Monday, August 6, 2007


We went to Scotland for four days. We were going to meet my dad’s Aunt Ellen, and stay at her house with her husband, Uncle Geoffrey. We got to Scotland by taking three different train rides. The first one we took went from Hungerford to Reading. Then we took a half-hour train ride to Birmingham, and then an almost 5-hour ride to Edinburgh, which was the city that we were staying in. We took a short car ride to Aunt Ellen’s house, which was huge, like a maze. Then we found our rooms and got settled in. We played for a while (Aunt Ellen’s house has TONS of toys and games) and then had a nice big hearty dinner, a delicious dessert of brownies and ice cream, then went to bed.

The next day it took us a while to get out of the house. We were going to go to a café to eat lunch after we finally got out of the house (which was around noon) and then we were going to go to the famous Edinburgh castle. I guess I forgot to mention that Edinburgh happens to be where J.K. Rowling lives. So it may not surprise you quite as much for me to tell you that the café we went to was one of the ones that J. K. Rowling used to go to so she could write some Harry Potter rough drafts. I didn’t eat anything there, since there was nothing I liked.

After we ate we walked to Edinburgh castle, which I thought was pretty boring. We bought tickets and went inside. It was big, but there wasn’t much to look at. My mom and dad wanted to take a tour (but I didn’t) so we could all learn stuff. As if we didn’t know anything about castles at all! We had already been forced to go to Kenilworth castle and I had learned quite enough there, thank you very much. (My mom and dad are trying to make this SUMMER vacation as educational as possible.) Anyway, I didn’t pay much attention to the tour guide, so (luckily) it just came in as blah, blah, blah. I was glad when it ended. We then took a look at a bunch of really BOR-ING buildings and then saw the Scotland crown jewels. They were okay, but there were not as much as the England ones and not as good. Then we saw the great hall, which was definitely not as good as the Harry Potter one and even more definitely not as big. Then we left. We walked back to Aunt Ellen’s car, drove back to her house, had dinner and went to bed. (Yep, we were out THAT long)

The next day we went to Loch Leven, a lake that was close to Aunt Ellen’s house. Unfortunately, it was a freezing day and we were almost about to head home when my dad decided we should take a short walk along a pathway he spotted. We walked along the path reluctantly until an opening came and we saw the best park we had ever seen. It had tons of really fun play equipment that was really fun and that you would never find in the U.S. Unfortunately I cannot describe the play equipment, so I’ll just go straight to what happened next.

We played on the equipment and then our parents told us it was time to eat lunch. Aunt Ellen drove the car over to the road that was right next to the park and picnic tables. Then she brought over the bag of sandwiches, juices and crisps that she had (thankfully) packed, and we all ate happily. Then we started to drive back.

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that we had to drive across the Forth Road Bridge to get to the loch. I guess I also forgot to tell you about the Forth Railway and Road bridges. There are these two major bodies of water in Scotland, called the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay. (don’t ask me what a firth is, I have no idea myself.) Somebody bridged the Firth of Tay with a single track railway bridge, but in a violent December storm the bridge collapsed while the evening mail train was going across. Then two different engineers built a much stronger railway bridge over the Firth of Forth, which was made entirely of steel. In fact, when it was built it was the first ever major structure ever built to be made entirely of steel. It can survive Scotland’s strongest winds, uses a new kind of bridge style and it has two railway tracks instead of one, which means that a train on one side of the bridge wouldn’t have to wait for a train already on the bridge to get off. Since that bridge has been built, another bridge has been built across the Firth of Forth. It is called the Forth Road Bridge, and it is the one we drove across on the way to the loch and back. Its design is a suspension bridge, and it is huge, even if it isn’t as big as the Golden Gate Bridge.

But anyway, we went back to Aunt Ellen’s house and Sophie and I played Monopoly. Aunt Ellen had three different editions of Monopoly: Edinburgh edition, American edition (which, by the way, is the original game) and England Edition. We had started playing the Edinburgh edition that morning, before we went to Loch Leven, and when we got back we finished the game. I lost. We somehow managed to cram the English and American versions in before dinner. Unbelievably I lost both of those too! The last edition we played was the English edition, and just as I lost Aunt Ellen’s daughter, Emily, came home. She was older than Sophie and me, and she had a job, having graduated from college. After we all met her we had a good dinner of tacos, which I looooooooove. Then we had a luscious dessert consisting of brownies and ice cream. Then, when Cindy and Anthony were put to bed, we waited for the time to come.

