Friday, January 19, 2018

The storm of '68.

On the Fourteenth of January 1968, the central belt of Scotland was hit by a storm. A big one.
Now, it will be nothing to those who live in climates of extreme weather but this was Scotland, a country that grinds to a halt with two millimetres of snow. 

That day was a Sunday. Towards the end of the day it got a little blowy. Around midnight there were reports of dogs being blown over, and being strung out on the end of their leads. Folk were unable to walk without holding on to railings. Patients in the Western Hospital thought that the windows were going to blow in. They were right.
By one am, the lights started to go out all over the city.
In one of the Sunday newspapers there was a wee cartoon called 'Iris'. 'Iris' told you what the weather was going to do that day in your part of the country. On that Sunday she said 'be prepared', but didn’t say for what.
During that Sunday a depression was growing in the North Atlantic. It was supposed to float to the north, but at the last movement it came straight forward, right into the two million people who lived in the central belt, lying in bed and thinking that it was getting a little gusty out there.
The dredger Cessnock, and its barge was tied up at  Greenock that night,  by four inch lines onto shore. It got a little noisy and a little rough. So the crew attached extra ropes. They then attached the four inch ropes. When they snapped the crew realised they were in a little trouble.  By then the two vessels were floating in the Firth of Clyde devoid of power. By Monday morning, the dredger was on its own. The barge had turned turtle during the night, unheard in the screaming noise of the wind. All those aboard had drowned.

I recall it vaguely. I remember being woken up by my dad. My sister and I  spent the night on the settee, in the front room, with the settee pulled away from the window. Our bedroom window was on the ground floor, very close to an old Anderson shelter.  That shelter had survived all the Clydeside bombings of WWII, it didn't survive the storm.  I was very, very young but I know I wasn’t allowed to play outside for ages as the slates on the roof were hanging by a thread.  I was also cross as my imaginary pony lived in that Anderson shelter.

On the night of the storm, a couple living in a flat at the top of Hill Street in the west end suffered severe damage as  they famously witnessed the windows of their flat bending. The man closed the shutters over with their double brass hook and eyelet catch. They watched in horror as the shutter began to jump back and forth, the power of the wind straightening the brass hook and the shutters flew open again.  They said it was like a monster trying to get in. If he had been  of a Stephen King mind, his career may have turned out differently.  He became a fashion designer.

During the night, the wind was gusting to 120mph.  Chimneys came down, people in their beds were crushed , families like ours had taken their chances. Some guessed it right, some guessed it tragically wrong.
The next morning, roads were blocked by trees, the emergency services couldn't get through. People were trapped, neighbours clawing at bricks with their bare hands. Overnight, 1000’s were made homeless. 

Glasgow was one of the biggest slums in Europe at that time. It was overcrowded, disease ridden,  dirty, insanitary.   The city was black with smog and pollution and the solutions to those problems had been on the city planners minds since the turn of the century.
The city planners were determined to flatten the tenements and rebuild modern flats with toilets and heating.  The population of Glasgow had increased tenfold in the 1700's with the potato famine and the Highland clearances. Two hundred years later, the city was crammed tight with the influx of workers for the war effort.
Seven or eight people lived in a room and kitchen with no hot water. No inside toilets. Some people were still living like that in the early 70’s. My aunt and uncle had two loos at the bottom of their garden, shared by nine families. I remember the big warm wooden toilet seat, the door had a gap top and bottom and, there was a newspaper on a nail on the inside of the door. I thought people read it. Maybe they did.
The plans to flatten the city and start again were taking far too long. Glaswegians were breeding faster than they could be rehoused. In the 50's and 60's the powers that be drew up 29 areas of the city to be flattened totally and the populations moved out to areas like Pollok and Easterhouse.  The flats were nice, roomy, warm, but that’s all there was. Flats- no shops, no  playparks, no doctors, no pubs….. just houses. And within two years, the typical problems developed when a community is torn apart and the kids have nothing to do.
That was the culture that grew the infamous ice cream wars.

