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Charlotte Juarez's Going Home
Friday Night, March 14

Friday Night, March 14, 2003 7:45 p.m.
Dunlaw House. The Studio.

It’s evening. Dundee’s lights are shining below us, and I’m here with my two grandchildren, Xylia (11) and Nathan (9) while my daughters Stephanie and Nan go off to look for the last of my family coming over – my eldest daughter Tina, and her daughter, Edie (14).

I’m a wee bit worried. Tina sometimes has so many other things on her mind that she might have misplaced a minor detail – like where we’re staying in Dundee.

Stephanie tells me I shouldn’t worry because Tina and Edie didn’t leave Las Vegas until 5 last night, so we might reasonably not expect them off the Edinburgh train till about 9 or so tonight. So, they’ve gone off for another stroll “doon the toon beh the Conshie Brae”. This is a testament to the safety of Dundee’s streets that none of us thinking anything of our little forays after dark. And the reason they’re planning to take a taxi back has everything to do with the steepness of the Conshie and nothing to do with fears for personal safety.

Anyhow, today’s adventures –

My family all ordered a Dunlaw Scottish breakfast and cleared away in fine fashion their cereal, juice, toast, tea, coffee, eggs, sausage, bacon, grilled tomatoes, and fruit. We only passed on the black pudding (the girls were game until they learned what made it black) and beans (which we all know is meant to be eaten for supper, on toast!)

After breakfast we were out the door. Pointing out the family related (really me I realize) sites, I took them down Barrack Street to the “Berrick” Park (I never called it Dudhope Park) and the fine Castle located there. My chums and I used to play in the forecourt there on swings, seesaw, roundabout and maypole and perform on the stage put up there in the summers for children programs and activities by the parks and recreation department. Once, since the Castle has been at one time headquarters for the local force of the Black Watch we were allowed inside to see the Iron Maiden housed there. I told my family about this thrilling medieval instrument of torture and death and half hoped it would still be there, perhaps encased in glass, just for me to show it off.

The Castle is more lovely with its white painted exterior than I remember from my childhood days and it certainly has been restored and seemed to be in use with two full parking lots, one where my playground had been. I was a wee bit surprised not to see any National Trust for Scotland signs quoting opening hours and visitor fees; but breezed in with my family anyhow. The security guard there told us the Castle was now an extension building for classes of the University of Abertay. Good to see an historic monument become part of Scotland’s educational future. But, sadly, I learned my old friend the Iron Maiden was no longer there. “Probably,” said the guard, “it just rusted away somewhere.”

We then headed over toward the City Museum, passing the Breadalbane and taking a picture of the children on the paving stones where their grandfather, whom they never knew because he died so young, and I had stood when we had our wedding lunch there over 37 years ago.

Stephanie was taken by the children coming out to the playground at Dundee High School. She thought the students were either very young or very short to be in High School. Once she understood that Dundee High School had a primary school and these were elementary school age children playing soccer and not very, very short teenagers, she noticed their uniforms and gasped, “They’re wearing shorts!” This called for another explanation regarding the traditional age for a boy to be moved into long trousers and the miracle of knee length socks (or ho’ tops) that keep children’s legs warm also in the gap between the point below the knee and the top of the socks.

We had a wonderful time in what I’ll always call the City Museum and the Old Reverence Library, but Dundee has renamed “The McManus Galleries.” My children and grandchildren roamed the galleries learning about Old Dundee from the exhibits there; viewing rescued stained glass windows from buildings long gone and others honouring Mary Slessor, William Wallace and other heroes of mine; enjoying the vast collection of art ranging over the centuries to the present; my photographer teenage daughter seeing the Beatles as they were in Dundee in the sixties with the same “unknown lady” who seemed to appear in so many of the newspaper photos in her blonde bouffant and mini-skirted youth; and all of us buying wonderful souvenir memories in the well stocked and reasonably priced gift shop.

I bought scraps – beautiful angel scraps that I shall carefully cut apart at their tags, just like I did when I was a girl, and place within the pages of this book to protect and treasure, but not to trade with a chum with an equally fine collection as mine – just like I did when I was a wee lass, living at the Top of the Hill and conducting my scrap book business at Hill Street and Butterburn Primary Schools.

By the time we finished in the museum and took a picture of Queen Victoria in front of this collection of buildings in Albert Square – Royal Albert Institute named for her husband – my family was ready for another trip up the Wellgate. Leaving Victoria, Xylia remarked Victoria looked old and seemed surprised to learn she became Queen when she was 18 (known to my Granny, her great grandmother as “Young Vic”) and reigned for, what?, over 60 years, by then known to my granny as “Auld Vic.”

