The night nobody was drinking gin

It wasn’t until around four o’clock on Monday afternoon when I felt I had fully recovered from the weekend, and it was even later in the week before my flat was returned to its regular bachelor pad homeliness.  It seemed natural that once the Jack Daniels and Pringles had been cleaned from the living room floor I would turn my attention to the kitchen and make my first attempt at home baking, even if only to give my home a different fragrance from the usual spilled bourbon whiskey.  There was to be a Macmillan Cancer Support coffee morning on Friday, and I resolved to bake some banana and peanut butter cookies now that I have a kitchen of my own to make mistakes in.

I purchased all the ingredients I needed, and when the day came for me to mix them all together in a large bowl the biggest decision I had to make was to find the right album to provide the soundtrack to my baking.  My recent listening activity had taken on a distinct sixties taste, and I was keen to listen to some more material by the popular Liverpool foursome The Beatles, though I considered Revolver to be too subversive and psychedelic for shaping biscuits, and I eventually settled on the more appropriate Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones.

The first act in the recipe I was following was to mash a couple of bananas in a bowl and then to mix in what amounted to be almost an entire jar of natural peanut butter.  Having done this, the resultant colour and consistency left me wondering if I hadn’t made a terrible error of judgment.  I followed the instructions nonetheless, adding various ingredients such as honey and cinnamon and maple syrup, and by the time I had poured 225g of oats into the mixture the spoon could stand upright.  Over the course of three batches, I was able to bake approximately twenty-eight banana and peanut butter cookies and save for the ragged shape of a small handful of them, they had all the qualities one would associate with a biscuit.

At the bar I found myself admiring a young lady who was dressed in an elegant black and white combination, as though she had recently stepped out of a classic picture.  A fluffy white shawl was draped over her shoulders, and it cascaded down a slick black dress like a polar bear devouring a seal, only there was no sign of an impending bloodbath.  She was seated in the corner with a gentleman who was presumably her boyfriend, and who almost certainly didn’t appreciate his luck.  Regardless of this, they appeared to be comfortable in one another’s company, and my frequent glances in their direction went undetected.  As the minutes passed and my first pint of beer of the afternoon became my second, I allowed myself to consider where the charmingly dressed young woman with the raven hair had been, or where she was going.  Her outfit was perhaps the most multi-purpose I have seen a person wear, and it seemed to me that she could have been dressed to celebrate a wedding, to mourn a funeral or to attend a charity fundraising dinner.  With the vivacious quality of her hair, I quickly ruled out the possibility that she had been at a funeral.  It was this same focus on follicles which led me to believe that, unless she held a longstanding grudge against the bride and was craving the opportunity to upstage her on the most expensive day of her life, she likely wasn’t on her way to a wedding dance either.

After some time the couple decided to indulge in some of Aulay’s finest evening cuisine, and they shared a packet of crisps.  I noticed the way that the woman with the raven hair was holding her phone after she had finished her share of the bag.  She cradled it delicately in the palm of her left hand whilst she used the fourth finger of her right hand to jab at the screen, presumably because her natural texting digits were greasy from the crisps she had eaten.  It was quite a scene to witness; the precise caution that she exercised to ensure that the ghosts of her potato snack weren’t smeared onto the screen of her phone.  The thumb and first two fingers of her right hand were poised a good six inches away from the device to avoid calamity, and I wondered why she wasn’t carrying any tissues, or if she was so concerned about the state of her fingers why wasn’t she going to the ladies room to wash them clean.

I was caught in contemplation when a group of graduates made a boisterous arrival and gathered around the bar.  They ordered their drinks individually, one at a time, and I was impressed by the patience of the bearded barman.  One of the graduates wore a loud shade of violet lipstick and I was struggling to see which accessory it was supposed to be complimenting.  She was standing at my right shoulder, and she asked if I would mind letting her into the bar.  I didn’t, and I shuffled a few steps to the left so that enough space was made at the bar for her to move into.  “You’re the one wearing the gown,” I said in what I believed was a suave manner.  “You can stand anywhere you please today.”  She didn’t interact with me again.

