Friday, March 31, 2017

Living in the Past?

The Past - Thomas Cole (Source)
There are moments every now and then when my memories threaten to engulf me. Sometimes they are really good memories, sometimes they're not. I can't always pinpoint what causes the sudden remembrance of some event in the past, sometimes it's a scent in the air, sometimes it's a photograph, sometimes it's nothing at all. The memory swims up out of the depths of my soul, grabs me, then takes me away.

Usually not for long. Sometimes it's just a brief dip into the past but there are days when that memory will gnaw at me all day long. Until the next one pops up.

I think this happens more as I get older. Is it because I have more memories now than I did when I was in my twenties? Or is it the ever growing awareness of my own mortality? I don't know, I'm no philosopher. Well, I am but I suck at it. Don't have the attention span to really go after a thought and pursue it to a logical conclusion. Or not, as the case may be. (Not all ideas/thoughts have a logical conclusion. I think.)

You might say I'm a "greeting card philosopher," a couple of slick phrases that make you pause and say, "Wow, that was almost profound." Then I'm moving on to the next thought. Incidentally, that's how I shop for greeting cards. I stand there for a moment (no, not trying to remember who the card is for), look at the various cards, figure out what I want to say, then focus on the section that's close to what I want. Depending on who the card is for, I'll go serious, humorous, or religious. I'll read through a couple, and if one makes me pause and think, "Wow, that's kind of profound." Then I'll buy it.

I don't keep looking once I find what I'm looking for, which drives some people nuts. DAMHIK.

But yeah, the past, history, and memory. They all grab my attention.

Even the painful memories are sometimes necessary to re-live. Mostly to remember the people and places that I won't ever see again in this lifetime. While often painful, some of those memories also make me remember the good times. I cherish those moments, even with the pain.

That holds true for the good memories, but more so as there isn't as much pain.

"Isn't as much pain Sarge? Shouldn't there be no pain at all in the good memories?"

Well, yes and no. There are times I remember the fun we had when the kids were young. Those times are gone. There is a hint of pain in those memories. Perhaps it's more like melancholy. Sad and pensive. Melancholy is a good word.

The Present - Thomas Cole (Source)
While I don't live in the past, I do like to go back and visit.

From time to time.

Listened to those guys a lot back in the day.

Still do.

From time to time.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

So, What Are We?

Tragedy and Comedy (Source)
I was reminded the other day of a comment Buck made around the time James Gandolfini died.

 Dang. Are you turnin' into an Obit-Blog? ;-)

I'd tell you why that comment popped into my head - the circumstances, meteorological conditions, sea state, scents, odors, etc. - but a look into the way my mind works is far beyond the scope of this post. It would also probably require the services of any number of psychiatrists, behavioral psychologists, zoologists, animal trainers, and the like, (perhaps even a cattle prod or two) to even begin to understand the way my mind works. Also, ain't nobody got time fo' that, to cite an old Internet meme.

But, you guessed it, I digress.

The reason I bring all this up is that in my travels through the blogosphere, I read many types of blogs. Political blogs, humor blogs, opinion blogs, historical blogs, controversial blogs, what I like to call "musing" type blogs, and all sorts in between. I even read a few liberal blogs.

Whoa, wait, what? Sarge, seriously, liberal blogs?

Yes, yes indeed. I like to get both sides of an issue. While my blog list is heavily conservative, there are a few liberals over there. Perhaps even a progressive hiding in the weeds. Now if a blog is unrelentingly screeching and harping on liberal and progressive themes (sans benefit of either logic or fact), well, it drops off the list pretty fast. Atheists? Nope, not for a minute if they're strident about it and come across as vehemently anti-God. While I respect the fact that they have their own beliefs and opinions, I don't have to read them. Nor will I inflict them on my readers. 'Tis a matter of personal preference.

Yes, I did say "my readers." While Juvat and Tuna are very important pieces of the great big machine that is The Chant, I am the proprietor, the Inhaber, the Colonel of the regiment, if you will. While I do listen to suggestions from the staff, no really Tuna, I do, and I value their input, seriously Tuna, I do, I am the final arbiter of what you see here at The Chant. Truth be told, I would never censor either of those fellows, I don't have to, we are of like minds on many things. If not most.

For instance, Juvat, for example, might tell me about a website that he finds interesting, I will add it, regardless of whether or not I personally find it interesting. Not that that has ever happened, he suggested one that I recall, I like it and...

