Sometimes, a wee bit “gnothis auton” wouldn’t be misplaced. That is Ancient Greek for “knowing yourself’ and if we don’t really know too much about ourselves, we would do well to think about where we have come from, how that has affected us, how we might have changed etc. etc.
Now, the process of my partial adaptation to bourgeoisie values might have started with me going to college, going to university, going to Germany. One thing for sure though is, the adaptation has only been partial and when I think about where I have come from I should, at least, have a better understanding of where China is today. This, however, isn’t going to be a China post. It is going to be a Glasgow post but we might do well to think about the bigger picture. At the beginning of the seventies we were all being moved out of our little rooms and kitchens in the inner city of Glasgow and we were all getting wee hooses in one or another of the big housing schemes on the edge of the city. Drumchapel was one such housing scheme; 60,000 people, three or four pubs, three secondary schools (one of them catholic), a handful of catholic and protestant churches, a couple of public libraries, a wee shopping centre and a few more shops and … well that was it. The people living there invariably had no money, a lot of them were unemployed and a lot of them were bored out of their minds. It should, though, be pointed out that a lot of them didn’t have much of a mind. Anyway, I was there, so what did we do? Well, we kicked a ball about and it is no accident that a host of professional footballers and Scottish caps were to come from the area. However, it wasn’t only football that distinguished the youth of the area. There were a lot of heidbangers around and downtown Bagdhad thirty odd years later is, at least a wee bit safer. We actually had no front windows as such but prefered to keep them boarded up. This didn’t let much daylight in but it also made it difficult for some idiot to throw a brick from the street into the front living room and then there was this one particular occassion when only my knowing someone in particular stopped some local members of the ‘Drummy’ from chibbing me. “Oh, he knows ‘Goggles'”, one of the educationally sub-normal, maladjusted retards said and they all put their chibs away, saying, “on you go pal bit ye shuid be careful.” Fucking right I should and phone a taxi in future to take me from my house to my sister’s house, which was about 500 metres away. Don’t know what happened to ‘Goggles’ but I am certainly glad he was my pal and it is no accident that my first inclination to get out led to my flirtation with the British Army and me thinking, “West Belfast’s not going to be more dangerous than this and they at least give us guns to defend ourselves.”
Now, you might think that the opportunity to move to a better area, when it presented itself would be seized upon by all and sundry and the opportunity did come sooner than a lot of people expected; built after World War 2 the buildings were going to be demolished after only some thirty five years. Of course, that was indicative of how derilict they had become in such a short period of time and there was the “cooncil” offering us all nice wee apartments and hooses in Blairdardie and Knightswood. Anyway, as I said, it would be expected that everyone would seize on the chance to move as soon as possible, on the chance to get oot, but not everyone did.
Jimmy MacLeod, my neighbour, and there were lots like him, said quite simply, “am no leavin”. Now, Jimmy was a heidbanger, the type who would get plastered almost every evening, who saw spiders crawling up the wall, who would come home and batter his wife all over the place, and when I asked Jimmy why he wasn’t leaving, he said, “ull miss the buzz.” “The buzz”; the madness, the police car with sirene screeching , the shouting and screaming, the neighbour’s Frank Sinatra LPs blasting through your wee paper walls, the gangs fighting in the street, the stray dogs barking and shitting, the wee fourteen year olds pushing their weans along the road, proud as punch, and over the moon at having someone to love and someone to love them back, the madness that was “the Drum”.
This, as I said in the beginning is a Glasgow post and most definitely not a China post. However, doesn’t it all help to put the “re4 nao4”, the bad driving and the bad habits into perspective?
The picture is of a Drumchapel Street at the Lochgoin Shops, round about the time when I lived in the area.