Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
A gang of young revellers is standing near the bus stop making merry on this Christmas Eve. One of them spots her and shouts out, "Aw naw lads - look oot, it's a polar berr" and starts dancing round about, making loud roaring noises. Another of his daft pals joins in. She pays them no heed, neither looking to the left nor to the right, but proceeds along the pavement with her head held high. Eventually they trail away and return to their spot at the cross on the lookout for more carry-on.
Christmas Eve, and there's hustle and scurry zipping through the air. Lights beam and gleam from windows as shoppers return from town laden with bags and hasten through the gloom of the night. Last minute packets of frozen brussels sprouts and, oh no, nae chipolatas left at Farmfoods!
Merry Christmas to Govanites everywhere - hope Santa's good to you!
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Of course I feel very honoured, and privileged, to be asked by Lady Govan to be a guest contributor on her blog - now being read I believe, all around the world. Not that this further exposure on the internet would make such a difference as regards the fame of our ‘dear green place’ -- which is already almost as well known as London, Paris or New York.
I, having passed the three score and ten years mark, confess to not being ‘quite up to the mark’ re memory, but feel well enough qualified (if I dig deep) to come up with something that will interest the older generation who claim a ‘Govan-connection’, as well as inspiring longing in the younger ‘punters’ for what they missed in the so-called ‘good old days’.
I saw Govan -- the streets, the backs (backcourts), the docks, the ferry, the two Town Halls, the ‘pictures’ (cinemas), the Govan Press, the schools (too many to mention by name, but well divided into ‘proddies and catholics’), the shipyards (worked in Stephens), saw and loved everything connected with football (had a leaning towards Rangers, but enjoyed very much the season I played with St. Constantine’s Boys Club -- when I wore, of all things, a Celtic strip). Anyway, these are not my memoirs; I'm merely trying to show how well qualified I am to write about Govan.
I delivered milk for the Co-op dairy in Carmichael Street for about five years, and then for a few years I was at the Co-op dairy at Govan Cross.
Delivering milk around 6.00 am seven days a week lets you see Govan, more or less, asleep -- not influenced by ‘the corner boys’, ‘snottery-nosed weans’ or the shipyard workers--going-to or coming-from the yards.
I hasten to add that I had nothing against the above ‘making up the fabric’ of Govan or I suppose, the character.
But I liked the quiet of 6.00 am, with the lamplighter passing by or occasional ‘wee wummin’ pushing a pram up past the swing park, with a great big bundle covered with a sheet, heading for her early booking at the steamie in Clynder Street (or Harhill Street, near Craigton Road}.
My ‘rambling’ has led me to my delivering of milk -- and I suppose, the Christmas-connection in my ‘blog-writing’ would be the tips we looked forward to, especially at Christmas time. Although some of our customers would give ‘a bob’ or so each week, the other good time for tips apart from Christmas was at the Glasgow Fair holiday.
The main part of ‘our run’ was Neptune Street (aka ‘the Irish Channel’) with all the tenement closes. It seemed that the people with the biggest families who needed the most bottles of milk would live ‘three stairs up’ and though it was not the most wealthy of neighbourhoods, the people were, I would wager, far better at tipping than their ‘posher’ counterparts in Newton Mearns or the West End.
So Christmas was very good for the milkboys -- not that my brothers or myself saw much of the money we earned, or the tips -- coming from a family of seven, and a father earning, I would think, less than £3 a week. All other money had to go into ‘the kitty’ (the household budget), and I certainly don't ever remember grudging that -- it was a ‘good feeling’ being able to help out.
I remember one of the best gifts I ever got. It wasn’t Christmas, but it certainly felt like Christmas -- and if it had been it would have counted as my best ever.
My eldest brother, John, did his National Service in the RAF and was in Singapore and India, must have been about 1946, just after World War II had ended. I reckon it would be around June-July when he got leave from the RAF on his return from abroad.
When in India, he bought a few pairs of football boots -- thinking back (with my poor memory, too) I’m pretty sure that these football boots were made of cardboard (only joking, but that’s how they looked and felt).
I would have been about 14 years old then, and they were more than gratefully received -- in fact, I remember being ‘over the moon’ with them. Even big and ugly (not me, the boots) as I now remember them -- I loved them more than if they had been a pair of ‘Beckham’s Beauty Boots’ today! I suppose I would have thanked my brother John for the boots -- but probably not enough.
I was also grateful to John for a ‘cast-off’ suit, which’I fell heir to’ -- it was powder blue. John was a real snappy dresser as a teenager and in his twenties, and he was always very generous. I loved that blue suit and have often wondered since, did it look as good as I felt when wearing it?
John has now passed on from this world, as has my brother Harry (also, a great big brother, in different ways from John) -- there was another brother, Billy, who died as a child before I was born. As Christmas is a time for families, I will dedicate this blog to ‘family departed’ -- I suppose I may be trying to make recompense for that ‘wishing’ feeling we often have when some family or friends pass on, and we wish that we had made ‘more of the time’ we spent with them in this life.
