Sunday, 30 August 2009


Saturday on our way home from the market in Bury St Edmunds, we spotted a church out in a field. Bob wanted to get a closer look, so turned toward it, but the place we turned was a private driveway. Now many people are protective of their driveways, so when we saw a man walking toward us, we prepared a speech. Bob rolled down his window, and the first word out was "sorry." Bob said we were just wanting to look at the church. The man was very nice about it. He said it was no problem, we could sit there as long as we liked. Then he came back to say if we wanted to get to the church we could take the next right, then right on --- Road, and there was a footpath to the church. How very thoughtful of him.
So we went on around like he said. The street was a dead-end residential street, and there was the footpath like he said. So we pulled to the curb, and as we were getting out of the car an elderly lady was crossing the road. She stopped to admire our lovely children, and Bob volunteered that we were just going up to see the church. Well, she thought that was wonderful, and offered to call the "keyholder" to unlock the building for us to look inside. We didn't want to be any trouble, but she insisted. After delivering her newspaper to her neighbor, she went back in her house and made the phone call. Then she came out with a printed history of the church, which she gave to Bob, and proceeded to walk us over half-way down the footpath, talking all the way about the church and the area.

So there were two super-friendly encounters.

Today, we decided to be friendly. Bob's cousin T is in London, taking teacher training to teach music and English in Spain. So we arranged to meet him at the Epping tube station, and spent the day with him. First, we decided to go walking in Epping Forest. I'd looked it up and knew there wasn't any playgrounds or things like in Thetford Forest, but still, after a few weeks in London a walk in the woods was welcome.
So we walked a little ways, took pictures of trees and the children running around, talked. We found a blackberry patch and picked (and ate) quite a few. I had a pint container with me that was quickly filled, and several pickers were just eating, not putting in the container. Wow! some of those berries were sweet. Anyway, we were headed back toward the parking spot when we met a man with his dog. Someone commented on the dog (he was a beauty, and well trained), and the man just started talking to us. He told us a little about the forest, and mentioned an old fort site not far from where we were. We thanked him and started on, but Bob said he wanted to see the fort, so he went back and asked the man for specific directions, which he was happy to give. So we started walking (he estimated 3/4 mile), enjoying the day and each other's company. About 1/2 way to the fort, the man and dog showed up again. He was afraid we wouldn't find the place, and remembered his first walk in the forest where he was lost for about 3 hours. So he walked us the rest of the way to the fort, visiting with Bob and T the while, sharing what he knew about the area.
We were just astounded at his extreme friendliness.

So that's it on the friendly theme, but to complete our day...
We had lunch at a restaurant between Epping and Loughton, called Old Orleans. It was a little pricey, but well worth it. The food was excellent, service was pretty good despite being busy, portions were quite generous. We were VERY pleased with the experience there.
Then we went to the shopping/outlet mall in Braintree. T bought a couple of shirts at the Reebok store, and Taryn got a pair of shoes at another store. We also got some Cadbury's outlet goodies.
We took the back roads back to Epping, stopping at a little church halfway there. The churchyard was full of holes - rabbit and moles, I guess - and the children had fun avoiding them. William said, "Church fun." Made my day. This one was open so we explored inside, too. Very nice, simple, small church.

Stopped before getting to town for dinner at McDonald's. Had a good time there, too. Then took T back to the tube station, and we headed home.

Monday, 24 August 2009

figured I'd better check in

Thursday was Ella's 3rd birthday. Bob usually has 2 hours at home with us during the week, so he asked us to hold off the festivities until Friday, which was a day off.

Friday, which was also my dad's birthday, we celebrated. The girls all dressed up, so I took Ella outside first thing to take her picture, knowing that the look wouldn't last. (I used Bob's camera, so they got posted to his Flickr.) Then after Bob got up we went to NYPD for lunch. That's New York Pizza and Deli. Had pizza, not as good as the Great Little Pizza Place, but still okay. We were almost finished when my cousin-in-law's friend and her daughter came in. We are friends on Facebook, so I recognized her from her pictures and called out to her. It was nice to meet in person.

