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Life as a Scot in California

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A Usual Saturday Night in Albany

Posted by berkeleyscot on October 3, 2009

Albany is a quiet town.  Someone recently described it “The place where white folks with kids, live.” I suppose that is mostly true and families are attracted by the local schools, which have a good reputation.

Albany is a ‘walk able’ town. Shops, restaurants, parks and farmers’ markets can be accessed without a car.  For the most part, Albany is considered to be a safe place to live, although it is situated near a freeway ‘corridor’ between well-known high crime and drug dealing areas.

But, we, the residents, only read about the crime and the bad guys in the police report that is published in the local paper.

But, that changed on Saturday night and we witnessed, a police car chase that ended in a neighbour’s drive!

I heard brakes squealing as a car approached the STOP sign at the awkward corner by our house. The road bends to the right, but not in a straight line and the street lighting is insufficient.

I just KNEW a crash would follow and I was already dialing 911 before I heard it.

The driver lost control of the car and skidded into a drive where 2 cars were parked, one behind the other. The force of the impact demolished the first car, pushed it into the car in front, which rammed the locked garden gates and pushed them open.

Police cars blocked the street; their flashing lights making it look like a fun fair.

I wanted to go outside and join my neighbours, in their dressing gowns, but I stayed indoors, peering uselessly through the windows. Trees and bushes obscured my view.

I got up early the next morning to be nosy and learned from neighbours that the chase involved a Berkeley police car. The crash was a long way from Berkeley.

It was obvious that the chase was heading either towards San Pablo Ave or the Freeway.

It was completely daft to conduct a chase in a residential area. Police car chases are daft anyway.

So many times, an innocent person is killed or injured. In fact, when I heard the crash, I thought it was a head –on collision. That would have been a tragedy, but to demolish two innocent cars belonging to innocent people, asleep in Albany, was just plain stupid.

I have no idea if the driver suffered an injury. I heard no ambulance, but only the ‘beep beep beep’ of the tow truck that hauled his car away.

There was no report in the local news or paper.

Why would there have been? No one was injured and nothing happens in Albany, anyway!


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Now That My Appetite Has Returned, What Do I Eat?

Posted by berkeleyscot on September 29, 2009

I’m still not hungry, but I can finally eat and know I must.  Yesterday, I resumed eating and had a banana. Later, I ate some fruit yogurt. Invalid food, indeed!

Today, I made my favourite breakfast smoothie.  That’s a blend of soy protein powder, fruit yogurt, and bananas and fruit juice. I make a batch sufficient to last 2 days. Sipped through a straw, breakfast takes less than 5 minutes!

Tonight, I had a little ravioli with pesto sauce.  From surviving only on sips of water, I think I’m dining well!

Posted in Living | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

I Have Not Blogged in Weeks, Because…

Posted by berkeleyscot on September 26, 2009

… I have been ill. It was not officially confirmed, but I had all the symptoms of the H1N1 Virus. When I spoke to my Doctor, he said they were no longer testing for the virus, because, by the time the results came back, most people had recovered.

I am not fully recovered.

I have fatigue and loss of appetite. Food does not interest me at all. So far, I’ve had no ill effects from not eating, but I will be getting a medical check-up soon.

I feel the fatigue lifting and it does help to make myself get up and get involved in my activities.

The flu brought gory details, which I’m not going to share!

It’s the most unpleasant, debilitating illness I’ve had in a long time and it lasted far too long!

I spent far too much time on my own, having dark, flu-like thoughts…but these have lifted and I’m coming back to good cheer and optimism.

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Primary School

Posted by berkeleyscot on July 16, 2009

I started school, in the Infant Class of Buckie Primary School in August 1954. My 5th birthday was in December of that year, but I was lucky to be admitted to school early. The usual age of school entry was at 5 years old.

This was the start, not only of my life outside of the Catbow, but the start of my independent life. I now could no longer rely on Mam to do things for me, or to make cerebral palsy easier for me.

At the start of each school year, Mam came to the school and talked to my teacher about my having cerebral palsy, but she was shy, intimidated by the teachers and was not my best advocate. Some teachers didn’t understand what she was trying to tell them

At first glance, it’s certainly not obvious that I have cerebral palsy. But then, when it comes to ‘doing,’ it is. In the 1950s, being left-handed was discouraged to the point of punishment, but what could my teachers do with a pupil who had no use of her right hand and they were not trained to ‘deal with’ students who had a disability. But I still learned to write, even though the inkwell was on the wrong side of the desk and I was messy with my pen and ink.

Cerebral Palsy is messy. Some people have no facial muscle control and drool and spastic, uncontrollable spasms are a nuisance.

But, the teachers realised I was one of their brightest pupils and we had to work together for me to get the quality of education I was supposed to get. I had supportive teachers and I had stupid teachers who refused to make allowances for me. I didn’t want special treatment. I simply wanted to be treated with respect and an awareness of what I was physically unable to do.

My classmates were often unkind. That was a long time ago and I cannot and don’t care now.

