Sunday, 1 January 2017

The 'Varsity...... Part I . Chronologies of Digs Late 80s

I must admit to having had probably more digs in the course of four years in the west end of the dear green place than anyone else apart from perhaps some itinerant tramp or giggilo.

Glasgow Uni was at the time still a great commuter uni'. For well over half its six or seven thousand undergraduates were concerned, the bus or the blue train home was an every night occurance with crashing out at a pals flat or sharing a taxi home the means to have a night out on the town while then scurrying back to said suburb, satellite town or hoosin' scheme.

However in the late 80s students still qaulified for Housing Benefit, their numbers not being that large at the time, and even income support in the summers. Fair rents, gosh how communist, were still in force across Glasgow, while at the same time a new breed of nouveau riche Rachmanns and Ali Abassis were buying up properties all over the urban dormitory areas around town, but most of all in the glorious West End.

Flats on White Street where Billy Connolly was brought up in Partick, could be had for twenty grand or sometimes less in those days, when the average wage in Scotland was maybe about twelve. It was a respectable  working class area then. Long time since I took the back street tour from Hillhead to Partick station via those streets I once knew so well. Yet parents were reluctant to invest in these hovels for their fledglings to live out their four years, so by in large it was Rachmans and other more reputable companies like S&D Properties who snapped up flats like 5 p' pokes. It was however amazingly cheap to live, but also we had amazingly little money to live off.

 Our grants were about 2000 pounds a year, with housing benefit that would be about 2600 or so, or with travel expenses maybe more like 3000. Many ripped off the travel expenses because the council housing benefit folk didnae talk to the grants board, who in turn had their rules about live away distances and so on, and folk to keep in a job processing those annual travel claims. One year I bought a stereo system and a flying scot 531c racing bike on my erstwhile travelling expenses, which were arbitarily calculated from either season tickets or daily rates without need to submitting more than one example of the fares.

A pal of mine was from way out Cove way, Andrew Carly was his name, and a couple of times at freshers week and another time into a dank november or december I got to crash at his place. I had dafter friday at the Uni that year so I wonder if in fact I even lasted Xmas in commuting mode. By that time I would have met other folk with digs.Andy's was near Partick station, handy for a quick get away next morning, but a hike doon the hill wi a skinful. It was I think a single end with the old lavvy put into it. Seemed to be one and a half rooms with the hot water tanking looming over the kitchenette living area, gurgling away as I frose in a chair or on the floor.

Nah, not for me, not commiuting over an hour each way. It was easier for folk from the east side of Edinbra to get there! By january I had digs! My first move out of home. I was ripe for it.

It seemed as if the first train I took with my medical student pal, Raul, up to the 'Varsity was the very moment I became a young man. I had needed an extra year at school (6th) to basically get a hold of my head, upgrade my grades and grow up, and I had a summer of working on an MOD building site under my belt, my 18th out the way, and a taste for what soon became labelled 'designer lagers' from Germany and Bohemia. My new pal was more grown up and women oriented than my outgoing gang of virgins. We had a glorious september chilling out, and then it was a class 314 not a blue train which took us up, day 1 freshers week.

Glasgow uni was familiar to me in its rich surroundings, as was Great Western Road and its 1970s asian quarter around the summit by Hillhead. By the 80s it was getting more Scottish Artisan in the shops and bohemian student with our new country men moving down to the " Pollocks" and other areas where they could concentrate their culture I guess and be nearer mosques and temples than the heathen, infidel west end. I had visited the Uni perhaps three years in a row with the annual bussed up visits which were a right of passage for youth from the connurbation. University avenue would be line with busses full of different hopeful youths, and back seat skivers looking for a day off school rather than an introduction to their prospective Alma Mater. Strathclyde on the other hand, only got one visit. It was Glasgow's gothic closters and leafy surroundings that appealed to me, and luckily the subjects I chose were better there than at the "tech".

Everything seemed to go swimmingly well actually, apart from the hateful commuting and 1530 Psychology lectures in the big chemistry lecture theatre. That put an end to my commuting more than anything else. Not getting home til well after six, sometimes seven was out of order when a young life was to be lead. I had a new set of pals straight away, who made my live at home school mates seem a tad sad. They lived in halls like Wofson up at the Vet School and digs like on Carswell Street.

