A long goodbye.

My pal left this Row, this village, the daily embrace of my life, this morning. 

She and I have spent the last few weeks packing her life into boxes. Sifting through the debris of a irretrievably shattered 23yr long relationship. Binning photos. Binning all possible reminders of the despised Ex

It was in this way that I have come to understand just how an innocuous print of a vintage car and a battered old bowling pin could be catalysts for the unleashing of that suppressed and long overdue, rage and fury. Triggering such a cataract of pain and howling, of outrageous throwing and screaming, that I was frightened for a wee while.

Over the last week, she and I have spent our spare minutes together. Crying and consoling one another. Tears seasoned by alcohol and tobacco. I have gone through the legal missives and court communications which the violence of her Ex has required. We have all eaten together – my pal and her daughter joining the usual 7 I have to feed. We have worried and fretted together. Gone to the pub together and gotten pissed and found ourselves in dubious parties at 4am when we really ought to have known better… We have laughed. We have pulled the cords of remembrance and the shared past which bind us, even more tightly. Recalling the sad, the happy, the risque, the hilarious. last night we partied again. Until we fell down crying again. And then we slept til 9am when she had to climb into the Audi beast and leave this place that has been home for so long.

We have confirmed the arrangements for meeting up. Leeds in a couple of weeks. And she and mini-she will be here for Hogmanay. I know that we will not lose touch. That the only real barrier between us will be the three hour journey from Scotland to Yorkshire.

Why then, the pain today when I passed the new owners of number 9. Unlocking the door to their new home today at 1pm.

I could leave here now. She was part of what made this village home. Su hogar fue mi hogar. These are the ties that bind us. And in a way that is difficult to define, I feel alone again.


Metamorphosis – or "On learning lessons and making decisions"…

There are times when I really do question my sanity.

I opened the white envelope, stamped with my employers insignia last Friday morning, dreading the contents.

It contained an invite to an interview for a promoted post and I have been anxious since reading it. Who would ever have guessed that such an ostensibly positive communication would bring with it such mental paralysis.

Oh, I can write this post. But can I bend my mind to legislation and policy and management theory and model answers? Seems not.

I feel that I don’t know very much with any great certainty at the moment, but I do know enough to understand that I am not yet sufficiently well enough to put myself through the ordeal of an interview. And so, I have resolved to withdraw my application.

Irrational? Yes. But also, strangely, rational. Because working too hard, just pushing myself onwards, blindly, without any thought as to where it was taking me or whether I really wanted to go there – all that activity for activity’s sake – is why I am currently at home licking psychic wounds and feeling like a poor excuse for a human being…

Oh, I will get back to work soon enough. I understand that all things pass.

But this meltdown has changed me in fundamental ways. I am learning. Making the necessary connections which will ensure I don’t go through this again . Understanding just what is important to me. So, it is a different me who will return. And when I next apply for that promoted post it will be a new, improved me who will apply… it remains to be seen whether or not that new me will be what the firm want. Though I do know this much – the new me will be there to stay, will not be bending with the wind, will not be shape-shifting to fit the mould…

The Spirit of Christmas – or Saturday night after the Christmas Fair (cont 3)

Blood cooling. Thick black pavement coating. Viscous, congealing. Scarlet spatters on the fluorescent vests covering his prone body, a flimsy shield against shock and cold.

They were getting bored. Had started to think about their bellies and began spilling into the Curry House. I stood hugging myself despite the heat from the kebab stake. I was waiting on the order, on my name being called, when the paramedics green flashing urgency overwhelmed the fairy lights, filling up the Main Street.

The interest reignited. The pavement filled again with gawkers. Hangers-on.

There is a curious silence – reverential – as the professional unpacks his kit and makes the assessment. A radio can be heard, garbled in the night air. There is a request for back-up, just when the police arrive, followed by the ambulance. Again the curious silence. Ears straining to hear the barmaid give details and names – pointing, gesticulating, being told to slow down by the young policeman. The police woman – tiny, blond, large-voiced – pushes the crowd back.

Robert and I unconsciously lean into one another. Then turn, suddenly ashamed by prurient interest, into the Curry House again. To be enveloped in the noise of pot-boiling and stirring and chopping, by the chefs Gujerati swearing. And we stood silent, unsettled by the working indifference. Just life going on, as always.

The Spirit of Christmas – or Saturday Night after the Christmas Fair (cont)

And in the waiting I felt the slow rage build. And impatience with the gawking teens grew into irritation which flamed into anger and then washed lava-like over the boy who pushed me against the curry house door jamb as he laughed and jostled for a better view.

I grabbed him and pushed him back with an acid fury. Have some fucking respect. It
s not a fucking freak show ya little prick . That guy could die.

Surprised, he recovered himself and laughed me off and I stood there, struggling with a visceral craving to do him some violence.

They all eyed me warily. A couple laughed. Haw Grum whit u daen tae that wummin? Is she no auld enuff tae be yer maw?

Ha fucking ha I thought.

A feral crowd was gathering. Emitting high yips and laughs. Some girl was squealing. Something about jist lovin yer converse man. Am gonna git a per lik that tae.

I felt the ground shudder. Supping blood. But the moon still shone. St Nick still leapt. 

