Friday, 29 June 2012

Visit of the Lama (or 'Lama Strikes', Part Two!)

This is a tad later than I envisaged making this post, due to some unforseeable delays in getting back to Haddington of which I shall be informing you all in immense detail, presently.

Meanwhile, we pick up our Lama where we last left him, of the verge of addressing our congregation (unruly mob)...


After about an hour and a half of intensive photo snapping, Bethie informs me that “By the way, I would be careful, you do realise we're not allowed to take pictures.”.

Before setting him loose on us, a chap pops up briefly to reassure us that our Lama, is a Good Lama.

His Holiness is informed that that is a flowerbed. He says that it reminds him of Tibet and goes on to address us, his “brothers and sisters” telling us he is happy for the chance to be able to share his views with us. I'm still getting over the fact that I'm in the same room as OUR DEAR FAVOURITE LAMA! Bethie thinks he is “cute”. The chap sitting immediately behind the podium glances back at the Big Screen, spots himself on it and starts grinning.

I'm now seriously considering learning shorthand.

The talk begins with the subject of respecting all religions. This is somewhat ironic and amusing to me since coincidentally enough we had a speaker in our Advanced Religious Moral and Philosophical Studies class just the day before, who had a similar personal stance on the existence of God (broadly speaking Buddhists believe that since we cannot know it doesn't matter, and this chap was a humanist, which effectively means “don't know, don't care”- so both are more or less agnostic), and yet with regards to organised religion their attitudes couldn't be more different. The attitude of the humanist was really rather dismissive.

It strikes me that the Dalai Lama is doing a sterling job in a foreign language. Poor fellow, this must be exhausting. He is managing to talk quite eloquently about trust and friendship, the importance of positive emotions for health. Every so often he rotates around to address those people sitting on the stage.

I've been told before that the more important ('important' not being exactly the right word) the Buddhist leader, the less self-important they are (not that Buddhists in lower circles are at all, I'm oversimplifying in an attempt to get my muddled thoughts across) and brilliantly enough this appears to be very true of the Lama. At one point he turns and asks the boy sitting behind him;

Update 1st August: Well, that cuts out abruptly! I have honestly no idea what happened there. I distinctly remember writing more. I am sorry!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Visit of the Lama. (Part One)

This takes up roughly thirty miniature pages of notes, in a similarly miniature scrawl, and essentially I'm just transcribing and improving my notes. 

In consideration of this, I am splitting the post up! Hopefully get the next bit in by later on today. If not, I'm off 'till friday, so tough cookies. Here goes:


Waiting For Lama

Up bright and early for a spot of Lama viewing and... ick, already it's raining.

A sizeable host of people greeted us as we approached the Usher Hall. The doors were at this point still shut against us and we found ourselves filing into some sort of pen. After a few minutes spent gazing around with idle interest we observed the doors to the side entrances swing inward and a general move in that direction. It was not so much of a queue as a morass of people, but we did our best to join it anyway.

Following a few false leads, we find ourselves in the far left of the Gods or “Upper Circle”. From behind I overhear one of my cohorts mumble that he's not so good on heights. Worse luck mate.
An observation is made that the farther down you go, the comfier the appearance of the seats. I suppose that traditionally, the more “common” you were, the less you could afford to pay for a decent vantage point, the less they cared how unimpressed you were with your perch.

A small legion of Buddhist monks and nuns were scurrying about below. These brought forth exclamations of wonder from younger members of the group and some delight from those of us who were already experienced Samye Ling campaigners, past Buddhist encounters already securely under our belts.

There is an inexplicable drum kit on stage. This could turn out to be very interesting indeed. For all I know, the Lama is a drumkit-bashing NINJA.

Mrs arrives trailing Torquil in her wake. He promptly relates his horrifying two-day experience at Edinburgh High (ambushed and embraced by a some girl he had never before met) finishing a tad abruptly with quote “ I left and been playing golf ever since” unquote.
At this point, I discover that the rubber band which I been using on my hair this morning was still restricting the blood flow to my wrist. It is tempting to ping it somewhere.

So far, so eventful.