By January at least, if not December in fact, I had digs right in the midst of it all. Nr 30 Kersland street. THis was one street which both kept its grandoise appearance by in large while also having some slummy looking parts from half way along its East terrace. I lived on the NW side to begin with, which had all be sand blasted and was looking very dapper indeed. I remember now! I had crashed out on the first floor of number 28 or 32 and heard the SRC president humping his lumber through the ceiling after Daft / Dafter friday night.  Anyway, I got digs in a flat of girls, who presumed I was a post graduate and took me under their wing by in large. We even had parties. They were perhaps actually mostly in their late twenties, early thirties.

The flat did very well, through a cold but snowless winter. The kindest bird there had a boyfriend Steve, and they were inseparable and adorable working class glesga do wellers. He played mouth organ like a pro, and she was just quite a gal' - a nurse I think, as was the other chunky, frizzy type who lived there. The fourth bedroom was taken up by a neurotic German who seemed to work as a waitress and hang out with a twenty something boho crowd of minor, failing rock artists of the day. Her name was Gisella I remember perhaps correctly, perhaps not. We had a party where some older folk with psychological problems came even, was a blast. I paid 18 quid a week, seems like an old man telling his grandchildren two bob could get you a night out on the town, a tram home and a poke of chips. I got in fact 6 quid back on housing benefit. Travelling was well over 20 quid a week!

Cold it was that January -February, but nae snaw at least to talk of. A dusting of west stuff a few days. I remember ice on the inside of the window of my room, and my hair gel freezing on the way to Uni. I was poor by the end of the first month or two, until my housing benefit came in. So poor I think it was there that a bag of sugar verus a pint lost, and I cut it out of all coffee and tea consumption ever after. A joy though too to buy a wee carry out of a Friday or Saturday, and simply stick yer heid oot the windae on the back of the wally close and listen for a party. Turning up alone was usually enough to gain entry and in fact most doors were poorly gaurded. I had some real joie de vivre and first taste of real independence and complete self reliance in many ways in that flat. I became a young man there, kind of rose into a role which was laid out before me and that the girls initially allowed me.

Steve and his burd were tops in that flat.  I think he ran a music instrument shop down Lawrence street. Anyway, they moved in together and she moved out which proved an ill wind for an unwitting me.  We had a new, nippy sweetie who moved in. Newton Mairnsy type, knew one of the nurses. Too much makeup and trendy clothes. WIthin a short time there was a conference and I was asked to leave when I was actually at home at my mothers somehow, they got the number off me or looked it up. Leasky had wandered into Gisles room at night once looking for a light bulb, and also I had bought el cheapo coffee and bread to avoid making my contribution to the kitty while I waited for some housing benefit to arrive. So I talked to a lawyer and they said it might be best to just leave, or I could fihgt it if I wanted to. Also BA Knights, think it was Brian his name, the sub dean and my advisor or what ever they called it, was impressed by my conduct in consulting a lawyer (not for the last time regarding rentals either) I moved out a few weeks later, tail between legs, with my mum picking me up in her wee green Metro and various members of the Grass Cuttings society helping me move out. Kenny still lived round the corner on Cerswell street, at the really scabby end of a scabby street!

I guess I was back home until the new term, and just couldnt get a job that summer. Summer over, me Raul and Kenny decided to get digs together. We experienced an 'open viewing' at Ruskin Terrace and I called " how can we get this, I have a cheque book with me" and grant being cleared monies, we secured us a flat infront of dozens of others. It was a shit hole by most means, a basement, just under the flat to the rather famous nautical Rex Lyons..... but in  grand spot and with enough room. Me and the boy had the big room, where various sexual escapades would play out with or without flatmate at home. I walked in a couple of times on your man deep into some bird or other, and got spotted being given felatio from the street above. The kitchen was only ig enough for one at a time, and the back yard was like somethign from a slimy horror film, we rarely dared go out. There were two attempted break ins atleast- one a guy tapping the windows about 11pm one night. I rusehd out in a combat jacket with the biggest kitchen knife we had and a skid lid and doc martens on each end of my 6 foot bean pole and he was long gone, to be replaced by a student and her twee family moving in up the stairs!  Dave Taggart from Cove lived in another one of "Mr Fox's" hovels two doors up, where the roof caved in or leaked and they got a few months free rent.

