Tag Archives: Glasgow

Love and Marriage (A Tale of Two Cities)

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, July 2021

In the summer of 1975, I was a football-loving, music-loving, teenager, staying at home with my parents in Westerton spending my weekends either playing football, following Partick Thistle or browsing through the album sleeves in Glasgow city centre record shops.

Armed with the wages I had garnered from my post-school job in banking I’d habitually visit Listen, Bruces or 23rd Precinct, searching for the  missing link in my burgeoning record collection…. the Holy Grail like recording of Eric Clapton on Tour with Delaney, Bonnie and friends.

Fast forward 12 months and I am a 20 year old married man living in Edinburgh with a wife, a house, a mortgage, a washing machine, a tumble dryer and a baby on the way.

My weekends were no longer spent kicking a ball, watching an under-achieving football team doing the same nor spending hours in darkened record stores looking for an album that no-one seemed to have heard of.
This was the quantum leap to beat them all as my weekend routine now revolved around trips to the supermarket, the untold  joys of assembling MFI flat-pack furniture and exciting new experiences such as paying electricity bills, wiring plugs to electrical appliances and arguing with neighbours as to whose turn it was to clean the common stair that week.

‘How did this happen?’ I hear you ask.
A question I’ve asked myself many times over the past 46 years.

As Bob Dylan once described in song, major life changes  can often occur due to a simple twist of fate.
My twist of fate happened during a lunchtime respite from the humdrum life of a bank clerk. One of my colleagues had noticed in the daily circulars that the company was offering an ‘exciting opportunity’ to work at a newly formed department in Edinburgh.
It was a temporary post…… twelve months in the unknown waters of the capital then back to civilisation which began at the Baillieston lights.
It’ll be great” he said, “we’ll get a flat” he said, “get pissed every night and pull loads of birds“, he said.
This rather fanciful notion of Utopia tipped the scales for me and we both duly applied for the advertised role, got accepted and began to prepare for life in the far east…. well, the east, any rate.

A few days before we were due to head along the M8 however, he phoned to tell me he was pulling out (oo-er matron). He’d met a girl. He was crazy about her and didn’t want to risk the relationship by moving 50 miles away.
Fair enough, I thought, but by this time I was hell bent on this new adventure even if it did mean flying solo.

Initially my time in Edinburgh was a life of grubby bedsits, takeaway meals and the odd snog-and-grope short term relationship, a million miles from the Utopian dream which I had bought into…then came the ‘Thunderbolt’.

Im sure most readers of this blog will have seen The Godfather and be aware of the effect the Thunderbolt had on Michael Corleone  when he first met his  wife -to-be, Apollonia whilst hiding from American justice in Sicily.
In Sicilian folklore, the Thunderbolt is described as ‘a powerful, almost dangerous longing in a man for a particular woman’.
I was hit by the Thunderbolt on my first day in Edinburgh when I saw Pamela walk across the office floor. For the next nine months I was tormented by a desire to ask her out but a lack of confidence held me back. 

When I did eventually mumble an invitation to suggest meeting for a drink outside work, she responded… ‘I thought you’d never ask!‘ 
Three short months later we were married and fortunately Pamela didn’t suffer the same fate as Apollonia who died shortly after her wedding to Michael in an exploding car following a revenge attack by enemies of the Corleone family.

We had been together for over 30 years when she sadly passed away, with a son, daughter and two lovely grand-daughters left behind.

Me?
As a result of that simple twist of fate, Im still in Edinburgh.
I did eventually kick-start my footballing career (see what I did there?) and played until I was 61.
I still occasionally find my way to Firhill like a homing pigeon.
I still listen to the same music I listened to in the mid-70s but…I still haven’t managed to get a copy of Eric Clapton on Tour with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends.

No matter what you achieve in life, there’s always something else to aim for.
Can anyone sell me a copy?

Alan playing Delaney & Bonnie & friends featuring Eric Clapton at a pub near you…..


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).

Road To Nowhere

John Allan: Bridgetown WA, June 2021

After the 1821 census, Glasgow’s population was greater than Edinburgh and so it appointed itself the moniker “Second City of the Empire”.
Statements of it’s great power, wealth and confidence could be seen all over the city in it’s fine Georgian and Victorian architecture. No more so than at Charing Cross, about a mile from the city centre.

In the 1960s the wise men of the Glasgow City Council and/or the Roads department thought it would be prudent to obliterate the Grand Hotel to the left and all the buildings to the right to dig a gigantic pit so that a major roadway could plough it’s way through the centre of the city. Thankfully Charing Cross Mansions (circa 1891) and the fountain were spared and are still standing today (below).

Fools to the left of me, jokers to the right…
Thank Christ they left this untouched!

In the mid 1970s, I would stroll up Sauchiehall Street from my workplace at Cuthbertsons in Cambridge Street to visit a school chum of mine, Colin, who worked in a hi-fi shop. This wasn’t your cheap and cheery discount warehouse sort of place. This was a top end salon for the discerning of supreme sound quality who had big spondulix to throw around. All woofers and tweeters and I’m not talking nature lovers. Think Bang & Olufsen and the like. This meant that Colin only saw one or two customers a day and welcomed my visits and wee chats. We might even slip out for a pint of real ale at the Bon Accord along the road. A warm and cosy little hostelry until you staggered outside to look down into the abyss as six lanes of motorway trundled by under your feet.

