Category Archives: Lifestyle

What Made Milwaukee Famous

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, January 2022

Hands up if you can remember your first trip to the pub?
And by pub, I mean a proper public bar, not the Beachcomber at Butlins in Ayr with your Mum & Dad.

I’m pretty sure mine’s was the Burnbrae bar in Bearsden in 1973. I went with a few pals, one of them, Jay, was a year older than the rest of us, and as he strolled nonchalantly up to the bar, the rest of us hid round the corner near the dartboard and tried not to squeak.

I’m not even sure I liked the taste of beer back then or knew what type of beer to order so when Jay said he was having a pint of ‘heavy’ we all followed suit, lowered our voices by several octaves and growled – “yeah pint of heavy for me too mate”.
What came back was warm brown liquid (probably slops reserved for undiscerning intruders like ourselves), and I realised heavy wasn’t for me, settling instead for lager and lime which lacked a bit of credibility but suited an unrefined palette, more used to Garvies fizzy pop at the time.

It’s interesting to reflect on our hierarchy of needs in those early days; the main priority of course was access – can we get into the damn place without suffering the ignominy of a knock-back, and the subsequent walk of shame .
This also encouraged a Darwinist, law of the jungle approach to proceedings, where some of your best mates got left behind because they had a baby-face or looked too young…. they weren’t too happy at the time but they’re probably laughing now!

Being an underage pub-goer took meticulous planning, for instance the ETA was critical – the pub had to be busy enough so as not to stand out but quiet enough that you could get a seat.

What entrance you used was important – if possible, a side entrance that didn’t face the bar.

Where you sat was also critical– out of sight of the bar if possible, and always with your back to the bar.
Close to an exit was preferable in case it got raided by the police and you had to get out pronto

So much thought and energy just to rush down a couple of watery Norseman lagers all the while sitting in fear of being chucked out.

Once we got a bit more confident (and older) then we started looking at other variables – pubs that offered better value, pubs that had a jukebox or played live music and then ultimately livelier disco-pubs like The Rooster or City Limits at weekends where you could mingle to your hearts content
Of course, the landscape has changed a tad from 1973 particularly the breadth of choices on offer.

Back in the day there would probably only be one draught lager on offer whereas now you can take your pick of multiple lagers and craft beers from around the globe (plus numerous bottled options).

Similarly, if you asked for a gin, it was probably Gordons (or a cheap supermarket version in a Gordons bottle) whereas today it can take 10 minutes just to present the various options.

Vodka? the same, – Smirnoff used to be the only game in town but now you can have any flavour you want – toffee, watermelon, passion fruit, the list goes on.

I don’t even remember if you could buy a glass of wine in a pub back then, but if you were lucky there was a house white and a house red.

One thing my friend Tabby reminded me of recently is that cordials used to be a big part of the offer – lime, orange, blackcurrant and his favourite, peppermint, all essential mixers and often laid out on the bar with lemonade and water, totally free of charge, nowadays it’ll cost you £2.50 for a bottle of Fever Tree to mix with your Gin and juniper berries.

Talking about prices, on my first sojourn to the pub a pint was 15p which is equivalent to roughly £1.55 in today’s money. A shot of vodka, rum, gin or whisky was 16p which is equivalent to £1.65 today.

To put it in perspective the average annual salary in 1973 was £2,000 or 13,300 pints of beer.
Jump forward to 2022 where the average salary is £32,000 and the average cost of a pint is £3.80… equivalent to 8,420 pints of beer.

Which means that we’re 4,880 pints worse off people!!

It’s true that our money used to go a lot further in those days, and when you tell youngsters today that you used to be able to have a great night out for the cost of a bottle of Fever Tree, they look at you the same way we looked at our parents when they spoke about collecting jam-jars in order to get into the cinema!

Public Bar price list 1971

It’s easy to get nostalgic about some of our old haunts and there’s a great Facebook group called Old Glasgow Pubs, which features some terrific images and memories about pubs from the 60’s, 70s & 80s in Glasgow.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/oldglasgowpubs

It’s mostly made up of punters reminiscing about their favourite pubs & bars in Glasgow, with people commenting on how they used to frequent said establishment, or in some cases how they worked there, or met their wife/husband there or in the case of the Bell Geordie in Bell St, a previous owner joined the thread to say he used to own the gaff.

As you go through the posts you realise just how many pubs there are or used to be in Glasgow, for instance according to the site below there are 579, yes, 579 pubs within 10 miles of Partick train station, sounds bizarre but you can check them all out on the link and start the biggest pub-crawl of your life.
I’ll see you in The Curlers!

https://www.beerintheevening.com/pubs/results.shtml/tr/1663/

Kiss On My List

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, January 2022

I reckon most people can remember who they shared their first romantic kiss with… although perhaps we’re reaching an age now where some of us are struggling to remember who we shared the last one with!

That first kiss can be a defining moment, a conclusion to months and in some cases years of anxiety…. they don’t call it teenage angst for nothing.

For our troop of wannabe Romeos, any thoughts of engaging with the opposite sex didn’t emerge until the lead up to the Qualifying (Quali) Dance in primary 7. Up until then we had more important things to focus our blossoming brains on, like Football, Subbuteo & Airfix models.

Whilst the Quali Dance appeared to be the tipping point for this seismic shift in interests, the real catalyst I think was the onset of puberty which was having its impact on the fairer sex as well…. why else would they show any interest in a monosyllabic boy sporting a matching shirt & tie abomination hand-picked by a mum who thought Peter Wyngarde was a style guru?

The Quali Dance of course was a school ritual and part of said ritual was to ‘escort someone to the dance’… except it never really worked out that way.
There were no limousines, corsages, bowls of punch or live bands like the feted American high-school proms…. just teuchter music, unbranded fizzy-pop, dollops of awkwardness and an evening that seemed to go by in a flash.

