Monday, 31 December 2012

A Prosperous New Year

After a night of wild winds and heavy rain, the weather disappoints this Hogmanay. I'm looking for the dramatic; thunder and lightning or rain crashing down in torrents. Actually, my preference would be mirk, a fog slipping in from the Clyde, dreich, gloomy skies and a deathly chill at the end of the old year. Anything to induce a bit of melancholy and the nervous chill you get at the back of your neck and tips of your fingers when you're enveloped in ghostly memories.

Instead, the clouds are a mix of light and dark greys, which part often to reveal a cold blue sky. Govan Road is busy with traffic and shoppers racing to get the last packets of puff pastry and totties.
Manage to make the bank on Water Row before it closes for its lunch hour followed by a queue along at the Royal Bank.
A young man in his early twenties is two in front of me and when he reaches the counter, he pulls out a plastic bank bag with a torn up £20 note inside. Can he get it replaced? It's still got the silver strip 'hing and everything. The teller asks what bank issued it? The boy has about 6 or 7 bits and, smoothing a piece out with his finger, answers, "The Clydesdale".
"You'll have to take it to them . . "
She's interrupted by the man right in front of me who strides forward saying, "Have ye got to take torn up money to the bank it came fae?" She's nodding. "Cos Ah've got torn up money an a'."
The boy looks round at the man, "Huv ye?" The man's pulls his money out of an envelope and shows them. Ripped to shreds.
Ha! What's been in the air over the weekend? Torn up money, twenty pound notes? How came this to be?

In Govan X shopping centre,  Margaret, in creased black trousers and a grey quilted jacket is regaling Linda in a trackie with the cairry oan that happened over Christmas, "Ah'll mobile phone 'er!"she calls out as they part and Linda, lifting her heavy plastic farmfoods bags, laughs and says, "Happy new year Magrit when it comes."

Happy New Year Govanites wherever you are across the globe, and remembering those upon another shore and in a greater light. A' ra best for 2013 from the heart of Sunny Govan. x

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Midwinter Treat

Past 3 o'clock, just, and the sky has fallen into murky darkness. The street lights are glowing in the gloom and slanting rain stings hands and faces. Raw cold air whooshes round Govan Cross and everyone is hurrying to get inside, heads down, hands thrust in pockets.

There's plenty of heat and light in the shopping centre and one young man has stripped to his t-shirt to display a newly etched tattoo the length of his arm, all swirling blues, blacks and reds.
His pal admires it.
"Aye, Ah'm dead chuffed wae it. Goat it at ra new wee shoap'ats opened."
"Wherrzat?"
"Shaw St, it wiz on'y thirty quid - cuz a know the guy, ma pal n that, done me a wee deal. Good eh?"
"Aye, that looks great," says a dyed blonde admiringly.
"Fur ma Christmas, heh. Treated masel'."

Monday, 17 December 2012

Tillie Tells A Tale Of Tinsel

Thanks to Tillie for memories of her family's first Christmas tree in their tenement home in Broomloan Road, Govan.
Today’s shops are laden with decorations of holly and tinsel, baubles and beads. From every window gleams the Christmas tree, festooned with lights and trinkets. Children gaze adoringly at the Fairy on the top, fingering the little ornaments and chocolate treats which hang and sparkle from the branches.

When I was a child no one we knew had a Christmas Tree until one year they appeared in the greengrocer's shop, little fir trees, about three or four feet high. My mother bought one and put it into a large bucket filled with earth which she placed in a corner of our kitchen.

I had a collection of silver paper which I used to exchange with friends. It was stored between the pages of a book and one evening we used this to make shiny baubles for our tree. We gathered round the kitchen table and tore up old newspapers which we rolled into small balls. Then we placed each one on a square of silver paper and wrapped it around, carefully tying in a loop of thread to enable us to hang the homemade ornaments onto the tree.

We bought cotton wool from the chemist shop, laid it along the branches and sprinkled with glitter. My daddy painted a clear electric light bulb with red paint and hid it down behind the tree. When it was lit, we felt as though we were in a winter wonderland. What an exciting Christmas glow we felt in our little kitchen.

Glitter and gifts are fleeting but Christmas time is made special by our associations with others and the memories of time spent together.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Oh, Christmas Lights, Keep Shining On

Ok, so I'll stop moaning. The council must have arrived eventually and pulled the switch to give us this gorgeous array of sparkling lights.
Best display we've had over the last couple of years, and even though they forgot to take down the cage, I'm sure we'll all look beyond that this festive season.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Council Christmas Switch

