IT’S A BRAW, BRICHT, MOONLICHT NICHT, THE NICHT.

scottishblogIf I’m being totally honest, there are probably places in Scotland where they really do talk like that.  In fact, many years ago, when visiting Aberdeen, (150 miles from Glasgow where I lived) I struggled to figure out the nationality of the people sitting at the table next to me in the restaurant. Were they Dutch? Scandinavian?  Turns out they were Aberdonians, but with their Doric accents, I could understand very little of what they said.  (Eg Fit like?  –  How are you?)

Writing accents in a novel is tricky. Too much can turn readers off by pulling them out of the story as they try and work out what you’re trying to say. Too little can have a diluting effect as your story could be set anywhere.

As a Scot who’s lived in Canada for many – many – years, here are some common contemporary phrases I notice when I go back to Scotland on holiday. If you’re writing a modern day novel set in Scotland, you might find some of them useful to add a little colour to your setting.

WORDS:
Wee – Scots use this a lot.  Wee monster.  Wait a wee minute.  Wee boy.  It’s a wee way up the road.
Wean – (sound like wane)  A small child.
Rubbish – Garbage/trash.
Hiya! – Hi!  Hello!
Outwith – eg Outwith my control. – Outside (out of) my control.
On your tod – On your own.
Suss out  – Figure out
Uh-huh – yes
Aye – yes
Wheeching along – moving very fast.  eg wheeching along the road
Scooshie cream – Canned whipping cream.
Dead – Very.  eg dead nice
Toilet – Washroom
Bahookie – Butt
Cooker – Stove
Hoover – vacuum.  (I’m going to hoover the carpet)
Messages – groceries.  (I’m going for the messages. I’m just going for the shopping/groceries)
Kirk – church
Chum you – Accompany you.  eg How about I chum you along the road?
Go down the town – Go downtown.

OBSERVATIONS:
irnbrulolliesIrn Bru is Scotland’s soft-drink equivalent to whisky. In fact, I think I’m right in saying that Scotland is the only country in the world where its own homemade soft drink outsells the other ‘big two’ soft drink companies. The adverts claim it’s ‘made from girders’, and I have it on good authority that it’s great for treating a hangover. As you can see, you can also buy Irn Bru in ice lolly/popsicle form. (Check out this classic Irn Bru Commercial and see how many Scottish landmarks you can identify.)

Alcohol is sold in all supermarkets and village stores. The only time it’s not available is on a Sunday morning until 12.30pm – when you should be in church.

Children are usually allowed in lounge bars and pubs – with their parents – until 8pm.

Midgies (Scottish mosquitoes) arrive in May and go right through the summer until August. They are a tiny, but major, irritation and can spoil a holiday if you’re not prepared. To avoid them, stick to the beach, make the most of a windy day, or make sure you’re wearing repellant.

The longest running police drama in the UK was ‘Taggart’, set in Glasgow.

Glasgow Kiss/Glasgow Coma Scale. One leads to the other. A Glasgow Kiss is a vicious headbutt. The Glasgow Coma Scale is the scale used in hospitals worldwide to assess consciousness (or lack of it!) following a head injury.

There’s a (friendly!) rivalry between Scotland’s two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Depending on where you’re from, you might say that the best thing about Glasgow is the road to Edinburgh, or…  You can have more fun at a Glasgow funeral than you can at an Edinburgh wedding.

Back in the 18th/19th centuries, Glasgow was a major centre for the international slave/sugar/tobacco trade and was known as the ‘Second City’ of The Empire.

The three major Scottish Banks (Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank) all issue their own banknotes.

The Screen Machine is a truck that brings a mobile cinema to the Scottish Isles and remote Highlands so locals can catch up on the latest films.

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Twelve Days of Christmas London Style -Day 12

COLUMBIA ROAD FLOWER MARKET

It might seem odd that my last ‘favourite’ thing in my Twelve Days of London is a flower market, but you have to remember that, when J and I flew out of Calgary, we left behind temperatures of minus 30C with windchill. To be faced with such colour, and a LEMON tree – an actual real lemon tree – it was a true feast for the eye.

lemon trees

The Columbia Road Flower Market operates every Sunday from 8am until 3-ish. And it doesn’t just sell flowers.  You want a Christmas tree?  They’ve got Christmas trees!

thistles

The street also boasts an eclectic collection of independent shops, art galleries, vintage stores and coffee shops, so if flowers aren’t your thing, there’s plenty of others things to see.  (And it’s only a 10 minute walk from The Geffrye Museum, one of my favourite museums in London.)

lumbio2  indeer

Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 9

SOMERSET HOUSE

If you’ve ever seen the movies Love Actually, Goldeneye, Sherlock Holmes, The Duchess, Shanghai Knights or Last Chance Harvey (amongst others) then you’ve caught a glimpse of Somerset House, just off The Strand, in London. Known by many (of a certain generation) as Register House, it was, until fairly recently, where official hatch, match and dispatch certificates were filed. (Birth, marriage, death.)

