Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Grouch's take the British Isles by Land and by Sea! Part 9

The day after the fantastic Edinburgh military tattoo saw us loading onto a bus to head to Stirling castle and the site of the battle of Bannockburn, a struggle of significance to the Scots.

The day was so full of interesting sights and experiences, I will break it down into two separate posts.  
The weather was sunny, cool, and breezy.  the countryside reminded me of rural Pennsylvania, with rolling wooded hills, farms, and green grass.  No wonder so many Scots settled in western Pennsylvania!  

So much history exists in Scotland and so much of it is concentrated around Stirling castle.  

Stirling castle was an active military post for many years after the union of Scotland and England and was the regimental home for the Argyll and Sutherland regiment.  Their museum is at the castle, something that I didn't realize until our time was almost up.  I quickly ran through the museum which was packed with relics from historic campaigns that I have read much about: The battle of New Orleans, the Crimean war, the Zulu wars, the Boer war, and of course the two world wars.  

Our tour guide was a delightful Scots woman who kept us in line and moving along while doing it all with a smile.

Off we go!

"The Kelpies"  commemorating the working horses of Scotland from years past.  The are 100ft tall and very dramatic to see!
We arrived at Stirling castle to begin our tour.  Because the castle is no longer a  royal residence we were permitted to take photos to our heart's content.  Since it had been a regimental military post for so many years, the historic furnishings and fittings were long gone.  An effort is ongoing to reproduce the interior as it was when the castle was home to Scotland's king.  

A very realistic rendition of a Argyll and Sutherland highland soldier as he was during the latter stages of the Boer war.  The artist even got the Lee Enfield rifle correctly rendered.   This wonderful memorial is just outside of the castle gate.

The two Grouch sons enter the castle

"Ultima ratio regum"  The Last Argument of Kings

The William Wallace monument seen from Stirlng castle

One of the docents dressed in period costume and playing the role of someone from the era.   Others were scattered about the castle to answer questions and explain what life was life for them at that time.

I wish I had known this was here sooner!

Zulu war relics

Taken from a church roof at Balaklava during the Crimean war.  For those not in the know, this was the war that resulted in "The Charge of the Light Brigade"   Soldiers are incorrigible souvenir hunters.

From the Boer war

The Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment, Queen Elizabeth II

The previous Colonel-in-Chief, Princess Louisa, daughter of Queen Victoria and much beloved by the regiment.

A grand experience with only one complaint - simply not enough time to see it all!  Scotland is calling to us and someday we will return.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

R.I.P. Maureen O'Hara

Maureen O'Hara, the beautiful Irish actress who starred in many John Ford pictures, passed away at the age of 95.  She was an Irish beauty who displayed a firery temper in many of her roles.

Her part as Mary Kate Danaher in the movie "The Quiet Man" made the movie and helped make the movie a top 10 favorite for me.

Another icon of the greatest generation has passed on.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Old movies to new

Young Daughter bought me a Toshiba combination VCR and DVD machine.  The cool thing about this machine is that you can copy VHS tapes onto DVD long as you know all the semi-secret steps to do so.

We have a collection of VHS tapes that we haven't watched recently because our old VCR was in very poor shape.  Now that we have a VCR that actually works and the motivation to convert the VHS tapes to DVDs, I'm starting to go through them to record to DVD.  It helps that the Missus and Young Son are off at Fright Fest/6 Flags Magic Mountain every weekend this month being scary and all.  It gives me lots of time to watch these old movies in peace.

Last week I recorded three cheesy but fun Sci-Fi movies to a DVD:

These two have a common theme:  Virile men from today accidentally end up in the future where the remnants of humankind survive underground, refugees from a nuclear war.  Strangely, the future men are 98 lb weaklings who could do with a course from Charles Atlas.  These are the guys that get sand kicked in their face at the beach - if there was a beach in the future, in their underground hideaway.  Even more strangely, the women of the future are voluptuous and hungry for manly men like say, Rod Taylor.  They are both fun to watch and The Time Travelers has a thoughtful and different ending.  Loved them both when I first saw them on late night TV and still do.

The third portrays a SoCal family off on a fishing trip who find out that Los Angeles has been nuked while they are headed to the mountains.  It is fun seeing the back roads of my home town portrayed in the movie as the family escapes from radiation and refugees.  Filmed in 1962, it is definitely not politically correct but does raise some ethical questions of how far does a father and husband go to protect his family.!

