Category Archives: School

sing-a-long-a-jackie (volume #1)

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – January 2022)

I’ve never really been one for paying much attention to song lyrics. It’s all about the music and beats for me. And let’s be honest, in some cases, especially so in The Seventies, the words were pretty random; nonsensical sentences existing only to enhance the cadence and rhythm of the song – look no further than the brilliant Marc Bolan if you don’t believe me.

So, reflecting some of our life experiences from The ’70s, I thought I’d try my hand at lyric writing. I mean, how hard can it be?

(Pretty damned hard, actually. Maybe Marc had it sussed, right enough.)

I suggest hitting the ‘play’ button on the video and then following the alternative lyrics written below – that way you may just be able to get it all to scan. Maybe.

DRUNKEN NORMAN

(MARMALADE)

Original / Proper version: ‘Cousin Norman.’

Written by; Hughie Nicholson

Performed by: Marmalade

Released: September 1971

Highest UK Chart position: #6

In the village, by the bus stop,

There’s an Off-Sales selling fortified wine,

Carlsberg Special and Breaker Lager

Under eighteens getting served all the time.

So if you’re passin’ close by, please

Don’t tell our dads we’re buying secretly.

In the forest, by the oak tree,

Stash the bevvy in the bushes over there.

We’ll drink it later. Before the disco.

No-one will steal it, they’re not brave enough to dare.

So if you’re passin’ close by, please

Keep on walking, we’re just kicking leaves.

Oh Oh Oh Oh excited for the disco

Sinking cans of beer will stop me being so shy

Oh Oh Oh Oh excited for the disco

The girls are gonna fall for this cool and gallus guy!

Dooya doodn doo doo doo Dooya doodn doo doo doo

Doo doo doo doo doo doo.

Hold a deep breath, get past the teachers

I’m in the disco, ready for a dance.

I’ll be groovy, I’ll be funky,

Play it cool, I’ll be in with a chance.

So if you’re dancin’ close by, please

Watch in wonder as the wee man pulls with ease.

Oh Oh Oh Oh I’m feelin’ nauseous

The hall is spinning round and I think I might be sick 

Oh Oh Oh Oh I’m feelin’ nauseous

“Thank you for the dance.” I stagger to the toilets, quick!

Oh Oh Oh Oh sat in Head Teacher’s office

Puke stains on my shirt and splashes all over my shoes

Oh Oh Oh Oh sat in Head Teacher’s office,

The girls are all disgusted. I’ve no chance now – I lose.

__________________________

CAMPING UP THE HOOPLE

(MOTT THE HOOPLE)

Original / Proper version: ‘All The Young Dudes.’

Written by: David Bowie

Performed by: Mott the Hoople

Released: September 1972

Highest UK Chart position: #3

Billy crapped all night in the countryside,

Scout Camp enteritis in ‘Seventy-five

Latrine jive,

(Best avoid the dive, if you wanna stay alive.)

Henry’s bloody, gashed foot will leave a scar,

Freddy’s badly aimed knife, a throw too far. Or not far enough –

Freddy’s eyesight’s really duff.

Scout Leader man is crazy

Says we’re going on a long, long trek,

Oh Man, I need Imodium, or clean … kecks.

Oh brother, you guessed, I’m in a mood now!

All the young crew

Running into

The Portaloo queue

(What a To-Do.)

(REPEAT)

Jimmy looks a pratt dressed in fluorescent green

(“Mummy says on treks I should ‘stay safe, stay seen’”)

But we just laughed.

Oh yeah, we just laughed!

And our buddies back at home

Would rather die alone,

We’d not be seen dead in that bright luminous stuff.

Such a drag,

It’s not our bag.

 “OK Boy Scouts – form a line, and don’t dare whine!

The Crazy Scout Leader said,

“Oh! It’s only twelve miles all around.”

(Our guts filled with dread.)

Oh brother you guessed, I’ll be crude, now:

All the subdued,

Ignored the taboo

As they puked or they pooed

In the Portaloo queue.

(REPEAT TO FADE)

(I’ve wanted to do this for years.)

_____________________

a punishing exercise.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – January 2022)

I loved my school years. I enjoyed the social and sporting opportunities it offered me.

I suppose I was reasonably well behaved during time at Bearsden Academy. Only on a handful of occasions did I merit punishment by ‘the tawse,’ a two or three tailed leather strap slapped down on a pupil’s palm by the teacher.

No, I’d say I was probably more of a Second Division miscreant compared to some. The penalties though, for the lesser misdemeanours I would be busted for, usually involved tedious ‘punnies’ – punishment exercises.

Oh how I longed for promotion to the Premier League of Naughty on many an evening, stuck in my bedroom writing out six hundred word interpretations of a scene from a Bertolt Brecht play. Or copying the Periodic Table with all those daft wee numbers, letters and I think, colours. Had I been given a couple strokes of the tawse, teacher and I would have been quits. I may not have fancied playing wicket-keeper in a game of cricket up at the pylon, but the warm and sultry summer evening would have been mine.

Those type of punny were given by fair minded teachers with (a) not enough justification to give the belt, but (b) a degree of imagination and hope that the exercise would be an aid to learning.

The majority however were not so creative, and routinely demanded ‘x’ number of lines, repeatedly reminding me of why I was not out in the street playing kerby with my pals.

(‘x’ would ordinarily be anything from one hundred to five hundred, unless being punished by the maths teacher, when you had to work out the value of ‘x’ for yourself – with more lines to follow if you got it wrong!)

‘I must not talk in class.’ 

‘I must remember to bring my homework.’

‘My homework wasn’t eaten by my dog – I don’t have one.’

Mind numbing stuff, that.

I did once attempt the Beano-esque trick of binding several pens together with an elastic band and thereby writing three lines at a time. It’s not as easy as it looks! I think the expression these days would be: ‘hashtag fail.’

Instructed to write the line ‘I must write larger,’ by my English teacher, the little smart-ass in me decided to write them on a piece of paper cut to a shade bigger than a postage stamp. Fifty lines to each side.

It took me ages! Far longer than had I written such a simple line in my normal, or even slightly larger, handwriting. Miss Hunter also made this observation the following morning as she immediately scrunched up my miniscule paper and laughing, tossed it in the bin below her desk.

She’s laughing with me, not at me. She must fancy me!

(All us second year lads were not only overloaded with raging hormones, but also suffered delusional episodes.)