What were the planners thinking ?
Surely some sort of ring road around the city centre like other UK towns and cities would be preferable to the near destruction of an architectural gem a mere mile from the city’s heart ! “All those in favour of changing the motto from ‘dear green place’ to ‘trust in tarmac’ say aye.”

They even constructed an overpass which just halted mid air in front of some tenement buildings. Decades later ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’ was converted into offices but it still doesn’t disguise the folly.

Now you see it…
Now you don’t!

Compare that to another of my 70s haunts about 10 miles away (and less than 5 from the family home) on the A809 to Drymen.
The Carbeth Inn stood alone by the road in what I suppose was the gateway to rural Scotland even being that close to the city. Opened in 1816 and mentioned in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Rob Roy’ in 1817 it was a favourite with both bikers and hill walkers.

Every weekend it was wall to wall leathers or cagoules. Abercrombie and Kent versus Harley Davidson. A juke box tussle between ‘Get your motor runnin’….’ and ‘I love to go a wandering….’. I think I fitted into the latter category – I certainly wasn’t a biker as I couldn’t drive back then.

When I say bikers, it wasn’t gangs of tattooed knuckle dragging mouth breathers with matching sleeveless denim jackets…. no, it was more quantity surveyors and tax accountants called Torquil and Farquhar who squeezed themselves into tight leathers and revved up for the weekend. As some sort of right of passage motorbikes would scream pass the pub, some doing wheelies, before back tracking to the car park. There would be a lot of engine envy going on. I remember one poser running alongside his bike, hands on handle bar about to jump on when the bike stalled and he flipped over his machine much to the cheers and laughs of those congregated. He ‘tummled his wilkies’ as they may say in these parts.

Many years later as a student nurse in orthopaedics, I looked after a lad who took the bike bravado a bit too far and mistimed a corner near Carbeth. He carried a macabre folder of photographs and x-rays taken whilst in casualty. If you think part of a femur can’t pierce leather and stick out at 90° from the hip then I can assure you I’ve seen the grizzly evidence. And that was the leg the doctors managed to save. The other was amputated just below the knee.

I think I was part of the Venture Scouts although I don’t remember any initiation ceremony or sewing patches onto any uniforms. We did various activities including hill walking and sailing but inevitably ended up 6 to 8 of us crushed into the back of expedition leader Alan’s Jaguar XJ screaming along the A809 at breakneck speed (maybe that was the initiation ceremony). I remember the nervous laughter as I watched the trail of sparks as Alan launched his Jag over yet another bump in the road and the feeling of relief as we cruised into the Carbeth to take our place among the throng.

There were another group who mainly kept to themselves. The Hutters. After WW1 the local landowner Allan Barnes Graham permitted campers to set up on his land. Huts were developed after WW2 mainly for displaced people after the Clydebank Blitz and these were passed down to family members. Although very basic without electricity or running water these must have been havens for the working people of Glasgow and surrounds. I wonder what they thought of this intrusion to their local.

Meet the Hutters…

I hear now that the Carbeth Inn is no longer and has been replaced by a drive thru coffee shop. What with a clamp down on drink driving it was inevitable that such an iconic country pub would be a casualty.

I continued my walking into the 80s and would often traverse close to Carbeth. I’d like to think my love for the countryside (and real ale) was fostered on some of those walks now that I’ve got my own little bit of acreage far from the madding crowd – and a lifetime away from any motorway !

Born to be mild

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”

show & tell – colin ‘jackie’ jackson

Today, I’ve brought with me, my Ken Dodd Fun Club Certificate and personalised, signed Ken Dodd photograph.

I was ten years old when in April 1969, my parents, little sister, Rona, and I waited at the stage door of the Alhambra Theatre in Glasgow to meet my hero, Ken Dodd.

We didn’t have to wait too long before being invited in.

I vividly remember Doddy sitting behind a sort of counter, wearing a dressing gown, still in full make-up and hair all over the place.

I recall too, he was very gracious, and though offstage only a short while following a long performance, he was still incredibly funny and cracking jokes.

I told him I missed the Diddymen who hadn’t appeared in the show, and Ken took time to explain, more through my parents, that they couldn’t get the necessary permission from the Glasgow authorities for children to perform in the evenings.

He really was just how you hope your hero should be and chatted happily for several minutes, even politely replying to my asking why he had jokes written all over his hands and wrists!

Often referred to as the last of the Music Hall comedians, Ken Dodd appealed to adults and kids in equal measure. I really thought he was tattyfilarious, and laughed till my eyes streamed and my sides were sore.

(When I reminded my ninety-one year old dad of this the other day, his eyes lit up and confirmed what a fantastically funny night it was.)

I had thought I’d lost these two mementos but found them when searching for something else. I’m so glad I did, as they evoke such strong memories of a much more innocent and nonsensical style of humour.

