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February 2018


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The Innerleven Boolin Club – 7


Folk might well be thinking that the Innerleven Bowling Club was dominated by women, and that the men would accept anything for a quiet life! Big women and wee men. Jane Austen with just a hint of King (or more rightly, Queen) Kong.
I suppose that there is no denying it.
Except in one area of living …
… Romance!

The Chicken Hat

Strutting, and puffing out the feathers was a man’s job. Every male child learned this at an early age. There’s not much time between getting out from under your mother’s apron, to find a job, then getting married and having your own apron. Only a few years of being a real man, and chasing the girls, pursuing romance and sweeping women off their feet.
Then you were handed a brush and told to sweep the floor – and don’t forget the corners!

Some managed to enjoy that freedom for longer than others. Some got married quickly, because they had to. Some got married later, because the wedding do had to wait for a Provident loan. And some never got married for all sorts of reasons – the brakes on their pushbike needed adjustment, and they had gone over the handlebars, or the Army (or prison) got them first.

There was one, though, who looked likely never to get caught in the net …
The Cauldcoits Casanova.
The Dubbieside Dandy.
Ronnie McLauchlan – The Midnight Pitboy.

Ronnie maybe didn’t have great looks, but his patter was pure magic. While the other men were shelling out for brandy and Babychams, in the hope that the alcohol would give them more of a chance than nature ever had, Ronnie spent all his money on Brylcreem, a sharp suit, tie and shoes.
I tell a lie. Ronnie had a cousin who worked for Burtons the Tailors, and the clothes were out on a weekend pass. He did, however, buy the Brylcreem, and the string vest was actually his.
When some poor punter’s money had run out, Ronnie would glide past. A woman who sensed that her cheap date was running short of ready cash, was easy game for Ronnie. A quick glance at the opposition fumbling in his trousers for loose change, a Brylcreemed nod at the bar, a firm hand on the elbow, and the woman would find herself sitting on a bar stool. A wee bit of patter, and she would be buying Ronnie a pint and a nip.
You just had to admire his technique!

Ronnie was a regular at all the Innerleven drinking establishments. Well, the ones who encouraged women anyway. You know the sort of place. Tables, chairs and fancy fittings like that. Sawdust sprinkled only around the edge of the bar. Sure signs that you could take a lady for a couple of drinks without having some idiot getting his head bounced off the floor.

He’d do the Innerleven Hotel during the week, because you got a higher class of women there. But he still put in an appearance at the Glue Pot, next to the Model Lodging House, especially if the pickings were a bit down. The ladies of negotiable virtue in the Glue Pot, had been known to wipe the chalk off their soles if they fancied a man.
Ronnie could get a chalked price down faster than Jimmy the Fishman could, when his fish barrow ran out of ice on a hot day.

At the weekend, Ronnie was a member of the Innerleven Bowling Club. Not to play bowls, because the combination of four woods and Brylcreem just doesn’t bear thinking about. Ronnie had only one style of drive. That was in the direction of women. And now, there was something new at the Bowling Club. A fresh scent in the water. All the way from America.

Jeannette had crossed the Atlantic for her grandmother’s funeral, and having been to the Crematorium to pay her respects, she was staying at her gran’s house. With her gran who had been to the funeral, too. Nettie Simpson. (If you’re a little bit confused about the last statement, it’s because her gran wasn’t quite as dead as everybody had reckoned. but that’s another story …)

Anyway, Jeannette was at the Club that Saturday night, and being American (rich) and single (desperate), she was attracting a lot of the wee fish (and the odd lobster). Every single man between 20 and 60 (and a few married ones as well!) reckoned they were in with a chance.

She was a fine figure of a woman. Shoulders like a navvy, with nylon-clad legs like those really big sticks of Burntisland Rock. (Without the wee picture, mind). She wore a reddish-brown dress, cut low at the front, and barely reaching below the knee. Then, there was the hat. Perched on her head, with long feathers sticking out. The ones with fluff on the bottom.
If the Statue of Liberty were ever allowed to go rusty, and a giant chicken had perched on its head, then you would have a perfect picture of what Jeannette Day Pendexter looked like. She was a stunner (as Erchie Ballingall found out when his face got too close to her southern exposure!)

Ronnie had come along with Senga Marshall that night. Senga thought Ronnie was courting her, and that it would only be a matter of time before things became serious between them. Last weekend, Ronnie had taken her up to the Buckhynd Braes, for a walk in the countryside. When she had remarked that it was just a little bit chilly, she was angling for a cuddle, or the romantic ‘let me pit ma coat aroond yer shooders, hen!’ Always a good sign of serious intent.
Ronnie was the master of the romantic gesture. Quick as you like, he had moved one of the cows in a nearby field so that Senga could have a warm spot to sit down on.
When it came to pulling talent, Casanova was nowhere. Compared to Ronnie, he couldn’t even pull his boots on.

No sooner had Senga bought the drinks for both of them, Ronnie was off, like a dark fin cutting across the pool towards Jeannette. Senga’s Bacardi and Coke was thrust into Jeannette’s hand, and Ronnie’s brilliant teeth were turned up to full brightness.
“Thocht ye micht fancy a wee drink, there, hen. Sort o welcome ye tae Scotland.”“I thought that you might fancy some alcoholic beverage, my dear. My way of welcoming you to Scotland.”
At the word ‘hen’, everybody flicked a glance at her hat. Don’t know why!
“Ayuh shorely cayun tell you, bustuh! Ah ain’t no hen!”“Let me tell you this, ‘buster’. I am no ‘hen’!”
Flick. Glance. Hat. They all did it again!
Smooth. That’s Ronnie.
“Nae offence, there. It’s jist us Scots kennin a guid lookin burd when we see wan!”“I intended no offence. Let me explain. We Scots can recognise a good looking woman when we see one.”
Flick. Glance. There’s a pattern developing here.
“Ayun you ah?”.”“And you are?”
“It’s the Bacardi. Should’ve pit mair Coke innit. Sip it slower, hen.”“Its the Bacardi. I should have diluted it with more Coca Cola. Try sipping it slowly.”
Flick …

Jeannette backed off a step, to avoid getting dandruff down the front of her dress, before realising that, given the amount of Brylcreem applied, Ronnie would be taking it all home with him. As for Ronnie, his plans involved taking a bit more than that home.
And Senga was not part of his plan!