I’d sometimes chance my luck and submit the punny a good few lines short. It didn’t really matter that omitting ten, twenty lines, whatever, would save me only a matter of minutes – it was the challenge of getting one over the teachers. I mean, hadn’t they far more important things to do with their time than count the words / lines?

Looking back, I’m certain I didn’t dupe any of them, but as it happened, everyone was a winner: teacher had asserted authority; cocky and rebellious pupil believed they had made a fool of teacher.

Truth was, teacher just couldn’t be arsed.

I did though, and sometimes still do, wonder at the randomness of the punishment. It would certainly have helped us pupils had we known the exact tariff for certain misdemeanours. Like when did a ‘one hundred lines’ penalty blur into three hundred? Or five?

For instance, had I known I would get three of the belt from the Assistant Head for merely being caught holding a snowball, I’d have made damned sure I quickly offloaded it at the head of the dude who’d just creamed me with one moments earlier. You know – like Pass the Parcel at kids’ parties – just get rid as soon as it’s in your hands.

Yeah, maybe some teachers were a bit quick on the draw with the tawse. And maybe some did abuse it. And yeah, it probably has no place in the society we live in today.

I didn’t mind though. My mum was a teacher in a pretty rough part of Glasgow, and would show me her Lochgelly belt. She claimed not to have used it very often, but I do know she had absolutely no sympathy when I told her I’d been given a short, sharp reminder as to my behaviour in class.

(I think my ol’ man was secretly rather pleased … in the absence of National service like he had to endure, this would instil some discipline, and develop character.)

I suppose I could have just kept my head down during the six years of secondary school and come through it all with an unblemished behavioural reputation. But only five feet four inches at the height of my academic achievements, anything that could further shorten my appearance was a non-starter.

And you know what? If there’s one thing discipline at school taught me, it’s that writing sentences of up to nine words long, one hundred times over, is a dawdle.

This article, for example, amounts to only 952 words. That’s just marginally more than your average ‘punny.’ Granted, it may also be just as entertaining as one – I’ve not had much sleep over this New Year holiday.

So, anyway, it’s over to you, dear reader ….anyone like to write the equivalent of a hundred lines?

Or do I have to get the belt out??!!

_________________

those days are past now …

…and in the past they must remain.

Of course they must. Where else are they going?

Technically, I suppose, if you had the brains of Dr Emmett Brown and a spare DeLorean, you could perhaps revisit them. Sadly though, we can’t re-live prior experiences – albeit I do vaguely recall making numerous drunken, such attempts in the early Noughties.

Yet, we shouldn’t forget those days of yesteryear. Even the painful and crap ones teach us valuable lessons, the idea being we learn from our bad decisions and mistakes. And without a certain amount of these Bad Times, we wouldn’t recognise the Good ones, would we?

Good Times though are possible to revisit without the requirement of jumping into a sports car fitted with a flux capacitor and accelerating to the magical speed of eighty-eight mph.

For ‘De-Lorean,’ read, ‘Re-Union.’

After leaving school, I moved around the UK with work. Consequently, I lost touch, at least regular contact, with most friends from my six years at Bearsden Academy. So I was pretty excited, when in 1999, a reunion was organised for ‘The Class of ’70.’

(My Class of ’70 – ok , yeah, that’s me, cross legged, front row, far right.)

We all wore badges displaying our names so there would be no need for embarrassing re-introductions, but in the vast majority of cases, they were superfluous. Back together for the first time in twenty-five years, it was like we’d never left the classroom.

The four or five hours we had was over in a flash, with very little time for reflection on our schooldays. Most conversations revolved around what everyone was doing at present.

It was a ‘formal’ get-together, and the organisers had worked hard to make sure everything passed off without hitch: food; drinks; badges; photos; teachers.

Yes, teachers. Several were present, including the Head / Rector. And credit to them, they actually remembered most of us. For one reason or another! (I did notice however, that it took a good hour before a few of us felt it safe to nervously remove our hands from our pockets.)

These past few years have seen semi-regular meet-ups of training buddies / team mates from my athletics club, Garscube Harriers. In fact, the last social night I had before Covid Lockdown, was with these guys … as was the first after restrictions were eased.  A few are still competing (one has just completed the Marathon des Sables – running a marathon a day, for a week, through the Sahara desert!) but in the main everyone now just runs for fun.

(Garscube Harriers old gits’ reunion, October 2021.)

These evenings do differ from the school reunion, in that we have had more regular contact over the past fifty years, and are generally up to speed with what everyone is doing these days. Invariably, conversation then reverts at some point to childish micky-taking and reliving some of the scrapes we got into when competing around the country!

Tonight (20th November) a bunch of us from school are meeting up again for an informal night in a bar in the West End of Glasgow. This time, pupils from a couple years either side of the Class of ’70 will be attending. In some cases it will be forty-five years since we last saw each other.

It being an informal evening, it’s uncertain how many people will turn up – especially with that Covid lurgy still hanging about. Regular readers of this blog will though recognise a couple of those attending: Paul Fitzpatrick and George Cheyne.

Paul, of course, is co-founder of ‘Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s’. He’s travelling up from London for the evening. Despite us working on this blog for these past eight months or so, we haven’t actually met since 1974!

Even then at sixteen years old, he stood head and shoulders over me. Any photos of us tonight had better be in ‘portrait’ rather than ‘landscape’ format. And as you can no doubt tell from his blog posts, he had more fashion sense than I had sense, and was arguably the best dressed kid in school.

George has been a regular contributor to the blog since the start. I’ve actually bumped into him a few times in recent years when we’ve competed against each other for our respective tennis clubs. Still fit as a butcher’s dog, he not only thrashed me regularly at Subbuteo as a kid, but he’s now two –one up in our head-to-head tennis matches.

They make me sick, the both of them!

So here’s a photo of them in our Primary Two class @ 1964, I think – rather conveniently, I’m not in this one for some reason!

(George is third from left, back row with Paul immediately to his left.)

Yeah – maybe these days are indeed in the past, but there’s no harm in borrowing them for an evening. It should be fun; I’m looking forward to it, but one thing’s for certain – we can’t afford to wait another forty-five years for the next reunion … you do the maths.

(Actually, I just have – The Class of ’70 would all be eighty –eight. Coincidence, or a sign? Perhaps only Dr Emmett Brown can answer that. Whatever, it’s true what they say – time sure does McFly.)

__________

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Poster Boy

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, November 2021

April 1967. Just another day spent in the drudgery of the Primary 7 class in Westerton School.
My eyes drifted to the classroom window as I gazed longingly towards the football pitch at the bottom of the hill, wishing I was out there instead of listening to Mrs Smith’s dreary drone and then…bang!

