I’ve been in Edinburgh the last few days, researching my second novel.
Sorry, that was me trying to come to terms with how much of a tosser I sound saying that.
The justification for the trip was that my main character in novel number two – her name is Charley Lambert, if you’re interested – lives in Edinburgh. Last time I spent any decent length of time in the city there were twenty six of us living in a four-bedroomed flat getting wasted on home-made cocktails and wearing orange boiler suits because we thought it was cool, so I thought it would be a good idea if I spent a bit of time there as a slightly more civilised adult.
Firstly, I love Edinburgh. It is truly brilliant and magical. The architecture alone had me weeing myself as we chugged into Waverly station and I would struggle to name another UK city with an equal concentration of all things awesome – accessible culture, amazing green spaces, delicious food (fish supper with sauce in particular), spectacular surrounding countryside, friendly and funny locals and a tangible atmosphere of learning and intellectual endeavour. TOP MARKS, Edinburgh.
I’m not going to attempt some ill-advised cultural review – I only blog about romance and stupidity after all, being romantic and stupid – but I do highly recommend going to see a funk band called Glamour and the Baybes. I think they are from Glasgow but who cares; they are chuffing brilliant and guaranteed to make you laugh, dance and sing, while all the time blowing your pants off with their genuine brilliance as musicians. It’s been a long time since I hurled myself round a dancefloor at 2am on a Tuesday morning.
Secondly, I am now quite convinced that The Man is my ideal partner. We went to our first ever Michelin-starred restaurant yesterday and completely and utterly disgraced ourselves. It is actually a miracle that we were not thrown out. Never before have I been so relieved to be sitting opposite someone who is as much of a clumsy knobber as me.
It went a little something like this….
I met The Man outside The Kitchin at about midday for our super-early lunch reservation. I studied him suspiciously; I’d last seen him at 1.30am tucking into his third Moscow mule after boshing more than a bottle of wine with the friends we were staying with. Being a very hard-working writer (or a boring old git; select whichever version you prefer) I had gone to bed at this point and when he had crashed in to join me several hours later I had endeavoured to sleep as far away from him as possible.
But, now showered and wearing uncharacteristically smart clothes, he looked pretty decent if not a little see-through in the skin department. Shirt could have done with a bit of an iron; trousers could maybe have done with one less ink stain but he wasn’t too shabby. And he was a damn sight better turned out than Lucy Robinson who was suffering the misapprehension that jeans were ok as long as they were tight and worn with heels.
“Have you eaten?” I asked him.
“No,” he said, turning pale.
Ideal, I thought. A man so hungover he cannot eat. Our three course set lunch with all the extra goodies you get at posh restaurants is clearly the best thing I could possibly have organised for today!
We sat down and were immediately assailed by a sea of delightfully polite waiters and waitresses, bringing us little aluminium pots of raw garden vegetables and things that would be called cheese straws had they not been made by a Michelin-starred chef. Then they brought up this totally mega bread trolley and asked which type of bread we wanted. The bread was in loaves and I was therefore a little disappointed when the girl produced a knife and got me a slice of my chosen sourdough rather than giving lobbing me the whole me the loaf like I was expecting. How dare she taunt me with perfect crispy loaves of beauty and then serve me one slice?
That sort of thing doesn’t happen in Gregg’s bakery, let me tell you.
Things started to go wrong soon after this. The Man picked up a little floret of raw cauliflower and tried to dip it in the blue cheese sauce but succeeded only in throwing it across the room where it sat conspicuously in the middle of the perfectly clean carpet. Appalled, we both stared at it.
“Shall I run after it?” I whispered.
“Yes!” he muttered, relieved. Then: “NO! SIT DOWN!” One of the sea of nice young waiters was coming in our direction. We stared at the marooned cauliflower and then at our hands. Nothing to do with us, our faces said. And in fairness, it didn’t look like it had come from our table. It was miles away.
And yet the waiter, picking it up daintily with a little silver tong, looked straight over at us sympathetically.
We weren’t fooling anyone.
“Don’t you make any more faux pas please,” I told the man, “we need to act like adults.”I popped a sugar snap pea in my mouth.
It was not a sugar snap pea, unfortunately; it was a normal hard, inedible pea pod.
“Are you ready to order?” the waiter asked. I nodded. The Man ordered. I still had a mouth full of hard pea pod and so remained mute. The waiter looked at me. “And for you?” he asked.