Amongst the group of graduates was a woman with whom I had a brief dalliance once upon a time, in the early years of the new century.  We exchanged pleasantries, the first time we had spoken in memory, and the sound of her voice caused me to remember why the dalliance never became a fling, or even so much as a cup of coffee.  It had a high-pitched nasal whine, like a helium balloon being deflated inside a vacuum cleaner.  She and the rest of the graduates sat at a table which was positioned directly behind where I was standing, and through the convenient placement of mirrors around the bar, I got a glimpse of her looking up from her drink and glancing at my back.  I wondered what she was thinking in that moment.  Was she admiring the cut of my grey suit?  Was she considering how greatly I had matured as a person?  Thinking about what could have been?  Or was she also recalling some obscure hangup from all those years ago which prevented a dalliance from being taken further?

The graduates left after a short while, and sometime later my group and I were asked by a fellow barfly if we would be attending an upcoming local gin festival.  Although none of us were intending on going, it occurred to us that it could be the ideal location to meet ladies who enjoy a refreshing cocktail.  The gentleman, who was dressed in country wear, didn’t demonstrate much interest in this theory and instead regaled us with his plan to host a stall at the festival.  He told us all about his plan to sell ‘Tartan gin’ and how it would be particularly popular in the United States, China and on the Indian subcontinent, because everyone has a taste for Scottish produce, and nothing says ‘Scottish’ quite like tartan.  It was sounding plausible to me, and I asked him what kind of ingredients he was using to make his gin.

“Oh, I don’t have the gin yet,” he informed me.  “I’ve just done the market research in my head.  I still have to find someone to actually make the gin.”  I asked the man dressed in country wear to confirm that he was hosting a stall at the local gin festival at which there wouldn’t be any gin on offer to buy, but merely an idea for selling gin.  He acknowledged that this would be the case, and I tried to imagine the disappointment of prospective customers as they approached the stall, which would be emblazoned with a large banner carrying the word “Tartan” in bold and colourful print, thirsty for some locally distilled craft gin.

“What flavour is your Tartan gin?”  The connoisseur might ask.

“Erm, actually, it doesn’t exist yet.  It’s just an idea for a gin.”

“So you’re not selling gin?”

“No.  But as soon as I can find someone who can make it for me, it will be very popular on the Indian subcontinent.”

The more I thought about it, the more I recognised the idea for tartan gin as being like my relationship with women.  In theory, it is a splendid concept and could prove to be extremely popular, but nobody is quite sure what the right ingredients would be or how to make it work.  Ultimately both endeavours appear as though they are fruitless, and a lot like a bright and bold stall offering tartan gin at a gin festival, it can only lead to confusion and disappointment.

The night I wore a contentious colour combination

There is a lot to be said for the bar, though it is often what is being said inside the bar that interests me the most.  The more time I spend talking to people over a pint of Tennents or a glass of whisky, the more I find myself wishing that I could pick the most exciting parts from these wonderful bar stories and weave them together into a patchwork quilt representation of my own life.  I suppose, essentially, I have been keen to turn my existence into a lie, because the real thing hasn’t been earning me much credibility in the exchange of pub tales.  The trouble with creating my false existence, however, has always been my lack of guile and what I perceive would be my inability to make thrilling stories of adventure seem believable as my own.

A recent example of a story I was told in a bar which could never be passed off as my own was when the plant doctor told me of the night he spent talking to two German girls he had encountered for the first time.  Holding a conversation with one girl for any period of time is troublesome enough for me when every sentence is fraught with the danger of making some stupid joke, but to keep two women interested for many hours seemed like an outrageous achievement to me.  The plant doctor proceeded to offer the opening line he used to draw the two German girls into a conversation, and I listened with interest.

