Mindin’ The Man – A Pickle o’ ra Great Guid Times

I think we started laughing when uzyins first clappit eyes on James joining wur class at Perth Academy. It wuz weel into the year, an he wuz a’ trickt oot in a new school uniform … yes, he was late, like by six months! Titter, titter. A bit later on, unforgettable was a French teacher asking for James’s absence note, and he consulted his watch to say, “Tomorrow, sir!” We laughed like drains! Cannae mind when we stertet exaggeratin’ speakin’ Scots but “Whit ur ye sayin’?” was fur certain early on and lasted a lifetime. Aye raising a lauch were constant iterations of many fungs, bawz, erses and kunches. 

The laughs got louder with leaving school and starting to go to pubs. Funny sights, dafter comments … Ewen and James had some classics, flatting together in a couple of places. I enjoyed joining them of an evening in their abodes, just cupsatea I think, pubs at weekends.  Then there was some daft driving … James in Alan McDonald’s car. He wanted to get out, so he leaned forward and turned aff the ignition – they clearly werenae gawn ower fast. 

Then there was driving drunkish late at night from Paris back to the north of France aboot three ’oors. Crazy! Prolly lucky to have survived.

We were staying with family friend, Lucienne. She made us lunch where we went into fits of laughter at the stringy cheese in soup … we blamed the fortified wine she gi’ed us! 

Before gawn tae Greece, we bought paper pants. James said, “Mair hygienic in case cannae wash wur underwear.” Aye, nae sae fung comfy though! Greek mezes and Retsina, heaps o’ it coz we got money from gie’ing blood in Athens. The electric trouser presser for keeping James’s Levi’s beautifully creased … an essential practice (an’ ah dinnae think!) for rough travels like sleeping oot ’neath the stars baith on ship decks an’ on the spacious roof verandahs of Greek houses.

In Caen in France, James and I found a nightclub advertising Champion Jack Dupree, yin o’ the great bluesmen of the time, resultin’ in a tidy memorable time stawn’in’ roon’ the braw player’s pianny.

The great Prof. Batty encounter, James rolling up for ward round after a night on the piss, unshaven, the same clothes he’d been tae the pub in, including a dark blue flying jacket … Batty speired at him if he’d served in the Royal Air Force. James’s replies matched his appearance!

There were jokes like “What’s the difference between a duck?” and “Rub it around yer back passage”  and “What are the two things smelling of fish?” 

One totally daft night was at university in my flat across the Meadows, sharing with a few others, yin a medic a year ahint James – Gareth made verra fine (that means hoor-uvva strong) hame brew. Yin time James and I sat up a’ nicht quaffin’ the lethal liquor. James described it later, “Goadalmichty! That was a fung alcoholic trip”, no’ jist referrin’ tae the 15-minute walk ower tae the Arts faculty caff for a coffee and a guid lauch a’ a’ the sober dafties. 

James was aye wonderful tae quaff a glass wi’, an’ he wad often say in the company o’ pals an’ family, “Aye, this is braw!” … huz tae be said it wuz efter a guid few glesses, so he was prolly praising the dram he was doonin’, fair enjoyin’ a tidy skinfu’.

Wi’ a couple o’ ither pals, James and I wad enjoy regular weekly pub meetings in the likes o’ “Greyfriar’s Bobby” (Yeh, the famous dug!) at lunchtime. Then ’ere was the Café Royal, a muckle bar jist aff Princes Street, whaur we’d meet o’ an evening aince a week. It was aye great gawn there, a spacious change from the wee pubs whayz bars we usually propped up. 

Then ’ere wuz cawmpin’ a’ ra Mull o’ Galloway, wi’ a transistor radio tae listen tae the Rolling Stones’s “The Last Time” (or maybe it was “It’s All Over Now”, wuz a lang time syne, see!), playin’ every hour on Radio Caroline from the pirate radio ship; munny a gless o’ hame brew and mairan a few perties we got intae cerryin’ a few bo’ls o’ the stuff coz it wuz twice the strength o’ normal beer; drinkin’ grand pints o’ Export at the Killiecrankie Hotel efter a three-oor walk from Blair Atholl; cuttin’ gerse at country cemeteries thegither and a few pints at lunchtime when there was a pub nearby; travels tae bide in a chalet in Swiss mountains wi’ Dennis, Tom an’ his freen’ Malcolm; skiing at Mount Tongariro; guid times in the mid-1970s in Masterton at perties in my flat, and visits to old flatmate friend Grant, his fermhoose at Rangitumau about 20 kilometres out. 

Ower 20 years efter we go’ back fraeTokyo, ’ere wuz munnae a visit tae Christchurch, like ower a score, tae see James an’ ither freenz – years afore that there was a pickle o’ trips wi’ mah faither in tow an’ also efter we had cycled doon the West Coast. ’Ere were several visits tae see Rod and Marie-France frae Embry on their trips tae see Bernadette and Sara, and a few visits fur special celebrations, like fur James’s family 21st. This is no’ tae say James didnae visit us: ’ere was yin mem’rable visit to Paraparaumu wi’ Tom frae Brisbun in tow fur mah 65th – fortun’ly ah was able tae repair later a straight-back chair tha’ got broken … winnae ging intae tha’ awfu’ tale! There was also a guid visit by baith James an’ Brigid tae see Beth no’ awfy weel in ICU in August, 2015. 

It wuz aye gran’ seein’ James in Christchurch, huvin’ a gless, talkin’ the auld times in wur daft lingo, huvin’ a lauch at a’ the daft lines and jokes frae lang syne; the cooking wuz aye tidy, usually delicious smoked fish for “horseydeuvers” and then spanakopita an’ fresh garden salad.

The last time I saw The Man was on Moreton Island, November, 2018 for Tom’s 70th. It was great,  he an’ Tom having many a guid lauch ower naithin’ at a’.  Guid tae see freenz like tha’.