Friday, 27 April 2012

Tillie Tells A Tale; The Chippie

Always loved this tale from Tillie about when she used to go for chips every night after refusing to eat her dinner. Dear, dear . . .
When I was wee I hated to eat my dinner and no amount of pleading could coax me. Later in the evening, while out playing in the streets, I would start to feel hungry and would shout up to the kitchen window, "Mammy, can I get thruppence for chips?"
My exasperated mother would throw a wooden thruppenny bit over the window sill wrapped in a piece of newspaper.
I would then make my way to my favourite chip shop, McNaughton's (pictured above) in Queen Street - known to us as the Irish Channel. It was quite a big shop and could accommodate a long queue which stood patiently against the three walls.
One night as I was standing in the queue, a big tough lassie in front of me said,
"Ha' hen, wull ye keep ma place till a go ootside an pass sumbudy a message?"
I nodded in ready agreement, secretly hoping she would take a long time so that I would get served before she got back.
She did take a long while, but the queue moved slowly in McNaughton's and she didn't take long enough. I had had my eyes glued to the door since she left and suddenly I saw her come running back in when there were only a couple of people left in front of me.
I could feel the anger welling up inside and decided right then that she had lost her place by taking so long to get back. As she came up to slip in before me, I quickly stepped forward and stood very close to the person in front, leaving a space behind me for her to take.

She was a forthright type and turned on me with a vicious glare, clouting me over the ear and shouting at the top of her voice,
"Ya wee besom, ah telt ye tae watch ma place, no steal it."
My ear was ringing and I felt dizzy and shocked by the sudden attack but my mother's instruction on how to handle a bully surged into my mind. "For defence only!" I had been warned.

Grabbing hold of the big toughie's hair and avoiding a rabbit punch to the other ear, I began to scream like a howling dervish. My eyes screwed up - allowing sight only through my lashes - and I started punching her as hard and as fast as I could. Fear gave me the courage to become a non-stop battering ram. Almost instantly, the adults in the queue pulled us apart and separated us. I didn't want to stop as I felt I was having some success. By this time, the big tough girl was crying and I managed to get out of custody and kicked her shins.
Whooosh, next minute we were both being thrown out of the shop. The chief fryer had come round from the counter and taken hold of us by our elbows and propelled us, struggling, out the door.
The two of us ran off into the night, but I stopped and watched as she sped down Queen Street and disappeared into the gloaming. When I felt sure she wasn't going to return, I made my way to my second favourite chippie, Pellini's. Before entering, I peered in at the doorway to make sure she hadn't had the same thought as me. She wasn't in the short queue.

The next day when I came home from school, my mother said, "Don't ask for money for chips anymore."
My heart stopped as I waited for a tirade to rain down upon me.
"I heard there was a bad incident in McNaughton's last night. I don't want you getting hurt in a scuffle."
"Don't worry Mummy, I always go to Pellini's."

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

What Ho! Govan

We've got a visitor, a young gent in his early twenties who speaks in the plummy tones of the Home Counties. He fancies a tasty repast from our local Spice House. Mmm, ra-ther.
He enters the fast food emporium and the queue turns its head to gaze upon his tall, willowy figure. Floppy blonde hair sweeps over his blue eyes and he nonchalantly pushes it back and smiles at the crowd.
Everyone turns away again except four young maidens who keep their keen eyes trained on him.
"That's a nice tap," says one.
"Why, thank you," he intones, brushing his long fingers over the white and navy cricket jumper he sports.
"Ur you posh?" asks another girl.
"Er, not sure," he smiles.
"Ur you a nice boy? Eh?" and this time there's a hint of a threat in the voice.
"Sure, sure, I'm nice," he says and looks away.
"Gie's money then. Or Ah'll fly-kick ye."