“I bet I know a way that I can make you smile,” the plant doctor told the Deutsche damsels before performing his patented magic trick.  The girls did indeed smile, and they stayed in the company of the plant doctor for the rest of the night, and as he regaled me with this story I knew straight away that I wouldn’t be able to pass it off as my own.  I pictured the scene in my mind’s eye, and it was clear to me that in such a scenario I would never know for sure if the German girls had smiled because I would have left the room immediately after using the initial line.

As the week wore on, the September rain which had been falling steadily for days developed into a series of storms, and it seemed as though everyone was talking about a spectacular thunderstorm that was ferociously loud and which had lit up the midnight sky over Oban.  The more people spoke of this electromagnetic event, the more it was beginning to dawn on me that the thunderstorm had taken place on the one night that I had gone to bed and fallen asleep without the nightly tossing and turning I usually perform.  As far as I was concerned, the explosive storm could have been a supermarket delivery lorry, or a group of drunks spilling home from the pub, for all the awareness I had of it happening.

The day after the thunderstorm which most people other than me had heard, I suffered my first anxiety attack in months.  It was brought on unexpectedly and came as suddenly as a bolt of lightning, and it rattled in my bones.  The ankles of my trousers were drenched from the rain I had encountered in the morning, and inside I was feeling a downpour which I didn’t know how to stop.  I had a similar experience on Saturday night, sometime around midnight, and it was only then that I could know for sure that I wasn’t feeling anxious about the thunderstorm I had missed.

It was presumably as a result of the confusion I had been feeling for several days that on Saturday I decided to wear a pair of navy blue boots, which I hadn’t worn for some time.  I had bought the Red Tape Crumlin navy boots prior to my first trip to New York City in the March of 2015, and they are the most comfortable boots I have ever owned.  I walked for miles and miles on that trip, and my feet formed a close and intimate bond with the boots.  To walk in them feels like how I would imagine it is to stroll along a pillow of clouds, a feeling which in itself probably resembles the effect created by three or four Jameson.

Despite the soothing comfort brought by my favourite footwear, my decision to wear navy boots had forced me to defy my own dress etiquette by not matching the colour of my belt to my shoes or boots, and that was causing me some distress.  I felt like the Aerosmith song Livin’ On The Edge.  My wardrobe is a lot like the karate student who cannot advance beyond the rank of green belt:  I don’t own a blue belt.  I only possess a black and a brown leather belt and wearing black with navy blue shoes weighed on my mind throughout the day.  It didn’t matter to me that the boots were so old and worn that the navy blue colour had begun to fade and muddy into a sort of dishwasher pastel; I still felt that other people in the bar would notice and critique my judgment.  They would look firstly at my feet, and upon seeing my navy blue boots they would immediately be questioning whether or not I was wearing a matching blue belt.

He doesn’t look like he does karate,” they would be thinking to themselves or speaking in hushed tones to their more appropriately dressed company, “there’s no way he owns a blue belt.  Nobody wears a blue belt, so why is he wearing blue boots?”  I consciously held the tails of my checked shirt over my waist so that nobody could catch sight of my belt.

If this guy can’t even match the colour of his belt to his boots then what else can’t he do?”  They would continue discussing amongst themselves in their perfect little bubbles.  “He probably can’t even keep his houseplants alive.  Or find a use for mushrooms.  Or make a girl smile.  Or…

Anthony Joshua was defending his world titles on Saturday night, and as usual for an AJ fight, the bar was busy.  I welcomed it as an opportunity to use a joke I had been working on in my internal monologue for a while, and when anyone would ask, “are you in for the fight?”  I would respond, “yes – and I’ll probably watch the boxing, too.”  Nobody found this line funny, except for the barman who used to wear glasses.  He laughed warmly, and I found myself thinking that his decision to switch to contact lenses had probably improved his judgment as well as his vision.

Long after the fight, and after the bell had been rung for last orders, myself and five other people retired to my flat, where we drank Jack Daniels and watched the Baby Shark Dance video until some time around five o’clock in the morning.  The drink and dance companions ranged from a good friend and skilled sandwich artist to someone I know, to a friend of those two friends, to a stranger met in a bus shelter.  The number of people made for a difficult seating situation, as my flat only has the furniture for five butts, although one of the group left fairly early and we were able to make it work.