Christmas tunes blare out from the green and white plastic gazebo by the Black Man as masses of children congregate, full of excitement, all eager for tonight's special visitor and the magical lighting up of the Christmas tree.
Me, wee raberta and the Govan Baby join maws, da's, grannies and grandas and mingle with people waiting for the bus outside Brechin's.
There's a dj filling in with announcements between songs, "Ok folks, it won't be long now till Glasgow council workers are here to take down the railings and we'll get the lights switched on. Don't worry, it'll no be long noo."
Another round of "So here it is, merry Christmas, everybody's havin' . ." and then a trio of Govan High girls take a turn each at the microphone to perform another Santa ditty.
Miaow, and the rats and their queen from Govan's panto "The Govan Cat" scuttle across the street to perform very flamboyant dancing. The Rat Queen snarls into the Govan Baby's pram and he stares back at her, quite unperturbed.
Suddenly the sound system breaks into Gangnam style and kids everywhere erupt into manic jigging and trotting.
"Hold on everyone, we've just had a message from Glasgow council to say they'll have a van here in the next 15 minutes to get the railings down and the lights on!"
Hurraaaayyyy!!!
It's dead cold, and in spite of his warm snow suit, the Govan Baby's not getting the option of staying to see Santa and his ma pushes him back up the road.
Fifteen minutes . . . it's a bit long to have to wait in this weather and I want to catch the bank before closing, but notice a bit of action on the steps of the P.I.
I loiter for a moment on the kerb and am rewarded with a Santa sighting. He skips smartly down the steps and crosses the road, scliffing his feet as he goes.
And is that a self conscious expression on your face Santa? And why do you keep your head down and cast your eyes to the left and right to see who's looking at you?
And really Santa, you must be very, very cold in your thin felt suit. Your black shoes are no protection from the winter snows and if you have a list written out to Mrs Claus, perhaps you should ask for a beard manicure.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Pans In Yer Windae

The icy, snowy slush which plagued Govan Cross yesterday has been trampled to a brown, gritty wetness and you can now walk along the pavement without fear of falling on your bumbleerie.
We've hit December and a Christmas rush is bubbling in the Govan X shopping centre, which is busy with lively shoppers.
I nick into Watson's on my way up the road and three young men, early twenties, are in the queue. Two are skinny weasel types, one of them wolfing down a pie and watching his pal intently as he recounts an event which happened last evening.
"We were jist sittin n nex' minute a pure missil comes flying in the windae, smashed it, jist missed the wean an a'."
Pie eater reaches into his poke for the next pie without taking his eyes off him.
The third man is a flaccid fella, pasty faced with a snub nose and small eyes. Dressed in dark grey trackies and trainers with a stripe, he sneers, "It's yer ain fault ya dafty. That's how they offered tae take ye hame. So they could see wherr ye lived." And here he breaks into a snuffling guffaw, "An then they comes back an smashes in yer windaes."
Hahahah and pie eater joins in, hahahah, "Pans in yer windae." Haha.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Christmas, Caged

The Govan Christmas Tree 2012 has been installed and caged, yet again. What is the deal with this?
At least the lights haven't been switched on yet - unlike the myriad of windows all round Govan, sparkling with fairy lights and Santas, snowmen and snowflakes.
And it's only just St. Andrew's Day people!
But to my main gripe; I would like to know, where else in the western world does the council feel the need to protect a Christmas tree with a metal cage? Whose window is that going to fit in? And anyway, the Black Man's watching over it.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

In Flanders Fields, The Poppies Blow . . .

And in Govan too, poppies symbolise our remembrance and gratitude to lives sacrificed for us, in so many ways.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Wedding In The P.I.

Image
Hoi Polloi's lassie gets married in the P.I.
Beautiful venue; beautiful, beautiful bride.
A chill November day is cheered by a wintry wedding in Govan's Pearce Institute.
All the family set off walking along Govan Road to arrive just before the appointed time. We know, of course, that the bride will be a little late and so, time it nicely.
Out in the street, shoppers cast glances at guests arriving in their wedding finery and a few stop to watch the Bride and her attendants enter through the glass door and into the foyer of green glazed tiles. Last minute touches ensure she is picture perfect.
Upstairs, we await her arrival in the lovely Lithgow Room with its wooden panelled walls and vaulted ceiling. "Welcome" is the inscription below the mantel of the fireplace and glowing candles flicker among the green ivy festooned along the dado rail.
A violinist leads the Bride to the Groom where they are joined in holy matrimony by the Bishop of the Isles. The guests sing with gusto; he says "I do" and so does she, the wedding party sign the register, and the fiddler leads us downstairs to the wedding feast in the magnificent MacLeod Hall.
Everyone eats and drinks their fill and then it's the speeches and the cutting of the cake. The band strikes up and the newly weds take the floor, followed by the parents, best man and bridesmaids. On next to an evening ceilidh, with plenty of dancing and wedding hospitality.
The night time air is freezing, but we saunter along the road back home, taking time to talk over the day, who we saw and what we heard.
"Lang may yer lum reek, Mr and Mrs W."


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

La Lune

I've dashed along Govan Road, into the bank, across to the post office and back out again before I suddenly notice our Christmas lights which seem to have sparkled into existence from nowhere. Two bright parcels, one twinkling red and another glittering green, have attached themselves to lampposts outside Farmfoods and further down at the pawn.

As I hand over my money in Greggs, the wumman says, "Your hands are freeeeezin!" which takes me by surprise as they don't feel like it to me but back outside, I realise the temperature has dropped and there's a snap in the air, scented with spicy cinnamon from Shearer's candle factory.

