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...


  1. Bit kin ye make doughnuts like Fannies?

  2. Mr Conan, ah might've kent ye wid come oot wi somethin like that. Ma bakin skills are way aheid o ma art skills since ye ask. Try as a might tae make them like Fannys, aw ma doughnuts turn oot like rings...

  3. Another piece of fascinating Edinburgh history. I've often wondered why people (because I suspect that men do it too) think that because someone has said that he/she is sorry, they will have changed. I guess it's love... or stupidity.

    Great story Sophia... I liked yer rock cakes, just right consistency and the burnt bits are tasty. How's your Victoria sponge?

  4. Thanks tris, ah'm gled ye like them. Ma Victoria sponges are awricht, but no a patch oan ma Madeira cakes.

    Oan the love vs stupidity debate - whit's the difference again? (oh ah'm sic a cynic!)

  5. Beautifully told yarn as usual. Word of warning though I would be careful as some-one seduced me once after a few Madeiras.

    If I could be so bold as to offer some advice on snoring. You should encourage Mr Pangloss to indulge in some particularly adventurous and energetic activies before going to sleep it should cure his snoring. It works for me .....

  6. Oh Ma Goad! as the youngsters like tae say these days. Mr Pangloss disnae need ony o yer encouragement in that department thanks. Onythin ower adventurous an energetic wid likely pit paid tae his snorin yince an fer aw, an ah dinnae mean it wid help him tae sleep! Ah aften think yin o the benefits o gettin auld is bein able tae retire fae 'adventurous an energetic activities' if that's no too long a euphemism...

    Then again, ah've got that nice wee ridd baby-doll nightie sittin in ma bottom drawer no gettin much wear, ah've aye favoured ma flannelette oan account o it bein a lot warmer. Ah got it in a sale at Arnott's years ago when ah had a rush o blood tae the heid. It's likely got a few moth-holes in it, but ah dinnae think that wid maitter much. Ah think ah'll awa an hae a wee rummage, but dinnae let oantae him, ah'd like tae gie him a wee surprise...

  7. If we don't hear anything from you for a few days then, I guess we'll just assume that it's all down to the baby-doll nighty, and Mr Pangloss doing his best to cure his snoring...

    Mr Brownlie of course goes around proposing to young wenches, comely ones that is, that they should perhaps "Have some Madeira, my dear", after the fashion of Flanders and Swann, so I doubt if it was he who got seduced... more likely the other way round.

    If he comes round with a bottle of the stuff, and you have your baby-doll nighty on, I couldn't be held responsible for the outcome. You have been warned.

    I take your point on love and stupidity.

  8. Yer rock cakes are lovely but noo there's crumbs aw ower the place. Yer comments section will need a guid clean efter aw this talk aw fannies, rings, nighties and night time energetic activities.

  9. Ryan,

    Quite right - as a wee free I think that Conan and Tris should be exorcised and ostracised.

  10. Tris,

    They don't have to be "comely" - whatever that means. All they need is to be indiscriminate, have a shocking taste in men and don't mind that I look like Quasimodo's ugly brother.

  11. Jings John, have you been working out, and using Oil of Ugly since I last saw you?

    I have been exercised this afternoon... does that count?... I've not been near any ostiches. Honest. Never touched them.

  12. Tris,

    ostiches???? Sorry, I forgot, penquins and munguins are more to your liking.

  13. I'm very fond of penguins. A munguin is of course a cross between a penguin and a monkey. A creature from the magical forbidden forest bred by Hagrid, I wouldn't wonder!

  14. Here this hoose is gettin mair like a municipal menagerie by the day! Ah'm gaunnae hae animals' doins aw ower ma carpet, never mind ma hoose smellin o bananas an fish! At least aw the ostritches penguins an monkeys'll hide aw the mess created by aw that talk o ither things. Then ah can invite that sweet boy Ryan up fer mair hame-bakin. The rest o ye can look in ma lobby press fer the dustpan an brush. John, how are ye at beatin rugs?

  15. Naw, they're not actual animals Sophia, more some intellectual perception of animals, so don't worry about the mess; we don't intellectually perceive that!

    But in any case I've heard that Mr Brownlie is quite good on carpets.

    BTW....Does Mr Pangloss know about the sweet boy?

