Sport 2: Autumn 1989
Alan Riach — Edinburgh Morning
He awoke, fully clothed, feeling listless
and out of sorts, reeking of cigarettes,
in a room that was the wrong colour
and had a broken bicycle leaning against the wall.
The street outside was grubby, boring and noisy,
and the new police station being built at one end of it was now
almost finished. The world beyond
seemed entirely devoted to the organised pursuit of pointlessness,
palliated by concerted efforts to prevent two whales
from meeting a natural death.
The world within was as obvious,
and at the moment,
wanted to express itself
He was caught
between a yawn and a snarl
(though he had no real wish to do either,
and would have been delighted
to have gone around singing and giving presents to children).
This was usually the moment
when he'd start reading
heavily, to escape.
In fact, he'd just begun
The Magic Mountain
(though whether a novel set in a tuberculosis sanatorium
was precisely what he needed was, he admitted, open to question).
What a snapped stick
the universe seemed that morning.
A daft question.
It simply was so.
page 124 It grated.
It smelled of sour milk.
It had fur growing on its eyes.
It was a heavy bird in a low place with lice in its feathers and its claws in lime.
(He'd almost cheered himself up now, but not quite.)
He had to go out and sign on.
He was sure he'd find the enlivening,
hail fellow well met atmosphere of the D.H.S.S. office
a stimulating tonic.
Then he had to go and rub wax into a dado.
So, he would set himself to brave the few fatuous sunbeams
that the Edinburgh October permitted,
and hit the street. The mean, blank street.
Ugh! The street. How he detested it.
The clotted bowel of a phthisic city.
If Edinburgh were a carpet,
which in many ways it is,
its fabric testifying
to the most boring centuries-long party that ever took place,
with history talking to itself
about the weather
in between bouts of throwing up,
he'd roll it up and put it in a skip.
Enough, he thought, of this
infernal jollity. Enough pleasantry.
Enough delight. Enough, ca suffit,
yeter, basta. The time had come
to stop this mephitic prolonged belch
and prepare a frown to meet the faces that he'd meet.
Then he noticed that the windows
How could a man get anything done if he had filthy windows?
He paused and pondered over some narcissus bulbs
in a shop to plant for spring in the mud-wrestling compound
out back which passed for a garden, but he thought the better of it.
page 125 Flowers! Vile, colourful things, smacking deceitfully of Arcadia.
His temper was still foul.
The only change the day had brought about was to wake him up, slightly.
One of the worst things about the cold weather, he reflected,
was that owing to their scarcity, one could not pull the wings off flies.
Ah well, he thought. But it's better to be annoyed
better to be impatient,
rather than resigned.
He picked up a copy of The Independent and read:
CANCER LINK TO BRACKEN
He turned the page:
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION NORTH OF THE BORDER
Andrew Collier Reports On The Attractions Which Are Causing More Companies
And Employees To Migrate From The South To Scotland
CAREER OPPORTUNITIES IN FINANCE
He put that paper down, picked up a smaller one:
STILL ON TUNE IN THE WEE TOON
Kenneth McKellar is alive and well and thriving in Argyll
with his variety show playing there three nights a week
in the Conan Halls, Oban, to capacity audiences,