Thursday, 24 December 2009

Gloria, In Excelsis Deo

It's Christmas Eve and snow covered St. Anthony's looks very seasonal. Good place to get some of the Christmas spirit I decide and make a call to the 445 number to find out when the evening services are on. A warm Irish voice answers the telephone. He tells me there will be one at 9 o'clock and says "God bless you," before we hang up.

Just about 9pm, I step gingerly along the pavement, treacherous with ice - absolutely perishing. I follow a few people in the side door and enter the back of the chapel and take a seat on the back row, inside the chapel proper. "Angels We Have Heard On High" is being sung by the same voice I heard on Ash Wednesday, raw and untrained but with a lot of feeling.
On our left is a glass-partitioned-off chapel with more worshippers in it, including a large Indian family. Interestin'.

A bell rings and the singer starts on "The First Nowell". Yes, ah'm thinkin', this is dead Christmassy - a wee bit of what you're always on the lookout for in the mad run-up to this day. We've all to join in but I've no book and there's one lying on the pew near a woman along from me, so I scoot over to ask if I can use it, but she says no, this is her own copy. She's a wee dumpy lady with fairish curls and specs and cheerily she tells me to get one from the vestibule behind us. "This is mines," she whispers a couple of times, "Ma own copy." Thanks I nod and go out the back and ask a man for a hymn book which he gives me from a stack and then I see another pile of Mass Books, so I take one of them too. Nip back in and sit down just in time for a procession entering on the side aisle from the front, up to the back and down the middle aisle.

First are the Altar Boys, dressed in the white surplices, the first one being a tall Indian boy -you know, hindoo style. Then a wee lassie in her good coat and white shoes carrying a baby doll in swaddling claes. Next are the Priests, one of whom carries a very large Bible aloft, high above his head for all to gaze upon.
At the front of the chapel is a manger scene, and now the wee girl places the baby in the crib and steps back. The Priests stand on the raised area at the front and incense is swung and more candles are lit and a call is issued to bring to mind our sins.

A different lady stands at the lectern to sing, "Lord Have Mercy" and a "Glory to God in the Highest", her voice reedy and wee bit flat. Nice though.

I reckon there are about 120 worshippers tonight and then more in the side chapel behind the glass screen, which is maybe where - as a non-Catholic - I shoulda been? A glamorous blonde joins me in the pew, at times carefully turning her hymnbook pages with long varnished nails and at times bowing her head in meek devotion.
In front of me is a family of ma, da and grampa with a restless teenage boy wearing a black bomber jacket with a circular stamp which reads in green, "Celtic FC. Est. 1888".
A man enters and kneels reverently before the statue of Christ on the cross and then takes his seat.

There are three Priests tonight and each takes a turn to speak - all are Irish, soft southern style.
"Do not be afraid of honouring Mary," says the first, "for anything you do to honour Mary goes straight to the heart of her Son." And then something about the Immaculate Conception and how we celebrated it on December eighth and this was imp-aw-tant. He draws out the vowels long and slow and goes on, "It is imp-aaw-tant to remember that he was saved from 'original sin' and all its effects. She gives us the sacred essence. Him whom the heavens cannot contain was contained in the womb of one woman. She gave her body and Jesus gives to us His body, to eat and drink throughout our lives."

Behind him is a Christmas tree, lit with warm blood-red lights and above him is the beautiful domed ceiling of azure blue and above me is the dark wooden roof and the crucified Christ looking down in sorrow. The congregation sits attentively, eyes straight ahead, well schooled in the art of reverence.

The Priest goes on, beseechingly, "Will you consent this Christmas, to allow Him to be born in your heart? His heart and your heart will burn with Eucharistic passion and Jesus will be born again."

Various men walk swiftly through the church, passing little sacks for the offering. The curly haired lady along from me is careful that all in our row get included and leans backwards and forwards to see that everybody gets a chance to contribute.
During this time, two women, one of them a nun, go up and stand near the lectern with a young man that looks very tanned for the winter.
Now, a big heavy-built woman and her teenage daughter in an anorak, walk the full length of the middle aisle and the collection men follow, advancing from the rear of the nave to before the steps where they set down the offerings, bow and recess.
A good loud "Hosanna" from the singer, with a strong last note.

