Wednesday, 31 December 2014

One Hundred Years Of Gratitude - Happy New Year

As we commemorate the centenary of the start of WWI, here is the Christmas card, sent 100 years ago from my Gt. Grandfather John to his daughter, my Granny, Mary.
He wrote:
"Dear Tissie, Just a line from Dad. I hope you are well. A merry Christmas to you. Give my love to all. Goodnight, hoping you will enjoy yourself tomorrow. Hoping to see you soon. xxxxx J.F."
John was killed at Ypres in April 1915.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Tillie Tells A Tale: When Christmas Day Fell On A Thursday

Merry Christmas Tillie and thanks for this fine tale of a Christmas miracle.

When The Steam Wash House opened, my mother stopped using the wash house round the back and started doing the family's washing there instead.
The Steamie became popular very quickly with its double sinks with wringers between and electric boilers where you'd boil your whites in soapy suds, and you didn't have to keep the fire going under it. You had to book your place and my mummy had a standing appointment on a Thursday morning. On that day, every week, she would arise early and bump the old pram downstairs full of the bundle of dirty washing from our house in Broomloan Road to my granny's, three up in Neptune Street, where she'd collect her load of washing and set off to the steamie in Clynder Street.

Christmas Day 1947 fell on a Thursday. I had to stay home to watch my wee sister while my mummy went to wash the clothes. No holiday at Christmas in those days, so my daddy was at work as usual.
I spent the morning sitting astride my first two wheeler and thoroughly neglecting my younger sister who I'd left in the kitchen playing by the range.
In my bedroom, I was energetically pulling my bike backwards and forwards in the narrow space between the wall and the bed, gripping the handlebar with one hand and steadying myself against the wall with the other. Every now and again, I'd dive into the kitchen to make sure my sister hadn't touched anything hot.

Time passed quickly and soon my mother was coming through the door with both lots of washing. As was her custom, she began to shake and fold my granny's wet washing, as there was not time to do this at the Steamie.
A few minutes later, we heard the front door open and I was almost knocked down as my Granny rushed past me, slamming the door behind her. Dropping to her knees beside the bundles of washing she quickly began to search through her own basket.
My mummy, astonished at her mother's strange behaviour, called out “What are you looking for Mother?”
Granny answered “If I find it, I'll tell ye. If I don't, no one will ever know," and just at that, she pounced on a pillowcase embroidered with flowers. 
She thrust her nimble fingers inside, pulled out a small white linen bag and carefully carried it to the table, where she extracted a sodden pile of pound notes; a full £100.
As we peered over her shoulder, she clutched her hand to her heart and whispered “The finding of this bundle is an answer to my prayers, I hope all's not lost.”

As with many people in those days, my granny didn't trust the banks and kept her savings in her bedding. I'm sure many today would agree with her thinking, but in this instance, my mother urged her not to touch it but ushered her out of the door and down to the potted heid bank on Govan Road.

Nervously, they approached a teller and asked to see the Manager. A few moments later, a door opened and they were invited to enter the office. He greeted them with a smile, perhaps thinking that they wanted to open an account, but was shown instead the small parcel containing the one hundred pound fortune which had been through boiler and wringer at the Steamie.
The Manager remained calm. He advised that no one should touch the bundle, but that they should take it home, turn the oven to the lowest setting and place the money on the shelf on a metal tray. The bank notes would gradually open out as they slowly dried, he explained, and he warned them not to touch them. Only when they were certain that they were thoroughly dry, should the notes be placed in a new wrapping of brown paper and returned to the bank.
He assured them with confidence, that it didn't matter the condition of the notes, for as long as the numbers were intact and legible they would get a full reimbursement for the cash.
Thankfully, out of the pile, only the outer pound note was lost and the story is remembered fondly as a Christmas miracle. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Hundred Pound Winner

 Wullie welcomes me into his splendid workshop, "Awrite missus, zat you in before yer hunner pound fine again?" he says with his customary good humour.

