“Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out”
Chris Frantz / David Byrne / Jerry Harrison / Tina Weymouth Road to Nowhere lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
Blairtummock Park. It’s not very large, but it is pregnant with memories for myself and others that grew up in our area. As a 4/5-year-old it was Aunt Alice’s office at lunchtime and the toy cars in the desk drawer. A wee bit older and it was how endless the road along it seemed (its actually only a few hundred yards). We lived in Baldinnie Road for the first couple of years. Our ground floor tenement backed onto the park and it was great. As a youngster, it was like living in the country. After our back garden there was a wee red blaze football pitch and then the park road.
Buchlyvie Street was just along the back a bit and it went all the way up to Easterhouse Easterhouse Road, (which at the age of 5 seemed miles away). I just HAVE TO write about Buchlyvie Street at some point. The most wonderfully crazy street with some of the greatest families and memories you could ever know. But not yet.
I remember how busy the park used to be in the summer. There were always families there. The two bowling greens were constantly in use by older people that would snarl at us kids if we dared to try and set foot on the most immaculately manicured lawns in all of Easterhouse. They were also fenced off with a green fence that seemed about 10′ tall, but in reality was only 4′. Blairtummock Park was the one place where the Blairtummock part of Easterhouse could be mistaken for any small town or village anywhere in Scotland. The bowling greens faced the house itself, and we used to run around the house playing tig. There would always be loads of kids. At one point, just to the other side of the bowling greens, a fantastic skateboarding ramp was built. It was great. There always seemed to be hundreds of kids all vying for their shot on it.
A “cinema” was set up and it was always packed with kids wanting their first taste of the big screen. Every Saturday morning in Blairtummock House I was introduced to the wonder of Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century. Both the original, black and white versions. There was always a load of cartoons on as well, and it was a treat I really used to look forward to.
The house was always a wonder. Linda Shergold, one of my primary school classmates lived in the caretaker’s apartment there. We always used to think they must have been very rich.
Mr Shergold used to have a drawer full of sweets for visitor’s kids.
Different, very innocent days.
I remember how I used to stare through the gate of the garden next to the house. It was walled off but did open occasionally. What a treat it was on those days to wander around it.
Around the late 70’s, at the height of the skateboarding craze, a large wooden skateboarding ramp was built just after the bowling greens.
It was always packed.
Some kids were absolutely excellent on it.
Me? I was delighted if I could get down the ramp without falling off.
One time, after skating successfully and being so excited at the thought of doing it twice in a row that I ran up the ramp, only to be belted in the face with a skateboard by someone who had come off and was on their way down.
Head split open, bit of blood, part of the fun, part of growing up – in those days.
A hanky was applied to the wound, and I carried on, still determined for my two in a row.
I don’t quite know when things began to change in the park. It was subtle, though, very subtle.
The movie shows would stop showing. The bowling greens became quieter and quieter. The ramp was just gone one day.
More people would be drinking in the park. As teenagers, we would go there to drink with our cargo. We knew we would get peace and quiet.
There was a wee bit more violence happening there.
Then you blink and the House is closed, the bowling greens are closed, families don’t seem to be hanging around there anymore.
Just groups of local youth, at first with the drinking.
In the late 80’s, it was us with our acid trips, but this would be at night when no one else was around.
That was where we named the road “Road to Nowhere” after the Talking Heads song of the same name.
This place of family fun and frolics was different at night, under the influence of LSD.
The trees, leaning over from both sides of the road TIL their tops almost touched, forming a tunnel seemed to breathe, with their branches daring you to walk past that they may grab you, like some B movie horror.
The House end of the park could not be seen in the gloomy darkness. The darkness itself seemed to have life. The distorted perspective of LSD haze.
Grass was no longer grass, but long fingers reaching out for you.
The buzz – that was to walk from the Buchlyvie Street end to Blairtummock House end on your own and not freak out. (Freaking out was when the LSD paranoia kicked in and you lost it). There was always a group of us, and that heightened the fear and expectation. That was the crazy thing about LSD, though, this is what heightened the experience of the drug and made it so addictive.
It was always a fight to see who would go first, with the loser winning.
I can still taste the fear that used to wash itself around my mouth and my mind as LSD induced imagination would kick in. Each step was forced in fear, and yet eager in expectation. The surrealness of the moment captured in the leaves scraping against each other as they sought to freak us out, the grass whistling in the wind and the darkness deafening in its silence.
Steps of Blairtummock House.
Next one up.
There were other times and other places we would go to test our LSD mettle, but Blairtummock Park sticks out because of how innocent it was in my first years.
It is only a place, but we connect memories to these places and form emotional attachments.
Fast forward to 2017. Its a snow covered day. I am now a student at Glasgow Kelvin College, and some of my fellow students and I go a lunchtime walk. Andy, Jonny, Megan, Eileen and myself. Today it is the road to nowhere.
The park is empty now. The House has daycare classes going on in it. All modernised and different, no movie shows. No history in its hallways, just magnolia.
The bowling green long fallen into disrepair through neglect. No more white coats and polished bowls.
No more “get aff the grass or al thump ye”.
And yet as I walked through with my classmates, staring the wrong way up the road to nowhere, I heard my childhood cry out to me. I could see the bowlers bowling. The kids playing. Families picnicking. I heard the thunder of the skateboards hammering down the ramp. The monkey tree was still there, daring youngsters to camber up its long spindly arms. It was, once again, a joy that whistled in the grass and rustled through the leaves in the trees. Those trees, rather than the threatening pose of the LSD days they looked like, they were stretching out their arms to embrace an old friend. Welcome home, Stuart.
The park itself seemed to miss the sound of laughter and the innocence of kids playing.
Even this, those tarnished memories tainted by my years of addiction – even this it seems God has redeemed.
The days I am in a park facing class in college, I always stare wistfully out the window at my old friend, remembering with fondness the innocence of childhood in Easterhouse. Being reminded that God had me born into a family that would live laugh love and yes even cry here. God had me create lifelong friendships here. God would call me back to that road to nowhere and show me – with Him I am going somewhere.
This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Bethany Christian Trust
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church