By Holywell Street 12/04/20
Old Eddie was by far the best out of all the characters in ‘no-man’s land’ and was considered a true legend round these parts. I say no-man’s land due to our hometown’s proximity between main cities and at best it was no more than a tourist stop-off spot for most people.
But it did have some plus points. Visitors could go on one of the many ‘exciting’ mill tours before spending the evenings at a restaurant or even the local pictures, which was actually quite a stunning building but by the ’80s had been covered in a bland black and white plastic facade. It was the equivalent of trying to improve the Mona Lisa by colouring in her face with felt tips.
It was the bookies and pubs, however, where you’d find the real personalities and Ed was certainly one of them. Originally from Manchester, he was one of the very few people, I suspect, to support both Man Utd and City. Sporting his long coat and flat cap he’d spend his days in the boozer where rum or pints of bitter were his favourite tipple.
When he wasn’t in the pub he’d be in his other place of worship – the bookie’s, and would regularly be chucked out after it was said that he was ‘too bloody cheeky to folk’ when the results weren’t going his way. This, of course, was only after they’d taken all of his money. We witnessed this ritual once when, after he was ‘politely asked to leave’ he told us, ‘Trap one to beat trap two, trap two won and one was second! Ye can never beat these basstits!”
During the mid – ’80s under a rancid Tory government there was a unit of like-minded lads who would hang around the main street between John Menzies and the phone box. Among these young bods were Tommy Trekket, “The Leopard”, Sid, Craig B and Blacklock, who, as well as being working class and bored, were very, very clued up and loved a laugh or two.
Ed was without doubt an eccentric, probably alcohol induced, but an eccentric nonetheless, and he did peculiar things. A case in point being when tourists would pull up at the phone box seeking directions and he would inexplicably send them in a completely different direction to where they needed to be. One day we asked why he did this; his response – with his classic stare – was, ‘Because they are nosey basstits.’
Whenever Ed saw us he’d always play to the gallery, usually by singing or walking backwards and in unison we’d be shouting over at him with outstretched arms as he belted out his favourite song, ‘Begin the Beguine’ by Julio Iglesias. I guess we all just loved him but the grown-ups, the unfriendly, stony-faced locals would always look down their noses at him, which definitely made us take to him more.
One day, when we were standing at the phone box, Ed approached us with what can only be described as a Charlie Chaplin walk. Well, we assumed (or hoped) he was doing a Charlie Chaplin walk because the only other alternative would have been that he’d shat himself. Which, to tell you the truth, wouldn’t have been outwith the realms of possibility. Just then, Tommy Trekket suddenly greeted him with, ‘Ahhhhhhhh – yellow ears!’ There was no clever, hidden meaning in this new nickname. Tommy called him ‘yellow ears’ because – probably due to decades of puffing Regal King Size – his ears, teeth, and some of his fingers had literally turned yellow. In fact, he was well on the way to transforming into a cast member from ‘The Simpsons’.
For some reason he didn’t think it was nearly as amusing as we did and the response from him was not good. In his Manc twang he shouts, ‘Ye getting too blodda cheeekaa’ and started chasing Tommy around the phone box. After a few laps in which he failed to get near him we managed to calm him down. Blacklock persuaded him that ‘Yellow Ears’ was actually a really affectionate term and from that moment on he seemed to revel in his brand new name.
In between John Menzies and the phone box was Fine Fare, which was where Tommy Trekket worked at the deli-counter wearing his white hat. One afternoon we were all in there chatting to him when Yellow Ears staggered in pissed and falling about while singing his favourite song. Once he’d bought his Fine Fare yellow pack cider (which incidentally went with his ears) he noticed us and was over like a shot. Tommy used to give him free stuff from the deli and this day he handed him some sliced ham with a smiling teddy bear image on it, the kind you give to 3-year old kids to make them eat it. Free or not, Yellow Ears wasn’t finding this funny and he stared at Tommy with a kind of, ‘I-know-more-than you’ look, while asking him, ‘Are ye trying rip me off?’ Although, how you can rip someone off with free ham is anyone’s guess.
Another curious character drank in a pub called The Sticky Glue, which was situated in a narrow one-way street where cars would drive by every three or four minutes. Due to him finding his own jokes or stories absolutely hilarious he would burst into a hysterical laugh after he’d told one, which sounded like a Tommy Gun being let loose on a German trench during the First World War (kakakakakakakakakakaka).
It of course earned him a nickname which was every bit as shrewdly observed as ‘Yellow Ears’. We decided to call him ‘Machine Gun’.
Machine Gun’s stories were only amusing in his own head and really the only funny thing about them was his laugh, which was incredibly infectious; like herpes. For some reason he and Yellow Ears didn’t really see eye-to-eye, but they would still stand together at the bar in the afternoon with the usual nine or ten other customers.
The Leopard and I were in one afternoon and we observed that Machine Gun and Yellow Ears were playing some bizarre game which consisted of betting 50 pence on the colour of the next car to drive past the pub. Yellow Ears seemed to lose every time to a chorus of ‘kakakakakakakakakakaka’. Eventually auld yella grabbed Machine Gun by the throat, pushed him up against the wall and called him a ‘cheating basstit!’ (fuck knows what was floating through their heads). It was almost as if we were caught in the middle of the last act in an old John Wayne movie, set in the wild west. The tension; the drama; the feeling of raw, unadulterated terror as the two main protagonists were set to battle it out to the death in the bloody, climactic scene.
Well, it felt like that right up until the barmaid shouted, ‘Pack that in ya silly auld bastards or eer no gettin’ back!’
Of course there are still characters like that now. But they broke the mould after they made Ed. The King. The Elvis Presley of characters – except with yellow ears.