Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Muffins and Edinburgh, the Discomforting Duo



The automon who's running my workplace is being, ugh, festive. I wish I could feel comfortable with muffins on a tray and offers for a few hours off, but I'm not. I'm nothing if not wary and far from complacent in my mood. Sure there might be muffins today but tomorrow there could be a tedious meeting about regulatory compliance. To explain it, it's little bit like I used to have a tape (Now 12 Australia) that had Wendy Matthews The Day You Went Away on it, which is a lovely song, and then straight after it was Achy Breaky Heart so you had to race across the room in a panic to turn it off - my moods are like that, if I'm sitting in a good pleasant mood I feel like an Achy Breaky Heart kick in the head is coming soon. To be honest, it might just be the muffins to blame today, they make me nervous. At Coles, if they were displeased with someone, always at the meetings there were muffins. They dragged me in one day because my little cash till was always out, and sure enough, fluffy muffins, the more serious the offence the fluffier I found. I also find the protracted nature of 2009 already being planned out for me to quite terrifying. Today my computer fizzed like a Sodastream with e-mails all day with invites to events as far ahead as June, so that was quite odd and scary, as I have no idea what I'm doing in June, except probably watching repeats of The Simpsons. Actually, I know why I'm edgy today. I went to jump in Pepa (my car) this morning and Barry Tosser was standing directly at the side of my car, daring me to talk to him, as he walked his dog in the camp geography teacher fashion he loves so much. Even his dog was drunk on neighbourly nosiness. Everything is already festively upside down, my sociable friend is now an allegedly poverty stricken domestic recluse I'll see twice a year, and my unsociable friends are going to take me to Avoca and get drunk in a pub and teach me about the local ambulance services. I have enough on my plate without the edges being crammed figuratively with people acting strangely and out of character, and literally with muffins that look sweet but have a suspiciously bitter aftertaste...

Such ennui and poetic discomfort always makes me think of Edinburgh. Edinburgh always had a strange feel to me, if for no other reason than my Mum always told me Glasgow was the real capital and everyone in Edinburgh had two heads. That and the fact that from Ayrshire the only way you could get there was on an old Nanna bus, which took tourists and the terminally bewildered to Edinburgh on a day trip, thus lending it a slightly Only Fool and Horses go to Margate feel. You couldn't just go to Edinburgh, you had to queue up for a touristy minibus with curtains and drapes and you had to stop at a toffee factory and a pottery barn just to buy the same tracksuits you could buy in Glasgow but at greater expense and with more tales about the war. On one trip to Edinburgh, we got on with three pre pubescent roller skating champions. None of them liked me. The first time I went to Edinburgh with my Dad, he took me to a putt putt golf course, and I got a hole in one at the wrong hole. Then there was a giant panic at Wimpey burger because they'd run out of pineapple. People were outraged. My quiz team (form an orderly queue ladies) went to Edinburgh as a treat after we made nationals, and the whole day just descended into a dead arm punching competition and a series of horrendously rude puns that meant we didn't get our free white chocolate bars. So whenever I've gone to Scotlands capital city, strange things have happened. I've usually ended up sitting on my own on a step or a bus stop bench or outside a shop while someone was arrested or dragged away by security, just as it started to rain, or I wondered why I'd blown 500 pounds on a pair of shoes, or wondering why I didn't just stay at home. And the cannon and the castle, that's an equally depressing but completely different melancholy mood. I was kind of dumped just before a trip to the cannon. I say dumped, it was just plain bourneville (the plainest of all the chocolates) rejection. So while everyone was sitting around oohing and aahing about the wonderful historic nature of the cannon and the castle I was sitting at the back of tour group trying to turn a letter written with quite specific rejection instructions and few redeeming of hopeful paragraphs into some kind of she might still like me jolly note. Not even the jolly dog at the top of note paper however could manage to make it a positive experience...

To throw all these things together, about September 2001, most peoples memories would be of the world seemingly coming to an end. My memories are standing at Largs train station utterly convinced any minute now Muslim terrorists would be invading, a possibly libellous Geri Halliwell story, and a trip to Edinburgh. The trip to Edinburgh was it's usual uninspiring self, enlivened only by the bus drivers choice of Barry White tapes to entice and allure the single mothers up the front for flirtacious chats, and my Mum demanding that I give up my seat for people who were palpably capable of a long term stand near the bag rack (they didn't look elderly or infirm to me). My Mum was quite probably telling me a lot about how much better Glasgow was than Edinburgh, and we probably had a stop off to get some form of disgusting truck stop jelly but I can't remember. I can remember the ending to Meatballs 4, that's in the space in my brain I would otherwise remember what I had in the truck stop. Mum and I had a massive argument early in the holiday about how much I had tipped the taxi driver and my failure to give my seat on a train to an old woman and, if I'm honest, my face tripping me due to jet lag. We decided to go our seperate ways in the holiday until a re-conciliation later in the holiday when someone else annoyed us even more. What this meant for me was reckless irresponsible spending without the voice of my conscience on my shoulder asking if I really needed 22 pairs of denims. I was loaded up with cash, was distressingly free of friends and girlfriend, and I had things to buy, and sure, my life wasn't yet in the positive direction that it would soon take, but if I had a jumper with an ironic cartoon character on it, how could it not improve? As the bus bunny hopped into an Edinburgh car park at about 11 in the morning, the heavens opened and we realised that the bus had actually broken down in quite a dismal carpet warehouse backlot, and several quite greasy men with dirty faces and business cards that said dodgy on them were loitering around trying to sell us carpet and deceipt. Needless to say that we weren't best impressed that our glamourous trip to Edinburgh hadn't rewarded us with sights and sounds (but definitely smells), and we made our way sharply to where the action was, at least, before we got carpet samples to go with our soaked clothes...

