Grass Roots

The usual ragtag bunch of boys scuttled rusty crablike from the few remaining rundown housing scheme hells on any particular Saturday morning. In Drumchapel, fetching various messages for our still somewhat subdued parents after the favoured choice of nefarious poisons was a given. A good nip of oul ginger to balance fog filled hangovers, a puff or two on a borrowed cigarette and straight into an argument over broken promises with the Friday night girls as to who had given who a good dunting the night before over a spilled whisky. Hangovers needed very little fuelling to erupt into controversy over illicit spirits probably stolen fae the cupboard under the stairs at some party. Weekend parties in Glasgow are still ten-a-penny, while stabbings and bitten-off noses were always on offer at two for the price of one. It didn't matter to us, we were tougher than the toughest of old leather boots. Sugared almonds, jostling our way under the turnstiles to watch our Celtic heroes and the aromas of a fish supper was all we kids cared about. It all comes flooding tenderly back clad warmly in caramel dreams and sticky toffee memories of bitter-sweetness.

The beginning of the watery autumn sunlight did little to alleviate the metallic tang of the rusting barbed wire fenced aedificiums that served as my beloved city. Where once proud girders of metal and iron had encircled the girded loins of famous ships in parts of undress, now stood solitary and gazing down, stripped of their prized brass rivets and forlorn against the gentle pale green tile of corporation paintwork. Quiet moments in a silent world, a tired old ghost heaped in bricks and moss tinged stone, nothing stirred other than the early morning corporation buses leaking diesel and the hissing oath fae the drivers as they stumbled through yet another quagmire of fumbled gear changes. The fine rain was soft, if not insistent, just enough to be welcoming without casting ripples in puddles or broad droplets to spoil what promised to be a traditional family day in Glasgow.
We gathered, each in our resplendent wedding finery. A group of unfortunately intertwined families and friends, flawed by both gene and marriage, greeting each other with turpentine kisses and ice fingered handshakes that did nothing to mask the aversion of eyes, the bigoted blindness, the one vision of bitterness that had had such a devastating effect on us all. Religion, the ultimate beast, had cast its evil net over generations of usually sane people. The very crux of religion, allegedly begun with the killing of a holy man on a hill at Golgotha, somewhere near Jerusalem at the hands of others, now reuniting us at the tomb of prosperity that had once more risen from the Drumchapel ashes after the last war.

I ached not surprisingly for the morning taste of alcohol to wash away the complexity of getting through the black crows chapel scenario at the marriage of my niece. All around me stood blistering paint-peeled walls of which many an ancient fitba had been kicked against. I smiled inwardly at the memory that my own childer bring to me when I look back to my childhood days. The delicious waft of chubby little sausages cooking and spitting in the skillet as we scraped tatties from their skins and popped stalks fae fresh mushrooms as we told tales about how they were really tiny tables used by the aos sí in the woods. Gullibility in my children was a joy to behold  in those wonderfully formative years. Shiny pieces of scattered Lego, Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars littered the dining room carpet, crayoned drawings and insane montages of sharks, bikes and Superman covered the fridge and scullery to remind me of the creation of life. I was, for the first time, a huge broad smelly horse that would vault around the hallways with excitedly whooping weans riding my broad back. Wonderful laughter as string tied to loose teeth via the auld oak doorknobs in the once catholic chapel, bounced high amongst the vaulted ceilings and gurgled repeatedly as raspberries blown on exposed bellies completed the mix. So many happy Glasgow family memories. This, as well as sausages, was to remain my only religion.

Glesga Bangers and Mash

Cumberland sausages (long, curled or pork bangers)
2 cloves garlic peeled and finely sliced                           
1 bunch fresh sage (leaves picked)
1 dash of olive oil
1 bunch fresh rosemary (leaves picked)
2 kilogramme's Irish tatties (peeled)
300 ml Scottish milk
120 grams Scottish butter
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
 medium red onions (peeled and finely chopped)
80 ml balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)               
2 stock cubes (beef or chicken)

If you're using the traditional round Cumberland sausage, tuck the garlic and most of the sage leaves between the layers of sausage. If you're using normal sausages, untwist the links and squeeze the meat through, rolling them into a tight circle and pushing in the garlic and sage as you go. This will give the sausages a delicious flavour. Secure the sausages with a couple of skewers or some sharp rosemary stalks. Place them on an oiled baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with rosemary leaves. Cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until crisp and golden.


