Bernard Street & Pilar from Eldorado


Posted by in July's Magazine

When Shelley met Janice, one of Bernard Street’s finest residents, for a chat about an advert she got rather an earful. “Tell that Billy Goolie…” (for she has indeed believed that to be my handle for the better part of 20 years, without once sniggering at the Carry On style double entendre possibilities offered up by that surname) “…that I’m not happy with him. The Leither is rubbish.” She then proffered a fulsome list of my cardinal sins – not reporting on that atrocious Performance Licence farrago; not writing about the old Tape Club (which used to take place at the Isobar a couple of years back); why do we have two writers based in London when her daughter – who is from Leith – could do better; why haven’t I done an article on artist Davy Shearer (though I do own one of his marvellous paintings); reporting that I discovered Dan Wilson aka Withered Hand when I patently didn’t and, finally, shamefully, neglecting to mention the fact that The Clock was Leith’s original sandwich bar/coffee shop in this tawdry publication. I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads of other grovelling apologies, but these should be enough to see me firmly back in her, ahem, ‘good books’.

An eagerly sought approval, for she was, and is, delightful. Prone to wonderful malapropisms. When I asked her why her children weren’t allowed to drink Coca Cola, she said that there were loads of conservatives in it and she had read that they were bad for kids. And, you know, in a way she was right, too many conservatives in any scenario are indeed a dangerous thing.

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She is by way of being Bernard Street’s matriarch. Having welcomed waifs and strays to her flat, at its exact geographical centre, since the world was young. Indeed took in this one, having convinced me that taxiing to and from Morningside to Leith every day for work was a criminal waste of money when I could be siphoning it in her direction, and you know what, she was again proved correct. Her flat was quite the North Edinburgh literary/art salon – dinner parties and good conversation were de rigeur, “Billy Goolie, if you cook a meal for everyone once a week and try to interact” (note that try, she had me nailed even then), “I’ll charge you less rent.”

You’ve already guessed, I never did…I stuck to a strict regime of rising late afternoon, just in time to catch the old truckers caff, before it closed. It was housed in a mock Tudor cottage across from where the grasping Casino now squats. ‘The Trucker’s Special’, double portions of every breakfast item known to man on a plate roughly the size of a flattened hot air balloon, was essential. As was my nightly fix of Pilar Moreno and her horses in the short lived, magnificent, soap opera Eldorado. Which blared from the telly in the corner – complete with garishly orange high contrast and flickering horizontal lines.

Thence to what is now the Isobar and was then Rabbie Burns’ Alehouse, god knows, maybe the window where Burns famously scratched out a poem with a coin, as he had no writing materials to hand, was still there, it certainly seems long enough ago. And Pierinos chippy for a ‘top up’ – the gluttony of youth – before heading to The Angel Hotel (now The Mal, then a dole hostel) for pool and ‘dancing girls’. Which reminds me, I must go and buy Janice a present from Flux. Why? Conveniently, I’ve run out of space!

– Billy Gould (also answers to Goolie)

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