PAULINE Doyle has been homeless for 18 months. Oh, sure, she had that place in Edinburgh for a while. But Pauline in Edinburgh was like a salmon sunbathing in the Sahara desert. (Just to clarify, salmon don’t enjoy sunbathing in the Sahara desert all that much.)

She also has what you could call her home-home. The place she goes at the end of the night, to make dinner, watch TV, fall asleep. That sort of home is in Knightswood.

But the place where Pauline’s most alive, most relevant, most adored and most defiantly, unapologetically, triumphantly Pauline?

That all takes place in Lauder’s Bar, where she’s been a barmaid for almost 15 years.

No, not just a barmaid. Pauline is the hub, the happening, the her who must be listened to and laughed along with.

So when this venerable old pub was gutted in the infamous fire that tore through parts of Sauchiehall Street in March 2018, Pauline was left bereft… and homeless.

“It was like my leg had been ripped off,” she tells me, when I pop in to celebrate the pub’s relaunch after extensive renovations.

While Lauder’s was being brought back to life, its corporate owners, Mitchells & Butlers, sent Pauline to work in one of their Edinburgh bars.

Which felt like banishment for this proud Glesga gal.

Right, Eejit. Wit you want?

Her eyeballs roll at the memory. “That was an experience,” she says. “Funny folk in Embra, God love 'em. Beautiful city and all that. But no banter. I was going off my head.”

An elderly fellow dodders into the pub and gazes around, awestruck, like a Victorian Egyptologist cracking open the Great Pyramid of Giza, then savouring the splendours within.

In a shaky voice he says: “Have you been closed, then?”

Pauline snorts: “Where have you been, in a box for the last 18 months?”

Which may sound a little harsh. But Pauline has the timing of a grouchy, yet lovable, Borscht Belt comedian. Her chat is rat-a-tat rapid. Machine-gun quips that rarely miss their mark.

“Right eejit, wit you want?” is her welcome for one customer.

To another, she says: “Where you going to sit, pal? And don’t say on your backside.”

With her banter-chanter bagpiping to one and all, Pauline is one of Lauder’s great constants.

She has even created her very own Lauder’s gang. Individuals wandered in, one by one. Over time, Pauline forged them into a team of sorts, much like the Avengers, only with pints and paunches rather than muscles and capes.

Bastion of boisterous behaviour

Pauline has nicknames (or secret identities) for her team of tipplers. “There’s George, the resident Old Yin,” she says. “He’s 80-odd. Got his own special wee tankard. Had to get him a new one after the fire.”

Then there’s Tam the Bastard Polis. (Retired member of the local constabulary.) Kenny the Hun. (Rangers fan.) Pauline, herself, is Pauline the Bead Rattler. (Reflecting her Catholic faith.)

All the names are offensive, but nobody takes offence. You’ll find no safe spaces in Lauder’s.

Since it opened in 1836, it’s been a bastion of boisterous behaviour. Located in the centre of Glasgow’s theatreland, it was the haunt of music hall turns and upmarket thespians. Now telly types tipple, too. Plus ordinary punters of every persuasion.

Although slap-bang in the city centre, it has the ambience of a slightly dilapidated village local. Last year’s fire, however, instigated radical changes. The décor has been spiffed-up and splendidaffied. Everybody’s especially proud of the new toilets. Customers shake their heads in wonderment while talking about them. (Which they do. A lot.)

Overhearing one of these conversations is like listening to a proud parent discussing an errant schoolboy who has now decided to knuckle-down and attend class.

The toilets were once a fetid swamp. A jaded Amazon of exotic aromas and terrible tributaries.

The sort of place Indiana Jones might wade through, on his way to unearthing another ancient artefact. Alas, no ancient artefact has ever been discovered in the Lauder’s toilets. Unless you count auld boozers taking a whiz.

Pauline recalls the toilets of old with a fond, faraway look in her eyes: “We had this guy in the bar who’d been in every jail in Scotland,” she says. “He said none of his cells were as bad as our toilets.”

Now those very same bogs have been buffed and burnished, as I discover during a forensic examination. (That’s right, folks. Some journalists enter the corridors of power to get a story. I clamber into the cludgie.)

Not only are the toilets gleaming, not streaming, but I also spy a jar of hair gel next to the sink. A little something extra for the dapper chapper.

Not that there’s an over-representation of dapper chappers in Lauder’s.

It’s an authentic, old-style Glasgow pub; many of the customers ripped straight out of a black and white photograph, circa 1975.

A wee wummin pops in with her messages, sneaks a quickie quencher, then is gone again. Old boys hunker down by the bar, here until the end of time. Or at least until last orders are called.

There’s a smattering of tourists, too, as you would expect in a city centre boozer, plus the odd trendy. (Very odd indeed, to be a trendy, then rock-up at Lauder’s.)

Darin McCann is what you would probably call trendy-adjacent. Not quite a hipster. But he does own a man bag, slings it across his shoulder in a raffish manner, and admits to drinking in some of Glasgow’s more fashionable watering holes. But he always returns to Lauder’s.

It’s that camaraderie

“I’m part of the furniture,” he says. “I’ve been coming here 15 years, which is a long time. Something just draws me back. I’ll go into those up-market bars, but this place brings you down to earth. This is Glasgow. And that’s why so many people have been waiting for it to open again.”

Darin has worked various jobs, taking him far from Glasgow. But once back in town, he invariably makes a beeline for his favourite drinking den. Like Pauline, he calls Lauder’s home. And the men he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with at the bar are family.

Although Darin’s a youthful 52, his booze brothers include blokes in their 70s and 80s.

“I used to buy them all their Christmas lunches and drinks,” he tells me, with a grin as warm as crackling coal. “They were older gentlemen, living off their pensions, and I had good jobs offshore on boats and rigs. So I was happy to do it.”

He adds: “I’ve lost a lot of older gentlemen over the years. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s difficult when you walk back in and they’re not here anymore.”

Darin is so close to his fellow drinkers, and the bar staff, he can talk to them about anything.

“There are personal things I’ve only felt I could tell the staff in here,” he says. “Things I’m not yet ready to tell my actual family. You stand at the corner of that bar, and you get things off your chest.”

He adds: “I like a drink, but it’s not really about that. It’s about coming in and saying: ‘Hi, Pauline. How are you? Hi George. What’re you having?’ It’s that camaraderie. You look at somebody, and think, that could be my grandfather.

“And see Pauline? She’s the glue that holds this pub together. She’s not management or anything. But she doesn’t have to be. She’s still the best-known person in here. The queen of Lauder’s.”

Speaking of that eminent royal dignitary…

Pauline has just finished her ten-hour shift. But she isn’t leaving. Not yet. Her fella’s just arrived, and they’ll be having a drink together. Then her mum’s coming down.

A family outing, right here, at home. In Lauder’s.

Meanwhile, I’m heading towards the front door, out into the Glasgow night. Before I get there, Pauline fires a parting shot in my direction.

“Been on my feet all day,” she harrumphs. “The only break I got was talking to you. And that wisnae fun.”

So adieu, then, Your Royal Highness. Though, before I take my leave, I have to say, the feeling wasn’t mutual.

Talking to you, and the rest of the Lauder’s gang, was a whole lot of fun.