“What time?” I hear you say. Well, I never mentioned this certain time before, because it was going to be a surprise. Well, here it is. Tonight was the night that the seventh Harry Potter book came out at midnight. And me, my dad, Sophie, Aunt Ellen, and Emily were all going to the nearest bookshop to get a first edition Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book! We were going to get two books: one for Sophie and me, and one for Emily. Unfortunately for me Sophie got first dibs on the book, but Emily, being so kind, let me read as much of her book as I could before we had to leave. But I must describe what it was like to wait two hours in the freezing cold waiting for the release of the final book of what is probably one of the world's most famous book series, if not the most famous.

We drove a little ways to the nearest bookshop to get the book. Oh, by the way, a little bit before we had gone to Scotland, I had begun to read the sixth book, just so that I would be completely caught up with the series. Not that I hadn’t read the sixth book yet; (I had already read the book at least twice) it’s just that I had forgotten most of the details since I had last read it. But anyway, when we got to the bookshop I still hadn’t finished it, so I brought it in the line with me to read. Since it was the American version, some people who happened to see me reading it thought I was reading the seventh book while standing in line! I didn’t know this at first, but then Sophie told me, and I started reading while facing the wall. But one more person saw me. It was a teenage girl a little down the line. She was shocked as she asked me how I got it. I told her that this was the sixth book. She asked if it was the American version and I said yes, and then nobody else asked me how I got the “seventh book.”

When the line finally started to move it was actually starting then stopping then starting and so on. When we finally got inside the shop, though, there was a line snaking through the bookshop too! Also when you got a little ways inside there was a table with a mountain of British kids’ and adults’ versions of the seventh book, though of course there were no American versions. We grabbed two kids’ versions and waited for the line to move us to the cashier desk. We bought the books and went out of the shop. In all, we had waited two hours in the line to get the two copies of the book! Oh yes, and I finished book six just in time. Sophie was already starting the seventh book on the drive home, and when we got to Aunt Ellen’s house I promised myself that as soon as I woke up from a good sleep I would start Emily’s version of the book.

The next day (or maybe that morning, since it was about two a.m. when we got the books) I started reading the book. That day was the day before we were going to leave Scotland and go back to Hungerford. I came down reading the book and headed straight to the play room where I sat down and began reading for real. When I was called in the kitchen I ate as fast as possible and then kept reading. Sophie came in later, reading our edition. The only time we stopped was when my dad came in and told me that we were going to this awesome airplane museum that had a real Concorde that you could go inside! Now, being me, who loves finding out about airplanes, I jumped up and got ready as quickly as I could. Then Sophie and I brought the books in the car and we drove off. Actually we were splitting cars. Sophie, Aunt Ellen and Emily were all going in Emily’s car, while me, my mom, dad, Cindy, Anthony and Uncle Geoffrey were going in the bigger car.

When we got to the museum we discovered that the museum was actually four giant hangars with real planes inside them. Also there was a small ticket buying place/gift shop that we went to first before driving to hangar one. It had a bunch of old fashioned aviation planes. Too bad they didn’t have the Douglas dc-3. That was a good American old fashioned one. Next we went to hangar 3. This had a bunch of warplanes, old fashioned and new. Some of them had stairs that led right up to the cockpit window, allowing you to see just how complicated the controls were. We skipped hangar 2 because that was just maintenance and a bunch of other boring stuff. So, after hanger three, we went to hangar four, which had (guess what?) the Concorde! We entered it through the gift shop building and for the first time ever in my life I got to see I life-size, real life Concorde.

The plane was nothing I could ever describe completely perfectly, but I’ll try my best. It was sleek and streamlined, with its elegant delta shaped wings and its four giant Roll’s-Royce SNECMA engines. Its length took up the whole hangar, and everything else about the outside was beyond any description I could think up in a million years. This hangar was like no other. On one side there was a section that had a bunch of different boards put up that described stuff like how they made it, and the July 2000 disaster, and how the Concorde went into retirement and stuff like that. On the other side there was a kiddie play area.