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…

saturday night at the movies.

(Paul Fitzpatrick: London – April 2021)

I think it was the author Ralph Waldo Emerson who said ‘life is a journey not a destination’, which is a quote that grows in relevance as the years roll on.

His quote is relatable to me in a few ways, one of them being how tastes and preferences change… take wine for instance, most of us started off thinking we were quite sophisticated when we cast aside the sweet taste of Blue Nun for the dryer more sophisticated Piesporter…. and when we started drinking Beaujolais, hell, we thought we were French!

Similar with music, similar with food, similar with books, similar with a lot of things – we grow, we evolve and our tastes develop,

Take going to the cinema as an example of changing times and tastes.

The first big transition was being able to go to the cinema on your own and for many of us I guess that meant Saturday mornings spent at the the ABC minors club.

Those weekly events were a big step towards your adolescent freedom… pure independence from the minute you left your house and hopped onto the bus or train with your mates until the minute you got back.

Minors of the ABC anthem

For those that remember, the ABC minors club was a feast of cartoons and old black and white movies like The Lone Ranger or The Three Stooges, with a few pop hits of the day thrown in at the intervals to allow you to fill your face with sugar and additives (unless they’ve changed the Kia-ora recipe?).

Jump forward a few years and the next stage of my cinematic journey involved going on dates… with chicks to the flicks.

Saturday night at eight o’clock
I know where I’m gonna go,
I’m gonna pick my baby up,
And take her to the picture show.


Saturday night at the movies,
Who cares what picture you see
When you’re huggin’ with your baby in
the last row in the balcony?

Sounds romantic doesn’t it, but it never quite worked out that way.
there was no pickin’ your baby up for a start, she was usually dropped off and collected outside The Rio cinema in Bearsden by an overprotective Dad, drawing daggers at you as you waited outside the cinema, drenched in Brut (with no charisma).


Looking back…. sitting in silence, side by side, in a large room with no lights was probably the perfect scenario for all involved, particularly when you were a 13/14-year-old monosyllabic boy with a bad haircut.

Back then, I hadn’t mastered the art of small-talk, (or banter, or bantz as it’s now called) or even basic conversation, so what could I chat to girls about when the only topics I could talk about with any authority were football and…. well actually nothing else, just football really.

It was clear therefore, that the perfect setting for this total lack of discourse was the dark silence of the local fleapit, regardless of what film was viewing.

Of course, what goes on in the back row stays in the back row so there’s going to be no juicy gossip shared here, but as most of you will remember, 75% of the film was spent contorting your arm around the shoulder of your date, 24.5% was spent fighting cramp and building up the courage to make that awkward next move…. and if you eventually overcame all your fears and anxieties, then you maybe got to share a wee snog for 90 seconds before the lights came on… realising you’d missed the conclusion to the film.

I was genuinely gutted to learn years later that General Custer did not survive the Battle of Little Bighorn, and that (spoiler alert) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Bonnie and Clyde also perished in the dying embers of said movies.
No wonder there were no sequels!

Where The Drifters got it spot-on however, was that when you were that young it genuinely didn’t matter what film was on… the event was everything.

Within a couple of years however, it was a different story, you started to become a bit more discerning about the movies you wanted to see, and it’s at this stage X rated movies came onto the radar.

In your mid-teens gaining admission to an (18) was a badge of honour but as things transpired some of the best features at that time just happened to be X-rated.  

As an example, five of the best movies of that period were all (18) X-rated……

A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist, Enter the Dragon The Godfather 2 and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

A Clockwork Orange was a strange one, it was probably my least favourite of the five, but culturally it had a huge impact on us back then.

Within a couple of weeks of seeing it the impressionable ones amongst us were wearing Crombie coats, white sta-prest trousers and nicking our Dad’s umbrellas so we could be suede-heads and strut about like Malcolm McDowall’s character, even in the rare days that the sun was splitting the sky…
We must have looked like the numpties we undoubtedly were.

The cinematic landscape has changed a lot since then.



I can think of six cinemas that I used to go to regularly in that period, only one, The Grosvenor in Hillhead, remains open as a cinema, the rest are flats or in the case of The Salon, also in Hillhead, a trendy bar (Hillhead Bookclub) where patrons play ping-pong and drink concoctions called coconut firecrackers.

I have mixed emotions when I go there now, trying to work out where I used to sit, and remember who with.

It’s nostalgic to see the remnants of the great old cinema, but it’s also poignant to think of all the fantastic movies, the nervy first dates and the collective memories that the grand old building harbours.


Who knows what the old playhouse will be transformed into next but at least we still have access to it today…. which is a blessing.

Inside the Hillhead Book Club, Glasgow. Formerly the Salon cinema.

We all seem to be time-challenged these days but if you needed to kill 4 or 5 hours in the 70s there used to be some great double bills available to see…. a couple I remember with relish were Blazing Saddles + Monty Python & the Holy Grail and Midnight Express + Taxi Driver.

