There are many skills that I lack, patience, interest, writing ability.

Some stood out last night for their fundamental absence.

1) Musical Talent and 2) Tact.

Let me set the stage.

Fresh from a mediocre, albeit fierce, performance at my very first Pub Quiz, I decided a bit of traditional music might be in order. Off through the streets of Edinburgh we ambled, amicably eating chicken and basking in the glow of our non-defeat.

There were no winds that night, but damn cold it still was. Hands in pockets after disposing of aforementioned chicken, we briskly made our way towards a student pub. There, so we were led to believe, was the goal, the endpoint.

It seemed innocuous enough. At first. The doors were closed. That’s fine. People were still inside, the warm inviting glow of yellow lamps seen through old windows.

So we tried a door.


Still not a problem. We tried another.

Locked as well.

Feeling a bit stupid, we hovered outside the door, hoping, praying for some miracle of door opening.

Our prayers were answered.

A surly Scot, tired and at the end of his shift, politely informed us that last call had already been announced.

Feeling a bit cocky I responded, “We’re not here for that. Y’know where the folk music people are meeting?”

A twinkle entered the Scot’s eyes. That should’ve been our warning. That should’ve given us a hint as to just what we were getting into.

He offered to take us there, and we, the fools, followed him.

Up stairs and down stairs, down back corridors and through others, we were led through a shifting maze of backways and secret passages, until we arrived at the Door.

It was a fairly innocent looking door, nothing too intimidating. Nevertheless it was our second clue. The Scot left us to our own devices, to our own doom.

The third clue announced itself by absence rather than presence. It should have been obvious. There was no music. No sounds of fiddle, nor drum, nor accordion nor anything else of that nature.

My hand stretched out, despite the dire warnings my subconscious shouted. Door handle grasped, turned and the Door opened.

I popped my head in. What I saw was a tad disconcerting. A group of people, musical instruments clutched in clammy grips, sat in a rough circle. At their centre was an altar of Irn Bru and crisps. Music was being sung, conducted, call it what you like. A man was attempting to belt out the words of a song about the Northwest Passage.

Now we had several options.

The first, and most sensible, would be to turn right around and leave.

We did not seize upon this course.

Instead, we walked inside and sat outside the circle of erstwhile musicians.

Where we proceeded to sit.

For ten minutes.

Not speaking.

Not singing.

Just quietly sitting, trying not to look as awkward as we felt and failing miserably.

The song ended more or less how it started, in awkward silence.

A pillow flew out of nowhere and hit me in the face.

Now our presence was acknowledged with more than furtive and clandestine glances.

The nice young lady in front of me turned and apologized for this “assault by the Pillow of Happiness.”

I smiled and nodded, while inwardly wondering what sort of madness I had gotten myself involved in.

After much assurances of forgiveness and lack of ill-will towards the Pillow of Happiness, we clambered to our feet and slowly edged towards the door.

People turned to look now.

There was nothing for it. It was now or never. My face beet red, snickers of laughter already streaming from betwixt clenched lips, I opened the door as quietly as possible and we slipped out into the night.