Officially a Master of Science!

Edinburgh Expeditions

This Wednesday, I graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I’m now officially a Master of Science in Design and Digital Media, which means that I’m now signing everything with ‘MSc’ at the end of my name.

The ceremony took place inside McEwan Hall, one of the ancient buildings that forms part of the University’s main campus.

I looked like a wizard, dressed entirely in black, with a black robe. The only splash of colour was a green and white hood–I guess I’m a Slytherin? Pity, I always thought that I was a Ravenclaw (though my Gryffindor sister will say that the Slytherin is probably more accurate).

Anyways, Edinburgh has a really cool tradition. We get hit on the head with a cap made out of John Knox’s trousers and including a bit that has gone to space. It really beats the traditional handshake, and I think speeds things up a bit. Mum, being a medical professional, was concerned about spreading head lice.

It was a lovely day, a lovely ceremony, and a good opportunity to see my friends once again.


A recipe for an unexpected meal

Edinburgh Expeditions

Following the success of The Recipe Given to Us by the Stoned Irishman back in May (onions, garlic, courgette, pasta and salmon in a cream sauce), we decided that we would have our entire meal planned by strangers. This included a toast, cocktail, and a three course meal.

Armed with a notebook, pen and bouquet of yellow roses, my friends and I hit the streets of Edinburgh to have locals and tourists alike plan our dinner party.

The cocktail was given to us first by a group of skateboarders in Bristo Square. The cocktail? A Jakeyboy, half Buckfast and half cider. We couldn’t find Buckfast, so this was nixed in favour of traditional cocktails.

An elderly gentleman gave us the starter–“You’ll want a soup,” he said. “A nice Scotch broth. Or perhaps borscht.” With the suggestion of borscht we also got a story about dining in restaurants in communist Russia. “And the ice cream. You never think of ice cream when you think of communist Russia, but they had the best ice cream.”

Our main was chicken/vegetarian curry (standard Scottish affair, but delicious nevertheless). The dessert a molten chocolate cake–I wasn’t around for either of these suggestions.

Our toasts came from a busker on the Royal Mile, a Portuguese saw-player who wears a top hat. “Salud” is the only one of the three I can remember. Other toasts came from ourselves, the British Navy of Nelson’s era (fittingly, the Sunday toast is ‘to absent friends’ and the occasion for the dinner was a going away party), and a favourite of one of my recently departed American friends which is not repeated in polite company.

We collected stories to tell through the night, including a very sweet one about what you see when you are falling asleep from one of the Royal Mile vendors. One of my friends is an accomplished harpist, so that night when I told the story, we had musical accompaniment.

We gave each person a yellow rose as a thank you for their contribution. The leftovers we used to make bouquets, and the roses are still going strong, sitting on one of the tables in my flat, fully blooming and only slightly touched by brown.

An eclectic evening, but a fantastic one, filled with friends, laughter and the happiest of memories touched with the sadness of our friend’s departure–but her adventures will be wonderful and I look forward to hearing about them.

Losing my zeds.

The Rogue Zed

I fought, I really did. One year of living in the UK, and I managed to maintain my z’s. Organization had one. Realize had one. Hell, ‘z’ was even called ‘zee’ rather than ‘zed.’

Two and a half weeks of working as a copywriter/editor in Glasgow will change one’s spelling.

The ‘u’ in ‘humour’ and ‘behaviour’ and ‘colour’ were easy, I had used them since moving over here and had, in an experimental turn in high school, managed to tick off several of my teachers who pleaded with me to spell like an American. I eventually acquiesced when my creative writing teacher got annoyed with my use of ‘whilst.’

Since coming over to the UK, I’ve embraced the previously taboo spelling. I assimilated ‘whilst’ into my vocabulary. Pants became trousers immediately (and well, undies remained undies or became pants or knickers). Favourite pub discussions became discussing language differences with my British friends and sometimes in the company of another American, one who wasn’t trying to assimilate as much as I.

Theater became theatre. Center became centre. Rotaries turned to roundabouts. Wrench became spanner. As a joke my mum sent me a British-American dictionary, which I haven’t really opened because I’ve committed a lot of the differences to memory..