The headmaster, J. Jeffrey Thomson as he liked to present himself, Tommy Gun as he was known to the pupils, came barging through the classroom door.

Tommy Gun never walked. He just barged like a thundering elephant everywhere he went and after a brief consultation with Mrs Smith he announced to the class that one of the school’s pupils, Alan Fairley (i.e., me), had come third in the National ‘Learn to Swim’ poster competition.

A few weeks earlier, I and the other six members of the school’s special art group had been informed that the Scottish Health Authority were promoting a Learn to Swim campaign and that all schools in the country were to submit entries for the poster design. We were each handed poster sized sheets of paper, given access to all sorts of artistic materials, and told to get drawing.

My design featured a girl standing at a zebra crossing (remember them) with the swimming baths at the other side of the road.  My caption was ‘Don’t just stand there, go over and Learn to Swim.’

Mr Lovely Biscuits himselfJimmy Logan

The announcement that I had come third in the whole of Scotland made me something a of a mini celebrity among my classmates, especially when it was revealed that the prize would be presented by Jimmy Logan, a renowned comedian, actor, and impresario (whatever that is).

Logan’s main claim to fame was that he appeared in a couple of the legendary, if politically questionable, Carry-On films and any child of that era who had ever attended a pantomime at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre would have encountered him in some capacity.

The admiration of my classmates paled into insignificance however when the prettiest girl in the class (if the not the entire school), Alison McDougall, gave me her autograph book and asked me to get Jimmy Logan to sign it for her. Even at that pre-pubescent stage of my life, I was acutely aware of the brownie points which could be gained with a girl like Alison by acceding to her request.

The prize for third place was a ten-pound record token (sorry, this Taiwanese keyboard doesn’t have a pound sign) which doesn’t sound like much but back then it would have bought you 30 singles or 6 albums. Interestingly that ten pound is valued at 154 quid in today’s money so it was a tidy sum for a 12 year old.

The prize giving was to be held in the function room on the top floor of Lewis’s department store in Argyle Street, so off I trotted with my proud parents in tow and as we stood in the assembled gathering the announcement was made that Jimmy Logan had been called away and wouldn’t be attending. But not to worry folks, we’ve lined up a replacement -international singing star Eve Boswell – at which stage virtually everyone in the hall turned to each other and said ‘Eve who?’

Lewis’s Argyle St
Alan & Eve, it’s got a ring to it…

Everyone except me that was. I was more concerned about having to break the news to the lovely Alison that I hadn’t been able to come up with the goods.

Anyway, I was called forward to receive my prize and the mysterious Ms Boswell shook my hand and said ‘well done’ in an east European accent as she handed me the envelope.

Gola Speedsters

The problem was, I just wasn’t into music at the time so giving me a record token was akin to giving a McDonalds voucher to a vegan. All I cared about at 12 was football and a pair of Gola Speedsters would have been a far more amenable reward for my creative efforts.

My music loving elder sister, Jean, had been uncharacteristically nice to me in the run up to the presentation as she eyed a share of the prize and I was happy enough to let her have her pick from the top twenty as the two of us later wandered about the record department in Woolworths, Drumchapel. 

Meanwhile I came away with one of my favourite novelty songs – Three Wheels on my Wagon by the New Christy Minstrels along with a couple of football related records I’d managed to excavate from the bulging album racks.

So what, I hear you say, became of Eve Boswell? To be honest, I never gave her a second thought after our brief encounter but amazingly, about eight years ago I was enjoying a relaxing pint on a Saturday afternoon in the Sheep’s Heid Pub in Edinburgh when, among the plethora of retro pop music memorabilia on the wall, I noticed a poster announcing the release of Eve Boswell’s new single ‘Pickin’ a Chicken.’

It was the first time I’d heard her name mentioned for 46 years and a quick glance at Wikipedia told me that, in 1955, she had reached number 9 in the UK charts with the said single.

I left the pub content in the knowledge that I had once shaken hands with a Top Ten artist.

I did get her autograph that day back in 67 but, perhaps predictably, Alison McDougall was suitably underwhelmed at the absence of Jimmy Logan’s signature in her book and, even more predictably, my brownie point score came in at a resounding zero. 

1974 – The Summer Of Roary, Dennis and Jinky

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, June 2021

As I look forward to tonights match between Scotland and England I realise that some years just seem to stick in your memory more than others.
It’s probably no coincidence therefore that some of my most vivid memories come from years when the football World Cup was being held.

As a kid the first football match I ever watched on TV was the 1966 World Cup Final.

By the time the next World Cup rocked up in Mexico 1970 I was a football obsessive spending all my spare time kicking a ball around with my mates.

By 1974 I was training a couple of times a week, playing Saturday mornings for the school, Saturday afternoons for the local boys-club and Sundays for the youth club.

Truth be told my club allegiances in those days were probably secondary to my support for the national team.
I watched Scotland religiously in my youth, but I had never seen us beat England.

That was all about to change in 1974.

1974 is one of those years that’s etched in my memory….
Apart from leaving school, starting work and going on my first ‘lads holiday’… 74 was the year that Scotland were making their first World Cup appearance since the year I was born (1958).

A big part of social life back then was the Youth Club….. a bi-weekly haven of sport, music and social interaction.
Approaching 16 I was now old enough to go on some of the organised youth club trips, the first one being a day trip to Butlins in Ayr on Saturday May 18th, 1974.

I remember the date because it was the day I finally got to see Scotland beat England and oh yeah, the day I got chased by a bam-pot with a sword and beat Alberto Juantorena’s 800 metre record.

The day started off well enough with an early morning coach ride to Ayr and was followed by time spent at the Butlins amusement park, a mini-pleasure beach, before we followed some of the older lads into the spectacular Beachcomber Bar.

The Beachcomber Bar at Butlins was probably the most exotic and glamorous place I’d ever seen, it was like something from South Pacific.
Of course, looking back now it was a mishmash of bamboo furniture and plastic plants with a few paper lanterns, paper-mache artefacts and hanging baskets thrown in for good measure, however it seemed very avant garde in 1974.

The game was being shown on a tv in the bar and even allowing for the watered-down lager…. the combination of event, location and community spirit, made for an intoxicating atmosphere.

Every year we approached the big game against the auld enemy with ambition and hope, usually to be left in despair, but in 74 there was cause for optimism. Unlike England we had qualified for the 74 World Cup plus our team was full of top players and big personalities.  

One of those big personalities was wee Jimmy (Jinky) Johnstone fresh from his ‘Largs Boat Incident’.

