Saturday, October 14, 2006

More Saturday Adventures: Clydebank, Roman Bathhouse, Driving, Neighbors

Entry for 14 October 2006

1. Running down the canal to Clydebank: This time I decided to see how far I could get running down toward the River Clyde. Another beautiful day; about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, crisp but not cold, a light breeze. At 8:30am when I start out, not fully light yet. Almost no one out at that time on Saturday morning. I run past the big mall on Great Western Road where we went to the Sainsbury’s the other night. This part of the canal seems flatter, not as high up as the sections to the east where I’ve been doing most of my running. Reaching Clydebank, there looms McMonagle’s Fish and Chips Restaurant; eccentric restaurant in the shape of ship: right on the canal, it boasts of being Scotland’s only sail-through fish and chips restaurant. Where is Brendan with his camera, I think, to memorialize this tacky monument to a national obsession with unhealthy food? Nine miles roundtrip; no knee pain this week; pleased with myself, back by 10am already taking on fluids and protein; 10 miles next time?

2. The Roman Bathhouse: For this week’s exciting Saturday Adventure, Diane and I set out, with her driving our newly-acquired Vauxhall Corsa to the Roman ruins at Bearsden (5 miles north of Anniesland). We are both still somewhat freaked out by the driving here; this is our second exposure session. Getting to Roman Road in Bearsden is stressful but not really too difficult; however, when we get there the parking lot is full, and Diane drives off the curb, which rattles her. We manage to find a space in the public lot behind the church, along the Manse Burn (Burn = brook; manse = house the minister lives in) that the locals seem to use. The Roman Bathhouse turns out to be a wonderful antidote to all the walls and forts we’ve seen, simply because of its mundaneity: monument to a lot of really dirty Roman soldiers. Impressive bathing technology, with lots of rooms of different temperatures. Over to the side and downstream so as to make use of the used bathwater, is the latrine. They used washable sponges instead of toilet paper, leading to the inevitable questions: Who washed the used sponges?

3. Further Saturday Driving Adventures: We hope to collect all the bits of the Antonine Wall, so we drive on to a little cemetery about a mile further on, to see a bit of wall that has been excavated in the midst the cemetery. On the way in, Diane grazes the curb with the back wheel of the car (that’s two!). Afterwards, always wanting to explore, I navigate her off into the unknown farmlands north of the city; in fact, off the edge of our maps onto narrow windy roads, through the beautiful green country. But the oncoming traffic puts her over the edge, and finally she’s had it for driving for today. Actually, it was an excellent run, real progress, but she’s unhappy with herself and the blasted roads. I take over, following the signs toward Milngavie (for some reason, pronounced by the natives as “Mull-guy”!), down some really narrow twisty one-lane roads, until we come into Milngavie by the back way. We continue down the Glasgow Road into Bearsden again, completing the loop, then stop at the ASDA, one of the gi-normous superstores that have sprung up all over Europe in the past 15 years. I begin serious investigation of electronics options, but fail to find a tape player for Diane to play her English language exam practice tapes on, or a VHS player that I can be confident will play NTSC videotapes. Finally, we head home, where after tea and muffins, I persuade her to let me drive us to the Argos electronic store in Partick (once more into the breach!), to pick up a shoebox audiocassette player for her. This is our first serious urban driving in this car and of course I miss the entrance the first time, giving me more practice navigating a one-way dead-end street (not unusual for here!) and busy narrow main roads. Mission accomplished.

4. Who are the people in your neighborhood? We return home to learn from our neighbor that the local convenience store has Diane’s passport, left last week when she made a quick trip in the pouring rain to photocopy the passport for the blasted language exam. The store owner, who appears to be Pakistani, seems to think that all Americans know each other, because he has asked our neighbor, Shannon, who is also American, if she knows us. It is embarrassing to have to retrieve one’s missing passport in front of a line of people waiting at the cash point (the manager doesn’t help matters when he can’t resist remarking that it’s been here for a week). However, it is really good fortune that the manager has asked Shannon. We shudder to think what would have happened if we had got to next Saturday before discovering the passport missing, with no clue of where it had got to. Embarrassing, but also a blessing! Nevertheless, this day has been particularly hard on Diane, and we are both relieved to finally settle in for an evening of just hanging out at home.

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