Thinking back… including intermissions each of those double bills accounted for approximately 5 hours’ worth of entertainment…. even the 70’s adverts were hilarious.

Is it any wonder then, that these old cinemas went out of business? Nowadays a blockbuster will be shown on a loop, five or six times a day on one screen in a multiplex that has 10 separate screens…. so up to 60 showings a day.
Compare this to two showings a day on one screen in the old style cinemas and do the maths…

I guess it’s just another example of changing and developing tastes…. we start off as impressionable kids thinking that nothing can beat these grainy old black and white movies on a Saturday morning…. that our local cinema is the most exotic place in the world, and before you know it, we’re watching computer animation in a 10-screen multiplex with queues a mile long waiting to buy rubber hotdogs, cardboard popcorn and a gallon of carbonated liquid for a small ransom…..

Sometimes, the ‘journey’ doesn’t always take you to a better destination!

For anyone who’s interested, here’s my top ten 70’s movies in no particular order, based on repeat viewings over the years…

  1. The Godfather
  2. The Godfather 2
  3. Blazing Saddles
  4. Monty Pythons The Life of Brian
  5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  6. Young Frankenstein
  7. The Sting
  8. The Jerk
  9. Rocky
  10. Saturday Night Fever

As a p.s. here’s some of those classic cinema ads from the 70’s, they don’t make ’em like this anymore….

Pearl & Dean
Taste of India
Kiaora Leonard Rossiter ad.
Babycham ad

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

Paul Fitzpatrick: London April 2021

If you’d told me 45 years ago that a DJ could be worth $300 million, I’d have said ‘away and boil your heid’.

But it stacks up when you learn that Calvin Harris can charge up to $400k per show… which will probably rule him out of spinning the discs at any 21st’s up The Muscular Arms this weekend.  

Not bad for a former shelf-stacker from Dumfries.

Like most of us, my introduction to DJ’s was via TOTP.
That first generation of Radio One DJ’s all looked like accountants trying a bit too hard to be trendy, apart from Jimmy Saville who always looked, well…. weird.

My favourite Radio One DJ in the early 70s was Johnnie Walker.

Walker famously got sacked by Radio One for calling The Bay City Rollers “Musical Garbage” at the height of their popularity (RIP – Les), he had a laid-back delivery and a great taste in music.

Johnnie Walker presenting his show on BBC Radio 1 in January 1975

He was the guy who championed the 1975 Fleetwood Mac album when everyone else had written them off, and his show is where I first heard Rhiannon as well as nuggets from Steely Dan and Little Feat that no one else was playing at that time.

Moving into the mid 70s I started to get into Soul & Funk which you could only hear in clubs back then until a London DJ called Robbie Vincent came along with his weekly Soul show on Radio One.
It was perfectly timed, early evening on a Saturday night as you were getting ready to go out, and would get you in the mood for the evening ahead.

The only other DJ’s we had contact with in our youth were the mobile variety at various youth club & school discos…. a bit like Ray Von and his ‘wheels of steel’ from Phoenix Nights…

When our crowd started going up to clubs in Glasgow we went to the aptly named Clouds, (atop The Apollo) later to become Satellite City.

Tiger Tim was the DJ most Friday nights and the whacky son-of-a-gun used to dress up as a teddy-boy… or a frog!
It was 1974 and he had just started at Radio Clyde with his… ‘The Aff its Heid Show’…. (ok I get the frog suit now!) and was fast becoming a local celebrity.

Up the toon c.1975

Going to Clouds …. walking round that amphitheatre of a dance floor (always anti-clockwise for some reason), and then avoiding the turf-war, gang fights at George Square where we had to wait to catch the last bus home, was a Friday night ritual for a while.

Thinking about the music, Tiger Tim had a pretty eclectic taste, he would play a bit of disco, a bit of chart stuff and then throw in curveballs from the 50’s like Dion’s – The Wanderer or Clarence (Frogman) Henry’s – I don’t know why I Love You But I Do… probably to support his Teddy Boy persona..

A new city centre club opened in competition to Clouds in 1974, called Shuffles which we went to a few times for a change of scene.

The highlight was when the legendary Emperor Rosko of Radio Luxembourg fame, rocked up with his roadshow… resplendent in chest-wig, medallion and of course armed with his trusty catchphrase…. ‘Have Mercy’

Bizarrely, Clouds and Shuffles were both unlicensed despite the fact you had to be 18 to gain entry.

As we got a bit more sophisticated and progressed to licensed premises, Craig Davis was a name that cropped up a lot.
‘Craigy Baby’ was the flamboyant DJ at the Burnbrae Hotel on a Sunday night, he also had a residency at the Normandy Hotel in Renfrew on a Thursday night and he was a regular at Maestros in Glasgow.

Craig may have been a superfly DJ by night but by day he worked for film distributors, helping cinemas to schedule their movies for the coming weeks.

I got to know Craig through a friend of my Dad’s and he was always good enough to get me movie posters if I asked for them, I remember he turned up once with a poster for an obscure Peter Fonda movie called Futureworld that he knew I liked (the follow up to Westworld)…. I wish I’d kept a few of those posters now.