Thanks, dear Diary. If I hadn't written about my lack of MOT last Christmas Eve, I'd probably not have remembered about getting a new one this year.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Transcendent Peace

A chill, damp afternoon at Govan Cross, just three days before Christmas day.
A mum plays football with her boy against the walls of St. Mary's and a flock of white birds flies high into the grey sky. Over the river sails a flock of white swans.
Peace in Govan, but on our return to home, we learn of mayhem and tragedy upstream in George Square.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

And Forward, Though I Cannot See, I Guess And Fear

There's been loads of theories on what was going to happen to the graving docks ever since the Coachhouse Trust moved in before the Commonwealth Games and started clearing the undergrowth round the two big dry docks nearest Govan Road.
I thought most credible - though not from the most credible source -  was Mr B. who stated, authoritatively, that Glasgow City Council was clearing it for the visitors to the Games. Then when the multi millionaires and them that's got a wallet that would choke a donkey sees it, they'll not be able to resist buying up vast areas of Govan's heritage and building big skyscrapers all over it.

After the games, the land flourished with wild fruits and foliage until this week when the Trust rolled back through the gates and went into de-forestation mode with a vengeance.
I have never seen - and I mean never - seen weeding done on such a vast scale in so quick a time.
Yes, you can see the river better and that's quite nice. But, what . . . and I think I have said this before . . . next?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Christmas Kick-Off

A cold, clear night sets over Govan and the hi-jinks of the "Govan Loves Christmas" team. This year's merriment has expanded ten-fold to include a wintry fair on the site of the doomster carpark with plenty of ideas for that special Christmas gift. Cut price Airbus anyone?
There's a stage featuring primary school carollers, the rat queen from the Govan Cat show, back by popular demand at the church hall this panto season and a compere who works up the crowd in readiness for good ol' Santa Claus and the lighting of the tree.
Nat fae Howat Street's turnt a hippy and is snapped on a tricycle built for a few.
The pic's not great, but wish you could see the intense excitement on the faces of the wee boys on the rickshaw. True Christmas wonderment.
Two warriors show no fear in the sight of the polis as they take one another on with light sabres. But it's a different story when one gets hurt and their maw descends on them with a wallop.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Breathe In Govan

Me and the Islay Bird step over the door and into a dank, misty evening. She grips my hand and chatters constantly as we walk briskly to Govan Cross.
"I'm scared," says she. "Don't be," says I with a giggle, "nothing to be scared of in Govan."
"It's dark," she says, "What's that in there?" and we look through the open door of a workshop in the big shed. "It's where they make nice tables and chairs and cabinets and stuff like that," I reply, "See the men working."
We move on and pass the lights of the Riverside Club where mums, dads and children are making their way to the door.
Down through the Riverside scheme and along the riverbank we go.
"Look Islay Bird," I say, "somebody's got their Christmas lights up and we've just had St. Andrew's Night."
She is more forgiving than me and whoops at the twinkling colours and the tree.
"Are there spooky things down here?" she says, gripping my hand tightly and peeping behind her.
"Not at all!" I say with bravado, whilst casting a quick glance around. "C'mon we'll sing a song," and at that she launches into a Hallowe'en ditty.
I look down at this lightly skipping, dancing child and a memory glimmers of my own walks along Govan streets, hand in hand with an elder. Nice how the years roll round.
"Take a deep breath, Bird, and breathe in Govan," and we both sook the air deep into our lungs.
We turn up Water Row and make for the lights.
Govan's Christmas tree has been erected and awaits the grand switch-on. Camouflaged in the mirk, I have to point it out to the Bird. "Santa's fairies are coming to light it up soon. We'll come and see it."

Friday, 14 November 2014

Govan Glows

Govan is bathed in light. Over our heads is a luminescent sky, wintry blue, clear and cold.
Red sandstone tenement mansions, newly restored on Water Row, lend warmth to the scene and windows are lit in warm whites and yellows.
Floodlights highlight the beauty of the worn stone of Govan New.
Lamplight and fairylights twinkle in the dark picture windows of Cafe 13.
Damp pavements reflect the streetlights, casting the beams back up and into the shimmering atmosphere.
It's a cold evening, and a warm evening in glowing Govan.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Fawkes Foxed

