Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   stuck outside Peebles
Monday, August 13 2007

setting: Room 1, Claymore Guesthouse, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

After breakfast we walked to the city centre and eventually caught a bus to the south edge of town. It was one of the double-decker buses, and we had the top floor all to ourselves for much of the ride. We sat in the front seat of the top level and it was a little like driving the scene. Due to the perspective of the street way down below us it looked like the lane was far too narrow to permit the passage of something as wide as a bus, but this was an optical illusion.
We hadn't been to Edinburgh Castle, but we got a good view of it as we passed in the bus.
The end of the bus line was at the A720 amd wasn't as far out of the city as we would have liked, but we found a place (55.8938 N, 3.2018 W) where cars could pull over and began thumbing. Time passed. More time passed. Rain fell. The rain stopped. Then it fell again. Were we every going to get a ride out of here? But then, as always happens, we had a ride.
Our driver was a youngish man who looked to be something of a hipster, possibly the kind who just falls into it naturally. He worked for the Royal Mail in Edinburgh but lived in Peebles, where he was driving just now. He talked v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, explaining that he hopes to live in Edinburgh but it's very expensive. Still, commuting to Peebles when gasoline costs $8/gallon is also expensive. Gretchen found a big stack of the Scottish Socialist Voice beside her on the backseat, a single copy of which found its way into her possession.
Peebles seemed to be a fairly prosperous little town, although one thing our young driver had said seemed true: most of the people left in Peebles are old.
We snacked on pocketed Claymore Guesthouse food in the Peebles cemetary and then went out on the A72 (55.653 N, 3.2129 W) and started hitchhiking westward. We still had plans of hitchhiking down to northern England and maybe seeing Hadrian's Wall, but as time passed, rains came and went, and no one picked us up, these plans gradually began to seem unrealistic. We eventually decided that if we could just get a ride to Glasgow we'd take it and spend our final two days there.
But no one was picking us up. Part of the problem was demographic: everyone in Peebles was old or tended to pack their cars with absurd numbers of people and things before setting out. So we decided to walk further west down the A72 (Neidpath Road) to see what we could find.
What we found was Neidpath Castle, a beautiful smallish castle that just happened to be closed today. This didn't keep us from wandering its grounds and snapping pictures.
We resumed hitchhiking at the turnoff into the castle, but didn't have any better luck than we'd had outside Peebles. Gretchen, whose virtues does not include a whole lot of patience, was growing increasingly upset by the fact that we weren't getting a ride. This reinforced my view about the downside of hitchhiking with someone else: you're only as patient as the least-patient person in your contingent. Counseling patience soon proved exhausting, so I recommended that we walk further on. But to be ratified, of course, this proposal needed consensus approval.
We passed down a treacherous stretch of road featuring a stone wall and a hairpin turn. There was nowhere to safely walk but atop the wall itself, though beyond the wall was a steep drop down into the River Tweed. Somehow we made it through this section unscathed, continuing on along the side of a beautiful steeply-rolling cowpasture.
We resumed hitchhiking at the intersection of Stobo Road (55.6512 N, 3.2709 W) and things were looking pretty desperate at this point, with the sun gradually sinking in the sky and no one showing any interest in stopping for us. But then someone did. He was a hippie Scottsman with a big bushy red beard and crazy hair. He was driving a fire engine red van full of hippie things like sheepskins and classic rock CDs (as he rolled to a stop, Jimi Hendrix was crunching through the version of "the Star Spangled Banner" that he played at Woodstock). You know that if you wait long enough for a ride eventually someone like this is going to come along and pick you up. The sad thing is that no one else was willing.
The hippie guy drove us well out of his way to Carnwath, a sort of a shabbier version of Peebles. After walking to what looked like a good place, we were quickly picked up by a single woman driving a Saab (two things that would have made made her a demographically-unlikely ride provider). But she claimed to have hitchhiked back in her youth, so it was karma payback time. Unfortunately, she could only take us a couple miles to the intersection with the A721 (55.701 N, 3.6901 W). There we stood for a long time, long enough to eat all the crackers and hummus (purchased in Carnwath) we cared to eat. Gradually the cows in a nearby field drew closer and closer, curious about these strange humans standing around helplessly without their normal protective metal shells.

