Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Monday, 24 November 2008


In the queue at Greggs at Govan Cross, it falls to the turn of the man in front of me. He has sparse dark hair and a little moustache and wears a navy rain jacket.
“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.

Behind me two wifies are talking over the challenges of helping your grown-up children financially. "It's not that I mind givin it, it's just tryin to get it back aff them that causes the problems."
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."
The Lone Ranger turns to look at us with pale, watery eyes and a blank, hangdog expression. Stick with it Cowboy! It beats the bunnet and old winter jaiket.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Not a Bad Boy

He looks as though he is going to stop me and then thinks twice and goes on and then he does stop, probably because I hesitate when I think he is going to stop me. He's the kind of boy you wouldn't want to be stopped by, but it's only half ten in the morning and at the corner of busy Burleigh Street, so you kind of feel safe enough.

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

Their Name Liveth Forever

At eleven o'clock in the morning on the eleventh of November, a klaxon sounds from the shipyards calling us to a two minute remembrance of the war dead.
At the war memorial, outside the gates of Govan Old, I stand silent.
Carved in marble are the names of the battlefields, Ypres, Somme, Mons. . . A copper plaque states that the monument was "Erected In Memory of the Men of Govan Who Fell In the Great War 1914-1918". Encircled above are Kipling's words, "Their Name Liveth Forever".

I pause and reflect on how true that is, and then sounds the mournful blast of the shipyard horn signalling our return to daily life, 2008.

But I wait a little longer, for again I am conscious of the strong connection between past and present that fills the still, grey green air. Govan can be a time machine for the soul.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

At the Going Down of the Sun, and In the Morning, We Will Remember Them

In Memory of Private JOHN FERNIE
10075, 1st Bn., Scots Guards
who died age 33
on 04 March 1915

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.

A Christmas card sent from John to his daughter Mary in 1914. The inscription reads:
"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

Fire Frenzy

A lovely big easy chair goes up like a light!

Three piece suite burns a treat!

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.

A queue of beds and mattresses will keep the fire going!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Govan Guy Fawkes

Always remember the fifth of November! Light up the sky with Standard Fireworks . . .
A good blaze with the added excitement of fizzling Roman Candles
and a rocket or two whooshing through the night.

A Da introduces his boy to the wonders of gunpowder. Just light the blue fusepaper wi a match and stand by.

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

Guy Fawkes, c'moan then, you'n'me, ootside!

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.

By half eight the crazy mob are on the street, launching rockets out of canisters carried over their shoulders like bazookas. You could be in Afghanistan! Time to make a sharp exit.

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Please to remember the fifth of November . . . it's dry and cold today with some cloud cover, but little chance of rain. All is well with the central Govan bonfire, in fact, it has now got a big carpet over it. At east Govan, a sizeable bonfire of pallets has been erected on waste ground in Woodville Street rather than on the more open field at Summertown Road.
The murky day draws to a close and a smirr of rain falls over us and fizzles out.
At the stroke of six, lighter fuel and petrol is generously lashed inside and out of Rathlin Street's illustrious bonfire and an orange glow warms the darkness and a flame springs to life, and now another and another till the flames flicker and catch in a merry dance. Sounds of crackling wood snap in the air and we stand mesmerised as the fire takes hold and burns fiercely.
Mums and children are here, lighting sparklers and tracing patterns in the air. Quite a few babies in prams and toddlers who are either whooping with excitement at the loud bangs and flashes, or very afraid and hiding at mammy's knees.
The central planks of the bonfire collapse, the flames burn more brightly and occasionally beautiful hues of green and blue gleam and die.
Uncle arrives with a big box of fireworks laid in the tray underneath his baby's pram. He sets them alight with a match and up they whizz, exploding with noisy ricochets, bangs and crackling in the night sky.
Every point of the Firework Code is breached here tonight, times a hundred.
Kids light fireworks, fireworks are returned to after lighting when they don't go off immediately - necessitating a hasty retreat, dogs are brought for walks to see the fireworks.
This is what Guy Fawkes is all about; mayhem on a grand scale! Yee hah!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Bonfires . . . making good progress

Overnight, the Rathlin Street bonfire has taken on mega proportions and is a text book example of how a bonfire should be built, with three piece suite firmly placed inside. And it's a cheap one, so will be extra flammable!
Canny wait . . . also, the Pakistani shop at Govan Cross is selling fireworks Buy One Get One Free!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Bonfire Report

This morning Govan awakes to clear skies and thick white frost. In the bright sunshine, the ice melts away and the world is sparkling and very cold. On the bonfire site at Rathlin Street, a couple of couches and a chair have been donated to the bonfire effort, which was impulsively burned down before its time.
Over at Summertown Road, it's evident that the bonfire builders have learned from a very harsh punishment perpetrated by Glasgow cooncil in 2007. A magnificent bonfire of gigantic proportions had been erected and stood in the middle of the field ready to leap into flames at the first sign of a match. However, early in the morning of the 5th of November, the council sent their men to dismantle this amazing feat of engineering. Undaunted, the warriors of East Govan built it up as soon as night fell and celebrated the thwarting of Purcell's men far into the night. This year, they are holding back, waiting till the last possible moment before building up Towering Inferno 2008.