The Priest holds his hands above the Sacrament. A bell rings and an altar boy swings the incense holder. I'm too far back to see things clearly, but the two women at the lectern seem to come forward to get the wafer and wine and return to their pew. Now the rest of the congregation filters forward and receive it also, many taking a moment to bow before the statues and make the sign of the cross before returning to their seats. "Silent Night" is sung and another collection is taken thereafter.

One of the Priests addresses us in his lilting tone, quite hypnotic. "We have a community here." Yes, I am thinking, yes, we do. Even though it's only the second time I've been inside. "May happiness and peace fill your Christmas." And then his voice turns more chatty and natural. "At half past five it was so busy here - they were hanging from the rafters, and really, we didn't think there would be many tonight, due to the weather and all. Sooo, thank you all for coming." And the music begins again, a suitable Christmas hymn and the altar party processes again, right out to the front door where they shake hands with all as they leave. "God bless you," they say. "Have a joyous Christmas,"they say.

And we tumble out into the sharp, freezing air.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

It's Snowing!!!

Up the town, snow starts to fall in the afternoon and by the time I reach our dear old home on the southern banks of the Clyde, everything is covered in wonderful, white, fluffy, cold and gentle snow.
One pal sneaks round to the back door of Brechin's with a snowball in hand, ready to whack the first smoker to take a step outside. But when the first guy emerges, she loses courage and dissolves in laughter instead.

It's late in the day, so not much left in the window of Watson's.

The vicious wee devils of Shaw Street engage in a menacing snowball fight. And I mean fight.

It's gonny be a magical Govan Christmas, Two Thousand and Nine.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Watson's Festive Fare

Always a cheery welcome at Watsons from the two ladies who have selt the cakes, pies and scones as long as I can remember.
Today, funnily enough, one says to the other as she puts a half dozen rolls in a poke,
"How long you been here?" and the other lady replies, "I don't know . . . it'll be twenty odd years?" and the first lady has a right laugh and says, "No, I mean . . . what time did you start the day?" and everybody joins in laughing while the other says,
"Och, I was in first thing . . . right enough, it feels like twenty odd years."

Delicious home baking all ready to buy at very fair prices.

Plenty of red and green festive colours

"Gie's wan a' thaym wi the cream," says this customer.
"Right ye's are, who's next?"

This little delicacy is something new for Christmas 2009. Set on a crisp bed of golden biscuit is a chocolatey digestive truffle, cochineal coloured and richly flavoured, with overflowing soft but firm fondant icing and a smart wee holly sprig on top with red berry. A new favourite for the tea table this Christmas.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Putting The Tree Up

Just passing at an opportune moment as the Council puts the tree up at Govan Cross. The crane sets it down in a big wooden box. I heard this morning that there's a world shortage of Christmas trees, so it's great that we got one here - even if it's a kind of wee one.
And across in Burleigh Street there's a dazzling array of
Christmas decorations to bring
festive cheer to any winter hearth.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Multi-Storey Stories

Buildings are springing up all over Govan as part of the "regeneration". I snap a pic of the multi-storey on the site of the Post Office in Pearce Lane. Is it for asylum seekers? So, I've heard, but who the devil knows.
And then this big white cage thing tacked onto the potted heid bank. It's goin to be luxurious apartments. Whatever.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Cosmo Chippie

The night is dank and drear, it's cold and I'm hungry. The Cosmo's sign shines out on the Govan Road like a beacon of hope to the weary traveller. This sign hearkens back to the 70s, when chicken superseded fish as the chip shop gourmet's supper of choice. We weren't allowed a chicken supper, weren't even allowed a fish to yourself. Too dear. But who cares, I'd rather have had a pie anyway and just a bag of chips and two pickles is all you need - especially on a night like this.

The window is packed with signs to tempt you inside. "Freshly Made Fish" and "Chicken On A Stick Done In Batter". All the traditional fare with a few modern concoctions of Hugo's own and jars of pickles, both silverskin and gherkins, a-plenty.

