Other People: Megan
I met Megan (pictured on left) during fourth year at Guelph. She was my first real history friend. We took American history with this wonderful prof who was a right-wing Republican Santa Claus. After graduation we both bummed around, with me ending up in Dublin and her across the pond in Edinburgh. She was the first person to visit me in Ireland (the photo is from the famous gay bar The George) and, with her friend Mel, the three of us spent the first night at my new apartment cuddled up in my single bed. She is adventurous and smart, and one of the all time best story-tellers I know.
MM: What was it like moving to Scotland? What happened your first week?
MC: Scotland is great. Weather-wise it is always some variety of springtime and the people are charming and know what it is like to have a big, imperial neighbour to the south.
I was on an overnight flight, so I arrived bright and early in the morning. I had not slept and was on a mission. I ventured into the centre of Edinburgh and acquired a bank account and a national insurance number – vital for job hunting. To cap my first day in Scotland, which was also my birthday, I had a pub meal. I think I relaxed a little more on day two, but started applying for jobs and representation by temp agencies and looking for a place to rent. I bought day passes for the bus and hopped whatever came my way and rode the entire route to acquaint myself with the city.
With plenty of time to traipse, I discovered the flat where we were staying was an easy walk to a field of sheep, the sea, a very cozy seaside pub, a nice river path, swans and Shetland ponies. I also found that I could walk to Cramond Island when the tide is out. Sadly, I took “the hero’s route” the first time and travelled over the seabed because I had yet to identify the nice raised causeway to the island. Clothes were muddied; a lesson was learned.
Once on Cramond I had a great time exploring the World War II gun placements and concrete huts. Cramond, like all the pretty little islands in the Firth of Forth is grimly fortified because the first mainland bombing of the UK during WWII was an attempt to bomb the nearby the Forth Rail Bridge. After the war no one had the energy or inclination to de-fortify the islands. Sixty-five years later, these waters remain free of Nazis.
MM: Was there a day you just wanted to pack it all and go home?
MC: No. One of the great things about burning all your bridges behind you is that the path forward is clear.
MM: Are you using your history degree for anything?
MC: Negatory. I can’t even say it’s doing an excellent job filling out a frame, because it’s never made it out of its envelope. I peeked at it to make sure it was in order, then sealed it up. My degree isn’t even useful as an ornament. I’d take it again though, but with a double-major in English. You can never lose enough sleep to books.
MM: What’s your job like?
MC: Great job, poor pay. It’s the first office job I’ve had and I really like it. I have a pretty cheery task, in that I am trying to give away money owed to former and current clients. But I am shocked at how easy it is to get someone to verify their full name, date of birth and national insurance number over the phone. especially to someone with a suspicious foreign accent. If I had a stronger criminal bent I could be making a lot more money.
MM: What would you like to be doing in ten years?
MC: The best way to perform societal experiments is to produce children of my own. Kids are plenty malleable and dependent upon their mothers for years. I should be able to cook up plenty of situations for my amusement and edification before my offspring get wise to me.
MM: Describe your bedroom.
MC: I have a large room divided into two zones. The first is the public zone with a loveseat, coffee table and television. The second zone features my bed, chair and desk. I have a double window with a nice ledge where my geraniums and ferns live. My Texas long-arm cactus (the cactus you see in the Wile E. Coyote versus Roadrunner cartoons) is on duty in the kitchen window to try to inspire my flatmate’s cactus to live. Turns out Texas long-arms aren’t great cheerleaders.
I have a handsome mirror acquired from a secondhand shop and from the same shop a contraption I named “thingy-bobby.” Thingy-bobby is a green veneered, semi-circular piece of furniture with a flat top and a raised rim that precisely fits my laptop. And it is on castors, because agile furniture is the best furniture.
I’m proud also of my aluminum desk, which I procured next to a trash bin on my way to work. I rolled that sucker a city block, through an intersection and into my office. My workmates just rolled their eyes. As they noted a year ago, anyone who can bear to speak in a hideous, nasal, Canadian accent has a high threshold for embarrassment. I’m fairly certain that as I rolled my desk out the door with my jacket and bag on top of it at the end of the day and crossed the street (loudly – I don’t think you’re meant to take a desk for a stroll,) it looked like I had been fired and nicked my desk on the way out.
MM: Where else have you travelled while over there?
MC: Dublin to see you is as far afield as I’ve managed. I had a week in Norway booked which I had to forfeit when my contract was unexpectedly renewed. Heartbreak. I’ve been trying to see as much of Scotland and England as possible, because I’ll do the serious travelling once my job ends. I’ve been all over Scotland. I climbed Ben Nevis (the UK’s highest point) and swum in Loch Lomond (it was refreshing.) Next up is the 73 mile trek from Fort William to Inverness on foot along the Great Glen Way.
MM: Would you like to see somewhere else while abroad?
MC: Now that I have been denied Norway I feel I must have it! I was looking at flights to Oslo earlier today. I’d like to get the Scandinavian countries as well as Belgium and France (hopefully this coming Remembrance Day) and Greek islands are almost too good for mortals. While we’re making a list, let’s say Portugal, Morocco and Carthage in Tunisia.
MM: What book should everyone read?
MC: Between the “where do you see yourself” question and this one you’re stretching my imagination to the limit, buddy. The Meaning of Everything and Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson put the marvel and magnificence into the existence of the universe and the English language, respectively. East of Eden by John Steinbeck, though I recommend all Steinbeck. Born to Run by Chris McDougall is the most tremendous book I’ve read in recent memory and everyone should go get it now. It has almost changed me into a vegan, barefoot marathon runner and my flatmate into a former-smoker, sandal-clad zealot. And by “almost,” I mean not at all – but it has planted a seed.
In the interest of disclosure though, (because I feel that people misrepresent themselves in answering questions like the above) I’m revealing that the three books I have most often re-read are The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving.
MM: Name five things you learned growing up in Guelph, Ontario.
MC: 1) University campuses are wasted on students and faculty. I grew up three blocks from the university and in the summer that was our playground. During the summer the U of G is largely devoid of dangerous adults and motorized vehicles and is paradise for a couple of kids with bikes. It is city and country and field and woods all together on a manageable scale. Some of the best memories of my childhood are there.
2) Cows are really generous (oblivious?) At any rate, they will live a happy, docile existence with a big hole cut through their hide, clear to one of their stomachs. And they won’t mind if you want to put on a glove and stick your hand in there and rummage around in their partially digested food.
3) Just because you figured out how to bike all the way to Eden Mills doesn’t mean you should tell your parents you managed this feat. Especially when you are 11 years old.
4) For two consecutive primary school years I was the 13th fastest girl in the county over distances. This surprised me and those who knew me.
5) Students do stupid things and should be treated with contempt. See: Soaping the fountain downtown. Pronouncing street names incorrectly (MacDonell Street is MAC-don-ELL Street.) Getting hurt booze-bogganing, resulting in the putting up of extensive snow fences. Committing violent crimes and doing drugs in the Dairy Bush, resulting in the closing of a beloved path, the erecting of a mighty fence and the growth of a whack of sumac. Turning for-real dive bars into faux-dive expensive hipster bars. Making Guelph proprietors believe there is any bar in Guelph worthy of a cover charge. Finally, the time a wasted student fell off a curb in front of my car, causing me to swerve and almost hit the cyclist minding his own business to my left. I hate students. And I learned to hate them in Guelph.