For those that don’t know… wee Jinky and a few teammates went out for a refreshment in Largs three days before the England game and whilst staggering back to the team hotel wee Jinky decided to jump in a boat that got pushed out to sea by Sandy Jardine for a laugh, there was only one problem, there were no oars on the boat.
Knowing Jinky couldn’t swim, Davie Hay a teammate tried to help by setting sail on another boat, which duly sprung a leak and sank!

Jinky reliving the moment

With Jimmy sailing into the distance and heading for the North Star the coastguards were called by his beleaguered teammates and Jinky’s exploits were splashed all over the front pages of the Scottish press, with most pundits calling for him to be sanctioned and dropped.

In the end Jinky had the last laugh.
95,000 fans watched Scotland win 2-0 that day.
Jinky gave a man of the match performance and famously gave the V sign to the press after the game.

The punters in the Beachcomber went mental at the final whistle and nobody wanted to leave that bar except the coach driver.

On the way home I sat beside a girl I’d known since I was 7 years old who was not in the best form as she was having major boyfriend trouble.
He was a few years older than us and a renowned psycho.
As far as her friends and family were concerned she’d finally come to her senses as she wanted to break up with him, but she knew it wouldn’t be that simple.
I tried to take her mind off things, talking about goofy stuff from our past 8 years as friends and classmates, however, when we got back to Westerton the guy was waiting and her face just dropped.

On a high from the day’s events I hung out with my mates for a bit, reliving the highlights of the day before I decided to head home, I was about half a mile from my house when I heard this guy shouting and running towards me, he was about 200 yards away but I could still see the huge blade he was brandishing, it was the mental boyfriend…. I’ve never ran so fast in my life.

My friend had attempted to split up with him again that night, which he didn’t take well. He’d heard that I’d spent the coach journey home with her, put 2 and 2 together… and decided I was dead!

Cut forward 6 weeks…. Scotland had been knocked out of the World Cup in Germany despite their valiant effort in remaining unbeaten during the tournament.

Scotland team at 74 World Cup

With the World Cup over, and proof if needed that German efficiency trumps everything…. even Johan Cruyff and total football, I headed off on holiday with my family to Majorca.

We were staying at a quiet part of the island so I thought I was seeing things, when on the beach, I spotted Dennis Law, one of my footballing hero’s, fresh from his participation in the World Cup with Scotland.

King Dennis

Law was footballing royalty; he’d been a member of the all-conquering Man United team along with George Best and Bobby Charlton and was jokingly referred to as having the reflexes of a mongoose, ‘and the haircut to match’.
Indeed, with his spiky feather cut and gallus approach Law was footballs answer to Rod Stewart… who also idolised the ‘Lawman’.

Dennis & Rod


I had never asked anyone for an autograph before, but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass, no matter how starstruck I was

Before I approached the Lawman however I had to do one thing… I nipped back to my room and in the absence of a Scotland top I put on my ‘Roary Super Scot’ t-shirt, like some weird fanboy.
Roary, for the uninitiated was the rather juvenile mascot of the Scotland 74 World Cup team.

Looking back now I’m embarrassed that I disturbed the guy on his holiday when he was probably just looking for a bit of peace and quiet after a tough season, but he was really friendly and approachable and made a point of coming over to talk to me and my Dad whenever he saw us.
He was staying in the hotel next door to ours, and even asked me to mind his son on the beach a few times whilst him and his missus went for lunch.

Getting the great mans autograph

Despite being an Aberdonian he was a good tipper and always gave me a couple of hundred Pesetas, which in 74 was enough for a couple of beers and a few plays on the jukebox where Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and Oye Como Va were on heavy rotation….. unfortunately or perhaps fortunately the 1974 Scotland World Cup song wasn’t on there .

I remember a lot about 1974 as I do with 1978 and 1982, something big always happened for me in those World Cup years, 2021 isn’t a World Cup year but I hope I can remember it as the year we beat England and got through to the group stages of the Euros for the first time (along with our English cousins of course).

careful! you’ll have someone’s eye out with that!

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

“MUM! I’M GOING OUT TO PLAY!”

“Hold on dear,” the call would come back down the stairs.

So you’d wait, sat on the bottom step, fretting your pals outside wouldn’t be so patient and have moved on before you got out.

You’re not going out like that, are you?” your mum would ask when she finally appeared. “It’s far too cold, and it might rain later. Go to your room and put on a sweater. You’ll catch your death ….”

You’d sigh. Resistance would be futile, and time was critical if you were to catch your friends. Humour her – it can be tied around your waist soon as you’re around the corner, or used as a goalpost when you play football later, as you inevitably will.

“And remember to be back before it gets dark. And don’t talk to any strangers.”

“Yes mum. No mum.”

“What are you playing today?”

“Cowboys and Indians.”

“That’s nice. Let’s hope the Indians win, then,” she’d say with a smile.

“Of course they will,” you’d reply with the knowing, evil smirk of a James Bond villain.

“Just be careful, though, you could have someone’s eye out with that,” she’d casually offer as you picked up the home-made bow and arrows from the porch floor.

Perhaps she wasn’t unduly worried because you’d be an ‘Indian’ for the day. Being targeted by a ‘Cowboy’s cap-loaded pistol was not going to cause her little darling any grief. Maybe the mothers of those designated ‘cowboys,’ would have been more concerned.

But I doubt it.

The bow and arrows would have been made, very possibly, with the help and advice of your dad. From experience, he’d have known where to find the best, the sturdiest and yet the most willowy kind of stick to use for the bow; he’d have known the most durable twine to use and how best to thread and knot it onto the carefully selected twig or branch; he’s have known the optimum length of garden cane to use as arrows; he’d have known how to notch one end of the cane, without accidentally splitting it full length, so that it could be nocked onto the bow, ready for loosing.

Boy, could those canes fly! Swift and true, they were capable of travelling quite some distance, and leaving a mark on any unwary ‘cowboy.’

In truth though, the bow and arrow just looked more likely to cause human harm than they generally did.

Catapults, however …

Contrary to the romantic notion of Oor Wullie knocking PC Murdoch’s hat off with a well-aimed stone then scampering away, these things were properly dangerous!

Looking back, I have no idea how these could be sold as ‘toys.’ But they were, and when the little newsagent type shop in our village took in a supply during the late Sixties, there was a race down the hill from the primary school at lunchtime to get hold of one. The dining hall was a lonely place that afternoon.