We went home for cake and ice cream, and then the little ones took a nap. After naps we did a pinata - not easy when you have no trees. Bob rigged up a rope to the drain pipe, with me holding the other end. It worked, except that the pinata hanger broke off before the candy spilled out. Then we had chicken wings and Hawaiian bread for dinner, followed by presents and more cake.

Saturday we went out to Bury St Edmunds to take pictures. A guy from Bob's work is getting married there this Friday (also a day off work) and wants Bob to do some pictures in the gardens afterward. So Bob wanted to scout out some locations and try some poses. We decided we may as well go for it and get portraits of the children while we were there, so we dressed them all up in their Sunday best. People wondered about us as we marched through the gardens with a suitcase, a stroller, a stepladder, and all these fancy children. It was a fast 2 hours, and we learned a lot (mainly that it's hard to get good pics at 3pm on a sunny day).

Sunday Bob didn't get up til nearly 11, so we missed church. We did go to Brandon in the PM, though, thinking we could walk along the river there. But you really can't. We got some takeaway and made the most of what we had.

what else?

I've been working on my cookbooks some more. Cut up 25 magazines, and am taping the recipes onto notebook paper to put in binders. Nothing worse than knowing you have a recipe and not being able to find it.

My hips have been giving my fits all week; indigestion is bad; can't sleep worth anything. I had some blood work done and it turns out my iron is low, so I've been taking vitamins again. Only 2 1/2 months to go!!!!

I've been pulling onions from the garden. No prizewinners, but some aren't bad sized. This morning I dead-headed the marigolds and weeded the strawberries out front.

Guess that's about all. We need to socialize a little. And make plans for Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Tax free

Theoretically, since we are Americans, we don't have to pay Value Added Tax to purchases on the English economy. That would be nice...

In Iceland, any single purchase over a certain amount ($50, I think) was tax-free. You just took your receipt up to the tax office and they gave you a refund on the spot.

Here it's a different story. You have to go to the place you want to buy something from, get a written estimate on a letterhead addressed to the squadron (or something). Then you go to the bank and pay for a cashier's check for the amount plus a fee (5-10GBP, I'm not sure). Then you take the estimate and the check to the tax office, and they send it off somewhere to be processed. Then, if it's approved, they call you back when it's ready and you go back to the tax office to get a check from them to the company you wish to buy from. Then you go back to the store/business and buy the thing.

So, yeah.

Bob has been looking at lenses ever since his camera fell in the duck pond. He finally decided on one, and planned to do the tax-free thing. So we drove to Bury St Edmund's, paid for parking, walked down to the shop, got a price thing. Took it back to the tax office only to discover it wasn't right because it didn't have their address on it. Found out all the info above. As Bob has been asked to shoot a wedding next Friday, and he's working, and tax free would mean 2 trips to Bury, plus the fees and trips to the bank and tax office, and assuming the lens would still be in stock, and assuming the tax office would get the job done in 1 or 2 days, we decided to just buy it.
Grumble. Some $300 that we shouldn't have to pay, but time and tide wait for no man.
So we grumble about how difficult things are here. But in Iceland we only used the tax free thing once because everything was so expensive we never bought anything on the economy. So I try to keep in mind that it's not so much a rip-off as just not a great deal.

ETA: No, it is a rip-off. I just checked American prices. Now I'm grumbling again.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

found the keys

Bob has been riding his bike to work.

Yesterday before he left, he aired up his tire, using the compressor that's built into the van.

Last night (this morning) when he got home, he couldn't find his keys. He emptied his backpack on the porch. He flashed his light up on my window. He knocked. He walked around checking all the doors and windows (locked - rather unusual, actually). He knocked really loudly; I woke up and let him in.

Today he wasn't feeling terrific and decided to drive the van. Still couldn't find his keys, so I gave him mine. Got all his gear in the van, and there were the keys. In the ignition, still turned to accessory mode (needed to run the compressor). So naturally the van battery was dead.

We tried to jump it with the portable battery thing, but it wasn't strong enough. So he took the minibus.

