Copenhagen, Denmark • May 2018 • Length of Read: 6 Minutes
The security line at Edinburgh airport weaved its way like a caterpillar around the roped queue, grumpy holidaymakers becoming impatient as they shuffled along at an insect’s pace. There was a guy in a full kilt about a dozen places in front of me; Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket, waistcoat, knee-high socks, sgian-dubh, laced shoes, the lot. I would have bet my house on him setting off the security scanner, but as I got trapped behind a group of face-tattooed foreigners he emptied his sporran and strolled through the checkpoint without so much as a second glance from the officers on duty. I guess that’s why I don’t yet have a mortgage or place of my own.
The previous day I’d gone to the cinema by myself to see Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 1, the most recent release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why certain people think it’s weird to go to the cinema alone is beyond me. You’re sitting in a dark room, watching something you’ve paid to see, and where it’s a social faux pas to talk. Writing this, I’m struggling to think of many other activities or events better suited to doing alone. There had been some scenes in the movie filmed in Edinburgh. At one point, Scarlet Witch and Vision are having a romantic heart-to-heart in the cobbled Old Town, when a laminated sign on the window of the late-night fast food shop that they’re standing in front is brought into focus to display a pixelated saltire with the notice ‘We’ll deep fry your kebabs’ printed underneath. A warmth swelled up in my heart, so proud to call myself Scottish.
I was heading to Denmark for three nights to visit some very close friends and following a rather peaceful, albeit cramped, flight I exited Copenhagen Airport and took the metro to DR Buyen station where I then chilled out on the grass and waited for Jason, Ieva, and Iza to arrive. It had been two-and-a-half years since I’d made acquaintance with the girls whilst on a New Year’s getaway to their hometown of Vilnius, Lithuania, and although I’d spent a lot of time with Iza during her interim six-month university exchange programme to Glasgow, I hadn’t seen Ieva since. When I’d suggested a reunion in the city where they now resided, they were quick to agree, and it didn’t take much to get my travelling companion Jason immediately on-board. His flight had landed a fair few hours ahead of mine, and he’d sat in the airport bar drinking €9 pints before realizing it would be cheaper, and more sociable, to drink cans of supermarket lager in the girls’ student digs. And that’s when I saw them…
It was hugs and smiles all round as we embraced one another, a million questions being fired about as we sauntered our way towards a nearby park, my neck catching the last glimmering rays of the setting sun. For better or worse, Ieva hadn’t changed a bit, and upon graduating from university back in Lithuania had immediately relocated herself to be with Iza. Despite being the elder of the near-inseparable pair, she looks up to Iza as an older sister for advice, security and confirmation, and the independent Iza lovingly accepts this adopted role.
Unlike in the UK, where there is a party or event taking place near on every night of the week, the bars and clubs of Copenhagen tend to restrict their opening days from Thursday to Sunday. With it being a Wednesday night, our options of drinking establishments were therefore drastically limited. Ieva was able to do a quick search on her phone, however, and identify that a place called the Jailhouse was within walking distance of their flat and open for business. The fact that it was a gay bar did nothing to dissuade us from this proposition.
With the windows barred up, the booths replicas of holding cells, and the sign hanging above the door designed to be like that of a penitentiary, we entered the street level bar to find a line of male barflies perched atop wooden stools and staring into their pint glasses whilst a gentleman dressed in a fancy-dress-shop policeman’s uniform, and looking like he’d come straight from a Village People concert, poured them their medicine. A gay bar that had every stereotype completely ‘locked-down’.
The policeman’s eyes lit up as we entered and quickly became transfixed on Jason, a dude blessed with the model like looks of Thor. A sharp blow on his whistle and suddenly every punter in the place was looking at him.
“Take your top off for a free drink,” he yelled in a camp and seductive manner. “And that is a law enforcement order.”
Always in good spirits, Jason removed his t-shirt without hesitation to reveal a tanned and ripped personal trainer torso that sent the policeman-bartender into overdrive with hot flushes. He maintained enough composure, however, to grab Jason by the hand and march him round to the staff members’ side of the bar.
“Choose your poison,” he said, absolutely loving this novel treat. “There’s a wide selection on the top shelf,” he continued, taking up a position directly behind Jason. “Or, if you’d prefer to bend over and see what’s on the bottom shelf, then be my guest.”
“The tequila from the top shelf will be suffice enough,” laughed Jason, happy to play along with the joke as long as it remained a joke. The handcuffs hanging from his belt looked to be a prop, but I wouldn’t want to second guess that he’d used them on an un-expectant patron before.
“Very well,” said the policeman, tipping the brim of his cap. “Four tequila slammers coming up for yourself and the three girls,” he grinned, nodding in the direction of Ieva, Iza and myself. In the eyes of a gay man, apparently I’d just switched genders. Whether I should have been relieved or displeased by this, I’m not too sure.
“If I take my top off can I also get a free round?” I asked the policeman as he came over to pour our drinks.
“Sorry, but you’re too ugly” said the policeman with deadpan sarcasm, as Jason searched around for his t-shirt.
“Hey, where did my t-shirt go?” queried Jason. “I don’t want to remain topless all night.”
“Well, somebody wants you to,” laughed Iza. “A guy came over whilst you were behind the bar, snatched it, and then scampered off into the staff room round the back.”
Somewhat panic-stricken, Jason headed round the back and after a bit of searching breathed a sigh of relief. His t-shirt had been put on a hanger on the wall. The guy has been bold enough to steal his t-shirt, but gay enough to not want risk it becoming creased.
We danced around to camp pop hits for the remainder of the evening, cracking jokes with the policeman, who we found out was actually the owner of the bar, and reliving the good old days from when I’d been partying in New Zealand with Jason and snowy Vilnius with the girls. The policeman was an absolutely charming man and seemed to genuinely really appreciate us for having brightened up his mid-week graveyard shift. As closing time neared, one other heterosexual couple and ourselves the only remaining patrons, the policeman gave us some free mint shots for the road and we staggered back to the girls’ apartment.
They had done their best to make room to accommodate their guests, but as I laid down on the hardwood floor, wrapped in a dog blanket, I couldn’t help but imagine that some prisoners probably had more comfortable sleeping conditions.