Pub's loos are cleaner than its clarty clergy

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HEAVEN knows, the Ensign Ewart, historic pub through the wall from what was the parliament’s temporary home in the Lawnmarket, has had more than its fair share of stick.

But its landlord these past 18 years, Bryan McCann, talks a good case in its defence. Nowt wrong with the beer, the toilets have been the problem.

"We’ve had flak about our toilet entry system but we’re the pub nearest the Castle and tourists tend to treat us purely as a public convenience. The policy we have here is commonplace in London pubs next to tourist attractions. There is, too, a drugs problem for publicans nowadays."

The parliament’s relocation down the road has had no significant effect on business, reports Mr McCann. "MSPs generally didn’t drop in, they preferred not to be caught nipping out the parliament’s back door, do a sharp left turn and pop in here. Not with the Press and TV hanging around, although George Reid did patronise us on occasion, I suspect largely because he could count on some privacy."

The one week every May that traditionally sees the pub, established in the late 1500s, busier than usual is the C of S General Assembly next door.

"We attract a lot of ministers and you’d be shocked at the crudity of some of their jokes. As a true publican, of course, I’m honour-bound not to divulge the tittle-tattle overheard here, from politicians as well as the clergy."

Mr McCann captained the Edinburgh Licensed Victuallers Golf Club and some of those gags would hardly bear repeating in the locker room. Clarty clergy? Unthinkable, by God!

• No wonder I’m suffering from full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I’ve heard how the BBC, apparently oblivious to the fact it’s not their money, it’s ours, brazenly squandered a fortune covering the US election.

They sent 188 staff, including some from Radio Scotland. And you can bet most of them travelled club class, many booked into five-star hotels. The bill was some 800,000. ITV sent 19 people costing 75,000 and Sky sent 26 for an undisclosed sum.

Their election splurge apart, the Beeb sent two Five Live radio hacks to Moscow for Chelsea’s match.

Why two? Only one and the "commentary" would have been only half as excruciating, such were their inane mutterings.

No apology? Quite right, ma’am

YOU ASK: a) Was the Queen, on her state visit to Germany, right not to apologise for bombing German cities? b) Did you remember to forget to send Lulu a card for her 56th birthday the other day ? c) Is Walter Smith the man to manage Scotland? d) Was Goya gay? e) Why was PC World’s premises at Drum Brae painted purple, a horrendous blot on the landscape? f) Is it true millions of the UK’s poorest are facing a 50p a week benefits increase from next April, the smallest rise in their payment in 30 years?

REPLIES: a) Damn right! Think London, Coventry and Clydebank. Incidentally, did somebody slip something into HM’s glass in Dusseldorf ? b) Didn’t everybody? c) You mean smiler, Mister Happy ? Bring back Berti. d) Paint him black, if you must e) Ask Edinburgh’s planners. f) How else could we afford President Blair’s 43,000 housing allowance these past three years?

• Alan Milburn was so wide of the mark two years ago about the new NHS computer system (was that before he scarpered to be with his family?), it could now cost as much as 31 billion, five times the procurement bill.

Can’t anybody in this country get it right?

• FINALLY: Shocked and stunned to have a colleague, female, tell me: "I’d rather see Hibs relegated than Bush re-elected."

Is it humanly possible to hate somebody that much?