Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Bring me Sunshine

Last Friday, I experienced the quietest walk of my life. We headed for the local park and found it completely empty. No kids at the play park, no youths behind the community centre, no one vandalising the swings, not even the book reader standing on his walkway overlooking the park. There were no dog walkers, mothers with buggies, cyclists or moving cars. It felt like I'd turned a corner and found myself in an episode of The Twilight Zone: the last man on earth, plus his dog. 

I was struggling to explain it: England playing Sweden on the telly? Nah. The smirry rain? Not heavy enough to deter dog walkers. Had we missed a curfew announcement? Was there a bomb? Were Macdonalds offering free happy meals? Then I noticed the police car, a 'black' police car, parked at the foot of the hill near the community centre. I'm not sure what a black police car usually does but it looked serious. Just a subtle silver 'Strathclyde Police' logo on its sides and bonnet to stamp its authority. Could this be the reason the entire population of Morar had skedaddled: invisible Darth Vader police en-'force'-ing a no go zone?

With no one around to tell us otherwise, we just enjoyed having the park to ourselves. We played ball for so long I ended up collapsing in a heap to catch my breath, tongue fully extended out the side of my mouth. I barely had enough energy to walk up the hill but we had to because I'd pooped and that is where the nearest dog bin is. As we approached I noticed the first 'plod' in a reflective jacket standing behind 'Police Incident' tape, which had been tied to block off the entire road beyond the hedge. More tape and a female bobby (a bobbie?) were covering Green Road at the junction. Was that the scent of blood I could smell? Was that why no one was around? Had there been a murder?

I discovered later from the Scottish news that it had been a 'serious incident' that had brought out the bizzies. A shop worker had been the victim of an unprovoked attack (a stabbing), and was in a critical condition in the RAH. Witnesses were being sought. That was why the park was empty. None of the park regulars wanted to be questioned and had made themselves scarce. Trouble could make a new home elsewhere for a while.

Tonight, we returned to the scene to find a Police Incident Unit portakabin had been set up at the top of Cardell Road, a forensic tent sat in the shop forecourt and a couple of portaloos were parked on the pavement beside the dog bin. The road was still taped off but now directly across the road either side of the Sunshine newsagent. Two police men still monitored the location from the street, directing drivers round the diversion, scrutinising every passer by. Neighbours gossiped in low whispers on a street corner, not wanting to be overheard but desiring to share what little they'd discovered. There'd be no shouting between bedroom windows tonight. Did they fear their mobile phones were being tapped? 

In the park, small groups of young kids used the grass football pitch to play football for a change, because there were no older kids to scare them off and their witness statements would be inadmissible in court anyway, being too young. It seemed a much friendlier place, with honest people using it for its original purpose - a place to have fun: dog walkers exercising their dogs and children playing without causing damage. 

Does it really take a stabbing and a police presence to reintroduce civility, happiness and respect to a Paisley scheme? 

Bring me sunshine.

Monday, 18 June 2012


Carrying a plastic bottle in his hand, my master returned home this evening with a red mark on his swollen lower lip. I ran up to him and enthusiastically greeted him, expecting to be handed the bottle to chew and destroy like a toy. Only he didn't give it to me. Instead he started to demonstrate to the mistress how he got the swollen lip.

He was heading to his car after work and had his rucksack in one hand and the bottle in the other. He needed to get the car keys from his pocket to unlock the car door so put the bottle in his mouth, lid first. At this point in his story he put the bottle in his mouth to demonstrate. He then unlocked the car door, opened it and 'bam' knocked the bottle against his mouth. Only, as he demonstrated the car door hitting the bottle, he managed to repeat the incident and struck the end of the bottle again. It hurt even more second time around.

The mistress tried not to laugh. I demanded he give me the bottle immediately before he did himself any more damage and he complied. It had blood on the lid from his cut lip. What a silly boy!

Kids Stuff - More Mental Images of Paisley

My master takes me on another walk on the wild side. It's just a couple of blocks off our usual route and yet the culture change is dramatic. Refuse speckles the weeds and sporadic buildings have shiny metal shutters over their doors and windows to prevent ingress and vandalism. The only time the term 'care' is used here is in conjunction with the prefix 'Don't'.  

A young boy, maybe five or six years old, swings an adult size golf iron at a golf ball he has tee'd up on a glass 'ginger' bottle. The neck of the bottle smashes as this wannabe Tiger Woods hits below the ball, the club too heavy for him to control. He picks the ball from the shards of broken glass beside him and carries it over to a blue plastic crate of empties and selects another tee. He sets up another shot and this time skims the ball twenty yards across the grass. I suppress a desire to chase it, not wanting to charge across the broken glass. Proud of himself the boy shouts at the building behind him to 'Look', pointing in the direction of his ball. An older woman, grey haired and smoking a cigarette, is watching from a third floor tenement window and coughs a supportive comment which encourages the boy to take another ball from the crate and continue his practice. After his next shot, which slices in our direction, the boy has run out of golf balls. He shouts at my master. "Mister, gonna fetch that baw fur me", pointing at an area closer to us than him. We don't comply and get a mouthful of abuse as the boy throws a tantrum. It could have been worse. He could have thrown the golf club or any of the tees he hadn't smashed yet.

