“So much to say, so little time to say it. There is much to learn from the wise words written in here. View it as an Alladin’s Cave or a Pandora’s box…..or the ravings of a lunatic…..whichever way, you won’t be disappointed.”
Extract 1- CATCH A FALLEN PRIEST?
It was one of those typical wet sun everglade mornings, the new born rays skimming the mangroves of the alligator infested swamps chasing the furtive remnants of the night back to their heathen haunting. The morning’s yawn rattled the half-closed shutters disturbing every microscopic bit of dust in the wood-lined shack. On the basic wooden framed bed my semi-comatose unshaven body stirred in discomfort as another sweaty surreal dream of a wrestling competition between my night shirt and Angelina’s chemise headed once more for an indecisive split decision.
But then I deployed my secret weapon. Nothing, not even Angelina’s translucent, semi-transparent skimpy packaging could resist. The temperature and the action shot parabolically into the dreamy stratosphere. Victory beckoned but just as I was just about to get on top (figuratively speaking), that damned first sparkle of the morning caressed my eyelids and called time on the tantalising tag match.
Like some black magic curse the negligee that I had been just about to capture and wave in triumph assumed its original form as a far too short single sheet (embroidered with ‘property of the Tulip Inn’), and whatever I had just put in my mouth regained its identity as my left thumb. The vista in general shimmered and then metamorphosed. The Everglades turned into the Gorbals, the alligator infested mangroves to Cumberland street, my wood lined shack to the police station cell, the shutters to the barred door and the sunshine to the gloom busting security light as with a cheery ‘good morning’ the constable brought me a hearty condemned man’s breakfast of a piece ‘n something covered in brown something else and a chipped mug of lukewarm sock strained beverage (with the elusive tang of toe-jam juice.)
My dream was now a million parsecs away in whatever part of God’s realm dreams went, biding their time until another troubled soul drifted into half sleep hoping to meet up with the girl of their unrequited ambition, or even just their nightdress.
“Milk and one sweetener” I shouted at his disappearing fat erse
“As always” he replied without looking back.
I swilled a mouthful of the invigorating elixir, taking a moment to decide between the lipstick or the sauce stained rim. I went for the lipstick – the sauce could have been dried blood!
“So near yet so far, again” I thought to myself ruefully. I mean what the *&/@ had I done this time to get me shackled in here instead of making the extra one hundred and fifty yards to home, safety, relatively clean sheets (also with ‘property of Tulip Inn’ stitched into the fabric) and a full eight rounds with Angelina and her five denier body curtain.
(Just a moment while I compose myself………that’s better….)
I picked up my belongings from the desk, made sure that the thieving gits on the nightshift hadn’t nicked anything, ignored what the charge was, confirmed once more that I would await the decision of the procurator fiscal and then pressed the big green freedom button to open the front door. My head boomed to a performance of a troupe of trampolining wildebeest and my legs wobbled and strayed painfully as though I had been ninety minutes in the same bit of the pitch as Ruben Ayala.(A well known Athletico Madrid hit man who in the early 70s attempted to break every leg of the then great Celtic team.) I can’t bring myself to post a picture of that scurrilous assassin so here’s another one of Angelina just to keep us going.
As a parting shot I turned and called to the uniformed fascist and resident vampire behind the counter, who was already restocking his coffin with virgin blood to see him through the daylight hours in the safety of his lightless garlic free cellar.
“You realise that the bed-sheet in my overnight accommodation is the property of the hotel up the road and not of the Scottish police Service. I reckon that apart from being hypocritical masonic brown shirts with blood sucking habits (no offence intended), one of youse is also a wee scabby tea leaf”
Sergeant Dracula, with one wary eye on the imminent dawn, scratched his lower chin with his overdeveloped incisors. I could tell he probably considered turning me into one of the undead; but I was ready and he knew it; his other eye never strayed from my 2H pencil which to any casual observer would have appeared to be the innocuous possession of a scribbler and poet, but to good old triple striped Nosferatu it took on the appearance of a nuclear tipped mini wooden stake. He knew that one thrust into his unholy heart would see him turn to a cloud of pish-steam on a frosty morning in the southern necropolis. He hesitated, judging that it was better to avoid such a confrontation with the Gorbals’ vampire slayer and simply replied…. “Listen Buffy, you brought it with you. We’ll add it tae the charge sheet. Now hack off before I bite yer neck!”
