A Conglomeration Of Birthdays

I find it amusing at how many of my family birthdays seem to come in groups. I understand that there are only so many days in a year, so it’s probable that some birthdays will fall near each other. But as I posted before when my father and both of his parents birthdays fall within 3 days of each other. So here is the next “installment”.

First, is my maternal grandmother;

Dora Calder (Hicks), 8 June 1898 – 4 March 1972

I spent many summer vacations at either her house, or a nearby aunt’s house, but I barely remember her. I was too busy playing with my cousins I guess.

Switching “families”, the next two are wifey’s parents.

Corneila Opha Greene (Moore), 12 June 1933 – 13 June 2014.
Charles Nathan Moore, Sr., 13 June 1925 – 27 October 2016.

My in-laws were every bit of parents to me as my parents were. They supported wifey and I every step of the way.

Peace,
B

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Vindication!!

Way back in August of last year, I wrote a little post, Not The Song I want To Hear. Then just this week, a post on the Ultimate Classic Rock website tells me I’m not the only one.

I love the last line, he paid a radio station to never play it again.

The post (here) has lots of other tidbits. Go read it!

Nothing to do with the post, just a great vid!

Peace,
B

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What’s Stuck In My Head – 9 June

(A.K.A. The longest post ever!! In start to finish time)

So, yes, I started this post about 5:30 AM this morning, and it right at 8:30 PM now. I had this song in my head (as the title implies) for several days. I just couldn’t come up with anything to say about it other than how much I enjoyed the song.

The song is a beaut. In its album version, the song segues from “Have A Cigar” (A wonderful semi-true story) as such;

In the original album version, the song segues from “Have a Cigar” as if a radio had been tuned away from one station, through several others (including a radio play and one playing the opening of the finale movement of Tchaikovsky‘s Fourth Symphony), and finally to a new station where “Wish You Were Here” is beginning.[5] The radio was recorded from Gilmour’s car radio. He performed the intro on a twelve-string guitar, processed to sound like it was playing through an AM radio, and then overdubbed a fuller-sounding acoustic guitar solo. This passage was mixed to sound as though a guitarist were listening to the radio and playing along. As the acoustic part becomes more complex, the ‘radio broadcast’ fades away and Gilmour’s voice enters, becoming joined by the full band.[6]

The intro riff is repeated several times, before Gilmour plays further solos with scat singing accompaniment. A third verse follows, featuring an increasingly expressive vocal from Gilmour and audible backing vocals. At the end of the recorded song, the final solo crossfades with wind sound effects, and finally segues into the second section of the multi-part suite “Shine On You Crazy Diamond“.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wish_You_Were_Here_(Pink_Floyd_song)

I really loved the “AM Radio” sound of the 12 string with the overlay of the full on six string acoustic.

The song is often thought to be tribute to Syd Barrett, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd. But as Co-writer (along with David Gilmour) Roger Waters said, and as the best music always is;

Waters later adds that the song is nevertheless open to interpretation.

Ibid

And, of course, that’s not what I came here to talk to you about. Today has been a bittersweet day for Wifey and I. Son-The-Elder is once again deploying with his National Gauard unit overseas. Do not ask me where is is going, I will not tell you. As an Army retiree I strongly believe in Operational Security policies. “Loose lips sink ships” was an old military poster, and it still is the truth today. I will only tell you, he is not going to a war zone. So family members can rest easy.

Although he may not have left yet, we already miss him. Here is Wish You Were Here. This is for any and all service members the world over that are seperated from family and loved ones for any damn reason. Hopefully one day there will no longer be any armies and we can all live in peace.

Peace,
B

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What’s Stuck In My Head – 31 May

While this song has been a favorite of mine since I first heard it many years ago, it only bubbles up to my conscience now and then. But we heard it several time during our visit to Scotland earlier this month. (We’re ready to go back too!)

It’s not surprising that the song was featured during our trip. The Proclaimers are a set of Scottish twins, they sing in a thick Scottish accent, and the song has been featured and covered by lots of folks, including a Comic Relief 2007: The Big One version for the BBC. It took it’s inclusion on the Johnny Depp movie Benny & June for the song to take off in America. It reached #3 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1993.

