a chance to think about it. Even that is not ideal. Even more you want to be able to read it and at the same time to have Stoppard there to argue with.

After that we started thinking about dinner. I liked the Vegetarian Cafe where we had eaten a couple nights before. It was a bit of a walk, but that was not a bad thing. Walking over we passed Garrison Keillor walking in the other direction. For those who don't know of him, Keillor is a humorist and a radio entertainer. He is best known for the radio program A Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio. I had heard he was here for a book event at the Book Festival. Probably he has a new book out. Keillor himself is a marvelously tall and ugly man. He looks like he has a perpetual frown. As a result of his stern looks he probably has had to develop a sense of humor just to put people at ease. He is probably like Gwylplaine from Hugo's The Man Who Laughs, only in reverse. He probably saw us looking at him as he passed, but we made no sign of recognition. He probably knew we recognized him, but we could pretend just to be gawking at him like we would any tall ugly man who passed us on the side of Princes Street. It could have as easily been an uncomprehending gawk as a comprehending one. I don't know. I think he knew we knew. But I think he knew we didn't know he knew and in that he didn't have to acknowledge us gawking at him. And in just not having to go to the trouble of acknowledging he probably felt relieved. I wonder if it was really him.

Journey West

"1993 Fringe Festival winners return with fiercely innovative comedy. From Peking Opera to gangster movies, Ming travels armed with mop, bucket and a dream. 'Beguiling ... dazzling ... packed with images that linger long after it's all over.' What's On."

What initially attracted our attention to this production is that we thought it might be a production of Pilgrimage to the West, the great Chinese novel that is occasionally called Journey to the West. That is not what it is about, not surprisingly, since you could not do a lot of the story on the stage in an hour or so. Instead, it is Ivan Heng telling the story of his leaving Singapore and coming to London. Chantal Rosas Cobian and Ivan Heng wrote the script for one performer. The play is an indictment of Britain for their racist attitudes and for making it so difficult for the young immigrant and, in general, just for not knowing Chinese culture. Frankly, I find Chinese culture fascinating and I would like to see things made easier for immigrants, but I could not be entirely sympathetic to Heng. His first complaint is that he got homesick for Singapore. This cannot entirely be held against Britain. It is not entirely Britain's fault that it is not Singapore. He complains that prices for imported Chinese foods are a lot more than they would be in Singapore. Does this really surprise him? Later he complains that his agent keeps calling him with acting job offers that want to use him as a drug pusher or an alien. This too does not strike me as a really valid complaint. Britain has a small Asian community and they don't make that many films that have Asians as role models. In the United States, we get Asian-American filmmakers making films with positive role models for Chinese. And we have some white male filmmakers doing the same. But the filmmakers probably should be able to adjust their needs to their market; they don't owe Asians good roles. This play seems to indicate that its main character got a lot of job offers, only not for the roles he would have liked. There are lots of actors not getting the offers who have it a lot worse. Not all eyes weep for an actor with so many job offers. Much of the story is told in silent pantomime. Some of that makes it clear what is going on, some doesn't. The simple fact is that much of what Heng complains about are problems faced by all minorities. It would be nice if things could be better for immigrants like Heng, but life is tough. Lots of immigrants have come to a lot of countries and it must be a very small percentage who have found the experience a total joy. Usually there is a lot of hard work and a lot of misunderstanding that has to be overcome. Heng's character Peter seems to have it a lot better than most. As a document of experiences, this is a pretty good play. It is not always clear what Heng is trying to show us, but generally it is moving. The tone of complaint in the play is misguided. As for Heng's complaint at the end that there are a lot of empty seats is not a valid complaint after laying guilt trips on his audience. The Festival has open competition for audience. This play was certainly entertaining at times, but Heng has no right to complain to his audience that he is being poorly treated and complain that more people are not paying him to hear his complaints.

After the play we took a walk, in spite of the fact that the next play was in the same building. I got a can of Irn Bru. After discussing the play we went back to the theater for The Twilight Zone. Kate was going to meet us, but she did not seem to show up. Finally they herded us into the theater and there was still no Kate. Just as they were closing the door she hobbled in. It seems she had re-sprained her ankle. She seems to be doing that every few days. Again it was a problem on a bus. This is really a sad problem. Kate has a disagreeable and low-paying job at a nursing home. It is one of those jobs that we all know if there were any justice would be a high-paying job, but it isn't. You know, the phrase they use is that "it is a dirty job, but someone has to do it." It is just that the someone is not paid very well for doing it. So she has been working double shifts for a year to pay for this trip. And when the trip finally comes it is one painful ankle sprain after another. She sprained the ankle trying to stand on a bus. When she go off she was feeling very depressed as well as in pain. It was at this point that a seagull used her for target practice, covering one lens of her glasses. I generally have bad luck when I travel, but her experience has to be a classic.

Twilight Zone--Live-On-Stage

"Twilight Zone will take you to a fifth dimension. A dimension of sight, sound and mind where exile to a distant planet in 'The Lonely' and the evil presence of 'The Howling Man' will leave you shivering."

At one point we were talking with an audiophile about getting CDs of film soundtracks. She asked did we really want the soundtrack recording--isn't it possible that there is an even better performance of the same music? The answer is no, you can not hope to improve on the original, you can only hope to be a very close imitation. The Twilight Zone is a stage play that is effectively two scripts from the original television series done on the stage. From the start it is less than ambitious. I am not sure why we even chose to see the play except that it was fantasy. The first play was "The Lonely." Unfortunately a cast of young nobodies cannot beat Jack Warden and Jean Marsh. The play could have been a lot worse, I suppose. There was an over-the-top Serling imitation narrating, but the play itself was done straight and the original music by Bernard Herrmann was used. Some of the acting could have been better. The real shock scene in the original was when the robot was shot and showed mechanical innards. Doing the story on stage meant that couldn't be done. But at least it was a respectful, if short, stage version of the story.

At the interval, trivia questions were asked about the television series The Twilight Zone and joke prizes were given out. Evelyn won a British Air travel pack with toothbrush, socks, and sleeping mask that somebody in the troupe decided they could not use. She won this for knowing how many seasons the series was on, five. I could fill in the blank in "There is a (blank) dimension." The answer was "fifth." I won a joke plastic tooth on a toothpick.

The television play "The Howling Man" uses exaggerated acting and camera angles. They could not imitate the camera angles, but they hammed the play up and got laughs from the audience. It was still reasonably successful as an adaptation except like the first play it needs a special effect toward the end and they just left it out.

When it was over we hailed a cab and returned to the flat.

August 23, 1995: This is our last day at the Festival. It is one play and one film and taking it easy. I had intended to catch up in my log and read From the Earth to the Moon and Around It, but we ended talking to Kate and just lazing around the flat. Not that that was a bad choice either. From rumors and the sounds of the sea gulls we supposedly were down very near the water, but we never actually saw any water. So we went out to see some naturally occurring water. We were actually very near a sort of doorway very near one end of the street, but we had never been through it. We figured it would be good to explore and sure enough, it took us right to the docking of a boat used as a restaurant. We were, as we suspected, right at the edge of the water, but the buildings were hiding it from us. After exploring a little we went back to the room, made a lunch of leftover Indian food. We were trying to finish off as much in the refrigerator as we could. I tried to drink a bit of the Idris and the Irn Bru. Idris is a local brand of ginger beer. Ginger beer is something that is only sporadically available in the United States. It is much like super-gingery ginger ale. You don't seem to be able to get it anyplace I can find in the United States. You can get it from Schweppes, but it is weak, and you can get it from Goya, but they put pepper in. There used to be a decent brand called Old Tyme, but they no longer seem to make the stuff or distribute it in our area. A friend once recommended ginseng soda to me. I recommended ginger beer. We agreed to trade bottles. We both agreed that ginger beer is a lot better. The other local favorite is Irn Bru. It is an orange colored soda with a distinctive flavor unlike any American soda I know, thought is not far from what Indiana calls red cream soda. The ads used to say "made from steel girders," but they no longer say that. Probably the government stepped in and said that you cannot lie to the public. And if it is the truth, you really can't serve that to the public.

The electronics are just enough different here to be confusing. After lunch I was vacuuming the flat. I vacuumed the bathroom last and shut off the light. I put away the vacuum cleaner and as I was walking away I heard a clank sound like a pebble dropping into a can. What the heck was that? I want back into the bathroom to see if it was something in there and the light would not go on. Well, we needed a light so it needed to be fixed somehow. My first thought was that it was a fuse, but Evelyn suggested it was the bulb. I could imagine a circuit breaker making the sound I heard, but not a bulb. There is nothing of much mass that moves in a light bulb. Well, okay, forget about the sound I heard and try to remove the light bulb. First I have to figure out how to take the glass covering off of the light fixture in the dark. It has three screws sort of inset, does one take those out or is there a spring release? Or perhaps does one rotate the cover. In New Jersey it would be screws that I could hand turn, but who knows what the system is in Scotland? I twist the cover in the hopes it does not break but it does not seem to come off. Okay, the screws are the next approach. But they are recessed under the cover and it isn't easy. Evelyn has little thin fingers so she can do it better so I let her do the second screw. Sure enough the light bulb is sitting loose in the cover as if it popped out on its own. How did it do that? Well, it doesn't screw in the way light bulbs do in the United States do. Instead it has two retaining pegs in the neck of the base a lot like bolts in the neck of the Frankenstein Monster. Actually it's also the way old flashbulb used to work. You push the bulb straight in and then twist it to the right. First I stick the old bulb back in and test the light. It does not work. This is assuming I am working the switch right. That means the bulb did blow. Unless the fuse blew. We still haven't ruled that one out. So we get a bulb from the cupboard. I put it in and twist. The light doesn't come on. One last chance. I have Evelyn flip the switch at the door. Shazam and hosanna! The light comes on. So I have Evelyn screw the cover back on. To an American who does not know how things are done here this is a long and complex operation. I was proud of myself I was able to figure out the process. But to a local what happened was I found a bulb burned out in the loo and changed it. Somehow it doesn't sound as impressive that way.

Well, it was about time to head out for our next play. We got a bus. It is amazing to ride the busses here in these narrow streets. The bus looks like it takes up the whole street. So does the lorry that is coming straight at me. (A "lorry" is a truck that stops at or near 4 PM because the driver "fancies a cuppa.") To see these two feel their way past each other is an amazing thing to behold.

Doctor Faustus

"Bored genius seeks ultimate thrill. Doctor John Faustus has done it all--law, medicine, philosophy, divinity. Still there's something missing and now he's ready to try magic. Marlowe's hedonist pilgrim comes raving into the 90's in this electric new production."

After seeing A Celluloid Affair at the same venue and finding it a fairly amateur production, I expected that Doctor Faustus to be an equally amateur affair. In fact, it was done in modern dress, but otherwise it was quite a respectable rendition of the Marlowe. It followed Marlowe's words verbatim as far as I could tell. The Faustus was sufficient to the role and the Mephistopheles with punk ponytail, dark glasses, a cigarette and a sneer, was effective. Beyond that the rest of the cast was eight people in black clothes who each played a variety of roles. I suppose they cannot be criticized, but they mispronounced the name of the title character. His name is pronounced "Fostus" and not "Foustus." But after Goethe rewrote the story and called his character "Faust," pronouncing it "Foust," the Marlowe character started being mispronounced by everybody.

This was one of the first really popular plays. At the time it was played, it really worried the officials because it gathered a crowd for secular reasons. Up until this point it was only church matters that ever accumulated a crowd in London, and this and Marlowe's Edward II were a new phenomenon that worried the public officials, who had not yet invented means of crowd control, immensely. Also, the subject matter was extremely frightening. Some actors would only play the play with crosses stitched to their costumes. In spite of the religious message, the fact that it was not the church providing the entertainment was a great concern. Also on performance was stopped when it was said that there was one more devil on stage than the producers could account for. The devils used to arrive on stage from under the stage with sparks emanating from their mouths and the other end.

After the play we went to the same Italian restaurant as the other night, Laszio's, for dinner. I had a local delicacy, ham and pineapple pizza. For me the combination does not quite work. It was tasty, but mostly for its pizza-ness and not for its pineappability.

Walking Kate to her bus stop we headed out for our final Festival activity, the film Bombay.


Capsule: While by Western standards this is not a great film, it towers above most films made for the Indian domestic market. Western viewers who do not know the conventions of Indian domestic films may be puzzled by the combination of light comedy and serious political content, but will find the film rewarding nonetheless. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4)

The vast majority of Indian films are weak exploitation films intended to entertain mass audiences, and rare is the film made for the domestic Indian market that looks intelligently at a serious issue. People in India usually do not go to the movie theater to be edified by a film with serious meanings. That is why a film like Bombay is so unusual and is touring international film festivals. It performs a balancing act trying to please the entertainment audiences and at the same time trying to be an indictment of the violence of the 1993 religious riots in Bombay. Trying to do both, it is not altogether successful at either. There are nightmarish depictions of the riots that presumably will bother the entertainment-oriented audience. Still, in the examination of its real issues it betrays itself twice, first in putting the serious themes so late in the film and then in treating those themes overly simplistically. To an American audience it will seem that Bombay mixes 1990s violence with a simplified view of the issues of racial intolerance much like the United States might have had in the 1950s. It does not look very deeply at the causes of the religious differences for fear of appearing to take sides. Instead, it limits its message to saying simply that violence is wrong and whatever the religious differences they are, rioting is not the way to resolve them. That is an important statement but not all that profound. Effectively India has discovered the politically correct film. One of the film's reviewers called this India's Schindler's List. The comparison applies only if comparing Bombay to other Indian films.

Our story starts like a classic "Romeo and Juliet" plot. Young Hindu boy Shekhar Misra (played by Aruind Swami) loves Muslim girl Shaila Banu (Manisha Koirala). He knows his family will never approve--his father does not like even Northern Hindus, much less Moslems--but he goes ahead and courts her. When his family objects too strongly he flees to Bombay and sends for Banu. Bombay initially represents the anonymity and tolerance of a cosmopolitan city. However, their love has already caused a feud between the two families and it continues in their absence. While the plot takes a comic turn of the newlyweds unable to find privacy to be together in Bombay, the reluctant fathers-in-law escalate a feud. This is all done with a light touch, but soon the theme of intolerance will be handled more shockingly. The city of Bombay is about to be torn apart by riots, and the film will get a good deal more serious.

