The day Celtic won the league (aka The Weekend I wore double denim; aka Josh Rouse @ The Mash House, Edinburgh

Recently I have been finding myself sighing loudly at increasingly frequent intervals and often with a sprawling dramatic effect, to the point where people nearby who are witnessing this theatre have been asking if I am alright.  I have been considering whether this involuntary act is just another thing that happens as we become older – for I am aging every day, after all – or if it is a symptom of something else. There have been days of late where I have felt a lot like a petal in a rainstorm:  lost and alone and helpless and drenched in thought. It was with this wistful and weary feeling that I took my seat on the sparsely populated 18.11 Scotrail service to Glasgow on Saturday evening.

The sun was hanging low in the sky over the bay by this time, longing to be returned to the ocean, and I had eaten a truly terrible pizza before I left the flat.  I was becoming tired, and when I carefully placed my Tesco bag for life packed with four cans of Budweiser on the table it felt a tad ambitious. I glanced around the nearly empty carriage as the train departed and became aware that the only other person who was drinking alcohol was the man sitting at the table adjacent to mine.  He had the appearance of someone who was low on his luck and who had probably not long since gotten out of bed. I hesitated in pulling the ring on my first can of beer, feeling reluctant to be grouped with this down and out. Then I wondered: what does he think when he looks across the aisle at me?  He probably doesn’t care.  By the looks of his fingernails he probably doesn’t care about much at all.  I sighed and opened the can of Budweiser, and in that moment we became one.

I was only able to drink three cans of beer, but somehow that didn’t matter when I reached the reception desk at the Travelodge and was greeted by the girl who last week had remembered me from a previous stay.  This time I didn’t have the same quiet satisfaction of being remembered by an attractive female whom I don’t remember, as not only did I remember her but I had been hoping to encounter her again. She noted that I was dressed in double denim and I acknowledged that it was a bold decision which I might not have made had I been sober.  Over the course of the weekend I would see at least five other men who were wearing a combination of jeans and a denim jacket and on none of those occasions did I feel convinced that it is a style which is back in fashion. My case, in particular, was probably not helped by the fact that my jeans are now at least a size too big for me and so much of my belt is being used to hold them around my waist that there is a length of leather left flapping like a carrier bag caught on a rail.

The Travelodge girl processed my booking for two nights and as she was doing so asked me what seemed to be an unusual and unexpected question.

“Would you mind not having a bath?”

For a moment I was caught off guard and hesitated.  The possibility ran through my mind that the Travelodge girl was sexually interested in me and that the forfeit of decency and hygiene was some kind of kink of hers.  But she looks much too manicured for that and my ability to wash myself is one of my best qualities, so I immediately dismissed that notion.

“Can I at least shower?”  I queried.

She laughed in the same way women tend to when I say something which is both vaguely amusing and laden with ineptitude.  She clarified that my room would have a shower but not a bath, and I declared that would be fine with me as I had forgotten to pack my lavender bath bombs.

Having checked in to my room and applied a fresh squirt of Joop Homme and disrobed myself of my denim jacket I returned downstairs, where disappointment furrowed my brow when the diminutive and curved blonde Travelodge girl was not behind the bar.  Instead I was served Guinness and Glenfiddich – as they were out of Jameson – by a taller, balder and more masculine character. Whilst he was not at all unpleasant he very quickly indulged me in the intricate details of his latest hobby, which happens to be to collect coins, and I have no currency for small talk.  He read to me from his small notebook a list of countries and denominations, page after page of them, and would later allow me to hold a Portuguese escudo. I had never prepared myself for such a thing and didn’t know quite what a person should be saying when holding a small piece of Iberian silver.

“It’s an interesting design,” proved to be the best coin chat I could muster.

Fortunately the coin collector’s shift finished at eleven o’clock and the Travelodge girl glided across the floor to serve a couple of older women who had ordered a vodka and coke each.  She informed the ladies that the bar had run out of ice and asked them if they would welcome a wedge of lemon as a substitute. They declined, and at the first opportunity I challenged the Travelodge girl on the logic of offering lemon as an alternative to ice.  She claimed that as it dilutes the drink it serves the same purpose and I wasn’t convinced.

“Speaking of lemons,” I exclaimed with the kind of excitement I get when something funny occurs to me.  “I’ll tell you something I’m feeling bitter about – you’ve run out of Jameson.”

