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Charlotte Juarez's Going Home
Thursday, March 13

Thursday, March 13, 2003
3/13/03, or as we write it here 13/3/03.

We had a quiet day at Joy’s this morning – another lovely breakfast, then packed our bags, on last check on e-mail before my enforced absence until I imagine I’ll have internet access again when I get back to Phoenix on April 1st.

We were kindly welcomed at the Dunlaw House Hotel by Douglas and Barbara and show up to the Studio, sometimes cheerily known as the "Penthouse Suite" according to Douglas, our host. This had to have been the attic servants’ quarters at one time, and it’s been warmly and cheerily remodeled and decorated to be two bedrooms, each with room for three beds (one is two put together making a very large double if you like), and an en suite shower, sink and toilet. There’s a little lounge in the center with tea and coffee making service and a TV in an alcove. It’s just lovely.

We have a great view that overlooks Dundee and the Tay and can see the Old Steeple, St Andrew’s Cathedral, the Queen’s Hotel and over the river to Fife with ease. It’s warm, too, up here in the Studio – no need at all to plug in the heaters and nice fresh air coming in the windows.

After we were settled in an unpacked the girls were in two minds (each, therefore equaling four!) as to whether they wanted to adventure down to the railway station with me to wait for Stephanie and Nathan to arrive from their flight from Phoenix through Philadelphia then to Gatwick and up to Edinburgh, then bus from Turnhouse to Waverly Station then up here to Dundee by train.

I’m glad they decided to come with me from up here in the Hilltown "doon the toon." Constitution Road is a hill that must have bequeathed its sister to any I’ve seen in San Francisco, and, like them, it is so much better to go down than up the "Conshie Brae." The girls made the condition we took a taxi back to our new Dundee home.

So, off we went – only getting slightly lost once when we totally missed the pedestrian underpass of the roadway that somebody built at the foot of the Conshie during the 40 years or so I’ve been gone. We had a few stops to ask passersby our next step and, not wanting to appear ignorant of "meh hame toon" I recalled my American accent for those enquiries.

The Tay Bridge Station hasn’t changed much. The ticket taker at the top of the stairs down to the platform is gone, but those stairs are unchanged – what I did feel different was not having to sneak past the station master without having a "platform ticket: to wait for my daughter and her son to come in on her train.

Although the platform is closed in, and the roof is lowered in the waiting area, you can still stand on the platform and look for the train coming round the bend and listen for its whistle as it approaches from the Tay Brig and Riverside Drive approach. I’m sure that’s the same clock telling time and, at the end of the platform, two rabbits played where their many generations of ancestors must have romped on an embankment carpeted by daffodils in full yellow bloom.

We had a bit of a wait, and it wasn’t until the third train from Edinburgh came in that we were joined by Stephanie and Nathan. But we made good use of the hour and a half or so we were waiting. I told Xylia stories about stationmasters whose loud whistles and flag waves set the train on its way; I told her about engine drivers and their helpers who kept the steam up to power the train as it puffed its way along, and I bragged that Harry Potter’s Hogwart Express is, indeed, a Scottish train and engine like the many that took me on travels, via Runabout Tickets, with my mother and granny. I told her "toffy" I felt when we rode in a train with a corridor and a toilet, and not just compartments. I remembered, too, my last ride on a train in Scotland – a diesel engine with the old fashioned compartments, from Dundee’s West Port Station up to Montrose to meet friends so I could continue my single minded pursuit of her grandfather.

Stephanie and Nathan finally arrived. Adriana, too, had made good use of her time waiting for her sister and nephew. She’s met a nice young 6th Year lad from Arbroath High School and had been chatting with him – I wonder if they still use the expression "chatting Up’ in these cases? – and after about an hour or so it seems they did get to the point of exchanging e-mail addresses. I hope they corresponded – friendships like this are what help keep a little more peace in the world.

Seems that Stephanie and nine-year-old Nathan did have some adventures flying across the Atlantic involving little bags for Nathan’s use found in the seat pockets of his US Airways flights. If he wasn’t quite green when he staggered off the train, he was pretty close to it.

I missed the old black Dundee taxis that were no longer there at the taxi stand – you could stuff a load of people and bags in these. These little five seaters just couldn’t accommodate our group. So we sent the girls and Nathan home to Dunlaw House Hotel in the taxi with the bags, and Stephanie elected to walk with me. I told her there was quite a hill, she didn’t believe me. I told her it was a "really steep brae." I don’t think she understood me.

We had a nice walk home around old and new Dundee. I heard a little gasp when she saw the Conshie, and I was clearly reminded of how she’s only had two hours sleep in the last 26, but she said she could make it. She did a better job than I did, but I know we were both glad to turn the corner into Union Terrace.

I was pointing sites our to her as we had passed them – the Children’s Library where I’d won the Grimm’s Fairy Tales now in her possession, the Breadalbane Arms (now known as "The Bread") across the street from the Old Howff (bodies now removed and the foundation of a multi story car park), and the Dundee School of Music where Miss Cita Angus truly taught me all I know of speech, drama, elocution – but Stephanie missed them all I think once we started our hike up the hill. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that the Studio/Penthouse/former maid’s attic quarters were up three lovely flights of stairs.

It’s warm up here as I write this. Adriana and Steph visited a while with Nan giving Steph an update on life and how the Scots live it; Nathan and Xylia played together a little while, but it was clearly time for "our visitors" to "oor Dundee" to rest.

The girls and I went back down the Conshie to shop – since we now know our way around – for some fruit and beverages and other snacks and to have our supper. It was the funniest thing to see two Dundee lads stop Adriana near the Post Office and ask her if the Post Office (which we had just passed) was closed and watch her give answers due to her vast experience of Dundee’s post office, since we’ve made two trips there and passed it four times on our travels. I’m still not sure if these young men were really interested in the operations of the Post Office.

We found a nice little hamburger shop called "Kennedy’s New York Deli" and really enjoyed the Scottish idea of American hamburgers we had there. The cook told us about his daughter, aged 12, doing a project for school on Old Dundee. I was happy to give him some of the websites I’ve found in my searching for that very same subject. I’m sorry I’m not going to be here long enough to link up with the social history and oral history research groups here, but, who know, maybe next time I come back to Dundee there might be some time and opportunity to do that.

Speaking of next time, Nan said she’s very happy to be an American and live in America, but that she would really like to come back. That’s all I need to hear to believe this trip is a success.

We did take a taxi back to Dunlaw House – the cars have a benefit we don’t have as pedestrians, since the Conshie is one way going down – they can’t go up it! The taxi cost the same as the bus – even a few pence cheaper – so I didn’t mind spending Monday on what my granny would have considered an extravagance.

Come to think of it, this is only the second taxi I’ve ever ridden in Dundee – the other being on my way to my wedding in St Leonard’s Church in St Mary’s on the 13th November, 1965.

And that was only a one way trip, because my groom drove our little honeymoon car, borrowed from a friend, to the aforementioned wedding lunch at the then known as Breadalbane Arms (small lunch, for about 12). I had rainbow trout and John had chicken.

It is now about ten at night. Quiet and peaceful. The silent sounds of my sleeping family are around me in a little attic suite, in a bed and breakfast hotel near the Top of the Hill in my home town in Scotland.

I’m blessed.

The view from Tay Bridge Station Platform. The spire of St Andrew’s Cathedral, multi stories, and the outline of the Queens Hotel are behind the bank of daffodils where two little rabbits were playing as we waited for Stephanie and Nathan to join us in Dundee.

Nathan, Xylia and Me not living by Bread alone

Douglas and Barbara, our hosts at the Dunlaw House Hotel

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