As stated, my usual burning ardour for Guy Fawkes night has been quenched by the recent destruction by fire of some of Govan's beloved landmarks.
I feel quite broken hearted this chill evening at the thought of loved ones passed away and the physical sites associated with them. So sad.
From one end of Govan to the other, we check for the annual carnival of fire, but naught to be found.
For starters, there's no possible site from Golspie St., Shaw St., Rathlin St., McKechnie St. Every square inch of sperr grun is built on. You could have a fire at Water Row, but nothing's there. Nothing at the riverside, no sign at Orkney St., Broomloan Rd., Vicarfield St., the sperr grun by The Bells. Not a flicker of flame at the Graving Docks, even though this trumps everywhere in Govan for best site for a bonfire. I'm quite confident of a whooshing blaze at Clynder St., as there was last year. But . . . turn the corner, and, there's nothing.
It's a beautiful night; clear, starry sky of Prussian blue and a glowing moon rising above the tenements. By the time we set off our own fireworks, it's late. The full moon has risen to the pinnacle of the sky and a white ground frost is sparkling.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Little Gaelic Church In The Vale

The year rolls round and the time has come to spy out bonfires in planning.
Truth be told, my heart's not in it. After the merciless burning of Broomloan Road Schools, last one just weeks ago, my usual fervour for Guy Fawkes fires has been dampened.
Accompanied by two generations on from me, I educate the toddlers in the history of St. Columba's Gaelic Free Church as we take a walk along the sad wasteland of Briton St. They're none too interested at present, but enjoy the sunshine and - hopefully - will enjoy a restored Gaelic Church in their future.  Would be nice to think so.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Clatter Crash

Night creeps into Govan early on this Hallowe'en. Do the shadows in the close seem darker and stranger? Is that footsteps you hear as you walk calmly but oh so quickly up the stairs? An over anxious rat-a-tat-tat on the letterbox gains admission to the safety of a Hallowe'en soiree; dooking for apples, nuts and sweeties in bowls, and eerie lanterns set around the room - pumpkins now replacing tumshies cos howking out tumshies is too much like hard work.
By flickering candlelight, a favourite terrifying tale is recalled and we draw in closer together to listen.
The story's setting isn't spooky; school holidays in the blistering summer of 1976.
Diva's mum and dad go on their first foreign holiday and leave their son and daughter alone with a strict warning there's to be nae perties.
Diva, with her pale skin and red hair, finds the sun doesn't agree with her and invites some friends to a house party in the heat of the day. There's crisps and ginger from the shop, ice cream from the van when it comes round. All the windows are wide open above the street but no air blows through the two rooms and kitchen.
From the press in the bedroom, Diva brings out a Ouija board and sets it on the table. The friends gather round and press their fingers lightly to the glass. No one's quite sure what to do, so there's a lot of laughter, some of it nervous.
In the cool of the evening, the friends cross under the river on the subway and walk about Kelvingrove Park and down Byres Road before returning home.
On the second day, Diva is taking this seriously. Just one pal turns up to sit in the heavy atmosphere of a shady kitchen. It's easier to control the laughter when just two sit at the board and after a few false starts they begin to feel as though the glass is moving on its own, speedily dragging their fingers from point to point. They can scarcely look at each other before a tremendous boom sounds in the bedroom and both jump to their feet in terror and run to the outside door, falling over each other to get out and down the stairs, jumping two and three at a time till they stand in fear in the middle of the street.
Sure it was the wardrobe falling over with a crash, they wait for Diva's brother to come home to re-enter the house, by which time, another half a dozen pals have mustered and they scale the staircase together to inspect the damage done by the poltergeists.
Jackie throws open the bedroom door, the ceiling is high with a single pendant light hanging from the centre. The bed is covered in a pink candlewick, with pattern of green leaves and yellow flowers, smoothed out and neatly tucked under the pillows. Room for one plain wooden bedside table and the wardrobe against the wall. Yes, there it stands, unmoved. Jackie, with the girls trailing behind, checks every corner of the house but there's no evidence of anything that could have caused the unearthly crash.
On the third day, there's a big attendance at the unhallowed gathering. Diva struggles to conjure up the same intensity with so many crowding round the table. A couple get bored fairly quickly and depart, one girl feels frightened and persuades another to get her down the stairs. Just five left and fingers on the glass. Diva asks the question - who was it that made the noise yesterday? Was it a message? Was there something to . . . before she finishes speaking in her strangely high, breathy voice, they are assailed by an ear-splitting racket; clattering and clanging of pots and kettles, banging of cupboard doors and slamming of drawers, cascading metal cutlery and shattering plates resounds through the door and bounces off the walls. With screams and yells, the girls leap up and out of the front door, diving downstairs at a pelt and standing quivering in the street. The safest place they can think of is Elder Park where the sun smiles down on picnics and play.
By teatime, they gather again at the closemouth to await Jackie's return from work. He just shakes his head at them and alights the stairs with a swagger and a smirk and a line of lassies following him up. He emerges from the kitchen with the immortal words, "Ye never washed ma cornflakes bowl. Whit else is new?" Everything stands untouched and unmoved from when he last saw it at breakfast time.

