Jakey

Connor is now introducing his father into his narrative.

“Ah wiz born,” Connor says, on the fifth of August nineteen twenty-six and spent the first ten years o’ ma life in seventeen Stevenson Street in the Calton. Durin’ a’ that time I never knew ma faither tae be gainfully employed. He goat some kind o’ allowance fae the Corporation and it wiz ma wee maw, may she rest in peace, that supported us three weans by workin’ as a dinner lady.

I write in my notebook: “Sbjct v. grtfl to mthr.”

“Of course auld Rab Connor wiz a ‘jakey’,” his son goes on. “Spent a’ his time wi’ a’ the other alkies in the backcourt. They had a wee open air lounge made oot o’ orange boxes and tea chests in front o’ the back entrance tae the darkest close in oor block. They a’ took turns tae buy pints o’ meths in chemists a’ o’er the city centre. They ‘boxed’ – you know, mixed – the purple gear wi’ lemonade they stole from wee local newsagents. They were careful aboot the correct proportions of meths and lemonade they’d pour intae a big jug oan the table. Get it right – one part methylated spirit tae five parts lemonade, Ah think it wiz – and you and yer mates could pretend yous wurr in a bar and yous could sook away a’ day, and night sometimes, until yous passed oot.”

I make another notation in my notebook: “Sbjct’s fthr, hvv. Drnkr.”

Connor angrily stubbs out his half smoked Passing Cloud in the metal ashtray. “Get it wrang,” he says sharply, “you know, too much o’ the purple gear, no enough lemonade, ye could hiv a seizure and get huckled tae the Royal Infirmary. There, ye’d get a wee white bed wi’ a monitor beside it, and ye’d maybe linger in a coma until the auld brain-wave went flat.

“These were the risks ma auld man and his cronies took in all seasons and in all weathers. In winter they flitted their wee pub intae the back close.”

I take a tentative sip from the wee heavy in front of me.

“Of course,” Connor says, “meths drinkers like ma da and them were barred fae normal public houses. If they used the toilets in thae places, their urine wid cause such a horrible stink that the regular punters wid trap like greyhounds at Shawfield dog-racing track. Every wan o’ ma faither’s mates hid roll up fags in their hauns and when they smoked them right down tae the last soggy half inch they widnae drap them oan the deck. Ye could smell the skin aroon their knuckles burnin’. Ye’d tell them aboot it and that wiz the first they knew aboot it. Ye’d tell them and they’d go, ‘ Aye, ye’re right, son.’ And they’d take the glowing fag oot fae between their knuckles, look at their fingers, and pit the entire hot mess back between their blistered fingers.. They couldnae feel a thing.”

I quickly drop my cigarette into the ashtray and scribble: “Sbjct’s fthr. xtrmly. hvy drnkr. Slf hrmng.”

“Thank goodness, we Teuchters didn’t abuse drink like that,” I say.

“Hold it right there,” Connor responds quickly. “There’s a couple o’ Teuchter brothers that live at the tap o’ MacLean Street, roon the corner in the Pawn close. They liked their swally,” he says. “Dae ye know them?”

I have the bizarre flash that he is referring to – gasp! – two bachelor brothers from the islands, whose flat was the most popular taigh ceilidh, meeting place, on the south bank of the Clyde. Of course, I know them well.

Lachlann Ruadh agus Dòmhnall Beag’,” I manage to whisper.

“Don’t want tae hear any ‘ that White Paki chat,” Connor admonishes sternly. “Ah’ve nae time furr real Hamilton Accies, never mind white wans.”

The quality of my attention is starting to fray. “Sorry,” I gurgle throatily. I have turned into a mush-mouthed sycophant.

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