Tag Archives: scotland

A Bit of the Ol’ Feng Shoo-ee, like

The fuckin' hoose.

The fuckin’ hoose.

* Warning, written entirely in Scots.  For a brief explanation of this project please click here.

Me and big Debs pure hud it out the other day. Jesus man. Like throwin’ fuckin fire baws at wan another. I hud tae get hur telt tae calm doon else some cunt wid ring the polis, then that’d be me, parole gubbed and an away fir the wee man’s Christmas again. Anyway, the dippit wee coo was tryin’ tae tell me that the hoose needed fixin’, and than everyhin was aw in the wrang order an that. I takes this as a personal dig like, given that this cunt wis the cunt that hoisted aw the fuckin’ furniture in.

‘We need a change’ she says, ‘Ah’ve been thinkin’ that we’ve goat fuck all ay that Feng shoo-ee like,’ she says.

Well, Christ in a fuckin’ Cosworth. Feng Shoo-ee she says!? We live in fuckin’ Kirky, nae Bay-jing like.

I says, ‘You’re fuckin’ wrang love, take a wee peep in the bin, I had Feng Shoo-ee fried rice a couple a nights ago! Fuckin’ magic by the way!’

She goes, ‘Ho you! That’s fuckin’ racist, and goes well against ma new frame ah mind by the way. I’m a changed woman.’

Fuckin’ changed woman she says?! She thinks I think she doesnae take a pish in the shower. I know hur inside fuckin’ oot. And she’s packed full a shite.

‘Whit fuckin’ programs have you bin watchin’? Givin’ it aww that fuckin’ feng shoo-ee shite.’

‘Actually ah went tae see a spiritualist yesterday, and he telt that ma chi was aw gammy an aff tae fuck, an that it was probably on account ay the sofa bein’ in the rang place or sumthin.’

Ah wis fuckin’ speechless. Ah just, ah didnae know wit tae say. Here’s me just tryin’ tae watch a bit a Jeremy Kyle and she’s tellin’ me I need swap the TV wi the fridge and drag the fuckin’ bed oot ontae the landin’. No chance.

‘So who was this fuckin’ spiritualist then?’

‘You don’t know him.’

‘How don’t ah know him?’

‘Coz he’s a pal ah Leslie-Ann’s.’

‘Leslie-Ann aye? You ridin’ him?’

‘Ah um tae fuck ya cheeky basturt!’

‘Awright awright! Sorry love, just, I wis just fuckin’ askin’! Awright? So, where am I stickin’ the fuckin’ couch then?’

She looked aroon the room and I knew she hadnae a fuckin’ clue whit she was bangin’ oan about. You kin fuck off wi your fuckin’ chinky feng shoo-ee shite. This is fuckin’ Scotland. In this country the couch faces the telly, and everyhin’ else just gets fuckin’ dumped somewhere aroon it.

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Sir Alex Ferguson, and the Dog

Today has been a very peculiar day for me. I rose a little earlier than I normally would, egged on by my weekly cross-country-and-then-the-Atlantic phone call to my mother, and felt a little dusty. I called her and listened to the Skype tone as I thought about coffee, and work, and writing, and all of the things that sat before me that day. She answered, and within seconds knew that everything was not well. You get to know the inflections in your own mother’s voice when they are often the only markers of mood. Being as far away as I have been for as long as I have been, your senses become mostly dormant when pointed towards home. I can only hear my mother. Her tone of voice tells me so much.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, taking a moment to pause and quickly scan over her feelings, “we, eh, we had to take Mollie to the vet today and have her, eh…and have her put down.”

I heard how difficult the last few words were for her. I almost cried at the sound of her almost crying, and at the thought that she had been crying but thought it necessary not to for my sake. I wasn’t really affected by the dog. It didn’t matter much to me anymore. She was old, and it was best for everyone. But I was sad for my mother. She let go of something a little sooner than she hoped to.

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We got that dog when I was eleven years old, one year after my father died. I think mum felt that she needed to have something around. She told me later that she thought about a cat, but we’d had one of those when dad was around. And a cat isn’t the same as a dog. There’s something inherently sad about a cat. So one day we went to Stirling and picked out Mollie, a tiny Cocker Spaniel puppy out of a chaotic, yelping litter of seven.

I’m not going to sit here and say that the dog represented my father, or that my mother sought to preserve his memory through canine affection, but there was something in that dog that helped all of us. For a little while it distracted us. Suddenly there was something exciting, something newborn and fragile to focus our attention on. In a house that spent a year filled with a sense of loss and expiration it was so refreshing to have this little black and white ball of fluff and ears bouncing around, so upbeat, innocent and tangible. But after the excitement died off it was a companion to my mother. She had someone to run with, something to cuddle into, a fourth mouth to feed. The dog filled a void that lay desperately open for the year after my father’s death.

Fast-forward fifteen years, and the dog is now in a box in the back garden, buried by my mother and my step-father. Le temps détruit tout. Did she let go of something today? I don’t think so. I don’t see there being some kind of emotional burden of grief attached to the poor animal anymore. It shed that a long time ago. Mollie’s roll changed over the years, and yesterday she was just a dog.

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Ta’ra Mollie.