Without hesitation she responded.

That joke is something to be bitter about,” she welped, emphasising the first two words as though she was questioning whether it could even be classed a joke.

Although she was clearly incorrect I continued talking to her anyway, and I relayed the tale of how I had gotten so drunk at the bar the previous Saturday that I fell asleep on top of the bed and gave the housekeepers the easiest Sunday morning they could have experienced.  Her face demonstrated a lack of surprise at this revelation, and she confirmed that I left the bar “in quite a state” that night. With those words I imagined that I had walked away from my bar stool in the manner of a bag of wet, unfolded laundry.

By this stage I had been joined by and found myself in conversation with a gentleman from the west coast of Ireland.  We discussed the upcoming Old Firm fixture; his love of Liverpool FC and how if Steven Gerrard becomes the next Rangers manager he will disown him the same way he did Michael Owen when he signed for Manchester United; the difference between football fans and GAA fans and how he can attend a Mayo vs Dublin game and sit next to someone from Dublin and hate them for no longer than the period of the game; how living in Switzerland for four months has taught him that “the Swiss are cunts.”  At points I found myself acting as a translator between the deep Irish brogue and the Glaswegian accent, and I was melting inside at the sound of both. I felt a deep awkwardness drinking Guinness poured from a can in front of an actual Irishman – it is inferior to the real thing in every conceivable way – and I suspect that he eventually became so offended by the sight that it was the cause of him getting up and leaving without ceremony.

On Sunday morning the sky was a sapphire blue and it looked as though it was dressed for a party.  I was conscious earlier than anticipated and decided to walk from the city centre to Celtic Park rather than take the train to Bellgrove, as I would ordinarily do on these type of match days.  During the week I had created a playlist of predominantly sad songs for a blue-haired friend who seems to be going through a troubled time and I listened to it as I made my way along the Gallowgate, as I had been doing all weekend, though I didn’t imagine that the groups of people singing behind me were serenading the journey with The Speed of Pain by Marilyn Manson.

Although it was early in the day – pre-afternoon, in fact – it was notable how many of the men walking ahead of me were cradling bottles of Buckfast in the back pockets of their jeans like it was the most prized possession in their life at that moment, in the way some carry a wallet holding pictures of loved ones or an iPod with their favourite songs.  Later, into the afternoon, those same bottles are standing triumphantly against lampposts, lined in regiment along the tops of walls and propped proudly against pavement kerbs, statuesque, like the way we memorialise heroes.

Celtic Park was shimmering in sunlight and the next time I saw my face my forehead was pink like a medium-rare fillet steak, owed to the lack of protection a cap might have offered – or a full head of hair.  This was not my first health and safety concern of the afternoon. I almost lost my glasses in the wild exuberance of the first goal, and by the time the third goal was scored and the entire stadium – save for some of the 7,000 in blue who were already shuffling towards the exits – locked arms around one another to do the Huddle I had visions of tumbling over the seat behind me.

At times I found myself glancing at the steward presiding over my block and wondered if she was The Most Beautiful Steward in the World from a game some time last season.  I had my doubts, because she looked a little fuller than before, but then that was an evening kick-off and much like bar lights everything looks better under floodlights.  I was convinced that it might have been her, however, by the fact that she shared many of the mannerisms The Most Beautiful Steward in the World had, such as frequently looking up at the screens and refusing to make eye contact with me.

During the half-time interval I embarked on my usual effort to source a sachet of brown sauce, which at times seemed almost as unlikely as finding a Rangers goal.  The base of the steak pie was sticking to the foil case with much more resolution than the Rangers midfield had been showing and the whole thing became a messy farce.

In the ground I was continuing to struggle to understand a single word spoken by the Northern Irishman next to me, though I am certain that he was excited.  The names of Andy Halliday and Alfredo Morelos reverberated around the stands with an adoration which is unlikely to be heard in even their own homes. By the time the fifth goal was scored and Celtic had won the league on an occasion where they had beaten Rangers for the first time since 1979 the place was heaving with joy the likes of which I have rarely seen.

