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Childhood Days

Author: Colin Black

Remember back when you were young, roaming the streets wi’ your pals, the sunny days that had no end, only hunger forced you to go home, or when darkness or rain began to fall.
These were the best days of your life as all the Aunties, Uncles and other big people always told you. But you had to wait until you were their age to realise how right they were.
You never asked where you could go, or when you had to be back, nobody had any money so there were no fancy toys or bikes, in fact, hardly any bikes at all. We all walked everywhere, or jumped on a tramcaur if we had a couple of pennies pressed into oor hand after running a wee message for some auld wummin hingin’ oot the windae. “Hey son, gonnae run tae the shop and get me a pan loaf”. You were always told never to accept any money for running a wee message for old people, but old people can be very persuasive.
I lived in Parkheid just off the Gallagate, so the tramcaur we jumped on took us oot tae the city boundary, just where Arnold Clark has built a couple of showrooms at Mount Vernon. It was the end of the line, so after the clippie had flipped the backs of the seats over, the driver switched the points and moved onto the other track for going back into Parkheid, then we went intae the auld quarry. There we paddled in the flooded bit at the bottom looking for newts, oor socks and shoes were put back onto wet feet, sometimes cut from the broken glass in the big puddle.
Aye, great days, and they only got better as we got older, some of my pals fell heir to auld bikes.
Not to be left behind I saved up the massive sum of four pounds in a wee wooden stool shaped money box I made in school woodwork class. The money came from household chores, polishing all the brass taps was my job, and my granny was always good for the odd half-crown. Now things have come full circle, in my retirement I’m still polishing the taps, although the taps are all chrome now, and I don’t get paid.
My four pounds purchased a ten-speed racer with droop handlebars, carefully selected from a pile of bikes stacked at the side of the road, ‘doon the barras’. Then ma pal Davy Smith got a wee tent and a primus stove, so with our two auld bikes and all our stuff in two ex-army back packs we set off for Balloch. With two auld bikes running on tyres that were nowhere near new, I suppose we were lucky to get away with only one puncture on Davy’s bike. It was near John Brown’s ship builders, so around halfway there.
Life doesn’t get much better than sitting on what passed for a beach at Duck Bay while eating a roll-on square sausage. Especially one that’s been fried in butter on a wee paraffin primus stove. As Davy’s Mother and Father both worked, he was very self-sufficient as far as feeding himself went.
Those were the days when the train came across Balloch main street right up to the pier, so the people could just get off the train and onto the Maid of the Loch for a wee sail. A rare warm day in Scotland caused some strange behaviour in the Glasgow tenement dwellers who were on a day out in their Sunday best. The men removed their shirts, but left their vest, or simmit, on, took off shoes and socks, and rolled up their trousers to paddle in the luke warm shallow water of Loch Lomond.
The woman were the same, as discretely as possible they removed their shoes and stockings, of course, as young teenagers we didn’t want to stare. Getting caught staring would result in a severe telling off from either the woman or her husband.
We tried to put the tent up on a patch of grass next to the road, but a man with a very official voice told us we couldn’t camp there. As it was summer the nights were short, so we just sat next to the loch until day break. When it was light, we packed up and headed home, cycling back through a very quiet Glasgow in the early hours had the advantage of dodging all the traffic.