Despite all the talk and bravado I don’t remember anyone from our year popping their ‘kissing-cherry’ at the Westerton Primary School, Quali Dance of 1970.
Not even our resident man-boy…. a lad with a voice like Barry White and a full thicket of short & curlies at age 11, who’s hormones were obviously running amok whilst the rest of us were popping champagne corks if we located a single strand in the nether regions with a magnifying glass.

I didn’t think about it at the time but looking back I imagine the dynamics in the girls changing rooms were pretty similar.

Our transition to the ‘big school’ several months later presented fresh opportunities and challenges. There were lots of new people on the scene now and more social events…. however, this just seemed to ramp up the pressure as you sought to avoid being the last in your peer-group to land that first smooch.

There was also some anxiety around the question of technique – kissing wasn’t something you could practice by yourself (or with a mate!) like football, so how could you tell if you were doing it properly?

What if you banged her teeth or bit her lip or she swallowed your chewing gum? The word would surely get out and no one would ever want to kiss you again.

You’d be kiss-shamed and canceled!

There were one or two awkward near misses before the big event took place, notably a spin the bottle session with an older crowd, resulting in a couple of consolatory pecks to the cheek and forehead… which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been sitting eyes closed, lips pursed, in anticipation.

As it turned out, my first kiss was with a girl I’d known since primary 3 and although it wasn’t articulated, I think we were both motivated by a shared need to get this kissing monkey off our respective backs.
In that respect I suppose it was more a kiss of convenience than an explosion of passion.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t chip her teeth or block any airways with my Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit, but I don’t remember there being any fireworks…. just a joint sense of relief before we went our separate ways to share our news.

I think we appreciated we were in the same boat…. it was a rite of passage for both of us.

Fast forward a couple of years and the kissing floodgates were well and truly open now – I remember this bizarre ritual at local disco’s where revellers would just start snogging mid-song and I’m not talking about the slow songs at the end of the evening, as that was par for the course.
There was no verbal interaction, no please or thank you’s, no “you’re looking ravishing tonight”…. just a tap on the shoulder, two and a half minutes of shuffling around to 10cc or Cockney Rebel followed by a 30 second snog and then you’d be on your merry way before the DJ played the next song…. I’ve often wondered if it still happens today?

This was an era when you would go to the cinema ostensibly to ‘winch’ your way through whatever blockbuster was showing that week.
Bearing in mind that double bills were the norm in the 70s, that was a lot of smooching, particularly as you only came up for air when the lights came on for the obligatory half-time refreshments… Kia-ora and choc-ice.

I think it’s fair to say that the back rows of the local cinemas were always chock-a-block on a Friday and Saturday night and it wasn’t to get a panoramic view of the screen

This was also the period when ‘love-bites’ came into prominence (as did polo-necks, funnily enough) with girls applying makeup (and toothpaste?) to conceal their perceived marks of shame whilst boys strutted around like Mick Jagger, parading their vampiric contusions as a badge of honour.

There was plenty of anxiety around this practice too – what if I suck a bit too hard and draw blood, will I turn into a bat?

It was a curious phenomenon.

Some people even practised the art on themselves (well, I’m guessing the love bites on their arms didn’t get there any other way!) whilst others used the suction from a coke bottle or similar to make it look like they’d been party to an amorous encounter… when really they’d been in their bedrooms alone, listening to Gilbert O’Sullivan and waiting for the ice-cream van.

Looking back, love-bites were horrendous things but like tartan scarves, Gloverall duffel coats and first kisses, at a certain point, we all had to have one!

a yorkshire christmas

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – December 2021)

(Andrea and Richard as a young couple.)

 Looking at old photos recently, I was reminded of one memorable Christmas more than forty years ago.  As a young twenty-something, I had recently become engaged to ‘our’ Richard and was thus invited to spend Christmas day with his large family in Yorkshire, where they could inspect his latest ‘”live-in job”; as his mother referred to me.  I was nervous about the trip because, being American – and therefore considered to be ‘foreign’ – I had already received a thorough Northern grilling from my future mother-in-law, Irene, who viewed me with great suspicion.

*****

I say ‘invited’ to Yorkshire for Christmas; more like summoned.  Irene and her sister Auntie May took it in turns each Christmas to host the big family Christmas dinner. This year it was held at Auntie May and Uncle Bernie’s big stone house on a steep hill overlooking the town.

Richard and I were greeted on the kerb-side as we parked the car by Irene – hands on hips – pointing to her watch in dramatic fashion,

“What time do you call this? I said be here at one o’clock sharp – it’s ten past! Your Auntie won’t be best pleased.”

We were ushered straight into the back dining room where the family were tightly packed on buffets and chairs around two tables which had been shoved together to make room for fourteen: Auntie and Uncle, Richard’s mum and dad, cousins, old Auntie Annie up the corner on a piano stool and her friend Doris behind the door.

“Come on in! Hello love, give your Auntie a kiss. Squeeze in lass! Ooh, you do have child-bearing hips!”

(This last comment made me blush.)

The feast finally got underway with a great clattering of knives on plate; three types of meat (well, Richard’s dad was a Master Butcher): turkey, pork with crackling and beef; crispy roast potatoes; a great heap of buttery mash; Yorkshire puddings the size of dinner plates to soak up all that delicious, thick onion gravy; sprouts which had been in the pressure cooker since dawn; an abundance of peas and carrots; golden parsnips in honey;  pickles, relishes, bread sauce, apple sauce for the pork.

I had never witnessed such glorious feasting in my life; where I came from in Virginia we had turkey with rice and black eyed peas on Christmas Day.

