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So, what’s it like to drive a 1991 Classic style mini cooper?

  1. you’re almost guaranteed to be the smallest car on the road.
  2. You are one with the bumps and potholes. Something not normally noticed can jar my teeth now.
  3. noisy. Engine noise and road noise. Doesn’t help I have a stage 1 kit on the car. (-;
  4. windshield wipers flop back and forth like a broken wrist
  5. 75 miles an hour is either launch speed or “We’re breaking up Captain” speed.
  6. no lights on the dash. All switches are done by feel. (and I keep getting them wrong)
  7. no cup holders. Where does my coffee go???
  8. no glove box
  9. Windows keep fogging up. That’s with rear defroster on and front air defroster, and window cracked.

Final impression so far? It completly ROCKS! It is a total blast to drive. It’s got decent power because of the 1275 motor with the stage 1 kit. It handles really good because of the stiff suspension. You go around the round-a-bouts like a go cart, grabbing gears and holding on. Parking is a breeze even here in this psycho midget parking lot country. I look at the people driving their Porches and Mercedes and think, I’m probably having more fun driving around in my old beat up 1400 pound mini than they are in their 30k-40k luxury car.

After a weeks driving I put 16 pounds of petrol in. That’s just over 3 gallons of gas here.

 Side Note: I went down to Halfords at lunch today and picked up a multimeter, wire, connectors, heat shrink, two different styles of LED’s and an illuminated switch. I’m installing some dash lights so I’ll quit turning on the flashers when I want to turn down the heater, or better yet, not turn off the lights when I really want to turn the rear defrost off.

We have a new family member. Meet Mr. Ed.


Mr. Ed is a 1991 Mini Cooper with the 1275cc engine. He’s been slightly modified with a stage 1 kit to enhance his engine slightly. He got his name from the prior owners Scott and Debra who actually gave me a printed “Maintaining a Classic Mini Cooper” guide. A one sheet print out that Scott had written up.

Number one item on the list? “You must always wave at owners of other classic mini’s who you see on the road.” Then it went on to list tire pressures, lubrication points, oil types, etc.

Here is Roberta next to Mr. Ed after we brought him home.


Mr. Ed will be my commuter car to and from work. Here are some pictures of Mr. Ed in the parking lot at work.


This weekend we decided to get out of the house and go see another castle. This time we drove about 5 miles south to the small village of Crichton and checked out the Crichton Castle. This castle isn’t much more than ruins at this point. It was originally built in about 1400 and has had a rough existance.

 What’s really neat about his particular castle is that it shows what castles were all about. It’s a fortified home, and it looks it. There is a beastiality to this place. A rough and harsh existance is felt just looking at what’s left. This castle was actually besieged and captured in 1559.

2046 2050 2053

Even the stables are a fortified style structure. Animals were housed below and the servants on the second floor.


With every good Castle there must come a Chapel. It’s known as the Crichton Collegiate Church. It’s the in thing to have after all, a chapel/church/kirk with your castle. Here is the Chapel that was built near the castle in 1449. It’s a solid looking building. I guess it needs to be to have been around for almost 600 years in the rains and winds of Scotland.


There are some very intersting grave stones in the grounds around the Church. The oldest one we could still make out was dated 1709. We might go back and try to do some rubbings on  a few of the older and harder to read stones. Try to get an idea of what they say and how old they are.

Here are two interesting marker. Skulls and Crossbones on your grave. Interesting to say the least.

2062 2065

Well, we finally made it up to Edinburgh Castle last Saturday, ya ya I know, I’m slow updating.  We actually rode the bus into town to see what it was like. The Lothian buses aren’t too bad really. It’s only a pound for an adult and 60 pence for the kids. We spent less for the five of us to ride the bus into and out of town than it would have cost to park. Trip time was about 20 minutes from downtown Newtongrange to downtown Edinburgh.

We got off the bus on the North Bridge, about a block from the Royal Mile and I took this picture of the Carlton Hotel. Nice old building.


We then proceeded up the Royal Mile to the top where the Edinburgh Castle sits. Here are a couple of pictures looking up and down the Royal Mile.


By the way, Edinburgh is considered the most haunted city in the world. Here are a couple of tours through some of the spooky places.

2003  2009

On the way up the mile I took the girl’s picture at the Mercat Cross. This was a place where proclamations were made, people would gather, etc.


St. Giles Cathedral. Which can trace it’s roots back to about 874 AD. A few years back.


