Friday, 29 May 2009


That Hot Chocolate Is Too Big, Actually.

The little girl wanders through the tables trying to decide where to sit. Once served the other girl arrives with a tray. An older sister? They have a similar look, but there is maybe 10 years between them. The younger is wearing a flashy silver and black top and black trousers, kind of kid smart. The elder hangs her red/purple velvet jacket on the back of the seat, though it slumps down behind her. Beneath that she is wearing a baggy green jumper, with its sleeves pushed back determinedly to the elbow. To go with that big baggy jeans, with bulky stuffed pockets. And flat, blue sandshoes with rainbows and birds on them. She has a ring through either side of her lower lip, a stud through an eyebrow. Her hair is dyed a lilac colour, straight, reaches down just by her chin. The tray has a fat sandwich, cut in half, stacked together, and a huge cup of hot chocolate. On the saucer there are a couple of pieces of chocolate flake and a handful of pink and white marshmallows. You help yourself, the older girl says, I’ll eat the sandwich then have some. The little girl strains to lift the cup with both hands, struggling. Its pretty heavy, she admits. The older says something, and the little girl trots to the till. The girl there has to bend to hear her talking, before handing her a tea spoon. Back to the table, and she carefully attacks the hot chocolate a spoonful at a time. Once she is done with the sandwich the older asks if its ok is she has one of the marshmallows? She lifts a pink one, poised between finger tips, she dips it into the cup. By now the little girl is more interested in some toy that she has just bought, so the older drags the huge cup to sit in front of her, dipping the untouched flake into the chocolate.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, 28 May 2009


Balloon & Boots

The ads have started in the half empty cinema hall and the lights are still on. At the front there is an aisle which separates the main seats from a couple of rows that are too close to the screen. Floating above those - a bright yellow balloon. The over familiar logo of a fast food chain clearly visible as it just hangs there. Where did it come from? I don’t recall passing it on the way in. It hangs there, all nonchalant and balloon like, before it dips self-consciously. Drifting to the floor, and wafting towards to the side of the hall, hoping to be forgotten.

Wild blonde hair, tangles of snakes. A blue dress and leopard print tights. She stamps up the cinema steps with chunky army boots as she follows her boyfriend to the back of the hall. Complaining, she wanted something, wanted to do something. Once they are sat she shucks off her hoodie, and goes back out again. Stomping again, her dress strappy, thin lines leaving shoulders bare, and a rectangle of back, with a line of hieroglyphics up her spine. Five minutes later, she comes back, stomping up the stairs with those boots again.

Labels: , , , , ,


Fruit Scone

I am waiting to be served. A paninini, a green tea, a bottle of fruit juice. Guy joins the line behind me with his daughter. Are we going to get sandwiches, she asks. Do you want a sandwich dear, then you grab a sandwich, he tells her cheerfully. The wife strolls up. You want something to eat darling? He asks her. A sandwich perhaps, he gushes. I’ll have a scone, she says, bluntly, in a voice which suggests she might hit him. How about one of those? He points at a mini loaf shaped cake thing. Its got pumpkin seeds and carrots, and he goes on to list the ingredients. A fruit scone, she snaps, in a voice that says I am now looking for a sharp instrument, I suggest you should prepare for death. How about the coffee and walnut cake, he suggests, it looks really good! Why did you drag me along today? She asks him, voice dripping with a life time of woe and burden. He starts to mutter his answer, but for once decides better of it. So, one of those, he points at the fruit scones, and we’ll half it between us love? She rolls her eyes, and a small, black, coffee, she punctuates carefully, in case he starts to list her the drink’s menu, before wandering off to find a table and glare daggers at him the whole time. He remains jovial, and miraculously when he does bring the order to the table he some how manages to get her laughing in the end.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Do You Sell Cork Screws?

Supermarket still open late on a Saturday night, city centre. Guy is loading the shelves, wearing the burgundy short of staff colours. He tips cardboard boxes into a metal cage on wheels once he has emptied them. Excuse me, she says from behind him. Takes a moment for him to notice, to turn, do you sell cork screws? She asks it grinning when he turns, a clear subtext - its Saturday night and I’ve got a bottle of wine that needs opening! She is short. Japanese looks, American accent. Hipster style. Flat cap over short dark hair. Tight white jacket. A few inches of bare belly. A line of white knickers above the waist of her blue jeans. She radiates confidence that her friend doesn’t. A pale white girl, pale ginger hair. White t-shirt, white cardigan. Almost hiding behind a shelf until she realises that the shop boy and her friend have gone off looking for the cork screw, and she kind of darts after them with that - I don’t want to be left behind - kind of feel

Labels: , , , , , ,


Lets Not Sit With *Them*

A couple come into the coffee shop place. He is a skinny guy with short dark hair, slightly spiked, and glinting diamond earrings. She is busty and blonde, her fringe dyed an intense pink, wearing a white t-shirt and black skirt. I make a double take, sure that I have already seen them in hear. I glance across the gallery to the opposite point from where I am sitting, and there they are, like clones. "Fuck's sake", the girl growls, "lets just not sit with them, please?" They go to the counter, a blind spot from the rest of the shop. I glance back across and the other couple has vanished. I guess the feeling was mutual? While the girls waits for the order, the guy decides to wander round despite her protests. But when he gets round to that side of the coffee shop he stops in his tracks and looks confused. He lowers himself to a table, staring at the point the other couple had been at, as though half expecting them to reappear. They don't. He gets up and goes back for his girl, the pair come back and sit at that same table. While the first couple are long gone.