One of the girls was heard to remark that my living room has “the wrong Feng shui,” and I could only assume that this was in response to the large coffee table which sits in the centre of the room and is much larger than most people.  Its size made it difficult for everyone to accurately follow the Monkey Banana Dance, and it clearly wasn’t something I had fully thought through when I moved in.

When I last looked at the clock on the mantelpiece it was approximately 6.20am.  Everyone had left in a taxi more than an hour earlier, and I had spent the time finishing off a generous measure of Jack Daniels and repeatedly listening to November Rain by Guns N’ Roses and The Wrong Year by The Decemberists.  November Rain has long been my favourite song, and I had learned that the sandwich artist is fond of it, and that was something that stuck in my mind.  I sat on the window seat and surveyed the scene around the living room.  Puddles of bourbon whiskey and Coca-Cola swam atop the surface of the Portland oak laminate flooring alongside broken fragments of Pringles.  On the coffee table sat an empty tealight candle, the wax having long been melted away, and in the discarded silver shell was a crushed cigarette butt.  The Jackson Pollock print above the sofa was hanging squint, angled to the right, and it was a visual representation of how I was feeling.

I picked myself up from the window seat and turned out all of the lights, though the streetlights formed an eerie reflection in the pools of whiskey on the floor and I couldn’t forget about the mess.  I staggered through to the bedroom in my comfortable navy blue boots, and it was like walking on top of a sea of clouds which were on top of another layer of clouds.  I tumbled onto my bed and thought about how if this was another person’s story it would surely have had a more exciting ending.

The night I burned the roof of my mouth

In the early days of September, the temperature had dropped dramatically from the hazy highs of July and early August.  It had been raining incessantly, for as many days as I could remember, and when I was going to bed at night the only sound I was hearing was that of cars splashing through pools of water on the slick tarmac outside my window, which was not too dissimilar to the sound of disappointment that I ordinarily go to bed with.  Some nights the sound was so frequent and fierce that it was like falling asleep under a waterfall, and after a while, I was beginning to consider whether it might be a prudent idea to wear a wetsuit under the duvet.  I’ve heard the classic rock songs November Rain and Wake Me Up When September Ends, but this was more a case of November Rain coming early, and I didn’t want to be woken up until it had ended.

By the time the afternoon of the middle Friday of the month came, my heating had already been turned on for six days and nights, and I had become so tired of the climate that I needed to dispense with my usual spinach based salad lunch in favour of a spinach based hot pita bread.  I spread a thin layer of tomato pesto on two defrosted pita bread, covered them with spinach leaves, sliced cherry tomatoes and crudely shaped squares of feta cheese and baked them in the oven for around twelve minutes.  As they heated, I stood in the kitchen looking out of the window at the clothes airer which was standing as a sodden centrepiece in the garden.  Cobwebs hung between the barren lines, giving the impression of the cracks on a jewellery store window which had been burgled.

My attention turned to the kettle, which had finished boiling, and I poured myself a cup of Earl Grey tea.  I reached down into the fridge for the milk and was reminded of the punnet of baby button mushrooms I had recently purchased.  For my entire life, I have had a bitter loathing of mushrooms, and nobody has been able to convince me of their merits.  I had probably only ever tasted a mushroom once and that was enough for me to make my mind up.  I could tell just from looking at them, and from the way that they feel, that I didn’t like them, similar to the way that one tenuous joke is enough for most girls to decide that I’m not the man for them.  However, I had recently eaten a chicken dish which was served in a mushroom sauce, and I hadn’t found myself terribly repulsed.  In addition, the bags of frozen vegetables which I had been buying whilst without a hob in my kitchen also contained small slices of mushroom, which I quite happily ate when disguised behind an entire fork full of carrots and peas.  I convinced myself that this would be as good a time as any to try to refine my attitude towards fungus, and I bought a punnet of baby button mushrooms with the intention of roasting them along with some other vegetables.  When the time came, though, I couldn’t bring myself to peel open the punnet and use the sickly looking mushrooms as intended, and I returned them to the fridge, hiding them behind a case of large eggs.  Several days passed and the mushrooms remained in the refrigerator.  The use by date was approaching and I knew that I was involved in a standoff.  I didn’t want to eat the mushrooms; my fears and disgust had gotten the better of me and I couldn’t bring myself to eat them, but at the same time I had spent money on them and if there is anything I hate as much as mushrooms, it is wasting cold, hard cash.  I sighed, pretended that I had not spied the punnet behind the eggs, and finished making my cup of tea.