Western critics discussing Bombay find it odd that a light comedy turns into an angry political indictment. The original film was probably an even stranger combination. The version we are seeing is reportedly cut down from a version in which there were also the traditional love songs mixed in. There are some light musical interludes in what is being shown but not the popular songs that were probably in the original. It might be a mistake to attribute the combination to the originality of writer and director Mani Ratnam. It is much more a convention of Indian domestic films that all films are musicals and comedies. As an example, Khal-Naaikaa, a remake of the American horror film The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, was very close to the original except for the seemingly incongruous injection of comedy and musical sequences into the story. But in spite of this, what does come through is often moving, though at times not as subtle as a Western viewer might like. At times the action stops as a character make speeches for tolerance. But what other critics are finding fresh and original is, in fact, a cultural difference and almost inevitable in Indian domestic films. Incidentally, I noted the credit included a dance director in spite of the fact that there was no real dance in the version we saw.

The camera work for Bombay is a little showy. Several simple effects are used including slow-motion, scenes rushing past the camera, and strobe effects as well as subjective hand-held camera shots.

Also, the film might have been a bit better with a screen or two at the beginning explaining the basis of the conflict and the name of a political group referenced in the film. This would serve a double purpose. It would not only help foreign audiences understand the conflict, it would also bind the film together by promising that there will be serious political material coming up. There certainly was some question why, for example, the Moslems in the film are so opposed to a particular temple to Ram being built. While most of what goes on becomes clear from context, most Western viewers could do with a few notes.

While the basic subject matter is contrived, this is certainly the best Indian domestic film in years. Rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale.

This was our final event of the Festival. We were in time to catch a bus back to Leith Walk. So ends our Festival. I will take some days off of log writing. Evelyn writes such complete Worldcon convention reports, there is no point in competing. And I could use the rest.

[August 24-28 skipped]

August 29, 1995: Well, our convention is over. I still am not caught up in my writing from the first part of the trip. I won't report on the convention. That is pretty much Evelyn's preserve, and I know I can use the rest. I have promised to write up a couple of the panels that I went to.

Breakfast was the buffet in the hotel. I am beginning to dread buffets. I start to worry about getting my money's worth. I would hate to waste a culinary opportunity. The result is that I wreck my diet and feel stuffed and tired all day.

We have changed our Scottish money to English money. In Scotland an English pound and a Scottish pound are interchangeable. But only in Scotland is Scottish money accepted. English money is usable anywhere in Britain.

We checked out and called a taxi. The driver seemed affable enough. He was a businessman who had had some reversals. He had been involved in a business to bring Irn Bru to the United States but found that different water gave it a different flavor. I guess in Scotland it has more of a flavour. I am actually a bit surprised it is not made from distilled water which presumably tastes the same all over the world.

Before we knew it we were at Glasgow International Airport and were checked in. There were quite a number of science fiction fans at the gate. We had our last panel at the gate. Toward the end we saw our best friends, Dale and Jo, had come to the gate. We had not compared notes to realize we were taking the same plane. Not that it made a whole lot of difference. We didn't have very long to talk to them.

Also we saw on the plane Robert Sawyer, whose science fiction usually concerns dinosaurs. Book critic Moshe Feder said hello to Evelyn. He writes for Isaac Asimov's Magazine of Science fiction.

It was just a short flight. They served a snack of three quarter sandwiches and a fruit tart.

After we got off the plane we sat in a waiting area and talked to Moshe Feder who had some time waiting for a plane. He had also been to the Edinburgh Festival. He liked the "Twilight Zone" play better than we did.

We take the bus to Cardiff. As we wait for the bus I see a woman with a cane on four wheels like a walker. You don't really see that in the United States. I go to a drink machine to get a can of Lilt, the local pineapple-grapefruit flavored soda that seems to be one of the local Coca-Cola products. At least the two are usually seen together. Two cans drop from the machine. I wonder if that is a good omen. There is a crowd trying to get on the bus. We line up. The gentleman behind us talks to Evelyn but between his accent, the crowd and bus noise, and my usual quirky hearing, I cannot make out what he is saying. He said we were not likely to get a double-decker bus. The wind blows them off the bridge. The man loading luggage finds a bag that someone has left to be loaded and that causes a problem. He wants the man to be there before he loads the luggage. "I don't want to get blown up today," he explains.

The driver is a character, starting out his trip with a humorous description of the bus and its facilities. In spite of the name "Jonckheere" on the bus it really isn't all that bad. It isn't as comfortable as the train we took to Glasgow, but it seems to have facilities very like what you would have on a plane. There is even a stewardess serving food for those who want it. I am not sure if it was included in the price of the ticket. I will have a cuppa and find out, I suppose. The one thing marring the ride is the weather which is typically British, a little rainy and ugly. I might have wanted to see more of the countryside than I am seeing, but I am seeing farmland, some sheep in fields, etc. The lorry we just passed had a large Labrador in the front seat. One thing to say for the British: they do have a proper appreciation of dogs. A friend was telling me the difference between dog and cat psychology. A dog looks at his owner and says, "He feeds me and takes care of me. He must be a god." A cat looks at its owner and says, "He feeds me and takes care of me. I must be a god."

We pass a small and slightly tatty community in which all the houses are mobile homes. It seems more stable than a trailer park, however, and most of the homes have out-buildings like sheds.

I pass the time by asking Evelyn a little math problem. I ask her what is more, a dollar-mile or a pound-kilometer? Of course the ratio would fluctuate, but right about now the answer would also. Taking the exchange rate the night before we left, a dollar-mile is 1.007 pound-kilometers or very close.

As we cross the Severn Bridge we enter Wales. The architecture looks distinctly different. Homes look smaller and more quaint and the roads through the towns seem more twisty.

As we enter Cardiff we see streets that have row after row of one house hotels. Chock-a-block. Still there are tandoori restaurants and fish and chip take-aways like in Scotland. It doesn't look a lot different from England. I guess that isn't too surprising. We arrived and got our luggage. I was a bit afraid they had lost my luggage (or given it to someone at a previous stop). Somehow it got pushed to the far side of the luggage compartment and was the last piece they could get at. We each strapped our luggage to our backs and set off to find the tourist board to find us a bed-and-breakfast. They suggested the Penrhys Hotel, a fifteen-minute walk away. But we should have gotten suspicious when at 5:30 PM he put our arrival time at 6:30 PM. But it didn't take us an hour to walk there. It took us only 45 minutes with our luggage on our backs. That was because for the early part of the walk we were in good health. But a march like that with full pack does something to you. Luckily the front door of the Penrhys was open because by the time we got there we would not have been able to reach the mail slot, much less the doorknob. Our feet have not been quite the same since. Now this is not what we in America think of as a hotel. Hotels are a cottage industry here. It is little more than a very big old slightly-musty house, refitted to have guest rooms. Each room has a shower and toilet, many in a different room from the bed. The rooms are only slightly reminiscent of Cold Comfort Farm. There is a funny smell in the hallway that I cannot identify, but after 45 minutes with heavy pack it felt like the Ritz Carlton. Well, after we got a little rested perhaps it was a little more like the Ritz Cracker.

After freshening up a bit we were almost ready for the search for dinner. We picked a not very good route because most restaurants we saw served, pizza, hamburgers, or earlier. What they didn't serve was our purposes or for that matter us. We finally passed and Indian restaurant, the Juboraj II. We had two dishes, one rice, one naan and it came to something like #17.50 with tip. That is not a huge price by American standards, but it is pretty expensive by my standards. I think it is our most expensive Indian meal this trip and certainly not the best. The Indian food we have had here was much better than what we could get at home until now. This was not really any better and perhaps not as good as we can get at home. Evelyn ordered a kind of naan she had not heard of before and it turned out to be naan with pizza sauce. She had a kind of Indian dish served in Wales called a Barti. I had Chicken Jalfrezi. I probably would have preferred fish and chips, which was what I was really looking for. I could not find it; then as irony would have it, it turned out to be that right around the corner were four or five fish bars. Of course they were only take-away and Evelyn was looking for the restaurant experience.

We thought we were eating late, but we got out of the restaurant about 7:30 PM and things really do not start moving until 8:30 PM. The restaurants were opening about that time. But what seems to be the main form of entertainment is to go to a pub in the evening and sit there with a pint, talking to friends. In the United States that is considered a rather low-brow way to pass the time, but throughout Britain there seems to be more drinking than we see as openly in the American suburbs.

It was a long walk beck and I intended to write but accidentally fell asleep at 10 PM.

August 30, 1995: Having fallen asleep at 10 PM I woke up at some strange hour. Ah, but the puzzle immediately came to me to find out what time it was. There was not a lot a light in the room and certainly not enough to read my watch. There was the room's clock radio across the room and it said, if I put on my glasses, 5 PM, but it was flashing like when I plugged it in the previous night. Evelyn might have reset it, but then it probably would not have been flashing unless she had unplugged it and re-plugged it in at around midnight. That was a very real possibility. So it was either about 5 AM, or it was about five hours after I had plugged in the clock. What time was that? It must have been a little before 10 PM so it was either about 5 AM or about 3 AM. It was still very dark outside so 3 AM had the edge. But I wanted to eliminate one. Now I usually leave a flashlight on the night stand but did not last night. I could get it out of the bag at the foot of the bed that I empty my pockets into (there is not much shelf space, but I carry several Ziploc bags which solve a multitude of problems). The problem is that the flashlight in the bag is on my key chain and my keys would probably wake Evelyn. There was a flashlight in my night case, but that was in the bathroom. Could I get to the bathroom without awaking Evelyn. I could get out of the bed easily enough. There was the suitcase and other things on the floor I had to pick my way around. I found my way over to the wall with the bathroom door. But where was the door? It was not obvious. There were two dark panels, but in the darkness of the room I was not sure which was the door. I had to reach for the handle. But I was not sure which side of the door it was on, left or right, or even if it was a door in front of me. I had to do some experimentation and found the handle on the far right of the possible positions it could have been in. I opened the door slowly so as not to wake Evelyn and walked through in order to close it. Now could I find a light switch? But no, it was probably connected to a fan that would wake Evelyn up. Best to go directly for the night case. That I found it was turned around, but I was able to find where things were and opened it. I got out the flashlight. It turned out to be about 5 AM. Evelyn must have reset the blinking clock. It is interesting to see what life must be like for the blind. I did get back to sleep, however and woke about 7:15 AM.

At breakfast I had a bowl of Wheetabix. What is Wheetabix? It is a cereal that comes in biscuits but immediately turns to mush in the bowl when milk is added, not unlike graham crackers. You want to eat it as a mush. Actually I find I like it. It is a lot like eating graham crackers and milk. Then they asked if I wanted the full English breakfast. I figured what the heck. Ugh! Big mistake. Fried egg, bacon, sausage, fried toast, beans, tomato. This has to be the Free World's greatest source of cholesterol. How can people eat breakfasts like this and not drop like flies from heart attacks? There is more fat than I like here and I am afraid I like too many fatty foods.

Approaching the town castle we pass the Animal Wall. It is decorated with stone renderings of bears, a jackal, a panther, baboons, and several other creatures. Most have odd expressions on their faces, or so it appears to us. We don't have the animals here to ask.

Cardiff Castle is our first stop for the day, or at least it was meant to be. They don't open it until 10 AM and we got there a little after 9 AM so decide to go to the City Hall.

The primary (and just about only interior) attraction of the City Hall is the upstairs marble hall with statues of popular historical figures like Boadicea and St. David. We don't seem to know about St. David in the United States but he is very big in Wales. Apparently he brought in Christianity. I notice whoever brings Christianity to a region seems to get an automatic sainthood. I had always thought saints were supposed to work two miracles in order to qualify, but it seems to be part of the package that if you bring Christianity to a country they perhaps waive the two miracle requirement. Also I have wondered what your category is if you perform only one miracle. You can't be a saint because it wasn't two and you can't be just a civilian because they don't work any miracles.

The real attraction is the statues, but there are also some nice paintings in the marble hall. One is called "The Penitents Return" and shows the Penitents returning by wagon to their village. They do not appear all that contrite. Another painting shows a knight and is entitled "The Shadow." Undoubtedly the knight depicted is the famous Llemont Cranston. The city hall is surmounted by a great dome and the dome is surmounted by a dragon. A dragon is the symbol of the city of Caerdydd. (Double-d is pronounced "th.") "Cardiff" is a corruption. A dragon is a nifty city symbol.

After that we headed back to Cardiff Castle. There was a tour almost immediately after we got in. Our guide had a voice that sounded a lot like Jean Marsh. She seemed very personable, though she talked down a little to the people on the tour as if they were children.

Cardiff Castle started life as a Roman fort built in the First Century. The Romans built a naval base in Cardiff, but left in the Fourth Century. The Normans built a keep there. At one point Henry VIII also owned the fort. It changed hands several times, but what we see here was refurbished and rebuilt in the late 18th Century by William Burges, the architect, for John, the third Marquis of Bute. I will have things to say about them when I discuss Castell Coch. For now suffice it to say that Burges's style was to try to turn real castles into fairy-tale images of medieval castles and Bute had the money to make it all happen. Here he restored only the outside in the pseudo-medieval style. The inside is creative, but not an imitation of any particular period, though it is nominally neo-Gothic. We started in the men's smoking room. It is in the clock tower so it is decorated in motifs related to the seasons, the days of the week, and the signs of the zodiac. There is a head of the Devil over door and tiles showing hounds of Hell on the floor under the Devil's head to frighten away women who might eavesdrop.

I won't describe the rest in such detail since I got worn out taking notes. We visited the nursery which had walls painted with illustrations from children's stories like Robinson Crusoe and "The Fox and the Crow." The guide made a big point that they were painted by an American, William Lonsdale of Shaker Heights, Ohio.

The Arab Room was supposed to remind the observer of the trappings of a seraglio. It is decorated with Welsh gold. This is considered the most valuable gold in the world. I asked how does anybody know it is Welsh gold and was told it is different in color, a little pinkish. Now this to me makes little sense. There must be an impurity in it someplace not removed by the refining process. Gold is an element. Pure gold is pure gold is pure gold. Gold atoms don't come in different types. There are no types. When you talk about so-called "white gold" you are talking about an alloy of gold. Perhaps there is a naturally occurring alloy of gold but gold itself can not vary in color, I would think.

