You’re standing on the soaked, open-terracing at Love Street’s away end on a Wednesday night, watching the Jam Tarts struggling to string two passes together on a saturated ploughed field.
Freezing cold, soaked right through and hungry because they ran out of pies before kick-off, all you have to look forward to is the final whistle and a minimum two-hour drive home. There’s no atmosphere. You wonder why on earth you ever decided to come here. What were you thinking? As Jock Brown used to put it, this is ‘sheer folly’!
And then you hear it…….a distant noise of comforting familiarity that all of a sudden puts you at ease with the world……….
”EEEEEEERA MACAROON……………….EEERA MACAROON………………’
The Arctic-like temperature is immediately consumed by a feeling of warmth all over. The suffering you’ve put yourself through tonight now all seems worth it as one of Scottish Football’s true heroes ambles towards you from the back of the terracing. You almost feel like Superman felt when, desperately trying to regain his lost powers, he saw the glowing green crystal coming back to life in the Fortress Of Solitude. I did say almost.
Tonight’s macaroon bar seller is probably the most famous in the country. No-one seems to know his name but everyone can instantly identify him. He’s the wee guy with the black hair and the purple face that made Alan McLaren’s complexion seem positively ghost-like. But his appearance is not what people remember the most – it’s the voice. A translation of what he repeatedly says as he stumbles around is probably “here’s your macaroon bars”, but all you can make out is “EEEERA MACAROON” or if he’s close, “EEEERA MACAROON…..bars”! Here’s the strange thing: he’s actually saying “bars” each time but for some reason he just mumbles it out almost as an afterthought to the rest of the line which is belted out to high heaven! He applies this consistently no matter what he’s selling……..for example tonight’s “luxury” extra (macaroons are always plentiful but occasionally there will be tablet or some other tooth-rotting delicacy) are packets of Chewits…………..”CHEWITS ARE ONLY TEN……..pence”! It’s legendary stuff.
The other remarkable thing about this bloke is that he somehow seems to put in an appearance at every football ground in the country on the same afternoon. At school on a Monday morning my mates would be talking about the match they were at in Dunfermline and would comment that they’d bought a macaroon from the usual guy. This would be on the same day as a Hibs-supporting boy bought one at Pittodrie and we’d also seen him at Tynecastle! Most impressive.
Now although the purple-faced one is THE legendary macaroon bar seller, I have to say that the most memorable line I’ve probably ever heard at a football match came from one of his counterparts on what must have been a rare night off. This took place on a similarly miserable evening at gloomy Firhill. We’d arrived too late to get a space under the cover so again we were out on the open terracing….soaked! Just before half-time we could actually see the guy coming round from the turnstiles before we heard him……….basically because there was no-one on that side of the ground at all. Then as he got half way round it started, in an albeit unfamiliar tone…….
“MACAROON BARS………..MACAROON BARS………..”
This went on for some time in a very droning, fed up, “I wish I was somewhere else”-like tone. When he eventually got to us, he’d had no customers whatsoever, the rain had gotten even heavier and the game was still 0-0. The poor guy had just about lost the will to live and I think it was probably sheer exasperation that allowed this little gem to escape:
“…….MACAROON BARS………MACAR………..SOME **** BUY ONE!”
It took a full five minutes for my stomach to stop aching from laughter! Honestly, I’d never seen so many people suddenly willing to give one of these guys their business. Thoroughly merited too…….he’d made our night more than any Hearts player did……..that wretched match ended 0-0.
So did the one at Love Street.
Sadly it appears that the Macaroon Bar Seller became extinct at the same time as standing at football matches did. Not before these guys had earned a place in Scottish Football Folklore though. Gone but not forgotten!