People I’ve spoken to as we’ve wandered Dundee have all said, “Dundee has changed.” I’m not sure if it’s totally pride in progress – I think there’s some regret that we might not have preserved enough of our past. My answer has been, “True. But there’s enough left to remind me of what was once there.” My children are doing really well helping me find pieces of “what’s not there any more” – like some of the “Top of the Wellgate Steps”, the Hilltown Clock, even the cobblestones in Church Street that I always called “Keiller’s Pend.”

Today, though we shopped in what definitely wasn’t in Dundee when I was a lass – the Disney Store. I have to laugh. It was like going into a thrift store in a sense and finding a buy that wasn’t available any more where you’re from. I have two daughters who couldn’t come on this wonderful experience of a visit home to Dundee: Lays, who is married and a mother of a six year old daughter and a four year old son, has collected every kind of Alice in Wonderland memorabilia since she was a little girl; Xochitl is a little over 19, engaged to be married in May and the mother of a wonderful two year old son, and she has collected strictly Disney Sleeping Beauty memorabilia since her early childhood. Their souvenirs from Scotland are DVD’s from Dundee’s Disney Store of Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty no longer available to us in the US. Talk about bringing coals from Newcastle.

Still trying to educate my family – actually, reinforce education since I overheard Adriana saying, or mumbling, to Xylia, “you know we’ve been getting all this since we were two years old” – I took them down Castle Street to the Tayside Tourist Office where we were able to do more shopping and pick up free stuff for our trip planning to come – speaking of “free stuff” a note here – entrance to the McManus Galleries falls into that category. In addition, the Dundee China Shop a few doors up from the Tourist office had a wonderful sale of Charles Rennie McIntosh Glasgow Rose inspired teasets, cups, mugs, and dinner ware. I have to go back and get some.

We strolled past Braithwaite’s, the coffee importers, and I showed my family its Victorian interior, little changed from not only mine, but their granny’s day, and we headed up the Nethergate to Sutherland’s and their fine collection of quality Scottish goods – china, silver, woolens and Scottish made souvenirs.

This time was different for me. As a child, I remember looking in Sutherland’s windows at “the bonny things” but seldom being able to go in because we didn’t have the money to buy. Xylia purchased a little tartan backpack purse for herself – and another missing link in my childhood gently fell into place as my granddaughter filled my dream of shopping at Sutherland’s.

By now it was time to eat, and my group gratefully trooped back to the City Center with me. I was working them up for a group picture – Stephanie hates to have her picture taken – under Samuel’s clock. I had told them, as is true, this is where their father bought our wedding rings but I hadn’t told them this place was also known as “Duffer’s Corner.” Nor that I had, on occasion, been one of the poor souls “duffed”, or stood up, as I waited in vain for my expected teenage companion for a night out – perhaps to the “Underground” for a coke after a night at the “pictures” at Green’s Playhouse - with maybe even sharing a “chummy” seat for the two of us downstairs – definitely not upstairs in the balcony or over in the notorious “boxes” where who knew what goings on went on!

Maybe it’s just as well I married at 18 and learned then what the goings on entailed!

Samuel’s Clock today, however, was no Duffer’s Corner for us – lo and behold, who should we bump into but my dear friend, Joy, and her lovely mother, Mrs. Alexander. Mrs. Alexander is godmother to a young man who is getting married soon. She is to have an honored place at his wedding since both his parents are deceased. A hat, a new hat, is definitely required and, judging by the large round box Joy was carrying, the mission had been successfully accomplished.

My older girls had no idea what the hat looked like, but they definitely liked that box. Joy told us these things cost 25 pounds unless you buy a hat of a certain price to go in it. Sad to say, no hat box will go back to America with any members of the Bleh clan.

I got my group picture of family and friends under the Clock. Joy told me she discovered last night when she was researching her family history she has a fifth great grandparent or so who is a McIntosh in her family tree – now, if this is a Hilltown McIntosh, like my granny’s family, we may be closer kin that the kith we are right now and my family group under Samuel’s Clock may be closer than we thought we were.

After dragging my family over to the Black Watch recruiting station stand in the Overgate shopping center forecourt (I do seem to “drag” them places, don’t I?) and having the soldiers there tell Nathan some of the history of the Watch we decided it was fitting to recognize that, with Stephanie being a US Naval Reserve Veteran, we were “all allies in this together” as one of the men said, referring to the possibility of war with Iraq. So, I got another photograph linking my family with our history as my daughters and grandchildren lined up together with these soldiers.

Interestingly enough, the Scottish Socialist Party was setting up shop just a few feet away from these brave men, with posters denouncing the possibility of action against Iraq. My girls gently led me up Reform Street away from what could have been an interesting exercise in Charlotte’s freedom of speech, saying, “Mom, we are really very hungry. Let’s go eat.”

