By Holywell Street 17/4/20
Frank Winston was a curious individual, he was initially from the West Coast of Scotland and was quite a grumpy chap with a short fuse who could flip at the smallest thing. To promote his hard man persona, he’d walk around as if he were pushing an invisible wheelbarrow or was carrying a ‘fitba’ under each oxter, but in saying that, he was okay with us most of the time.
I say most of the time, because one evening, Blacklock and I went up to his house to see if his son ‘Fresh Winston’ was ‘coming out to play’, and it turned out to be one of the most bizarre incidents either of us had been involved in.
Frank answered the door wearing a string vest and told us to come in and wait, so we sat in the front room while he was painting the walls with a roller.
It appeared that he didn’t have his false teeth in, so we could only really try and guess what he was saying to us. As he was painting away he asked Blacklock, ‘Pil payin pitba pum?’ Both of us tried to keep our laughs in while at the same time looking as if we had been asked to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity by one of the Clangers. Blacklock gambled his reply with, ‘Aye.’ It became apparent he was asking, ‘Are you still playing football son?’ So, the gamble luckily paid off, this time.
Frank’s next query was, ‘Pae payin pir pow?’ Blacklock gambles again with, ‘Aye.’ It was the wrong answer, our luck had ran out. His short fuse had been lit and and he turns round, roller in hand and demands, ‘Widdae e mean – aye?’ He had a look in his eyes like that of a young woman on a first date who’d just been told by her boyfriend that he wanted to take her home and do a shit in her hair. He was ragin’! After what seemed like an eternity it eventually dawned on us that he was asking, ‘Who are you playing for now son?’ Blacklock answered, ‘Hutchison Vale FC’, and the tension instantly disappeared.
We hoped that was the end of the interrogation, and we could breath again and return to a certain degree of normality when we noticed that the telly was showing a video of ‘Hungry like the Wolf’ by Duran Duran. Now, we both quite liked it and innocently let our feelings be known, not thinking for a second that it would set Frank off again. ‘Aye? Pair o poofs aye?’
Now, whatever he was asking we assumed it was a rhetorical question. Therefore, our response was, once again – ‘Aye.’ It instantly became obvious that this was the exact opposite of what he wanted to hear, and he exploded with rage, screaming, ‘Widdie e mean aye!?’
Obviously we had inadvertently triggered some sort of homophobic allergic reaction within him and although he didn’t actually say, ‘square go, ya cunts’, it was written all over his face. It was at this point that Blacklock and I decided to make a dignified exit. Well, as dignified as we could manage after he flew for us and chased us out of the house while giving Blacklock a white paint makeover as he ran along the lobby.
‘Al Tell Ye’
… was another pub celebrity who would regularly be sitting in the Auld Coin Inn most days of the week. There was a part of the gaff that he and his cronies would sit at and they named it ‘Sunshine Corner’. The pub was situated near the sea front in Burntisland but the only sunshine, if you were lucky, was outside near the ‘ship yairds’.
We named his right-hand man ‘Hael Tell Ye’ because when he was looking for back-up to his thrilling stories he would nod in the general direction of this other wisecracking character for validation of his shite. They sat there scooping up all day – usually Pale Ale or whisky, philosophising to anyone sitting near.
If the young crowd were looking bored they would include us in the chat with a shrewd and wise look telling us their thoughts, as if they were letting you into a massive secret, like it was privileged information. This wisdom was habitually the daftest, most lazy-minded, clichéd pile of drivel you would ever hear, but then what do you expect from a bunch of auld twisters who have sat in the pub for the last 50 years?
One of their buddies we named, ‘Whisky-Nose’ because he was the spitting image of Sid James with his red cricket ball hooter, which we suspected was down to many years tanking the nips that he described as ‘Mother’s Milk’. He would be the main instigator in the gang for hand crushing or demanding arm wrestling contests.