And so, I take a minute to gaze on the Christmas lights bringing a festive feel to poor old Govan Cross. And I walk to the edge of the pavement and stop again, this time to look at Govan New, its honey stone illuminated against a sapphire blue sky, which is the setting for a rising half moon, pearlescent and radiant, its face so distinct tonight, beaming benevolently upon us.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Shelter From The Storm

Govan is drenched in a battleship grey deluge that's lasted all night and on through the morning. Huddled below brollies, we slosh through puddles, deep and wide, as liquid bullets rattle down on us.
The Govan X centre is warm and dry, busy with shoppers picking up bargains from Home Bargains, The King of Bargains, and the Bargain Centre. You wouldn't think poor folk shop here, would you?

Ar the store with the lifesize decal of a polis on the door, an elderly gentleman shuffles in. He is wearing an aged gabardine raincoat and a bunnet, his black laceup shoes are squelching out water and his trouser turnups are soaked and wrapped around his ankles.
No sooner has he lifted a basket than the store manager is deftly at his side. He gently takes him by the elbow and begins to manoeuvre him around towards the entrance again.
The man looks at him, bewildered.
"Come on, come on," says the manager gently, "Ye know, don't ye? Ye know ye're no allowed in. We've been through a' this. 'Mon, out ye go."
"Ah, but," the old fella says, lifting his arm as though to shake the young man off.
The manager takes hold of his other arm too and swings him about turn, then hands on his sloping shoulders, he guides him back from whence he came.
"Ahm only wantin a coupla wee things," says the old man again.
"Ah know, Ah know, Ah cannae let ye," and he smiles a long-suffering smile.
"Ah'll no lift anythin', Ah'll pay for it."
"Aye, aye," says the manager, nodding and ushering him back through the entrance.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Guy Fawkes Hush


The approach to Guy Fawkes night has been very hush hush. Understandably so, after last year's cruel dismantling and confiscation of the wid.
On Friday the second, benk passes a wee boy pushing an asda trolley full of sticks and planks along the road outside Govan Old, but apart from that, not really seen or heard anything.
Saturday the third and Sunday the fourth are filled with bangs and cracks of fireworks at organised displays and those being let off in back courts and up closes.
Monday the fifth dawns bright and crisp. Glorious blue sky and sunshine beams down on the small beginnings of a bonfire on the grass behind the Bells.


Usual striking up time is about 6 o'clock but on my way, I see a good going bonfire in a rundown, red blaize pitch by the old Broomloan Road School.
It's being stoked with doors. A big heap of them are lying on the ground, wood panelled, semi glazed, full glazed, stacked in a pile just outside the low wall of the playground.
There's a few young mums standing at a distance, chatting with babies in pushchairs and toddlers gripping the handles or running around in the dark.
An army of twelve-ish year olds are lugging the doors from the stack to the fire, each taking a turn to lift a door up, shake it gingerly, pause for glass to fall out of it and then drag it - or if you're macho - balance it across your back and stagger to the fire. A final effort sees the door topple flat onto the flames, casting burning sparks into the night air.
In the fire's glow, the old school building looms eerily, hauntingly still, cradle of our grandparents' formal learning, as far as it went. Its stone outer walls are the backdrop to their early childhood images. There they stood, almost a century ago, and here I stand on the same sod, in a world that's turned a revolution or two and yet has not changed.
Down Vicarfield Street, and the wee bonfire's been lit on the grass. A few gangs of teens stand around, boys dutifully carting wood to feed the flames. "It's no lasting very long, is it?" whines one girl.
"Who's that wi' the drum?" shrieks another and I suddenly become conscious of a tribal drum beat reverberating around the field.
"A guy ahint the bonfire," and my eyes focus in to see a man gently swaying, head back and looking up to the stars as he palms a drum.
Click, take one of my poor quality photos, and just at that ten year old Jordan shouts to me, "Look oot fur the sticks aff the rockets. Ah nearly goat hit wi wan. It fell right therr next tae me." And we both take a wee skip to the side.
Trendy folks are out at Water Row as I pass. They've built a wee cottage like the one you see in the old paintings and they're opening big iron gates with moons and stars on them for the fairground people to pass into their riverside encampment.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Devil Rides Out

I thought this a warm and cheering window at Govan Cross on a damp, chill Hallowe'en. It's a countrywide bakery chain, but that's ok; it's keeping a shop open in Govan, which is very welcome. Their pink jammies are yummy into the bargain, although they don't beat a coconut icing bun fae Watsons.
A dry night brings out guisers and there's a fair number zipping up and down Govan's streets, including witches, vampires, a skeleton and a mummy.
We celebrate the evening with an owl and a pussycat and have dooking for apples (full face in, no forks) and demand a wee turn before handing over nuts and sweeties.
 
Who dared to chap the door of the devil lurking at this Govan tenement window? No me, no me, no me . . .  


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Leerie, Leerie, Licht The Lamp

On the night the clocks go back an hour and we enter a period of winter darkness, we thank Blogger Dan for his reminiscences of lighting up and putting aff.