A curious mix of people file in to fill the several rows of chairs on the stage, foremost amongst them a guitar-wielding quartet. Currently we remain ignorant of what this may portend, but I am confident that all shall be revealed in due course. Our Lama is no where to be seen.

Lights go down, everyone shuts up.

Some chap sporting a jaunty purple turban creeps awkwardly in.

The Reverend Donald Reid now gives an introduction. A jingle starts up amongst the audience and heads turn to glare. The tune finds itself prematurely cut off.
Apparently the Dalai Lama is going to be presented with a scarf in the 'new tartan of world peace'. Could this be the start of a new Buddhist trend? Out with red, we're having tartan.
The Reverend pauses reflectively for a moment and somewhere, somebody begins to clap. Again this ceases abruptly.

The 'World Opera for World Peace' stride into centre stage. The solo singer, Martin Aelred, whom they are accompanying bursts heartily into the 'Canto Della Terra' to a World-y montage being played behind him on the Big Screen.

The Lord Provost -Rt Hon Cllt Donald Wilson- of Edinburgh put in an appearance, telling us that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had not yet arrived (thank you) but that fortunately he was not very far away.
Next up was the Tinderbox Orchestra and I have to admit- pretty spectacular stuff. The moment they began I almost expected them to be twirling their cellos and jumping about the stage. Indeed I wasn't far off. The conductor bounced about, gesticulating wildly, created quite an impression, and I confess myself quite impressed.
We have a new conductor for the second piece. Far more tame.

Now on the verge of panic; I have already filled out approximately twelve miniature pages worth of notes and the reason for out visit, the Dalai Lama, has not yet put in an appearance. Happening to glance up from my notes in what I thought was a lull in the musics, I catch the last vestiges of our energetic orchestra being hastily cleared away.

Some Tibetan dancers appear in exotically colourful skirts, performing to 'express their joy at the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama'. Presumably this is anticipatory, since they are not actually feeling the benefit of his presence yet, as such; but hey, it's interesting and pleasant enough. They're doing a wonderful job of being synchronised.
They exit and something sounding suspiciously like Homer Simpson's throat-singing precedes some chaps dragging a v. comfy-looking chair into the room. 

Meanwhile our friend Martin Aelred has strolled back in.

I'm presuming that the chair is for the Lama. Beside it a table trembles under the weight of a dozen water bottles.

And at last, the long awaited moment. As the Lama wanders he is greeted by a standing ovation, he walks to the front of the stage and bows to the audience and still everybody is clapping. With nearly every seat filled, it's quite a clamour. Two minutes and he is already cracking jokes.

To be continued... :O

Friday, 15 June 2012

Edinburgh Open Day

So, back from the Edinburgh Uni Open Day.
Quotes of the day:


*Gazing absently up at the second floor of our double decker bus as we drive along the A1*
"It would be a bit awkward if the second floor came off..."
*Everyone stares in speechless amazement*.


*Discussing the Philosophy course*
"They give you a degree for spending four years thinking...?!".

As you can tell, Knox Academy intelligentsia was out in full force.

And following yesterday's beautiful sunshine, naturally it began to rain. Began, and has still to stop. That particular brand of oh-so-familiar vertical rain, which causes the wielding of an umbrolly to become not only futile, but positively a hazard.

I made use of some campus maps we obtained, allowing them to take the worst of the weather (and I say "them", since I worked my way through quite a few). This left me... oh, still pretty wet.

We were forced to return to the school in time for some people to return to their multifarious jobs. This meant working our way back to George Square for pick-up at half past twelve- thereby missing all evening talks. For myself, this cut out Archaeology, Japanese and English. I did however contrive to show my mug at the talk on studying Chinese. Apparently Edinburgh is the only Scottish university to offer an undergrad Chinese course. Despite the emphasis the lecturer placed on the difficulty and dedication (the horror!) involved in learning the language, it actually sounded really rather enticing.

More than anything, I would love to understand 'House of Flying Daggers' without the need to revert to subtitles.

Something to consider.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Amount of Icing In Cupcake Recipes is INSANE!

My first cupcake attempt. It was a 12 cake recipe... how I've ended up with 34 is lost on me.

