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Charlotte Juarez's Going Home
March 21 - Edinburgh Transitions

March 21, 2003
Still Edinburgh

I had to check my watch to see what today’s date is. I believe it’s now Friday, and it is the 21st. I was so tired last night I didn’t have energy to write, so I read my book – easy reading and informative as though I were listening to the author telling tales with a mix of respect and affectionate disregard for the Stuart royal line, called "Dynasty" – whilst I was watching TV news about the just begun war in Iraq. The children went out to eat and Stephanie, knowing I’m on a taster tour of steak pie, brought me back "another offering" for my supper when they returned.

I might be coming down with a wee cold from sitting in the open top bus yesterday. I’m feeling a little rasp in my throat and have a touch of the sniffles. "Not to worry," as my mother used to say, I’ll just stop in at a nearby chemist and get the Scottish equivelant of non drowsy Contact and all will be well.

My family left this morning in a taxi "for six" that Min Sue had arranged. When you consider this taxi "for six" seemed to be a mini min-van and my children between them had at least eight suitcases, plus backpacks, and purses of various shapes and sizes I was amazed to see the driver fit bodies, bags and baggages in by dint of heft and shove. I gave him a hearty round of applause as I sit there at Mingalar’s gate in my jimmies and jacket, as he squeezed himself into the remaining small space behind the steering wheel.

So, here I am at the launderette having a solo adventure while I wait for mother and daughter friends (Robbie and Nickie) and me e-mail pal and her two companions (Lia, Suzanne, Kathie) to join me for our girls’ road trip around Scotland and the Isles. My dialysis co-worker and her chum (Belinda and Kari) will show up tomorrow and we’ll be all together for our adventure.

My first impressions of the launderette attendant were less than favourable. In my mind, I’ve named her my little ray of sunshine since she’s the first ill tempered and unfriendly person I’ve encountered on this trip – apart from the Englishman who bounded up behind me at breakfast at Mingalar and nabbed my toast from toaster to his plate with the speed of lightning, a cry of "That’s my toast" as though he were Edmund Hillary and had just reached the summit of Mt Everest, and not even an "excuse me" to my sherpa Tensing – you know, the guy who did all the work!

But now, as I observe her interactions with obviously frequent customers and delivery men, I understand that she’s having an unusually bad day. Punctuated by several "blodies" and bangs and slams of washer and drier doors, trolleys and baskets, and a ditty unfamiliar to me that she’s singing, it appears this poor woman has "been here since twenty to eight, never seen it sae busy, and wi’ a’ the fowk comin’ and gaein’ I havena’ had time to dae the loads o’ waash needin’ don."

Maybe she just needs to take advantage of some of the Reiki services that are advertised on brochures and fliers in front of where I’m sitting writing this.

Yesterday was another good day.

Like every recent morning, but not today which is clear, sunny and quite warm (for Scotland, I think) the day began misty and cool. Nevertheless, our plan was to take our open top bus tour around the Old and New towns of Edinburgh. We elected the Green Bus for value and variety, and because there was a live guide.

She sat on top where we were, which gave me a chance for off the microphone chats with her about my memories and knowledge of Edinburgh. When we left the bus, she told me she was from Stanley, where my great, great, great grandfather lived, and that she had had a teacher in Primary School named Mrs McIntosh whose family had lived in Stanley for generations. Another welcome feeling about coming home with my family filled my heart.

(Our poor launderette lady has a helper now and is cheerily laughing as she goes about her business. That’s a good thing. On an aside, we’re quite international here – an Englishman just dropped off his dry cleaning, and a young Australian couple on honeymoon appear just as lost as I am with the money, machines, and madness of this morning.)

But, back to yesterday – I really enjoyed the bus tour past Edinburgh’s seemingly equal number of magnificent churches and welcoming pubs – one of each on every corner almost. Judith, our guide was very informative as we circled the Castle and roamed Old Town – the Grassmarket, Greyfriears and "wee Bobby," the Royal Mile, St Giles and the current as well as the under construction Scottish Parliament sites, views of Arthur’s Seat and the Pentlands, along Carlton Hill and into New Town with its shops, parks, monuments, fine homes and businesses. Truly the historic center of our country and the "Athens of the North."

