Back when we were small, but old enough Godfrey was to remember fondly and recall, off he went on a family holiday. He was eight, his sister Alice shrill fourteen, put up her usual scene , of refusing to be seen in their rattletrap car..not wanting to go to the city where Ma was born- Glasgow.
It was that last fun summer he oft wrote about, before Ma threw his dad Albion out. Wedged down between them he laughed and he sang. Alice in the backseat, with bag of boiled sweets, hiding under Ma’s old coat. Ma’s purse was not angry on the way out of town, he chattered without swat to the head or angry frown. She showed them the terraced house where she was born, born on the great River Clyde.
Four Aunties who looked just like Ma, and four dour uncles, a snotty Pug Dog, ushered them chaotically inside. There was no “telly” so Alice with a moan, curled up on the setee’ with a stack of outdated, dusty magazines, “Woman’s Own”. Date-nut Loaf from a tin and hot milky tea, in a coronation cup was placed before a very hungry Godfrey. He was small for his age, wore his kilt wrapped twice about his waist and held on by a rope. He showed the horse sweater he wore every where to his ancient Uncle Hamish, who had the most extraordinary nose hair. SO YOU ARE THE LAD WHO DISLIKES BEETS? Uncle Hamish shouted in his ear.I CANNOT ABIDE BEETS, Godfrey yelled back, not sure how well Uncle Hamish could hear.
That night in the tiny, crowded house, Godfrey slept like a log, under musty, itchy blankets, by the fire with the farty little pug dog. Alice, claiming “cramp” next day stayed sullen on the old setee’. Godfrey saw the sights of Glasgow, with Ma and Auntie Lefty. He sent a penny postcard of the shipyard home to me . The city is largre and loud and mingy, he wrote, Hello from Godfrey.
At a booksellers Ma gave him money for a book of his own, he chose Homer’s Odyssey. He endured a shoe shop, and a very long stop for a knitting pattern, perhaps Alice may wear. Then Ma bought a box of pastries, Godfrey drooling as they made there way, hand in hand to a city square. A group of old men sat, coats and trousers frayed, they were gathered about a park bench in the shade.Ma gave them the bakery box, of cream buns and sticky rolls. Telling Godfrey, these men are the disapointed ones, not bums, but poor lost souls…Auntie Lefty drove them along the lovely Clyde, Ma pointed out a prison, that she told Godfrey never to find himself inside
.They rounded out the day with a peaceful ferry ride.” We had Haggis and tatties for tea,” Dear Beatrice on another postcard he wrote me, thanks for feeding my cat, thank you from Godfrey.(P.S. he wrote I must tell you, I found a tin of BOWELL-BIND on the shelf here in the loo) In later years when he told this story, he said with Alice on the setee’ and dad on the drink, it was just Ma and I and hefty Aunt Lefty, and now I think of the lesson in the box of pastries, the time that we shared, it was hard for her to show it but Ma had a heart and truly cared. He was an odd little boy with no front teeth, he disliked beets, he wore his knitted horse sweater, tail sewed on with pride, and he never forgot Glasgow, far away on the great River Clyde.