Saturday, 1 February 2020

The Foostie Cabbage Fiasco Part 4

So, there it wis, a brain sittin oan the parlour flair in a cairrer bag, an me an the Four Marys were aw sittin roond it lookin at it in sudden silence. Noo tae be clear we aw kent whit a brain looked like, cos we had no long feenished cuttin yin tae pieces in oor Neuro-anatomy classes, takin tiny slices aw the way through an peerin at the intricacies o whit makes us tick... or wis that the heart, ah get mixed up... anyway, we aw knew whit yin looked like, intimately, except this yin wisnae cut intae slices, it wis complete an brain-shaped, except fer a big dent oan the left Frontal lobe. "Whit's that hole?" says Mary Hopkins, an Mary Peters jist stuck her finger up at her. "Oh."

"It's very green" says Mary Whitehouse, like that wis a guid thing. We aw nodded an kept lookin at the green thing lyin in the bag, seconds passed... "Is that fur?" says Mary Hopkins, an we looked at it a bit harder, an she wis right, it wis a bit furry, oan the bits where the green wis slightly darker... mair seconds passed... Mary Immaculate reached ower an poked it wi her stick o rhubarb, like she wis expectin it tae move, but it didnae... Mary Peters reached ower, took the rhubarb fae Mary's hand an walked straight ower tae the pedal-bin, popped the lid open an dropped the rhubarb in, then turned an gied the Virgin a look that only a mother-in-trainin could gie, a look that wid've withered Shirley Temple's curls... then quiet again, as we aw looked doon at it lyin there, the brain-shaped elephant in the room...

It wis Mary Hopkins that said whit maist o us were thinkin. "Where in God's name did THAT come fae?"

Actually she might've said "Where the fuck" but ah'm sparin yer blushes here. We were still aw thinkin it jist the same. In the next second or twa we aw lifted oor gazes fae the brain lyin oan the flair, an up an roond tae each ither's faces, an ah wid say by the time three seconds had passed aw oor looks had landed oan the same one face... the maist glaikit face in the room, an at jist that second, the maist guilty-lookin...

"Oh. Aye. Eh, ah meant tae tell ye. Eh..."

Mary had barely got that oot afore Mary Hopkins berated her wi a bit rhubarb. Well, tae be mair specific she berated the Mother o God while batterin her wi a bit rhubarb, aye, that's mair how it wis. It wis like "Ah knew it!", *picks up rhubarb*, "You!", *batter*, "Great!", *batter*, "Big!", *batter*, "Lump!", *batter*, "o!", *batter*, Uselessness!"...

Poor Mary cowered under the shower o blaws, hands up ower her heid, een openin an shuttin between each thwack o a rhubarb stalk. Eventually Mary stopped, an handed the rhubarb tae Mary Peters who went straight ower an dropped it in the pedal-bin wi the first...

"Ah think we're gaunnae need a bigger pedal-bin" ah ventured, but ah don't think anybody got the joke so ah let it pass. Mary Whitehouse, in that awfy serious way o hers, speired at Mary, "So Mary, would you like to enlighten us as to how a brain ended up in the hall cupboard?" showin aff her poshness as she wis wont.

"Hmm, well," started Mary, "Ye know how ah dae ma stint at the Loafs an Fishes oan a Friday?" (This wis her Bible Group's Friday dinnertime soup kitchen mission doon the Grassmarket) "an ye know how by the time we get cleared away it barely gies me time tae run up tae the School, well that's how ah wis last an ah got a brain tae masel" (The rest o us had aw had tae share a brain one between two, whereas, an this came as nae surprise, Mary wis the odd yin oot, again...)

"An then," she continues, "Ye mind ye asked me tae pick ye up a cabbage fae Farmer Jack's when ah wis doon at the Barony Brunch?" (This wis her Youth Fellowship Friday mornin soup kitchen mission doon Broughton Street) "Well, by the time we'd got cleared away ah forgot yer cabbage, ah'm sorry Mary, so ah grabbed yin fae the store at Tollcross, ah meant tae hide the bag. So then ah got up tae the School, grabbed ma brain, an then ah had a great thought, ah thought we could aw practice oan it here, cos..." an left the sentence trailin, leavin us aw tae fill in the bit aboot how she hadnae a snawbaw's chance in hell o passin her brain exam, or indeed ANY brain exam...

"So you put your brain in a co-op carrier bag," says Mary, "and hid it in the hall cupboard..."

"Aye, but then ah forgot" says the glaikit yin, "Ah mind stickin it in the lobby press till ah found a better bag, but then ah forgot..."

"And my cabbage..." Mary wis pittin oan her best Miss Marple interrogation here, "I presume is..?"

"Eh, in the Anatomy Department, in a box marked 'Brain' ah suppose..." an Mary looked roond at us aw like this wis the maist normal thing in the world. "Ah wis gaunnae surprise ye aw..."

"Surprise us aw ye did! cries Mary "Ya great dunderheid ye!"

Mary Whitehouse pursed in her lips, "Oh no, Mary, you can't do that with a brain, oh no, no no no no..."

An then Mary Peters started up her best impression o a chicken that's jist had half its heid chopped aff, she kept this up fer the best pairt o the next twa hours ah may tell ye, *looks tae camera...*

"Oh my god oh my god oh my god what are we gonna dae what are we gonna dae wi it help we cannae throw it out they'll find us help what are we gonna dae it'll turn up at Seafield at the municipal dump or if we flush it it'll float up oan Portobello beach when the tide comes in an some holidaymaker'll find it help oh daddy oh HELP what's ma daddy gonna say it'll be in aw the papers front page Brain Washes Up On Portobello Beach it'll say Holiday Ruined says Man fae Glasgow help Polis Efter Culprits Wanted Alive or Deid oh my god... an so she went oan... ah felt like slappin her, fer her ain good like...

But she had a point ah had tae admit, we aw had tae admit, it wis one thing haein a brain sittin in the middle o the parlour flair, it wis quite anither pittin yin oot fer the weekly uplift, we aw agreed thae black bags split open awfy easy an it wid be aw ower the road right in front o the flat attractin seagulls an pigeons so that wis a no-no, we thought aboot burial but when we counted there wis at least twenty-three ither student flats *that we kent o* aw lookin doon oantae oor common back green so that wis oot, damn tenements, so we landed oan cremation. Mary stopped cluckin long enough tae go grab the matches tae spark up the fire. She then proceded tae show us at length how guid she wis at makin kindlin sticks oot o newspaper. She had a grab at ma Sunday Post but ah held her aff an threw a Sunday Times Sports Section in her face. At least that kept her occupied fer a bit, an it chokes me tae admit it but she couldnae half make guid kindlin sticks, nice an tight... it wis oan account o thae nimble wee fingers o hers, we aw said she wis cut oot fer brain-surgery, or sewin dolls' claes doon at the Doll's Hospital...

