Mindin’ o’ Drinkin’ – Ur ye fu’ ye’?


                                    A puckle wine delivert tae James’s hoose … “Aye, erra nuff furra coupla weeks!” 

Apéritif:  James and I wad often say ower the second pint or gless o’ wine, “Ah, that’s better!” We enjoyed drinking as students and on into our 20s because it was relaxing and we dearly lo’ed the social side of drinkin’, meeting other folks in a bar or at a party. I sometimes wunnert if this meant aiblins there was difficulty for us in sobriety or normal living. I huvnae dwelt too much on tha’ coz there wuz quite a few of us, maybe up to a dozen good friends all enjoying pints in a pub, wine in a restaurant (or at a cinema!), and some whiskies if we could afford it to get a bit steamin’. There were a few instances, a few contretemps which we eventually managed to laugh about, totally untellable here – there has to be some sense of decorum!  We always had a guid laugh when James would say, “I feel a drink coming on.” Then half an hour later he’d say, “I feel another drink coming on.”

Drinking Starting: We didn’t frequent pubs until we came of age, back then in Scotland age 18. It was probably just as weel there was limited drinking hours, pubs closed in afternoons and only open in the evening betwixt 5.00 and 10.00. (I can still hear Harvey, the manager of Bell’s at 9.50: “Right boys, last orders” then we had to be oot aroon’ 10.15.) I think the first time we actually got some cans of beer was when we were camping with my cousin Billy at the Mull of Galloway, a farm there had a nice campsite, and we could walk roon’ on the beach to the wee toon of Drummore,  three or four miles awa’. Billy, being a year older than us, maybe he was 17, managed to purchase a couple of cans of McEwan’s pale ale, which we took back to the tent to enjoy at our leisure. One time my father arrived to pick us up, and we hadn’t hidden the cans properly. Kennin’ weel mah dad, I dinnae think he cared ower much. Onnywye, he prolly blamed Billy!

This was the same time we would piss oot o’ the tent door to save us having to pit oan footwear  – James would say, “Better pissin’ oot ‘o the tent than in.” 

Home Brew:  Yin o’ mah flatmates, Gareth, a medical student a year younger than James, made awfy fine home brew … from tea leaves. When I say “awfy fine” it was helluva strong, the reason we loved it, of course! We would sit up late on weekends enjoying its relaxing qualities. Yin time we bided up a’ nicht, then walked ower the Meadows aboot 20 minutes to get a coffee at the David Hume Tower (We ca’ed it the Davey Hugh Toor) to it’s big student cafeteria. We were sae oot o’ it, sae blootert, we just sat there laughing at a’ the dull sober people aroon’ us, thinkin’ that they’d had a night’s kip and we’d had a great night carousing and joking. That all-nighter was such an experience, James later referred to it as an alcoholic trip, something that quite a few other students did with psychedelic drugs.  It was the Sixties after all, and you know what they said about them … yeh, weel done! Ye fung goat it! If you remember them, you weren’t there! Think aboot it! Our home brew misbehaviour occurred only once, thankfully.

James an’ I an’ wur ither freenz enjoyed a guid quaffin’ camaraderie an’ we were generally aye civilised aboot it, nae metter whaur we were havin’ a gless: Embry, Paris, Perth, St Andrews, Rouen, Athens, Noosa, Killiecrankie, Rhodes, Moreton Island, Wellington, Prestonpans, Christchurch, Malia, Dundee, Dunkeld or the Brig o’ Earn … or wherever.  He was aye pleasant, wonderful to have a glass wi’, and would often say in the company o’ pals an’ family, “Aye, this is braw!” … huz tae be said efter a guid few glesses, so he was prolly praising the concoction he was sluggin’, fair enjoyin’ a skinfu’. We had quite a few descriptions for “huvin’ a drap ower much”, such as “pissed as a fart”,  “fu’ as a puggy”, “fair stocious”, “oot o’ wur heids”, “aff wur trolleys”, “fleein'”, “bad last nicht”, an’ “fair blootert” … no’ tha’ such applied tae us a’ tha’ much, of course!

James became great freenz wi’ mah faither, someone aye ready to share a gless, even the bottle, especially whisky – nae wine for him! A dram or five of Johnny Walker was the ticket, nae sic a thing as a wee suppie, hud tae be a guid dram. James and he were defnly brithers o’ the bottle o’ Scotch. However, two more unlikely friends you’d ging a lang wye tae run intae: the one highly educated, sophisticated and much younger, the other a farmer and hardly literate – clearly a victory for a shared sense of humour, cigarettes, a lot of Scottishness an’ oodles o’ usquebaugh! Yeh, “water of life”!

   James, my father, Claire, Robbie – Wellington, 1978 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                 

My dad lookin’ a bit “pit oot” wi’ a wine glass!  About 1986, Christchurch. James in new cap jist delivered frae Sclun.