What? What's that? Why am I picking on Tuna?

Ah, well, you see, he and his lovely wife (he, like me, outkicked his coverage) are, last I knew, taking a cruise upon the ocean blue, while Juvat and I slave at our respective salt mines, noses to the grindstone. So yes, I'm jealous that he's on vacation and I'm not. Would I have been healthy when Juvat and his lovely wife were on vacation (see comment and link above regarding coverage) I would have whined about that as well.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, what sort of blog is this? (While that's not really where I was before that last digression, it's where I wanted to go. See the paragraph above as to how my mind works. Or not.)

Some days we do serious. Might be current events, might be a death, might be a bit of historical stuff. Might be a tale of a hero. We do those a lot. Some days we rant, other days we are goofy. Well, Tuna and Yours Truly do goofy, Juvat is more reserved and keeps his gravitas intact in his posts. Yes, he will occasionally "go wild" in the comments, but normally his posts tend to be more on the serious side.

Unless he's assaulting castles in Scotland.

The Chant is a mélange of educational, motivational, and humorous stuff which swirls in a kaleidoscope of colors and sights and sounds and...


Well, that's how I like to think of it.

Your mileage might vary...

Then there's this -
This is my blog. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My blog is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

Without me, my blog is useless. Without my blog, I am useless. I must write my blog well. I must write better than my competitor who is trying to exceed my page views. I must out write him before he out writes me. I will...

My blog and I have love knowing that what counts in blogging is not the number of posts we write, the brilliance of our words, nor the controversy or laughter we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit... My blog is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its features and its tools.

I will keep my blog clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

Before Lex and Buck, I swear this creed. My blog and myself are the entertainers and educators of The Chanters. We are the masters of our competition. We are the saviors of my sanity.

So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace.
Like Hizzoner said -
Blogito ergo sum

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Blogging Is Hard

Yeah, okay kid I get it...

Not sure where this is going today but I had to include the picture. The look on the kid's face is priceless. I am guessing that the person who set the photo up has probably never split logs in their entire life. While it is a cool photo, it just looks wrong and I would guess is a "pose job." (Those who have wielded an ax, you Vikings can all sit down, I'm not talking about that kind of ax-work, will know what I mean. While I am no lumberjack, I have chopped wood and split logs. Not a lot but enough to know I'd rather not do that for a living.)


Those who have been paying attention may have noticed that there have been a number of Juvat posts over the past few days. He's a good wingman that fellow, lead (moi) might be out of commission but the blog marches on thanks to Juvat and Tuna (when he and Mrs Tuna aren't enjoying themselves on a cruise ship). Not to throw stones at Tuna mind you, he comes and goes like a ninja. Just when I don't expect it, I'll see a draft post of his in the queue. Always interesting but not scheduled. I told him when he (and later Juvat) signed on that he could post when he felt like it or not at all. Because (drum roll please)...

Blogging is hard.

Juvat's recent vacation occurred with fortuitous timing for Yours Truly. To wit, he had stuff he wanted to post about (while it was still fresh in his memory) and I was hors de combat, or perhaps more accurately, hors d'action. I'll leave looking those phrases up to the reader, suffice to say, the last word in both phrases is the same in English, which reminds me of a story.

The Story (that I was reminded of in the previous paragraph.)

One Monday long ago in the Federal Republic of Germany, a German buddy of mine related to me what he had been doing over the weekend. Though his English was very good, he didn't know all of the right words auf Englisch. The converse was true for me, sort of, as in, while my German was pretty fair, there were a lot of words auf Deutsch that I just didn't know.

Apparently my buddy (whose first name translated to "Thunder Bear" but in some old Teutonic dialect - which Google just doesn't have, and yes, I checked - but who we just called "Benny") had been working on a project in his back yard which involved a substance which he did not know the name of in English. As he related the tale, we came to this...
Well, it's a clear substance. You can see through it like glass, but it's not glass, it's called... I'm sorry, I don't know what it's called in English.
What is it called in German? (I asked, knowing that there was a good chance that what it was called in German might also be the same in English.)
Ah, plexiglass. Same in English.
And yes, we both had a good laugh over that. Perhaps you had to be there.

Note to the readers, yes, it's the same word only spelled differently and pronounced differently. The "a" in the German is more like the "a" in "bass" (the fish not the instrument).

