Grand Tales #1 Where I'm From and Where I'm going.
Updated: Sep 22, 2022
Some of you will have read this. But apparently only 7 according to my stats. I'm not having that. 😂 Neither is my granny.
Here we go...
I wandered down the half closed Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow and was immediately transported to 1989.
I am six years old.
It’s December, and the theme tune to this memory is Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody.
My grandmother and I are in Razzle Dazzle, which sits between The Body Shop and Watt Brothers, where we’ve just come from buying a watch.
I’m looking at hairbands, the music plays and I feel excited, there is a buzz and hum everywhere today, breath floats in the air.
Flash to British Home Stores; novelty cookie jars and sweeties. I can still taste the sample of chocolate we are given. An Orange Twix, what an idea! I like orange chocolate of any variety after that.
Eventually, it’s late in the day, we’ve been to the Savoy Centre and Papyrus. It is here that I learn about where paper comes from as my grandmother buys me my first ever remembered notebook.
It’s getting dusky and the Christmas lights are on. Clyde One Radio have set up a hut in the middle of the street, a charity event for Radio Lollipop. They are playing Queen’s Radio GaGa and it’s the first time I’ve heard them, that’s momentous.
There is a prize giveaway, where things are thrown into the crowd. My 70-something-year-old Granny does not care a bit, she is leaping and diving to catch something for me. I remember it vividly. Like Roald Dahl wrote the scene and Quentin Blake illustrated it. She’s marvellous, ridiculous and utterly fantastic. Suddenly a plastic piggy bank shaped as… a pig… is launched into the air. It shatters mere feet from me and my grandmother says, ‘What a strange thing to throw.’
She’s not wrong.
The memory takes about a second to replay but that’s it; somehow seminal in more than one way.
"The daffodil banks that never were so crowded and lavish."
That’s not mine, it’s Edwin Morgan’s, but when I read it my heart soars.
He’s writing about a Second Life in May, I’m writing about April.
Across the M8, over the bridge beside the subway station at Kinning Park there are thousands of daffodils in mid-April. A simple day, when we were very poor, a trip to the swings, picking flowers, playing shops with fallen leaves and stones on a bench and then looking for glass bottles to take back to the shop for 10 pence pieces.
There are small yellow flowers that grow easily from the cracks in pavements. They are strong and fairly unbeatable. My granny called them Dishilogies and I have a memory of forgetting the name.
We began going through the alphabet, which is a way I remember things even now.
'A…B…C… ' We get there early, 'It begins with a D.'
I still can’t remember completely.
My granny says, 'What’s that thing on the wall there?'
We see the lone satellite dish of the one person who is rich in Kinning Park.
I get the word dish, but cannot get the “ilogie'' part and I have never forgotten it since.
Why is this a lasting memory?
Patience, I think.
She had all the patience in the world.
We stand looking at Glasgow University, which I mistake for the art school, and I declare boldly that I’m going. If I’d said that to anyone else, who knows where it would’ve landed but with Isa it flies. High up, like a kite and soars to become a dream. There was never an expectation. I was a girl. I didn’t even need to learn to drive, so that was madness.
But she knew no limits.
From a generation with nothing but limits here, an anomaly. She said ascend and, under her wing, you did.
My grandmother’s sewing tin started life as a tin of biscuits. In October 1990 it was used to store the thread that will make the cat outfit I will wear for Halloween.
We sourced the “ingredients” for weeks and in the days before Amazon, this was a huge project. We had collected sparkly ears, tights, a leotard, faux fur, lace, ribbon, eyeliner and the obligatory bin bag. Today was making day.
Thread, scissors, buttons, a dab of glue and a few hours later and it was ready. The excitement building about this halloween, the first I was making not from a high rise but a house.
She had a "garden" in the corner of her living room. Some 30 potted plants of various sizes. We would arrange them into a circle on damp days and have tea in the middle. Like two old maids we’d play cards and pretend to be other people. I was Mrs Farquar and she was Mrs McWhirter; we’d wear hats, hit up her scarf and bead drawer and talk in posh voices about all the things we were going to do with our lives.
After my trip to the houses for halloween I came back to the “garden”, old gals together, some of the happiest days of my life.
I have been to Glasgow University, I can drive, I write, I am a mother, I make my children halloween costumes, from scratch, with the old sewing box. I try to be Mrs McWhirter. I realise that you can’t throw a brittle plastic piggy bank out into the night and expect survival, I take delight in flowers, simple games, the outdoors, and live as happily in a flat as I do in a house, more so maybe; so long as there is a Cheeseplant. I know it’s not right to pick public daffodils; but sometimes I do it anyway, I like orange flavoured chocolate, I will encourage your dream and I will make it soar. I know exactly where I came from and I never forget to look back.
Isabella Dempster, nee Sinclair, who populated the seasons of my life with love and helped me to grow.