Ye should've seen her beamin wee face when her firelighters caught first time, bless, it wis like she'd jist discovered fire... which she then blew intae a guid-gaun blaze, in fact ah found her smile lit by the flickerin flames slightly unsettlin... she wis suddenly enjoyin this a wee bit too much... mibbe she wis jist, like masel, grateful fer a bit o heat at last, soon she had a guid fire burnin...

Then, efter a wee bit struggle gettin tae grips wi it, Mary an Mary picked the brain up usin rhubarb stalks like chopsticks. There wis laughter at this point, but ah wid describe it mair accurately as hysterical raither than humourous, oor hormones were cyclin at cruisin speed by this time, adrenaline wis splashin aboot the room like sweat. But efter a few gigglin fits fae Mary an us aw haein a guid laugh at a stalk o rhubarb that looked like a penis, we eventually got the brain moved the three feet fae the bag tae the fire, an there it sat, flames lickin roond its sulci an ower its gyri...

Twenty minutes we sat an watched it, an in twenty minutes not a thing happened. We sat there watchin it, it sat there, slightly singed, charrin a wee bit, but essentially daein nothin, it widnae burn. Mary kept up a guid fire aw ths time, maist o the Sunday papers went oan it, no mine tho, ah held oan tight, an then yin o the dinin chairs got broke up an tossed oan, no mine tho, ah held oan tight...

As ye might imagine, the tension wis rising aw this time, we had a brain sittin in oor fireplace, defyin the power o fire, five trainee doctors seein their glitterin careers blawin oot the windae like smoke, an a hunner stalk o rhubarb we didnae ken whit tae dae wi. Suddenly, the stress aw got too much fer Mary Whitehouse, aw her zen left her in a puff as she screamed an jumped up, ran oot the room, an started bangin aboot in the lobby press. Ah thocht she wis mibbe lookin tae see if there wis another brain there, but presently we heard an "Aha!" an she came runnin back through wi the set o gairden shears in her hands an ran ower tae the fire. Ah had a fleetin thought that she might be aboot tae attack Mary Peters, an thought there must be some philosophical irony in that, it wid make fer a great Swedish film, but she didnae, insteid she attacked the brain, still sittin there in the grate, wi a great big defiant smile oan its... well thankfully it didnae hae a face, tho the way it wis sittin it still looked like a smile, an started choppin it intae wee bits. Ah think this gave her an outlet fer aw the pent-up peevishness she had stored, an she soon had the offending article chopped intae whit looked like bits o tofu. Typical o her...

They still didnae burn mind, we pit this doon tae the picklin process, an the awfy strong vinegar they use, but at least they charred roond the corners an looked like burnt tofu. Then Mary Hopkins had the great idea o stirrin them in wi the grey shite in the pot. The Holy Yin tried tae make up fer aw the bother she had caused by choppin up a bit rhubarb an stirring it in an aw. Soon we had a pot fu o thick, grey-black lumpy shite that had just a tinge o green. It didnae look like goulash, it didnae look like stewed rhubarb, but maist importantly, it didnae look like a brain in a pot.

We had a show o hands tae confirm that oor cerebral conundrum had a solution at last. We scooped the cabbage/bean/rhubarb/brain concoction intae the co-op carrier bag, tied it up tight, took it oot an dropped it intae oor rubbish bin, an dropped another bag oan top o it. Finally, it wis oot the hoose an oan it's way tae wherever.

We went back intae the parlour, sat roond in a circle, an took a vow, never tae mention the events o that day tae anither livin soul, an that's how it's been, fer many many years... so don't you say a word, this is strictly between you an me. Noo, aff.

The Foostie Cabbage Fiasco Part 3

Mary's "Foostie Cabbage!" growl took a while tae fade fae the room, it reverberated roond the room a couple o times at eye-level, leavin Mary's mooth as she hung oantae the sink an swingin past the rest o us aw lookin at Mary hingin oantae the sink afore it left by the door tae the lobby. We aw had oor hands up at oor mooths, Mary Hopkins an masel wi bacon rolls in oor paws, Mary the Mother o God haudin a stick o rhubarb atween her twa drawn-in cheeks an Mary Whitehouse wi a custard cream half in mid bite. We looked at Mary, then follaed her blazin gaze doon tae the poly bag sittin in the middle o the flair...

Ah cannae mind fer the life o me now if it wis a Spar bag or a St Cuthbert's but it wis an ordinary-lookin poly bag, an lyin there it looked like a wee hot-air balloon that had crashed oan the carpet, fae the screwed-up handles at one end, tied wi a bit twine that looked like the wicker basket had unravelled, tae the polythene stretched ower the globe shape at the other. There wis a moistness tae it an where the bag wis stickin tae whitever wis inside there wis a definite greenish tinge.

Mary let go o the sink wi one hand and pointed at the bag, her eyes still had a redness tae them, "That!" she croaked, "That wis sittin at the back o the cleanin shelf. It's wet! An it stinks!" She took a couple o steps taewards the bag an stretched oot her airm, gingerly picked it up by the string an handed it, airm ootstretched, tae Mary Immaculate, who took it an passed it straight oan tae Mary Whitehouse wi a rhubarb in her mooth an a glaikit look oan her face, Mary took it an went tae look in, but somethin obviously hit her in the nose an she recoiled, pushin the bag away in the direction o Mary Hopkins. Mary similarly went tae open the handles an got the same kickback, puckering up her nose an makin her tongue stick right oot, straight oot. Mary shoved it ower intae ma hands.

Tae a chorus o retchin noises an "Oh!" an "My God!" an "Cabbage" ah picked at the bit twine an loosened the knot, ah gently drew at the handles an keeked in. Ah pit the bag doon oan the flair at ma feet an ah can mind lookin up at Mary Hopkins an openin ma mooth...

Then ah shut it. Naw. Ah picked the bag up again an drew the handles apart an caught the full force o a blast o the maist putrid an sickly smell ye could ever imagine, corrupt an foul but wi a medicinal sweetness that seemed tae gie it extra cling, an ah could feel it wrappin itsel up inside ma nostrils, the air comin up fae the bag seemed tae hae a thickness tae it that ah had tae peer through... Naw.

Ah dropped the bag at ma feet again an ah mind lookin up at Mary Whitehouse an openin ma mooth again, ah could taste that sickly sweetness... But Naw. Surely no.

Mary Hopkins starts, "See you an yer flamin cabbages!" she aims this at Mary Whitehouse, "How long's that been there? Nae wonder this place smells!" but Mary looks back aw innocent an says "That's not my bag, I get my cabbages from Farmer Jack's..." an she's got a point, Mary never touches polythene ye see, she's in the Ecology Party, plus she wid never be seen deid shoppin in the Store. Mary swings roond at Mary Peters, who looks like Mary's swung a gun at her an throws her hands in the air, "No me Mary, if ah'd known it was there ah wouldnae have stuck ma hand in it!" so she burls roond tae The Virgin who jist sits there lookin like a tube.