But that wasn’t all! Auntie May and Irene cleared the decks and later wheeled in a huge oval Pyrex dish of rice pudding; crispy round the edge with a great dollop of Golden Syrup in the middle which had melted into the rice, making it all sticky and moist. My stomach was now at full stretch! I vowed to never eat again!

After the feast, the men all retired to the Best Room at the front of the house for a cigar and whisky (purely medicinal, you know), while ‘us’ women set to clearing away.

The tables had been moved beneath the large sash window and the assorted straight-backed chairs arranged around the perimeter of the room to give the ladies a place to perch with their tea and settle down to the important business of gossip. Old Auntie Annie resumed her position in the corner by the door next to Doris. Irene was balanced elegantly on the piano stool, with her back up against the piano from where she could keep an eye on the comings and goings in the room, lest she should miss out on anything vital.

(NEITHER Annie nor Doris …or even Irene.)

Auntie May sat next to her sister on an unfeasibly tight chair, which seemed to matter little to her as she forever bobbed up and down, in and out of the kitchen ensuring everyone had a cup of tea.

Across the room sat a widowed neighbour of Auntie May’s: one Mrs Stockett, who had just popped in on the off-chance of a cuppa and gossip under the pretext of extending a Christmas greeting.  A stout woman past her prime, her crumpled, dough-like face with more than the hint of a whisker was held taught as she pursed her mouth and raised her bushy eyebrows in expectation of any gleam of tittle-tattle.

I balanced one cheek on a rock-hard chair seat, wedged between the marble fire surround and large over-mantle mirror.

Once all the ladies had taken their positions they loosened their stays. Perhaps I should explain that ladies of a certain age in Yorkshire in those days still wore corsets and girdles in a vain effort to rein it all in.  They sat back as far as gravity would allow; resting their Denby tea cups and saucers on their ample bosoms, which acted as a useful shelf in the absence of incidental tables. Well, Auntie May had tried to squeeze in a nest-of-tables from the Best Room but couldn’t get them past Auntie Annie and Doris without asking them to move – and poor old Auntie Annie had only just got comfortable; “what, with  me  water worksshe mouthed to her companion.

(It’s been a talent for over 100 years – this pic from @1870s)

Mrs Stockett parted her knees to get a purchase on her buffet; threw decorum to one side and cut to the chase in a deep rasp, rough-hewn from a lifetime of smoking untipped cigarettes. One of Auntie Annie’s thick stockings collapsed around her ankle as she braced herself.

“Ooh Irene, you ‘ave lost weight lass! ‘Ow ‘ave you done it luv?”

Irene had always been a large woman (heavy bones in our family”) but had slimmed down to a very trim nine stone, which accentuated her beautiful cheek bones. Taking this as a compliment Irene sat up straight while sucking in her mouth to consider her reply; rolling her tongue around the inside of her mouth and crossing her arms.

“Well, of a mornin’ we ‘ave toast… but no butter.”

There was a moment of disbelief that hung over the hostess trolley.

“What…no butter?” chorused the ladies. 

Auntie Annie’s other stocking rolled  to her knee as she edged forward to hear better.

“No! No butter!”

“Ooh!  ‘Ow d’ya manage?  Fancy – no butter!”

Doris twiddled the row of paste pearls at her throat as she stared into middle space; grappling with the concept of life without butter. She patted Auntie Annie’s arm for comfort.

“What else d’y’ave luv?” asked Mrs Stockett; adjusting a stray bone in her stay that was digging into a rib, nearly causing her teacup to slide off her shelf.

“Don’t ya ‘ave nothin’ else?”

“No butter on yer toast?”

“And for us dinner”… (the suspense was palpable)… “we just ‘ave an apple and an orange,” continued Irene who was enjoying being centre stage.

“What?  No butter?” cried Auntie Annie suddenly from the corner.

No – she don’t ‘ave butter!” shouted Doris, despite sitting next to her friend.

“Ooh Irene! ’Ow d’ya go on luv?” asked a confused Auntie Annie.

“Well…for us tea… (now standing up and working the crowd) …we ‘ave a grilled chop with a grilled tomato.”

Irene left the grilled tomato hanging in the air as she drew in her bottom lip.

“What – you ‘ave a grilled orange?” 

NO! She ‘as a grilled CHOP!”

“No butter on your chop?”

“She don’t ‘ave butter on her chop!”

“Why don’t she ‘ave butter on ‘er toast?”

“Do ya really ‘ave grilled apples?”

“What – no butter?”

As all of this information was being processed, Auntie May bustled in with a large tray teaming with doilies; stacked high with slices of fruit cake, cream horns, custard slices, Belgium buns, rock buns and colourful French Fancies.

“All this dieting alright; it’s all them cakes in-between what do me!” laughed Auntie May as she handed out fresh plates and invited the assembled ladies to help themselves. 

Raucous laughter reverberated around the Back Room.

“Ooh May, you are a caution,” laughed Mrs Stockett. She leaned forward with a conspiratorial whisper,as she threw a challenge into the room:

“Eh – tha’ knows that blonde lass what lives at end o’road…”

The remark began to compute with the ladies as they searched their collective memory of all the people who had ever lived on the street.

“Well – they say she’s got a fancy man.

“Her mother were just t’same,” chipped in Doris, whose pearls were well and truly mangled.

Lowering her voice even further, Mrs. Stockett continued:

“Aye – and ‘er sister’s in family-way with that curly haired lad from yon end o’street.” She drew deeply on her fag, blowing smoke rings above the pyramid of cakes.

“Runs in t’family,” agreed Irene, as she nibbled on the edge of a Viennese Whirl.