After coming off the phone to my mother I looked on the Guardian’s website, as I do somewhat compulsively everyday. Now, I’ve managed to trim a lot of the fat from my lifestyle over the last few years. Torturous levels of self-discipline and a panting notion of replete failure nipping at my coattails keeps me focused on my goals and working as hard as I possibly can every single day. But, I am prone to daily slip ups. And these slip-ups typically appear in the form of football (soccer) journalism. I don’t even watch the beautiful game anymore. I just like the new breed of football journalists. I take a sickly pleasure in reading suppressed authors douse an often tedious sport with effervescent language and stuff it with philosophical undertones far beyond the contemplative abilities of the “artists” that craft it on the field. I just like imagining their smiles as they write. Reading about football is my equivalent of reality TV. My harmless little vice.

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And today, if you’re someone that knows anything at all about football, you will have heard that Sir Alex Ferguson, the purple-nosed, knighted Scottish manager of Manchester United, retired from football after 56 years in the game, with 27 of those spent at the helm of United. He took Manchester United from being a rusting, once-great side scrambling in a deep rut, to being one of the richest, most successful and consistent teams in the world.

I’m not going to get into the psychology of the man, the controversies he courted, or even try to dwell too much more on belting out a verse upon verse of praise to the tremendous weight his legacy is sure to wield over the game. There are many more talented writers than I doing those very things at this very moment, and my words would ultimately contribute very little (mostly because I would be merely paraphrasing the writers I wish I didn’t read). But I find it hard to imagine life as a football fan without him.

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Since before I was even born, Sir Alex Ferguson was in complete control of my football club. The only team I have ever watched have only ever had one person standing at the touchline berating the players and referees. He’s the craggy faced ogre that flashed flaccid pieces of mangled chewing gum as warning signs between exasperate sighs to the journalists that asked him “stupid bloody questions”. He swept the old boys out and nudged the new ones in with the butt of his broom. But most importantly, he didn’t succumb to the modern trappings of football management, like player egos, result-based success, reactionary fan pressure, or trigger happy billionaire owners, often because he was smart enough to negotiate his way around them, but occasionally because such things simply did not apply to him. There were football managers, and then there was Ferguson. He was the last of the old school, and the world will never see another one like him.

But how does that relate to the dog? I’m not sure that it does. It seemed profound in the moment I declared it significant, and, despite all the sadness, I was tingled by a precisely serendipitous feeling. Perhaps it’s that relief. I have finally buried something I have been subconsciously reappropriating for years. Football once defined me. As a child I was a footballer, and I was a Manchester United supporter. But today I’m nothing more than someone that finds an incubated feeling of removal in reading about a team I once loved. Every day I make the decision to read something innocuous about Wayne Rooney’s goal drought, or Moaninho’s future over becoming versed in US politics, or the escalating situation in the Middle-East. I should no longer seek an escape route from the news, but a feeling of empowerment through knowledge.

Like the dog, maybe we’ve all served each other well, and can pleasantly move on with our lives. Thanks for everything. Maybe it’s time for me to let it go, and let the past be just that.

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Where’s that accent from?

Based on the same conversation I have every single day about my f**king accent.

*

What can I get for you?

Can I get a…wait. Hold up. Where’s that accent from?

Same place I’m from.

Funny. Where’s that?

Guess.

Oooh. Okay.

 

Australia? No. Do I sound Australian?

I guess, a little. I don’t know. Just foreign.

Again.

New Zealand?

What?! That’s almost the same accent as Australia. No. Way off. Culturally, physically, and aurally.

South Africa maybe?

 

I’m Northern European. Look at me. I’m really, really white. I’m from the source.

God, I don’t know. Ireland maybe?

Scotland. I’m from Scotland. It’s a Scottish accent.

Scotland! That was my next guess. Wow. Scotland eh?

Yeah.

My friend’s been to Ireland.

 

It is the same.

Shut up, no it isn’t. They’re different countries. I’m just being a stupid American.

Honestly. Alcoholism, depression, recession, Anti-English sentiment. It’s the same place.

I think the UK sounds awesome. Old buildings and like the history and stuff. Culture, you know?

I think you’re mostly thinking of London.

Maybe. But Scotland is probably dope too right? Like castles and nature and stuff right?

 

I mean, you should always have a return ticket though.

I think I’m like one eighth…Scotch? Scottish?

Scottish.

Scottish. And then like there’s some Dutch, a little German, and maybe like a sixteenth Native American.

Really? That’s an interesting mix. I’m just Scottish.

Well, I think that’s better. You get the accent and stuff. I just get this.

 

You do have one. This is what you sound like. You sound like this.

Oh my god! Shut the f**k up. That’s freaky. You actually sound American.

I am. I have an audition tomorrow. I’m actually from Fresno.

Oh my God! Shut the f**k up right now! I actually believed you were from f**king Scotland!

I’m joking. I am actually from Scotland.

Okay, now I’m confused. Anyway listen, what’s a good Scottish cocktail?

 

 

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The Hotel

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Anyone that is familiar with my writing habits will know that I often write for writing’s sake. I hope that you enjoy reading it this much as I enjoyed writing it.    

*

          There was a time, I wouldn’t like to say ‘long ago’, but long enough ago that it could merit that sentiment in the heart of a story teller, that the Tigh-na-Ghuna Hotel was indistinguishable from all others in the Highlands. Black Watch tartan carpets coated the ground, their lines and weaves worn by years of trodden sodden soles that had leisurely strolled the arid and craggy landscape. Brass chandeliers hung from the ceiling, painting long garish shadows on the eerily placid expressions of the big game animals that hung as trophies from the wall. Those shadows would sway and twist in the draft that perpetually blew through the hotel, treating corridors as tunnels, and the bulbs as flames.