After the final whistle I found it difficult to celebrate the way I felt like doing when I ended up in Shilling Brewing Co. drinking a hoppy session pale ale by the name of Goonies Never Die.  Often it seems to me that an IPA is a drink which is not supposed to be enjoyed, so complex and harsh it can be on the palette. The girl with the pink hair made a late withdrawal from the Josh Rouse gig and I travelled to Edinburgh alone.  I decided that I would eat dinner on the train and bought a brie, bacon and chilli chutney sandwich that had been reduced from £2.25 to £1.49, though with hindsight it wasn’t as substantial a reduction as it had seemed at the time.

With the journey between Scotland’s two largest cities being less than an hour I reckoned that I would not need a great amount of beer and so bought three 330ml cans of Brooklyn Lager rather than a typical four-pack of 440ml.  These cans were individually priced at £2.05 and the vigilant Sainsbury’s checkout woman queried whether I was aware of this. Whilst the price was indeed ridiculous I accepted it and confirmed that I would pay for the beer. She commented that she often pays inflated prices for wines she enjoys and I wasn’t sure if she was trying to make me feel better or worse about it.

On the train I continued the title-winning celebrations by listening to my sad playlist of songs by The Smiths, The Cure, Ryan Adams and The Ramones and attempted to drink Brooklyn Lager discreetly from an orange Sainsbury’s bag which was nestled between my thighs because I couldn’t be sure whether there was a ban on alcohol following the football.  A toddler of about three years of age, dressed in fluffy pink fairy wings, kept looking at me from across the carriage and it was the most judged I have ever felt. I got off the train at Waverley Station and hoped that the experience of watching a pink-faced man quaffing lager from an orange carrier bag wasn’t one which would traumatise this young girl in later life.

Edinburgh’s grey and gothic features were basking in the haze of an early evening glow and it is something I have rarely witnessed in the city.  The sun conspired with the architecture to cast haunting shadows across the streets and it was almost as charming as when the rain slickens the cobbles in the Old Town.  I made quick visits to some of my favourite bars in the city and drank Tennent’s Lager in Banshee Labyrinth, drawing attention to the fact that I am from the west coast. The Banshee Labyrinth is one of my favourite bars anywhere and its sign holds the claim that it is Scotland’s most haunted pub, though in my times there the only spirits I have encountered sit behind the bar in bottles.

Josh Rouse was playing at The Mash House, which turned out to be but a short stumble from the pubs I had travelled to.  The venue itself was very small and intimate, surely not much bigger than my flat, wall to wall. His set was very tight and had the kind of chilled out vibe I enjoy from his music and just about everything I could have hoped he would play he did.  I was particularly pleased and probably let out a shriek every bit as triumphant as when Callum McGregor scored earlier in the day when he played Hollywood Bass Player, the video for which features an animated Madonna taking a giraffe to a drive-thru cinema on a date.  I have long since seeing the video questioned what the etiquette would be when dating a giraffe: who buys the popcorn, who initiates the first kiss, who picks the movie?

By the time the gig finished and I was on the train back to Glasgow the ten o’clock curfew for selling alcohol in Scotland had passed and I was forced to endure a dry journey.  Similarly the bar in the Travelodge had closed for the night when I arrived there, being a Sunday night, and I returned to my room. It was barely midnight when I got under the covers and turned off the lights.  I sighed loudly and another rainstorm started.


The day I took a flask of coffee on the train (aka The Low Anthem @ Stereo, Glasgow)

All week I had been trying to convince myself that it would be a good idea to stay home on Friday night.  I was meeting a friend in Glasgow on Saturday to go and see The Low Anthem and it seemed that my money and liver would be better saved for that, as well as the 8.57 train that morning.  This effort was going quite successfully until around 5.45 on Friday evening when I opened a can of Innis & Gunn. There is something about drinking alcohol in your own living room that makes you long to go to the bar, particularly beer though not so much wine, which is sometimes quite literally a house drink.

Some time after eight o’clock I walked into Aulay’s Bar, though not until after I had taken a series of precautionary measures to make the morning easier for myself.  I packed a bag with a change of clothes and the necessary travel toiletries; two notebooks and a pen; the tickets for the gig on Saturday night and a phone charger. I prepared the coffee machine so that it would be ready to make enough coffee to fill the silver flask I had bought earlier in the week and I set aside two crispy rolls and four slices of square sausage, having purchased a second roll as a diversionary method to prevent me from picking up a sticky bun, which was 20p more expensive and presumably even worse for the body than two more square sausages.

