Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Paper Boys # 8

6.30am. The boss hadn't shown up. I went round to his house with 3. I rattled the letterbox. Eventually, he opened the door. 'Whit is it?' he said. His pyjamas were covered in wee teddy bears. 3 was pissing himself. 'Are you not coming to the shop?' I said. He appeared fifteen minutes later. Everybody was humming the tune off The Wombles. That Saturday, everybody's wages got docked. Mistakes.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Paper Boys # 7

The boss's brother worked every other day. Dennis. He fancied himself as a man about town; he drove a white Saab, and lived with his mother. He was in the Royal Navy Reserve. 'Ooh!' pouted 3. 'Is that weekend sailors?' He got glared at. 'Look at the state of it,' said Dennis. 'You still yaze it for pishing over high walls.' We laughed while 3 turned crimson. That was Dennis. Getting his mum to pay for his petrol and taking the mick out of the teenage virgins.

One morning, he woke up to find someone had tipped a load of brake fluid over his car.

Paper Boys # 6

Mistakes. The customer didn't get his paper. The money was docked off your wages. 'Aw, he's fuckin' at it!' complained 3. 'Ah pushed it aw the way through!' His wages still got docked, though.

Paper Boys # 5

'Whit time dae you finish yer run, 17?' asked the boss. 'Half eight,' I immediately lied. I knew he was looking for a spare boy. Spare prick, more like; I'd already used the Ancient Greek excuse twice.

Paper Boys # 4

Tuesday to Friday I delivered magazines after school. My favourites were Punch and Amateur Photographer. I would read both before delivering them, sitting on a dyke. Punch for Alan Coren and Hunter Davies. Amateur Photographer for the Contax and Yashica adverts. And the glamour section.

I was fourteen.

Paper Boys # 3

On Sundays, there was something called the Vendors Run. It meant selling papers down the docks to whoever wanted one. A girl called Karen did it. Karen was scary; she looked like she'd had sex. 3 farted. 'Ah've shagged it,' he said. The rest of us looked at the floor. Through the hatch, the boss was chuckling.

Paper Boys # 2

There was a stable door separating the paperboys' area from the back shop. It was always locked; scud books. Saturday morning was payday. We'd be sitting on the benches, waiting for the boss to turn up. We knew when he was there - cigar smoke would come seeping through the crack between the top and bottom halves of the door. Thinking back on it, I can picture him, bent double, blowing smoke through the gap. The man with the money. And the scud books.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Paper Boys # 1

Paper boys don't have names. They have numbers. I was 17. 11 got sacked for incompetence, and got his mum to come round to the shop. He didn't get reinstated. 3 could fart louder than anyone I'd ever met, which was a feat at six in the morning. 8 had the best paid run, but had to cycle half way to Falkirk. He was off sick once. The boss told me to do his run when I was finished. I told him I couldn't - I had to get home to study for my Ancient Greek exam. He spat on the floor and told 3 to do it. He'd locked 3 in the ice cream freezer the previous day. 3 had farted till he got out. 3 was not chuffed. He told the boss I was bullshitting. I recited the definite article out loud, with mistakes. The boss looked me up and down. 'You dae it, 3,' he said. '17's too brainy tae dae another run.' He was right. I'd already done my Ancient Greek test, and passed it. But I was fucked if I was going to cycle half way to Falkirk before school.

Down On The Farm

They were born again Christians, although I couldn't get a handle on their proselytising lark. They' d be down the precinct every Saturday afternoon, giving it fire and brimstone. We were all damned, of course. I don't know if they were trying to convert the weekend shoppers - I suppose they must have been. They were known as The Brethren, but there was none of that 'come and join us' brotherly love. I worked for them for four summers. Dinner times were a revelation. They would not eat with us; the sight of a Pot Noodle being consumed by a heathen mouth was to be avoided on pain of excommunication. We worked hard, though. Thirty two pounds for a forty hour week. I asked for a raise, and got it. Ninety quid. I got sacked on payday. The Lord works in mysterious ways, right enough.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 31

Mick was a teacher, like everyone else. His local cafeneio was notorious. The toilet was known as 'the black hole of Salonica'. Rumour had it that he was writing a book. The title was 'Greek Cafeneio Toilets,' with his local providing the main character. I was passing by one day and saw him. He was pointing a Super 8 camera at a jotter. 'I wrote my book, Andy!' he shouted. 'Now I'm making the film of the book!'

