Friday, December 14, 2012

Missive #13 - December 2012

[Sad Note: This Holiday Season will forever be tainted by the shootings in a Portland Mall and a Connecticut elementary school.  Our hearts and prayers go out to all the victims--those killed or wounded, those friends and family who have had their lives ripped apart by the tragedies, and those of us who recoil in fright at what America has become.  It is time for our political, theological, and social leaders to show that they too are sickened to death by these senseless atrocities and to have the guts to make the difficult choices which can help reign in the insanity.  It is time for the rest of us to demand that those same leaders take positive actions and hold them responsible if they don't.]  

Our Christmas Missive, in lieu of a Christmas card or letter, tells what we’ve been doing through some small stories or observations.  Since the travel blog entries give the big details, these vignettes will fill in the small bits.  

Troubles with Rental Autos or Stop the Alarm and Lock the Boot!  We love the Toyota Prius we rented from Arnold Clark Auto in the spring--it was comfortable, easy to drive, and very economical which is important when petrol is $12 a gallon. 

We found out it did come with a major problem.  At Huntingtower Castle outside Perth the car’s alarm sounded as we toured the castle--we heard it and then it shut off.  

I left the castle and checked on the car.  Everything seemed fine.  As I walked away the alarm sounded again.  I shut it off by opening the door and starting the car.  We didn’t have a problem the rest of the evening in our B&B--it never went off at Merlindale.  The next day as we arrived to play Carnoustie’s Burnside golf course the alarm started going off every ten minutes and we couldn’t get it to quit.  We met Colin McLeod, the golf manager, who said he’d take care of the car.  We gave him the key and heard the alarm as we headed down the first fairway.  

We heard the alarm again as we came up to the 18th green. They had moved the car to the front of the office and a secretary would unlock and re-lock the car when the alarm would sound.  Colin had even called Arnold Clark in London, but didn’t get any answers to our problem.  After profusely thanking Colin and the secretary, we drove to our B&B in Crieff and called Arnold Clark’s repair number.  Shortly a mechanic came out to check the car.  He did everything he could to set off the alarm--we rocked the car, popped the bonnet, simulated breaking through a window--nothing would trigger the alarm now.  His conclusion was that the alarm sensor was completely bedeviled and he had no idea what it would do next.  I called the rental company and made arrangements to return the car if the alarm sounded again, but said that I’d keep it even if the alarm wasn’t functioning.  The next day we headed for the Highlands.  The alarm never sounded again.  
In the fall we again rented a Toyota.  A couple of weeks into our trip we thought we discovered a problem with the car.  

One day I walked up to the locked car and opened the boot (truck) without punching the key to unlock it.  Opps!  Had I forgotten to lock it or was it not locking?  All the next day I kept locking the car and checking the boot.  Each time it opened without touching the key.  Now we were really worried that our possessions would be very much at risk.  After golf, as the rain was pouring down, we drove past an Arnold Clark dealer.  I turned around and drove back hoping they could help us.  The dealer wasn’t rental and was selling VWs not Toyotas, but a mechanic said he’d try to help us.  In heavy rain he played with the lock and the key and got the same results.  Finally, he got an idea--locked the car, gave me the key, and told me to walk about 20 feet away.  The boot wouldn’t open!  It had been opening because I was in range and the lock recognized the key in my pocket.  Not a word about that was in the manual--we had checked.  Problem solved.  The boot had been locked all the time, until I’d walk up to it.  Ah, the trials and tribulations of rental cars!

The Bad Knee and Grocery Shopping.  Before our spring trip to Scotland I was told by my doctor that about half the cartilage in my right knee was gone and prescribed PT to strengthen the muscles around the knee.  I could golf with care, but no more carrying clubs.  No problem until we got to Scotland.  I had no problems on the course or touring castles, but the first time and every time I went shopping with Anne in a grocery store the pain would flare up, my knee would start to pop, and I would walk out limping.  A few minutes later I’d be fine with only a little residual tenderness.  Anne and Jacky (our B&B friend) wouldn’t believe me.  Why only the grocery store, they’d say.  I had no answers, but I swear I wasn’t trying to get out of shopping--I rather enjoy seeing the differences between our stores and the Scottish stores.  The fall trip was the same.  For the most part it doesn’t happen in our Fred Meyers or Thriftway grocery stores.  I’ve come to the conclusion that my knee is allergic to Scottish grocers and I’m trying to come up with a name for my newly discovered ailment.  Storitis-Scoticus, perhaps.

Potato Skins at Turnberry.  In a fit of inspiration we stopped at the famous Turnberry GC to find out if we could play.  We could and without breaking the bank.  

After a wonderful round on a world class course we went into the clubhouse lounge for an after-round snack.  The special was potato skins with bacon and cheese, and we ordered one order to share. Think about what one order of potato skins would be in a US clubhouse or pub--a couple of bakers hollowed out, filled with cheese and bacon bits, and broiled. What we got was a small plate with five halves of fingerling potatoes, each about two inches long, hollowed out and lightly sprinkled with cheese and bacon.  Each skin was about one bite’s worth, maybe two if you nibbled.  Price: £5.50 (or $9.00 US)--that’s more than a pound sterling per fingerling half!  Moreover, the potatoe skins (I took spelling lessons from Dan Quayle) weren’t even Yukon Golds.  

Ordering Lattes in Scotland.  Anne and I arrived in Aviemore in time to stop into a local coffee shop for an afternoon latte.  

Here is the exchange when I went to the counter to order:
Me:   I’d like two large vanilla lattes with nonfat milk for staying in, please.
Barista:   That’s two cappuccinos?
Me:   No, two lattes.
Barista:   What size?
Me:   Large, please.
Barista:   To go or stay in?
Me:   Stay in.
Barista:   Two cappuccinos to go...what size?
Me:   No, two large lattes for in.
Barista:   Two large lattes for staying in?
Me:   Yes, with vanilla.
Barista: Two large cappuccinos with vanilla.
Me:   (Louder) No, two large vanilla lattes for staying in!
Barista:   Okay, do you want that for here or to go?

We eventually got our drinks, but I’m sure they were not nonfat.  Some days you’re the windscreen, and some days you’re the bug.
Have a Great Holiday Season.  Slainte!  Bob and Anne