A source of great pride to me as a child of eight years old, was my hairstyle – fashioned by my ‘Lamplighter’ Auntie, Maggie. It was usually before we set off for school, probably about 7.30 am, that Auntie Maggie would call in from her lamplighter round, to spend time with her older sister, my Mother. There would be a contest between myself and two brothers to see who could get the ‘putting-off’ pole and run up all the closes in nearby Burndyke Street, and a few in Govan Road, to switch off the gaslight on each of the three-storey landings. The job would take about thirty minutes and we loved the thrill of it. The pole was about three feet long with a metal end. This had a slot which fitted into a metal piece below the gaslight mantle and we would turn this to switch off the gas.
Disappointingly, we were not allowed to do the even more exciting job of switching on the gaslights in the evening – obviously, earlier in winter than the long, light summer nights. The lighting-up pole was about five feet long; bigger to reach above the mantle and it had a round metal box attached which held carbide, kind of like a blowlamp and a nozzle which was lit. There was a slot similar to the switching-off pole, needed to switch the gaslight on before applying the flame to light-up.
As children we used to look in the gutters in the evening, as it was a common practice for the leeries to empty the used carbide near to one of the many big metal ‘stanks’ by the pavement. I remember the pungent smell the carbide gave off -- and when placed in a puddle it would fizz for ages. I don’t recall any accidents from the probably very toxic white powder, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be allowed nowadays.

Auntie Maggie was a big favourite with our family – not only because of her lamplighting job. I was one of five brothers and two younger sisters. My Mother, I’m sure, didn’t have time to fuss over five boys getting ready for school – but Auntie Maggie would wet my hair and put waves in or just the one big wave right at the front of my head. Sounds crazy and a bit jessie – but it made me feel, well, as I said,  kind of proud. When I think about it now, I’m sure that ‘Oor Wullie’ would definitely not have let me into his gang -- behaving like that?
The Lamplighting Depot was in Broomloan Road, close to the ‘Potted Heid’ Bank, just behind where the Orkney Street Police cells were. It was quite a sight to see the army of Leeries almost marching along. They carried their lighting-up sticks as if shouldering arms, setting-off on a designated route to bring light to dark and dingy closes around Govan.

I don’t know if there is any truth in the story that a politician of that day made his manifesto the following: a promise that blind people would not have to pay for the stairheid gas; hot water pipes throughout the cemeteries; a glass roof over Glasgow to give carters an inside job.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Sisters Of Shaw Street

On this dull, fine October morning, a polisman stops traffic entering Shaw St. from Govan Road. Is it a raid?
A woman passing along informs me. "Therr filmin a comedy."
Another Glasgow street finds filming fame.
 
It's cosy and bright in Watsons Bakery. "What's happening out there?" I ask Jean.
"Och, it's a tv comedy. They were in here. Three men dressed up as nuns, ye know, beards and everything, nuns outfits and busts an'all. I don't know if they were good nuns or bad nuns. One of them bought a pie and stood here and ate it."
"Are you in it?" I ask. "Och no, no" she replies. "It's to be on early 2013."
A woman in a blue jacket comes in and nods back towards the door with a lift of her eyebrows.
"It's a comedy about men dressed up as nuns," I tell.
"Is that right? I'll no be watching that," she says shaking her head.
Back out on the street a loud southern English lady's voice rings out very bossily.
"Let's try that again. Ok, so you make your way over and stand in front of this door . . . "

Friday, 12 October 2012

Fixed

It's the evil glint in Mr M's eye that gets me. As soon as I decide that it is definitely evil, his countenance softens and the glint turns to a twinkle.
The dapper octogenarian is regaling ma da with his latest news and views.
"Whit aboot this G51 rubbish again?" he's asking, referring to grun' south of Ibrox Park. "An' shares? Whit dae ye actually think o' that David Murray?"
The other men in the group give forth their opinions.
"Aye," he laughs caustically, "Should pit 'im doon a hole, him an' Whyte tae. Aye, hahah, alang wi' that Jimmy Savile, eh? Whit dae ye make a' him? Aye thought he wis a weirdo."
He's in full flow now, dark suit, a little shiny with age, white pocket handkerchief neatly in place, starched shirt and narrow tie, shined-up shoes and today a little black woolly hat. An autumnal chill makes us shiver, but the hat seems a bit too informal for a gent such as Mr M.
"Och, there's gaunae be a lot o' them quakin' in their boots noo. It's a' gonnae come oot noo. They've even goat him oot a' Hong Kong, whit's his name? Patten. Seen him oan the telly bubblin' oan aboot it a'. hahaha! Oh aye, therr's plen'y mair tae be revealed. I'll tell ye."
 His chortle is humourless and he gargles like a choked drain.
"D'ye know Savile's meant tae huv hud a big hoose in Scotland?"
Ma da laughs sardonically, "It's a mansion in the sky noo."
"Skye?" queries Mr M. "Is that where it wis?"
"Naw," ma da says, "in the sky. A mansion." And they both break out into hearty laughter and I snigger quietly, cos I'm just earywigging, just speaking if spoken to, which I'm not.
"Ha ha, good yin," continues Mr M. "Ah can see Jim'll fix it at the pearly gates. Peter'll be like, 'naw, naw, you're doonsterrs. Git goin. Aff wi' ye!'".

Monday, 8 October 2012

Boisterous

Gangs swarm round Govan, ganging together in generational groups and keeping to the same streets, walls, and closes. As the years pass, you watch the same wee boys grow older, smarter, dumber, marching to the fore or falling to the rear as they nip and zip through their territory, slowing to a swagger as they pass through their teens.