Think what you will, I thank Lady Govan for the opportunity to ‘air’ some of my feelings for family, Govan and time spent there -- and wish you a Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Prosperous 2009.
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
And here he comes, running across the road from the PI in a bright red suit, smiling and a little self conscious. A plastic green and white gazebo has been erected for the occasion and under it a couple of DJs play "Do they know it's Christmas?" and a string of number one Christmas hits.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Down by the river the waste ground is a delightful skating rink - if a little rough - and boys are hurtling along a lethal pavement slide of frozen water.
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Monday, 24 November 2008
“Could I have one of those, er, raisin squares?” he says with an American twang.
He is pointing to a fruit slice showered in fine sugar.
“A flies’ graveyard,” says a jovial man behind me and dissolves in a fit of laughter and wheezing.
Just at that, my eye is caught by a bright red shirt passing the window and I turn to see a cowboy in white Stetson moseying on down the shopping arcade.
The Yanks are in town.
The American fellow points to a fudge donut and requests two of them.
“I’ll put them in a box for ye,” says the assistant, helpful and friendly.
He looks intense, as though trying to take in everything and remember it. Must be on the heritage trail.
I catch up with Lobey Dosser as he swings by Farmfoods and heads off into Heartbreak Pass, commonly known as the Govan Shopping Centre. Cowboys are tough, and this one has to be as he endures loud comments about his absent horse and calls of ‘heigh ho Silver!’
At the Post Office, I find myself behind him in the queue and take time to admire his rig-out: a Stetson of white felt, a bit grubby. A very nice red and black Western shirt with silver buttons down the front and five in a row up the cuffs. Silver collar tips are de rigeur and of course a leather belt with a silver, engraved buckle.The piece de resistance however, has to be the fancy boots of black leather; they have a square toe and decorative stitching and are set off to excellent effect by a beautiful set of silver spurs. Just what you need on the high chaparral.
We are all staring and eventually they just can't help passing remarks.
"There's a lot takes it awful serious, the country n western. They've got the Grand Ole Opry at Paisley Road."
"Aye, look at the boots, would ye."
"It disnae look much from the outside - the Opry - but see when you're in it, some place."
Friday, 14 November 2008
He is in his twenties, tallish and thin, very. His red hair shows beneath a sage green woolly hat and he wears trackies with stripes down the legs and a pair of trainers. I am expecting him to ask me for fags or money, but he launches into quite a lengthy preamble to this request.
"Missis, ah'm sorry for stoppin ye, but ah wis suppost tae see sumdy las night but ah missed thim an then they sayed speak tae the Barnardo's street team, but ah never seen thaym, n then . . . "
The next bit is a mumble and I can't make it out. He has blue eyes and gingery eyelashes and a scabby sore covering the side of his nose and part of his upper lip. His teeth are brown and broken and he looks peely wally and properly sad.
I catch up with the story again when he is asking if I have any money I could give him for now, till he gets things sorted out. I am not for taking my purse out of my bag in this situation.
He says, "Ah'm sorry miss, ah'm no a bad boy. If ah could just get somethin tae get somethin tae eat cos ah've no had anythin n that."
"Sorry son," I say, "I've no change on me. D'ye want a packet of crisps?" and I take one out of my bag and offer it to him.
He looks bewildered and casts his eyes round about.
"Could ye get money out that shop?" he asks, gesturing to a fancy goods store.
I am looking back at him, still holding the crisps and he realises it's a bit of a lost cause, nods his head and walks on without taking my meagre offering, saying, "Awright, thanks miss. Sorry for troublin ye".
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
A Christmas card sent from John to his daughter Mary in 1914. The inscription reads:
Personal memories of Mary Fernie, born 1905.
My father was in the Scots Guards and had served in the Boer War. Everybody knew him as Big Jock Fernie. Mother met father in London outside the Palace when he was on duty. They got married and lived at Plantation. My father worked at the docks, but when the First World War was declared, he was called up.
After my father was killed, my mother would go with my brother to meet the trains bringing the wounded home between 10 pm and midnight at Central Station, just incase she'd see my father coming home as a wounded soldier. She wouldn't believe he'd been killed so for months she'd stand up at the station. At Bellahouston Park she'd go up to the hospital huts and look for him or some of his friends. Everyone was crying at the sights of the wounded men.
Finally when they sent his belongings back to her she realised he was dead.
He'd taken a picture of all of us children and he must have been holding it as he was dying because when we got it back, his fingerprint was on it in blood.
Months later my mother met a soldier from the Scots Guards who was with him when he died. He said my father had gone out of the trench - they'd been told to charge - as he'd been running across No Man's Land there was an explosion. This man stayed with him as he was dying and my father asked him to take out our photograph and he held it as he died.
"Dear Tissie, Just a line from Dad. I hope you are well. A merry Christmas to you. Give my love to all. Goodnight, hoping you will enjoy yourself tomorrow. Hoping to see you soon. xxxxx J.F."