So what was it? What was the noise and the cause of it? All these years on, and Diva testifies it was true. Now, on this Hallowe'en night, how do we get back downstairs without a scream!?!

Hallowe'en Bake-Off

Happy Hallowe'en as they say nowadays. A strange salutation I always think, but can't deny being happy that Watson's Bakery is still open for business and thriving in 2014. New front door and smart wall boards this year and the same delicious rolls, teabreads and cakes. Yes, I did buy a coconut icing bun from the second shelf.
Richards strikes me as pretty ghastly in ghostly grey. I thought for a while that it was just an undercoat, but turns out this is the finished décor. Hellish Hallowe'en.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

It's Good To Talk

Techmanology. Sometimes it's just soooo wearying. You can never get away fae people nowadays; constantly on the end of the line, just wanting to talk, just reminding you about this and that, just checking you're still coming, you're still remembering, you're still getting that thing they asked you to get them. Oh, and another thing they've just remembered they forgot to tell you.This poor guy in the household aisle in Home Bargains is stuck on the mobile. I'm perusing the mops and buckets, cleaning cloths and dishtowels and gradually his dejected voice enters my consciousness and eventually I turn round and note his bowed head, hands hanging down, feeble knees. The one sided conversation goes, "Aye, Ah said, in Home Bargains . . Ah'm tryin to hurry up. Uh-huh . . ok Ah will. If you go off the phone Ah'll hurry quicker."I make my selection and walk briskly round to the stationery aisle to look for inkies. Hmm, he's wandered round here too from the other end.
"Ah don't see it . . . Ah do know what you're talking about but there's nothing like it here. Look, Ah'm here and Ah'm lookin and there's none of them here." He sighs deeply. I actually take a moment to stare at him and feel a bit of annoyance well up - but wait, is it really his fault. Just a victim of the moby.
"Ok, Ah'll try the printers on Govan Road. No, Ah told you Ah hadnae been there yet . . . ok ok. Ah'm goin there now. Ah did tell you. Look, you hang up and I'll be back a lot quicker. Right, ok then, just hang up. . . What?" Exasperation sets in. Voice is raised. "Do you want me to go for that before the printers or later on?"
Man alive. I am outta here.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Champagney Darling!

Lovely to welcome guest blogger, Majj, who like every exile, wends her way to Watson's on a trip home.
Back up from the big smoke. It's just a quick visit. Feels good to be back in sunny Govan, which incidentally is not so sunny, more windy and grey. But these are minor details in the scheme of things.
Before I go to visit my sister and the Govan baby, I pop into the Magpie's Nest for a rifle around. Everyone always seems to pick up a bargain in there, but as I wander around I think that word must have got out. There's not much to be had and I slope out feeling a sense of deep disappointment whilst realising my expectations had been probably been set too high.
Walking up the road I pass by the shops selling Eastern European foods and African foods. It's getting to be like London! I step inside to take a look at what's for sale, but get a few odd stares and puzzled looks as I walk up and down the aisle. Maybe I'm not their usual customer. Just a few tins and packets of coconut milks and hair oils on the shelves, chest freezers of chicken nebs and tilapia fish. Can't see anything very appealing anyway, so slope out, a little disappointed.
It would be rude of me to go to the sister's without something, so drop into Watson's, of course. I'm greeted with a dry but friendly, "Hullo hen." A wee wifey comes in behind me and starts a lively conversation with the shop lady. I get included in it - or maybe I just include myself and we all end up shaking our heads and rolling our eyes to the heavens! 
Just as I'm leaving, cakes in their little white box, the wifey says warmly, "Ah like yer hair that a champagney colour?" 
Pleased with myself, I thank them probably more enthusiastically than I need to, take my cakes and leave, feeling fulfilled.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Fine About It