The warm red wallpaper was interrupted by dense molded frames wrapped in light gold metal, housing dark portraits of brooding lairds and lawmakers, and lush Gaelic landscapes that would lay themselves bare for watercolored compliments. Every piece of russet hardwood was marked with the concaved brass handles and fixtures describe everything they saw with form skewed and details bent, but all with a buffered golden layer of tone, like the sickly nostalgic memories of a glorifying old yarn spinner. And each room had an intricately layered scent as if its walls were assembled from the seasoned oak of retired malt barrels, dried and aged in the brined sea breeze of the north Atlantic.

In truth, I’m glorifying it because I love to write like my lover’s breath is blowing against my neck, swaying the tiny hairs like rushes in the autumn breeze. There really was nothing particularly remarkable about it. It was just like every other hotel in the area. That was of course until Wendy took over.

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In The Shadow of Giants

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http://www.lacanvas.com/blog/?p=6532 – My latest mini-article for LA Canvas about a photo-series that Vice published based in the dreary little town I went to school in.

Certainly a coincidence. 

Have a look and pass it on.

Love to all

 

 

 

 

Ross x

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Sixty Minute Mark

The following dialogue is based on a true story I was told yesterday.

*

So tell me what happened again?

What? Again?

Yeah, I’m not quite getting my head around this.

I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Come on.

No. Fuck off.

 

So you were going to be late for the party?

I told you I don’t want to fucking tell it again.

And you were on the bench.

Yeah, for that one game.

Yeah right. You’re always on the bench.

No I’m not! I was on the bench for that one game.

 

So then what happened?

Just leave it.

You came onto the pitch late in the game.

It wasn’t that late. Sixty minute mark maybe.

And then what?

You know what happened next! Leave it will you!?

 

But I’m not quite understanding it all.

Fucking hell. It’s not that hard to understand.

Yes it is!

How is it?

Because you put someone in hospital!?

Pffft. He’ll be fine.

 

So….

Christ, alright! Jesus. I came on, around the sixty minute mark.

And…

I was late for the party. So did what I needed to do.

Which was?

Get sent off.

 

But why didn’t you just handball it or something?

Because that would have looked shit.

How?

Because it would have looked like I was trying to get sent off.

And headbutting someone as soon as you came on wouldn’t?!?

Christ, I don’t know!

 

So what happened?

I got sent off.

And the guy went to hospital?

Aye, maybe. I don’t know! He’ll be fine!

I don’t know if he will.

He’ll be fine. I didn’t hit him that hard.

 

So then what?

That’s it.

That’s it?

Aye, that’s fucking it!

And you made it to the party?

Well I’m fucking here aren’t I?

 

Don’t you feel bad about it?

Eh?

Don’t you feel bad?

Yeah. I do. But I was gonna miss the start of the party!

Why didn’t you just call the referee a ‘cunt’ or something? That would have worked.

You’re a cunt! Christ, I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking clearly.

 

So what happens now?

What do you mean, what happens now?

Are the police involved like?

Eh?

You assaulted someone!

Pffft. He’ll be fine. Right, get the drinks in. It’s your round, cunt.

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Freedom Fighters – Part Two

“But anyway, it wasnae easy here in the early days. Billy telt me ah needed a proddy name if ah wis gonnae get work. Kin ye imagine that? Me, pretendin’ tae be wan ay them!?” I said, pointin’ aroon the bar, at no cunt and every cunt.

“But ah needed the work. So David O’Donnell became Davy Munroe. Ah became a blue nosed cunt overnight an goat ma first joab oan the roads. Diggin’ holes fir the county man. Fuckin’ shite work up this neck ay the woods. The weather goat so bad up they glens you just wanted tae jump intae yer fuckin’ hole and go fir the big long sleep. But ah’d started seein’ yer mother shortly after arrivin’ so ah needed the old do re mi.”

Ah looked at the wee man’s glass. He’d tanned his pint. Ah looked up at the bar.

“Donny!” ah shouted, “can ah get another couple a pints ah Nimbus. An a couple a dribble chasers in aw.”

Ah looked at the boy. He was laughin’ as he lit another fag. Ah’ve still fuckin’ goat it.

“Anyway, so ah wis here an earnin’. Sure enough the cunts ripped the piss oot me fir ma hair and that. Cause ah wis a hippy efter the hippies cut their hair. Cause that’s how it wis son. When ye see that shite oan the telly aboot the sixties ye need tae remember that that wis aw the upper class cunts. They were aw poncin’ aboot in London and that. Glesga, the workin’ man’s toon, didnae get the sixties until the seventies. The rich hippies fucked aff tae India and aw that. The poor hippies fae the schemes came tae the Heelands. Tae wee drizzly shit holes like this.”

We baith looked aroon. Ah felt that hing ah’d been feelin’ since ah arrived here. This wis where ah chose tae raise a faimly. This wis the bar ah chose tae get fucked in fir the rest ah ma puff. Ye cud see the evolution ay the local pond life afore yer eyes. Ye hud the boy here. 18 year old and still smellin’ ah talc. Then ye hud that cunt Jasper. Oan the shite side ah thrity, pishin’ it away oan a Wednesday night, beer belly, Ranger’s tap oan like a fuckin’ butcher’s apron. Then ye hud me. Sittin’ in this bastard chair, 53 an countin’, tryin’ ma best tae pass that beacon ah sense ah’d been carryin’ aroon fir years ontae the young team. Then ye hud auld Gooshan. The blue nose hud gone purple wi the Bell’s, eight year auld paint thinner, pishin’ his pants and singin’ ‘The Sash’. It wis a fuckin’ miserable state of affairs. Ah looked back at the boy. Ah didnae want this fir him. Ah didnae want tae see him as me when ma nose wis drippin’ intae that tumbler up at the bar, waitin’ fir a harsh winter tae put me in the groond. Ah shuddered.

