Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Fires In The Fall

First I hear of the fire is a text from London asking if we've seen it. The Co-op Funeral building in Morrison Street is ablaze.  
From the dry docks at Stag Street a vibrant hot orange glow is menacing the Glasgow skyline. Black smoke billows up and drifts over the city, and from time to time there is a vicious burst of flames leaping up in a towering inferno. BBC says over 100 feet in the air. Sad about the building but Glasgow's firemen do a great job containing it. A busy month.
Sing a song of seasons! Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer. Fires in the fall! 
Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Scheme

Here’s a laugh. So, today I am in the queue at the Govan Cross Post Office – where a laugh is often to be had – and there’s young Paul in front of me. In his early twenties, he’s handsome, but sullen and looks ruthless – you wouldn’t want to mess with him. Not the type to hit old ladies or anything, but if you were his age group, you’d be wary. He's dressed smartly in navy joggers, pale grey hoodie.

Behind me are a couple of folks chatting and then in comes a right pair. Chas and Davy, again in their twenties, trackies and trainers, one with the slash mark from mouth to ear, but very chirpy and having a bit of a set-to about a lie one had told the other.

Paul catches one’s eye and nods, unsmiling. They greet him and begin to pull him into their conversation, chawsing each other until he begins to grin and agrees with one.
Someone mentions something about a scheme and that’s Davy off, ranting about that programme on the BBC called “The Scheme”.
“Where wiz that place?” asks Chas.
“Some teuchter dump,” says Davy, “Bunch a neds. Pure out a order man, gies Glasgow a bad name n that.”
“Wisnae in Glasgow,” says Chas.
“Aye,” agrees Paul, becoming quite animated, “they wur bang out a order, stuff they wur daein’. See the state a that guy. Whit wizis name?”
“Em, em, whit wizit? Eh, Marvin.”
“Aye, Marvin,” they all say and join together in a rendition of “Happy as Larry. Could not be happier.”
“See him, shouldnae huv hud a dug, shouldnae a been allowed a dug.”
“Aye, yer right,” Davy says. “See the programme makers, they went n got the dug a new hame doon in England.”
“Aye, Bullet, that wiz its name.”
“Bunch a neds,” Paul says again before getting called up to the counter.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Darkness Deepens

Fog has crept in overnight and Govan awakes to a dark morning of swirling vapours. And so it remains all day as the clock advances to noon when the mists grow whiter and then gradually darken deeper and deeper till night falls.
At teatime, business is brisk at the take-away food emporia along the Govan Road with people dashing in and out for their evening meal. In homes, pots are bubbling, ovens roasting and microwaves humming as cooks prepare dinner.
All at once every light on the southside switches off and we are plunged into instant darkness. For a moment there is silence, and then a shuffling and murmuring as attempts are made to check the electricity.
Outside on the streets all is quiet too until sounds of voices can be heard calling out through the gloom.
"Whit happened?"
"It's the electric - who didnae pay the bill"
Loud laughing, a whoop, a scream.
Silence again.
As your eyes adjust, faint shapes of people can be seen holding aloft little squares of light - the display panels of mobile phones.
In tenement windows flickering candles and flashing torchlight cast an eerie glow.
On the street, a woman glides along like a ghost, a burning candle on an ornate brass candlestick in her hand.

An hour or more passes before the cheery lamps are restored and delayed dinner is eaten and we catch up with the evening news and how the world has been doing since we dropped out of it for a little while.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Bonfire Night Re-instated

The winter sun sets and the moon rises over Govan. There's a bite in the air as we head out through the streets to see what's goin down in the hood. At Orkney Street the firestation's lit up like a Christmas tree and the big doors are open, revealing firemen swaggering about, sorting all their equipment as they await the call to battle.
We walk briskly along paths, criss-crossing, once crowded with tenements, now lying quiet in the darkness. Brighton Street, Neptune Street, Briton Street, Dunsmuir Street, up and down we go, feeling the chill on our faces, twisting round to see rockets exploding high above us. We are passing new housing, building sites, old tenement buildings, Govan Bowling Club, a school ancient and a school modern, and ground laid to waste. Now on to the grassy field which once was the back courts of Burndyke Street and the Govan Press printing works and the Chinese Seamen's Mission.

Sparklers are twinkling in the darkness and now and again a ground-based firework fizzes up and fizzles out. A dad's voice comes over the backs of Southcroft Street, highly nervous and charged with fear. "Don't move wi' that. Don't go near that. Keep away. Keep back. What have I told you. Will ye keep that still. Do you not know how dangerous these things are!"
Down the field a bit, a firework goes zipping sidieways and slams bang into some kind of structure. What is that, we wonder?
And then another rocket goes off and throws a pyramid of wood into light relief. Yes, it's real. A bonfire of some magnitude, amazingly constructed in the last twelve hours by wood gathered from who knows where!
It's set alight and catches beautifully, golden flames sweeping up to lick the sky.
We chat with a couple of fellas about how the wee lads' wood got snatched away and how industrious they've been in building it back again over the last 12 hours. Resilient, no stopping them in the face of adversity.
His lordship's got his fancy camera at the ready. "Nice gear you got there mate," says one sly man on the fringes of the fire. But that's as far as it goes. Just snap away and feel the heat on your face and the chill of the night at your back.
Fires are greedy and this beauty is fed throughout the evening by a committed band of wee boys who come and go with planks and great big sheets of wood. Where's it coming from? Plantation maybe?
So, here you go, enjoy this pictorial record of the spirit of Govan. Unquenchable.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Disaster At The Eleventh Hour

Friday, the 4th of November. One day to Guy Fawkes and while the children are at school, someone has reported the stash of wood, carefully gathered and stored in the middens of Southcroft Street over the past couple of weeks, in readiness for tomorrow night's bonfire.
Two (2), yes, two lorries have been sent by the cooncil and 5 or 6 men are loading up the planks, doors, sheets, logs, timber of all types, stripping this prime site of the fuel required for fireworks night.
Bonfire Night ruined again. How absolutely depressing. All the hard work and industry of the youngsters is snatched away at the eleventh hour.