Back home in Manchester, I’m known as one of the hardest Viewpoint writers on the North-East side. Now, I’ve taken on a real challenge: I’ve come to Scotland to track down some of the wildest men south of the Eden Estuary. I went for a night out at the Union in the hopes of meeting some of St Andrews’ deadliest men.
St Andrews medics often come down to Manchester hospitals to practise medicine in 3rd year because when they make a mistake there, they only kill off a few of the world’s surplus bricklayers. Word on the street was that St Andrews has been slowly developing a reputation for educating some of the hardest men in Britain, not just in medicine and the classics, but in the science of hooliganism and the art of violence.
I thought I had gotten to know my fair share of scary men back home, but nothing could have prepared me for just how intimidating I find this little town nestled by the North Sea. To be honest, St Andrews terrifies me.
Friday night. Market Street. 12 am. Parties were in full swing, ‘the Lads’ were out: “Lash, Gash and Banter!” Outside the Union, people were smoking right on the edge of the designated smoking areas with absolute impunity. They walked across the road without looking both ways. Danger seemed ingrained in the very cobblestones.
Inside, however, the girls were wearing sensible high heels, not eight-inch ankle mulchers. Groups of guys were tamely downing chains of shots, across the bar some were sipping jaegerbombs, and the bloke in front of me was charged almost £4 for cider, and paid for it. No one bottled the staff, no-one was left concussed, or even with light arterial bleeding. In two whole hours at the Union were no fights at all. I thought this was supposed to be a bar?
Disappointed, I left for the Toastie bar. An open-late, religiously-leaning, cheese-melting establishment full of drunk people? Surely this was the melting pot for the most vicious thugs in town! I spotted a group full of muscled, broken-nosed men repeatedly demanding extra mozzarella. Rugby players, twice the size of me – would they be the nutters I was searching for? I observed them from a safe distance. They appeared content to chat quietly in the corner, cleverly disguising their raw animal rage. They joked with the staff, happy and charming, but beneath that layer of goodwill must have been a ticking timebomb.
If there were one, it was on a very long fuse. I watched for almost half an hour and saw nothing but a gaggle of gentlemen. Everyone was so nice. I ate my cheese and ham panini without a receiving a single threat against my life, my mum’s life, my cat’s life or my cat’s mum’s life. It felt wrong. Stop smiling at me. Seriously. What do you want?
Walking back from town to my hall was chastening. Instead of Manchester’s familiar whir of police sirens and gentle pitter-patter of gunfire, St Andrews nights are enveloped in a cold, eerie silence. The streets are brightly lit, with not a hoodie or a can of Special Brew in sight. Feeling homesick, I took a walk down a dark alleyway for old times’ sake, hoping to meet the criminal of my dreams. Nothing. I took off my shoes, dropped my trousers round my ankles, balanced my phone and wallet on my head like I was attending a finishing school and waddled down the alley, hoping to lure a thug.
Success! I saw a shadowy figure tracking toward me, hood up. At last! This is what I’d come for. He walked with purpose, looking at the floor, anxious. He fished his pocket for something – a gun? A knife? My number was up, last stop, end of the line. I was so happy, it was thrilling. He came closer, within arms-reach. With a sharp thrust from his pocket, he offered me a paracetamol, re-dressed me, walked me back home, put me in bed with a glass of water and wrote me a lovely note for the next morning explaining what had happened.
I want to transfer to Dundee.