Wellington, Nov., 1978:   James and mah faither who was visiting from Scotland for a few months, enjoyed protracted whisky drinking, so much so that they’d bide up a’ night at the drap o’ a bo’le opener. On one of those occasions they ran oot o’ whisky about 3.00 a.m., but James recalled that I had a bottle in my bedroom, the door to which I had locked on going to bed, wisely thinking I didn’t want anyone coming in and stealing it. Well, such was James’s need for more Scotch (and certainly mah faither’s), James knocked on and ca’ed in mah door, waking me and starting a protracted spiel o’, “Come on, man, gi’e us yer fung whisky!” Eventually, in order to get back tae  sleep afore work in a few hours, I gave in. When I came home late the next afternoon, mah faither and James were still asleep, nae doot aboot tae rise and get stuck intae the boozing again.

Of a Friday evening in Wellington in the late 1970s James and I would arrange to meet at a bar for a coupla drinks. He was aye late by weel ower 30 minutes, so yin Friday ah decided to get wise and arrive later to reduce the waiting time oft uptae 45 minutes.  Of course, James had managed somehow to be no’ sae late that evening … so I was met with, “Where the fuck ya been, yacun’?”  I think I secretly hoped a little of own medicine was aiblins guid for times o’ future meetings.

On the subject of lateness here, I  never let JayBo forget the time he had a very important meeting in Christchurch to do with the disastrous publishing venture  … he mistook the date managing to arrive 24 hours late, that’s like a day late, like getting the date wrong! Jeez! He couldn’t have arrived a day early, could he? Fortunately, I was living overseas at tha’ awfu’ time. I know that James worked very hard to keep the bad business going – still, publishin’ local newspapers is a lang wye frae doctoring.

March, 1979   I landed up in Wellington hospital for a week wi’ a haematoma incurred playing football with a bunch o’ trainee chefs at Welly Polytech. Reminiscent of James bringing me fags years afore to help with my post-anaesthetic cough, he brought me cans o’ lager.  Ah hud quite a collection to tak hame wi’ me.

Christchurch: No’ sure when, maybe for Hamish’s 21st birthday party, James’s second son. I think it was aboot 2012 at Gwynfa Ave. There were five or six cases, each containing a dozen wine bottles delivered at the back door. I’m sure it was efter the celebration, or maybe nae celebration of a’, just the regular delivery. I spiered at James hoo lang it wid tak him to get through that lot. He said a coupla weeks. I said, “Oh, sae lang!”

James’s drinks o’ choice: Well, pretty well anything but in the latter years ah ken he was downing white wine, gin and Cointreau … yeh, mixed thegither, or maybe just the first two chasing down a Cointreau. James loved “kwaffing kopious kwantities o’ Kwantrow”. Then there was whisky –  one of the best memories is about him and close friend Jerry who had accidentally dropped and broken a bottle of malt – yeh, a great drap drappt!  James hud ra great guid idea of gettin’ straws. So they baith spent some time sookin’ up the whisky aff the flair, wonnerin’ aboot bits o’ glass, but livin’ tae tell the tale. Personally ah widnah hae buthert wi’ ra straws, just sookt it up aff the grun’ … mind o’ daen tha’ wi’ spilt wine on ra kitchen coonter. The whisky drap pits me in mind o’ anither whisky memory.

The dropping of Johnny Walker Red:  We went munny times tae Killiecrankie Cottage awa’ up in the hills north of Pitlochry. Four or five o’ us got back ae nicht frae the Killiecrankie Hotel bar doon the road aboot three mile awa’. We had bought a tak-oot bottle of Johnny Walker Red for further drinks and laughs before pit. Somehow the cerrier of the bottle managed to drop it on the cottage stone floor – yeh, mustah been fu’!  Baith o’ them!  So that was the end of late hours and serious drinking that night! Still, we had a keg of good Scots “heavy” so we were a’richt for a couple o’ pints. There were a fair few “fungs” aboot huvin’ tae dae wi’oot Scotch though.

                                               

Mentioning the Killiecrankie Hotel there weel minds me o’ yin occasion on which James and I had had a liquid lunch (and maybe a wee pork pie) at the Blair Atholl Arms, then at about 3.00 walked five miles along the road to Killiecrankie village with its own hotel and bar. Opening time for a pint was 5.00 and we duly got settled in. We got chattin’ for a wee whiley to a couple o’ nice waitresses, but we didnae ken onnythin’ aboot their boyfriends working out the back. Later we were told yin of them was named Gordon, and I managed efter a guid few pints tae scrauchle up into the bushes ahint the hotel and start singing, “A Gordon for me, A Gordon for me, If you’re no’ a Gordon, yer nay use tae me!”  Dearie me! If occasionally my eccentric behaviour overtook, it was aiblins just a pale attempt to keep up with James’s superior daftness. Fortunately, in this situation James had the great guid sense to get me away and oan up ra road on the 70-minute walk tae ra cottage.

“Yer oot! Yer oot!”  James, Ewen and I liked to walk in the hills around Killiecrankie, maybe in our early 20s, the pleasure of pints at the end a great attraction. We went into a hotel pub about lunchtime, a real dive, ordered pints. The auld felly serving managed to put quite a heid, like over an inch o’ froth, on Ewen’s pint who then asked, “How much do you charge for a pint here?” On being told, Ewen said, “And how much do you charge for this?”  It got us thrown out! I’ll never forget the auld barman’s words, “Yer oot!” Never mind, it gave us more time to walk five miles to the next pub, easy enough to hang around for opening time at 5.00.

