Interfering with other people’s business used to be a way of life for this country.
I may have mentioned this before, but when I was a child in Glasgow I played in the back courts of the tenements amongst the bomb shelters. The most terrifying noise any child could hear was the sound of a sash window flying up, closely followed by the sound of someone else’s mother/gran/aunt giving you a high-volume telling-off.
Indeed, for many years, I was under the impression that my full name was “Susan Morrison-Stopthat”.
Any child at any time could be ticked off by any adult for any reason. Some expert recently said that this was “damaging for children’s development”, apparently because children are exposed to negative vibes or something. The expert likened this to playing under the eyes of the Stasi. This says more about the expert, really. I bet they got ticked off more than me.
It was more like being a baby elephant in a huge happy herd. Yeah, big aunty elephant could wallop you with a trunk now and then, but she’d also protect you against a marauding cheetah, and she’d shove you to the front if Attenborough turned up with a camera crew, after doing the elephant equivalent of spitting on a hanky and wiping your face clean.
Everyone got to stick their neb in. Children in danger of falling off walls, children who were even just looking at a wall thinking about climbing said wall, children poking sticks down drains and children putting their feet up on seats on buses . . . all were fair game for the swift rebuke.
And it wasn’t just Glasgow windae hinger-ooters who could have a pop at you. Back courts in Edinburgh and Dundee, playgrounds in Perth and Inverness, and beaches from Aberdeen to Aberdour all resounded to unexpected advice and chastisement.
At some point the whole business got rebranded as nosiness and the project was quietly shelved, which I am sure must come as relief to certain dictators who insist on behaving like murderous playground bullies. I can think of at least one who might be reined in by the thought of a herd of tongue-clicking Scottish grannies pitching up to give him a right good telling off.
Boy, are you in for a big shock
She had just arrived in Edinburgh, she told her new friend, for university. She didn’t say what she was going to study, but that turned out to be low on the list of priorities. University, she announced, was the very thing, she said, to improve your chances of a good marriage.
She expected, she said, to go on at least six or seven dates that month, go on to have at least three or possibly four boyfriends, two of whom would be serious. I assume the other two would be right clowns.
There would be one break-up serious enough to warrant tears and tantrums – from him, I imagine.
And then finally, she expected to meet her future husband. She intended to have two children, live in Surrey, she didn’t want to drive a 4x4, but she would continue with her career.
I wonder, did Kate Middleton have a similar conversation all those years ago in St Andrews?
Somewhere in this city, there’s a young man propping up a bar, happily oblivious to the hurricane that was heading his way. He won’t know what’s hit him until he says “I do”.
Blowing the whistle on my talents
The joy is that the Scottish commitment to community involvement has not entirely died. Last week in Glasgow, it was a fine day and I was close to Kelvingrove Park. Why, I thought, I shall take myself for a stroll. And indeed, my spirits being lifted by the balmy breeze and the unexpected sun, I thought I would accompany myself with a bit of a whistle of some hits from big musicals of the 50s. Which is odd, because I don’t like big musicals from the 50s.
Off I promenaded, whistling away until I reached a crossing. A man so tiny he only reached my shoulder – and remember, I am Glaswegian height – came up beside me and waited patiently to cross, then looked up at me and said, without rancour but with concerned sadness: “Ye cannae whistle, hen.”
I was forced to agree.
Perhaps, I said, I should fall back on gently humming. Yes, he said, that would be my best plan. He suggested I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair from South Pacific.
Be a part of it . . new York Place
This whole conversation was overheard on the number 10 bus which, to my inexpressible joy, now moves freely along York Place. Even the strange bossy woman who does the voice that endlessly tells passengers they are on the number 10 bus seems pleased.
I swear she sounded smug enough to plan a good marriage.