Check and Checkmate

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Reflection

Edinburgh is my sister-in-law’s favorite city; much more so than London. I’ve been meaning to visit for years. I’m now here and it is a lovely city. Given a rather nasty foot injury the evening prior to my leaving for the UK, getting around the city by foot proved to be a bit problematic. Not being one to let some pain and swelling to slow me down, I chose to take a City Tour bus as a means of exploring the city.

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Edinburgh Castle

The center attraction of the city is Edinburgh Castle. Located on the top of a craggy hill, the castle was further fortified by the installation of a loch surrounding the base of the hill. The loch proved to be an effective measure of defense until the advent of the cannon ball. Armed with modern technology, the English routinely attacked the castle, more often than not, being successful. OK, I might be a bit unclear on the concept here, but how many times do you need to successfully attack a castle? Once taken, isn’t it yours? Or is it more like a game of chess? Once you successfully capture the king, you shake hands with your opponent and come back another day to mount your attack anew. Perhaps the attacks by the English were not so much as a means of expanding the empire but rather guaranteeing an uninterrupted supply of cashmere knitwear and haggis.

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Bagpiper

For those of you who are (blissfully) unaware, haggis is a savory pudding containing minced sheep’s heart, liver and lungs with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt. Traditionally it is encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered in water for several hours. Haggis is the national dish of Scotland. It seems to be on everyone’s menu. I have not been brave enough to try it, although I hear it is delicious. The very gracious and charming server at the hotel restaurant gave me a summary of Scotland’s contributions to science, literature and the arts throughout the centuries; clearly proud of her heritage. Scotland has provided a disproportionately large number of contributions to science and literature thanks to such figures as mathematicians and physicists James Clerk Maxwell, Lord Kelvin, James Watt and William Murdoch, whose work was critical to the technological developments of the Industrial Revolution. In literature, a number of Scottish-born authors achieved international reputations including Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, J. M. Barrie and George MacDonald. Scotland’s Glasgow School produced a (revolutionary at the time) blend of influences to develop the Arts and Crafts Movement that helped define Art Nouveau style; the most notable architect and artist of this movement being Charles Rennie Mackintosh. She also informed me that she would be turning 70 next year. As a treat herself on her birthday, this mother of 5 plans to purchase her first motorbike, a Triumph, and tour the country she is so proud of. I agreed that it was an excellent plan and she would never regret it. As any motorcyclist will tell you, the sense of freedom whilst riding a motorbike is addictive. When I asked her how Scots felt about being under Britain’s rule, she beamed with pride and told me that next year, on 18 September 2014, there is going to be a vote on a referendum to allow Scotland to rule its own people. I wish her and all the people of Scotland great success in directing their own destiny.

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