Friday, 7 November 2008
If you want rid of any furniture, then stick it outside your close on November the fifth.
The lads will come by and pick it up.
Thursday, 6 November 2008
I told you the dugs in Govan are tough! Here are two who came along especially to enjoy the fireworks fun. Frightened of a couple of bangs? Nae fear!
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
The back windows of Howat Street and Govan Road overlook the antics and some people hing oot the windaes watching in relative safety. A pall of smoke hangs over the street giving it the air of a war zone.
Rockets whizz through the sky, Catherine wheels crazily spin tacked to trees, golden fountains, silver waterfalls, roman candles, electro-storm . . . where are the jumping jacks? Outlawed by the spoilsports, of course.
The fire is hungry and must be fed. All night, boys are busy fetching planks, headboards and bed bases, wooden chairs, a goodly number of mattresses - singles and doubles, a couple of coffee tables and finally a well stuffed armchair that looks very comfortable. Someone will be looking for that tonight. Shouts and yells resound. A lone police car drives down Rathlin Street, weaving in and out, the polis looking out, half interested. The aerial cctv camera at the junction of Govan Road is trained on the festivities - hope they're enjoying it too.
We take a wander through the smoke to Dino's at the far end of Shaw Street. The staff are watching a Polish TV programme whilst waiting for customers. The chips are great; salt and vinegary and warming in the damp chill of the night.
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Canny wait . . . also, the Pakistani shop at Govan Cross is selling fireworks Buy One Get One Free!
Monday, 3 November 2008
Friday, 31 October 2008
We used to go at Hallowe'en up to all the posh houses - red buildings at Ibrox Oval. We never got very much.
Now, what did I get dressed up as . . . oh, aye, I got dressed up in my brother George's trousers - his shorties - and stockings and his jersey and skull cap. Either that or I used to put on one of my mother's long black skirts and a hat or get black paper and made it a cape or a skirt and go as a witch.
You went to everybody you knew. Everybody was good then. Your mother wasn't frightened to let you go anywhere.
We did dooking for apples, and eating a big treacle scone hung onto the pulley.
We used to make false faces in school and maybe the best false face would get a prize.
We used to go out, two or three of us up to Copland Road.
I always remember when I was about 11 or 12 a boy came to the door up at one of the posh houses - sandstone tenements - he was about 12. I really felt quite shy of him. I said, "Please for my Hallowe'en" and he went away and brought two apples and a 3d bit.
We were too scared to go to any of the really big houses. You got the most from your own people who were poor like yourself.
There are plenty of children dressed up and ready to get up and dance, tell a joke or sing a song for their Hallowe'en.
Most of the costumes are ready-made-bought-from-shops, and include ladybirds and skeletons, fairies, spiderman and other superheroes, a couple of witches and quite a few vampires.
On Langlands Road, a few guisers are happy to pose for pictures as they make their way home to begin an evening of guising around the doors.
At the top of Shaw Street, a skeleton is being lectured by her ma.
"Don't you bother aboot whit they say, just remember 'Sticks n stones'll break ma bones, but names'll never hurt me".
The skeleton is about 10 years old and is shaking her head and saying, "Aye stanes dae hurt ye".
"Ur ye gaun oot trick'r' trea'in?" calls the skeleton.
He nods stiffly, in the style of a warrior.
A few teenage girls dressed in pink cowboy hats and very short skirts hang about outside the Cosmo chippie on Govan Road.
A gang of four 10 year old boys are buzzing about the streets dressed up in makeshift costumes. They stop at the side door of the Harmony Bar and the barmaid sends them straight inside where I am sure the punters will be generous.
Two ghouls are fleeing up and down the streets of Govan. One wears a mask of "The Scream" and the other has a grotesque mask which he often pulls off to reveal a wee freckly, bespectacled face.
Another thing I remember about Hallowe’en was going to school with my lantern. It was a turnip carved hollow with a face cut out of it. My daddy used to make one and a candle burned inside it. What a strange smell - we were used to the smell of boiling turnip in soup or as a vegetable - but the lantern had a roasted smell mingled with candle grease. We took the turnip lanterns round the doors with us when we went Guising.
First, me and my pals would visit my two Grannies, where we were sure of a good welcome. My maternal Granny was first on the list as she only lived round two corners, in Neptune St. (nicknamed the Irish Channel) and indeed she had been born in Ireland. Her close was the scariest ever, as it was badly lit and she lived on the top floor. My mother's cousin Bridget was usually in there waiting on us; a young war widow she would always be reduced to tears at my recitation of the poem "The Slave’s Dream". Very sad, and not a terribly appropriate entertainment for Hallowe’en. However we would be sure to cheer them up with a musical selection starting with "Roll out the Barrel."
We would then set off with our bags (not plastic) a little heavier.
