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Charlotte Juarez's Going Home
Sunday, March 30 - Edinburgh Again


March 30th, 2003, 11:30 a.m.
Edinburgh train from Glasgow Central

Another bright, sunny Scottish day greeted me this morning at half past eight. But this was not our wake-up call – that came earlier, six hour earlier in fact, at half past two when all sorts of red lights and sirens started flashing and roaring above my head in my room, and every single light went on.

Awakened from a deep sleep, my startle reflex went into action: What had I done? How do I turn this off? Oh, my goodness, I’m going to waken people up! What do I do?

After pushing bedside lamp switches for the umpteenth time – still in my sleep state – and finding nothing happening – sirens and red lights continuing to flash and spin and lights still shining brightly – I started to waken up and thought, "Oh, I know this from work. Maybe there’s a fire in the building. Could these be fire alarms? Funny, no sprinklers dousing me, but maybe it is a fire." I jumped out of bed and ran to the door. Poking my head right through the door – without checking to see if it was hot or smoke coming in under it as I had been taught at work in our quarterly fire drills (ah, well, I’ll do better next time) – I saw a corridor of heads peeking out of the other doors and thought we all must look like, in the words of my mother," Coos looking ower a dyke waiting for milking time."

That’s when I realized this must be real – what hotel chain in its right mind, like Holiday Inn, would do such a thing as run a fire drill in a full hotel (filled with soccer fans probably) after 2 o’ clock in the morning in a city where the national soccer team had just triumphed over a hard fought international match against Iceland and won 1-0? No, this had to be real.

Slipping on shoes and throwing my coat over my jammies, I stepped out into the quietly empty corridor, then realizing I was without passport, money, return tickets to the US, I went back for these. (I realized later, when I was outside with the other guests, that I’d left my journal, cameras, and rolls of film, and was sorely tempted to go back in to get them – just like other people go back into burning buildings for pets or children – but knew I’d never get past the hotel people. So, I stood there and fretted and was hopeful my memories of Scotland would be ok so longs as I didn’t see smoke or hear crackling.)

Standing outside in the cold, I realized the only other time I had every been near a fire was when I was in my teens and I watched our local fire brigade unsuccessfully try to prevent the old Dundee Rep in Ward Road, not far from Dewars auction rooms, from burning down. That drew quite a crowd, too.

We were a very calm crowd, filing down the stairs – because you know you don’t use elevators in case of fire – and assembling outside the hotel. Right at the door, mind you, exactly where falling debris could land on our heads if this really was a fire. We were an interesting array of bedtime fashions. A couple of girls were barefoot and in pajamas only with no handbags or other possessions. They obviously had taken this thing seriously. Others, like me, were in night things and coats. A third group, like my friend, Lia, were fully dressed (right down to socks and lace up shoes and unmentionables – which to me would have been the least of my concerns - with hair combed and probably faces washed and teeth brushed and flossed. They must have been the stiff upper lip crowd. I think the first group out was the one I was numbered among – otherwise known as the "what the hell is going on" gang.

There was no smoke, no flames, no evidence of anything unusual –which was just as well since all the guests were gathered right under the awning and at the front door of this building which continued to have lights flashing and sirens screaming.

We cheered (I think I led that) the three fire engines when they arrived and the brave men who shouldered their way through our multi arrayed curious crown into the building in which, as far as I could see, absolutely nothing was happening.

They weren’t in very long before they were out again, gave cheery waves to our second round of cheers and applause and drove off in their shiny bright fire engines.

When we were trooping back in, I asked the hotel rep what had happened. He told me someone had been smoking in a non-smoking room. I asked him if he knew who it was and he said, "Aye, but we’re not going to tell you in case there are retaliations against him." And I answered in my best Dundee, "Wha? Me?"

(Just a note here, I remember one a well known Dundee writer used to write funny articles for the "Tully" about Dundee, Dundonians and our dialect and he had a great one once – that I wish I could get my hands on – called something like "The Race of the Whammies". "Whame?" was a common Dundee phrase that I haven’t used in a long time. But, every school morning when I get my ten year old grandson out of bed, I waken him with, "Nathan, Uryupyet?" just to keep Dundee alive in our lives.)

