I’ve just returned to Edinburgh after leaving my dad on a farm in a tiny settlement called Tyrie, on the northern coast of Aberdeenshire. I’m not going to say it wasn’t a tearful goodbye. After getting to see my dad for the first time in nearly a year, and the second time in two years, I’m leaving him behind again. His situation isn’t the best, but he’s very happy with what he has.
If you haven’t read the earlier posts, my dad arrived in the UK on September 22nd, and spent his first month in Edinburgh. With the loss of my flat and a tight budget for both of us, we needed to find another option for our accommodations.
For a few months I’ve been spending a couple minutes here and there building a city in an on-line game. At one point I learned that one of my fellow guild mates lived in Aberdeenshire and had a farm they were struggling to take care of. I asked them if they would accept my dad to help out in exchange for a place to stay. After some consideration, they accepted.
On October 29th, I rented a car from Easirent, partially as a place for us to sleep for the next couple days, and partially to get us up to Aberdeenshire. That day, I took my dad on a little road trip. We visited the Kelpies in Falkirk and Wallace Monument in Stirling. At night we slept in the quintessential Scottish village of Aberfoyle, and early the next morning set out for our first stop of the day.
There is a little farm I learned about last year on the Hairy Coo bus tour. Applicably, the farm is full of Hairy Coos, Scotland’s own species of cow. My dad had been asking me for weeks when we were going to see the cows, and he was overjoyed when we stopped at the farm. I showed him how to feed the cows with bread (which the owners are okay with), and he was the proverbial kid in the candy store.
From there, we went for a long walk around Loch Katrine, the same lake where I lost my camera last year.
Our next stop was Doune Castle of Monty Python fame. It’s also the filming location for the pilot of Game of Thrones, several scenes of Outlander and other shows. I’d been there a couple months ago to take the tour (the audio guide is narrated by Terry Jones of Monty Python) and my dad and I didn’t have the money for the entrance this time, but he was happy to see the castle from the outside.
Our final stop of the day was Rosslyn Chapel. Six months in Edinburgh and I’d never visited. What’s wrong with me! What’s worse, somehow I never made the connection to the Da Vinci Code. The chapel is certainly a work of art, or rather several works of art. Outside of perhaps Florence, Rome and the Sagrada Familia, I’ve never seen such stonework and mastery. When you’re in Edinburgh, I highly recommend a visit!
That night we slept on a small side street in Edinburgh outside a public pool. The next morning we were able to get hot showers at the pool and then spent the day in town, mostly at a cafe out of the cold enjoying warm drinks.
In the evening, I was going to show my dad a couple spots in town on the way to the Samhuinn Festival. We were entering Greyfriar’s Kirk where I was planning to show him the cemetery when we ran into a large crowd of people. I thought it was a ghost tour, so I decided to tag along.
It turned out to be the Harry Potter Walking Tour!!! For the next hour and a half, we went to all the key locations in Edinburgh connected to the legendary Harry Potter novels. I’ve been doing considerable research into this for a story I was going to write for my blog, and the guide was definitely surprised at my extensive knowledge. However, there were still a few things I didn’t know or had incomplete knowledge of, and the tour filled in all the gaps. Now, why have I never done this tour. I digress to apologize to everyone I’ve shown around Edinburgh, but not taken on this tour!
The tour ended just minutes before the festival was scheduled to start. Samhuinn is the counterpart to Beltane, which is the original reason I came to Edinburgh in 2015! While Beltane is a four-hour show on Calton Hill, Samhuinn is a bit different. It started at 9 pm as a procession down the Royal Mile from the castle, and then turned into a whole stage show in front of St Giles Cathedral. Unfortunately it was raining and quite cold through the whole show, but it was still thoroughly enjoyable. We were both glad we braved the elements to see it. Unfortunately my phone ran out of battery after the procession, so no photos or videos of the stage performance. Sorry.
Finally we made our way back to the car. This time, we slept at the parking lot near Crammond Island. I’d been meaning to get to the island since I arrived in Edinburgh in April. The next morning we woke up with the sunrise, shortly before low tide. It was a beautiful, sunny day and there couldn’t have been a better time to walk out to to the island. Unfortunately, my dad had to take care of something, and we had to leave before actually making it out. With the Monday morning traffic, it was impossible to return, and we ended up just going straight to Aberdeenshire.
The farm is just outside the town of Fraserburgh in Tyrie. The homestead is the Old Post Office, built at least a century and a half ago. They’ve got eight horses, six dogs, four sheep and a cat. The rooms were rather full when we arrived, but the family set up the unused caravan for my dad to sleep in. The caravan also had its own bathroom and basic kitchen facilities. While there was no electricity or heating, with his two duvets and thermal clothing my dad was plenty of warm at night.
For the next week, I remained on the farm with my dad. I helped to clean up and organize several rooms in the house, cook warm meals (until the kitchen was dismantled to install the new cooker) and help my dad out with various tasks.
After a month in Edinburgh, he was almost nowhere in terms of getting established in Scotland. Yet after just a week in Aberdeenshire, he’s already acquired his own GP (general practitioner), had his National Entitlement Card sent in the mail (for reduced-fare transportation), sorted out his debit card and was seen by the City Council staff about his pension and living conditions. I also took him to the local swimming pool (for hot showers when the electricity at the house went out), which he was very excited about. The water of the pool was significantly warmer than the one in Edinburgh, or even the pools he went to in Portland.
Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, it doesn’t look like he will be able to stay long on the farm. The son there has special needs, and the family is not ready to have another adult to take care of. However, the council social workers have been very helpful, and hopefully my dad will be able to move into council-provided housing soon.
With as much taken care of as I could in a week, it was time to return to Edinburgh. The car rental was only for a few days. So on November 9th, I said my tearful goodbyes to my dad and the rest of the family there, and drove back down to Edinburgh. I will be couchsurfing for the next couple of weeks, and then heading down to London, from where I will fly to Abu Dhabi and then Thailand for the winter months.
Before leaving, my dad assured me he couldn’t be happier. He grew up on farms and is so happy to return to that lifestyle. He’s glad to be out of big cities. Los Angeles, Portland and even Edinburgh had been very uncomfortable for him. He’s finally getting the assistance he needs at his age, and has people around him who truly care for his well-being without any invalidation of his abilities.
More great news! In the time it took me to get back to Edinburgh and write this blog, he was contacted again by the social workers. They found his National Insurance Number, got him started on his pension scheduled his doctor’s appointment for later this week and he’s well on the way to getting his own place in Fraserburgh, near where the farm is. In the meanwhile he has moved into a spare room in the house which I cleaned out so that he will stay warmer at night.
While Tyrie is quite remote, my dad doesn’t want to be anywhere else. He loves it there for all the above reasons, and it’s really not that far from Edinburgh. He still plans to travel when he gets more established, and for now will be fine with the farm, the public pool, the beaches of Fraserburgh (it used to be a resort town) and the local lighthouse museum (which was closed the day we went).
I’ll certainly be back to see him as soon as I can. As mentioned in my recent blog post, I’m heading to SE Asia to take advantage of the low cost of living and try to get out of the debt I’ve acquired through my recent travels. I’ll be back to Scotland as soon as I can. It’s still my favorite country in the world, and now my dad gives me an even more important reason to return. He will be traveling vicariously through me, as many of you do.
If you’d like to contribute to a special Christmas present I’d like to send my dad, please contact me directly on any channel. I’ll give you more details there (as he reads this post). However, I did leave him with a Christmas present already, which left him with tears of joy. A calendar for 2017, with pictures of Harry Coos on every page.