This story was one of the Scottish Book Trust’s Stories Of Home. It was also featured in the Sunday Mail in April 2014 in order to help promote the project.
Laughter resonates across the candle-lit, mahogany of Nobles Bar, sound-tracking the clink of mid-week glasses of consolation. I pick at the frayed, wooden edge of the table-top and so, my friend and I begin to pick at the disappointments in our lives, analysing all the things we should have done and cursing the things we didn’t. We make resolutions to never do that again, before moving onto lighter-hearted matters, such as something funny a kid has said in class that day and our plans for our next creative endeavour. Not another open mic night though, we agree that that was so last year.
The heady aroma of fish and chips, steak and garlicky mussels wafts across the room and our taste-buds yearn for a sample. Many an evening has been spent in this way, in our meeting place, our den of relaxation and (moderate) inebriation. We are finishing our one before our one-for-the-road when the chatter starts to ebb and quieten. Heads slowly turn towards the back of the room. There sit four musicians who have begun to play a slow, sombre yet pretty, guitar-strummed tune.
“All night, all I hear, all I hear’s your heart How come, How come …”
The song progresses, the chatter gradually ceases altogether and the space where talk once was is now filled with two voices – one sonorous, rich and female, the other soft, hushed and male. Time appears to stop. No one speaks. All anyone hears is the sound of soaring voices and gentle guitar rhythms, filling the place with warmth. We are carried along by their harmonies, soothed by the sounds of their playing and in that instant, a remarkable thing starts to happen. Strangers’ eyes meet and smile in recognition of this shared moment. We are all united in our reverence. The musicians play on and on, their audience captivated.
“All night, all I hear, all I hear, all I hear’s… your heart …”
As the last note of sad longing fades away, lips part in awe. Silence. Then claps begin to resonate across the room; a collective exhale of gratitude for what we have just witnessed. The momentum builds and soon whistles and cheers begin to fill the air. The musicians smile. My friend and I smile at each other. We turn to the people sitting next to us and start to talk about what we’ve just been part of. Everyone agrees that only something like this could happen in Leith and for the next few hours, everyone in the pub passes each other on the way to the toilet and to the bar, smiling. We came here to drink so that we might forget to remember. We leave with a brand new memory of something special, something very human; the coming together of community.
The life in this pub, in those few moments of silence in the face of beauty, has inspired and touched everyone who has been privy to it. On the way home, a tipsy, mental note is made to write all of this into a story someday. And now, it becomes this story. The story of a night in a pub in Leith; the place I call home.