The Best of Easter Road
A friend from Pitlochry reminded me the other day of the first time I went to Easter Road – the stadium and the street – to see Hibernian v Partick Thistle. It so happened that it coincided with George Best’s debut for the Hibees. Although his best days were behind him, there was feverish activity, a sort of paying homage, to a talent on the wane.
A human river teemed over the old railway bridge at Bothwell Street and on to Albion Road, before slowing to a trickle at the South Stand turnstiles. (As an incomer, I felt naturally drawn to the away end, even though I’d adopted Hibs as my Edinburgh club.)
Those were different times, 28,000 or so hardy souls – were we all there for Georgie boy? Pretty much.
I still regret one particular game I missed. The one with the streaker.
At the next home game, Best was on the pitch bamboozling his strike partner, Tony Higgins, with a series of feints dribbles and dummies. Resorting, finally, to gesturing to a clearly dazed Higgins where the ball was going.
Off the pitch the boys were competing against each other to give me the best description of the lurid details pertaining to Streakergate.
The clear winner was Charlie Skinner, whose agonised “Aw maaan yi missed yirsel! Honest tae god, it wis tits, fanny an awthin! Jeezus.”
Tits, fanny and everything, in tandem with Jesus and God would have had the twitterati.
After the game we squeezed into a Tamson’s Bar bulging with happy Hibees, where we were served by Sheila. Fifteen years later, when I moved to the area, she was still there.
A spry Invernessian, who was apparently ‘a lot older than she looked’, she kept a fine bar – waspish wit to the fore. Her unique selling point for me, was her curious relationship with drink measures.
When girls of my acquaintance ordered white wine, she would go to the Stowell’s of Chelsea font on the bar and fill a half pint dimple glass of a ‘passable’ chardonnay to the brim, for the princely sum of not very much… Pretty damn soon, guys of my acquaintance – and yours truly, followed suit.
Returning to that first day, I took a quick break from our usual all-day session to explore a little. On Edina Place, I found a curious pink building which, the last time I visited the wrought iron gate announced, Valvona & Crolla + Sons Catering Ltd.
This was the site of Alexander’s Snooker Halls. Those flats across the way were Boyd’s Printworks and that brutal industrial estate at the end was Edinburgh & Leith Crystal Company. All gone. Sacrificed to the ever-changing urban landscape.
You can’t win with hypochondriacs, of which your correspondent is the absolute acme of examples.
The merest throwaway line on parting, such as “look after yourself.” Finds me grinding my teeth and heading for the nearest mirror whilst analysing every portentous syllable of those dread words.
When I get to that mirror, I’ll turn on the harshest light and scour my face for the alarming tell tale signs, which surely point to why someone would say LOOK AFTER YOURSELF, rather than goodbye, cheerio or even, god help us, laters.
Even perceived compliments, can fill us hypochondriacs with dread. “You’re looking well…” That’s a good start. Don’t for heaven’s sake follow it with, “you look like you’ve lost some weight.”
That conversation will end abruptly for my concentration will be focused solely on the vexed question: How can I have lost weight, I’m not on a diet?
Of course, that means at the earliest opportunity I shall park myself adjacent to a computer and type into a search engine – ‘reasons for dramatic weight loss’. ■
George Best celebrating after scoring