“Anyway, the first time ah hud any bother here was a few weeks efter ah arrived. Ah’d settled in awright. A few cunts hud seen me aboot and stared at me like ah wis a fuckin’ dildo in a cake shop. Me bein’ the hippy cunt like ah wis in this place. But the day the trouble started wis when we came in here fir the auld firm. Back then they’d just bought their first telly. We black and white effort that hud mair snow that an eskimo’s weather report. But every cunt had crammed in here tae watch the game. Ah wis in wi Billy Breeks and Tam. Aw three ay us were big Selic boys. But we tried no tae be oan that day. We couldnae pretend tae be huns. The amount of Tims turnin’ in their grave wid start a fuckin’ earthquake. But we tried tae seem like we didnae gee a fuck. Like we were watchin’ the wind blow or summit. And people seemed tae believe that. Us lookin’ like we did. They aw thought we wir too soft tae like the fitbaw. Fuckin’ mistake number wan.” I says, wi a wee wink.

“We hud a few boys starin’ at us as we walked in. We were prepared fir that. A couple of the boys are still here. Auld Ford was wan ah thum. This wis back when he was called Suzuki. But he goat pished an crashed his fuckin’ Suzuki. So he bought an Escort. Now he’s called Ford. But back them he wis a fuckin’ big boy. That was afore the drink buckled him. But they were starin’ us up an doon. As you know son, ah wis a fightin’ man back in Drumchapel. I’d fight cunts oan the way tae a fight. Ah could handle maself. So could Billy and Tam. Tam used tae be a wild yin back in the day. So these Highland cunts didnae frighten the likes ah us. We’d aw seen oor reflections in the back a chibs. We knew whit real danger looked like.”

Ah could see ah hud the boy’s attention noo. He hadnae looked at that phone ay his fir a couple a minutes. When Davy Flash spun a yarn the fuckin’ world goat wrapped up in it. Yas.

“So we were gettin’ as pished as a Tim at his mother’s funeral. Bangin’ back the pints. Whisky chasers. We didnae huv any ah that poof juice you loat drink the day. Booze was broon. Or that slightly green coloured liquid that ye can clean paintbrushes wi. So we were gettin’ stocious, and startin’ tae make a racket. Ford tries tae squeeze past us tae get tae the bar. Now, you know me son. Ah’m yer best pal in world until ye gie me a reason no tae be. Ah let Ford past, say “oan ye go mate.” He looks at me, pure towerin’ ower me. Ah can feel that chill fae the big cunt’s shadow. “Cheers sweetheart” he says tae me. Fuckin’ sweetheart!? He goes tae touch ma hair. Ah slap his big steak hond away and square up. Puffin’ ma chest oot an goin’ intae Jack Russell mode. “What? What you gonna do ya wegie cunt?” he says. Ah almost loast it son. Ah was aboot tae burst ma pint glass ower his head and stamp the big cunt oot. But Tam swoops in, knowin’ me too well. He says sorry, ah’m new tae the area, ah don’t know many cunts, had a few drinks. Aw that bullshit ye tell someone tae make them fuck aff feelin’ like a winner. Ford grunts and goes up tae the bar. Tam whispers in ma ear, “we’ll get the cunt soon enough.” Ah just smiled and got back tae tellin’ ma story.”

*

“It was 0-0 in the fitbaw. Ah wis told later is was a fuckin’ awful game. Baith teams just knocked lumps oota each other. It wis closer tae Barlinnie than Barcelona. Ah’d nearly ground ma teeth tae dust listenin’ tae they proddy fucks singin’ the sash, callin’ us fuckin’ tatty niggers, Taigs, fenians, left footers, bead rattlers, papes. You fuckin’ name it. Ah’d been Selic Park and Snake Mountain enough times in ma time, but some ah the racist filth ah heard in this pub oan that day shocked me son. These teuchters bastards hated the Irish mare than Thatcher ever could. Tam an Billy could see ah wis gettin’ riled up. They were too, but not like ah wis. They didnae huv the same connection tae the faith that ah hud back then. Ah wis fuckin’ livid.”

“In the last minute ay the game we get a penalty. A stonewaller. No question. But of course the cunts start up. Callin’ conspiracy and pointin’ fingers. Like they dinnae get enough fuckin’ freebies fae the SFA!? Shaft the Fenian’s Association is whit ah call it son! So efter the abuse dies down, King Kenny steps up and puts the baw oan the spot. The fuckin’ crowd goes silent man. The Clachan is fuckin’ silent. Me, Tam and Billy Breeks rush up tae the telly, bumpin’ intae cunts, squeezin’ past and causin’ a bit ay a fuckin’ scene. Three dipit hippy cunts tryin’ tae get a swatch ah the fitbaw. “

Ah take a big gulp ah ma beer. The boy’s oan the edge ay his fuckin’ seat. Waitin’ oan me. Ah take ma time. Ah wis feelin’ a bit pished by this point. The Bob Marley ah’d smoked in the hoos was huvin’ its way wi me. But ah took a second tae get ma words the gither. Build the suspense.