"Hello there" says Hugo, emerging from the back to deal with the last golden fry. "I'm just-a finishing up now and get up the road."
The Cosmo shuts at half seven every evening, well, what's the point of staying open any longer than that?
"Aye," he continues, "The street's dead since the Lyceum closes. Look at Geraldo's too - it's a beauty place now, eh - OK when the bingo was even still there, but gradually everythin' just disappear. How's your uncle these days? Great escape away to the sun eh. Just waitin for chips."
"Many years you been here now Hugo? Can I take your picture for the record?"
"Forty-eight, that is. Oh no, I'm no ready for a photo", but then he kindly agrees. "Aye, people say when am goin' to retire, but what would I do - just sit in the house? Naw. So, I do the lunch and then tea till half seven. It's enough."

Enough and more. Grazie Signor Franchi for providing sustenance to Govanites for almost half a century. Lang May Yer Lum Reek.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Tillie Tells a Tale of Evacuation

Wee Tillie
"Tell me all about the war and what they fought each other for", is a couplet my granny oft repeated when pestered for a story. So, in the month of November, when we remember our war dead, let's listen in to one of Tillie's interesting tales of wartime in Govan.
I was very young at the start of the war - just three when it began and about nine when it ended, I can remember quite a lot of things though. I lived at 163 Broomloan Rd, and when I was four, myself and John, the wee boy who lived downstairs on the first floor, were going to be evacuated to the country, where we would hopefully be kept safe from the German bombers.
At that point everyone was in a panic, due to the fact that we lived almost on the banks of the Clyde - a prime target for the Germans to bomb due to the war effort in the shipyards of Govan; Harland and Wolff, Fairfields and Stephens.

I was all ready to go with my wee suitcase packed. No time for tears - I didn't have any as I didn't realise that my mother was not going with me.
The buses were waiting at the top of Neptune St to transport us to wherever we had been assigned when, just at the very last minute as my wee label was pinned onto my coat, it all became too real for my mother. She suddenly decided she couldn't go through with it and ran downstairs to her neighbour's house to say she'd changed her mind. There she found Mrs L. in floods of tears, busily trying to disentangle the label from John’s coat.

My mother and my granny then decided to evacuate themselves. I don't know how they went about arranging it, but somehow or other we moved to a place called Barkip in Ayrshire and stayed in a rented cottage there for about six months. Every weekend my daddy and my grandpa who both worked in the shipyard, Harland and Wolff, came down to visit us and would stay until the Sunday night. They would then travel home - I think on the train - to get a good night's sleep before starting back at their work on Monday morning.
I remember Barkip as an idyllic paradise, with lovely scenery and lots of sunshine. It was a bit of a change from the tarmacadam streets, disused wash houses and dirty back courts filled with broken glass where I normally played.

We used to go for picnics to a place everyone called “The Den.” The local people were very friendly to us, “The Evacuees from Glasgow”. A jolly time was had by all, ball games played, delicious picnics eaten, and walks taken through leafy lanes, while all the older folks blethered to their hearts content.
The children of the family we lodged with were Myra and Clifford and they usually accompanied us when we went out and would lead us to favourite places which we would never have discovered otherwise. They were older than me and both extremely kind. When I was tired of walking they used to cross their arms and join hands, making what we called a basket. They'd kneel down so I could sit on the basket and put my arms round each of their necks and then they’d walk along carrying me, the wee lassie, like a queen.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Bonfire Builders

The morning of the fifth of November dawns to the sound of pelting rain. It is dreich and dark with no sign of the gloom lifting. But as often happens in the west of Scotland, the sky begins to lighten and cloud rolls back as the day goes on and by four o'clock the young wans are busy dragging combustible material to the site at Shaw Street/Golspie Street.

The base of the bonfire is mattresses piled four high. Bedsteads, kitchen chairs, a fireside surround - appropriately, planks of wid, the side of a cot, a coupla foam cushions lie in a stack, waiting to be carefully positioned.One young firebug is taking this seriously and barking out instructions to the others, imparting his expert knowledge on the formation of an effective fire.
"Yiv goat tae get a firm foundation, right. They mattresses'll dae. Stack thim up n we'll pit things on tap."
Some other boys cross over the road and sit on a fence to watch. They do a power of laughing and jeering, but the firebuilders continue undeterred.

Fire, Fire, Burning Bright

Nightfall, and although the ground is sodden underfoot, it's a cold dry night and pleasant to watch the lighting of this hastily erected bonfire, now trimmed with wooden doors. Paraffin and petrol is applied and after a slow crackle, the whole thing goes whooooosh.