Saying Hello

For breakfast this morning, I munched on memories. In hindsight, the definitive moment probably should have arrived for me the previous evening as I strolled barefoot along the shoreline of the warm Mediterranean, the sun’s rays drifting ever slowly towards the bleached white rooftops of my summer habitat. A small delicate hum from within could not be fully attributed to the deliciously fruity wooden jugs of rum laced sangria that have been my staple since arriving here in a strange world. A vast cornucopia of silent memories that suckled not only the likes of your man Zeus, but also a seemingly trouble free Scotsman heightened my senses to the fact that sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. Six long months ago I had stood ankle deep in a muddy building site beneath a grey Glasgow sky wondering if the cement scarred knuckles of my hands would ever truly heal enough for me to be able to disguise my trade. Looking down at my now sun kissed fingers with their salt bleached nails I felt a certain loss for the old times when grit and honest toil screamed loudly as my daily manicure. There is much to be said for the sound of a slammed door of a builders van, the whistle of the site kettle as weary men gathered together to bemoan the days toil ahead.  The single ugly word ‘fuck’ is every day parlance in Glasgow; it is not always spoken in anger, indignation or by way of insult. It is merely Glesga speak which passes freely amongst working men. Who would have thought that the absence hearing this particular obscenity would feature on my ‘what I miss most about home’ list?

No, the definitive moment arrived as we sat down to our evening meal on a long wooden oak bench amongst a family who refused to allow Siobhan and I to dine alone when there was room at the table. Life and our surroundings change many times during our stay on this earth. Finances, possessions, property, fine whisky and sadly even old friends can depreciate and become unimportant over the years. The one thing that never changes is the bond created between families. Oh don’t get me wrong here, the last month and the month to come has afforded us precious little time on our own without the constant footfall of family members traipsing across the water for a cheap holiday in our deliciously private slice of island paradise. Never before have so many milk bottle white tourists left the shores of Alcudia a finer shade of pale blue. My fellow countrymen have a fondness for shade, drizzle and the closeness of rain before they can really enjoy themselves. However, their dry humour remains the constant sunshine that has recently been missing from my life. The banter, the craic, the friendly name calling and the seemingly endless blether about fitba, the rotten English and just how shite everything south of the M8 at Coatbridge really is. I have especially missed people using the correct pronunciation of my name. Nobody murders a vowel as perfectly as a true Glaswegian. Even the locals attempt at 'Senor Jeemie' doesn't come close.

My desire to work with wood again has become an obsession. I spent nearly an entire week observing a cluster of local fishermen preparing an age old hull of an oak bottomed fishing skiff under the hot sun with only the translucent Med providing an idyllic backdrop to their labour of love. On the second day they beckoned me over to their melodious huddle. Not out of friendship at first I hasten to add. Amusingly it was to settle a bet as to my ethnicity. It would seem that I am too quiet, tall and ‘bulky’ to be English. The fact that I favour a shiny dome, a slightly greying grizzle of goatee that does little to hide my forever deep facial battle scars and the same eyes as oul el diablo himself pointed towards me being Irish for a while. The wee singing fella would have laughed at that. It was with some fervour I felt when they looked blank at my brief answer of "Ahm fae Glesga". Somewhere, somehow, my foot would have fitted neatly into the trouser crease of some philistine Mallorcan tutor neglecting to educate his young pupils as to the exact whereabouts of my beloved Scotland. My accent amused them greatly. They asked me to describe the ways of Scottish people. It is not often I am speechless in the company of others. Who was I to shatter the new found camaraderie that was starting to manifest itself by explaining to my fellow wood enthusiasts that the Scots are probably the most violent, drunken, masochistic, murdering heathens ever to crawl the face of the earth? And that's just on a wet Monday morning before we've swallied the drink. Surely they too read the Daily Record on the kludgie? Perhaps not though, eh?

I miss my hens, the fresh eggs, the morning waft of soiled straw from the alpacas, the impatient mews and the clatter of small hooves as our wee goat butts the kitchen door in anticipation for her early breakfast of rice krispies and warm milk. Somehow the rustle of long grass in the wee meadow beyond the auld kitchen window in the morning breeze refuses to return a true sensory image to my already overburdened memory. I long for the bluebells and the buttercups that the weans would gather with Siobhan and pop into small glasses of fizzy water up in my loft for me to admire. The smell of wet cloaks and the succulent aromas of the wild flowers and ferns that adorn the Scottish hills after the rain. I even miss the distant kirk bells of the chapel I never once attended. I long to return to my rightful position as king of my own Glasgow hill. The dust bowls that cover the summer hills in the Balearic Islands mixes obnoxiously well with two stroke oil from many thousands of cosmopolitan tourists scooters. Teeth-grindingly awful fanfares, squealing an endless annoying corrido of  La Cucaracha may be appealing to those who can remember the 'General Lee', Smokey and the Bandit and other such pish way back in Redneckville 1976, but at 3am on a Sunday morning here in paradise it is beginning to load my oul proverbial gun.
While garroting those who chaff the patience of we Glaswegians may appear an act of human nature back in that dear green place, I'm informed by Siobhan that in Spain it may well carry the death penalty or at the very least a 50 euro fine.

Money well spent if you ask me.