As well as all that I also set thirteen alarms on my phone to go off at various intervals between 7am and, in the worst case scenario, 8.36.  It turns out, however, that alarms are only really effective if you are willing to listen to them and no matter how often or loudly they sound it is still your responsibility to get yourself out of bed.  This is particularly trying when you have been drinking beer and Jameson until midnight, and although I woke up when the first alarm triggered at seven o’clock I wasn’t able to get myself out of bed until 7.50.  An hour and seven minutes would surely be enough time to get ready and onto the train.

At 8.56 I was next in line at the ticket office window to collect the tickets I had reserved nigh upon six weeks earlier.  I felt an adrenaline surge through my body, the like of which I usually feel when I am readying myself to talk to a girl: a kind of terror, but tinged with excitement.  This is living life on the edge, I thought.  I began to consider how I might spend the next three hours of the morning if the train departed without me and I had to wait for the next one.  I decided that I would probably go back to bed. It didn’t come to that, though, and having received my tickets I strided onto the train, and as the doors closed behind me it was in motion before I had reached my seat.

When we were younger it always seemed that a train journey was a sort of picnic on wheels.  I can remember newspapers strewn across the table, there would be coffee cups and probably some kind of fizzy drink, sandwiches and sweets, maybe a packet of pork pies.  The train was much more of a fun adventure than taking the car or the bus, where I would often vomit due to travel sickness. As an adult it seems the reverse is true and I am occasionally feeling ill on the train, though this usually self-inflicted.

The memory of those picnics on wheels was on my mind when I reached into my backpack for my flask of coffee and two rolls.  I wondered if back in my days of blissful youth I was the shy eater I have become in public. As I took a bite of the first roll I was aware of bread crumbling onto the table around me and I could imagine some of the passengers nearby staring at me and chuckling to themselves at the sight of flour flailing onto my greying stubble.  If this was so terrible I could only dread the fate that would befall me once I reached the tomato ketchup.

In the late afternoon of a warm spring Saturday I met with the girl with pink hair, who on this occasion had managed to match the deep purple of her lipstick and nails to the colour of her Dark Fruits cider in a fashion similar to the way that my pocket square and tie and socks almost match.  We took advantage of the radiant sunshine and indulged in some al fresco adult beverages. The corner of Hope Street basked in the reflective rays which bounced off the passing traffic and the windows of buildings like a boomerang and it lasted long into the evening. The streets were bustling with energy and in the distance the sound of a lone piper bellowed.  It wasn’t immediately clear to us where the music was coming from, as the powerful glare of the sun obscured everything more than five feet away from our table. Soon we deduced from the swarm of smartly dressed people walking across the road to the Radisson Blu that the bagpiper was positioned outside the hotel and we suspected that they were going to an event which people who were dressed like we were and in the condition we were in would not be welcomed.

After some time the door staff at the Sir John Moore bar changed and the new man who was tasked with shepherding stray drinkers away from the benches on the pavement and to the tables under the canopy resembled a less animated version of Peter Griffin.  He seemed to carry a great authority in his role, despite not wearing a tie, and proved effective at rounding up any rogue street dwellers. The girl with pink hair and I liked to imagine that as the bouncer assertively told people they had to drink by the tables he had the same brilliant and unusual cartoon thoughts his television lookalike has.  I lost any kind of admiration I could have for him, however, when I noticed that beneath the enormous belly which loomed over the waistband of his black trousers the way the moon sits over the horizon he was wearing a brown belt, which betrayed his black shoes and caused me great distress to see.

The failure to co-ordinate fashion was probably more disturbing to me than bearing witness to a man in the bathroom who placed his hands under the tap for a brief splash of water and then spent around twelve seconds drying them.  Though this is undoubtedly better than the creatures who walk straight out of the toilet without so much as looking at the soap, but it feels like it is all for show. I shared this concern when I returned to the table, where we also discussed the attributes of sheep and whether it is more favourable for the male to have a large body or a large penis, whether horses are like humans and sometimes have days where they turn up for a race and can’t be bothered with it, the lyrics of the Smiths song ‘Ask’ and arrived upon the belief that telling a person that “I’ve found God” would be the best excuse for getting out of just about any scenario without having to offer further explanation, be it ending a relationship, leaving a job or calling in sick.  It occurred to me that this phrase could also work the other way and be a fruitful line to use to attract women and I have resolved to utilise it at the next opportunity.