It was a very, very cold winter too and it was freezing there with no shower I think or a tiny hot water tank. I used to take trips to Martin student house above Hillhead high to shower, until one of the "christian" fellowship types there switched the water off and on and complained about my misuse of their electricity. Kenny liked listening to music until late. Kenny disliked washing up dishes. I seem to remember we had to pay a months rent for him. THe winter was bitter, often minus twelve in january, and the last smog I ever remember developed around the city, mostly lead infused petrol fumes in days prior to catalytic convertors and common rail diesels. Anwyway me and your man decided kenny was a freeloading, later nighter and we wanted a nicer flat and really, I think a place with our own rooms. There may have been some arguiement about an agreement to rotate rooms, which kenny took posession being four fiths, and being a bit of a git as he could be, wanted to stay put.

The people I will take more time to write about in future. This is more on my very frequent moves.

After this by March I seem to remember, I got new digs in a bigger flat share back on Kersland street for the entry to the all serious second year. I think it was 35, one door down on the opposite side. I saw Gisle a couple of times, and that chunky bird would appear. Steve and his lush lady would say hello to me for years to come, I think they bought a flat in Govan I used to see them at Partick station mostly across the underground platform or on the way in. The flat was infamous after those years, it was owned by the manager of the big Koh-i-Noor at Charing Cross, Ali Abassi or the like. I think it was bedsit style leases, something I did not understand could involve a common kitchen and loo.

This was a flat taken up by hell students and I also started misbehaving. It was like the young ones crossed with national lampoon's Animal House. There was a Canadian and a Tobermorian installed, and another less well fitting type of girl who soon moved out with her telecoms engineer boyfriend. They boys liek body building and set fire to the grill often, it being used for steak and liver grills with no concept of ever being emptied for fat and shite. Eventually they also had a chip pan fire, and there was soot all over the place and grease on the floor where they had tried to estinguish it. The glass above the grand door got kicked out in a football match, and we just took out the broken edges and hoped the boss man wouldnt notice. The neighbours complained of course all the time. But Ali worked all the hours god gave so was not in and the students just gave shit back and denied it all.

 It lasted until term end of second year when kenny took up with a pal of a pal from St Andrews uni, a posh and arrogant chap from Broughty Ferry who drove his dads volvo 240 and thought of it as being a 'big boys car' not for the hoi palloi. I did a tour of Edinburgh and st andrews on one pair of undies and shirt with a borrowed leather jacket that spring. Edinburgh had featured on the scene all of second year because Kenny's girlfriend big San' (sandra) had started Uni there a year below us. She had a small student accom' flat, where a girl got raped by a 'christian fellowship' ex offender. So that went pear shaped eventually. In the course of that summer, Kenny went off travelling and they kind of split up, and I slyly and an bit badly coined in and used a terrible thing, I grassed on him a bit for his wandering ways out of kind of spite and to seal the deal with big San, with whom I think we had a better kind of tone than between them. We used to talk a lot. More on this soon.

I then made a big mistake coming into August time, being a little in and out of Glasgow and having just been on a conservation voluntary holiday at Glen Garry. I decided to move in with one of the kersland street lunatics in the flat his Canadian parents bought him, down on Dumbarton road near the stations. That was a mistake. He brought a fricking street dog home which shat all over the place, nice as it was, and like my long lost Rusty. His pals eat all the food I had bought with my back dated income support. I mean all the food bar a can of tuna I had spent at least twenty quid on at the paki's up the road. It seemed a long way to go. Anyhows it was fun for the pre uni time, and I had an escapade with a bird I met somewhere on a night out, including a fantastic introductioin to muff diving. I decided to move out for various reasons, and consulted a lawyer before writing to his parents in Canada. They wrote back threatening all for the sake of paying the rest of the lease, I went to the lawyer again and just walked away from it all with an easy conscious. Third year began then and I was back commuting for a while, and also dating big San, the first love of my life if truth be told.