Craig famously got pulled over and breathalysed by the police one evening after a festive period gig and was staggered to learn that he was over the limit as he was completely tea-total, and never drank.

Despite his protestations he got huckled and the officers took him back to the station for another test, which was borderline…. whereupon a befuddled Craig remembered that he’d scoffed a box of chocolate liqueurs during the course of the evening that a fan had gifted him.

Fortunately for Craig the police bought his story and released him without charge.

The next day, the bold Craig was plastered all over the Evening Times telling his story… his big cheery smile pictured next to a box of cherry liqueurs.

There were some other great DJ’s back in the day like Gary Moore and his crew at The Rooster and City Limits, and that’s where you’d first hear the soul/funk imports from the US, long before they got into the UK charts.

DJ’s of course, always got a lot of attention, and maybe like musicians some of them got into it to improve their chances of meeting the opposite sex.

The Argentinian dudes Joe Hunter and I saw DJ’ing at a club in Calella, near Barcelona in 1975 were certainly a case in point….

There was 3 of them and to be fair they looked like Latin gods… all over six-foot, perfect physiques and long flowing hair straight out of a L’Oréal shampoo commercial.

In fact, when I saw Mario Kempes play for Argentina in the 78 World Cup a few years later, I was sure he was one of the DJ’s…


It didn’t take long for us to work out why there were 3 of them – they would each take turns on the decks so that the other two could be freed up to strut around and meet their adoring public…

Not only did these guys look the part, they were also brilliant dancers and to top it off they were great DJ’s as well… (I hated the b*stards!).

I remember one of them always played a killer 3-song sequence of….
Sex Machine by James Brown, Trampled Underfoot by Led Zeppelin and Disco Stomp by Hamilton Bohannon… which brought the house down every night….

I always liked DJ’s like Gerry Kennedy, brother of my good mate Joe Kennedy from Clydebank who knew his stuff and just played great music with no fuss.
Gerry was the resident DJ at the Boulevard Hotel in Clydebank (the Bouli) on a Sunday night, a regular haunt for myself and buddies… Joe Hunter, Joe Kennedy, Billy Smith and Marty Roberts.

Getting ready to go up the Bouli with wee Billy Smith

Gerry wasn’t interested in being the centre of attention he just wanted to keep everyone up on the dance floor, and his splendid finale of three great moonies was always the perfect way to finish the evening…

Three times a lady
How deep is your love
Always and forever


Well it worked for me anyway… that’s how I met my wife Margo, in July 1978!

Some 70s tunes on the playlist below that remind me of those days….

Customers, Incontinence and Conga Lines

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow, April 2021

In September 1973 I turned 16 and I was lucky to be offered a Saturday job in Burton’s in Sauchiehall St.

My pal, Pat, was giving it up to go to Jordanhill PE College and he would return to work at Burton’s over the Christmas holiday but more on that later.

I duly turned up on my first day scrubbed clean with a fresh haircut and my best (only) suit on.

The shop at that time had nine full time staff and I was one of five Saturday boys!
It was a smallish two floor shop which today would be staffed by 3 or 4 warm bodies.

My first duty, which was to last for the next 8 weeks, was to fill out the Made to Measure forms while Joe the manager, Kit the assistant manager (in his 30’s) and JC in his 50’s did the actual measuring for the endless queue of eager customers.

A Bespoke Two piece suit started at £24.00 and there was credit facilities available.

On the form there were spaces for all the standard measurements required, like… Chest, Shoulder Width, Sleeves, Waist and Inside Leg.

On top of that, there were codes that you had to pick up quickly if you were to last the pace.
Things like…
DB – Double Breasted
STP-Standard Turn Up
BF – Button Fly etc

Kit measured the customers really fast and that’s when the fun started.

He’d shout out the standard stuff then throw in a code you hadn’t heard of before….. Inside Leg 29″ NB??

I scribbled it down anyway making a mental note to ask him what NB meant when I got the chance.

Next customer ‘Extra Coloured  Stitching round Tulip Lapels!’
(Now don’t pretend you didn’t have a least one jacket with THEM!) Before adding TP!

I presumed the TP stood for Tulip?

NEXT!

This guy was CA, the next one was a largish gentleman… ‘FB’ said Kit
All these codes!
I was beginning to think I’d never get the hang of it…then the queue eased a bit and I was sent for a 10 min tea break.

I ran to the little staff room for a quick cuppa and took the opportunity to ask Kit what on earth these other codes stood for…. he checked back on my book and said well….

NB means No B*lls!
TP means ‘Total Pr*ck!’
CA is Complete Ar**hole
FB is ‘Fat B……
Well I think you can work that one out for yourself!

I stood there open mouthed and didn’t know if I should laugh or not!
Two other new starts had heard our conversation and were similarly stunned!

Then Kit laughed and we all joined in!
‘Ssh’ said JC, who’d obviously witnessed this scene many times before, ‘Here’s more customers!’ 
I must’ve filled in another 15 Bespoke forms before lunch, fighting back the tears of laughter as Kit entertained us all with his secret coded banter.

editor: not this year they’re not!