Excuse me, I assume that you ordinarily wouldn’t even look at a guy like me, let alone engage in a physical relationship, but I have recently found God and he has spoken to me and told me that we are meant to have sex with one another many times.”

“Well, okay, if God said it…”

It isn’t always the case that you can pinpoint the exact moment when a night began to deteriorate like the time the Knopfler brothers formed a band and you found yourself in Dire Straits, but the decision to fill half of a glass with rose wine and the other half with Dark Fruits cider was clearly the catastrophic, albeit quite delicious, milestone in this particular episode.  We did this in order to help the girl with pink hair finish off a vicious bottle of wine so we could move on to Solid Rock, where I remember they played a Guns N Roses song but not much else. The fruit cocktail went straight to my head and I immediately went from feeling barely tipsy on hipster craft beers to full on drunk as a monkey, though the giddy kind of drunk.

The Low Anthem were playing not far up the road, and by the time we arrived in Stereo they had already started their set.  While they are a musically gifted act and can create some quite beautiful sounds, this was a terrible gig which featured their recent arduous album The Salt Doll Went to Measure the Depth of the Sea in its entirety, as well as a tiring monologue about fish and the ocean.  When they played my favourite song, Apothecary Love, they forgot the lyrics halfway through and gave up, by which point I was wishing I had followed the girl with the pink hair’s lead and left. I stayed until the end, though, and no measure of Jack Daniels and coke could have made it bearable.

It couldn’t have been much later than ten o’clock when the concert finished and I retired to the bar of the Travelodge I was staying in. Seated there were two individuals, an older gentleman from West Yorkshire and a younger woman, probably around my age or younger, from Manchester, and we talked and drank into the morning hours.  I attempted to engage in some banter with the young barmaid and after some time she told me that she remembered me from a previous stay. “You’re very inquisitive,” she said after another meaningless drunken remark.  I gained some quiet satisfaction from the fact that this attractive barmaid could remember me when she wasn’t at all familiar to me, and I drank Guinness and Jameson and woke up at seven o’clock in the morning, fully clothed and on top of my unruffled bed.

I managed to make the 12.20 train home in plenty of time, though when I took an empty and unmarked table seat next to a reserved seat I was asked by the young woman who had seemingly purchased it if I would mind moving to the backwards facing seat as she becomes dizzy if she is seated in the direction of travel.  She was quite beautiful and asked politely and with an exotic accent and so I found it difficult to refuse and we swapped seats. I put my earphones in and listened to a Spotify playlist marked 13th May 2017 and I opened a can of beer whilst I began to write a blog post on the weekend’s events.  Every so often I would glance at the beautiful stranger opposite me and wonder how I could talk to her.  Her fingernails were painted a bright pink, which didn’t seem to match anything else on her person, and she frequently took photographs out of the window.  I was nearing the conclusion of my blog and the last of the beer and I decided that I would speak to her when the train reached Taynuilt, because that way if I fucked it up there would only be around twenty minutes of awkwardness to suffer.  When the train crawled into the village I closed the lid of my Chromebook and considered what I might say to her. She was busily texting or swiping through social media and I didn’t have the courage to interrupt her, so I sat anxiously sipping at my Innis & Gunn and questioning whether it would seem unusual to this young woman if I sat opposite her for almost three hours without saying a word and suddenly wanted to start a conversation.  I imagined that it would and I felt the same terror and excitement I had experienced the previous day. When the train reached Connel and she began taking photographs again I used the only opening line that came to my mind.

Are you some kind of traveller?”  I asked, inspired by the sight of her rucksack and by the fact that she was taking pictures and seemed quite foreign.

She explained that she wasn’t a traveller but was a Cypriot studying marine biology in Glasgow and was on her way to Oban for a week of work experience at SAMS.  We had a fine conversation, during which I learned more about mussels, seaweed and starfish than I could ever possibly have known. She told me where she was staying and asked me how to find it.  I told her that it was a straightforward walk and that I would take her there, As we were walking through town I pointed out some local points of interest and told her how to reach various amenities.  I thought that it might be amusing to draw her attention to McCaig’s Tower and tell her the story of its construction, only I suggested that John McCaig was a keen enthusiast of alien life form and erected the structure as a means of attracting spacecraft on the day that aliens decide to visit Earth.  She didn’t seem to be captivated by that story and by the time we reached her accommodation on the esplanade I had lost any courage I had to ask her if she would join me for a drink later in the evening. I had a feeling that not even God would tell me that would be a good idea.

