Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"a wee trip doon memory lane", as the Scots say...

Hello Zoners, and a Happy Valentine's Day to you all. Did your mailboxes collapse under the weight of cards this morning ? I hope so. If not, we'll send you Valentine wishes from us all here at AZ. That do ? Good.
Well, AZ went on the backburner for a few days, though we're all back now. I nipped homeward, only 40 miles or so, you know, family things, big sunday lunch get together for the gathered Lloyd family, it's what we do from time to time.
A much bigger deal for our resident Scotsman though, Johnny Reece.
Off to Scotland he was, for the first time in a good while, and memory lane was the name of the game. I'll let him take up the story for you :

Ah yes, back to the old country, as it were. Always something a bit special for me, particularly as I seem to have little time to make trips like this these days. No relatives there anymore, a few ex-workmates dotted around though, but no time to see them on this occasion. Just 36 hours in my home town, so a dash round memory lane it really was. Funny how everything seems smaller, buildings, roads, simple things which seemed gigantic, when about 8 years old. It was raining slightly, naturally. That soft southern Glasgow 'drizzle' which is expected and synonymous with the geographical location. No matter, it made it all the more real for me. I was struck by how quiet it all was. I guess that's what living in London for over 20 years does to you. And the difference in social attitudes was immediately apparent - something you forget when you've been away for a while. It doesn't matter where you are in Glasgow, in a queue in a shop, on a train, at a bus stop, wherever. People talk to each other. It's a friendly place. That just doesn't happen in London.
Suddenly I was back in the middle of south Glasgow suburbia, very quiet, very relaxed, very green.
Where I grew up, in an area called Simshill, is all of those. Huge parks either side, and, just 3 miles to the south, are some farms. In the other direction, only 3 or 4 miles or so, the bustling and now extremely cosmopolitan, centre of Glasgow. Quite a contrast, although always a great bonus to be able to quickly switch from one to the other, in a matter of around 10 minutes.
Starting out at Cathcart Station, the walk began. Past various places where I had spent my formative years, and youth. Many places now long gone of course (just like my youth !) although they, and it, still remain in my memory. Now some Indian Takeaway shop, formerly Sams Cafe, where they had the best home-made Ice Cream in the world. Really. Around the corner to Linn Park, a huge green expanse on the South side, hardly changed a bit, apart from extra walkways alongside the rather picturesque and fabulous River Cart, which runs right through it.
A quick circle round, and past the monument which marks the spot where Mary, Queen of Scots stood and watched over the Battle Of Langside, in 1568. Then down towards Battlefield, another residential area, and my interest was drawn to a very run down (possibly closed down ?) TV and Video Repair Shop. Why, you ask ? Well, back in around 1966 to the mid 70s, this was the spot where the marvellous Gloria's Record Bar formerly stood. Fabulous. I don't know how many Albums and Singles I bought with my pocket money there as a lad, whilst discussing with one of the staff, (Jimmy, of course !) the ins and outs of the new Troggs single, or Roxy's new Album, or the forthcoming gigs of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. It was the end of an era in so many ways, for so many Southsiders, when Gloria's closed its doors for the last time. My formative musical years were forged right there.
Of course, it, and many little stores like it, were being replaced by bigger places. That much hasn't changed, eh ?
In time, my store of choice became 'Listen Records' in the centre of Glasgow, but that story is for another day.
Onto the district of Simshill itself, and a real bonus this turned out to be.
Simshill Primary School. Where it all began, for me. Long pathways up to the School itself were usually blocked off by locked gates, on either side. On a Sunday too, this was to be expected. I hadn't, of course, walked those steps, or taken steps over the playground, since my last days there, back in 1970. A long time ago.
But, what's this ?
The gate is OPEN. A real big thing for me, as I strolled up that path again, for the first time in 36 years.
I walked around the playground, remembering it all.
I strolled along the edge of the football pitch, and the regional under 13's Cup Final in April 1970 seemed like it was played yesterday - the final score - Simshill 2, Queens Park 1, both goals that won a tiny little trophy scored by one little Scottish person, J. Reece, on 26, and 78 mins.
On around my district itself, past the house I grew up in, and on the streets I knew so well. Not much had changed. A passing motorist even stopped, ironically, to ask me directions, and I still knew the answer.
Down to a local cafe in the next district along, in Mount Florida (and it was still a cafe, after all these years) where a traditional Scottish Pie was partaken. It had to be. Rules are rules when you are reminiscing, you know.
Off back into town then, and a look around some large bookshops, where in one I happily picked up a book called 'Apollo Memories', marking the great days of the Glasgow Apollo, where thousands of people grew up in the 70s seeing their favourite Bands. The Apollo has long gone, sadly, but all is remembered in the book, and so nice to see so many world famous artists remembering it so well, and naming the audience there ('The Apollo Choir') as the best in the world. Quite rightly too.
Sunday evening was spent at the Carling Academy (not a patch on the old Apollo, but there you go) in the company of the one and only Sparks, on the first night of their 2006 World Tour. Fabulous, and as it had been over 20 years since Sparks had visited 'Glesca', they were received rapturously, like old friends, so much so that the crowd just wouldn't let them go. When they eventually did, quite a few Glasgow voices reminded them, in no uncertain terms, to not leave it for so long, next time. And that was that. Back next morning to London on a quick flight, and straight back into work. But many memories cherished, for sure.
Back to AZ land then, and yes, you will of course be hearing much of Sparks new Album 'Hello Young Lovers' on the Album Zone. Later this week too, we have the return to the airwaves of the one and only Rich Phoenix. Oh, and don't be too surprised if a few reminiscences of the past weekend happen to creep into my own programmes over the forthcoming weeks...

Johnny (Mc) Reece...