It was only twenty minutes later that Angel came looking for me. “Oh great you’re here,” she said, “I hate drinking alone, and judging by that empty glass you’ve not changed that much.” I started to reach for my wallet, but Angel would not hear of it. “Hey Alistair” She called to the barman “An eighty shilling for my man here, and I’ll take my usual.”
I had to smile. “Spoken like a true local” I said. She laughed, and for a while we talked about old times and places far away. “I’m glad I left,” Angel said after a while. “I really did miss being with Dani for a long time, but it was too confining living in those tiny villages. Well, I don’t have to tell you, you escaped as well!” I didn’t reply. I wasn’t sure that “escaped” was an appropriate term. When I let myself I still missed Norfolk.
“Edinburgh is just fantastic,” she continued, either not noticing my hesitation, or choosing to ignore it. “You meet so many people here. Take my wee man Alistair here.” She said, waving at the barman who wondered down to join in our conversation. “Alistair here is an Aussie.” She started. “I’ve told you a million time I’m from New Zealand!” Alistair replied, but he smiled, as if this was an old joke between them. Turning to me he said “And you must be a good friend to put up with this old slapper drinking with you.”
“Not so much of the old!” Angel replied, then excused herself to go to the ladies. “I don’t remember seeing you before, are you new around these parts?” Alistair asked me. I told him about moving up from Norfolk, and how I’d just been talking about working on the tourist busses. As we had been drinking, the bar had been slowly filling up, and Alistair was kept busy with the drink orders. “You ever worked in a bar?” He asked me between orders. I was just starting to tell him about the Anchor when Angel came back. “Keep your hands to yourself Alistair, he’s not your type.”
I was just about to ask what she meant when it clicked. Apart from Angel and myself, all the other customers were same-sex couples. I turned to Angel. “This is a gay bar, isn’t it?” I asked her. She laughed. “Where else would you expect to find me?”
I laughed too, and when Alistair came over again, I continued with my story about running the pub. It turned out that Alistair was the duty manager, and soon he offered me a tryout to see if I wanted to work there. Angel almost fell off her chair laughing. “A straight Englishman working in a Scottish gay bar for an Aussie – what could possibly go wrong?” Alistair and I both reminded her that he was from New Zealand.
I got home later than I’d intended after running into Angel and Alistair, and Ruby wanted to know if I’d got a job driving a bus. I could only laugh; that was, indeed, what I’d gone out to do, but somehow it wasn’t what happened.