However, the storm of 1968 made the city planners rethink. They had to move fast to house those left homeless and to do something with the damaged housing stock. Agencies had to work together as there was such damage to all the housing stock. They relooked at the tenements, the words conservation and refurbishment started to be heard. The tenements were internally remodelled,  into beautiful, and now incredibly valuable flats. Three flats were knocked into two, and hey ho- a bathroom!
The city planners began to recognise the old Victorian buildings as works of art, the lovely West End where I set my books was largely saved.  Some of those that had gone before were not so lucky.
So from the slum of early 1970’s, Glasgow was awarded European City of Culture in 1990- the year after Paris!
The storm, for all it was a terrible tragedy, really did save the city.

Caro Ramsay 19th Jan 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The red penis

Stanley - Thursday

Taylor Mali is a slam poet and a damn good one, and, although he doesn’t know it, he’s going to be my guest today.   On his website, he says it’s alright to use his material without permission.  So, it’s without contrition that I’ve lifted the work below, because it’s important for you to know a little about this man.

Taylor has spent many years teaching, reaching his audiences with words and wit, and more than a bit of honesty.  He knows how to teach and inspire, to encourage kids to reach higher than they’ve ever thought they could.  Or would.

He is best known for his poem “What teachers make”, and a video take of him reciting it has been seen six-hundred-and-eighty-eight thousand, eight-hundred-and-thirty-four times, exciting teachers everywhere.  And if you click here, it will be one time more. 

But teaching is not the core of this site; it’s more for those who write, who have the energy still to share their skill after they lay down their novel-to-be at night.  For them, their blog is just one more cog in their overall marketing plan; another way they can flaunt themselves in the daunting world of writing.  

On writing too, Taylor has something to say, I've heard, for you who live by the word.  Many writers cannot spell and find editing absolute hell.  So many have resorted to the spell checker for help and reported it's not as good as its purported to be. And Taylor may have the final say.

The the impotence of proofreading
by Taylor Mali
Has this ever happened to you?
You work very horde on a paper for English clash
And then get a very glow raid (like a D or even a D=)
and all because you are the word¹s liverwurst spoiler.
Proofreading your peppers is a matter of the utmost impotence.

This is a problem that affects manly, manly students.
I myself was such a bed spiller once upon a term
that my English teacher in my sophomoric year,
Mrs. Myth, said I would never get into a good colleague.
And that¹s all I wanted, just to get into a good colleague.
Not just anal community colleague,
because I wouldn¹t be happy at anal community colleague.
I needed a place that would offer me intellectual simulation,
I really need to be challenged, challenged dentally.
I know this makes me sound like a stereo,
but I really wanted to go to an ivory legal collegue.
So I needed to improvement
or gone would be my dream of going to Harvard, Jail, or Prison
(in Prison, New Jersey).

So I got myself a spell checker
and figured I was on Sleazy Street.

But there are several missed aches
that a spell chukker can¹t can¹t catch catch.
For instant, if you accidentally leave a word
your spell exchequer won¹t put it in you.
And God for billing purposes only
you should have serial problems with Tori Spelling
your spell Chekhov might replace a word
with one you had absolutely no detention of using.
Because what do you want it to douch?
It only does what you tell it to douche.
You¹re the one with your hand on the mouth going clit, clit, clit.
It just goes to show you how embargo
one careless clit of the mouth can be.

Which reminds me of this one time during my Junior Mint.
The teacher read my entire paper on A Sale of Two Titties
out loud to all of my assmates.
I¹m not joking, I¹m totally cereal.
It was the most humidifying experience of my life,
being laughed at pubically.

So do yourself a flavor and follow these two Pisces of advice:
One: There is no prostitute for careful editing.
And three: When it comes to proofreading,
the red penis your friend.

Please visit Taylor at