Now, my two aunties are disparate personalities from the same large family - one footloose and fancy free despite the depressing grumpiness of her husband (he's the one who won't see his grand-daughter before 8:07 am because up to then is porridge time), and legitimately very funny (her doctor said she had put on weight due to an overactive thyroid and she said, no son, it's an overactive knife and fork) and the other the one who sits at her table doing Thats Life style puzzles and saying that her life doesn't extend much beyond the table and her bed, who also said once she hates laughing. We kept them seperate on the bus as they had both decided to come with us to Edinburgh on this particular day, sending them to opposite ends of the bus armed with a bag of Werthers Originals each. Once we got to Edinburgh, the carefree and happy auntie took me shopping while the surly auntie decided to get some lunch. She (happy auntie) was incredibly patient and in her carefree happy styling way said everything I bought was brilliant. I had lost Mum to the charms of a shop that sold sensibly priced jumpers, so I was happy. After a day of trying things on that I couldn't really afford then buying them, we came out of the last shop and there, leaning against the bus stop like a surly teenager, was my miserable auntie. The curious part was, she wasn't just waiting for us, she had adopted all the characteristics of a surly teenage girl, when she was really 55. She had one leg on the ground, one against the bus stop, was smoking a cigarette, had a face like fizz, and best of all, had gathered herself a posse. Around her were several genuinely surly teenagers who were staring at the ground and cursing their Scottishness. What had happened in the interim to cause this situation god only knows, but it was very strange. While I had bought some jumpers my auntie had become the pied piper of despair, an epicentre around which Edinburghs most pasty faced ginger plooky weans could gravitate. When we went over to ask her what she was doing, she didn't reply, so we asked her again. She said something akin to cos I feel like it, even though that wasn't the question. The gingerest plookiest of all the weans then hissed (hissed!) in my direction. Such was the fierceness of their group disdain that I felt very uncomfortable and was about to back off and take my Auntie and anyone smiling (they didn't like smiling) away to safety when one of the girls (who was strawberry blonde) asked if she could have twos on my can (which means could she have a drink of coke, in early 90s Ayrshire speak). I gave her a drink, and the gathered apprentices seemed to lighten up after that, since they milled with a little less intensity. To the disgust of my auntie, who snatched the can out of their hand and wandered off down the round, with us in puddle splashing pursuit, trying to work out what the hell was going on, and why we were suddenly in pursuit of the worlds most sulky 55 year old coat wearing gangsta in the hood pouting teenager who had nicked off with my can of coke...

Like a lot of things though, it was Edinburgh, and I just chalked it up to that...

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I was never too worried about a terrorist invasion. Considering that would mean a stand up fight instead of striking by surprise.

Jannie said...

As if I weren't resoundingly weird enough already, my only child was not only born in September 2001, but on the 11th, a few hours after the second tower collapsed.

The world pretty-much started for me that day.

Oh yeah the porridge grand-pa. I remember him!

Miles McClagan said...

That is a good point, but the Sun in the UK was basically telling us that we were all going to die any minute now...at the end of that holiday, the Greater UK Council of Muslim Clerics walked through Glasgow Airport...it was a mutually suspicious moment...

I was watching Ricki Lake and eating cornflakes - they never resolved Rickis dilemma o'the day...congrats on giving birth on that day though! Memorable! The porridge Grandpa is a pretty memorable lump of grinch...

squib said...

I ended up in the bad part of Edinburgh once, when I lost my way on my way to an interview for a nanny job. Two 7 year old boys asked me something in Scottish. I said 'Pardon?' about 50 times before I reaslised they wanted a light

Also I didn't know about the canon when I first got there and I was near the castle eating a weird orange cheese sandwich when it went off. I nearly wet myself but I didn't let go of my sandwich

Megan said...

Whew. Catching up a week at a time tends to throw me into a whole nother dimension of sorts.

I know a kid born on 9/11. I remember hearing the news and standing up and yelling, "in the midst of death we are in life!"

the projectivist said...

i used to hate it when a perfectly good tape was ruined by some awful song slipped between 2 really good ones.
oh the mad dashes that i've made to the fast forward button!

for some inexplicable reason - i never liked Wendy Matthews.

i like her even less, now that i realise she looks like the woman that my ex carried on with.

Miles McClagan said...

For some reason, every single place in Scotland has a bad part of town...every single town has kids trying to get twos on your cigarette...nannying in Scotland wouldn't be much fun either...so many imaginative ways to refuse to do things...

I can imagine, it's scare me reading back a weeks worth never mind anyone else...that's beautiful by the way...all I was doing was getting a Geri Halliwell story, and feeling morose on a train station...

It was awful wasn't it, especially when you made a tape off the radio, and you taped a song you hated and forgot about it...as for Wendy Matthews, I didn't realise how boring that clip for The Day You Went Away was...she was a poor womans Jenny Morris...