Trolly dolly wha hae...

Apologies to Robert Burns
Trolly dolly wha hae aa thy Peanuts,
trolly dolly wham Passengers hae aften dri'n nuts,
welcome to thy layower bed,
or to Vacatien....
Trolly Dolly is a slang term for a Stewardess, as we discovered looking over the list of plays in Edinburgh this fall. We didn't actually make that one, but it was the finest vacation in these isles! It started on a very positive note, flying on a much nicer, friendlier airline than Northwest, with better food!  [Chad's opinion only - I decided early on that I was going on this vacation whether or not Karen came along, because she was being stressed out about vacations in general and NonRev travel inn particular]  When a brilliant friend named Suzanne found an inexpensive charter with ATA, he snapped up a ticket, expecting Karen to make her own way. The idea was that she could always fly on her own airline, and if the charter prices went down (which they did) she could fly ATA. So Karen lucked out and got a ticket for $200, while Chad's was $300.

Arriving at the employee parking lot, Karen immediately spotted a familiar uniform. We rode in on the bus with one of our flight attendants for the Prestwick flight, Kevin, who made sure that we had great seats, let all the other FAs know to take care of us, and got us several bottles of drinking water, which stood us in good stead not only on the flight, but with plenty left over when we needed it most, walking around. Karen enjoyed being on a new kind of plane to her, an L-1011, and the coconut rum drinks were pretty amazing. Not much sleep was to be had, because we stood in the galley trading stories with the ATA flight attendants for hours.

Prestwick airport is very small, about the size of the one in Traverse City, MI. The whole flight schedule for a week can be printed on one page. It took no time at all to pick up a Vauxhall at the car hire bureau (it helped that Kevin made sure we were the first ones off the plane) and get on the road to Edinburgh... Chad probably took more time sitting down and reaquainting himself with a British road map. We drove by Glasgow, which has a lot in common with Detroit, and its outlying city Lanark, which Chad described as "the Flint of Europe"... somehow, that didn't convince either of us to actually stop in Lanark. Karen fell asleep, and Chad was nearly startled out of his mind when the automobile said "Nearing Glasgow M-8 construction, expect ten minute delay". The vehicles in the UK now have a system that will tell you what interchange you are near on a major motorway, and alert you if you are nearing some sort of traffic problem. Fortunately, they won't give you a speeding ticket, which was Chad's first thought when the car started talking (although there are lots of flash cameras mounted by the road to do that).

We went directly into Edinburgh hoping to catch the last performance of Princess Sharon, and the first thing we saw was a great street performance right outside of the Fringe office. The busker was quite an entertainer. He juggled flaming torches, and was just building up to the high point of his performance, where he walked a tightrope, but first, he had to convince several unwitting large men to hold the rope for him. These poor souls then had to hang about for some time, while he pulled a rubber dishwashing glove over his head and inflated it with his nose. He looked like a chicken. The end of *that* part of the act was predictable... BOOM! Did we mention it was raining the whole time? It was a tribute to the busker's showmanship that his audience grew as he convinced a little boy to test his juggling knife, and pass it up to him on the tightrope... he almost had you convinced that he was going to fall off any moment, until he started playing the violin up there... then for his grand finale, he walked the tightrope while juggling a flaming torch, a sharp object, and an apple which he proceeded to eat, still juggling away. We were chilled to the bone by then, and made our way to Chad's favorite Pub, where we had hot tea and ate our first meat pie of the trip. Yum! And we sampled our first taste of Scotch... for free, no less! When we decided to try their special malt of the month, a Glenforres 8yr old, the bartender got it down, decided there wasn't enough in the bottle to give us a full shot, and decided it was gratis. They're nice to Americans in Edinburgh. It was a nice light whisky, with none of the bite or sharpness you'd expect from something so young, and it did help warm us up. I don't remember the name of the pub, but if you are on the Royal Mile, near the Fringe offices, and go down the stairs to the street facing Princes Street across the gardens (formerly the moat of the Castle) it's on your right, across from the train station.

Karen was eager to head to the hotel, so we weren't too disappointed that Princess Sharon was sold out. Her family has some long time Scottish friends... she was five when the families got to know each other. Some things had changed since then. Men had walked on the moon! (forgive me, sweetheart) And Judith had gotten her name changed (funny how new husbands want you to do that) and now runs a hotel, two of them in fact. What luck! Hard to beat that, especially when we couldn't find any rooms in Edinburgh. Well, actually, Judith and Tony managed to make it even better, by being the most welcoming, charming hosts one could possibly hope for... and if their staff go out of their way even one tenth that much for the normal run of guests, they can easily give the Monteleone or the Ritz a run for their money. We had just enough time for a much-needed nap before meeting Judith, Tony, and Mandy (his daughter, but why even try to keep them straight?) for dinner. We had meat pie. Again, but it was really lovely, and we were introduced to the joys of having a house with an entire hotel staff on call to provide things like Toffee Baskets for dessert much to Mandy's and our delight. Mandy is off at boarding school most of the year, so it's a treat for her too.