Interesting room include a roof garden illustrated in pictures from the story of Elijah. It had a fountain running that by now is on its last legs. It also used cement imported from Turkey for reasons not immediately obvious. Each room is ornate and what passed for comfortable in the late 19th Century. In fact, as I am impressed whenever I see luxury of the past, standards of comfort change. They get a lot better. A modest home today is more comfortable than a palace was a hundred years ago. It is not as fancy, but Bute was only the richest man in the world in his time and hence was limited in the number of servants he could marshal to do things like control the temperature of his rooms or entertain him or prepare meals for him. I have automatic servants to do all this. The difference in comfort level between how the average person and the most affluent person lives has dropped incredibly in a matter of a few short years.

In general, Bruges redesigned with little respect for the original structures. Lady Bute slipped on a stone stairway at one point and being powerful enough to so ordain it, said that the fault was in the stairway and not in herself. The stairway was ripped out and the rooms redesigned. Elsewhere three bedrooms became a hall whose decor told the history of succession after Henry I.

Before we left the grounds we climbed the Keep, a sort of earlier fortress within the grounds of the castle. We explorered a section of Roman wall that had been excavated. We also visited the Queen's Dragoon Guards Museum which had artifacts of Sepoy the revolt, the Zulu war, the Boer War, World War I, and World War II. Somehow the military museums seem to all gloss over important wars like the American Revolution. I had always heard the British participated in that war, but nobody seems to make very much of it over here. The fallen British soldiers go uncommemorated.

From there we left and did a bit of shopping, not that we found anything. Then we went to the next site.

The National Museum of Wales is really all of Wales's museums in one building for #3. That is roughly US$4.80. This is an art museum, a history museum, and a natural history museum. I generally look for the imaginative in art. I prefer a Temptation of St. Anthony to just about anybody's portrait. For me the traditional art in the museum was just a bit dry. About the only fantastic imagery was in the religious painting and it was just not very interesting imagery. I suppose it might be different if I were religious, but it just looked as if some artists were trying to curry favor for some afterlife reward.

I did like a dish depicting Acteon, a huntsman turned into a stag by Diana. He was killed by his own hounds. It struck me as poetic justice. There are four cartoons (actually just large paintings) thought locally to be by Rubens, but some (well, most) critics disagree. However it is impossible to prove they are not by Rubens because he is dead and beyond disavowing Snoopy cartoons. These cartoons are on the subject of Romulus, founder of Rome.

While their classical art was not too exciting to me, their modern art featured such luminaries as Utrillo, Monet (lots and lots of Monets), Modigliani, Lipchitz, Cezanne, and Van Gogh.

The art section led to the Archeology Section. The first things we saw were carved and inscribed Celtic stones. There was a nice exhibition on feudalism in the Middle Ages. I particularly found interesting a woodcut showing the Mouth of Hell as the mouth of a huge demon. How does anyone know this is what the Mouth of Hell looks like, if there is such a place? The thing is that it furthered the Church's goals so they probably sanctioned this woodcut and nobody stopped to ask the artist how he knew this is what the entrance looked like. Certainly nobody dared point out that this was a rather humorous concept of the Universe. They didn't dare with the Church supporting the artist. People will believe completely ridiculous things where curiosity and skepticism are weak.

The archeological exhibit had artifacts of the Roman times and the Middle Ages. This exhibit takes us to major natural history exhibits of the leatherback turtle and the humpback whale. There is a suspended model of a leatherback turtle and one of a skeleton of a humpback whale. Both complain about man's interference in their environment. The message is important enough, I just wish that it didn't spoil so many otherwise enjoyable science museums. Art museums don't have didactic messages that they have to get across. Most history museums don't either. Just about every science museum I go to delivers me a sermon. We need people to like science--why do we have to deliver so many anti-science messages to kids? If we don't make science fun for kids again, we will be paying the cost for a long time to come.

Where the museum does its best is in the geology exhibit. They take you through the origin of the Earth in fairly dramatic stages. If there is any place the museum makes science fun, this is the place. There is a very dramatic three-screen presentation on volcanos. Elsewhere there are side-by-side shows on earthquakes and volcanos. The viewer has a tendency to watch them both at the same time. That turns out to be just what was intended.

As we left I noticed a bronze called Spirit of the Crusades. It had four modern soldiers surrounding a medieval knight. I guess the artist did not know all that much about the Crusades. Or perhaps it was an anti-war statement.

Dinner was at a restaurant called Eddie's, which is predominantly an ice cream place. Because they had a sort of a special, I had potato skins, supposedly served with sour cream and cheddar cheese but actually served with mayonnaise, I think. It is hard to tell. The main course was fish and chips. They were not chip-shop sort of chips, but French fries like we might get at home. The fish was a bit soggy. Dessert was cheesecake. I thought we were a long way from New York, but this cheesecake was a lot further.

Why does the walk back to the Penrhys always seem so much longer than the walk away?

August 31, 1995: After breakfast we picked up the rental car. It is a Ford Fiesta with right-hand steering. It looks black to us but the color is really "grape." It has no air conditioning and no cruise control, but it does have a cassette player and we have lots of cassettes that we can listen to in the car.

Our first site of the day was Castell Coch. Away up in hills to the north of Cardiff is a sort of fairy-tale medieval castle built by Gilbert the Red in the 13th Century but completely remodeled by William Burges for John, the third Marquis of Bute. This was the same pair who previously did Cardiff Castle. Bute had made a fortune in part off the port at Cardiff, though his personal inheritance was about #300,000 a year. This was a tidy sum in the 1930s when he was long dead and an even tidier one in the 1870s when he was getting it. He was considered to be the richest man in the world. He turned his attentions to making him and his rich wife nice places to live, buying genuine medieval sites and transforming them into Disney-ish fairy-tale buildings. He hired the architect William Burges who himself had fixations on the 13th Century and had him do the transforming.

The entire castle has a Disney-like fantasy quality well-suited to an heir to a great sum of money wanting to escape the cares of an outside world of workhouses, poverty, and privation. The castle itself is roughly circular surrounding a circular courtyard and surrounded by a circular moat. It has three towers with three turrets. It looks like a sort of King Arthur setting. Within the walls are rooms with high vaulted ceilings. The great dining hall has a religious motif with six nice pictures of early Christian martyrs paying the price for their faith. Perhaps this is to be some sort of admonition to dinner guests. Certainly the Butes got used to the sight and it didn't bother them too much when they were eating, since they saw the martyrs suffering daily. The adjoining dining room has delightful illustrations from Aesop's fables, implying that post-dinner conversation might not have been on a high level. The two rooms each give an entrance to the windlass room which could be used to draw up the drawbridge and its floor has "murder holes" for dropping flaming oil on people attempting to scale the castle walls. The placement next to the drawing and dining rooms seems to indicate that the Butes were not very friendly to people attempting to crash their parties.

Climb this tower--which incidentally is shaped with a conical roof like towers in French castles, but not Welsh towers--and one finds both the Marquis's bedroom and, considerably higher, the bedroom of his wife. The former is relatively plain and not all that decorated. Oh, there is some carving on the fireplace, but most of the room is decorated in geometric patterns. The wife's bedroom at the top of the tower is considerably more ornate. At the center of the room is the bed decorated with eight crystal balls. The room, in general, has a Sleeping Beauty theme somehow given the lie by the portrait of the Lady Bute who brought the marriage booty if not much beauty. Elsewhere in the castle we see a simple kitchen and an even simpler dungeon whose value to the Butes is at this point a matter of pure speculation. Another tower has an exhibition showing the history of the refurbishment and also has a well with the pump.

Overall, the castle is a charmingly silly excess of a man who had a lot of money to spend tickling his wife's fancy. It is a warning to married men everywhere.

From there it is not a long drive to Caerphilly Castle. This is castle living writ large. The castle itself covers thirty acres making it the largest castle in Wales--and there are a lot of castles in Wales. It really is a castle within a castle with a double wall.

The building of the castle was begun 1268 by Lord of Glamorgan, Gilbert de Clare. He wanted to be one up on his ally Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, prince of Wales (Llewelyn the Last), grandson of Llewelyn ab Iowerth (Llewelyn the Great). Llewelyn considered it an infringement of their treaty and laid siege to the castle. He failed. Edward I eventually defeated Llewelyn. There is more history to the castle, but probably more than I should recount here.

The castle's presentation has a special interest here is medieval siege engines. There are four full-sized working models. And there is a tape in once of the rooms to introduce the viewer to medieval siege engines. The four featured engines are a ballista (actually a giant crossbow), a mangonel (a torsion powered catapult that gets its elastic power from twisted rope--this is the catapult you usually see in films), a trebuchet (a counterweight sling catapult--this one is really heavy artillery and it gets most of its force from a falling box of rock on an arm), and a perrier (a man-powered sling-catapult).

In the northwest tower has panels with a history of Wales, probably more than we really wanted to read. Another notable feature is the leaning tower. This tower leans outward from the castle, probably because of the slow settling of the ground underneath. Most of the time in these castles you just go through rooms and climb narrow spiral stone stairs. There can be a certain repetitiveness.

We stopped at grocery and got some cheese, crackers, and soda. I got some boxes of a locally popular drink called Ribena. Back when we were in Estonia there seemed to be a local rage for the flavor of black currents. We saw a lot of things in black current flavor. I guess it was used almost like we would use cranberries at home. You rarely see cranberries outside of the Americas, but American readers will know that they are really popular at home. Anyway there is a black current fruit drink in Europe and even at home if you know where to look. It is called Ribena, and it seems quite popular in Europe.

We finished the afternoon going to two prehistoric sites. Tinkinswood Chambered Long Cairn is an old burial place. It is protected by a huge piece of rock that seems impossible to lift. There seem to be a lot of huge rocks hanging around at these prehistoric sites. To get to one of these sites you drive for an hour or so in narrow rows and you find a fence with a cattle trap that lets humans through but not sheep or cows. You walk over a field that has more cattle droppings than I can describe or than you want to think about. And you find some huge rocks in the field that clearly could not have gotten there on their own. You also scare some sheep by your very presence, or at least we did at this site.

Next we went to St. Lythan's Cromlech. So what is a "cromlech?" It is an ancient tomb formed by having three or more vertical stones from four feet high to perhaps twice that much. And on top is a stone too large to lift that has somehow been placed on top. In some cases it was used as a structure for an artificial cave so they would look like a dirt mound. The cave would be used as a burial chamber. Often they were put in sight of water. This may be just to give visitors a nice view. Generally what you see now is just the rocks like bones of a skeleton. A cairn is different in that it was a pile of stones forming the cave and not dirt. These things are a matter of taste, after all.

How were they made? How was the big stone move and lifted? Nobody knows. My guess is that sand is packed in a mound around the standing stones, making a hill. The big stone is pulled up the hill and placed over the standing stones, then the sand is removed. A technique not too different was used to stand Egyptian obelisks. This one was connected with a strange incident, at least for us. When we first entered the field the cows were all at one end. But as time went by, they seemed to be closer and closer. They were not walking when we saw them, but the tide seemed to be carrying them in our direction. I suppose they were ambling home, but I was not sure on what signal. Maybe they just see the sun going down. Being relentlessly advanced upon by cows was somewhat reminiscent of "Far Side" cartoons.

They have announced on the radio that today is the birthday of Louis XIV. I wonder if that means it will rain tomorrow.

There was a pub not far from our hotel that we overheard at breakfast someone liked. Now our dinners in Cardiff have been less than stellar so we wanted any recommendation. This was the Poachers Lodge. They even had a coupon that the second meal was 99p. So we tried it. The joint was jumping so rather than wait half an hour for a table we took a picnic table in the garden. It still took a while to be served. I had the trout almondine; Evelyn had the smoked fish platter. I am pretty sure when we come back to Cardiff at the end of the trip we will eat there again. It was very nice. The fish itself is extremely ugly. It lays there on the plate frowning with a mouth full of teeth and the broiling turns the eyes white. In the darkness of the garden it was pretty strange-looking, but you get used to that with fish. It was quite tasty. I had a pint of Coca-Cola which went down very nicely also after the dehydration of the day.

Back at the room I wrote. The television gets SKY-something, a most disconcerting television station. It seems to pick and choose among different television services. I was watching one film and it dropped it in the middle for The Remains of the Day, just as we were leaving for dinner. I watched the tail end when we got back and it was followed by A Bronx Tale. I would have watched that but then minutes in it shifted to another station with a crime story. I turned it off.

September 1, 1995: We were up early. I have finally figured out how to order my breakfast but today we are checking out. Well, we will be coming back to the Penrhys at the end of the trip. We checked out. They short-changed us 80p, but it wasn't worth fighting over.

We were out on the M4 by a little after 8 AM, and that is restful enough until we pull into a town. Wales has tiny towns with unpronounceable names and nearly impassably narrow streets. We were driving through Pontrhydyfen (pronounced "Pontrhydyfen") which gave the world Richard Burton and accounts for much of his drinking problem. The roads are roughly three times the width of a car and have parking on both sides. You frequently see parked cars that extend to within two feet of the center line.

Well, our first destination is Neath. This is a bigger town than most, and more than most it is tough to get around. We were looking for signs of the colliery museum. There were none to be seen. We had nearly given up when we started seeing signs. The Cefn Coed Colliery Museum (pronounced ... uh ... well, it is best left unpronounced) is a museum to the mining community in Neath. This is not a bad little museum considering that mining is not the most exciting profession. You walk a short distance through a mining tunnel and see exhibits of drills and like paraphernalia. You come out and see a boiler room where two large boilers turned coal into the power to mine more coal. Actually compressed air is used to power the drills. It is not as efficient as it might be, but it is much safer than steam or electricity. It is less likely to cause an explosion. The boilers are used to list the coal dug out of the ground. Steam goes to drive pistons, the pistons turn a drum, the drum winds and unwinds cable, and the cable pulls up and down elevator lifting coal.

There is one person who has nothing to do with the mines who is commemorated. Or not so much a person as an occupation. That is the person they call "Johnny Onions." Of all occupations that could have captured the miners' imaginations, what they remember and choose to commemorate are the French onion vendors who come with bicycles overloaded with chains of onions to sell. They give a little history of the French coming and selling onions: who the first one was, how people reacted, even some cartoons like showing the opening of the Channel Tunnel and the first thing through are a legion of onion sellers on bicycles.