“Just as Kenny’s steppin’ back an pickin’ his spot, ah here a voice behind me. “Here you ya big fuckin’ hairy poof! You’re not a window! Gonna move or ah’ll fuckin’ break ya!” Course, ah knew who that wis. Ah looked at Tam. He gave me a wee nod. Ah took a quick look in the reflection ay ma pint glass. Ah saw that cunt Ford standin’ right behind me. Ah could feel that chill again.”

“All ah saw ay that penalty was Kenny runnin’ up take strike. Ah spun roon, in a Davy fuckin’ Flash, and smashed that pint glass ower Ford’s big fuckin’ heed. Beer and blood burst everywhere. Me, Tam and Billy jumped on the fucker and set aboot kickin’ his cunt inside oot. Course a fuckin’ brawl starts in the bar. Every cunt’s throwin’ punches, tryin’ thir hardest tay pop wan ay us. But we were just layin’ boys oot left an right. Picture the fuckin’ scene son! Us standin’ there wi long hair, waistcoats, flares an clogs an that, beatin’ seven shades of shite oota big fuckin’ men’s men. Lassies were screamin’. Pint glasses were flyin’. And we were still standin’ at the end ay it, covered in blue blood that wisnae oor ain. Fuckin’ freedom fighters son!” ah shouted, almost jumpin’ oot ma fuckin’ wheelchair and poundin’ ma fist on a heart.

The wee man was smilin’. We baith just sat there smilin’ fir a minute. Ah felt like we wur brother’s. Ah just looked at um. Thinkin’ aboot how different we were.

“Did Dalglish score the penalty?” he asks us.

Ah laugh and light another fag.

“Whit dae you think!?!”

We baith started laughin’. It coulda bin the drink and the smoke, but ah could swear ah’d seen that wee cunt become a bit bigger. Somethin’ aboot him was different. We baith laughed the smiles aff oor faces and sunk intae that silence again.

“But, what was the point ah that story da?” he asks us after a few seconds.

Ah thought about it. Ah thought back tae where ah wis then an where ah am noo. Ah wasnae happy then and ah ain’t happy noo. Ah still hate this fuckin’ place as much as ah did oan that day. Nothin’s changed. Ma guts a bit bigger, ma liver’s a bit pinker, ma lung’s a bit blacker. Ah’m two feet shorter, and fuck ton wiser, pushin’ these fuckin’ wheels tae the same shite bar that ah’ve been goin’ tae fir thirty-odd year, still ridin’ the same auld hoors and lyin’ tae the mother ah ma kids every fuckin’ day. Ahm no happy. And neither’s he. Ah thought a little harder and tried tae come up wi a moral. But there wasnae wan. ‘Don’t be me’. That wis as gud as ah could come up wi.

“I don’t know.” I said, starin’ at the empty glasses oan the table. Ah looked at the wee boy that sat across fae his da, wantin’ answers tae the questions the old boy’d nivir known tae fuckin’ ask himself.

“Another round Donny!” I shouted, as a waited fir ma old stupit heart tae stop poundin’.

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Freedom Fighters – Part One

Foreword

I should explain before you start reading the story: this is written entirely in Scots. I have never done anything as extreme as this before and I’m sure that you probably haven’t read much that is as extreme in its slang and dialect as this. But if you’re familiar with Irvine Welsh then this shouldn’t be a problem. You just have to get the accent in your head. But I’m quite fond of this story as it is about my home town. So, if you feel like giving it a go, I have put a glossary of terms at the bottom in the comments section.

I should also point out that it’s fucking long. But you know, sometimes things are long. And it is very heavy on bigotry and sectarianism. You should know that these opinions are not my own. But perhaps you’ll get a peak into the side of Scotland rarely experienced unless you’re really a part of it.

I hope that you enjoy it x

*

Ah’d bin meaning tae take the boy oot fir a pint fir few weeks. He’d bin doon. No his normal chatty self. The cheeky wee cunt could talk the spokes aff a wheel when he got goin. But no recently. That wee lassie Mary had geed him the elbow and he was feelin’ bluer than Eric Clapton’s back catalogue. Ah had nuthin oan and he’d just finished his exams. Ah thought ah’d dae some of that father an son bonding stuff ye hear so much about. At least gie it a fuckin’ try fir once.

“Fancy a pint?” ah said, no lookin’ doon from ma paper. Ah had made ma way back fae the fitbaw and was at the horses. Ah always lost interest in the paper when ah got tae the horses. The front three pages and the back three pages were all ah gave a fuck aboot these days.

“What?” he said.

“Pint? Roon the Clachan like?” ah asks again. There was only wan pub tae go tae in this fuckin’ village, but ah never got oot the habit of specifyin’ which pub we went tae.

“Aye” he said, like he wasnae bothered but he’d go if ah wanted tae. Ah didnae drink roon the pub durin’ the week these days. Usually just hod a couple a cans an a wee Bob Marley in front ah the telly. But we needed tae have a chat. And ah didnae want his fuckin’ mother walkin’ in oan us talkin’ man’s stuff like. She’d bin gettin’ oan ma fuckin’ wick recently.