Not everybody on our tour knew all the words, in fact I don’t think any of us Americans knew them all, but everybody sang along on the chorus! Almost all of us could sing along when Puff The Magic Dragon came on. Out tour director claims that Puff is actually about Nessie. And while I never thought of that connection, it kinda makes sense!

So, here is I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). Enjoy!

Peace,
B

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Scotland 2019 – Wrap Up

Just some thoughts and ideas that came out of our wonderful trip to Scotland.

First – Scotland was more than I ever imagined. I saw things that I didn’t expect, such as Kilchurn Castle, Loch Ness (even if Nessie was a no show), a Clan Campbell Jacobite memorial stone at Culloden, Greyfriars Kirk and the tomb of Bloody Mackenzie, just to name a few. But there were things I didn’t get to see; His Grace, The Duke of Argyll (my clan chief), the Kelpies, Holyrood Palace (it was closed due to a visit from the Royal family), and a much too short visit to the Isle of Skye. But I would not have traded it for anything!

Here are a few things that, as an American, I found odd;

  • No top sheets of the beds! All our hotel room beds did not have top sheets! Just a bottom sheet and a down filled duvet. Some nights this was very uncomfortable. The windows in most of our hotels only open a few inches, wifey and I both had trouble sleeping.
  • No air conditioning. This is understandable since the climate is much cooler than what we have here in Florida. But add to this the first bullet point, and again, very uncomfortable.
  • Lots of nose rings. Not sure if this is a Scottish thing or what, but lots of younger folks had rings in their noses! While I will never tell someone how to decorate their body, it is not a look I find attractive. Just my opinion.
  • Why do the toilet paper rolls have the paper going under the roll? This was not only in Scotland, but on the British Airways flights we were on. It is so much easier to get the paper from the front of the roll than behind it. Yet almost every restroom (toilet to them), was behind the roll.
  • The traffic lights go yellow between each cycle. Here in the USA our lights go green, yellow, red, green. In Scotland it’s green, yellow, red, yellow, green. I kinda felt like I was at an NHRA Dragster event!
  • And if you want a bottle of water, you have two choices; still and sparkling. The names are apparent AFTER you ask for your first bottle. Luckily, we stopped at a little convenience store across from our hotel and got to read the labels and didn’t get embarrassed when asked.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. And I will start with Wifey. Not only did she start the whole ball rolling several years ago in planning this trip, she made sure that once we booked we had everything we needed. We purchased some very nice rain jackets just for this trip. She made sure that they had zip out linings so we could use them here at home after our trip. And in all honesty for me, they were more than was needed. I was sweating the majority of the time when we were walking around. I have really become heat intolerant in my later years. But, the jackets were so very needed on those “Scottish days” of 50 F and rainy weather. And there were several of those.

Our tour director/guide Ian Walker. The man is so very knowledgeable of the entire tour. He could point out areas of interest long before we would get there. Now, anyone can be able to point out landmarks of buildings or maybe mountain peaks and such. Ian had such detailed items such as trees and bushes along the road that were (hopefully) blooming at the time. How many people can tell you things like that?

I didn’t get our driver’s last name, so I will refer to him as “Sir Neil”. Sir Neil was the most professional driver I have ever encountered. On the day we went to Inveraray Castle, Wifey and I were in the front seat of the coach. We were going through some very narrow country roads. At times another tour coach or large truck would be headed towards us (did I mention that this is right hand drive country? Sir Neil was driving from the opposite side of the vehicle, on the opposite side of the road), making it very scary to us Americans, yet Sir Neil never had a worry. His hand would go up in a wave to the other driver, and there was never a concerned look on his face.

There is no privacy in the men’s room
We had the same basic breakfast every day. But I didn’t complain! I found out I like haggis and black/blood pudding.

So, let me recommend a few things. Just in case you’re looking for a tour.