A frustrating start to a work day, but at least he found his keys.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Sunny Sunday

We had a good church service this morning, though it seemed extra long. My hips hurt so I could not be comfortable, I was hot and thirsty and sleepy. But I did hear from the message that I need to stop using my flaws as excuses for not doing what I'm called to do, but rather need to use my calling as motivation to correct my flaws.

After church (I nearly ran out of the building for fresh air and a drink) we went to the BX for lunch at Pizza Hut. They were having an extra 40% off clearance clothing, so we decided to go ahead and look around. I found a top for me, and nothing for anyone else. We needed fingernail clippers, and on the way to that area I was waylaid by the store manager to complete a survey. 10 minutes, and get a $5 off coupon. Bob said he'd get the shopping and I could do the survey, so I did. I told them the store is too small, crowded, doesn't have what I need and charges too much for what they have. :-) Not that I'm critical.

That all done we stopped by the house to use the toilets and get comfy shoes for Taryn, and then went on to Barton Mills for a boot sale. It was a big sale; lots of vendors. The sun came out right as we got there, but it was breezy so not hot. We bought a little sewing machine, two pair of jeans for the boys, a stuffed giraffe, dress, jacket, and roller skates for Ella (birthday coming up), 5 pair of socks for William, a book for Bob and I, a dress-up chain mail and crusader shirt with helmet and shields for the boys, and a set of England-made dishes, including tea pot, sugar and creamer. Upon hearing comments from Riah and Ella, we were given a bag of local apples and a pogo stick. Whew. What a deal - total price 16.50GBP.

Then we came home, napped, cleaned, and cooked. The family is waiting for me to have Bible time, so I guess it's bye for now.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

missing them

William just realized today that Gram and Papa aren't here. We went to the breakfast table and he asked, "Papas? Dram?" I told him they went home and he mourned until his food was ready.
Yesterday Ella asked about them. I told her they went back to Oklahoma, and she heaved a big sigh and said she wanted them to come back here.
At least we have the immediate hope of talking to them again on the phone, and before long in person.

My friend's mother went home permanently after a bad reaction to surgery. How hard that must be to explain to her young children, when she is mourning herself. God be with Misty and her family.

Monday, 10 August 2009

they're off

Mom and Dad had this terrific idea of staying the night in London last night, to make an easier morning today. Makes sense. So yesterday they were all packed, and we left the house at 8:15am. Went to their hotel - the Holiday Inn M4 - where we planned to park the minibus, take the shuttle to the airport and there take the Tube to the Eye. First thing, we notice all the "don't leave anything in your car" signs. It was only 10am, but they decided to see about checking in. I was very surprised to find they could check in, no additional charge, and the parking would cost 6GBP instead of 10. I'm liking this place. So we took the luggage up to the room, all used the toilet, and then got ready to go.
The shuttle was 4GBP per adult, children free. It wasn't a long drive to the airport - we went to terminal 5 instead of 1,2,3 - and there was a "lift" to the tube. We decided on the way over that we should eat as soon as we found something, so at the airport we went into the M&S Simply Food. We got sandwiches, crisps, biscuits (cookies), and a bag of tangerines. Free napkins! I also topped up Bob's and my Oyster cards at a machine. Then we were on our way.

As we settled into our seats, Bob mentioned to me that Dad had decided he didn't want to go on the Eye after all. (Dad had been sick Saturday and got to second-guessing his his decision to go.) I asked Bob if he wanted to go anyway, thinking to myself that if we weren't going on the Eye, then we didn't need to take the route we'd planned - we could go anywhere. Bob replied that he didn't know, and we went on to handing out the lunch. After a lengthy ride, we got off at Green Park station. The station before, the driver announced something about some lines being closed, but he had a nice quiet voice and none of us knew what he'd actually said. There were ongoing announcements in the station, but they were unspecific (as were the signs). So we took the lift up, walked over, took the lift down, and walked a ways (yes, I realize how blessed we were to have a lift at all, as most tube stations have lots of stairs) to discover that the line we wanted was, indeed, closed. So we walked back, finding the up lift but not the down one. Got back on our previous line to the next station, and changed there. Of course there we had stairs.

