Memories of far places recur to the traveler at odd times to make him glad all over again, even though he knows well there are places that are best forgotten. I was happy to learn the World Cup football games were to be played in the United States, since this brought me back to Edinburgh. All my - our - recollections of Edinburgh are delightful, from the first Scot we ever saw on a public street in a kilt who was not blowing his pipe in a Highland band to the formal honor of my first bill in pounds sterling for my tweed jacket at Dunn's.
We had ridden up from London by the Gammon & Spinach route, intrigued by the bump-bump-bump of the British railways as opposed to the rhythmic ``Hwiney Manusch will pitch today!'' of the Hoot, Toot & Whistle carriers of the Colonies. We knew when our train had crossed into Scotland because the strapping lad seated across from us stood up proudly and shook hands with everybody. There is no Scot in all the world more Scottish than the one farthest from Scotland, and this boy had been away.
My bonny wife and I were hardly coming home. As a new visitor to Scotland, I could only brag that a double-grandsire had been a Selkirk immigrant to Prince Edward Island from Skye (and a Macleod), which I believe more to the point than my wife's insistence that her shortbread from Fannie Farmer gave her some Caledonian authority. She does make a good one at that.
So we descended to the station platform at Edinburgh just abaft teatime for our first-footin' among the bonny banks and braes, and casting discretion to the winds, I asked a taxi driver (without any London queuing!) to take us to a comfortable place where we could stay for a few days. Telling us he knew just such a place, he stopped at a small house and found nobody at home. His second choice was a hotel whose owner became our best remembered Scot. He welcomed us to his place amiably and began telling us of the many places in Edinburgh that tradesmen would thank us with wee gifts if we mentioned his hotel.
During the next few days, he checked with us frequently to learn how many such gifts we had garnered. The room he had for us was comfortable and the small table amidships had a coin radio with a card saying a shilling would provide 30 minutes of ``entertainment.''
Our travel routine doesn't vary. Finding our hospitality for the night, we settle in, review the day for our notes, and give the cribbage board a trot. We tidy and politely change from travel clothes to knife-and-fork regalia, and patiently await the chime of the prandial hour.
Here at home in Maine, we see enough of these T-shirt sports who come in to eat supper with their lavender shorts aflop and their baseball caps three points off the starboard beam. We believe food deserves respect and dignified attention. My one necktie has seen much wear, and it has also seen a good many white tablecloths that remember me with affection. It was during these pre-prandial exercises in Edinburgh that I suggested a touch of music might set the tone for a tasteful evening at the festive board, and I put a shilling in the radio - that is, the wireless.
Immediately, a refined Oxonian literacy graced our chamber, and we were informed that the Birmingham Blues had soundly trounced the Birmingham Reds 2 to 1. Then we got 29 minutes and 60 seconds of football scores, as it was Saturday and every team in the British Isles had played every other team. When the radio clicked off and my shilling had expired, I invested a second shilling and we enjoyed the ``entertainment'' of another 30 minutes of British Broadcasting Corporation football results. A third shilling I refused to donate, as by now I felt my wife pretty well knew about the Scots. At home, at that time, a free radio went with even the cheap rooms. At supper I asked our amiable host what the BBC does for an encore, and he said, ``Repeats the football scores.''
It is even so. Any red-blooded American, about to depart for foreign shores with his ingrown illusions to the fore, needs to be told early on that no foreign tongue has a translation of the word football. Most alarming is the German word football, which means football, except it doesn't. It may happen that the playing of the World Cup football games in the United States will bring certain athletic truths home to a few Americans, who truly need instruction about football.