Endingburgh

So, picking right up from my last post.  This will be a short one, just finishing off the end of my Edinburgh time before I head off to Ireland.

Monday, May 30th

I’d say I woke up early and headed straight for the National Museum of Scotland, to see the rest of the exhibits there, but that would be a blatant lie.  In fact, I woke up at my usual time (which I did not note, but the odds are good it was probably around 5:30-ish), had a leisurely morning of breakfast and Twitter, and after a few hours strolled over to the museum to be there just after it opened at 10:00.  Being a morning person means never having to say, “I didn’t hear my alarm go off, I’m going to be late!”  (Jinx, ptooey, ptooey, knock on wood! I do sometimes have super-early flights to catch, best to not get cocky.)

While there was much I had not seen in my previous brief time in this museum, the primary reason to return was this:

I would like to note that the Telegraph and the Observer must be written by faint-hearted people, if they are stunned or staggered by museum exhibits. I can only imagine the museum staff calling up to administration, "Can you have Nurse Amy come back down with the smelling salts? The reporter from the Observer has passed out in front of the pottery again."

I would like to note that the Telegraph and the Observer must be written by faint-hearted people, if they are stunned or staggered by museum exhibits. I can only imagine the museum staff calling up to administration, “Can you have Nurse Amy come back down with the smelling salts? The reporter from the Observer has passed out in front of the pottery again.”

I’d say that it would be hard to imagine passing up the perfect opportunity of seeing an exhibit on Celts in a Celtic land — but I do have a powerful imagination, and can easily invent at least a dozen causes that might yield such a result.  However, I see little benefit in doing so, when actually attending the exhibit was quite feasible and was, indeed, something that I was able to do with little difficulty or ill repercussion, as I shall describe below.

Or, at least, I would describe it, except that it would cost me many thousands of words, because pictures were not allowed.  In some places, I’ve found that irritating.  Here, they explained:

“The Celts exhibition includes many significant loans from 28 institutions across Europe and the UK, for some of which it is a condition of loan that photography by exhibition visitors is not allowed. As these loans are spread throughout the gallery, we are unable to allow photography in this space and ask visitors to respect this in order to ensure these fantastic objects are available for all to enjoy when visiting the exhibition.”

So, basically, “Hey, we’d love to let you take pictures, but if we didn’t obey the arseholes’ conditions we wouldn’t have as much cool stuff to show you.  Sorry.”

What I’ll have to do instead is link you to the museum’s Celts exhibit page, where they have pictures and videos of things in the exhibition.  It should be good until the end of the exhibit, in late September.  After that, I’ll try to remember to check back and see if they have a “Past Exhibits” page that keeps the information, and update this entry if they do.  And, if they don’t, I’ll suggest Googling things like “celtic torcs”, “celtic chariots”, “celtic horns”, “celtic manuscripts” and the like, because they had some pretty fantastic examples of all of those things, as well as some audio visual presentations that were pretty cool.  I wouldn’t say that I was stunned or staggered, but I was certainly impressed.

So, I arrived at the museum, hung out for a few minutes having a fortifying pastry and cup of coffee in a slightly underprepared break area (I don’t think they were expecting someone to arrive first thing Monday morning and make a beeline for the snacks, but we managed), spent about 2 hours in the Celts exhibit, and then wandered out to check out the rest of the museum at about 1:00.  This turned out to be good timing, as the Millenium Clock was just kicking into gear:

A musical clock with carved figures like Death copping a feel on a nude woman is a peculiar thing to see in a public space. I like it!

A musical clock with carved figures like Death copping a feel on a nude woman is a peculiar thing to see in a public space. I like it!

The museum provides portable chairs! I've never seen that in a museum before, it's brilliant!

The museum provides portable folding chairs! I’ve never seen that in a museum before, it’s brilliant! I did not need one, but if there’s a gap in time between my becoming moderately infirm and supportive powered exoskeletons becoming cheaply available, you can be sure that I will use them.

In an earlier post, I showed the main natural history section of the museum.  But they had a bunch of others:

All sorts of curious along the main gallery walls, from whale jaw bones to bronze dishes to airplane propellers.

All sorts of curious along the main gallery walls, from whale jaw bones to bronze dishes to airplane propellers.

Several sections on religion.

Several sections on religion.

Tibetan ceremonial garb, with an audiovisual presentation about the precise, meditative dances that the monks perform in them.

Tibetan ceremonial garb, with an audiovisual presentation about the precise, meditative dances that the monks perform in them.

Folklore from around the world.

Folklore from around the world.

From a display of ancient Scottish tribal religious artifacts.

From a display of ancient Scottish tribal religious artifacts.

The thing that particularly impressed me with all of the religious displays from foreign and local cultures was how reverently they were treated.  It’s common enough to see religious artifacts in museums, and most of them are treated condescendingly at best, or negatively at worst.  They’re described from either an atheistic viewpoint or a Christian one, and there tends to be an undercurrent of “Look at these primitive peoples’ beliefs”; even if they don’t sound condemnatory, they carries with them the viewpoint, stated or unstated, that these beliefs aren’t real or valid.

