Tag Archives: School

orchestral manoeuvres in the …

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – April 2022.)

I know on this 70s blog I’ve gone on and on about my musical ‘prowess’. How I was a legend in my own lunch time gigging around the west of Scotland in my late teens. I feel I must now fill you in on the early years.

My first roar of the paint, smell of the crowd moment was at an end of  term concert at Castlehill Primary School. There I was in front of the pupils and parents, first descant recorder in the Primary 7 ensemble belting out the theme tune to Dr Finlay’s Casebook. It’s a delicate little ditty ideally played at a steady pace and moderate volume. I call it the Flower of Scotland effect, in it’s original form a lilting ballad.

But when you start to feel the vibe of the audience the hair stands up on the back of your neck and things inevitably go up a notch. Before you know it there’s foot stomping and fists punching the air. I’m sure I even heard a and it’s hi ho silver lining. And these were the parents !

Bitten by the performing bug, I was soon brought down to earth when I went to orchestral practice at the Secondary school. By now I had moved on to flute, an instrument easily concealed in a duffel bag alongside your football kit so that you didn’t look like a real wally. Unfortunately in the rehearsal room you were fully exposed as it jutted out into the playing fields and had windows on all 3 sides. You were at the merciless gaze of the sporty knuckle draggers as they pressed their broken noses against the glass.

Undeterred, conductor Mrs. McIntosh and the orchestra carried on. I say orchestra but at best it was a dozen or more students of varying musical abilities.

The leader was a very accomplished young lass who was also a bit of a looker which in itself probably boosted numbers. She also attracted the attention of the Chemistry teacher who was dating her at the time. There’s a smutty pun in their somewhere with fiddles, elements, G strings or periodic but it’s not coming to me. Innuendos on a postcard to  ……………

There were a few more violins, a cello or two and a viola player who I brought to tears with my what’s the difference between a trampoline and a viola ? – It’s more fun to jump up and down on a viola ! joke.

I think the woodwind outnumbered the strings. I was one of 3 flutes one of whom was much better than me and one that was not. Spotty Di believed that integral to the flautist’s armoury was a constant supply of confectionery. She had squares of chocolate lined up on her music stand and would devour one or two at a bars rest. She once had to borrow the tutor’s instrument and stripped it bare of it’s silver plate with the ooze bubbling out of her pores. Takes Willy Wonka’s toot sweet to a whole new level (or was that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ?).

Clarinets seem to outnumber every one with their dry reed squeaks. The musical equivalent to nails on the blackboard.

The oboist did very good water bird impressions. I’m sure I spotted a few duck hunters and their spaniels hiding in the bushes.

The brass had 2 trumpets (or maybe one was the klaxon coming from the athletics field) and a kid who could barely stand up because of the weight of his trombone. He formed a triangle.

The most annoying individual was the percussionist. I called him ‘Tool’ partly because he was but mainly as he was always Too Loud and Too Late.

His miscued cymbal crashes were like an inebriated ironmongers’ stocktake and his timpani rolls were like Morse code and certainly less thrilling than Johnson’s at Firhill (Partick Thistle in-joke there !)

Come to think of it, I don’t ever remember the orchestra playing at a public concert. Maybe I was too mortified to turn up.

I do remember being in a flute trio and being pimped out by Mrs. Mac to various churches. The acoustics were always quite good as your final notes were still ringing out when you had packed up and were half way to the bus stop.

I was also in a flute quintet. That’s flute plus a string quartet not 5 flutes. That’s the Orange Walk !

I think I made sporadic appearances at orchestral rehearsals so I could get two weeks off, twice a year, to attend the County Schools Orchestra music courses at Pirniehall in the wilds of Croftamie. Now that band could really baroque !

And of course be with the lovely first violin leader away from Mr Bunsen Burner !

She was quite a specimen who hit all the high notes.

Got one !!

diary of a pimply kid: memories of the late 60s & 70s – gordon is a moron.

(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*

Diary

Friday 15th March 1974 – (aged 15 – towards end of 4th Year)

I think I’m in love!

I don’t mean some forlorn schoolboy crush like for Miss Hunter – no, this is proper breathing onto the palm of my hand for traces of halitosis type of ‘in love.’ And liberal applications of Valderma ointment.

Valderma – for effective treatment of plooks!