There was another room that had panels telling of the most famous incident at this set of mines. It was Wednesday April 11, 1877, when five miners went down in the mine. They had gone through a horizontal tunnel and up an excavation. Suddenly water that was stored in the rock from rain broke through a retaining wall and the horizontal tunnel filled with water. The men were above the level of the water, but they were trapped by the flood. What air they had was compressed. That in itself wasn't dangerous, but one would not want to breathe compressed air for too long. A diver was sent into the horizontal tunnel to try to bring food to the men, but he found the way impassable. The men could not get out through the tunnel that brought them and there was no other way out except through solid rock. Tunneling began to where the five men were thought to be, but it was a huge job. It took eight days. When they did dig their way into the air pocket, the compressed gas was released. The men inside were barely alive from lack of air and food and the rapid release of pressure gave them what divers call the "bends." They were 20 days in the hospital before they were well enough to be released. All five lived.

The final exhibit was a rare gas powered street trolley that was used in the area. On the way in to the museum we had asked the woman at the souvenir desk if she had a road map of the area. She didn't, but while were in the museum she had called local tourist offices and had found one in Swansea that had a map. We talked to her about the resurgence of Welsh language. I asked if Welsh had always used Roman letters or if it had ever had its own alphabet. She didn't know.

We found our way into Swansea and spent the best part of an hour looking for the Swansea Industry and Maritime Museum and once we found it a place to park. We still were not sure that we were parked legally and that we would not get a ticket. I was hoping there would be more on maritime history than there was. There was a sort of a mixed bag of a museum with a lot of different little things. It was mostly a museum of local concerns. They start with a history of the White Rock Copper Mine and give its history, how it was founded, an account of the terrible work conditions. They even gave an account of how heavy metals and metal waste "poisoned the land" to use their words. I take it the exhibit was not funded by the mine owners.

They had exhibit of various sorts of engines and vehicles like fire trucks and motorcycles. They they segued to maritime history with local rescue boats. Climb the stairs to the second floor and they have guns, ship models, a stuffed Amazonian parrot, a shark jaw, ships in bottles, navigation instruments, etc. A real mixed bag.

Another rather silly exhibit was of clothes designed from recycled goods. They also had a display of printing presses and a small but complete functioning wool mill.

We drove out to Gower Peninsula. This is the local equivalent to something like Carmel, California. It is the posh community by the water and a real tourist attraction. Maybe it is like Coney Island also. The food concessions sell ice cream, burgers, and above all ... chips. Here it is chips with everything. Chips with burgers, chips with hot dogs, pies and chips, pasties and chips. Chips are the fun food. I don't think we make such a fuss about French fries at home but the fried potato here is ubiquitous. Of course they make them better here than most places. Still it seems strange to us. We spent the rest of the afternoon taking what was supposed to be a scenic drive on the peninsula from Swansea to Rhosili. The day fell rather flat I am afraid. In Scotland you do have genuinely scenic drives. This was not very scenic since it was narrow rows with tall hedges on each side. Rather than being able to see for miles, you cannot even see beyond the next bend. It was fairly tense driving. Every nice site to look at had a car park that cost #1.50. That's US$2.40 to take in a view. It was more than we were willing to pay so we ended with just the drive. A very long drive. Eventually we gave up and went on to Carmarthen.

We picked a B&B out of the tour book. It was the Old Priory on Priory street. It was not the most luxurious. Basically the room is a bed, at television and a sink. Evelyn was not sure she wanted dinner. We watched the end of The Colossus of Rhodes, an old Italian "sand-and-sandal" film. Usually these are called "beefcake" films, but the hero was Rory Calhoun, not noted for beefcake. Afterwards there was a quiz show called Ready, Steady, Cook. Very strange. Two contestants buy ingredients and then each gets a chef who turns them into a fancy dish in 20 minutes. The audience votes on which is the better sounding dish. Very strange, but it did convince Evelyn that she wanted dinner.

We had a bunch of little unfancy restaurants across the street. We chose a fish and chips place. It was ugly and not entirely clean looking, but the quality of the food was at least okay. Evelyn went to bed almost immediately on our return. I wrote a little while.

September 2, 1995: One of the problems with the Old Priory Hotel is that there are not enough "facilities." This is particularly true because there is a whole cricket club staying here. I think we may try to go for "en suite" facilities from this point forward. It did put a sort of damper on the morning early. I won't go into this in more detail.

Breakfast was full English breakfast, of course. They put stewed tomatoes on the plate which ran all over everything and gave things a stewed tomato flavor. It didn't need it. This B&B was recommended in the book but it was the least agreeable place we stayed to this point (or for several days to come). It didn't help that there was a noisy cricket team staying. Well, we were warned in advance. But a cricket team plays havoc if you do not have en suite facilities, or what we call a private bathroom.

We drove to Whitland to see the memorial to Howell Dda (Howell the Good), who codified the laws of Wales and made Wales a single nation so it was easier for England to conquer it all.

Next was St. Mary's Church in Tenby, reputed to be the largest medieval parish church in Wales. Now I am not really big on visiting churches. And this particular church was no exception. There were a few points of interest. There was a plaque to Robert Recorde, who it is claimed was a mathematician and the inventor of the equals sign, or so they say. There is also a quote from the Bible saying "thou shall not make to thyself any graven image, nor likeness of any thing in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth." Why they put this particular quote above plaques of two children and in the midst of several other graven images, is not clear. I do not happen to think that this rule is as important any more so I was not shocked, but some people seem to want to claim a whole bunch of other Old Testament rules should be enforced because "they are in the Bible" yet do not go around picketing art exhibitions ... yet.

Tenby is, by the way, a nice little coastal town though the streets are very over-populated. Like many small towns here the roads are very narrow and often twisty. If you see a tour bus coming in the other direction, you are probably in trouble.

Manorbier Castle is located in a very pleasant area by the water. It is a very peaceful setting for what turned out to be a very peaceful castle. It had been attacked with someone killed only once. This was its largest fight when two people who felt they were heir to the castle fought over it. Richard de Barri took control of the castle in this battle and ejected his nephew David de Barri. Cromwell's troops were going to besiege the castle during the Civil War, but nothing ever came of it and a peaceful solution was worked out. After visiting the castle we took a walk on the nearby beach which had a cove. It has a nice view of the hills going down to the water. Someone had brought his Jack Russell terrier to the beach and he was running after sticks and having a high old time with the boundless energy that breed of dog has.

The drive to Pembroke Castle was more driving along narrow hedged roads and without really good signposts. Evelyn asks if Wales still feels that it might be invaded at any time and that the road signs must be taken down so as not to be helpful to the enemy. It does seem true that once you are on a road there are few signs to tell you what road you happen to be on. It is assumed that if you are driving on a road you probably should have known what you were doing getting on the road and need not be reminded what road it is you are driving on. Presumably they asked at a local town meeting and everybody knew what the local major roads were.

Pembroke was one of the private castles, begun by the Norman Earl Roger de Montgomery in 1093, twenty-seven years after the Battle of Hastings when the Normans imposed themselves on England. At first it would have been a wood structure. In 1102 Henry I took possession and held it for thirty-six years then gave it to earls, the second of which was Richard "Strongbow" de Clare, who had been a leader in the Norman invasion of Ireland. De Clare's daughter married Earl William Marshall, friend of Henry II and his sons Richard the Lionheart and John the Chickenheart. The castle remained in the service of friends of the current King of England. In 1536 the earldom was abolished and the castle was abandoned. In the next century it was involved in both Civil Wars and was where the second Civil War started. Cromwell personally laid siege to the castle and had the castle destroyed. Well, not destroyed to the ground. That is why there is still some castle to visit today. But these days the castle does not figure importantly in either Welsh domestic or foreign policy. It has kind of been reduced to a non-entity as far as government is concerned. It does bring in the odd #2.20 when people visit.

The late afternoon was spent seeking out three ancient sites in Pembroke. This is really mostly just a set of long drives over the hedge-lined roads, mostly about 1-3/4 car widths wide. Generally a car coming in the other direction can be avoided by pulling slightly to the side and stopping. Sometimes you have to back up to the previous pullout.

Carreg Samson Cromlech is seven large upright stones and one really big stone over the top balanced on three. It has a nice view of the local bay. It is in a cow field that may be a little less than pleasant to walk through. However it is not the best known cromlech in Wales. That title goes to our next site, the Pentre Ifan Cromlech. This may well be the most perfectly formed cromlech anywhere. It does not have a commanding view of much, but it does have a sixteen-foot capstone held some eight feet off the ground by upright stones. This is the first prehistoric site where we ran into other groups and there were several. There were three cars in the parking area and by the time we left another group had arrived. Our last ancient site was something of a letdown. Gors Fawr stone circle is sixteen stones in a seventy-two-foot diameter circle. It required hauling but no real engineering to build. It took a while to find it since we passed it twice without recognizing the sign. Well, I recognized the sign the second time, but Evelyn was driving and did not want to believe that I had recognized a sign that she had missed. It took some convincing to get her to back up and take another look. It also required some careful walking over a field where sheep had been untidy. In fact, they had been untidy over pretty much the whole field. The trick was not avoiding stepping in it, it was not minding that you were stepping in it. Oh, for those who are wondering, they come in pellets the size of large blueberries or small grapes. Cows leave funny looking wrinkled mounds maybe ten inches across, though I would hate to have to use the ruler. In shape, well, there is nothing quite like it. It sort of ripples like cake batter. It almost looks like a tapering stack of pancakes, I guess. I don't really want to talk about it.

For the night we found a comfortable place to stay. The Garth B&B in Cardigan on Gwbert Street did not have en suite facilities, but did have essentially private accommodations since we were the only ones staying on that floor.

For dinner they suggested the Gwbert (pronounced "Gubert"), a pub that was three miles up the street that the B&B is on. It serves both full meals and bar meals. We were not ready for a meal in the #14 range, so we got bar meals. Evelyn ordered mussels, I ordered the seafood platter. It was pretty good. Evelyn got mussels in a cream garlic sauce that was also pretty good. Everyone in the bar was watching some championship boxing event. We ignored it.

September 3, 1995: The television in our room had CEEFAX, Britain's on-line information service. This was the first time I ever had a chance to play with it. At one point it was fairly impressive, but the World Wide Web has a lot more information at your fingertip. CEEFAX is just one company's service. From your television you can get on-request news, weather, television listings, movie listings, etc. in text form. Many counties have this or similar services. My understanding is that in the United States the newspapers, those boundless advocates of the First Amendment and freedom of expression, have blocked services like this and choose to maintain a monopoly on information services. Britain does not have mixers on their faucet but does have instant newstext on request.

Breakfast was two perfect eggs on toast. One rarely gets them completely perfect.

Our first site of the day is the Strata Florida Abbey at Pontrhydfendigaid. We soon found out that getting to Pontrhydfendigaid is a lot easier said than done. We took some wrong turns, but finally got to the abbey at 10 AM. It doesn't open until noon. What kind of an abbey closes on Sunday? We looked in from the outside and if truth be known, that probably is sufficient for me. I may not be an abbey sort of guy. Some people like abbeys, some don't. The fact that it was pouring rain and the abbey was an open ruin also moderated our disappointment.

We drove a long way through hedge-lined country roads and little towns with twisty streets. There were frequent showers.

Pontarfyrnach is the home of the Devil's Bridge. This was made famous by a poem by William Wordsworth,


HOW art thou named? In search of what strange land
From what huge height, descending? Can such force
Of waters issue from a British source,
Or hath not Pindus fed thee, where the band
Of Patriots scoop their freedom out, with hand
Desperate as thine? Or come the incessant shocks
From that young Stream, that smites
     the throbbing rocks
Of Viamala? There I seem to stand,
As in life's morn; permitted to behold,
From the dread chasm, woods climbing above
In pomp that fades not; everlasting snows;
And skies that ne'er relinquish their repose;
Such power possess the family of floods
Over the minds of Poets, young or old!

Now admittedly we were not seeing the falls at their best today. This has been a year of low rain and today was equalizing the situation. The falls were just a small drop with not enough white water to fill a kitchen sink. Photos show considerably more water rushing past. Still, it is surprising how much Wordsworth was able to do with such meager inspiration. You pay your 50p and go down some decaying cement stairs to see a small stream and a tiny waterfall. Back at home nobody would consider this waterfall even noteworthy and certainly nobody would pay to see it. The water goes through a gap in the rock and over it is a three-level bridge. The first level was built in the 12th Century, then one was built in the 18th Century above it. Finally there is one built in the 20th Century. Perhaps in nice weather with reasonable water this is a nice sight. These were not the conditions today.

On the road to Harlech Castle we stopped between Barmouth and Dyffryn Ardudwy to see the Dyffryn Ardudwy Cairn. It is actually two cairns facing each other on a bed of rocks. There was a time when you could see the sea from the cairns, but there now is a school to destroy the view.

The castle is actually in the town of Harlech and requires a climb up a two-hundred-foot hillside. It turns out there was an easier way to get in, but it would have cost for the car park. Either pay #1.50 for parking or climb.

We wanted to get a guide for the castle. They came in two varieties. One was #2 and illustrated, one was 60p and had all the information we wanted. It came in two varieties, French and German. If you want a guide in English you can afford to pay the extra. We decided to struggle with the French.

This is a castle that Edward I built as a result of conflicts with Llewelyn ap Gruffydd. Llewelyn had allegience for Henry III of England but not Edward I, Henry's son. Edward would have liked to inherit allegiance, but it was not to be. So Edward invaded and forced peace terms on Llewelyn. Llewelyn's own brother Dafydd sided with Edward. Edward won. Llewelyn still would not give his allegiance to Edward and Dafydd also refused his allegiance due to a falling out with Edward. So Edward invaded a second time in 1277. Edward killed Llewelyn and captured Dafydd. To hold Wales better Edward built a chain of castles to enforce English control. One such castle was Harlech.

English control held for over a hundred years. During that hundred years the Black Plague struck and England profited from the plague by inheriting any lands of people killed by the plague. They also wrung tax money impoverishing the locals. There was widespread hatred for the English that needed only a leader to start a revolt.

Owain Glyndwr led rebellion about 1400. The rebellion lasted only three months, but in his rebellion Owain took Conway castle and forced pardons for Welsh rebels. The rebellion smoldered and restarted in the years that followed. Owain went on to capture the castles of Aberystwyth and Harlech. English besieged Harlech castle the winter of 1408-09, but Owain Glyndwr had managed to slip away into the forest and into historic obscurity. The spirit of the rebellion is commemorated in the familiar march "Men of Harlech."