It was obvious that Jeannette was not one to be taken in by Ronnie’s slick words and the offer of a free drink. Ronnie, though, had a way of anesthetizing the common sense node in a woman’s brain. Tonight, the rest of the world would be supporting him.
Senga – for starters!

Senga was not happy. Never mind a woman scorned. Just see how one reacts when she has paid for a round, then seen her Bacardi and Coke given to another. Even Ronnie’s unique anaesthetic wears off without constant reinforcement.
It’s one thing to spend your money from the Mill on a romantic evening – but only if you benefit!

“Heh you!”“Attention! I am talking to you!”
Suddenly, it got quiet. So quiet that you could hear Malkie behind the bar, short-changeing the till.
“Aye! You! You wi’ the chicken on yer heid. That’s mah Bacardi you’re drinkin!”“Yes, you! The person with a chicken on your head. That is my Bacardi that you are drinking!”
Senga had a voice that could sandpaper the bottom of an Edinburgh sewage dumping barge.
“Are ye listenin, you …?”“Do pay attention!”

Well, everybody else was listening by now, and Jeanette certainly wasn’t deaf. Neither was there anything wrong with her voice.
“I don’t see a name writ on it anywhere, and it jist so happens to be restin in my fist for the time being!”“I cannot see your name, attached to this glass of Bacardi. It seems to be sitting in my grasp, for the time being.”
Judging by the emulsion paint flakes falling off the ceiling, definitely nothing wrong with her voice!

“An that’s mah man ye’re leerin at!”“And that is my man that you are looking at.”
Senga was determined. Ronnie was paid for!
Not that Jeanette was in the least bit bothered.
“Well mebbe you folks got different ways of looking at things … I’m thinking that you might be owing me an apology?”“Perhaps you people look at matters from a different perspective. I believe that you owe me an apology for your un-warranted accusations?”
“An why wid ah be gi’en the likes o you an apology. Efter aw, it’s me that pey’d fur the drink an the Brylcreem, an it’s you whit’s got her haunds on bith!”“Why would I apologise to a person of dubious character, like yourself? After all, I paid for the drink and the Brylcreem, and you have your hands on both! “

Now Jeanette could see a good jab when it hit her.
“You’re a fiesty one ain’tcha? I seen a smaller set on a prize bull.”“My goodness. What a display of machismo!”
It just didn’t hit her hard enough to stop her …

“Cryin’ shame yer wasting all yer energy talkin’ to the hand. I ain’t gut yer drink and I ain’t gut yer man. And I ain’t gonna sit here and lissen whilst you run your trap. Jest move it on out the door sister and we’ll get back to where we wuz.”“It is a pity that you are talking when no-one is listening. I do not have neither your drink nor your man. I will listen to you, no longer! Kindly leave the establishment, and I can return to my rightful business.”

Onlookers in the line of fire started remembering urgent appointments. The domino players in the corner started chapping, even when they could get the double six out. And the urinal in the gents started to look like a real good place to visit.

“Are you an the chicken in this the gether, or is that jist the chicken talkin?”“Are you and the chicken both involved in this affair, or is the chicken talking for both of you?”

“Well now … I’d say you wuz havin a bit of trubble hearin mah words. Maybe that’s not the onlyiest thing you gut trubble doin. Might jest be havin trubble keepin your man happy.”“My goodness! You appear to have difficulty in hearing. That may not be your only problem. You may also have difficulties when it comes to keeping a man satisfied.”

This was starting to get serious!
“Got to ask that question now, don’t we?”.”“We must ask that question, must we not?”
When the talk gets to the “‘keepin a man’ stage ….”“satisfying a man’s needs …”
“Whatdidya say your name wuz honey? Nevah mind, Ah don’t ‘spect we’ll be exchanging cahds for the holidays! And jest for the record …that wuz Jeannette speakin …
… and this heyah headpiece ain’t got one lick of chicken on it … nor under it neithah!”
“What did you say that your name was? Never mind. I do not expect us to exchange Christmas cards. For the record, my name is Jeannette…
… and this hat has no chicken. In it, nor under it!”

Ask anybody who was in the hall that night, and they’ll all say the same thing. Jeanette’s hand never left the end of her arm. They’ll all swear to it. And yet, with a smack like the wrath of Jehovah, Senga took off backwards.
Over the dance floor – and not dancing.
On to the domino table – and not chapping.
Then on to the floor – and not conscious!

“Yah gut a name, Brylcreem boy?”“Do you have a name, Brylcreem boy?”
“Ah’m Ronnie. Ronnie McLauchlan.”“My name is Ronnie. Ronnie McLauchlan.”
“Jeannette. Jeannette Day Pendexter.”
Since the way was now clear …
“Haw, Jeannette. Ye fancy takin a daunner in the moonlicht?”“I say, Jeannette. Do you fancy a stroll in the moonlight?”
Ronnie only had the one record …
“Shorely do, Ronnie!”“I would be delighted, Ronnie!”
… but it was a good one.

Coming next … The Midnight Pitboy (On the Bing)

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