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.