So language, always interesting. Well, to me, at any rate. While I find languages to be very interesting, linguists are rather a boring lot, at least the ones who write articles about language for Wikipedia are, again, at any rate.

But I digress...

No, not really. That was the whole point of today's post. While blogging can be hard, it isn't always hard. Sometimes you just need to Cry "Havoc" and let slip the bounds of reason. (With apologies to the Bard.)

In other words, sometimes I just start writing and let The Muse take me where she will. Sometimes it's a seedy bar in some foreign town...

Now that was a digression, of which we shall not speak.

In other words, yes, I'm feeling much better, thank you for asking.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017


(USAF Photo)
Every now and then, someone will stop by the blog, see something and send me an email. They are always a welcome sight in my inbox. Some touch me deeply.

This was one such email.


I am deeply touched by your account of the crash that killed my uncle, Major Wm. C. Smith in your blog posting “Update to Emotions” of January 15, 2015.  He was my mother's brother, and died in that crash just ten days after their mother passed away.  You can imagine the grief my mother experienced, not to mention my uncle's wife.  My mother was never able to visit Washington DC again after the day he was buried at Arlington.  I only visited his grave as an adult.  I was an infant at the time of his death, but recall my mother telling me as a child that they were told my uncle and his co-pilot were out to "put in their hours" of flight (if that makes sense).  It was a routine thing.  But they also said that they believed that the pilots, sensing something was wrong, purposefully veered the plane away from an inhabited area, presumably to reduce danger to civilians.  Of course I don't know if the Air Force always tells the family things like this, but it sounded like something he would have done.  And it also sounds like you and your family may have been some of those civilians.  I am interested in your report that hypoxia may have been at play, which means he would not have been aware at the time of the explosion.  Thank you for your respect for this fine man.  I found your blog by happenstance - I have a friend moving to Vermont, and wanted to find the newspaper account to see if he is moving close to where the crash occurred.  I am afraid that I do not know who my uncle's co-pilot was, and both my parents and my aunt have passed away now.  

I tried to post my comments in the comments box, but it would not recognize me.  If you wish to publish my statement (without my email address and using just my first name) you may.



Your email brought forth a number of emotions. First of all, it's nice to know that Major Smith is still remembered by his family. Secondly, I am touched that you would contact me about this. I wrote more than one post on your Uncle's crash, in this post I mentioned that I had learned the name of your Uncle's co-pilot -
The other crewman was Captain Robert L. Wessel, USAF, USMA Class of 1957.

At the time of the crash, Capt. Wessel was living in Watertown, Massachusetts, not that far from Major Smith in Lexington. As Major Smith was stationed at Hanscom Field, Capt. Wessel must have been stationed there as well. Not a definite fact but one which, I believe, we can assume.
I'm not sure exactly which post(s) you read but as I recall, there were three: first, second, and third.

It's not unusual that military pilots then would fly to "put in their hours." As a matter of fact, they still do. In order to draw flight pay (an extra allowance) all military pilots must fly a certain number of hours every month. It was true back then, it is still true today. (My son-in-law is a pilot in the Navy.)

Pilots are trained in the symptoms of hypoxia, it's a vital part of their training. It is quite possible that recognition of the onset of those symptoms gave your Uncle enough time to steer away from the town before losing consciousness. Having served many years in the Air Force myself, it is my considered opinion that neither pilot was conscious at the time of the crash. I know what I saw.

As your Uncle and Captain Wessel both wore the same uniform as myself, though long years before me, I consider them brothers-in-arms. I will never forget them.

Thank you again for your kind words and my apologies for your not being able to leave a comment. That sometimes happens on older posts.


Chris Goodrich, MSgt, USAF (retired)

It is good to know that those who have left us are still remembered, long years later.

Major Smith, Captain Wessel, I shall never forget you. Someday, perhaps we shall meet in that clearing at the end of the path.

To my fellow airmen...

Ave atque vale!

Monday, March 27, 2017

What if?

One of the blog's on Sarge's sidebar is "This day in Aviation History".  The author does a great job of finding little nuggets of interest for any given day of the year. On March 22nd, he had this post which provided details of an aircraft accident in 1956 which fortunately resulted in no fatalities, and both aircraft were recovered, repaired and flew again.  