Ah picked the bag up again an looked up at Mary. Ma mooth opened again but Mary got in first, "Aw don't tell me Sophia, don't tell me you've taken tae hidin foostie cabbages in the lobby press, ah wid've thought you wid hae mair sense. Ah hope it's no like that thing wi the shampoo bottles-" but afore she said mair ah got ma voice back an cut right across her,

"Mary, that's no a foostie cabbage an ye know ah've got difficult hair an ah need tae be sure ah've got enough Heid an Shooders tae last me, that's no fair..."

"Aye but twa dozen bottles Sophia, c'mon, even Cousin It disnae hae that bad dandruff!"

"Stop it. Listen." ah looked fae Mary tae Mary... tae Mary...

an at last tae Mary...

"Mary, this is a fiasco, but that's nae foostie cabbage!" an ah laid the bag at ma feet an peeled it open... "Mary, that's a brain!"

An there in the middle o the flair, in a wrinkled nest o polythene, lay a glistenin greenish-grey brain... ye really couldnae mistake it fer anythin else, an certainly no a cabbage except fer it bein green, but funnily enough that wis exactly whit the Four Marys' faces looked like at precisely that moment, four glaikit cabbages, the only yins in the room bar the claggy remains o yin sittin in the pot. Not a sound hung in the air... jist the smell o whit definitely wisnae a foostie cabbage...


The Foostie Cabbage Fiasco Part 4

The Foostie Cabbage Fiasco Part 2

Ah had ma back against the wa. Literally, ah wis sittin at the table wi ma back against the wa, it wis ma favourite seat, ah aye sat there fer ma breakfast. Ah could look roond the room fae there an see them aw. The Holy Yin's picked up a stalk o rhubarb, cut the end aff wi ma butter knife, well, she mair squashed it aff than cut it, an she's awa tae stick it in a bag o sugar. Mary Peters has a face oan her that's a mixture o apoplexy an apology as she scuttles ben the scullery fer a bowl, she's aye haein tae cover up fer the Immaculate yin, an she pours a bit sugar in an sticks it in Mary's hand afore Mary Hopkins sees. Mary's busy tho, she's standin at the tap end o a long stare, at the bottom end o which is the tap end o Mary Whitehouse's heid, the front end o which is buried in yin o the Observer's sections, an eventually she realises that her stare's daggers are jist bouncing aff Mary's heid an so she turns an vacates the scene, leavin the pot o upturned goulash as an unexploded ordinance fer somebody else tae defuse...

"Oh that's wairsh!" howls the Holy yin, wi her face aw suddenly puckered in, an she's lookin doon at the rhubard stalk like it's jist jumped up an bit her oan the nose. "That cannae be yin o Mr Dalrymple's then, he wis tellin me that Hughie's dung had brought oot a lovely sweetness in his stalks this year, mibbe that's yin o Ivy's, she'll hae been up along thae canal banks, bet ye whit ye like, ye never ken whit's pished oan them up there. We'll need tae mind pit plenty sugar in when we're stewin them..."

"We?" squeals Mary fae the scullery where she's started fryin the bacon. "We?" she squeals again, as if we hadnae heard the first time, "An who's this "We" then? Mary, d'you actually ken where the scullery is in this hoose? Oh aye! It's that place where ye chuck yer dirty dishes when there's naewhere left tae sit, eh eh no?" Mary the Mother o God makes a big show o lookin aw roond like she's tryin tae work oot where the voice is comin fae, this amuses Mary Peters an they share a wee conspiratorial wink. "Yes Ma'am!" she barks, an salutes wi a stick o rhubarb tae the heid. "Point taken, received and under-stood. Over and out!" then she picks up the upturned pot fae the table an goes tae stick it oan her heid like a hat. She wis a bit daft that way. She stops hersel jist in time, looks in the pot an screws her face up, then sticks the pot back doon oan the Magazine, right way up this time, afore pickin up yin o the Sports sections an plonkin hersel doon oan the settee next tae her big pile o rhubarb...

Mary Peters tries tae keep the joke gaun by marchin up an doon the room like a sodjer, she'd let oantae us yin night that she wis a frustrated majorette an aw her days she'd had tae be held back fae joinin in the Orange Walks when they came through her bit, even that time in her First Communion frock. Weel she didnae look that cute this time as she wheeled aroond in front o the fireplace, clocked that the moment had passed an so she tried tae make oot she had a purpose in the room, an she wis fulfillin it, though whit is wis she obviously wisnae sure...

As ah'm watchin this ah become aware o Mary Whitehouse ower the other side o the table, ah'm side-eyein her, she's nane the wiser. She's obviously had her fill o her cultural supplement, an she's got her eye oan the Magazine, an she's wondering how tae extract the Magazine oot fae under the claggy pot withoot touchin the claggy pot... zen-like inscrutability ma nippy arse, ah can read her like a book! She's probably thinkin aw aboot how she could will the pot intae another existence, whether she could tai chi it oantae some other astral plane or feng shue it intae the sink, when she says "Mary, didn't you want the goulash for breakfast? I thought you liked it, that's why I left you... um..." an trails aff...

"Oh aye, that wis ma intention...", she liked tae please did Mary, she wis aye offerin hersel up tae somethin or other late at night an regrettin it in the mornin, she wis notorious, so ah wisnae surprised really when she adds "but ah had that awfy sick feelin again this mornin, an it wisnae yer goulash Mary, honestly, ah didnae even get as far as the scullery but ah had tae dive intae the cludgie... there wis nothin though, ah jist retched. Ah'm sure it wisnae yer goulash though Mary, that tasted sae... promisin last night, no that ah had that much."

"No. Nobody did. I think people mostly had the bread, mmm... " Says Mary peerin ower the rim o the pot, "I think it was the beans... though maybe the cabbage wasn't the best or..." Mary Hopkins' heid appeared at the scullery door, backwards an nearly sideways, cos she wis still fryin bacon. "Eh? Ye whit? Ye stuck cabbage in a goulash? Are ye aff yer heid? Ye dinnae pit cabbage in a goulash ya numpty, ah thocht you said ye had a Hungarian auntie's recipe an ye wid be makin, ye even said it yersel, ''authentic Hungarian goulash', ye cried it authentic! Did yer auntie tell ye cabbage? Did she? Did she?"

Mary didnae suffer fools very gladly at the best o times but she took a special glee in poppin Mary Whitehouse's bubbles, an of course, a lot o Mary's bubbles were food bubbles, or raither they were food-substitute bubbles, she wis forever cuttin somethin oot or findin somethin tae replace somethin else, she'd gaun through her tofu phase, her caboc phase, currently she wis stickin cabbage in everythin. The hoose had a constant undercurrent o rank vegetation, an ah mean an undercurrent cos every noo an again ye got caught in an eddy or a wee draught, sometimes ye felt it warm an close oan yer skin...

