Category Archives: Social life

Blackpool (owes the charmer under me)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2021

There’s always been something about Blackpool…. a bit like the Kelvin Hall or The University Café, or more recently BJ’s Beach Bar in the Algarve… it’s been a ‘happy place’ of mine.

My earliest memories of the Lancashire Riviera are a mixture of great memories and trauma, however.

My first visit was in the summer of 1963, I was 5 years old and perhaps the only reason I remember anything about my inaugural trip is because of one incident that has stayed with me ever since.

Cliff Richard was mega then, even as a 5 year old I’d already seen one of his movies – Summer Holiday, dragged along to the La Scala in Sauchiehall St, to see it by my Mum & Dad.

What wasn’t there to like about Cliff – he was clean cut, he could sing, he seemed like a nice guy, he could reverse park a double decker bus and navigate it all the way to Athens, whilst singing and dancing, and not a single hair out of place!

We’d got tickets to see his summer show at the ABC in Blackpool during our stay in 1963.
I don’t remember too much about the performance, just a communal feeling of excitement, and a collective sense of awe that we were all in the presence of this matinee idol.

What I do remember is that at some point during the performance I needed to go to the loo and being a big boy, I was happy to do this on my own….. plus Mum was transfixed by the Bachelor Boy and Dad by the scantily clad dancers.

It was all going well until I made a wrong turn and exited a fire escape door into an enclosed courtyard rather than heading back into the auditorium.

The fire door slammed shut behind me and I was locked out of the theatre with no means of getting back in OR getting out of the enclosed courtyard, I remember shouting for my Dad in vain and it felt like I was there for hours but he was clearly oblivious to the empty seat beside him…. having too good a time.
My Mum I could forgive; it was Cliff for god sake, but my Dad was in big trouble…


Indignation quickly turned to panic, and I remember thinking I would be stuck there on my own forever before a nice lady who lived in one of the flats overlooking the courtyard intervened. Telling me from her 3rd floor balcony, not to worry and that everything would be okay.

Eventually, my Dad tore himself away from the can-can girls, and by tracking my steps, figured out my rookie error.

He thought the whole episode was hilarious, I thought it was extremely poor parenting!

Cut forward a couple of years to our next visit and the big summer show was Morecambe & Wise; I can’t profess to being a fan as a 7-year-old, but I do remember the guy with the glasses was funny.

By age 7, I was dazzled by the bright lights and the goodies on display at Blackpool, there were toys and treats everywhere.
I had also discovered the Pleasure Beach and wanted to go on all the rides, particularly the Waltzers which remained a big favourite, but once again it was a traumatic experience that holds my memories.

On the last day of the holiday, we were due to go to the Pleasure Beach for a last hurrah before heading up the road and I was so excited to be going on all the rides again.

I can’t remember what I was doing (or thinking!) exactly, but at some point before breakfast I got one of my Dad’s lead fishing weights lodged up my nose and presumably swallowed it, as it disappeared when I sniffed, instead of blowing my nose as instructed.

This resulted in a quick exit from Blackpool and a dash back to Glasgow to visit our doctor in Stonedyke, who for those of you who remember, used to be on the corner of Spey Rd & Canniesburn Rd, opposite the shops.

Why we couldn’t have gone to a local hospital in Blackpool (via the Pleasure Beach!) I don’t know, but I do remember a long, tense, silent journey back to Glasgow, feeling both sheepish yet sorry for myself.

I’m guessing the lead content of the fishing weight is what would have caused the panic, but the Doc said there was nothing to worry about and the lead weight would pop out in my next poop, pretty promptly.

Two trips to Blackpool, two traumas.

I can’t remember how many times we returned to Blackpool before I went back there again in 1974 with my mates.

I do recall seeing the brilliant Tommy Cooper one summer c.1968 but there was no associated trauma to remember the trip by, hence the lack of any further recall about the visit.

Fast forward to July 1974 and my pals had just came back from a Glasgow Fair spent in Blackpool regaling tales of high jinks and romance.

One of the lads even had a penpal from Preston now, and he had a letter and present waiting for him at home on his return…..

The Three Degrees – When Will I See You Again, ahhhh.

I had been unable to go with them in July because of a family holiday but I couldn’t wait for the next 8 weeks to fly by so that I could get to this Mecca of fun for the fabled ‘September Weekend’ break.

We set off from Buchanan St bus station at midnight, which looking back seems strange as Blackpool is only 3 hours by car from Glasgow, but for whatever reason it took us 8 hours to get there.

The bus had been organised by Clouds Disco (later to become the Apollo) and there was a party atmosphere on the bus as most of us knew each other, or at least recognised the faces.

On arrival, we made the rookie mistake of hitting Jenks Bar as soon as it opened.

Day time drinking was a new concept to me, but alcohol was probably the last thing I needed, I was already as high as a kite on adrenaline and buzzing with anticipation for the weekend to come.

We were hammered by early afternoon and that first day became a bit of a blur if I’m honest, culminating in some very strange headwear choices and photographs.

Most of us had turned 16 in the summer of 74 so getting into pubs and clubs wasn’t something we took for granted but there seemed to be no barriers in Blackpool as well as a wealth of choice.

Our preferred venue as it was for a lot of Glaswegians was Mama & Papa Jenks, a big sprawling pub with waitress service…. so you didn’t even have to take the risk of going to the bar to get served.
Jenks had three levels, a bar at ground level, a nightclub above it, and a gay bar in the basement.
The set-up was marvellous but a bit of a shock to the system, particularly when you were used to sneaking into traditional working man’s pubs & saloons in Glasgow and hiding in the corner.

The nightclub at Jenks was pretty good if you wanted to spend the whole evening on-site but we found a great little Soul club nearby with a brilliant DJ that just nailed the music.

To be fair there were a lot of great soul artists/records in the charts at that time – George McCrae, Barry White, Don Covay, Johnny Bristol, The Tymes, The Commodores and The Hues Corporation, etc.
The DJ was playing all that stuff plus a load of imports and remixes we had never heard before.

Learning from our first day we paced ourselves over the rest of the trip, spending time on the Pleasure Beach and leaving the pubs till the evening.

I know Blackpool may not have the best image, but we were having a ball and when it came time to contemplate leaving, a few of the lads said they wanted to stay on… as it transpired some did through no choice of their own.

It seemed half of Glasgow was in Blackpool that weekend which contributed towards a great atmosphere, but the place wasn’t without its tensions.

Come the last night, we were in Jenks having a farewell drink and killing time before catching the bus home, and a massive fight broke out, between the Possil boys and the Calton boys…. and when I say massive, I mean chairs, tables, glasses, bottles, the lot.
The fight spilled outside onto the street like one of those bar room brawls you see in Westerns and it wasn’t long before the police weighed in.

A lad we knew, Hughie Kinnaird, was sharp enough to spot the trouble early-doors and encouraged a few of us to follow him and get out of Dodge before it escalated.
We managed to catch the bus back to Glasgow with minutes to spare but a few of our group got caught up in the rammy and ended up spending an extra couple of days in Blackpool… by necessity rather than design.
The return journey home was a bit more sombre than the party-bus we’d arrived on, but it still took 8 hours!

