Darkness hung on the phantom light
Through the mystery of the impenetrable cloud
Every movement that cannot be seen
Exaggerated into ghosts graves and ghouls
Groaning into phantom memories
Of yesterday and of what might have been
Twisting our guilt in remembered scenes
Our today locked with an unknown key
That leaves liberty languishing longingly
And the fog of tomorrow we cannot see
Threatening our purpose with fears of what MAY be
Can all be set aside through
The Christ who was and is and always will be
© Stuart Patterson 2018
Out of the darkness arose a blood-curdling noise. It seemed like there were hundreds of them. A deep guttural cry that came from nowhere, accompanied by glints of metal; flashes in the night. All advancing through the tense tremoring fog. All heading straight in our direction.
It might have been a Friday night, but this wasn’t a scene out of some zombie flick. This was Easterhouse. This was Lochend pitches. This was gang-fighting at its very worst.
The usual summer gang fights had been going on all through the holidays. From the age of around 12 right up to guys in their late 20’s and maybe even their 30’s would gather morning noon and night for the ritual.
Normally it took place on the top pitch, set up quite a steep wee hill, with St Clare’s School at one end and some grass at the Den Toi end. A little dip bordered our side whilst the Drummy all congregated on the much steeper hill of St Clare’s, all ready for worship on the battlefield of territorial gangland Easterhouse.
This summer seemed to be a wee bit more violent though. More drawn out as well. We had taken on the police, there had even been a stolen Lorry involved, with the mad scene of some of the Drummy trying to bounce golf clubs off the windows, as J and A raced all over the playing fields. I’m not sure even they knew what they were doing.
It was very unusual though, that we would gather here at night. Nights normally took the form of raiding parties in each other’s territories. Teams of us marauding around thinking we were the SAS and looking for unsuspecting victims that belonged to the other gangs. However, here we were. At the path entrance was a wee brick wall, only about 18 inches high. A whole load of us were gathered there, drinking, smoking and not really doing much of anything.
In talking with AM about this particular battle, his memory is of it being late evening, but not actually dark. A talks about us watching the fog coming in from Cairnbrook Road direction, and the same rush through the fog. He shared the same feeling as me that this was very probably a life or death situation, especially in those first few seconds.
The fog really was quite heavy that night. I mean so heavy that you could only see a couple of feet in front of you. And that eerie echo that seems to accompany the old pea-souper was there. Apart from that though, there was no sign, nothing at all, to indicate what was about to happen. Fog is an incredible
That is when that noise began, and as time stood still and we looked towards the fog, it became obvious these guys, the Drummy were already upon us.
In the sudden shattering of the quiet and the dark, chaos rained for an eternity. It was only seconds but felt longer. Guys darted in all directions, mostly looking for weapons of any sort. I ducked down behind the wee wall. There were others beside me. I think the plan was to let the mob get past us and the come from behind whilst others attacked from the front.
As soon as I stood up though, I was aware of something shiny flying through the air – right at me. I tried to duck.Too late!! I was struck on the right calf and I went down holding on to my leg tightly. A metal pole, that had been thrown with enough force that the ringed end bit deep into the muscle.
I grabbed the pole and started flailing wildly at the shadows around me. Don’t think I managed to hit anything though.
As the fog, (after aiding the surprise attack), begin to lift a little it seemed as though men appeared from everywhere in the tenements. Out of closes, gable ends and even over verandahs til that corner was overwhelmed with what seemed like a full-scale war. Those of us that were caught off guard began to regroup, and take our part in the main battle. As the crowd from Aggro and Den Toi began to swell, momentum swung back in our favour, the Drummy literally began to head for the hill. Their hill.
There ended up the most almighty battle in that area of red ash, a surface supposedly intended for young guys to play football and have fun on. Swords, sticks, stones all flying around indiscriminately. Not caring who they hit, or the lifelong consequences that could be wreaked in those fateful futile moments. Reactions, not decisions that would remain forever. Which was pretty much how most of us young men gathered that night had lived our lives up to this point. Just like the fog that had been present and clouding what was about to happen, so were our lives clouded by no ability to take in the bigger picture. The reflections of scheme life, even though it seemed to be full of light and life, barricaded in and prevented any view of a life outside the drugs and the gangs. We lived in a fog, we just did not know it. You had to be there to believe it. Hatred borne out of a postcode, even though we all shared the G34 part.
From the gathering waiting at the wall with no purpose to the crazy stramash on the pitches was just sheer craziness. It like a scene from a very bad B movie New York gang film.
It was ludicrous! It was frightening! It was very real.
In minutes it was over. People nursed their wounds. I nursed my wounds. Aware of the blood trickling down the strange, three quarter circle hole in my calf, I limped down Dalswinton Path, with the rest of our team back towards where we belonged.
As the crowd cleared, the blue lights appeared. Putting on a big show of stopping the gang fighting that they nearly always missed. Several cars descending on the crowd of teenagers and young men that they knew, just like the fog, had already dissipated.
We went and hung about another wall, in the Quad this time. Our wall, our Quad. Marvelled at what had just occurred and recognising that even by Easterhouse standards, that was different.
Within half an hour, it was as if it never happened.
Fast forward to February 2018. A hall that used to be a bingo hall that used to be community renewal space that used to be DHSS Employment Training office – now home to Easterhouse Community Church.
Again there is a group of youth gathered. There are no drugs, no drink, no violence.
Anticipation and expectation filled the air rather than a fog of unpredictability, uncertainty and nothingness.
Youth with a purpose ready to arise and claim their lives as they are supposed to be – through Christ.
This evening the young and the old mix in a common purpose that does not involve murder death kill – but instead our Magnificent Divine King Jesus.
Instead of 2×2 lengths, it is drumsticks. The glinting metal this time is the moving of chairs reflecting the overhead lights. The old do not fear to tread here but are active and willing partners. No blood-curdling cries, only bold cheers of joy as the crescendo this time is of praise.
The difference Jesus makes is tangible – the only threat carried in the air is that of a loving heavenly Father for those things that seek to hinder what He wants to do through this gathering.
The fog is lifted – the way is clear.
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