The guidebook said there were no really good bed and breakfasts in Caernarfon, where we intended to stay the night. They said there were some good ones near Bangor. This was a particularly important choice since we were to stay wherever we chose for three or four nights. The book recommended the Ty Mawr, a nice farmhouse B&B. We decided to look for it. We had found only one B&B I had not cared for and our luck held out at the Ty Mawr. The front half of a farm house was given over to a fairly comfortable hotel with en suite facilities for #17 per person per night.

We went into Bangor for dinner. We wanted to try a Greek place there, but they did not open early enough so we settled for a kebab house. I had a good doner kebab; Evelyn had a good chicken tikka on a pita. One of the people who ran the restaurant saw us working on our palmtops and wanted to know more about them. We both are now strong advocates of palmtops. The ability to carry with you a computer the size of a pencilbox really transforms a trip. It really transforms your life, for that matter. I wear my watch all the time. My glasses I take off the last thing in the day and I put back on the first thing in the morning. My palmtop I put down just before I take off my glasses. In the morning it is the first thing I reach for after my glasses are on. It is just very basic to the way I do things. This is an unsolicited testimonial. My trip log these days is typed directly into the palmtop as I go. When I get home, my trip log is done, except for spell-checking and formatting. The big task of typing it in is over. I think I am nearly as fast typing on the tiny keyboard as I would be on a full-sized one. I can type about half the speed I would talk. I can type under a wide range of conditions, more than I could write on paper. I can type while I walk. In fact, with luggage that hangs onto me rather than vice versa (it has knapsack straps) I can type in my log while I am walking with my luggage. That's pretty remarkable. My log almost becomes a companion I can talk to while I am seeing sites.

After dinner we walked and drove around Bangor and then went back to the room to write. I went to sleep early.

September 4, 1995: Well, the breakfast was pretty much the standard. I had Wheetabix which I will miss a little when the vacation is over. [P.S. I find they are available in the United States, imported from Canada.] This was not a highly eventful day. It was mostly just a ride on the local train. After breakfast we drove to Porthmadog to get the Ffestiniog Railway. This is a narrow-gauge railroad; the cars are only abut two meters wide. The engines look quite small, in fact. Small is the order of the day, but I will get to that later.

We parked and looked a little around the peninsula, then got our tickets for the train. If the train had been a little smaller I am sure it would have been thought of as a toy. A little larger and I am sure we at least would have had the feeling it was a professional and genuine railroad. As it was it was something in between. The guidebook said that you should look for seats on the right side of the car to get the best view. Ah, but which was the right side? They had not put an engine on the train and the cars looked like they could go either way. I asked a woman sweeping up if the train went to the left or to the right. She said that it was to the left. She pointed to the right and said if the train goes that way the train goes "splosh." Well, I figured if the train was going to go splosh, the view would not be that good in any case, so Evelyn and I took seats on the far side of the train.

Ours was a diesel engine. Evelyn said that some of the trains had diesel, and some were steam-powered. I think she was a little disappointed not to get steam. We honkered down in the little compartment. I set on my table my computer, my binoculars, and my camera. I started to write about trains and enjoy the scene. The train started up.

There is a certain romance of a train. Even a little one like this. You are at an arm's reach from the rest of the world but are at the same time isolated. You are in a separated world with your fellow passengers. That, it has been suggested, is the reason so many romantic films...

Evelyn said this was our stop. I just sat down and started writing. No, we were going only one stop for now. We were at Portmeirion. Okay, I swept everything up and threw it into my pockets. We wanted to see Portmeirion. Evelyn thought it was best to see it right now while it was just overcast. If we saw it on the return trip it might actually be raining. Well, actually it had been raining in the mornings and was a bit less likely to rain in the afternoon, but she wanted to see Portmeirion right now, if it wasn't raining. Since it was also the highpoint of the railway trip it would have been more dramatic ten minutes from the end rather than ten minutes from the beginning. But here we were and it wasn't raining so we got off.

We had been told that it was a fifteen-minute walk to Portmeirion, but that was a Welsh fifteen-minute walk. The Welsh generally figure that if a place is likely to get the same radio stations that they do, it is a fifteen-minute walk away. It was more like a forty-minute walk. And while we were walking the rain started.

Portmeirion is a village that tests the boundaries between taste and kitsch. It was begun in the 1925 by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. It took forty-seven years for him to complete it. He took great joy in architecture and wanted to make it meaningful to more people so he built his own village in small scale. Not tiny, but small so that in his words "every archway you can walk through, but only just." He used architecture from all over the world and combined it in one model setting. Today the town functions as a resort as well as an admission-earning tourist attraction.

The town's greatest claim to fame was that the 1960s television series "The Prisoner" was shot there. At least that seems to be the greatest claim to fame outside Britain. Here there is one little shop devoted to the television series and it bears an explanation to a confused public as to what it is all about. The series itself was quite popular mostly because in a time when television felt it had to spell everything out, this series was mysterious and ambiguous. People wanted and still want to know what it all meant. Of course, the answer is probably that there isn't a whole lot more to the story than what is on the surface. By rights the real name for the place is Aber Ja meaning "frozen mouth." Sir Clough changed the name to give the idea it was a post and to bring in the Meirionas. [Neither of us were sure what that meant, but that is what the film said.] His plan to build a hotel that augmented rather than just fit into the environment. And certainly fitting into the environment unobtrusively is not what it is all about. Actually it has been described as "a light opera approach to architecture," doing everything in doll's house form. As we walked it seemed to me that the multiple styles of architecture were at once more dense and eclectic than it appears in "The Prisoner." Every little nook has some baroque touch or a statue of Buddha or something else weird.

While I was here I tried the ice cream. It had a sort of funny flavor, almost like stale dairy products. I think ice cream may still be something we make better than the Brits do. I haven't had a burger this trip, but I suspect they have not gotten a lot better. Wimpy Burgers, I am told, did get better due to competition from American franchises. Our first trip to England in the late 70s we tried a Wimpy. It was so thin that there were holes in it. It had an unwholesome taste. Since then only a certain Peruvian hamburger has been worse.

We walked back to the train. We must be getting tired. After what felt like a hard uphill climb to get to the resort I was expecting an easy downhill walk in the reverse direction. Somehow it didn't seem all that easy in the reverse direction. I feel like the American who Walked Up a Mountain but Came Down a Hill.

We took the train to Blaenau Ffestiniog, the last town on the line. The view is very nice out the righthand window. The lefthand window shows you the hill. The righthand window shows you the valley with an inexhaustible supply of fields and sheep. It would seem terrifically pastoral if each of the sheep were not spray-painted with a red "D" on his back. That somewhat harms the effect. But otherwise the scene is nice and pastoral. We see slate villages, some pleasant hills and valleys, more grazing cattle.

Then there is the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. What can you say? It is a very Welsh town with one foot in the past and one foot stepping in what is wrong with the present. Part of the town is dedicated to the slate quarry. You see a lot of slate around. Some in the building materials, some just on the ground. Then the main street has kebab houses and fish and chips shops. There is something strange about these men coming out of the slate quarry and sitting down to a doner kebab. After all those "Green" movies like How Green Was My Valley and The Corn Is Green the kebab houses just seem out of place.

We walked through the streets and stopped at a bookstore. I got a book of macabre Victorian short stories by the likes of Charles Dickens. The shop owner spoke almost exclusively Welsh. When we bought the book she said "thanks" several times, but did not seem to have a lot more she could say. Obviously the return to the Welsh language is very important to the Welsh and I can see why they are anxious to have it happen. On the other hand I wonder if they are buying for themselves the same sort of problems that Canada has. It would be a terrible thing to force everyone to use the same language and give up their ethnic origins. It is also a bad thing to Balkanize a country and have a bunch of different ethnic factions fighting each other. Right now I am not seeing a big impetus for Wales to be independent of England, but I suspect the urge is there and having a lot of people who can speak only Welsh would really exacerbate the problem with ethnic tensions, if indeed it is a problem. The United Kingdom may not be all that united. I guess on one hand it is nice to hold on to ethnic differences, but the only thing that makes two ethnically different groups get along is a common enemy. Otherwise there will always be tension.

We reentered the train at about 2 PM.

A couple from New Jersey happened to come into our car and we talked to them for a while. One was going on to Zurich, one to Prague. That seemed odd, but we didn't ask about it. We told them that Prague was nice. The rain had stopped by this time, or at least it did when we came out of the mountains. We said we might like to see Portmeirion when it wasn't raining, but Evelyn was not keen on it. Instead we took the train back to Ffestiniog. We went back to room and listened to an interview with Robert Harris who has a new thriller called Enigma about the codebreakers during the war and a possible spy at Blechly. This was Britain's equivalent of the Manhattan Project, but it was cryptographers and mathematicians who had broken Germany's top secret Enigma code. I suspect he has chosen a fairly interesting subject for a thriller. This would be more up my alley than his Fatherland.

For dinner we decided to try the nearby Ty Mawr Tea Room. I had a rather dry salmon steak. Evelyn had dry lamb chops. Not really very good.

Back at the room we watched a documentary on the potato famine. We also saw Michael Moore's TV Nation.

September 5, 1995: Two eggs and out.

We stopped on the way to our first real site to see a bit of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerych-wyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. It is a pleasant little town who seem very proud and has the name of their town all over. The name means "St. Mary's Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel Nearto the Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave."

Bryn-Celli-Ddu Chambered Cairn is a four-thousand-year-old artificial mound. The walkway is just across the road from a school and today is the first day of school. It is a time of jubilation for local mothers and great sadness for local children. You have about a half-mile walk to get to it through a pleasant lane. The path took us past a field of bulls. We were the most exciting thing that was happening so they watched us go past. They are rather placid beasties. Evelyn feels somewhat anxious walking in a field of bulls, but bulls are not so angry and aggressive as their reputation. I took a picture. A farmer on a farm machine nodded hello and I nodded back and smiled. It feels a little funny just coming walking on his farm, but I guess it was part of the deal when he got the land. This is one of the nicer sights since their is a prehistoric passageway through the mound. Stone tools and bones were found buried here.

Caer Leb was not even in the book. We just happened to pass it. It was just a pentagonal indentation in the ground and three stones. It started raining again. I think we will be getting a lot of rain this week.

Bedowyr Cromlech has a supported stone eight feet by six feet. This cromlech is about 5000 years old, give or take a millennium. The road to it is a nice two lane road, but the lanes are each two feet wide with a grass island between. Luckily there were no oncoming cars.

Barclodiad-y-Gawres Chambered Cairn is indeed a cairn, but its real claim to fame, and the reason people come to it from as far away as Bangor and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerych-wyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is the set of five decorated stones. People visiting the site should allow about thirty-five minutes. That allows you ten minutes to walk to it from the parking lot, ten minutes to return and five minutes to rip at the stupid iron gate and the padlock and a good ten minutes to throw a hissy-fit at the head-up-their-asses good-for-nothings who put up the gate. Allow no time for seeing the site because the jerks won't let you. It was nice to walk out along the side of the cove and hear the RAF on maneuvers in the sky overhead.

Ty Newydd Cromlech is a bit less impressive since it is falling down and has been reinforced with what is obviously recent stonework. The capstone is about twelve feet by five feet and the whole structure dates back to the Bronze Age.

Tregfignath Burial Chamber is in convenient reach of an aluminum factory with its landmark smokestack. It is nearly a perfect setting for multiple cairns, one of which is reinforced and another was not reinforced in time and has collapsed. Being a cairn, there are many rocks lying about.

Driving on these roads, if you see a car coming and you have some space, you stop and you flash your lights at the oncoming car to signal you are yielding. The other car will drive around you and wave to signal his appreciation. You just don't have so many nice and helpful people in the United States. Nor do you need them.

There was something of a bonus with the Holyhead Mountain Hut Circles. As we were approaching there was a helicopter coming in low overhead above the car. It seems to have gone over once and then went away. As we were getting out of the car it came in for a landing very near where we were going. It was from something called the Trinity House Lighthouse. It landed near a tanker truck. I suppose it might have been refueling. It refueled or whatever and took off again. Nothing extraordinary. But it was nice to get some pictures. The hut circles--and there were many of them--were foundations for houses going back to the Iron Age and early Roman period.

Two side-by-side ten-foot stones were the Penrhos Standing Stones. They are two standing flat stones, edges toward each other, maybe 10 feet apart. They are in the middle of a particularly cow-mined field. When the customs people ask us if we have been on a farm, there will be only one possible answer. Have we ever been on farms! Uff-da! Feh!

The day is staying gray and ugly with occasional rain. It is a long wet drive to our next site.

The Din Lligwy Settlement is relatively complex and also relatively recent. It dates from the 4th Century A.D. when the Romans had invaded three centuries earlier and were starting to wonder if this cold, wet island was worth the effort it was taking. I think they were here in times that looked a lot like today, climate-wise. Any pictures I see have Roman soldiers wearing short skirt-like things that would make the soldiers particularly unhappy on a day like today. That was the 4th Century. By the 5th Century there were no more Romans, so you can see what they decided. Anyway, what we have here are some foundations of huts, some round and some rectangular, all with a view of the water not far away. An it was just a short trek to see prehistoric ruins, if the residents were so inclined. Those were at our next stop and our last cromlech of the day, Lligwy Cromlech. It has a twenty-eight-ton capstone. It goes back to the Neolithic and Bronze age.

Finally we went into Beaumaris for Beaumaris Castle. This was the last of the chain of castles built by Edward I to hold down Wales when he defeated Llewelyn ap Gruffydd in 1282. (The other castles were Harlech, which we have seen and Rhuddlan, Conway, and Caernarfon. The latter two we intend to see tomorrow.) The castle was built with an outer wall around the castle so that invaders would have two walls they had to breech. The walls seem shorter than around other castles. It was besieged and controlled for two years in the revolt by Owain Glyndwr.

This castle seems to be permanently in a half-closed state with the walls closed for safety reasons. Indeed, it is not in good shape with stone stairs that are slippery when wet. Even my sure-footed agility was overcome by a treacherous stair. I fell down. Luckily my cat-like lightning reflexes prevented any injury, but it was a near thing. There is an exhibition on the castles of Edward I. it had much of the same material we has seen at the exhibition at Harlech Castle, not surprising since the two castles had similar and linked histories.

Well, it had been a cold and often rainy day and at times it had even sleeted or snowed, I am not sure which, so we went back to the rooms to have a bit of a warm-up.