The fad didn’t last long though, as the ensuing battles and damage to property (accidental or otherwise) led to Headmaster Thomson banning them from school and Janitor ‘Janny’ Mckay confiscating any he could get hold of.

Of course, by reverting to your dad’s impeccable knowledge of trees and twigs, and raiding your mum’s sewing basket for a length of elastic, you could still make a pretty effective one at home.

I don’t recollect Valerie Singleton or John Noakes giving any advice on this subject, though.

It wasn’t just boys who risked life and limb in pursuit of entertainment. How many young girls skinned their knees and elbows after falling to the pavement, ankles entangled in linked elastic bands, having attempted to jump some impossible height while playing Chinese Ropes?

Neither was it just dads who encouraged dangerous play. Mothers were at it too. They’d dig out an old stocking and suggest their daughter place a tennis ball or the like in the closed end and tie the other around an ankle. They could then spend endless hours of fun rotating the ball like a helicopter blade and hopping / jumping over it.

Endless hours at A&E, more like. I can’t believe this was actually fashioned into a proper toy

I’d be really interested in the A&E stats for the late Sixties and Seventies, regards children being treated for ankle injuries. How many times did you fall off these?

They may only be a few inches in height, but if you weren’t so good coordinating lifting the string and your foot at the same time (more difficult than it sounds if I remember correctly) you’d happily settle for a twist rather than a break.

In fact, the cans were really just a training aid to wooden stilts. I had a pair made for me by my Grandfather. I eventually mastered them, but not after slipping and impaling my ribs on them several times.

And our parents allowed, nay, actively encouraged all this?

Cans had infinitely more dangerous uses, though. Especially those like Cremola Foam that had press-on lids. Our parents, in all fairness, may have been a bit suspicious and wary had we asked if there was any spare petrol, or more likely, paraffin, lying about the shed. So a little bit subterfuge was required if we fancied experimenting with our own firebomb.

It wasn’t exactly rocket science, though it may have ultimately given that impression – fill the can with paraffin; replace the tin lid; draw straws to see what muppet was going to place the tin in the bonfire; retreat and wait.

And run like Gump when you heard the sound of sirens.

I know – fire. It holds some weird, primitive fascination for blokes, I have no idea why. But just watch at the next barbeque you attend. It’s sad, really.

Cars and DIY command similar allure in the male psyche. (Well, I discount myself from that assertion – I’m not like other guys, as Michael Jackson said in the video for ‘Thriller.’)  

“Darling, don’t you think we should clear out the garage, so we can get the car in? That pram can go for a start – Junior’s eight years old now!”

“No, no no! We can’t get rid of the pram! He’ll need the wheels for his first bogey.”

“’He’ll need them? Or you? OK – but the stroller can go then.”

“Most definitely not – everyone knows that a class bogey has smaller wheels at the front than the back!”

“Yes, dear…..” Sigh!

Bogey racing. You were sat in a seat, less than a foot off the ground, and steered the wooden contraption with your feet in the front axle. Or maybe you tied a bit of plastic washing line to the axle instead and pulled on it for direction change.

You’d swear you were travelling at ‘a hundred miles an hour’ and your ‘brake’ was whatever immoveable object lay in your path.

And our parents encouraged this?!

I was never very good at stopping, hence my bogeys would always have a very short shelf life. It was the same with roller skates – several neighbours’ garden hedges had small, boy-sized holes in them!

The most fearsome toy though, has to be these.

What idiot thought it’d be a wizard idea to fit heavy springs to a base of metal and expect some daft kid who’d been reading too many Beano comics, strap their feet onto them, believing they could jump high enough to see over the wall and watch the football match for free?

Mine didn’t even have a wooden base as shown in the picture. The metal springs contacted directly onto the tarmac of the pavement.

Spring-heeled Jackson? I don’t think so.

There was only ever going to be one outcome. However the spirit and determination of youth meant it was two boxes of Band Aid and a tube of Germoline before it dawned there was no point fighting the un-fightable.

None of the above struck me at the time as being dangerous or a hazard to health – well, maybe the firebomb. But then neither did my parents. Unless of course, the just didn’t actually care.

Yet, I’ll wager most, if not all, those activities are either barred or at best actively discouraged nowadays.

*****

 “MUM! I’M GOING ONLINE NOW!”

“That’s nice dear – what are you playing?

“Apocalypse of Hate.”

 “You know your dad has an old bow, arrows and catapult you can play with ….?”

*****

The Summer of 69

George Hunter: Glasgow, June 2021

I left school after sitting 5 o’levels, in fact I can even remember my last day at school it was 14th June 1969.

I had a job lined up in an office in Charing Cross after the Glasgow Fair so I was looking forward to the summer holidays with six weeks of long-lie-ins and footie in the park.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself at the family dinner table that day teasing my brothers David and Joe (below) about how they had to go back to school whilst I was finished with all that…. but I shouldn’t have spoken so soon.

Unbeknown to me my Dad had nipped out to the local phone box to make a quick call and when he came back he duly informed me that I was to report to the local farm owned by Jim Paul at 4am the following morning to start my summer job, no lazy summer lie-ins for me then, but at least I’d finish work in time to play a bit of footie in the afternoon!

My passion back then was football and it has been ever since.
I was obsessed, and if I wasn’t playing football for the school or the Boys Brigade or with my mates in the park, I was watching it or thinking about it, so in the summer of 69 when I read in the evening paper that the 3 main Glasgow teams were inviting players for trials for their youth teams for the 69-70 season, I couldn’t apply quick enough.

Celtic were first to respond with a trial date, it was to be held at St Anthony Junior’s ground in the south side of Glasgow near Ibrox.
On arrival I was filtered into a group of trialists for the Under 16 team along with 40 or 50 other lads, we were then told that we’d all get 30 minutes to make an impact and that it was up to us to impress the coaches.

I couldn’t wait to get started.
I played in my favoured midfield position but for the next 30 minutes I watched the ball sail over my head from our defence to the oppositions, I was lucky if I touched the ball 10 times and 6 of those were throw-ins!

I remember Brian Thistle (of this parish) was also there trying out for the under 14’s, he did well and unlike me he was invited back.
I couldn’t help but feel that I had let myself down but it was a tough environment, not knowing anyone and not really getting the chance to show what I could do.
The 30 minutes seemed to go by in a flash and I had a sore neck into the bargain, looking up at the sky trying to see where the bloody ball was!

