Thursday, March 19, 2003
Mingalar House Hotel, Edinburgh
Whew! Quite a day. Finally,
my energy has given out, and I’m sitting here on my bed, writing and
looking out the window, while Nathan watches something on Edinburgh’s
Channel 2 involving racing robots. The rest of my "lot" has gone off to
Tesco, the grocery supermarket they found to get us some provisions for
our day and two nights left for them in Scotland and I just woke up from a
nice wee snooze, having made a decision I’m not going anywhere tonight and
am warm and snug in my jammies and bedsocks. Radiators are on, keeping our
rooms warm in this lovely twilight hour, the gloaming, of the Scottish day
between sundown and dark, and I’m wondering if my girls will bring me back
the Baxter’s soup and a bridie or a pie that I hinted at.
Our day began with a lovely
breakfast, prepared by Min Sue who originates from Burma, of ham,
sausages, mushrooms, fried bread, grilled tomatoes and eggs of our choice.
Cereals and toast were available and she made me a lovely pot of cocoa. My
family members who haven’t developed an ability to handle mornings were
provided breakfast cereals and juices and milk in the fridges in their
Xylia was a little on the
sleepy side this morning, so she and her mother Tina elected to start
their day later. Stephanie, Nathan, Nan, Edie and I were out the door by
9:30. I stopped at the National Archives and the Scottish Records Office
to schedule my day there on March 31st. It will cost me a very
reasonable fee of £17.00 to search for my ancestors for the day from 9:00
a.m. till 4:30 p.m. That is my planned day to myself when all my children
and friends have left for home.
I found the location of the
Italian Restaurant where John and I had our honeymoon dinner, November 13,
1965. I smile to remember that when we finished our meal about 5:30 or so,
John asked me "What would you like to do now? How would you like to spend
the evening?" and I shall maintain to my dying day that it was the fatigue
and the excitement of the day, having been up since early morning to go
downtown to get my hair done for my wedding, that prompted me to shyly
say, "Let’s just go back to our room at the Cramond Brig Hotel."
Oh, happy days.
Anyhow, on we went up the
Royal Mile to the Castle, past the Tolbooth and St. Giles, and into the
courtyard where so many years ago John and I had enjoyed the 1965
Edinburgh Tattoo. I still have our souvenir program and record. Adriana
and Edie suggested that we separate and explore on our own and meet back
at 11:30 a.m. in the inner court.
Now, you can read and study
and get your fill of the Castle yourselves. I’m going to tell you about
what was meaningful to me.
I explored the War Museum
and remembered many lessons and stories from my Grandmother to honor the
fallen, especially my Grandfather and others of World War I. In the gift
shop I was happy to see miniature replicas of my grandfathers’ South
African campaign and his Queen’s South Africa Medal which I bought for
Nathan to learn about courage and sacrifice for country that is part of
his heritage from Scotland and Wales.
Queen Margaret’s Chapel was
always a place on my visits that I associated with peace and beauty and
that sense of tranquility seemed to remain there still.
When I was a child and my
mother took me to see the Honours of Scotland they were displayed simply
in a glass case – the crown being "far bonnier" than the English one, my
mother would tell me. There is now a very lovely, well thought out and
informatively displayed exhibit about Scotland’s royal heritage, our
struggles for freedom and independence from the English, and the history
of these symbols of our country.
The views of Edinburgh and
the Lothians from the castle walls were beautiful on the clear, warm,
spring day we were having and, just as when I was a child, I imagined
myself a participant – but this time as a grown woman – in the castle’s
remarkable history of siege and intrigue, defense and strength.
But my most memorable
moment was in the War Memorial. I entered this church like building with a
sense of reverence in response to the quiet atmosphere within for the
Scottish dead of the 1914-18 war. Stained glass windows under which red
leather bound books holding the names of their associated dead
memorialized the sacrifice of Scottish regiments, air force, merchant
marines, nurses, civilian men and women together who fought and prayed and
sacrificed for freedom.
I asked the security guard
if there was a navy window, telling him about my grandfather whose "only
grave is the sea" and his naval experience as my grandmother had told it
Standing in front of the
window, while my escorting guard pointed out the homage in the panels to
submariners, I had an overwhelming sense of warmth and love between my
grandfather and me and found myself weeping as my thoughts intensified
regarding his life from entering into "boy service" during Victoria’s
reign and ending in his death in 1917. The guard said to me, "Look, lass,
if I walk up to the other end of the hall with my back to you and don’t
see you taking a photo I won’t have to yell at you." And he left me there.