The two pita bread were cooked, and when I removed them from the oven they looked appetising.  I sat at the breakfast bar to enjoy my lunch, and when I bit into the bread a cherry tomato erupted in my mouth like a volcano.  I felt the roof of my mouth burn from the molten juices which were released by the smouldering fruit, and for a moment I considered how much less painful it was when I was eating salad for lunch on those warm sunny days in July.

A slender thread of skin dangled from the affected roof of my mouth, like a stray strand of material from an old and worn winter jumper, and later in the evening when I became involved in a conversation with a female American tourist about butt fashion, and I could feel my tongue flicking at this flailing piece of flesh, I became worried that it would appear to any onlooker as though I was making some kind of salacious attempt at seduction.

The Floridian expressed her dismay at people who wear jeans with material which sparkles on the back pockets, and I broadly agreed with her.  My tongue was touching the loose skin from the burn every time I spoke, and I was increasingly aware of it, to the extent that I tried to use as few words as possible.

“Why does a butt need to sparkle anyway?”

“A good butt should speak for itself,” was not something I would necessarily want to write on a greeting card, but it seemed to convey everything I wanted to in this moment.

My brother and I were intending on continuing down the Esplanade to Markie Dans, but the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song title had Aulay’s down as her number one bucket list attraction for her short stay in Oban, and sensing a rare opportunity to make a woman’s dream come true by inviting her to Aulay’s, I agreed that we would accompany her.  We ordered our drinks at the bar, and as I continued to experience trouble with the piece of burned skin which was dangling from the top of my mouth, a large black labrador dog appeared and took the American girl’s attention.  At closing time, I made the short walk home in a cool light drizzle, and I wondered if things might have been different had I been a man who eats mushrooms.

The night I didn’t go to The Kooks (aka King Creosote @ Studio Theatre, Corran Halls, Oban)

It was the morning of the first Celtic vs Rangers fixture of the new season and I woke up feeling anxious about the game, and with both of my cheeks marked with three spots of  green, orange and pink neon paint.  Three questions immediately occurred to me as I stood staring at my brightly coloured reflection in the bathroom mirror: How did my face get into this condition? What is the procedure for removing neon face paint?  Wouldn’t it really make my eyes crackle if only there was a fuschia too?

The features of my face scrunched into a look of consternation as I considered my options.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, my internal monologue had assumed the role of a lazy cartoon devil, and it was attempting to convince me that the neon green and orange colours were ideal for displaying my allegiance to Celtic in the football that afternoon.  For around thirty seconds the thought didn’t seem entirely ridiculous to me, until I thought about the possibility that my team could lose the game and I would be left a prime candidate for a day of intolerable ridicule; a bright neon target drawn across the curve of my cheekbone, begging for attention.  My better judgment prevailed and I used a towel to wipe the colours from both sides of my face, leaving what could easily be mistaken for the remains of a squashed frog smeared upon the fluffy grey cotton.

By the time my face had been restored to its natural state, with a hung over glaze, I had received a text message from the girl whose floor I had mopped several weeks earlier in an act of chivalry and deeply flawed courtship.  She was remarking on how weird it was to wake up with UV spots painted on her face, and it was like shining a torch into the cupboard which is lined with cobwebs under the stairs and discovering that’s where the small tin of varnish which was used once years ago was stored.  Of course I let her paint my face!

