4 February 2014

Life in Old Leith

I was sitting drinking quietly at a table and idly watching three rough young men - builders I presumed, judging from the mess they were in - surrounding a drunk young girl beside the bar. Drunk or drugged, maybe. Perhaps both. She had a very short skirt, was slumping a bit, and I was pondering the thought that she might be a prostitute.

And then I heard the men laughing, quite loudly, and pointing at her and saying, 'Oh Jesus look at that!'

And then she turned a little towards me and I could see the reason for their laughter. She was knickerless, and with the little skirt riding up her thighs her vagina was exposed as a big puffy slit, and looking somewhat red and sore. And then one of the men put his big hairy hand on her thigh, slid it slowly upwards, and then just shoved his finger into her, right up to the knuckle. And his pals laughed out loud as the one who was inside the girl began to manipulate her a bit, the finger moving in and out as she looked at him, too drunk or doped to react properly, but sufficiently aware to say, 'Get out of me!', which he did.

And then as everyone in the pub watched, she slid from her stool and fell to the floor. The barman walked wearily round from behind the bar, picked her up by the arms, and escorted her out of the door.

It was just another night in a rough pub. Until, that is, about five minutes later, when I saw the girl wander in through the opposite door, stagger a little up to behind the big man who had been fingering her, lift up a pint glass from the bar, smash the top off of it, and thrust the jagged end into her assailant's back, around the kidney region.

That was what took the level of squalor and violence well beyond the usual, and as his blue and white striped shirt grew deep red the woman rather calmly smashed another glass, and I, and most of my fellow drinkers, headed quickly for the door.

Nobody died. Several people bled.

Then there were the two pretty and, I initially thought, rather civilized young girls who pulled up beside me in a car one afternoon and wound down the window. I stopped walking, expecting them to ask directions. But as I bent towards the car the fresh-faced blonde in the passenger seat opened her blouse and showed me two bare breasts with very pink nipples.

'It's all for sale,' she said. 'You want some?'

And her companion, the driver, giggled, put her hand between her legs, pushed up a short skirt and said, 'Me too if you want.'

Her dark pubic hair was exposed, as I just smiled, backed away, and said, 'No thanks,' almost apologetically actually, as if I was declining the bland offer of a sales assistant.

Then there came the night when there was suddenly a noise through the wall of my bedroom, from a neighbour who never normally made a sound. There was just a female voice screaming, 'Ahhhhhh My baby! My baby! Oh Jesus my baby!'

I thought someone might be attacking a child, so I sat up, ready to go to the phone, but then there was just silence. Nothing. And in the morning I happened to walk past the woman, or at least I presumed it was the woman, and although her eyes seemed a bit red she just smiled weakly, as she normally did, and offered a quiet, 'Hi'.

Then there was the evening when I was walking away from my car and a scrawny little teenager called out, 'Hey pal, is this your car?'

I called back, 'Yes, Why?', when I was about thirty yards from him, and then had to watch as he calmly stuck a long blade into each nearside tire and ran off.

And yet we are the pinnacle of evolution, apparently, or of evolution on Earth at least, and just the pinnacle of evolution so far, which may not be very far at all ultimately. But still... billions of years of atoms and molecules and ions bashing into one another, maybe, and interacting to make replicating chemicals and living cells and all manner of creatures entrapped within the endless horrors of life and death and predators and prey and driven by nothing other than the tendency of that which survives and reproduces to survive and reproduce some more, maybe...

I suppose it does make sense really, after all. We've done not too bad maybe, but we have a long way to go, perhaps.


CherryPie said...

Maybe we are in a period of devolution...

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Actually Cherie, I would say that on balance, all things considered, we are improving, generally; but with much room for farther improvement yet.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

It is the anniversary of the start of World War I after all. Moaning about the iniquities of the European Commission and disagreeing about freedom of movement for migrants or the permitted methods for weighing fruit seems not so bad in that context.

susan said...

Sometimes I have to wonder, if reincarnation is a fact, whether some people may have just made it back from having spent lifetimes as much lower creatures.

The stories were good.

Syncopated Eyeball said...


John Foster said...

Your life sounds so exciting Andrew, here my only excitement is the nocturnal howling of Jackals nearby or close encounters, from the safety of my jeep, with Wild Boar on the track to the house, but I have no envy of you.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

That was long ago life John. More recently the main danger has been from a stray golf ball.

CalumCarr said...

I'm shocked, Andrew, both by the stories themselves but also by your telling of them. I'm surprised you were so graphic in your descriptions but I say this not in criticism but in thanks.

Times are, even old times, when we need to face the truth of our world.

Too easy is it to turn away from the reality of life.

Too easy is it to hide away in our middle class cocoons.

Too easy is it to separate ourselves from those who live life in these ways.

