Monday, December 18, 2017

The solstice will be at 4:28 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, British time. We’ve just got to hold out until then – and trust those in charge up there to remember to throw the switch; I never entirely believe that they will. The new light gets to be perceptible around about Groundhog Day.

I don’t know whether to class today as “productive” or not. I got up to Boots and got my next set of blood-thinning pills, enough to take to Palermo and sustain me until February. It’s a steep hill. In the old days, all I had to do was get to the top of Broughton Street and then ride the John Lewis escalators for two more stories, and on out into the St James Centre where Boots then was.

But the St James Centre has been knocked down, so John Lewis’ escalators are of no use to me. I’ve got to walk up that extra distance, and it gets harder every time.

However, I did it, and then went on (on the level) to the Royal Bank in St Andrew Square, a beautiful space where it is always a pleasure to be. It used to be somebody’s very, very grand town house. The domed central hall where you queue for your euros is one of the sights of Edinburgh.

I got enough euros to pay the professor who is going to take us to places associated with Il Gattopardo on Wednesday January 3, and the duchess who is going to teach us to cook on Thursday the 4th, and a bit of pocket money to spare.

The young man who fetched them out of the vault for me is himself going to Palermo on January 1. He has never been there before. What were the odds? It’s not as if it were Rome or Paris or Athens. It seems to me an extraordinary coincidence. He is flying from Edinburgh and enduring the long lay-over in an Italian airport. Should I have done that? I should have asked him how he is taking money. I’m going to need enough cash right away that I didn’t want to trust a possibly-non-functioning airport ATM.

But perhaps I’m being too much of an old woman.

I got some more of the shawl borders done – the knitting is very compelling at this stage. The “right side” rows now have lots of k2tog, YO’s in them and are a bit slow, but more fun than they were. I mustn’t neglect that poor scarf.

I’m binge-ing a bit on the second series of The Crown on my iPad. We’ve now moved on to events which I can remember from my early adult life, living here. 


  1. I feel for you Jean, on your excursions around Edinburgh. I am having enough trouble arond here and this is South Lincolnshire, where the only thing flatter would be the surface of the sea!

  2. Late to the party, but you could consider a "cash card" for your Italian trip. They are available from many places, including Thomas Cook and, I think, the local post office. It is possible to transfer money onto the card where it sits in Euros until accessed through an Italian ATM. If you don't use it all up, you can transfer the money back out. There may be a fee, but it is probably less than the bank will charge. My bank charges a pound for each transaction in a foreign currency, plus a small percentage - which can all add up, very quickly - and the exchange rate is usually not very good. It is very convenient to be able to access your main bank account though, in case of suddenly needing to buy something, as can happen.

  3. Jean, do be careful with ATMs. I realize that you and your family have more than a little knowledge about world travel, so this advice may be redundant, but I will post it in case it is useful. My experience (at the close of my fourth month of this stint in Rome):

    Airport ATMs tend not to be “real” ones. They are more likely to be money-exchange machines masquerading as ATMs, and will change you feed accordingly, in addition to whatever your home bank charges. Avoid except for dire emergencies — and it sounds as if your time spent under the dome today will cover your immediate needs.

    Real ATMs, on the street and in banks: Overall, safe and fine. Will charge fees that, for me as a US bank customer, are on par with or less than what I would be charged for using an ATM in the States Owens by a bank other than my own. Do make sure to shield the keypad as you enter your PIN number. Our last time in Rome, my husband’s number was “skimmed” from an ATM in the heart of the city. All ended well, by we had 48 hours of stress.

    For whatever reason, we have not been able in Rome to use ATMs at BNP and DeutscheBank locations. Italian banks (Monte Paschi di Siena, Credit Agricola, etc.) have been fine.

    Also — just in case, because I do not know if British banks and credit card companies are quite so mercenary as US ones — do check to see if your credit cards accrue foreign transaction fees. Mine vary from 1.5% to zero. Guess which card I use?

    1. Ugh, “charge you fees.” I attest that I DO know how to proofread, but in my phone, it feels like a lost cause.

  4. Anonymous1:06 PM

    Yes agreed - only use "real" bank ATMs in airports!