“Hmmmmm. Cunning tactics I thought” casually reaching for the cross wae the wee man on it round my neck.
I regained the streets just as the The Gorbals was stirring into life.
I didn’t want to be noticed so I skulked around the corner towards home, avoiding the foxes and rats returning to their dens and runs. A particularly misshapen creature that I recognised as the neighbourhood’s token hun brushed past me, still pining for Esmerelda. I avoided the slug trail he left in his wake as he sludged over to Edmiston Drive to get an early place in the methadone queue.
With a practiced gait I skipped expertly over the liberally dotted wee piles of stomach contents.
I had long been an observer of these territorial eruptions and my expert eye was able to distinguish between the ones from Anne’s Fry, Chans’ or The Hot Spot. I had refined my skills so as a cursory examination was enough to profile the numbers of passers-by and the general direction they had come from. I also had no doubt that my devotion to Sherlock Holmes would enable me on closer inspection to determine what state they were in, which pub they had frequented and possibly even their identities, especially the one displaying the set of wallies (false teeth for foreign readers).
“Fancy dress wis it last night Matt?” she accused from her window perch desperately trying to project the allure of an Amsterdam ‘come on in’. “Who wis that dressed up as the polis woman? Wis that your truncheon she was holdin’?”. She flicked her chamois provocatively and adjusted her hip hugging bright patterned housecoat.
She had me at a disadvantage. After all she knew all the answers and I didn’t have a Scooby about most of the previous evening’s events. I took the only course of action short of pulling out a smith and Wesson 45 and despatching her to the big window cleaning company in the sky. I went for the psychological jugular.
‘Morning Mrs E (Available widow ). You’ve missed a bit!”.
She knew she hadn’t and anyway it was just a joke. There was more chance of a Hunter Killer submarine missing the Isle of Skye than there was of Mrs E (Available widow) smirring her window. (as an aside…who named the submarine HMS ASTUTE? “We didn’t know that Skye was there!” HMS Blind, drunk, deaf, incapable and incompetent.)
Back to Mrs E (Available widow) – It was a good idea to keep her on the right side. From past experience of blank nights and jailed mornings I would undoubtedly need to enlist her as a character and eye witness to what had really occurred, or at least what I wanted the judge to believe had happened. I filed a mental post-it in the working ten per cent of my brain that the wildebeest and Ayala hadn’t yet laid waste to….. “half a dozen Morton’s rolls, a half gram of Columbia’s finest and a new chamois”!
With inducements like that I was confident that she would charge into the witness stand, raise one hand to God and the place the other on her bible – Nigella’s, how to be a domestic Goddess – and testify on behalf of the good guy. No court in the land could withstand her eye for detail and practiced allusions to the funny hand-shake corruption of the local gendarmerie as she wept tears in support of such a paragon of the local community.
Guilt was never an option in the face of such an obviously trumped up charge of …..whatever it was.
“Yer honour trust me.” She would commence and then convincingly switch to the third person “As everyone knows Mrs E (Available widow) never tells an untruth. You can take it from her that the poor waif was but an innocent bystander. Attracted by his charitable instincts to a place of strife, Mandela-like in his peacemaker status he sacrificed his own safety for the well being of the community. A hero in the face of enemy fire! Without even a fleeting shadow of doubt no one could possibly consider any verdict other than a resounding …..innocent? (with suitable compensation for the inconvenience and scurrilous slur on his Persil white character.)”
I quickly sent some cryptic texts to make the necessary arrangements and made it up the three flights of stairs. With a sense of triumph, achievement and relief I closed the door to the outside world. The daylight was breaking into my sanctum but I knew that it would take at least four days of alcoholic purdah and a diet of cheese’n’toast for any brightness to return to my own internal darkness. I made the first of four hundred cups of tea, turned the radio on low, slumped on the recliner and started the weekly battle with the black evil crows on my shoulder caw cawing ‘go on have a pint….you’ll feel better….we promise.”
