Homecoming

Our last day ūüė¶ we spent ages packing our bags as we seemed to have accumulated more stuff than we came with, despite our bag only weighing 13 KG as opposed to the 15 KG at the start. It might have had something to do with the free newspapers we’d swiped to take home for the rabbits. Neen and Elaine headed to the City Cafe on Blair Street for breakfast while we took Ketch to Parliament Square to do some filming. We stood in car park space 23, where John Knox is buried. And nearly got run over.

National Museum of Scotland

ooh shinies

Our first visit of the day was to the National Museum of Scotland. When we’d visited on Wednesday, we were so intent on Burke’s skeleton that we forgot about our other reason for visiting – the miniature coffins. 17 miniature coffins with carved corpses were found in a cave on Arthur’s Seat in 1836. To this day, nobody knows why there were there – paying homage to Burke and Hare’s victims? Witchcraft? We assured Neen our visit would be quick as we would ask where the coffins were and go straight there. Neen “you’ll get distracted by the shinies.” Us “no we won’t, we’ve seen the shinies.” We got into the museum, asked where the coffins were (4th floor en route to the Industry section) and…got distracted by the shinies. In this case, swords. We scuttled off, scattering in different directions and swiftly losing Neen and Elaine.

National Museum of Scotland

horse-drawn hearse

We eventually regrouped and resumed our search for the coffins. Then we found the greatest corridor of all time – Daith Comes In. Yes, a corridor dedicated to death customs. We tingled. There was a beautiful horse drawn hearse pride of place. We sat Ketch on it for his photo. We want the hearse. We have no practical use for it, nowhere to store it, no horses to pull it but damn it, we want it. National Museum of ScotlandIt’s black with a picture of a skull with ‘memento mori’ on it, which is Latin for ‘remember you must die’. What’s not to love about it? We found a display with an old velvet Mortcloth. These were used to cover the coffins for funerals. Surgeons used to have one between them and it would be loaned out for each funeral. There was even a scrap from George MacKenzie’s shroud.

National Museum of Scotland

mourning jewellery. Only available in black.

Next was a display of mourning jewellery. The Victorians were big on death and when they weren’t taking photos of their relatives’ corpses and posing them, often with the use of rods and costumes, women’s magazines used to give advice on what mourning clothes and jewellery to wear. They had to be black. Dear god, why can’t women’s magazines be like that today? It’s a damn sight better than ‘get a bikini body in so many days’, or ‘some celebrity you’ve never heard of is single/pregnant/fat/thin/covered in cellulite’. Queen Victoria wore her mourning clothes for 40 years after Albert died, right up until she died. She was clearly the original Goth. We actually have our own piece of mourning jewellery. The keen-eyed of you might notice the headstone necklaces we always wear. They’re actually lockets with photos of our dogs and our sister’s dog in there, which we got after the first of our 2 dogs died.

National Museum of Scotland

the tiny coffins

There was also an iron mortsafe that coffins used to be placed in to deter bodysnatchers. Then we found the coffins. Only 7 remain but the detail that went into making them is incredible. They have little hinges and the carved corpses have individual outfits. We love the mystery behind the coffins and part of us hopes it never gets solved. The truth will be never be as intriguing as the mystery. We spent longer in this corridor than anywhere else in the museum.National Museum of Scotland

We moved on to medical practises. The Malignant Dead has sparked an interest in 17th century surgical procedures. Before we wrote it, we were only interested in the fact surgery was gory and they did it without anaesthetic. We wandered off, again in different directions, losing each other and Neen and Elaine. When Neen finally tracked us down by the sackcloth of shame and stool of repentance (they exist) she remarked being out with us is like “herding kittens.” We would have to agree. This is why our poor mum had us on reins as children. That and we used to run into the traffic. Our road safety has not improved.

sackcloth of shame and stool of repentance. See? They exist.

sackcloth of shame and stool of repentance. See? They exist.

