23 October 2011--We drive up the east side of Loch Awe this morning, a route I haven't taken in more than a decade. It's the slow side
of the loch, and the other side isn't any too quick; very slow going indeed. I love this kind of driving when I have the time, the sense that
I don't need to be anywhere anytime soon. We get nice views of Kilchurn Castle toward the northern end of the loch.
Well, we do have to be somewhere at some point, so we drive the familiar route on through Crianlarich, Callander, Doune, and Stirling, arriving in Edinburgh midafternoon. Check into our B&B on Ferry Road, shower, and walk up to Old Town. Poke around the Museum shop and head over to Greyfriars Bobby's for a pint. We consider dinner there, but it's a bit early, and Ron doesn't seem very much enthused by the menu. We have another pint in the Grassmarket, and then walk up Bow and Victoria Streets (averting our eyes as we pass by the Bow Bar, so as not to be too sorely tempted--there's no food there) toward the Royal Mile. We are now feeling pretty hungry, and decide to check out Deacon Brodie's Tavern. I've never set foot in the place--its colorful presence and prominent position on the Mile have led me to think of it as a tourist trap.
Deacon William Brodie (1741-1788) was a respected cabinetmaker and citizen who, unknown to most, had a nasty gambling habit and a number of illegitimate children by two mistresses (unknown to each other). These things always end badly, don't they? Yet for nearly two decades Brodie was also, by night, a successful burglar, illicitly supporting his vices. It's boggling to think he got away with it for so long, given that many of his victims were people he'd built cabinets and installed locks for. But he was eventually exposed, and hanged for his crimes. His lasting legacy is that his dual nature provided the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The pub named for Brodie turns out to be much nicer than I'd expected--they serve cask ale, for one thing, which I felt quite sure they wouldn't. There's a large dining room upstairs, attended by eastern European waitresses. It's very busy--popular with the tourists, after all-- and service is slow. And the menu looks terribly familiar...it's the same as at Greyfriars Bobby's, which, we realize, belongs to the same pub chain. At least the pubs in British pub chains don't all look exactly the same. The food is fine, but we could have eaten in Bobby's in a third of the time, including what it would have taken us to walk back down there.
We meet Willie in the Bow Bar, and have a typically splendid evening. By day, Willie teaches at one of the universities, economics, I think, or something equally respectable--I don't really remember. There's no accounting in the Bow. At night, he indulges his passion for whisky here and in other venues around town. Does that sort of duality sound familiar? I've only ever seen Willie's Mr Hyde, and can report that he's a most convivial dude. We should all have a dark side like that. Come to think of it, maybe it's the university lecturer who's the evil half. I don't doubt that his students think so.
The Bow closes sensibly early, so we bid Willie goodnight and, perhaps not so sensibly, have a nightcap at the Stockbridge Tap. Ron will begin his journey home early tomorrow morning.