Another Blackpool trip another drama…

I’ve been back to Blackpool several times since 1974 for fleeting visits but mainly to watch my brother Barry compete in dancing competitions and represent Scotland at the Tower Ballroom in the late 70s and early 80s.

The last time I was there was about 20 years ago when I was up in the North West from London for a meeting in Manchester and persuaded a colleague to stay in Blackpool during the Blackpool Illuminations.

He’d never been or wanted to go to Blackpool, so I was excited to introduce him to the delights of my favourite English coastal town and to change his perception of the place, but it was a losing battle…. the place looked tired and run down and the bright lights didn’t seem so bright anymore.

I’ve not been back since then, and I’m not sure I ever will now.

I think I’d prefer to remember the old place the way it was….. bright, lively, invigorating and full of drama…..

beer sans skittles

Russ Stewart: London April 2021

“All right, brain. You don’t like me and I don’t like you, but let’s just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.”

The last pint I had in a pub was last autumn, as a member of the Twickenham Scotch Egg Appreciation Society.

It was a Birra Moretti, cost £5 and was about 5% alcohol. 
Contrast that with a mid seventies pint of Tennants, which cost 20p and was about 3.2% alcohol.

The UK average salary in 1975 was around £3,000 per annum… about 15,000 pints. 
The UK average salary in 2020 was around £38,000, which equates to about 7,600 pints. 

So, in the 70s as we shivered in our single glazed homes, took holidays on chilly Scottish shingle beaches wearing Harris tweed bathing suits, at least we could stupefy ourselves on cheap beer.

Unfortunately, at 3.2% alcohol it took at least a gallon of beer to attain a state where we thought we were witty and interesting. 

In those days beer marketing was focussed on the 6 pint “session” drinker.  
He was a chap in his early 20s who went to the pub with three mates, each buying two rounds.  

I worked as a systems analyst for Courage beer and they launched the “follow the bear” marketing for Hofmeister lager, probably the most recognisable session beer at the time. 

On the other hand, Tennants had the picture can strategy for the take home, carry-out market. 

The reverse of the tin featured a local beauty, typically Miss Rothesay 1962, sporting a West Palm Beach helmet hairstyle, with the intent of prompting your subconscious to increase your thirst. 
Personally a packet of salted peanuts worked better for me.

The Burnbrae in Bearsden was my local then and McEwen’s lager was my preference. 

The Allander was an alternative, and it served Tennants. 
That pub was a temple to Formica.
It was brightly lit and cunningly utilised light wavelength to expertly highlight the plooks on underage drinkers, of which there were many. 

Our other local – The Talbot Arms in Milngavie served Ushers.
It had a lounge bar and the beer was 1p a pint more, due to its lavishly appointed furniture and fittings. 
It attracted a slightly more discerning type of Milngavie Ned.

Pernod and blackcurrant tempted the jaded palates of some session drinkers.

Not for me… however it did contribute to a more fragrant and colourful type of vomit from the over-refreshed. 

Back to the 2020s….
Nowadays I rarely have more than two or three pints a session. 
The beer is too strong, perhaps it’s the impact of the marketing communications, that warn us of “irresponsible” drinking.  

In contrast to the Hofmeister Bear the messaging today is very aspirational.  

Guinness have focused on these ridiculous philosophical adverts, worthy of Eric Cantona at his most confused (I loved the existentialism embedded in his karate kicking of an errant fan). 

I was business systems manager for Guinness for a while and the story goes that they had specially trained rats that scoffed the spent yeast from the pipes in the Dublin brewery. 

Come to think of it, that would be a great commercial. 
The only problem is, that I’m not 100% sure of the veracity of that story, truth or urban myth?

If true, then life really is all ‘beer and skittles’, for some…

I’ll leave you with this beer related thought…..
“There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says ‘Good people drink good beer.’
Which is true, then as now.
Just look around you in any public barroom and you will quickly see: Bad people drink bad beer.
Think about it.”
Hunter S. Thompson

The Castle, the Gypsy and the Fire Dance

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow 2021

Now this might sound like an unwritten Harry Potter novel but with apologies to Ms. Rowling these events are true and took place a decade or so before she conjured up the young wizard.

Names have been withheld to protect our idiocy!

It all began on a cold but bright Sunday morning in March 1974. A group of around a dozen teenagers, including myself, gathered at the Radnor Hotel on Kilbowie Road, Clydebank to begin our quest to the mythical Mugdock Castle.
We were all suitably dressed for our adventure….

Flared Jeans (more on them later) T-shirts, Denim Jackets and the obligatory Baseball Boots (Basies) or Gola Trainers.
All perfect for the 8°C weather!

The girls had been tasked with supplying the food and the guys with procuring whatever alcohol that they could get their underage hands on. One clever chap (I or C) also brought his battery powered cassette player and a selection of classic 70’s rock music….Purple, Yes, ELP and the mighty Zep

Hoisting our duffle bags we set off and quickly decided that if we were going to hitchhike it would be best if we split up into twos or threes.
We reached Kilbowie roundabout and already a few lucky couples had managed to get a lift. The rest of us continued to walk towards Hardgate and onwards to Milngavie.

MK and I finally got a lift from a lorry driver, who, obviously concerned for our safety, put his large left arm around both of us! 
I risked a glance at MK’s face and she was as shocked as I was!
Thankfully it was a short journey and he dropped us off half a mile from the Mugdock Park entrance. 

The first thing we saw, apart from trees, was an ornately painted Gypsy caravan close to a narrow stream. The resident wasn’t around but it was easy to imagine an old, grey haired, shawl wearing, woman with a stunningly beautiful daughter remarkably similar to Cher singing Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves…..well easy for me to imagine this scene….not too sure about MK who was probably still thinking about our over friendly lorry driver!


We reached the Castle in about 20 minutes.
Remember this was 1974, long before Mugdock had a visitor centre, gift shop or cafe. 
Most of our merry gang were already setting up camp at the derelict castle, swapping stories about their individual hitchhiking journeys.

A couple of the guys had brought fishing lines, presumably to catch their supper in the lake adjacent to the Castle.

However there was one little problem ….the lake was frozen solid!
The fishing line weights merely hit the ice and skidded 10 yards away.

Undaunted by this setback, large stones were launched onto the ice which eventually created a couple of holes. Now the only problem was aiming the fishing line weights at said holes!
After several attempts our ‘would be’ Captain Birdseye’s gave up completely.

Couples were exploring the darker recesses of the castle, which are sadly closed to the public nowadays…. probably just as well!
The music was on, a good fire was lit and everybody was enjoying a drink, a sandwich, or a sausage roll.


The temperature had dropped and the fire was kept going with bits of wood, twigs and leaves and, to howls of derision, a quarter bottle of vodka!