The first building in this location was a Tudor Palace, and it remained a royal palace for many years, housing three queens, including Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II. Extended over the years, it fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1770 to be replaced by the present Somerset House, designed by architect Sir William Chambers, and built to house the Headquarters for Offices of State, especially the Navy and Taxation.

somerset tree

Somerset House Ice Rink, December 2014

With official departments being moved out at the end of the 20th century, much of the building was opened up for public use. Somerset House now hosts the Courtauld Gallery, shops, cafeteria, museum, concerts, summer fountains and winter skating. (For winter skating, it’s advisable to book tickets in advance as many dates/times quickly sell out in advance.)

fortnums

The Fortnum and Mason Christmas Arcade, Somerset House 2014

 

During the Christmas Season, the famous Piccadilly store Fortnum and Mason takes over one of the ground floor wings to provide a beautiful shopping arcade. Fortnum and Mason was founded in 1707 by footman William Fortnum who sold candles made from wax stubs left over from the Royal Household. Over the years F&M became famous for their travelling food baskets, and sent over 10,000 Christmas puddings to the Western Front every year during WW1.

 

basement

Part of the tour of Somerset House.

Tours of various parts of the building that are normally closed to the public take place on Tuesdays at 12.45 and 14.15. Tickets are only available in person on the day and cannot be booked beforehand. For more information, please click here.

When Somerset House was built, the Thames was much wider – there was no Embankment – so boats sailed right up to Somerset House. Nowadays there is a small museum where the boats docked, with audio-visual displays depicting the evolution of the buildings on that site from earliest times to present day.

grave

Memorial Stone. Somerset House

Given that this was once a royal palace with a chapel (and graveyard), there are still some memorial stones to those who were buried within its grounds. One in particular caught my eye, the date of death being 1691/2.  I’ve seen that before on old gravestones and never quite understood why. How can you have 1/2 or 5/6 or 8/9 as the last number on a date? The answer is to do with the changeover from the Julian to Gregorian calendar, with the last two numbers reflecting the date according to both calendars. (The Gregorian calendar, which more accurately reflected the solar year, was introduced into some European countries in 1582. Canada, the US and the UK adopted it in 1752 with Turkey being the last to introduce it in 1927.)

If you are interested in visiting Somerset House, please click here for more details.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 8

MUSEUM OF BRANDS

outsideTucked away in a mews in Notting Hill, you’ll find the Museum of Brands, a gem of a trip down memory lane, opened by consumer historian Robert Opie in 2005. He began his collection in Inverness in 1963 when he decided to keep the packaging on his packet of Munchies instead of throwing it away. Now, the museum boasts a fabulous collection of consumer goods and packaging from the 19th century up to the present day.

imagesIf the name Robert Opie isn’t familiar to you, you’re bound to have seen his ‘Scrapbooks’ of life over the past 100 years in bookstores in Britain and abroad.

Visiting the Museum of Brands offers you a familiar, but half-forgotten world, waiting to be re-explored.  “Remember when…?” “I remember having one of those…”

giftshop

Gift Shop Museum of Brands.

For students of marketing, it’s a fascinating lesson on the importance of branding. Trace the evolution of a bottle of Johnstone’s baby powder, or a tin of Tate & Lyle syrup, or tin of Crosse and Blackwell soup, or Cadbury’s chocolate bar, down through the decades (or centuries!) and you’ll discover the essential brand doesn’t change.

This is a fun way of learning history. When were some of your favourite sweets invented?
Crunchie – 1929
Terry’s Chocolate Orange – (a particular favourite of mine!) 1932
Black Magic – (I remember my Dad buying these for my Mum) 1933
Rowntree’s Dairy Box – 1936
Quality Street – 1936
Cadbury’s Roses – 1938.  (Remember the advert, Roses Grow On You?)

tvs

Televisions lining the wall in the cafe, Museum of Brands

And when you’re sitting in the museum’s cafe, wondering what to do with the wrapper on your KitKat bar, (throw it away or start a collection of your own) sit back and watch the TV adverts of old playing on one of the screens lining the walls. How many jingles do you remember? ‘For hands that do dishes…’ ‘Everyone’s a fruit and nut case…’ ‘Murray mints, Murray mints, Too good to hurry mints…’ ‘The Esso sign means happy motoring…’ ‘My name is Bond. Brooke Bond!’