Monday, 25 May 2009


Fancy Dress Party Takes To The Road.

Sunday afternoon driving along a country road. Weaving curves and corners, fields for miles, rolling hills. There is a village behind me, a town five miles on, a scattering of farm houses here and there. As I take a turn I spot Robin Hood and Maid Marion walking along the road towards me, I dip out into other side of road to pass them. Then its three girls, with short skirts and huge fake afro wigs. Then a doctor and his wife who appears not to be dressed as anything in particular. A ballerina with a neon skirt up on the grass verge while I pass. And a medieval lord, with his tunics flapping in the freeze. How curious I think. Are they all on their way to or from a fancy dress party? 2pm on a Sunday afternoon – must have run pretty damn late! Or maybe its just getting ready to kick off, a barbeque in the sun? it is a holiday weekend for some. But them it’s a country road, why are they all walking in clumps like that? Why not getting lifts, or taxis? It’s a Sunday, certainly no buses out this way. Curious.

Sunday, 24 May 2009


A Tale Of Two Cities.

Girl member of staff. Long, straight, light brown hair. She wears a short skirt, over thick black tights. She has a staff blouse, the name of the book shop over the breast pocket. She wears it flapping open over a white t-shirt. Girl customer. Long black hair, thick curls, spilling on to the shoulders of her black hoodie. She wears blue jeans. The black hoodie flaps open over a white t-shirt. Staff girl’s t-shirt says in a familiar fashion “I <3 NY”, while by contrast or coincidence, the customer girls t-shirt says in a similar fashion “I <3 ROMA”. They wander around the store each unnoticed by the other.

Labels: , , ,


Elaborate Moves.

Two girls, part of a bigger group, waving amongst the tables of bargain books at the back of the shop. Both are blonde, to a varying extent. One looks quite smart, with jacket and handbag. The other much more casual, her hair a mop, wearing a patterned hoodie. They dance, just the pair of them, though seemingly not to the soul music that is playing. Rather some remembered moves which make them laugh. The mop spots a Spiderman book on one table, and they pretend to spray web at each other, weaving to avoid getting covered themselves. In the aisle they break into more elaborate moves - lined up in a centre point, one takes a jump-step left, the other right, knee dip, arms shifting into a wave - and grin! Their friends lean against tables, paging through big mass produced non-fiction books, stop and look up to watch. The pair giggle, and go further back, find their own book to leaf through, heads together as they chatter and laugh.

Labels: , ,


One Life, One Love.

It is about 11 pm on a Saturday night. It has been warm. Took a while to get dark. But it is dark now. A mass of voices carry up Buchanan Street, singing the repeated chorus - One Love, One Life. People potter about. Coming out of the underground, of bars, stopping to look, to see who is singing. As I get further down, I can see a group of guys sat on the ground in a doorway. Probably a solitary busker with guitar, singing something popular, so that group of passing drunks have sat down to join in. they do ok with the lyrics, but it the chorus that really gets them bellowing with such an overwhelming joy. Huddled in a semi-circle, arms round shoulders, loving it one life.

Labels: ,

Friday, 22 May 2009


Whispering Nothing Sweet To Each Other.

Outside. He staggers along the street. With that unsteady, likely to fall over in a moment style of the terribly drink, drugged or homeless. She is in better condition, just about, grim, blonde hair, tugged back beneath a white base ball cap, denim blue jacket over pink blouse top. She takes the back of his neck in one hand - pins him - holds him still, takes him in a strangle hold with her other hand, full of threat. Talks to him firmly, fiercely. Free again he rests his head and elbows on a street bin, that comes up to mid-chest level. She wanders off, before coming back to drag him after, reluctant and so hard done by. They come back, later, going the other direction, her carrying a bag of chips, folded white paper, unwrapped like a junk food flower, him staggering still. He turns and takes a handful of chips, leaning, forward and precarious. In brute fashion, she wipes her grease thick fingers on his cheeks. They get to the crossroad corner. He sinks on to a stone bench, asks a passer by for money. She drapes herself over his shoulder, kisses him like that. Minutes pass before the wander off, and out of sight again. Later, when I leave, I turn that same corner. To find them in an alleyway, whispering nothing sweet to each other.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Postcard from the Edinburgh Book Festival 2007

Postcard from the Edinburgh Book Festival
21st August 2007

Charlotte Square Gardens. A green square turned to mush. Wooden walk ways describe parameters, offering temporary floors to temporary bookshops, reading rooms and cafes. Every step is like being ocean bound, set off for foreign territory - clunk, sway, whoosh, sway, clunk- all aboard who are going aboard. The sky remains black, warns of stormy weather ahead.

Been travelling for days without food, time to stop at port, fill up on provisions. The cafe, overpriced of course - rip off sandwiches, the leftovers, toxic combinations, no sentient being would eat. The place is busy, the make-shift book shelves, cafe tables, societal claustrophobia laps, deep waves. So I risk outside. I eat, quickly, feeling myself sink into browning grass with each tasteless mouthful. Olives, tomatoes, cheese, ham, whatever else it is that’s in there - it all goes the same way.

