14: A Touch Of The Tartan

Fitrambler Goes Native

I got into work quite early after New Year’s day. Just as I was about to make the tea, Topman asks me if I’d like to go to Scotland to deliver mail. Never been to Scotland. Never been on a plane…double tick box job…
So, I was at Bristol Airport by 5.30pm, packed and ready.
Security was an experience. Off with the coat, walking trainers, belt, all objects like wallet, ID, mobile phone, hand luggage in a couple of totes. They went through separately.
Fortunately, the trousers stayed up. I put the belt back on as soon as I got my stuff back, followed by the trainers.
After a wait of about an hour, we were checked through to board the plane.
It was smaller than I expected, seating room wasn’t great. We settled in seats and after ten minutes the plane began trundling along the runway, picking up speed until it took off…
Wow!
I felt I was on drugs, getting light-headed; almost making victory signs and going ‘hey, man…’
However, after five minutes my stomach felt queasy…
The plane finally levelled off and the stomach settled down. The urge to fire my lunch as projectiles died as well.
Less than an hour later we landed, which felt just like taking off. We collected our bags, the hire car and were off to the hotel less than half an hour away. By now I was beginning to feel hungry. It’d been eight hours since luch. A hungry Fitrambler isn’t a pleasant site to behold!
We checked in, then off to our respective rooms. Fifteen minutes later I was in the bar. No decent beer, so I decided on the Guinness.
A few minutes later Topman and the gang arrived so we walked to the restaurant for a nosebag.
Looking at the prices on the menu I balked a little but the guts were still doing somersaults, so I’d have paid almost anything.
There were three of us at the table. The curry looked appealing but as I’d be on the streets for hours delivering mail tomorrow I had doubts. It’s bad enough getting caught short after drinking too much liquid, but…
I was convinced by Topman it wouldn’t be a problem.
The meals arrived and tasted ok. Topman was right, the curry wasn’t that powerful nor was there much of it. The curry was in a container the size of a pub ashtray. The rice was about the size of scoop of vanilla ice-cream. I used more calories eating it…
The meals were walloped back (three mouths, thereabouts), then we went to the bar. I managed three pints of Guinness before getting to bed at around mid-night.
All to report to breakfast at 7am.
The alarm on the mobile phone went off. I tried to ignore it.
By 6.15am the mobile won. I got up, staggered tiredly to the shower and woke myself up suddenly. It was the sudden, powerful needles of cold water on the vitals that did it! I pointed the nozzle away until the water (amongst other things) warmed up.
Breakfast was more up my street. Self-service job. I slapped two pieces of bacon, two eggs, two hash browns, two bits of black pudding, a couple of helpings of baked beans and mushrooms on the plate and went back to breakfast table.
I said a round of good mornings, then tucked in.
‘Like watching a piranha fish strip a man down to the bones,’ mumbled Topman.
I washed the lot down with two glasses of orange juice, a mug of tea and was ready to go in ten minutes.
Topman and I teamed up. We headed to the Delivery Office in Dunfermline, about half an hour’s drive away.
We got there to find snow and ice all over the car park and patches of dirty snow and ice along a lot of the main streets. The temperature was minus five.
We found a place to park and trekked to the DO.
That first day we sorted mail. Topman wasn’t a happy bunny. Nor was I. We wanted to go out on delivery…
When we left for the day the old tum was groaning. Not breaks since breakfast,, so on the way back we stumbled upon a Toby Carvery.
Fitrambler in paradise!
By 5.30pm we were back at the hotel, showered, changed and back off to the Toby. Topman and I wanted to try out the only real ale there, Deuchars IPA. I think we got through four pints before the urge to move on set in.
We took a walk to a pub recommended by the bar man. Corstorphine Inn. It was packed and noisy. But a good pub for watching football in…
Another couple of drinks and Topman said it was time to get something to eat. So, Snappy, Topman and myself made our way back to the hotel.
The meal was much like last night’s, I avoided the curry and tried the chicken, with carrots, potatoes and a sauce.
‘How was the chicken?’ Topman asked.
‘It was more like a cooked budgie…’ I muttered, ‘But it tasted ok.’
Topman smiled, so did Snapper.
Across the road, being close to a large window, we could see The Porterhouse, a steakhouse. Maybe the food would be better.
A couple more drinks and it was bed time.
I got back to the room, took a warm shower and then got into bed.
No sooner had my head hit the pillow than the alarm was going off…
6am.
I tiredly stumbled to the bathroom, took a shower to wake myself up, (without attacking the vitals this time) then dressed.