Her name is Pilar. That’s Spanish, by the way. For ‘pillar.’ Though I don’t suppose you’d have to be a language teacher to work that one out.  In Catholic tradition it refers to a ‘marble pillar connected with an appearance of the Virgin Mary.’ I know. I looked it up.

Pilar and her family came to Scotland from Chile. They left their homeland when General Pinochet took over the country in a military coup. Things are looking bad over there. People are being murdered in the streets by the army.

It’ll be about six weeks since we first chatted – her first day in school. She’s quiet spoken and pretty shy. In fact, just pretty, full stop. Demure. I got that word from the Jane Austen books we have to read in English. Yeah, ‘demure.’ That’s Pilar. And pretty. Did I say ‘pretty?’

I have no idea why she seems to like me. Maybe because I was one of the first to welcome her? Her English isn’t great so maybe because I’ve borrowed my parent’s BBC ‘Zarabanda’ LP and try to speak her lingo? Maybe it’s because I make her laugh?

Zarabanda – BBC Records.

I seem able to do these last two at the same time: today I thought I was complimenting her wavy, light brown hair (pelo) but told her I loved her money (pela.) She laughed, in a kindly, sympathetic kind of way.

We’re not ‘going out’ or anything – just hang out at break / lunch. She comes to watch me play football – even just ‘playground football.’  (Being from South America, she’ll know a good football player when she sees one!)

I got pulled up by Miss Fisher for not concentrating in Maths class and looking out the window to the classroom below where Pilar was sat by the window smiling and waving to me. I got such a beamer’ when the teacher realised why my attention was not on my books and then told the class! It was one of those ‘reading-glasses-steam-up’ and ‘shirt-sticks-to-your-back,’ types of brassneck!

Wednesday 10th April 1974 – (still aged 15 – closer to end of 4th Year.)

I’m an idiot! A complete and utter choob!

I’ve been so wrapped up in my athletics and football, I simply didn’t see this coming. Practicing keepie-uppie this evening, I noticed a couple walking slowly and in silence through the woods at the back of my garden. It was Gordon. In his stupid, long, blue, ex-RAF Great Coat type thing! He probably had a poxy Gentle Giant album tucked under his free arm, I didn’t notice. My gaze didn’t stray past his other arm – he was holding hands with …. with ….. Pilar!

How could she be so cruel and heartless? To pack me for Gordon? (OK, technically, as I said, we weren’t ‘going out.’ But even so! I mean – I know I’m not exactly cool and trendy, but he’s a moron!

At least they weren’t laughing at me. Far from it. Gordon just stared straight ahead. Couldn’t look me in the eye. The git!

Pilar though … dearest Pilar. She noticed me alright and keeping her free hand by her side, gave a wee discreet wave. As she passed she turned her head, her luxuriant brown locks swirling over her opposite shoulder like a model in a Harmony Hairspray advert. She smiled sweetly.

Harmony hairspray.

Without their usual sparkle, though, her brown eyes belied the happiness of her lips.

She looked sad. I’m sad.

I’m devastated actually – not least because I was within reach of my keepie-uppie personal best of 957 when I dropped the ball.

This is all my own stupid fault, though. You know the expression: ‘You snooze, you lose.’ Well I slept – and I wept.

(Nah, not really. I didn’t actually cry – that would‘ve been a bit pathetic and melodramatic, wouldn’t it?  Anyway there’s no chip shop close by.)

Thursday 25th April 1974 – (still aged 15, but it’s been a long two weeks. O’Levels looming.)

Pilar and I have remained friends Why not? She continues to melt my heart. She still seeks me out in the playground. Yet, despite all the positive, almost pleading signs, I’ve still not worked up the courage to ask her ‘out’ out. What the hell is wrong with me?!  – That must truly be 8th Dan Black Belt in Stupidity, right there! What an absolute pillock!

You’d think I’d have learned from my first Lesson in Love.

This is Pimply Kid.
Pimply Kid is a dork.
Pimply Kid bottled asking just one simple question.
Just ask the goddamned question!
Don’t be a dork.
Don’t be like Pimply Kid!

FOOTNOTE #1: Pilar and her family only remained in Scotland for a few months and by summer, she’d moved on again.

FOOTNOTE #2: About thirty years later, while writing for a music magazine, I became friendly with a couple of bands from Chile. I asked them about Pilar. They’d never heard of her. Seems Chile is a pretty big place.

