Wednesday, June 25, 2008


We flew from Dublin to Edinburgh. I decided to give the 3 kids (3, 5, & 7) sleeping pills for the flight. They slept soundly on the bus to the airport, then awoke, loud and bushy-tailed for the flight.Served me right.

I had gone over earlier alone to look over the apartment. It was on Dundas Street, near the fabulous Castle. But our flat was 75 steps up, no elevator and no fire-escape. (As I said we were crazy). It was in NEWTOWN (a square block of stone, built around 1800).

Inside it was majestic: 20-foot ceilings,
Two huge sitting-rooms and a large kitchen and a bathroom with a pull-up clothes-line to dry laundry. A tiny refrigerator; (the stairs were so cold you could leave food out there.)

The landlord was a Presbyterian clergyman,
With a Canadian wife. He had decided that God wanted him to be a Protestant worker-priest (holding a factory job) so he moved her to an awful town in France, with open sewage troughs.(That’s why their flat was empty.) (She stayed with him for the full nightmare year, and one year more after their return—then she dumped him.)

She was Canadian, so she insisted on warmth; they had a small furnace in the kitchen, consuming coal chunks in its stoker. In the magnificent entrance way, one door led to a coal-storage-room! (Turned out, ours was the only warm place in the square block; word got out among the mice. We were infested; they ate clothes from the dressers; when we came into the kitchen, mice fled from oven and cupboards into hiding.
One morning I sleepily pulled my pants over my pajamas and went to the kitchen for coffee; I felt motion in my pants-leg; the mouse had woken up slowly,just as I had.I undressed speedily and he fled.)
Needless to say, I worried that Mary wouldn’t accept this place; I was delighted when she said OK..what a heroine!
The coal was delivered by ‘black men’ (so-called because they never bothered washing).
Mary was determined to keep the place warm; we burnt 100 lb of coal a day in this vain attempt.
These ‘black men’
(weighing about 100 lb each themselves)
carried hundred-pound bags of coal-chunks up the 75 steps once a week. I heard later that such men died young.)
We were prepared for an awful system.
But we registered with a local MD.
One AM, our 3-yr-old had a fever.
I wrapped her in a blanket, and called a cab to go to his office. It happened that the landlord’s mother was in the hall.She said, “Where are you taking that child?”/’To the doctor’s office.”/
Scornfully:”We don’t take sick children to the doctor’s office!”/’What? Do you kill them??
More scornfully: ‘Call him; he’ll come here!’
He came up the 75 steps an hour later.
Later, the 7 yrold had an athsma attack in middle of night. It turned out that some doctors spent the night touring in a taxi, ready to make house calls at night !
Later, the 5yrold had infected tonsils.
We couldn’t get socialized help fast enough, so we went ‘private’. Because MDs knew that anyone willing to wait could get free care, the private doctor and hospital stay were incredibly

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