Good morning! Andy Slayde and Ali Wilde are your guides for the day.
The torch starts its trek today in the lovely medieval town of St. Andrews, a shrine to golfers all around the world. Named after Saint Andrew the Apostle, its main streets and cobbled alleys, full of crooked house fronts, dignified university buildings and medieval churches, converge on the venerable ruins of the 12th century cathedral. Once the largest cathedral in Scotland, it was pillaged for its stones, which were used to build the town. St. Andrew’s castle was built for the town’s bishops in the year 1200.
The birthplace of golf, Scotland’s national game was pioneered on the sandy links near St. Andrews. The earliest record of the game being played dates from 1457, when golf was banned by James II because it was interfering with his subjects’ archery practice. Mary, Queen of Scots was berated in 1568 for playing immediately after her husband Darnley had been murdered.
However, I must confess that the first thing I thought of when I started looking up St. Andrews was not
My mind has a healthy home in the gutter.
The torch ends its run today in Edinburgh. It is the capital of Scotland and its second largest city. The range of historic and artistic attractions draws visitors from all over the world. There is just so much about this city, so we will concentrate on Edinburgh Castle, its greatest attraction.
Edinburgh Castle stands upon the basalt core of an extinct volcano. It is an assemblage of buildings dating from the 12th to the 20th century, reflecting its changing roles as fortress, royal palace, military garrison and state prison. During its life, it has seen many births and deaths and been the site of a good many sieges, having been captured by the Germans very early on. Later, the English and Scottish fought almost constantly over it until 1745.
Now, it is in the hands of Historic Scotland and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, protected by 24 separate listings, including 13 at Category A, the highest level of protection for a historic building in Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle is reputed to be one of the most haunted locations in Scotland, and Edinburgh itself has been called the most haunted city in all of Europe.
Edinburgh has a hidden underworld to which the castle is strongly connected; a series of secret tunnels leading from Edinburgh castle down the Royal Mile. One of these is rumoured to lead to Holyrood House. Holyrood House, itself, is closely associated with Scotland’s turbulent past, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived there between 1561 and 1567. Successive kings and queens have made the Palace of Holyrood House the premier royal residence in Scotland. Even today, it’s still a royal residence.
When the tunnels were first discovered, several hundred years ago, a piper was sent to explore. As he navigated the tunnels, he played his bagpipes so that his progress could be tracked by those above. About halfway down the Royal Mile, the piping suddenly stopped. When a rescue party was sent, there was no trace of the piper. He had simply vanished. Several search parties went into the tunnel system but no trace of the piper was ever found.
The piper’s ghost still haunts Edinburgh today, walking endlessly along the underground tunnel beneath the Royal Mile. His music can sometimes be heard from within the castle and on the streets above the tunnels.
Many people have heard the sound of ghostly drums within Edinburgh Castle; however few have seen the drummer. The reason for this is the drummer ghost only appears when the castle is about to be attacked something that hasn’t happened for some time.
The ghost drummer was first witnessed before Cromwell’s attack on the castle in 1650 and is reported to take the form of a headless boy. Who the boy was and why he now haunts Edinburgh castle is not known.
Edinburgh, like most castles, has dungeons where prisoners were often tortured, and often perished. These dungeons are haunted by the ghosts of their victims; coloured orbs are constantly photographed by visitors. One desperate prisoner hid in a dung barrow, hoping to be carried out of the castle down the Royal Mile and escape to freedom. The unfortunate man died when the barrow was emptied down the rocky slopes of the castle, sending him to his death. Visitors say his ghost tries to shove them from the battlements and is accompanied by a strong and unpleasant smell of dung.
What makes the Edinburgh Castle dungeons unique is that the presence of ghosts, or at least the presence of something, has been scientifically proven. In 2001, Dr Richard Wiseman ran a research project studying the reactions of people to various parts of the dungeons and surrounding areas. These visitors who had no previous knowledge of the castle felt something far more often in the areas with a reputation for being haunted than anywhere else in the castle.