The smaller of the two hotels, Rescobie, is the one we stayed at because Judith and Tony live there, in a small attached house behind the hotel. There are only 10 guest rooms, all quite palatial. Our room was wonderful... large bed, heated towel rack, a *REAL* bathtub for Karen, with an adjustable shower that was tall enough for Chad... we both agreed we would love to take the bathroom home with us. The view of the gardens from the balcony was lovely, and we took advantage of the teapot one morning, when the staff encouraged us to have breakfast in the room... "you know, you can do that every morning if you like". And what breakfasts! Karen and I are still trying to lose those extra pounds... was it the sausages or the puddings after dinner? We came back with Ginger Preserves that we discovered at Rescobie. Rescobie or Balgeddie House have to be the best place to stay in Scotland if you want to golf (they're close to St. Andrews, the old course and lots of other courses) or just visit, without staying in the city. You'll never find nicer rooms, more helpful staff, or a better chef (apart from the wonderful dinner and "pudding" (we got to appreciate that generic term for dessert) Chef showed us a tremendous picture of the spread for a special event) Tony has his staff doing a remarkable job putting on special banquets, weddings, and corporate functions at Balgeddie, the larger hotel. Expect the kind of quality you'd get in London or Paris.

Our first stop in Edinburgh the previous day had been the C-too venue, which warmed the cockles of our hearts by giving us a free cup of coffee, so we went back there for two plays. One "must-see" was An Immaculate Misconception, the world premiere of a Carl Djerassi script based on his book, Menachem's Seed. Chad was interested because he is on the organizing committee for ConFusion where Djerassi is to be science guest of honor, and Karen enjoyed it because of all the contraversial issues and how well they were handled, all in a one-hour play! [*** We're going to have a video of the play Friday night at 10pm at ConFusion! ***] It was amazing that they packed in so many issues, thinking about testing on your own eggs, using someone's sperm without his knowledge, substituting your own sperm for one of the experimental batches, creating your own pregnancy for experimentation, and the other myriad ways that personal issues were involved in this scientific study, which underlines the premise that science can't just be hard science anymore, it is the social issues that make the play riveting. The whole science in fiction concept is all well and good, but it was the human story that made the play come alive. Chad was thrilled with it because the science WORKED on stage, when the two scientists were attempting the first ICSI procedure, a screen behind them showed a videotape of the actual procedure, pipetting a sperm inside an egg, and the script managed to fit perfectly, to make the procedure seem, as if the audience were actually there at the moment of breakthrough, not just watching some boring documentary. After the performance, we met the whole cast, the director, and the stage manager, and talked with them about the play and what we're doing in Detroit with Djerassi in January. The stage manager was particularly interesting, because he'd worked in Detroit, at the Fox, and told us to definitely check out the work of Djerassi's wife, Dianne Middlebrook, who is a great author who has published biographies of Anne Sexton and Billy Thornton, the Jazz musician. One wonderful thing about the Edinburgh Fringe is that it is small enough that you can do that, and lots of productions can find a small venue and an appreciative audience. Over 900 productions this August!

Our next play was Tamagotchi Heaven. The concept was that a girl replaces her disappointing romantic relationships with the all-absorbing need of her electronic pet. It got lots of rave reviews, not that Karen liked it. She did like the part where the Tamagotchi came to life and sang, "I'm going to make my ascent". Imagine a really tall, muscular black man in something that looks like a particularly shapeless dress slowly rocking back and forth, chanting about "no hamburgers, only cake" with real, wide-eyed intensity! That was the high point of the performance. The main character, from her abuse of her roomate to her enduring self-delusion about everything in her life, especially the man she kept calling, just wasn't very likable. It was an interesting snapshot of modern culture, though... if this is the Prozac Blues of this year's fringe, we aren't making much progress.

Chad's dad was also in town, so we headed out to Herriot Watt University to meet him for dinner. Fortunately, we caught him just as he was returning to his room, and went to a local pub/restaurant for fish and chips. We decided to see a musical, and had to choose between a Rock Popera about Aliens and traditional music of Scotland. Guess which one we went to?! It was called Fall For Me and did we ever! The band was on stage back at the C-too venue, part of the action, but also providing background music. The story is the old Midsummer Night's dream tale, but with hippies and space aliens. Wierd! The aliens were all trying to get ahold of the substance PHUK, which they were also testing on human subjects. PHUK was developed by Bellula mistress of all things fashionable, inventor of the Venturian Gusset and the Antares Minidress. One molecule is enough to make any being fall madly for the next being they see. Indiscriminate, geez! Chad's favorite part was the alien's unrequited love for Elizabeth Montgomery, of Bewitched. He celebrated his nose-twitching sweetheart in a hilarious song and dance number with Elizabeth, who mysteriously appears and then disappears. The third alien, Vargo the Magnificent, aka I am Invincible(I am Overacting) had stolen the potion, and from his extravagant gestures to his bulging eyes, was a great villain. Everyone had a song, from the opening "Fall For Me" complete with the human lovers carrying huge "Laugh-In" style flowers, to the big romantic number about the boy who went off to Vietnam. be continued...

When we date we duel,
'till blood is drawn from one,
but when we wed,
'till one is dead,
the duel goes on and on.
Spean Bridge, Scotland, Thurs.

All this poor doggerel is Copyright 1998

Chad Childers