The excitement was palpable in the Eardley household this week, for the first time in many months myself, my wife Karen and sons Nicholas, Dominic and Mark were able to meet together as a family to eat at a rather swanky place in EH10. It was no mean feat actually making the reservation as the six of us in the company (Dominic's girlfriend Becca made up the six) were from more than two households, so the offer of a nice warm indoors table had to be politely declined in favour of an outdoor space. We were more than grateful for the booking, which upon declining the initial indoor space we were told was not going to happen. Karen does not give up easily, however, and used her powers of persuasion to ensure we were given first refusal on any outside cancellation. We were in.
Booked for 7pm sharp, we naturally arrived at the destination around 10 past (don't ask, I get the blame but it is seldom my fault, is all I have to say). Now, the weather had been a tad bizarre during the day, with brilliant sunshine interspersed with sporadic rain showers, but as the Edinburgh contingent walked from our house to the venue it appeared to be leaning to the former in brightening up. With the sun breaking through, it was still quite warm. However, it is Edinburgh, early May and so each of us was carrying an umbrella.
Once we had our temperature taken, which has become the new Covid form of greeting, we were led to a rather damp table, which was not strictly the fault of the venue as they had done as much as they possibly could to cover the tables with their canopies and umbrellas, with overhead heaters to boot. It did feel a bit like our table might just be a wee bit more exposed than some of the others. Drinks and food ordered, we set to chatting, mostly around the current political machinations. It was around then that the first of many cloudbursts arrived. The rain in typical Scottish style was belting off the ground and no matter how we arranged ourselves around the table, all of us were getting soaked. This was to be the set pattern throughout our two-hour dinner slot.
The food arrived and after the initial confusion as to which two of the three servings of fish and chips were gluten free (the answer given was that they all were) and I was served with what I was informed was a chicken burger, though it turned out to be actually what I ordered, a plant burger, we settled down to eat. Cold, wet and miserable, we ploughed on valiantly.
At the end of what I would describe as a so-so meal, the young contingent headed off to spend some more time in the miserable freezing conditions outside another pub and Karen, Daisy and I headed home, so cold that we even took the bus. It was then straight into the hottest bath I could endure, my trousers hung up over a radiator, soaking wet, particularly around the sitting area. Ah well, we create memories, eh?
Samson may have lost his strength when Delilah cut his hair but today it would be the other way round. While women are still sporting those flowing locks – whatever happened to kirby grips, buns and hair put up in splendid rolls like they did in the 1940s, not to mention snoods and turbans? – with the return of the barber shop men are getting tidy again. The short back and sides is back in fashion. Confronted the other day with having to seek out some photographs kept in those relics of the past – photograph albums – I found one dated 1971 in which my hair was virtually the same, curling up at shoulder length style, as it was until I got sheared. The only difference is that now it is white. I suppose it proves that what goes round comes round and that you don't need a lockdown for men to grow their hair. In the 1970s we were fashion victims, not pandemic casualties. It has been said, and I tend to agree, that short back and sides has taken off the years, even decades – which is fine until – well work it out.
The photograph albums in which this snapshot lurked are handsome volumes, but some of the coloured contents have turned a shade of orange, many are impossible to make out, and as I did not note who were in them, let alone where they were taken, forgotten faces and places abound. One solution would be to get some envelopes, write on the outside what each contains – Christmas 19 whatever, or Elie 19 whenever, also noting anybody worth noting for the benefit of posterity – and throw the rest away. But how dreary a way of passing the time is that? Once I could have had a bonfire of the vanities in the back garden but not any longer. At least as we snap away regardless on our mobile phones there is no future problem about space in the house – the clutter is in your phone's storage not on your bookshelves or in your cupboards. Mind you, if I cannot find anything in those albums, it is just as difficult finding any of the ones stored in some cloud somewhere.
As to why this obsession with photographs, it is not that I am obsessed with my appearance, but there is to be an exhibition in New Lanark later this year about Lanimer Day and I was asked whether I had any old photographs – when the gala day side of the event was revived in 1946, I was there on one of the winning floats. But more about that another time.
For the moment, I am pondering whether to purchase a Keir Starmer memorial bench for the garden to replace the Neil Kinnock one which, bought to cheer me up way back then, is now – like the Labour Party – falling to bits.
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