Some people just can't help playing to an audience, even if one isn't there, well, unless two pals and me leaning against the pawn shop window counts.
The star of the show is tall and slim, hair pulled into a high ponytail which she swings from side to side as she performs. She is fashionable and smart, pristine white tracksuit with pink stripe down the outside leg with matching trainers. Her parka jacket is pulled tight at her waist and she rests her hand on her designer pram, occasionally rocking it as she holds court.

"He's moved in noo," she's saying, "It's a great wee flat, plenty room and a shared kitchen so it's quite good. You've got company if ye wantit"
The audience nods, aw, that's good. Aye.
The girl leans back and swishes her hair, casts her eyes up to the canopy of the Govan Cross shops and back down, then looks left and right to check who's on the street.
"No bad, the other wans in it. He's gettin oan fine wi them."
Aw, that's good.
"He says to me he's just tellin them he's got hepatitis n Ah think they'll a' be fine aboot it."
Och well, that's good.

Friday, 19 September 2014

No Fee For The Ferryman

The morning breaks, the shadows flee and whether you voted yes or no, there's a definite flat feeling in the atmosphere this morning as news breaks of 55/45.
By early afternoon, the gang gathers at the foot of Water Row to cross over the river on the free summer ferry before the service ends in a coupla days.
So, no fee for the pipe puffing ferryman who helps us clamber aboard, and we chug in a fancy circle to explore the Riverside Museum.
Before long, we end up in the cafe and eat some delicious cakes and drink hot chocolate whilst gazing out at the flat, still, grey day.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Parcel Of Rogues

It was the largest School in Govan built by Govan School Board, and comprised two separate buildings. The first, designed by Alexander Watt, opened in 1875. In 1894 a red sandstone extension was built, designed by H&D Barclay. 

May 2014 saw the burning and demolition of Broomloan Road's Old building and last night saw the burning of the New. 
If the measure of Scottish politicians is Matheson's Mafia, then maybe we're better not left to their mercy. In a small nation of 5 million, those nasty, self-serving criminals and free-loaders could have a heyday :/
Something to think about as we enter the polling station.

Monday, 15 September 2014


It's the week of the Referendum and Govan is awash with campaigners. 
The Water Row mansions have YES posters in quite a few of the windows while a Better Together sticker has adhered to lamppost at dug eye level.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

From Peever to Parrots

One of the benefits of a fine, dry summer is the amazing displays of street art which abound on Govan's pavements. Beautiful chalky drawings liven the tarmacadam down on the Riverside housing scheme. Industry and energy in the world of play!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Watsons Sausage Rolls

So relieved to have Watson's open again after their holiday closure in July It's scary to think this wonderful artisanal bakery in Govan's Shaw Street may not always be here. Like, I'm sure it will, but anyways, for the time being - and may that time long continue - let's celebrate the baked goods steaming through its ovens
Today, a light and flaky Sausage Roll. This baby is to die for. Golden pastry encases a lightly spiced sausage meat. Crunch through the first layer and down through the hot puff to swallow your first burning bite. A steaming, savoury richness warms your heart and as you lick your finger and run it round the inside of the paper bag, and into the corners of the poke to get the flaky crumbs, you always, without exception, wish you had bought two.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Commonwealth Cup

Glasgow's beaming. What a show we put on for the Commonwealth; undulating waves of love and cordiality abound, rising with the surging heat of early August.

