The bartender’s polemic: The invasion of the Edinburgh fresher

Freshers’ Week was fun for most and Hell for some. Unluckily for me, I was part of the some.

So, Edinburgh, another Freshers’ Week is over, and the city sleeps quietly once again. Love and friendship have been found amongst the drunken revelry of a youth that has only recently been freed. It was fun, maybe even wild, and one day in the future some of these people will become old and reminisce at the freedom of their youth amidst the cobbled walkways of our gothic city.

However, the only thing I can think of is this: thank fuck that’s over. 

Because while the fresher was unleashed, I was surviving behind a bar too small to contend with the towering amount of filth they brought. Completely sober and possibly depressed, I saw every detail of why sometimes being a bartender is as fun as putting your genitals in a blender.

This led me to some insights on the condition of the fresher, and let me tell you now, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

I first sensed that life would not be worth living at the start of my first Freshers’ Week shift. It wasn’t that anything terrible had happened. Well, not yet anyway. No, it was when I saw the faces of the veterans behind the bar who had welcomed this year’s collection of first years for their first night of drinking. In their eyes I saw despair, and, in their cheeks, I saw hollow pits where a joyful soul might once have been. 

Despite this, the night started off quiet enough. A general trickle of regulars had come to take the elixir which had already ruined their lives. Hours went past where the general sense amongst the staff was that possibly an early finish could be had. The horrors that my colleagues had faced was yet to rear its head at me. Until it did. 

Down the stairs came a whirlpool of male faces untouched by hair and savaged by the boils of an acne filled childhood. Following them, came girls too young looking to even be considered a teenager, never mind an adult. The fresher was here and now my hope was gone. 

It soon became apparent that none of these animals had ever been anywhere close to an actual pub before. This was made clear to me when I took my first order from a girl who wanted four shots of apple sourz. The shameless self confidence to actually order sourz made me realise that these people had probably never been bullied. Yet emancipated from the stern looks and harsh words of their bourgeoisie parents, they were willing to pay. Despite my inhibitions, I would simply have to shut up and serve. Capitalism really does not give a fuck about the mental welfare of the bar keep.

Countless waves of spotty faced youths claiming to be freshers sustained the assault on the bar. Straight Jager shots were procured by boys wanting to be considered men. Guinness was ordered by kids who had clearly only ever had a drink with their grandad. Dark Fruits was given to the grown up child wanting to acceptably drink juice at a pub. Glass after glass was handed over the bar until we began to run out.

Then, fate struck unkindly when I was asked to swim out into the whirlpool and find some empties.

I noticed that somehow a mosh pit had formed in my pub restaurant. This was peculiar and stood as yet another example of naivety. High pitched voices screeched along to Abba and, disgustingly, James fucking Blunt. I swear as soon as “You’re Beautiful” came on, I was ready to quit there and then.

Amidst my quest for empty glasses I clocked that seeing freshers fall in “love” (more like falling into a disappointing shag, but I’m a romantic at heart), is a new ick of mine. Can they really not get off with each other mid way through me asking for empties? I feel like there are much more romantic settings. Unless of course a pale ginger dude asking you for empty glasses at a pub is secretly your thing.

The night went on like this for longer than I care to remember. Pint after pint, and shot after shot were handed over for hours on end. Despite this, a sense of hope had begun to spring in the hearts of me and my colleagues. The clock was slowly approaching closing hours and our lives were close to being our own again.

That was when somebody told me there was shit on the floor of the men’s toilets.

As the only male identifying bar staff it was obviously my job to take care of this. So, with a bin bag in my hand and my dignity left behind, I trudged through a desolate wasteland of post-adolescent filth towards the bathroom. As my hands broke through the warm sludgy, brown shite of a boy I had never met, I realised just how much freshers still had to learn.

Recommended related articles by this writer:

• Quiz: Plan a night out and we’ll tell you which Edinburgh club you should go to

• What your first post-lockdown Edinburgh night out says about you

It’s back! Clubbers of the Week: 2021 Freshers’ Week edition