We headed for The Counting House pub which had been a bank in my day, across the street from the Albert Institute. The girls and I are still teasing Xylia that “she got us thrown out of the pub” when we took her in the night before with thoughts of having a meal. However, this was shortly after the close of children’s licensing hours. The publican was so very apologetic when he asked us to leave – I had thought licensing laws were still in effect in Scotland regarding children, so I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I remembered as a child seeing children sometimes waiting on pub steps for their parents to come out – and can honestly say I did not even consider last night doing that to Xylia!!

But, today, we could stay. My family ordered hamburgers and chips which they all polished off in very short order. I had my first Dundee “peh” (or Scotch pie as on the menu) in too many years. One of the bar tenders was eating his lunch at the table next to us and we all started up a conversation. Turns out his family was originally from the Top of the Hill. He invited the older girls to a party and disco that night. Unfortunately, with waiting for the rest of the family to come in they couldn’t go. I think I wanted them to go, though, more than they did – another Scottish experience to embed in them their heritage. Oh, well – I’m their mother and I’m allowed to have these strange ideas.

When he left, a woman about my age and her daughter took his table, and we started to chat. Here were more people from the Top of the Hill, so we reminisced together a little while.

My original plans with the grandchildren had been to take them to the “heated” indoor water park. But when Wayne, our new bartender friend, told us the temperature was heated to about 57 degrees, I decided I was Americanized to the point that this was just a mite too cold and water park swimming was going to be out.

Managing to persuade Nathan and Xylia to be of like minds, we parted from Stephanie and Adriana whose plans included more shopping in the Wellgate, the Overgate, the Marketgait, Keillers Pend and any other edifice of commerce they could find. Our plans were to go down to Scott’s research ship, the “Discovery” and visit the restored vessel and the visitor’s center there.

We had a wonderful and exciting four hours there. This is a museum/visitor’s center designed to educate and intrigue young and old alike – and we covered both those categories. The children exclaimed over the number and variety of hands on exhibits regarding the construction and the preparation of the Discovery for Scott’s voyage of Antarctic exploration and botanical, biological, geologic and scientific (especially about the magnetic poles) research. Exciting videos and audio visual displays in comfortable theatres introduced us to the historic figures that played important parts in funding and planning this exhibition sponsored by the Royal Society and the Royal Navy. The sights and sounds and smells of shipbuilding are recreated in detail – the smell of the varnished ship’s timbers, and the sounds of the yard -creaking ropes, sawing, hammering, even the mews of the ship’s cat chasing its squeaking prey.

Dioramas are everywhere with lifelike figures that appeal to the imagination. My granddaughter told me, “This is the best experience I ever had, Granma. They make it so easy to learn. And it’s fun, too.”

After having enjoyed the visitor’s center, we exited on to the “quay” – prepared to resemble the day of loading Discovery from the dock – and climbed the gangway on to the Discovery.

The ship was bought by the city from London for one pound and towed up to Dundee where she has been restored to honour the courageous men who served their country, and the world, on her and to also add to the modern day exhibit about Antarctica by presenting a foundation knowledge of the pioneer efforts of this frozen, but environmentally rich continent’s explorers and researchers and the wealth and knowledge they provided from their work from 1901 to 1904.

Every time we turned a corner on this ship, just like in the visitor center, or descended a ladder, more well crafted and learning friendly exhibits and dioramas waited – the galley and sickbay, the engine room, the wardroom and crew’s quarters, etc. Topside on the deck my grandchildren and I learned about ankle bashers, navigation, rope tarring, steam and sail power, rigging and ship’s bells used as christening fonts for Scott’s descendants.

Indeed, Dundee has given a great gift to all in becoming Discovery’s city. I have another reason to claim, “I’m from Dundee, and proud of it.”

My amazing grandchildren walked back through town, past the Howff, and up – once again – the Conshie Brae to our “home.” At the Dunlaw House Hotel on Union Terrace to wait for Tina and Edie to arrive from Phoenix.

Stephanie and Nan were stretched out, resting in our little lounge area after their wander through town. Apparently, Adriana had gotten them both lost. “Well, Mom,” she said, “instead of turning left, I turned right and we ended way in the wrong direction.” Based upon further enlightenment, it seems these girls ended up at the West Port and rescued themselves by hailing a cab who had as much fun telling them about “blowhard” visitors to Dundee as they did sharing their story of Dundee being their city of discovery that afternoon.

Which brings us back to my beginning, waiting for some more of my family to join together. While I’ve been writing this Stephanie and Nan went off, once, more, dear friends – to Vaguely quote Shakespeare’s Henry V, not into the breach but “doon the Conshie” to attempt to meet their missing sister and niece at Tay Bridge Station.