Anyhow, here we are now on the train headed to Edinburgh for a last day together, before the rest of my friends leave to return to America. Robbie and Nickie are in England with a planned side trip to Stonehenge today. I was looking forword to joining them on the First to meet then to fly home together. But when I checked my flight on USAir this morning I learned my flight had been put forward an hour. So, due to my connection with British Air not getting in until an hour earlier, I’ve been rerouted to a later flight back to the US.

We had a pleasant surprise when we boarded this train – the conductor who helped us on with our baggage refused the tip we offered – certainly, for any who read this, should lay to final rest any misconceptions about Scottish generosity in financial matters. I’m sure this wouldn’t have been turned down in the US and probably not England either.

It was a funny sight, our getting on the train. I went up to a Stationmaster type person before the platform was announced to ask for help for Lia, Suzanne and me getting on the train with our luggage. He called on his two way for help for us and told me to go over to Platform 2. Now, the platform still hadn’t been announced. I quietly went back to Lia and Suzanne and whispered, "Follow me to Platform 2" and not only did they follow me, but it seemed every waiting passenger who saw us move. This train is full, so it was a long line – reminded me for all the world of my mother’s war stories about shortages and when the word got out that batteries, or gas mantles, or butter, or eggs or any other thing were available at a certain location, then crowds of people, men, women and children, would rush off , tightly grasping ration books, to queue up and make sure they got their share of whatever might be available.

Watching all these people follow us, I also gave a mind to my Granny’s descriptive phrase about leaders and followers – "There goes the hens’ mad march to the midden." Maybe that picture from my gran is the reason I’ve never been much of a follower!

So, now here we are at Linlithgow, and I’m going to sit back and enjoy the ride into Edinburgh.

***

Another wonderful day in Scotland has now ended. We had a lovely Sabbath in each other’s company. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Robbie and Nickie had not yet left for London, so we had one last reunion, the seven of us, here at Mingalar in which our adventures of yesterday were recounted. I, of course, had a new and improved version of the fire alarm events in Glasgow, the others recounted their tales from the very scary Edinburgh underground dungeon tour. Nickie told how she attempted to climb the Scott Monument – she got up to the first level then called it a day for the rest of the 286 very narrow steps!

We all waved Robbie and Nickie goodbye – of course, I’ll meet up with them really soon in Phoenix to share our, no kidding, hundreds of photographs and hear about their day in London and tour to Stonehenge – (a little add on here as I type this in Phoenix – if I tell you that Robbie and Nickie found out first hand that everything I had ever told them about the English was pretty much on the mark, does that give you the picture of which side of the border Robbie and Nickie learned offers true hospitality?)

Lia, Suzanne, Belinda, Karie and I took some snooze time before going out and discovering a wonderful moderately priced Thai restaurant near Mingalar where we had a delicious and very convivial – my new word for laughter and lots of fun – last meal of our trip together at "The Thai Me Up in Edinburgh."

Conversations turned again and again in a natural manner to our trip. My friends say they are ready to, reluctantly, close our adventure and go back to our various realities. But they describe themselves as refreshed by the tour, very much impressed by the friendliness, courtesies, and generosity of every Scottish man, woman and child they encountered, and strengthened by the closeness we created among one another.

They surprised me with very lovely and thoughtful gifts that I will very much treasure as true mementoes and tangible pieces of each of these special women which will stay with me forever.

The trip was a success. My friends are happy and I am happy that they have truly learned about our country’s culture, history, character of the people and where Scotland fits in the world perspective of yesterday, today and tomorrow. I feel as though with these six women I’ve made a contribution in a people to people way that will in some small way benefit this land that is my land and whose people are "surely my own, flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone."

I feel as though I have just one piece of unfinished business. That is my day at the Scottish Records Office. It would be nice to find a new name and a new link of any sort to my ancestors; but that’s not important. I will be in the home of my ancestors’ records – no even my own record of birth and marriage should be there , too – and, in a sense, touching the dust (emotional, spiritual and national) that is the link, like a drystane dyke, that keeps my eternal family together, each of us in our proper and appointed place.

I’m happy and proud to be an American; I am equally proud and happy and appreciative to the God who loves us all that he allowed me to be born a Scot.

Sunday at Central Station

 


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