Saturday, February 8, 2014

We have to make a mark, even if it's only a scribble. (John Steinbeck)

My husband has traveled the world for his work. He's even been to the Marianna's Islands, and Saudi Arabia, and, oh, so many places. I was tethered to my classroom, though I got to travel with him a few times. But my tether was long and light, and I loved it!

A few days before school was out for Easter Week, I had the flu... YUCK! The company Richard worked for was trying to decide if they ought to start an office in Glasgow or in Dublin, and he was one of the "deciders." I said, "What's so difficult about that? Choose Ireland, OF COURSE! You KNOW I'm 1/2 Irish!"

"It doesn't work that way, Terry! In fact, you know I'm going to Glasgow and Dublin on Saturday. You could come with me if you're up to it. You're off for the whole week, and we'll be back the next Saturday."

So I crawled to the doctor and told him about my flu. He said, "There is a shot I could give you in the buttox," and I said, "Shoot away!" and he did. I sat on ONE "cheek" the entire flight to the British Isles!

When we landed, a cab was waiting to take us to our hotel. Inside our lovely room I found there was a pants presser! Now I knew what it was because I had seen one once in a catalogue and giggled that anyone would need one of those contraptions... Little did I know that we'd fight over it every night when we'd get back to the hotel... "The damp," you know. 

The next day Richard was ready for his meeting, and he told me that he'd be all day, and we'd have dinner when he got back. I was on my own. He showed me the concierge, that lovely man who would call me a cab so I could wander through an ageless park with a window-and-wood gallery that held a wonderful collection of art.

But first, breakfast. In the hotel's cafe a "bonny lassie" waited on me, and when she heard my accent, she said, "You'll want bacon and eggs, I suspect," at least that's what I thought she said... I LOVED her speaking. It was a musical, but thick-ish sort of English. She was from the Isle of Skye, and over the days we met, she began to tell me how much she missed it there, and how she didn't know if she could bear all the hustle-and-bustle of so big a place as Glasgow. She even cried once. I'd been homesick before and it IS a terrible thing! 

But I didn't want "eggs and bacon." No! I wanted kippers and potatoes. That surprised her and she gave me a warm smile and brought it. She even introduced me to one of the fellows who worked there, and I do think he had an eye for her! His speech was careful and delibrate, and I knew he was being very careful so this Amercian could understand him. I told him to go ahead and speak his "regular way," and he did. I couldn't connect with one word flowing from his mouth! He laughed and was happy, though, and his eyes twinkled. He said that he could only talk that way when he was off work... it seemed that it wasn't proper or something to talk like that to guests. But it was so REAL! And I'm still wondering what he said...

But, I was off to the park to visit the art museum. The concierge hailed me a cab, and it was an old-fashioned kind, long and high and black. When I got into the backseat, there was so much room between the back of the driver's seat and my knees that I could have stowed a trunk there! The cabbie had on something like a chauffeur's cap, and as soon as he found out I was American, he said, "Now you have to be careful with the cabs here. They might try to take you on a run-around though the city on your way to your destination. I won't do that, a'course. Watch how we go so you know!"

I looked out the window, and truly I didn't care how we got there, because I was in "bonny Scotland!" When we arrived, the park was piney and misty, just like a storybook! I took out the Scottish money that I had, and I handed it all to him, and told him to take whatever was the right amount.

He was stunned! "NAE! You can't do THAT, Missy! They'll cheat you! Here... this is exactly what you owe me. Now, look here and I'll teach you how our money works," and he did.

I thanked him and jumped out of the cab, so anxious to see it all. As I walked over to the ticket booth, I sensed someone behind me. It was him! He said, "Now, Missy, I'm coming with you to see if you understand the money and what I taught you. Don't want no one cheating you!" 

No one did cheat me. The lady was as kind as this cab-driver. With my ticket in my hand and my change in my pocket, I listened to some more advice from this kind man... Then he said, "Now, Miss, when do you think you'll be done here?" I thought maybe three hours. 

"Well, I'll be here at the gate waiting, and you will have a safe ride home that way, and nobody will take advantage of your American ways." And he was, and I did!

