UK Trip

* Kate Moss look
20% of the female population in England (not so much in Scotland) go for the Kate Moss look this summer - gypsy skirt with Boho leather disc belt.

picked up a copy of this book at Bristol Airport. Cool book. SUMO means Shut Up, Move On - totally a book for me. Later got in contact with the author as well.

* UK's Finest Treasures
watched a BBC programme on the top ten voted UK's finest treasures. Can't find the exact list shown in the programme so far, below are the two that I remember and deem interesting:

Domesday Book - basically census records kept by the Romans. It is with the record in this book that people know about a town that's half swept away by the sea.

Vindolanda Tablets, Northumberland - earliest handwriting artifect found in UK, more importantly written by ordinary people - a ladie's birthday invitation, schoolkid's homework, military doctor's prescription, etc. (one of the curators of British Museum is soooooo cute!!)

* Monster Moves
Channel 4. Two movers were moving houses, one moving wood-structured bungalow and a 2-storey, the other brick-stone 3-storey. The first one was quite straight-forward, but they moved the houses across an airport and a lake. The last one spent 4-months securing the house before they had it actually moved in one day. The brick house had everything going wrong – walls are hollow, extension was badly done, and it snowed when they were filling the hollow in between the walls with cement. Very interesting. Channel 4's closing words were, 'houses that move around on wheels are called – CARAVANS!'

* Colours
BBC/ Open University. Started in an ancient Egyptian tomb, questioning where the artisans got the colours they needed to paint the murals. The red, yellow and green came from minerals, some were formed during and after the Big Bang. The blue that represents the Nile in the murals, however, were man-made. The Egyptians were able to burn the green mineral with the sand to create the blue pigment. Later when the Arab alchemists tried to create gold, they invented the technique to separate mercury and sulfur in a special mineral. This gave the bright pigments that the Renaissance artists used in their paintings. However, many of these pigments are poisonous, and it might well be the pigment in the green wallpaper that contributed to Napoleon's death. Not until scientists discovered atoms, protons, electrons and molecules were there safe artificial pigments for artists to use. The colour chrome yellow was created after the scientists created chromium, and the colour is used by Van Gough in a lot of his post impressionist paintings. The programme ended in the south of France.

* 8 Out of 10 Cats
(ok, I watched telly lots) funny programme, quizzing guests on surveys done in Britain.
Most discussed news pieces - London bombing, Harry Potter on shelf, Jude Law's affair with nanny, etc.
Most miserable job in Britain - IT.
What Brits would buy if money were no object - live-in maid. (2 guests instantaneously and simutaneously said 'France')

* B & B's
mostly stayed at B&B's. Had English/Scottish Breakfast every morning, was nice. The best one where we stayed is Mackenzie's Guest House, in Leith. Scott and Ken did a great job maintaining the place and were both very friendly and helpful.
[picture of Scott in the back yard] * Scottish parliament
the building compound was designed by Barcelonian architect Miralles. He didn't live to see it completed. The project spent 10 times more than the original budget, and missed the deadline by 2 years. But most people are not aware of the fact that the building compound is 2.5 times the scale as it was originally planned to be. The most interesting parts of the building didn't exist in the original plan even.
It was also interesting to learn about the institution. The Scottish Parliament had a long history, but was dismissed in the 17th century when it was united with England and other countries of the UK. It was in 1999 that the Scottish Parliament reconvened, after 300+ years. In history the Scottish crown jewels were always present when the Parliament convened, representing the presence of the King/Queen. In year 2004, a modern sculpture symbolising crown jewels was given to the Scottish Parliament today, with the Queen's blessing. The Scottish Parliament takes on the EP style, instead of the British Parliament style where the two houses stand face to face 'two sword's length' apart. SP doesn't have the House of the Lords, instead it has commitees. Most debates are done within the commitees, so at the end of each general sessions they are able to make several decision by casting votes. And the votes are recorded electronically. 5pm MSPs start voting, by 5.10 the votings are done and recorded, by 5.30 everyone is out of the SP. By 8am next day, all the minutes and voting results are published online and in print.
Scotland has indepent education and legal systems from the rest of Britain. Only controversy is whether MSPs should also decide on affairs decided by the British Parliament concerning England, Ireland and Wales. Of course I heard it from a Scottish guide, but I'm quite impressed. There's a framed ancient document from 1300s in the SP which states, basically, that Scotland was never and will never be part of England. Sounds pretty familiar, haha.

* cabbies
Travelling with mom, plus the London bombing, took cabs a lot. There was one driver who told me that it costs only 10 pounds to play golf in Edinburgh, and that his sister-in-law is Romanian and speaks 7 languages but when it comes to fighting with the hubby Italian comes in most handy. He also told me about the costly and long-term coastal area regeneration project that will improve the condition of living for the local residents but arouses 'sentimentality' - seems that hutong problem is universal... Another driver only drives at night and thinks Edinburgh is a very safe city; he just watched Taiwanese pool players in matches on TV. Our driver who sent us to Heathrow on the last day is actually one of the owners of the transfer company. He is tired of London and would exchange one of his properties with mine in Beijing. My favourite car Audi TT is commented as 'a stupid car', and 'are you crazy?' He likes to go on cruises in the Carribeans. He would come to Shanghai to experience the Maglev even it's just a 7-minute ride.

* curiosity
Mom was certainly happy that we went on the trip, but apparently not seeing so much to wow about as I was. She said that's because she doesn't have that great of a curiosity anymore. I do understand that she's enjoying life in her own way, different than mine, and that with age and experience you do get less curious and excited about new places or things. I do still wish that I retain my curiosity for as long as possible. Angel of Wonder, for myself.