Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Truth

I'll just have to be open with you. My last post, Crime Story, is not fiction. It actually happened. Not exactly as I portrayed it but essentially yes, two cops did apprehend me outside the Daily Record print works in Hope Street in...let's think...must have been 1967. And it was about one or two in the morning, but I wasn't thinking about getting a lift in the paper delivery van to take me back down the road; I didn't know you could do that at that time, I found out about that a year or two later, and her and me did get a lift from Glasgow to Greenock, after we'd hitched up from London, in the very van. But that's another story.

So there I was, gazing in the window at the old printing machinery when these two cops came up to me and said 'What were you doing in that doorway, son'? It was the night that I met Billy Connelly . Well I say I met him, a friend of mine was trying to persuade him to help him to set up a folk gig in Ardrossan. My friend knew him and was hoping that Billy's rising celebrity (this was long before he first appeared on Parkinson by the way) would be just the thing to give the project a boost. I was just kind of hanging around on the fringes of the group looking, I hoped, part of this cool scene.

We were in the Tunnel Bar which was built into the railway arches near to the old St. Enoch station, Howard Street or thereabouts if you know Glasgow. The place was mobbed with hippy, folky types who had all decanted from the regular folk-scene haunt of the Scotia Bar on Stockwell Street. There had been some kind of falling oot with the landlord of the Scotia and the folkies had all walked out in a huff and took over the Tunnel Bar. So there we were, guitars, banjoes, melodeons, penny whistles, all Aran jumpers and wispy beards, giving it laldy with our non-conformist "folksongs". It was all very progressive, and more than a touch precious.

Anyway the whole scene going, it seems, was not going down too well with some of the Tunnel Bar regulars because, as the night was drawing to a close with a final chorus of The Wild Rover or whatever and the barman was shouting last orders (this was the time by the way when the pubs in Scotland shut at ten o'clock so at ten to ten they would clatter a bell or flash the lights just to be sure you got the message), there was what I can only describe as carnage brought down on our hippy heads. The barman, who must have been in on the thing, flashed the lights but paused in the task and for a longish period - it was maybe only thirty seconds but it seemed like a fucking eternity - he kept the lights off and, while it was pitch dark, apart from the glow from the few illuminated beer signs, a hail of empty glass tumblers were flung across the room in our direction. It was fucking mayhem. Women were screaming, I was fucking screaming, glass was smashing off the walls behind us and it was total panic. I dived under a table and mercifully the lights came on and it stopped.

When I stood up there were these two guys, that it was only two came as a shock, but there they stood, between us and the door, a beer tumbler in each hand. 'C'mon ya bastards!' Fuck only knows what it was about us that annoyed them but they were determined to make their point. Maybe they just took exception to the long-haired flower children taking over their pub. I mean the place was the kind of tip that you almost had to be thrown into but it was their territory and here were these fuckers with mandolins cluttering up the place and singing depressing dirges about the highland clearances. Come to think of it they could have had a point.

I can't exactly recall how we got out of there, but we somehow ducked out past the nutters and found ourselves on the street, a rough dozen or so, and it seemed that miraculously nobody was seriously hurt. Some cuts and grazes and guitars rattling with broken glass inside them. Anyway there we were, timmed out into the street but relatively unscathed. This guy was waxing on about how this was just another manifestation of conformist society's inability to tolerate the new free-thinking, free-loving generation. 'They don't like our long hair, man' he said to me but, glancing at my prematurely thinning pate and short back and sides, he hesitated and said 'Or our clothes'. And then he said 'Are you going to the party?' Well I wasn't but I was now. I looked around but the friends I had come with had disappeared, maybe they were still in the pub.. ach, fuck it. So we dived in to the St. Enoch subway station and headed for the west end.

And that was how I ended up in a flat somewhere in Glasgow's west end, having blagged my way in to this party. It was great, I'd finally made it, in with the in-crowd. And the women! I was in heaven and the beer was free. I kind of lost touch with the people from the pub and was beginning to fear I was looking conspicuous when this girl grabbed - I mean it, she really grabbed - me and pulled me into a cupboard. Without preamble we were necking (you remember the term?) furiously. She was the loveliest creature and she had picked me! But before we could take things a stage further the door opened and this guy, who apparently owned the flat and who was getting a little pissed off about all these gate-crashers drinking his beer, told us to desist our filthy goings on and get out. It transpired that the girl was a gate-crasher too so we had to go.

There we were out on the street with libidos on the boil and nowhere to go. She (I don't remember her name, I don't even know if I asked what it was) was a nurse and she shared a flat with another nurse who was at home and that, apparently, put the flat out of bounds. Maybe her flatmate wasn't the free-thinker my companion was, anyway look here; we're in the region of Kelvingrove and here's a gap in the fence which leads us to a dark path down through the trees beside the River Kelvin. It was a fairly mild and dry night and.. ach we were young and randy, even if it had really been a night of smirr and freezing cold I still think we'd have given it a go. Anyway not much later we re-emerged, her with grass on her arse and me with grass on my knees and elbows.

She gave me her phone number and I gave her mine and we promised to keep in touch, and I bummed the cost of a taxi from her to get back to Central Station and she told me sweetly how she knew what it was like to be financially embarrassed. That was the first time I had ever heard that euphemism and it would forever remind me of that moment, long after I had forgotten almost everything about the girl who said it. We kissed goodbye and I rode the taxi back to the Central Station.

I stood looking up at the destination board and I could see that the last train to Gourock had left twenty minutes ago. Well you know the rest. Oh aye, the body. When the polis man gave it a shove with his boot an old drunk woman emerged from under the pile of rags that was covering her and mumbled 'Fuck ye waant? Lay's alane'.
'Right, son. Make yerself scarce' said the cop. So I did.


iLL Man said...

Brilliant post! I bet there are plenty more tales where that one came from.

west coaster said...

Ill Man, thanks for dropping by. I've been many places and seen many things, a lot of which I'll have to keep to myself. My wish is to write fiction but it turns out often as thinly disguised fact. See ya!

paulmct said...

Good stories (this one and previous). Ah, to be young and finding sex wherever. This reminds me of a night at the train station in Edinburgh. I'll have to write a post about it some time.

Since you're from Glasgow, you might find this interesting (maybe not):

iarocu said...

Very evocative of Glasgow when pubs closed at 10 and the buildings were still black with a century of soot.
I've just discovered your blog and I'm looking forward to browsing the archive and to future posts.

I'm slightly younger than you. I spent much of my late teens and 20s in Glasgow in the late 70s and early 80s. I remember as a child before that just glimpses of the old Glasgow before sandblasting and Glasgowsmilesbetter.

Looking back now Glasgow of the 60s and 70s feels in some ways like a different country altogether.