There's plenty of kindling, a variety of planks and furniture of sorts to throw on the fiery furnace. A tall boy, dressed in blue tracksuit with matching baseball cap has taken charge. He wrests the wood from the younger boys and chucks it vigorously onto the flames. Then he batters into the fire with a big stick. Now he picks up boulders and whams them against the doors. After this prolonged and violent attack, he aims a kick at a flaming brand, turns away and disappears into the darkness.

Guy Fawkes Fireworks

There's a rare heat at the fire tonight, but you have to watch where you stand as there are fireworks being set off on all sides.
A very thin mum dressed in a white coat arranges her box of fireworks in a ring and then lights them one by one, leaning over the lit ones to reach the others and picking up fizzing fireworks to dig them deeper into the ground when they fall over.

The spare grun isn't as cosy as the Rathlin Street site of 2008, but offers a grand view to the tenement residents of Shaw Street. But we have a rare view too, as from where we are standing we can actually watch 'Reporting Scotland' on the massive plasma screen tele stuck up on the back wall of the living room of a flat on the first floor. The blazing bonfire is magically reflected in a ground floor window.

Sweeties of all sorts and lemonade are enjoyed at the bonfire blitz. A pall of sweet scented smoke hangs in the air. The high backcourt affords a panoramic view of the proceedings and allows the young blades up there an excellent position from which to chuck missiles.
A meteor shower over Govan. Special thanks to tonight's Chinese Pyrotechnic Master and Restaurateur at Kungfu Takeaway in Shaw Street, for providing an amazing array of fireworks. Must be direct from Beijing cos they are well beyond the usual level of dynamite available here.

Bye Bye Guy

"Govan Guy Fawkes Photo Award 2009".
Thanks Berd
The fireworks are amazing, whizzing, screaming and banging all over the sky. All are agreed that the best is when one shoots off sidey-ways onto the road. A car stops, waits while it zips about the road and then drives over it. Ha! The Police are right behind in a big van and do a menacing U-turn and appear on Shaw Street. True to form, they just sit there for a minute and drive away.
The Chinese fireworks are so amazing that when somebody comes along with a Standard Firework rocket, one boy shouts, "That wiz gay," as it pops in a puff of stars which fall lightly to the grun.

Night night Guy Fawkes. With all the building going on in Govan, where will you be next year? I'm a bit worried.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Where Have All the Bonfires Gone?

Guy Fawkes preparations are as dismal as a damp squib.

The fancification of Govan has a part to play in this. Previous years have seen early bonfires built and burnt again and again before we even reached the Fifth but now we have naff flats going up in Rathlin Street, site of last year's celebrations and there are too many interfering construction and council persons roaming about to start the building too early.

from Shaw Street across the wasteland where warehouses, recently demolished, once stood. It was in one of these - was it called Hooper's? - that I wrote my first cheque, ably prompted by the man at the sales desk. click to enlarge photos

One hopeful sign is the sight of an armchair on the Shaw/Golspie Street spare grun.

Down at Brighton Street/Summertown Road end, the houses have been mercilessly demolished leaving waste ground galore. But no towering infernos-to-be have appeared. Wonder why? Oh, yeah . . . there's nobody left to build them. hmm.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Rest Easy

The dear green place will be homes for "older people". Approved, sez me.

Now, what about the high flats going up in the space that was the Post Office? Word is that it's a multi-storey block for asylum seekers.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Warlocks, Witches & Watsons

A warlock gets his messages from the Govan Market on Hallowe'en, engaging fellow shoppers in chat about quality of fruit and veg and of course, price.
"Away on yer broomstick an get some aff the trees in Spain if ye're no happy." That's him telt.

In Shaw Street, Watsons Bakery has a bewitching display of Hallowe'en cakes. The big cake is covered with soft fondant icing and filled with melt-in-yer-mouth cream. The wee cakes have skull rings set into them.