"Aye!" shouts Mary fae the scullery like she'd heard ma thoughts (she wis uncanny that way, sometimes she shouted ma thoughts oot afore ah'd even had them masel!) "Cabbages!" she cried, as she appeared at the door wi twa bacon rolls an handed yin ower tae me. "Ah'm sick tae the back teeth o the manky smell o cabbage in this hoose, are ye no aw cabbaged oot yet?" she directs this at Mary Whitehouse as she squeezed hersel oantae the settee beside the hundredweight o rhubarb, managin tae shove yin o the stalks along the settee like a snooker cue straight at the bowl o sugar Mary's been dippin her bit rhubarb in, an up-endin the bowl oantae the carpet. Mary looked at Mary, who looked right back at Mary, then they baith looked up at Mary Peters who jist stood up automatically an went tae fetch the brush an pan. She wis an awfy lassie that way, far too biddable, she wis little mair than a lackey tae the rest. Ah looked ower at Mary Hopkins an we baith bit intae oor rolls, ah looked ower at Mary Whitehouse as she studied her paper, ah looked ower at Mary Immaculate as she sooked her rhubarb, an the look oan her face even managed tae make ma bacon roll taste wairsh. Still, at least there wis a wee bit peace...

Then, a muffled shreik came fae the lobby, suddenly gettin louder as Mary threw the lobby press door open an came runnin through makin a noise somewhere atween a gurgle an a gargle, droppin a cairrier bag wi a big thud in the middle o the flair an divin straight intae the scullery, grabbing the bunker wi baith hands an retchin intae the sink. We aw looked up, looked doon at the bag oan the flair, looked back at each ither, an then back up at Mary who turns, still grippin the sink, an twists her neck roond like that lassie in the Exorcist, well a bit like it, same expression, an croaks oot in a demonic growl,

"Foostie cabbage..!"


The Foostie Cabbage Fiasco Part 3



The Foostie Cabbage Fiasco, Part 1



Thinkin back, ah've actually nae idea where the Four Marys came fae, naebody could mind, they jist sort o appeared yin noisy an drink-addled night, an then they kept appearin till it wis like they'd never no been there. Ah liked it cos obviously it pit me in the seat at the tap o the table so tae speak, but it rankled that it kind o cut me oot an aw... ah wis like the Queen Wi Nae Name if ye like, cos if they were the Four Marys then they were obviously *ma* Four Marys, but ah wis nivver a Mary masel, ah wis aye Sophia... jist Sophia, an the joke every time the topic came up, which wis generally roond the table in some hostelry, wis whit aw their second names wid be if they were actually Marys... but when it came tae me ah wis aye still Sophia, jist Sophia...

Anyway, *ma* Four Marys they were, an tho they had various names ower the period, th'day ah'll cry them Mary Hopkins, Mary Whitehouse, Mary Peters, an the Blessed Mary... bear wi me, it'll aw make sense in time, noo dinnae pick me up wrang, they werenae 'wee Marys', jist cos they were cried Mary... naw, some days they were a bunch o Minnies, as in Minnie the Minxes... they could drive ye up the wa wi their shenanigans, their noise, an their mess. It wis like bidin wi four weans oan Sunny Delight some days... an this day wis yin o thon days...

It started off jist like normal... cauld... awfy cauld, like, Baltic cauld... cauld enough ye could ping yer nipples tae. First thing ah did when ah got up wis sneak through, switch the central heatin oan, an pit the thermostat back up tae 15 degrees, fae the 10 degrees it wis aye gettin pit doon tae. Ah did this every mornin, an every mornin it wis back doon at 10... this wis Mary Whitehouse's lark, she had a notion that we should aw suffer like we were Aiberdonian paupers, which wis fine if ye had been brought up an Aiberdonian pauper, but the funny thing is even she wisnae, she wis fae weel-aff fowk that bided at the auld Queen's Cross in Aiberdeen an could afford tae hae the heatin runnin aw day if she wanted tae, but she wis a richt ascetic sort, aw bare bones stickin through the holes at the elbaes o her hair-shirt, an she thought we should aw suffer along wi her...

It wis a Sunday, so this wis late mornin, the Blessed Mary wis oot at Kirk awready, Marys Whitehouse an Peters were slowly rousin fae their kips, an Mary Hopkins wis roond at her fancyman's... ah boiled a couple o eggs an pit some toast oan... the scullery wis a midden, as it aye wis, an it smelled rankly o cabbage, but ah managed tae find a clean plate an a cup, ah wid make a start efter ma breakfast...

Ah heard noise at the front door, somebody went oot, then 5 meenits later the door opened again an in comes Mary Peters wi her airms fu o Sunday papers, mainly the big heavy yins, but she had ma Sunday Post an Sunday Mail an aw. Nae doot she an Mary Whitehouse wid be straight intae the Culture pages fae the Observer, an ah could hear them awready, chuckin aboot their opinions oan fowk ah'd nivver heard o or cared aboot, decryin some bigwig's positions oan this philosophy or that art 'movement', an expectin a response... an if ye gave her yin Mary wid pounce doon yer throat, scoffin at yer ignorance an how could ye no ken so-an-so an her great works or suchlike... she wis a veritable walkin needle wis Mary, but she wis awfy sweet wi it... she got ma goat far too easy, tae ma eternal chagrin, an ah had tae make an effort no tae rise tae her honeyed provocations...

So Mary comes in, Mary Whitehouse gets up and comes through, an within ten meenits the parlour's covered in great sheets o paper, spread oot aw ower the shop, ye wid think we were pittin doon sheets tae paint the ceilin! Acres o newsprint cover the flair, the table, every chair, Mary Peters is wanderin aboot wi a wee tasse o coffee squawkin aboot some author or some artist... ah wisnae listenin really, ah wis workin ma way through the Sunday Post, ah jist took a moothfae o tea an nodded noo an again an let her crack oan...

So ah've reached Wednesday in Francis Gay's week, an Pete's giein me a sair heid like he dis every Sunday, an in comes Mary Hopkins wi some bacon an a dozen fresh rolls... she's aw blissed oot efter a night o passion an wants tae treat us. Needless tae say Mary Whitehouse an Mary Peters turn their noses right up, they were gaun through vegetarian phases at the time, an Mary Whitehouse wis even tryin fer vegan status, hence the smell o cabbage, so she couldnae eat bacon, or eggs, ah think, ah dunno... couldnae care less... bacon rolls wid be jist the ticket fer me. Mary asks where the Holy Mother is, an Mary Peters says she got up at eight tae go tae the kirk. "Is she no at that kirk an awfy lot lately?" asks Mary Hopkins. "Is she thinkin o joinin the nuns or somethin? That's three times this week, an five if ye count her prayer meetins along at Number 18... twelve if ye count her daily devotions in the front room! Ah think she's developin a habit, either that or she's got a guilty conscience ower somethin..."

"That wid be some habit tho, they'd hae tae stitch twa th'gither!" says Mary Peters an we aw laughed, she wis some height wis the Blessed yin right enough. She wis the only yin in the hoose that could change a lightbulb jist standin oan a chair, the rest o us had tae get the stepladders oot. That wis the problem wi these big Marchmont flats ye see, awfy high ceilins... nae wonder they nivver heated up, aw that wasted space up abune yer heid, ah bet it's lovely an warm up there ah used tae think as ah huddled oan the settee in ma continental quilt. Mind you, if we'd been allowed tae set the heatin at a decent temperature...