At 6.30am, I was tucking in a breakfast that was a repeat of yesterdays, except I drank two glasses of orange juice to help strike a healthy balance…
By 7am we were off to Dunfermline.
Forty minutes later I got my wish and I was on the streets of Dunfermline, delivering mail. A new adventure for old Fitrambler.
I didn’t mind being on my feet for most of the day. The thing which worried me was working quickly and efficiently enough. There were a dozen bags of mail to get through.
The first house made me groan. There was a large letter, cardboard stiffener in it which said ‘do not bend’. All very well, but the letter box although above average size, it wasn’t wide enough to get it through.
Being conscientious I didn’t bend but instead put a card through the door saying they’d need to collect.
That first day on the streets taught me a few lessons. The first is you can’t wear gloves. With them on I found I couldn’t sort out the letters for the next house. Twice I dropped the first bundle and was lucky they didn’t hit a mud patch. I spent valuable time re-sorting them. So off came the gloves. Fortunately, I got used to the cold.
Another thing I learnt, don’t sift out the letters for the next house when walking, not while there was ice on the ground.
Twice I watched it rain letters as I sat in a patch of ice.
We worked without breaks. The large breakfast served me well.
Around 5pm, back to the hotel to shower and change.
At 7pm we set off to the City Centre and parked close to a row of about five pubs. Seeing them old instincts surfaced and I wondered if I could sneak away to have a half in each, purely for research purposes.
However, Topman was keen to seek out the cheese shop he’d been to the last time he was there. So we found the shop. I was tempted, but held back. Not far from there was a whisky shop.
Get thee behind me Satan!
The cashmere scarves were tempting and this time I didn’t resist. The problem was which one to get? There were ones which were pattern pink, straight forward pink and a tartan pink? I saw one two shades of pink. I bought it.
‘Bought something,’ asked Topman.
His nose was in the bag before I could stop him.
‘Pink?’ he exclaimed.
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Glad we don’t have to share a room.’
‘It’s a present for the Pink Lady.’
‘Oh.’
Throughout the evening we had to stop for Snapper to catch us up or look round to see where he’d got to!
Snapper is mad-keen on photography and was never more than a few inches from his expensive camera.
So, every so often we had to call him up. It was like being out with a dog who kept stopping to sniff around!
Eventually we doubled back to the pubs I spotted earlier. There was the Last Drop, Maggie Dickson’s Pub, The White Hart didn’t have any decent real ale, but just as despair was setting in the fourth, The Beehive Inn, had working hand pumps.

Beehive Inn, Edinburgh

One of the great things about having Topman for a boss is he’s keen on real ale. So, we tried this pub.
Old Peculiar and a Scots ale called Fail Lair. I had the Old Peculiar and Topman the Fail Lair.
We had two pints each their, but Snapper and Badge stuck to non-alcoholic drinks.
The Black Bull was a temptation but Topman had to drive and so we made our way back to the hotel. Just as well as it was another early start in the morning.
I was in bed by 11.30pm…
Although it might’ve seemed like an early night it didn’t feel like it the next morning.
Groaning and muttering I dragged myself to the bathroom, took a shower, brushed the teeth and got dressed.
Breakfast was the piled high usual and we were off. We covered an area only a street or two away from where we were the day before.
Topman dropped me off with a large mail pouch.
First up was two lots of 3 story flats. Steps. These days I don’t like steps any more than I like hills. Not good.
The block I tried first I couldn’t get any of the residents to answer their buzzer. How the hell would I get in. What did the normal bloke do? Sighing I put them to one side and went to the next block and pressed a few buttons. The pouch was quite weighty so I wanted to get rid of as much mail as I could. Maybe that’s why they loaded you down so much, so you’d get it through the letter boxes quicker.
By the fourth button my back was hurting a little and I leaned against the door. Big mistake. I’d assumed it was locked.
Two minutes later after deciding the stairway ceiling could do with a coat of paint, I got up from the floor and got my mail back into the pouch. Fortunately, it was banded well, so it didn’t fly all over the place.
I delivered the mail, then decided to go back to the first block and try the door – conventionally by pushing at it – to see if it was open. It was so I delivered.
The pouch didn’t feel much lighter but it was a start.
Then I started on the odd numbers of the main street. The front door looked out onto the pavement, no gates to mess with.
81…83…85…89…
Huh?
I doubled back to check I hadn’t got it wrong and shoved the letters in the wrong letter box. It’d be embarrassing to knock on the door and ask for the letters back!
