When the FIFA World Cup began on Thursday it offered yet another excuse in the pantheon of reasons to visit the pub, and even if the only fixture of the day had concluded three hours before I walked in to Aulay’s it felt as though it could be justified because it is a World Cup year.
With the hushed tones of commentary from the live golf whispering to the thin spread of patrons in the bar, sounding more like a nature documentary than a large sporting event, I stood and took mental inventory of my collection of pocket squares after the formerly red-haired barmaid had commented on my failure to compliment my bottle green tie with an accompaniment of similar colour. I don’t own a green pocket square and it suddenly occurred to me in that moment that I can’t be taken seriously if only some of my ties have a suitably shaded pocket square companion.
Not for the first occasion in recent times the formerly red-haired barmaid suggested that I should source some kind of lesson in the techniques required to talk to girls. She is not the only person who has offered me this advice, and I began to consider whether there might be some education in the enticement of estrogen available out there. I took a seat on a bar stool by the end of the bar and pondered where one might find lessons on talking to girls: somewhere on the local college prospectus, perhaps; a Gumtree ad or a Facebook group; the local newspaper or a community noticeboard. I felt that I would surely have seen such an advertisement if it were in the public domain and I imagined a scenario where I would walk into Waterstones in search of a self-help book on the subject of talking to the female sex. In this scenario I expected that such a book would prove very difficult to find and I would be forced to track down a store assistant to help me locate a self-help book on talking to girls.
The following night I returned to the bar, where this time there was some World Cup action to enjoy, and I assumed my regular position close to the ice box – because it is the only time I can look cool next to something. As well as the Spain vs Portugal game, this Friday was also the night when the formerly red-haired barmaid became a purple haired former barmaid and to mark the occasion she took a selfie with my three drinking companions and I in the background in which we were almost perfectly positioned should anyone ever wish to measure beard level, as we went from fashionably bedraggled to neatly styled to my careful 1.4mm stubble to recently trimmed.
The bar hummed with the excitement of a thrilling contest and the pints of beer flowed accordingly. This was troublesome because I had made a considerably more substantial effort in the sartorial stakes which led me to wear a grey suit, a shade which can be susceptible to the particularly fierce splashback in the newly fitted urinals in Aulay’s if one isn’t careful. Even before I put myself in the firing line I was forced to overcome a traumatic struggle when I couldn’t find the window in an unfamiliar pair of underwear. My hand was fumbling around – literally – like a drunk man trying to find his way around the inside of a pair of trousers, and the situation was becoming increasingly desperate because the penis seems to have an inherent ability to know that it is close to a toilet; close to salvation. Its internal GPS knows that it should be acceptable to let go now and its resistance quickly begins to fade. It is like the countdown to a missile launch and it can’t be stopped. The tension was mounting as I desperately searched for the window and without any further hesitation I had to delve over the waistband to prevent a much more severe splashback incident.
When I next returned to Aulay’s on Sunday each of the bar staff had their own naturally coloured hair and there was the excuse of two games of international football to distract from real-life. As the rain guided in the evening and we embarked on a search for food before returning to the bar to watch Brazil play Switzerland, we found a couple of young women seated in the area where we typically stand to watch these big games. I initially felt awkward standing behind them, worrying that they might feel concern that we would attempt to engage them in conversation, but they didn’t seem to notice us. The game developed and I found myself distracted as I tried to deduce where the women were from. Over time I detected the use of some French and I had noticed that each time Brazil were in possession of the ball the girls were looking pensive and holding their fingernails to their lips. I suspected that they were Swiss and I soon found myself urging Switzerland to equalise, believing that it would be my only opportunity of seeing a look of ecstasy on their faces.
Upon the final whistle, with Switzerland having snatched a much celebrated equalising goal to draw the game 1-1, I was at a level of drunkenness where I could no longer stop myself from trying to talk to these two girls. The semi-Arabic Harry Potter looking of the pair had stepped outside for what must have been her fourth cigarette of the night and I lurched forward and blurted out something stupid like: “It seems to me that you ladies might be Swiss.”
The blonde-haired young lady was initially startled by my sudden outburst but she quickly composed herself and confirmed that she was indeed from Switzerland. I raised my right-hand in the offer of a high-five and congratulated her on her nation’s success, noting that it has now been twenty years since I, as a Scotsman, felt the experience of watching my country compete at a World Cup. She smiled warmly and our hands slapped together. Her eyes were the sharpest blue I have ever seen and they had the appearance of something which should be displayed on a cushion in a jewelry store window. She was, by some distance, the second most beautiful woman that I have ever talked to for more than thirty seconds, although on this night our conversation was approximately ninety minutes in length.
Any thought of seeking lessons momentarily left my head and our discussion spanned such matters as using spinach as a pizza topping, why Toblerones are so difficult to break, why her old cat is named Flip and whether it is because he is acrobatic (that wasn’t the reason,) Highland cows and her goal of becoming a lawyer in the next year by passing the bar – a joke which I milked much too often by pointing out that she could also reach the ladies bathroom in Aulay’s if she passed the bar. She laughed with exuberance and frequently – although not often at the law jokes – and I hardly felt awkward at all.
The Swiss girl with the blue eyes was the designated driver of the duo and when her semi-Arabic Harry Potter looking friend finished her Guinness they left in preparation for their early drive to Skye the next morning, and once again the penis was thwarted.