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 30

The Astoria had two toilets, one marked 'Ladies' and one marked 'Gents'. They were identical - a wee window high up on the wall and a hole in the floor. No one bothered with the 'Ladies' and 'Gents' distinction; the footpads were unisex. Julie pulled Yanni up about the state of the place. 'That's some excuse you've got for a ladies' toilet,' she said. Yanni looked at me and winked. 'What's the problem, Julie?' he said. 'Ye go in there tae take a dump, no tae eat yer dinner.' Julie was having none of it. 'You know what I mean,' she said. Yanni laughed. 'Julie,' he said. 'If ye don't like the Ladies, yaze the Gents.'

Friday, 6 August 2010

Craig Lorentson, Singer, 1965 - 2010

Craig Lorentson, who has died aged 44, wasn't a friend of mine, although we both grew up in Grangemouth, in East Central Scotland. My only childhood memory of him is from Primary 1, when we were late for Mrs Rennie's class. We'd been playing up at The Pipes and, as you do when you're five years old, we forgot about the time. Mrs Rennie was not pleased. She sent us out to clean the muck off our shoes. I remember us scraping them on the big rug at the main door. We were confused - they looked clean to us.

Fast forward to the 80s. The Oxgang, the coolest pub in Grangemouth. Craig would be in there with his crowd, taking up the whole corner. Their laughter, like their conversation, was loud. There was a certain amount of envy in the air; it seemed that everyone in the Oxgang was in a band, or at least talking about being in one. But Craig's lot were the real deal - Lowlife had a record out, and they were doing well. They were big 'on the Continent', wherever that was; I'd been to England, once. Craig would be in ripped jeans and white shirt, showing off his tattoo. Those were the days when a tattoo was the mark of a sailor or a con. Whatever, if you had a tattoo, you were a wrong 'un. Craig wore his with pride. And that's how I'll remember him - laughing with his gang, tall and strong, his sleeves rolled up to his armpits, strutting round the Oxgang like he owned it.

Craig wasn't a friend. I wasn't a fan. But his music has been haunting me all day.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 29

Things had got beyond a joke. I stepped into a chemist's and weighed myself. 63 kilos. 10 stone, which is quite a feat when you're five foot eleven and in full time employment. My problem was that I was incapable of defaulting on a bill. One of the regulars down the Astoria said to me, 'Andy, are you eating?' He took me out for roast chicken. The retsina flowed.

That was another three-dayer.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 28

Gilbert was from Dublin. He was thirty five, they said, but he looked like Catweazel. He played the guitar on the corner when he was pissed, which was usually. He carried a wee bottle of Metaxa inside his jacket, and would sip from it after each Bob Dylan murder. He put the bite on me one night. I glared at him. 'You bastard!' he shouted. 'You're workin'!' What a tosser, I thought. Aye, I'm working. But I haven't eaten since Tuesday.

Those were the times when one Amstel gave me a three day hangover.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 27

You may be getting the impression that Greece is full of alcoholic TEFL teachers who smoke like chimneys. There are, however, other teachers, who are clean living, and who neither drink nor smoke.

There must be.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 26

In Greece, a 'brown one' means Amstel, and a 'green one' means Heineken. Both are undrinkable.

We drink them, anyway.

The only option, not drinking them, is unthinkable.

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 25

Simon lived under a bush. He played the saxophone when he came out. He was in the Astoria most nights, trading in his coins for paper. He was just back from Cairo. I thought Simon was great - he'd managed to save up enough for a ticket to Egypt. We're all there, admiring the Palestinian scarf he's wearing.

I see him a couple of days later. He's nursing an Amstel. He's got a bandage round three fingers on his left hand.

'What happened?' I ask.

'Nothing much,' he says. 'We ended up in Babel. Some arsehole wanted my scarf.' He tugs at the tassels round his neck with his good hand. 'As you can see, Andy,' he says. 'He didn't fucking get it.'

The Weird and Wonderful World of TEFL # 24

Hogmanay. Four of us, maudlin, sprawled over the counter, which suddenly jumps a foot in the air. There's whisky all over the place. Within seconds the bar is empty, apart from the four of us, and Kostas, who wastes no time replenishing our glasses. Kostas is a great barman. He never abandons a customer. Even during an earthquake. He tells us the up and down ones are nothing; it's the side to side ones that are the real bastards.