Ah folded ma paper and sat it doon on the couch. Ah looked at the boy. He was still lookin’ doon. Ah could see him watchin’ that bloody phone ah his. Fuckin’ thing was a new limb for kids these days. That’s whit evolution brought us! A fuckin’ smart phone attached to a bunch of fuckin’ idiots. Ah pulled maself up and stood above him. He wis taller than me these days but ah reckon ah needed tae be the big man in this situation. So ah looked doon oan him.

“Come on then” ah said.

He sighed and stood up. Ah watched him grow up in hof a second, gettin’ taller and taller till he passed me. He probably had another couple of years left in him. Ah reckon ah knew how he felt then. A big man growin’ too big for that cage he wis kept in.

We walked tae the front door. He put his coat oan. Ah cud feel ma knees crackin’. Ah sighed as ah dragged oot the wheelchair and unfolded it. Ah heard the auld thing squeak. Ah fuckin’ hated that fuckin’ thing. But ah couldnae leave the hoos wi oot it. No in this village ah fuckin’ spiers and liars. The last hing this wobbly family needed was a knock fae the social tellin’ me ah wis getting’ done fir fraud. That’d be the death ay us. But the wee man knew the score. Even if he didnae like the rules, he still played the game. And ah could nivir knock him fir that.

*

“So how’d you reckon yer exams went son?” ah said to him, takin’ a wee sip of that shite they pass off as ale in Clachan. Ah wis sure ah could taste some ah Donny Dribble’s dribble in it.

“Fine. I think.”

Fuck me. Come on son, ah thought. Give me mare than that tae work wi!?

“Aye?” ah said, lookin’ roon at the clientele in misery HQ. Each wan eh them, like a big drip a water.

“Aye” he said.

We both sat there fir a minute. He wis lookin’ at that bloody phone. Waitin’ fir it tae ring. Ah didnae get offended though. Ah knew it wasnae me that wis makin’ him like that. He wis wantin’ a text fae that wee bird. Ah’d been there. In ma day it was a chap oan the door, or a shout up tae the windae. Times huv changed pal.

Ah looked at him lookin’ all sad. His hair wis growin’ oot and he wis lookin’ less and less like every other cunt around here every day. His mother said that that wis his father’s doin’. Ah knew that fine and well. When his mother met me ah had hair doon tae ma arse and a beard tae ma tits. He couldnae grow a beard yit, but ah’m sure he wid wan day. But even as he sat there, wi a pint an a fag, ah could see him growin’ afore ma eyes. He reminded me a me when ah was like him.

“Ah know what it’s like son.” ah says, eventually breakin’ that silence, sittin’ ma pint ah dribble doon and rollin’ up a fag.

“Like whit’s like?” he says, starin’ at the phone that naebiddy’s callin’.

“Tae feel like ye dinnae belong.”

He looked at us. He swept that hair oot his eyes. Ah could see ah’d gone a bit deeper than ah’d been afore. He wis just sittin’ in thought. Ah wis just gonnae let him stew fir a minute. Hink about it. That father son stuff is surely somethin’ boy.

“Ah wis an ootsider here. Ah still um. There are some people in this village that willnae let ye forget that. Ah came here in 1974. 1970 fuckin’ 4 son. That’s a long time tae be stuck in a shit tip like this.”

He smiled and nodded a wee bit. The big wee man knew the score.

“Ah came tae this village as a Catholic hippy fae the city. Fae Glesga no less. Embiddy commin fae Glesga tae this place has tae huv somethin’ tae say fir themselves. Cause they hate ye. Just fir that alone. Of course, bein’ a Catholic here back then wis like bein’ a Jew in a fuckin’ mosque. We’re talkin’ about Achna-fuckin’-fachel here son.” Ah says, hammerin’ ma point hame by hittin’ ma glass doon on the table. He looks at us. Ah knew he understood, a bit. There were mair blue noses here than on the Smurf’s fuckin’ Christmas album. But times hud changed. He wid nivir really know whit it wis like tae be hated fir a choice yir parents parents parents made hunners a years ago.

“They didnae want us here. This bar used tae huv a sign outside sayin’ “Fenian free since 1953”. ‘53 wis the year the quarry closed an all the Catholics left. The locals made it pretty clear they didnae want oor types here. And oan tap eh bein’ a Catholic, ah hud long scraggly hair and a big daft beard!? It wis like ah wis tryin’ tae make em hate me. Ah hink a little part of me always will.” Ah looked aroon the bar again. Ah looked at the Rangers taps on the cavemen’s backs. Ah put ma hond tae ma heart, right oan the tri-colour and the lyrics fae the “Fields of Athenry” tattoo ah’d goat twenty year ago. We baith smiled. We baith knew whit wis under that shirt ah mine. It was mah fuckin’ Star a David. Ma brandin’. A fuck you tae the filthy hun establishment that put honest wurkin’ cunts like me in the fuckin’ wheely chair fir a wee wage and a giggle. “So ah know whit it’s like son.”

He didnae say anythin’. Ah took a big swally and cooled aff. It aw ways got me heated when ah thought about they dirty orange bastards. He just sat there aw slumped. Tae say he reminded me ah maself wid be bein’ blindly sentimental. In truth he wis mare ai his mother’s son thin his faither’s son. He wis aw ways a bit soft. Aw ways cryin’. Ah thought fir years he wid grow up a poofter. Tae say ah wis relieved when he started seein’ that wee Mary lassie wid be an understatement. But it nivir stoaped me hinkin’ thir wis somethin’ funny about the wee cunt.