Robert remained across the road. Bent over the body. I shifted away from the gathering crowd. Stood looking at the menu. Guilty. Struggling to recall why I was there in the first place. What was a curry? Where was the greedy joy of self-indulgence?

A worried wee face from over the other side of the high counter said dae yi think somebuddies cawed the polis? Dae yi think hell be awright? 

A don’t know hen I said. And I didn’t.

The Spirit of Christmas – or Saturday Night after the Christmas Fair

Still boxed off by road barriers whilst two Council workers, yellow and flourescent, battled the rubbish. In the tinsel and cheap flickering light of Xmas the Main Street menaced. The familiarity of parked car and the comforting flow of traffic replaced by a desolation of discarded boxes and food detritus. A scavenging dog grazing on the oily effluence from the smoked kipper van. And the dark vennels and closes exhaling the fishy musk of stale piss, of booze and teenage perfume. 

As we approached the take-away the smells were replaced with meaty kebab, Curry, Chinese 5 spice, Fish and Chips. I had phoned the order. All I had to do was collect. It should only take 5 minutes.

A lad shot from the dank mouth of Bull’s Close. Colliding with Robert he flailed to re-balance and spun around to glare. A girl’s high laugh followed him. He slowed to a stand in the road, shouting on the girl, on his mates now emerging from the close. The group were laughing. Passing a bottle of Buckfast between them. One of them shouted “haw Sur! Sur! Mr Stewart. You pished tae.”  And Robert stared until he located a face he knew. A wain from school. 

I will speak to you on Monday morning Calum. Now get yourself home before you get into more trouble.

The group resolved into 14 year old kids. Suddenly chastened. And began to shuffle off up the street.

It was as we got to Chilli’s Curry House that the air around exploded. The door of the Port Vaults Bar banging open. A young man spilled backwards out onto the road. Another standing in the shattered doorway screaming…posturing…chin squared…shoulders back…chest out…

Come ahead ya wee fuckin pussy

Whit ur ye waitin oan ya fuckin prick


And he “came ahead”… unable to back down in the face of an unknown teenage audience…provoked by taunts of cowardice…

Fear slowed time, magnified the faces of anger, hate and violence. I saw a leaping St Nic reflected red and green in an arcing flash of hand. A violent flare, skull-bent. 

His left temple took the blow and he went down heavily in a hail of glittering shards. There was a brief silence. Shattered by a woman screaming. The glass-wielder bolted into the darkness, beyond the fairy lights and dancing Santas. The fourth of his friends put the final boot in, jumping on the felled man’s head.

And then, he too, ran.

Robert ran to the prone body but was beaten by the Council Workers. They rearranged limbs into the recovery position. A barmaid supplied a towel. The dark crimson spill from his head became an obscene halo, encrusted with glass splinters. He was breathing. But unconscious. A leg twitched. A hand clawed the air. Then nothing. He lay still but for the artery pulsing blood behind and above and around him. Barely breathing. They continued to check, thinking him dead. Were afraid to move him but knew he lay on the temple that had been smashed.

A worker called 999. 

There was nothing to do but wait. 

(to be continued)

Driving Round Bends…

Boabie passed his driving test in August of this year. 30+ years after he was of age and following six failed driving tests…

His pass has affected the household in many unanticipated ways. Not least – and I am squirming a bit when I admit this – the balance of power in our relationship has undergone a bit of a stress test.

I gave up pushing him into a car many many years ago. His excuses were ingenious. Some of them just plain low

He didn’t want to add to global-warming apparently. He would do the green thing and take public transport. He would learn when his job needed him to. He would phone a driving school on Monday. He had forgotten to phone the driving school because a dog had eaten his homework… but the piece de resistance and maybe the most memorable (for me) was after the birth of our 2nd child – a birth which followed a high-speed dash to the hospital with my Dadwhen Boabie said I promise, if you are ever pregnant again I will pass my driving test.

The youngest of our five was 8yrs and 5 months old back in August…

Who would have thought then, that a much awaited ability to drive could cause such change?

After years ensuring that he was employed only by urban schools situated on a main train line, he was promoted to Head Teacher (Principal) of a rural High School in September. He jingles my car keys when he is not stealing my car. He makes observations about my driving – I would change gear here, I would slowdown a bit on this bend and just accelerate out – that type of thing. He disappears to the supermarket just for the thrill of driving the mile and a half it takes to get there and is first to volunteer to take the lad to work – even when it means getting out of his bed on a Saturday morning and before 7am… He has become an elderly boy-racer…a Scottish Jeremy Clarkson… and I fear opening the door one day to find my car has sprouted some go-faster racing stripes and a rear spoiler with wings…

So far, so good I imagine many might say – you get off with the mundane driving and get to vegetate at home. But I was the driver. Driving is me! 

For the last 27 years I have held the keys. My wedding vows might just as well have been prefixed I will drive Because oh! how and where I have driven! The Pyrenees from St Jean de Luz to Pamplona. Bilboa, Santander, Madrid, Barcelona, Cartagena, London. Cyprus. Malta. France – including the bloody awful Paris. Maybe worst of all – Milan…

And all that time Boabies disinterest was infamous. He was renowned within the extended family as the man who was driven by his wife. He wore the badge of carless-ness proudly. Taunted others with a so what-ness that made me proud. 

This, I think, is how the mighty are fallen…