It seems appropriate to continue writing this story while stone cold sober after a morning coffee and cigarette, because I was anything but – sober, that is – during the proceeding few final hours of Christmas Day, 2012, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone who’s followed this US and UK series of blog posts, or has only read one post, thought I was more-or-less rotten drunk the whole time. This is a misconception. I consumed more alcohol during that two-and-a-half months than I ever have in my life during that amount of time; but it was an irregular and still mostly controlled consumption despite the fact I was never employed during that time, rarely drove, and had almost constant access to the devil drink. I trust that clarifies the matter.) She “of the cascading chestnut curls”, or Sarah, punctually picked me up at 4pm. Her pretty sister, Anna, who looked to be in her mid-teens but actually turned out to be 20, worked behind a bar and was indeed aesthetically pleasingly well-developed when she removed a couple of layers of warm clothing, was also with her. From Leith Walk we drove south-east of the docks to somewhere north of the suburb of Restalrig. Or perhaps Craigentinny. I couldn’t find the particular house in Edinburgh she took me to that night even if I was back there, but Google Street View of Craigentinny, in Vandeleur Avenue Avenue particularly, shows familiar, tiny, cosy-looking and hedge or picket-fence fronted cottages. Albeit single-storied ones (hers was double-storied, yet no less little for that). Oddly, as I’d never seen such a place in my life and possibly never will again, when I got out of the car I felt instantly at home. Bizarrely, my notes now shock even me by stating: “The particulars of Christmas night and morning/early afternoon can wait.” Flipping forward, it seems I decided through laziness or deliberation to not even take notes on it. The next set of notes jump forward to Boxing Day. So I’ll do my best in the next paragraph, and based solely on memory, to detail my splendid Christmas evening with a Scottish family.
Sarah’s mother was also gorgeous. And her father, though obviously more rugged and aged from a youth I imagine he spent a lot of on freezing, wet sports fields, was also a handsome man. And both were genuinely friendly to me, minus any hint of self-consciousness some people might exhibit having a total stranger in their home. I, though comfortable and warmed by both their home and their hospitality, became self-conscious when I noticed the Christmas cards over their fireplace and expressed my regret at not having bought them one. “It’s fine,” said Sarah’s mum. “They all get thrown out before long, anyway.” I had thought to bring a couple of bottles of wine, though I wish I’d brought enough to leave behind as a gift. Like a bottle of Scotch. Fortunately, I later found out and believe they told me that evening, Scots don’t take Christmas too seriously. Instead, they celebrate most New Year’s Eve – which they call Hogmanay – in which tourists and locals alike head into the streets of especially Edinburgh to engage in possibly the world’s greatest orgy of food and drink. (I briefly lamented that I would be in Los Angeles for NYE, before flying back to Australia the following day.) Then, while I delighted in their almost musical accents, we got down to the business of eating, drinking and laughing. A friend of Sarah’s, an also beautiful if fuller-bodied young Scotswoman, turned up earlier in the evening with her two-or-so-year-old daughter. I’ll give her the pseudonym, which I’ve done for almost all people I met during my journey, of Lisa. Lisa left while we ate, then returned daughterless to join us as the night became exclusively about sitting by the fire, drinking and laughing. I contributed uncharacteristically well, especially considering my displaced circumstances, but was otherwise quite happy to deeply enjoy in silence their whimsically accented stories and jokes flying across the lounge room.
Hardly in my life, often quite deliberately, have I ever been the centre of attention. Much less have I had the almost exclusive company of a group of attractive women. Yet, during the dying days of 2012 in a Northern Hemispherical town on the other side of the world, here I was enjoying the company of four beautiful Scotswomen, three of whom were related, and one friendly older man who was a husband to one of them and father to two. I felt more than a little privileged. And it’s not as if I was really the centre of attention, anyway. They all were interested in who I was, and what I was doing in their town on a Christmas evening, instead of thousands and thousands of kilometres away in and with my own country and family. Yet they also seemed comfortable enough with my presence to almost act as if I wasn’t there, by shooting back and forth stories and talking of things I could barely understand, yet enjoyed immeasurably at least because of their accents or at most because of the educational experience. We got drunk. Sarah, unfortunately, was the first to pass out next to me on the couch. I believe her father actually carried her to bed, despite the fact she was in her mid-20s, then he returned to promptly become the second to fall asleep on the couch. Sarah’s mother followed him to bed, or might have lingered for 10 or 20 minutes after he left. In any event, Anna and Lisa and I continued drinking and playing music until about 2am. As it goes when a group of obnoxious drunks start playing music, we less-and-less would let the song each other chose play out completely before choosing another. I put on Amanaemonesia by Chairlift, and was surprised by the girls’ distasteful reactions. I guess New York synth-psych-pop is not for everyone. This continued on awhile, until I barely remembered even falling asleep on the couch Sarah’s parents had promised me for the night. (Why I didn’t try to avoid paying for the hostel room that night, I don’t know – though some of my stuff was still there.) About 3am, I woke to someone almost already kissing me as I lay on my side on the couch. And that’s all shall be written about that.