“Ah left Glesga in ’74. Ad hud a fallin’ oot wi ma faither. Ye know fine well how that turned oot.”

The boy nodded. Ah’d telt him a hunner times aboot that drunken auld bastard. He could slap a squint straight that cunt.

“Ah wis loast. Ma first bird Florence hud just fucked off wi ma cousin Jerry an the ship yards were layin’ boys aff left an right. Ah thoat ‘fuck it’, time fir a change. Billy Breeks hud moved up here a couple a months afore and he wis aw ways tellin’ me how it wis the hippy paradise. The quiet life fir the workin’ man. Me bein’ the daft hippy cunt ah wis back then, ah thoat ‘why not?’ Ah kin cut it wi they teuchter cunts. So up ah came. Got ma pay oan the Friday, packed ma shit oan the Saturday, on Billy’s flare by the Sunday. And that wis that.”

The boy looks up at me. He looks at me like ah’ve just pished oan his fish.

“Why the fuck are you tellin’ me this?” he says. “Whit fuckin’ difference does this make tae me!?”

“Ho!” ah says, raisin’ ma backhond tae the wee cunt. Ah’d smacked so many cheeky smiles aff that wee cunt’s face that I hod his grin printed oan the back of ma hond. “Ah’m tellin’ ye aboot ma life! Maybe ye kin learn a fuckin’ thing or two.”

“Whit? Like how tae be a fuckin’ work dodgin’ pish-heed?” he snaps.

We sit opposite wan another, locked in a stare. If we were in the hoose ah’d’ve leathered the leather aff his arse. And he knew it. Smart wee cunt. But we were no in the hoose. We were in a pub. Ah just kept starin’ him oot. He looks right fuckin’ back in all. Ah wanted tae fuckin’ tan him. But fir the first time he’s no lookin’ scared ah me. He’s lookin’ fuckin’ ready. Like ah’ve seen a hunner boys look afore. But somewhere inside the wee cunt, ah see the wee boy ah raised tae be that man starin’ back at me. Ah put ma hond doon. Ah take another swally ah ma pint.

“Ah’m just tryin’ tae tell ye a thing or two. Ah wis young once. Fuckin’ young. Ah wis younger than you when ah wis older than you. Just you fuckin’ remember that.” Ah says, pointin’ ma fag at him, no quite sure whit that meant. But ah knew it sounded like somethin’ Davy Flash wid say.

“Ah know. Sorry da” he says, heed down, checkin’ at that phone again.

“It’s no bother,” ah says, coolin’ aff again. “Ah’m just tryin’ tae help.”

“I know.”

We baith took a big gulp, in silence.

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Empty Calories

I remember the only time Mariah and I ever went to the supermarket together. It was July 2009. We’d been together for a few months by then. We both worked pretty close to one another so she’d basically been living at my place for the last month. I was real happy about that. We were still honeymooning and in love with new love to the point where we didn’t see flaws in each other. Just little challenges. That was how we saw them. You’d teach yourself to love the stuff most people wouldn’t. I’ve come to learn that’s how it always is in the early days.

We’d stayed up talking the night before, having sex to end each chapter of conversation, and starting a new one on the pillow, wrapped up in one another. I loved the way we talked back then. We would bounce words and compliments and laughter back and forth between one another, on and on for as long we could. I don’t think either of us really felt that we’d met someone we could really be ourselves with before. That night we talked mostly about each other and the future and stuff, but we also spoke about the supermarket. We’d been building up to that for a while. She finally agreed to come with me. But I knew she didn’t want to. But she knew how much I wanted her to. We both knew it was one of those little challenges.

We didn’t sleep well that night. We kept each other awake, tossing and turning. I knew we were both thinking about the same thing. In the morning we were both pretty quiet. We had coffee for breakfast and watched the news together. I was really hungry. But I decided to wait, chain-smoking, like her. I wanted to make her as comfortable as possible. I wanted us to be the same. I wanted us to be two little pinkies, wrapped around one another.

As we walked down the street I could feel how tense she was. She held my hand really tight and seemed really distant in conversation. Every time she spoke it was like she was on automatic. Every time I spoke it was like my voice snapped her out of a daze. Or not a daze, but somewhere else maybe.

“What do you want to do tonight darling?” I asked. It was a Saturday.

She turned her head to me and smiled.

“What?”

“Tonight. What do you want to do tonight?” I asked again, giving her hand a little squeeze to remind her I was beside her.

“I don’t care baby. I don’t want to go out. Maybe we could watch a DVD and get a couple of bottles of wine.”

She looked away again.

“That sounds perfect. Shall I cook something?” I asked, gently, trying to make it sound as casual as I could.

She turned back to me.

“Let’s see how I feel. I’m still feeling a bit sick.” I imagined she could see my heart sink a little. “But maybe. I might manage a wee something.” She smiled a little and squeezed my hand again.

“Okay” I said, smiling back. I had to be happy enough with a ‘wee something’.

*

As we got closer to the doors of the supermarket I could feel her tense right up. I could feel her hand tighten more around mine. She’d brought me things from the supermarket before when she came over to my place. And we would be buying things for me here too. But we both knew that this was her shopping trip. And that she would have to buy things for herself. To eat. I was nervous too. But I tried to be as casual as I could. I didn’t want her to know how delicate I was then.

I racked my brain for something to talk about that would distract her from what we were walking towards and what we would do there.