The swapping of information and cross-referencing of each name and misdemeanour of every neighbour through several generations kept the ladies happily engaged for a good hour until Uncle Bernie dared to stick his bald head around the door,

“Any chance of a bite to eat?”

“Come on lad – get stuck in!”

Auntie May passed round a tray of mushroom vol-au-vents hot from the oven. I hesitated only momentarily; well, there was no point trying to deny my child-bearing hips, now was there?

(Santa and Mrs Claus – Richard and Andrea @ present day.)

(Copyright: Andrea Burn – 10th December, 2021)

For ever and ever

Roger Brown: Bedford, November 2021

I blame John Reid actually, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be standing here on a miserable, wet, Sunday morning.

I’m out walking the dog but find myself staring at a group of guys playing football.
I’ve no idea who they are, or who they represent, but it’s entertaining none the less.
Like most amateur players the ability levels are as wide as the bulk of some of them, but you get drawn in all the same.

So why do I blame John ?
Well, it was John who took me to my first proper football match on 4th September, 1971, and what an introduction it was.

Aged 14 I had never been to a proper game or for that matter, even followed a specific team.
Sure, I had played football down the local park with pals, but I’d never had a real interest in the sport.

So on this fateful day and on John’s insistence off we ventured, catching the No.11 bus into town via Maryhill road, exiting at Queens cross (with just about everyone else on the bus) and then taking the short walk to Firhill, home of Partick Thistle Football Club

As we approached the stadium it was an attack on the senses from all directions…
The smells – wafting from various vendors serving up burgers with onions and vinegar and chips.
The noise – of merchants touting team merchandise, rattling in yer ears… scarves and hats and badges and programmes.
The sights – thousands of people wearing their teams colours in the form of team shirts, scarfs and hats, young and old, male and female.

It was a veritable pre match opera with a drama unfolding on every step.

I had never seen so many people queuing in my life, or seen so many police congregated in one place at one time. Those on horseback marshalled enormous queues of segregated fans sporting their team colours, waiting to pay at (or to be lifted over) the gate.

Beyond that, coaches and mini buses parked up, hailing from towns and places near and far.
It soon became my turn to enter, I approached the turnstile, listening for the heavy duty sound of the ratchet clicking as the person ahead gained entry.
My heart was thumping !!
I was just not prepared for any of this.

Having paid (the princely sum of 15p) I climbed up the Firhill steps and reached the top to look down on a green oasis with goal posts at either end.

Surrounding the pitch there were blue three wheeled invalid cars parked behind the far goal, a covered terrace to the right and the main stand opposite.

My jaw dropped.
I had never been amongst so much commotion.

The noise grew even louder as we moved around the terrace to join the throng under the covered area.
It was a mass of humanity of all ages, some dressed smartly, some casually attired, and a great number standing astride brown paper carrier bags resting on the ground…. “The Cairy-oot “

The sound was immense as thousands of Thistle fans sung their team’s praises, whilst the opposition fans chanted to show adoration to their team too.
In amongst this cacophony though, a lone voice could be heard between the chants….
“Here you are now, here ‘s the Offeeeshall chewing gum, the macaroon bars”.
A lone man was standing astride a brown cardboard box with the aforementioned goods, flogging his wares to all comers.

As 3.00pm approached the density of the crowd increased on the steeply stepped terrace. The noise which was already deafening at that point hit a new level as the teams ran out. The crowd converging in a giant mass, only resting when everyone finally found their feet again.
Checking my immediate surroundings, I was at least 6ft away from where I had stood before.

The ref blew his whistle and we were off.
Rangers were the opposition that day, a team full of Internationals and they took the lead after 5 minutes. There was silence in the Thistle end until the game restarted, with the fans soon trading chants again, and then ten minutes later…. GOALLL for Thistle!!!

The terrace erupted…. people were going mental, embracing each other… moving across the terrace, up and down, left and right.
Some had fallen over, cairy-oots had tumbled, pies had disintegrated, but nobody cared.
My ears were ringing but the smile couldn’t be wiped off my face or that of my fellow fans, at that moment we were all one.

As the celebrations ended and I literally came back down to earth, I realised that everyone around me was a stranger, the surroundings had changed, and I was about 20ft away from where I had been beforehand…. the “mass” had moved again.

The noise from the Thistle fans was in contrast to the silence of the away support who remained silently static, before hurling abuse at the opposition ( and the odd missile too).
Chants and songs soon recommenced, both supports fortifying the support for their team.

The game restarted and normal service was resumed.

On three more occasions that afternoon, fans of each side would experience moments of joy or pain during the game’s 90 minutes.

At full time the Jags had won 3-2, a crowd of 24,500 had witnessed Thistle’s first game back in the top division having gained promotion the previous season.

That was it. I was hooked, I had never experienced anything like this before…. the noise, the smells, the joy, the pain, the camaraderie and most importantly, the belonging.

I was hooked on the match-day experience, this was how I wanted to spend my Saturday afternoons, but now I had to make a decision, who was going to be ‘My Team’?

Half a century on, my love has never faltered, I continue to follow the Jags from afar.
As for John, we kind of parted ways as we grew older but then our paths crossed again in the early eighties. He was married and living in Milngavie.

I live down south now so if anyone sees John, please pass on my regards and thank him for gifting me this love of football.

Right, I better get a move on and walk the dog.
There ‘s rugby training further down the park, a good excuse to let him off the lead.

Up The Toon

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, November 2021

There was a point in our mid teens when we felt it was time to cast the net a bit wider.
We’d progressed from playing in the street, to going up the local park, then a bit further afield, but generally within a two mile radius of our base…. but a bit like tiger cubs there came a point when we were ready to explore and roam new territories.

