Oatcake beermats & rogue false teeth


Posted by in February's Magazine

To the Dockers Club for a bustling Burns Night supper in aid of Leith Festival, with Messrs’ Illand, Simpson and Donaldson. Mary Moriarty has prior knowledge of the kind of rabble we are so, astute as ever; she placed our table four-square at the fire exit door. The better to manhandle us through it should ‘ribald heckling’ and/or ‘a fracas’ ensue.

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Yours truly’s current extreme hirsute phase received beastly treatment from The Leith Middle Aged Team, in particular its self-styled leader, Dame Philip Attridge of Limehouse and Godalming, who called me Noah while casting glances at my nether regions and asking me where my burning bush was. And his brute of a henchman, Councillor Gordon Munro, who, not unreasonably, claimed I was the double of that Jerry Garcia from loathsome musical combo The Grateful Dead.

Popular Dockers’ mine host and raconteur Walter Leitch – who never knowingly tells a short story when a long one will do – was in his pomp, sporting new Tartan Trews a Dickie Bow and freshly mowed hair. While the girls did us proud, juggling hot plates whilst negotiating a path through the ravenous hordes, Walter sailed across the carpet like a galleon in a force 10 gale, offering bread as if we were attending Holy Communion.   

Meanwhile, at the ‘big table’, in her Response from the Lassies Sally Fraser (who graces this scandalous rag with her sagacious words) was telling us that while looking for an angle for her speech she asked her daughter – aged 9 I think – if they still taught sex education at school. Her daughter replied unblinking “what’s education?”

More gold was mined when, as she prepared to go the theatre, Sally’s son (aged 12?) asked her what the play was called. Somewhat taken aback, but unable to fudge the issue, she blurted out “The Vagina Monologues,” and waited for the ‘difficult questions’, none came, just “what’s a monologue?” Who knew? Kids are growing up faster.

Incidentally so funny was the bold Sally’s speech that many people didn’t notice she forgot to ask us to “raise your glasses to the gentleman in the room.” I’m not sure she did though, after the year that’s gone, I feel sure she was worried she’d add: “And pour the damn whisky over their stupid heads!”

As Walter did a second tack around the room with his replenished wicker basket of bread, some wag offered, “Here Wattie if there are 5 loaves in your basket, give that hairy guy from The Leither 2 fish and he can re-enact the Sermon on the Mount.” At this point, being one of England’s hardy sons, I was pointing out to anyone who would listen that the round thinks they were eating (oatcakes, it seems) were better employed as beermats – indeed I took a set of six home to use as coasters.

The Newhaven Community Choir promised a more seemly end to proceedings, but not before Councillor Munro, resplendent in pre-glasnost rabbit fur hat (not real fur, surely?) requested Glory, Glory to the Hibees. Offering a couple of verses in a robust, stentorian voice, presumably so the choir could get their heads around the complicated phrasing.

The choir did not flinch, launching instead into the evocative Caller Herring:                                                                    “When ye were sleepin’ on your pillows,

Dream’d ye aught o’ our puir fellows,

Darkling as they fac’d the billows,

A’ to fill the woven willows?”

Mr Pat Illand, tearful but not maudlin, sang along vigorously even as his false teeth took on a life of their own, clacking together like castanets. ν

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