Oh, and did I mention it was HOT in the tube? No air at all. The second stage of our journey was quite crowded as well. In fact, after having the parents and walking children get in the car at one door, Bob and the stroller almost didn't make it in the other door. I asked people to move down (there are handles for standing people all the way down the isle between the seats, but everyone stands in the doorway) and one or two did, but then a woman started hollering at me because her husband had a heart condition. Because we all know standing anywhere other than the middle of a doorway will cause heart attacks. Anyway, Bob rolled the stroller over his foot and we got in. The man never looked up.

So we arrived at Waterloo station quite hot and grumpy. First order of business, upon which we all agreed, was to find a toilet. *There* they are. 30 pence per use, and it was down stairs and there was a line. So Mom and I decided to hold it, but the girls and the boys & men went. Now what? Waterloo is a big station, with 6 exits onto 6 roads. So we needed to decide which direction we were going. But it was too hot in there to decide anything, so we just headed toward a door - the farthest one away - to get somewhere we could think. We exited to a cloud of cigarette smoke and a very narrow sidewalk. Didn't know which way to turn. One of the smokers asked where we were going, and Bob said the Eye. He said go back in, and take exit 6 (the opposite side of the station). So we marched back through, double time. Out at exit 6, we discovered a sign indicating the way to the Eye was down a flight of stairs. Straight ahead was a shady place that looked like it might be elevators. No such luck. We decided to sit there a while and cool off. That was nice.

After 20 minutes or so we were cooled off enough to try to talk, and Bob said he would like to go on down to the Eye, even if he didn't get on. So we loaded up and started out, to have Mom call to us as we got to the top of the stairs. She and Dad were just too tired to go gadding about London. They took my cell phone and headed back to the hotel.

We went on. As we approached the Eye, I saw a sign promising toilets, and thought that was a good idea, as I was cramping pretty badly (often happens when I get too hot and then drink too much water). Toilets weren't at the Eye itself, but neither was a long line. The children were eager to go, so Bob decided to go for it. He, Taryn, Naysha, and Riah went to get in line. I took Cedwryck and the stroller to look for the toilets. A sign pointed down the sidewalk to the West. It was solid people down there, but we managed to get through. There were 4 or 5 places to eat, three museums, and an arcade. Every one of them had steps leading up to the entry (all being housed in one old building - I'm trying to remember the name of it) and none with ramps. No sign of the toilet. At the end of the sidewalk were two sets of stairs up, and one set down. So we turned around and headed back.
At one point a couple of women pulled over in front of me (I view pedestrian traffic much the same as vehicular traffic, only without the written rules) and creeped. I tried to be careful not to run into them as I looked for an opportunity to pass, but I guess I bumped one of them. She jumped around so quickly it made William cry, and I said sorry. Then she went off about how I "kept pushing and pushing" so I apologized again, saying I didn't realize I was so close. She chose not to accept my apology, but snapped "Well, you were." Being tired of taking all the blame, and by now finding a place to pass, I snapped back "When you cut in front of me and STOPPED you didn't give me much choice!" And went on down the sidewalk.

We made it back to the little park at the foot of the Eye, found a spot in the shade, and I sat while the little ones chased pigeons. It wasn't long before I saw Bob and his group boarding the Eye. We had a snack of peanut butter crackers, candy, and water. We listened to music from the street performers and watched the boy with the bubbles. The 40 minute "flight" passed quickly. Then we met back up, and the people who'd gone got their snack as we exchanged stories.

Bob was wanting a cheeseburger, so we headed back down the sidewalk to the McDonald's there. With two of us we were able to lift the stroller up the stairs. The whole front was jammed with people in line to order. There was no "back" - seating was downstairs. It was very noisy inside, so we decided to go back out to eat. I went ahead and took the children out while Bob stood in line. The sidewalk tables were full, of course, so we stood at the railing and looked at the river. 30 minutes later I sent Taryn back in to help carry drinks. Another 15 minutes and Bob and Taryn emerged with the food, soda, and ice cream. The tables were still full (we've noticed that once the British get a table, they consider it theirs and are never in a hurry to leave), so we decided to go sit on the stairs at the end of the walk. It was then that we discovered the toilets - not by sign or sight, but by smell. It seems they were down the stairs. We held our noses as we walked across the opening, and sat on the edge of the lesser-used stairs that led up.