Next up was Rangers and the local trials were being held in Drumchapel. At least there were a couple of familiar faces in my age group this time, lads who I had played against previously, good players who went on to become pro’s, like Gordon Smith  (St Johnstone  Aston villa & Spurs ) and Phil Bonnyman (Rangers, Hamilton, Chesterfield  & Dunfermline), unfortunately for me however the end result was the same as the Celtic trial. I just couldn’t impose myself in the limited time I had and I sloped off in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be getting a call-back.

The Teddy Bears in 1969

Last but certainly not least was a trial with the mighty Jags from Firhill.
The trial was being held at Sighthill Park and I was a bit more relaxed this time as I was accompanied by a couple of pals, Stuart Millan & Ian lamb who were also trying out. There were also a few ‘well-kent’ faces amongst the other trialists, again, lads I knew from School and Boys club football so I felt a lot more at ease.

Davie McParland

SEASON 1971/1972 Partick Thistle manager Davie McParland with the League Cup.

As I took to the pitch I noticed that the Thistle manager (and a hero of mine) Davie McParland was standing on the touchline.
I was more determined than ever to make the most of this opportunity.
I lined up in midfield and told the guys taking the centre to knock the ball back to me from the kick off so I could get an early touch, however the ball hit a massive divot, ricocheted off my shin and deflected to my midfield opponent,  who I missed with a lunging tackle, and watched from the deck as he went on to score the opening goal.

I could see the coaches scribbling away in their notepads from the corner of my eye and I knew I’d blown it. I actually went on to play pretty well but the damage was already done and unsurprisingly I was not asked to come back unlike my two mates Ian and Stuart.

To make matters worse that day I had arranged to go to the park when I got home to let my mates know how I had got on, most of the boys were sympathetic but I remember one lad called Davie Jenkins who called me a donkey and said I was wasting my time.
We had a wee game of football after that (first to 15) and I made sure Davie was in the other team. I also made sure that he was on the end of my first tackle, and I definitely made sure he knew donkeys had some kick on them!

I also decided that it would be best for me to keep any future trials to myself!

My next trial was with a team from Knightswood – Everton Boys Club who were a top youth team. This time my big brother Brian took me and stayed to watch me play.
The manager and the lads were really welcoming and I had a great game. So good in fact that the team manager asked me to join the club as soon as I came off the park, which I gladly did and with Brian in attendance he was able to sign the forms as my guardian on the spot.

To round off a great day, heading back to my brothers car I bumped into Davie McParland who’d watched the game. He was kind enough to say that his coaches would have signed me based on todays performance and would I still like to come and train with them?
At this point the Everton manager saw what was happening and shouted over “Hey, hands off, he’s ours now Davie”.

I went on to have a great season with Everton, met some brilliant guys and made friends for life with guys like Frank Murphy who went on to become a football agent and John Cairns who’s son I went on to coach at Lennox (see pic below).

I may not have signed for any of the big Glasgow clubs but I had a fantastic time at Everton Boys Club and as the song so aptly says….
“These were the best days of my life”

fully booked.

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

Other than vinyl records and CDs, there is nothing in our house that number more than books. In my office – well, man-cave: books. In the spare room: books. In our bedroom: books. In the loft: boxes of books!

I can’t say our Diane’s happy about it. Because she’s certainly not, feeling she holds the moral high ground as one of those who goes in for all this e-Book, downloading malarkey.

Sacrilege!

Books are sacrosanct. Inviolable – especially dictionaries, from where I found that word.

I blame the schools, me. From the age of four or five, we’re taught that the ‘Three Rs’ are what’s required for our future. Reading, Riting and Rithmetic. Though not Spelling, apparently.

Reading in primary school was, as I remember it, pretty entertaining. The class library had lots of colourful books with pictures, like Herge’s, ‘Adventures of Tin Tin’ and others by Dr Seuss, featuring some Cat in a Hat.

I enjoyed reading those. I must have adapted reasonably well to the Riting and Rithmetic stuff too, as I won an end-of-year prize for something or other, in Primary Six or Seven. Chances are it probably wasn’t for memorising detail.

The prize, as were all such awards, was a book token, to be spent at a designated shop in town, who would send the chosen book direct to the school. The Headmaster and teacher would then sign a pre-printed sticky label, stating how wonderful I had been at whatever it was, and I’d be presented with my book in front of the whole school and proud parents, at the annual Prize-giving.

Actually, having been brought up on ‘yellow label’ food, even at that early age, I appreciated the ethos of value for money, and managed to stretch my prize allowance to two books. I can remember being ever so excited as I trailed my mother around the shop umpteen times before settling upon, ‘Treasure Island,’ and ‘Biggles of 266.’

That was me – hooked. I loved my comics, of course, but books, especially for reading in my room at bedtime and early morning became a passion. (God! I hate that expression … it’s not like I’m on some music or baking reality show, is it? I loved reading books. That’s it. I really did love reading.)

The family summer holiday was a great time for reading. For several years, we’d pack the rickety car to the gunnels and head off from Glasgow down to Sussex or Cornwall for a couple of weeks. Boredom on long, tedious car journeys such as those, was alleviated by reading the latest adventure of William, or Jennings and Darbishire, interspersed by the Beano and Dandy Summer Specials bought at Forton and Charnock Richard service stations on the M6 South.

Actually, in the interest of research, I recently bought copies of the ‘Just – William’ book by Richmal Compton and also ‘Jennings and Darbishire’ by Anthony Buckeridge. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them again, almost fifty years after the first time.

I think I may have related to the ‘Jennings’ series of books (I owned and read them all, as with the ‘William’ collection too) because neighbours went to a public school, though not boarding, and I could envisage them using language such as the exclamation ”Wacko!” or calling someone a little hard of understanding, a “clodpoll.”

The language was all so frightfully posh, which I still thinks adds to the humour.

I wasn’t aware at the time, but the ‘William’ series was written by a woman, Richmal Compton, who taught at an all-girls school, and published the initial ‘Just – William,’ book in 1922. Re-reading the book this year, I was amazed at some of the words and descriptions Ms Compton used, and even more so that I understood them:

 ‘”It’s eating it,” cried Douglas in shrill excitement. After thoroughly masticating it, however, the baby repented of its condescension and ejected the mouthful in several instalments.’

By the time the Seventies came around, the twelve year old me was likely polishing off those two book series. I would join the Boy Scouts in 1971, and by collecting ‘junk’ for our Jumble Sales, I’d be given first dibs on the second hand paperback books.

This was how I first discovered the intrigue and excitement of Alistair Maclean novels and I embarked upon reading most of those.