I enjoyed my first day at Burton’s immensely and headed to Queen St. Station at 5.30 with my Pink Times under my arm and the princely sum of £2.96 wages in my pocket.
Later that evening I was pretend fighting with my sister and broke a lamp!
‘That’ll be your wages gone for a Burton!’ quipped my Dad…hoho

After a few weeks Kit invited myself and a few other staff for a pint (I was quite a mature looking 16 year old) in The Royal Hotel which was above the shop.
The Royal or Sammy Dows in Dundas St. became our regular haunts.

At one time I think all the shops at street level had been part of the hotel because there was a warren of corridors, doorways and hidden passageways in Burtons’ basement….
But more on them later.

The Christmas holidays arrived and I was asked to stay on and Pat returned too.

It was maaad busy but we still had time for fun, mainly initiated by Pat.

Joe, Charlie, Pat and I were working in the Ready to Wear department in the basement floor where ‘Crimplene was King!’

We didn’t have a cash register and had to place the cash, cheques and tickets in a cylinder and send it up to the cash office on the ground floor via a pneumatic system called a Lamson.

They used one in Paisleys, Goldbergs and most big department stores back then. The cashier would then write out a receipt and send the change back down.
Quite an efficient system unless it was really busy…..which it nearly always was.

On a rare quiet moment Pat would place a previously caught spider (there were some monsters in the aforementioned tunnels) into the Lamson cylinder and press go……then count to 5….A blood curdling scream would be heard from the cash office!
Followed by  ‘Ya Wee Bassas! from Izzy the fiery redheaded cashier.

Three days before Christmas I had my first experience of an after hours shop party. It was quite a tame event (I would attend much wilder examples in the next 40 years working in retail….but that’s for another blog)

We had sandwiches and sausage rolls. McEwan’s Export and Lager for the guys, a nice malt for the older staff and Blue Nun & Rosé in the wicker basket bottle for the ladies – the ladies were Izzy, her new assistant cashier Kate and her sister and Big Maggie, the full time cleaner, who was as hard as nails but had the proverbial heart of gold.

Maggie lived in Garthamlock, a quaint, picturesque village north of the city.
Pat and I actually went to her Hogmanay Party that year!
But that story is definitely NOT getting told here!!

The January Sale began and brought lots of returns of unwanted gifts. Burtons didn’t give refunds which led to quite a few disgruntled customers.

One particularly angry and inebriated guy, who’d been in for ages arguing with Izzy and Kit (no contest) asked to use the staff toilet and was refused.
The staff stored their coats and personal belongings next to the toilet so requests were always refused. Later, however, he returned when it was really busy and managed to slip unnoticed into the toilet area and peed in the Manager’s hat!!
Joe was not amused!….

Around mid February my daily wages went up by £1.00 to £3.96 but they were backdated for 12 weeks.
Good old USDAW union!

I was rich!
I had £16.00 in my skyrocket!
It was time to put a deposit on a new suit!
Staff got 40% discount on two suits per year (25% Off thereafter) so I only paid £29.00 instead of £49.00 which was still expensive for 1974.

Model wearing, models own jaiket!

This is the Jacket from that very suit!

The Executive Range (of course!) with the additional detail of wide lapels, coat buttons and large flap pockets.

The trousers had a wide, three inch high waistband and twenty eight inch flared bottoms!

I always wondered what codes Kit chose for me!?!?

But first things first, off I went to Sammy Dows for a couple of pints!

As soon as my Highers were finished in early May 1974 I worked full time again until August and Pat joined us for the summer.

In the basement there were two fitting rooms with lockable doors,  chairs and a shelves with an ashtray. 
Yes you could smoke in shops in those days! Total madness!

Apart from the obvious risk of fire with all that inflammable crimplene around, you couldn’t get the smell of smoke out of any of the fabrics!
But I digress….

One day a guy was  trying on trousers in the changing rooms and came back out and said he’d just leave it for now.
Nobody went near the cubicle for at least an hour but eventually a customer did go in and cried out in disgust…there was a giant ‘jobbie’ in the ashtray!!

I don’t know if it was the same guy who had urinated in the Manager’s hat? (There was no DNA testing in 1974!)
But if Big Maggie had got hold of him there would’ve been ‘A Murdduurr’ nine years before anybody had ever heard of Inspector Jim Taggart!

The shop’s window displays were dressed every week by John.
He was a very gentle and artistic man who nowadays would be classed as having learning or social difficulties or ‘On the Spectrum’

The windows were  old fashioned and you had to open the lockable panel and step up about 3 foot, onto a platform.
When the aforementioned panel was locked, the window was closed off from the sales floor.

One Friday evening Joe the manager was in a hurry to get home so at 5.27 he locked the window panel, switched off the lights, set the alarm and we were all outside by 5.30……or were we?

The window lights were left on at night and John was still in the window working and didn’t realise that everybody else had left.
He was trapped!
He tried to attract passers-by but everybody was rushing home or more likely, rushing to the pub to kick off the weekend.

