Date: 1 January 2018.
Location: Suffering, an airport lounge in Edinburgh airport, having rung in the new year by hugging the toilet courtesy of some not quite right Mexican food.
It seems right to come back to Edinburgh in the depths of winter. I’ve seen it revelling in full summer sunshine for Fringe, have seen it painted in the mottled reds and yellows and deep greens of Halloween time. It’s no less spectacular in December. But it is bloody freezing.
And it’s late. All three of us are pretty exhausted by the time we trudge into our AirBnb on the dodgy side of Old Town, the three of us supporting one another through peaks and troughs of energy and enthusiasm and desire for bed. The other two in this threesome are Lady Lovelylocks and a hitherto un-nicknamed friend who had the questionable honour of appearing in my very first ever journal entry back in 2014. We shall call him Will, like Will from The Inbetweeners. This is his fault as he recently mentioned plans to dress up as did Inbetweener for a party.
It is now cold. It is very dark. Yesterday’s snow has melted into grimy sludge. However, buoyed by the prospect of tacos and spurred on towards beer — always, but in particular by the prospect of rapidly incoming Dry January — we dig deep to find energy and troupe down to a Mexican restaurant under a pub that’s been recommended and booked by Will’s friend. Bless this friend because it is excellent (they make the guacamole at the table in front you, be still my heart), and the tacos and Mexican IPAs and margaritas are just what we need. For the avoidance of doubt, this Mexican food is not a suspect in the incipient food poisoning. We rally nicely and go to meet more friends: Minx, ex housemate of Paris and Twiggy, so named as there is something vaguely feline about her and that was the name of her cat and it just fits, and her Scottish paramour and infamous Edinburgh pub tour leader, who we shall call Wally, after William Wallace). We meet them what must be the prettiest of venues in all of Edinburgh this time of year, the Clubroom at The Vault. This is my first meeting with Wally and as so we join them in the deep leather booth with smiles but a taste of trepidation. My immediate impressions of him surprise me. From all Minx has been saying about her cross-border lover over the past year, I expected someone perhaps a little too cool for school but, no, he’s warm and self deprecating (‘Its nice here, right? I only scored this table because I know the bouncer,”) and is openly attentive to Minx, clearly taking pride in showing her and her Aussie friends a good time around his hometown. We drink expensive martinis and act rather adult indeed for a few hours. However, all it takes is for me to mention that I’ve heard of a ‘this place in town called Fingers’ — described to me by a terribly posh partner at a city law firm as a sticky floored piano bar open late — and we’re on our way there. We tear through drinks. A round of five gin and tonics here costs less than a martini at The Vault. We dance to the pianist’s covers: Elton John, The Cure, John Farnham even. It’s almost 4am by the time we get home, much later by the time Lady Lovelylocks and I get to sleep. There is something about sharing a bed with a friend that so powerfully invokes sleepovers but you can’t help but share confidences in the dark , staring at the ceiling. Gin helps. We sleep just before sunrise.
On Saturday I put Lady Lovelylocks and Will and as through my tried and tested Edinburgh routine: Sandemans walking tour, peek at the castle, nap, dinner at the Albanach on the Royal Mile. We end up with a rowdy table of eight for dinner:. The rowdy continues as we join Wally’s pub crawl and find ourselves at Subway (the bar, though the sandwich shop would have been a better choice at that time of night) dancing to god knows what and with bottles of vodka and sugary mixers on our table. We crash into bed an or or two before sunrise.
Sunday is New Year’s Eve and, if nothing else, we feel warmed up for it! The day is grey and drizzly and we are sloths. Storm Dylan is sweeping Scotland and destroying the set up for Hogmanay celebrations as quickly as they’re erected. We bunker down in a Mexican slash tiki bar — prime suspect for source of the Welcome To 2018 Tummy Bug! — and play gin rummy and ease ourselves back to life with Diet Coke, ciders and ill-advised nachos. Before long it’s game time and we’re buying champagne, prettying ourselves up and strategising for the night ahead. We have tickets to both the celidh under the castle and the street party. Both have last entry at 10:30, neither allows re-entry, the street party actually permits you to BYO alcohol whereas the ceilidh understandably expressly forbids it. We opt to ceilidh first and then street party (possibly the wrong choice for those playing at home) but then who’s to say if there was a right choice for, even as we learned the Canadian Barn Dance on the dance floor right beneath Edinburgh castle (yes, it was as darkly magical as it sounds) nacho-borne bacteria was multiplying in our blood…