Went to a Thanksgiving party last night in the east end of Glasgow, which was a really good occasion. On the way there though RE and I, who had been in The Lansdowne having a beer and watching the All Blacks work it up England, went and collected GS and GS to give them a lift to the party. Needing some alcohol to take to it, well I was anyway - RE was driving (and had not partaken of beer while watching the rugby), we stopped outside an off licence in Maryhill Rd and I nipped in to do the necessary.
Now, dear gentle reader, I am no snob. Not in a real way anyway. But I do have certain standards, and I recognise that there are different, ahem, cultures living cheek by jowl all around Glasgow (and other places too).
One sure fire way of spotting the sort of area you're in is to walk into an off licence. For example, the ones in the west end, the trendy studenty west end, of Glasgow are bright welcoming places, often with large stacks of wine and beer from all around the world invitingly lying in the middle of the floor, from which you can make your selection if there's nothing on the wall shelves which takes your fancy. This is of course after having lifted down a few bottles to read their labels in an effort to aid the decision making process.
Not so the one in Maryhill Rd. You walk into what is essentially a cage three feet wide by six feet long. Everything is behind either metal bars or what looks like bulletproof plexi-glass. There's a tiny hatch which can be opened by the staff when they swap your money for their products. The important thing is that you can not touch anything, so you can't steal anything.
So into this cage I went, with two young chaps standing in front of me in the queue, both dressed in the ubiquitous ned uniform of white trackies (tracksuits to you and me). The first one, who was already being served, handed over his ten pound note, which at first the staff member attempted to refuse. When asked why, she told him that "half of it's missing!" In a uniquely Glasgow nasal whine, which sadly I really can't do justice to in the written word, he pleaded his case, hampered only slightly by the fact that he was clearly ripped out his tits on something rather stronger than mere alcohol. If you know what I mean. After not very much bargaining, the staff member relented and accepted the torn cash, at which point junkie boy was most enthusiastic in his offering of thanks. By the way.
So that left one person in front of me. He wasn't an obvious junkie, but looked like your average young ned. In a clearly well practised routine, he handed over his passport to the staff member, without being asked to, who checked his age and handed it back, and in a similar, yet less ripped to the tits, whine, he requested a bottle of fortified wine, and a packet containing ten cigarettes. Well, he actually said "a boattle 'o Buckie an' ten Mayfair", but I knew what he meant, speaking fluent ned when required due to that requirement often being called upon in a previous occupation.
So far so normal. In some places anyway. But there was a follow up question from the staff member, clearly well versed in the partaking of said Buckfast Tonic Wine, which caused me some surprise. She asked him if he'd like one from the fridge. Neddy boy merely whined "Aye!" in a tone of whine that suggested "of course you silly lady, why ever would I want a warm one?".
So, my educational horizon has been expanded yet again, every day being a school day and all that guff. In my years growing up in deepest, darkest Lanarkshire I was obviously aware of the presence of Buckfast. I even tasted it once. And I served it, ironically of course, insisting that all present tasted it, at the housewarming party in my previous flat on the grounds that I'd moved back from Renfrewshire to Glasgow, which is technically in Lanarkshire, so I should serve the local wine! But until that moment of Epiphany last night, I never knew it was apparently best drunk chilled! I can't wait for next summer!
So, he departed and that left me. I asked for some bottles of Corona beer, which the staff member walked away to get. While she was away though, another three people came in behind me. Nedettes. In all their glory. "Oh shit!" I thought, knowing what else I had been tasked with obtaining. The Corona was brought to the counter (still behind the screen though, you don't get it passed out until the money, torn or otherwise, has been given over) and I was asked "anything else?". Clearing my throat I asked "have you any ..... fruit juice, like Schloer or something?". She looked at me, making eye contact for the first time, and just sadly shook her head while saying "naw son, we don't have anything like that here, try Tesco". I paid for my Corona and squeezed past the three nedettes to the outside world and my friends in the car.
The party was great!