I wander. Portacabin toilets, with that glorious festival smell. Hold your nose. Do your business. And move on. Move on. Godspeed to the courageous.

Guest of honour, on a lonely corner - loitering. Shoulder length hair, dark; fitted jacket, black; dress, cream coloured, knee length; legs, bare, nice; shoes, brown heels. At a guess a little older than me, but with a sharp attractiveness. An organiser arrives, offers a life line dear author. She smiles wanly, unconvinced. Wraps her hair back, left hand, fold behind right ear, more smiling and remember the polite chatter.

The site has an abandoned air, a curious silence informs this festival hub. People involved - children line up to get books signed, members of staff, book sellers. I look at the time. Again. The old American woman asks if I am sitting at the front of the queue or the end. I shrug, I don't know, I just sat down, and I suspect I'm not even going to the same event. I suggest she finds a chair and see what happens. But a glance suggests there aren't many chairs, so I give her mine, and wander closer to the venue. Joining the other loiterers, copies of MR.Y stick out, here and there. Listening to the laughter as a male author regales his audience in a nearby venue. Flick at midgies, who eat me, a microgram at a time, not much longer and they'll have me stripped to the bone - writers retreat!

Labels: , , , , ,


The Back Of The Bus They Cannae Sing

There is a great loop of a road, running parallel to the railway bridge, with a side street cutting off from there to another part of the loop, a strange off shoot caused by the one way system. This side stretch is unassuming, there is a shop for house hold stuff, fire places that kind of thing. Next to that a motor bike shop. Then on the corner, leading to the major roads again, is a church. On the other side of the road, there is a red brick building, an old factory. For years it stood empty, going to waste, the ground beside it a parking lot turned to wild bushes and weeds, really over grown. In the last year they finally did something with it. They cleared out the car park, put in a new gate system for entry. They scrubbed they building up and its now some esoteric arm of local government or something that works from there. Beside that there used to be a tool hire company, but ironically as they renovated the old factory the tool hire shut up this branch, moved it somewhere else. In the summer, mornings like this, at the back of 7am, when its nice and sunny, you find odd crowds forming. Random cars and taxis pulling out of the building work traffic, and people climb out with suitcases. They used to do in front of the old factory, gather there in the summer, rain or shine, huddled. But now they’ve moved down, so they don’t block the building, built a new bus shelter for them. And at the right time, the coaches pull up, long distance luxury things, that’ll take these people on their summer holidays. A lot of the people there seem to be older, grey, though not always. It seems such an old fashioned idea, going on holiday by coach. In these days of “cheap flights” that make the whole world so accessible. But there are still these people who get on a bus, and travel for 100s of miles. When I was a kid, when of the first holidays we did as a family was the South of France. Catching a coach like this and driving all the way down to somewhere like Dover, getting in a hovercraft, going across the Channel, getting another bus and driving all the way through France. I remember the stops on the way down during the scorching daylight, the endless white stones of graveyards. On the way back home, hitting Paris at some absurd time in the morning, and bleary eyed we all climbed from the bus, stepping over my brother’s body, sprawled and asleep in the aisle, so that we could touch the Eiffel tower at something like 3am before getting back on board. People still do that.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, 20 May 2009



He's sprawled on top of her but you only see it at a second glance by the shock of light brown hair peeking over his shoulder. He wears a white t-shirt, jeans, sneakers. Her legs peek out under his. He's sprawled on top of her on an enormous blue plastic recliner. It looks squishy but shiny, like a badly stuffed garbage bag on a metal frame. It is too big to quiver in the humid dusk as they squirm around on top of it, mouths glued to each other, kissing, kissing.
Behind them, the laundromat washing machines do their job, turning, turning.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


White Rabbit For Rent.

She is raking through the horror films. She has dark hair, tied up with a red bandana in a bow. She has that fifties/psycho Billy/whatever kind of look. With her hair off her neck I expect to see tattoos, but surprisingly I don’t see any. Nor on her bare arms. Glancing downwards though, I find them. On her feet. One foot has the White Rabbit, the other has a snoozing Mad Hatter, both done in a story book illustration style, fine blue line work. Other tattoos hinted at, disappearing beneath the line of her 3/4 length trousers. Her boyfriend comes over and she flashes him a DVD with enthusiasm, I expect to be a horror film she has found. Instead it is the film of the musical RENT. She oozes enthusiasm to watch it, he seems less than convinced.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Andrew Andrew Andrew

The streets are busy, bustling. People wandering about, bumping into friends. Some sit on benches eating sandwiches from the super market. Other with fragrantly tempting fish and chips. A group of teens spot a friend across the road. Oh, hey, that’s Andrew and his new girlfriend. Oh cool. So they all start shouting Andrew! Andrew! Andrew! People all along the street turn and look. As does Andrew and the group of girls he is with. The girls stand and wait, while Andrew walks towards his friends. Clearly heading them off before they can meet his new girl and her friends. He gets straight in there before any of them can say anything - just saw So-and-so in the cinema round the corner, if your hurry you’ll catch up with them. 8.30pm on a Saturday night, its bright and sunny, spirits run high.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, 15 May 2009


Web Cam Are Fail.