Invariably all roads led to….. Glasgow

Looking back, going ‘up the toon’ to Glasgow city centre was a rite of passage, it’s what the older kids did and like raiding Vikings they usually returned laden with treasure….

A Wrangler denim jacket or a pair of Levis from Jean Shack

The new Bowie/Rod/Zep/T-Rex album from Listen/23rd Precinct/Virgin

A feather cut or suede-head from Cut n’ Dried or Fuscos

An Arthur Black shirt from well… Arthur Black’s Shirts & Slacks.

The desire to start making our own choices typically came at at a point when parents were still picking some of our clothes and ushering us to old-school barbers, where glossy headshots of Peter Marinello covered the cracks on the walls, and where condoms rather than coriander conditioners were on display – ‘something for the weekend sir?’

Poster boy – Peter Marinello (the Lothian George Best)

Even if you had the temerity to ask for a Peter Maranello they’d respond, “aye no problem”, pull out the electric razor (the big old clunky ones with the cord) and execute the only haircut they knew how to administer…. the one that invariably left you with a big red rash on the back of your neck for a week.

Seeing the older kids with their goodies and cool haircuts inspired some of us young uns’ to follow their trail, however, it was a pursuit that needed funding, which is why a couple of us started up a paper round when we were 14 whilst others took up delivering morning rolls.
The disposable income we duly acquired was set aside for regular sojourns to Glasgow where we would aspire to emulate our elders.
Swanning around town before a triumphant homecoming – brandishing our 23rd Precinct & Krazy House bags with pride.

Going up the town per se was nothing new, after all we’d had years of being chaperoned to DM Hoey’s and Freeman, Hardie & Willis for winter coats and sensible shoes.
However, heading into town with your chums, with your own money burning a hole in your pocket, was a different proposition altogether, a proper adventure.

Paddy’s Market

Once you’d been up a couple of times and knew your way around, part of the fun was going off-piste… exploring and navigating Glasgow’s grid system via lanes and backstreets and witnessing sites you’d rarely see in the Bearsden bubble – sites like adults blootered on Carlsberg Special Brew before lunchtime or witnessing the colourful characters that worked and hung around Paddy’s Market.

We could spend hours roaming around the town…..

Loitering in record shops – rummaging through the racks of vinyl and requesting to hear albums in the listening booths or the available headphones (Dark Side of the Moon with its stereophonic effects was always a good one).

Roving around department stores, from the sports dept, to the electrical dept, before bashfully taking in the sights and scents of the perfumery dept.

Visiting the legendary Tam Shepherds Trick Shop in Queen St, where the sickly scent of stink bombs was never far from the front door….. before heading to the rag-trade end of Argyle St, up towards the Trongate, where all the ‘on-trend’ clothes shops were housed.

Welcome to the house of fun

A big part of the adventure of course was the journey…. for us it was the train from Westerton to Queen St or the ‘105’ double-decker (blue) bus that shuttled between Drumchapel and Buchanan St.

Our parents would always warn us about being careful, “keep an eye out for any trouble” but they probably didn’t realise that the biggest danger came from within and involved daft stunts like crossing live railway tracks to get from one platform to another or jumping off moving buses before our bus-stop… for a dare.

On reflection it showed that we probably, (no, definitely!) weren’t as ‘grown up’ as we thought we were.
Fortunately though, despite a few scrapes and close calls, we all lived to tell the tale, and would subsequently watch on like a David Attenborough documentary as the generation below us took up the mantle and followed our lead.

In the meantime…. we of course, now veterans of stepping outside our comfort zone were preparing to take the next big step in our personal development…. getting served in pubs ‘up the toon’!

The Burns Howff

so beer, so far.

(Post by George Cheyne of Glasgow – October 2021)

Be Prepared. The motto that has stood The Scouting movement in good stead for more than 100 years.

And while Boy Scouts founder Baden Powell would have been impressed with the high level of preparation put in by me and two pals one summer camp, he would have been less than chuffed if he knew what we were planning.

This was 1974 and our Troop had headed to Keswick in the Lake District for a week-long adventure doing stuff like putting up tents, collecting firewood, building campfires, digging latrines and, er, under-age drinking.

That last activity was why three 15-year-olds were standing in a car park just off Keswick’s high street a few blocks away from the Dog and Duck pub, or whatever it was called.

And the rehearsals going on there were as intense as anything you’d see at a run-through for a Broadway blockbuster.

There had been a lot of plotting and scheming before we got to this point – this sort of stuff isn’t just thrown together, you know.

With all the precision of planning a military manoeuvre, we had used the hike into town from the campsite to discuss ‘Operation Getting Served’ over and over again.

The devil is in the details so we talked through who would go first when we walked in the pub, who would ask for the drinks and exactly what we’d order.

Now, just like George Peppard’s Colonel Hannibal Smith character in the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together so a lot of preparation went into these three seemingly simple points.

In hindsight, maybe we over-thought it – but this was a big step-up from getting a few cans from an off-sales. Been there, done that…now it was time to play in the big leagues.

And as the in-form striker – well, I had been served in a dive of a pub back in Glasgow a few weeks before – the other two decided I was first name on the team-sheet.

This meant I was to be first in the door and the one who would be ordering the drinks.

Two down, one to go. What were we going to drink? We immediately ruled out three pints of lager and lime as being a dead giveaway for under-age drinkers and the same went for three snakebites.

So, and this is where the first bit of over-thinking came in, we plumped for a pint of heavy, a pint of light (well, we were in the Lake District) and a pint of lager with definitely no lime.

Three windswept and interesting young men with their own cultivated taste in beer. What could possibly go wrong?

To make sure the answer to that was nothing, we were holding our car park rehearsal.

One more time with feeling…

“Okay, we walk through the door as we agreed,” says I, “Then I order a pint of heavy and a pint of light and then what?”