There were a couple of things about the incident that peaked my interest.  First, the analysis and decision making skills of both crews were perfect.  A delay of any length would have resulted in the destruction of both aircraft and the deaths of the crew.  That lead me to ponder how history might have been changed if that had happened.  Given that the co-pilot on the B-29 was Neil Armstrong, what effect would his death have had on the Apollo 11 landing (other than it wouldn't have been him, obviously).  Would it have had an effect at all?  

That whole, infinite alternate realities from Science Fiction thing.  

  Yeah, I'm a big Stargate SG-1 Fan!

I'm also a survivor (at least in this reality) of several near misses, both in the Phantom and the Eagle, for which I am very grateful for the efforts of my very overworked Guardian Angel. I suppose because those in the Phantom occurred before Little Juvat was conceived and the same thing in the Eagle for My Beautiful Daughter, they are very grateful also.

At the time of the incidents, however,  I wrote them off as "woulda, coulda, shoulda".  It didn't happen, so why worry about it.

However, as I was going through the large numbers of photos from the plethora of cameras and cell phones in the posession of each member of our travel 10 ship, I came across one that caused me to stop and wonder,  what if?

The picture was taken on our last day in London, we had taken the train back from Edinburgh the night before and were going to fly home the next day.  Mrs Juvat was on the mend from her bout with bad fish and wanted to try and see the sights.  

We tubed down to Picadilly Circus and walked down to St James Park.  That pretty much wore her out, so She and I found a bench in the Park to rest for a bit.  Little Juvat, his wife and MBD went on ahead to find someplace to get a bite to eat.  
A very peaceful setting, and that swan was HUGE!

After a bit, Mrs Juvat is feeling a bit better, so we continue on to try and catch up to the kids.

A block or two later, I stop to take a picture.  As we're standing there admiring the setting, we decide to head back to the hotel as Mrs Juvat is starting to fade.

For those of you that know London, you'll recognize this shot.  Immediately to the right of the Lady in red is Winston Churchill's statue.  We are looking at the Westminster bridge straight ahead.  My children had walked across that and were eating in a restaurant across the Thames.  

A few days later, this would be the site of a terrorist attack.  What if he'd chosen St Paddy's day instead?  

But, much like the near midairs, it didn't happen so not much sense in worrying about it.

However, I will tell my kids I love them, frequently.  I will ask the Lord to keep them safe.  I will answer the phone when they call, no matter the time or what I'm doing when they call.  

Did I mention that I'll tell them I love them?  Life is short, fraught with pitfalls and no one gets out alive.  Enjoy your family while you have them with you.

It was, in spite of everything, a good vacation.  Lots of important lessons learned and relearned.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Royal Scots Greys

Yesterday as I described our assault on the Edinburgh Castle, I posted a picture of this crypt, having noted as I approached the single word causes Sarge to focus like a laser.  That word would be "Waterloo!"

As the inscription reads, the Ensign was able to capture the Standard of the French 45th Regiment from which the Royal Scots Greys Insignia was developed.


Near to the top of the Castle (not AT the top, but Near the top), were two regimental museums.  One for the Royal Dragoons and the other for the Royal Scots Greys.  Mrs Juvat was concerned about the missing baggage and wanted to call to see if there was any progress (or maybe to pause, sit down and catch her breath, or both), so she elected to avail herself of the bench outside whilst I was allowed to proceed in.

I'm pretty sure the brass medallion reads "Mrs Juvat was here, March 13, 2017"
The museum was fairly small, but had some pretty neat exhibits about the history of the regiment.  For the interested, more detail can be found here,  I will focus on a three choice exhibits that struck my fancy, mostly because of their tangential references to our beloved host.

The first of these exhibits was this one.

This handsome young Sergeant is doing what good Sergeants do best.  He's carrying his Officer on his back and out of harms way.  During the Battle at Waterloo, the Regimental Colors were being carried by Ensign Kennedy.  At some point, the Ensign was mortally wounded, and the Sergeant attempted to retrieve the colors from him.  The Ensign would not give them up, so the Sergeant picked him up and carried him off the field.

The French were so impressed, that they held fire until they were off the battlefield.

That little vignette hits so many of the "Juvat List of Personal Characteristics to Strive for in Life" that it is a must include.  The fact that is occurred at Sarge's personal favorite battle, was icing on the cake.

The second of the exhibits was this one.

Now, our Host calls himself "Old AF Sarge", and I suppose that's so on many levels.  However, he doesn't hold a candle to Sergeant William Hiseland.