There are two guys sat in one corner of the coffee house. They both have laptops balanced on their laps, with web cams, sitting side by side. I have to assume they aren’t talking to each other? Because, like, that would be odd. I take a seat down the length of the room, and forget about them. But not long after they have moved, so that they are both behind me. One at one end of a handful of tables, one a the other end. It turns out they are Americans, trying to use the WiFi in the place, trying to get the web cameras up and running, and failing. “You got anything,” one calls out to the other, his voice drawling. The other just shakes his head, the first mutters, “So weird.”

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, 14 May 2009


In Transit (2)

The airport canteen is a constant bustle of people. Three men in suits and a lap top. Two pretty girls - one her hair a rich red, shade on her head, her skinny friend an innocent looking blonde. A power suit couple, both black and cleanly turned out, everything about them says ambitious. There is a big polystyrene box, taped shut - black marker arrows and the words “THIS WAY UP”. Owned by two men with plastic leather document folders. One has a purpled facial birth mark, sits and reads a booklet while his partner goes wandering.

Labels: ,


In Transit (1)

Japanese woman looks like she could be a model. Red coat, with a hint of a mini skirt beneath that, knee high black boots, and black tights between those and skirt line. Her hair is up, in a tight, precise bun. Her case is large, pink, and flowery. He is of a similar height to her. With the body of a weight lifter, face of a boxer, or perhaps a rugby player? He’d have a certain raw handsomeness if his face wasn’t so flushed, his eyes bruised. He looks to built up for a boxer, but the face suggests otherwise. They check into a flight to Rome together.

Labels: ,


Street Stress Test

The scientologists have come over from their Edinburgh office as they do, some Saturdays when the weather is good. There are token protests, at least one man in his V for Vendetta mask, standing to the side where the two girls busking - that blonde backing singer and the curly haired brunette lead - handing anti-scientologist flyers to the other girls who watch the girls play. While other people sit oblivious, taken in by the more assertive scientologist flyerers, taking their free stress tests at the makeshift tables amongst piles of Hubbard books.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


Slap Her!

The three of them sit at the opposite end of the row. Two girls and a guy. The girl with the punky Mohawk-mullet thing sits in the aisle street. Something like cm gauge tunnels in her ears and wearing heavy framed glasses. She wears a white, long sleeved shirt, with an occasional blue stripe through it. The next girl is wearing a blue boob-tube, which are boobs are straining against, a star tattooed at the centre point, swirls and banners on either side. She wears a thick belt round her waist, silhouettes of witches on broomsticks repeating round its length. She wears short, short denim shorts, with black tights. He is skinny, wears a white t-shirt, one of those kind polo shirt things, with blue jeans. They plop three empty cardboard Coke cups into the cup holders of the cinema seats, before producing a 2 litre bottle of what appears to be diet coke. Though, as the evening goes on, and their behaviour changes, one has ones suspicions that there is a certain amount of vodka included in that mix. The girl in glasses is the quietest of the three, the couple getting quite loud as things progress. A few times people turn round and tell her in particular to shut the hell up! It’s a horror film, a remake of Korean horror, the girl is arguing with her dad’s new girlfriend, who is about to become her step-mother. The girl is shouting, slurring a little, slap her, slap ra bitch! At the end of the film she is crawling around the floor, trying to find her shoes, then trying to find who knows what. He stands up, and in doing so pulls up his trousers, which seemed to have gone remarkably far south during the film, the entirety of his white boxer shorts visible. As people shuffle by, trying to get out of the cinema, the girl in the white top stands there and apologises wearily.

Labels: , ,

Monday, 11 May 2009


Short Stories From The Sunday Service.

The coffee store in the book store is too busy, so I go to my next choice. Which of course, in the way of these things, is only two minutes up the road, the next one two minutes from there, the next two minutes from there. But only the book store one and this one stay open to a decent time, though early evening on a Sunday isn’t late, but is on the cusp for closing time. Its another wet day in May, when the sun comes out its good, but its interspersed with this miserable rain. So its an excuse for people, who don’t need much of an excuse to gather round a table with friends, with a book, to relax at the end of the weekend.

Even as I wait to get served I am scanning the place, how busy is it, am I going to get seated? There is a muscle guy over there with a sleeveless t-shirt showing off tattooed biceps, a precise pencil thin beard, and a woollen cap, chatting up a waitress who clears an empty table. Behind them a group of young Japanese folk, laughing. Two guys standing up to leave, blocking half the compact little section right in front of the counter as I try to get by them to grab one of the window shelves and stools. In front of me there are a handful of tables outside, for the smokers, or for when its dry enough. At either end they have signs up – SUMMERS BACK – CELEBRATE WITH A FRAPPUCCINO. The rain lashes down, couples wander by sharing an umbrella between, groups of teens tug at the hoods of their tops for an extra inch of coverage, hardy souls swagger without protection (as fast as they can).

Straight across from here is a huge old building, three shops built into its edifice, the central tower, with its shields and knights, along the way the columns. Straight across is the Apple Store, next is North Face outdoor clothing, then Urban Outfitters and whatever it is they actually do. Then a road, across that the newly refurbished church in an island of its own. A snapshot of the street, the shops over the space of an hour shutting up, staff pottering about, making their runs into the rain, waving at each other. Some run for coffee, some to the bank machine next door, and some to the underground station.

