Excuse me, son, excuse me! Can you tell me which bus goes to the Andrew Duncan Clinic? 51, 5 and 15. Thank you very much, son. Thanking you. You see, I’m going up to see my landlady. She’s drying out. She’s an alcoholic. I always knew she liked a drink or two, but I never realised it was as bad as that. Not till I went to see her the other week. She was stoating off the walls. Three bottles of gin a day she was drinking. Three bottles! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like a drink, to be sociable and that, but three bottles of gin a day? So anyway I’ve got to go up to the hospital to get my keys off her. I asked them if they’d give me a spare but they said no. They dinnae trust me. That’s terrible. Wouldnae bloody trust me with my own key. So I’ve got to go up to the Clinic. What do you think of that, eh? Wouldn’t give me the key. So, I’ve had to come through from Glasgow. Wouldn’t trust me. What do you think of that, son? Sorry son? Oh right. Aye well, thanks very much son, anyway. Thanks for your kindness. Which is the bus stop? That one there. Thanking you, then, son. Thanking you.
Excuse me, is this the bus stop for the Andrew Duncan Clinic? Eh, five fifty something and another one. Aye? Because I’ve got to go up and see my landlady. She’s an alcoholic and she’s drying out. They wouldn’t give me the key and…. Oh aye, the bus. Aye. Hello driver. Hello. Could you tell me, is this the bus for the Andrew Duncan Clinic? Andrew Duncan Clinic. It is? Aye. It’s just that I’m through from Glasgow to see my… eh? Oh aye. Fifty five pence. Aye. Thanking you then driver. Thanking you. Full today, eh? Better head up the stairs. Aye.
Aye. Hello girls. Just off to school, eh? Heh heh. Aye. Can you tell me, is this the right bus for the Andrew Duncan Clinic? It’s just that I’m through from Glasgow to go and see my landlady. She’s drying out in the Andrew Duncan Clinic. She’s an alcoholic. Aye, I mean, I knew she drank but I never realised how bad till the other week. I called round. She was stocious drunk, stoating off the walls. Three bottles of gin a day. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I like a drink myself, a bit of refreshment, but three bottles of gin a day? I mean, there’ve been times when I’ve overdone it myself, but not on a regular basis. Just special occasions. I know when to stop. But my landlady, well. If she carries on this way she’ll end up in a box. Mind you, we all do, but you know what I mean. Aye, God knows what she’ll be looking like today. Makes you think, though, doesn’t it? Hospitals. You know, about death, dying. The big one. The final curtain. El finito. Comes to us all, eh? When you see them, lying there at death’s door. Aye. I used to be scared of death, but not any more. Not any more. No, I feel quite philosophical about it now. At ease. At peace with myself. I don’t know what comes after it, right enough. The afterlife and that. But then, nobody does, do they? And when it comes down to it, we’ll never know till the day comes. So there’s not much point in worrying about it, is there? We all do though, right enough. I do. But not too much. What do you girls think? Mmm? Ach, there’s no point in asking you – you’re too young. You dinnae want to think about death at your age. I didn’t. You’ve got your whole lives in front of you. But when you’re as old as me you’ll think differently about it. Staring you in the face. Anyway, I’ve got to go up and see my landlady and get my key off her. Always assuming she knows what time of day it is. But they wouldn’t trust me with my own key. Terrible, eh? Terrible.
Anyway, girls, what school are you off to? Aye? Well, make the most of it. Most important days of your life. Dinnae make my mistake. I monkeyed around at school, thought it didn’t matter, and I came out with nothing. Regretted it ever since. I’m an intelligent man, but I’ve not got the bits of paper to prove it. Mind you, you look at some of the bloody idiots who’ve got the bits of paper, and you think, well… you know. Maybe I’m better off without them. Mind you, in my day you didn’t need any qualifications, jobs were ten a penny. You could get sacked from one place in the morning and start somewhere else in the afternoon. And I should know, happened to me often enough, heh heh! I could tell some stories. Aye, and… is this your stop girls? Aye well, nice talking to you. Good luck, and remember what I said. Most important days of your life. Aye.
Aye. Hey hey! It’s the postal boys. How are you doing boys? Just finished your rounds? Aye, my old man was a postie for forty six year. Forty six year! Aye, I know all about the postal service. I was a postie myself for a short while. Aye, I was. Aye, but you know my downfall? Postie’s pubs. Heh heh. You’ll know what I’m talking about boys. Open all hours so you can have a wee bit refreshment after your round. You’ll know all about that boys. Anyway, I took to taking my refreshment before as well as after. Till one day, I was flat out on the floor and they were saying come on, Charlie, time to start your round. And I couldnae move. Lying there stretched out stiff as a board. Couldnae fucking move. Too pissed to stand up. Heh heh. Anyway, so that was me and the post office. Are you boys off for a bevy now you’ve finished your rounds? Ah, you cannae fool me. I’ll bet you are, heh heh. No? Well you boys must be more professional than in my day, heh heh. Not that I drink too much, mind. Not like my landlady. I’m off to see her – she’s drying out. She’s an alcoholic. She’s got my keys and they wouldnae trust me with a spare set, so I’ve had to come through from Glasgow to get my keys off her. Bloody terrible, eh? Now, you boys’ll know your way round Edinburgh – God help us all if you don’t; only joking, boys! – so which stop do I get off for the Andrew Duncan Clinic? Another four or five stops? Right, thanking you boys. You know your stuff, heh heh. Aye and… is this your stop boys? Oh well. I’ll follow you down and wait for my one. Aye. You’re nimble getting down they stairs boys, not like an old duffer like me. Aye well, good luck boys, have one on me, heh heh.
Hello ladies! You’re looking lovely today, if you don’t mind me saying. Now, do you happen to know if this is the stop for the Andrew Duncan Clinic? You don’t? Well thanking you anyway. And may I say again how delightful you’re looking, truly lovely, heh heh. Driver – is this the stop for the Andrew Duncan Clinic? The next one? It’s just that I’m over from Glasgow to see my landlady to get my keys. She’s an alcoholic, you see, drying out. Aye and… eh? This is my stop? Many thanks driver. Thanks for your kindness. Thanking you. Have a good day ladies!
Aye. Excuse me, son! Excuse me!
© Stephen Barnaby 2014