I got 'emergency' digs a few weeks in, having sealed the deal with big san at Rauls new Cresswell street digs one damp early october day. Durex gold I remember, and she wanted to use spermidical cream ffs! The digs were mature student digs up at the kink and blind alley on Great George Street, where one may have presumed it should have continued its southward momentum, but chicaned instead towards the library, leaving a dreary and anonymous little cul-de-sac like an appendix to our intestine. There were two middle easterns, an algerian Arab and a "I am not Arab" lunatic called Hedda, who came from Lebanon and studied middle eastern history and politics, and was a better translator of some old scripts apparently than the imperial forecomers, shedding light on some interesting stuff. The third of four rooms was occupied by a welsh guy a year below me, who was a typical chancer student who probably never graduated. I met him four years later too, he had a commone pal James who was a waster who I managed to pass his degrees by some miracle of cramming and staying off sauce for a few days. Big San visited but found the Arab a bit creepy and didnt like welshy much either. It was temporary, and I got both a live away grant and the chance to live at my brothers new fancy flat beside Reith hall (i think) on Botanic crescent, very much a North Kelvinside address! Me and san, and also nearly another love interest from Loch Gilphead, had a romantic few months in, erm, that bed up in the loft room.

At this time the only other Uni accomodations I took were at the field station near Rowardennan and the rather odd giant alpaca incident on a dark night back from the boozer. Kenny was with his next love by then, Caroline from Snechie, and I was largely forgiven. We were now young, competent people perhaps not best suited to academia, but perhaps perfect academics as we presented our joint paper based study on retino balstoma, and discussed careers and life with the lecturers. Clutterbuck and the likes then, some traditional geneticists on their last academic legs. It was welcome refrain from Glesga and cleared the air with big kenny and me, for a while at least, as Caroline had taken up his affections and rendered him a milder chap than had been at our altercations at Level 8 where he wanted to punch me for going out with his ex, big San'.

Big San' herself got new digs on Caus'yside street, south of where she had been. Here we did a lot of pizza eating and shagging, and some more shagging between the odd pizza. Edinburgh was buzzing with posh english students and life in general, so was also a welcome distraction every other weekend or more at the time of the winter of 1988-1989. My flat was a real haven although it was maybe mot ideal for studying in fact, and lacked party potential. My brother approved of BIg San, being single at the time I remember having been through a few years continental separation and divorce. It was peaceful and ultra middle class to be there, yet just a wee dander over the kelvin past the Beeb to the Varsity.

However all good things come abruptly to an end, and my brother was a little annoyed about me leaving the odd dish undone after toast or cereal breakfasts, and found that his best mates had sold up in Helensbra' and needed digs in which to gestate her baby and muster a mortgage down payment. So what had been too good to be true according to Sandra, prove to be just so, and by the end of April after just four months or so, I was ousted and back home commuting. Big San dumped me in May. My academic year collapsed into dissarray already by lack of interest from the department in us as undergrads.  I pleaded with Sutcliff, my tutor, but he was a git. I scraped through on exams over year work and labs, and passed luckily the resit of Psychology I had defferred a year. Otherwise no degree! THird time lucky.

That summer I got both a job at the York Hill labs and also a nearby flat, and life was perfect in the hot summer of 1989. I lived in a delapadated flat with Sandra Stag (phwwoooar! quite a girl), a yuppie electrical engineer from Bearsden called "mouser" and a catholic girl with crakcing tits. I filled 21 years while there, and had party attended by all and sundry. I felt almost like a humble and shy king holding court. I also had a job at Dales, and spent every moment outside work either eating or cycling, and could make it to balloch and back in under two hours at one point from Anniesland. I became super fit as a means of exercising my deamons from the broken heart of Sandras demise, and even burried the hatchet with her. Once in my wee side bedroom, filled by a  half an' bed and a chest of drawers I dreamt that I dived down a waterfall into a deep pool of water and was washed of my despair and free of Sandra.

I remaned single really, with just a few flings thereafter until my next love, in 1992.

The lease was out on the room from someone returning from Summer work elsewhere, so I sought various digs and accepted 'bed sitting' . It was a final compromise to have a place near to studies, where I could use the library and sports facilities within a tiny short way of my bed and frying pan. Spock visited and we did a grolsch night, with him spewing all over my armchair. I lasted an entire academic year there, at the hest of Mrs Usmani, and lived with a mixed bunch of more square third year students. John Mac from Lewis, a chap from darwn south ( a novelty to be cherished in Glesga at that time) and a mech engineer from middle scotia. It became my bolt hole for the longest duration for some time before and to come in fact, and it was a it stupid of me to move home tae ma maws in hindsight.