The week I remembered that I have hay fever

These spring days are a wonderous thing.  In the morning I awake to shards of sunlight streaming through the pale curtains which are closed over my bedroom window, and to the bustling sound of the local binmen emptying the three recycling bins gathered outside.  Through in the kitchen I can hear the harmony of birds tweeting in the garden; 140 characters or less.  I take a detour along the esplanade on my way to work under a bright blue sky casting crystals into the calm sea.  The temperature threatens to rise to a level where I might consider changing out of my long black winter overcoat.  The same walk is repeated in the evening, in reverse, because it is still daylight and all of a sudden the days feel much longer, even if they are still the same 24 hours they have always been.

The extended days of spring crackle with a wealth of fresh opportunity.  Families walk along the pavements, spread out across the tarmac like a fan, messily lapping at ice cream cones for the first time since the early days of September.  I admire their ability to walk and eat at the same time – a feat I would never dare attempt through fear of how horribly it would inevitably go wrong – though find it frustrating as I try to amble around them.  Al fresco diners fill the seating areas outside the coffee shops and at night the bars are alive with dancers.

Meanwhile I am feeling a slight scratching in the back of my throat and a sort of sniffle taunting the lining of my nose.  My eyes develop a demand to be rubbed and it isn’t long before they resemble the aftermath of a small bee sting.  They water in the way some girls eyes do once I have attempted seduction, and a lethargy washes over me.  Initially I suspect that I am experiencing the onset of a cold – such terrible timing, I think to myself – but I haven’t been in contact with any other sick people and surely a cold doesn’t just happen?  I remembered that when I was younger my mother would often tell me that I probably suffer from very mild hay fever and, even though I never knew her to be wrong about anything, I would never fully believe this to be true.  This was partly because I couldn’t understand how it could be possible to be afflicted by something you’re supposed to be able to count but can’t, and also because I didn’t want to be that guy who is allergic to spring.

This week, however, I began to accept the possibility that I might have hay fever when it seemed like it could go some way to explaining some of my unusual behaviours of late.  After all, what man can think straight when he is literally being attacked by the most beautiful season of the year?

On Thursday of the week before last I went shopping in Aldi for a few essential goods:  coffee, milk, eggs, pizza.  As I walked up the fresh produce aisle I passed a woman who I had met at an event at the Rockfield Community Centre some time last year.  We had a favourable interaction that night and I recall that when she told me that she had recently started working for an accountancy firm in town I responded by saying that as I also work in the financial sector we probably shouldn’t be talking.  I said this in the hope that I could engineer some kind of Romeo and Juliet scenario, but with less death and tragedy.  She seemed to recognise me and smiled and said hello.  I continued with my shopping and proceeded to the checkout, where I typically found myself behind a man with a large trolley.  I unloaded my four items onto the conveyor belt and continued listening to The Decemberists.  Soon I became aware that the woman from the rival accountants was approaching behind me and I began to consider how my diet might appear to her.  Ordinarily my basket would have mango and blueberries, perhaps asparagus or mangetout, some sweet potato, chicken breast, parsley, spinach and cherry tomatoes.  But I had bought all of that on Wednesday and here I had pizza and milk; the one with the green lid, indicating that I am only a semi-healthy person.

“I always worry how my shopping is going to look to someone behind me,” I said removing my earphones.  “It’s usually a lot more healthy than this,” I assured her as I glanced at my 89p double pepperoni pizza.  She offered a consolation smile and pointed out that the first item out of her basket was a bottle of red wine.  “At least there are grapes in there.”  Even I cringed as those words fell from my mouth.