FOOTNOTE #3: Because of Pilar; because of the bands Spiral Vortex and Follkzoid, and because I was playing with the Chile Subbuteo team when I first heard a Rory Gallagher record : for those very three reasons, I feel an affinity and love for the country and fly their flag above the turret on the east wing of the house.*

*This last bit may be slightly made up.  

Pilar, ella fue mi primer amor. Viva Chile!

diary of a pimply kid: memories of the late 60s & 70s – Focus on the Trees.

(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*)

Diary

Wednesday 31st May 1972 – (aged 13, end of 2nd year)

Everyone today is talking about a band from Holland called Focus. They were on the Old Grey Whistle Test last night. Most in the Smokers Union shelter say how amazing that yodeling guy was. Some though, those I see wearing the ex-RAF great coats with an LP by the band stuck under their armpit, have a smug ‘told you’ smile and ignore our conversation.

Focus on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

It was very wet at PE time. Old Boot (gym teacher) decided it was too wet to play football. What?! This is Glasgow. Rangers, Celtic, Thistle, Clyde and Queens Park all manage to play ok.

Anyway – PE was switched indoors to the gym. Everyone has football boots – only a few also brought gym shoes. Those of us who hadn’t were lined up to get two of the belt! Old Boot got more exercise than any of us.

The tawse / belt / Lochgelly

Buses were late to pick us up at 4 o’clock. Had to stand out in the rain till they arrived. Trip home was a bit smelly.

Woods clearing ‘football pitch.’

Rain stops but did some studying for exams till teatime then out to the clearing in the woods for a game of football. Get chased by Mr McIlwham who says we shouldn’t be using trees as goalposts because they can feel the ball hitting against them. (Cuckoo!)  

Lucky we weren’t using a Mitre Mouldmaster, then is all I can say.

Mitre Mouldmaster

Well, that’s it – game’s a bogey! We tell Mr McIlwham that we’re off now to break some windows and scrawl graffiti.

See us kids, eh?!

Broken window
Graffiti

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

______________________

diary of a pimply kid: memories of the late 60s & 70s – ‘Big’ School.

(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*)

Diary

Monday 10th August 1970 (aged 12 – only just.)

Didn’t finish my Ready Brek this morning – first day at big school, so tummy churning a bit. Been told all sorts of stories of what the 2nd Years would do to welcome us.

Excited about getting a bus to school. (You can read Paul’s wonderful account of this, here.)
Met pals at The Cooperative Shop in the village. Lots of the older boys from the village gang were there. I know several of them so it was ok even though they were a bit boisterous.

Bus – Alexander Midland

Tried to get on the top deck of the bus but seems there is some kind of hyer highera order about where you are meant to sit. Got bundled down to the lower deck. The conductress seemed a bit stressed.
“Sit down! No standing upstairs! Keep away from the open platform! Have you tickets and bus passes ready! I SAID NO STANDING UPSTAIRS!”

Stood around the main entrance with my pals until we were put into our classes. A few from my primary school are also in 1A. Boys and girls from four other schools are in my class. They look OK.

Bearsden Academy

In class, we have to copy down our timetable. When did I sign up for Latin?! Mum! Dad! What?!

It could be worse, I suppose – double English to start the week on a Monday morning. And double PE on Wednesday afternoon to finish – that’s good.

I am in Endrick House – I have to go to the annex for registration each morning before class.

Break-time and many pals are welcomed into Bearsden Academy by having their heads stuck down the toilet pan which is then flushed. There are some fights. Most just give in. I escape attention until afternoon break for some reason. The suspense is terrible.

School toilet

Eventually, I’m picked out, but my captors don’t drag me to the toilets. Instead, I’m carried to a drinking fountain and held over it by my arms and legs. I then had my trousers soaked, front and back, before a teacher chased the boys away.

First Latin lesson next – infectum bum I think is the translation.

Trousers still damp when I get home, so place them over the clothes horse in front of the fire.

Electric fire
Clothes horse.
Pilchards

Pilchards on toast for tea. Blech!  Out to play and swap footy cards with pals and tales of first day at big school.

It’ll be alright. I think.  

________________

It Must Be Love, Love, Love…

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, February 2022

For those of us a bit longer in the tooth, Valentines day has turned into a bit of a routine if we’re being honest.

Gone is the nervous anxiety we used to experience from dispatching a Valentine card to a teenage crush who’d no clue you’d been admiring them from afar…. or at least from the other side of the playground.

