It was a Tuesday morning early, time to wake up and tackle the drive to Edinburgh this morning. The portents looked healthy as I took an early run in the morning sunlight and home to prepare myself for the journey. Bags packed I stepped into the car and headed off north at 10am towards the A1 and a few hours behind the wheel.
Ploughing on through squally showers and dark skies I was soon passing over the Scottish border with only a briskly taken cup of coffee behind me. Heading towards a favourite lunch stop, Eyemouth, a small seaside town. A stroll and a breath of fresh air on the promenade later, I headed towards the renowned fish and chip shop on the main street. It’s the seaside – I’ve driven a long way – I deserve fish and chips I reasoned. The food came over the counter, I paid and received my first sight of a Scottish banknote in a while when I suddenly realised the full weight of what I was about to receive. This place hardly holds back in it’s portions as I manhandled what seemed like a family meal in a large, reinforced cardboard box. It may as well have been a pallet.
Settling down to a seat on the prom in the bright and welcoming sunlight I tucked in with both elbows. There were actually two fish in the box (or was it a small shoal) and a mountain of chips. I gave up the fight and handed much of it to a panting black labrador with sea water still dripping from him. Have you ever seen a dog smile? Small children gambolled around in Scottish football jerseys as dad’s kept a wary, blearly eye over them. Faint school holiday noises rose from the beach below me.
Lunch at Eyemouth
Approaching the city from the east there seemed only one right thing to do – visit Easter Road Football Ground immediately! Turning down the Heavenly Boulevard by the same name I parked up and took a satisfied look up at the relatively new stands in all their green and white glory. I then stepped into the merchandise shop with some determination and a plastic card grasped firmly in hand. Three new Hibs tops and a friendly chat with an assistant later I emerged somewhat pleased with myself and headed towards my friend and host’s home in Northfield.
After the re-acquaintance and a bottle of beer it was straight down to business. That night we were off over the Forth Road Bridge to see The Proclaimers at Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline – a first for me in spite of being a fan for many years. To get the evening under way we headed for Broughton Street which heads down a hill north from the city centre and has something of a ‘village’ feel of it’s own I always think, a little like Stockbridge, despite being cheek-by-jowl with the city centre. Mathers Bar is the more recent relation of a fine old Edinburgh bar and institution situated in the west end of the city. Venerable place though it is, I actually prefer the Boughton Street version with it’s civilised atmosphere and fine array of whiskies. Mathers was swiftly followed by a drink each in The Barony Bar and The Cask and Barrel, also on Broughton Street and both recommended, before friends came along to take us to Dunfermline.
Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline is a pleasant mid-size venue which was first opened in 1937. Although only seating a few hundred people it’s an impressive and stately looking hall with friendly staff, modern bar and restaurant and atmospheric theatre area. Staying awhile in the bar talking to new friends, we climbed the steps to the balcony shortly before The Proclaimers took the stage. A big cheer and the boys strode out, the twins looking very much part of what was a five-pice band. Opinions on The Proclaimers tend to be divided and polarised. I happen to like them a lot. Their stories, all mainly short stories and tales wrapped up in song. They’re full of humour, dissatisfaction, pathos, sentiment and anger by turn. Make no mistake an abilty to compose songs around these emotions and a myriad more for three minutes or so is a huge talent. The Proclaimers can claim to be social commentators without all the po-facedness that often accompanies such a stance.
After the initial, bright opening of Life With You, many of the old favourites were expertly and passionately reeled out. The boys have a lengthy song book these days which includes some timeless material ranging from the political Letter To America and Scotland’s Story, to the wry humour of Let’s Get Married and What Makes you Cry? There was a wink towards the Hibees amongst us with the anthemic Sunshine on Leith – beloved by most Hibs supporters and the final encore, The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues.
“I’d never been to Ayrshire
I hitched down one Saturday
Sixty miles to kilmarnock
To see Hibernian play”
A glorious culmination to a long day, my friend, his wife and I retired back to Edinburgh and a quiet drink in Robbies Bar on Leith Walk to reflect and catch up in the old pub. A fine day I considered as I wondered what lay ahead for tomorrow.