I enjoyed best seeing Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood home and reminding Nathan of our recent grandmother and grandson adventures around Thanksgiving lst year when I took him to see "Treasure Planet," then on the same day rented the video of Disney’s original "Treasure Island" and we went to the library (same day again) and borrowed, then read together Stevenson’s book.

I asked our guide if it were possible that the street lamp by the red door of Stevenson’s home could have been the lamp the leerie lit and Stevenson memorialized in his collection "A Child’s Garden of Verses." Indeed, it was, Judith told me. I thought then of Stevenson writing his memories of that home and childhood for children to enjoy right up to this day – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; I have a little shadow; Bed in Summer; My Counterpane, etc.

When we finished our bus tour I took the family over to Greyfriar’s Bobby’s Bar for a very enjoyable lunch – with an extra of steamed treacle pudding with custard, for me. I’m still looking for clootie dumpling, without any luck so far, but maybe in the Highlands I’ll find some. There’s been plenty of haggis and neeps and tatties on the pub menus, but I’d rather order that while on our girls road trip.

Mingalar, 12:30 p.m.

Well, I left the launderette lady much happier than I found her and I’m now back at Mingalar having gone up to the Chemist for some Contact.

It was almost like going to the doctor and very much as I remember my childhood life, with the difference that I left the shop with Contac capsules instead of "powders" for my predicament.

Like days gone by, I received individual attention, many medications being "behind the counter." I told the chemist, or pharmacist, about my slight ailment and was asked if I were taking any medications and what for. I gave up the info on the two meds I take daily, forgetting to include my herbal potassium supplement of Km and my twice daily glucosamine condroiten. Approving this mix, the chemist gave me my nondrowsy, 12 hour Contac, which I have dutifully dosed myself with, and here I am back at our bed and breakfast.

Not all my laundry is quite dry, and I’m thinking my granny’s "horse" would be quite handy right now. But, it’s a sunny, warm day and I’ve draped my still damp jeans and socks over chairs in front of my sunny bedroom windows.

All I need are some "soor plooms" (which I’ve seen available as souverinirs of past days in little gift jars) to "sook" on and, sitting by my laundry, turning it to catch the drying heat, I’d really be filling my granny role, or, since I’ve been widowed so long, not quite, but close enough, to be able to sing "What’ll I dae if I dee an auld maid in a garrett?"

In fact, as I carted my laundry to the laundrett earlier in my little wheeled suitcase, I didn’t feel so far removed from my mother and her Hilltown "sisters" pushing "auld prams" filled no longwe withy offspring, but with their washing on their way to the Steamie in Caldrum Street to boil and wash and wring and dry on steel railed racks in hot steaming cabinets. I truly felt grown up when I reached eleven or so and was permitted to come in to the "steamie" instead of "biding" in the waiting room with other "bairns." These women, because I can’t recall seeing any men or boys there, worked very hard and the work must have been exhausting – pushing, pulling, pounding, wringing, rolling and racking their family washing, then pushing it home, up braes, still damp in the prams, to hang on horses and pull them up to the living room or kitchen ceilings to dry.

And I feel inconvenienced when my drier or washer go out on me temporarily and I have to wait for a repairman.

Well, I still haven’t finished reporting on yesterday’s fun and games. Clive, our host at Mingalar, has just come upstairs to me as I write this while waiting for my first friends to join me, to tell me he has received an e-mail from one of our group canceling her trip. Apparently, our Rochester group got separated. Two have been rerouted through Ontario, and one couldn’t get on a plane at all, and has surrendered to circumstances and has decided not to join us.