This was after having spread cupcake mix all over the kitchen (lifted up the arm on the kenwood beater, adjusted the dial to rotate the thing slowly in order to get lumps off the far side, turned the silly contraption the wrong way and whola! Flying cupcake hits the cupboards. Who feels silly now?).

Actually, it was two recipes. I wanted to make some reasonably plain ones to start off with, unfortunately such an outrageous recipe doesn't appear to exist. Instead I used separate ones for the cake and the icing, tweaked both because I am always incabable of sticking to the things, ended up with something entirely unlike either... meh.

In the event that someone does give a damn:

Used this one for the icing:
(added some cream cheese in place of about 30g of the butter, didn't put the full 120g butter/cheese amount in, still ended up with far too much for my near-tripled number of cupcakes. How much icing does one cupcake need!?!)

... aaaaand this one for the base:
(used the margarine for a bit of variety- already got butter in the icing. Sifting the flour is a waste of time. I didn't. Turned out just fine.)

(As now appears in my notebook. Only considerably more neat.)


175g    SR Flour
175g    Caster Sugar
175g    Marge
1.5tsp  Baking Powder
3          Large Eggs (beat them!)
1tsp     Vanilla Extract

For Icing:

 200g   Icing Sugar
90g      Softened Butter
30g      Cream Cheese
2tsp     Milk


+ Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
+ Chuck everything into a bowl, mix until it is no longer necessary.
+ Shove into the oven for 18-20 mins.
+ Hey Presto! Cupcakes.


+ Chuck everything in. Mix everything up.

Decorate at own discretion.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Elderflower Champagne

When I was chatting to (Auntie) Sarah on the phone about some Olympic tickets which she thought she might be able to get (but more on that later), she mentioned that (Uncle) Michael had just been brewing (not being used in a technical sense) some Elderflower champagne. This struck me as rather intruiging, and after he kindly sent me the recipe, I tried some brewing of my own.

A copy of his recipe:

To make the elderflower champagne - which by the way is essentially a soft drink (maybe 0.5% alcohol like ginger beer or shop bought shandy) - it is crucial to use imperial measurements.

[There is a separate affair altogether which is elderflower wine (using 2½-3 lb sugar plus yeast and fermenting in demijohn with airlock for several weeks) which can be quite strong; later on if all flowers are not plucked elderberry wine which can be very strong indeed.]

Day 1

Collect 7 heads of elderflowers – cut or snap off the stalk before it divides up into multiple stalks and keep them whole in a loose bag or bucket.  If they are small heads or not all flowering take more.   Ideally they will be dry, fragrant and flowering, sans bugs.  Pick and use – don’t squash them or leave them lying around all day.

Use 1 gallon of clean water.  A clean plastic bucket is probably best for the job.

Take 1¼ lb normal white sugar or caster.  Not brown but pale gold will be OK.  Boil some of the water, say 2 pints, and dissolve the sugar.  Add the cold water.

Wait for the sugar and water solution to reach room temperature. DO NOT ADD THE OTHER INGREDIENTS UNTIL THE WATER IS COOL NM

Add to the liquid:

-       The elderflowers

-       2 tbsp white wine vinegar

-       2 lemons sliced thinly

Cover with a clean cloth and leave in peace 24 hours

Day 2

Use bottles that have had fizzy drinks in them.   Bottles that have had still water in them may not be strong enough.

Strain the liquid through a cloth in a funnel into the bottles.  Leave 2 inches gap at the top.

Screw lids on well.

Leave in a cool place for approximately two weeks.   Longer in cool weather so maybe more like 3 weeks for you!   London heatwave weather does it in 8-10 days.

Test by slightly unscrewing – it should be fizzy like champagne with lots of froth.   If it is not fizzy screw up and wait a few days.   If it is extremely fizzy (and/or you see bottles swelling up) release some pressure and drink it asap!

When it is ready drink it cool within a few weeks – it doesn’t last well although keeping it in the fridge may preserve it by stopping/slowing the fermentation.


Kind regards


I was doing the straining with a tea towel in th bath tub. Funnily enough the towel is printed with information about the making of Cider. Still, it also managed to be useful enough for champagne.

It's now sitting outside the back door, doing a poor job of carbonating.

Ah well, only a first attempt.