A witch gets into the spirit of Hallowe'en, devouring a jammy Empire Biscuit in Hallowe'en colours. Yum.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Fire Enquiries

Sperr grun where newly demolished warehouses stood in Shaw Street
Shooting down Shaw Street in the wee car, the young tiny govan team is spotted, sauntering along at dusk.
I stop to enquire where the Guy Fawkes festivities are to be held this year, as Rathlin Street is now a work in progress of tacky modern flats.
"Don't know," says a few, shrugging shoulders.
"How? You comin?" asks a tall fair boy.
"Uh-huh, but where is it?"

A dark owl-like boy thinks on his feet and chips in, in a squeaky voice, "Up therr, at the sperr grun'" and he points back to where the warehouses have recently been demolished and cleared.
"Aye, the bonfire's therr!" a bunch of them shout enthusiastically.
"Young Govan Team!" shouts one, for no apparent reason.
"Mebbe it'll be your motor," jeers the tall boy again, with a wide grin.
"Ha - ye can have it!" says I, speeding off before they take me up on the offer.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Thank You Mrs Elder, It's Beautiful

It's a beautiful combination, warm sun in a bright blue sky illuminating a riot of reds and golds through crispy autumn leaves, the tranquility of the verdant parkland, the glassy surface of the Elder Park pond, disturbed only by two swans a-swimming.

I stroll round the water, and recall a newspaper pic of two of my pals who went out in a boat here once, decades ago, and it capsized and they had to be fished out. The photo was of them sitting all huddery and frowning under towels like a pair of drowned rats. Ha! How funny - just remembered that picture, though I always remember the day they went down when I come in here. Same as I always remember being at the park one dinnertime with my ma and the siblings and my da playing football with his workmates, and him losing the door key out his pocket and us all having to crawl along the grass in a line, examining every square inch till they were recovered. Which they were, incidentally.

Beautiful day, beautiful park, beautiful Govan.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Govan's Lost Wilderness

Around this time one year ago, I wrote of the 'dear green place' that had sprung up off Water Row.

"We are on the cusp of autumn, but today is decidedly summer" I wrote, waxing lyrical. "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".
Today is a day pretty much like the one I described back then, but now, the dear green is going, ploughed up by a digger, rubble piled high and ground scraped right down through a few generations of dirt.
It used to have Jack's Bakery, it used to have a close, it used to have a post sorting office, it used to have trams running over it, it used to have a shipyard, it used to have wee cottages and inns. The dear green place - which was only that for a season - now enters its next incarnation.

Glad they're keeping the cobblestones safe.

Friday, 11 September 2009

On the Riverbank

And so we bask in a glorious Indian Summer.

Me and his lordship promenade by the riverside; the early evening sun in the warm cloudy sky is still radiating heat and casting rays that shimmer on the surface of the chocolate coloured Clyde.
We hang over the railings, watching the river roll on by. It's pretty empty, my companion observes, not like the Thames, which has many a boat chugging over it.

Across on the other bank, the pinnacles of the new Museum of Transport rise high.

I defend Glasgow's neglect of the watter, telling him, yeah, well, it's gonny get a lot busier when the ferry's back on taking us over to the museum. Just at that, a speedy wee dinghy zooms up towards the city, skiffing the surface. See.

A small group of 'thirty-something' ladies pass us by and take up a spot on the grassy embankment. They are each laden with bottles-a-plenty and once settled begin screwing off lids and popping corks for a late summer soiree.
A big boattlaIrn-Bru explodes with a fizzing, foaming and hissing. The lady puts it firmly on the ground, holding it by the neck and slowly tightening the lid again.
"It's phe - no - men - al. Get - bi - zzzzy with the fi -zzzzy" she gurgles, mixing her drinks advertisements.
We continue our walk, passing through the urban landscape, trees and shrubbery in full leaf, the grass a vibrant green, the white pebbledash houses and flats sitting prettily inbetween. Got to be the best spot in the whole of Glasgow to live.
At the party, a couple of the ladies are really getting down to business mixing cocktails. An African girl, tangly hair highlighted with silver, introduces the rest to a new and exotic recipe, as she pours liquids from one bottle to another and shakes them vigorously.
All are lively, laughing and joking, except one, who is sitting on the wall applying a roll-on deodorant under her oxters.
"Aye, ye've jist got t' deal wi' it when ye get t' ma age" she says resignedly to her pal who nods absently, awaiting her turn to slug from the bottle.