For details on the museum, its location and opening hours, please click here to check out their website.

dog

Portobello Road

And afterwards, why not take a stroll down Portobello road, a mere stone’s throw from the museum. All and all, a lovely day out.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 6

HAMPSTEAD HEATH

heath2

Hampstead Heath

If I ever win the lottery (mind you, I’d have to start buying tickets first!) I’m going to buy myself a house in Hampstead and walk my dog on Hampstead Heath every day!

This park of 790 acres (with its own police force) is, according to the guide book, less than 6km from Trafalgar Square and just within Zone 2 on the Northern Line.

I adore London, but, even so, the crowds and traffic can sometimes become rather suffocating. Even in the city parks it’s hard to get away from The Madding Crowd. In contrast, I found few tourists walking the heath; most walkers were locals out with their dogs. (The downside of this is that once you’re actually on the heath, there are no signposts.)

parliament hill

The view of London from Parliament Hill.

A quick google search revealed that Hampstead Heath has been used as a location on over 50 movies and TV shows – including Notting Hill, The Omen, 101 Dalmatians and Mansfield Park – so it’s possible you’ve seen it on-screen before. Especially the view from Parliament Hill overlooking London. And that was my goal.

 

“Which way to Parliament Hill?” I asked one of the underground personnel when I arrived at Hampstead Tube Station.

“Turn right and go up the hill,” he said.

Which is what I did.

And got totally lost.

Moral of the story? Just because someone works in a location, doesn’t mean they know the area.

heath 1

The opposite direction to Parliament Hill!

When I found myself inside the park going downhill through a tangled path of trees, I cottoned on that I was probably heading in the wrong direction. About a hundred yards away I saw a man walking his dogs. I reckoned he was bound to know the area. “I know you,” the voice in my head said as I drew closer. “I definitely know you,” it repeated when he started to speak. And then I gave an Oscar-winning performance of my own, pretending not to recognise the Downton Abbey actor, as he pointed me in the right direction!  Turns out there are two heaths – west and east – and I was on the wrong one.

turn left here

Downshire Hill. Turn left here and follow the road all the way down to the park entrance.

If you want to visit Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, turn LEFT as you exit the tube station, and head DOWNHILL until you reach Downshire Hill.  Turn LEFT and walk to the end of the road. Hampstead Heath is just across the road and you’ll find a signpost there to Parliament Hill.

I’d also hoped to visit a few of the museums in Hampstead – Kenwood House, Burgh Museum, John Keats’ House and 2 Willow Road – but none were open that day. (Second moral to the story – always check museum opening times in advance.) But after a fabulous walk across the heath, I enjoyed a leisurely stroll back along the main street.

Despite its village feel, Hampstead boasts some of the most expensive houses in London.It was great just doing a bit of window shopping – apparently Judi Dench has been known to shop for clothes at The Hampstead Bazaar just opposite the tube station – and I stopped in for a lovely cup of tea and scone in one of its tea rooms.

villalge

Hampstead

I’m definitely going to revisit Hampstead on my next trip to London – striding out across the parkland after being hemmed in by people and traffic was a real joy – but this time I’ll take my own advice and check out the museum opening hours ahead of time.

Kenwood House: Daily 10am-5pm

John Keats House: Winter hours: Friday-Sunday 1-5pm

Burgh House Museum: Wednesday to Friday and Sunday noon-5pm

2 Willow Road:Check website

Twelve Days of Christmas London Style – Day 5

HARRY POTTER STUDIO TOUR

hall

The Great Hall. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

If you’re visiting London in December, and you’re a Harry Potter fan, then you HAVE to make the trip out to Watford to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour to see The Great Hall all decked out for Yule.

Getting there:
London Euston to Watford Junction: Trains leave from Euston Station to Watford Junction, but be aware there are two possible lines to take; Midland and London Overground. You want Midland. Midland takes approximately 20 minutes while London Overground takes 50!

Watford Junction to the Studio: Exit the station and turn left into the bus park. You can’t miss the bus stand – and the bus itself is painted purple and covered with pictures from the movie. It costs 2GBP per person and takes around 10-15 minutes. The bus leaves every 20 minutes.

diagon

Diagon Alley. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

Timing: You want to give yourself at least 3 hours to see everything on the tour. Some people do it in two hours, but that’s rushing it. And don’t plan anything ‘timed’ (eg theatre) for that evening. Once you’re ‘in’, you can stay as long as you want, so take your time and enjoy.