For our Hallowe’en, my friend and I would act out a little play that we had made up, in which my pal would be the beautiful Princess Veronica and I would be the handsome Prince Gavin. This entertainment would finish with a “waltz”, no matter what costume we were wearing. In other houses we would do our version of "The Highland Fling” or sing "If you ever go to Ireland".
Next we would wend our way towards my other Granny’s and on the way there we would stop at the Castle in Kintra St. where my friend’s Auntie Mary lived.
“The Castle” was actually Broomloan House, a small 19th century mansion predating the surrounding tenements. Eventually it was sold and subdivided into flats itself. Rumours abounded concerning ghosts in and around the 'castle' - so much so that local children referred to it as 'the hunty' (lit. 'haunty' or haunted house).
One Hallowe’en night, Auntie Mary had a treat in store for the guisers. When we arrived she told us she was going to take us to visit one of her neighbours. She made sure that we all had our lanterns lit and we formed a line behind her, "Follow me and don't utter a word" she declared in a sombre tone.
As soon as we were all out in the close, she closed her door leaving us in the pale flickering gas light. Beckoning, she began to ascend the spiral staircase, we guisers all shaking in our shoes. At the top of the stairwell we could see the turrets through the stairhead window. What a fright when we heard Auntie Mary's voice ringing out in sepulchre tones, as she knocked loudly on the first door. It opened suddenly and there stood an old witch dressed in a cloak and clutching her broomstick. While we stared in horror, loud music erupted playing an Edie Cantor number. In seconds a bright light came on in the lobby and the old witch began dancing with her broomstick. She laughed and called to us to come in and join the party.
Feeling a bit daft at having been so scared, we hurried inside and found a big cake on the table which Auntie Mary had made for us, and on the floor was a basin of water filled with apples for dooking.
My other Granny, at Elphinstone Street, was our last port of call and there we would have quite a little party, drinking Granny's homemade lemonade and eating her famous shortbread. After our performances and feeling a little tired we would set off for home, my Grandpa insisting on "seeing us roon the road".
Thursday, 23 October 2008
"And in the evening, lamps should shine,
Yellow as honey, red as wine."
Cheery golden lights welcome the weary traveller into Govan's historic hostelry on this stormy night.
Monday, 20 October 2008
Today, two little mites are sitting on the cold ground at the entrance to the Govan Underground station asking for a penny for the guy. The Guy is a big fat teddy with a matted beige fur coat and beady eyes.
A chubby little girl of about 10 years, shorthaired and gallus with an entrepreneurial spirit about her is calling out appealingly,
"Penny for the Guy! Aw, com'oan, penny for the guy . . ."
Her wee sister sits alongside in a little daydream with a smile on her lips.
They are wearing worn, grubby jackets and the wee one is wearing wellies and they have no tights to keep them warm, no hats, no scarves, no gloves. Just sitting on the cold ground.
Thanks to the mid-term October holiday, the young yins have been making a start on the building of bonfires.
A tower of pallets, some furniture and various bits of wid was erected on this site in Rathlin Street, shown above. However, some firebug couldn't wait for November and this morning I came across it burned to the ground already and the smell of cinders in the air.
Monday, 13 October 2008
Friday, 26 September 2008
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
By midsummer, Teddy Neddy had settled down and still had plenty of picnic goodies to keep him going.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Last November there was an archaeological dig here. GUARD came with diggers and lorry loads of dirt were heaped up high, students carefully sifted and searched. I read about it on a poster in the window of the youth project shop, but the most succinct explanation of what was going on was relayed to me by a wee wumman who said, "They're lookin for two kings, hen", as I passed her on Water Row.
We are on the cusp of autumn, but today is decidedly summer. This grassy field is surrounded by trees and hedgerows, still in full leafy bloom. The grass grows long and wild and I walk round the perimeter, enjoying the warmth of the sun beating down on me.
Sometimes you can see red blaize at your feet. I think this dates from when the crazy council once made this a carpark. Now all that is left of that stupid idea is a rusty barrier with a sign that says "this carpark will close at 6 o'clock". Ha! Keep your carpark. And please don't come up with any other scheme either - a community garden or summat else like that. Let's just keep this as wilderness. There's a couple of wee tips here and there with piles of lager cans and old bits of carpet and tyres, but that's ok cos that means no one targets this paradise for full scale vandalism.
I sit on the grass and close my eyes. The birds are singing so sweetly. A sense of peace and tranquility surrounds me. I feel a connection with all the people who ever lived their lives on this little piece of earth; spiralling down through the centuries, right back to the ancients, the commoners and the kings.
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
"Could you spare 50 p?" she asks, "it's just for somethin to eat."
I slow down and look in my bag, unzip my purse and search around for coins amidst the bundle of receipts and tickets that live in there.
She is dark haired and blue eyed, late 30s, worried looking, anxious.
"We're waitin for a crisis loan, but it's no come through an we're just tryin to get somethin to eat. 50 pence would be great."