“You ask me what I want,” says the baby-faced one of our trio.

If there was to be any suspicion about whether we were the right age, then surely it would fall upon the youngest-looking. That’s why he had a speaking part. 

“And you say?”, I prodded.

“I’ll have a pint of lager this time,” says Baby Face.

This time…genius that. It gives the barman the assurance you’ve been served before.

Anyway, the first part of Operation Getting Served goes exactly as planned and I’m face to face with mine host across the beer taps ordering a pint of heavy and a pint of light.

So far, so good. I turn to a nervous-looking Baby Face and – just as we’d rehearsed loads of times – ask him: “What do you want?”

Silence, nothing but silence.

I try to keep cool with a prompt: “Erm, so that’s a heavy, a light and a…”

“Medium,” blurts Baby Face.

Game over. Don’t you just hate it when a plan comes to…nothing?

A Jags To Riches Story

George Cheyne: Glasgow October 2021

My name is George…and I’m not a Partick Thistle fan. There, I’ve said it, I’m coming clean after living with my guilt for 50 years.

It’s more of a guilty pleasure, actually, because going to Hampden with my dad to see Thistle win the League Cup in 1971 was one of the best days of my life.

It started off as a homage to my grandad – a lifelong Jags fan who had passed away a couple of years before – and ended up being an amazing shared bonding experience for my dad and I.

The build-up to the game was pretty low-key. That was mirrored in our house as my dad tried to keep a lid on any expectations.

“We’re up against a team that got to the European Cup Final last year,” he said, “I just hope we don’t get embarrassed.”

To be fair, he wasn’t alone in thinking that. I don’t remember many people giving Thistle an earthly ahead of the game.

I had just turned 13 a few weeks before, so it was a huge deal for me. My first final…I couldn’t wait.

The excitement of the big day got to me and I woke just after 6am, went downstairs and found my dad in the kitchen. He couldn’t sleep either.

He made me a huge bacon and melted cheese sandwich – it was too early for the roll delivery – and a mug of tea. The breakfast of champions, as it turned out.

We chatted away about my boys’ club football, school, my younger brothers, the weather…anything, really, apart from the game. 

That was about to change. Not because we saw the BBC Grandstand programme where presenter Sam Leitch told everyone: “It’s League Cup final day at Hampden where Celtic meet Partick Thistle, who have no chance.”

No, we missed that as we were heading to my grandma’s house at that same time, having arranged to pop in before the game. She was quite chuffed we were going to honour my grandad’s memory and handed over his old Thistle scarf for me to wear.

“He’ll be looking out for you, so mind and keep it on,” she said as we waved goodbye.

So that’s how I found myself in the covered end at Hampden that day holding aloft a Thistle scarf as the goals rained in. One…two…three…four…the fans around us could hardly believe what was happening.

Maybe we all should have. The number one single at that time was Rod Stewart’s Reason To Believe,  a double A-side with Maggie May. Surely that was an omen for one of the greatest upsets in Scottish football.

My abiding memory of the final was turning towards my dad at full-time amid the bedlam and seeing him with the biggest of big grins on his face. He looked at me silently and then raised his eyes to the skies above Hampden.

I knew what he meant…grandad had been looking out for us.

Editor – and this is the book….

trick or treating

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – October 2021)

As I navigate my seventh decade on this planet, I’ve reluctantly come to accept most things must change with Time. Generally speaking, that change is for the good: advances in medical science for example; touch-screen access to all the information in the world and of course you can now have pizza delivered to your front door.

There is one change however, I just cannot accept.

Halloween!

With due deference to our readers from USA, I’m not a fan of the Halloween we limeys seem to have adopted from your fair land.

“Trick or Treat?”

Is that it?

Oh no – I forgot the bit where you suddenly and most unexpectedly give my house the appearance of a runny omelette.

You see, this whole premise of ‘Trick or Treat’ is grossly misleading to an ageing traditionalist. I was first presented with this dilemma a few years back. I took a few moments to consider the options carefully and replied ‘Trick.’ I presumed the young whippersnapper before me, rather amateurishly dressed as Super Mario, would produce a magic wand, mumble some words of a memorised spell and produce a line of knotted handkerchiefs from sleeves of his red pullover.

Well – that was a lesson well learned, I can tell you!

The upshot is I now don’t entertain the wee scamps at all. Come the night itself, my house is enveloped in darkness from 6pm, and an intricate series of hidden trip wires and bear pits do the ‘trick.’

Of course, I’ve not always been a grumpy old git. As a nipper I looked forward to Halloween immensely.

The build-up began in earnest when the local village shops took stock of the traditional masks. This would be mid-October at earliest and not the week after Easter, by the way.

In the early to mid-Sixties, the masks I had, were made of cardboard imbued with the same dusty aroma as egg cartons. Traditionally, they depicted mildly spooky or mystical presences like the faces of ghosts or gypsy women, for example. Nothing sinister. But with an old bed sheet or grannie’s colourful woollen shawl draped over your shoulders, you really did feel you could walk through walls or cast a hex. Until you tried.

Another lesson well learned.

In the latter half of the decade, there was a move to plastic shell masks. By now, Superhero guises were all the rage. Batman was my favourite (still is) and I vividly remember not so much the smell of these guises, but the slightly rough texture to the matt blue colouring of the head and eye section.

(Oh – just me, then?)

The Halloween parties hosted by local Cub Scouts / Brownie packs were eagerly awaited. The normal routine of knot tying / dancing badge work was put aside. Instead, for Cubs at least, games such as ‘dookin’ for apples’ or ‘treacle bun eating’ offered different challenges. With sharp, metallic forks held in our mouths, we’d attempt to spear apples bobbing in a basin of water, before partially stripping off to take bites from a dangling bun covered in gooey, dripping treacle.

