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Charlotte Juarez's Going Home
Wednesday, March 19 - Auld Reekie


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 rooms.

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 to me.

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.

Click here to see photos of the day


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