She nods over past me, but I don't look round, "My man's askin as well. It's just takin ages to get the crisis loan. We're in a homeless unit in Ibrox."
"Here ye go," and I give her a pound coin that I pull out along with a twenty pence and a couple of coppers. "Where ye staying?" I ask.
"A homeless place in Ibrox,"she says, "we've been offered a house in Govan, but it's no through yet."
I'm dropping the twenty p. and the coppers back into my purse and at the same time thinking how stupid that is - I should just have given her all the change. Daft.
And daft is exactly what some would say I am for giving her anything at all. But, oh well, at the end of the day, are we not all beggars?
Sunday, 31 August 2008
Thanks for these memories from Mary F., born 1905
I went to school in Lambhill Street. When I was 5 or 6, I was talking in class to the girl next to me. The teacher put the wastepaper basket in the middle of the floor and I had to stand on it. I was so embarrassed because my skirt went up at the back! My mother went up to the teacher and read the riot act.
And from Peggy Mc, born 1913
I remember going to school. The teacher asked me if I knew anyone in the class and I pointed to Jeannie Bruce. We stayed friends all through school.
One time at Christmas one of the teachers called me out and gave me a lovely wee bag all covered with beads. I don't know what it was for. She must have thought I was awful good.
When I was about five or six, we got word one day that my aunty had died. My mummy sent me to get my big brother Neddy from his class at Broomloan Road school. I was scared going into the classroom, I remember his teacher was Paddy Stocks. He asked me to point out Neddy and I looked up at all the high seats but couldn't see him. He was sitting down at the front - I didn't realise those were the best seats! Neddy took me home down through Graham's Park and we passed a field of turnips. He pulled up two and peeled them and we ate one each.
Peggy: second back row, second from left - click on photo to enlarge
And some fun times at Broomloan Road School, recalled by John M. born 1903
I've a faint recollection of going to school. The teacher asked if I knew anybody. I pointed to a boy who lived next door so she put me beside him. Him and I were pals all the rest of my life. He was Jock Craigie.
In the playground we played football. I was an expert at walking on my hands. I challenged other boys to do the same, but they weren't very successful.
John: back row, second from left - click on photo to enlarge
The teacher on left side is Mister Lister, of whom John still spoke with dread - even into his eighties.
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
I started school not too long after my fifth birthday in 1941. I wasn't scared about the prospect, after all I had no big brothers or sisters to put me off by telling me all about getting the belt. I was going to Ibrox Primary School, facing the Rangers Football Park, and my first day was so exciting. All the children arrived with their mothers, grannies, or older siblings.
I didn't really know anyone on my first day, as most of the children who were my friends were off to St. Saviour's Primary School. I lived in Broomloan Road, close to Neptune St. which was nicknamed the Irish Channel. Most of the tenants there were Irish Catholic immigrants, as were most of our neighbours, and also the majority of the Wine Alley. I was so disappointed when I didn't see my wee pals setting off for Ibrox School. I couldn't understand why they weren't going there, especially John L- who had asked me to marry him and I had accepted.
We went in through the gates and down a little stairway which led us into the girls playground. That was another shock in this new world - the boys and girls were segregated in the playground. The boys entered into their playground from Edmiston Dr. which they all loved, as it was facing the Rangers Football Club. Most days at playtime one could see a row of boys, who all looked as if their faces were attached to the railings, trying to catch a glimpse of a Rangers player.
On that first day, I felt a little uncomfortable in my new navy blue coat, which was part of the school uniform. I had soon noticed that I seemed to be the only one wearing this style. My little wooden suitcase also made me stand out like a sore thumb. It had been beautifully crafted by my grandpa and my name was printed on it in gold lettering and varnished all over by my daddy who was a signwriter to the painting trade. Everyone else had a little leather bag on their backs. I trudged through the playground, feeling all eyes on this strange creature in the navy trench coat with suitcase in hand. I must have looked like a member of MI5.
We were ushered into the class where our teacher Miss G- awaited us. She was a middle aged woman, very tall and slim with tight grey curls, and wore a long grey dress well past her knees. She turned out to be always calm and kind and could sort out any problem to the satisfaction of the children in her class. Our mothers were quickly dismissed and we were told to sit down at one of the double desks set in rows.
As I was taking a place, we all heard a peculiar noise coming from the back of the class, a low howling, emitting from a small boy in the back row. Everyone turned round and I recognised Tommy W- who lived across from me in the Wine Alley. By the time Miss G- had started towards him, he was out of his seat and screaming at the top of his voice, heading for the door. Before he could make it, the door burst open violently making a loud bang as it hit the wall. Mrs W-, Tommy’s mother, came rushing through it and grabbing hold of the collar of her son’s shirt, she began dragging him back to his seat. A tall elderly gentleman, whom I later found out to be the head master Mr S-, then followed her into the classroom. Poor Mrs. W- was trying desperately to make her child remain in the seat into which she had thrown him and was now forcing him down in a wrestling hold. All the while Mr. S- and Miss G- were trying in vain to prevail upon the poor wee woman and her unfortunate son. What a racket they were all making! Mr. S-'s voice could be heard above the others saying, " Please be calm Mrs W-, I will deal with Thomas".