If you’re travelling by public transit, I would suggest you book a tour for around 11.30am to give yourself plenty of time to get the train, make connections and exchange your online booking voucher for tickets when you get there. If you’re early, the cafe serves great snacks and meals, and of course the shop is amazing! Everything Potter you can dream of is there!

common room

Gryffindor Common Room. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

The Tour:
First of all, what the tour is not. It’s NOT a theme park. (Two girls sitting beside me in the cafe were surprised there weren’t any rides!) This is a studio tour of the MAKING of the films where you get to see the genuine sets, costumes and props up close. The first soundstage walks you through the sets; the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room, The Weasley’s kitchen etc., and also shows you how they create snow and fire in movies.

cottage

The Potters’ House. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

Outside, you see the exterior of 4 Privet Drive, the Knight bus, the Potters’ house, and the bridge at Hogwarts. It’s also where you can sit and have a Butterbeer – or just regular coffee and snacks if you’d prefer. I had to try the Butterbeer – which I enjoyed! Especially with fake snow falling around me.

Then it’s back inside to see Diagon Alley and all the models, prosthetics, wigs, animatronics etc they created for the films. There’s even a full size Hippogriff, so make sure you bow politely to him as you pass by.

masks

Masks. Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

I loved the tour and could have spent all day there. My only regret – that I booked the 1pm tour and had to be back in town for a theatre show at 7.30pm, so I was constantly watching the clock.

Is this suitable for very young children? Probably not. But a child (of any age!!) who is into Harry Potter and has seen the films will love it!

For the Studio Tour official website, please click here.

Twelve Days of Chirstmas London Style – Day 4

exterior1

The Geffreye Museum, Shoreditch

Tucked away, a 20 minute bus ride from the city centre in Shoreditch, is one of my favourite London museums – The Geffreye Museum. Built by Sir Robert Geffreye in 1714 as an almshouse, it was turned into a museum, focusing on the home and domestic life of the ‘middling sort’, in 1914. It’s a glorious oasis of calm and tranquility in the heart of a busy neighbourhood. Locals who live and work in the area often come here to enjoy a picnic in the grounds of this beautiful building.

exterior2

The Geffreye Museum, Shoreditch

Spread out the length of the main block are middle-class living rooms, ranging from Elizabethan to Victorian times. The exhibition continues downstairs with more rooms featuring our evolving lifestyle throughout the 20th century. Although I’d visited the Geffreye before, I wanted to go back to see the rooms decorated for Xmas – and it was a treat.

elizabethan

Room of ‘the middling sorts’ depicting the 1600s. Geffreye Museum

First off was the Elizabethan room in a home ‘over the shop’. Panelled in rich golden oak with green curtains at the windows, this was the room where the household gathered to eat, socialise and entertain, a fire burning in the grate. With the walls and mantlepiece decorated with greenery for Christmas, the table is laid for a feast.  But look carefully. Disguised as hard-boiled eggs and strips of bacon are sugar treats!

georgian

The Geffreye Museum, Shoreditch

Over the next few centuries a change started to take place in the middle class; home and workplace became separated. Further division occurred within the home itself; instead of one great room for all social activities, these were separated into dining rooms and parlours. Also, there was a growing distinction (and separation) between the family and their servants. Interesting to note, too, how little Xmas decoration there was during this period. A hangover from the Puritan era perhaps?

vistoria

Victorian room decorated for Christmas. Geffreye Museum.

Contrast that with the full explosion of the Victorian room! Although Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, is credited with introducing the Xmas tree to Britain, apparently Xmas trees had been seen in homes earlier in the century. What surprised me about the tree was the decoration at the top. It’s neither star nor fairy but a union flag! (The tree at the Dennis Severs House – which I blogged about a few days ago- was also topped by a flag.)

1950s

1950s Christmas. Geffreye Museum

Downstairs, we enter the 20th century. This room depicts the 1950s. This was the era when my parents bought their first home, so there are some elements here (the paper chains hanging from the ceiling, a miniature artificial tree) which I recognise from my own childhood Christmases.

Behind the museum you’ll find a collection of gardens matching the time periods of the rooms inside. Our gardens have also evolved over the centuries just as much as our interiors. Unfortunately, the gardens are not open to the public during the winter months.

And the purpose of the great room appears to have come full circle. Once again, in the 21st century, common modern home design is to create one large open-plan space on the main floor where the family eats, socializes and children do their homework together. The more things change, the more they stay the same?

tea

Ginger/Lemon tea. The Geffreye Museum

During your visit, make sure to stop and have a meal or snack in the museum’s cafeteria. Backing on to the gardens below, it’s a lovely, bright, open space. The food is great quality – I dare you NOT to have a dessert – and very reasonably priced. I chose to have a cup of ginger and lemon tea (along with a delicious chocolate brownie!) and was delighted to be presented with a small teapot holding slices of fresh ginger and lemon, a tiny dish of honey on the side as sweetener. That’s something I’ll be trying at home.

Entry to The Geffreye Museum is free and it’s open most days except Monday. For further details on the museum and how to get there, please click here.