I held onto my precious ‘z’s. That is, until my boss was reading what I had edited and pointed out, ‘There’s a zed there.’

‘Oops,’ I replied and promptly changed it.

‘There’s a rogue zed there,’ he said a few minutes later. ‘And another one.’

Since then, I’ve become hyper aware of zeds. And calling them zeds. I’ve renounced the ‘zee’…oh blast.

10 things I’ve learned about life during my first week at work

The Rogue Zed

I started work last week–a full time, temporary position, but I have employment nonetheless. And it’s at a great company, I really enjoy working there. Anyways, over the course of the last ten days, I have learned a great deal.

10. If you need to know something, ask.

It could be simple, or complex. You only look like an idiot if you don’t ask and make a mistake. Also, ask if you’re a newbie. You’re expected to asked silly questions.

9. Take advantage of down time.

Commuting by train like me? Bring a book. A notebook. A shopping list. Anything to make time pass productively. I wrote this article on my commute. Putting time aside to do what you enjoy is easy when you’re stuck on a train.

8. Smile.

Say hello to people you see everyday, even if you don’t know them. Being acknowledged makes people feel good about themselves.

7. Own up to your mistakes and do your best to correct them.

This may mean taking an out-of-pocket expense that results in your needing to avoid the pub for two weeks (I don’t drink that much, but beer is price and so are train tickets); this could also mean taking a working lunch to make up for lost time.

6. Oggling the cute guys (or girls) on your commute is completely acceptable.

You admire the landscape passing outside the train (especially if you’re like me and commute from Edinburgh to Glasgow, lovely views), might as well enjoy the view inside the train as well. Sometimes seeing a cute guy is all the motivation you need to make that 7.37 train.

5. Pay attention to social cues.

If you’re asked to drop an email, don’t continue your book pitch.

4. Refer/spell things as they are in the country you’re living in.

For example, the typical ‘u’s. Also, it isn’t ‘organize’ it is ‘organise.’ Avoid the Rogue Zed!

3. Always do your research.

Could be about a company, a specific product…always best to be prepared and have some preliminary knowledge before you launch into a discussion or pitch.

2. Sudden changes in plans have knockdown effects you may not expect.

It may not be something big, like having to post something originally supposed to be hand-delivered, or it could end up being a massive time waster (see point 1).

1. Always check your mobile for messages about plans.

Otherwise you may pull a Beth and find yourself stranded in Bridge of Allan for an hour waiting for the next train back to Glasgow because your meeting was cancelled and you didn’t see the text explaining that.

And bonus:

Always carry an umbrella.

Edinburgh Summer, you are such a tease.

Edinburgh Expeditions

I’ve always been the sort of person to prefer cold weather to hot. As my fellow New Hampshirites complain about the snow, the wind, and the negative temperatures, I laugh and damn the summer. I would rather be cold than too warm–putting on another jumper, hobo gloves and wrapping up in a blanket with a cuppa and a good book is my idea of the perfect relaxing winter’s day.

Notice that I said “winter.”

Edinburgh’s summers are apparently very short. Like, a week in May. Absolutely gorgeous weather, then nothing but rain and cold. I’ve been very happy that I haven’t packed away my jumpers, and that I didn’t listen to my mother and continue to wear my winter boots.

Yesterday, the first day of summer, was cold. I wore jeans, sheepskin lined slippers, drank hot tea, reorganized my workspace. Which, believe you me, was a lot more work than I initially anticipated.

I return from my digression. I’ve never been one to complain about the cold–until now. I don’t want weather to be too warm, but I would like to wear my dresses. And maybe, just maybe, my sandals. And my new sunglasses. So my reasons for disliking the cold are vain.

It isn’t just that. It’s the rain that keeps you from wanting to venture out, that keeps me from going to the library (as in this weather, I’d rather be cold in my own home, where I can get as much tea as my heart desires, thanks very much). Even trips to the neighborhood Tesco become daunting affairs. “I ventured out to do the laundry, that’s enough,” I said.

Though, I’m pretty fortunate compared to New England. Temperatures in the high 90s to low 100s? No thank you. I’d rather freeze.