Gain-Loss

I’m on holiday. Or at least, I have been. At this stage I’m almost holiday-ed out. Too relaxed, or something. It will be good to board the plane home.

Scotland and the UK seem to be doing well for themselves. I notice that the rural countryside is sprinkled with wind turbines (which I approve of). The Tesco’s in town no longer offers plastic bags at the self-service checkout, I had to catch the attention of a staff member and indicate that I needed one. In fact, in a lot of shops I was asked “Do you need a bag?”, but most of them actually just assumed that I would have brought along a bag for my purchases anyway. If you contrast that with my average Shoprite (USA) experience where the cashiers will put only 2 or 3 items in each bag, and then double-pack the plastic bags. It’s ridiculous. I do my damnedest to remember to bring my own bags when I go grocery shopping, muscling the poor cashier out the way to ensure that I do the packing.

St Andrews and Edinburgh look to be on an economic upswing: shops have changed about in the past year (as usual), but now I’m seeing more artisanal cafes, gourmet delis/foodstuffs and chic clothes shops. Fewer charity and “poundsaver” shops.

Contrary to public opinion, the weather in the UK is actually great. It’s June, but I can walk around outside for minutes at a time without breaking into a horrific sweat and struggling to breathe through the humidity. Brits do their weather a disservice. When the Eastern Seaboard had these same temperatures a couple of months back everybody was in sandals, t-shirts and shorts, over here people classify the same weather conditions as “too cold” and bundle up in hoodies and full-length trousers.

I guess that you could describe the Scotland I’m returning to as “more Scandinavian/European”. I’m still a foreigner in this country, though. I can no longer remember my St Andrews Cafe Etiquette (in which cafes is there table service, in which cafes do you need to pay before eating, in which cafes must you go over the till yourself to pay). I’m the idiot in the queue fishing for loose change in a purse mixed with cents, pennies and pounds. I feel vaguely disappointed that there isn’t a proper hipster coffeeshop in bucolic St Andrews – none of the waxed facial hair and pretentious pour-over contraptions that makes wasting time in American coffeeshops so rewarding.

I got to see family again and take help out with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme – always something that I find rewarding. I got to cycle that wonderful 10 mile route along the coast. I got to look out of my window and see the ocean, passing through a hundred different colours as the time and weather change. I got to bring back those old UK memories, the ones that I neatly packed away in the back of my mind when I left the country, the stuff I just can’t seem to think about when I’m away from this place. In return, I got to forget about life in the USA and all my grad school dramas, then just focus on the immediate present.

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