After a refreshing meal (being about 3pm), we thought what to do next. All things considered, we decided to head back home, but through a different station. So we walked East along the sidewalk (this area is known as the South Bank, being on the south of the river Thames) to the pedestrian bridge, to the Embankment tube station. This took us back past the Eye, which now had a very long line indeed. We also walked past all the street performers, artists, musicians, who crowded the sidewalk. At the foot of the bridge there was a lift (elevator) up to the walkway, so we took it up and crossed the river. The lift on the other end of the bridge, however, was out of order, so Bob bounced the stroller down the stairs. Ella and William thought it was hilarious.

As we were on the bridge, Mom called to say they were back to their room, and wondered about dinner. We told them to go ahead, as we'd had food and it would be awhile before we got there.

We found the tube station, to discover that the route we intended to take was also closed for the weekend. But, as I pondered the map, an employee asked if I was all right (kudos to him; that doesn't happen often) and helped me find the way to go. It was only one change after all, so no problem. We also bought some water, as we'd sweated out all we'd brought with us already, and the man in the shop told us where the toilets were. (Keeping in mind, I'm 6 months pregnant and haven't been in over 6 hours). These particular toilets cost 50p each, and had a turn style entry. Naysha and I did get in on one go, but Taryn paid again. It didn't count one of her coins, so she asked for more, and I told her to just duck under the style; we DID pay. After such a ridiculous fee, I was irritated to find the first open stall was out of paper. What were we paying for, anyway? But others were operational.

Then onto the tube - more stairs, of course - where (at our exchange) we let the first train go by because it was so crowded. The next two went a different route, and then we decided to go for it. We barely managed to squeeze in, but people shifted and we made it. Thinking it was stuffed already, the next two stops brought more on and none off. Yikes. But after that it was a gradual lightening of the load, until we were each able to have a seat for the last section of the trip. Off at the airport, we found our bus stop pretty easily, thanks to a helpful employee, and after confirming that it was the bus we wanted, proceeded to pay for 3 tickets, since each adult is only allowed 2 free children. Whatever. It was air conditioned, so made for a nice ride back to the hotel. There we found Mom and Dad showered, fed, and pretty happy. Of course, until the hugs started. Mom finally had to chase us out before she broke down completely.

Dad walked us down to make sure we got the parking paid for all right (we paid at the desk) and saw us out to the car. It was about 7:30 at this time, when we usually start getting the children ready for bed. We found the road without any trouble, thanks more to Bob's good driving than an abundance of information, and had just got started on the M25 when we hit construction. For about an hour we averaged 15 MPH. Then things cleared out a little, and we got off on the M11 toward home. We stopped at the Stanstead services (we've been there twice before) for a "midnight" snack at KFC. William wanted to hug more than eat, but the rest of us were pretty hungry. Two trips each to the toilets, and then a stop at the shop for candy, and we were back on the road.

We made it home about 11pm and got the children in bed. I showered and Bob and I were asleep by 12.

It is now 10:15 am, and I assume Mom and Dad are in the plane, starting to level off. Today will be a long day for them, as they won't land in OKC until 1am our time, and then have over an hour drive to get home. Staying overnight close to the airport is sounding like a really good idea.

And now it's back to work for me...

Sunday, 2 August 2009

about time (may take some time)

I guess it's about time I blogged a bit. Not in the mood today, but I have loads of free time and I'm afraid I'll forget if I wait any longer. SO here goes.