In the Studio Theatre at the Corran Halls, King Creosote and his band performed an intimate set of Scottish folk rock before a capacity audience.  I attended with my brother, the plant doctor and a barman who is comfortably amongst the eleven best bar staff in Aulay’s, with whom I later became involved in a dispute over the size of the attendance.  The barman argued that there were nine rows of seating which each had ten chairs in them, whilst I contended that there were ten rows with twelve seats, having made no fewer than three attempts at counting them during the evening.  Either way, it could be said with some degree of certainty that there were between 90 and 120 people at the gig.

During an interlude between songs, I ordered a round of drinks for our group at the bar, where I found myself in conversation with the barmaid while she transferred Tennents Lager from a can into a plastic tumbler with a precise manner.  She enquired about my thoughts on the performance and told me that she was enjoying what she could hear of it from her position, which was behind a false wall at the back of the room, which meant that she was able to hear the music clearly but could not see the band.  I asked her if she had ever seen what King Creosote looks like, and she said that she had not. I offered the view that he would probably not appear as she was imagining, and before I knew what I was saying I had painted an elaborate picture of how he could quite easily have been busking on the street earlier in the day.  I felt as though I had said too much and quickly searched for a distraction by raising my concern about the difficulty of carrying four pints without spilling any beer. I asked her if she felt that my friends would mind the presence of a finger in their drink, and she assured me that it would probably be fine.

King Creosote and his band continued to play their brand of musical entertainment, and towards the end of the set, I became aware of the barmaid’s presence at the top of the stairs which our group had converted into the unofficial standing section.  I stood with a quiet sense of satisfaction at the thought that her curiosity as to King Creosote’s appearance had overwhelmed her following our brief discussion, and during that one particular song I imagined a scene where the barmaid felt compelled to stop pouring £3 cans of Tennents Lager into plastic containers for a line of baffled customers.  “Sorry,” she would have said, flicking waves of dark hair from her face as she abruptly left the bar, “but I just have to see if this guy looks like a busker.”

After the show, I sought out the barmaid to ask her if the singer had met her expectation.  She laughed in the kind of dismissive way that most girls do in my company and strongly disputed my earlier claim that he looks like he could have been busking.  I softened my stance and suggested that if King Creosote was a busker, he would probably be one of the better-dressed street performers, but this did little to bring her onto my side.  I wished her a good night and spent much of the following few hours thinking of ways I could engineer a second, less chastening, encounter with the moonlighting barmaid.

I had been trying valiantly to ignore the existence of my bladder since the last song before the encore, and so it was a tremendous relief when I walked into the bathroom after the gig.  The room was empty and I had the opportunity to reflect in luxury.  I had barely unzipped my jeans when an older man arrived at the furthest of the three urinals.  He spoke with a voice which boomed with enthusiasm and asked emphatically:  “Wasn’t that just the best concert you have been to in Oban?”  I paused mid-stream and tried to recall the bands I had seen play in the town, which proved difficult due to the beers I had been drinking and the concentration I was affording my effort to expel urine.  I agreed that it was an enjoyable gig, and the man continued to speak effusively about the second half of the gig and the talented young schoolgirl who was brought on stage to play the bagpipes.  I had no strong opinion on any aspect of the gig, but feel particularly uncomfortable disagreeing with another person in any situation where I have my penis in my hand, so I accepted everything the man said as being true.

In the bar along the seafront, my acquaintances and I chewed the fat of the evening’s events.  After some time, three members of the band we had just been watching turned up for a drink, including the female fiddler who we had all agreed was the star of the show, contrary to what the man in the Corran Halls bathroom believed.  She was the most attractive fiddle player I have seen and I immediately began to consider how a person would even flirt with a fiddler.  I couldn’t shake the notion of introducing a line around the phrase “it could be a real string in your bow…”, but I knew from instinct that I would make it sound terribly convoluted and not at all seductive.  The plant doctor managed to approach her and express his admiration for her talents as we were leaving the bar at closing time, and it became clear to both of us that the fiddler was involved in a romantic relationship with the guitarist, who would presumably have a greater range of string-related jokes to charm her with.