The next ride we got, our very last one in Scotland, was with a nice older couple who'd seen us hitchhiking outside Peebles and then seen us again here some four hours later. Taking pity on us, they doubled back and picked us up. She was a schoolteacher and he was a kitchen salesman. We talked about hitchhiking in Scotland and European travel generally, and when Gretchen mentioned that her favorite city in Europe had been Rome, the kitchen salesman said that he his parents were both Italian.
They dropped us off in downtown Glasgow, right in front of the massive eight-story Eurohostel, where we thought we stood the greatest chance of finding a vacancy.
The only vacancies tonight were in sex-segregated four-person dormitories. This was acceptable to us, so we checked in. We also got a reservation for a private double tomorrow night.
I went up to my assigned room (number 622) and found it empty of people and that it reeked like an ashtray. As I was putting my bunk together I discovered that one of the other occupants of the room had evidently sat at the room's one table by the window and smoked a cigarette, eventually extinguishing it in a plastic cup about a third full of water. How rude and disgusting is that? So I left a nasty note saying "DON'T BE A FUCKING ARSEHOLE AND SMOKE IN HERE — NOW IT FUCKING STINKS!" On Gretchen's recommendation I also mentioned this at the desk, but by now the hostel was too full for room swapping.

Gretchen and I were still somewhat satiated from our crackers and hummus, so when we went to the 13th Note tonight, all we got were pints of beer and cider and two orders of spicy chips. Gretchen had been talking about spicy chips all the way through the Highlands. Today she actually got one of the cooks to tell her how he made them.

Back at the Eurohostel, I went up to room 622 briefly to get my iBook for use at a free WiFi hotspot. While was there, I found that a large doughy apelike man was lying face down and nearly naked in one of the lower bunks (mine was the other lower bunk). This guy had a hairy back and blue underpants and evidently wasn't feeling the need to make use of blankets. I was fairly certain that it smelled like someone had been smoking since I'd been in here last.
Later when I returned to 622 to go to sleep, the apelike man was sitting at the table (the one where I'd found the extinguished cigarette) eating crisps and drinking from a soda can. He ate noisily, making smacking lip noise, breathing heavily, and engaging in an unnecessary amount of package rustling. When he drank his soda, he made sure he drank absolutely every drop, ultimately holding the empty cans vertically over his mouth and vigorously slurping. Clearly this guy was an animal who had been raised by wolves and never once experienced the civilizing effects of a relationship with a woman.
Eventually the two other occupants of the room drifted in and I fell asleep.

In the middle of the night something woke me up and I smelled the smell of fresh cigarette smoke. Furious, I leapt out of bed and found that apelike brute smoking in the bathroom. "You can't smoke in here!" I shouted. At this point the brute played dumb, acting like he didn't know. "No, you did know!" I insisted. "I even left you a note. And you know what I'm going to do now? I'm going down to the front desk and I'm going to report you, you fucking asshole." I was standing about two feet from his face, daring him with my eyes to give me a reason to tear his throat out. "Yeah, you'll tell them," he said, "and they'll kick me out tomorrow morning, and what will that do?" I ignored him, gathering up my stuff and storming out of the room. At some point in the midst of this one of the two other guys in the room beseeched us, "Could you please not fight in here?"
It was about 4:00am BST when I made it down to the front desk. I told the night clerk about the situation and asked what could be done. "We can go get him and put him out on the street," he said. That sounded like a great idea to me. Asked by the younger of the two clerks (a white South African guy) to describe the offender, I said he had a shaved head and spoke with an accent that sounded like it was from somewhere in the British Isles. The other night staffer was sent up to 622 and reported that indeed the room reeked of smoke and that the offender had been found and was claiming he didn't know about the no-smoking rule (which had applied to all indoor public spaces in Scotland since the Spring of 2006.
I waited at the front desk waiting for the asswipe to get ejected, and eventually he materialized. By this point he was acting like he barely knew English. It turned out that he was actually Spanish, but he didn't respond when I spoke a little to him, except to flash me an irate look when I pointed to the door and said "va." At this point the hostel guys were leaving it to me about what to do with apeman, and I said I wanted him kicked out. When he seemed reluctant to leave, they called the police. But Glasgow is (according to South African clerk) the stabbing capital of Europe, and it seemed we weren't going to rate as a high priority.
By now I was relaxed into a kind of zen calm, but the apeman was becoming more belligerent, telling me what I was in Spanish (I think the word he was using translates roughly to "effeminate tattletale" - as if I shouldn't snitch on someone smoking in my room). By this point the older of the two hostel night employees was irritating me by repeatedly saying he could "see it from both our sides," as if there was any moral justification at all to smoking a cigarette in a room you share with three strangers.
It was getting late, Room 622 smelled like ass, and there were no spare rooms to put me in, so the South African clerk offered to set me up with a mattress in the "Chill Out Room" on the second floor. There were already two other Americans on mattresses in there because the hostel's software had overbooked the place yet again.
I actually slept very well there in the Chill Out Room, although I wondered if those clerks didn't just let apeman return to 622 after I'd been disposed of.

Neidpath Castle.

Gretchen hitchhiking near Carstairs.

The nasty note I left for the apeman.

See more photographs from the Scotland trip.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next