Tea at the Turd; an Edinburgh Future-Vision Experience; 2159
A short story by David Black.
‘Oh dear. Were there many killed Eleanor?’
‘Not enough, if you ask me Constance.’
Och, now, that’s not a very nice thing to say, dear.’
‘Well, luckily enough the place was empty when it happened. Maybe a few pigeons died. It was in such a state even the squatties wouldn’t go near it. They’d rather sleep outside in the rain it seems.’
The collapse of the old student residence had made the headlines for a day or so, its fate sealed by well equipped metal thieves who’d managed to extract a number of H beams before the creaking had started. It had somehow remained standing for a few more days, the odd cladding stone crashing to the ground from time to time, but then that was hardly unusual in Edinburgh now. People knew which side of the road to walk on, which buildings to keep well clear of. Then came a bit of a high wind, and it was Kerrash! Not the first time either.
They decided to address more important topics.
‘So did you manage to make your way here all right then, Eleanor? Not too many delays?’
‘There are always delays Constant, for one fucking reason or another, ‘scuse my French. We all had to get off a stop early because of the big plaque demonstration in St Andrew Square.’
‘Well at least ye managed to get off, dear. Not like last month there a number 33 bus went down that sinkhole in Gilmerton.’
‘Oh yes. Can you imagine? Did they ever recover any of the bodies? I think Myra Graskin’s carer was one of them, but nobody’s too sure. Maybe she just went back to Lithuania.’
‘Latvia, Constance, definitely Latvia. Nice girl. Perfect English, too. And no, she certainly didn’t go back anywhere, poor thing. Her boyfriend even threw flowers into the sinkhole. Nice touch’
Ach well, win some, lose some Ellie darling. What can ye do? Anyway at least ye didn’t get caught out in the plaque business. Outrageous, especially since the column was blown up twenty years ago, at least, and Dundas’s head smashed to bits by that madman from the Socialist Worker’s Party.’
Constance fidgeted nervously with her gloves. ‘I try to think of all that as none of my business, dear. It’s just a shame they hadn’t destroyed the plaque at the same time. No end of trouble.’
‘Which plaque is the problem, Constanzia, mea cara. The first one, which only told half the truth, or the second one, which only told the other half of the truth.’
‘Both, for fuck’s sake, Eleanora. Who cares whether the old bastard was a slave-driver or an abolitionist? Who knows anything about all that these days? My dear old grandfather may have been from St Lucia, but even he didn’t give a toss.’
‘Och dear, how silly of me, Constance. I’d forgotten about your exotic roots. After all you’re just so died-in-the-wool Edinburgh, sipping your tea with your pinkie up like a true Morningside matron.’
‘Well I do live in Morningside, so what would you expect? We’re not like you slack Marchmont types, who let your whole area be taken over by the student hordes until you all had to bugger off, which is why you’re now camped in a bungalow in Blackhall, dear.’
‘It’s very comfortable, I’ll have you know, Constance. Indeed you already do know, since you’ve dropped in to drink my tea and eat my shortbread often enough. But we’ll let that pass.’
‘Oh come on Ellie. It’s only because you’re so handy for Wait-less, the only place in this damned city where you can still get decent cheese and non-fake meat, and every time I’ve called by to see how you are isn’t it me who brings the shortbread?’
Their little squall over, they had a brief cooling-off period before re-engaging.
‘I must say Constance, it was quite a daring idea of yours to hit upon this place as our new venue. It’s name rather suggests we might be risking a bout of food poisoning, or at the very least a queasy bus-ride home. Whatever possessed them to call it The Golden Turd, I wonder. Is it what the advertising people call counter-intuitive marketing?’
‘Ah, well not exactly. They tried every other variation on the theme before they had to capitulate. The Unpeeled Orange, The Unravelled Ribbon, The Beehive Hairdo, everything and anything to avoid calling it by the name everybody else was using. They even tried The Walnut Whip after a sweetie nobody had heard of for years. In the end they gave up, and just put up that big flashing neon-sign which you can see from the other end of George Street. THE GOLDEN TURD. It was people power in action, Ellie. The daft Americans funding it soon worked out that if they didn’t give in to the will of the Scottish people their investment would just go down the pan.’
‘Och Constance, you can be so droll, so you can. You’ll have me spluttering into my tea, dear, if you don’t stop it. Down the pan indeed. I suppose the truth is since Harvey Nicks upped and offed it’s about the only place left with a decent view which doesn’t take in the building itself. Mind you, Tea at the Turd. It’s never going to be Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is it? I remember my mother telling me before the top floors of the Jenner’s building became derelict she used to be taken for Saturday afternoon tea as a special treat. It had a lovely view of the castle and all that.’
‘Hmm. Well that’s in the past now, Eleanor. It was a time when they used to have proper shops on Princes Street, and things like the New Club where our law lords would go to get drunk. The whole place is now just a midden of second-hand clothes stores and gambling arcades. No wonder they call it Shitehouse Strip. A much lower class of people now go there to get drunk, and worse.’
‘Now you’re just going to get yourself upset, Constanzia. There’s no point dwelling on what has been, or what might have been. Our lovely city which was a mad God’s dream just turned on itself, and now look at the result. I suppose the people responsible for this almighty urban-fuck up are all dead now, and the young people out there have no idea what was taken from them.’
‘True, so true, Ellie. Our poor old Edinburgh’s just a laughing stock these days. Perhaps we only have ourselves to blame in the end. Mind out, now – you’ve just smudged a piece of thon chocolate gateau over your lipstick, dear.’