Too late, wee Tommy dealt with everything by wetting his pants. Mrs W- screamed and howled with shame and indignation, shouting at Tommy, "See whit yiv done noo? Ye'll niver get intae Ibrox School", as the puddle spread across the floor.
We never saw Wee Tommy in Ibrox School again. Later the whispered rumour spread around, that "the Powers That Be", had decreed that he should attend "the Special School".
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Govan Road's notorious close is tonight's hang out for a baby gang. The boys, aged from twelve down to about four years, seem to be enjoying themselves, running into the close and out again, slamming the door on each other and getting up to all sorts of fun and games on the pavement.
A window on the first floor, above the Liquor Barn, swings open and a teenager wearing a baseball cap leans out and spits down into the street. The little ones gaze up at him. He stares back at them, a bit menacingly, and disappears back into the room. A little while later, a younger boy in a blue and white trackie top takes his position at the window. He leans right out, casually exchanging remarks with the gang in the street. One shouts up to ask him to come out but he replies "Ah've tae get ma da chips". And then he is gone.
A Sunday evening must be prime shopping time for Govan Road residents. A couple passes, both carrying a couple of heavy Asda plastic bags in each hand. He is wearing shorts, white socks and sandals, she is very blonde; Eastern Europeans. Then comes a weary looking mum with a girl and two boys and they all have Asda plastic carriers. A middle aged working man, with his messages in the Asda bags, slips into a close. Over at the bus stop, an African family, maw, paw and the weans, wait with granny and wave her off on the number 23. Then they join hands and cross the street back to their home.
Karaoke is resonating from the Harmony Bar at the corner of Shaw Street and the drunken nasal tones of tonight's singer sound warm and intense. "Oh Flower of Scotland", sung with deep feeling, and after a short break, "Wake Up Little Suzy". This is lacking enthusiasm and the singer trails off a couple of times but picks up towards the end and reaches the last bar with a flourish. Everyone must be sozzled in there as they let him continue for a third number - "Sweeeet Ca-ro-line, da-da-da daaaah".
Two elderly gents, one wearing a baseball cap, emerge from the bar and light up at the door. They've had enough.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
No wind; so the rain seems to drop with more intensity and brings a strange warmth and cheer to the heart on a dark August day.
In the post office queue, everyone is looking quiet and glum. An elderly man beside me says, "Here, I can see from your face that you're lovin this weather."
That makes me smile and I reply, "Terrible summer eh?"
He's wearing a wee woolly hat and a rain jacket and his face is full of good humour and a bright smile. "Och well, it's great for making the grass grow. Great weather for the ducks, eh?"
I laugh along with him.
"Ye cannae let it get you down! It'll be good for something," he says.
"Suppose so." And we shrug and nod in agreement.
Under the canopy of the outdoor shops at the centre, men and women are waiting for a more intense downpour to let up a little before continuing on their way. I wait too, watching the raindrops bubble and splash in the puddles and listening to the incessant drumming above our heads.
Friday, 8 August 2008
Anyway, the view across the graving docks is worth it, and across the river to the tall ship and quaint little Partick, and further on down to a mass of buildings and bridges that aren't worth discerning. If I had the nerve, I would sit here for hours, imagining past times of industry and the teeming life that surged around these now bleak, watery chasms.
The boys have two white plastic garden chairs on the bridge by their dookit. I'd love to sit there at my leisure, but sadly, I don't think they'd welcome me. They've got the prime spot in all of Govan. Maybe I'll work up my courage one day and get pals with them. I'll just go up to them, as they sit in the sun or the chittering cold, their hoods up no matter the weather, drinking cheap wine and smoking stuff, and I'll ask if I can sit there and enjoy the grand panorama. And once we're good friends I'll tell them about the boys from the generation before mine who used to hang out by this river too. How they worked in the evenings on an old cabin cruiser they called "The Red Witch" and how they never managed to get it sea-worthy - as far as I know - but had a great time trying.
I always have an eerie feeling when I come here alone. I can't decide if it's my fear of the living, or the presence of the dead.
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
Eleven o'clock sees a steady stream of shoppers heading along Langlands Road. It's the summer holidays so there are a few fractious weans dragging along behind mums and grannies. Two young women cut out of Rosneath Street and walk alongside me for a bit. One is pushing a wheelchair with wheeltrims of bright orange. Sitting in it is a tiny little girl of 8 or 9, sickly but pretty, with lovely ringlets in her hair caught up in a ribbon.
The other woman is bleach blonde, sharp featured with a haunted look, she is speaking in a loud whine.
"Whi' d'they 'hink ah um? Sendin twin'y folk up? Whit's a tha' aboot? They mus' 'hink ah'm gonnae murder thim."
