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 This sign hearkens back to the 70s, when chicken superseded fish as the chip shop gourmet's supper of choice.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.