CIE Tours. This is the company we did the tour through. Just a few of the reasons to use CIE:

  • No hidden charges! Everything was as described and paid for. One of the little things that I noticed was at many of our stops there were other tours arriving as well. They either didn’t get dinner or breakfast as we did. But something that I thought was nice, was we had porters get our luggage, both from the coach on arrival and again in the monring when we left. Those other guys had to get their own luggage. We had ours brought to the room and picked up outside the room on those mornings. That was a big plus to me.
  • All tickets to the castles and other events were paid for. One price, all inclusive! Other than trying the local beers and whiskys, everything food wise, other than lunch when in town, was covered as well.
  • We booked through a third party company that closed shop just after we paid. Needless to say we were extremely concerned that we would lose everything and not be able to travel. The wonderful folks at CIE held my virtual hand the entire way. They relieved all my fears on every call (and there were many calls).

Roaming Man. If, like me, you don’t want to either pay for an international plan for data or get a local SIM card for your phone, how do you get Wi-Fi and such? We used Romaing Man. I rented a portable Wi-Fi hotspot for about $10 a day. It supports 5 devices at a time and connected almost everywhere we went. It did have trouble up in the Highlands, but with those mountains anything would have issues connecting.

Now, let’s talk flights. We booked everything through British Airways. Since this our first trip with BA, I will give them the benefit of the doubt as to the quality of service. Who am I kidding? They’ll get everybit of praise and critisim as I can muster. “Take No Prisoners!!”

From the beginning, we had issue with our booking. I cannot blame BA for all the issues we had, as we booked through Priceline. The issue was with checked luggage on our return trip. For whatever reason even though we had checked luggage on the trip to Scotland, we were not allowed to bring any checked baggage back home. I’m not saying we had to pay for any checked luggage. The website specifically said “No Checked Luggage Allowance”. Were we supposed to leave everything in Scotland?

I contacted BA well more than a week before our flights to try and get this corrected. I started all this the week I was at a conference in Orlando, and could not get anyone to answer the phone.

Once I did get a rep on the phone, it took almost an hour to get everything setteled. But, I was told, the rep couldn’t get the credit card to go through and had to send it up “one level”. I should expect everything to be cleared the day before we flew.

What a surprise, it wasn’t. I called back and as told it could take “a week or more” to process. Seriously? Do they not use credit cards in Britain? And was told to check again on Sunday. But on Sunday, I say, I will be in Scotland and not have access to a phone. No worries, all will be taken care of. Again, bullshit.

Then, the day before we leave Scotland I get an email stating “we can’t process your card, please call us”. Needless to say, I say “Fuck you!”. We paid for our checked baggage at the airport. We could have saved $12 or so by doing it on line, but the BA site and phone folks couldn’t figure it out. Simply poor customer service.

Yet another result of outsourcing support to a foreign country.

The flight from Orlando to London was only marred by the fact that there were at least 20 kids under the age of 3 on board. I can’t blame that on BA no matter how much I try. The crew and flight went very well. We left on time and there were no real issues, other than crying kids. Likewise the flight from London to Glasgow. Again, excellent crew and an uneventful flight.

The return trip is a completely different story. We left from Edinburgh almost without problem. For whatever reason my left jean pocket showed as a hot spot on the scan. A simple wand scan and we were on our way to London. According to our itineray, we should have had about 90 minutes to connect with our flight to London. In reality we had about 45 minutes to go across the entirety of Heathrow. We managed to find the gate (which wasn’t easy, it was tucked away in a corner with very little signage) with minutes to spare. And what happens? My boarding pass is rejected! Seems the US customs office has “randomly” selected me for a secondary inspection. This is not the first time this has happened to me. I have been “randomly” selected before. It must be the name. But the gentleman that is handling my luggage is very professional, and I’m cleared to board the aircraft.

Not that that does any good. Our depature time was 12:40 PM. I think we made in on board about 12:50 or so. That was our first warning. After sitting in the plane for about 20 minutes, the captain tells us that there is a “problem loading the luggage”. Now seriously, what airline has issue loading luggage? This is something that’s done all day, every day. It’s second nature.

Then, about 15 minutes later, the captain says that a passenger has “decided not to fly with us” has has left the aircraft. Again, after the door is closed, who lets someone off the plane once the door has been closed?