A long haired guy stops between two columns in front of the Apple store, sits there, the buttress sheltering him from the rain, as he props there. He has the widow’s peak and the long waist length pony tail. He wears a long black leather trench coat, which he uses to shelter his iPhone from stray rain drops. Staff stand on the stairs till they make their choices, the doors close, but he pokes away at his screen. I guess the store has WiFi and that’s him sitting outside using it. I don’t see him wander off while I read, but when I look back a girl has appeared instead, she is standing up the stairs in front of the shop, where there is a fronting – a flat surface, held up by mini columns - where the balances her laptop, better sheltered from the rain, that familiar logo glowing.

Amongst the people wandering by, there are various carrying heavy bags, the occasional suitcase, Queen St Station is just around the corner. One of those, a woman, with her full length, heavy duty, thick rain coat, giving her a hefty look. She carries what looks like an enormous black back pack, hanging from shoulder straps, adding to the impression of bulk. It looks like it could slide from her shoulders if she isn’t careful. In the far away hand she carries a big shopping bag, one of the reusable super-market bags, rather than disposable. The near hand is outstretched a little in front of her, almost as though its held to keep the leverage of the back pack. But also her hand has that tentative, cupped motion, of someone checking to see if its still raining, perhaps she can take her hood down now? It is still lashing down, there is no doubt that it is indeed still raining. She stops at the last table in front of the coffee shop, pauses, then she swipes the outstretched hand across the table. She swirls the hand through the puddle, circling it round from the centre outwards in a spiral. What is she doing? Clearing it so that she can sit down? Is she one of those hardy souls who is going to sit outside in this weather with a coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other? She gives the hand a shake, then wanders onward. Maybe her hand was sticky, and she was looking to get enough water to un-sticky it? It’s the only thing I can think of.

A couple walk down the street, both with the cultivated look of drowned rats, more obvious on her, with her long brown blonde hair a damp weave. Her phone rings, fishing it out of her pocket she starts to talk to someone. The body language is clear, one of those things that have, strangely, become part of modern culture – the person she is speaking to can see her now. She comes to a halt; the pair of them do a slow rotation, trying to work out where the person who is talking is right now that they can see them. Then her shoulders dip and rise, her body shaking with laughter as she spots her friends. The pair wave to a couple at the other end of the coffee shop, they start to walk, in an arcing path towards the window where they sit, then round to the door to come in. They stand by the table dripping on the surface where the other couple sit happy and dry.

A man pulls up the seat beside me, one of a row of three at the window shelf. I am in the middle; the remaining seat on my left has a mountain of cups and plates and remains of cake in front of it. My coffee is the black, drip, coffee of the day; his has a more frothy topping meeting the lip of the mug. He plunks down a compact black bible beside the mug, a serious book, for serious reading, not just for show. He pulls himself up on to the stool and starts to read. He obviously works out, he has a decent build beneath the casual striped t-shirt he is wearing – more understated than the body builder I saw earlier in the day with the skin tight shirt so everyone could see. He flicks through the bible and starts to read, drinking his coffee as he goes. His phone rings, he answers, the person obviously guesses where he is right now, guesses correctly. They just got out of whatever they were in, he offers to come and get them if they want its no hassle. They turn him down, obviously timing isn’t great, if you are sure he says, no problem he says, if you change your mind he says, and ends the call. He finishes his coffee, its approaching six thirty, and I form a suspicion as to his destination. The rain has slackened by now, a drizzle rather than a downpour, which is just as well, he has no jacket. Where crowds dispersed half an hour ago, there is a new one forming across the road, in front of the church. He leaves the coffee shop, strides in that clear diagonal line, disappears through the front door of the church, arriving for Sunday Service.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, 10 May 2009


Cell Phone

It's ten in the morning in the tramway and you know how birds sometimes explode into song? On public transport, they explode into phone. In several different languages. There's a woman arguing her mother, a man explaining he is going to be late for work, a Croatian girl in a disco get up talking about who knows what and right opposite me are the two Russians. The thin, slumped one has a Greensleaves ringtone and I know the melody is going to eat up my ears for the rest of the day. Short fragments of Greensleaves pour out of his speakers, then stop while he stares at his display in desperation. He makes no effort to move.

His friend, equally scruffy but bulkier, with a baseball cap and a chin that says "it's a beard when I stop shaving for five days" is taking a series of phone calls. With each call his irritation mounts. Soon, he is yelling angry Russian syllables into his handheld, face glowering upwards to the roof, hands gesticulating expressively. It sounds like a business matter, and it sounds like they are under pressure. Beardface clicks the call away, slams the phone down on his thigh.

Seamlessly, of course, the other phone begins to ring. Greensleaves fragments spill into the air. Thinslump, thinner still and slumping even more, stares at the display in his lap, hopelessness in his eyes. The complaints of his friend, in fat Slavic syllables, drift towards the ceiling and mingle there with the ragged ringtone residues.

Labels: , ,


This Little Girl's Delight.