Her friend stares straight ahead, tight-lipped and nodding, pushing the little wheelchair along.
The other laughs harshly, "Aye, ah says, ah'll social work ye . . ."
Her voice harps on and fades as they pass me.
"It's awfy close, Isa," says one elderly woman to another as they meet, "Aye, we're needin' the rain."
At the entrance to the Govan Shopping Centre, one man is telling a story to a group of rough and ready types, chaps who have maybe been guests of Her Majesty at one time or another. One fella sits astride a bike and he wheels back to let me pass, tips his head and smiles. The storyteller is shouting exasperatedly, "An' how're ye suppost tae see who yer assailant is if thir's nae cameras?"
Inside the shopping centre it's a little cooler. I walk around the corner and come face to face with a young lady selling "cheaper" electricity supplies. She is dressed in a smart black trouser suit and white shirt, her long blonde hair is tied in a high ponytail and she clutches a clipboard with a pen at the ready.
"Hello mum," she greets me.
I hardly realise it's me she is addressing before she continues,
"You look as if you'd like to save yourself a few pounds!"
My eyes widen almost to the point of popping and I feel myself draw up, indignant, cheeks burning, ready to retaliate . . . but suddenly the humour of her comment hits me. I let out a scornful laugh and at the same time wonder just how forlorn I am looking today.
Saturday, 19 July 2008
The Corner Boys
When I was a wee girl and lived in a black tenement in Sunny Govaan, our kitchen window looked into Brighton St., although our close was actually in 161 Broomloan Rd.
I was born in 163 Broomloan Rd., up three storey in a one bedroom and kitchen flat with the luxury of an inside toilet. We moved to 161 Broomloan Rd. when I was seven. This new house had two bedrooms and again we were lucky enough to have an inside toilet.
We could make as much noise as we liked, as our house was exactly above a corner grocer and Jenny aw' things shop, which everyone nicknamed "Bella's".
The owners were two middle aged sisters called Kate Stirrat and Bella Low. Mrs. Stirrat, a widow, lived in Ayr while her sister, Bella, a spinster and a very matronly figure lived locally and served in the shop.
Bella was so kind, so fond of children and sweeties, always giving a sweetie free to the children who came in to do the shopping for their mothers.
When we looked out of our kitchen window onto Brighton St., we were looking at a Ginger Factory across the road from us (we referred to all fizzy drinks, no matter what the colour or flavour, as ginger). The name of the company was Cantrell and Cochrane and the building had a great wall for girls to play ball games against.
One of this building's corners was situated on Broomloan Rd. and Brighton St. and the other end was on the top corner of Neptune St. (nicknamed the Irish Channel) and Brighton St.
Every evening at these two corners there could be seen " the corner boys", boys ranging in age from early teens to very old men.
The teenagers and younger bachelors grouped together at the "Broomloan Rd. corner" while the married men and older bachelors hung about the "Neptune St. corner".
These two groups took up most of the pavement, leaving little room for pedestrians wishing to get past.
In those days folk ate their main meal at lunch time, 12 noon, and so the evening meal was what we called "our tea" at tea time, around 6 pm. This eating arrangement was suitable to the poorer working class families, in our area.
Most of the menfolk worked in the shipyards on the Clyde, and came home to relax at noon and eat a hearty meal. This, they hoped, would give them strength to go back to the hard work they still had to put in during the rest of the day.
After their tea, most men took themselves off to the pub for a wee drink, if they could afford it, and following that they would leave the Segton Bar on the opposite corner of Neptune St. and cross over to the "corner".
One must remember that there was no television in those days for entertainment and not many even owned a wireless "radio".
There were many homes in our building that had no electricity and had to rely on gas to light their homes and cook their food. The gas light was supplied through a pipe which was led up to the mantlepiece (the ornamental shelf above the fireplace) where a gas mantle was situated. Compared to an electric light it was very inferior, but was better than an oil lamp, used by many people who lived out of town in the countryside and who had no access to piped gas or electricity.
Although the old corner boys had very loud voices and were inclined to argue about everything and anything, they were never too rowdy and no fear was felt by anyone skirting past them.
In their midst there were two women who always wore their hair wrapped in turbans and clothed themselves in men's overalls, at the neck of which could be seen a collar and tie. I thought of them as mysterious beings, perhaps as disguised spies - during the war we were constantly on the outlook for spies.
The young corner boys were fewer in number and were certainly a lot calmer in their conversations. I think that they spent most of their time looking at the passing girls as we often heard wolf whistles coming from their corner. Do you remember that old song? "Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by,". . .
A few of the young corner boys fancied themselves as good singers, so now and again a crowd would gather round as the strains of a popular hit tune came from their midst. One of their number was a particularly good singer and could imitate Bing Crosby. When he sang one of Bing's big hits, a very large crowd would congregate around him, extending onto the road.