“Do you want me to get us tickets for that Beirut gig? Rory reckons he could get us on the guest list.”

“Yeah.” she said, staring in front at the automatic doors opening and closing in front of us, like jaws. “That’d be great.

“Okay.” I said, trying to keep talking, “Great, I’ll send him a text when we get home. I’m really looking forward to the gig.”

“Me too” she said.

“This will be better than the Lemonheads gig. I promise.” I said, laughing, nervously, as we stepped closer and closer to the jaws of the supermarket. We’d gone to see the Lemonheads the month before. It was awful. I was a big fan. She hated them. But she went for me.

She didn’t say anything. She didn’t even turn to me. She just kept looking at the jaws opening and closing.

We normally laughed about that gig. It was so terrible that it became one of those funny things you have in a relationship. Something you drag conversation towards to ease the tension. But she wasn’t listening to me anymore. I knew that nothing I could say at this point would distract her.

I watched her breathe in and close her eyes as we walked through the doors.

*

I walked over the trolleys and started to pull one out for us. She quickly came over to me with a basket for me and a basket for her.

“We don’t need a big trolley,” she said, looking down at the little bare basket, “I’m skint.”

I looked at the big trolley. And then at the little bare basket. And then at her. I understood. I smiled and took mine from her.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m skint too. I just wanted to piss about on a trolley and wheel around the supermarket.”

She didn’t smile or laugh. She just looked around the big white supermarket, clutching her basket to her chest. I pulled mine up too. I was so hungry.

We started walking around the aisles, picking things up and putting them back. Looking at labels. Looking at the cost. Not talking. I watched her try not to walk quickly. Trying to be like everyone else in the supermarket. I had thrown some beef, some onions, some tomatoes into my basket. I was going to make some bolognaise for the fridge. I could feel my stomach rumbling. I looked at her basket. She had some nuts and some celery. I sighed a little. But I kept looking, trying to focus on pretending to look.

I wanted to fill my basket. Mum told me that I was looking too thin. She told me she could see shadows under my bones. My friends from home worried I was taking loads of drugs. Mum knew though. She would send me back to Edinburgh with food she’d cooked and boxed up for us. Mum’s a nutritionist. She would give me packs of almonds and boxes of cereal. She’d tell me to give them to Mariah too. She always said it carefully though. Just like I did. She’d assure me that they were healthy calories. I didn’t know much about calories. I’d heard Mariah talk about ‘empty calories’. But I never really knew what they were. Food was food, to me. I just knew that we needed to eat more, empty or not. Mum would always tell me to make sure Mariah ate some too. She didn’t need me to tell her to know the score.

“How about some soup?” I said, holding up a can of broth. I looked at the price. £1.49.

She looked at me. She wasn’t smiling. Or frowning. She was concentrating. She looked at the can of soup in my hand. She came over to me. I handed it to her. She spun the can round in her hand and looked at the label on the back. I could see the numbers going in and out of her head. Going in as calories and out as inches. I could see her lips moving slightly as she counted.

“No.” she said, handing the can back to me. “I don’t really like broth.”

“Okay.” I said, putting it back on the shelf. I held onto the can, looking at the numbers on the back and trying to work out the formula. I closed my eyes. I tried to work out how they all added up to broth tasting bad. I watched her go back to looking around. She looked smaller surrounded by all this food. All these healthy calories, empty calories. All those inches that would go on someone else’s waist. She looked lost and scared. I looked down at her basket. She hadn’t put anything else in it. I could see the thin bars. Celery and nuts and bars. It looked hungry too.

*

I followed her round to the next aisle. I stood at the end and watched her walk slowly down, getting further and smaller with every step, deeper into the food that surrounded her. I watched her try to look like she felt she should. Slow steps. Browsing eyes. Picking something off the shelf, looking at the label. Then putting it back. I watched her move what she had in basket around, making it look like more. I could feel her wanting to put something back on the shelf, and leave it, far away from her. She got to the end and stopped. She turned and looked at me. I felt her look through me and away. She smiled softly. She looked so hungry for something. I knew this was progress, but at that moment, it didn’t feel like it.

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Today is St. Andrews Day. I have decided to be REALLY Scottish.

I am listening to this on repeat : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZrdo1PuUvQ

I am scrubbing English blood from my kilt with a soapy crisp packet.

I am putting salt and brown sauce on my deep fried pizza.

I am drinking Bells 8 year blend from a deer’s bladder I found in a council skip.

I am shooting dusty brown smack into the vein between my toes.

I am shouting at traffic.

I am getting a handjob in a bus shelter.

I am fighting you because you’re not from where I’m from.

I am throwing logs in a field.

I am putting on spf200 sunscreen because the weather man said it would ‘clear up a little’ in the afternoon.

I am impregnating my second cousin as a 30th birthday present to her mother.

I am being louder than everyone except the Irish.

I am ‘oching’ and ‘ayeing’ my way to the back of the dole queue, mumbling racial insults at the ‘fuckin’ bead rattlin’ fenian Polaks that stole ma job’ , trying my hardest not to crack open that can of Special Brew in the plastic bag masquerading as my briefcase, and start getting fucked in the Job Center.

I am looking at Scotland from a far and remembering how great it never ever was.

I celebrating St. Andrew’s day as far away from that country as I have been able to get.

I am not proud of being Scottish. I just happened to be born there.

Irvine Welsh said it best.

Peece oot cunt.

 

Ross MacGardiner

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