It was the most stable flat, while the most anarchic was without a doubt 35 Kersland St. I even wallpaperd kenny's slippers to the wall one night for a laugh. At the time big kenny was writing a diary he showed me, in an old lab book, with "The Varsity" written on it. He said he would give it to his own kids when they were ready for Uni, to show them how it was and let them learn. It seemed more pained, pretentious and arrogant in the passages I read than actual experiential or factual prose. Anyway I wonder if he did end up giving this to his offspring, and if indeed my own will ever read this? Is there much to learn from our generation now? It is like looking back to the fricking fifites when we were students then! Some things dont change about student life, buit having to work is one thing. Most folk I knew had a job to get some extra pin money, or to travel in the summer. Now folk seem to need it to even pay their rents and eat a crust or two. Universities have become ever more higher margin business it seems, with the endless stream of hopefuls as their cash cow.

If anything, as was Kenny's intention in his diary, this is all about chronicling  a journey into adulthood which is glorious for those who can still travel that way and have enough time for enjoying the journey along the way. My last flat indeed says a lot in terms of maturity. Sensibly appointed for a hard studying, hard training, medium hard drinking guy, it was a compromise in many ways, unlikely to impress any potential second love of my life. Yet it was stable, and a good decision despite this, perhaps the best decision.

My life has been sullied by bad decisions, rushed into..... going into things under false impressions that things will work out..... or with rose tinted glasses....... or with heart before spreadsheet in particular. Things going wrong and ending up costing me, because I couldnt see how bad a situation I was getting into or that I needed time to look for alternatives rather than working myself into a hole. Loves which rendered my feelings usually a Greek Tragedy rather than perhaps having seen them for not being quite right for me in the first place. Accepting not just second best, but innappropos delux.  I leapt into a few below average situations on my own impulsiveness it has to be said while thinking of all those digs in four short years at Glasgow Uni, while not weighing up alternatives or the pros and cons of each. Bad luck in life is often not really that as such, but one misguided choice leading to a small, catastrophic chain of events, or to at least a set of uncomfortable, awkward outcomes. For better or for worse, it was all a series of great and often comical experiences where I mixed with the greatest folk I know, the 'wegies, and the undergraduate populace of the 'Varsity on the Gilmorehill.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

80s Glesga Nightclubbin' , Wumin - Romance, then and Now?

I wonder what the hell it is like to go on the ran-dan lookin' fir a lumber noo? Jockissimo writes-

Back in the late 80s it all seemed a bit like falling off a log. There were different social strata in Glesga's night scene. At one end, The Savoy Centre club while at the other there were exclusive clubs. From neds, through 'plastic' to classsy 'cruise crowd' of "Newton Den" as we called the posh crowd from the collective northern and southern better-off-'burbs. My pal Kenny Dobie, used to salivate over the leggy burds going into Follies, surely the moat architecturally impressive club - some may say archaelogical based on its more mature clientell. The Cotton Club, Roof Tops, Charlie Parkers,(Cardinal) Follies , Panama Jacks, Tuxedo Princess, Tiffany's, Joe Papparazi's,  The (renfrew) Ferry.... Mostly 'handbag' or 'plastic' we called them.

There was the gay, sorry, LGBTG - clubs, club X and The infamous Bennets...both with hetero legends of wandering in 'straight night', pulling a pair of "hot dykes" and having a wild night in the sack. A myth of course, but it fuelled the midweek late night student and minor celebrity drinking on Tuesdays ( bennets) and Wednesdays in these clubs.....then there was the celebrity and footballer frequented clubs Tin Pan Alley and of course Victorias, both attracted old firm heroes, rich cocaine dealers, media folk and glasgow's younger gangster villans. Rooftops had allegedly a rastafarian following. Bikers even had a club, or adopted one, down aloing the Broomielaw, name escapes me, pls leave it in comments- perhaps became the firast Viper in the 90s.