Some days later, the popular indie pop band The Kooks were playing in the main hall at the Corran Halls, and despite not being very familiar with their music I had spent much of the week considering buying a ticket, particularly when it occurred to me that it could be an opportunity to see the moonlighting barmaid again, and after I had learned in the meantime that she is ‘probably single.’  By the day of the gig I had been struck by a terrible dose of the cold and I didn’t feel like listening to pop music.  I considered that it was probably for the best that I didn’t see her so soon after the last gig anyway, with the potential that I would have ended Saturday night with a red face.

The night I went to Aulay’s for the first time in 13 nights

I walked into Aulay’s Bar wearing a grey suit with a white shirt and a tie and pocket square combination which was as red as the wine in the cabinet behind the bar.  It isn’t often that I wear a white shirt, but I was watching an episode of the television series Mad Men earlier in the week and Don Draper was wearing a similar outfit, which left me feeling inspired.  As I stood by the ice bucket it seemed unlikely that to any casual observer I would bear any resemblance to the suave fictional character. My face had a layer of stubble which was trimmed to precisely 1.2mm, in contrast to Jon Hamm’s smooth and chiselled look, my hair wasn’t as neatly slicked back and while Don Draper wears a pristine and crisp white shirt, mine was recklessly ironed.  Despite this, my three acquaintances and I managed to unconsciously arrange ourselves into a lineup which ranged flawlessly from smartest dressed to scruffiest. It would have made quite a sight to anyone who cares about such things.

A lot had happened since I was last drinking in Aulay’s.  It had been thirteen nights, a trial not unlike the forty days and nights Jesus had spent in the desert.  On that previous visit, word began to spread around the bar that I have an obsession with mangoes, in a way similar to how stories of local scandal are rapidly passed on over a pint amongst interested patrons.  “Have you heard that this guy is going out with that girl?” “The police turned up in the early hours and there were raised voices, but I couldn’t get out of bed quickly enough to hear what was going on.” “My friend’s cousin, the dental assistant, said she was told that he quit the job after they fell out over an ornamental depiction of Moby Dick.”  “Apparently JJ has an obsession with mangoes.”

Obsession seemed like a pretty strong noun at the time and I would have preferred to have heard that it was alleged that I have a taste for mangoes, or that I have a strong liking of mangoes, though considering that I once wrote of a sexual relationship with the tropical stoned fruit obsession was probably justified.

Soon the barmaid with the dreadlocked hair emerged from the back with a Tupperware box which was stacked to the brim with perfectly sliced mango, and without a hint of the greenish-pinkish skin which usually remains intact when I try to cut the fruit.  My friends and I each took a cocktail stick between our index finger and thumb and enjoyed pieces of the sweet fruit, and it was almost as though we were drinking and dining in some high-class Caribbean establishment. It was one of the best nights I have enjoyed in Aulay’s.  I wondered how we must have looked to the seasoned drinkers around the bar; the old men with bloated red faces, like gnomes but with more animated features, who drink pint after pint and whisky upon whisky without hardly flinching. And here were three young men in the prime of their early thirties, holding chunks of mango between our fingers and savouring them like they were a lover.

After a recent evening on which I experienced sea bass for the first time, I became involved in a heated debate with my best friend when I announced my contention that there should be a third category of food which describes the fishy taste of a dish.  My friend disputed this as being nonsense and argued that food is either sweet or savoury and that there is no requirement for it to be classed under the separate banner of fishy.  For days the notion that a person could only experience two tastes – sweet or savoury – played on my mind, and I was increasingly determined to disprove it and have my three-tiered taste ranking introduced to a wider public for their consumption. I bought a packet of two haddock fish cakes, which were filled with Mull of Kintyre cheddar cheese, and I considered them the ideal test for my taste theory.  I cooked the fish cakes per the instructions on the packet and sat down to eat them, as I find this preferable to standing for a meal.  When I cut into the breadcrumb and oat coating, molten cheese oozed from within and my taste buds were tingling.  I scooped the fish and cheese mixture onto my fork and brought it to my mouth with wide-eyed anticipation.  Immediately I was met with the taste of fish, which overwhelmed the flavour of the cheese and everything else which was stuffed inside the cake.  As someone who is still coming to terms with the taste of fish, I felt a combination of disappointment and vindication.  After finishing my meal, and with the dishes soaking in the sink, I messaged my friend to inform them of my experiment.