Hmmnn! Akela may have some explaining to do these days.

‘Guising’ on the evening of 31st October was the highlight. With friends, also in full disguise, we’d walk excitedly from house to house along the street. In one hand we’d swing a candle-wax-dripping, hand-carved turnip lantern (yes – turnip) and in the other, our mum’s shopping bag. We’d hope the latter would be filled with masses of delicious, treats by the evening’s end.

We had to be good, though. The neighbours were brutal judges, and kids would be rewarded in accordance with their standard of performance. Whether it be a poem, song, jokes or a magic trick, our ‘piece’ required days, possibly even weeks of fastidious rehearsal.

So here’s my message to kids today: if apples, monkey nuts, Parma Violets and assorted toffees are to bulge your trendy little tote bag (nobody would be seen dead, even at Halloween, with their mum’s shopping bag nowadays) then you must learn that THE TRICK IS IN TREATING your neighbours.

Not bloody terrorizing them.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

****

(What was your first, or favourite, Halloween outfit? Do you remember any of your guising ‘performances? Let us know in the Comments section below.)

Anyone For ……

John Allan, Bridgetown WA, July 2021

I always associated Wimbledon with school summer holidays.
I never played tennis. There was what I assumed an ancient tennis racket hanging up in my Dad’s garage (it could have been a snow shoe come to think of it.).
We would dislodge it from it’s rusty nail and blow off the cobwebs.
As there was only one (from a one legged Inuit perhaps ?) we were more likely to use it in our improvised interpretation of rounders than tennis. It was also too heavy to lift above our heads (unleashing the huskies might have helped !)

Tennis wasn’t for the likes of us anyway. It was for posh Laurel Bank girls called Catriona and Ffiona who wouldn’t look at comprehensive school adolescent boys sideways. There was a tennis club hidden in a leafy lane near Bearsden Cross but they would set the dogs on you if they thought you were an outsider from Courthill or Castlehill.

Tennis was the telly for us so in the summer in 1971 I sat there watching as two Australians were competing in the Wimbledon ladies final.
One was the dour faced Margaret Court (now Pentecostal minister and public homophobe) and the other, 19 year old Aboriginal girl Evonne Goolagong.

I wasn’t sure what an ‘Aboriginal’ was back then but I thought she looked quite cute and I must admit, had a bit of a teenage crush on her. The rest is history and ‘my girl’ took the trophy.


She was prominent in finals and semifinals for the rest of the decade and won her second Wimbledon in 1980.
Six years later I was to land in the country of Ms Goolagong’s ancestors and I’ve lived here ever since.

This week Australians celebrate NAIDOC. For those of you north of Darwin, it stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It has its roots in the 1938 Day of Mourning, becoming a week long event in 1975. If I was cynical I would say it’s a week were privileged white folk pretend to be concerned about the plight of the first nations’ people and then ignore their issues for the next 51 weeks but the official line is it celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island peoples.

It’s fitting that Ash Barty, a proud Ngaragu woman should pick up the mantle from Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a proud Wikadjuri woman, some fifty years later.

……….and haven’t snow shoes improved over the last half century !

aliens

One of my early memories is of being in a cool motel room with my parents and two older brothers, David and Dale, when I was very little – perhaps four or five years old in 1964 or ’65 – padding across the tiled floor in bare feet drinking an ice cold glass bottle of cola from a vending machine through a straw. We were in America’s Deep South, in Savannah, GA en-route to visit my grandparents, who lived on a semi-tropical island off the coast of Georgia.

Andrea swimming at Jekyll Island 1969.

Dad drove the near five hundred mile trip from our home in Virginia to Jekyll Island through the night to avoid the midday sultry, humid 100+ degrees Fahrenheit heat which made the back of my bare legs stick to the vinyl seats. The boys and I would ask to stop for a cold drink before we’d even left the end of our street – “are we there yet?” The seven or eight hour drive was still ahead. As night wore on, we’d settle to sleep on the back seat of the Oldsmobile in our cotton pyjamas, leaning against the side of the car doors on pillows; our heads wet with sweat as Mom and Dad talked quietly and listened to the radio. On and on through the night, through the high passes of the Smokey Mountains of North and South Carolina: Johnson City, Asheville before dropping down along the Eastern seaboard past Hilton Head to Savannah. 

1960s Oldsmobile.

By nine o’clock the following morning as the searing heat was already beginning to climb, Mom and Dad would check us all into a motel room near Savannah, so Dad could sleep through the day. Mom took me and my brothers swimming in the motel pool before we too had a nap in the air-conditioned room. Later that afternoon after lunch – and probably an ice-cream – we’d pile back into the old Oldsmobile and continue the last hundred miles or so of the trip until we could see the famous and terrifying Sidney Lanier vertical lift bridge across the Brunswick River

We reached our grandparent’s beach-front house during the early evening.  I can remember stepping from the intense humidity and sound of crickets into their air-conditioned home which felt like stepping into a fridge.

***

View of the Smokey Mountains from our old home town of Bristol, VA, (1969)

In the autumn of 1970, my parents upped-sticks from rural Virginia and moved our family to the UK, alighting a train at New Street Station in Birmingham, West Midlands on a cold, wet , grey September morning to follow their romantic dream of English life. 

As an historian with a special interest in English history, Dad looked forward to walking in the footsteps of his boyhood hero’s: Robin Hood, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table or Elizabethan explorer, statesman and poet Sir Walter Raleigh.