Most of all though there were the cool indie clubs and off peak indie nights at mainstream clubs, but thwey were often a flop come third week into term. Where as saturdays for 90s students meant the Garage or more up market private clubs, our more modest attitude to use of grant and loans held most students to their Unions, and often bands would be playing anyhows. The two Glasgow Uni unions had a turn, in the QM you could at least revert to the massive indie juke box, and endure the hilarious confusion when the goths put on a Jesus and Mary Chain single which was actually swapped for "I've got a brand new combine harvester' by the Wurzels.

The biggest, baddest student saturday night was Level 8 at the refurbished Tech union (strathclyde- it had been a polytechnic in the 60s and 70s), where I almost gave myself alcohol poisoning on Lowenbrau ( aka laughing brew) and tequila shots. All the college and Uni card holders, plus a guest, could get in and it was rachaus for music in a huge top floor in the block, towering over George Square and the Merchant city, but with a dark, basement feel to it.

There were just a couple of clubs which weren't too fussy about who got in - in the west end it was Cleopatras, known to all and sundry rather affectioinately as " Clatty Pats". I never remember being there until maybe 1995, but I must surely have gone up the mirrored stairway to 'heaven' one pils fuelled eve'  in my time at the 'varsity. (?)

On the indie side there was my favourite 80s noire " Fury Murray's " which was a designer basement bar for Lloyd Cole Cole wannabees from "Bears Mairns"  ...once on getting to the front of the queue i heard the guys right behind me getting turned down "sorry, you're too smartly dressed" to the toned down Wegie Crocket and Dibbs who saw the funny side too. You entered a dark basement which with a decor, boothed table arrangement and night watch lighting which just as easily have seen Humphrey Bogart as propreitor and sam on the ol' diana as blastin out the proto brit pop and jangle rock of the day.

In a rather sad attempt at reviving student romance post graduate malaise of the car-wash summer job, i took the most beatiful girl i will ever date there and she snogged the hell off my lips in a booth there for at least an hour, us in a dark illumunated only by small bauhaus movement metallic hanging laterns, like the lures of deep sea creatures at the depths of mid ocean trenches or something from a secret Nazi control bunker. My babe then was just starting her uni - or RADA- adventure , me just ending it before working two years and getting back in for a second dose of headukayschun at the "Tech" aka Strathclyde Uni. So i got to experience the change over from 80s student life to 90s in te dear, green place.

By 1992 Glasgow had gone from big for clubbing to being totally massive, with more clubs in the central square mile than any other European city. Tunnel, Sub Club, Volcano, Velvet Rooms, Trash, Tin Pan Alley, Archaos, Reds , the viper club, The Arches..... The list went on. Had there been cheap flights then, no doubt Glesga would have become the favourite destiny for eurotrash by 1993- a mecca for the pre-rave generation of club-fashion-cogniscenti. Many clubs went upmarket while some more specialist clubs appealing to a select clientel opened - Madame Gillespies with the S&M crowd, hidden away out in the industrial units at Finneston. The up side of so many new clubs was that there was a lot less of 'regulars only' as long as you split your male groups up a bit, acted sober and dressed up a bit- or a lot if you were going to Madame Gillespies I suppose.....

For students entering the 90s, the old dance hall, cheese disco Mayfair (prev Raffles? or shuffles and stud? ) also a good concert venue at the west M8 end of Suachiehall St was reborn as the Garage. Still there last time I looked 24 years later. Many a night out in the late 80s early nineties involved the Garage, with a warmer at either the variety bar or Its newer neigbour- Nice n' Sleazy,  run by the fabulously christened Ariki Porteous and her Pixette side kick. Out the west end, we finally got an alternative to Clatty Pats, with the arrival of The Volcano at the tail end of Byres road, which was used for the club-scene in Trainspotting, btw big man.

Romance revolved around clubs, or so we all thought, and that meant both ends of the gender polaris were flung together in a dark, defening, packed out concentration camp of lust and drunkeness. Some clubs became heaving masses of folk moving twixt bar, loos, dancefloor and whatever limted seating there usually was. If you stood still just out of this malstroem current then you could spot little camel trains of girls,mwqlking round endlessly like clueless poilgrims, trying to on one side avoid unwanted attention from lads, while on the other checking the talent out and seeing who might buy them a drink. Maybe some never found their way out and live in a limbo of perpetual motion and indecision.

