Common Ridings

Imagine a slightly more argumentative version of Alf Garnett, throw in an almost pathological hatred of the Welsh, put it into a suit and tie, and you have a curious little git called Trigger Hume.

Trigger was from Hike in the Scottish Borders and loved nothing more than a good row – it was his hobby – only he often lost, which meant that his squabbles would sometimes take a sinister turn with him going home to ‘get his gun’.

Of course the gun didn’t exist, and no one really thought that it did. Gun crime was non-existent in Hike then and it still is now, which is hardly surprising if the underworld there are all trying to bust caps into each other with imaginary shooters .

Most days you would catch Trigger and his ‘henchman’ Hike Wattie (HW) in the White Swan playing dominoes, both wearing a suit and tie as they did every day of the year. At the end of each game, whoever won would sing to the other, ‘It’s like taking candy from a baybeeee’.

That Len Barry classic still gives me the scunner, like when Quint scrapes his finger nails down that blackboard in ‘Jaws’, or when Boris Johnson speaks.

Rumour has it that Trigger got expelled from the Army when he was 18 for ‘skelpin Welsh cunts’.  Now, being expelled from the Army for assaulting Nazi sympathisers or maybe even holding a grudge against one of their former enemies could be excused.  But the Welsh?  It’s like hating kittens or her out of Countdown – it doesn’t make sense.  But, for some inexplicable reason he had an issue with our Celtic brothers and he’s still bitter to this day.

Surely he can’t have believed all the rumours about the sheep?

However, for all his faults, Trigger did have a sense of humour, sort of.  He and HW would chuckle away at funerals, prompting an uncomfortable feeling within a morbid situation.

Every funeral wake they attended, the double act would approach the deceased’s family telling them, ‘They will be up there having a pirty.’  As if that was some kind of comfort. It’s up there with the classic:  ‘They’re in a better place now.’


The White Swan attracted other strange individuals, such as Flossy MacFarlane.  That, of course, is if you call sitting and staring at the regulars in the pub and claiming that you had hidden super powers strange.  I always thought Flossy would be ideally suited at leading a cult, but the pub was his place of worship.

I used to work shifts in the bar and listen to their mundane drivel.  Sometimes Flossy would sit with Trigger and HW while they were playing dominoes, in fact it was usually just the three of them in the pub during weekdays.  Flossy would use his powers to tell them that he knew who would win each game before they’d even started, but would keep the information to himself. Trigger would say, ‘He kens fack all!’

As well as trying to read your mind, Flossy would claim that he knew the lottery numbers for the upcoming draw, again keeping the info to himself. It should be noted, however, that during the whole time I knew him, the most he ever won was a tenner. Either some cruel punter had hidden some kryptonite somewhere in the pub to deliberately weaken his powers, or, as is more likely, he was talking a load of shite.

Every second year the Welsh rugby fans would arrive in Hike for the Home Nations match.  Many of our Celtic brothers would stay within the pubs and most of the locals would join them.  I’ve had a lot of liking for the Welsh most of my life and that seemed to be the general attitude with most of the locals.

However, Trigger could not contain himself if he saw ‘Welsh caaants’. The only other group of people who even came close to yanking his dick as much as the Welsh were anyone from the Sovr Plooms area, a town 18 miles away who were the sworn enemies of Hike folk.

One Friday evening in the pub, the Welsh crowd were in scooping up, all in-song with locals sharing and joining in. Trigger was looking over in their direction and may as well have been holding up a sign telling them all to fuck off. To him, they were about as welcome as a gay dance troupe dressed in drag at the Westboro Baptist Church’s Christmas Party.

After a while he decided to introduce himself to the exotic foreigners by aiming a punch at one of them while shouting, ‘Ya taffy bastirt,’ then missing before spinning around 360 degrees and punching the table as he fell to the ground.  A round of applause was the obvious response from the joyful, hectic pub.  True to form, Trigger tells everyone he’s away to get his ‘fackin gun’ and he was never seen again until midweek.

A few days later, it appeared that Trig had broken his wrist due to his boxing antics. When anyone enquired as to the cause of the injury, his comeback was, ‘skelpin Welsh caaants’ followed by a ‘kakakakakakaka’ smokers laugh, although, I’m not sure our Celtic guests would agree with the story.