I’ve written an e-mail to her encouraging her to reconsider because there are still two or three days until we start tripping around Scotland. Today is Friday, if she were to leave tomorrow she should be able to get into Edinburgh by Sunday and come up to Dundee with us and still enjoy at least the road trip. I feel so sad. It’s too late to refund her share of the road travel, and I’m not sure I can get refunds on the bed and breakfasts because we’ve set them up as family or double room arrangements in Dundee, Skye, Inverness, Aberdeen and Glasgow. I got special rates at the Hilton in Aberdeen and Holiday Inn in Glasgow and I’m afraid these are set in stone under room, rather than per person rates. That financial loss is going to be quite significant and that’s really a shame. I hope she has travel insurance which may take the bite out of some of the costs. Perhaps this whole war situation and the iffy-ness of air travel is causing her some concern. I do hope she decides to try again and come with us. What a heartbreak.

It’s 1:15 in the afternoon now, and hopefully some of my friends have survived their flights and are somewhere near Edinburgh.

So, where was I about yesterday? Ah, yes – the happy launderette lady – when I left her she had moved on to dreaming about winning this weeks’s £9 million lottery and proclaiming "This joab was be the furst tae go. I would nae work oot my noice – no’ efter a day like the day."

Makes me wonder what I would do – certainly almost tempts me to buy a ticket.

But, going back to yesterday, the children (including the grand ones) were more of a mind to visit "Underground Edinburgh" than join me in exploring the Museum of Scotland. So we separated to follow our own interests. They later told me, Stephanie especially, that it was just as well I didn’t go with them. I’m the one who jumps and screams in scarey movies – even videos at home. The last theater movie I was at to see a scarey movie was "The Others" with Nicole Kidman, and I acted true to form. No one will go with me to these kind of shows. So, I’ll take their word for it that Underground Edinburgh is worth the visit.

But I had a wonderful time reviewing Scottish history from Pictish to the Present – exhibits showing the land, the people, the environment, industry, survival, spiritual beliefs and religious practices, etc. I was the only participant in the announced invitation to join an "introduction to Scotland" tour and had a one on one tour, accompanied by a very gracious and informative guide with whom I was able to share my reconstruction of my four years of history at Harris Academy in Dundee – and found I’d retained more than I thought I had.

Maybe Miss Spaulding’s efforts weren’t all in vain, after all – even though I spent my share of time thrown out of class for being "cheeky" and I think I got strapped at least three times by her every year. I was a rascal. Loved history, Must have been bored and not challenged enough in her class. Interesting, I have a boss who told me that she’s noticed that when I’m challenged and maybe have an interesting project or two to work on I do my best work. Things haven’t changed much, I suppose.

I loved my time in Edinburgh and in the museum so much that maybe I will follow my family’s recommendation and come back to Scotland as a tour guide for all who care, or dare, to join me through Bonnie Dundee and beyond.

Edinburgh’s schoolchildren seem to be enjoying two days of what we used to call "plunking" or playing hookey about the war in Iraq – I did it once, got caught and taken to school in the Black Maria, came home after school and found the local bobby having tea with my mum and gran and never did that again!

Strolling home to Mingalar I bumped into the gathering place for another march. This time it was at St Giles and the Tolbooth after school. Policemen were out in force, including two rented (one from Enterprise) mini-vans holding about a dozen bobbies each, as well as motor cycle and mounted police. A piper was playing, anti war literature was being handed out, Scottish Socialist Party and Amnesty International people had banners waving. I staying long enough to take some pictures and refuse literature.

Since my children had told me "don’t talk to anybody" I only made one comment along the lines of "No, thanks. I support the President and our troops." Mellow for me. Then I left.

And that was my day yesterday.

It’s now almost warm. Mingalar is all mine. Warm sun is streaming through the floor to ceiling windows into this beautifully high ceilinged guest room with its marble fireplace and ensuite facilities. Just lovely. The weatherman just its 15 degrees Celsius, about 63 Fahrenheit here in Edinburgh on "this Spring equinox." Sun is forecast for Edinburgh and Dundee "now that we are into Spring," says the weatherman.

I hope we all join up together to enjoy this great weather – and I hope my children are having an equally beautiful day on their London adventure today.

Click here to see photos of the day

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