My great friend Peter (who is sadly no longer with us )  moved closer to the fire, enjoying it’s warmth. Suddenly he leapt to his feet screaming and kicking his legs in the air in a demented dance around the flames!
The rest of us laughed, hooted and clapped at his crazy antics.
He then shocked everybody by kicking his basies off and dragged his jeans down!…. 


Now the fashion at the time was to take an ordinary pair of jeans and open the side seams 15″ from the ankles and then plead with your mum to sew in a triangular piece of coloured cloth (mine was yellow) thus making them flared and fashionable. 

Dancing Peter had done this himself, but instead of sewing he had stapled the insert to the denim!
When he sat too close to the fire the staples had melted into his skin causing his mad Fire Dance!

It was now getting dark and had also started to snow.
Peter for one, was grateful, rubbing handfuls of the stuff onto his burnt flesh.
We packed up ready to head home, but for some unknown reason instead of heading back the way we had come, towards Cher’s Gypsy caravan, we started to walk in the opposite direction??

The snow was getting very heavy now, which actually helped us to see as there was no other light and of course nobody had brought a torch!


We were making decent progress when the gradient suddenly slanted downward causing 3 or 4 people to slip and fall in the snow.

One poor guy (MG) got back up only to fall again over a small ‘hillock’ which bleated in surprise and moved off followed by a few of it’s woolly friends! 

We continued slip- slidin’ away on this downward slope for about half an hour until we entered thick woodland. We could now see streetlights about a mile ahead so had no option but to head for them.

We eventually emerged onto a farm track with houses about 500 yards ahead. Everybody was muddy, shivering and scratched from branches and brambles in the wood. A few of the girls had started to cry (probably guys too) and everybody was cold, hungry and miserable.

I was ‘volunteered’ to go to the first house to ask where we were.
A woman answered and was shocked at my disheveled appearance before politely telling me ‘You’re in Milngavie son’.
I pointed to the sad huddle of my companions and asked if there was a chip shop nearby and to our delight she said there was, just a few hundred yards from her house.

This news lifted our spirits and we trudged off to find it.
Cobbling our money together we had enough to buy three fish suppers to share….. they were ravenously devoured!

I had also ensured that I kept back enough change to use in the phone-box next to the chippy.

I phoned my Dad who voicing a combination of anger and relief agreed to take myself and three more of our motley crew home.
Two others followed suit and got family members to come to their rescue.

I don’t remember much about what followed as nobody really talked about it at school the next week.
I think we all realised how daft we’d been and how fortunate we were that nobody had got hypothermia or been badly injured on the journey home.

We were all a bit sheepish….

Especially MG – who still claims that he ‘fell over’ that one, on that snow covered hillside!

joe jordan ate my rice pudding

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, March 2021

Black tie dinners – doncha just love them?

From the gilt edged invite to the expense of hiring an outfit from Moss Bros and the humiliation of having your inside leg measurement taken by an over eager tailor followed by the uncomfortable fitting of the winged collar and the black bow tie….. all in the interest of appearing ‘dapper’ (whatever that is) – to the event itself where you sit alongside similarly dressed individuals, all of whom would no doubt have been happier to have come along in their trackies rather than being dressed like penguins.
It’s a ritual in the business world which has been in force for centuries and which, gladly for Moss Bros and their competitors, shows no signs of abating.

During my years in the financial services industry, I attended such an event, and followed the aforementioned ritual, every twelve months.

The occurrence took place when one of my clients hosted its annual charity dinner and auction to raise funds for a Leeds based charity which endeavoured to fulfil the last wishes of Yorkshire children with terminal illnesses.

Such wishes, which were almost always fulfilled, ranged from trips to Disneyland, personal meetings with sports/TV stars or even something less spectacular such as an X-Box which the stricken child’s parents could not afford.

A kind of Jim’ll fix it without the Jim – although we’ll leave that subject untouched for now.

So, off I would head to the banqueting suite at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, every year, bow tie at the ready, to host a table of corporate guests (including at least one B-list celebrity), listen to some equally B-List speakers then watch as the auction would raise, quite literally, thousands of pounds for this very worthy cause.

As such I was in the fortunate position of meeting a number of celebs a few samples of whom are as follows.

Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law
Greavsie, with his TV experience, was a real funny character. Some great stories including the famous one about the Scottish football radio commentator who asked a colleague to confirm the name of a scorer for Italy in a game at Hampden then announced over the airwaves that Fucktivano had opened the scoring. (think about it!)

I’ve no recollection of Denis Law’s speech. I was too much in awe of him and just to be in the same room as him was a privilege for me.
I got them to pose for a Polaroid afterwards – although as you can see Greavsie was getting a bit too friendly with my missus who was working at the event as a table hostess.

Denis was staying at the same hotel as me so we shared a taxi back – he hails from Aberdeen, so needless to say, I paid!

Bobby Collins
Another Scottish football legend, Bobby played for Morton, Celtic and Leeds and was capped 31 times for Scotland
During the dinner there was a game of stand up, sit down bingo where all guests were asked to donate £20 pounds to the charity. Bobby leaned over to me and said ‘you couldnae lend me 20 pounds could ye pal, I’m skint.’
As they say, you can take the boy out of Glasgow….. you know the rest.

Neil & Christine Hamilton
The Hamiltons were high profile in the late 1990s/early 2000s initially when Neil Hamilton, a conservative MP, was embroiled in the well publicised  ‘cash for questions’ affair.
This was followed by some lurid allegations regarding the couple of sexual misconduct which were subsequently disproved.

They agreed to take part in a question and answer session at the dinner one year and the tone was set when the first question came from an elderly Yorkshireman who stood up and hilariously asked-
“I’ve been a bit lonely since my wife passed away, any chance of a threesome tonight?”
Above the ensuing laughter, Mrs Hamilton replied with a definite ‘No, next question please.


Paul Daniels
I was staying at the same hotel as the magician and his wife, Debbie, and was asked by the organisers of the dinner to organise a taxi to take them to the venue. Ive never been a huge fan of his, a feeling which was magnified when I introduced myself in the hotel lobby and received a snarled response of ‘so what?’
He did however redeem himself to some extent in my eyes with a rather amusing one-liner when he invited a rather portly gentleman on to the stage during his magic show. ‘What line of work are you in?’ he asked of him ‘Waste management’ was the reply Staring at the man’s expansive midriff he quipped ‘you’re not making a very good job of it, are you?

Debbie, by contrast was a lovely lady – polite, courteous and overwhelmingly grateful when I arranged their transport to the dinner. As has often been said – ‘what could possibly have attracted her to multi millionaire Paul Daniels?’

Jack Charlton
Without sounding sanctimoniously self-righteous I always tried to do my bit personally for the charity at these events. I have collected football programmes all my life and had (and still have) a vast collection going back almost 70 years.
Every year that I attended the dinner I would choose a programme relating to one of the guests, get them to sign it and place it in the auction. The results were greater than I could have imagined. I got Denis Law and Leeds legend Peter Lorimer (rest in peace, Peter) to sign the programmes from their international debuts and they were auctioned for 350 and 700 pounds respectively.