Somehow, they all missed each other because my two “escorts” decided they were hungry and while they were off finding an open restaurant, Tina and Edie arrived at the Station, caught a cab, and came on up to Dunlaw.

Thankfully, the girls kept their promise and called our host, Douglas, to learn their mission had been accomplished without them and home they came. But, knowing all about the brae by now they invested four pounds once more in a taxi.

The night was yet young for 10 p.m. Scottish time. Edie (Xylia’s sister and Tina’s elder daughter) vowing her mother’s desire for something to eat, soon set off to the 24 hour Tesco supermarket which is located, where you wonder? You have it – doon the Conshie, past the post office, and into the Wellgate.
They’ve been and gone and are back now – and I’ve been writing pretty much all this time. They walked all the way, Tina telling me, “That hill did me in.” She didn’t say anything about the three flights up her to the Douglas and Barbara’s “penthouse.”

What troopers. I’m proud of them all.

Time for bed for me, too, now, as I listen to my family quietly talking in their rooms before fading off to sleep. Stephanie and Nathan are in that state already. There’s no sound from Nan in the room we share. But Tina and her daughters are happy to be reunited – hm – wait till her jet lag catches up with her.

However, my Discovery adventure isn’t over yet. Stephanie had instructed me “Don’t talk to anybody” when I left her at the Counting House pub. She seems to think my little conversations with strangers are risky without her presence. But, my question is, does it count against me if someone else opens the conversation with me?

Here’s why I ask – While in the visitor center at Discovery and the children were involved with the hands on exhibit lifting goods from a bobbing ship on to the dock, I had been telling them the story I had told them often back in their brief childhoods of how it was Mrs. Keiller from Dundee who gave marmalade both existence and it’s name. When I finished Mrs. Keiller’s last cry of “Mair, meh laddie! Mair, meh laddie!” to her young son, Jeemie (my version as a granny, you know based upon the version my granny got from her granny) urging him to scoop up more of these oranges which had fallen from their crate during unloading, perhaps on this self same dock, a very nice young woman came up to me and asked where I came from. I told her the same thing I tell everybody, “Originally from the Top of the Hill, but I’m now living in Phoenix, Arizona.” She introduced herself as a member of the Center staff and asked if I would do her a favour. Of course, I said. Apparently there is to be an interview on BBC Scotland Radio live at 8:45 on Monday morning about the Center and they’ve been looking for a “member of the public” to take part. I’m invited to be that member of the public.

My mother would be so proud. All those years of struggling to pay for my elocution lessons and now, finally, I’m going to be on the radio in Scotland – if only for sixty seconds or so. God bless my mother and her love for me.

I can’t believe I’ve written 30 more pages in this little book – even though I’m writing only with my right hands, both hands are sore. I hope someday this little “Dundee Diary” will give some child, or child of a child, of mine whose part of this family a little bit of an insight into how wonderful it is to be from Dundee, the City of Discovery.

Good Night.

Scott’s Research Ship at Discovery Point

My family learning about the Black Watch – “We’re all in this together.”

A Page or Two of Scraps

Information about Scrap Reliefs from Mamelok Press Limited:

Scrap reliefs first appeared at the beginning of the 19th century in the form of simple black and white engravings; later they were often tinted by hand. By the 1820s, scrap reliefs had become more elaborate and were sometimes embossed to give them a raised, three-dimensional appearance. Many of the best quality scrap reliefs of this period were produced in Germany, where bakers and confectioners used them to decorate cakes and biscuits for special occasions. Mamelok Press, founded in Breslau in the 1820s, emerged at this time as the leading manufacturer of scrap reliefs.

The invention of chromolithography in 1837 led to a substantial increase in the production of sheets of brightly coloured and embossed scraps. These were stamped out to the approximate shape of the image and connected by small paper strips to hold them in place.

Scraps, as they had become known, were pasted into autograph books, scrapbooks and diaries, onto calling cards, greeting cards and the extravagantly romantic valentines of the era, with scraps always featured as the central image. They were used in decoupage: an arrangement of scraps passed onto a box, screen, chair or other surface, and then varnished many times. The final effect was as if the design had been painted on.

Mamelok Press moved to England in 1934 where it has continued to develop its wide range of scraps. Decoupage remains a popular pastime for all ages and scraps are the perfect and authentic source material for this – and for many other hobbies enjoyed by children and by adults worldwide.

Children have been collecting and swapping Mamelok Scrap Reliefs for more than 150 years. These colourful paper cut-outs, illustrating many favourite childhood themes, can also be used to fill scrapbooks, make cards and collages, and create many different hobby projects. The full range of Mamelok Scrap Reliefs includes more than 6000 images in print.


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