And I took a picture for my grandfather.
When I met my family I was
an hour late for our appointed gathering time. Stephanie said they were
ready to give me a hard time. But upon hearing about my experience with my
grandfather and the kindness of the guard, all was forgiven. Adriana had
had the right idea to suggest we separate.
Our afternoon adventure was
to stroll down the Royal Mile to Holyrood House, as I had every year as a
child, and as I had 29 years ago with then six month old Stephanie, 5 year
old Tina, and 6 year old Johnny who currently lives in Germany and wasn’t
able to come on our trip.
We met up with Tina and
Xylia and had a wonderful lunch at "Clever Dick’s" – overflowing plates of
sandwiches and salad – and then went down the cobble stoned thoroughfare
past the familiar – woolen shops, John Knox’s House, the Museum of
Childhood – and the new – a wonderful used book store specializing in used
children’s books and magazines, and the construction site of the new
Scottish Parliament building. I especially enjoyed browsing the children’s
book store, imagining myself back in one of my favourite libraries in
Dundee, selecting from Enid Blyton, "Just William" books by Richmal
Compton or the Stevenson and Scott classics. In the window was a Mabel
Luci Atwell kitchen poster, a partner to our bathroom picture, which my
children recited to me there on the street – "Please remember, don’t
forget, never leave the bathroom wet; nor leave the soap still in the
water, that’s the thing we never oughter. Nor leave the towels about the
floor, or take a bath an hour or more when other folks are wanting one.
Please don’t forget, it isn’t done."
And I thought it must be
true that if you leave things up on the walls long enough, like about 40
years, sometimes the messages sink in. And, by the way, I recently rented
a World War II spy movie video based on a true story called "Charlotte
Grey" I think starring Kate Winslett, and one of the props in a scene in
the movie (came out just a few years ago) was that very same little
bathroom picture. So, I went into the shop to check on the price of the
kitchen picture and when I learned it was for sale for £25 (about $45) I
decided we have an heirloom on our bathroom wall.
Oh, there’s so much to
tell, I’d have to give you a tour through Scotland to do this diary
justice. Scotland’s heritage is also in our story telling and pride in our
history. Nan said to me today, "Mum," – really, she did say "mum" – "Now I
see where you get it from." The best I can get her to describe "it" as is
"personality and character." Hmmm.
After viewing Holyrood
house from the outside we decided to head back up the hill towards our
Edinburgh "home." I wasn’t ready to stop my strolling, so wandered around
Princes Mall after the children left me, where I found a wonderful book
shop, practically giving their books away: a Scottish woolen shop with 75%
of sales; and an Edinburgh water colours cart selling beautiful art at an
extremely reasonable price.
By then I was ready to take
my now weary feet home. We may be going to war with Iraq in days. Tina
tells me her fiancé is afraid we’ll be stranded here in Scotland if the
airports are closed – gee, do I look heartbroken?
Schoolchildren here in
Edinburgh had a scheduled antiwar demonstration down Princes Street today.
I happened to be at the head of Princes Street, at the North Bridge when
that began. I started chatting with a Scots couple, a little older than
me, standing near me; we were all of the mind that these kids "only wanted
a day off school." It turned out this is an Edinburgh couple, and the
husband used to go up to Dundee, to the Hilltown, to the Caldrum Street
"steamy" area that’s no longer there to spend holidays in my Hilltown with
his cousin. Small world.
Speaking of what’s no
longer there, that happened here, too. I found the location of the pub my
Mum used to take me to get lunch and to be taken with her to the back to
see Darnley’s Waistcoat. That’s now a block of flats – I’ll tell that
story to my girl friends next week when we tour Holyrood House.
Which brings me to the here
and now. The children have returned bringing me a "bangers and mash"
microwave meal and chocolate sponge cakes for my supper. Stephanie says
she knows which "Scottish comfort food" to bring me.
They’ve all gone off to the
Hard Rock Café, Edinburgh. I have TV, one of my three wonderful books I
bought for three for £10 today at Princes Mall, grapes, and Scottish
tablet and a great evening ahead.
It’s now quite dark.
Electric light is glowing from an old Edinburgh street lamp outside my
window and since "Leerie" has long since gone I shall, remembering Robert
Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses, retire myself for the night.
here to see photos of the day