Frank Boyle captures the arrival of two Pandas, on loan from our friends in China for ten years, and satarises the Edinburgh love of chips covered in both salt and brown watery sauce! The Pandas have arrived in an effort China is making to join the real world, and reflect Scotland's desire for an international presence, especially among the 'big boys!' Russia and the USA will be next I suspect. I once, a long time ago, wandered around the London Zoo at Regents Park, a sad imitation in comparison to the one sitting on Corstorphine Hill. I journeyed there to see the two Panda Bears among other things, animals in captivity upsetting some poor souls but not those like me who would not see them otherwise. I can assure you the Pandas gave me a similar reception to that which pretty young lassies do when I whisper in their ear. One was not to be seen and memory indicates the other was engrossed in the bamboo and cared nothing for those who paid through the nose to see them. They, like me, failed to breed, a habit that helps the bears to die out slowly in their mountain homelands. I am reliably informed that there are some women who wish their men were more like the Panda, I do not understand what they mean by this. It is to be hoped that Edina's balmy atmosphere will aid the passion of these two, if they can put the bamboo down for long enough.
Edinburgh chip shops are, or at least were, highly important to the society. Until the 70's shops had a terrible habit of opening from 9-5, and that included an hour closed for lunch. This led to folks suffering when an important item was not to be found in the house, often there was no way of obtaining goods after five. Chip shops provided the answer as they sold some goods and often acted as the corner shop. However at that time many Asians were thrown out of East Africa where their forefathers had journeyed in the days of the Empire to build railways for their considerate employers. Being Indians they soon took over all the commerce of Africa, and by the 70's many were being persecuted by the Idi Amin's of this world. A great many arrived in Leith and opened shops, one in Leith Walk learned his English, as did his fat slob son, by speaking to his customers. Most were successes, this success based on the simple idea of opening between 8-6 and not closing for lunch. It does not matter how many supermarkets open most folk want a corner shop and these men were good at that business. Some even opened up to seven at night, a revelation in Edinburgh at that time, now wonder some became millionaires. I remember one telling us how he increased the price of his tinned beers when Glasgow football fans were passing his shops on the Saturday, he would reduce it to normal price once they had gone!
Until their arrival chip shops were split into two, many still are, and they played the part of the corner shop. A tin of beans, a packet of cigarettes or sweets for the kids were all supplied for the section to the side used for that purpose. These places were never licensed for alcohol. The main business was fish and chips, pies, sausages and chicken, and today kebabs and anything that sells. In Edinburgh salt was lavished unhealthily onto the chips and a brown sauce, impossible to describe but a 'must have' on Edinburgh chips, was liberally applied. Some folks just preferred vinegar, and a surprise to foreigners from England, the woman in the shop applied the salt & sauce, they did not wrap it up and leave you to unwrap it and apply the needful yourself! Pies also were not wrapped in paper as the English offer them, a strange behaviour I have never understood, and of course were always 'mince pies,' made with mutton, and similar to the manner of many customers dress sense. In short chip shops throughout Scotland were excellent in every way, and even better around the capital city where salt & sauce abound.
Of course there is in all things one slight drawback to all this, a combination of cigarettes, to much alcohol (Mr S are you listening?) and lashings of fish and chips, salt drenched, when leaving public houses has led to Scotland having one of the highest rates of heart failure in the world. Still, you canny have everything, can you? I wonder how long Panda and his mate will survive.....?