My interactions with women would only become worse on Friday, although for a time it seemed things were going well when a young lady at the bar expressed an interest in my bright pink pocket square and would eventually show me how to fold it correctly – or at least better than I had been doing.  This traveller from Norfolk remarked that my fashion ensemble resembled Jon Snow and I made some quip about the much desired after character from the television series Game of Thrones, knowing that she was referring to the Channel 4 newsreader.  We engaged in conversation and I could see that some of my words were making her smile.  I learned that she was travelling through Oban on her way to a job interview on Morvern this week and that she was spending the night in a backpackers hostel.  For reasons I have yet to establish my next question was to ask how the bed is.  After several seconds of aching silence I told her that I was aware how odd my last question sounded and I pleaded that I had asked it in a strictly non-sexual manner.  She advised me, quite logically, that she didn’t know how the bed was because she had not yet slept in it, and the dialogue ceased.  To compound my error I wished her luck for her interview on Coll as I was leaving.

In an effort to give my flat some character I have recently been decorating the walls with picture frames and pieces of art.  In February I bought a 94 x 56 cm mounted print of Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, though it has been sitting on my breakfast bar since it arrived as its size convinced me that hanging it on the wall would be a two person job, least of all because I was never entirely sure how or where on the wall a picture should be hung.  On Sunday I decided that attempting to hang this piece of art by myself would be exactly the kind of endeavour needed to prove my worth after the farce of Friday, and it turned out that hanging a picture is remarkably straightforward.  I felt pleased with my accomplishment and enjoyed a bottle of red wine to celebrate.  In a drunken haze, fuelled by the confidence that I now know how to hang things, I went online and ordered a Henri Matisse print.  This made a change, I thought, from my usual routine of drunk buying socks and ties from Slaters.

It is perhaps my habit of buying art and fashion accessories which leads me to being thrifty in other areas of life.  At one stage this week I suffered a repetitive strain injury to my thumb and index finger from squeezing an almost but not quite empty tube of toothpaste.  My desperation to use every last ounce of the stuff was such that I began contemplating whether I could use a knife to slice open the tube and scrape the last of the paste onto my brush.  Eventually I accepted that such action would be beyond the pale and I bought a new carton of toothpaste.

One morning this week while my toothbrush was clenched between my pained index finger and thumb and I was cleaning my teeth it occurred to me that I hadn’t watered my houseplants in some time.  I can only assume that it was the running water which brought this realisation, because despite them being the only other living being I have to care for, my attention to the wellbeing of my houseplants is lacking.  I try to tell myself that this isn’t due to an absence of love for my family of foliage and that they are more difficult to look after than children or dogs because at least they have a way of making a person aware that they are in need of nourishment or attention, whereas I only know that my plants need water when they are resembling a nearly dead thing.  It is because of this inability to communicate that two of the four plants I inherited when I moved into my flat have since gone to the great window box in the sky.

The effects of my allergy to spring were proving to be quite profound as the week went on, and I can only attribute a loss of senses through hay fever to the situation I found myself in on Friday night when I finally had the opportunity to invite a lovely girl back to my place after closing time at the bar, only to realise when I got home that the only mixer I could offer to accompany the seven bottles of Jack Daniels I have was orange juice.  This was despite me laying awake for at least a few minutes on Thursday night considering how if I am to have an efficient home bar I would need to keep a regular supply of sodas and coke.  I can only wonder how different things might have been if I didn’t feel the need to blow my nose on Friday afternoon.

The morning I re-started yoga

The weekend just passed turned out to be a lot like the story of Easter if it was told in reverse:  Friday was a day where I felt revitalised and re-energised and full of life.  It was, quite literally, a Good Friday.  By Easter Sunday, however, I felt drained and lifeless and as though I was pushing against a giant stone to no avail.  There is, I suppose, a limit to how much alcohol a thirty-four-year-old man can responsibly drink, and a four-day weekend is at the very peak of that limit.

The full moon scene over Oban Bay on Easter Sunday night

Although Good Friday was a day on which I wasn’t working I had grown quite restless and bored sitting around my flat in a pair of dark jeans and a checked shirt and felt an urge to suit up before I went to Aulay’s Bar, as though it was any other Friday and I was indulging in post-work drinks.  A part of me feels like I have a certain appearance to uphold having dressed this way on so many Friday nights, even if that appearence is of a man who has had too many whiskies and is woefully inept at talking to women but at least is sharply dressed.  He was often very drunk and he certainly didn’t know how to talk to a lady, but at least his socks were almost matching the colour of his tie; is what I expect will be etched on my epitaph.

