It's that time of the year again! Halloween! A big favourite with the lads from the High Wall. I don't think we ever missed it out as kids. It was probably oor favorite night of the year. Better than Xmas?.......Maybe.
I saw an article in the paper the other week that set my mind off at a particular tangent. The article was about an ape called Charlie that had died on an animal sanctuary somewhere. An ape? Halloween? Bear with me.
This ape, Charlie was a bit of an oddity. Seemingly he had been smoking cigarettes for most of his life. He had picked up a fag-end at one point, taken a fews puffs & he was off. He smoked solidly for years, getting ciggies from folk who visited the sanctuary.
Well poor Charlie went and died. Not a premature death I hasten to add. The old boy lived until he was 54, which is seemingly about ten years longer than most apes live to. So the fags had done him nae harm at all. So from this "smoking monkey" my mind turned to the other kind of smoking monkey, the kind you used to be able to buy in Strachans Joke Shop in Edinburgh. And Strachans & Halloween go together like Morcambe & Wise.
Strachans was situated in Forrest Road, near to where the Royal Scottish Museum is. In fact the whole new section of the museum, is built in part, on the place where Strachans once stood. The whole area is completely different to how it looked when we were bairns. Up from Strachans was the Hole In The Wall Pub, named after the goings-on of Burke & Hare. There was also a jewellers shop there called Abbots of Greyfriars, and I think there were a few other shps including a wee bakers shop. There was also a pend there, which took you into a cobbled courtyard leading to the side door of the museum. A lot of tramps & winos used to hang aboot there heating themselves at wee fires. There is still a wee shop there selling pots and pans, crockery, and other kitchen stuff that was there back in the day, which is still there, just across from where Strachans once stood.
Strachans was a braw shop. Full of amazing stuff, most of it at pocket money prices. You could get shrunken heads, monster masks, coffin money boxes, false cigarettes that you blew clouds of talcum powder oot of, itching powder, false plooks & scars, wigs, false hands, skeletons, packets of chewing gum that contained a mini mouse trap that nipped yer fingers when you removed a stick of gum, squirting flowers, exploding fountain pens, stink bombs, fancy dress costumes, Dracula fangs, and a whole rake of other stuff.
And it also sold smoking monkeys. Yeah, I told you there was a link coming up! Us High Wall lads often bought oorselves a smoking monkey. They were braw! The monkey used to come wi aboot five or so little cigarettes. You would stick one in the wee monkey's open mooth & light it. Once ye'd done this a wee smoke ring would be emitted wi a hiss from the end o the cigarette. Trouble was when ye had finished the wee ciggies, ye were left wi a wee plastic money wi a look on its face like it had been goosed & it was nae use to anyone. Ye couldnae buy the wee ciggies separately. Pity. There ur probably hooses all over the place wi one o these stupid wee plastic monkeys, sitting in attics gathering dust, in cupboards, just waiting for someone tae come along wi one o yon we evil-smelling cigarettes and get them blowing smoke rings again!
Anyway aw um saying is that tonight's Halloween and we're getting the hoose o done up wi Halloween stuff, just waiting fir the guisers to pop along. And as I do this I am thinking about Halloweens o the past, and remembering a wee shop in Edinburgh called Strachans, that was the place to go and get some masks and stuff to scare auld drunks as they emerged fi pubs in South Clerk Street.
Happy Halloween my fellow High Wallers & other blog readers! Hae a guid yin!