clean ancool, but not cold
Keswick, England – cool, but not cold

We had been fortunate with travel weather. The small amount of rain had cleared the skies and refreshed the flora. Sweaters and light jackets kept us comfortable. But, as you probably already know, I am an unapologetic wuss when it comes to warmth. I live in a climate that ranges from 65 degrees F to 75 degrees F, all year-long. I look upon gloves as someone else’s fashion statement, hats with ear flaps as something no one should ever need.

I come upon this love of warmth through many, many years and much hard work. I had grown up in California, moved to Colombia as a young adult, then on to Texas. All warm weather havens. I should have foreseen a complication, but when I moved to Ukraine several years ago, the cold winter weather slapped me in the face and never let go the chill. People there welcomed me, but the weather stamped ‘return-to-sender’ on my down coat and sent me on my way after a cold, cold winter. I have never recovered.


I didn’t see the wind chill coming as we drove north through the UK. The countryside is charming, the roads wonderful. When we arrived in Edinburgh itself, I saw a gorgeous, almost surreal city. People looked lively, friendly and inviting. Then I stepped out from the car, and felt the ice of the air. I was cold the entire visit.

There are moments when you travel for the joy of seeing new places, but there are other times when you can’t see past your own discomfort. Everyone has their soft spot. I ease my way through long travel days by packing light. I can make up a meal wherever I go. I clean hotel rooms when they need it. I take overnight bus trips. I know how to use squat toilets. I can cleanse my own water.

But cold weather shuts me down. Poor Edinburgh. It didn’t have a chance with me. Others were fine – I didn’t even see many people decked out for the cold. They wore maybe a light jacket, or a scarf. I wound myself in three layers of protective gear and still felt the cold in my toes. Worse: I don’t believe I even got to mispronounce its name out loud. Teeth chattering kept me from saying much. And it wasn’t even winter yet.

Most alarming item of information: people actually golf here. Isn’t that an outdoor sport???


Rotten Family Roots

the best medicine
the best medicine

Having had heart-warming successes in Northern Ireland finding personal connections that I could actually touch, I was tempted to explore my family roots in Scotland. Prior to planning this trip, I had vague recollections of a long ago Scottish connection through my paternal grandmother, but without the voice of my grandfather to bring that connection to life, I put it out of my mind.

But my brother did not. He enthusiastically researches all kinds of historical stuff. Without him, I would not have had anything to look for in Ireland. A couple weeks before I left on this journey, he sent me a reminder of Grandma Brown’s past. We were descended from a Brit named Sherburne and a Scot with an unusual French-sounding name. On a lark, I typed that name┬áplus ‘Scotland’ into Google – it being the less common name and, I figured, more likely to bring pertinent info.

Right back at me came news article after news article of a famous – or infamous – fellow from Edinburgh. He had been a well-known boxer in the late 1900’s. Then he beat up a guy (badly) after which he killed another during a time he worked for some very serious crooks. The fellow in our family who eventually made in to the USA in the mid-1800’s had fled Scotland after believing he had killed his uncle (the uncle survived.) These two stories were a bit too close for my comfort, so to avoid a potentially embarrassing family history of extreme violence and prison sentences, I decided to let my attempts to pronounce Edinburgh fill my academic time in that city. Some family secrets you just don’t want to know.