We’re not proud of what happened next. Many of you have witnessed our meltdowns when we get lost trying to find Calamityville locations. You have never witnessed a meltdown when we fail to find our morning Red Bull. We spent so much time in pubs that our liquid intake for the holiday mostly consisted of Smirnoff Ice or vodka and lemonade. As such, Cat had a horrible headache for the 4 days (no, it wasn’t a hangover). But we absolutely CANNOT miss our morning Red Bull, because that creates a headache of epic proportions that lasts all day. But all the newsagents are off High Street or Cockburn Street. There is one on Cowgate. We scampered to it, all excited and snatched a biggie Red Bull from the fridge. This is where the horror began. The fridge was off. Muttering, we stomped out and continued down Cowgate. We headed up to venture down Canongate, only to discover there were no newsagents on Canongate. We ran across the road to a shop. No Red Bull. We darted back across and walked further, finally finding a sandwich shop. No Red Bull. “Oh, they sell¬†the utter crap that is Coke but no Red Bull?” Cat growled as she and Neen inspected the fridge. Cat left in disgust. Neen laughed and said “you can’t go into a shop and tell them they sell crap.” Cat “well they do.” Neen “I love how ratty you get when you don’t get your Red Bull.” We were reaching crisis point. Cat’s headache was worsening. Neen “you can take pills for that.” Cat “I need a Red Bull to wash them¬†down.” Neen “try water.” Stony silence descended. The only time we can stomach water is when we’re about to pass out and it’s so horrible it revives us.

Finally, at the bottom of Canongate, we spied a newsagents. We sprinted across the road, ignoring the traffic. We scuttled to the fridge, grabbed a biggie and…it was warm. “Why don’t any of these places switch their bloody fridges on?” Cat raged. The assistant came over. “There’s a cold one right at the back,” he said. Cat started moving cans aside. He insisted on doing it, probably worried we were going to start hurling cans everywhere in a bid to reach the cold Precious at the back. Then he handed us the cold can. We paid, avoiding eye contact. You know how it is when you have a meltdown in public then have to deal with witnesses after the situation gets resolved. Made worse by the fact we are the nicest, most polite people you will ever meet. We’re even polite to people who don’t deserve it. Except when we’re in a rage. We barely got out of the shop before opening the can and drinking it. Neen came out and said “I don’t think that poor man had ever seen someone have a Red Bull related meldown before.” Needless to say, we will not be returning to that shop.

Museum of Edinburgh

model of 16th century Edinburgh

Tempers cooled, we headed for the Museum of Edinburgh. And realised we had a half full can of Red Bull. We cursed our decision to buy a biggie. We emptied the side pocket of the rucksack and stashed Precious safely inside. As long as Cat didn’t lean forwards, Biggie would be safe. The museum was really cool. We found a 16th century model of Old Town and spent ages studying it, as this was how our Edinburgh would’ve looked in The Malignant Dead. A volunteer came over to us so we explained why we were so interested in the model. She was able to tell us so much about the city back then, things we’ve now started including in our book. She told us to head to Gladstone Land to speak to a man there, but sadly, we didn’t have time. Since returning from Edinburgh on Friday night, we’ve been desperate to edit the book again. But it’s with a publisher and in a competition. On Monday we caved. We’re weak people.

Museum of EdinburghWe checked out the rest of the museum¬†then went downstairs. And found period clothing for children to dress up in. Blowing raspberries, we shed our bags and circled the room excitedly, trying to pick outfits. They were actually too big for us, so we did look like children playing dress up. We returned to Travelodge for our bags then at 2, our mum texted. Our guinea pig, Pirate was really ill and she was taking him to the vets. After that we didn’t want to be Edinburgh any more. We¬†headed to Frankenstein’s one last time for lunch then made our way to Shake Away for our customary last day milkshake. We had a vegan Red Bull milkshake – Red Bull mixed with soya ice cream. It’s as heavenly as it sounds. The girl behind the counter had to ask the manager how to make a vegan Red Bull milkshake. Lynx stared at her, stunned. Had nobody but us last year ordered this amber nectar? It’s Red Bull and soya ice cream. Two of the best things in the world. It’s a winning combination.Museum of Edinburgh

On our way in, we’d noticed 2 Border Collies tied up outside a shop in the sun. It was a boiling day and the dogs were panting. People were starting to stop and watch them. When we came out of Shake Away to sit outside, the dogs were still in the sun. So us and Neen went over. As we were preparing to untie them and moved them across the street to¬†the shade, we noticed a woman standing by them. They were her dogs. And she barely spoke English. Her husband was in the shop trying on shoes. Neen¬†explained we were worried about the dogs being in the heat¬†as¬†they should be in the shade. The Russian newsagent next door had come out with a bowl of water for them before we headed over and he came out again to refill it. He told the woman the dogs needed to drink a lot in this weather. He also owned a Border Collie. They were lovely. The white one was called Nelson and the black one was Lutz. Nelson¬†kept rolling over for tummy tickles while Lutz was helping herself to the water. The woman must’ve understood part of what we said, because when we next saw the dogs, they were in the shade.