Mom had notions of finding adventure like the heroines of the romantic novels of her youth: Daphne Du Maurier’s protagonist and narrator Mrs. De Winter in ‘Rebecca’, Emily Bronte’s gothic and ethereal Cathy Earnshaw in ‘Wuthering Heights’ or Jane Austen’s bright, intelligent Elizabeth Bennett in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’

The fact that they had three children in tow didn’t seem to cross their minds.

With no home to go to and twelve pieces of good luggage (Mom had insisted on “quality luggage for international travel”- and one suitcase was just for my dolls), our first port of call as aliens was an Edwardian house B & B in Birmingham city centre. The handsome Victorian pile was now faded – its halcyon days long gone. Mom was hoping for the charm of an English country hotel, but the reality was cold and sparse; more Jamaica Inn than Brown’s Hotel. 

David and Dale shared a bedroom on the landing and I shared another with Mom and Dad further along the corridor.  My parents imagined we would quickly find a house to rent, but being so alien to this new metropolis, they didn’t know how or where to start. So here we found ourselves, embarking on this madcap adventure with no home on the horizon.

Dad embraced our plight with good humour and his pipe as the B&B became our home for the next nine weeks; Mom was less enthusiastic.  The boys and I started school and Dad began his new teaching post as Head of History in a grammar school, all in opposite ends of the city. I quote now from my diary, which I kept during that fateful year: 

SEPTEMBER 24TH, 1970 

      “Seven months ago today Daddy rezined from the college in Bristol, VA. Now we are in a bread and breakfast waiting for a house.”  

Let me explain about B&B’s in the 1970s.  Unlike American motels which boasted air conditioning, a TV in every room, king sized beds, en-suite bathrooms, vending machines and a pool; they offered somewhat more spartan accommodation.

Typical of their ilk, this one only had one toilet on the landing with a wooden seat that scratched your arse. In fact my brother’s named it ‘Scratch’ (father to several ‘Sons of Scratch.’) The chain was so high I couldn’t reach it and believe me – having to shout for help down the landing at ten years old was so just too embarrassing! Whoever heard of a chain to flush the toilet? We had handles where I came from. 

Our rooms had an old fashioned washstand and bowl in the corner where we carried out our daily toilette; despite there being an old, stained, communal cast iron bathtub in a small room off the landing. Mom was worried about us taking a bath in it, fearing for our health,

“You never know what you might  catch in there!”

I thought that toilet seats had paper already on them because Mom would always get in there ahead of me and wrap carefully lain sheets of Izal over the seat – especially if we were caught short anywhere in public. The only exception to this was in the large department store Ladies Cloak Room on the Sixth Floor, where – according to Mom “attendants clean the sanitary ware after each flush.” (How do mothers know this kind of thing?) 

The waxed Izal toilet paper was an anathema to us because a) it was so slippery it would slide straight off the toilet seat and b), it was so thin, you had to use a wadge of it. We were used to four-ply in the States.

The toilet door had a sign on it which said, W.C. What on earth was this? The Manager explained to Dad that it meant Water Closet. 

“Water Closet? What the hell is a Goddamn Water Closet?” Dad laughed, “A closet where you keep water? Son-of-a-gun! Did ya ever hear of such a thing kids?” Dad laughed so hard he had to stoop and grab his knees.  The Manager put his shoulders back and stiffened his upper lip.

We soon became aware that people here spoke in another, strange tongue called Brummie: 

 “Can Oi cum in? Can Oi cum in?” asked the chambermaid, as she tapped on my brothers’ door to make the beds. I’m sure she heard the strains of stifled mirth and peals of laughter from under the blankets on the other side of the door. And of course the staff couldn’t understand our Virginia accents either which led to some funny exchanges.

Our first encounter with 1970s English fast food had disastrous results. Remember – we had come from the home of the hamburger: coke with crushed ice, side-orders of coleslaw and great fries – and great service, “Have a nice day!” 

Our hopes ran high when we discovered a burger joint in the city centre near our B&B but were soon dashed when we became acquainted with the lukewarm beef burgers, room temperature flat cola and slow service.  It was just our luck that a well-known burger chain didn’t open its doors in the UK for another four years in 1974. Our position in the UK as aliens was assured.

Well, of course my brother got sick with a terrible bout of diarrhoea, blocking the toilet; which Mom blamed on the ‘germs’ in the meat. (To be fair, our family had a history of blocking toilets; Dad always said he was ‘a-roll-time-man’.)

Finding that it just wouldn’t shift, Dad resorted to his time-honoured solution: he rolled up his shirt sleeves, flexed his hand, crouched down on all fours to get a purchase on the bowl and, with a quick flourish of his fingers just plunged his arm in there! After pulling out wads of paper, Dad shouted down the public hallway: 

“Someone get me a wire coat hanger, would ya?” 

“Shh! Someone might hear you!” whispered Mom, as she looked nervously up and down the hallway.

“I don’t give a Goddamn who hears me – I’ve got this honey – just get me the hanger please.”

 Mom trotted away furtively down the hall and returned; miraculously producing said hanger, at which Dad deftly unwound the hook and began scraping the bottom of the toilet bowl (he had done this before), 

Make that twenty-TWO uses!

“Dadggumit! Son-of-a-bitch, cheap toilet paper! How much did ya use Son?  Honey – can you get me a bucket? Whhaat? There isn’t one? Goddammit!”  Sweat was trickling down his sideburns.

 “Shhh!” Mom suppressed a giggle.

Dad then did something which has long remained a family secret. Looking around for a suitable receptacle, but finding none, he put all the waste material – handfuls of it – into a little wastepaper bin and  put it out on a window ledge outside the boy’s bedroom window. Mom was now giggling hysterically.

“We can’t do that – somebody will find out!”

 “Ah – nobody’ll see it honey.” 

We checked out. 

***

(Copyright: Andrea Burn 1st July, 2021)