When I heard one year that Jack Charlton was going to be in attendance I dug out the programme from his England debut  (v Scotland 1965), approached him at the top table and asked if he would sign it and place it in the auction.
“No problem’ he said and I returned to my table confident that a programme signed by a former Leeds captain and England World Cup winner would raise a significant sum for the charity.
The auction came and went and there was no mention of the programme.

When the dinner finished I watched Charlton pick up the programme, stick it in his pocket and head off home.
To say I was greatly disappointed in Charlton’s behaviour that particular night is an understatement.

Other than those mentioned Ive met many interesting people at this event including Sir Ranulph Fiennes who ran seven marathons in seven days for charity and who narrowly lost out to Roger Moore in the casting for the part of James Bond, the Cheeky Girls, who let me in on their intimate secret as to how anyone could tell them apart, Nick Leeson who infamously brought Barings Bank crashing to the ground and Roger de Courcey with Nookie bear who brought the house down with some very adult, post-watershed, humour.

Gabriela & Monica or is it Monica & Gabriela??

But now, ladies and gentlemen, to the main event of the evening.

Joe Jordan
With the event being held at Elland Road, there was always a healthy attendance of great Leeds United figures, past and present.
As well as the aforementioned Lorimer, Collins and Charlton, I was privileged to rub shoulders with the likes of John Charles, Allan Clarke, Terry Yorath and Arthur Graham but my anticipation levels rose significantly when I found out that my table guest one year was to be none other than Joe Jordan, a true Scottish legend.

We sat beside each other during the dinner, exchanging memories throughout the starter and the main course and when the dessert was served, the waitress planked down two large plates of rice pudding in front of us.
I’ve always hated rice pudding. I don’t know why. Maybe I had a bad experience at school dinners with one but its almost been like a gastronomic phobia for me.

Joe, clearly harboured no such fears and demolished his portion the way he used to demolish opposing defences. He then saw my untouched plate and uttered the immortal words “are you no wanting that, pal?”
I shook my head and watched as he hauled my plate in front of him and scoffed every last morsel.

To summarise my black tie dinner experiences, I’ve shared a taxi with one of my personal heroes Denis Law, I’ve been tapped for twenty quid by another Scottish international footballer, I’ve been snarled at by Paul Daniels, I (and the charity) have been shafted by Jack Charlton and I’ve learned how to differentiate between the Cheeky Girls but the highlight of them all, and my claim to fame is, without doubt…..


the dating game

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



As a kid in 1960s America, I grew up on a diet of  TV sitcoms and game shows that portrayed wholesome American family values: My Three Sons, Leave it to Beaver, Bewitched, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I love Lucy, The Dating Game and even the Addams Family,  My mother stayed at home to raise me and my brothers and  my teacher Dad would come through the front door at the end of the day in his trade mark trilby and trench coat with his pipe in hand:  “Hi Honey, I’m home!” Think ‘Pleasantville’.

 I never questioned that I would one day date a handsome, wholesome boy. We’d go for a soda-pop and a hot dog after a baseball game, get engaged and get married.  That’s how it worked, right? The first I heard of  Women’s Lib was in the summer of ’69 when my older cousin ventured outside her house without wearing a bra; causing our grandmother to have a conniption fit and haul her back inside for a lecture.  That was the end of THAT! Where we grew up, women weren’t decent unless they wore at very least a full Playtex Cross-Your-Heart bra, under-slip, pantihose and a girdle. I had a training bra at the age of ten, which amounted to no more than two triangles of cotton fabric on an elastic band. But I still had one. My best friend Catherine even had a training girdle but Mom put her foot down:

“That will squish your ovaries honey.”

I didn’t know what or where my ovaries were at ten years old!

A Match Made, not in Heaven…but in Edgbaston

After we had moved to Birmingham, West Midlands in 1970, my mother – being a Southern Belle of ‘good stock’ – wasted no time in seeking out the ‘right sort of people’ in her eagerness to make ‘good connections.’ Not easy on the border of the Black Country. After seeing the skulking lads from the church hall disco at my fifteenth birthday party, she took matters into her own hands to get me on the right track to finding a suitably wholesome date – preferably a rich one.

My parents met a couple called the Handcocks from Edgbaston (“good area honey”) at a dinner party. Dad was impressed:

“Mr. Handcock works in Engineering. He’s a ‘self-made’ man – yesiree-bob.” (Parents seems to put great store by this.) 

The Handcocks had a son called Douglas who was shorter than me. Great. Douglas was no oil painting either and I know, I know – beauty lies within – but when you have raging hormones and your bedroom walls are festooned with pull-out posters of your favourite heartthrobs from Jackie Magazine: David Cassidy, Marc Bolan and David Essex –  I hoped at least for a dazzling smile and dimple. Jeeze – even the lads at the church hall disco had an element of cheeky charm tucked up their Ben Sherman shirts sleeves. Worst still, Douglas wanted to become an accountant.  I mean, who actually wanted to be an accountant? I thought he was deadly dull. I hoped for a boyfriend with a tad of charisma.

Mrs. Handcock and my mother were in cahoots and arranged a date between me and Douglas. I  was apoplectic. He was awful – so B – O – RING! Mom came back swiftly at me with, 

“Just stick with him Honey; he might have nice friends.” 

That’s how her mind worked. Never mind that I couldn’t stand him; he was rich and lived in a detached house: STICK WITH HIM! 

I had three dates with Douglas – way beyond the line of duty. On our first date, he took me to a party  in a splendid, gothic house complete with sweeping staircase, stained glass windows  and grand, marble fireplaces.

Mom would have loved it and would have probably have tried to marry me off to the boy whose party we were attending. Mr. Handcock picked me up in his Bentley which went down well with my mother.

“Class will always out, honey.”

As soon as we stepped through the Minton tiled entrance hall, I ditched Douglas and made a bee- line for a tall, lanky, captivating boy who sported a navy capped-sleeve t-shirt, Levi’s and a fetching string of shell love beads around his Adam’s apple.  His floppy fringe hid brooding dark brown eyes. I hung around his neck as we slow danced to 10.C.C.’s ‘I’m Not in Love’. Poor Douglas didn’t stand a chance. In fact, I ignored him until his dad picked us up. We sat on the back seat of the Bentley in silence all the way to my front door.

“Goodnight, Mr. Handcock and thank you, Douglas – for a lovely evening!” 

God, I was cruel – but then, kids can be.

Despite my complete indifference towards Douglas he invited me – or rather, his mother invited me – to their house for dinner and to stay the night, so that she and Mr. Handcock could become better acquainted with me (in other words, ‘size me up’ as a suitable girlfriend for their only, darling son).My mother made me a new long flowery ‘frock’ like those in Laura Ashley, with a ruffle at the hem and big sleeves with a sash, which I hated. I looked like a Holly Hobby doll.

Impressing Mom with their obvious ‘good breeding’, Douglas and his father picked me up at seven-thirty sharp, one Saturday evening in 1975.  Douglas awkwardly thrust a bouquet of pink carnations in my hands.

