As soon as I got off the bus in Victoria Road – I'd taken the first one that turned up at Union Street – I remembered this place. When I was about 21, I came over here to Shawlands for pub crawls. You don't have to walk miles between pubs in Victoria Road – there's a stretch where they're practically door to door. But things were different then. Seven years ago I was young, free and single, with no children. I am now a responsible mother who doesn't drink. And if you believe that, you'll believe anything.
Into a small cafe to line my stomach. It's got a woman's name above the door. Susan's cafe. It doesn't look promising from the outside, but inside it's brightly decorated in fuchsia. I order coffee to take the blue tinge out of my lips, and macaroni cheese and chips. There are 12 tables, each with flowers and unlit candles.
I go into my bag and take out the Sun. It's Saturday 26 October, and you-know-who (telly celebrity, not supposed to name him) is on the front page yet again with more allegations of sexual assault or date rape. He has been on the front pages for about five days, with no sign of the tabloids losing interest.
I'm brought back to earth by an old woman called Mary asking if she can sit opposite me. I have no objections, but I'm a bit curious as I'm the only other person in the cafe.
'Hello, hen. Whit's yer name? Only I haven't seen you here before.'
What brings her over? Nosiness – or loneliness?
I explain I'm here to gather materials for an article.
'So you haven't moved here, hen? Just as well, this place isn't what it used to be.'
'The young team are fightin'.'
I'd better explain. 'Young team' is Glaswegian for young people from a certain scheme. Though, occasionally, it might be 'young mob.' Say I'm from Springburn – which I am. I would refer to the young people of Blackthorn Street, where I used to live, as the 'young team.' It's always in a bad sense that the phrase is used. Schemie talk.
'What young team?'
'The Pakis and the white boys are fightin'.'
'You mean Asians,' I correct her.
'Aw, ye're no' one 'o they social worker types who says a Paki's no' a Paki when they are?'
I tell Mary that she's being offensive, as well as politically incorrect.
'You come here wi' yer fancy talk, telling me what to say.'
'Look, I apologise if I've upset you. But it's offensive to use that language. Offensive not just to Asian people, but offensive to me.'
By this point, the two waitresses – young girls of about 18 and 22 – are listening to the argument but not saying anything.
'Ye canny fart these days without it being politically incorrect,' Mary says. 'There's ma pal. See you later.'
She's a typical old Glaswegian woman: bigoted. Stubborn as hell, refusing to back down or apologise. That's me sounding ageist, but it's true. I suppose I should try to see it just for a minute from their point of view. They look at people coming from abroad, opening up shops, making a good living. A lot of it is jealousy.
One of the waitresses breaks her silence. 'She’s an opinionated old bag. Just ignore her.'
And the macaroni cheese is lovely. It tastes a lot like my mum's. Across the road to a small, old man's pub. There are a lot of old man's pubs in Glasgow. I like them. I feel more comfortable in men's company.
There are five men at the bar, all over the age of 60. Good, at least I won't be hassled with young guys trying it on with me. I order a double vodka and coke. Then I go up to the bar and ask one of the old men for a light. At that, nearly all of the old men go into their pockets for a light, but the one I ask first comes up trumps.
'There you go, I've no' seen you in here before. Then again, the wimin don't come in till night, and I've usually been carried home by then. My name's Geordie, by the way. What's a nice girl like you doin' drinkin' yersel?'
I toy with the idea of telling him that I'm here to pick up dirty old men, but resist.
'Oh, I was just fed up sitting about the house.'
He offers to buy me a drink. I say I'm OK, but he insists, in the way the men of his generation do. Vodka and coke, thanks. He goes to the toilet, and the other men around the bar tell me he is trying to get me drunk so that he can take advantage of me. Though 'take advantage of me' isn't really what was said. It was a bit cruder.
Geordie returns from the toilet, downs his whisky and water in one gulp, and announces he is going to the bookies.
After he's left I say to the others: 'I thought he was supposed to be trying to get me drunk.'
But they were only trying to wind me up. That's the old Glasgow man in a nutshell: wears a tammy, likes a pint and a wee whisky with it, goes on about the price of a pint, enjoys a bet, expects his tea on the table when he comes in (at whatever hour), sees himself as the breadwinner while the woman stays at home, talks about when he was in the war and how he left school at 14
to go to work, repeats his stories endlessly as if it's the first time you've heard them, believes that yous don't know what music is these days, smokes about 40 a day (80 if it's Woodbines), loves his football and reminiscing about the old Celtic and Rangers teams, talks to anybody, reads the Record and the Evening Times, winds me up.
Return to annals homepage