With the guest band still playing our kind of tunes – and with no suggestion that closing time was soon to be upon us – we frequently became ‘plastered in paradise’, accompanied by the musical strains of ‘Etta James’, Muddy Waters and John Mayall, to name but a mere few of the ‘heroes’ belonging to that era of personal discovery.
It was somewhat sad to discover that the one-time location of the blues bar in question, had now given way to a car park, serving as a manicured concrete-covered location for occupiers of the nearby apartments, that of which housed a plethora of BMW’s, Audi’s and Jaguars.
As I gazed forlornly at the heart-rending transformation to this, (now sterile) swathe of real estate, I was convinced that I could still hear ‘Big Mama Thornton’ knocking out her vocal rendition of; ‘Me and My Chauffeur’ – possibly it was just the stiff breeze playing tricks with my psyche – whatever, it made me feel pretty good for a brief moment or two, I must say.
As I strolled down Leith Street towards the main thoroughfare that is Leith Walk, it struck me that this part of the city is very much at the forefront of everything Avant-garde, completely cleaned-up – with the docks, (as was) now long gone, along with the likes of the ‘ladies-of-the-night’ who plied there trades on the windy street corners surrounding the immense quayside, some who were unflatteringly referred to as; ‘Pru the Prossie’ – ‘Wendy (“Pay before you enter”) McIntosh – and ‘Limp-along Lucy’. (She had a wooden right leg – a deformation caused through contracting polio in childhood).
Present time, Leith is home to some small, yet state-of-the art theatres, fine restaurants and extremely expensive apartments, seemingly owned by show business personnel, wealthy bankers – and who knows, maybe some modern-day descendants of the aforementioned, ‘fem of prostitutus’ of days gone by.
Feeling suitably refreshed after my saunter down memory-lane, I invited my cousin Rose to join me for a meal in this once semi-destitute part of town, the very next day.
‘La Favorita’ proved to be a wise choice, a most welcoming and intimate bistro – one that lent itself comfortably to our three specific needs during that particular evening; Ergo; 1 – To dine on competitively-priced, yet exquisite Italian cuisine – 2. To imbibe on copious amounts of intensely flavoursome and [relatively] inexpensive ‘House Red’ – and 3. To be afforded a wee bit of privacy when dining – that priceless luxury which is agonisingly so rare throughout 21st Century Trattoria and similar quality eating establishments nationwide.
As we enthusiastically [and semi-privately] quaffed the wine and devoured our chosen selections of Mediterranean repast, Rose and I talked incessantly of days gone by – dwelling mainly on our personal upbringing and the overall effects of our meagre, near Spartan, 1950’s Edinburgh childhood – thus; How precisely did this experience shape our ultimate destinies, affect our decision-making and then come to see us adhering to a specific set of values and standards that so differed from the social and domestic credo that our parents were guided and influenced by?
Come the conclusion of our [intermittently] intense and occasionally maudlin tête-à-tête, I alluded to the fact that the past is indeed another country, one where no official visa or re-entry certification is available or relevant, all we have is our memories, there is no going back.
I raised my final glass of the evening in salute of that realisation – neither Rose nor I would ever wish to reclaim the years of our adolescence, certainly not under the circumstances that we, and that of our families painfully endured, particularly that of my own mother.
As the wine took hold, I dwelt momentarily on the life of my ‘Ma’ – the ‘50s/early 60s were indeed a very tough period for thousands of families, we were no exception, but my mother never asked – and was seldom, if ever, presented with a small means of assistance to lighten her domestic load.