Poor John was waving franticly and pressing his face up against the glass trying to get anyone’s attention!
Those that did notice him must’ve thought it was some kind of new, arty farty, active window display and kept on walking, shaking their heads.

He was stuck there for hours but eventually managed to convince someone to find a policeman who then phoned his station and tracked down the key holder….cue a very annoyed Joe who had to curtail his Friday night to rescue him.

Poor John! It must’ve been very distressing for him but the next day he pretended to just laugh it off.

In June it was our branch’s turn to host the quarterly Managers Meeting. The meeting would be held in a downstairs room behind the sales floor. Joe was clearly on edge and got Maggie to organise tea, sandwiches and cakes for the eight visitors.

‘It’s an oppurchancity not to be missed!’ Pat declared!

He duly put on an XXL Overcoat left over from Winter and I stuffed the shoulders with thick display felt.
He then got the arms from a window dummy and held them so that the hands reached his knees, he topped it off by wearing a stiff platinum blonde wig perched jauntily on his head!
Pat is 6 foot tall but the wig added at least another 4″!
He looked like Benny Hill’s giant, long lost, deranged great uncle!

The meeting had been going for about 30 minutes when the door burst open and in waltzed Pat to the utter astonishment of the group!

‘Wellhullorerr Guys!’ he said and saluted with his false right arm before quickly crossing the room and disappearing into one of the ‘hidden corridors’ behind racks of stock where I was waiting to ‘disrobe’ him!

We were swiftly back on the sales floor before our puce faced manager raced down the back staircase shouting ‘PAT! FOR F*CKSAKE!’ He glared at the two of us and we knew we were in for it later!

We did indeed get a stern telling off but Joe was laughing as he did it. Turned out he couldn’t stand a couple of the managers and actually told them he’d set it all up to jolt them awake during the endless boredom of Quarterly Reports!

The next big event was The Glasgow Fair Friday!
This is the Friday before the last fortnight in July when all the Glasgow factories closed for their holiday!
Everybody was in a celebratory mood as the ‘workies’ clocked off at lunchtime and headed to packed pubs with 3 weeks wages burning holes in their pockets.

‘Whit ye gettin’ yer burd fur her FAIRN?’ asked Charlie. This was the first time I’d ever heard that phrase and I needed it explained to me.

Apparently it was customary to buy your partner a gift on Fair Friday. I can’t remember what I bought but it was probably a box of Milk Tray hastily purchased from the kiosk at Queen St. Station!

The pubs closed at 2.30pm but the workies still had to buy their ‘holiday claes’ before going home to pack.

Eight very merry, boiler-suited men came bouncing into Burtons and proceeded to form a Conga Line through the middle of the shop grabbing short sleeve shirts, casuals (polo shirts) and light coloured trousers as they high stepped their way past the racks and rails!
It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen!

Then on their return journey, rather than queueing at the cash desk they started lobbing scrunched up fivers and tenners at the cash desk’s glass partition.
Izzy was far from happy!
The manager was delighted though as Pat, Charlie and I scooped up the cash and tried to tally it to the assorted clothes each dancer was carrying.
Most of them paid more than they should have but they were all very happy and without breaking stride handed us tips before Conga-ing down a sun lit Sauchiehall St.

I continued to work Saturdays and all available holidays even after I left school and then went to Glasgow Tech to study Accountancy. 
There was a lot more Burtons’ laughs and nights out and in!

I left Glasgow Tech after a year and started full time in Burtons Buchanan St, before transferring to the trendy, new, shiny Top Man branch in 1978…..

the way we were (Part 1)

Paul Fitzpatrick: April 2021 London.

According to the Harvard professor and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, mankind’s never had it so good.

He reasons that by almost every metric of human wellbeing, the world is getting better —everything from war, violence, and poverty (all declining) to health, wealth, happiness, and equality (all improving).

I’m not about to argue against the Prof or his logic but despite the obvious progress there are still a few things from the 70s that I’m sure we all miss.

I don’t mean major things, like – loved ones or youth or waistlines, they’re a given of course, however, I’m not talking about superfluous things either, like Golden Cups or Sea Monkeys.

I readily admit that my choices are all minor in the grand scheme of things but they’re particular to me….

1) Jukeboxes:
I know we can stream music from a grain of sand nowadays and Spotify can provide us with 70 million downloadable songs at the touch of a button, and really, I’m grateful for that, it’s progress, it really is.

But I do miss a great jukebox in a pub, because it’s the way it should be, it’s democracy at its finest, everyone has a choice and if the proprietors are smart and curate the best of each genre then it doesn’t matter if you’re a Rock fan and the jukebox is playing Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding or Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell, the chances are you’ll still appreciate best in class.  

The alternative is generally hit or miss and usually in the hands of a disinterested staff member who’s happy to put on anything for a bit of background noise.

I’ve left pubs before because the music was so banal.

In my local they have an online jukebox system called Secret DJ where you can log-in using the pubs Wi-Fi and make your own choices (everyone that logs in has 3 free choices before you have to pay), there’s not a great selection to choose from to be honest but there’s a bit of Steely Dan & The Doobie Brothers & Al Green and of course Wichita Lineman & Dock of the Bay…

It’s not as good as a finely curated jukebox of course but it’s better than listening to Adele on a loop.