A new wee squad has formed and gelled over the summer and fine weather sees them enjoying all the fun activities of their very own playground. In the early evening, they kick a football back and forth across Govan Road, dashing in front of cars at breakneck speed. In Shaw Street, they blooter the ball against metal shutters with a regular thump, bang, and crash of dull cymbals. They disappear up closes and emerge out the backs, running from one building to the next, vaulting over railings and diving across middens.
Energy and confidence are at a peak amongst this gang, noticeably so, given their age group. I'd put them between 6 and 8 with maybe a 5 year old tagging along. He's wearing the same puffa gilet as the leader of the pack who's a titchy 7 year old, brimming with bravado and derring-do. The two of them stand out from the rest who are de rigueur in t-shirt and trackie bottoms. As Wee Raberta always says, the only concession the Govan boys make to their dress code is to remove the t-shirt when the sun shines.

By ten o'clock, they're taking a breather on the pavement, the wee one is jumping on and off the kerb. A couple of old men outside the pub are chawsing them and before long they take off up the road, stopping in the middle of the street to gaze up at a girl who stands, hugging a coffee mug, in a brightly lit, uncurtained window.
"Hi, you!" They begin to call out, raising their voices to shouts. "Open the windae. Gonnae come doon? Can we come up? Can we come up an' rape you? Gonnae gie's a penny fur the guy?" All the while gesticulating, jumping on each other, swiping and punching.
The girl pulls up the window, "Go home you little boys," she calls back in Eastern European tones, "You silly little boys. You have school in the morning. Go away."
And she withdraws from the window and dims the light.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Eat Fresh


Subway; Eat Fresh! goes the slogan of this global sandwich bar. After the Aldwych Cafe at Govan X closed a coupla years ago, the shop stood empty until this fastfood piece chain set up their deli counter and a few tables and chairs for the punters.
I think each franchise is told to customise their premises to make the locals feel it's their very own Subway, a unique Subway that's truly serving the community in which it's sited. Why else would there be a dog eared bit of paper, stuck up on the door with blu-tac on which is scrawled, "STAND AWAY FROM DOOR". That's you telt. Then in fainter pen, "thanks" added as an afterthought incase a high powered manager jets in from LA to check the Govan Subway is treating the valued customer with respect.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

In The Close

The close is an important element in tenement living. Well, of course, it's the central corridor and staircase which leads you to the various storeys, homes, lavvies, cellars, and out to the back courts. It's essential to the structure of the building, but there's more to it than just a built walkway to get you around.

Thinking back on all the closes through which I've wended my way; mostly, they've been dark and dull, of yellow lamplight, shadowy, eerie, stairs opening onto stairheids, rising up and up, the doors on the landings austere and unwelcoming.
The close is often chill, the stone steps worn with a low dip on each tread.
There's a strange, echoey silence; the slam of a door, even internal, reverberates through the stairwell and the scliff of feet ascending can fill you with intense dread.

Some closes are manky and smell of urine and mould. There are unpleasant stains against the walls and suspicious wetness running in streams down steps and along the floor. Plaster is cracked and flaking, names on doors - if there are any - are paper labels written in pen. Spidery webs cling in corners and beetles and slaters scuttle around.

Houseproud tenement dwellers, on the other hand, extend their pristine habits to outside their front doors; polishing up the letterbox, doorbell and nameplate till they gleam, plump doormats are set in place, curtains hang at the staircase window, with even a plant or vase of flowers, albeit artificial.

In olden days, a white edging would be applied with pipe clay down the stairs, but today this is usually white paint. Wally closes with beautiful tiles and stained glass windows belong in another Glasgow story; not in Govan as I know it.

Many a game's been played in the close; wee hooses, hospitals, schools. Scene of love affairs, welcome and not so, fights, secrets shared, deals done, a place to hide, from somebody, or just out of the rain.

Today's not raining. It's bright outside with the occasional shower but fairly pleasant.
On opening the house door, I can hear a woman, talking in a husky, low voice in the close. Down a flight of stairs and turning on the landing, I come upon her.
She's sitting on a step, cigarette in hand, and she's saying,
"See her but, see if she thinks she's gonnae get away wi that. Aw naw, Ah'm gonnae kill'er.She'll get battered."
Then she looks up at me.
"Hey doll, sorry hen, therr ye go," and she shuffles over, lifting a cheap plastic lighter from the stair to let me pass.
She looks up at me with her dark eyes, tired, dull, her face so thin, drawn and wrinkled. Her hair is a dry tangle of black and grey.
I step down gingerly, squeezing past on the narrow stairwell.
On the landing, standing with his back to me and looking out of the window over the back courts, is a grey haired man in black leather jaiket and denims. He's strong looking, feet apart and arms folded in a macho stance and as I pass, he stands stock still and never looks round.