There is a guy who sits and plays the drums in the streets, you see him all the time. Coloured bloke, with those African kind of drums that you slap. He sits poised on the ground, the two drums between his legs as he batters out rhythms, a cloth stretched out in front of him, held in place by two bottles of water. One of the best drummers in the city, it is always nice to hear him playing, a sound you can spot from a distance away. Today as I approach, there is a little girl, maybe about 4, in a summer dress, with white tights, long black hair. She is dancing, full of joy, a couple of feet in front of the drummer, she spins and claps, and just loves the sound and her motion. Her mum stands another few feet away, watching and smiling, and in general people slow to watch, and you can see the smiles spread, the happiness at seeing this little girl’s delight.

Labels: , , ,


There Ain't No Sunshine

The book shop stays open later than most other places, so it attracts all kinds of transients, people waiting for people, people waiting for other things to open, people just after books, or coffee. They play music, like a lot of places, just that background stuff. Tonight its gone from the Beatles to Bill Withers, “There ain’t no sunshine when she gone” he sings, or something like that. Two teenage girls stop in the middle of the store and start to dance, quite full on, waving their arms around, shuffling round each other, grinning and laughing. Four other boys and girls appear from the back of the shop to catch up with them and the girls shrug as the group continues to make its way through the shop. But they can’t resist waving their arms round each others shoulder and doing a semi-conga as they go.

Labels: , , , ,


Am Awready Torn!

Walking down Sauchiehall St there is a bustle, staff clearing out of shops, making sure they are all closed up, pulling shutters down. But there is music, loud enough to carry down the street. I am scanning the street to spot a shop still open later than others that might be responsible. Perhaps it is the van? The plain white transit, parked length ways across the pedestrian precinct. At the same time I am trying to place the song - a woman’s voice, something poppy, with just a hint of a rock edge, reasonably classic for its time, if I could only place it. Clear of the van, and I see her, a busker. A packed heavy bag with a rig set up in it, a microphone stand for her to sing into, which is why she is so loud, why it is has so much punch and volume. By this time the song is building up and I’ve finally placed it - Torn - that song which was Natalie Imbruglia’s big hit. The girl has long dark hair, tied back, and is dressed in layers of grey and black - t-shirt, over long sleeved t-shirt, gloves, long skirt. Opposite her, there is a pub on the corner, outside of which there are a half dozen men and women, they stand in groups smoking before they’ll head back inside to their drinks. She hits the chorus and they all spontaneously join in - a rough and ragged backing choir - am awready torn!

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, 9 May 2009


Party Time, With A Bang

Five girls, in their early twenties, out for a night. They are all wearing flash dresses, good jackets, carrying little handbags, hair all done to the max. This isn’t just scrubbed up for a Friday night, this is Event scrubbed up - like a wedding party or a prom or something. Walking up Hope St, junction to Bath St, on way to Sauchiehall St. The traffic light turns green, but one of the girls nips across ahead, leaving the others behind. She turns and waves and smiles, while the others wait for the green man. A party limo drives through the junction. There is a bang - a party popper - and the four girls that remain are showered in streams of paper. The all cower for a moment of shock, before they burst out laughing. When the green man appears, they are still picking bits of paper out of each other’s hair, catching the fragments between finger nails as they pick them off from jackets. Once on the other side of the road the first girl laughs - I’m glad I made a dash for it and wasn’t hit by that as well!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, 7 May 2009


The Sleeping Parade


From all over the provinces they rumbled in on their tractors, blocking the roads: Red plastic cows tied onto the back, homemade cardboard signs saying "Sorry folks, we're on our way to town."
Like dinosaurs, they shouldn't be here. Like things torn from the insides of bodies, of the fruitful farming body of the nation, worn down and weary and terrible with the power of fossilised giants, they have made their way to the capital. There they stand and wait. You sense that only a great evil, a desperate wrong could force this to happen, this ghost parade. This gives the air a crisp tautness.

The Ring Road is full of the damn things, police have cordoned it off and now it is more quiet than it should ever be. Just a long line of silent tractors, facing parliament.
Within minutes the tourists swarm out, snatching tiny cameras to their faces again and again in amateur concentration. They dart, like bees. Old men in thick sweaters wander among the machines, appreciative connoisseurs pointing at this one or that, engine names and years drop from their lips effortlessly like honey. At the end of the road, far away from the chants of the demonstrators, the air becomes joyful and tingling.
The old men whisper reverently: How impressive these machines are, how strong. How invincible the metal underneath the scratched paint, how rough and thick the tire profiles with their tan cakes of mud. How real they are! And oh how long since they have been seen here, since anything this real has been seen here.

And there am I among the tourists, darting back and forth until I trip and I am caught from behind. I feel the rough wool scratch of a pullover, and the wonderful smell of milk and cows. He is young, he wear a sign on his chest saying "fair milk". He has these sharp, ironic, distanced eyes they have, that still manage to smile, the ones that warn you not to take liberties. I say, "sorry!" And he says "no problem", and when he smiles it is maybe a smile and maybe it isn't. And he is strolling on with his buddies anyway, picking his way through the maze of sleeping tractors, talking to them perhaps with anger about these strange strange towns.

