At least that’s what Schiphol is still advising. Get there two hours in advance (three hours for intercontinental flights) if you want to be sure of making your flight. After some recent experiences at Schiphol, I’m taking no chances.
Last time here, after having queued up for 30 minutes, I was told while checking in that I could have used the priority lane. So I give it a whirl. No problems. I’m in the much shorter priority queue for security. I’m through in ten minutes, including the traditional extra inspection of my trolley bag. It always gets pulled out, for some reason.
My flight departs from pier D. And I’ve plenty of time. Time a plenty to drop by the Irish pub for a quick Murphy’s Stout and Jamesons whiskey. I also pick up a bacon and egg sandwich, which I eat on my way to the pub. It’s my breakfast.
The flight is, thankfully, uneventful. And on time. About.
It’s not far to my hotel. I’m stopping out at the airport as it was so effing extortionate in the city centre. And it still wasn’t cheap here. It’s long before the official check-in time of 3pm when I troll up. But I can go to my room straight away. Which is great. I had been worrying that I’d need to leave my bags, head off into town, then return to move everything to my room.
After a bit of arranging shit – mostly switching on my laptop and accessing the internet - I take the tram into town. I’ve got quite a bit of shit with me for this evening’s talk: laptop and a dozen or so books I’m hoping to flog.
I start at the Playfair, a Wetherspoons in a shopping centre. Why? Because it’s close to where the tram terminates. And I want to get some cheap food inside me. I’m not made of effing money. And I need plenty of ballast for a long day.
Soon I’m happily sat behind a pint and an all day brunch. I’m not at the bar, but at a high table. Why? There are no seats at the bar in Wetherspoons. The eggs aren’t very well cooked. The yokes are hard. Oh well. There’s no toast to mop it up, anyway.
The place is full of the usual odd mixture that you find in Wetherspoons. Grannies drinking tea, grandads drinking John Smiths Smooth, two women of indeterminate age tapping on their phones in front of half pints of white wine, a young couple eating, daytime drinkers knocking back pint after pint of Lager. And me. Not sure which type of customer I count as.
I don’t linger that long. Things to do, beer to drink. I’m headed over to the Old Town. Which, given it’s a bit of an uphill trek, isn’t much fun with the rucksack full of books on my back.
My destination is the Jolly Judge. It’s down an alleyway and I manage to walk past it. Meaning extra unnecessary uphill walking. That’s not fun at all.
The castle and the higher parts of the Old Town hide behind a smokescreen of mist. When I reach the top, it’s like walking into a cloud.
It’s not a huge pub, but I manage to find a seat. And am soon tucking into a pint. A middle-aged couple comes and sits next to me. I hear that they’re speaking Dutch to each other. The woman asks me: “Are you a local or another tourist?” “Ik ben ook een toerist.” I reply. We proceed to have a long conversation in Dutch. Which is pretty strange.
They’ve McEwans 70/- and 80/- on keg. I thought the shilling names were usually reserved for cask. Weird to think that those two beers used to be dead common.
I have a couple, then move on. I don’t want to be too late at the Hanging Bat. The location of tonight’s talk. It kicks off at 7pm, but I aim to get there by six. I don’t quite make that time. Doesn’t matter so much as there’s not really anything to set up.
Johnny Horn, the brewer here, recognises me as soon as I walk through the door. He thrusts a beer into my grateful hand and guides me downstairs, where all the action will happen. It’s not a huge space, with room for an audience of 20-odd. And no projector. Hence the lack of setting up.
Four William Younger beers are served as I blab:
1851 60 shilling ale (6%)
1851 80 shilling ale (7.5%)
1851 stock ale (8.5%)
1885 140 shilling ale (9.5%)
It’s a bit odd, being the only one who can see all the pretty pictures of my Powerpoint. Not much point going discussing tables of numbers in detail when no-one can see them but me. Rather surreal. I hope it hasn’t detracted too much from the magic of hearing me speak.
Allan McLean, who I’ve never met before, and Robbie Pickering, who I have, are in the audience. We have a chat. I’ll be seeing Robbie again tomorrow in Glasgow.
I only sell two books. The bag of books I lug back to the tram stop is almost as heavy as before. And there’s still a hill to climb.
I don’t stay up too late. I need to be up fairly early tomorrow to travel to Glasgow for my date at the Scottish Brewing Archive. It’s going to be a very busy day.
Buy my new Scottish book. It's why was in Scotland.
Edinburgh EH1 3AJ
Edinburgh EH1 2PB.
The Hanging Bat
133 Lothian Road
City of Edinburgh EH3 9AB