  16. Ooh tris, ye're breakin ma illusions there. Ah'm sure that wis a ostrich turd ah saw in the lobby last nicht. Mynd, ah wis only gettin up fer a pee so ah didnae hae ma specs oan. An ah'd had a nice wee piece on cheese fer ma supper, so mibbe ah wis wrang. An there wis me went an bocht a mega-box o industrial pooper-scooper bags!

    Mr Brownlie's quite good on carpets is he? He could pit that oan his publicity material...

    BTW...Whit Mr Pangloss disnae ken'll nivver hurt him.

  17. This is beginning to have the air of tardiness Ms Pangloss.

    Time we were invited round, before that bottle of sherry I got you goes foustie!

    (Ps, I dunno if he's "good", exactly, but reports coming in suggest that he's better on carpets than he is on the waxcloth!)

  18. Right that's it.

    Wakey wakey!

    I got so desperate, I had to open that bottle of sherry, but there's still a drop left... and that nice Mr Brownlie is back from his travels to foreign parts, so get yer best frock oot and get the invitation in the post, otherwise I'm gonna come roond and throw stains up at yer windies like the Dundee ned that I am...

    D'ye hear?

  19. Oh ah hear ye tris, ah hear ye, loud an clear. Ah'll no spin ye ony lines, ah think it's fair tae say ah've been a lazy besom. Ah've had ma reasons fer no writin, but in the cauld licht o day they wid only look like excuses, an oan their ain they dinnae justify ma indolence. Ah aye planned tae pick up ma pen an paper again when ah wis laid up efter ma wee operation, no quite realisin that ah wid be as laid up as ah've been...

    Ah'm sorry ye had tae cairry that bottle o sherry aroond wi ye fer sae long, ye'll hae been gettin a richt name fer yersel, but ah'm gled ye enjoyed it eventually, fer which ye probably got anither name fer yersel! That nice Mr Brownlie'll no be quite sae nice when he finds oot, cos ah ken he likes his sherry. Mibbe he'll hae brocht a nice bottle o Russian sherry back wi him, or Egyptian or Canadian or wherever the hell he's been gallivantin aff tae!

    Whit can ah say tris except ye've caught me bang tae rights? Ye've poked me in the conscience an ah'mm feelin it keenly. Ah'm no due back at the stairs fer a few weeks yet, an ah keep tellin masel ah'll hae tae get ma finger oot an ma brain intae gear, so really, ah dinnae hae ony excuses. Keep that drop in yer bottle (if it's enough tae be worth savin), let me get the hoose a wee bit straight, an ah'll see whit ah can dae tae mak it up tae ye...

    Oh, an ah'll try tae stay aff Twitter!

  20. Well, what a relief.

    I was beginning to think that maybe Mr Pangloss had caught wind of some (imagined) impropriety with Mr Brownlie and kept you in your room.

    I'll not ask too many questions about your operation as it was probably women's stuff and men tend to get a little queasy when that sort of stuff is mentioned. I'll just say that I'm glad to hear that your making headway. Don't start back on the stairs too early. You'd not want to burst the stitches!

    Yes, Mr Brownlie brought back a nice bottle of Antarctican sherry the last time he was away... it was nice served on ice, and he brought that back too, so we didn't have to buy any.

    Just as soon as your up and about give us a wee shout. I'll maybe even splash out on a wee half bottle, as it'll be a special occasion.

    You take care of yourself...



  21. Well, well, well, I turn my back for a day or two and come back to find you two billing and cooing. I should have got a bit suspicious when my ears starting burning - and it wasn't carpet burns.

    Hope you are feeling better and that the mid-wife was kind and had nice warm hands.

    I'll make a bargain with you. If you start blogging again I'll do the same as I've got awfully lazy and had to pretend to be busy working.

    Hope to see you soon!

    Bigger and warmer hugs than Tris's!

    John B. xx

  22. Hey Sophia,

    John tells me you've been sick, but that you're up and about again and on the road to recovery.

    You take it nice and easy. And don't worry about inviting us round for another story. I've been to the Co-op and bought a bottle of Tio Pepe, and put it in the loaby press. Soon as you are better I'll break it open and we'll have a great old time.

    Make Mr Pangloss do the heavy work now, and you'll soon be back at the stairs.

    Can't tell you how much we've missed you.



    PS: What's that old Haybag Brownlie on about... bigger and warmer hugs than mine... pffff I think (between you and me), that the old duffer is a bit, you know.... senile.... wink wink!