Labels: , , , ,


The Troublemaker

"When I was a kid", says the man, standing in the empty gym, "I told myself that one day I would buy a school and fire all the teachers." He grins and shows a gap tooth, tipping a nonchalant hand at the surrounding bars and walls. "I didn't fire them, because they were long gone, but I *did* buy this school."
He was 40, then. Now he is fifty. The gym is the only thing that still points to the building's prior use. Now it is a shiny new technology center where they develop software for warehouses.
He wears grey slacks and a jacket, and a bright red polo shirt. His glasses are the tasteful rimless kind you see on the noses of architects and technical managers. His parents were farmers; he became the boss of a million Euro enterprise to spite them, at first, and then because it was fun.
It is still there, that willful, cheeky, reckoning glint in his eyes. His job description is "Founder and CEO" but if you ask him what his role in the company is, he spits out promptly: "Troublemaker".

Labels: , , ,


Is That A Baby?

“Is that a baby?” one of the girls cries out. Two girls, walking along Sauchiehall Street. Teenage, skirts and t-shirts, with cardigans, kind of style. “What?” the other says, confused, surprised by the yelp, the tone of surprise, shock. “Over there, in the coffee place – is that a baby?” I try to track what she is talking about, stopping and looking around, scanning the window of the coffee place. And sure enough, there, a big man, with a beard, is sitting at one of the window shelves, balanced on a stool. Clutched carefully in his big hands - a tiny baby – balanced on the shelf, legs barely off the edge. The baby is so small, the kind that you are surprised to see outside a hospital, tiny head, bundled in layers of clothes, keenly watching the world going by with fascination in that way babies do.

Labels: , , ,


The Kids Shout and Wave

At a glance you would say they were feral teens, the papers full of news about just how bad these kids with the track suits and hair cuts and arrogant swaggers are. They shout at the man that is lying on the ground on front of them in Buchanan Street. Waving their arms wildly in his face to get a response. Clapping their hands, shouting – mate? You ok mate? You all right? Can you hear us? Is their something wrong? He is a big man, laid out flat, I’d guess he was homeless – from the layers of clothing, the hood up, the blackened, dirt encrusted fists crossed over his chest. You would perhaps guess that he was sleeping, laid out like that, I’ve seen it done before. But its only 6pm on a holiday Sunday evening in May, the sun is shining. Can someone get an ambulance, one of the boys shouts. The man hasn’t moved or reacted in the time its taken for all this to happen. The crowd grows as adults join the hubbub, deciding the best course of action. Getting further up the street I can still hear the echoing of someone clapping in his face to see if they can wake him.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


Yelling Tug of War

Two big African women stand by the bus stop. The dark, dark skin, and brightly coloured, layered traditional clothes still unusual for the streets of Glasgow. They chatter away, small buggies for their youngest children splayed into the street. Further along, their two daughters, maybe about 10 years old and dressed in a much more Western fashion are playing a game of tug of war. They set their footing, agreeing the rules. Then each takes one of the other’s hands in their own, making sure they have a firm grip, then they charge in opposite directions. Yelling at each as they try and pull the other one from their feet. Spinning around in a half circle, spinning back again, having a grand old time, while their mothers remain deep in conversation and oblivious to these shenanigans.

Labels: , , ,


Only The Conversation With The Indian Includes The Unicycle.

The Indian contractor stops the sick man, asks him if he is feeling better. A conversation that he is doomed to repeat endlessly it seems, hearing that same question again and again as he heads to the kitchen and makes himself a cup of tea. The sick man explains about his back about how sore it has been. The Indian, like the others, asks about his cycling, whether this means who won’t be able to do it any more? The sick man has been hesitant, he sat on the bike, but was too wary, experimented with lowering the seat, suspects that will make a real difference, but until he gets the go ahead he is remaining cautious. The Indian makes sympathetic comments and observations, his accent is thick, a real Indian accent rather than the hybrid accent of British born Indians more frequently encountered – I was on a course with him a year or so ago, when he had been in the UK for less than six months. The sick man goes into detail about various experiences, then says he saw a unicycle in a shop window, so he decided he would buy it. The Indian is surprised, why would he want to do that? Surely it’s a bad idea? Then to clarify, that’s the one with one small wheel? No, the sick man says, its the one with only one wheel. Oh, the Indian says, the picture dawning, shock growing. The sick man gives a verbal shrug, well, I figured having to balance on it would either really strengthen my back or break it. Its about that point the conversation ends, though over the next 20 minutes I hear variations on the conversation again and again, though only the conversation with the Indian includes the unicycle.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, 4 May 2009


Its Not Supposed To Work Like That.

At the bar, ordering food. The waitress is a tiny girl. We are going through the stages of the order. She taps them into the till. One of the bar men comes to the taps beside her. He is much taller than she is. He pulls at one of the levers. There is a shower of liquid. He jumps back. She gets doused in spray. I don’t think its supposed to do that, she says. He laughs, wanders away. As we finish the order she asks if I got sprayed as well. I think you got the worst of it, I tell her. I pay, she gives me change, receipt. I go back to table.