"Well Sophia, looks like it's jist you an me then" says Mary an goes tae spark up the fryin pan. "Ah'll keep some fer the Holy Virgin, she'll be needin sustenance efter aw her penitence, her puir knees'll be aw scarted fae gaun doon oan her cossack!" Ah could see Mary Peters open her mooth aw ready tae pit Mary right, then clockin Mary's face an realisin Mary Hopkins wisnae as daft as she looked. "Ha!" wis aw she said...

So Mary turns an goes intae the scullery wi a wee triumph oan her face, an there's quiet fer mibbe 20 seconds, follaed by crashin an bangin, pots an plates bein clattered aboot, an "Fer the love o...!" ... "Jeez! Whit's that?" ... "Mary! Whit the hell is that?!" an Mary appears wi a pot in her hand, an it's half-fu o some material ah can only describe as grey shite, thick an claggy, solid in the pot, as Mary proved when she up-ends the pot an nothin comes oot, it jist sticks there...

Mary Whitehouse drags her face up fae the paper in that annoyinly distracted way o hers... "Oh yeah... I thought I would try out a bean goulash recipe, but the only beans the store had were an inferior sort... it didn't turn out... eh..." an looks back doon again like she's just lost interest in her ain answer... Mary Hopkins stands there, pot in hand, looks at Mary, looks at me, looks at Mary, looks back at me. Ah take a sip o tea an say nothin, ah'm no gettin involved...

"My God, your midnight cookery jist gets worse an worse, an yer ability tae tidy up behind yersel is truly shockin, are ye no ashamed o yersel?" Mary disnae even look up, she jist reaches ower an takes a Custard Cream fae the packet an leads it tae her mooth...

Mary's still stood there wi a pot o grey shite. "Weel if ye think ah'm cleanin that..." an slams the pot doon, *upside-doon* oan the table, oan the Sunday Times Magazine. Ah could feel Mary Peters an Mary Whitehouse jist itchin tae grab the pot an rescue the Magazine, but neither o them moved an inch, Mary Hopkins stood stock still an if ah'd had a sharper knife ah could've cut that atmosphere an pit a slice oan ma toast...

Anither typical day chez Sophia an the Four Marys. There had been tension fae the outset ah must admit, right back fae when the five o us had agreed tae share a flat. Mary Hopkins an masel got oan fine fae the day we met, Mary Whitehouse an Mary Peters were as tight as a hoor's purse, sittin up tae aw hours discussin Wittgenstein an shite like that... Mary Peters an the Blessed yin had the religious thing gaun oan, Mary Whitehouse aye wanted tae let her hair doon an be a cool kid wi Mary Hopkins, an Mary tae her credit pit up wi her at times, but she could curse her somethin rotten when her back wis turned, we aw felt a bit sorry fer the Blessed Mary, oan account o her bein no quite aw there, an then there wis the situation atween me an Mary Peters ower thon big Alasdair Blair that neither o us got in the end. Ah cannae deny it, that still rankled. Ah looked ower at her an allowed masel a quiet seeth...

Tae be fair, we were aw under a lot o stress, medical school wisnae easy, we hadnae long got ower last term's big Neuro-anatomy exam an we were awready comin up against some mair, Physiology an Microbiology were the name o the game this term an we were aw gettin a bit frantic ower oor hormone cycles an oor gram positive bacteria. It wis nivver at any time a bed o roses but as things got mair pressured an oor hormones got mair cycled we were definitely findin mair excuses tae hate each other, an mair reasons tae scrap... pots o *bean goulash* were jist handy ammunition in oor Marchmont guerrilla war, nae quarters taken, even oan a Sunday...

The door flies open an in lopes Oor Mary Immaculate, Mother o God... wi her airms fu o rhubarb... ah kid ye not, fu, o rhubarb... ah don't know, 50 stalks? a hunner? ... an poors them doon oantae the settee, aw ower the News of the World... we aw jist looked at her, an her big glaikit grin...

"Rhubarb!" she says, huge grin... "Mr Dalrymple's plot was awfy generous this year so it wis, he says it wis that dung he got fae Hughie Binnie... that awfy smelly stuff mind, Barbara at the end wis complainin aboot, an then wi Mr Scobie bein deid Mrs Scobie's no makin her rhubarb an ginger jam this year, Miss Tuplin fae the shop wis sayin she's been landed wi a huge dod o ginger root naebody wants, an she's no happy, an then Wee Ivy Aitcheson says she went roond the back greens gaitherin whit she could find... so... she's awfy nice Ivy is, it's a shame... we had tae rake through a lot o sticks an pick the actual rhubarb oot... she means weel..."

"Ah had tae take some so ah did, we had an awfy glut, ye know, there was rhubarb everywhere, it wisnae funny, everybody brought some... so... c'mon, it'll be guid fer us! Iii-ii-it's Roughage!" an she actually did jazz hands... tae roughage...

"Well make sure ye clean up behind yersel then, ah'm fed up gaun in tae that cludgie tae find mair streak marks than Powderhall oan a Friday night!" Mary Hopkins wis still standin ower the upended pot o... whit wis it again? Oh aye, 'bean goulash'... well, whit had *been* goulash, but wis still stickin tae its pot, refusin tae let go an drap oan tae the Magazine. Mary's mention o streak marks an the sight o the grey claggy streaks roond the rim o the pot were in danger o pittin me aff ma bacon roll. Ah took a sip o tea an let it trickle ower, lookin oot the windae fer fresh air, but aw ah could smell wis damn foostie cabbage...


The Foostie Cabbage Fiasco Part 2




Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Moments of Pleasure



So ah want tae tell ye aboot an auld friend o mine, Walter, god rest his soul. Walter wis a quiet man, a gentleman an a gentle man. He cairried a message bag wi him aw the time ah kent him, an he wore a grey trilby hat wi a wee red feather in. He bided doon at Jock's Ludge in the same hoose he'd been born in, his faither wis lost at Passchendaele an it wis jist him an his mother till she passed the same week Lily the Pink went tae Number One. Walter knew he wis never gaunnae get mairried when he wis still at the school, he knew he wisnae like other laddies, an he accepted that, he had his mother tae think o, he wisnae gaun onywhere onyway, she needed him...

Walter led a quiet life, he served his time an took up as a draughtsman, he kept a guid gairden an he sung in the Kirk choir. His mother wisnae yin fer the Kirk, so choir practice came in handy when Walter wanted some time tae hissel, He wid take a bus up tae St James Square, ahint the Theatre Royal, there were a couple o wee bars up there that attracted theatrical sorts, that wis a word fer gay fowk back in thae days, theatricals. Anyway, sometimes he might catch somebody's eye in there, an snatch a wee bit pleasure up a back entry, if nothin wis happenin there he might take a wander up tae Register Hoose or doon tae Uncle Albert's, if it wis a nice dark night he might take a furtive stray up Calton Hill...