But no, number 87 wasn’t there. I looked a couple of doors before it and a couple after but it hadn’t been moved.
Hmm. I frowned.
Then as I put the letters to one side in the still bulging pouch, I got another three houses up to find another number was missing.
I stood still for a moment, scratched the noggin. This was Dunfermline not the bloody Bermuda triangle! A few more houses delivered to, and another bugger had disappeared.
Then at the end of a block of ten I found an alleyway. I walked down it. If anyone said anything I’d hide behind my role as a postie and claim ignorance.
The alley was about ten feet. First thing I came across was a few children’s toys in a small garden, in the distance to the left I saw the two blocks of flats I’d delivered to earlier. Further left was the
answer to a mystery.
At the top of about twenty odd steps were two doors next to each other. As I walked up the steps I found the missing houses, or rather flats.
I moved out into the main street again and continued to deliver the mail, nipping down allies as was necessary.
Once at the end of that street, I crossed the road having done all the odd numbers and began on the evens.
For the next few houses everything went smoothly. Then another house went missing….
64, 66, 70, 72, 74…
No 68?
Bugger!
I was scratching my head as a short old man in a cloth cap and overcoat seemed to be making a bee-line for me. The determined, serious look on his face got me a little worried. I felt I could see complaint all across his face.
He made some sounds for a few minutes, I thought he was clearing his throat but he’d actually started talking.
‘Pardon?’ I said.
‘Oh, you’re English.’
I nodded. ‘Yes, up from the far south.’
‘Ah, I thought you were no Paul, our usual postman.’
I explained why I was there and he nodded attentively.
‘How’re ye finding the round.’
‘Confusing.’
‘Aye, ye would.’ He pointed to the houses, odd numbers, I’d done earlier. ‘Flats. All on ‘em. Dinna use to be. I’ve here since 1925…’
(I felt like saying it was time he bought a house, but held back.)
‘….made them into flats, got rid of a few houses up there.’ He pointed to where I’d come from. ‘And ye’ll find this lot on this side are the same.’
I nodded. ‘Finding the numbers is difficult too.’ I told him and mentioned about number 68.
He grinned. ‘Aye, see that wee alleyway.’ He pointed to it, no more than a one person entrance. I nodded. ‘You’ll no see the number properly, covered in dirt. But down there is no. 68.’
I thanked him. He waved my thanks away. ‘I was a postman, started way back in the forties. In those days it was a different game, they’d Inspectors. Bastards they were, all dressed in black. Little Hitlers. If you turned up at the delivery office with just one piece of uniform missing, or your shoes no shiny enough, then it was away home, no point in signing on.’
He told me his name was Stan and lived in number 62, if I’d any more problems with missing houses.
I walked back, got no 68’s letters delivered, then looked out for alleyways, no matter how small when numbers seemed missing. I went down quite a few alleys, up twenty odd steps – always seemed that number – and often found doors but not all of them numbered. In some cases it they had a front door and a back door within a few feet of each other.
I got to chat with a receptionist at a psycho-therapy business. She helped me find an oddly titled house across the road.
As I was delivering the last few houses from the pouch, Topman rang me, asking me where I was and then he told me to wait there and he’d come to me.
We finished a little early that day and checked out of the hotel once we’d all freshened up. It was time to make the journey home.
Unlike the flight to Edinburgh airport, there were loads of people at the check in and we went through a zig-zagging queue. It seemed to take ages.
Then there was security, where belt, wallets and money and the like had to be put into totes.
Unfortunately, I left my watch on and some change in my trouser pocket.
Alarm bells rang and I was pulled over to one side.
Needless to say, Topman and all my colleagues looked suitably concerned.
(Yeah, right, they were holding their stomachs. A bloody great laugh!)
He searched me. First by hand, patting my sides…then he ran this electronic rod-like thing all around me. A vision on him slipping on surgical gloves went through my over active imagination. Fortunately, he seemed satisfied there was nothing else to set the alarm off so an exploration of my orifices wasn’t deemed necessary.
I wasn’t disappointed, oddly enough.
Red-faced, I joined my colleagues.
Then it was a wait before we could board the plane, and when we did, there was a delay while they fuelled it. I was getting bored with the waiting. There seemed to be a lot of it with plane travel! It didn’t make me anxious to travel by plane again.
We eventually took off and I went through the ‘high on drugs’ feeling until the plane levelled out.
An hour later the adventure was over. I’d ticked a few more boxes. I’d been on a plane and visited Edinburgh and Dunfermline, albeit briefly…
Wish I’d knocked off those pubs the day before, though…
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