Our Scout troop was always a good source of reading material. Being away on camp several times in the year made it easy to smuggle what were then considered ‘books of bad influence’ into my rucksack and read without fear of confiscation and grounding. Gritty books like ‘Skinhead,’ ‘Suedehead’ and of that ilk were very popular at that time.

It was also while in the Scouts that the first novel by Sven Hassel, ‘Wheels of Terror’ found its way into my possession. The author was a Dane who fought in the Second World War for Germany, in the Panzer tank regiment. Now, where Alistair MacLean let scenes of battle play out in the readers’ minds, Hassel was much. much more graphic. He related the horrors of war in a manner I had never seen in any film or read in books. So much so, in fact, that many now consider his books to be ‘anti-war’ rather than of the ‘war’ genre.

By the mid-Seventies I needed some respite from all these tales of horror and killing. I had recently found a new favourite TV show, and so when heading off on holiday one year, I bought the first of my M.A.S.H. books. (Yeah, I know … it was kind of ironic, I suppose.)  

A little ‘aside,’ here: being a fan of the television version of M.A.S.H. actually worked well when it subsequently came to reading the books. I already had a clear visualisation of the characters, their accents and their little foibles, so all that simply uploaded to my mind as I read. My imagination could put its feet up for a while.

This of course does not work the other way around, does it?

Over the past fifteen / twenty years, I have read over thirty of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld ‘novels. Each and every character occupies a little bit real-estate in my head. They are like neighbours and we’ve always gotten on pretty well.

Then, in recent years, television hijacked the popularity of these tales and served up various watery versions of the books. The viewer is dictated to in so far as character portrayal is concerned. Rather than put its feet up a while, ‘imagination’ could head down the pub for a few beers.

It’s the start of the slippery slope, I tells ya!

To this day, I resolutely refuse to watch a television adaptation of a Terry Pratchett novel.

Sorry, I digress as some other wee short-arse used to say.

In 1975 / 1976, I was in my final year at school and studying for a Sixth Year Studies certificate in English. I was allowed pretty much a free rein in choosing what my dissertation was about. I entitled mine: ‘Life and Death as portrayed by Ernest Hemingway.’

Cheery little sod, wasn’t I?

The downside though, was that I also had to study various Jane Austen novels and plays by Bertolt Brecht. And that Shakespeare dude, too.

So, all in all, that was my reading pretty much tied up for the best part of a year.

Strangely, I have no recollection of what I read in the three and a half years left of the decade after leaving school. I went straight into work, and evening study for Banking exams. I assume, between that, my sporting commitments, nightclubbing, dating and drinking beer there was little time to read anything other than my weekly editions of Sounds magazine and Athletics Weekly.

As The Seventies wound down and the Eighties beckoned, it seemed the time was right to turn the page on a new chapter of my life.

Television!



***********

A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Fang

Paul Fitzpatrick: Transylvania, May 1897

I remember the evening like it was 50 years ago…. an evening that would change my life….

My Dad had just brought home a film projector….
A slice of Hollywood was coming to our humble suburban abode and life, surely, would never be the same again.

I had visions of Mum serving up choc ices and Kia-ora as I sat on the family sofa with my chums watching all the new releases… Planet of the Apes, The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…. there would be a blockbuster every week.

Deveron Road was about to turn into Hollywood Boulevard… all we needed was a red carpet and a popcorn machine.

Setting the contraption up, my Dad explained that he’d got it from a friend who had kindly included a couple of reels of film to get us started.

The first reel was a home movie featuring the family who’d previously owned the projector, frolicking in the Clyde at Wemyss Bay where they lived.
Not exactly The Poseiden Adventure but we had to start somewhere and at least it helped us to get all the settings aligned.

We sat in eager anticipation as he set up the next reel and to give us a clue he mentioned that the upcoming feature was a ‘classic black & white movie’.

“Laurel & Hardy?” I suggested…. “It’s a Wonderful Life?” my Mum volunteered….

I’m sure I spotted a wee smirk on his face as he turned the lights off and pressed start.

The room and the screen were in complete darkness before the title appeared, accompanied by the eeriest church organ music known to man……

The opening title

WTF….

I repeat….

WTAF!!

There were to be no kind-hearted Angels earning their wings in this horrendous feature….
Nosferatu, was a terrifying German-Expressionist horror movie, made in 1922….. the first film ever in fact, to be based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.

Nosferatu – Count Orlok

The protagonist, Count Orlok wasn’t your run of the mill, tall-dark & handsome gigolo of a vampire with slicked back hair either…. ala Christopher Lee or Vincent Price… he was the spookiest, creepiest, most chilling looking dude I’d ever laid eyes on in my young life.

I was transfixed with fear…. I didn’t want to watch it, but I wasn’t going upstairs to bed on my own either… lying there in the dark, listening to that horrific organ music, allowing my vivid imagination to run amok!

I always thought of myself as a pretty robust kid….
True, the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT) had given me a few sleepless nights when I was 7 or 8 but this was a whole new ball game…. the SRT was like Andy Pandy compared to this carnage!

I don’t recall getting much sleep that night.

In fact for what seemed like the next couple of years, I had a pathological and (admittedly) illogical fear of vampires.

Vampires were supposed to be a myth, but not to me… and I went to extreme lengths to protect myself from them… I wasn’t taking any chances.

I kept a bible on my bedside table.
I ‘borrowed’ a silver Cross from my Mum’s jewellery box, that I wore at night.
I ‘borrowed’ a little vassal of holy water from an Aunt which I kept under my pillow.
And the piece d’resistance…….
A wooden stake (carved then ‘borrowed’ from the school woodwork lab) kept under my bed, in case I had to go full Van Helsing on the Count’s ass.

I should also add that I tried my best to acquire some garlic but every time I added it to the weekly shopping list, I got the strangest looks.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I dreaded night time… daybreak just couldn’t come fast enough.

Looking back, I fully related to George Clooney’s character in the excellent From Dusk till Dawn when he said….

And I don’t want to hear anything about not believing in vampires.
Because I don’t f***ing believe in vampires!
But I believe in my own two eyes!
And what I saw is f***ing vampires!

(it’s funnier when he says it, watch clip below)

George Clooney Scene

If there was a Hammer House of Horror movie on, (and there seemed to be one every Friday night) I’d creep downstairs and covertly sit on the bottom step of the landing, to listen to it.
I knew I was tormenting myself, but at least I wasn’t upstairs on my own, thinking the worst.

My Dad, (a non-believer!) thought this was all a big joke so one Friday night when I’d been chased from the bottom step back up to my room, he thought that it would be a jolly jape to throw pebbles up at my bedroom window from the back garden.

