We’ve hung a roadside atlas of Scotland over the door in our flat, draped there like something we shot and dragged in for drying — it looks so big on paper, but you can see much of it we’ve covered now by car, criss-crossing our way to the north, a ferry to the Orkney islands tomorrow, then back south again to Oban, to Edinburgh, and the west coast where we’ll depart for Belfast the end of the month.
Three out of four of us have blogs now — Charlotte’s, an exercise in home schooling and writing (she’s 8) with a list of potential names for her site like Flying Hearts, Glass Hearts, Swimming with Fear (suggested by Lily), or my favourite, suggested by Dawn: Escape from Eden.
Escape from Eden, the true story of an 8- and 10-year-old girl, sisters, uprooted from their perfect suburban childhoods for a year (actually nine months, but the lease to rent our house out is a year), taken to a small village in Germany no one’s heard of where they don’t even speak German they speak Schwäbische, then to the UK in the WINTER, with highlights including Kinblethmont estate, the Standing Stones of Stenness, Giant’s Causeway. How, just as we were starting to really make friends and develop relationships our parents took us away to “connect,” to “figure things out.”
Exclamation points are for the youth; elders get the semi-colons, the periods.
It may be the fog now, but the landscape has the look of a lawn after it’s been covered in snow for several weeks and finally melts out, it looks wet and startled, as I think the people do, and though there are many nicer looking places in town I return to the same pub every day because I like the route getting there, it feels a bit sleazy cutting down the side streets past the dumpsters, through puddles and pigeons, emerging outside the bar, I didn’t even know its name for a while, always old men out front hacking and smoking, staring at me as I disappear up the stairs to the lounge.
It gets good Western light, and there are no TVs or bleepy gambling machines, as in the other bars, and though they have a jukebox, it’s unclear how to put money in because it’s digital and I’m embarrassed to ask, and don’t want to dominate the mood — instead, it throws out a random song every five minutes or so that comes blaring in and disappears, leaving us in its wake, this time, me and three guys at the bar and yet another, different woman working it — the third one I’ve met now, asking me what I’m writing, joking, do I work for the tourist’s office, am I giving them a review?
This barmaid’s new, is boasting about ejecting a guy from the bar last week, which was hard because he had his willy out, and when she got him out on the street he was there with his druggy girlfriends and she pointed at each of ’em, You can fuck off, You can fuck off, and You can fuck off — going around to all of them like that, her finger out like a wand.
I notice one of the guys at the bar is shaking so much when he holds his pint he has to kind of aim it to get it in his mouth, then the beer sloshes and claps inside the glass when he sets it on the bar.
The other tells the barmaid to skip this song when it comes on but she says she likes it, doesn’t want to, so he just slaps his hands down and says, Alright, I’m goin’ – and he’s off. And after he leaves, they say he’s changed, he’s not the same, and one says Women’ll do that to ya, and it goes quiet again.
Climbing the stairs to the lounge I realise it’s the smell of it I like, the sense memory of other bars I came up in, dives, with names like McGlinchy’s, McArdle’s, Jack’s, or Dirty Frank’s. They keep the door to the men’s room open so you can hear when someone’s in there, peeing against a dry, metal trough — and on Mad Friday, the Friday before Christmas, all the amateur drinkers come out to make the rounds, and the work parties, and they’ll get dressed up and come into the Old Market Inn because everyone’s heard of it around the world, the plumber says — and some of the women with their heels will say it looks a bit scabby, and the barmaid will make a gesture with her hand to shoo them out, to say You can just go, then.
I learn about Guy Fawkes, and a holiday every fifth of November to celebrate him, because he tried to burn down Parliament and so they have a big bonfire and fireworks down on Ness island, where they had the Halloween festival last week.
And I read an interview with Raymond Carver about his drinking, when he stopped, how he wrote, how he drank, and too bad so much of the interview was dedicated to talking about how he drank, his seizures, black-outs. He says a writer is judged by what he writes, which makes sense. As a plumber, bartender, thief.
Post title HT to Morrissey, “Sister, I’m a Poet,” 1993.