“I had fish cakes for dinner.  I still strongly believe that it is necessary to have a third category of food, because the only way to describe their taste was FISHY!”

“Big eedjit,” my friend responded.

My culinary options had been limited by an incident a few weeks earlier where the hob on my cooker sparked and caused the electrical supply in my flat to short circuit.  I was stirring some aubergine into a tomato sauce I had prepared for some pasta when the lights went out and my Sonos speaker stopped part way through Love Gun by KISS, which is my favourite record to stir herbs and onions together to.  I used the remaining heat from the hob to finish preparing my dinner, before descending into a panic-stricken search for an electrician as thoughts of living in a Dystopian nightmare without lights and the ability to fully cook pasta and play KISS paraded through my mind.  A couple of colleagues helped me to find an electrician, and with the power to my flat restored I could begin procrastinating over the purchase of a new hob. In the meantime, I was unable to cook asparagus or green beans in the regular fashion, let alone stir fry sweetcorn and ginger, and I was unsure of how to maintain my daily intake of vegetables.  A few days passed and I discovered a medley of frozen vegetables in the supermarket, and apparently they could be cooked in the microwave in ten minutes.  Amongst the vegetables in the large bag were carrots, which I rarely buy due to my dislike of cutting them and the fact that I always buy too many and never have any use for them.  I found myself appreciating the carrots more when they came pre-sliced in a bag along with other, tastier, vegetables and without the need to think about what I was going to do with them.  It seemed to me that this is life in a nutshell, or at least in a bag of frozen vegetables.

I don’t have many possessions in my flat.  Other than a cupboard which houses books and Jack Daniels, two coffee table drawers filled with tealight candles and jars of incense, and a wardrobe which holds a rainbow of dress shirts and ties, all I really have to my name are a collection of notebooks.  The more I find myself thinking about life and the ongoing circus of events which I feel the need to document, the more notebooks I buy.  There is at least one in each room, with the exception of the bathroom, because that is where full concentration is required.  Each room also has its own designated pen, although in the drawer of my bedside table I keep a notebook and a pencil out of fear of what could happen to my 200 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets if in the dead of night I tried to pen the thoughts concerning the female ghost I suspect inhabits my bedroom.  Recently I have taken to reading and writing a lot more frequently in my bed now that I know it is good for uses other than sleeping.

After thirteen nights I returned to Aulay’s on a Friday night, wearing the usual suit with its colour coordinated accessories, and I was wondering if anyone could tell that I was walking taller from the experience I had enjoyed in Edinburgh.  At the bar there was talk of football and music, and outside I ran into a girl who I used to go to high school with.  She is now a hairdresser and it turns out that she recently cut my dad’s hair, which is how we got talking.  She was struggling to remember me from school, even when I offered her the description that “I was the geeky guy with glasses who got red in the face and became anxious and sweaty when talking to girls…a lot like now.”  The hairdresser was one of the most attractive girls in our year, and she has grown into a beautiful woman, though she wouldn’t accept that she was amongst the popular crowd.  I recalled that we took maths together and that I hated the subject and was terrible at it.  She concurred and added that she also wasn’t very good at biology.  As our conversation progressed, the hairdresser revealed that she has a son who recently started his third year in high school.  I remarked that this showed that she had eventually developed a talent for biology, and while she laughed at what I considered to be one of my finest jokes I knew that I would probably not talk to her again.  At closing time I took a walk along the esplanade and the North Pier, and when I arrived home I got into bed with a notebook and a pencil, and it seemed that for all intents and purposes I was back in the routine of being a bachelor.