Unfortunately those heady days are in the dim and distant past, and the euphoria has been replaced by a tired and trusted template for most of us….

Step 1) Try to write something witty in said card that’s neither too flippant or too soppy, oh and something different from last year (if you can remember what you actually wrote 12 months ago!).

Step 2) Procure an over-priced bunch of flowers, inflated by 50% for the special day… but never from a petrol station (we’ve all learned that lesson the hard way!)

Step 3) Source a romantic dine-in meal for two from your favourite supermarket complete with customary Prosecco and chocolates.

Truth be told we all know that Valentines Day has become a commercial juggernaut and whilst the tradition should have every reason to grind to a halt in todays age of instant messaging, it’s still chugging along just fine…

In the UK alone, just under half the population spend money on their Valentine beau’s and around £1.3 billion is spent on cards, flowers, chocolates, etc, with an estimated 25 million Valentine cards being sent.

Whilst we all appreciate, nay expect, a Valentine card from a long-term partner, if we’re being honest, it’s akin to receiving a birthday card.

As we all know, the authentic Valentine experience centres on intrigue, ensuring that all the fun is in the detective work…. looking for clues to uncover the secret admirer.

I’m going back 50 years or so here of course to when we were impressionable teens and such things were deemed important.

I did receive one anonymous Valentine card… when I was 13, but I didn’t dare think about who it was from until I forensically compared the handwriting to my Mum’s in order to rule her out of the equation.  

I’ve still no idea who sent it but thank you whoever you were, I should have framed it… although having a 50 year old Valentine card hanging up in your living room wall would be a bit weird.

I also sent one anonymous Valentine… to a girl in Primary 7, I say anonymous but when I walked into class that day with a big chunk of hair missing because someone had convinced me that enclosing a ‘lock of hair’ was a Valentine tradition…. I probably gave the game away.

With no comprehension of how meagre a ‘lock of hair’ should be, I struggled to close the envelope due to the mass of curls I’d tried to wedge into the card.
I imagine the curls sprung to life like a jack in the box as soon as the envelope was opened, attacking her like the creature from Alien and scarring the poor girl for life.

One thing I remember about Valentines back then was the trend to utilise every inch of space on both the card and the envelope with messages, acronyms and rhymes.

Classics like –
Postie postie don’t be slow, be like Elvis, go man go”

Or

SWALK (Sealed With A Loving Kiss)

The origin of acronyms on envelopes stems from soldiers writing to their sweethearts during the war, using coded initials to convey secret messages.
Some acronyms were sweet like HOLLAND (Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies) whilst others were a bit more risqué like NORWICH (Nickers Off Ready When I Get Home).

We were normally en-route to school when the postman came a-knocking on the 14th Feb, which gave opportunity for some hopeless romantics to day-dream about an avalanche of mail waiting for them on their doorstep.

For a good mate of mine this scenario actually happened, although it wasn’t on the 14th of February.

Unbeknown to him, an ex-girlfriend who wasn’t best pleased with him sent his picture, a dewy-eyed story about him being lonesome, and a heart-felt request for female pen-pals, to one of the popular teen mags of the day. When he got home from school his Mum greeted him at the door with a sackful of mail and a hearty – “what have you been up to now, you little shit?”.

Of course, at the time he had no idea what was going on, but he still had hours of fun ploughing through his ‘fan-mail’, replying to a selected few.

It’s a great story, but it’s his to tell, so I’ll see if I can entice him to share it in all its glory on the blog sometime.

Coming home to a bagful of fan-mail from strangers who thought you were cute must have been uplifting, but I suspect he, like the rest of us, probably falls into one of three camps when it comes to Valentine’s Day now…

Camp 1)
The – ‘it’s a scam and a waste of money, and I refuse to be ripped-off ’ brigade.
This guy is normally single!

Camp 2)
The – ‘I’m a hopeless romantic, and it’s a special day’ brigade.
This guy is normally single!

And perhaps the most popular….

Camp 3)
The – ‘I better make an effort or else I’ll be in the shit’ brigade.

To which I am a fully paid-up member!!

Happy Valentines Day to all, when it comes….

In Praise Of Lunch

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, January 2022

It came to my mind recently that lunch tends to get overlooked these days.
Brunches & Suppers are regularly championed by Nigella and Jamie, we’re constantly bombarded with dinner ideas on MasterChef and up until intermittent fasting came along we were hoodwinked into thinking that ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’.