Walter's life wisnae that different tae many men's at the time, secretive, skulkin, constantly aware o the risks o discovery an exposure, an constantly, constantly guilty o their 'dirty secret', their dark assignations an their flashinly-brief moments o pleasure. Walter kept thae brief flashes in his memory, mental pictures tae sustain him through his quiet life. While he had his mother tae think o, they had tae suffice him fer long periods...

Lily the Pink brought an end tae aw that, an Walter saw her passin as his chance tae sort his life oot. Ye'll be expectin me tae tell ye aboot how Walter accepted his homosexuality an found comfort an joy wi anither auld sowel in a trilby hat jist like him, but afore ah get tae that ah'll take a wee digression back tae anither auld pal o mine, Robert Fergusson...

Ye'll hae heard o Robert of course, an if ye huvnae ye can stay behind efter school ya ignorant stumer. Robert Fergusson wis of course Edinburgh's Bard an Burns's Muse, he wis born up the High Street in 1750 at Cap'n'Feather Close where the North Brig Street is noo. He wis a gey unfortunate laddie, tae be sae gifted wi his pen an yet sae cursed in his mind. He suffered fae melancholy, that wis the term fer depression back then, an wid've attracted that as a diagnosis if he were here th'day. That, added tae his impressive though typical alcohol intake (nearly aw his intake wis alcohol) an his inevitable inability tae navigate a turnpike stair led tae a dunt oan the heid an his incarceration in Edinburgh's Bedlam up by the Bristo Port, where sadly he passed away oan October 16th 1774. Bedlam wisnae a place that tried awfy hard tae get ye better, it wis mair like a medieval charnel hoose that treated its inmates nae better than animals, an charged wealthy fowk admittance tae view the inmates, jist like animals...

Robert's pal an drinkin buddy Doctor Andrew Duncan, wis that pit oot wi the conditions Robert spent his last days in that he campaigned an crowdfunded an cajoled the government until they relented an gave some o the money they had thieved aff the Jacobites tae build a better hospital fer the mentally ill an that wis where the Royal Edinburgh Hospital comes intae it. This has been Edinburgh's psychiatric hospital fer ower 200 years now, an fer some periods in that time it's made a guid name fer itsel, In fact in the 1960s an 70s it wis a pioneer o the 'therapeutic community' an attracted some leadin lights tae its doors...

One man that came tae its doors wis oor Walter, fae Jock's Ludge. Now ah telt ye that Walter had thocht, efter his mother died, that it wis time he got tae grips wi his 'problem', an so he went tae his doctor, who sent him up tae the Royal Ed. Walter attended the Jordanburn Nerve Hospital, an in there Walter saw a sexologist workin at the cuttin edge o sexology, This practitioner still has a name, so ye'll no find it here, it's mair than ma job's worth tae tell ye, but believe me, this doctor wis deliverin whit he wid've cried 'international best practice', if thae three words had ever been pit th'gither back then. Here's whit he did tae Walter...

First, he got Walter tae sit in a recordin booth, an he got Walter tae recall in as much detail as he could, his past encounters wi men, in aw their sexual detail, concentratin oan the pleasurable an excitin feelins he had at the time. Walter found this bit easy, as he had re-remembered these memories ower in his heid fer as long as he could mind. Then, he wired Walters fingers up tae an electric box. Then he played Walter's recollections back tae him, an any time Walter recounted a pleasurable moment wi anither man, he zapped an electric current intae Walters hand, provokin a mildly painful spasm. Ye'll hae heard o this technique of course, it's cried Aversion Therapy an ah wid jist like tae point oot once again fer the hard o hearin, this wis seen as 'international best practice' at the time, an it wis bein cairried oot by the Scottish NHS in Edinburgh, within livin memory...

They dinnae dae Aversion Therapy in Morninside these days, maistly oan account o the fact it disnae work. At aw. Walter wis still as homosexual efter as he wis afore his 'treatment', the only change bein that he wis a homosexual man wi an involuntary twitch in the fingers o his right hand, that never left him. That wis a problem tho, fer by this time Walter wis workin at Ferrantis doon at the Crewe Toll, solderin printed circuit boards. An involuntary twitch disnae make fer a guid solderer, an soon Walter wis haein bother keepin up. He started drinkin. His work got worse. He lost his job, an the drinkin went up an up...

Walter's last years werenae any happier than his earlier yins, the drinkin got bad, he wis in an oot o the Andrew Duncan Clinic, (named fer oor Robert's Doctor/pal) until one dinnertime, efter bein dried oot fer the umpteenth time, Walter wis bein discharged an left the ward tae catch the Number 5 bus back doon tae Jock's Ludge... but while crossin the car-park, right ootside the Jordanburn Nerve Hospital where the Scottish NHS tried tae gay-cure him, Walter had a heart attack an collapsed in a puddle. He never made it hame...

Ah often think o Walter, he wis the sweetest auld man when ah kent him, some wid've cried him an auld sweetie-wife wi his message bag, sittin nursin a half pint an a wee half, lookin like he widnae say boo tae a goose. But Walter wis one o the bravest men ah ever had the pleasure tae ken. End of.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Flooer o the mountain...

So here we are then, it's Hogmanay again, an we've made it through anither year. Maist o us made it onyhow, tho many didnae. Hogmanay's aye been a guid time tae stop an mind them that nivver made it through, a sad wee epilogue tae the year, afore we pick oorsels up an face the New Year wi a smile oan oor face...

Here, ah'm feelin a bit darin th'day, why dae ah no chuck caution tae the winds an break oot the Black Bun a bit early, eh? Ah'll nivver eat it aw masel onyhow, ah'm no ower-fond o the stuff tae tell the truth, an Mr Pangloss jist turns his nose up at it. Ah really dinnae ken why ah still buy it, but ye ken how it is, some things ye jist hae tae dae, it's Hogmanay! Ah'll pit the kettle oan...


Right then, here's yer tea. an here's yer Black Bun. Are ye settled then? Guid...

Noo, this bein Hogmanay of course, ah couldnae tak ye onywhaur else except up the High Street tae the Tron Kirk. This is whaur fowk in Embra hae gaithered fer hunners o years tae see in the New Year, tae stand an tae huddle th'gither in the cauld an the wet tae worship the great god o Passin Time, afore gaun first-footin, intae the warm an the dry, tae worship ither, gey cheerier gods...

Of course, if ye gang up tae the Tron th'nicht ye'll no find many fowk, they've aw been shepherded doon tae Princes Street tae listen tae some pop band daein turns at the bandstand an watch fireworks gaun aff fae the castle, an they'll clap their hands an tak lots o photies afore gaun hame, aw weel-behaved. But if ye'd gone up the Tron up until say the 1980s, ony Hogmanay, ye wid've been met wi a different sort o beast. Hunners, thoosans o fowk, aw dressed up in their best, aw jostlin an bargin, aw half-cut, aw singin, aw dancin, aw pals th'gither. Fowk wid be bletherin awa in the run up tae the bells, catchin up wi aw the news. There wis aye somethin worth passin comment oan, somebody that had shown thersels up, got thersels hung or left their man. An ye met fowk ye hadnae seen fae the last Hogmanay, which aye pit me oot a bit back when we aw bided in the same street...