2) Robert Halpern:

In the late 70s one of the best nights out for me was a visit to The Pavilion in Glasgow to see a stage hypnotist called Robert Halpern.

I must have seen the guy 20 times at least, and over the course of a few years I dragged along everyone I knew to see his act… mainly for the show but also to witness their reactions, which were usually hysterical.

The premise of the show was pretty simple and never really changed.

He would hypnotise about 40 people every night.
Most of them hypnotised within the first 10 minutes of the show, unknowingly put under, whilst sitting in their seats.

He’d then home-in on about 12 principal characters (usually the mouthy ones) who would become the stars of the show.

I took a friend who on attending the show for the first time got hypnotised, and I watched it all unfold.

One minute he was sat beside me saying it was all claptrap the next he was trudging up to the stage like a zombie with his fingers clasped so tightly that his hands and arms were shaking.

At the end of the show my mate vehemently denied that he had been hypnotised and insisted that he’d been fully aware of everything that had gone on.

I so wished I had a camera phone back then to show him his ‘awareness’ at work.

He didn’t think it was strange at all, that…
He was up on stage in front of 1,500 people… Or that he was eating raw onions that supposedly tasted like sweet apples…. Or that he would start taking all his clothes off when he heard a certain song… Or that he was stuck to a chair that he couldn’t get out of for 10 minutes…. Or that he was trying to feed a carrot to a wooden horse…. Or that he believed the number 3 didn’t exist so when he counted his fingers, he had 11 digits… despite him working for a bank!

He said he was just performing for the benefit of the show, which I guess on some level is how ‘response to suggestion’ works… which is at the core of hypnotism.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, the star of the show every night as always, was the great Glasgow public.

There was always a gallus wee punter telling the hypnotist to ‘f*ck off ya clown!’ or a schemie laying into him with ‘do ya think I’m buttoned up the back, ya dobber!’.

At the height of his popularity this dobber was earning £25,000 per week, had added a Bengal tiger a set of gallows and a spaceship to his act and was swanning about in a Rolls Royce.

Halpern and baby tiger

Things didn’t end well for Halpern though.
A girl hypnotised by him marched off the front of the stage into the orchestra pit, when as part of the act he’d convinced her she needed a pee and was desperate for the bathroom.
She broke her leg, damaged her back and sued.

Halpern, a regular at the casinos, was by now allegedly bankrupt.

Even though I knew the drill I miss those shows, they were funny, chaotic, very live and obviously spontaneous.

One of my favourite parts was the wooden horse routine –

“when you wake up you will see a beautiful stallion, a Grand National winner, you love that horse and no one else is allowed to go near it, if anyone touches your horse you will be livid…. 1-2-3 Wake Up!”

Cue wee Glasgow punter when he wakes up and sees another wee Glasgow punter sitting on the wooden horse – “hey you, ya thieving b*stard, get aff my f*cking horse!!!”

3) Laugh out loud movies:

I never laughed so much in the cinema as I did in the 70s – Blazing Saddles, Life of Brian, Kentucky Fried Movie, Young Frankenstein, The Jerk, *Caddyshack, *Airplane, etc…

(*the last two were actually released early in 1980 but were devised & written in the 70s and filmed in 79, so I’m claiming them for the 70s)

Don’t get me wrong there have been some great comedies in subsequent decades – Borat, Step Brothers, In Bruges, In the Loop, etc, but nothing quite as hilarious as Mel Brooks and The Pythons at their best.

The depressing thing about a lot of those 70s movies however is that none of them would get made in todays ‘cancel culture’.

Don’t get me wrong, if something is genuinely offensive then it shouldn’t see the light of day, but nowadays a big section of society gets offended by everything and being outraged seems to give some people the right to take the moral high ground and say ‘I’m offended therefore I’m principled’…. permitting them to jump on whatever bandwagon is rolling through social media that week.

Creatively, this leads to a culture of fear and reduces risk taking, which in turn stymies talent and imagination.

Take Blazing Saddles as an example.. as brilliant as it is, that screenplay would never be pitched to studio execs today.

It’s mistakenly referred to as a racist movie by some, when in fact it’s actually one of the greatest anti-racist movies of all time…

Co-written by Richard Pryor, who also advised on the language, the films original title was Tex X: it was planned to be an homage to Malcolm X, and was conceived from the outset as an unflinching attack on racism

True, it requires a modicum of critical thinking to work out who the butt of the satire, sarcasm and absurdity is aimed at, but surely we can trust the general public to work that out for themselves without the need for a ‘3-minute racism warning message’ recently added to the start of Blazing Saddles (and Gone With the Wind) on HBO in America.

Likewise, was The Life of Brian really blasphemous or was Brian just “A very naughty boy” who happened to be born next door and on the same day as Jesus?

On reflection, maybe I’m using Movies as a means of bitching about todays ‘woke culture’, so I best stop there before I get cancelled!