During the Battle at MalPlaque, which for those of you who are not as versed in the Martial history of Europe in the late 1600's as Sarge is (that would be me), took place in the Wars of Spanish Succession and was the fourth victorious battle won by the Duke of Marlborough for the English.  (I know, NOW you remember!)

In any case, Sergeant Hiseland of the Royal Scots Greys took part in the battle at age 89.  That, in and of itself is fascinating, however, the good Sergeant survived the war, eventually retiring and taking his pension at 100.  He lived in a retirement home in Chelsea until he turned 103, then was kicked out because he got married.  Lived a blissful married life until finally passing at 112.

So...Sarge, My Friend, this diverticulitis thing?  You still got 50 years til your certifiably THE Old AF Sarge, better get back in the saddle.

Finally, there's this one.

At the battle of Malplaquet, on the other end of the age spectrum, was a 3 week old baby.  Private McBain's wife had delivered and decided to return to Scotland, so as he's marching off to the battle, she hands him his infant son.  Having no other options, he puts the child in his knapsack and goes off and fights the battle.

Now, before I left for Scotland, I had asked Sarge what his ancestral clans were just in case I ran across something cool from them.  He had said his paternal Grandmother was a "Bain".  Now, according to this site, one of the Septs (a family division) of MacBain is "Bain".

So...It's a small world isn't it?  Apparently, two of the Sarge's ancestors, fought in a large battle in the 1700's (and won!).  But...Do we really know if it was one of Sarge's ancestors in the knapsack?  or was it the OLD Sarge hisself?  Cue Twilight Zone music!

All kidding aside, The Royal Scots Greys have fought in many significant engagements throughout the years and have a lot of proud history behind them.  Spending a little time in their museum was enjoyable and enlightening.

Well worth the visit.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

On the Mend

HMS Queen Elizabeth after Jutland
So I've been in the 'yard undergoing maintenance for the better part of a week. I decided to stay home, in bed, and taking my antibiotics to get better, sooner.

It seems to be working as I feel a lot better today than I did Monday night, a scant five days ago. Even managed to take on some solid food yesterday with no adverse effects.

Juvat is keeping the shop up and running with his tales of the homeland. Well, my homeland anyway, more than half of my ancestors are Scots. The rest are mostly French with the odd Englishman or three in supporting roles. (They must have been odd, look at my sense of humor! Or humour, if it pleases the Court, of St. James.)

I expect to be back in harness soon.

That should buff right out!
HMS Chester after Jutland
It sucks to be laid up!

The Castle

Wrapped up the first week back at the old millstone job.  Juvat's rules for the ratio of time off and time you must remain cheerful is one order of magnitude.  If you take off for an hour, you only have to remain cheerful for 1 minute before ripping someone's face off.  A day equates to an hour and a week is a day.  That day expired Monday evening.  So...It's been a long week.

I need to revisit Scotland.


As mentioned yesterday, we had a few rocky periods on the vacation, but even the unlucky sicko's were enthusiastic about the trip.
Mrs J and Gary (pre-Fish and Chips)
Monday morning we awoke and looked out the window of our flat to see our objective for the day.  

Troops!  Today we will dine in the Castle Keep or die trying!    DAAAADDDD!
Yes, We're going to tour Edinburgh Castle, and see what there is to see.  Oh, and we might stop by and visit the Scotch Whisky Experience on the way back down.  The younger crowd was enthused by that option, hence, the "on the way back down".

The morning mess complete, the troops fall in and the assault begins.  The light infantry composed entirely of 20 and 30 somethings, quickly takes off and soon is beginning the ascent.  The heavy infantry brings up the trail and requires several stops during the ascent for a resupply of oxygen.  

And miles to go before we sleep
After defending our flanks against the delaying tactics of local merchants distracting us with pretty baubles, we arrive at the final assault point.
The King has deployed some skirmishers, but we will NOT be denied.

Well.....Except for a snapshot of Little Juvat and DIL
Onward we go

A short pause to check that the left flank is secure.  Yep, ain't nobody comin' up that way!

Troops! Halt!  Waterloo!  The tomb of a Dragoon who captured the standard from which the Royal Scots Greys emblem was designed.  Rest in Peace, Warrior, you've got a nice view.

Breeching the Castle's main gate was simple.  It merely required the downloading of £13 per attacking trooper.  