It was time to head home. We accompanied Neen to the train station then us and Elaine got on the bus to head to the airport. We took off our jewellery on the bus so we wouldn’t set off the bleepers. Cat set off the bleepers. Her dress was covered in D rings, eyelets and safety pins. She was taken to one side and assumed the position while security woman patted her down. The security man laughed and said “what did you expect?” Cat replied “I even took my jewellery off.” She then got scanned. Then she got scanned and patted down again. She was there much longer than anybody else. When she joined Lynx and Elaine, she noticed her rucksack was in the middle. The security held it up. “Whose is the skull rucksack?” Cat guiltily raised her hand. “It’s just a random search,” the man explained. It didn’t feel random. “I’m not getting out of this airport am I?” Cat asked. We were glad we hadn’t gone through with our earlier plan of buying herbs from a new age shop and removing the labels. We thought it would be funny but after four hours in customs, even we might have stopped seeing the humour in it. After we got through, we put our jewellery back on and went to find seats. A teenage boy came over and said “I have to ask – how did you get through security?” Cat “I didn’t.”

We texted mum to see how Pirate was. He’d lost a lot of weight over a short period of time. The vet wasn’t sure if he’d make it through the weekend. We just wanted to get home. Cardiff had never seemed so far away. Then our 7:35 p.m. flight was delayed for¬†an hour and a half. We spent our time stealing newspapers and hanging out on Facebook while our mum tagged us in photos of Pirate. She liquidized food for him and he seemed to be enjoying it. When we finally got on the plane at 9 p.m., they were delayed again because the ground crew ran out of equipment and we were in a queue. We finally got home at midnight. The cats flocked to us, telling us woeful tales of starvation. We fetched Pirate from his cage and gave him his syringe food.

Since we got back, the cats have barely left our sides, even sleeping on our beds and Warlock is found sprawled on the pavement whenever we go out and cries when we return. He quit his hunger strike the moment we got back. We syringe fed Pirate every 2 hours and by Monday he’d regained enough strength to be put under general anaesthetic. His back teeth were starting to over grow. Apparently his mouth is the wrong shape for his teeth. He came through the operation really well¬†and is back to singing and climbing his bars for breakfast and he’s even now wanting solid food ūüôā

We’ve only been home 5 days but already we can feel Edinburgh and Burke’s skeleton calling us back…

Day at the Museum

National Museum of ScotlandDay 2 started with us finding a Red Bull Mini parked in the Travelodge car park. We were so excited! We decided to inject¬†some culture into our lives and headed to the National Museum of Scotland. Was it in the search for the Ming exhibition? Or Scotland through the ages? No. It was to see William Burke’s skeleton. You see we had heard it was in the museum so we hurried in, excited. So excited we got stuck in the revolving doors and had to force our way free. Not quite the dignified entrance we’d hoped for, but frankly, Cat had left her dignity at the airport when she had to un-padlock our suitcase to get out the spare camera batteries out while the case was about to disappear on the conveyor belt, and Lynx’s dignity was stuck to¬†the bollard with her knee skin. We’d never had a desire to visit Edinburgh until we learned of Burke and Hare. We know, most people want to visit a city because of its architecture, or a romantic ideal. We wanted to see the city where the body snatchers lived.

We’re terrible in museums. There’s always so much to look at it, we never know where to go first, which usually results in us standing still and pivoting until something shiny catches our eyes. And we’re always so excited about the exhibitions that we can’t read the information cards because we’re too impatient, so we never learn anything. Neen warned her mum it was like taking toddlers in. Oversized Gothic toddlers who squeal and clap at the sight of skeletons. Neen grabbed a map and we scanned it for Burke’s skeleton, which we assumed would be the jewel in the museum’s collection. It wasn’t mentioned. But dinosaurs were, so we hurried to the natural world section to look for T-Rex. ¬†National Museum of ScotlandThere was a weighing scales where you could see what animal you weighed as the same as. Turns out, we’re somewhere between an emperor penguin and a komodo dragon. The top animal was a polar bear, so the four of us squeezed on to see if we could reach polar bear. We failed. A mum and her 2 kids were watching so we convinced them to join us. We still didn’t make it to polar bear!¬†We called for more bodies. A little girl hopped on and we cheered as the polar bear target was reached.