Slowly and casually, as if it were perfectly normal prelude to ordering a meal, I pulled a full pea-pod out of my mouth. “The mackerel and then the lamb,” I breezed.
The waiter stared at the pea pod. “How would you like the lamb to be cooked?” he asked it.
I’m not sure he even heard my answer.
The Man raised his eyebrows: I was not in any sort of a position to forbid faux pas. I nodded in acknowledgement. Fair.
I stood up to go to the loo. “I’ll try not to shame you,” I told The Man. “I’ll just go to the loo quietly and not break anything or throw any cauliflower.” He looked relieved.
On my return from the loo, he was looking less calm. He informed me that as I had strode off my napkin had – unbeknownst to me – flown off my crotch and on the floor. A pretty young waitress had gone over, picked it up between her fingertips and arrived at my table soon after with a new one which I did not thank her for because I had no idea that I’d thrown mine on the floor in the first place.
“Your girlfriend threw her napkin on the floor,” she explained crisply to him.
The Man filled me in on my return. “You promised not to shame me,” he pointed out.
But I was far too excited to listen – a little pot of cold pea soup with clever stuff floating in it had just been placed in front of me! I hadn’t ordered this! It was yet another freebie!
Delighted, I started shovelling but in my usual fashion I missed my mouth and dropped a teaspoon’s worth of pea soup not even back into the pot but instead on to my place mat. Rather inconveniently my place mat was a pretty latticed affair and bright green thick soup now filled in a good twelve squares of the lattice. After a quick mental calculation; the waiter ever-looming, I realised that I had no option but to stick my finger into each hole to dig pea soup out. I did this as quickly as possible and then, accepting that there was nowhere that I could put the green gunk on my finger, I had to then eat it. I didn’t manage to escape the beam of the nice waiter who was walking over to ask if everything was ok with our meal so far.
Fortunately though The Man took the lead again, spooning soup into his mouth with a great big lump of something leafy hanging off the bottom of the spoon. It splashed audibly back into his soup and left a splodge of bright green clogging up his lattice place mat far worse than mine had been.
He looked at me and we both lost it. We had to hold our hands over our mouths, shoulders shaking: “we do not belong in this restaurant,” The Man muttered, crying into his green soup. I shook my head, snorting like a little piglet, and knocked my bread knife into my lap.
Our starters arrived. I had mackerel carpaccio; caught about five minutes before in Newhaven harbour nearby. It came with all sorts of nice little vegetable things including a broad bean which I somehow shot across my plate and into my lap, fast and conspicuously. The man fell about laughing and then nearly smashed his plate in half with an over-zealous knife movement. It was so loud the restaurant came to a standstill.
Main courses arrived; we both tried to work out what a slightly offally piece of lamb was and I concluded that it was probably sweetbreads. “What’s that?” the man asked.
“Testicles,” I told him. He looked surprised. The Man knows lots about food and cooking; I know little other than I like to eat.
“You love a mouthful of testicles,” I added in a Frank Butcher accent. People from two tables on either side stopped eating to stare at The Man.
Dessert arrived. I don’t eat sugar and so some special sugar-free fruit sauce had been concocted which the waitress poured for me. It was very thick and goopy and wouldn’t stop dripping afterwards so that she could take the jug away. Instinctively, without stopping to think that it would be DISGUSTING AND UNCOUTH to mop up the dripping with my finger, I mopped up the dripping with my finger. “No!” the waitress gasped, grabbing the jug away. “No!”
She put the jug down next to me but then changed her mind. “I’ll take that,” she said.
“NO!” I shouted, even louder than she had done. “NO. I want to lick it out.”
I think this was the final straw. Soon after a different waiter arrived. “We need the table I’m afraid,” he said.
It’s a busy restaurant – and I was warned that they’d need the table back at some point – but really, I suspect they had had enough of us. No-one else was leaving at this point.
I don’t blame them. It was a delicious and perfect lunch but I think The Man and I have proved that we are probably better suited to a wetherspoons burger. On the train back to London, eating our dinner at a dirty table and spilling it all over the place; exchanging cloudy lemonade belches, we agreed that this was far more “our thing.”
Anyway Readers: it’s over to you. Please share your restaurant shockers with me. Am I alone? I so wanted to feel gorgeous and glamorous and refined and fab. Instead I was a monster and my boyfriend was no better. Make us feel better about ourselves, please. We beg you.