Just before you get to the castle on the north side is a small plaque and planter kind of thing. This is called the Witches Well and it marks the area where in the 1600’s over 300 women were tortured and burned at the stake, accused of being witches. This small plaque and monument for such a terrible time.


 To get in the Castle you walk through the outer entrance and over, what can only be considered a moat, through the castle guardhouse, around a corner, and then into a long long line of other people waiting to pay their money to get in. Here’s a pic of Roberta almost into the castle, but sadly having to wait in a queue for the tickets.


Once you’re up in the castle the views of the surrounding area is amazing.


Here are the girls sitting on one of the Cannons enjoying the view over the wall.


Well, that’s a quick highlight of last Saturday.

The Elephant House in Edinburgh Scotland was where JK Rowling first penned the novel Harry Potter. She wrote the book in the coffee house while barely making ends meet. Now she’s the 136th richest person in the world.

On our walk around Edinburgh Saturday I had to take the girls picture at the birthplace of Harry Potter. This is the actual place that she sat and wrote out the draft copy of Harry Potter.


While walking back down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh we saw this beautiful orange Lamborgini. Sadly the arse driving it decided his sorry rich butt could just stop in the road, get out, and go shopping. Happily the police officer didn’t find it so funny. As we walked up he had written the ticket and I joked that I wish I had a picture of him doing it, he responed with “Wait another 30 minutes and you’ll see this car being lifted (towed).” We laughed a bit then started back down the street when the owner showed up. They were not happy about getting a ticket. So much for the son of an oil shiek being able to just park whereever they want.


Well, I just found out the hard way that if you fail to inform your bank that you’ll be doing some consistent spending out of country they will freeze your credit card for your own protection!

 Normally I would get a phone call in regards to that, however my cell phone now says “I’m out of country don’t leave a message.” Oops, and my home number no longer works. Oops again.

So, I went to pay for my rental car so I could keep it another week while waiting for the lease vehicle, which has been delayed and delayed,  and the charge came back DENIED! Ahh heck! Now this is bad enough, however, remember the time zone differences? This happened at 9am my time, or midnight Alaska time! 8 hours I have to wait before they open up and I can get it fixed. Uhg!

Why am I still using a bank in Alaska? Well, AlaskaUSA Credit Union treated us right while we were up there, so I’ve just always kept them as my bank. It’s been 8 years now, even though I’ve lived in Alaska, Montana, California, and Mississippi since I opened the account. It’s always just worked out that I could keep the account.

So, why don’t I get an account here in Scotland and call it good? Funny you should ask that. Well, it turns out that someone moving to the UK, CAN NOT open a normal bank acount until after they have established a credit history here. At least 3 to 6 months! Minimum. The only saving grace is that HSBC has what they call a Passport account, mainly geared towards college students. It’s the most basic of accounts possible, but they will let someone who’s just moved to the country have an account. I have a debit card and that’s about it, but I could use it to set up my direct debit to pay for the house, which you HAVE to have to rent a house here. However with a Passport account you DO NOT qualify for any credit lines, credit cards, time of day, nothing. So it’s kind of a catch 22. I at least have a bank account, but it sucks.

Oh ya, and to make matters even more fun. Even though I have enough cash in the Passport account to pay for the rental, budget will not accept Cash or Debit cards as payment. They will only accept major credit cards and the only one I have with almost $2000 worth of limit is my Alaska USA card. I don’t like having credit cards, so now that I need a backup one I don’t have it. I like to pay off the cards and not carry the debt load. So I only have a few with low credit limits. It’s all I’ve ever needed. I know, I know, it’s almost unAmerican not to have at least $5-10k in credit cards and credit card debt. But remember, I’ve moved away from America. (-:

Oh well. Another twisting turn in the saga of moving overseas.

It’s very strange moving to a new country and learning the local society. One of the things that is glaringly obvious here in Scotland is the fact that most of the people here in the UK bow down and pray to the church of Global Warming. Baa…. Baaa…. It’s on the news, it’s in the newspapers, it’s everywhere here, and it’s blamed for EVERYTHING. It rains, must be global warming, it doesn’t rain, must be global warming.  The fricken sun comes up, must be global warming. Don’t take a new plastic bag from the grocery store, you have to bring in the used ones to use over and over. Otherwise you might be hurting the environment. People here all wear damp clothes, because, I kid you not. Using a dryer is BAD for the environment.

