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.