Sometimes the crows win, in fact most of the time the crows win! But just occasionally they lose; and this was one of those rare moments when I scared them away. It was a simple victory, but knowing that liberty can be expensive, I turned my pockets out on the table and made a lightening fast count of my worldly wealth. It was clear that once I had anted up for the six well-fired rolls, the chamois and devil’s desiccated coconut, I would have eighty three pence left to see me through until the next donation by Her Majesty the Queen to the purse strings thus enabling me to discharge my responsibility to support two bookies and a brewery.
Even if I had wavered and took the chance of upsetting the roll man, pound shop and big Erchie the knee-capping purveyor of magic dust and sudden death, my resolve to vanquish the black birds of doom from my shoulders was reinforced by a snatch of conversation on our proud nations’ designated Radio Station – or as I call it Scotland’s answer to John Craven’s Newsround – Radio Scotland.
It was just after the news that a tractor had blocked the sheep path between Cockbridge and Tomintoul. Laugh not at the relative inconsequence. Many a story goes around of how seemingly mundane chitter-chatter was used during conflicts to pass messages to the brave boys and girls overseas. I could feel it in my bones that this was the same, and somewhere in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan a bevy (obviously not a bevvy) of Al Qaida spies were huddled round their eavesdropping receivers and wondering what tactical onslaught this was triggering.
The important exchange for me in my mission to scare the shite out of the eeby-jeeby cackling crows now pecking my head from the inside was the following…..“The problem with youth is that it is wasted on the young” one of the presenters read from a text.
“How feckin original that is(NOT). Ersehole” I mumbled to myself, checking my beard for solids to save me putting the porridge on the boil.
“Switch this shite off” I called to no-one.
“Switch it aff yer feckin self” no-one answered, this time the voice sounding even more strangely like Tony from next door.
This was the signal to enter into our normal musical routine and interlude from middle aged sanity. Two auld eejits in seperate flats singing a stupid childhood rhyme……
I started in a tuneful tenor “My eyes are dim I cannot see….”
“I have not got my specs with me” he responded in a deep baritone imitation of Cleo Lane and then and we both broke into the duet and crescendo
“I haaaave no-ot got my-y specs wi-ith me!” followed by guffaws of recidivist idiotic laughter.
“Is it that genetic disorder again kicking in again?” he mockingly suggested. The eroteme (question mark – don’t say that this story has no educational content) was not required. He knew that the blurred vision that prevented me from turning off the programme stemmed from my troubled DNA double helix.
He would probably go on about it all morning but then I remembered it was Monday and reached for the latest orders from the overgruppenfeuhrer at Stalag New Gorbals Housing association.
“Ya dancer. It’s his turn to sluice down the communal landing. Soon there would be peace and quiet.”
But the blurring was a problem. It had always been a problem and the cause was genetic, painful and irreversible.
Even at that point the shimmer descended and distorting sight flickered between the mug of tea in my hand and the tall green bottle on the coffee table. This was of course a misnomer since the one thing that the table had never seen was coffee. I had rechristened it far more appropriately the ‘Buckie table’.
So much truth, mystery, answers and questions lay within that container of the elixir of life. But it also held the fuse to explosive self-destruction – ‘batter watter’ – we called it. The bottle won over the tea mug and I started the ceremony of the unscrewing.
I didn’t get much further than that opening thought when wee Father Shannon passed my window. This was a major worry. As I said I live on the third floor and what could be more concern than a 45 foot priest called Wee Father Shannon passing yer window? Well without the word of a lie there was something more concerning…..he passed it from top to bottom……and I live on the top floor…..AND I hadn’t even touched the buckfast yet.
I pulled up the blinds and looked down. Fortunately the padre had been looked after by his God and he had missed the spiky railings. The multiple fractures would heal and as he always quoted ….‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.
Mrs E (available Widow) was there already loosening his dog collar. He would be fine….I mean this was the Gorbals and if truth be told, it wasn’t that uncommon for Priests to fall out of the sky.
No doubt if they needed my skills they would call me. I had pressing thoughts to cogitate upon, principally about the day my father told me of his life shattering legacy……..
To Be Continued in ‘THE CURSE OF THE STEWARTs”