About 6:20 PM Evelyn started making hungry noises. Recommended was the Black Boy Inn in Caernarfon with its bar meals. The name and the pictures on the sign would not be seen in the United States. I ordered the Roast Silverside Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. Evelyn is having the lamb in cranberry sauce. Then we sat at the computers and typed in our logs. There was an animated conversation going on about labor and we just sort of ignored it and typed. One of the guys looked over out way and asked "What are you doing?" "We are typing our trip logs in." "What are those things, typewriters?" "Well, they're computers." "I hope you're not writing about us." "Well, no, we're writing about our day." "Well, you better not be writing about us." They were smiling. "No, I'm not writing about you... yet." The discussion changed to discussing the Internet and computers. One person said that he had gotten a computer but took out the modem. When his son said that he got a certain amount of time on the Internet free, he thought it was okay until they asked for the number of his phonecard. He didn't want to type that onto a computer screen. Somebody could see it over his shoulder. I said that should not be a problem. It wouldn't appear on the screen. "But how do I know a hacker isn't getting the number?" Evelyn asked, "How do you know a hacker isn't listening in when you give the number to the operator?" "Well, that's different. That just goes into someone's ear." "Hackers could listen in to that." And so the discussion went. Well, they were friendly enough. The food was just okay, but the people we were talking to were fun. Apparently a couple we were talking to were a famous recording team who sing Welsh music and International favorites. I never found out who they were, but they had just cut a CD.

After dinner we went to a Stop-n-Shop and got some cheese for eating in the car. Then back to the room. Mostly we were log writing. We listened to a radio program about film, but it wasn't really all that good.

September 6, 1995: The British complain that when they come to America they see a price on a menu and that is exclusive of tax so it is not really what you will pay. And they are right, I must admit. Here B&Bs quote you a per person price for a double room. That also is a nasty custom. Most people who stay in a double are not going to pay separately. I guess there is no way to reform either country. And I suppose the American custom is the more pernicious, particularly if you are not used to it.

This is a reasonable trip, though I have to say that a history tour of Wales did not seem promising. I don't know why not, but some countries seem more romantic (in the sense of excitement) than others. I mean there are some really exciting chapters in Canada's history, but nobody runs out and makes movies about them. I guess part of the reason that Wales does not seem to have an interesting history is they just did not win their conflicts often enough and always lost in the end. They fought against England and had minor victories for a few years, but in the end things went against them so often people started thinking of them as part of England. I am told that in the Encyclopedia Britannica for many years the volume with the W's had the entry: "WALES (See ENGLAND)." That had to hurt. I think it has been fixed, but not forgotten. Of course I don't when this happened. Few people knew it, but at some point Britannica ceased to be British. A company in Chicago bought them and it was published there. There was no really British encyclopedia. I wonder how Britannica is doing. I am told it is in financial straits this year due to the new multimedia encyclopedias like Encarta taking over all their business. They sat on their laurels for too long assuming their new format was moving with the times and assuming they had the prestige to stay at the top of the market. They got into the electronic end of things too little too late. The search engines on the Internet, while not covering the same material, are probably going to replace a lot of their business. The problem with the Internet is that while it is a great source of information by its very nature it cannot be authoritative. It is more a communications medium than a compendium of knowledge. Nobody guarantees that what someone will tell you on the telephone is accurate either.

Also, it takes some time for people to realize the power of the Internet. Evelyn is a whiz at traditional library science, but I often am faster than she is finding information she wants on the Internet. Evelyn had heard that someone in Finland had recorded Elvis Presley songs in Latin. She e-mailed our Finnish friend for more information and sent me a copy. As soon as I saw the mail I put into my search engine "Elvis Presley Latin" and had in two minutes more information than she could have wanted on the subject. This is a technology that will change things.

Well, breakfast was two eggs, bacon (more like what we would think of as ham), cereal, mushrooms. It is just terrible. Way too much fat, too many calories, and totally corrupting. I will really miss it when the trip is over.

Well, today we are seeing two more Edward I castles. Those who saw the film Braveheart will remember its kindly view of Edward I. Yes, the Welsh, the Scots, and the Irish all have the same kindly view of Edward I--that eventually he made the world a better place by dying. The English probably remember him a little more positively. I tried to see history a bit from his point of view when I wrote about him in my film review of Braveheart, but the truth is that since he threw the Jews out of England, it is hard for me to work up much sympathy for him.

Caernarfon Castle was the strongest of Edward's Welsh castles and has remained the most famous. It has polygonal towers to remind one of the walls of Constantinople and Edward II was born at the castle and dubbed the first "Prince of Wales." He was given a title named for Wales to help convince the Welsh that Edward took his holding of Wales very seriously. The official title of the heir to the crown has been "the Prince of Wales" ever since though locals claim that no Englishman will ever be a prince of Wales. But this is just one more place where there is a strong separatist movement. I am not sure if the majority of Welsh believe they can run Wales better than the English can. But they don't want to be subject to England. That may be the way of the future. Every ethnic group will be its own country. There are even separatist movements in the United States, but nobody takes them seriously yet.

There is a parking problem in Manhattan because it is such a big city. At least that is the reason given. Caernarfon is a lot smaller and it has the same problem. It isn't the bigness, it is lack of planning and unwillingness to allocate enough space to parking.

We started at Caernarfon Castle in the Queen's Fusiliers Museum. I saw a display on the battle of Badajoz. It said "Night of Easter Sunday 6th April, 1812" It didn't exactly fill me with confidence. That date was a Monday. The museum is located in the prison tower of the castle.

This castle offered guided tours for a pound. This was less than the cost of the two of us getting the guidebook, so we thought we would try it. And yes, it was considerably better than a paper guidebook. The guide knew his stuff and once we started asking intelligent questions he aimed his discussion higher.

It generally took about four years to build a castle, but this one took forty-five years to build. The reason was that this was really supposed to be an administrative center. It certainly is a large castle. Edward I had thirteen other castles built (somehow the number we are hearing varies) but this was the most important and it was built as a palace. This is larger than the others he had built in Northern Wales. It cost #25,000, whereas some of the others would cost less than a thousand. At that time his income was #30,000 a year, so this castle was a heavy investment.

The castle was a big investment and it was financed by loans of English, Italian, and Irish funds. Whenever Edward built a castle, he always 1) used English labor and 2) built an English town around the castle. This cemented an English presence in the area. In this case he built a wall around the English town as part of the castle defenses.

A curious thing about the Welsh is that they grew to like their first invaders, the Romans. Over the years they grew to romanticize the Roman Empire. I suppose it might be that since military history does not feature many (or even any) victories that lasted very long, they came not to mind some of the invaders as much. The one of the heroes of the Mabinogian, the great Welsh epic poem is a Roman emperor with a Welsh name. Edward recognized that the Welsh idolized the Roman Empire, currently having what remains it did in Constantinople and wanted to give his castle some of the feel of that period. He used polygonal towers of eight or ten sides to give an Eastern feel to the architecture.

The castle was built in stages and never completed, with some rooms left unbuilt though their foundations were present. The main tower is the Eagle Tower, so named because it was decorated with stone eagles, a symbol of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately what is left of the eagles after years of exposure is not really anything recognizable as eagles and it is history and not observation that tells us that is what those stones are. The towers actually lean in to allow them to command the area below them.

The main entrance faces the town and had four portcullises. A portcullis is a common feature in medieval castles and in those portrayed in films and is a large wooden grillwork that can be raised and lowered. Films love to show people escaping the castle just as the portcullis is falling. There are murderholes above the entrance for dropping stones and boiling water on invaders. Near the entrance are the beginnings of a second tower like prison tower at the far end, but it was never completed.

Welsh attackers under Llewelyn captured the uncompleted castle in 1294 and held it for six months before Edward captured it back. After that the north wall toward the town was built. A new structure was put into the thick walls. Generally there were slots put into the wall to allow archers to shoot out, but they were single slots pointing directly out. In this wall three slots were put in for each exit slot, one going directly out perpendicular to the wall, and one at each side with the same exit slot but going out at an angle. This way the slot could be used almost like a turret. Attackers could be subjected to a crossfire protecting the walls. After that the castle was never taken by force. There would be four more attacks at various times but the castle was never breached. We were told that structure was unique to this castle. I asked if it was so effective, why wasn't it copied elsewhere. It might have been, but we were coming to the end of the period where human powered weapons were what was used. Gunpowder and cannons would make a big difference.

By 1660 things had taken rather different turn. The Civil War had put the Parliamentarians in control and the Restoration had just removed them. The local Welsh who did not like the castle and could not foresee tourism wanted to tear down the castle and the king's Merry Men saw it as an unnecessary reminder of unpopular monarchy and gave permission. Some of the inner buildings were torn down, but luckily for posterity not a whole lot was lost. This was at least in part because it was so solid the townspeople could not pull it down.

Edward built his castle on a pre-existing castle site and used some of the same foundations. So some of the foundations at the end opposite the Eagle tower are from the 11th Century. There were actually parts of the previous castle still in sight until 1870 when they were covered over. While the castle was still being built he brought his pregnant wife Eleanor to the castle so that Edward II was born at Caernarfon Castle. He was given the pre-existing title "Prince of Wales." There had been previous Princes of Wales but now the English throne was claiming the right to name them and has held on to that right since. There is a legend that when Edward II was less than a week old, Edward I showed him to the people od Wales and said "Here is your new Prince. He speaks no word of English." The legend is questionable since it is claimed Edward II did not get the title of Prince of Wales until he was in his teens.

There is considerably more evidence that Prince Charles became the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon. That was May 1, 1969, and the event occurred with a good deal more pomp than was likely even with the original event.

Much like the statues of ancient Rome, the castles we see today do not really look like those of the past. The original castles would have been covered over in plaster and would be white. The plaster has worn away leaving the rock underneath.

From the castle we were in sight of our next sight, just barely. The Segontium Roman Fort Museum is a tiny museum near the foundations of an old Roman fort. Rome sent thirty legions. There were eighty to a hundred men in a century, six centuries to a cohort, ten cohorts to a legion. Actually that is a bit of a simplification since I believe there would be one cohort that would be larger than the others by quite a bit. But a legion would be typically 5300 men. With thirty legions in Wales, the country had a lot of angry Romans to subdue it. The Romans came in 48 A.D. and the last ones were straggling out about 400 A.D. Segontium is essentially just a large barracks. All you really see is a little reconstructed foundation of what was once a very large post.

Conwy Castle in Conwy is another majestic looking castle. We had had a good experience with the guide this morning and there were signs that said a live guide was available, so we thought we would try it again. You climb to the castle and just inside there was a small shack with a sign that here is where you get the guides. If it only cost #2 like this morning it would be worth it. #2 was the rate, all right. We asked when the next tour was starting and an elderly man standing there said, "right now." We gave him our #2, but I was skeptical. We were the only people he was taking. This guide was willing to take us around for #2. This was either going to be the world's shortest tour or he was going to hit us up for more money. Over an hour later I was trying to figure out how to tip this guy. He clearly deserved more than I had paid him. When he was done he wished us well, got up and walked away before we could offer him more. Evidently he was happy to guide people at #2 for 70 minutes or so of work. He asked were we were from. We told him and he asked if New Jersey named for the Isle of Jersey. Yes, but it wasn't an island.

He started by telling us that the castle was built by an English king named Edward who had defeated a Welsh king named Llewelyn. He had built this castles as one of several to hold this part of the country. Any questions? I had one. Why was Llewelyn willing to swear loyalty to Henry III and not to his son Edward I. I don't think he expected a question that sophisticated from an American. The answer is that Llywelyn knew Edward had much more aggressive designs on Wales than his father had, but it was at least a high school level question and it told him he need not talk down too much to us. That may have been why he was so willing to talk to us for so long.

As with all of Edward's castles he built a town wall. This one is the most complete town wall in the United Kingdom. The front was guarded by a narrow gate passageway into an open area. It then required a right angle turn to get into the castle. All of these made the castle much harder to storm at a run. The doorway was a barbican, which is a type of protected entranceway. The entrance way is no longer roofed, but it did have a roof once and there were murderholes in the roof for dropping rocks and boiling water on invaders. There was a platform over the barbican for further attacking invaders. Some of this seems like overkill, but I guess they wanted to take no chances.

The architect was James of St. George from Savoy. He was especially acquired for this job by Edward from Edward's uncle. It took 1500 men four and a half years from 1283 to 1287. Each mason who worked on a section of wall was allowed to sign his work scratched into stone. He also got five silver pennies a day, which in those days was not bad wages. I asked how the individual stones were formed and was told each was cut from a larger piece with hammer and chisel.

The castle looks very different from how it looked originally. The kitchens are gone, and the slate covering of the roof eroded away. There used to be a stream against the base of the castle and it has retreated, particularly in the dry summer we have been having.

One of the real claims to fame of Conwy Castle was the chapel. It was here in 1399 that Henry Percy met with Richard II and swore his allegiance to Richard. He swore that he would forever be faithful to Richard. He swore also that his pal Henry Bollingbrooke would also forever be faithful. Richard was satisfied. Unfortunately for Richard forever lasted a few hours, then Richard was captured and eventually killed by Henry Percy and friends of Henry Bollingbrooke. Bollingbrooke changed his last name to IV and took the throne of Britain. Of course, for those who are reading carefully you will know that within a year Henry IV was having his own troubles in Wales with a rebellion led by Owain Glyndwr who had been a loyal follower of Richard II but who was not so loyal to Henry IV.

Henry had caused problems for the local Welsh family of Tudor. He had confiscated some of their lands. The Tudors had found out that a Conwy Castle was due to have some carpentry work done on Good Friday, 1401. The garrison was going to be in chapel that morning so they amassed a group of Welsh who sneaked over the town walls and waited by the base of the castle that morning and then a Tudor, dressed as a carpenter, asked to come into the castle to do some carpentry work. He was let in when inside he let down the drawbridge. The garrison came back from Good Friday services to find themselves locked out of Conwy Castle. It spoiled their whole holiday weekend. The castle was held three months; then King Henry gave back lands he has confiscated.

The castle was besieged during the Wars of Roses but held. During the Civil War it surrendered rather than try to hold off a superior force.

After that we made a cursory exploration of the building. The castle has a permanent exhibition on chapels in castles. It is not the aspect of the castle I find the most interesting.