This weekend is Romantic Adventure movies

I started with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,_Hidden_Dragon  

This is a gorgeous, thoughtful adventure movie set in China and subtitled into English.  I love this flick.

Now I'm recording The Last of the Mohicans, the 1992 version with Daniel Day Lewis

Another adventure-romance, set in the time of the French and Indian war but filmed in the mountains of North Carolina.  A beautiful and exciting movie.

I think I'll lighten it up for movie #3 and finish with Romancing the Stone - the original 1984 version

Whenever I hear the theme to "How the West Was Won" I think of this movie and smile.  If you've seen the movie, you'll know why.  Love this one and so does the Missus.

Anyone want some great, used VHS tapes?

The Grouch's take the British Isles by land and by sea! Part 8 The Edinburgh Tattoo

So. after we finished the Royal Mile tour of Edinburgh we headed back to the ship to dry off, refuel, and get ready for the tattoo that evening.  We were a bit concerned that it would be a wet show but we were ready for any contingency.

August is when Edinburgh hosts the international book fair, the arts festival, the Fringe festival (all of the performances that weren't allowed in the main arts festival) and the counter-fringe festival (stuff event too avant-garde for the Fringe festival!).  Add to that the Military Tattoo and Edinburgh was jumping.   The streets were busy but everyone was in good humor and having a grand time.  

We felt that Edinburgh was the friendliest of the cities that we visited and definitely the most fun.

Early arrivers for the tattoo are corralled several block away from the entrance to the castle on a side street.  We arrived early enough that we were near the front of the crowd.  We had assigned seats so we really could have gotten there 5 minutes before the show started and still gotten in.  I stayed in the holding area while everyone else wandered off to see what they could see.  Security came through to check bags so I gave the young bag inspectors some fun-fruit candies that I had stashed in my backpack.  They were grateful.

The gates were opened and the crowd set off at a race walk to get to the castle.  Really there was no point in hurrying but everyone was so excited to be there, we couldn't help but trot up the street and towards the entrance to the stands.   

I found our seats in the stands (excellent seats, well done Missus!), dried them off with a towel brought from the ship, dried off the seats behind me for some ladies, and then waited the arrival of the rest of the group.

The weather cleared, the sun began to set, and my excitement built.  I had wanted to see the tattoo for years and never expected that I would be there to see it myself.  I couldn't wait for it to begin!

In this year's line up along with the expected pipe bands was a bollywood number and an east-meets-west performance.  To say I was skeptical is an understatement.  I wanted pipe bands and guns!  Also scheduled to perform was the PRC army marching band.  I wasn't going to give those Commies any slack or my applause.   

The bollywood number and the Chinese dragons and acrobatics were fun and the music bouncy and catchy.  I sat on my hands for the Chinese army band until the started singing, yes singing!  Not only could they march and play their instruments, they had singing voices to rival any professional male chorus.  I applauded enthusiastically.  I had to!

The crowd hurrying up the street to the Edinburgh castle where the performance was to be held
Great seats that promised a great view of the show.  The rain was done and the skies were clearing.

The performers were gathering including the lady piper in the center.

The Missus with two new friends!  She absolutely cannot resist a man in a kilt.

The Grouch doing his best not to knock over the Battle of Britain bell whilst getting his picture taken!

The show was starting.  The Lone Piper receives his shot of Scotch whisky from the senior officer present for the event.  The piper tosses it back and then with a shout turns the cup upside down to prove that he has finished it all.  We'll see him again later.

The marching band from the Citadel in South Carolina appeared at the tattoo

The Missus and I are suckers for kilts, bagpipes, pageantry, and girls doing Scottish dancing.  We were in heaven.

The Citadel band

A Bollywood show!  What next?

The Top-Secret drum corps from Switzerland, a big hit with the crowd.

A tribute to the Battle of Britain.  The show began with a low pass by an RAF Hercules transport plane.  The RAF band and singers performed at the show.

The U.S.A.F. precision silent drill team.  Go Air Force!

The massed musicians including fiddle players from the Shetland islands and the mainland Chinese army band and chorus - the band members were the chorus too!

Fireworks too!

I bet that officer was sweating it, being the man out front like that!

I absolutely love pageantry like this!

The lone piper.