One of the cabin crew said that this person was known to the crew and is trying to overecome a severe phobia of flying. Seriously? Why let a person like that even on the plane? I am bi-polar. I have phobias. While I applaud someone trying to overcome their fears, but not at the expense of others. Book a small private plane and work it out. On top of this, the captain announces that we are further delayed as they try to find this person’s luggage and take it off the aircraft. Again, seriously? I hate to be an asshole, but your luggage is going to Philly with the rest of us. Go find that private aircraft to work it out. They have counselors for this shit.

In the hour or so of “We’re still trying to find the luggage” annoucements, a very strong burning smell starts to fill the cabin. I am, admitedly, near the back of the airplane. The “cheap seats” if you will. The odor is very strong.

Then, all power goes out. All lights go out, and the very weak AC stops. Everything. Captain says that the auxillary power unit has overheated and crews are in enroute to fix it. Well that explains the smell. I would say we are in about 90 minutes of sitting on the plane, at the gate with no where to go.

After at least another hour of “should only be a few more minutes” annoucements, nothing has improved. Still sitting a very hot, dark and slowly growing uneasy aircraft. Many “just have to finish the paperwork” announcements are met with much disbelief among the passenagers.

Then captain tells us that the APU will not be repaired, but is not needed since it only really works while on the ground and not in the air. As an aside he does mention, and was probably missed by the majority of the passengers, that the APU is required to started the engines. So they will have to bring a portable APU to fire up the engines. Not surpisingly, the portable APU fails. They will have to get yet another one to start our engines.

After over 4 hours being held captive in the aircraft, we finally did manage to get the engines started and leave for Philly.

All I can say, is bullshit. There never was a luggage problem, nor someone demanding to get off. British Airways owes all the passangers of BA 0067 on 24 May a lot of compensation. This is totally inexcusable, and is the worst customer service I have ever experienced. And it doesn’t stop there. The pilot managed to bounce a 747 on landing. I have 20 years of military flights under my belt, I have never had this rough a landing. Not only did we bounce, the aircraft did a serious left tilt.

And, of course, we were an hour late in leaving Philly. We missed not only our connection to Orlando, but our shuttle bus home. Our son had to pick us up after midnight and then drive 90 minutes home.

Throughout all these issues, the cabin crew were superb. They went beyond what would be normal by offering cold water and juice on several occasions, even a really good ice cream treat for free. For that, I will not put British Airways on my “never to be used again” list. I will give them the chance to redeem themselves on our next trip to Britian, whenever that may be.

All in all – we will definitely use CIE Tours again. The customer service is beyond compare. The local guides and drivers they employ are so knowledgable and competent that we would have no issue following their guidance on any tour. The hotels they choose are better than what you may find using a reseller. They vet not only their tour guides/drivers but also the hotel staff as well.

Our time in Scotland was too short. Seven days is no where enough time to see a country, much less one with the variety of grandeur that Scotland has to offer. We had a taste of the castles, the highlands, and sadly very little of the Isle of Skye. We would recommend that you do go and visit this, our homeland, whenever you can. The wonders and majesty are there for your taking. There is a link below to my Instagram. There are mor photos there, and I will link to my Google photos once I have them all sorted.

One of the hightlights was a visit to Loch Lomond. I was asked if we sang about the loch as we approached. And yes, we did. Here is a beautiful video of the song we sang.

And as the Scots say: “Hasten Ye Back” and Aye, we shall.

Peace,
B

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A Quick Thought On Memorial Day

This is a repost of last year’s Memorial Day post. I don’t think I could say it any better.

While it’s never wrong to thank a veteran for his or her service, that is not what today is for. Save that for Veteran’s Day. Today we remember the ones who never got to take off the uniform, those that never came home, the ones that paid that ultimate sacrifice. So we do not “celebrate” Memorial Day, we respect what it stands for. Now granted I will have my cookout and drink several adult beverages, after all, it is an extra day off of work. But in the back of my mind, and hopefully yours too, we will remember our brothers and sisters of all branches of the military and hope that their sacrifice wasn’t in vain. As an Army retiree and the proud father of a soldier, today weighs heavily on me and my family, I am so very grateful for those that served before me and after me. So lift a glass of whatever beverage you choose, and thank those we can only remember, those who fell on the battlefields the world over. And pray that the wars will end, and peace will reign. Amen.