This could rarely have been more true than on Friday night, where the bar staff were witness to some crude form of dark comedic entertainment when the formerly red-haired barmaid who often smiles was able to convince a trio of tourists that it would be in their interests to move from the public bar to the lounge, where I was waiting to seduce them with my purple pocket square and some carefully prepared and beguiling introduction.

Unfortunately the bar staff were about to take the role of Pilate’s court to my Jesus Christ, only rather than turning water into wine I was going to transform romantic opportunity into sour grapes.  I became fixated on the fluffy white bobble hat with light shades of blue and pink one of the girls was wearing and after a time all I could think about was passing comment on this hat.  When she removed it her hair was the colour of a sunset which had bled most of its warmth into the ocean and she had a pale face which demanded a lot more attention than I was giving it, but I couldn’t move past the bobble hat.  Eventually I determined that something had to be said, only the timing was horribly wrong:  she had put the bobble hat back on her head and she and her friends were preparing to leave.  I lurched towards her in an awkward fashion which betrayed my navy blue suit and congratulated her on the beautiful bobble hat she was wearing.  She thanked me and told me that she is Welsh and I remarked that “I suppose that explains why it looks so cosy” and I never saw her again.

I stood at the bar nursing a Jack Daniels and coke, contemplating where things might have gone wrong with the girl with the bobble hat, when I became aware of two English women at the end of the bar ordering malt whiskies.  I was able to put aside the feeling of inferiority which was washing over me as I clutched a bourbon whiskey sorely watered down by a sugary soft drink and I enquired about the story which led these ladies to explore whisky in Scotland.  They were receptive to conversation and I went some way to making amends for my appearance as a Scotsman who drinks Jack Daniels and coke when I ordered a round of Lagavulin, a proper whisky which I have not imbibed since the night it coaxed me into collapsing through the screen door on my shower.  The whisky was commended and the conversation was progressing remarkably well until I mentioned the ghost which I suspect haunts my bedroom.  It was then that I learned that telling a woman about the female spirit which lingers in my bedroom and seems to be more interested in escaping than making contact with me isn’t at all a move that will entice said woman into visiting the bedroom.  In fact, it strikes me that the one certain way to convince a woman that she shouldn’t go to bed with you would be to make it clear that even a ghost would not molest you in the night.

Although Good Friday was indeed a good night it also brought me to realise that all I have in my romancing repertoire is the colour of my socks and the way that I have laid my wardrobe out so that it goes from dark shirts to light.  I have no escapades to regale, very little in the way of exploits and certainly no high jinks to speak of.  It was this watershed moment which convinced me that I had to once again start doing yoga each morning, even if only to give me something else to talk about.

This morning I reached for the black yoga mat which had been stored on the top shelf of my wardrobe since I moved into my flat – an act that I suspect will be much easier after a few days of stretching and bending – and I tried to find a suitable spot in my living room for my routine.  The room is quite small and there is little space for complex body movements.

The area inside the doorway seemed the most suitable for my daily exercise, despite the tips of my fingers almost threatening to brush the dado rail with every stretch and my nose very nearly making unwanted contact with the coffee table as I moved into a downward dog.  What proved more difficult than the spacial constraints was trying to get into a mindset of ‘Zen’ when laying on a wooden floor and spying a piece of fluff under the couch or the discarded plastic tag from a recently purchased tie, which had somehow made it into the living room despite being cut in the bedroom.  It is hard to be at one with one’s spirit when you are disturbed by specks of dust on the floor.

A different frame of mind to the peace of yoga is required when preparing dinner – particularly when chopping onions.  I always end up with an abundance of them due to the fact that my nearest supermarket doesn’t sell them loose and so, like with lemons, I have to buy a net of five at a time, which often means that every recipe requires an onion.  This isn’t a terrible imposition and onions do not have an unpleasant taste, but they do have a tendency to irritate the eyes and if drinking Jack Daniels and coke at a bar in front of a woman who enjoys malt whisky isn’t bad enough then crying over the creation of a pasta dish surely is.  Recently I have devised a foolproof method to prevent this from happening, and that is to think of something sad before taking a sharp knife to the skin of the onion.  Usually I will contemplate the futility of my romantic life or imagine what kind of dirt I might encounter on my living room floor while doing yoga the next morning, and at least if tears do stream down my cheeks I can convince myself that I am not crying over something as silly as an onion.

That, at least, is my interpretation of the proverb about how April showers bring May flowers.