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday Vigil

An Easter card drops through my letterbox this Good Friday, so I make my way to the card shop on Govan Road to buy one for my Catholic pal. She will accuse me of being too late in sending it. Oh well, E for effort
The card shop across from the Lyceum has a fine selection of cards. Holy pictures of Jesus and a message that an Easter Mass will be offered on your behalf. Not sure how you work that one, so I get a country church scene with an open Bible and a vase of lilies in the foreground instead.
At the counter, the Asian shopkeeper is sitting on her high stool, toting up a tower of goods. A lady is purchasing a large Good Luck card, a silver-ised decanter, wrapping paper, a small roll of sellotape.
"That will be nine pounds and fifty," says the shopkeeper.
"What?" says the lady, and stops mid way into her purse before continuing with "Ok, I wasn't expecting it to be that much."
At that, the door pushes open and a sturdy boy of about 11 leans in and whispers to the woman, and she snaps back,
"Are you out that car and left the door unlocked? You don't leave a car unlocked on the Govan Road."
He persists in whispering and she shoves at him and says very shrilly, "What did I just tell you! Out there! Now!"
He retreats with a surly look of one unfairly treated.

Back on Govan Road - where one shouldn't leave a car unlocked - I head towards the shopping centre to get Easter eggs out of Home Bargains, where prices cannot be beat.
Two women in medic uniforms hurry past me.
"How long does it go on?" says one.
"Uch, Ah don't know, aboot an 'oor," and she slips up the chapel steps.
I follow for an Easter vigil.
It's going on 3 o'clock. I am in the outer sanctum, three long wooden pews separated from the Chapel proper by a glass partition. The chapel is full with hardly a space, and in here is also very busy. There's a seat in the second row just as you come in, but a women has blocked entry to it with a zimmer frame and is ignoring any attempts to pass. I spy another space between two groups of older ladies and squeeze in there. There's a dead strong smell of ciggies and the glass is putting me off; will you be able to hear? It feels uncomfortable today. I am meant to be going to get Eggs. Will there be any left?
All these things are enough to set me on edge and just as the priestly procession advances into the chapel, I get up suddenly with a bit of a clatter and push past to the exit. A man on the door looks at me questioningly, not pleased.
I mutter something along the lines of going to sit with a friend over there and then he holds the door open and I slink out and flee.
Better spiritually prepare myself for next year.

Monday, 2 April 2012

So Come One Angel: Come On Ten

Easter holiday are on. Yesterday's Robert, James, Alison and Ann-Marie are now replaced by Tyler, Jordan, Demi and Sharleen. Trailing round shops, tagging along at the back of prams, whining for sweeties, annoying brothers and sisters; Govan's children are most often addressed as "Shut-up" and "Hurry-up".

On Shaw Street, a band of weans is straggling up the street, mostly boys with a couple of girls, a small, darting 7 year old and her teenage pal, sweet and smiling with a slow mind.

The boys are swaggering behind a leader who strides ahead. The girls tag along, the wee one sometimes racing to the front and weaving in and out of the team. She picks a half-eaten apple up off the ground and slams it against a ground floor window. Then, squealing with laughter, she catches her big, grinning pal’s hand and pulls her away down Rosneath Street.

On Langlands Road, a young boy ambles along. He’s of an age when boys may start to take an interest in their image; clothes, hair, trainers and so on. But this boy is wearing an oversized tracksuit top of hodden grey, the shoulder seams sloping down his arms, the hem of it hanging long and saggy, trackie bottoms are rumpled over his trainers. His straight hair is plastered to his head. He seems self-conscious, walking in against the wall with his head up, his eyes half closed and occasionally flickering to the left.

 There's a bitter, biting wind today, but the children I see out playing aren't dressed for the weather. Thin jackets or just a t-shirt, hoodies pulled down over their eyes. I'm freezing just looking at them, dashing up and down the streets, hanging about at shop doorways. One, thoroughly fed up waiting for his da outside the bookies, licks the plate glass window till the cleaner comes out and checks him.