Peace,
B

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Scotland 2019 – Days 7 & 8

Full disclosure:  We are now home safe and sound. The reason for the late post will be explained in a day or two.  Let’s just say that British Airways and I are not on friendly terms right now.

No map today, you should know where we are by now! Day 7 was a no travel day. We took a nice city bus tour of the city of Edinburgh. Then it was up to the castle.

The Cowgate in Edinburgh

The castle is very imposing. It sits atop a rock that is eons old. There has been a royal castle at this location since the reign of David I in the 12th century. Archeological finds have dated human occupation on Castle Rock to the Iron Age in the second century BCE.

The view from the castle is quite spectacular.

Looking out from the Argyll Battery.

Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, they would fire a canon everyday at 1300 (1 PM) so that folks could set their timepieces, but more importantly, so the ships could set navigation.

The One O’Clock Gun
Another shot of part of the castle.

Alas, were not allowed to take photographs of the crown jewels nor the Stone of Scone. But it was amazing to view them.

A graveyard for all the dogs that belonged to soldiers or other folks that were living in the castle.

After our visit to the castle, we had a free day to explore Edinburgh. Before we headed off to the Royal Mile to shop, we had to stop at the grass market area for lunch. The grass market was exactly what the name implies. It served as the city common area. Everything was done here centuries ago, the market, offical announcements, and even the hangings of those sentenced to die. Today, there is no longer a grass area, it’s been paved and it’s lined with shops and pubs.

After a very nice lunch (and local beer) we headed to Greyfriars Kirk. The church was originally started in 1602. We didn’t go into the building, but instead walked among the old cemetery.

I was looking for a particular tomb. This is said to be haunted! I’ll leave it to you to read about Bloody MacKenzie.

And no visit to Greyfriars is complete with a vist to the statue of “Greyfriars Bobby“.

I have to admit that as beautiful as the Royal Mile is, it has become a tourist trap. The majority of shops that claim “Authentic Highland Tartans” have the same mass produced crap. It took some doing to find a shop with quality product without having to go over to the “expensive” street. So I didn’t take any pictures of the buildings. Besides all you’d be able to see were the tourists anyway!

But I did find this:

We own this country!

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. As so we had to say goobye to Bonnie Scotland. Day 8 was an early morning cab ride to the airport and some interesting flights home. That will the subject of another post.

The sun was shining when we arrived and again when we left. The days in middle were not bad either!

The traditional highland goodbye is “Hasten ye back!” And that we shall.

Peace,
B

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Scotland 2019 – Day 6

Our view at breakfast

The ever present map

This was another short coach trip day. I’m really happy about that as the cramped seats are starting to get to me.

Stop number one was Glamis Castle. Ian, our braw tour director says this castle always wins the unofficial voice poll of favorite stops. Not for me, I prefer Blair Castle (day 5) simply because of the extensive grounds. But I will say, Glamis does look more like the storybook castle. I blame Disney. Photography was not allowed inside the castle, so this is it.

Next up was St. Andrew’s. The home of golf. My dad and older brother would have enjoyed the old course and other sites in that area. I’m not a duffer so while it was interesting,and i do watch enough golf to recognize the important places, I had other plans.

We were dropped off about the center of town for a free afternoon. After a good meal of fish and chips (I can’t believe that it took me until day 6 to get fish and chips), we headed to the ruins of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

Legend has it that St. Rule brought some of the bones of Andrew, one of the twelve apostles, to the “end of the earth” from the Constantinople. And in the 8th century or so, Scotland was on the western edge of the know world. The cathedral was built around 1158, but there has been a church at this location at least as back as 748 CE. It was abandoned after the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century.

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We ended the night with some (cheesy) planned entertainment The Spirit of Scotland. The best I can say is the piper was excellent.

Edinburgh castle and a free afternoon to explore the city awaits!

Peace,

B

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Scotland 2019 – Day 5

No long coach rides today! Yea!

Are you tired of the map yet?