No great victory is without cost.  (I'm sure that will go down in history as a pithy comment and be properly attributed to me!  Yeah, juvat, right!)

Once inside, our attack recommences (after the requisite stop to resupply Oxygen).

We look upward at the Flag we must capture and are undaunted by the vertical distance remaining to be covered.  However, we do perform a careful analysis of the amount of Oxygen remaining compared to the amount required.  The Issue is in Doubt! (another Pithy comment by somebody or another)

Our Lead Element makes an Exciting discovery, a shortcut, obviously built by a very clever person.

Seizing the initiative, I leap upon the battlements and direct the fire of the main battery.

The response to my tactical brilliance by the troops was overwhelming.  Brought me nearly to tears, it did.

The attack is going swimmingly as the troops rush around another bend in the cobblestone.

Only to find:

Another Gate.  

Upon Breaching, we quickly captured the King's secret weapon of mass destruction (at least in 1529).

This Behemoth (notice the full sized live people on the other side) was known as Old Meg and it commanded a spectacular view field of fire.

The attack commenced from our flat circled in the left center of the picture.

The Batteries on this level clearly were the last line of defense as the Keep is in sight.

The Royal residence when the Queen is visiting.

Having captured the summit, we take a few minutes to savor our victory (and resupply ourselves with Oxygen).  

One of the sights we take in is this bit of unusual architecture.

We interview a few of the vanquished defenders as to its significance.

Ourselves not being knowledgeable about navigation during the age of sail, they were happy to provide us with that information. Seems that Sailing Ship Captains would use the Sextant to determine Latitude, but would require an accurate chronometer to determine their position.  So, the tower would drop a cannon ball at precisely 1300 every day.  Captains would use that signal to make the adjustment to their chronometer and then would proceed on their journey. Realizing in the late 1800s that weather could interfere with the ships being able to see the ball drop, it is became accompanied by the simultaneous firing of a Cannon (now a 105mm Howitzer, my camera decided to take a break and go to sleep, just as the shot was about to go.) The tower is now called the Lord Nelson Tower in honor of something he did at some point in his career or something.  I mentioned that it might be worth a visit, but was advised against it.

At this point, Mrs. Juvat and I decide to RTB as she needed to contact Bob, from Pakistan, to arrange a rendezvous with our baggage train.  Eventually she will succeed, but not today.

Fortunately, the Oxygen level in the air seemed to be quite a bit more robust on the way down.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Tour of Unfortunate Events

Well, we're back.

And we had a blast!

Sarge's ancestral home is beautiful, full of history, friendly people and magical elixers.

However, as with most things in life, in order to truly enjoy the good things, you must endure some hardships.  All the planning in the world can't prevent a setback or two.  Little Juvat was Chief of Plans for this trip, he was assisted by Mrs Juvat as the Billeting and Transportation Officer.  Our merry band of troops consisted of myself and Mrs Juvat, My Beautiful Daughter (MBD), Little Juvat and his lovely bride, our Winemaker friends Gary and Kathy, and three of Little Juvat's co-workers.

As the Transportation Officer, Mrs Juvat set about making reservations for the trip from London to Edinburgh.  For whatever reason, when the initial plan was dispersed, the first name on the list was for "Clarence".  Now, not ever having met the man,she assumed that she was provided with the correct information, and so made reservations on the Virgin East Coast train from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Wimberly stations for all of us including "Clarence".

For some reason, travel authorities these days want the name on the reservation to match the name on the passport.  We actually met Clarence in London,  where I walked up and introduced my self.

"Hi, Clarence, I'm Juvat!"

An extremely puzzled look came over his face.  Unfortunately, Clarence's real name is Thomas.

Apologies were extended, and a quick stop at the Virgin East Coast's website got the reservations straightened out, that night at dinner (Fish and Chips and Guinness) we held an impromptu Tour Tactical Call Sign Committee meeting and "Clarence" was bestowed.  A round of Guinness purchased by the newly renamed member of the Tour Company sealed the deal.

Behold, Clarence Thomas.

Great guy with a huge sense of humor, he and MBD hit it off and were tour buddies.

Unfortunately, when we got off the airplane at Heathrow, cleared immigration and went to baggage claim, my bag was circling the rack, but my DIL and beloved wife's were AWOL.  Went to the lost luggage area and entered the queue (normally I would have said Line, but this is England!).  When we got to the the head of the queue, the gentleman asked where we'd traveled from.  We told him Austin and he mentioned that all the people ahead of us also embarked there.

