Follow the beer-stained road

It’s been a long week, not helped by having to do a full weekend shift last weekend, Saturday this weekend and a full one next smegging weekend plus several late shifts. And remember, boys and girls we don’t get paid extra to work these hours, so think on that next time you’re late-night or weekend shopping. Waterstone’s, helping to wipe the smile from a bookseller’s face.

So when I finished last night I put on my shades and toddled off round the corner to the Guildford Arms to meet my mate Gordon. Ah, beer, eases the pain… A pint of Bitter and Twisted because I am; because it’s good and full bodied; because so am I. Gorgeous spring evening – not the first sunny day we’ve had, but now it is also warm. So we decided it was time to take care of one of our ancient Celtic customs in Edinburgh and headed up over the Bridges towards the University – with a brief stopover at the excellent Piemaker for a Moroccan Veggie (rice, vegetables, spices, half a pound of hashish, a young Moroccan boy, a typewriter and the complete works of William Burroughs) – and, braving all the bloody south-of-England yahs (posh inbred twats basically) we arrive at the Pear Tree, which hasn’t actually had a tree for sometime now (it did when I first started going there a long time ago in my student days). What it does still have thought is a bloody huge beer garden, so it was time for some outdoor beer al-fresco. As you can see from the picture it was bloody busy as it normally is when the sun comes out.

After that we plotted an erratic course back home via a number of hostelries that we hadn’t been in for a while. We avoided Greyfriar’s since it was mobbed and headed down into the Grassmarket behind the Castle, thinking we’d get a beer there before it gets later into the summer and it is too choc full of tourists to enjoy. We ended up in the Last Drop, so named because it’s the inn opposite where many a vagabond danced on air on the end of hemp rope, usually before a cheering crowd. Next door is another gallows related pub called Maggie Dickson’s, named for that lady who was hung but didn’t die and was released, although she was forever known afterwards as Half-hangit Maggie.

Walking up West Port we saw what had been Christie’s was now reopened as a new bar, but again it was mobbed so we walked past. Christie’s used to have a tiny basement bar attached called The Comic Den; all painted over with comics characters. We went into the Old Fire Station, which used to be Braidwood’s Fire Station when I was a student and was a huge student favourite, complete with stuffed foxes in old firemen’s costumes. It still looked the same, but the students had all gone to be replaced by what can only be described as members of the lads brigade, complete with ugly slappers in tow. Loud, pissed already, yelling, shouting, smashing glasses… My, this place has gone upmarket… You know you are in a quality establishment when the condom machine also vends inflatable sheep and pocket vibrators. Classy.

Went on to Tollcross and into Cloisters, a lovely wee stone pub and one of my former locals – one of my best student flats was right round the corner and we could see the back of the pub from our kitchen, along with the back of our local Indian, which gave me a warm feeling inside. We had a couple of very nice pints of Kane’s Amber Ale and felt a little better at no longer being the oldest people in the pub, as we were in the Pear Tree. Things start to get hazy around now. I recall leaving Cloisters, visiting what had been my old local chippy – which has changed hands and is now, unusually, run by an Asian family – for some greasy sustenance. I don’t remember much of the long walk along Home Street but eventually we reached my local pub, my beloved Caley Sample Room and had a couple more to finish off the night. And so all the way home from work (well, six hours after finishing) via a circular route, navigating as we used to in the old days by pub. Who needs a compass when you have pubs to guide you? Some were haunts of mine in a former life and are still fun, others now altered and no longer welcoming. Plus ca change. Some pubs come and some pubs go, but liver damage is forever.