I have struggled to write moments from my life. I wondered at the ability for others to seemingly do it quite easily, and yet I cant. So much of the past is disconnected. Memories are vague snapshots seen through the fog of time. Glimpsed neurological stimulation’s that flash momentarily as electricity prods them, looking for something to stir me.
There is the beginning of the walk up to Calderpark Zoo, my dad, the very young Neil and me. I am holding Neil and vaguely remember having him on my shoulder, but that is it. No memories of lions or tigers or anything else. Just a glimpse of a walk through Baillieston to the back gate. The back gate being synonymous with East End life itself, why pay in when you could go through the back gate?
Then the family walk with our good friends, the Johnstons. Somehow ending up at a place with two Rolls Royce cars parked outside and the two dads claiming one as their own. Probably nostalgically stoked by Bruce Springsteens “Our pa’s each own one of the World Trade Centres…” from the song Glory Days. How pertinent.
Then my old buddy Michelle, as we were late teens talking about the song “Holding Back the Years” and how we wished we could all go back to the long gone innocent days of our early teens in the Quad. We were still teenagers!!!!
Out of that emotional trigger comes the Quad itself. Alive and vibrant with all the gang. Don’s ghetto blaster blasting out in the ghetto. All of us hanging at the wall. Doing nothing and yet at the same time doing everything. We were a pretty decent crowd, most of the time. Don himself then appears. One of the nicest guys you could ever meet. That reminds me of Dons Mum. Mrs Weaver was awesome. Big lady with a big heart.
To get to Don’s from the Quad, you had to pass Duntarvie shops. Our shops. Stuck up a side street. For most of us that was an echo of how our lives would be. My earliest memory of the shops was the giant billboard advertisement for UB40’s “Signing Off”. Strange place to see it, but then Duntarvie was always a strange place to see everything.
But I will come back to the shops, I want to hang out in the Quad for a wee while again. I could not tell you what any of our conversations used to be about. But I loved that we were there. The wee wall that we all sat around. The gathering point. Even our parents did not really mind as they all knew where we were. My mum could see me from our top flat tenement window only a 100 yards away, and in those days even she did not really mind.
Still, this does then take me down to the doorway marked “STUUUAAAARRRRTTTT” that would cry out at the most awkward and embarrassing times. For dinner, to come up at night, or even the Drummy Milk Float adventure (another story). Each of us was a victim of the parent call at one time or another, but when it was someone else’s turn we laughed mercilessly and slagged.
The Quad then wakens the two man hunt memories. These were brilliant. Started off as two of us having to hunt everyone else down and catch the others, sometimes there were a LOT of others. Then they would join the chase. Absolutely brilliant fun. Exciting days of youth with no boundaries. No worries. No cares. Just fun.
The dens. How we loved these towering edifices we built at the back of Fitzy’s. We took great delight in them and we were very selective over who could come in. Building materials were gathered from a variety of empty tenement flats. As the city council devised new ways to keep us out, we devised new ways to bypass them. I remember Andy being the first to remove the big fibreglass boards with the metal tension bands. The former shutters of plywood sheets were the perfect material for us.
The sheer joy of removing doors, and then talking about how we were going to build them.
We were a tight group.
‘When we were bored with the dens, they became a bonfire. We were so proud when, one in particular, took days to burn out. As far as we were concerned that was a sign of our (actually mostly Fitzy’s) craftsmanship.
Dens at Fitzys then reminds me of music at the McGills. They lived in a bottom flat at Easterhouse Quad, and one of the brothers used to blare music out the window. We all would hang about there daytime when he did that. We really did spend a lot of time hanging about. Donald had quite an eclectic taste in music, so we really could expect to hear anything.
Music then reminds me of Paula. Paula Mulligan’s family lived in the flat beneath us in the Quad. When it was only Paula and her gang that were in, then U2 was blasted out. I didn’t mind, I liked U2.
Maybe I should leave a pause here before I get stuck in a moment I cant get out of.
Paula, Lizzy, Joyce, Joanne others too. They were a great bunch. Always involved in community stuff. Never up to anything “too bad”.
A large portion of our evenings were always spent walking around the block. For us, for the most part, this would be up through the two Quads, around Easterhouse Road, down Aberdalgie to Duntarvie and then back up the Quad. As the Young Quad Team, this was our turf. At other times we would walk all the way around Easterhouse Road to the opposite end of ASberdalgie at Westwood Secondary and back up to Dunrarvie and the Quad that way. Taking in most of Aggro, the larger gang area we were from. It would not be uncommon for up to twenty of us to be doing this. Just talking and walking, as it would also be not uncommon for the police to stop us and tell us we could only walking groups of two or three. So, a group of two or three, ten yards behind, another group, ten yards behind…, you get the picture, funnily enough, the police never had a problem when we did that.
I spoke in another post about God’s gift of the imagination. Fueled by the most incredible supercomputer the world has ever, (or will ever) seen – our brain. As I sit here, it’s mind-blowing that I can picture these scenes and be transported back in time to them.
Easterhouse really was a concrete jungle in those says. For the most part, the tenements might only have been three storeys high, but there was a lot of them. They never seemed too far away from the roads, separated only by smallish front gardens, alternating award-winning and jungles. That gave the impression of pebble-dashed canyons, having to be navigated through to get from where you are to where you wanted to be.
Our area circled around Blairtummock Primary and the pitches, so we had a wee bit more open space than most.
Blairtummock, ah the memories. In my teenage years, we would climb the roof, (not during school hours) as part of our jump games. Seeing who could do the most outrageous jumps. Some of the guys were very good at it.
The jumps would also take us over all manner of gable ends and fences. By today’s standards of parkour probably pretty tame, but we were wild and carefree and had nothing to compare it to, so it was pure dead brilliant.
The pitches, ah football. On every bit of grass or open street, there would be a ball getting kicked. One on one, two aside, three aside, beat the goalie whatever. Two jackets and a ball was all you needed. But when there was enough to get a proper game, it would either be the grass on Aberdalgie, or the pitches. That wonderfully beautiful, torturous red blaise. It seemed like it was designed in the tortured mind of some adult who was always last picked in school or at football and saw this as his revenge. Wee red stones in their millions, that if you were a victim in a scheme tackle, not only grazed open your knees but ground in the dust of the redblaise, just for full effect. Ah, how I miss those injuries.
He really must have had some grudge.
Some of our “enough for a full game” games were about 20 a side. You couldn’t leave anyone out.
They were wonderfully reflective of all that was great about scheme life. Nearly all the local youth (or so it seemed) playing a very competitive type of football. But all together.
Then it was up to the house for a gallon of water, and back out to the Quad, or whatever particular street you hung out on. Disappearing, once again into the memory cells of time.
This post is just very brief snapshots of a wander down my own memories. It is hard to do justice to the rich vibrancy our brains can bring to these moments. The smells, the tastes, the laughter and even the tragic tears are all as real now as they were then. I hope you have enjoyed this all to brief time out from my normal post type. As I recover the photos I have from those days I will add them to this, if you have any, and you would not mind me using them, please email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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