Monday morning, after breakfast but before lunch, Bob and I headed to the airport. It's about an hour and a half to London Luton from here. We had pre-paid for a parking spot in the long term area, which was a bargain at 40GBP. Yikes! Our plane tickets were only 100. Long term parking is way around behind all the regular airport stuff: easy to find if you only ever get to it. Once there we found a spot not far from the shuttle pick-up point, got out, locked up, and waited for the bus. We each had a backpack carry-on and we shared one suitcase. The bus finally came, and took us all the way around back to the front of the airport.

There is only one terminal at Luton, and it was pretty easy to find our way around. Checked in fine, and were told to watch the monitors for our gate number. We got lunch at Burger King, after a few difficulties. After eating we went through security, where my bag was targeted for inspection. The power cord for Bob's laptop looked suspicious, but after a careful scanning we were allowed to take it on through. Then we got to sit around and wait for the gate number to be displayed.
We flew EasyJet, which doesn't assign seats. The website indicated people were boarded in the order that they checked in, except for those who paid extra to go first. Not entirely true. The first 30 people to check in got to go ahead of the rest of the group, but otherwise it was a race to the gate to queue up for boarding.
Anyway, we got in line and stood there for awhile, during which time I took an Actifed (decongestant) to help my ears not hurt so bad. When we finally got to go, it was a walk down stairs, outside and across the tarmac and then up stairs onto the plane. They loaded people in front and back. We went for the front, and found an empty row just in front of the wing. I went for the window, and Bob took the isle seat, leaving an empty seat between us. As the plane filled up, I kept expecting Bob would have to move over and someone else would sit at the isle, but it didn't happen. We got to travel in luxury.
The plane was a 737-700. Flight took about 1 hour 15 minutes. (To drive would have taken over 12 hours.) About 25 minutes before landing I experienced terrible pain in my ears, but less in the one whose earplug was inserted properly. It was all over before we landed.

We got off the plane, walked down and across and into Inverness airport. They have only two gates, and one baggage claim belt. It took just a few minutes to get the suitcase, and we were headed out. The Enterprise car rental lady was waiting for us, ready to go, so we took off with her. It was a pleasant drive to the Enterprise office, where we answered a few questions and were on our way in a fairly new Vauxhall Astra. We followed my Google map printout to our hotel (it was almost right). Actually a B&B type, with 6 rooms and parking for 2 cars. We managed to snag a space every night. Checked in and headed for downtown.

I'd read about a used bookstore/coffee shop there, and we tried to find it. But Church street is longer than it looks on the map, and we never found it. We would have tried harder, but they are only open 1-5pm and we just didn't have the time. We found the tourist Information Center, which had about the average amount of info (very little). Then wandered around a bit, going into a closing shopping center and having supper at KFC there. As town seemed to be rolling up the sidewalks, we decided to go for a drive.

We found our way out of Inverness, which is a bigger city than we thought at first, and built on both sides of the river/firth/loch and only has one bridge across. There is one road in and out of town. We headed north-east to the Black Isle, which is neither an island nor black. There is a light house on the beach there and so we went out there and walked around awhile, then sat and stacked rocks and watched a cruise ship and a sail boat and the ferry. When we were done we went back to our room in Inverness for a decent night's sleep on the memory foam mattress.

We woke up when we were done sleeping, had a shower with incredibly high water pressure (you don't know the meaning of the word "low pressure" until you've showered in England), and went down to breakfast. Cold cereal and juice followed by eggs and "bacon" for me (Bob also had sausage, beans, and mushrooms) with toast, coffee for Bob and milk for me. Then we simply got in the car and took off. This may not sound like much to you, but when one has 6 young children one must not just go. A normal trip for our family involves 20 minutes of finding and tying on socks and shoes, 5 minutes of getting diapers and things for the bag, checking diapers before we go, making sure everyone has been to the toilet, thinking about the time and the next meal, then getting everyone in the car and strapped down. But with no children, you just get in the car.

First we stopped at Tesco for bottled water and snacks, and then we were off to see Loch Ness. We drove down the north side of the loch, stopping frequently to look and take pictures, all the way to Fort Agustus, and then on the Fort William, and then a little farther to Glencoe. We had spurts of sun and rain. We went into a castle on the loch, and climbed down around a few waterfalls. At one waterfall there wasn't really a trail down, so I stayed by the road while Bob climbed down. A car full of young men stopped as well, and they walked past me, looking for a path down to the water (they were planning to kayak). One youth saw the place Bob had gone down, gave a whistle, and kept on walking. I had to chuckle that my 40-something hubby made it down and these hot shot 20-somethings wouldn't try.