“Here. These are for you.” I handed them to Mom who gushed like she was the schoolgirl:

 “Oh my, why Douglas you’re so thoughtful. Andrea  – what do you say? I’ll find a vase.”

I rolled my eyes and climbed into the back seat of the Bentley.

At dinner, I was seated between Douglas and his mother as I tackled the typical 1970s fare;  Honeydew melon with a cherry on top, Steak Diane followed by Black Forest Gateau and a cheese board.

The Handcocks enjoyed a bottle of Chianti in raffia.  Despite my acute embarrassment, I managed to mind my p’s and q’s and even to use the correct cutlery (well, I was born to be a Southern Belle) as I fielded questions from Mr and Mrs Handcock

 “Andrea , your mother tell us that you play the piano. You must play something for us after dinner.” (Oh shit! My hands would sweat and slide on the keys.)

“And where do you got to school Andrea? The God Awful School? I don’t believe we know that  one.”

As I flopped into bed in their luxurious guest room (Who had those? When my grandmother visited us from the States, she had to be farmed out to a family down the road because my brothers shared a room and I had the box room.) the thought fleetingly crossed my mind that if my mother’s hunch was right – I too could one day own a house with two bathrooms and four-ply towels.

For our third and final date, Douglas took me to see ‘Airport ’75’ at the movies, where I coughed throughout the entire film. A man seated behind me tapped my shoulder and offered me two Polo mints.

“Shur-up for fuck’s sake!”

 I gagged and coughed all the way up the gangway. Douglas did the decent thing and followed me, called his dad on a public payphone and never saw me again.

This didn’t stop our parents from meeting socially from time to time, but the penny had finally dropped.

My mother was right of course; I did meet some nice friends through Douglas… and I didn’t become an accountant’s wife!

(Copyright: Andrea Burn March 20th, 2021)


where the street has no fame

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

Cambridge Street Car Park
(by Caleb D. / Yelp)

Cambridge Street in Glasgow is apparently one of a hundred such named in the UK. On the face of it, there’s nothing special about it; nothing that would set it apart from most of the other ninety-nine. It’s simply a means of accessing the more famous, interesting and vibrant Sauchiehall Street from the Cowcaddens Subway station.

Its appearance is to this day blighted by the typically ugly Seventies-built multi-storeyed car park (opened in 1972 for all you car park anoraks out there.) Overall  though, it’s a lot easier on the eye than it was some forty-five to fifty years ago.

Not one to normally give matters such as this much thought, even I regarded Cambridge Street with a good deal of disdain. It was dirty, and grimy looking; like the keep Britain Tidy campaign budget had not been replenished since the late Sixties.

Yet, for all it lacked the cultural glories of Glasgow’s bustling West End; the classy shopping experience of Buchanan Street and the pubs, clubs and restaurants of Sauchiehall Street, I realised only recently just what a significant contribution Cambridge Street made to my teenage years.

It was a four and half mile, thirty minutes, bus ride (route 110, I think) from my house to the city centre, so there had to be a specific objective in mind for me to make that commitment on my time and bus fare. Even at such an early age ‘shopping’ required ‘purpose.’

Initially, as now, that motivation was the purchase of records. And that’s what first prompted me to this most under-appreciated of Glasgow streets.

It was 1973. I’d have been fifteen years old, in third year at secondary school, and there were bags of changes going on all around me. I mean lots of changes. Including in the ‘bag’ department.

Having been wired from birth to remain steadfastly uncool, I carried my text books to class in an old fashioned, but neatly compartmentalised briefcase type thing. The Great Coat Brigade were using the canvas gas mask bags; but the big change came when more and more kids, predominately male it has to be said, started loading their books into plastic bags. Plastic bags that once carried newly bought records and proudly brandished the legend ‘Cheap & Nasty.’

Now this pre-dated the Punk movement by a good three years, so such a slogan was quite a change from similarly purposed bags that depicted a cute little dog staring down a gramophone trumpet. Or an iconic Roger Dean illustration, featuring a naked set of siamese twins lounging in front of a dead tree, with a dragon by their side, its tail fluttering suggestively between their legs.

These bags had become more and more prevalent in the school playground over the course of the preceding twelve months, so, late to the party as usual, I decided to check out this ‘new’ store, Listen Records.

As it happens, I actually found the shop by accident when I next went for a haircut. I had managed a couple years earlier to dodge being trailed along by my mother to the Maid Marion salon in Drumchapel and had for some reason, like many of my pals,  gravitated to a barber shop called Fusco’s – in Cambridge Street.

The ‘reasonable’ haircut mentioned below! They said this was a popular feathered cut – if it was that popular, I wonder why I was the only one in our school football team sporting this style?!

I must surely have been able to get a reasonable haircut closer to home, but opted instead to travel uptown to what at that time was a very basic and totally unspectacular shop. Maybe it was because they were specialists in the popular feathered cut; maybe because they treated us kids like adults, chatting away and offering ‘something for the weekend,’ (nudge, nudge, wink, wink!) I do remember the guys being really friendly.

However, I have a sneaky suspicion that my / our choice of barber had something to do with the proximity of a delicatessen where the shop assistants were most accommodating of my under-age requests for four cans of Carlsberg Special and two of Newcastle Brown Ale. (I’ll not name the shop because they are now very successfully trading in the same name, but a different form.)

So, for a couple of years, I had my lazy shopping habits perfectly mapped out: bus to Cambridge Street; spend ages sifting through records in Listen; pop along for a haircut, then pick up a bevvy for that evening’s disco at school / local Ski Club. I’d then head back, stopping off in the woods behind my home to secretly stash my illicit alcohol for consumption later that evening.

When I left school in 1976, I was only a couple months short of being legally able to buy alcohol, and passed a trendy ‘unisex’ hairdresser to / from my place of work. For a few months, the only draw Cambridge Street offered was Listen Records, and until the store closed around two years later, they did very well from my wage packet, I can tell you. It will forever remain one of my top records stores.

However, I was ‘big boy’ now (if five foot four can ever be so termed) and with money to burn the lure of the city’s nightlife became an ever increasing influence on my pals and I.

Of course, licencing hours in those days were very restrictive compared to now, and so we’d head up to Glasgow in the early evening for a few hours in our favourite pub, MacIntosh’s Bar.

I’m not entirely sure why a group of four (sometimes five) lads from the suburbs would collectively chose this pub as their pre-Club hangout. The likelihood is that we were just lazy little gits, and the proximity of both the bus station and the bright lights of Sauchiehall Street won the day. Whatever the reason, I have some very fond, if fuzzy memories of evenings spent in there.

Oh yeah – guess where this pub was (still is.) Yup – Cambridge Street!

After a few beers, we’d walk along to Sauchiehall Street, take a left, and head to our favourite Discotheque – coz that’s what they were back then. Not Nightclubs; not Clubs; not even Discos. Discotheques.