By the way, do you know who’s credited with that oft-repeated and very famous quote?
None other than John Harvey Kellogg…. yeah THAT Kellogg!

Subsequently, lunch has dropped down the ‘square meal’ league table into the relegation zone which is a bit of a comedown.
Once upon a time it used to run away with the title but that was before Gordon Gekko’s “lunch is for wimps” claim in the movie Wall Street.

In its glory years lunch was called dinner, it was the main meal of the day and was eaten any time between late morning and mid afternoon. Then the industrial revolution came along at which point sustenance was required between morning and afternoon shifts to enable workers to sustain maximum effort throughout the day, hence the regimented one hour lunch break, we know now.

Cut forward to today and lunch for many consists of a quick sandwich in front of a computer screen, checking out social media and looking at Nigella’s recipes for supper, or if you’re male, and of a certain age, just checking out Nigella!

Back in the 70s however, when we were at school or newbies in the workplace, lunch WAS the most important meal of the day… by a long chalk.

Maybe it was by default… after all breakfast was relatively basic, a plate of cereal or a slice of toast before you ran out the door to catch the school bus.
Dinner, on the other hand, was a bit more formal in most households, the table would be set but you had to wait till your faither got home.

To be honest dinner was a bit hit or miss in our house.

You see, my dad was an offal man for his offal – kidney, Tongue, liver, tripe, all the stuff that was popular in its day and made fancy window dressing at the butchers…. but offers good reason to turn vegetarian now.

It got worse though, if the raw materials my mum had to work with weren’t great, then her cooking skills only compounded things.

I love my Mum to bits, but she was no Fanny Craddock and trying to mask the stench of charred liver from my favourite Fred Perry polo shirt, (by splashing on copious amounts of Brut) before heading out to impress, was not a pleasant experience.

So, whilst breakfast was on the hoof and dinner could easily have consisted of hoof…. lunch was always to be savoured for a few reasons…..

Firstly, although we may not have been enduring the same hardships as our distant relatives from the 1800’s, lunch still broke up the day perfectly – and if like me you were stuck in a dull lesson pre-lunch, then you could start counting down to the lunchtime bell before meeting up with your pals to eat, blether, and release some of that pent up energy.

Secondly, free-will, which was in scant supply back then, came to the fore as we were able to take ownership of our daily lunching choices.


You could go to the canteen for school dinners if you were seduced by the day’s menu offering, (beef olives was always a favourite), or if you fancied a wee donner (the walk not the kebab) then you could take your lunch money and saunter down to Bearsden Cross to the bakers for a sausage roll or a sandwich…. always accompanied by a carton of ski yoghurt for pudding.
It was probably the best hour of most school days!

Bearsden Cross pre lunchtime

School holidays meant lunch at home, and after a bit of trial and error, home lunches became a slick operation, i.e. straight out of a can – Campbell’s chicken soup and cold Ambrosia Devon Custard…. tasty, low-maintenance stuff that even I could prepare without the need to splash any Brut on afterwards.

It’s strange but I can’t remember much about school lunches at primary school, I lived about 15-20 min’s walk from school so I doubt that I lunched at home every day. I do remember a few kids having packed lunches though and thinking that themed lunchboxes were cool, but I don’t think soup and custard would have travelled that well.

Another weekly treat during school holidays was going to Drumchapel swimming baths, not so much for the eye-stinging chlorine or the daredevil belly flops off the dale, but rather for the delicious pie & beans in the adjoining canteen afterwards.

As we moved into the workplace, lunchtimes were a saviour, it broke the day up and gave you time to regroup and recharge your batteries.

I worked in a small office in central Glasgow when I left school. There was just 5 of us and I was the youngest by some 20 years, so come lunchtime I was a lone-wolf – until my good mate Billy Smith started working in Frasers in Buchanan St a few months later.
This was a tremendous turn of events as I used to go with Smiddy to their excellent staff canteen where we’d fill our faces and gawk at all the elegant cosmetic girls, before meandering about town to wile-away the rest of the golden-hour.

The iconic gallery at Frasers Glasgow

It was a splendid arrangement and when Smiddy told me he was thinking of quitting his job for a more lucrative one, I did what every good mate would do in the same situation….. and tried my darnedest to convince him to stay.

what about the great staff discounts”
“what about all the pretty girls in the cosmetics dept”
“what about the opportunities for promotion”

“what about the fact you’re working in an iconic building”
“what about – the subsidised staff canteen for Christ’s sake!!