This museum did none of that.  Each one was treated as inherently real, a way of describing the universe and the group’s relationship to it, without any interjection of a separate, judging, external viewpoint.  “This is what they do, or did, to the best of our knowledge, and we’ll do our best to help you understand it.”  Considering how many museums I’ve been to in my life, even how many good ones… this was unusual and approaching unique in its breadth and consistency.  It felt really good.

And it was even more unusual in a museum that had so much time and space devoted to science and engineering.  For example, there was a huge section on the geological and ecological history of Scotland:

Each of the displays in this section presented the data in a coherent narrative, and then included a section called "How do we know?", that laid out the evidence. I'm not sure how much of that was just intended to be informative, and how much was to close off any possible Creationist objections. "Nope, sorry. Here is the evidence that supports that conclusion. Just let it go, mate."

Each of the displays in this section presented the data in a coherent narrative, and then included a section called “How do we know?”, that laid out the evidence. I’m not sure how much of that was just intended to be informative, and how much was to close off any possible Creationist objections. “Nope, sorry. Here is the evidence that supports that conclusion. Just let it go, mate.”

The path Scotland's land mass has taken across the globe in the last 650 million years.

The path Scotland’s land mass has taken across the globe in the last 650 million years.

It also had a couple of large floors in a connected building that covered Scottish history and politics.  (I’ll have to just point you vaguely at their website’s history page for that, I seem to have taken no pictures there.)  Really, the place had everything.  And, since I left, they’ve added a couple of whole new wings, so I’ll have new stuff to see when I go back.

This has now moved above New York’s Museum of Natural History in my rankings, and vies with their Metropolitan Museum of Art in overall quality.  It was super impressive.

And that was my Monday.  There was no lunch break; I had a Clif Bar to tide me over, at around 2:00 or so, and headed home at around 3:30.  A quiet evening ensued, eating the last of my groceries and watching YouTube, and that was it for sightseeing.  This round.

Tuesday, May 31st

So, my flight from Edinburgh to Cork, Ireland, was at 1:00, arriving at 2:35.  I’d had the idea, originally, of taking train and ferry to get to my destination but, as had been the case with my original travel planning, I soon learned that no land options got me near where I was staying before 10pm or so.  It was all very inconvenient.  So, I bought another plane ticket.

I figured I’d get to the airport early and just have lunch there before the flight.  So, I walked downtown at around 9:30, got on the express bus to the airport, dumped my massive backpack (with my fleece trekking jacket clipped onto the back) onto the luggage rack, and settled in for the ride.  It went quickly, I disembarked at the airport, stumbled about a bit looking for the security gate, and then, in line at the gate to go through the luggage nonsense, realized that my jacket was no longer clipped to my backpack! Aaagh!

Nothing that could be done at that point.  Jacket gone.  Oh well.  🙁   ¯\ _(ツ)_/¯

The weird thing is, not only was the jacket gone, but the clip was gone too.  And it was a pretty secure clip.  I could understand if the jacket had gotten caught on something when I lifted it free, and the little jacket collar loop that I had hooked through the clip had torn loose.  But for the clip to go, too, I just don’t get.  Did someone specifically steal it, unhooking the thing while I was looking?  No idea.  Oh well, again. And sigh.

On the plus side, the airport had a conveyor-belt-sushi restaurant!

At last, my dream fulfilled! I have had Kaitenzushi! And in Scotland, no less! Amazing.

At last, my dream fulfilled! I have had Kaitenzushi! And in Scotland, no less, prepare by authentic, pale, red-headed Scotmen! Amazing. It very nearly made up for the loss of the jacket.

The flight left very nearly on time, with all the romantic pleasure you would expect to associate with an Irish prop plane:

A charming scene, made even more charming by being full of sushi and beer.

A charming scene, made even more charming by being full of sushi and beer.

And airplane coffee made with actual grounds! It's a bloody miracle! (They wanted Euros, the currency of Ireland, but thankfully took pounds, which were what I had handy.)

And airplane coffee made with actual grounds! It’s a bloody miracle! (They wanted Euros, the currency of Ireland, but thankfully took pounds, which were what I had handy.)

And we arrived in Cork in an even more timely fashion than we had departed.  Winning!

So, that will be it for this unusually short blog post.  Ireland shall be next, and of a more respectable size.  You may rest assured on that score.

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2 Responses to Endingburgh

  1. Michael says:

    I’ve never forgotten about you, I hesitate every time I think of contacting you thinking I’ll embarrass myself.

    After reading a few posts of course you’re intelligent but how did I forget your great sense of humour?!? Genuinely laughing 🙂

    Bookmarked, I have a lot to catch up on!

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