In the 16th century, Janet Douglas, Lady of Glamis, was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, accused of witchcraft and conspiracy to murder King James V. Evidence was obtained against her by the torturing of her servants. She was burned at the stake on July 17, 1537, and her young son, Gillespie, was brought out and forced to watch from the battlements. Lady Janet’s restless spirit is said to still haunt parts of the castle. Hollow knocking sounds are sometimes heard at night. These are attributed to the workmen building the platform on which she was burned.
There is a cemetery for dogs on Edinburgh Castle’s grounds. People have heard sounds of dogs barking and have, on occasion, sighted one of the canines that are said to haunt the graveyard.
Spectral people include a man wearing a leather apron, spirits of the Seven Years War’s French prisoners and colonial ones from the American Revolutionary War.
In 2001, a team of nine paranormal researchers explored the castle’s chambers and secret passages. One was a young woman who was alone investigating one of South Bridge’s chambers. She had a video camera to record what she saw, heard and/or felt.
She reported hearing breathing emanating from a corner of the room which increased in volume, and thought she saw a flash of light in the corner, but didn’t want to study it. The only hard evidence was some digital photographs that showed dense spots of light, strange mists and a green blob.
Scotland and ghosts brings us to Cameron Mackenzie, who stars in our story Vanilla: The Dominant Ingredient and has a supporting role in Mist Gray: Falling Apart Falling Together.
Cameron was born in Edinburgh, but his parents are both Highlanders, and Cameron wants to return to Scotland one day and visit his ancestry.
The Mackenzies, including Cameron and his brother Malcolm, moved from Edinburgh to Albany when Cameron was in his late teens. He owns a restaurant and loves very old Scotch, BDSM, leather and kilts.
No home, no more job – such as it was, anyway – and his only possession is the pair of leather pants he ran away in. Things can only get better from here. Right? But what Ajay doesn’t realize is that better isn’t necessarily good enough. He meets Cameron, a Dom without a sub, who gives him a place to stay. Cameron can get sex anywhere, and is astoundingly impervious to Ajay’s charms. Just when nothing seems to be working, Ajay discovers an interesting fact about vanilla and is willing to defile the Mackenzie dining table and risk the Mackenzie crystal to prove that he is worthy. And hopefully change Cameron’s mind.
Thunder crashed and Ajay felt vibrations. He huddled under the comforter, closing his eyes tightly against the lightning flashes that lit the filmy blue curtain at the window. The next crash of thunder came hot on the heels of the bright as day lightning, rattling the window, and Ajay peeked out cautiously. The rain pelting against the glass cast eerie shadows against the pale yellow walls, the leafless trees in the garden spreading their spiky branches, moving in the howling wind, long fingers coming after him.
Lightning lit his room, brighter than any electric light, and the thunder sounded like two tin trays bashed together, before it rolled across the sky. As if sleeping alone wasn’t bad enough, Ajay hated storms. He seriously wondered how Cameron would take to being woken by him… if he could pluck up the courage to leave the safety of his bed. A clap of thunder, without even the warning of lightning, solved that problem for Ajay. In just six steps, he was out of bed, across the floor and out the room, finding himself at Cameron’s door.
He knocked quietly. “Sir?”
When there was only silence, he knocked again, louder, only to have his knock drowned out by another rumble of thunder. Eyes wide — he couldn’t believe he was standing naked in a strange hallway during a thunderstorm — Ajay pushed open Cameron’s bedroom door and slipped into the dark room. He’d risk anything to be with someone, even if it was only until the storm passed. Just hearing Cameron’s even breathing began to settle him.
Cameron snuffled and rolled over as a lightning flash ignited the room with white light. “Ajay?”
“Yes.” Ajay shivered, jumping when the thunder crashed once more.
Cameron sat up, a shadow on the bed. “What’s the matter, caraid?”
“Sorry, Sir. I, um… scared, Sir.” Ajay heard the tremor in his voice and hoped that Cameron didn’t think him pathetic.
“It’s only a storm, Ajay. Nothing to be scared of.”
More neon lightning, another deafening crack of thunder. Tears rolled down Ajay’s cheeks and he sniffed. “Sir? Please?” He didn’t even care if Cameron let him into the bed. He’d curl up happily at Cameron’s feet or on the floor. He just needed to be with someone.
Cameron shifted and flipped the corner of the comforter back. “Don’t tell anyone about this. You’ll ruin my reputation.”
Ajay sniffed again and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Thank you, Sir.”
He padded across the room and slipped into Cameron’s warm bed, instantly curling into a ball and snuggling into the big man.
“No.” Cameron moved backwards and pushed Ajay away from him. “This is a one time thing only. You’ll have to learn that storms won’t hurt you.”
“Yes, Sir.” Ajay pulled the comforter around him and snuggled down under it. If sleeping in Cameron’s bed, in his warmth, was all he was going to get, so be it. He was going to be there in the morning and he’d never received a complaint or refusal for his early morning head jobs.
“Sleep now, caraid.” Cameron’s voice was unexpectedly gentle. “Nothing will hurt you.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Ajay whispered, but lay awake for some time, listening to the thunder rumble its way across the night. Eventually it was just the rain, falling steadily against the backdrop of Cameron’s breathing, and Ajay found himself lulled to sleep.
When you lose your lover – and Dom – what is left? Avery Miller is plodding through life one day at a time, quietly side-stepping friends’ advice to ‘get out there and look for someone’ when, against his better judgment, he is coerced into inviting the seasonal neighbor over for dinner. Of course, he’s not looking for someone, but one always needs friends.
After accepting the invitation to dinner, Tennyson Pitt wonders why. All he wants is peace and quiet to write. He has a life in the city.
The dinner invitation, it turns out, is probably one of the best things to happen to each of them in quite a while and sparks fly and then fizzle. It takes a minor accident to get them together again. Can both men get over not being what the other needs and realize that each of them needs the other?
“Maybe I want to wait. We need to talk, I think.”
“What’s there to talk about?” Avery asked gruffly. “I think everything was said the other night.” He really didn’t want to think about that night and how he’d love nothing more than to have Ten put an arm around him. It was rather cold…
“Not at all,” Ten said evenly. “A lot was said but not everything. For instance, I’d really like to see you again.”
“And I’d still like to read one of your books,” Avery said. In the distance he could hear the wailing of sirens. “Sounds like the ambulance is almost here. Could you call Cameron for me? Let him know what happened. I’m sure he’ll pick me up at the hospital.”
Ten held out his cell. “Call him now. Since you won’t talk to me.”
“What’s there to say?” Avery crossed his arms in front of his chest. “You said you can’t be what I need — didn’t realize you were a mind reader — but you’d like to see me again. Sure, we can watch a Jets game or go bowling or go to the Lakeside bar and see if there are any hot guys we can pick up.” He was shocked at the bitterness in his voice. It was probably due to the injury.
“Don’t you sometimes just need a friend? I can understand why you don’t have many if that’s your attitude.”
Brows drawn together, Avery turned his head to stare at Ten. “My attitude?” The words were forced out of a clenched jaw. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m in pain. And while I love a good spanking… I. Do. Not. Love intense, gut wrenching pain.” Avery took a deep breath and tried to stop himself from punching Ten — who definitely didn’t deserve that rating right now — in the nose. “I’ve been stuck in the woods for God knows how long. I’m cold. I’m waiting for a fucking ambulance. Please, excuse my rudeness, but this may not be the best time for chit-chat.”
Immediately contrite, Ten shrugged out of his jacket and slipped it over Avery’s shoulders. “Put it on. I’m sorry, sometimes I don’t think.” He gave Avery a quick grin. “It’s grossly overrated.”