When we finally got to go on board I bounded up the stairs with excitement. The inside of the Concorde was very small. My dad told me later that some people nicknamed the Concorde “the toothpick”. I could see why. There was a tiny isle and two seats on each side of the plane. I momentarily felt bad for anyone with claustrophobia who had to fly inside this tiny plane. I was disappointed, though, at the fact that the seats were blocked off so that you couldn’t try them out, and that you could only walk through a certain part of the plane. The parts that were blocked off were at least blocked off with plastic sheets so you could see through. Those parts were: the second half of the plane, the bathrooms, and the cockpit. The bathroom doors had been replaced with the plastic sheets so you could see inside. I took a look at the cockpit. It was even more complicated than the warplanes! There were dials, levers and buttons covering the ceiling, dashboard and walls! I walked away, trying to guess how many years of studying you would have to go through to become a pilot. One other weird thing about the Concorde that I discovered was the miniscule windows. I put my hand to one of them, and discovering that each window was no bigger than my hand! For once I was glad that I didn’t have to ride in one of these, since I would have a hard time looking out the window. After getting off, we saw a movie in one of those small mini-theaters about how they managed to get the real Concorde in the museum hangar, and about the story of the Concorde, and a bunch of other stuff. Then we left the hangar and I bought a Concorde model at the gift shop. Then we ate lunch in the car while driving back, and I read a little more Harry Potter, and then at Aunt Ellen’s house we played a while, had dinner and went to bed.

The next day we had to leave. After packing up and getting ready, Aunt Ellen drove us to the train station. Unfortunately for us we had no reserved seats on this train and so we had to grab any seat available. This train was going to take us to King’s Cross station in London. Then we took the underground to Paddington, and took a train from Paddington to Hungerford. By then it was late night, and we went to bed, exhausted.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear Thomas,

You are a wonderful writer! I felt I was right ther with you when I read your blog.

Thank you so much for sharing everything. It is a joy to have you as my (and Pops') very special grandson.

With much love,

August 6, 2007 6:16 PM  
Anonymous Uncle Chuck said...


Just finished catching up on all your adventures. We're having a great time here in the U.S. following along with you.

One thing I've figured out is you don't like castles much. Fortunatley, once you get back to San Diego you won't have to worry about getting dragged to any more.

There is an old Air France concorde at the giant National Air and Space Museum annex out by Dulles Airport near Washington DC. You can walk around under it and stuff, but can't go inside. So I'm jealous you got to do that.

Enjoy the rest of the summer.

Uncle Chuck

August 10, 2007 10:06 AM  
Blogger Robert said...


You really don't know me, but I'm your first-cousin-once-removed (I think that's right) Ellie. I tuned into your blog for the first time today because your Great-Aunt Katherine told me what fun it is. She was right! I felt like I was right there with you on the castle tours (my mom and dad used to make us do that in Germany when I was about your age). I don't have time to read much more now, but I'll be back.

But tell me, what is the difference between the American and British versions of Harry Potter?

August 22, 2007 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Ellie said...


You really don't know me, but I'm your first-cousin-once-removed (I think that's right) Ellie. I tuned into your blog for the first time today because your Great-Aunt Katherine told me what fun it is. She was right! I felt like I was right there with you on the castle tours (my mom and dad used to make us do that in Germany when I was about your age). I don't have time to read much more now, but I'll be back.

But tell me, what is the difference between the American and British versions of Harry Potter?

August 22, 2007 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Uncle Chuck! I'm glad you liked my Concorde story.I guess I forgot to tell you that we only got to go in a tiny segment of this Concorde, and we didn't get to try out the seats! Also, It was really tiny in there. In fact, one of the Concorde's nicknames is "The Toothpick!" So if any of you are claustrophobic, I'm glad you didn't get to go in!


August 26, 2007 3:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ellie! You're right, I don't know you. But here is the answer to your question: There are two differences between the British and American versions of Harry Potter. Number one is, sometimes the Brits use different words than the Americans. Shoes is trainers, sweater is jumper, pants is trousers. The second difference is that the cover pictures are different. Oh, I guess there is a third difference that I forgot to mention. The British books are smaller than the American ones. Well, I hope that answers you question!


August 26, 2007 3:12 AM  

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