I had one special friend, Mary, whom I love dearly to this day. I felt normal in her company and I never had to explain anything to her.


Posted in Buckie, Disability | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Early Catbow Memories

Posted by berkeleyscot on June 26, 2009

For the first four years of my life in the Catbow I knew only Mam, Dad, Granny and Granda the neighbours and relatives who lived close by. I did not know they were not my relatives and added ‘Auntie’ or ‘Uncle’ to their names.

I was aware of my surroundings, from a very early age and understood much more than I could articulate.

I knew that Dad and Granda went to sea during the week and sometimes were away for longer.  Mam and Granny each had their ‘own ends’ of the house, but Mam did most of the work in the house. They didn’t have an easy relationship and I know that Mam wanted a house of her own.

I was aware of the tension between them. Dad seemed unable or unwilling to do anything about it and just tried, ineffectually, to keep the peace.  Granda didn’t get involved at all. First World War guns had rendered him completely deaf and communication was difficult.

I spent a lot of time with adults and didn’t play with children of the neighbourhood very often. I couldn’t keep up with their active games and I fell a lot. I didn’t know I had cerebral palsy and figured that out for myself later. Dad used to say I had ‘a weakness.’

They did their best for me, but they had limited resources.

So this was how ‘OorMargit’ began, sitting on a creepie by the fireside, in the evenings, listening to the neighbours’ gossip and stories.

I absorbed everything they said and learned to speak the Doric before I learned to speak English.

On the left is me in 1953 in the Catbow before the road was made in 1963. On the right I’m posing for a professional photographer who came to the house.

Catbow 1953Posing in 1954

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Small town feeling?

Posted by berkeleyscot on June 1, 2009

We participated in a seminar yesterday afternoon, discussing the future of the small town in which we live.

The facilitator asked us to share why we liked living in our town.

Most people said, “Because of the small town feeling…”

But, apart from two immediate neighbours, we knew nobody else.

In fact, we were asked to wear nametags.

If it’s a ‘small town,’ shouldn’t we already be knowing everybody?

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Chiffer Update

Posted by berkeleyscot on May 27, 2009

On my way from the store, yesterday evening, I stopped at Chiffer’s pharmacy.

He wasn’t there, which was a shame because I really wanted to include him.

I talked with the lady pharmacist and tried to describe my complaint about Chiffer.

It wasn’t straightforward, because I had no intentions of demonstrating his chiff and mere words don’t do justice to the act.  She had not witnessed this herself. The pharmacy windows are covered with posters.

So, I now believe that she thinks that he just clears his throat and chiffs, but that would be a clocher and no a chiff.

She said she would ‘have a word.’

I’ll keep a lookout to see if it solves the problem, but I’ll also keep my distance in case it doesn’t!

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My First Home

Posted by berkeleyscot on May 22, 2009

The local doctor had arranged my adoption.  There was nothing so formal as a home study and no money changed hands.

It was decided I needed a home that was not to with my own flesh and blood and so arrangements were made.

When I was about six days old, I was taken from Cuparstone Nursing Home, Aberdeen to the Seatown in Buckie, to live with my adoptive parents, Alex and Peggy Cowie.

They made me so welcome!

Below is the first photo taken of me, with Mam, in my new home.  A wee suppie hair and nae teeth.  The double chin is evident even then.

The house was a traditional fisherman’s ‘but and ben.’  Dad’s parents lived in one end and we were in the other.

Behind Mam is the double bed that was in the living room.

At the time, the upstairs was an open space, where the nets were mended and stored. Great Uncle Jock was a sail maker and he also had space there for his sewing machine and materials. Later, the space was converted into bedrooms.

But this is where I lived for the first eight years of my life.


Posted in Adoption, Buckie | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Beginning of My 60 Years (3)

Posted by berkeleyscot on May 21, 2009

When I was growing up in Buckie, there was only one thing that associated me with Cuparstone Nursing Home. That was a book given to my adoptive Mother, by the Matron, Mary Stewart.

It was a ‘Baby book.’ It was quite academic and might have been a textbook for nursing school.

Miss Stewart had marked chapters that would have been helpful to a new Mother. She had also signed the copy.

When Dad died and I went to Buckie to prepare the house for sale, I planned to take the book back to California with me. It was part of my heritage.

But, by the time I got there, the book had been tossed out by the people who wanted to make my task easier.

It was so deeply personal to me that I could never have explained my loss to them.

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The Beginning of My 60 Years (2)

Posted by berkeleyscot on May 2, 2009

I was born on December 27 1949 in Cuparstone Nursing Home, 34 Great Western Road, Aberdeen. It had been previously known as Cuparstone House. I was the last baby to be born there.

Cuparstone Nursing Home was founded in 1934, It was owned and run by Miss Mary Stewart. It closed in 1951. Here’s a link from the Scottish Archive Network.

The property had originally been owned by Archibald’s, a furniture company. So, was I born in a furniture shop window?

On my last visit to Scotland, in 2002, we went to Aberdeen and photographed it.

34 Great Western Road

Posted in Living, Scotland | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »