Wrapped Up In Books


The Cleverest Blondes We Ken [What’s getting me through writing today]

EDIT: Just realised the lyric is ‘the cleverest blondes we ken’ [we know]. Damn Doric, I’ll never understand it.

Check out The View – the band, not the awful talkshow for soccer moms – from Dundee. I need something relatively peppy today to start me up and keep me going. Waking up at 6.30am today felt like sleeping in. There’s something wrong with that.

Copyright © 2009 WrappedUpInBooksBlog. All rights reserved.



My friends’ wedding at Balmedie Beach last weekend [July 4 2009]
July 12, 2009, 7:28 pm
Filed under: A, Paying homage, photography | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Balmedie Beach

The North Sea, view from Balmedie Beach

A & C

A & C

J sledding down the dune

J sledding down the dune

Sparklers

Sparklers

View from the peak of the dune

View from the peak of the dune

Gigantic bonfire

Gigantic bonfire

Taken at 1.30am, and the sun was still just below the horizon.

Taken at 1.30am, and the sun was still just below the horizon.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good photo of what was going on inside the tent (gorgeous set-up) or the fireworks that were set off, but I give A & C major kudos for pulling this off all on their own. It was the most beautiful day (23C, sunny) for a beautiful couple. So heart-warming.

Copyright © 2009 WrappedUpInBooksBlog. All rights reserved.



Do what you want, when you want [Glasgow]

Off to Glasgow tomorrow with my friend, M, before she goes back to Ancaster. (We’re not gonnae get stabbed, if we can help it.)



Finding latent beauty in Birmingham; the future.
April 27, 2009, 7:39 pm
Filed under: A, Travelogue | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
This past weekend I flew down to Birmingham to visit my friend, M, who is in the hospital there. He’s my age but has already undergone chemotherapy and three major surgeries (two within the past four weeks, and scheduled for a fourth in a couple of days) and now is on his second prosthetic hip. Whenever I’m tempted to complain about anything I’m reminded that there are people who have endured much worse than I’ve ever known and ever want to know. I am seriously grateful that I have nearly completed my first quarter-century of life physically unscathed.
Just one of the beauts along Milk St

Just one of the beauts along Milk St

The building on the left is the hostel.

The building on the left is the hostel.

Birmingham, while it has marvelous shopping, is a bit of a frightful and industrial place to be. The hostel I stayed at (Birmingham Central Backpackers) felt as if it were located on a rape alley – Milk Street was scary enough in the daytime with the auto collision storing its disfigured and ruined cars along the street, which just became terrifying outright upon nightfall. I’ll give credit though, that if you look hard enough you’ll find beauty in the small things (‘Make peace’ on a building’s frieze, the oversized-golf ballish Selfridges, and every old three-storey house and boulevard along Bristol Road en route to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital). Still, I do not particularly want to go back there.
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Selfridges is in here somewhere

Selfridges is in here somewhere

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I haven’t mentioned it yet, but I am aiming to stay at Aberdeen for a PhD in epidemiology. I applied the day between returning to Aberdeen from Dublin and going home to Toronto, and I have a funding interview in a couple of weeks. M is going to have a telephone interview the same day and is also hoping to do a similar PhD programme. Should we both be allotted funding, we’ll live together along with my current flatmate, L, place yet to be determined. I’ve already started to daydream about the daily logistics: I will be the designated cleaner, tidier, and baker, M will play chef, and L will be the house cheerleader to enlighten the very Statler & Waldorf M and me. And I will not have a twin-sized bed!

When I first mentioned applying for a PhD in Aberdeen to my friends from home, the idea was not greeted with much, if any, enthusiasm. Although I have wanted to go to medical school for a long while, a PhD seems to be at the forefront of my options right now. And I have grown to love research and the prospect of contributing to the existing body of knowledge in my arena. I wasn’t hurt, but it was not the reaction I had expected. I do have hopes of going to go to medical school upon completing my doctorate (lofty goal, I know) and I realise that I won’t be young by any means upon graduating my MD. I’m only slightly fazed by this aspect, but perhaps moreso at living in Scotland for an extra three years than I had originally anticipated. One friend remarked that I wasn’t taking them into account for my life plans (the jest was not so obvious) but honestly, I need to put myself first – and why should I compromise? As much as I adore my friends, time goes on, people will change, and I will still have to fly to be where they are (all the more reason to stock up on degrees to afford the transport). Life, in this sense, can be unfair. But I am still very much willing to make the effort as long as they are.

Copyright © 2009 WrappedUpInBooksBlog. All rights reserved.


In all seriousness, this makes me glad to live in Aberdeen [Scotland’s #1 male Barbie]

What are the odds this popped up on Videogum? A diva of a dude who says there’s no such thing as too much make-up? In Aberdeen? It makes me feel like I never left Toronto. I feel fuzzy inside.

The comments on youtube are awful and homophobic, but I love this guy for rocking out as he sees fit. He clearly loves his lifestyle. I’m just shocked I’ve never spotted him on King Street or in (God forbid I go again) Liquid.

Copyright © 2009 WrappedUpInBooksBlog. All rights reserved.



11.8L of pure alcohol per annum (Booze culture)

That’s what the Scots manage to drink. It’s astounding, isn’t it? I warned my mom (fitness guru to many, moonlights as a human string bean) that I’ve gained weight from drinking a lot more than I used to. However, I wouldn’t say that I drink nearly as much as the average Scotsperson.