We didn't have to worry about getting knocked down by a car. You would have as much chance of seeing two blue moons in the sky as seeing a car on the road. The only person whom we ever saw in a car was the local doctor, who was a very careful driver. Only horses and carts came along and only during the day.
Friday, 11 July 2008
This afternoon is warm, though dull, and I am leaning on a wall by the pillar box at Govan Cross waiting for a friend. A girl, aged about twenty, has been dashing to and fro and I've half noticed her, but now she runs to two women standing outside the job centre. They are staff members, come outside for a break and they're chatting from time to time as they draw on their cigarettes. The girl is very upset and tearfully asks them if they have seen a wee dog.
"Ah left it tied up o'er there", and she points to a railing. Her voice is rising to panic level, so much so that one of the women puts her arm round the girl's shoulder and says firmly that she's not to worry, she will help, but the girl breaks down sobbing. She left the wee dog over there, she says, and it's just a puppy and she only got it, and she went into an interview at the job centre at ten past twelve and she just got out and now her wee dog's away.
The clock on the Pearce Institute says ten to two.
The woman is tall, tanned and slim. Her long dark hair swishes as she walks with the girl to the front door of the job centre. She is reassuring her and calls to the security man, asking if he has seen the wee dog. And it turns out that he has. A boy and a lassie just took it away, no ten minutes ago.
"Tied up at that railin'?"
He seeks confirmation that it's the right pup.
"Aye," she wails forlornly,
"No ten minutes ago," he says again, shaking his head woefully. "'E hud oan a yella jersey."
I take it he's referring to the dog thief and not the dug, bearing in mind the fashion for doggy dressing that's now in vogue.
Now the girl covers her eyes with her hands and bows her head and stands very still. She is a slight girl, with long hair in a plait and wears a flowery tunic, jeans and little flat shoes. The woman says she should call the police and report it and then she withdraws, back to finish her cigarette before returning to work.
Whilst this doggy drama unfolds before me, a couple leads a happy trio of curly dogs to the pillar box where I stand. They are docile, friendly creatures, gently wagging their tails, all from the same litter, two black and one golden.
He is a streetwise sort, in denim jacket and striped t-shirt, pair of jeans and nae messin'. She is rock star glamorous, blonde, military style jacket and boots. She lets the dogs off the leads and sends them up over the wall to roam about the raised beds of weeds, Greggs paper bags and stamped in dirt.
A girl standing close by, admires the dogs,
"Whit kin' a dogs are they?" she asks the owner, but at the reply she cocks her head and narrows her eyes, the corners of her mouth turned down.
"Is that right? Labradors?" she says disbelievingly, "Is that a labrador? Ye sure?"
"Naw," the woman repeats, "they're labradoodles, it's a cross between a labrador an' . ."
"a poodle!" the girl says, enlightened.
Thursday, 3 July 2008
The fracas has broken out at a close mouth. It's a designated gathering place for youths from twelve to twenty. Sometimes there are toty ones too, hanging around the periphery, playing with bikes and balls, watching the machinations of gang life until they are old enough or tough enough to be initiated.
The car slows down and stops, its way barred by the dancing fighters. They are pushing and pulling, grabbing and gouging, thumping fists onto jaws and battering against the body.
Reports of a knife crime epidemic abound, but here we witness a good old fashioned fist fight. All fair in love and war.
There is a lull and the boy in blue pulls away and makes off towards Rathlin Street. He has no supporters.
Now red jersey hangs back while his pals follow blue boy, walking close to him, heckling him, swearing and jeering.
A young girl, with bleached blonde hair and trendy dress, is chattering excitedly on a mobile phone. A barmaid leans against Richards' doorway, her look is impassive but her eyes methodically scan the faces and events.
At the corner of Shaw Street are a few more spectators, but no one intervenes, not even when the bunch of boys starts to push and pull the blue fighter and one slaps him across the head. Another punches him in the abdomen and the boy drops to the ground.
The original red jersey fighter joins them and now he and his comrades start kicking the blue boy lying in the road - not viciously, but with half hearted scuffs, as though it is enough that he has fallen.
He lies motionless on the smooth tarmac, curled up, protecting his head with his arms.
The doors of the Harmony Bar open and out strides a burly guy in his thirties wearing a Celtic away top of ten seasons ago. His laid back swagger exudes the confidence of one who is respected on the street. A little smile plays at his lips but he adopts a stern look as he draws nearer the incident. At his approach, most boys withdraw, back towards the close. Among them is red jersey, whose blood runs in streams from his mouth and nose. Big man stops two of the boys and puts his hands on their shoulders, talking to them quietly, leaning closely into their faces. They nod in acquiescence and walk smartly away in the opposite direction.
The injured boy on the ground clambers to his feet and takes off down the street, a little unsteadily, but with good speed.
Back at the close mouth, the gang is in a state of merry camaraderie and the humour is well good.
Monday, 30 June 2008
As long as we're enjoying ourselves, that's the main thing!
Interior of Brechin's - Cheers!