Thinking, quite reasonably, that it was a Vampire (in the form of a bat) trying to get into my room I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs quicker than you could say “I have crossed oceans of time to find you“, only to find my Dad pissing himself laughing and my Mum chastising him…
you’ll give the poor lad a heart attack Joe!

Reflecting on my ‘wimpish past’… apart from the Singing Ringing Tree the only other thing that had given me the heebie- jeebies prior to this monstrosity of a movie was an episode of the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ called Final Escape, about John, a convicted bank robber.

Determined to escape his sentence, John befriends an inmate named Doc, who’s in charge of the prison infirmary.

They hatch a plan to hide John inside the coffin of the next inmate who dies.

The coffin will then be buried and dug up by Doc after the gravediggers and guards leave.

It all goes according to plan, until Doc fails to dig John up.
A terrified John learns why, when the shroud slips off the face of the corpse sharing the coffin with him: It’s Doc, who died of a heart attack the night before….Ahhhh!

I’m not sure when I ‘grew out’ of my Vampire phobia, I think it probably just got ‘trumped’ by The Exorcist which was much scarier and even more realistic.

I remember at the time you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about some poor sod being possessed…. ‘an exorcism being performed in a town near you’…. or some other form of paranormal activity.

Fast forward a couple of years when the movie Jaws was breaking box office records and guess what? From nowhere, shark attacks started to be tabloid front page news with shocking regularity.
Great White seen at Helensburgh pier

Life imitating art or just a way to sell more papers?

Of course Vampires are uber cool now so no one’s stocking up on bibles, or wooden stakes anymore… instead, windows are left wide open and saucer’s of blood are left on the ledge to beckon the undead….

Yesterdays persona non grata has become today’s big poster boy.

Anyway, give me the old-school ghouls any day of the week, at least Count Orlok was a scary looking mo-fo… not like these pretty boys below!

An ‘L’ of a Journey (part 1)

George Cheyne: Glasgow, May 2021

The day my son waltzed into the house after passing his driving test goes down as one of the proudest of proud dad moments.

Well, when I say waltzed…it was more of a slow shuffle as he went all Bob de Niro-style method actor on me with a fairly-convincing performance that he’d failed.

It took far too many angst-ridden seconds before his poker face finally folded to reveal a beaming smile.

Cue some manly hugging and back-slapping along with some girlie whooping and hollering thrown in for good measure.

And why not? It had been, literally and metaphorically, an amazing journey for him ever since he’d first slapped the L plates on the car and sat in the driver’s seat.

The feeling of pride didn’t come from any sense of reflected glory on my part. I’d helped him – or at least I think I did – steer his way through all the trials and tribulations of being a learner driver.

I’d sat alongside him for hours on end and felt his pain and pent-up frustration during all those “kangaroo petrol” moments, the crunching gear changes, the stalling at traffic lights with a queue of cars behind us and the teenage tantrums. Oh, yes, the tantrums.

So, yeah, I was proud he’d come out the other side.

And in keeping with the ways of the 21st Century, there was a picture to be taken with his pass certificate so it could be circulated to the immediate family.

It turned out to be his second photo shoot of the day as the driving instructor had snaffled him at the test centre straight after he’d passed to take a picture of him and the car.

First-time pass, nice cheesy smile and the driving school logo front and central…that’s your ringing endorsement right there.

It was probably up on the driving school website before my son had the chance to rehearse his Bob de Niro act.

If you ever needed a snapshot of how things have changed since the 1970s then this was it.

As my son’s phone started pinging with several messages responding to the news that he’d passed his test, I took a moment to think back to when I’d passed mine.

This was in 1976, so I sat the test, came home, told my mum, dad and brothers the news and, err, that was it.

No photo shoots, no ringing endorsements, no phone calls, faxes, telegrams or whatever sent out to a waiting world.
It took weeks before all my family and friends found out.

Just because there was no big song and dance about passing your test back then, it doesn’t lessen the achievement.

It was still teenager versus machine, a nerve-shredding World Cup final of a contest which often went to extra time and penalties.

Like a lot of Seventies kids coming up to their 17th birthday, I’d asked my mum and dad for driving lessons as a present.

And presumably because they were looking for a chauffeur in the future, I was handed an L plate birthday card with a note inside.

No bells and whistles, no gold-embossed business card, this was a hand-written blue biro message scribbled on a page torn out a lined notebook.

It read: “The bearer of this note shall be entitled to 7 x 1hour driving lessons. Graham GYSOM”

The tone seemed a bit pompous given it was scrawled on a bit of torn-out paper and I figured Graham must have had a background in banking or something.

No matter, the important part of this scrawl was “7 x 1hr driving lessons” and I was entitled to them. Why 7? Turns out Graham had an introductory offer of buy-six-get-one-free.

It also turned out that the Graham Young School of Motoring – the GYSOM at the foot of the note – was more of a solitary classroom than a school.

And the domino effect of him being a one-man band, his introductory offer taking off in a big way and so many teenagers clamouring to drive meant my seven lessons were spread over 14 weeks.

A fortnight was too long in between and progress was pretty slow as I spent the first 20 minutes of each lesson going over what we’d done in the previous one.

I tried to persuade my mum and dad to put me on their insurance for the family car so I could get some extra hours in, but the exorbitant cost of adding a 17-year-old male to the policy made that a non-starter.

So I diverted most of my hard-earned wages – originally earmarked for such necessities as alcohol and music – to invest in more lessons with Graham.

I managed to swing the introductory offer again – which was probably a reflection on how little progress I’d made – and got back behind the wheel of his Morris Marina 1.3 saloon.

We traipsed up and down the streets near the Anniesland test centre in Glasgow trying to keep the car straight and avoid crashing into my fellow learner drivers.

Anniesland Test Centre

And after four lessons of this second batch something finally clicked. The gear changes were smoother, the driving got easier, the traffic awareness heightened and the confidence flowed.

No-one was more surprised than me. Well, apart from my instructor, that is.

Graham, a man in his early thirties who wore a shirt and tie like he meant it, sat across from me after that lesson ended looking slightly incredulous.

“When did you learn to drive like that?”, he asked.

The question seemed to suggest that he didn’t have much faith in (a) my driving ability or (b) his instructing skills. But I let that slide as he began talking about sending away for a test date.

Now it was my turn to be incredulous as I realised there was to be no turning back. Well, not unless I was carrying out a textbook three-point turn, of course.

To be continued…