The beauty of the area was overwhelming. Everything was lushly green, huge trees, moss 6 inches thick, waterfalls everywhere, mountains, lakes... We did our best to absorb it, and Bob did his best to photograph it.

We drove back to Inverness on the south side of Loch Ness; a smaller windy road, but not so much traffic. Once back into town we found a "casual dining" place. I had spaghetti and Bob got a cheeseburger. Just a thought - I REALLY like the practice here of having a menu posted outside the front door. This gives people the opportunity to see what is on offer, and you can decide to go in or not. Whereas in the States, you have to go in and ask for a menu (if you've never been to that place before) and then either stay or leave. After dinner we went back to the room for a dip in the jacuzzi tub. Lovely.

Our second day we drove north-west and went to Ullapool. We stopped at two waterfalls, both with swinging suspension bridges that I would not set foot on. We had showers and sun that day, too. On this day we passed through some deserted landscape. Still lush and green, but no trees, no houses, not even sheep. When we looked closely, we saw that the whole area was boggy. In Ullapool we did some shopping. We bought gifts for each other, for the children, and for my parents. We didn't really have lunch, just a few snacks. With the cooked breakfast we didn't want much lunch.

Back down to Inverness, where we prettied up in our room and then walked into the city center. As we walked we heard bagpipes. Just up the street a band had gathered. Pipes and drums, in full kilt. A crowd soon gathered to watch as they went through two songs, and then started marching down the middle of the street (with police escort). It seems they were part of the Inverness Tattoo which was happening that week. We thought for a moment about getting tickets (our first night, in the TIC), but passed. Anyway, we got to see the best part of the show for free. :-) We wanted to have a "nice" dinner, but were very picky in spite of being hungry. Eventually settled on The Room. Bob had steak and I don't remember what I had. But it was nice.

Thursday was the end of our stay. We had until 1. We drove east to Culloden, and then to Clava to see the cairns and the viaduct. Back to town for lunch at a cafe near the train station and parking lot, and then we took back the rental car. The same lady took us to the airport, taking a back road so that we swung by Castle Stuart.

We got to the airport a little early - check in hadn't officially started yet, but they put us through. I was wanting ice cream, but the one shop there had a small freezer that was empty. The one cafe there didn't offer ice cream. I asked at the information booth, because most airports have large shopping areas behind the security wall, but she said there was nothing there and we'd best stay out front as long as possible. Well, they did have internet there, and there was the one shop (I bought a hardback biography of Bonnie Prince Charlie for 99p), and we had chairs. ... We both nearly fell asleep. Eventually we couldn't stand it anymore and went on through security. I was called over to let the female guard check under my headcovering, and then Bob set off the buzzer. He was wearing cargo pants, and forgot the car keys were in a lower pocket. So they wanded him, he pulled out the keys, and then they patted him down and made him take off his shoes. (As a rule, people didn't take their shoes off.) But they decided to let us through.

It was a little crowded back there, but we found a seat. And lest I should fall asleep again, I went over to the cafe to get a soda. There was a sign on the counter about ice cream! So I got us each a pot of organic dark chocolate ice cream, and one soda. It was good.

We tried the same trick with the seats, but this time someone came to sit with us, so it was a bit more crowded. I got my earplugs in better this time, and it was a good thing, too. The row in front of us was a dad and two little girls. They yelled and screamed the whole way, and he never looked at them. I really thought the flight attendant would say something, but she never did. Oh well, they had fun, I guess (it was happy, playing screams most of the time).

Back to Luton, back to the far car park, back on the road home. We stopped at McDonald's for supper, and were home before the children's bed time. They were quite excited to see us - we could hear the shouts from the car as we pulled up.

So I guess I should talk about Friday and Saturday at some other time.