The pub had a jukebox which they would all sing along to; one of their favourites was ‘Rasputin’ by Boney M, and in the name of fun they would all slap the table at the intro to a chorus of, ‘Hey Hey Hey Hey Hey Hey.’
Now and again women would pop in for a light refreshment and if any of them happened to be on the larger side, they would be welcomed to a chorus of, ‘Hey fatty boom boom, hey sugar dumpling.’
Despite never having attended a football match in their lives, they were all keen supporters of the ‘Raaaiiinjurz’ and would shout at the telly when they were on, as if somehow the players could hear their pearls of tactical wisdom.
Although claiming to be ‘guid proddies’, none of them went to church and were christened to the total-up figure of zero, but, they had a deep dislike for ‘kaffliks’ which seems indicative to these Caledonia small towns. Sometimes, they would break the mould and go on a pub excursion to Cowdenbeath for a pint with the Young Defenders Flute Band — it was, as the say, their culture.
Whisky-Nose used to tell us that, like himself, his good lady was in the orange order but he, ‘worshipped the grund that is coming ae her’, as he put it, due to her constant nagging. The couple would often be seen frequenting the prize bingo at Burntisland shows, trying to win the most outrageous tat after playing for most of the day, before heading back to the pub.
One afternoon a coach load of day trippers from the Borders arrived on their annual pilgrimage to the seaside as was common then. The men would go on a pub crawl ending up at the ‘ship yairds’ and pile into the Auld Coin Inn. As usual, Al Tell Ye and his merry followers were supping away in Sunshine Corner when these outsiders came in.
It wasn’t quite like the scene in ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ at the start of ‘An American Werewolf in London’, but it wasn’t a kick up the arse off it. However, as the pints and halves started flowing in the now busy bar, the Auld Twisters were starting to thaw out and even mixing with their new friends.
Calling themselves ‘Brers wi hands across the sea’ and ‘Ye all-time greats’ they demanded their Boney M song and ‘Hert o’ Gless’ by Blondie so they could all sing in unison. But this new spirit of friendship didn’t last long when Whisky Nose decided to ask them, ‘Ah hope yiz are aw real brers.’ Despite it being highly improbable, the tourists all agreed in drunken camaraderie that they were indeed ‘all real brers’ despite, I suspect, not knowing what he was on about.
‘How come he’s wearing a fackin hang-glider then?’, shouts W.N., pointing at one bloke, ‘that’s no brers!!”
With most of the bar now looking confused apart from the locals in Sunshine Corner, it became apparent that he was calling out one of the visitors for wearing a crucifix. The place then fell silent at the new arrived tension as W.N. seemed very aggrieved; the tourist wearing the crucifix is a wee Italian bloke called Pablo who then asks W.N. for an explanation to his so-called crime to the reply: ‘Ye cannae whoopsy poopsy in here pal, this is a proddie shoap and that hang-glider is persona non grata!’
Pablo is now nose-to-nose with him but Al Tell Ye saves the day by swaying over and calmly addressing the crowd: ‘Listen, oor awe-time-greats – am a right or am a wrong?’ This almost Gandhi – like intervention of peace diffuses the situation instantly and the ambience return as if by magic.
In an incredible twist of fate, a track we put on the jukebox by The Gap Band — ‘say oops upside your head, say oops upside your head’ started at just that moment and everybody joined in.
One of the young regulars thought it would be a great idea to get as many of the Auld Twisters up for a dance as possible, ‘c’mon ehh’, she shouts, as she encourages them to a half-hearted rendition of ‘away ye go!’
Then it happens, she’s done it! The tourists, Sunshine Corner and awe the young yins are on the floor sitting in a long line with Whisky Nose at front in song, arms in the air, swaying side-to-side then rowing, doing a version of the ‘Ship Yaird Boat Dance’ while singing, ‘oops upside your head say oops upside your head.’
Gandhi himself would have been proud.
It is true what they say – ‘All you need is love.’