We Aided a Dramatic Rescue!

September-October 2009

Poppy the Springer Spaniel was out for a walk on Valentine's day with her owners in East Sussex, in a picturesque location along the English Channel. Spotting a seagull, she unwisely chased it over one of the white cliffs well known because of its association with nearby Dover. Fortunately, her "spring" was great enough that instead of smashing against the rocks 300' below, she landed in the water. She managed to dog paddle through the icy waves to shore, where she huddled shivering against the base of the cliff.

An all-weather lifeboat team was on an exercise nearby and was directed to the scene. Ironically, at the time they were on their way to recover the body of another dog who was not as fortunate as Poppy. Launching their small daughter boat, they cautiously approached, but Poppy was glad to be wrapped in a blanket – perhaps she sensed that the rescuer was himself a Springer Spaniel owner – taken to the lifeboat, and reunited with her owners. She did suffer a partially collapsed lung from her spectacular dive, but now has made a full recovery. You can see video of the rescue here.

Our connection?

South Queensferry, Scotland
September 26, 2009

The second stop on our cruise, after Oslo, was listed as Edinburgh, Scotland, but since Edinburgh isn't on the sea, we actually tendered ashore at South Queensferry, on the Firth of Forth.

Since we'd already been to Edinburgh (perhaps the subject of a future installment), we didn't take any of the shore excursions there, but instead walked into the quaint little town.

Along the way, we spotted a bicyclist who had devised an ingenious method to keep his dog near, but not too near, while riding. His pooch was in no danger of meeting Poppy's fate!

Evidently the town grew up along a path and when modern methods of transportation arrived, the thrifty Scots don't just tear down buildings to accommodate them. The road on each side of this section is two-way. The foreground car isn't parked, it's waiting its turn – of course, they drive on the left.

Main street was busy. We found shops


and art galleries

Benches on the L-shaped jetty provide a peaceful refuge to experience the warmth of the sun and enjoy the Forth from one side or the town from the other. Some have plaques from citizens who donated the benches and who have enjoyed the same view.

After lunch at a modern pub with a view of the Forth, we met officials of the South Queensferry History Group, who welcomed us to their open house.

In addition to exhibits regarding the town's historical events

we saw some old yearbooks with pictures that could have been us.

On the way back we stopped to admire the Firth of Forth Railway bridge1, a marvel of engineering – or rather Victorian over-engineering – a result of public reaction to the collapse of a bridge across the Firth of Tay in 1879, killing 75 people on a train in the middle of the night.

Construction of the Forth bridge, which was underway at the time, was halted until it could be redesigned, and overbuilt, such that it barely moves even under the most extreme conditions. Our ship is somewhat visible between two pillars at the right.

This bridge is indicated on the map above by the fine line skirting the Edinburgh Airport and crossing to North Queensferry. The A90 highway bridge to the west of town is an engineering marvel in its own right. When it was constructed in 1964, the 1-1/2 mile construction bridge was the longest in Europe.

It was a Saturday and families were out and about.

As was a local motorcycle club.

We weren't the only ones observing this couple photographing their children. The little one toppled forward several times, prompting the father to rush in and prop her back up. The dog seems annoyed that the children were receiving all the attention.

But I digress.

Next to the pier was our last chance to tarry before our return to the Emerald Princess. One could buy an ice cream cone, cotton candy, popcorn, T-shirts and other items.

In a booth staffed by volunteers for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution we purchased several boxes of Christmas cards, which some of you may recognize. (We also bought some tiny frogs that, when wound up, would crouch, then do a back flip!)

Where else but in Britain could there be such an institution as the RNLI, supported by donations from public-spirited citizens?

We learned after the first few Christmas cards were returned that the US has size restrictions on letters that evidently don't apply in the UK. Fortunately, there was enough blank space at the bottom to be able slice off 3/8" and make them legal. (This one has been trimmed.)

In any case, we're gratified to learn that our purchases helped fund the lifeboat that saved Poppy!

1 South Queensferry seems to be a hotbed of coincidences. During our ten days in London, we took the opportunity to see five more plays, using the same technique as last time – drop in to a theater's ticket office in the morning and score prime geezer-rate tickets for that afternoon or evening show.

Billy Eliot turned out to be the most disappointing, perhaps because it would be difficult to live up to all the hype, or perhaps because they've gotten a little tired after all this time – we did experience a similar letdown many years ago when we saw "Cats." Admittedly that was after having watched debuts of "Chess" and "Les Miserables." It didn't help that it also had the highest prices and the most-cramped seats.

Our favorite this time was Jersey Boys, although I realized when returning from intermission that I was viewing a sea of grey hair – I'm not sure how well it would be received by those who didn't recognize all the songs. But since Frankie Valli personally approves all the singers in each company, they sounded exactly as we recalled.

Wicked was a cute account of the real story about the Wizard of Oz's so-called "Wicked Witch of the West" – it seems that the "good" witch was actually a twit and being green can lead to unfortunate misunderstandings. It also had some clever special effects, including the famous flying monkeys.

We'd passed the theater featuring Mamma Mia! several times, but since the marquee announced that tickets were now being sold for 2010, we assumed they were booked until then. On a lark, the day before we left for Copenhagen we stopped in and found out they had good seats for the matinee an hour-and-a-half later. So we dropped into the nearby elegant Criterion Restaurant's bar to while away the time.

The plot is frothy, about a girl's natural wish to be escorted down the aisle at her upcoming wedding by her father. Since she's been reared by a single mother on a Greek island, she invites the three possible candidates, as revealed by her mother's diary, to attend. Of course one doesn't come for a spellbinding script, but for the great ABBA songs.

However, the real surprise was The 39 Steps, a hilarious romp including all the scenes and characters (some 200) from the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film performed by only four characters! We've since learned that it was also a hit on Broadway but we just dropped in because it was near our hotel and a huge banner announced that it had received an award as best new comedy the previous year.

But we only recently discovered that when the hero in the film is taking the train from London to Scotland to uncover an espionage plot, he escapes pursuing police by jumping off at – you guessed it – the Forth Rail Bridge!

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