Our theory was the bags were loaded on the last trolley in the train and someone forgot to latch that one to the next to last.  Took off for the jet and left it at the station.

"No Worries, it'll be on the next flight."

"When will that be?"

"Tomorrow, same time"

"We'll be on the train to Edinburgh"


Three days later, the ladies were reunited with their luggage.

A joyful reunion it was.

So...We're in Edinburgh (pronounced Ed'in Burrr a) and head out for dinner.  It's fairly late, Edinburgh time, but not for us.  The only restaurant we can find within a comfortable walking distance is a Tapas joint.

Sarge has already blogged on Tapas, and that was a factor in our selection. Hunger may have had a role in our perception, but it was fabulous.  Spanish Rioja was involved also.

Back to our B and B and a good nights sleep.

The next day, we're up early (ish), for breakfast at an Italian joint. Today will be history day.  You may have figured out by now, that Sarge isn't the only amateur historian in the crew. So, we're going to wander Old Town and specifically Edinburgh Castle.

I am not an Army guy, but even I could look at that castle and see that it was virtually impregnable.

Old Town was very interesting, and we spent quite a bit of time wandering around.  The old side of the group sporting 2 replaced knees, 2 bad knees, 3 bad backs and a bad neck, peaked early and RTB'd for a well earned nap and a bit of liquid pain killer.

Dinner was back at the Italian Restaurant, where the wait staff was from Romania.  (Hey, it's like Rome, right?)

We need to get back to the room so we can contact the Airline Baggage guy AGAIN!  His name was Bob, he was from Pakistan.

We explain to him that we are departing early that next morning and would be in very small villages and unreachable for the next 4 days.  They needed to get the bags to us ASAP.

Bob told us the bags were on a courier truck, but they didn't know the B and B  flat number.

We tell Bob to have the courier call us directly.  International Cell @ $10/day was a godsend.

As I said, shortly after we went to bed, there's a loud knock on the door and "Praise the Lord" the bags have arrived.

Off the next morning on our tour.  The tour company was named Rabbies.  I wholeheartedly recommend them.  Our tour guide/driver was a young guy named Daniel.  A history major in college, he was a godsend for the amateurs in the group.  And, as things transpired, did way more than he had signed up for.

So, we're driving up the highway to get to the River Spey, when we're about to cross the Firth of Forth.  I asked if we might stop and he pulls over at a small sightseeing spot.  Daniel proceeds to tell us about the little islands in the Firth that looked kind of like warships.

That was by design to deter German U-Boats.  Unfortunately, it wasn't entirely successful.  He did point out an interesting development off in the distance.  The British Navy's new Aircraft Carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

  Unfortunately, my picture from my little camera doesn't do it justice.

Back on the bus, and up through Perth and into Cairngorms National park (pronounced Carren' gorms with a pronounced roll of the Rs).

Beautiful drive through valleys sided by steep hilled mountains.  I spent the time assessing how many G's it would take for my F-15 to successfully transition from one Valley to another.

MBD, who suffers from Motion Sickness, didn't appreciate the trip as much.

We arrive in the small town of Braemar, and had lunch at a lovely hotel with an all-in-one Bar and Restaurant, I believe they call it a "Pub".

For some reason, I had a hankerin' for Fish and Chips and a Guinness.
I realized a little late that Sarge's requirement for pictures of food in pristine condition was not going to happen.

Our lovely waitress produced said sustenance in a prompt manner and responded to our thanks in a pronounced Slovakian accent.  Or maybe it was just my understanding of her Scottish Accent.

Dramamine for one  and other snooze inducing agents for the rest consumed, we're back on the road and finally arrive at our first tour stop.

The Glenlivet.

A very nice gentleman proceeded to escort us around the plant.  Evidently, as evidenced by the same series of presentations at four distilleries with minor variations, Barley is combined with water and allowed to ferment into a form of beer called wort.  This wort is then heated to specific temperatures until the alcohol evaporates.  That alcohol is then collected in three stages, the high alcohol, the correct level of alcohol and the low alcohol.  The correct alcohol is saved and the other two are combined and refermented to again extract the three stages.  This continues until the wort is basically completely converted.  What remains is called Pot Ale and is fed to the local livestock.  Lucky Beasts!