Too difficult is it to see those who live life in these ways as our brothers and sisters.

But our brothers and sisters they are.

We must embrace them as the Lord embraces us.

We must embrace them in the knowledge that He embraces them.

We are as one.

Claude said...

At the age of 40, I discovered that the more I learned, the less I knew. I made this Profile poster for my wall. It's still there, looking sad and yellowish. I still know so very little.

As CalumCarr says, all humans are from the same tribe. The possibility of good or evil is planted in our being. The more we study human nature, the less we understand why some people are decent and others misbehave.

Faith has been given to me in God's infinite grace and forgiveness. I lean on Him for our salvation and our eternal happiness.

Very few of my very good friends agree with me on this subject. If they are right, there isn't much hope for improving the world. People will just struggle as best as they can, with moments of joy, moments of despair, and, at a certain point, they will vanish into oblivion. That's a tragic scenario.

Even if I'm told that it's a fairy tale, I certainly prefer my own vision. Everyday, I pray the God I believe in for my next of kin, the people of the world. May He sustain and inspire each one of us.

You write so very well, Andrew. I'm grateful for the seriousness and the realism of your tales. It deepens my caring and prayers for the suffering world.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Hello Calum. It's nice to hear from you again. Am quite pleased I can surprise you. I tell this tale in the spirit of an observer of animal life, with the animals happening to be humans. I lived in Leith for quite a few years, until my son was 3 and daughter 2 and we decided a move to a country village in Perthshire was a better place for children to be educated and to socialise, and I learned much about humanity in Leith, both good and bad. As for your God, of course, I have no idea what or if that is, or could be. It all sounds like wishful thinking to me, as you know. But we should be careful what we wish for too. Living forever? Jings... what a prospect.

And Dear Claude, I do rather envy people of faith, but it has thus far always been a stretch too far for my sceptical mind. Maybe when I do doo-lally in my dotage, or next week, I'll find some comfort there.

I am glad a variety of people find my reminiscences interesting. I have a book full of them, and I am debating what to do with it. I may share a few more here (some of which have already appeared on older blogs), or I may not.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

By the way Claude... I like your poster, but I am still thinking about it.

And Susan, I think most seemingly "lower" humans could easily have developed in very different ways into much more pleasant specimens if just given a different environment and culture to grow up in. I certainly feel that I myself could have travelled along a much less pleasant path, and can detect stages in life where seemingly minor choices had big influences.

And Ashley... "Blimey" is appropriate, thanks

Claude said...

Publish! Publish! Publish all your stories.

And very soon, please.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Well there's a dilemma there Claude. A regular publisher was interested in publishing them but insisted I publish the book under the same name as my science books because they felt the link was essential for publicity, however... there are stories in there (not any of those posted here) that I feel I could not publish under my own name (or even as Andrew MacLaren-Scott, as that is no effective disguise, especially with the link to my science books in my sidebar!) meantime, so the dilemma is to edit, or to wait? And if I edit then the result would be so much less worthwhile. I am pondering the options (while writing on).

Syncopated Eyeball said...

Are you not really Andrew Maclaren Scott, then?

Claude said...

I understand the situation. It's very good then that you post a few reminiscences in the blog for now. As you can see, by the reactions, people much prefer realism to superficial (cover up) memories where all is pink and rosy.

Keep writing on and publish when you're ready. I'll wait as long as I can.

CherryPie said...

I hope you manage to solve your dilemma. Along with everyone else I enjoy all your writings.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Ashley, in case that was not just a funny query, I am indeed Andrew Scott (actually Andrew Robertson Scott) and I write science books and journalism and commercial work as Andrew Scott, although.... I have begun to use Andrew R. Scott for that because of that dammn actor called Andrew Scott who has recently risen to some prominence. However... I write fiction and other silly stuff as Andrew MacLaren-Scott, a nod to my Granny MacLaren. However... I have been known to publish the odd thing under and entirely different name, which must forever remain hidden to all those who know the above. Clear? Oh... and my students have been known to refer to me as something much more rude, as has my wife, and children, etc... There is also an Andrew Scott whose firm makes designer underpants - and that is not me - and an Andrew Scott who is a guitar player - and that is not me - and an Andrew Scott (with some other middle initial I think) who writes novels. Heck, to be honest I stil don't really know who I really am, or what I am... But I stumble on.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Claude - I have very few memories where "all is pink and rosy". Even the good memories always have their darker shades mixed in.

CalumCarr said...

I wonder,from your response to my previous comment,if you felt I was criticising you for going into your 'middle class cocoon.


I was criticising every one of us, those of faith and no faith ..... and I mean 'every one of us'.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Nope Calum, I did not detect any criticism of me.

Ashley Lily Scarlett said...

It was a serious question, Andrew, so thank you for explaining,