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Charlotte Juarez's Going Home
Saturday, March 29 - Glasgow on a Saturday

March 29th, 2003
Glasgow, Second Night 5:35 p.m.

We had a lovely, lovely day today in Glasgow. Walking around the shops in Sauchiehall Street and Buchanan Street has changed since “my day” and I certainly was never able to stay overnight in a hotel. I think the one and only time I stayed over was in 1963 or thereabouts when the Glasgow Stake of the Church was organized by President David O. McKay and we stayed in the YWCA in bunk bedded dorms. That’s when I met Richard Albiston from Aberdeen. I almost married him – I was 16 and did accept his proposal, he was about 20. But I was too young for that level of commitment and my dream was to go to America and find my father. By marrying Richard I would have had to give up that dream. I think of Richard often with fondness and happy memories of his and his parents and his sister, Gloria, whom we called Patsy. I last made a day trip to Glasgow in 1964 to receive my Patriarchal Blessing, which has been a comfort and a guide to me since that day.

Today was busy. All my plans and goals for my stay in Glasgow were met, plus a few more.

After breakfast - in a much larger dining room than the bed and breakfasts (since we’re staying at the Holiday Inn Express) we’re used to and with many more other diners, but just as uninhibited as we’ve been throughout our trip with much fun and laughter – Belinda and Kari went off to find and explore the University’s Museum of Social Work and search for St. Mungo in Glasgow Cathedral before their return to Edinburgh today. Lia, Suzanne, Robbie, Nickie and I went off to find the open top drive bus to take us around Glasgow, and that was in George Square. This little tour took us around in about an hour and I saw old and familiar sites – Kelvin Grove and the Botanical Gardens, as well as the Barras and the old Gorbals area where my mum would take me “for bargains” on our day trips with my granny; the bus went around Sauchiehall and Buchanan Streets, which have received major conversions into attractive pedestrian shopping walkways with a wonderful variety of shops; and I also especially enjoyed seeing Paddy’s Market (since I’ve often told my daughter’s that their rooms – when they lived at home with me – looked “like something out of Paddy’s Market”), the Docklands, and the new Armadillo convention center and concert hall.

Like Dundee, Glasgow is renovating old factories into flats and pulling down those mistakes of multi story housing projects. Perhaps this will reduce vandalism and other social problems – hope so. It’s stories like this that make me think really seriously about coming back to Scotland while I’m still relatively young to work in my field of social work, maybe make a contribution of some sort to other people’s lives in my country, and perhaps be able to give people chances like the one the Morgan Trust that my mother got in Dundee gave me to stay at the Harris and able to enjoy the life I have today. Who knows.

When we returned to George Square I paid homage to Glasgow’s war dead at the Cenotaph there because my mother had a friend in my father’s Canadian regiment, our of Windsor, Ontario, of the Essex Scottish who had originally been “a Glasgow lad.” I think he was killed with so many others at Dieppe.

Then we were ready to head toward my first goal of having lunch in the Willow Team Room, so I could see Mackintosh’s building design and interior decoration. My interest in Charles Rennie Mackintosh began a few years ago when my now 19 year old daughter, Xochitl, returning from a trip to my (American) brother’s home in San Antonio brought me home a lovely gold coloured metal bookmark from the Museum Shop there described as the Glasgow Rose pattern, with an information packet about Mackintosh and the “Glasgow School” of art, design and architecture that he, his wife, and their contemporaries were instrumental in establishing. So, ever since I’ve dabbled in learning about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This is apparently known to my family – shows how quiet I am about my interests – since Stephanie gave me the Glasgow Rose pattern necklace from Samuel’s in Dundee for my birthday.
The Willow Team Room was easy enough to find above Henderson’s jewelry store, which, not surprisingly has a good sized inventory of Glasgow Rose and Mackintosh inspired gifts. I didn’t care what was on the menu nor what it cost, or how exclusive the Team Room might be, I was determined I was going to experience a visit to this place. And along came Suzanne, Lia, Robbie and Nickie to support me. What good friends they are – especially since I realize that in my drive to get into the Team Room and have my experience that I might have bordered on the “I’m going in here with or without you” attitude. Thank you, my friends, for being so good to me.

Anyhow, it was packed, every table in the gallery at the time of our arrival around noon was filled, mostly with women enjoying lunch or tea and treats. My friends, God bless them, were willing to indulge me in my adventure, so they were lined on the stair behind me waiting for a table. I was at the head of the queue, right beside the waitress till and I asked her if this gallery tea room were original, and she told me the room upstairs was original and that it opened in five minutes. I promptly told her we would wait five minutes to get in there, and what a treat it was. And my friends took my unilateral decision very well, as they saw the people behind us being brought forward for tables in the Gallery while we waited for the tea room.

What a treat our visit was. Lunch for me was lentil soup, homemade, a smokey and a baked potato and salad with – wait for it – clootie dumpling and custard for afterwards. I had raspberry tea to drink and loved every bit and taste and drop, looking out Rennie Mackintosh’s stained lead glass windows, comfortable in a straightbacked Mackintosh designed chair and seated at a table decorated with the design of the Glasgow Rose. I may have looked a little the worse for wear since we have been traveling so much, and certainly wasn’t finely dressed, but what a pleasure to be in that wonderful room that has seen so much of our 20th Century Scottish history.

