Passing By

Jimmy the Pipe was a curious character. Sporting a black fleece and flat cap, sitting drinking rum and peppermint tooting on his Golden Virginia in Andrew’s Hotel Bar most days. He also had that red weather-beaten face from working outside on the building sites for many years. It always kind of reminded me of strawberry, mainly the rough bits at the bottom where the pips were closer together.

The Hotel bar was centred in the Scottish Borders town of Soor Plooms and was shared by tourist residents and the locals which was a bit of a clash from time to time. The front of the hotel had one of those revolving doors, as you walked through the bar was to the left and the restaurant to the right.

The hotel was popular especially for tourists from Yorkshire passing by. It was circular shaped, fully carpeted with long couches and pictures of local landscapes on the wall. The place was very smart unlike the other bars in the area. We named the pub Andrew’s Bar only due to the fact our friend Andrew worked there, which was clever stuff. Andrew was one of our crowd and would let us drink in the bar. He knew a lot of us were underage but we were a unit and it was work, rest and play with all of us.

The town had that squalid gossip vibe that usually celebrates degradation like the place is falling to bits. Also, if you didn’t play or indulge in rugby you were a bit of an outcast; especially being from a working-class background. Personally, I liked to celebrate stupidity and absurdity when I lived in the town, I didn’t like the place. This was much reflected in the schooling system. I always had this wistful resignation, it felt their teachings were more selective to certain pupils. This made most of us malleable with passivity. I didn’t want what they had to offer, I had music, football and camaraderie. Most of the time I just wanted to go home.

It was a long hot summer in 1986 just before the World Cup in Mexico. Celtic had just won the league snatching it from Hearts on the last day of the season. Housemartins had released “Happy Hour” what a cool band they were, left-wing football lads who we could relate to.

What a good place to be
Don’t believe it
‘Cause they speak a different language
And it’s never really happened to me
Don’t believe it, oh no
‘Cause it’s never really happened to me (it’s happy hour again)
Don’t believe it, don’t believe it (it’s happy hour again)
Don’t believe it
It’s happy hour again, and again, and again
It’s happy hour again, and again, and again
It’s happy hour again, and again, and again
It’s happy hour again

Normally there would be a crowd of mainly 16-year-olds that sat around the bar in Andrew’s Hotel. We would tell Jimmy stories that were outrageous, bizarre and never factual. He would always answer with an: “ayeee?” giving a kind of patronising expression. Jimmy seemed to just sit there consumed in his little personal nirvana giving a nodding dog response to us. However, if he was riled by anything he would eventually combust much like a high voltage capacitor.

There was a pub up the street named The Hope Tap, a miserable run-down cess pit usually occupied by heavy metal types and goths. We informed Jimmy that Dukes Barton had just taken over the joint and there was half-price rum and free custard pies on the bar; to which he gave his classic response: “Ayeeeee?!”

The humorous theme in Andrew’s bar was often centred around “custard pies” the subject title was originating for a local lad named Derek Barton. Tommy had also decided to christen him “Dukes Barton” this was all in honour of his face resembling a margarita pizza or of course mini custard pies. Dukes just clashed with our personalities his music appreciation consisted of the likes of Def Leopard or Whitesnake. Most days you would see him with his sleeves-rolled-up working on the same car outside his house, each to their own and all that. When he drove past us he would salute our mob with the middle finger. This was slightly bizarre as we never had any verbal contact with him. I suppose you could put it down to the jealousy symptom of anger.

Dukes’ auld fella was chief inspector Raymond Barton of the local cop shop. A talk wiry thin bloke in the mould of John Cleese with a thick black moustache and those shaded specs. He always seemed to be chewing gum probably thinking he’s more of a Brooklyn cop than a Borders policeman. Young Dukes’ would assist him by prowling the pubs and reporting underage drinkers. Therefore, Tommy felt no shame in christening his label. Luckily Dukes never ventured up to Andrew’s joint.

Jimmy the Pipe seemed to swallow the story regarding the rum and custard pies, so off he toddled to the Hope Tap. Around the same time, the evening tourists came into Andrews’s bar, none of which seemed to be under the age of 60. Andrew was giving them the small talk welcome with wind-ups asking where they hailed from, “Morley int Leeds” one answered, with his balding flopping teddy boy quiff and red whisky nose.

The Yorkshire chap then quizzed: “what types a lager ye got mate?” Andrew replied pointing his finger around the bar “Tenants; Carlsberg; Stella; Red Stripe; Custard Pies; McEwans!” The outspoken Yorkshireman seemed to clock Andrew’s hidden wind-up, giving a confused look: “Coooostard pies??” Andrew had to save the embarrassing scene by correcting him: “no, carling I said”. These were the kind of humorous pranks we would encourage out of severe boredom.