Gas is $10.50 a gallon, not because of the $8+ dollars worth of taxes but because there is an oil shortage and it’s bad for the environment. You can only drive a piece of crap 1.5 litre car because, oh my god, the CO2 emmissions from anything bigger will ruin the environment. Blah Blah Blah!!!

So, why am I so wound up about this crap? I walked down to the river by our house. The beautiful River South Esk. You should see the pictures of it in the brochures. Wow. Supposed to be this great fly fishing river. I thought, way cool.  A place close by that I can go learn to fly fish. Want to see what it really looks like?

My first view of the river after I walked down the trail. Some garbage on the trail and a burnt out old car. Thought it a touch strange, but okay. I found the river.


 I saw this really neat old stone wall holding up the embankment on the other side. There was a cave/hole at the end of the wall, I couldn’t see into it very well, but it looks intersting. No idea of how old this wall might be.


 I walked down the path a touch more, some more garbage strewn about, dog poo also. Then I came around the corner and saw this floating nastyness.


And up on the embankment this wall of debris. Literally a wall of it.


and some rusted barrels who knows what just lying there also.


Thank god these people care so much for the environment. Otherwise think of how nasty this river might be. I’ve never seen so much trash and garbage outside of a dump before in my life.  Talk about a bunch of hypocrits. Save the earth from the evils of global warming. Up the prices on anything that might “cause harm” to the environment. Tax the crap out of everything you can, and blame global warming for it. 

Then they do this to the local rivers. What a crock.

I’ve added some pictures to the gallery of our move to Scotland. I know, I know, it’s about time.

Here are the lady’s at SeaTac with all of our bags. And there were 9 of them, yep nine. Only one of them ended up being over the 50 pound limit and cost $50. All of the others made it, just barely in some cases.

1924 1928

Once we were in and past security we had about 2 hours to kill so we grabbed a bite to eat and some books for everyone.

1934 1937 1940

Here everyone is after 10 hours in the air getting a bite to eat in Amsterdam.

1943 1946 1949 1953 

And finally we make it to Edinburgh Airport where Molly and Nora get pictured while waiting for the rental car.


Here is our new home, aptly called TerraNova or New Land.


And finally, only a day after getting here the girls join the local Scottish gang.


That’s all for now.

We’ve only been here a little over a week now,  but there are some pretty obvious differences between living in the US and living in the UK, not the least of which is the cost of things.

 Right now the US dollar is worth about 1/2 of what a Great Britain Pound is worth. So, in theory I should be able to buy twice as much with my pound as I could with a dollar. Nope, not so much. In fact if you buy a book at the local Borders it’s the same cost here as in the US. Only in Pounds instead of Dollars. Say a book in the US cost $7.50, here in the UK it would cost 7.50 pounds. A LOT of things here are like that. The same cost if you ignore the pound to dollar exchange.

My base pay is roughly 1/2 of what I would be making in the US (actually less, but we won’t go there) so it should be equivelant to what I would make in the US. That means my expenses overall should be 1/2 of what they were in the states. A quick breakdown.

  • Rent: 900 Pounds a month. (basic 4 bedroom house in a decent neighborhood)
  • Council tax: 150 pounds a month.
  • Gas: 1.04 pounds a Litre.
  • Car lease 400 pounds a month (with insurance).
  • Phone and internet 35 Pounds a month.
  • Home heating and Electric costs: Unknown. Guessing 200 pounds a month
  • UK tax rate 40% (graduated up to 40% at my pay rate)

Total basic expenses roughly 1700 pounds without knowing the exact heating costs of the house. Or roughly $3400 a month for basic house and car. Plus the equivelant of $10.50 a gallon for gas.

So, for a basic house in an okay neighborhood, a leased car (Ford Focus), and basic bills, you would have to make 20,400 a year after taxes. So, that equates out to roughly 26,500 Pounds a year (rough guess of 30% taxes overall). The current average UK wage is 18,000 pounds  year. Hmmmm…. Doesn’t add up very well.  And this does not include food, entertainment, etc. You’re talking 26k a year for just the house and car and nothing else.

Some things that make it easier.

  • 2 freshly made Apple Fritters at the local bakery. 96 pence for both, and oh so good.
  • Groceries for the week for a family of 5, roughly 100 pounds. Not too shabby.
  • Medical, pretty much free, slow as crap, but free.
  • Medicine, cheap. Bottle of Tylenol equivalant is less than a pound.

It will be interesting to see how things work out over the next few months. I’ll know more as the actual bills start coming in.

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February 2008
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