The White Elephant was up a long, tight, steep staircase over some shops that faced out into the famous street. It wasn’t the most fancy of Clubs. It didn’t have the latest light show, nor did it have the loudest sound system.

More to the point though – it didn’t have any poseurs. There was no particular dress code that I recall, and no real showboating, dancefloor extroverts. The clientele were, in the main, regulars and we’d see the same faces week after week, which made for a friendly atmosphere. There was very little trouble on an evening at The White Elephant.

Spread over two floors, the upper one was more of a circular balcony that looked down on the dancefloor below. Tables and chairs of a pretty basic nature were spread out here and this is where we’d have our ‘three course supper’ which was included in the admission price. (£1.70 per couple on Couples Night! I’m unsure what we paid – but it must have been value for money.)

Best of all though, and what attracted our disparate wee crew, was the music. This was 1977, and while Glam had more or less faded away, Rock was as big as ever, twee pop still commanded heavy radio airplay, and ‘new’ genres such a s disco and punk vied for attention. And the DJs at The White Elephant would cater for everyone.

Later in 1977, the club was targeted by an arsonist. Fortunately, the evacuation went smoothly and there were no casualties, but thirty firemen were called upon to bring the blaze under control. The venue was badly damaged and required to close for a period.

When it re-opened, it was under the new name of Roseland.

We did return to the new ‘discotheque’ several times, and it did have a similar feel to The White Elephant, but as with everything, times change. Priorities change. By now, two of our group were spending more time with their future wives (whom they met at The White Elephant) an I had been dating a girl I also met there for about ten months.

Gradually, our visits to Roseland and any other clubs became less frequent.

With less reason to head up to Glasgow on a Friday or Saturday night, our visits to MacIntosh’s Bar also dwindled. Listen Records closed their shop at that end of town, and we were happy to let our hair grow.

We were now of an age when we really hoped we’d have our age questioned if buying alcohol, just so we could smugly flash our driving licence, or whatever.

For six years, on and off, and as unlikely as it would seem, the unremarkable Cambridge Street had considerable influence on the shaping of my teenage years.

It’s a little bit sad, I think, that so many things that shape our lives in some way or another, go unappreciated. So I for one, will tonight crack open a can of Special Brew and bottle of Newkie Brown and toast my time spent with company on Cambridge Street, Glasgow…..

…. where the street now at least has a little bit of fame.



Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2021

There was an awkward period when you were about 14 when you were too young and broke to go many places on a Saturday night but too restless and worldly-curious to stay at home and watch the Two Ronnie’s with your family anymore.
Sure, there was the odd youth club disco, but they were few and far between at that age.

Therefore, the magic words as you approached the weekend were “so and so’s got an EMPTY on Saturday night”.
It was always music to the ears….

An ‘empty’ by definition was a household without parents, and just as importantly, without parents knowing anyone was going to be there.

An ‘empty’ was not to be confused with an organised party where the parents or older siblings chaperoned the attendees or went out for a designated period of time and laid on crisps and pop and cake, oh no we were far too rock ‘n’ roll for that malarkey.

There were three categories of ‘empty’ that I recall.

  1. The official empty’: semi-organised, invitations made on a need-to-know basis and kept within a small group.
  2. The unofficial empty’: not organised, no control over proceedings and a risk that every nutter within distance could turn up
  3. The hearsay empty: speculative, someone told someone, but they weren’t sure, therefore you’d need to turn up to check, taking the risk that it could be a complete waste of time

The ‘official empty’ normally went off without too much bother because everyone generally knew each other.
There would be a few cans of warm beer or cider, Harvey’s Bristol Cream for the ladies and cocktail hour consisted of snowballs made up from the parents drinks cabinet.

What a role model….

There would be music of course, a bit of smooching in the dark if you were lucky, and the only general drama was somebody overdoing the booze and trying to sober them up before they went home.

I do remember a different drama though. It was based on a craze at the time which was to try and make yourself faint by basically starving oxygen to the brain. This was done by blowing on your thumb and holding your nostrils until you kind of passed out.

I’d seen people try it before and fail, but on this particular evening a couple of girls decided to go for it, sending one of the quietest girls in the school, completely loopy, to the point she started running around the house, taking her clothes off and throwing them out the window.
Fortunately her pals managed to subdue her before things got too out of hand, but it was some scary shit.

I remember seeing Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction some years later and the mortified look she wore after the adrenaline injection incident reminded me of the look on that poor girls face after she realised what had happened.

The unofficial empty on the other hand was an accident waiting to happen and there were numerous horror stories of empties that got completely out of control, typically with a common link.

The common link being that most of the unfortunates hosting these accidents waiting to happen, were generally naïve and totally unprepared for the mayhem that was about to come their way.

You could see it unfolding before your eyes, it was all so predictable, first there was the jungle drums…. “so and so’s got an empty” – it was news that spread like wildfire, then on the evening in question you’d see a congregation of people milling around outside, the numbers swelling by the minute.

A bit like the Alamo there would be resistance at first but after the first few gate-crashers gained entry the floodgates would open and resistance was futile.

The poor person hosting the event would see that things were going downhill fast and before long they would have a look of defeat and resignation all over their poor wee faces.

At that point it was all about damage control, as saucers really were flying (out the window), liquids were being decanted (on the soft furnishings), cigarettes were being stubbed out everywhere and anywhere and anything of value had to be nailed down.

It was mindless and gratuitous and typically you were powerless to do anything about it. It was usually a mix of older lads and people you’d never seen in your life before, acting like Vikings on crystal meth, before a neighbour or the police turned up to restore order.

I witnessed several of those nightmare evenings and it was the reason I never volunteered an empty, even if I had one, which to be fair I didn’t very often as my younger brother was junior by 9 years so there was always a babysitter involved.

You would normally hear later that the poor host, traumatised by events, had been grounded for weeks and it always begged the same question – ‘why would you put yourself in that position – are you mental?’

As a parent I tried to pass that wisdom onto my 3 kids, and whilst there were one or two close calls (that we know about!) I think we got off pretty lightly.

The hearsay empty’ on the other hand usually turned out to be a damp squid, you’d traipse all over the shop to far flung places like Courthill and Kessington to find an address you’d never been to before to be greeted by a DeNiro lookalike faither or a 6ft 4in rugby playing big brother, eyeing you up and down suspiciously and starting to put 2 and 2 together after realising that this is the 3rd or 4th batch of wee runts that had turned up to the door that night.  

To make matters worse you’d end up getting chased by the natives who took umbrage that you were on their territory.
South Central LA it wasn’t, but it all added to the thrill of the evening.

Of course, these type of things are all arranged on Facebook and Instagram now, which increases the risk and the potential numbers, and the papers are full of stories about ‘gatherings’ that have gone spectacularly wrong, like the headline in The Sun below…

Mum’s horror as 15-year-old daughter’s Facebook party sees 100 youths turn up to wreck home, smash TV and fling bottles at cops

The allure of the ‘empty’ is still there though and even now I have a good Scottish mate who lives near me who’ll message a few of us if his wife’s away for the weekend, to say he’s got an ‘empty’.