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. We did quite a bit of walking yesterday and I ended up in the bar later than usual. No real surprise there. Also our braw tour director does Ancestry research and several of us met with him to pick up some research tips.

I have an hour before breakfast so I will hopefully get this posted right away.

The day started off in a shambles. Our coach driver, Neil, was required by law to have the day off. Much like truckers in the USA can only drive for so many hours before they must stop, the same applies here.

The fill-in driver was over 30 minutes late. Poor Ian, our braw tour director, was beside himself. Ian called our two stops and got us rescheduled.

First stop for the day was Blair Castle. This castle was first built in the mid 13th century. And parts of that construction are still in use.

They a have a piper play every hour most afternoons on the grounds.

The castle has 30 rooms that you can visit on your self guided tour. As usual, there are muskets, bayonets and swords everywhere.

There are many red deer on the grounds as well. And it seems they like to mount them!

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The Duke of Atholl is the person in Europe that has a standing private army, the Atholl Highlanders.

But for wifey and I, the best part was walking the grounds. We went first to Diana’s Grove (this is the Greek Goddess, not the late Princess. And no, Princess Diana is not buried here. And yes, someone asked if she was buried in the Grove.)

The best sidetrip was a visit to the ruined St. Bride’s Kirk. St. Bride is better known as Brigid. The Kirk, or church, was built around 1275.

From the castle to the distillery. I was looking forward to this visit as I have never heard of this brand of whisky. And now I now why. The majority of the whisky distilled here is used in blended whiskies. They only bottle 0.03% of the product as single malt, and it’s not exported. Hence, I’ve never heard of Blair Atholl.

Our tour guide, Tom, was very good.

But I will admit that I didn’t care for the whisky.

Random shot to prove the sun does shine on Scotland!

We ended the afternoon with some free time in the little town of Pitlochry.

Wifey was happy she finally got to wear her sunglasses

And that’s a wrap. Up next is Glamis Castle and St. Andrew’s.

Peace,

B

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Scotland 2019 – Day 4

Only two stops today, and a much shorter coach ride.

The reference map.

I will admit that as of tonight, last night’s hotel was the worst. The room was hot. It may been 50°F outside, but the windows would barely open, there was no fan available, and the down filled duvet was so damn thick and heavy that sleeping was next to impossible.

But we are Scots so we put it behind us. Our first stop of the day would be the Culloden Battlefield. I will admit that I had some major trepidations visiting this battlefield. I had the same feelings when I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC some years ago.

I have always read that the Argyll Campbell’s were loyalists to the British crown. According to my sources the Argyleshire men were stationed on the left flank of the army. They’re mission was to pull down a wall and stop the Jacobite cavalry from entering the fray. And history tells us, they were successful. So I expected to find a marker of some sort that backed this up.

To the left of this point stood Cobham Fir Earra Ghaidheal – the Argyleshire Men.

So Campbell of Argyll was here. But what about the other Campbell houses? Argyll may have become the big house, but there are others. Loudon, Cawdor and Breadelbane. We’re they there? And if so, we’re they Jacobite or loyalists?

There were Campbell Jacobites as well. I am strong enough to admit that I was overcome with emotion when I found this memorial. I knelt down and poured a dram of single malt out over the ground to honor the men of the Clan on both sides of this conflict.

I also saw a restoration of part of the wall as well.

It’s a bit hard to see, but what’s left of the wall is just in front of the trees

Culloden has a very nice cairn commerating the battle.

There is also a now restored cottage on the field that was there in 1746.

But the day was not all doom and gloom. Our other stop for the day was at a working sheep farm for a demonstration of border collies. Wifey had been looking forward to this. We have seen sheepdog demonstrations before, but not of this size. This farm has about 3000 sheep on about 11000 acres. The shepard has 18 border collies working with him, and several puppies from 8 months or so, to a new litter only one week old!

Dog momma (wifey) and one of the bigger puppies.

Then it was a quick trip to the Atholl Palace Hotel. A Victorian Era “spa” hotel. We can only hope that tonight is more comfortable.

We are here for two days. Tomorrow is a visit to Blair Castle and the Blair Atholl Distillery. That will be interesting.

Peace,

B

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Aye! We found a piper! In Scotland!