By in large then, clubs were and are far from ideal for meeting the right partner, but at least in an 80s indie club night you could dance to the Smiths or the Pixies and have an idea that the print pattern mini dress clad babes with the 18 hole Doc's were into the same music and you may be able to shout into each others ear to express that commonality and ask to buy her a drink. That could take 15 minutes often, in a bizarre and inverted game of chinese whispers, ending up virtually shouting at each other from point blank ear range.

More dancing, a quick bit of ladies loo comparative consultancy, and a snog would ensue usually mid dance on a jam packed dance floor "Panic" ringing out....or when you both tried to ball into each others ear. The coincidence of physical contact resulted in requited erm, fancyingness and a state of vacuum like snogging as if you wanted to create a single black hole to whisk you both away from the noisy nightmare that courting demanded in the 80s and pre-internet 90s.

A last big, often cheesy or folky ( 'Come on Eileen' by Dexy's' a regular floor filler end of indie night) dance track and boom¡ the lights would go up and music die like the first millisecond of a ten megatonne nuclear burst. Ears ringing, eyes stinging. Usually the young lady of your affections would be chaperoned away by her gaggle of most often unsuccessful and speccy-chubby girl friends- kind of like those scenes from flood disaster movies where the love interest is drawn from the finger tip grasp the hero had on her by the current in the midst of the debris, never to be seen again. The wise guys followed their watches, plan to get ahead of the taxi scrum,  and came with 1am offers to the girls, of parties or unopened bottles of tequila to lure the fly into the centre of their web on the other side of Glasgow.

Our own gang of pals' collective pulling rate was however, far better at concerts, often at venues like Mayfair ( Garage) , Fury Murrays, The varios Unions and of course the greatest of them all, The Barrowland aka Barra's. At a band you usually had some quiet interlude or at least you could hang out at the back if you were 6'2" like me, where a conversation could be held. Furtive glances were exchanged, eye lashes fluttered, wry smiles arose. It seemed much easier to spot body language and get eye contatc than in a dark, heaving, deafening club. Like a first date at a movie, at least you had something to talk about , objectively. In truth I don't miss clubbing much, but I sorely miss the opportunities I had for rock and indie concerts that 80s Glasgow offered in the days before metallic sheds on old industril land as concert venues.

The more drunken clubbers and the older (25!) veterans of Sausageroll Street or Argyll St area clubbing would move to the fast food shop. Here your ears could start to recover and you were in better lighting, perfect for an evaluation of attractiveness, hot bodiedness ( not always hand in hand in scotchlandshire) and drunken vulnerability or sobered approachability that the fairer sex in display had to offer. The queue in the chippy, 'bab shop or street side van was like a cross between feeding time at the penguin enclosure and an aweful zombie cat walk. Jedi level skills were needed to position and gain some kind of eye and mind contact with young ladies keen to soak up their Gin n bitter lemins, Diesel or Velvet Sledgehammers and make up for a dinner not eaten midst make up and vodka colas back at the flat. In my early, fitter days I never made that pavlovian dog salivation between end of licensing hours and onslaught of junk food as a nocturnal meal time. Hence never I a jedi in the chipper in the wee small hours.

Late night parties were kind of a marathon which I rarely had the stamina for. A detour for drink stashed at your own digs often lead to bed. At a party scabbing drinks was rude, but a smile and a joke could get you a long way with someone who had extra cans or a half full 75cl Sambucca. If i Did after-bar party then it was only ever Woodlands and as far as Partick and Hyndland. Invites to further extremes or the bermuda triangle that was the South Side, were shunned due to logistical concerns and the worry that the party would have been forceably dissolved - 'sorry,no party, the pigs broke it up at 12' .

An acquaintance, " Big Ross frae Kinross" in a  'huff cut' state once believed he had pulled at the insalubrious " Clatty Pats" ( Cleopatra's Night Club off Gt Western Rd) and on the agreement he would cover some of the taxi, he went off in said jwet black charabang in good faith. Only to be the last one in the taxi as the girls poured out and ran like blazes away up a close an' o'er the midden at a block of flats in  Easterhouse. He was skinned for at least twenty quid on the threat of polis being called, and had to shanks pony it oot of the scheme and get the first possible bus home from parkhead.