Tommy, I and the young crew decided to take a stroll up the street on a pub crawl. Tommy was a character, a real live wire, cool chap and loyal friend, popular with the ladies and never a dull moment well, apart from his choice in football teams … The Rangers.

As we arrived at the Hope Tap we were met with some altercation involving Jimmy the Pipe. He had the barman by the collar suggesting he had been “ripped aff”

“Free custard pies on the bar and half-price rum! A fellie was in here earlier and had that!” Jimmy was aggressively claiming.

The barman was the double of Gerry Adams wearing glasses, a white shirt and a thin red leather tie. Gerry was defensively claiming “we don’t do custard pies in here and certainly no half-price spirits!”

JTP proceeded by pulling at Gerry’s red leather tie asking “are e wattin this rammed up yer arse ya bastirt?”

Gerry was still in defence mode: “we’ve never done custard pies in here Jimmy, we do crisps, nuts or pickled eggs?”

“Yel get pickled egg rammed up yer hole!” JTP responded.

Sitting in the corner of the pub was Dukes Barton analysing the situation. His attire on this day was a t-shirt picturing Darth Vader quoting: “I am your father” also wearing those snow wash denim jeans and big white boots. When you looked at his smug little boat race you couldn’t help but want to chin or join the dots on it. He had already done his bit for the community by informing Gerry we weren’t old enough to be in the bar. Dukes was 18, this seemed to give himself some superiority over us. So we were all asked to leave despite the doormen letting us enter the pub.

We started to drag Jimmy the Pipe away from Gerry the barman. Tommy was then pushing him towards the door. Jimmy didn’t even clock it all being a wind-up and was bizarrely wanting back-up from Tommy to attack Gerry; when Tommy was the one that told him the false story.

Trigger Hume was another pub celebrity in the town. When he arrived in Andrew’s bar he would be straight over to sit with Jimmy as if they had comradeship and some sort of understanding. They were “the all-time greats” Jimmy would tell us. Trigger had a full head of white hair and would usually be wearing a black blazer, gold buttons with a badge displaying a picture of a boat stating: “perseverance” we believed this to be some sort of Masonic emblem. He also had a lisp much like Daffy Duck which added to our humour. I suppose they were just harmless auld twisters, sixty-year-old chain-smokers shuffling between the local pubs.

Young Shavaz would arrive in the bar from time to time. We would applaud when we saw him. He had one of those wee faces like a hamster with funny expressions; much like those wee rubber faces the kids used to have where you would stick your fingers in the back and change its grimace to suit.

Shevaz looked up to us all and would play to the gallery replicating our styles including designer sweatshirts and gazelle trainers. We loved him, and the fact he would do anything for a laugh. He would tell these jokes that didn’t make sense with dirty smut innuendo. Shevaz seemed to make them up as he went along and we’d all laugh in unison at how fucked up the whole thing was. Again, this was all the result of severe boredom and possibly the effects of many Jamaican woodbines over a few years. Shavaz would have spring in his step when he got us laughing, and rightly so.

Shavaz’s jokes were in full-flow one evening encouraged by us sitting at the bar. We were laughing infectiously before he’d even completed his stories. Trigger and JImmy were impenetrable to the whole situation, analysing the punchline in Shavaz’s jokes and were not impressed.

“Am thorry Shavathh a dinnae get that?” Trigger responded.

That seemed to crack us all up to a different level. Shevaz looking smug and nodding towards Trigger as if he was daft at not getting it. As the dead-end jokes flowed Jimmy looked to be getting to capacitor overload with his face appearing like he’d blown up a bus tyre.

Trigger then responds again: “Smoking drugth aye, Junkeeth aye, Junkeeth!” JTP was nodding in agreement with his pipe sticking out the side of his mouth. This resulted in complete hysterics from us.

Just at this moment in walks chief inspector Raymond Barton chewing his Wrigley’s with his colleague PC Brownlee. A total flat beer moment started to take effect. We can only guess that Dukes was doing his bit for the community once again. Not only did Raymond want to see our proof of age, but he also wanted to search us for drugs due to Trigger’s “Junkeeth” accusation. It also appeared Raymond and Trigger knew each other, possibly due to the “perseverance” badge and links to the lodge. They chatted about the upcoming rugger match between the neighbouring towns.

“Are you 18?” Raymond Barton asked Tommy.

“No I’m 19” Tommy replied.

This kicked off more hilarity. After no evidence of narcotics and no proof of age, they seemed to accept our false dates of birth, especially when Trigger backed up our story.

“They boythh are 18 Ray, guid boythh” Trigger pleaded. To our surprise, pub unity, our little gathering of loyalty came through. Raymond Barton seemed satisfied with this and off he toddled.

It was all quite tedious but comical at times which dragged us away from the daily quagmire of hunting for jobs or watching reruns of mind-numbing soaps. Even after leaving school, it was getting up every day yawning and conforming.

Much like the Yorkshire tourists we were all just passing by.

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