After that we did some exploring over poorly marked roads to find Capelulo for Austrian restaurant. We had to wait about forty minutes until it opened. I had Beef Goulash and Evelyn tried the wild boar. Is there really wild boar in Wales? I bet it was just pork. It came with side dishes of red cabbage, creamed peas and carrots, and new potatoes. Everything got eaten except for some of the potatoes. That should tell you it was good. Just a bit pricey, though.

Then we went back for our final night at the Ty Mawr. I am a little sorry to see this part of the trip come to an end. This was the best bed-and-breakfast on the trip.

September 7, 1995: We had packed last night and were ready at breakfast to pay for our stay, #136 for four nights at the Ty Mawr, and we were on the road by about 8:15 AM. The weather has turned ugly again, the legacy of a dying hurricane from warmer climes. We frequently seem to get rain the last week of a trip.

Capel Garmon is an underground cairn from the Neolithic Age. This is one you actually have to climb down into. It is mostly underground and combines a dug-out walkway with the usual cairn foundation. But what really stands out in my mind about this site is the field we had to walk to get to the site. There had been a lot of sheep in this field. The ground was so dense with sheep pellets you just had to avoid the big clumps. As we walked I told Evelyn "Boy, we sure picked a disgusting hobby, didn't we?" This was the most disgusting thing that has happened to us this whole trip.

The Valle Crucis Abbey is the remains of an Britain's first Gothic abbey built in the early 13th Century. In its first century it had a fire that destroyed most of the rest of the abbey. It was, of course, rebuilt and survived until the Dissolution by Henry VIII in 1535. It had a reputation for having some real hell-raising monks.

To enter you have to go through a souvenir shop selling Brother Cadfael potpourri sachet. Brother Cadfael is a medieval detective from the writings of Ellis Peters. Fans of PBS's Mystery will have recently been introduced to Brother Cadfael played by Derek Jacobi. The buildings are set up as a quadrangle with a courtyard. On one side is the church. The other three sides were buildings the monks lived, worked and ate in. They lived by the classic principles defined by St. Benedict. The monks were to live by Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. These were enforced by manual labor, seclusion, restricted diet, and no individual ownership of property, These are much the same rules currently in enforced in the People's Republic of China. The Benedictines followed the rules of St. Benedict: .DL "" 1 .LI Not to be fond of much talking .LI Not to speak idle words or such as to move to laughter .LI Daily, in one's acts to keep God's commandments .LI To love chastity .LI To hate no man .LI Not to be envious or jealous .LI To show no arrogant spirit .LI To reverence the old .LI To love the young .LE

And once they did all that they had to get used to a 2-AM-to dusk life-style. After exploring the grounds for a while we continued on over the narrow roads.

Our next stop was the village of Llanrhaedr-ym-mochnant. This we noticed in the end-credits was where the film The Englishman Who Walked Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain was shot. It is not where it took place, understand. That was Taff's Well (called Ffynnon Garw in the film). But it was shot here. Driving up toward the village I saw a hill that looked like it would be a likely hill and I got a picture of it. (It turned out later I guessed right.) We drove three times through the town just looking for familiar sites. Evelyn saw on the General Store that they had Englishman souvenirs and thought we might take a look. We picked up a bottle of ginger beer. The owner warned us that it wasn't really alcoholic. (Actually at least at one time there was alcoholic and non-alcoholic Idris, but as a holdover from my childhood I hate the taste of alcohol. I do like the taste of ginger.) The owner turned out to be a very friendly man named Roger with whom we talked about Englishman, Apollo 13, and Tom Hanks. It turned out he was on the Internet so we could exchange e-mail addresses. I found out the hill used in the film was the one I thought it was and the reason the film was not shot at Taff's Well was the number of satellite dishes and other modern devices that would not look right in the film. Roger told us where to look for where they really shot.

We stopped by the side of the road and ate some of the food we have been carrying around in the car. We had some Canadian Cheddar that had been "curing" in the glove compartment for a couple of days due to bad planning. But cheddar should be served at room temperature and this certainly was. I cannot wax enthusiastic about wines, but a good cheddar I have some experience with and this was delightful. Cheeses are graded for strength on a scale of one to five here. This one was a five and it is as good as any cheese anywhere, even with the careless treatment.

I suppose one of the things that confuses Americans in Wales is the propensity to reuse certain prefixes on place names. In Wales there is a Caerleon, a Caernarfon, a Caerphilly, a Caersws, and a Caerwent. Caer is a prefix meaning fort, I believe. I suppose we do the same thing, but usually the forts would not be so densely packed and would be a separate word as in Fort Wayne. But often you have to look at the fourth or fifth letter before you can see a significant letter to distinguish were you are coming from from where you are going. The other problem is so many of the place names are not even pronounceable by the rules they grew up with. I mean in French you will see a name like Francois you can mispronounce it as Fran-soice. But if an American sees Cwmdu or Cwrt I defy him to come up with even a reasonable mispronunciation. How about the word Dda?

The Four Stones of Radnor are not even marked by a sign by the side of the road. When you think you are at the right intersection you have to look over the right fence in the right direction and there are four large stones in the field. Nobody knows who put them there. There is a legend that they are four kings killed in a local battle and that when conditions are right they go together for a drink of water. I don't think so, somehow. Perhaps they don't have accreditation by the powers that be which is why this is our first non-signposted ancient site. Maybe somebody just decided they were a coincidence.

Next came a frantic drive to Hay-on-Wye. Evelyn maintains lists of bookstores on the Internet. This is useful for lots of different people, but it gives her a strong interest in where to find bookstores and Hay-on-Wye is supposedly the town with the densest collection of bookstores in the world. But we had gone out of our way to go to the four rocks and we knew we would not get to Hay-on-Wye until after 4:30 PM and things might close at 5 PM. Evelyn was very frustrated. Driving to Hay-on-Wye she was Hell-on-Wheels. We got there at 4:35 PM.

There is a brochure that claims there are thirty-six bookstores in town. It is clearly not true. First some of what they claim to be bookstores are print shops with no books at all. It seems incorrect to count those. But also if you have one bookstore spread over multiple buildings it seems to be cheating to count each separate building as its own bookstore. Some "bookstores" are not even staffed. The books that will not sell in a used bookstore are put in an "honesty" bookstore for 50p for paperbacks and a pound for hardbacks and you leave the money in a box. These inflate the number of so-called bookstores. I am not sure how many real bookstores I would say were in town. The ones I saw would total to less than the Strand in Manhattan.

One store we went to was just really the science fiction, horror and fantasy department of the larger gestalt store. It was in an old warehouse with beams less than five feet above the floor in some places. You are constantly dodging them. We did find a bookstore that had several Alexander Kent sea novels that I did not have. I bought six, though this means I am going to have to transport them. Well, they are small paperbacks. All six.

We probably spent longer in Hay-on-Wye than we had intended. We got to Abergavenny and tried the first B&B that sounded good in the Rough Guide. It was full. We drove a while and found the second one. It was full. They recommended where we could find another one. We could not find the one recommended. Another one didn't even answer the door. We drove down a road and took the first B&B we passed. It was the Brookfield Bed & Breakfast. The man said he had one more vacancy. We asked to see it, but I knew we would take it. Without much looking at the room we took it.

We walked into the town for dinner and found the Peking Chef. We ordered squid and black bean sauce and Shanghai noodle. It was decent enough, but a bit overpriced by New Jersey standards. Chinese tends to be expensive here compared to United States prices and does not return the additional value. Indian is about the same price and at least in some of the Scottish restaurants it is much better than United States Indian cooking. It may not be as good in Wales as it is in Scotland, however. And in Wales they seem to go in for an Indian dish I have heard of no place else. It is called a "Balti."

The Brookfield is a much less comfortable bed-and-breakfast than the ones we have been used to in other parts of Wales. While being one of the more expensive, it has no in-room facilities. The plumbing is old and noisy. The rooms have no television and no radio. Rather than letting the guests choose when the breakfast is served within reason, it is served from 8 AM to 8:30 AM. This means we have to get a later start on the day. There is a lot of noise from the other guests in the hallway, the plumbing, and noises from the street. The room is cold and the radiator does not work. I think we were lucky to have a place as comfortable as the Ty Mawr for four nights.

I wrote in my log, did a little reading, and conked out.

September 8, 1995: Because breakfast was to be late, we loaded the car before breakfast. The orange juice tasted as if it had gone off. The host seems very friendly and nice but I would not recommend this B&B.

Our original plan for the day was to drive to Raglan Castle immediately after breakfast and indeed that was what we did but we got there at 8:50 AM and the castle did not open till 9:30 AM so we went to get gas. On the way back I asked Evelyn if she wouldn't really be more happy giving Hay-on-Wye a closer look. After all that was one of the things she really wanted to see and it sort of got short shrift yesterday. This was a private castle and less important in history than some of the others. In truth, we may well be getting castled out. Though we neither of us want really to admit it, I think we both preferred a low-key morning browsing old books, many of which are really not available in the United States.

After that we drove to Caerleon which stands on the site of the Roman legionary fortress Isca named for the river (now called Usk). It was founded 75 A.D. Fifteen years later they built the amphitheater. This is the only one still recognizable in Britain. Here the Romans enjoyed sports like feeding people to animals and having people kill each other in the ring. The Romans are sort of idolized in Wales for reasons not entirely clear. The Romans were basically just thugs with organization. If the Cosa Nostra got strong enough to rule the world they would contribute as much or perhaps more to culture than Rome did.

Across a field are the Roman barracks. This is a lot like Segontium, really just foundations so you can see the size of the original barracks rooms and the size of the whole barracks can be estimated. Down the street is the Roman Legionary Museum. It is not very expensive at #1.70, but it is definitely overpriced for the size and interest value of their collection. It looks like they are building another wing, but it is not open. It is just one room of artifacts. Two of the cases apologize that the exhibits are missing because they had recently been burgled. That is bad luck, but somebody should realize what they have is probably not worth the cost.

The exhibit includes pottery, glass, gravestones, and three dummies in Roman dress including a centurion. There are panels talking about the Roman invasion of Britain. There are a lot of carved stones with Latin inscriptions, many of which are from graves. Each Roman soldier had to contribute to a burial fund and burial was provided to all. Of course, I doubt that the grunts got the nice burial of a commander. I wonder if they contributed equally.

On the way out we asked which was the way to the Roman baths. The guard told us they were just down the street. We went down the street, but could not find anything that looked remotely like Roman baths. At the end of the street we gave up and came back toward the museum. It was then we saw a sign that clearly said Roman Baths and pointed to a building off the road. The sign was positioned so that it could be read by people going toward the museum but not away from it.

The most interesting part of the town is the restoration of the Roman baths. The baths were open to the whole legion. They were uncovered first in the late 19th Century when a workman uncovered some mosaics in the course of some digging but it was only relatively recently that the extent of the find was realized. This was a whole exercise and bathing complex.

The Romans would come to the baths, undress and cover themselves in oil. They would then play strenuous ball games until it was clear they really needed baths. When the Romans couldn't stand to be around themselves, they would cease their games and scrape the oil and sweat and dirt and loose hairs and let's-not-think-about-what-else off with a strigil--a sort of curved scraper. I don't know what was done with this material scraped off, but it could probably have been used as a weapon. They would then take dips into three pools, one cold, one medium and one hot. Just which order they would go into the pools seems to be a matter of disagreement between the tape and the panels. The tape said they took the pools in order of increasing temperature: cold, medium, then hot. The panels said hot, medium, then cold. I tend to think the latter makes more sense. Vendors would come around selling pastries, sausages, and other delicacies. You could have hair plucked, shaved, or have a tooth pulled. In general it was a lot like the New York Health and Racquet Club, only not so disgusting because it happened a long time ago.

But the most fascinating find was yet to be made. The baths had drains with big drain covers five feet in diameter. They had collected a kind of silt. The silt was sifted in the hopes o finding things that had come loose of the bathers and been washed down the drains. Up to this point nobody knew what a sloppy and careless people the Roman soldiers were. In the silt they found gems and carved stones. They found game pieces. They found bones from chicken snacks. They found coins. And it wouldn't surprise me if they found two or three small legionnaires. Much of this booty went into the Roman Legion Museum. Probably a lot of it went in the recent robbery. If it was recent.

On to our last castle.

In 1066 the Normans under William the Conqueror won at the Battle of Hastings. Within as little as a year the Normans were ready to start biting pieces off of Wales. Chepstow had a bend in the Wye River that made a perfect defensible spot for a castle. The castle was begun by William fitz Osbern, cousin of William. He defended the English border against the Welsh. The castle had a particularly checkered past, changing hands in Civil War.

The castle exhibition was about Engines of War and included the same tape we had seen at Caerphilly. We walked around the castle, but with admittedly less enthusiasm than some of the previous castles. I guess this sort of thing goes in stages. Stage 1: You look at every nook and cranny of a castle. Stage 2: You look at every nook and cranny of a castle but wonder if some were worth the effort. Stage 3: You look at every nook, but skip some crannies. Stage 4: You see the important points and get a feel for the general layout of the castle. Stage 5: You skip the castle and go shopping.

We are quickly approaching Stage 5. Of course this is our very last castle.

Tintern Abbey is best known for the poem by William Wordsworth. The poem is generally called just "Tintern Abbey" leading one to believe it is about the abbey. Actually the title is "Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour. July 13, 1798." The poem has nothing to do with the abbey. It doesn't even mention it. One might question how he got that high or how he managed to breathe.

Well, what can I say about the abbey? It is large and Gothic-looking, at least to me. The life style is not one that would appeal to me. Apparently you go to sleep at dusk and your day starts at 2 AM with prayers. You have to pray seven times a day. I suppose it is a lot like enlisting in the army in peacetime. Anybody can do it and you are guaranteed employment, you get everything taken care of for you. You never have to worry about food or clothing. All that is just given to you. But you are in another world with no outside contact and it is not a very pleasant one. And you are in a world of heavy discipline. You take what is given to you and it may not be very good. You have few rewards and must live for the job. This Cistercian abbey was founded in 1131 and dissolved in 1535 for reasons that the locals are not talking about--at least not to us.

Walking around the remains of an abbey gives one a sort of a spooky feeling. You have all that Gothic architecture that has fallen apart so you have arches and oddly-shaped window frames supporting nothing.

Well, that complete we headed back to Cardiff and the Penrhys Hotel. It felt oddly like a homecoming after a long separation though we had been gone only seven days.

Dinner was at the local Thai restaurant which claimed to be the only Thai restaurant in Wales and charged like it. I can't fault the food, however. I love good Thai. I have no idea why there are not more Thai restaurants in New Jersey.