On my return, all the evidence of them being there is a couple of fag douts, spit and phlegm.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Water Row from Pearce Street

The new flats on Pearce Lane and the old tenements of Water Row stand together on a sun-filled September morning.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Lush Lash

We start chatting as the extremely courteous mungy wallahs of Spicy Govan prepare our delicious curries in their pristine, if basic kitchen. Our topics include the weather, the dead nice salad in here, the Rathlin St fire and the windows of 14 being boarded up.
"Hey," I say next, "your eyelashes are amazing. Who does them for you?"
"I do them myself," the girl replies.
"No way? Yourself? How do you manage that?" I ask, thinking they are eyelash extensions, heavy and black.
"I just stick them on," she says.
It dawns on me. "Oh, they're false eyelashes. 'mazin."
"Yep, Katy Perry. I wouldn't live without them. Had them for about three year."
"Do they last that long?" I ask, sounding as thick as they are.
"No, different pairs. These ones have lasted about three months."
"Do you keep them on all the time?"
"No, no," she tells me, "Just take them off at night and watch you don't lose them. Then stick them on in the morning. Get Katy Perrys though. They're the best kind."
I ask if I can take a picture of this wonder of modern technology.
"Aye, sure."
"How do you keep your eyes open?" is my next question, "They look dead heavy."
She laughs, "I really wouldn't go anywhere without them. I've only got about three eyelashes left! I've ripped them all out puttin these on!"
Yikes!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Sound Of Fury

Were you ever scared of your pals' da's? I was. Mr P. in our close, whose daughters I played with, was a rough man who'd never look the road you were on, but pity help you if you crossed him.
His daughters were all frightened of him too, especially as they'd get leathered with his belt, frequently.
One night around teatime, we were out the back and had got hold of a long tree branch.
A few of us were holding it, struggling together to keep it upright, and for some crazy reason we started to tap Mr P.'s kitchen window. Surely we must not have counted on him being home.
The roar that resounded as the window flew open in a fury was loud enough to be heard in genteel Kelvindale.
We dropped the branch like a lead cannonball and ran for cover, hearts thumping and stomachs churning.

Today, I hear just such a roar again.
A da accompanies his little daughter along Govan Road. He's pushing a bike and she's trailing a dolly and a bag. He's urging her to hurry up a bit, and stop walking on the sides of her wellies. Come on now. Come on.
As they approach me, he turns round and calls to a boy who's 100 yards behind.
A harsher voice this time, "Will you get yourself moving and get up here next to me. Move it!"
The boy is 7, in school uniform and carrying a school bag. He's kind of crying; moaning, cos he's tired and can't be bothered.
They go a bit further and stop again. The da has his hands full. Neither child is making much progress and he's cajoling the wee girl and struggling to pull her along with one hand while steadying the bike with the other.
Without any warning, he turns around to his son and roars at the top of his voice with an unholy curse and unfeigned fury. The noise is chilling. Sets your stomach churning again. The child has almost caught up but at this, he freezes and shrinks back a little.
The da turns and walks on. He's not a young da, more of a square built, cannot be bothered older da. We are level with each other but he doesn't look the road I am on.
A few yards behind the child passes me and his sobs catch in his throat and his fear and sorrow lie deep and sore.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A Word Of Caution

Golden September, and the view from outside farmfoods at Govan Cross is quite continental. The mast of the tall ship anchored on the river and the dreaming spires of our charming Victorian parish church evoke the ambience of a bustling Mediterranean sea port.
Colourful blooms and verdant greenery cascade from the council planters on the Squerr. The Govan Baby is comfortably shaded by the canopy of the Aitken Memorial Fountain. An azure blue sky overarches the grandeur of Water Row's fine tenements and Govan's residents recline, as best they can, on the utilitarian and uncomfortable, hard metal benches.
And uncomfortable may just be the word to describe a fed-up fellow and HM Constabulary.
'Sick to death o' them' seems to sum up many Govanites' point of view; going by the look on the chap's face and the complaints around me.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Govan's Burning! Pour On Water!

Central Govan Correspondent, Berd, rings to say flames are leaping out the top floor window of 10 Rathlin Street. She's got a photo.
When I arrive, there's police tape across the street and a hundred strong crowd gathering; the anxious, the curious, the annoyed, the quite pleased.
 
A fireman strides to Richard's bar corner. "Anybody live in number 10? Number 10 anybody?"
A few hands go up, me, me, we do.
"What floor you on? What side? Anybody in your house? Is there anybody in there? Speak up now cos we're puttin the doors in."
At this a Somalian girl becomes irate.
"You're putting the doors in! Noooo! You can't. This place is full of junkies and low life and they'll get all my things!"
She clenches her fists down by her sides and stamps her high stiletto heel in fury.
"So that's how she feels aboot us," says one wag with a guffaw.
A wee wumman says she is in 10 but she's got her key so they don't have to break down her door.
"Oh aye," says the fireman, "Anybody else got a key? We're searching the flats at number 10. Any more keys?" 
"Glad ye thought of that," says the wag, sarkily.
 
The police tape is lowered to admit fire engines till there's five lined up the street and a fancy range rover belonging to a fire chief.
The Polis begin to take names and ages of those now made homeless by the fire and advise that the Housing will be round shortly.
All sorts of rumours abound; hotels for the night, back in tomorrow, you can get your stuff, you can't get anything, you'll be out for months.