At that point, the alcohol is poured into barrels and allowed to ferment for a long time.

A bottle from this barrel retails for 15,000 pounds.  I don't know if there's any significance to the year. Sarge, any ideas?

After touring each of the distilleries, there was the requisite tasting.  Glenlivet and Macallan had 5 pours of about a 1/2 ounce each.  Glenfarclas had two pours of about an ounce. and Dalwhinnie had tastings combined with Chocolate.

For Lunch the second day, we stopped in the village of Tomintoul and visited The Whisky Castle which was a retail shop that featured Whiskys from all over Scotland (and apparently ships to the states, more to follow on this).  Tasted a few and bought one, a peaty Whiskey from Caol Ila (pronounced Cal'-Eel-Ah).

My nut allergic Son learned an important cooking lesson.  Little did he know Pesto is made with nuts. So his Turkey and Cheese with Pesto sandwich had unfortunate ramifications for him.  Later he asked me why he never had issues with the Pesto I made for him.  Lessee....I know you're allergic to nuts.  Hence I don't make it with them.  It's a Dad Thing!

We finish up the second day at Glenfarclas and travel back to our staging point in the quiet village of Aviemore (pronounced Av-eee'-more) where we visited a nice pub for dinner.

The young set is a little slow in getting to the restaurant, so the older generation settles in to a table and orders dinner.  MBD and Kathy order a salad.  I'm solidly looking for my 4th or 5th round of Fish and Chips for my meal, but the waitress starts with my wife, who orders Fish and Chips and then moves to Gary, the elder statesman of the group, who orders Fish and Chips.  At the last minute, I decide not to jump on the bandwagon and order what turns out to be a very nice braised Lamb Shank.  Top that off with a nice Australian Syraz and finish the evening with a neat Glenlivet Nadurra, Port Barrel.

Very relaxed we head back to our quarters, completely unaware of the impending issues.

Did you know that there is a form of Food Poisoning called Scombroid that comes from Fish?  Talk about a ticking time bomb.  If the fish is mishandled anywhere along the food chain, a histamine can be produced that causes acute, very violent, shall we say offloading events.  So, a few hours later, I awaken to the sounds of my beloved wife having a sincere discussion with the toilet.  I try to see if there's anything I can do, but no.  I stumble down to Gary and Kathy's room to see if they have anything for nausea (they are pharmacists in addition to Winemakers), only to find that Gary is experiencing the exact same issue.

This goes on all night.  In the morning I stumble down to the local Tesco (British Safeway), to see what they have over the counter to relieve the symptoms.  The two wounded birds are alternately sleeping and visiting the facilities.

The tour plan for the day is to visit Dalwhinnie then recover in Edinburgh for the train to London that evening.

Daniel arrives and we explain the situation, asking if he can take the young set to Dalwhinnie and then come back and pick us up on the way back to Edinburgh.  My navigation skills were somewhat lacking as Dalwhinnie is south of Aviemore and Edinburgh is south of Dalwhinnie.

Nevertheless, Daniel agrees to drop the kids off at Dalwhinnie and then drive back to Aviemore, pick us up and then drive back to Dalwhinnie, pick up the kids and then drive to Edinburgh.  That bought Mrs Juvat and Gary about 3 hours more sleep.

The trip to Edinburgh was mostly uneventful, although there were a few unscheduled stops.  The trip back to London for my Family was OK, Mrs. Juvat was clearly on the mend although not anywhere near mil power.

The next day we walked around at Westminster Abbey and crossed the Westminster bridge (what a difference a week makes), but Mrs Juvat faded pretty fast, so she and I returned to the hotel early.

The next morning, we boarded a 787, a really neat airplane.  The entertainment console has an option called window seat.  It allows you to select the left or right window and look outside on your console.  It also has a setting that allows you to select the cockpit view, which includes the HUD.

One guess where my console was for the entire flight.

So...While we thought our group was composed of 10 people, evidently we had a stowaway named Joe Btsplk tagging along.  He won't be invited next time.
In spite of a rash of bad luck, we had a blast, and Scotland ranks right beside New Zealand as my favorite places I've visited.  If you're looking for a recommendation, it has the Juvat Seal of Approval.

I'm sure Scottish Tourism stats will go through the roof now!
Added for Brigid, This was the bar at the Pub in question.