Evelyn had had a long day and conked out early. I fell asleep watching Bram Stoker's Dracula which was running on television.

September 9, 1995: This is our last day of touring. It is going to be low-key. We have breakfast, empty out the rented car and then return it. One thing very apparent in Wales is that it seems to be very densely packed. This adds a lot of tension to you day. You have to fit your car into very tight spaces. If you are maneuvering to get into a space, you are virtually assured that someone will come up behind you wanting to get by. I have already talked about narrow streets where you have to go into the oncoming lane because someone has parked on your side and there is only about 18 inches left in your lane. You have to be constantly worrying about not getting into other people's way. It is quite a change from our last vacation in Utah. You could fit three Welsh houses across a Utah road.

It is about a twenty-minute walk to the Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum. It is right down on the bay. We pass several people out walking their dogs. In one group there is one old man with a motorized wheelchair and his young granddaughter walking four dogs. On of the dogs is dragging his leash, but is otherwise free and just following the group. As I walk by him I give him a scratch on his lower back. We pass by a minaret. Incidentally, you see a lot of Moslem women in Cardiff. You probably see a lot of Moslem men also, but they are allowed to dress like everyone else. You will notice that while I make a lot of wisecracks about religion I do not make then about Islam. No, I have the greatest respect for Islam and any religion that has so many crackpots willing to kill for it. I am certain there are great moral values in any religion some of whose spiritual leaders order contract murders on people they don't like or who disagree with them on theological issues. And there must be a good reason why the leaders of other branches of Islam do not condemn the Fatwas from Iran or the murder of innocent people. There's got to be. Right? Hey, no Fatwas needed here whatsoever. Honest.

The museum itself seems to be dedicated to really big engines like the fifty-foot colliery ventilation fan engine which is the first thing you see on the way in. They have a large dynamo from a Cardiff timber yard. The chief qualification is not whether it is a type of machine you might have heard of before and were curious to see. How many of us know what a turbo-alternator is. The chief qualification is being big. You see really big wheels turning driven by really big cogs. There are is a panel of stereoscope views of big engineering projects. This is a museum of how things were implemented in hardware that these days would be in software.

It is peculiar how these machines are all painted bright colors. I don't know if that is true in normal use or if these engines are dressed up for company.

Upstairs there are artifacts of the railways, some small computer-user-controlled displays, the most complex of which is an air-sea rescue simulation. There is also the small bridge of a boat, and some model trains.

Outside they have a model train that takes visitors around, one car and an engine. There are a number of items you can walk through, boats you can climb on, and a helicopter you can see up close. There are a couple of train engines you can see.

In a hangar they have some old cars and carts from Britain's past. A display shows in tiny scale the evolution of vehicles from ancient times to the present. It is decorated with little models of buildings and street scenes. For 1920 there id a little poster for the film Frankenstein. The film wouldn't be made for another eleven years, but the poster is there. Also present was Babs, the car that won the World Land Speed record in 1926. I think it set two records before it crashed, killed its driver, and buried itself in sand. Years later it as salvaged and over a period of years restored.

Following that thought we might want to go to TechniQuest, a science museum about a block away from the last site. The claim is that it is a hands-on science museum. That made it sound a lot like San Francisco's Exploratorium. It was priced fairly expensively and we didn't think we could do it justice. Also we had held off our gift buying until the last day. Not that we had many gifts to buy. It is a good idea to leave gift buying until the last day and get all the fighting out of your system then. Gift-buying does get rid of a lot of pent-up tension. I guess we each have a different idea of how to do it. Well, we walked around Cardiff looking for gifts until we had accomplished that task.

It seems different regions of Britain have different brands of beer that pay for the pub signs and stained glass pub windows, and that sort of thing. Here the local brand is Brains beer. This gives rise to any number of T-shirt slogans like "I have Brains. Brains is what you want." and showing a man with two pints and saying "The man with two Brains." I do like a town where brains are so popular. Particularly if it is not by zombies.

Well, normally we do not have lunch, but there are a number of Welsh specialties that we have not yet tried. We decided to have lunch at the Celtic Cauldron to sample Welsh dishes. This was recommended in the tour book as a place where authentic could be had. We had three dishes.

Welsh Rarebit is a dish that we do have in the United States but we tend to make it very similar to a grilled cheese sandwich. In Wales it is made with beer and mustard mixed in and it is very tasty--certainly the best thing we ordered.

Laverbread is something that has not been exported abroad. It is really a mixture of oatmeal and seaweed baked together. It was served on toast. It is not very tasty; in fact, it has little flavor at all. It has a consistency of overcooked stuffing. It does not seem to go especially well with bread. For this one I do not see the attraction.

Faggots are meatballs in thin sauce, almost like a chunky meatball soup. I am not sure what the meat is and it tastes like it includes organ meat of some sort, liver or perhaps kidney. It came served with chips. I could see how someone would like this, but it certainly is not as tasty as the Rarebit. (It is not served flambeau.)

Well, I will not bore the reader with details of the search for gifts. It is the most painful part of the trip, always. The problem is that feedback is at once necessary and a societal taboo. So nobody ever give you useful feedback like "I never really use bronze Buddhas with clocks in their stomaches." That is considered impolite. Instead they have to pretend they just loved it. There are some hints I could give my friends, but I guess it is just not on.

It still is a funny feeling to look up and see the Union Jack flying over a building. It's like a movie.

I would like to say we did something exciting to finish out the day but we just walked back to the room and rested for the trip home. We watched a film called The Portrait which was just a Hallmark Hall of Fame version of the Broadway play "Painting Churches."

Poachers Lodge was pretty good our last last night in Cardiff, so we thought it would be a good choice this last night in Cardiff which would be our last last night in Cardiff unlike our last last night in Cardiff which was really our first last night in Cardiff. For those who can't figure out what I just said, just take it that we went to Poachers Lodge.

I had lamb chops just to say that I had had them (and because I like lamb) and Evelyn had trout almost identical to the dish I'd had the previous last night in Cardiff. From there it was back to the room and we finished out the day watching My Cousin Vinny.

September 10, 1995: The Penrhys has its share of eccentricities. Perhaps the strangest is the clock-radio. It is the same in each room and is a good Panasonic clock-radio. Each say they have been "modified for hotel use by NORTHMACE LIMITED, Taff's Well, Cardiff. Now I hate to point fingers, but the people at Northmace might not have known exactly what they were doing. The way they have been modified was apparently to disable certain buttons. It is impossible to set the time on them. I cannot tell of this is intentional or if they were trying to accomplish something else and this is what happened. I guess it is a good feature if you have the right time on the clocks already, but they don't. You have to live with whatever time is glowing on the clock or try to have the clock plugged in at midnight or noon. Yesterday morning I woke up early and was unable to determine what time it was. The clock was glowing with the wrong time next to me, but I knew it was useless. I determined the thing to do was force a reset at 8 AM by unplugging and replugging the clock at 8 AM. I did this and now the clock has the right minute on it. To get the right time just subtract eight hours (or add four).

The other weird thing is windows. Now this is very strange, but there is a stained glass window from the rest of the room into the shower. The fact is that stained glass makes the view a little harder but still quite possible. And there is a window into the next room. Not into the bathroom, into some stranger's room next door. Admittedly it is seven feet off the floor so most people cannot look directly into the next room. And their are curtains over it which we closed two nights ago and the helpful staff reopened. But who in their right mind puts such a feature in even a private house much less a hotel. What could they have been thinking of? It is like the old ads that showed two apartments sharing a medicine cabinet.

Over the night stand there is a picture of a little rosy-cheeked girl saying her prayers before eating her breakfast-on-a-tray of tea, toast strips, and an egg. On one side her kitten stares at her tea, on the other her terrier on a chair and is either praying himself or staring at the egg. But the little girl doesn't notice she is praying so earnestly. It is the sort of painting that the Victorians found darling.

Open University was on BBC2 and was doing mathematics right there on television. The topic was equivalence relations and they made it fairly interesting. Of course mathematics is terrifically fascinating--and beautiful--but few people in the United States get a chance to see that. Every once in a while something like Rubik's Cube comes along and people are fascinated by an advanced problem in group theory for a little while. Then they tire of it without realizing that there is a tremendous amount in math that is even more fascinating, but is just now wrapped in plastic. If I got rich I would still travel and still review films, but I would spend the rest of my time doing math. Math is the biggest kick.

I had my last Welsh breakfast and I made it the full English breakfast. When will I get another chance? Again I marveled at the amount of cholesterol in a full English breakfast. Having this lot each morning is roughly like putting a separate little bulldog clip on each of your arteries. I am supposed to get my blood checked when I get back. The cholesterol levels are going to be off the chart. Oh well!

We settled up our bill and took a taxi to the bus. In the bus station we needed to get a boarding pass for the bus to Heathrow.

In the station waiting for the bus, something else that cannot be avoided is smoke. A smoker sat down just opposite to me and lit up. I was relieved when he got up and got on a bus. An old man took his place and took out a tin of cigarettes. He alternately smoked and coughed all-too-visible strands of spit into a tissue.

About twenty minutes later, another man sat next to the cougher and he too was coughing. To no surprise he pulled out about an inch of cigarette and borrowed a flame from the first smoker. I think he was going back and forth between two stubs he had already smoked or had found. This is the shady side of Marlboro Country.

In Wales, indeed in all of Britain, the buildings in the residential blocks of towns are built touching the neighbors. I guess that is more efficient for heating but I wonder how much is there between the buildings. Are your neighbors just on the other side of your wall? Are thicker walls used because it is the end of one house and the beginning of another? Certainly people are used to living much more closely with one's neighbors than in the United States. I guess at the Cardiff hotels, sometimes there was an alleyway between the houses, sometimes there was nothing.

We had a nice day most of yesterday with only an occasional light shower. Today is again overcast and rainy. Well, soon we will be above it.

Let me finish this up quickly since this has little to do with what Wales is really like so instead of going on for paragraphs I will be brief.

We had a three-hour bus ride and I slept through an hour of it in spite of the noisy children in the row behind. We waited longer in queue at check-in than we needed to if they had a single queue multi-server system. We got one server who was very slow. In the row next to us they had no way to signal that the server was going on break and they needed that. People would wait in queue for ten minutes then be told to join another queue.

Security must not have liked the idea I was wearing a photovest because they gave me a real frisking. They opened the compartments of my chest pack and everything.

It is a long way to Gate 22. In fact, a guy with one of those airport go-carts asked what gate we were going to and when he found out it was Gate 22 he offered to take us on his cart. Well, we had a heavy packs (we didn't check any luggage). Everything was on our backs so it was tempting, but we walked.

They gave the whole safety spiel. How to inflate the flotation vest. How it has a whistle to call for help. How to turn on the blinking light. One question they didn't answer. If we don't crash do we get to keep the whistle?

When Evelyn and I got on the plane we pulled out our palmtops. We were hoping they hadn't given away the window seat. No such luck. We were sitting there typing on our palmtops when someone came along and asked if we could pick up our computing. It turned out he had his own hand-held computer but his was a Psion. We compared and I think the HP is the better of the two machines, though he preferred his larger keyboard. We talked. He works for a British company trying to bring together virtual reality and the IMAX big screen process. I can't figure out how that can be done. He is here to see some Imax performances and to go to a conference. We talked about his work, about what we do,

Lunch was Greek salad, turkey with pasta shells, a pastry, cheese and crackers, and a chocolate. A couple times they came around with Mars ice cream snacks. Better than what you get on United States airlines.

I was sitting in my seat and the man in the row in front of me held a sheaf of papers in his hand in the aisle. I saw the name Fermat on it so immediately I was curious. It looked like a play. It had stage directions and one of the characters seemed to be Wiles. Now one of the most exciting stories in mathematics has been Andrew Wiles who sat in an attic in Princeton and proved Fermat's last problem. But I could not imagine that there would be someone doing a play about the Wiles proof. So when he stood up I asked him if someone was doing a play about the proof. He said he was. Where is it being produced? Well, it will be on "Horizon" on the BBC. "Horizon" is sort of the British equivalent of our "Nova.". This was the editor of that series. Flying coach. He told me that "Horizon" will air it at the end of the year and if "Nova" decides to air it, it would be the autumn of 1996. But it is so rare that the public in the United States sees anything about mathematics I find this program very exciting. We exchanged cards and he suggested I send him mail in four months. The man's name is John Lynch. I am told by the Psion user that he must be a serious power player. I just want to see the episode.

The movie was While You Were Sleeping.

So we have two interesting people on the plane. There is a one-year-old girl across the aisle who is cute but a real pain. She is not happy about flying. Behind her is some guy who must hold the world's record for low laugh threshold. The movie isn't bad, but it is not as funny as he thinks.

After the movie more food. Ugh! Little sandwiches, a scone and clotted cream, and a raisin cake bar.

More discussion about the Internet and why we have been typing so much information. Then there are customs forms. Have we been on a farm? Have we ever! We have been climbing through sheep feces to see stones that have been in place 4000 years. That'll do it.

Boy, is air travel a lot more pain than it used to be! I don't know how many passengers used to be across in a 747 but I am sure the original 747s did not pack ten people in a row. They have also moved the rows closer together. We are much more tightly packed than when the plane was originally designed.

Well, time has come to explain to foreign passengers what the system is for getting through Customs. They are showing films of comfortable happy people going through United States Customs. Happy, unruffled customers are shown picking up a single piece of luggage, getting into lines of one person and talking to smiling customs agents. They are processed immediately and happily walk out. In your dreams! What really happens when these planes packed with people land is a scene out of Dante's Inferno.

Well, not much to add. The last time I went through customs it was pretty bad.

Well, what can I say to sum up about Wales? It is clear from the places we visited that Wales seems ever-aware that it ethnically different from England and there are constant reminders of this difference. Perhaps not so much as there would be in Northern Ireland, but they are there in all the Welsh national sites. Perhaps getting a sense of their own ethnic past is a good thing. It probably is. But seeing Wales at the same time there are atrocities and war in Yugoslavia makes one wonder if it wouldn't really be better if Wales could put past injustices into the past and forget them. To some extent they are doing that. But I am ever more reminded of the sad fact that the only thing that seems to bind together people who art ethnically different for any length of time is a common enemy. And as long as that remains true, the world can be assured of constant conflict, sometimes quietly, sometimes not so quietly. .sp 2


Mark R. Leeper (