I gave a thought or two to the ladies of the early 1900’s tea room culture who were seeking a place to visit and escape the smoke and hurly burly jollity of the pubs and wondered if their conversations then centered around current events and their effect on our families, as our conversations did. I gave a thought, too, to the treat occasion when my Granny would take me into Rough and Fraser’s tea room at Broughty Ferry at the end of a special day out.

After our lunch in the Tea Room I wandered the showroom of Henderson’s the jeweler through which patrons enter to get to the Willow Tea Room and I bought a Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired quaich as a wedding gift for Xochitl for when she marries her long time fiancé, Kevin Kane, in May.

Our next stop today was the Tenement House. Robbie and Nickie went off to get ready for their Edinburgh train, and Suzanne went back to the hotel to rest, so this was for Lia and me, an opportunity for the two original Girls Road Trippers to have a little moment or two together. And that was special to me because Lia is one of the finest, kindest and most loving women I have ever met – and I wanted to absorb some of her goodness all to myself into my life for a little while. And the Tenement House exploration gave me that chance.

I really wanted to take my friends here to show them, in this restored gas lit middle class tenement home a little touch of my own tenement background, although certainly not middle class or as fine as this one, but close enough.

I’m proud of where I come from and the values of hard work and the foundation of family stories and traditions that my Granny gave me. Tenement people were good people. The conditions we lived in, based upon today’s accepted ideas of rights, if you would accept that term, to bathrooms, central heat, electrical power, etc., were nowhere near the standards we expect today. But I’ve not yet lived in any place that had the sense of community that can only come from generations living in the same neighbourhoods and in the same rented houses and buildings even, as we had at the Top of the Hill in Dundee. We were “a’ thegither” I think struggling to make ends meet, working hard, and meeting life’s challenges and setbacks not necessarily always with hope but a determination to get through them and a belief (definitely not a confidence) that we could.

After our walk to get to the Tenement House and another back to the Holiday Inn, getting a wee bit lost both ways, Lia and I met our friends on the way out to the train station and made plans to meet up at Mingalar tomorrow. Lia and I joined Suzanne and took a little rest, then went out for an excellent Indian restaurant meal. I had a hard time holding on to my sense of humour and not laughing (not with any spite, mind you) every time our young waiter came to talk to us. He was obviously of Indian descent, but he had the strongest, clearest, Glasgow accent I had heard all day. Scotland is now a multi-ethnic country, and no longer purely Caucasian as I remembered in my life there in 1965. And this young man’s voice was evidence to me of the new Scots who can lay claim to Wallace and Bruce just as I can lay claim to American heroes. Welcome .

Then we went off to the pictures, to see Pierce Brosnan in “Evelyn”, an independent Irish themed movie that he produced and starred in. Modern picture going, as measured by going to the multiplex on Pike Street, is a lot like in the United States – with a few differences. This 25 screen theater was built on five stories, there was a concession stand on each floor, so it goes up instead of out as I’m used to in Arizona. Maybe back East where’s there’s less available land in those States the movies are multistoried multiplexes. Candy was available and ice cream, too, in the concession stands – not so unusual for picture going in Scotland as I remembered it – but there were also nachos and popcorn, new since I went last to see a film in Dundee. Usherettes are gone, and the movies are no longer showing double features back to back with picture goers being able to go in at any time and sit through till the spot they came in at, or longer. Now we see movies here the same way we do in America, on schedule, one picture at a time. No Pathe news either, by the way, or the orangeade ads for “Kia-ora, Aurora.” Or the usherette changing into an ice-cream seller (like my mum did when she worked at the Vic in Dundee) and strapping on her little tray of goodies and selling them down in front of the screen during the break between pictures.

But some thing’s never change – my usual seat at the movies in Phoenix is on the back row and in deference to Lia and Suzanne who didn’t seem to be backrowers, I settled us into seats in the second back row. I had forgotten this is reserved in Scotland by unwritten rule for coupes to giggle and laugh and explore other activities in the dark rows of the pictures! And there were about half a dozen couples who came in later and sat behind us in the very back row. Ah, fond memories. (And to show my age, I did to them what had been done to me by “auld wifies” in the past – turned around when they became a little too rambunctious to tell them to be quiet and to “mind ither fowk are here to waatch the picture!”) Another life experience I have missed, now gained!

So, here I am, now in my hotel room almost on the last day of my visit home to Scotland. I’m not ready to go home, but I am ready to return to work and make a contribution into other people’s lives. I may be going home to the United States, but I will be taking my Scottish home with me when I leave.

Kilted lads for the fitba’ near Sauchiehall Street and Central Station

On our open top bus tour aroond Glesga’

The Armadillo (Convention Center) on a beautiful, cloudy Glasgow day

The Claymores and Sauchiehall Street

Lia on Sauchiehall Street on Saturday

Henderson’s the Jewellers, and the Willow Tea Room Leaded Windows

Henderson’s Roof Tops

Suzanne at Tea

Me at Tea, Charles Rennie Mackintosh Willow Tea Room, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow


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