Why are we here?


Posted by in August's Magazine

Confession time. I’m not the world’s best networker (someone who chats with a stranger about what they both ‘do’ apparently). The minute somebody introduces me as, “This is Billy from The Leither”, I come over all surly teenager and mumble “its just Billy.” Serial inviters have got so used to this that, on introducing me, they will inevitably arrive at an embarrassed pause. “This is Billy from………erm, Billy.” Which is actually bang on the money (though I’m not suggesting for one minute that coming from ‘Billy’ is necessarily a good thing).

I mention this only to say that when I was dropped outside a tangerine shop front near the bottom of Leith Walk by my Long Suffering for an ‘opening’ a few weeks back, there was a good chance that as soon as she took a right at the lights I’d be lickety-splitting it at a decent clip away from the event. Indeed if I were a gambling man, I would have had plenty of six-to-fives on it and once I spotted the piper preparing to skirl outside the door I would have shortened those odds to ten to one on.

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I attempted an about turn that would have had Nick Clegg purring with pleasure, too late, fatally, I’d been spotted. “Are you the guy that runs the”……..he was momentarily forgetful. “Leither,” I say, finishing his question, whilst trying to edge into the middle of the oncoming traffic. “We must exchange cards,” he urges. (Are we on each other’s Christmas list? How could I have forgotten that?) He started clicking on his Blackberry (argh), “Could we diarise a window of…” When all of a sudden there was an unholy racket, like a cat being put through a blender very slowly. It was the bagpiper wheezing into action, the cue for us to enter Punjabi’n de Rasoi. I love you bagpiper man person.

Inside I wondered why I skulked about outside prevaricating for so long, here was warmth, generosity of spirit, endearing speeches, multiculturalism as a matter of course, a sense of a place steeped in the community and Mary Moriarty, who networks with the formidable grace of the retired bar owner she is. So I glided around in her slipstream and picked her brains. “Why are we here?” Not so much an existential question as a forgetful one. “Oh, Billy,” she gently chided, “it’s the rebranding of Punjabi’n de Rasoi as Punjabi Junction, apparently Scots were having difficulty with the original name.”

Then I saw the Munroes and I knew all was well. Gordon ‘Our Man in the City’ Munro has long since given up on trying to get me to blow my own, ahem, trumpet on The Leither’s behalf…but he does it beautifully. Which allows me to hide behind my fringe while studying my fingernails and occasionally poking a finger in my ear. Perfect.

The other Munro, Sine, has one of those jobs. You know the ones. No matter how many times they are explained to you, you are none the wiser. Is it something to do with Human Resources or the Big Society? Whatever, she is at ease in these situations and indulged me: “Could you get me a drink, my glasses are steamed up.” “I have a phobia of queues, could you get me something to eat?” “Who’s that guy there? No, I don’t want to meet him, I just want to know his name.” “Why are we here?”

But even with the redoubtable patience of this trio of lovelies and the inspiring thought processes behind Sikh Sanjong and their increasing number of multinational volunteers and too the newly refurbished Punjabi Junction premises, I was getting antsy. So I made some patently ridiculous excuse (along the lines of, “I think I left an unlit gas ring on”) and left…after what seemed like 3 hours. On checking the clock outside I realised this whole episode had lasted just 27 minutes.

With its lovely food and ultra charming staff and management you truly must make it the bustling community hub that it thoroughly deserves to be. And yes, I will be there, just don’t talk to me.

7 responses to “Why are we here?”

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  6. David Jacobsen says:

    '27 September 2013
    Visited Punjabi Junction. Sikh women's refuge cafe. Took along leaflets LOVE CULTURE HATE RACISM for event in Edinburgh. Looking about trying to relax with a drink and food. Man with her hooded top over head. Tall, thin. One girl aged 11-12 approx. One woman medium- thin black hair. Man pushes down metal pavement divider for table space outside cafe. David Jacobsen.'

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