Tag Archives: Scottish legends

FRIENDS OLD AND NEW

Jack’s weekly guest blog comes from Scotland this time, as Jack finishes leading his annual tour of Scotland and Ireland.

doune-castleIt’s always interesting to be in Scotland with my annual tour group. The group almost always includes new folk, folk I already know, and ‘returnees’ from previous tours. This year is no exception – David and Susan are both old friends and returnees, while our newish friend Joe came with his fiancee Amy (who I hadn’t met and is delightful). The newbies in every sense are Phil and Wanda, who heard about the tour from my radio show.

The tour started strong, as what might have been a disaster was averted by our new booking agent. We found that there was going to be a ferry strike on the day we were booked to sail to Mull, where were booked to spend the night in Tobermory. At very late notice the redoubtable Irene, travel agent genius, got us booked into a hotel in Oban and our ferry booking moved to the next morning; all was well!

The weather proved kind and we had hardly any rain, even quite a few bright sunny days. We were able to see Castle Stalker and Doune Castle – both settings for ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (Doune is also the setting for ‘Outlander’) and then retire to fabulous hotel food at night.

I was able to find most of the requested items to bring back with me for friends back home, ranging from whisky to flat caps. My old friends Liz Weir and Pete Clark did us proud representing the music and story culture of Ireland and Scotland. As I write this another old friend, Doli McLennan, is preparing to welcome us to her home in Edinburgh on our last night, and waxing lyrically on Facebook about the prospect.

For logistical reasons, I had more opportunity to catch up with friends and relations before the tour started this year, about a week longer than usual. That was great, but I ended up feeling a bit homesick for Big Stone for the first time. Very strange!

But it’s great to see my homeland through other people’s eyes each year and be reminded what a beautiful and remarkable country I came from.

For information on Jack’s annual tours, contact him via jbeck69087@aol.com. Pictures from this year will be available later at a site yet to be named.

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

LUCKY IS THE NEW BLACK

Jack’s weekly guest post – he often refers to the US and UK as

I’m not a superstitious person as a rule, although I come from a country that’s full of Things One Must Not Do. This list includes: not walking under ladders (I used to be a house-painter and did that all the time); not walking on the cracks in the sidewalk (very Stephen King, that one); throwing spilled salt over the left shoulder (that’s where the Devil hides). There are also proactive things one SHOULD do to attract good luck.

FuryWhich brings me neatly to cats: specifically the black kind!

Most superstitions are the same wherever you are, but oddly enough the superstitions about black cats are exactly opposite on each side of the Atlantic. Here in the States, black cats are unlucky, whereas in Scotland they are considered very lucky indeed. Over there people will go out of their way to have a black cat ‘cross their path’. And it is considered good luck to pet one.

Did you know that American rescues and animal shelters dread getting black animals in because they are so hard to re-home? Quoting from Animal House (a great FB site for animal lovers, by the way): According to an article by Joy Montgomery, it is believed to be due to a combination of the animals “size, unclear facial features, dimly lit kennels, the genericness of black pets and/or the negative portrayal of black pets in books, movies and other popular media”. No matter the reason, the reality is heartbreaking.

We have three adorable black kittens (about ten weeks old) running around the bookstore right now waiting for their forever homes. Plus a big (ten-pounder) adult black tom–a shy, quiet gentle giant of a baby boy, equally hopeful of finding his Shangri-La. His name is Inky (Ha!). Here he is in his shelter picture, poor baby.black cat

And of course we’ve had Valkittie – the bookstore manager–since she was four weeks old. Almost entirely black, with just a tiny white bikini and toe ring, she has brought us nothing but good luck.

So we’ve given Valkittie (who by the way is Scottish and has no truck with this bad luck nonsense) the job of making the other four naturalized Scots. That way they will always be lucky black cats, and their forever homes will be doubly blessed from taking them in.

valkyttie suspicionShe is taking her duties seriously.

Wherever they go, they will bring laughter; these kittens are total goofballs. Just yesterday we put a toy in their room that has a ball in a tracked groove, the kind of thing one picks up at any pet store for $10. One sat on the toy’s central disc while the other two shoved the balls with their paws, spinning him in circles.

Goofballs. Good luck goofballs. Come see for yourself, and let’s have no more of this “black cats bad” silliness. Thank you!

10 Comments

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Scotland, Uncategorized