Here’s yin, tellt by James hissel – “Pint, man?”  

 “I used to really annoy my friends by going up to them in the reading room or wherever, especially when they were awfy busy wi’ swotty stuff, and I’d say, ‘Fancy a pint, man?’ Some of them would say, “I’m really busy, got to swot! Gottan exam the morry.”   Then I’d say, “Just the yin gless, dae ye the warrl’ o’ guid!”.  Then they’d say, “You buying?”  I’d say, “Of course!”  Naturally, we’d have to stay for two pints coz I’d say, ‘ ‘Syer roon’, pal!’ “

Other Drinking Dens:  Apart from regular visits to Sandy Bell’s, there were other pubs we frequented sometimes at fixed times. For example, three or four of us would meet every Wednesday lunchtime (Wed. afternoon was half day at university for playing and training in sports) for a few pints at Greyfriar’s Bobby, a fine old comfy pub with a classic lounge, just round the corner from Bell’s. Then there was the Café Royal, a huge circular bar in a giant room with six tall Royal Doulton ceramic tile portraits celebrating some of history’s greatest innovators, such as Caxton, George Stephenson and James Watt looking down on the alcoved seating all around the walls. For a time several of us met there once a month to taste their excellent lagers and drink in the old atmosphere … so to speak.

James in Christchurch, Feb., 2010, Ewen and Lynda’s visit. “Yeh, it’s a fine mix of white wine and gin!” 

                                                                                                     

 

                                                Café Royal bar, Edinburgh

 

Wanaka, Aug., 2018: I asked James at his 70th celebration why he was making such a weird cocktail of white wine and gin. After saying it made the gin taste better, he said it was very relaxing. I said, “Yeh, it would make me so relaxed, I’d be richt blootert, an’ ah’d prolly fall over and no’ be able to get back up. Then ‘ere’s the hoor o’ a fung hingower the morn.”

On Moreton Island for Tom’s 70th in Nov. 2018, James opened one of Tom’s prezzies, a bottle of Cloudy Bay, and was about to neck it when I said, “Better no’ let Tom see you, mun, that’s a prezzie to him from us.” James said, “Ocht, he’ll no’ mind!” Indeed, later Tom told us he didn’t care for Sauve Blanc. Pissed me off a wee bit though, the thought that we’d bought a special bottle for Tom, just for James to nick and neck it!

End Feb., 2023   I aye liked thinking of James having had a few mair ‘an me o’ a nicht, especially if it was helping him to deal with his illness, and helping me to be smug, thinking ahm nay quaffin’ nearly as much as him!

Our shared weird Sco’sh lingo

 A wee whiley into a drinking session we’d ging oan like this:

“Ur ye fu’ ye’?”

“Oh aye, fu’ as a puggy!

Ur you fu’?”

“Oh whit! Ahm fa’in doon fu’!”

“Aye, nae surprise there, ye fung should be, drinking a mixture like that.”

“Guid furree! Ye should gie it a wee go.”

“Foff! I’d be fung stocious if I drank that.”

“Ah said guid furree, mun! Yer gless is empy, should be fu’.

“Like you, eh?”

“Ah think yer slaverin’, mun … yer fu’ o’ slavers! Ahm nae fu’ … no’ yet any road!”

“Ur ye fur anither?”

“Is the Pope Catholic? Mak it a big ain.”

OK, see me, see you, see pints, see fu’ … Let’s hae a few!

Ah wuz mairan a wee bit ticht, so had tae scrauchle a bit tae get intae the back o’ the car.

See yon wee pork mingles and tattie pies in Sandy Bell’s, a richt load o’ aul’ kich, especially if

no’ heatet richt.

The last email I sent to James, beginnin’ o’ February, 2023:

“Hope you can aye pit another shot of Kwantroh in yer gin and wine!

Nothing like kwaffing kopious kwantities o’ Kwantroh, kuncheh!”

The Pertin’ Gless

O’ a’ the time that e’er I spent, I spent it in good company;

And any herm that e’er I’ve done, I trust it was to none but me;

May those I’ve loved through a’ the years  Have memories now they’ll e’er recall;

So fill tae me the pertin’ gless, Goodnight, and joy be wi’ ye a’.

 

O’ a’ the comrades that e’er I had, Are sorry for my going away;

An’ a’ the loved yins that e’er I had Would wish me one more day to stay.

But since it fall unto my lot  That I should leave an’ you should not,

I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call  Goodnight, and joy be wi’ ye a’.

 

O’ a’ the guid times that e’er we shared, I leave to you fond memory;

An’ for a’ the friendship that e’er we had  I ask you to remember me;

An’ when you sit an’ stories tell, I’ll be wi’ ye and help recall;

So fill tae me the pertin’ gless, God bells, and joy be wi’ ye a’.