Back in the pub midweek, Trig was struggling to play dominoes with HW due to his wrist being wrapped up, so they got their kicks from old singalong songs from the jukebox. When I was working in the bar it was quite soul destroying at times so I would sit with a wee notepad writing down what I saw and heard.  This was for amusement purposes in later days. At least the pub had a new fit barmaid who had started, a good soul named Sophia who was also very astute and sensible.

Hike Wattie always had this ‘I-know-more-than-you face’ when it came to music and would clash with Flossy on a regular basis.  It was my first shift of a humdrum week and I was hanging by a thread after a few days of alcohol and Collie dugs intake.  The three amigos were picking songs from the jukebox from days gone by such as Boney M and Alvin Stardust. They then had the notion to play us, ‘Ooh Aah … Just A Little Bit’ by Gina G; this whole situation was like a theme tune to my depression.  Any positive attitude was sinking back to that dark cobweb place.

To make things worse they started a threesome choir to the chorus, ‘Ooh Aah … Just A Little Bit, Ooh Aah, Just A Little Bit morrrre’ directed at the lovely fit Sophia behind the bar, they then proceed with the offer of, ‘Gees a coup’, which was their way of welcoming her.

Sophia was just smiling with that look of ‘heard it all before’ that all bar staff learn to do as I threatened to pull the plug on their shenanigans. Trigger’s reasoned that this was because I was, ‘Jist a Sovr Plooms bastitrt!’ The cringeometer was off the Richter scale by this time.

Later in the day after continuous pints of pale ale and shots of whisky, the three amigos were sitting putting the world to rights with Flossy gazing at them.  The odd bit of personal abuse was fired each way, then Trigger offers Flossy outside.  HW tells him to get away hame to his wife.  Trigs rejected this suggestion with, ‘Fack off!  I worship the grund that’s coming ae her!’ An average day in a Hike pub.

Blobby Chris was another celebrity ’round those parts.  He would wobble into the pub like an elephant seal who had just done a half marathon for charity.  I normally wouldn’t concern myself with his size and indulge in fattism but his choice of football team, severe right-wing politics and funny as toothache racist jokes, were suited to his big red raging face that always looked if he had just bought a massive bouncy castle and blew it up with his mouth.

He was also a miserable half-glass full type and whenever he replied to a question it was as if you had just woken him up from a snooze by teabagging him and hitting his genitals with the jaggy side of a hair brush. The only time you would see a grin on Blob’s face was when he was in the pub singing Rangers songs with his buddies.  This lot were of standard bluenose material, steeped in deep mediocrity and Herrenvolk Hubris with a compassion bypass.

You could argue and debate with this lot all day, but their white-flag moment will come when you are reminded that you don’t meet the requirements for being a ‘people’ like standard as themselves.  This settles their debate.

One glorious evening there was a young crowd sitting at the back of the pub being quite rowdy, although harmless.  Every so often I would ask them to simmer down.

Blobby Chris wobbled in as he normally would.  The young crew at the back decided to have a wee sing-along aimed at him.  To the theme tune of ‘Jim’ll Fix It’:

’10 bacon rolls was only the start of it

          Strawberry gateaux can’t get enough of it

          Chris will eat it 

           Chris will eat it for you

           and you and you 

           and pum pa pum …’

The other pub locals sung along in unison including Trig, HW and Flossy. Blobby Chris was eyeballing over in rage and giving them the middle bar, pork sausage style.  I must confess I would normally have stopped this disrespectful commotion, but I couldn’t bring myself to step in for some reason.  I let this catchy ditty continuously flow as I served him with his usual pint of cider.

The highlight of the Hike year was the Common Riding which happened in June. It was the annual town festival and it involved people riding horses through the town to mark some old historical traditions. When I say people, I should point out that women were banned from riding.  In fact it was easier to get a woman to ride John Barrowman than it was to get one to ride a horse during the Common Riding back then.

I didn’t pay much attention to this malarkey, but it seemed to be a topic of debate especially with Trigger, HW and any women arguing the case in the pub.  Although the double act would say, ‘Oo must stick wae oor tradtions of nae weemin’, they never actually left the pub to join in with the festivities.











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