At the play park, pre-teen children of both genders are demolishing a comfy chair. Surrounded by official park equipment, they prefer to make their own entertainment. Having splintered the frame two boys straddle the seat and bounce and see-saw until the stretched joint finally cracks. A cheer goes up from the pack and others move in to hit it with sticks scavenged from other furniture remains. The girls tear lumps from the seat covers and chase each other, throwing ripped foam padding at one another. The boys want to separate the seat from the back and twist and pull in a tug of war until its destruction is complete. A lot of effort is expended. It reminds me of myself with a squeaky toy. I can appreciate their sense of satisfaction. 

My master and I reach a close with a couch dumped outside. The fabric design is identical to the destroyed chair. Who needs a council uplift when the local kids can dispose of your unwanted furniture. By morning all traces of the suite will be gone, except for the scorch marks on the wetpour surface of the play park, after the older teens have had their bonfire fun. It's a perfect eco-system for an uncivilised society. 

Further on, two skinny youths in hoodies and tight dark trousers head towards the main road. I realise our paths will cross at the junction so suddenly find a smell to hold us up. They halt at the bus stop. Up close, I see one is male, the other female, the smell of cigarette smoke hiding any gender specific odours. The male expresses his dominance by burning his cigarette end into the perspex bus shelter panel and showing off the effect to his friend. This is his way of leaving his mark on the world. We walk past and they ignore us. Their courtship has begun.

We return to our normal route and head home. It reminds me how lucky I am. One wrong turn and everything could be so different.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Queen Reigns Hard Sell

The London weather for the Jubilee was very poor, with heavy rain. It didn't dampen spirits though, just encouraged the sale of union jack umbrellas. That ended my theory that the recent hot spell was due to a test run of a top secret, weather-controlling satellite beamed over Scotland. The clue came when Charles and Camilla became weather presenters on BBC Scotland. There's no way that would have happened unless some government meteorologist had tipped the royal wink that there was going to be some imminent good news for Scottish weather. Obviously they couldn't trial it while the royal couple were there in case it went wrong. Still I don't mind being a weather guinea pig if it means getting to pant in the glorious heat for a week in May. I even forewent my morning under-the-duvet snooze to lie in the sun at our patio doors. I long ago realised the sun's heat is far greater than anything my body can generate.

I admire the Queen for being a dog lover. She officially has three Corgis – Monty, Holly, Willow - and three Dorgis (cross-breed of Dachshund and Corgi) Cider, Candy and Vulcan. I wonder if the Dorgis were bred deliberately to avoid royal inbreeding remarks or whether someone left a door open by accident while a randy Fred Bassett was walking by. 

Andrew Marr could have asked her when she was on his show this morning, prior to the boat pageant. Remarkably it was live on the Queen's insistence. Mostly Andrew fawned but we did learn one shocking news story. When asked what she would really like from her Jubilee, the Queen replied a book deal. She felt it was time for a tell-all autobiography, setting the record straight about what she really thinks and making some serious dosh over Christmas. Andrew stumbled over a reply (not an unusual occurrence) before she giggled and waved a dismissive hand. 

"I'm pulling your leg, silly!"

"Very funny, your Majesty."  

"We can't wait for Christmas. My publisher wants to capitalise on the Jubilee now so 'The Queen - My Title' will be out next week from all good bookstores. We've got Helen Mirren to read the audiobook. Would you like a signed copy?"

"Indeed I would, very much, Ma'am."

She handed him a book and the camera closed in over his shoulder on the autograph, which read:

 'Sorry to disappoint you,' with a signature below which read, 

'Dame Helen Mirren.' 

"I played that trick on Cameron too." 

"I'm sure it's going to be a bestseller. Thank you, your Majesty!"

And with that the interview was over, but before she left, off camera, she could be heard muttering, "Buggering hell, those bastards told me they'd fixed the weather. Brollys out everyone."  

Commentators said it was because she's not used to live TV. Others are calling for the death penalty for the show's director and the takeover of the BBC by Rupert Murdoch (you know who you are Jeremy Hunt). I think it was planned and deliberate, just to add fuel to the publicity fire. She obviously didn't think a thousand boats on the Thames would cut it with the tabloids.

I hear she's going to be on the Graham Norton Show next week. Not as a guest, but in the Big Red Chair. I suspect she'll get to finish her story.