An ambulance is parked over at the Harmony Bar and the paramedics are down Rathlin Street attending to a victim.
Whispers hiss round the crowd; it was him that started it, drunk.
Naw, it was a workie on the roof, left on a blowtorch.
It was him, he's in his pyjamas, been drinking in there for days.
The paramedics lead the wounded man towards the ambulance, dazed and dishevelled in bare feet and a mullet, he smiles to the gazing public and my camera which, of course, misses the moment.
As the hour wears on, people drift past and stop for a gander. A few residents arrive home from work, only to find they can't get in. Tired and hungry, they effuse irritability through the air.
Go round to the housing, they're still open, advise the polis.
Berd insists the Asian man in the thermal vest and ill fitting shoes is the dentist from above Spicy Govan. Whit? Are you sure?
If nothing else, this summertime street barbecue is a good way to meet the neighbours. I get chatting to a lady who tells me she's off on a round the world hitchhike. Come the Spring, she's packing in her job in security and is off on her own to see the planet.
We have a good laugh at the newshound with the red dictaphone and the reporter's pad on which he's scribbled, "Man rescued from top floor flat fire."
Robert and Catweasel consider the situation and progress being made by the fire department, before Catweasel takes off on a quick zip down McKechnie Street to climb over the backs. He wants to check out the report from a passer-by who says there's a massive hole in the Rathlin Street roof, right the way along.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Let The Drums Rattle

 
 
Let the drums rattle as the Protestant Boys make their way along the Govan Road in the second largest procession of the year.
A particular favourite is the perraterraways hanging out the first floor window of the Cossar building.
Waaahhhh! Thought for a minute gay pride had joined in, but no, it's the ladies' band, pretty in pink.
A Rangers and a Celtic spit from the upstairs window.
Nice to see the traditional bowler getting an outing in this August heat.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Ahoy!



Halcyon days indeed, as this gleaming super yacht berths at the new transport museum of Pertyk.
As if to perfect this day of rich, golden sun, the sleek boat has sailed into full view of Govan, and it's our pleasure to transmit an admiring gaze across the Clyde.
Best place to take in its smooth, pristine whiteness is from the end of Stag Street. We slip through the railings and onto the riverbank, crunching over broken glass, rusting bedsprings and tin cans, and tall, thriving, green weeds.
A man in his fifties sits on the wall, can in hand. Well. he could be in his forties, could be.
Hello says he and hello we reply.
He's taking the sun. His face is red and there are beads of sweat on his balding pate. His maroon jersey and dark cargo troosers add to the heat, so it's just as well he's got a full cairry-oot in the unsubstantial blue plastic bag kicking around at his feet.
A silvery gleam in the dust attracts my eye.
"There's fifty p," and I pick it up.
"Good luck tae ye," he says, well meaningly.
 "Ye's lookin at the boat? They're sayin Rod Stewart's in Glesga for the weekend."
"Aw, right? There ye go. Would have to be somebody like Rod Stewart, eh? Sailing, eh?"
"Aye," says he, and takes another good swally.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Govan Olympics 2012

We're glued to the London Olympics on the tele. It's on from early morning till last thing at night. Our enthusiasm for athletic endeavour knows no bounds.

Today as I walk briskly along Govan Road, my attention is alerted to a full range of sporting prowess raging around me.
Firstly, cyclists. This is a very popular sport in Govan, as this bank of the Clyde is very flat and you can enjoy whizzing along at a fast pace, gold medal level.
And, runners. Young male athletes are often seen belting along the streets. Many of them train after nightfall. Some are practising for the relay; one young man speeding along with another in hot pursuit at his back.
Swimmers too. Aquatic stars leap into the stagnant waters of the graving docks. One mad lad boasted to me this summer that he got hepati'is and he's got a pure rid rash fae swimmin in it.
We witness javelin throwing. Fence posts can be flung a fair distance, no one's measuring. Take it from me.
The Polis join in with dressage events from time to time.
An exciting judo match between a wee boy and a big boy takes place on the pavement. No shortage of spectators at this event. And, you won't get a cheaper ticket anywhere.


Monday, 16 July 2012

Doon The Watter

Today is Fair Monday and here, Mary F. born 1905, recalls escaping her overcrowded Govan tenement home and sailing doon the watter at the Glasgow Fair.

After my father was killed at Ypres, my mother got a war widows pension. It wasn't a lot of money, but she made the best of it.

At the Glasgow Fair, Mother took the eight of us children down to Dunoon and got a house for 25 shillings for a fortnight. We'd get on the boats (the Clyde steamer) and my mother would buy two tickets - one for herself and one for one child and the rest of us would skip on.

We used to go away picnics everyday. At night walking home we'd go through hedges and pick turnips and potatoes and get the fish from the boats coming in at the pier.
Mother would send us to where they smoked the kippers and we'd get the broken ones. She could make a meal from nothing.

The last week of the holidays we'd go scouring through the shops for jam jars and then pick the raspberries and Mother would make jam and we'd have 30 or 40 pounds of jam to take home. Sugar was only about a penny a pound. The railway would deliver your hampers home for a shilling.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Baker's Dozen

What would your last meal on earth be? If you have simple and honest tastes, and cumfaegovan, then chances are it would include one of these renowned rolls.
Govanites still drool over such rolls; crisp outer shell and a soft, white fluffy inside - a perfect combination of textures and tastes.
Even though the famed Jack's Rolls has passed into legend, I'm glad to report these rolls are still widely available.
Add a generous spread of the best butter, salted or unsalted as you prefer, and sink your teeth into this west of Scotland speciality, tearing the soft bread and savouring the chewy consistency and warm smell of wholesome baked goodness!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Night Terrors

Govan's backcourts, which once resounded with noise of children's play and women's chat, now lie still for the most part. From the back bedroom, you gaze across the enclosed expanse of paving stones, middens, occasional planters with blooming flowers, ground down dirt. glittering shards of broken glass, and washing lines, from which only the toughest will peg their trackies.
Darkness deepens and moonlight is obscured by this summer's signature thick cloud. Around half eleven, bedtime reading is disturbed by hoarse screeching and yelling out the back. Switch off the lamp with a soft click and over to the window to see glowing window panes in the opposite tenements clicking into darkness too.
As eyesight adjusts to the dark, two women can be seen standing across the backs from each other, hurling insults. Each is surrounded by a few youths, kicking back and forth, seemingly disinterested in the cat fight and only occasionally joining in with a fierce roar and a laugh.

