Congratulations, you are about to discover why your everyday moments, experiences, casual encounters and even conflicts are more important and meaningful than you may think. This book is a story about people like you. The lapsing of time elevates the importance of stories and those individuals responsible and so what follows is for me, a sample of the more notable and memorable. You are going to be taken back in time a little, my time but if you are looking for deep and meaningful, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you want to know more about that tribe of people known to the rest of the world as the Scots and you fancy being amused, bewildered, enthralled, bothered, confused, emotionally challenged and provoked or even slightly pissed off then read on. There are no guarantees of course nor do I think literary acclaim awaits, quite simply this book was written for my pleasure and your entertainment - enjoy.
The Centurion isn’t a big pub so it became obvious soon after entering that Frank Armstrong and Paul Thomson weren’t there that Saturday afternoon. The place hadn’t changed much over the years which is far from a criticism. I went to the bar, had a quick glance about the place for any other familiar faces, spotted no one I recognised and ordered a half-pint thinking I’d just have a quick one and jump on the next bus back into the Town. It was reasonably busy and I found myself sharing one of the semi-circle seats braced against the walls with an older gentleman. There was a brief nod from him and an acknowledgment from me after I sat down. He was sitting by himself but I found out later he was a well enough known regular although his immediate attention that afternoon was on the television screen. He was betting on the horses, drinking a half pint of beer and nursing a whisky.
It doesn’t take long for the conversation to kick in when you wander into a pub in Scotland, which started with a straight forward question from Jim. ‘What’s your name son?' Well, being up for a chat I said, ‘John’. Thinking about it, I would normally give anyone asking my full name although I was about nine before I realised my surname wasn’t, ‘Can you spell that please’? So on this occasion it was just John, I’ve no idea why I didn’t give him my full name as John satisfied my new acquaintance for about five seconds. ‘What’s your surname son?' ‘It’s McIlhone’, thinking the next question may well be, ‘can ye spell that son’? Instead I got, ‘What'? Jim was a bit hard of hearing. ‘It’s Mc-Il-hone’, I said, a bit louder this time, hanging onto the syllables, accentuating the vowels and adjusting the vocals for Jim’s hearing, he needed the volume. He’s paused ever so slightly at the McIlhone, repeated it for me in his guttural tone word perfect and without missing a beat then asked me whether I knew Frank McIlhone but it was put it to me as such, ’Dae ye ken Frank McIlhone’?
We chatted for a while and I stayed for another drink. I learned that Jim was born in the Cowgate as was my grandfather (Advocate’s Close) and his father (Stevenlaw’s Close) before him, that the Burns family had moved to Granton which was where my father was also brought up and that he went to St David’s and St Anthony’s schools as had my father. I’m sure he would have known my dad but I couldn’t quite get that across to him, Jim had had a few. There was one thing that he did say that made a lot of sense and I’ve repeated it to a few people since because it highlights the knowledge that can be or is lost when people die. During a pause in our discussion about who was who from his childhood he quite casually but sincerely said, ‘I wish my faither was here, he kent all the McIlhones’. I was quite touched at the sentiment but didn’t give it too much thought there and then although if Dad had been there that day the two of