We’ll go to the local for a few beers before traipsing back to his house whereupon more beers and wine will be drunk (unfortunately no one has advocaat in their drinks cabinets anymore!), the Sonos system will be turned up, usually blasting out a selection of 70s Yacht Rock classics, and we’ll get all philosophical and soppy about life and kinship before going home a few hours later than planned and spending the next two days in recovery.

Pre-lockdown, this used to happen every 3 or 4 months and they were amongst my favourite nights of the year – which just goes to show, that whether your 14 or 62, you can never beat a good ‘official empty’ with your mates!

Kilmardinny Country Club

Russ Stewart: London, March 2021

The early 70s, was a simpler time – pre computer games, pre mobile phones and pre scandal surrounding some of the TV icons of the day like Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.

In those days Kilmardinny Loch, a mere five minute walk from Bearsden Academy, was a hive of activity and an after school playground for early teens and older. 

It was our ‘hangout rendezvous’ with some kids going home first to change into more suitable clothes, whilst many others just went straight there from school. 

Coarse fishing took place at an area called “sandbank”, which should have been called “fagbank” given the amount of discarded cigarette butts.

Roach, perch and pike provided  meagre fare, whilst a gigantic pike was rumoured to eat ducks. 

In fact I remember a 14lb pike being pulled out of the loch but the catch was deemed invalid for the record book, as the method used to snare the monster fish involved a butcher’s hook and a frog attached to the end of a rope, tied to a tree, overnight.

Kilmardinny Loch

Being a wooded area tree climbing was popular amongst the more simian of character.  Alcohol fuelling the desire to climb  and, on occasion, the type of descent.

An investigation, with respect to a fall from a tree into the loch, prompted a police probe into the source of the bootleg whisky being sold by the loch for 50p a bottle.
I often wonder if that local moonshine operation is still in existence!

There were some great “off road” bicycle runs around the loch which enabled the rider to ramp up decent downhill speeds, culminating in a semi doughnut shaped skid in the mud at the foot of the tracks.  

Cyclists had to beware though as there was a spate of incidents involving fishing lines being stretched across the cycle paths, at mouth height.
Perhaps this was the frogs revenge! 

At nearby Mosshead a perpetual footie game took place, often continuing till the light failed, with players coming and going as they returned from having their tea ( not dinner) and maybe after a bit of homework. 

It wasn’t exactly Hampden and the ‘pitch’ had a pronounced incline for the benefit of whoever was shooting downhill.
The slope had other purposes however, and also served as a pretty good ‘bogie’ point to point racetrack for the dexterous few who’d put together their own carts.

The games a bogey….

Every winter there was an insane challenge to be the first on the loch ice. 

I recall playing footie on the frozen loch, and the surface would rise and fall in rhythm with the players congregating and dispersing around the ball.

If football wasn’t your thing it was always worth investing in ice skates as the loch would freeze annually, in fact the ice proved thick enough on occasion to sustain a bonfire in the centre of the loch, which did, of course, occur .

I’m not really sure when the loch area fell out of favour as a post school social hub, perhaps when Bearsden Academy relocated.

From all accounts it is very quiet now.

I’m guessing computer games and mobile phones are the order of the day now rather than those seat-of-the-pants outdoor pursuits we used to enjoy at the not-so-exclusive Kilmardinny Country Club…..

all the fun of the fair

(by Paul Fitzpatrick: March 2021)

When I was a kid, I loved going to the Carnival at the Kelvin Hall at Xmas, there was just something magical about it – it was a full out attack on the senses.

First there was the noise – chart hits being pumped out from every ride, plus the accompanying sirens, bells and whistles and of course the whoops and screams from the punters.

Then there were the smells – everything from the sweet smell of freshly spun candy floss to the not so sweet, throat-gagging, odour of elephant dung from the neighbouring circus.

And finally, the lights – bright, flashing, colourful, a bit like Vegas, it could have been any time of the day in there, you’d never know.

It was an alternative universe we visited once or twice a year and it never disappointed.

You could spend hours there just soaking it all up but normally it only took 60-90 minutes to spend whatever money you had. Frittering away your last few pennies in the penny-falls machine in the vain hope of extending your stay.
Inevitably walking away on the brink of a big pay-out with an avalanche of two pence’s hanging over the edge!

Then there were the rides.

We all had our favourites and our strategies to make the most of them.

For me the Waltzers were always number one but only if the ‘Waltzer guys’ supplemented the experience by manually spinning the contraption around. This however was a fete exclusively reserved for the girls they were looking to impress.

It was quite a dance, watching them weave their way effortlessly around the heavy duty machinery, snake like, waltzer to waltzer whilst eyeing up the talent.

We may have been young and daft but we spotted this pretty quickly and employed a tactic where we would split up into pairs before joining the two most eligible girls we could find that had space in their Waltzer.
We’d done our research and we knew with some certainty, that this particular Waltzer was going to get hurled around the West End of Glasgow something rotten.

The girls were normally a couple of years older and were oblivious to us and our rouse, totally swept up as they were in the attention of the Waltzer Guys and the fact that this chariot of metal was about to spin off its axis into the Clyde.

It was a tactic that served us well and I would still recommend it to any young pups out there looking to maximise their Waltzer experience.

Another top ride was the Rotor, a concept based on centrifugal force pressing you against the cylinder wall of the ride, as the floor below disappears.

Rotating at dizzying speeds, you were literally stuck to the wall like an insect to flypaper until the giant food blender came to a stop and the floor re-emerged.

Being Glasgow of course, there were plenty of gallus punters who didn’t respect the laws of Newtonian Mechanics, so you had guys doing hand stands against the wall, people trying to consume fizzy drinks and worst of all, numpties jumping on the ride after scoffing a baked potato or such like.

The result was nearly always the same and I can confirm that a combination of centrifugal force and vomit is not pleasant for anyone involved.

Think Problem Child 2 for any of you that have seen it!

Everyone had their favourites – the ghost train, the dodgems, the rib-tickler, the fast motorbikes, the cyclone, the umbrellas and the chairoplanes but apart from the odd scramble for a specific dodgem that you had convinced yourself was 50mph faster than the rest, I don’t seem to remember ever having to wait long to get on a ride.
Certainly none of this 30-minute waiting time malarkey that you see now.

Then there were the salon games you were encouraged to play, the challenges that always looked so easy to win, with the big unattainable prizes stacked behind them as an incentive.

Throw a small hoop over an ever so slightly larger plinth and win a diamond ring, throw rock-hard table-tennis balls into a jam jar and if by some miracle you manage to get them to stay in and they don’t bounce out again, win a Rolex, knock the superglued coconuts off their shy with a foam ball and win a holiday to Vegas! …..(okay I’m taking it too far now!)

In all my years I never saw any of our crowd win anything other than a goldfish in a plastic bag and that was by hooking a few plastic yellow ducks out of a puddle of water, an attraction normally reserved for 5-year-olds.

