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.