Daily Update – Scotland, August 1, 2013

Contributions by AK Bell, 20th century philanthropist, included this library. Parks, housing for the poor, and community water resources are among his many  donated works.

Contributions by AK Bell, 20th century philanthropist, included this library, appropriately named the AK Bell Library. Parks, housing for the poor, and community water resources are among his many donated works.

We are quickly adapting to life in Scotland. Yesterday, with a copy of our lease agreement showing our local address, we obtained library cards. That may not seem like a big deal. However, to me it means a great deal. Not only can we check out books, but we can also truly call ourselves members of the community.

We visited a different grocery store called Lidl. Other than being bigger than the convenient Salisbury’s Grocery on our block, it was rather ordinary. Their local cherries at $3/lb. were excellent! And their unusual selection of housewares and toys gave the store a feel of part grocery, part department store.

At Lidl’s, in order to obtain a cart you must deposit a £1 coin in the handle of the grocery cart to release the lock. When you are done with the cart, you get your £1 back when you return the cart and insert the locking mechanism. Alas, they do not need to employ someone to gather carts from all over the parking lot.

We are readily identified as Americans when we write a date like August 1, 2013, or 8/1/13. Here, days come first, so today is 1/8/13, which is logical since each unit is increasing in scale as you read the date.

Driving on the left side of the road is still disorienting. Whether it is logical or not is up for debate. I simply have to remember to look right first when crossing the street. One sweet old lady that we spoke to when asking directions recognized us immediately as Americans and cautioned us as we prepared to cross the street, “Look both ways first. And watch your step.” At first I thought she may have been overly cautious, but sure enough there was a car coming from my right in the near lane. Bless her heart, she probably saved me from a near miss.

The weather has been abnormally sunny this past month. The locals talk of the rain just like folks back in Seattle, like it is unusual if it is not raining. Situation normal – today it is raining. No problem. That is why we packed raincoats. I would say growing up in the Puget Sound area prepared me perfectly for life in Scotland.

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Papa, Read Me a Story

Royal Library of San Lorenzo in Madrid, Spain

Books, books, books! Shown here the Royal Library of San Lorenzo, Madrid, Spain
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons


Reading to my grandson brings back memories of reading stories to my daughters when they were young. I read to them from the time they were born just to have words and sounds to share with them. As they grew, I chose stories I knew they would love that they would not be able to read on their own, starting with J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit. Each night before bed we would read a new chapter. As the story unfolded they got to where they could hardly wait for bedtime!

Daughter #1 now has a son. Like his mommy, he loves books.

Daughter #1 now has a son. Like his mommy, he loves books.

When we finished The Hobbit, they were sort of disappointed. It was like we had shared something special that had come to an end. What they did not know was I had C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe waiting on the bookshelf. In what seemed like no time at all we had gone through all six books of The Chronicles of Narnia. I found out years later that my oldest daughter kept this collection. Now that she has a son, one of my favorite pastimes is reading to him. He loves stories and books, and I always bring him gifts of books I think he will like. From a young age, it was music to my ears when he would say to me at bedtime, “Papa Mike, read me a story.”

My grandson is growing up so fast. He started 1st grade this year.

My grandson is growing up so fast. He started 1st grade this year.

At an early age my grandson became fascinated with stories about the Titanic. He repeatedly watched the National Geographic video about Dr. Robert Ballard and his mission to discover the shipwreck. He committed so much detail to memory that he could lecture to an oceanography class about the challenges of deep sea exploration. So I got him a copy of James Steele’s Queen Mary, a technical history of the storied ocean liner, knowing that he might one day actually set foot aboard this ship if his travels include a stop in Long Beach, California.

This week I started reading him a new story via Skype™, Douglas Floen’s Knowing Noah: The Adventures of a Mouse Who Could Read. I realize each time I talk with him how much brighter, more communicative, and more knowledgeable he is compared to our previous conversation. As he becomes more sophisticated and more his own person, I also feel myself loving him and missing him more than ever.

Grandson #2 will soon be ready for storybooks!

Grandson #2 will soon be ready for storybooks!

It is a fact of life that living and traveling abroad puts great distance between loved ones. It is that connection that prevents some people from ever venturing far from home. It is the little things like sharing stories with grandchildren that enrich our lives and create bonds that last a lifetime.  So when we connect via Skype™ and he says those words to me, “Papa, read me a story,” it brings me back to a time many years ago when I shared something special with my girls.  And soon, it will be my grandson’s turn to hear The Chronicles of Narnia.  I can hardly wait.

living in Mexico