It's late and one of the ladies, a blonde in her 40s, is already dressed in nightime attire; dinky pink baby dolls, the knickers of which are shorty-short-short. She gets called in first, as a man comes out the back close door and orders her up they sterrs.
She storms off towards the back door, in a high-handed manner. As she's about to reach the door, her opponent, a tracksuit wearing fifty something, advances and tries to get her leg up and over the railing to get in for a real attack. A couple of her henchmen leap over easily but stop in their tracks when they realise she's not making it and just stand staring at her as she struggles like a big mealy pudden.

The close door has shut over, but just as Tracksuit retreats to her own close, suddenly BabyDoll appears again with another shrill accusation.
"Aw naw, here we go," I think as TrackSuit swings brutally around to face her.
Fortunately, BabyDoll has said her piece and slips back inside and we are spared the humiliation of the middle aged lady's stiff clamber.

Down on the ground floor across from us, the thin face of an elderly man looks out from behind the sheet he has pinned up as a curtain. He hasn't turned off the electric bulb hanging in the middle of the ceiling and in the sixty watt light, he looks gaunt and afraid.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Bran' New

Today, a big fella stops me and his lordship as we approach the close mooth.
"Have ye seen so'n'so?" he goes, and we go "No."
He's a tall man, slim build, early thirties, rid-heided with a bulbous nose and a face like a well-skelpt bum.
"He's no aboot? Ah wis tae see 'im aboot five" he asks again.
His lordship goes on, "He's always away by quarter to five."
The chap doesn't lose a minute in his quest for a sale.
"Hey, big man, you interested in a coupla bran' new iPads?"

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Electric

Around 4pm, a deep and distant thrum sounds across the river. The grey sky is shifting from luminescent light to intensifying dark until a bank of rolling blackness descends over us and thunder booms ever nearer.
An eerie stillness descends over Govan. People clear off the streets and stand in doorways to watch Nature's display.
Lightning suddenly flashes in a fork across the sky and almost simultaneously there's a thundering crack of immense power and noise.
Loudest ever I heard, it shakes us and the building!
And again - together with a lightning flash that rips right across the sky, from horizon to as high as you can see.
Our own Govan Baby, born at the Govan Fair weekend, watches and listens at the window and is lulled by the magnificent storm.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dead Man Walking

We drive into a teatime fracas. On one side of the street are two men, mean and middle aged. They are both roaring and bawling, faces twisted and menacing. Opposite is a younger woman, half kneeling in the middle of the road, yelling and screaming back at them. We are forced to stop in front of her and as we draw up the two men turn about heel and storm off.

At this, the girl runs to our window shouting, "Gonny phone the ambulance," pointing over to the kerb where we see a man lying crouched over with blood pouring from a wound on his head.
"Gonny phone," she's saying over again and again and her face is chalk white, her wide blue eyes staring out behind her knotted fringe.
Her pal is sitting up and the blood all over his face is dripping off his nose and smeared across his hands.
His lordship dials 999 and asks for Ambulance Service, gives our Govan location and describes the scene. 
All the while, the man is sitting so very still and silent, not stirring, not groaning, no movement, no noise.
Looking back on it, he must have been summoning up every ounce of strength and willpower for in the next instant, just as 999 is asking for his condition, he rocks forward and in one lurch, rises to his feet and stands there, swaying for a moment. as though in slow motion. Suddenly, he lumbers forward with unsteady gait; a Frankenstein monster, blood soaked and frightening. His steps are slow but determined and he staggers down the road and won't be stopped by anyone.

Friday, 1 June 2012

O What A Terr

On our way back along Govan Road, I snap after-party evidence. Abandoned garden furniture outside the P.I.
Some ungrateful wretch's unfinished and discarded Caramel Log, cast into the deep window ledge of the P.I. If you didn't want it, you should have let someone else grab it in the scramble.
Still making merry at the door of the P.I.. The Boxing's on here tonight.
A wee pic of the polis. Two women shout, "Aye hen, get a picture a them, jist staunin' there wi that racket gaun oan," referring to a noisy row between a screaming woman and a roaring man emanating from a top floor window.

I think we need more spectators next year - spread the word, and if you can get on float, then go for it! Here's the words of the Govan Fair chorus to get you in the mood;
"The Fair, the Fair, it's the Govan Fair.
It only comes but once a year, but O, what a terr.
Everybody's happy, everybody's therr,
Meeting friends and neighbours to see the Govan Fair."
See you in 2013 - first Friday in June!