I was back in time for lunch. I'd strolled though the gallery, petted the Scottish Highland cattle with the long bangs that hang down their foreheads over their eyes, strolled though the piney woods, and caught my cab ride back.

Lunch was a meat-and-cheese sandwich delivered by my homesick waitress. I only like mustard on meat-and-cheese, I told her. And not the French mustard, just the good old yellow mustard! She brought the largest mustard jar I'd ever seen, and I slathered it on my sandwich until it dripped on my lap staining my napkin bright yellow. I took a big bite because I'd worked up such an appetitie, and BOOM! My head flew up to the ceiling and back again! It was the hottest stuff that I had ever tasted! It was good old English Coleman's Mustard, not "French's" like I had at home. The whole staff had a good laugh over that... probably for weeks afterward. Go ahead and try "Coleman's" if you've never had it, and if you have the guts to...

Glasgow WAS "miles higher," just like their city slogan said! But soon we were off on the train to get on the boat to Oban, an island that looked so inviting in the guide book. The train ride snaked through the "highlands." That land was crooked with mountains and dotted with white sheep and  their lambs, all this set in a heavy mist. No Hollywood movie had ever had scenery as wonderous as I saw on that train ride. Sadly though, at the bottom of some of the drop-offs, I saw a sheep or two that had slipped off the edge and fallen in a heap. 

When we arrived at the station, we went to the ticket-master to buy seats for the boat over to Oban. I LOVED everything Scottish, and I hadn't even been to Edinburgh, yet! The Scots were the people who'd held off the Roman troops... the ONLY people to do that in the entire British Isles! The Roman generals were so frightened of the blue-face, naked Scottish "troops" that they build Hadrian's Wall to keep them out of Roman-held England! But they were kind and lovely folks in MY book, and I LOVED Scotland.

I went to buy the tickets for the boat trip while Richard went to get some coffee and a "fizzy lemonade" for me. I stepped up to the old, squinty-eyed ticket man, and said, "Two tickets to "o-BON, please."  Well, he was flummoxed!

"It's O-bun! O-bun, not o-BON! Yah sound like a &%$!!&* dumb *&@&$?/ &**@!*& Irishman! THIS IS SCOTLAND! SPEAK LIKE IT!"

Well, I didn't care how old he was, I could TAKE HIM! "I AM IRISH, and I'll take two tickets to your island, or die trying! Gimme two damn tickets and give 'em to me NOW!"

He snorted, took my money, and threw the tickets at me across the counter, muttering something else under his breath... I'd probably mixed up the money again...

Then my husband, coffee in hand, ambled back towards me, "Did you get the tickets?"  Oh, I got the tickets, alright! I got the tickets...

Well, we went to OBAN, and it was an island. I've seen islands before, and this one was probably glorious, but I guess I "had my Irish up." You see, I'd always thought that the Scots were friendly towards the Irish, and it was such a far cry from my jaunty time with the Glasweigans that I wasn't prepared for such animosity against some of the blood that runs through my very veins! 

You're thinking right now that I was a dolt, and that I'm an American, and who cares what one little, flinty-eyed man thought, anyway? And you'd be completely right! Who knew? Maybe he'd just had doctor give him a flu shot in his left lower "cheek!" 

But I thought of my Irish grandfather who was my favorite person on the planet... the only person who would let me swing round and round on the stool at Tooley's Drug Store in Columbus, Nebraska when he'd order his coffee and my Coke float on our summer visits there... a man who everyone in the entire town liked! My grandfather, who'd bought a little store in Pender, Nebraska eons ago, and sold a little bit of everything to all the folks and farmers in the area. And when the Depression came, and people had no money to buy necessities, my grandfather, Ernest Justice Kingston, accepted eggs, and a chicken here and there, for payment... He WOULDN'T let those people starve. My grandmother told me that he said to her he'd rather  starve than see it happen to them! My grandfather, who lost his store and what little money he ever had because of his kindness to the people, would have been hated... just because he was Irish!

Well, that unites me with soooooo many people on this Earth who are hated for so slight a reason as where their roots began! I don't take this lightly... No one chooses where he or she is born, or who to, come to that. If we're alive and well and here, that's probably enough for any of us to know...

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