Sitting at table. I realise with the distraction she didn’t give me the drinks. So I have to go back again. The guy is still laughing as he wanders about behind the bar. She is serving other people, who are lining up. I figure it makes sense to try and get served by her. Saves hassle. But its taking a while. Eventually the guy asks if he can help. So I tell him, and he double checks with her, calling - did you give this guy his drinks? Oh, sorry, she gushes. No problem, I tell her. And he sorts me out.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, 2 May 2009


Waiting for Ojos De Brujo (3)

Three punk girls. One with a ragged blonde mullet slash unruly misshapen Mohawk. One with hair dyed red, faded down to near pink, a ring through her lip, wearing glasses. The palely black girl, with short black hair, studs through each end of her lower lip, black framed glasses. The three of them fluttering around with an element of youthful energy. They end up in the line in front of us going up the stairs. A line going nowhere. Like them, I look back, at the other flight of stairs which is empty. They switch between English and Spanish in a manic manner, that is impossible to follow, speculating as to whether they should abandon this line. We come to our conclusion first, turning round and heading back for the other flight of stairs. That spurs them along, one of them saying, come on! As we reach the bottom and switch to the other flight of stairs, a member of staff appears, shouts - folks that’s the queue for the cloak room, if you don’t want the cloak room use the other flight of stairs! We laugh, where was he a minute ago when that would have been useful information?

Labels: , , , , ,


Waiting For Ojos De Brujo (2)

Gigs are always curious. The mix of people. Pretty girls and of course boyfriends. Spaniards here for reminders of their home lands. Pasty faced locals. A grey haired couple, here for the world music. People holding place, wondering when the others will show up. Casual smokers, getting that last puff before they go inside - the sign on the venue door saying “no pass outs for smokers”. Beside that casual Spanish girl, her boyfriend so Scottish, with a mop of ginger hair on the top of his head. Further back, a stoop shouldered, long haired metal kid, here with his parents, who look lively and aged just right.

Labels: , , , ,


Waiting for Ojos De Brujo (1)

Waiting for Ojos De Brujo. A Spanish band. You can see people hovering in the street outside the venue. Skin tones and manner clearly not Scottish. A chatter of Spanish voices in the coffee place, initially two olive skinned girls with long dark hair, though their numbers have doubled by the time I leave. Outside, a girl who looks something like the band’s singer - the way her hair is bunched and curled, the cheekbones and attitude. With her boyfriend, the two of them lean against the glass and smoke. While their friend paces smoking and drinking, taking mighty swigs from a bottle of beer. She has her hair tied back, bunched in a bun at the back of her head. Beneath a white cardigan, that is about to slide off her shoulders, she wears a slight summery top, green with white dots, fitted around her breasts, hanging by straps, leaving an upper stripe of torso and shoulders bare. Ten minutes before the scheduled doors opening time an official queue has started to form, so they wander along to join. People building up behind them, and extending in front of the coffee shop window.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, 1 May 2009


Free Entry.

Outside the coffee shop. Two girls walk down Lothian Road. Blonde, long curly hair, she wears a grey top, with a zip which is three quarters fastened, leaving a suggestion. The brunette’s hair has a read dye through it, giving it a different kind of feel. She is dressed in something black and shiny and fitted, think sexy. Both are pretty, early twenties. They both hold a fat handful of flyers, the brunette clutching them to her breast as she walks. She stops a grey haired man in his fifties or so, and gives him one of the flyers. The girls keep walking. She giggles. Then the two break into a slight run. The man stands in the street and studies the flyer in detail. One he is done, he turns round, looking to see where the girls have gone. Leans further out into the street as though that will make them more visible. But they are gone, so he turns and carries on. Later the line starts for the gig in the venue next door, we join it and wait for the doors to open. We are standing there when I spot the two girls coming back up the road, still handing out flyers. I overhear the brunette saying to someone, here half a flyer for the strip club where I work, free entry! She nips into the newsagent, presumably handing flyers out in there, coming back out, and handing me a couple, while most folk refuse, I accept out of curiosity. I hand my friend one, and then tell her what it is. She asks what she is supposed to do with it now, I laugh, and shrug, suggest that she gives it to her boyfriend when he gets back from parking his car?

Labels: , , ,


Between the Trees

Hidden kids scream as we hike round the corner of the little grove.
"There's someone coming, quick, quick!"
Five children, ages eight to ten, squatting in a circle between the trees. The one with his back to us has his brown shirt over his head and is blinded by it: He is in the process of pulling it off, or on, and now he can't decide which it is to be and fumbles at it hastily, while his friends yell. "Quick! Quick!"
We catch a glimpse of his lean young back and the open mouths of his friends before passing by. Then, in the trees behind us, we hear the girl's gleeful squeal, "They LOOKED at you!"

Labels: , , , ,


Can We Go See?

In the cinema, one of a group of teenage girls squeals. She runs to a poster for an upcoming film, which shows the face of an actor I don’t recognise. She strokes the man’s face. Can we go see it? Can we? She asks her friend, the one that lingers back, waiting for her. Who shrugs, waves her to come on, and says, its not even out yet!


Be My Honey.

She hovers around the bar area, while her friends get served. Hair dyed red, scrappy pigtails, giving her an unruly but attractive appearance. She wears a close fitting t-shirt, green, with a cartoon animal, and the words “Be My Honey” across the top. She stands with her phone pressed to her ear, likely trying to find someone that should be in the busy concert venue, but who hasn’t been found yet. Absently, she picks her nose, a finger on her free hand rubbing, popping up, rubbing. Probably not even conscious she is doing it. Her friends come back from the bar, a guy and a girl. She gives up with the phone, takes her drink from them, and stands drink in one hand, the other down the thick black waistband of her white skirt.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]