For breakfast this morning I took an early morning drive through the remnants of the housing scheme that once spawned some of Glasgow's most frightening looking men. Of course, back in the day they were merely angelic wee monsters playing fitba and pavie with the fresh faced girls that seemed to spring up from every back street scheme in Glasgow. It would take many hardships and another twenty years before a handful of them would evolve into the Rubik's cube of characters that went on to become my life long friends.
Of course, the schemes have changed dramatically since my youth. No longer does poverty hang over this particular part of the city, the developers and prosperity long since moved in and forced the urban decay back across the brown bubbling waters of the Clyde. Where once stood crumbling brick and soot blackened buildings, elbowing each other for room to breathe amongst the dank tower blocks and high flats, now stands epic glass offices. The old entrances are festooned with gleaming luxury cars, exotic names and business suited drones faxing their way to another days wealth doing something superficial, but very beneficial to a rich man and his pockets.
Set in the heart of this Armani jungle is a small sandwich shop which has been trading since time began. It hasn't changed much on the inside other than renovate the warm walls with the same sandy red colour that was first introduced back in 1976. It was considered to be 'cosmopolitan' back then, the majority of eating establishments still favouring the dour lime and yellow walls that invaded the 70s with a psychedelic haze that certainly didn't enhance the limited choices of food on offer. Grease seemed to be the in-flavour, coated on everything from the plates to the walls and in some cases even the ceilings.
Glinting warmly in the thin sunshine of the day, four aluminium table sets are grouped cosily beneath a brightly green coloured tree that encapsulates the slowly rising Glasgow sun. I've watched that tree grow ever taller since I was a gangly wean. Two men about to enter their 50's sat at either side of the far table. A bottle of whisky before them, blatantly flaunting the public morals regarding the consumption of alcohol on a Saturday morning, but this is Glasgow after all. The slate grey stubble forming on the tallest ones chin indicated he hadn't been long in from the previous evening somewhere in the city. On seeing my vehicle arrive he nonchalantly poured me a glass without asking the question first. But then he could afford to prejudge my decision, he was my brother and knew my tastes well.
As we sat in our jacket attire, it would have been easy for passers-by to assume that we were part of the backwash of Glasgow's yesteryear. Three worn faced men with an accumulation of facial scars not dissimilar to a cross-radial tyre. Life hadn't so much been cruel to any of the three of us, merely reflexes and circumstances had not always gone to plan as situations in our youth had transpired. From those staring down from their office block kingdoms, an easy assumption would have been that we could well be discussing a green-lit scenario on someone who had gotten too big for their britches.
In reality, our deep conversation involved a more serious argument on something of an entirely different nature. Should the skin be left on the tender white flesh of a free range chicken as it enters the phase of a delicious sandwich in the making? How long must a Bavarian ham be left in the smoker before the flavour becomes full on and dances on the taste buds? Is it considered bad form to use anything other than crushed black pepper when preparing a mayonnaise fit for the menu of any decent restaurant? And so the conversation turned, all be it intrinsic enough for us to move on to smooth black coffee as the June weather increased its sunshine levels by just a wee tad. Life had moved on from the old days, but three happier men could not have been found on that street. Where once any of the small assembled group, hard set eyes and shoulders that began at our chins, could have parted the Red Sea without pausing for breath. We now excused ourselves as we briefly took phone calls regarding grand weans, garden clubs and at one point discussed the quality of a friends new leather shoes.
It is the end of my routine, a last chance glimpse of my daily Glasgow life as I prepare to begin again in my pastures new. It is not the culture or the weather that will be the hardest to loosen my grip upon. It is friendship and camaraderie that has engulfed me throughout my formative years and supported me through the thick and thin of my life to date. Acquaintances come and acquaintances go, akin to wallpaper on a bar room wall, the in's and outs of women's fashion, like leaves on a tree they fall only to be replaced by similar things aesthetic only to the eye, never the heart. Solid foundations are formed on the bedrock of routine, those around us, and the feelings that certain places carve in our souls. We cannot rake over our youth, but it is the maturity of our friendship that has forged a bond for our futures. Sadly, not all of us are present at that table as we each remember our past. Like leaves from the winter tree, some of us fall and are never seen again.
150g roast chicken, shredded
6 rashers smoky streaky bacon
Thinly sliced Swiss or American cheese
1 gherkin, press gently to lessen the taste of the vinegar and chop
Small bunch tarragon – leaves removed, finely chopped
75g watercress leaves (thick stalks removed)
6 – 8 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Slices thick sliced white bloomer or French stick
Salt & pepper to taste, small dod of butter
1. Place the chunks of chicken evenly along your piece
2. Layer the melted cheese along the top of the chicken
3. Crisp the skin from the chicken, using a fork, shred it.
4. Crisp the bacon lightly, combine with the chicken, mayonnaise & tarragon leaves.
5. Add salt & pepper to taste, adjust consistency of the sandwich filling mixture.
6. Spread the butter & on one side of both slices of bread. Place sandwich filling on one of the slices, add cress and season lightly. Wash down with cool Danish lager to enhance the full flavours.