It’s funny the memories that stay with you. All the small insignificant episodes and experiences that stick to you from childhood like well chewed spitballs on the classroom ceiling. They’re there, you can see them but there’s no way of getting up there to clean them out. Some memories are disturbing, things you’d rather forget but for the most part, this week I have been remembering lots of odd wee things from my childhood. We’ve been clearing our the house getting it ready to sell and my mind has obviously doing a similar spring clean with its recollections.
I’ve written about my childhood before. I was brought up in Queenslie, part of the Greater Area of Easterhouse. Sounds grand, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. Anyhoo, we lived on the top floor of a modern tenement, built in the 1950s. We had a verandah so we could sit out and enjoy the wonderful Glasgow weather, with great views across the east end of the city. When my mum wanted me to get her some messages from the shop – doing the messages is what Weegies called grocery shopping – she would shout down from the verandah to where I’d be playing in the street below. If there were several things to buy she’d make a list and the money would be wrapped up in this list, or in a piece of torn Mothers’ Pride plain loaf waxed paper if only one or two things were needed. Part of me wanted to catch the money to show off my skills. But the bigger part of me knew how painful it was to catch several tightly wrapped coins thrown from the top floor of a tenement. The money would usually hit the pavement and oftentimes the parcel would explode and I’d have to chase down the elusive pennies. There was usually an extra 2d to buy a chocolate biscuit or 3d to buy some crisps.
There were two ways to get to the local shops. You could walk along the streets, past the primary school and round the corner at the bus terminus. Or you could go on a back court safari. The back courts were partially grassed, covered in dog poop and subdivided by black railings, bent back in places to allow us kids freedom – you couldn’t fence a Weegie in. Paths had been worn through by the sandshoed feet of hundreds of Queenslie weans using the back courts to shave off at least 30 seconds from their journeys.
I dream about Queenslie a lot. So much so that I can’t remember how much of what I remembered actually happened or not. I think there were four shops with pensioners’ flats above. There was a newsagents with Twinkle comics, two counters and Fry’s Five Boys chocolate; a dairy with a cold meat counter, a box of lucky potato sweeties and mood rings; a small baker’s with doughnuts and paris buns. I have images of a larger grocery store, of an off license and a pizzeria, but I’m pretty sure these are just figments.
I dream so vividly and return to my alternative dream world so often I have difficulty in distinguishing between these dreams and reality. I suppose this might be why I’m writing this down now, to try to anchor reality and prevent it getting lost in the confusion of unreliable memory. I also find it fascinating that in less than 50 years the world has changed so much and my daughter’s experiences of childhood are so different from mine.
I hope they are better.