Thursday, 24 April 2008

State of Harmony?

I'm trying to make up my mind between fake tan for 'fair to medium' skin or 'medium to dark' skin when the door of the Harmony Row Pharmacy bursts open and a woman in denim barrells in at speed. She is talking very loudly to all within earshot.
"Wait till ye hear whit he done this mornin' . . yes'll never believe this wan . . . wait till ye hear it."
It comes over as a state of false frenzy, like when you're telling lies to someone you're frightened of and you start talking in a crazy voice at high speed.
The assistant stands at the counter and gazes at her blankly.

"See him," the customer continues, "'E's pyoor schoopit so 'e is. He jumps up at hauf five this mornin an 'es like, 'hurry up an get up. Wur gonny miss wur meth', an ah'm trying tae stagger oot ma bed an then ah looks oot an' it's still dark an' ah'm like, it's the middle i the night you. Shut up an' he's like . . "
She breaks off as a pharmacist comes from the back shop and goes into a little booth at the end of the counter. It's a white screen and the woman goes behind it and I suppose this is the point where she is given her dose of methadone for the day.
Then she starts talking again.

"Sorry aboot that, sorry fur bein' late . . it was his fault. Eedjit. 'E was hauf cut las' night. Nae wunner, 'e wis pyoor hauf cut . . 'e's oot therr wi the dugs the noo. 'E'll be in in a minute. You shoulda seen'm". She starts laughing raucously, "'E wis even puttin oan ma shorts this mornin'. it wis a pyoor panic."
The pharmacist laughs a bit and this encourages the woman,
"Aye," she starts telling all the shop as she emerges from behind the screen, "Ye shoulda seen'm, hid ma shorts oan. Ah better go an' get'm and ah'll take the dugs."
I look out through the glass door and see the man holding two chunky wee dogs. He's impatient and scowling and when he passes the leads to her, they get fankled round her legs.

In the meantime a short queue has formed for the methadone booth and when she leaves a young man goes in. A tall man of about 40 waits, head bent, downcast and weary.
This distraction isn't helping me to make up my mind, but now I set to thinking and choose 'fair to medium', as it's still cold and rainy outside and it might look strange if I suddenly turn a dark shade of brown.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Railway Sleepers

I get on the subway at Buchanan St. and look at my preferred seat, which is the short bench at the end of the carriage. There's a man lying down along it and he's got a small boy, a toddler, lying on top of him. They both seem to be asleep, well, not sure about the man but the child definitely is. On the floor is an open can of ginger and a plastic tesco bag and sweetie papers scattered around. Two old women sit across from him and seem to be looking at him benevolently - probably because of the child element.

A woman gets on at the same time as me and sits in the seat opposite, opening her eyes wide and smiling in a sort of disbelief. She shakes her head slightly and I nod in agreement.
"Check that." she says, and I reply, "Yeah, make yourself at home."
We look over at him again and as the train pulls out of the station she says, "How will he know when he gets to his stop?"
I shrug and suggest he's just lying there going round and round the subway circuit. If he doesn't get off at Govan, then that is what he's doing, cos that's as far as you'd go without being quicker going on the other circle.

At Partick, the old ladies are getting off and one of them leans over and says,
"That's us at Partick, son."
He opens his eyes and grunts something at her and then puts his hand down into the plastic bag. He brings out a packet of fruit pastilles, tears down the wrapper, throwing paper over the floor and shoves a couple in his mouth.

My friend opposite looks astonished and is laughing a bit and I am too but I am also annoyed at this dirty article.
"Hope he's going to pick his rubbish up," I say, "Why don't we get him chucked off the train?" but of course, we're not going to cos this is the modern world and we're not getting involved.
"Some people are really strange." she says, "What's he doing?"
I roll my eyes and she shakes her head again and we both laugh.

Along the row from her, sits a man who catches my eye. Well, his rings are what catch my eye first. On both hands he wears large gold sovereign rings and what I would call 'knuckle dusters'. Yes, both hands, on every finger. He is 50-ish and wears a black shirt, black trousers and a black leather waistcoat. A black cap covers his greying hair and at his feet lies a black holdall. He's got a wild west look about him, probably due to his long moustache. My interest is now taken up by this new character who is more interesting than a sleeping man and child, who, after all, are just sleeping.

He gets off at Govan and as we stand on the escalator, I wonder if the holdall contains a sawn off shotgun. He strides off into the scheme at Napier Place and I watch till I can see him no more.

The sleepers stay on and continue their journey hurtling through the dark underground tunnels of the Glasgow Subway.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Evening Errand

I spot cousin Ned passing the bank at Water Row on a sunny evening at the start of April. The weather has been mild and the trees and shrubbery of Govan are greeningover.
We hail each other from a distance and meet at the old public lavatories, now sunk in a slash of concrete slabs. He's in no rush and I am heading up the Govan Road, so we saunter along together.

I make a stop at the PO in the Govan shopping centre and then round the bend to the Co-op. This big empty supermarket is about to close but the staff are good humoured and don't mind me running in at the last minute. Maybe they're glad to see a customer. I hardly ever go there and I don't think many other people do either.

Back out in the sunshine, we pass the priests' house. It's a nice building; honey coloured stone but closed looking. I don't recall ever seeing anyone come in or out of it. Maybe they have a secret entrance from inside the chapel. That'll be it. A secret underground passage, I think.

At the top of Shaw Street, Dino's chippie is busy. There's a queue outside the door and so there should be as it's nigh 6 o'clock.
Two wee boys cycle up the middle of the road and throw down their bikes. One has a puncture and the older of the two is going to fix it. He's all business, taking charge and setting the bike upside down with purpose and determination.
"Haw you! Ge'aff the middle i the road! Whit ur ye daein'?" yells a voice. A young girl of about 15 is pushing a pram up the street behind them. The boy looks round and then ignores her. The pram is a light flimsy pushchair, battered and broken. A tiny one year old sits in it with a dummy in her mouth. A scruffy dog runs alongside and barks at the boy who is spinning the bike wheel and nodding his head knowingly.
"C'mere you. Ah need ye 'e haud this pram". The boy doesn't look at her and she ties the dog onto the pram and leaves it at the chip shop door. "Haud that pram, Tegan" she says and then I see another small being running helter skelter from behind the dog. This one's only about 3 and falls down on her hands and knees before getting up and taking her place at the pram handle.

A man and woman are trying to find a house number in Shaw Street. They are narcotic dependent and are finding it hard to cope with the challenge. He is doing better than she is and tries to calm her down. "Naw," a man tells them as he comes out of Dino's with a bag of chips, "It's at the other end-a the street." But they still try every close on their way. She is staggering and he is staggering and I suppose they are holding each other up as the sun begins to set on Shaw Street.