Wednesday, 10 March 2010

On Human Kindness

I don't read or watch the news every day. Too much emphasis and top stories about war, hate, violence, and other bad stuff. A step outside into the "real" world time and again gives me a perspective I much prefer. A little example from yesterday:

My travel itinerary was a car ride from Lucerne to Zurich, flight from Zurich to Frankfurt, flight from Frankfurt to Washington DC, flight from Washington DC to Seattle. The first 2 steps went off without a hitch. In Frankfurt we deplaned onto the tarmac and caught a shuttle bus to the terminal where I went down various hallways, several flights of stairs, and was halfway down a "disappearing into the horizon" moving walkway when I realized I didn't have my purse. Yes, the purse with my passport, money, credit cards, phone, boarding passes, etc. I swung a leg over the handrail, jumped off the moving walkway (long legs come in handy at times like this), and headed back the way I had come but didn't REALLY know where I had come from. I found the Lufthansa gates and was told I needed to go to lost and found. Funny thing is - lost and found wasn't easy to find - ironic? yes, I think so. I eventually found Lufthansa's Baggage Tracing desk. I had kept it together pretty well until then but after getting out that I had left my purse on the plane or the shuttle bus I could no longer speak without the threat of a full tearful breakdown. The lovely Lufthansa agent asked which flight I'd been on and I couldn't remember the number - just that I had come from Zurich. A nice man behind me stepped up with his boarding pass from the same flight and asked if that had been the one - yes, thanks! Then she wanted my name but I couldn't spit it out. "Just write it down" she urged pushing a pad and pen towards me. Then she said she needed to go to another location to make some phone calls and for me to wait. I was there about 20 minutes trying to stay calm as the time for my connecting flight got ever closer. I was wondering just what one does in a foreign country with no ID and no money - would I need to get to the American Embassy? have Robin come from Lucerne to bail me out? live at the airport ala Tom Hanks in Terminal? When the Lufthansa agent returned she told me she was waiting to hear back from several areas and that I should go to my connecting flight gate and if they found it they would send it there. I tried to return the way I had come but, as that would return me to a secured area I couldn't get in (I did try but set off an electronic warning). I realized I wouldn't be able to get to my gate without my ID and boarding pass so returned to the Baggage Tracing desk. The woman was on the phone and gestured to me to wait. A few minutes later she walked over and told me they had found my purse! I was SO relieved. She had to go get it and didn't know exactly where it was so I was again instructed to wait there. Another 20 minutes or so and she was back with my purse. I had missed my connecting flight so she instructed me to go to rebooking. At the rebooking desk I explained what had happened and at first the agent told me she couldn't do anything for me. Apparently a flight booked with miles and missed due to your own stupidity doesn't qualify for rebooking (makes sense but wasn't what I wanted to hear). She then started looking closer and said the original itinerary was one that probably shouldn't have been booked in the first place as the connection time was too close - and my incoming flight had been a few minutes late - so she decided to rebook me anyway! I was so grateful! I ended up with a better itinerary on Air Canada through Calgary on a half-empty plane.

Whew - too much drama! But mostly alleviated due to the kindness and honesty of total strangers. That's the kind of news I'd like to read about more often.

Monday, 1 March 2010


Doing some backtracking here. For two weeks last August Robin and I drove visited Scotland and had a few adventures. Our friend Barbara Blacker reminded me that I had yet to share any pictures so here goes:

Sunday August 2 we drove from Farnborough to Kelso, home of the ruined Kelso Abbey.

Before driving on to Edinburgh we did a walk along the coast from the fishing village of St Abbs.

August 4-5 we stay in a cool small hotel in Edinburgh and tour the castle, Royal Mile, Carlton Hill, and the HMS Britannia.

View from our hotel room:

Walking around town:

The castle:

August 6-8 we take the overnight ferry (very NICE!) from Aberdeen to Lerwick, Shetland Island and spend 3 incredible days walking and touring around these rough, remote, and beautiful islands.

In Aberdeen a statue of William Wallace and a beautiful lamp post:

The Aberdeen skyline as we depart for the Shetlands:

Of course, a Shetland pony (baby) and first stop - Sumburgh at the southern end of Shetland to look for puffins. We saw some but not very close up. The nesting season has ended early this year and there aren't many left.

We make a trip to the northernmost inhabited island of Unst and do a walk of a nature reserve. Absolutely deserted, wild, and beautiful. A boardwalk (in the process of being replaced with Trex-like decking) to protect the bog leads us to the cliffs:

Here we get to see some puffins up close. They are very fun to watch. They have a distinctive flight with stubby wings for "flying" underwater and beautiful beaks. We kept missing them as they'd fly out from the burrows to fish and we couldn't tell where they returned in all the different headlands. Robin watched one take off and directed me towards the burrow while he stayed in place. I got about 20 yards from it before the puffin returned and I called Robin over. The bird left again and we ventured closer. A puffin returned and stood on the edge of the cliff looking at us with tiny sand eels in its beak. We wondered why it didn't return to its burrow. It took off again in a wide circle out over the water then flew back towards us. We watched in anticipation to see where it would land so we could get a close look. The puffin flew in fast and hot right into a burrow nearly under my foot! We had accidentally stood nearly on top of its burrow so in order to avoid the stupid tourists it had to dive bomb into its burrow rather than make a nice landing and walk in! Sorry Puffin!

A little taste of walking on the island of Unst:

Robin checks out a turf field and we do our best to keep the Shetlands clean by "dunna chucking bruck":

After a "day off" and then a rainy and traffic-filled drive down the east side of Loch Ness we spend August 11-12 in Glasgow. We saw a piping competition and did a walking tour of the city. On the way we stopped at Culloden - the battlefield where the Scottish received the trouncing that would signal their final defeat at the hands of the English and the end of their independence. We didn't go into the museum but instead walked around the battlefield itself which included some markers with indicators of where the opposing forces established their lines and where clashes took place. Not many of the visitors actually walked the battlefield so it was quiet and a bit eerie.

Scenes in Glasgow:

To wrap up our trip we spent 2 nights
with Dick and Lucy McTaggert whom we met prior to PBP 2007. They took us on a walking tour of Galashiels and then a nice walk around St Mary's Lake despite Dick's aversion to traveling on 2 feet rather than 2 wheels.