Of course, Billy very selfishly took up the life changing opportunity, leaving me to lope around as a lone-wolf once more, although I used to regularly meet my mate Joe Hunter on a Friday and we’d head to Paddy’s Market to get our outfits for the weekend.
If ever clothes required a splash of aftershave, it was those ones!

As enjoyable as all those lunch times were back then, you knew the pleasure was temporary, you always had an enemy – the clock!

As you get older and escape the constraints of the clock, lunch offers a great social opportunity to catch up with friends and family and the lunches I look forward to the most now are the leisurely ones you have on holiday. Looking out at a sun-splattered, turquoise ocean, with a cold beer or a chilled glass of wine accompanied with never-ending portions of seafood or salty tapas… living in the moment with nothing to rush back for.

All hail lunch….


a punishing exercise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I must not talk in class.’ 

‘I must remember to bring my homework.’

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

Mind numbing stuff, that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth was, teacher just couldn’t be arsed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________

My First Gig – King Crimson

Russ Stewart: London, November 2021

Fifty years ago, October 11th 1971, I attended my first proper gig, at Glasgow’s Green’s Playhouse. 
Oddly, as I am not really a prog rock fan, it was in the court of prog royalty – King Crimson.

Half a century on, I still retain a soft spot for the band, though not soft enough to have paid 100 quid to see them play live in London a couple of years ago.

Featured below is the actual ticket for the gig courtesy of Roger Brown who found it attached to a King Crimson album he purchased from me many moons ago….

King Crimson’s support act that evening was a solo acoustic guitar/singer called Keith Christmas.
Due to alliteration, I was suspicious as to whether this was his real name.
Still gigging today Christmas played guitar on Bowie’s Space Oddity album.

My erstwhile near neighbour, Alan Doig was the one who introduced me to King Crimson and he was part of the group who attended this gig.

Alan’s father had been a provost of Bearsden and had a symbolic single blue provost street light outside his house indicating the holding of such past office.  I believe that this entitled him to kill a swan with a crossbow on Kilmardinny Loch each eve of Michaelmas.

Alan had a great sound system which did help influence the appeal of the new Crimson album at that time, ‘Lizard’. In particular it projected the fantastic, bombastic synth riff in the middle of the track Cirkus

Aged 14 I was impressed with Peter Sinfield’s lyrics on the Lizard album, particularly as I strove to find the deeper meanings embedded in his ditties. 
I now realise they are incoherent nonsense.

The gig: after Mr Christmas’ plaintive noodling the lights dimmed and a mellotron chord rang out.  C sharp minor 7th flattened 5th, though I could be mistaken ( ……or bullshitting).   


The band: Robert Fripp sitting down playing guitar and mellotron.  Boz Burrelll on bass and vocals, Mel Collins on sax and a drummer dude. 

Most of that line up later deserted the prog camp.  Boz Burrell left to form Bad Company, Mel Collins played with the Average White Band and Kokomo whilst Lyricist Sinfield went on to write for the likes of Buck’s Fizz and Leo Sayer.

Fripp now makes YouTube videos of himself accompanying the terpsichorean insanity of his fruity little wife, Toyah.

Beware, once you see it you can’t unsee it

I have continued to dabble in prog listening and I’m grateful for the school friends who dragged me along to selected prog gigs in those early days. The likes of Graeme Butler, Simon Brader and Ralph Jessop helped me to open my ears somewhat, to Genesis, Greenslade and Magma.  

Glasgow City Halls usually accommodated the lesser known prog bands in those days and one could easily wander backstage to chat with the musicians post gig. 
I recall a schoolboy French conversation with the blue chinned caveman, Christian Vander, who led Magma. 

Magna’s bassist played a Fender bass covered in  baby oil ( …. the bass that is).  They talked about the philosophic works of Ouspensky, which meant as much to me as King Crimson’s lyrics.   

As I write I notice that Van Der Graaf Generator are touring the UK soon… maybe worth a punt. 

Talking about gigs, my own band is playing the Three Kings Pub in Twickenham on New Years Eve. 
There will be no prog rock, or baby oil… though there will be some Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, Michael McDonald and Doors covers in the set.

Poster Boy

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, November 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Lovely Biscuits himselfJimmy Logan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gola Speedsters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone For ……

John Allan, Bridgetown WA, July 2021

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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