A squad of us pass the gates of Govan Old when a sharp whistle draws our attention to the other side of the street. Without casting his eyes to left or right, Smudge briskly crosses over. No jacket tonight, his only concession to the heat.
"Did ye see any o the gemmes?" says he.
"Naw, naw, much better view on the telly."
"Aye, ye're right therr Ah'd've been as well styin' hame an'a," says he. 
"Whit tickets did you get?" 
"Jist the boxing, know."
Obviously. Smudge's flat and broken nose attests to his passion. 
"Aye, it wis an experience. Some place that Hydro. Wan visit'll dae me."
He screws up his face, mouth turned down, looking at us sideways,
"Went fur a cuppa tea. The lassie says, 'that's two pound please'. Two pound? says I. Ur ye sure it's no four pound?"
Hahaha we all laugh wryly, shaking our heads.
"Ah nivver made the prices she says"  and he mockingly mimics her huffy tone,
"Och, get tae - Ah says. Efter this, Ah'll no be back."

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Govan's Shores

Sun splitting the sky and we're sailing on the good ship Waverley today. Snapped some pics of Govan's shores. We set sail from the quay at the science centre and are soon steaming past the Graving Docks and Pumphouse. 
The canting basin, the Big Shed and flats of the Riverside
Govan Old

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

In Loving Memory

Alex's Ma's passed. Done well, achieved her three score year and ten plus near enough twenty, from cradle to grave in the streets of Govan. 

Hope it's ok to wear a white blouse with the funeral black in today's heat? Hope so. As I turn the corner, there's a solemn band of mourners congregating on the pavement outside Cockburns, talking in hushed voices, shaking hands, drawing on cigarettes.

Cockburns, established in 1932, is the last remaining family run funeral directors in Govan. The front room is fashioned as a comfortable living room, with sofas stationed around a fireplace, over which quite an interesting picture of Glasgow hangs. 
More people arrive and we move as a body into the parlour, dim and subdued. The keyboard, with organ stops selected, is playing a medley of Abide With Me's. We nod reverently to our friend, whose frail mortal shell lies in the casket, before taking our seats and sitting in quiet reflection.
A quick read through the hymnsheet and thoughts resurge of the lives and deaths of those whose passing we have commemorated and celebrated, over which we have grieved and felt relieved.
We sing the 23rd psalm, we say a prayer, we listen with appreciation to the achievements of a woman who brought up her boys, travelled many long miles between the cooker and the kitchen sink, enjoyed family life and felt the kindness of it in her last years. 

We emerge, blinking in the sunlight and wait for the party to gather. 
Some folks forget themselves and a few boisterous conversations strike up. 
One man hails my neighbour, "Haw, May, how's you? No seen you since ye were the turnkey at Orkney St." She laughs. "Dje remember yer niece goat lifted every weekend n ye had tae . . . "
"Aye, aye," she's saying, shaking her head and trying to quieten him a bit, "That's right,"
"Whit wis the lassie's name? That wis a laugh."
"Aye, she's dead noo," and she distracts him with talk of how he's keeping till the family file out and climb into the black saloons for the journey to Craigton.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

sunny howat st

Alex's Ma's passed. Done well, achieved three score year and ten plus twenty, from cradle to grave and onto glory. 

Hope it's ok to wear a white blouse with the funeral black in today's heat? Hope so. Yes, as I turn the corner, there's a solemn band of mourners, congregating on the pavement outside Cockburns, talking in hushed voices, shaking hands, drawing on cigarettes.

The funeral parlour has a large window facing out to Govan Road, but it's discreetly covered by a vertical blind. The front room has been fashioned like a comfortable living room, with sofas stationed around a fireplace, over which quite an interesting picture of Glasgow hangs. 
More people arrive and we move as a body into the parlour, dim and subdued. The keyboard, with organ stops selected, is playing a medley of Abide With Me's. Some nod reverently to our friend, whose frail mortal shell lies in the casket, before taking a seat and sitting in quiet reflection.
A quick read through the hymnsheet and thoughts resurge over the lives and deaths of those whose passing we commemorated, celebrated, grieved and felt relieved over. 

On the way back round the road, I pass a garden of sleepy dogs sprawling in the warm sun. One of the hounds is leaping in and out the window of the ground floor. Two couples organise a barbecue for later. 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Welcome Home Destroyer

So, this is why that dredger was scooting back and forth last month. It was preparing the way for Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan as she returns to Govan where she was built and launched in 2010. Remember this?

Smackie the sailorman says that the massive ball on the top of the tower is a giant telescope that can see for miles, right round the curve of the earth!