I can also confirm that taking Goldie the goldfish onto the rotor wasn’t the best idea.

Then there was the penny arcade with its plethora of slot machines, that split into two types.
None of them rewarding….

Ones where you could win cash prizes (like the fruit machines or penny-falls) but never did.

Or ones like the big crane thingy with the giant claw, where you could win prizes like watches and jewellery. However, the only thing I ever saw this badly constructed piece of Meccano collect in it’s giant tentacle was cheap key-rings.

In saying that we never went out with the intention of coming back with anything substantial, and we knew that any money won was just going to be ploughed straight back into the place anyway.

Every ride pumped out music at maximum volume and the better the song the more enjoyable the ride, the song that reminds me most of the Kelvin Hall is Shaft by Isaac Hayes, a perfect soundtrack for the time.

‘Who’s the cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about?’
‘Right on’

My grandparents lived in Partick so I used to go to the Carnival regularly as a youngster, however, my peak Kelvin Hall years were when I was around 13/14, young enough for it still to be a big adventure but old enough to go on my own with my pals.

For all the excitement I do remember trying to keep my wits about me, wary of a different crowd and wary of the speed and velocity I was being flung around this palace of fun – but it was always invigorating.

At 13 you tend not to over-think things, you just live in the moment and enjoy it, so it was tragic to learn that there was an accident on Boxing day in 1978 when two people unfortunately lost their lives on a ride called the Concorde Flyer, due to a machine malfunction.

I remember going to the circus a couple of times as well, but that was usually a trip with the Cubs and the only reason for going was the 30 minutes you’d get to go on the rides afterwards.

I’d left the Kelvin Hall behind by 1974 and had moved onto the big-boy rides at Blackpool’s pleasure beach – namely The Grand National and The Big Dipper.

Then when our own kids were old enough we went to Disneyland and Universal’s Island of Adventure in Orlando and of course pretended it was for the kids benefit.

The rides and the entertainment in Florida are on a different level of course – The Hulk Coaster, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain, Tower of Terror, etc but for all the razzmatazz I’m still not sure anything compares with the Waltzer at the Kelvin Hall on a cold December night with two bonnie lassies onboard and an amorous Waltzer guy – geien it laldy!


try a little kandersteg

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)

Kandersteg is located along the valley of the River Kander, west of the Jungfrau massif, 65 km from the city of Berne, Switzerland. It is noted for its spectacular mountain scenery and sylvan alpine landscapes. In 1922 Walther von Bonstetten, Chief Scout of Switzerland, discovered an abandoned chalet originally built for the workers on the Lotschberg tunnel in 1908. He proposed the creation of the Kandersteg International Scout Centre to Robert Baden-Powell, for which he received a very fetching ‘Chalet Finding’ embroidered patch which he could sew onto his khaki shirt.

And so it was that the 24th Glasgow (Bearsden) Scout Group, ‘Stag’ patrol, in the summer of 1972, found itself  hurtling through the north western corner of Europe by train.

In the Scouts, Patrols were made up of 6 or more ‘men’ led by a Patrol Leader, ably assisted by a Seconder (my role) and a descending rank of lesser beings with the minion at the bottom. The minion had an important role in the rankings. He was the one at the door (or flap) of the tent that kept the draught out and you could wipe your boots on. He was the one you used to test the depth of river crossings. He was the one whose legs we pushed through the small sliding aperture at the top of the train carriage window (purely OH & S research you understand) remembering to pull him back just in time when approaching the numerous tunnels en route. No minions were maimed or injured on this trip but a few became pretty legless later on !

Each patrol was named after a wild animal or bird of prey because……………..I’m not really sure why. The Primrose patrol or the Mighty Scots Pine Patrol isn’t – well – butch enough !

The Stags, along with the Panthers, Eagles, Ratty, Mole and Mr. Toad, Eeyore and Pooh, were all designated a compartment each and the sleeping arrangements were thus. Leader and Seconder across the seats, the next 2 in the hammock-like luggage racks and the minions on top of the rucksacks on the floor. Surprisingly comfortable.

After a day or two we found ourselves in the gobsmackingly beautiful valley of the Bernese Alps. It was like something off a fancy biscuit tin but not shortbread. And there were Girl Scouts in the chalet ! GIRL SCOUTS ! That just did not exist in Scotland in the 70s. Girls had their own paramilitary groups, the Guides and the Brownshirts – or am I getting a bit confused. There certainly wasn’t any dib dob dabbling down Dalriada way !

I shared woggles with a lovely blond Dutch girl who called me ‘gek’ which apparently means crazy. I have never had any trouble with people from the Netherlands since. I just point a spiraling finger to the side of my head and say ‘gek’ and they give me a wide bearth !

Most days were spent hiking the surrounds with Sleck our Scout Master who looked like he’d just come straight from the Boer War. If it was any hotter I’m sure he would have brought his pith helmet.

We would trudge slowly behind him like a slow motion video of Madness only leaning forward. One step beyond it certainly wasn’t but the views when you reached your final destination were indescribeable. One morning it was announced that we were going up a young maiden which got a lot of horny teenagers over excited until we realised it meant ascending the Jungfrau.

Let me introduce our glorious leader of the staggering Stags. Paul (or Piggy) was a year older and about 6 inches shorter than me. He was kind of street wise in a Bearsden sort of way (more boulevard or avenue wise I suppose). He had this incredible sense of timing – in a bad way.

The train had numerous stops, some as long as 20 to 30 mins. Time to pick up a snack or a fizzy drink but Paul would stroll into the station cafe and order a coffee, then amble over to the juke box and select a few tunes (The Doors if available). He would sit down just as the train whistle blew and then would have to retreat leaving a confused waiter with coffee in hand to the diminishing sound of  ‘Riders On The Storm’.

At one station there was an arty-farty craft shop that sold delicate glassware. Paul selected quite a few fragile pieces to take back to his mum when ‘toot toot’, this train’s a-leaving. Realising a brisk walk wasn’t going to cut it, Paul broke into a jog then a run to the increasing sound of tinkling coming from his backpack. Nothing left but shrapnel.

He was able to somehow get 6 under 15s copious amounts of beer at one establishment, so much so that this little seconder lost more than that. I’ve no recollection how we got back to the chalet that night or apparently decorating the dormitory with pre used pilsner. Needless to say Sleck was not impressed. His idea of a reckless night out was a couple of Kumbayas around the campfire and a hot cocoa.

Paul was stripped of his command promoting me to head stagmeister. The trip back home was a bit muted. Call it mountain air, hangover or the uneasy feeling of recent events.

I caught up with Paul on social media late 2009 and we chatted about that summer.

He thanked me for my “reluctance to join in with the ‘give Paul a kicking’ brigade” I’m glad I never excepted my fetching ‘Backstabbing Bastard’ embroidered patch. Where would I put it ? My sleeve’s full !

Finish your coffee and listen to your selection Paul, this one’s for you mate.

Paul M. 16th October 1957 – 20th April 2016