Stuart Christie – The Wider Side of Life

The following extract is from author Stuart Christie’s book “My Granny made me an Anarchist” and recalls his time in 1960 or so coming to Blantyre.The words are unedited, sent over by Stuart and printed here with his permission. His brilliant book can be bought here:

Mickey's Cafe, Stonefield Road

Mickey’s Cafe, Stonefield Road

“A SUBSTANTIAL PART of teenage social life in Blantyre revolved around Vince’s chip shop in the Glasgow Road and Mickey’s Café near the chapel. Vince, a second-generation Lanarkshire Italian, had a juke box around which we spent a good part of our time playing the latest records — Eddie Cochrane’s ‘Three Steps to Heaven’, Del Shannon, Roy Orbison, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Johnny Cash, Ian Menzies and the Clyde Valley Stompers. The Glasgow anthem, however, was Hank Locklin’s ‘Wild Side of Life’.

For money I carried pails of coal on Saturday mornings for Vince’s fryers. I had to do this at home as well. Tam, being a miner, had a free ton of coal delivered every quarter, courtesy of the National Coal Board (NCB). This was dumped on the pavement outside our gate and I had to shift this to the coal shed in a pail. A milk and paper round also brought in extra pocket money.

In the summer we went to ‘the berries’, berry-picking in the fruit-growing district around Lanark, hawking our services around the orchards and farms for a shilling a pail of gooseberries. It was painful work, particularly when I discovered I was allergic to gooseberry spines and my hands turned green with pus!

My pals in Blantyre were older than me and mostly Catholics except for a few Protestants and came with me Friday nights to the dancing at the ‘Trocadero’ in Hamilton or the Blantyre Co-operative Hall, dressed in our Blantyre-Roman suits, pointy-toed winklepicker shoes and white macs with a ‘cairry-oot’ of South African Lanliq or Buckfast fortified wines in the pocket, looking for a ‘lumber’, i.e., to ‘pull’ a girl. Girls out on the town tended to wear either flared, sleeveless dresses with crepe petticoats and a cardigan, or tight, short, pencil skirts with short blazer jackets, hair done up in a heavily lacquered beehive or elfin style, face pale with a dash of mauve, bright red lipstick and plenty of mascara, seamless stockings and high-heeled stiletto shoes — and to carrying a handbag. Occasionally, on Saturday nights we would get the train to Crossmyloof ice rink in Glasgow. That drew skaters from all over Glasgow and surrounding counties, and gang fights were not uncommon, but usually it was a case of tense hostile neutrality. Once a month or so there would be ‘go as you please’ or ‘open mike’ concerts at the Broadway cinema on Sunday nights, supported by invited bands, usually trad jazz, skiffle or rock ‘n’ roll.”

To read more, you’ll just have to buy Stuart’s book!

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