After my mother left Edinburgh to join her new husband in England my brother and sister and I tried to live and look after our very large, rather grand apartment. In about a year I gave up and made a career change. I went to work and live at a very prestigious hotel in a position in hotel management. Our work at the front desk included tabulating bookkeeping and other clerical duties.
One day two young men came to the front desk looking for accommodation, but as the hotel was full I was charged with finding them rooms in one of our overflow hotels.
I took quite a lot of time with them (two handsome young men, why not?). Helping walk-ins like this was an every-day occurrence and when they left, I did not think any more about them.
The students at the University of Edinburgh were out in force collecting donations from people on the street for their charities. This is an annual event, and it creates a lot of distractions and traffic interruptions – all in a good cause.
At the Manhattan café, which is very close to the hotel, my cousin’s wife and I saw these same young men and I asked them in passing if they got their accommodations. They acted like they did not understand the question, possibly because of my Scottish accent. When they asked us to join them, we declined, put my little god-daughter in her pram and left.
One of the young men (the one with the golden tan, blue eyes, white teeth and blond hair) came back to the hotel, went to reception and asked to speak to the young short girl.
A call was made to the dining room to tell me that an American was in the lobby looking for me. This could mean trouble because American military stationed near Edinburgh had a bad reputation and my boss had forbidden me to go out with Americans.
As I approached this young handsome man standing by the Adams fireplace in the lobby, I was not happy. I asked him angrily “What do you want?” He explained that he was leaving the next day, but he wanted to take me out for a meal to thank me for being so kind and helpful.
I took one look into those blue eyes and said “yes”. We made arrangements to meet that night outside the hotel at 6:00 pm.
As he walked all the way through the reception lobbies across the highly polished, beautifully carpeted floors and out the front door I was thinking to myself – this should be a bit of an adventure.
Back in the office my boss asked me what the American had wanted so I told her. She asked me if I had accepted, and I knew I had to put it this way:
“I told him I would have to ask you first – do you think I should go out with him?”.
She smiled and answered “When he asked for you, I had a little chat with him. I asked if I couldn’t help him, and he told me what you did and that he wanted to thank you.
I think he is very nice and very polite, and you can go out with him” – (she was probably smitten with the same blue eyes) which was fine, because I had already accepted.
A play about a popular radio character “P.C. 49” was on in Edinburgh that I wanted to see so we went to see it at the Playhouse that evening, and it was hilarious. Friends of mine seemed to pop up everywhere that night so my boyfriend would find out I lied when I left a message for him when I cancelled our date that night.
We had a lovely evening. We went back to the Manhattan café for a meal and my new foreign friend told me a little bit about himself. He was in the USAAF stationed in France had been travelling in Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and had more recently had been working in Libya where he had been to some Roman ruins which he said were truly amazing.
I loved hearing his southern drawl. I had never noticed the accent of other Americans who had stayed in the hotel, but everything he said sounded like a declaration. He did not pronounce RRs at all, and I pronounced all of mine. We had very little trouble understanding each other, and no, I didn’t hear him say “Y’all” very much and I never heard him say “Bless your heart” – ever. He was always very polite, kind, direct and sincere in everything he did and said.
“Edinburgh is not like any other city I have been to. There is so much to see and it’s all right here”. “It is a little bit foreign, the food, the language and the traditions, but I have been able to get around very easily and see such a lot”. He told me.
"It is such a beautiful city and there seems to be such a fun-loving party atmosphere. I guess that’s because of these crazy students everywhere – how long does that go on?” He asked.
Like ships that pass in the night – I thought I would never see this handsome, interesting, kind person again for he said he was leaving Edinburgh the next day.
Everyone on the Management Team took it upon themselves to mother me. Besides being quite young I was not very big – probably from all the years of not looking after myself and hardly ever eating. It seemed that they were all much older, taller and bigger than me, so I was called “Small Child”, a nick-name given to me by the accountant, one of my mentors.
The accountant, who was the oldest person on the staff, taught me all about the cutlery, utensils, glasses, names and pronunciations of everything to do with dining. This lovely genteel lady taught me a lot of other things about how a young lady should behave and why.
Every day for the next few days I would get a telephone call from my new friend telling me that he and his buddy had decided to stay a little longer in Edinburgh. Because I worked different shifts, I was available during the day to act tour guide and show off my home town.
I now realize how impressive Edinburgh is to visitors, but at that time it was just ‘home’ so we went to all my favourite places; The Chamber Street Museum, The Museum of Art, the Scottish National Gallery, The Royal Scottish Academy and the Botanical Gardens.
When you arrive in Edinburgh and come out of the Waverley Railway Station right on Princes Street it is a ‘WOW’ moment. You are right beside the imposing Balmoral Hotel, on your right is the huge intricately built monument to Sir Walter Scott and towering above looking down on the whole city is The Edinburgh Castle.
If you arrive at the Waverley station you can walk to hotels and all the major venues and attractions are not spread all over the city as they are in Paris, Rome and London. Princes Street and the gardens, The Scott Monument, The Floral Clock, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and ruined abbey, St. Giles Cathedral, medieval Edinburgh and The New Town are all quite close to each other in walking distance.
There is so much more that is accessible by bus. Edinburgh has the best transportation system in Europe. Buses can take you all around town for a reasonable charge and even further afield.
St. Andrews or into the Trossachs can be reached by bus or train from central Edinburgh.
When I think about it now how beautiful Edinburgh was that year and how it must have appeared to this young farm boy. He had seen a lot of grand European cities; Frankfurt, Heidelberg, London and Paris, but that spring in Edinburgh it was glorious. I was seeing my city through his eyes.
The flower beds in all the parks and gardens were blooming at their peak.
The Floral Clock is so unique with flowers on the hands as well as covering the large face with roman numerals all outlined so cleverly with flowers. Baskets of flowers adorned windows and posts everywhere and every corner in the New Town was bedecked in flowers or flags.
Music was being performed in the big stage down in Princes Street Gardens and we’d spot bagpipers on the street in full regalia just waiting to be listened to and photographed.
On top of that it was the time of the year that the Edinburgh University Students made their big appeal for donations for their charities. Students could be seen all over Princes Street, accosting everyone, citizens and tourists alike, by shaking a metal tin and asking for coins. To enhance their appeal, they wore bizarre costumes, formed teams to prevent passage until a toll was paid, act like highwaymen and shout “stand and deliver”.
There was a real party atmosphere in Princes Street Gardens and in the town centre. No wonder these two young men wanted to stay longer instead of heading back to France.
Maybe American Airmen were different from the US Military men I was being warned about. My new friend always acted like a gentleman and was never aggressive. I even let him kiss me as we walked over the Dean Bridge.
As a matter of fact, he was kind and polite to everyone we came in contact with.
He asked me to take time off work and spend more time with him. When I told him I couldn’t do that he really surprised me when he said:
“Well, after I return to base, I will get more leave and come back to see you and meet your family”. Of course,I did not believe him, a young man, a tourist, in the military, who would?
I said to myself “yeah, right”.
The last time I saw this handsome stranger was in McVities Restaurant and Bakery. McVities was a very large complex which had more than one entrance and two or three floors for restaurant, bakery and shop. We had had a meal and I excused myself to go to “The Ladies Room”. We had finished our meal, he said he would pay the bill and meet me outside the restrooms.
I came out of the Ladies Room and waited and waited, but saw no sign of him so I went outside and waited again, but there was no handsome young man waiting there. I went back to the office for my shift at work and I thought – “oh well, he is just an American tourist with big talk here today and gone tomorrow”.
My heart was not broken, I was too sensible for anything like that, but I felt very let down.