Susan Morrison: It's my own personal fall of the house of usherette

There has long been a conspiracy to wipe any trace of my existence from the face of the earth. My first childhood home fell to the wrecking ball decades ago. The foundations of my primary school lie under a new housing development, like it got taken out by Jimmy the Squirrel in a mafia-style hit.

Friday, 22nd June 2018, 6:00 am
The ABC Cinema in Glasgow photographed in 1997

My secondary school vanished overnight. They built a new one, all shiny steel and glass. I’m told it has a state of the art smart heating system. Pupils study in a computer-controlled climate, which opens the windows automatically, should it get too warm. There are no draughts in it at all.

Ridiculous. How can we expect to build the character of our modern youth if they are not educated in buildings where Victorian heating systems regularly lose their battle with ill-fitting windows and the Scottish weather?

Why, in my young day, if the wind was blowing in from the West, you had to hold your jotters down in double Maths.

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Firefighters tacke the devastating Glasgow School of Art blaze. Picture: John Devlin

We didn’t have magically opening windows. On the odd occasion that the temperature rose above the equivalent of a Victorian workhouse, the windows remained firmly shut. The frames were thickly entombed in about 30 layers of thick corporation paint. No one opened the windows, no matter how hot it got. If you were lucky, the lad sitting next to you had had a bath that week.

If the weather was Arctic, then it was first into the cloakroom to stand hugging those monster radiators for a heat before a prowling teacher found you and threw you out into the playground. Fresh air, as you will recall, was considered vital for teenagers, but not for teachers, who huddled together in their staff room frantically fitting in a swift Benson and Hedges before second year Modern Studies.

Now another milestone in my personal history is gone. The eyes of the world are on the terrible destruction of the Glasgow School of Art, and quite rightly so.

The other victim in the disaster is getting barely a mention. The O2 ABC music venue is also beyond rescue, and it looks like it, too, will have to come down.

Many years ago, when it was part of the ABC Cinema chain, I started my training as a cinema manager in there.

By the mid-80s, the mighty 3000-seat auditorium of the Regal cinema had been butchered into four separate screens. The conversion work was not good.

If you sat in Cinema 5, you could hear the film in Cinema 4. A woman once complained about the noise bleed. The manager breezily told her that it was good value for money.

She glared at him, thought about it, and then said ‘Aye, yer right, son’ and sailed off clutching her Butterkist.

The freezer room was hidden in the depths of the building. Usherettes came down with their ice-cream trays and loaded up for what we called the “dark sales”, where she’d stand just ­under and to the left of the screen, then thoughtfully flick on her tray light at the very ­moment the plot had turned tense.

She looked like a sort of sugar-laden Statue of Liberty with that light ­blazing out all over the shop, ready to break the tension in that crucial scene with a choc ice or a Mivvi.

Brain freeze

There was a particular usherette who was known for her fiery temper. I put her on dark sales, because the last time she was on seating duty she took a swing at an off-duty policewoman. Not good.

I figured sales cut the possibility of violence.

How it kicked off remains a mystery, but about ten minutes after I sent Janet out, I found one of my customers being held in a hostage situation by an enraged usherette armed with a dangerous weapon.

Channelling every police procedural I had ever seen, I walked slowly towards her, my hand held out, my voice soft and neutral. ‘Janet’, I said, ‘just give me the King Cone. I’ll get the gentleman’s jacket dry-cleaned. We’ll say no more about it.’

Glasgow, the only city in the world where a frozen ice cream is an offensive weapon.

A Glasgow kiss for absent father

Father’s Day, last weekend, Glasgow. I’m working at a family cabaret show to celebrate dads being dragged away from the World Cup. They were thrilled. I could tell.

A wee lad sandwiched between two big adults, with matching tattoos on their arms. Apparently, a happy family.

‘Is this your daddy?’ say I.

Without giving the lad a chance, the big wumman barks: “That’s no his faither.”

I guess I blinked, because she followed it up in a softer tone, saying: ‘His faither’s away.”

“Well,” I said, “I hope he’s back soon.” “Oh yes,” she said, coming over all pan loaf. “18 months.”

She leaned forward and said warmly “Barlinnie.”

Happy Father’s Day, Glasgow style.