We resumed our hunt for Burke’s skeleton and decided to visit Dolly the sheep. For those of you who don’t know her, she was the first ever cloned animal back in 1997. Now she’s in a glass case. Personally, we would have preferred for her to be buried. There’s something about taxidermy that really freaks us out. On the way to see Dolly, we spotted a shiny in the form of an Isetta bubble car and scuttled into the exhibition to look at it. Then we saw a Mini, followed by an early example of car. Then there was a case of typewriters and cameras. We nearly forgot about Dolly until Neen reminded us. In the section with Dolly was a game to test your reaction speed. Neen managed to hit 32 targets, Elaine got 27. Lynx only managed 15, barely beating Cat’s score of 12. In our defence, it was pre-Red Bull o’clock and those lights were really hard to see.National Museum of Scotland

Eventually, after wandering most of the museum, we gave in and asked someone where Burke’s¬†skeleton was. He told us it was in the surgeon’s hall and showed us where it was on the map then went on to their site. It’s closed until summer 2015. A howl of disappointment rang out through the museum. To cheer ourselves up, we went to look at more dinosaurs. Then we spotted a tree tunnel in the kids section so went inside and crawled through, to strange looks from nearby children.

Then we visited a childhood museum. In the window was one of our favourite games when we were kids – the penguin race game. Our nan and grampy bought it for us and we would spend hours playing it. We had to buy it. (We’ve just set it up at home and have spent ages watching the cute little penguins climb the steps and go down the slide repeatedly while making penguin sounds. Mum “I don’t know how that kept you amused as kids.” Us “it’s keeping us amused now.”)

Next we hopped on a tour bus and went to Dynamic Earth. We got over excited at seeing the big plastic dinosaurs outside. Dynamic EarthDynamic Earth was really cool. It teaches you all about how the earth was formed, about volcanic eruptions, glaciers and takes you through different time periods. Normally it’s not a topic that interests us (not enough blood and gore for our liking), but it was a fascinating place and well worth a visit. Even if we did fall asleep during¬†the super volcanoes video. Not through boredom but through not sleeping well and not drinking enough Red Bull. There was one little girl of about 8 or 9 who stared at us so much we were forced to take a different tour. It was either that or charge her a staring fee.Dynamic Earth

We got back on the bus and went to another of our favourite pubs – Jekyll & Hyde. There are cabinets with skulls, medical equipment, there’s chandeliers, gargoyles and the place is painted purple with black furniture. Like our room. The toilets are hidden behind a fake library wall. If we had a castle, the inside would look like this. Then it was back to Frankenstein’s!Jekyll & Hyde

The Cadies Witchery TourAt 9 we headed out for the Witchery Tour. It was brilliant. One of the best tours we’ve done. It was led by Adam Lyal (Deceased) and his sidekick “Steve” who at first was dressed as a plague doctor, with football socks and daps. Cat was accused of being a witch and put on trial. Her thumbs were placed in thumbscrews as she protested her innocence, to the cries of “witch!” “Burn her!” and “guilty!” from Lynx and Neen. There’s always one heckler on the tour. As the tour moved through the streets, we were accosted by “Steve” in various disguises, but the football socks and daps were a giveaway. He was hilarious. Don’t think we’ve ever laughed so much on a tour. It’s the first time we’ve ever seen a skeleton monk perform the Smooth Criminal dance and flash his thighs at us.The Cadies Witchery Tour

By the time we finished the tour, a thick fog shrouded Edinburgh. Eerily perfect for a witchery tour. We stopped to take photos and met 3 people who were on our tour. When we returned to Travelodge, the people we’d met¬†were staying in our Travelodge! One of the guys said “are you stalking us or are we stalking you?” Cat replied “we’ve been stalking you for a while now, we’re so good at it you’ve only just noticed.” He replied “we’re on the 4th floor.” Neen said “we know.” After that, we bumped into them at the same spot in Travelodge (the lift) every day for the rest of our visit and even encountered them on the street. But we did learn that the Witchery shop has a card case made from Burke’s skin. So maybe we’ll get a glimpse of him after all…The Cadies Witchery Tour