I’ve been keeping track of a few BBC Health articles that are documenting the downward spiral this country seems to be sucked into.  The government is in talks to establish minimum drink prices (boo!) to help curb binge drinking (aka, ‘regular drinking’ here… I’m kidding, sort of).  They suggest no bottle of wine be sold for less than £4.50, about $9 CDN, which is still cheaper than any wine I’ve ever seen in Canada – including the tetrapak business.  But that’s an aside.

Hospitalizations for drinking-related injuries and accidents are on the rise and it’s said that the NHS is spending upwards of £2.7 billion annually for this (£365 million at minimum being spent in Scotland alone), which is a seriously dear sum of money.  The number of alcohol-related hospitalizations in the UK have doubled since 1995; last year there were 207,800 admissions compared to 1995’s 93,500 (still dire).  Furthermore, about 10% of that number are patients who aren’t of the legal drinking age, 18. Still, hospitalizations among the 65+ age group are also on the rise.

As it stands, Scotland leads the UK for number of alcohol-related deaths each year. Scotland lose about 27 per 100,000 citizens to the drink annually, while England, Wales, and Northern Ireland each stand at about 12, 13, and 14  per 100,000 people, respectively.  The population of this country is approximately 5 million, so that equates to 1350 dying each year.

The people who probably suffer the most live in Glasgow, where men living in poorer areas of the city have a life expectancy of 54 years old.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The sheer alcohol consumption, in combination with cigarette smoking, is robbing families of fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers.  The alcohol-related death rates are six and a half times that of the national average: in the Ibrox area, 176 per 100,000 men and even 58 per 100,000 women succumb to alcohol abuse.

Data collected from the World Health Organization demonstrates the severity of the drinking here: Scotland ranks 8th in the world for alcohol consumption.  It stands just behind Luxembourg (15.6 litres per capita), Ireland (13.7 litres), Hungary (13.6 litres), Moldova (13.2 litres), Czech Republic (13.0 litres), Croatia (12.3 litres) and Germany (12.0 litres).

Clearly interventions are needed, and I don’t think raising the price of alcohol will benefit anyone.  Awareness is what’s needed most; to stop serving any more beer to those people barely able to stand in the pub, to put warning labels on packaging (it’s been at least moderately successful with cigarette packaging in Canada), and, generally, to adopt an in-your-face attitude to responsible drinking everywhere.  This country is in serious need of a rude awakening.  I don’t understand how they haven’t had one already.

Copyright © 2009 WrappedUpInBooksBlog. All rights reserved.



Someone is singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ somewhere outside my window

Today is Robert Burns’ Day in Scotland. The national bard will be honoured with ceilidhs, haggis, whisky, and bagpipe playing. I’ll be going to a ceilidh in Ellon on Saturday, and I’ll be sure to document everything I can. This year is important because it marks the 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth.

burns

I went to church this morning (this time at St Machar’s Cathedral as King’s College Chapel really didn’t resonate with me – maybe I’ll write on that later) and the minister addressed the importance of the day. The Scottish Post Office issued special edition stamps for this occasion and apparently most sold out within 20 minutes (a shame, else I’d have bought some for my philatelist uncle). One stamp was the classic portrait of the poet while the other was a depiction of his poem To A Mouse. While there is debate about whether or not Burns defined himself as a religious man, there are definitely lessons to be learned within his poetry. He was adamant about the equality of all life and that we should treat not only each other as a gift, but animals, too. Below I’ve included To A Mouse (1785) for your perusal:

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beasie,
O what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrace
‘S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin’ wi’ the lave,
And never miss ‘t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin’!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin’,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare and waste.
An’ weary winter comin’ fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out-thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To those the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy.

Still thou are blest compar’d w’ me!
The present only touchest thee:
But oh! I backward cast my e’e
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Certainly Burns was the shining star of Ayrshire, a county in Scotland an hour southwest of Glasgow. While I realise it’s now been a century since my maternal grandmother’s family came to Canada and settled in Hamilton (it’s actually the most Scottish city in Canada, I recently learned), I think that it will never depreciate importance to me that my family hails from Maybole, which is known as the unsung town in the tale of Rabbie Burns. Maybole, you see, is where Burns’ mother and father met; without it, there’d have been no Favourite Son of Scotland.

While one person has openly scoffed at me for claiming any relationship with the countries from which my family are derived (Northern Ireland [Bushmills] and Scotland [Maybole] on my mom’s side, Slovakia [Bratislava] on my dad’s), the main reason I acknowledge these places and visit them is to just understand a little better the struggle and impossibly difficult decision they made to abandon everything dear to them so they could make a better life for themselves and their children in Canada. My family has been in Canada for three generations on my mother’s side and just two on my dad’s; this is by no means extensive history and so it makes me glad that this year Scotland is opening its arms to the estimated 80 million Scottish descendents around the world to come back and see where their history began. If only it would offer me the same free tuition it affords its own citizens!

Map of Scotland, Maybole is highlighted.  A bit west of Ballycastle is Bushmills, UK.

Map of Scotland, Maybole is highlighted. A bit west of Ballycastle is Bushmills, UK.

Copyright © 2009 WrappedUpInBooksBlog. All rights reserved.