Then some wag wi a watch wid start up a coontdoon tae the actual bells, 10... 9... 8... doon tae twelve o'clock, an then it wis Hurray! Happy New Year! an ye had tae wish it tae aw yer pals, an their pals, an their pals' pals, an so oan an so forth. There were times up at the Tron ah've felt like the hale world wis ma pal, ah wid jist swing fae crowd tae crowd, gaitherin kisses like they were flooers, an ah wis some daft young thing in a dress made fae drapes runnin aboot in a field, bendin ower tae grab a haunfu o edelweiss, the wee flooer o the mountain, er... ... ...where wis ah?

Oh aye, ah wis gettin ye a bit Black Bun. There ye go... Naw, take it, ah've got plenty! Onywys... ah wis tellin ye how guid up at the Tron yaist tae be, except fer when it wisnae...

Ah mind this time, 200 years ago this very nicht, the 31st o December 1811, when ye widnae hae wanted tae be up the Tron. We were aw in a fowl mood. Times were hard, the Tories were in power (again), we'd fell oot wi France (again), there were riots (in England (again))... ye get the picture... no a guid year... Onyhow, fer whitever reason, or fer nae reason at aw, this gang o lads, ca'ed thersels the Keelie Gang, that hung aboot doon the fit o Niddry Street doon fae the Tron, had decided that they fancied some new hats, an that Hogmanay up the Tron wid be jist the very place tae get their hands oan some. So they ganged up wi anither er, gang fae doon the Canongate, an arranged tae meet up at the Fleshmarket Close, jist up fae North Bridge Street, at 11 o'clock...

Their first target wis the polis, who were few in number in thae days, an whit there were werenae awfy weel trained in riot control. Yin o the polis watchmen, Dugald Campbell, wis attacked jist up fae the Fleshmarket Close at the heid o the Stamp-office Close, an beaten tae the groond wi big sticks.  The ither polis jist fled the scene an fae then oan, till aboot 3 o'clock oan New Year's mornin, the gang had the run o the street an rampaged aboot the Tron, attackin onybody that looked like they may hae somethin o value oan them, stealin watches, purses, money, an of course, hats...

Ah wisnae actually aware o ony o this at the time, ah jist thocht it wis a particularly noisy an rumbustious Hogmanay. Me an ma pal Jessie Knox were late in comin oot fae the Gropin-hoose up Parliament Close ye see, oan accoont o her gettin intae a rammie wi some caddie fae up the Castlehill ower whit ah cannae mind noo. She wis aye pickin fechts wi fowk wis Jessie, she had a face made fer arguments. Suffice tae say we were a bit, er oblivious, an we nivver got much past the Mercat Cross that year, an no long efter the Bells wi heided back tae the Gropin-hoose cos Jessie wanted tae hae anither go at the wee caddie...

Dugald Campbell, the polisman, an James Campbell, a clerk, baith died that nicht, an many mair were left wi serious injuries. Though the gang tried tae flee the toun, some o them gettin as far awa as Glesca, they were soon enough roonded up an sent fer trial in March o 1812. Three o them, Hugh McIntosh, Hugh McDonald an Nicol Sutherland were sentenced tae hing, tho only Hugh McIntosh fer murder, the ither twa laddies, an they were laddies, aw atween sixteen an nineteen, got the sentence o death fer stealin watches. Aye, fer stealin watches...

Ah mind their hingin in the April, whit a turnoot, ye couldnae bare move in the High Street. They built a gibbet specially at the top o the Stamp Office Close, jist at the spot whaur the polisman died, an had fower hunner sodjers linin the path fae the Tolbooth tae the gibbet. The laddies had been hard worked at by the meenisters while they were in the Tolbooth an they stood prayin fer near three-quarters o an hour afore the drop. Ah'll tell ye it felt like an eternity, cos their wis a cauld wind blawin up fae the sea an ah'd come oot withoot ma coat, thinkin it wis warmer than it wis cos it hadnae been a bad mornin ye see an the sun had been oot. That's April fer ye ah suppose...

But look, this is January, or it will be efter th'nicht, an we've got a hale New Year tae look forrit tae noo. We shouldnae dwell oan whit's past, but sometimes it's nice tae hae a wee peek at whit we've left ahint us, like hingin weans fer stealin watches, an pay a thocht tae them that huvnae made it this far. But then we hae tae turn an look aheid o us, paint oan a smile, stick a stupit hat oan oor heid an charge oor glesses. Ah hae a guid feelin aboot the future, tho when ah look at the news ah think ah must be gaun doolally, but ah dae, ah really dae, ah've got a feelin in ma waters, an in a guid way. Ah wish ye aw the best o health an happiness in the comin year fer yersel, an ah hope 2012 brings ye aw ye could wish fer. Happy New Year, an lang may yer lum reek!



Wid ye like some Black Bun tae tak awa wi ye...?


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Get oot o ma hoose!

Weel hullo there! Come in come in, ye're jist in time, ah've jist took ma rock-buns oot the oven, so they're nice an fresh fer ye. Ah hope ye like yer currants a wee bit incineratit, that's how ah like ma buns onyroads. Guid an crunchy oan the ootside, light an crumbly oan the inside. Ah hae tae admit it, ah dae a smashin rock-bun so ah dae. Weel there's nae guid hidin yer licht unner a bushel is there? If ye've got a talent ye should flaunt it, as ma auld pal Fanny Craddock yaist tae say. Ah wish ah could make tablet like ma auld grannie yaist tae make, but ye cannae hae awthin can ye? Ah'm no a bad baker if ah dae say so masel...

Whit's that? Ma title? Oh that! Naw naw, that's no aimed at yersel, dinnae be daft. Ye're aye welcome here, onyday. Naw that title's somethin ah heard anither auld wife shout yince, a guid few year ago noo, but ah'll come tae that in time. First tak yer coat an yer hat aff, an let me get ye settled aside the fire. It's still a bit parky oot there is it no? Ah've got a rerr fire gaun th'day, an that's nae mean feat giein the quality o the coal ye get these days. Last week ah got a bag that wis mair dross than onythin, ah had tae hae a wee word wi the coalman when he came roond. He wisnae awfy pleased at me either, ah'll hae tae keep an een oan him noo, tae mak sure he disnae try stickin hauf-bricks in ma coal!

Right, is that ye settled noo? Here's yer tea. An here's yer rock-buns. Aye they are guid, thanks. Ye dinnae think they're a bit hard dae ye? Sometimes, jist sometimes, they come oot mair rock than bun. Ach weel, if they dae then they're aye handy fer chuckin at Mr Pangloss, say if he starts snorin, or if he'll no wash the dishes. He's an awfy man fer baith. He's haein a wee lie-doon th'noo ben the hoose, can ye no hear him? Ah'm surprised ah dinnae get wee laddies comin tae ma door askin tae see ma train! Ah've nivver kent a man tae mak sae much noise lyin oan his back. Ah've aften stood ower him wi a cushion, wonderin if ah could, if ah should, if ah wid hae the strength...

