George Square

On the drive back to Glasgow from an author event at Stirling Uni featuring the Booker Prize winner Anne Enright, I guess my subconscious was turning over family relationships. I hadn’t read any of her work before but bought her prize-winning book, The Gathering, before the event on the night so I could read the first few pages and get a feel of the story. I was delighted to see book blurb on the back from Joseph O’Connor and A.L. Kennedy, two favourites. Based on the talk and audience questions, The Gathering is about memory and family mythology.

While sitting in the theatre and standing afterwards, Christina and I chatted about Irish authors, families, and ethnographic study challenges and surprises, following on from the Research Club meeting earlier that day. The surprise was surrounding Christina’s change in attitude following 5hrs at the Miss Great Britain contest in Leicester. Family experiences/reflections, the bond I have with my son, were all in my head. I met Sinead, Claire’s pal, and got a lift home to Glasgow in Claire’s car. Chat was wide-ranging but the subject of family relationships, how people and events are perceived by family members was touched on and must have been on my mind.

When we drove up John Street to George Square, the Xmas lights were glimpsed. Driving into the right hand lane, Claire announced that we were going around the Square to view the lights. This is something I remember was a feature of every childhood Xmas in Glasgow, and, with my father a mechanic/electrician, we always had a car for as long as I could remember. As soon as we started around the Square, I was perched on the red leather backseat of the Austin Cambridge (which I called the Batmobile apparently, due to its fins), in the middle, between my parents’ seats – my usual pre-compulsory-seatbelt car travelling position back then when we were travelling at low speeds. For longer journeys, I was strapped in and assisted the driver with my own plastic driver’s wheel and dashboard toy which was stuck to the back of my mother’s seat. Xmas lights back then were a more gaudy, red and green aesthetic, whereas for 2018 the vibe is a tasteful white, gold, blue. In 2018, there is the ubiquitous, every town and city must have one, big wheel. And the Square has a Helter Skelter in candy stripes. This reminds me of other family nights at the Carnival, always held annually at the Kelvin Hall. I loved the Helter Skelter. Swooshing down the smooth steel, polished to a mirror by many coconut mats. Interesting contrast between the polished steel and the harsh coconut matting, both very strange and unfamilar to wee lassies. Prickling at the back of your legs.

My gran set herself up for the evening at one of the bingo stalls. Those coloured plastic panels all aglow and backlit, the numbers revealed by sliding wee window shutters open, were a fascination and I was quite happy to sit for a while keeping her company before leaping on a horse on the Merry-Go-Round. The Square has a gorgeous Merry-Go-Round, too, with traditional gaudy paint in shimmering golds, eye-assaulting yellows and reds. The horses all have names – I remember because I took some photos of them a couple of years ago on my way to Stirling one day. Up close and perched on a horse, you are aware of the mechanism clunking and grinding, driving the horses and you around. Standing at a distance, the horses and people fly around and round effortlessly.  

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