The taxi sting was apparently a regular ruse of the skirt from The Hoose, Chateau Lait and the Bankies or Faiflies. Many a drunken sqauddie or naive student no doubt fell for that one. Which brings me onto economics and matters of class. Back then it was more the music you were into, your age and the corresponding pubs and clubs which kind of defined who you would meet and indeed be interested in. Clothes were cheap for most of us, ripped second hand jeans and docs making their first of many rounds of student fasshion mid eighties. Most students were dressed for ' unner a hunner quid' You didnt in other words judge someone by where they came from or how much cash they were wearing, excluding that is the plastic clubs and the cruise-crowd from Bearton Dens or wherever they came from. It never crossed your mind whether this petite, vivacious, black tights, plenty thigh and 'bovver booted' babe chatting to you was of more or less economic worth by family or by future profession. Equally good the sexy wee Ramones fan doing hairdressing at the 'dough school' as the sultry law student in her "the queen is dead' smiths t-shirt.

I guess though that outside of student-indie land my success rate was next to nothing. I looked like ine of those poor fools whonwent to uni instead of maybe making £80 a week on the tills, or a couple o' hunner as a shop fitting joiner on 12 hour shifts. Non student skirt wanted a lumber with the prospect of buying all her drinks next time out. Non student skirt was sceptical, in a single phrase  - an inverted snob. Without good reason. The 80s was actually a fantastic time for social mobility in Glasgow, with on the one hand the expansion of Uni places while on the other a life cheap enough to fully sustain on the stewdant-grant with a drop of housing benefit to boot. Working class students were two a penny at Uni's and the colleges were stapped full. Of course the 'under class' was unrepreseneted but also they are self excluding from social mobility. I had lab' partners from both Easterhouse and Drumchapel. Snogged birds from Faifley and Castlemilk at Uni.

These days? Do young folk treat each other like corporate mergers during their "winchin' "?  With turn over, leverage, profitability and long term market capitalisation more important musings than taste in music and common ground in sense of humour? After that is of course, swiping the weeks likely catch in a joint looks and economic triage mediated on Tinder and other dating or SM apps. I am not going to lament that. Of a hundred nights out a year as a student, maybe it ended up in a couple of two-weekers and one unrequited love? Easier to just seive down the gold nuggets from the comfort of your Futon. Also economically, are you going to go out with a naive financial catastrophy post Uni? Are you going to waste your time on someone who is going to be a bit of a charity case ( like me right now !) when post graduation reality-bites? Alternatively, are you either going to put your best foot forward wirth another highly qualified career type and go forth to build a solid, if dull,  life in your 20s and 30s or are you going to shag your way into a monied family with good connections?

In my own personal waterloo that the post graduation malaise became, I once met one of those hot bod, bit of an old nose on her semi goths who were grist to the mill just a year or two earlier at the student union or indie disco. We chatted a while, her a little half interested until we got onto the subject of peronl economics. I told her i was "a bit skint' to which her reply was "no mon' , no fun, hun". Perhaps romantic accounting was always a passion killer anyway.

Links and sources, when i am off the tablet and on a keyboars
Cardinal Follies

In the comments mainly -  a younger author of the actual article

Friday, 15 July 2011

25 years with the Humpff....

It is now quarter of a whole big century since I first wandered into a side room concert where the band playing was "the Humpff Family"

The humppff's played a mix of folk and blue grass with funny lyrics and some real gusto, being around 5 on stage or more at any time. In 86-90 they became regulars at the Glasgow Uni Queen Margaret union, a haven for usually more indie rock musicians of the time.

later I saw them at the Fleadh ( pretentious Gælic name for a pretty good "folk and folk rock on the green gig" )in the wee tent and I think I spoke to them on a couple of occaisions. I could be mistaken, but the guy who ran the wee bike shop on Chancellor street called then and still bearing the name "West End Cycles" , was on the Blue Grass "scene" and maybe was the lead in the Humpfs. He was an affable guy who had mandolins along side chainsets and BMX stunt pegs.

There was something joyful and unpretentious about the Humpfs, while bands like the "smiths", "soup dragons" and the "mighty lemon drops" were all taking it a bit too seriously. The Humpffs are on Spotify, but with a wierd angry sounding albumn far removed from their light headed hey days of the late eighties.

So despite my current downer of general pissed offness, tommorrow is the second time I will be patronising the local, neigh national, Blue Grass festival and enjoying every minute no doubt.