Actually ah shouldnae joke aboot it. Ah'm awfy lucky wi Mr Pangloss, he disnae knock me aboot an ah should be thankful fer that. There's an awfy lot o wummen in worse situations, wi menfowk that batter them aboot or hit their weans, or even worse. Ye read aboot it aw the time in the News, an hear aboot it in the line at the butcher's. Naebody can be blamed fer makin a bad match, but some wummen seem tae mak a habit o it an gang fae yin bad man tae anither, Worse still, some wummen mak the same mistake twice, leavin their man efter gettin a hard time but then takin him back again. They ken whit they're gettin intae but somethin tells them it'll aw be different second time aroond. Let's tak a walk up the High Street an ah'll tell ye aboot a couple o them...

We're gaunnae tak a wee daunder doon the Old Assembly Close. Noo, ye'll mind this place fae when ah telt ye aboot the night ah helped start the Great Fire o Edinburgh. It's aw been re-bigged since then of course. If we'd come doon this close a few year ago durin the summer, we'd hae had tae squeeze past the queue fer the Fringe Festival box-office which stood at the tap o the close, an the wa's wid hae been covered in reviews cut fae the papers. It made fer some guid readin, an it wis aw free! Saved ye haein tae buy a paper.


But we'll no stop tae read them th'day, there widnae be much point anyroads oan account o this no bein August an the shows aw bein feenished. We'll walk further doon the close, past the auld wireworks, an doon tae Tron Square. The lower pairt o the square's a big C-block facin doon tae the Coogate, wi balconies facin the square itsel. It wis a guid bit tae raise a faimly fer ye could keep an een oan yer weans playin oot in the front coort, an ye could staun oan yer balcony an blether tae aw yer neebors.

Noo back in 1954 ah wis stayin ower wi ma auntie's sister's man's cousin's wife, fer the puir lassie's wean wis doon wi the whoopin cough an she hadnae slept in a week. Ah offered tae sit up wi the wee yin while she rested, which wis how ah heard the rammy that night, ower the noise o the coughin. It wis a dread noise ye ken, that noise o a wean fechtin tae catch its breath atween coughs. Ah'd had it masel as a wean, an ah can still mind the worrit look oan ma ain mither's face as she watched ower me. Like her, ah sat there that nicht worryin awa as ah watched ower this lassie's wee yin...

Upstairs fae us, at Number 57, George Robertson had returned tae his wife an faimly fer the last time. Him an Betty had had twa weans, George an Jean, by this time they were 18 an 16. George wis aboot tae start his National Service an Jean worked in a paper mill. Noo Betty had feenished wi George years afore an had divorced an even re-mairrit, but the second mairrage hadnae lastit mair than a few month. George had come back oan the scene, an Betty had let him in, hopin ah suppose that he had mendit his violent ways. Needless tae say, the leopard hadnae chynged its spots, the man wis still a callous an jealous thug, an afore long Betty had shown him the door, again. Sae feart were Betty an the weans o this terrible man that they kept a chair jammed agin the door at nicht, in case he decidit tae come back. Except this nicht, the 28th o February 1954 they had forgot...

Ah'd been aware o somethin gaun oan upstairs fer a wee while, thumpin an bangin an shoutin an the like, whit ah didnae ken at the time wis that this wis George attackin his faimly. Betty wis in aw likelihood deid awready when George the son, jist oot his bed an stabbed in the heid, had made a run fer it. He had ran doon the stairs an along the balcony, leavin wee bloody footprints in the snaw, an jumped in the scullery windae o the Hay's hoose at Number 42, richt through the wa fae whaur ah wis sittin watchin the sick wean. George the faither wis hot oan his heels, follaed his son intae the Hay's an continued his attack. "Get oot o ma hoose!" ah heard Mrs Hay screamin, but there wis nothin they could dae faced wi an angry man wi a knife...

George cairrit his dyin son back up tae Number 57, an thinkin he had feenished aff his faimly, he set aboot feenishin hissel aff. He turned the gas oven oan an lay doon, expectin no tae waken up. The Hays by this time had gethered thersels an run tae the Polis station up the High Street. When the polis arrived they found Betty an wee George lyin deid, Jean terribly woundit but alive, an George lyin unconscious wi his heid in the oven. George's defence at his trial wis that he had suffered a 'brainstorm', but he wis still convictit o double murder an sentenced tae hing at Saughton Jail. Oan the 23rd o June 1954, George Robertson became the last person tae be executit in Edinburgh...

Here, hae anither rock-bun, afore ah eat them aw masel. Naw, ah didnae go tae George's hingin. Weel, it's no like in the auld days is it, when ye actually got tae see the dirty deed yersel. Staunin ootside a jail waitin fer them tae pin up a wee notice, weel it's jist nae fun. Ah think ah went dancin up at the Fountainbridge Palais insteid...

Ah dinnae ken if it wis somethin in the water at Tron Square, but less than 20 year later, anither wumman had mairrit badly, saw sense an kicked him oot, then took leave o her sense an let him back in. Margaret Bain had got mairrit tae Andrew durin the war, but it only lastit till 1948 when the pair had got divorced, no an easy thing fer a wumman tae gang through in thon days. Margaret had suffert a terrible abuse durin the mairrage, bein burnt wi a poker, threatened wi a knife, haein cigarettes stubbed oot oan her airms, awsorts o devilish tortures. Why then, ye hae tae ask yersel, had she allowed Andra back intae her life? But let him back she did, an sure as guns the rows an fechts startit up again...

The nicht o the 16th o October 1973 they'd been haein yin o their rows, her gettin oan tae him aboot gettin a job, him, pished as usual, haein a go at her aboot her cookin. She couldnae help that, puir lassie, we cannae aw be Fannys can we? Durin the row Andra reached up, took a pair o Margaret's nylons doon fae ower the fire, an pit them roond his neck. "Gaun then!" he says, "Tak an end. Hing me if ye want! Ah'd raither be deid than eat yer lumpy mince onyway!"

Noo whether or no Margaret actually strangled her man we may nivver ken, ah dinnae think she kent hersel. She said she did, she turned hersel ower tae the polis sayin "Ah killed the bastard", she even pleadit guilty in the coorts, but durin the case a psychiatrist said it widnae hae surprised him if Andra had done aw the pu'in hissel. In the end, even though she pleadit guilty, the jury found itherwise. Why dae wummen get thersels intae sic situations ah'll nivver ken...

Naw it's like ah say, ah'm an awfy lucky wumman wi Mr Pangloss. He disnae hit me, he disnae bite me, he disnae stub his fags oot oan me. In fact he wid be the perfect man, if only it werenae fer that damned infernal racket! In fact, if ye're no wantin that last rock-bun, ah think ah'll awa ben an chuck it at his heid, or mibbe ah'll stick a couple o burnt currants up his nostrils. Ah ken, he's a puir battered husband an nae mistake...