Saturday, November 15, 2008

Se Soucier with Billy McNeill

I hope I'm not the only one who gets a little melancholy when you get to that part of the year where you finally get to the stage of the year where you end up either buying or taking down a calendar. I'm a little obsessed with the passage of time, the horrifying twelve month passage from Franco Miranda staring at me from Januarys hopefully optimistic page 1 of the St Mirren calender to the slightly more sombre and distracted John Potter page once again marking the onset of panic that I should have done more with my year - not true this year in fairness, since I went to the UK, that was at least something. My Dad, delivering me some sausages today, get all uncharacteristically strange and reflective about our trip to the UK today, which sort of me a bit sad, especially at all the dislocated relationships we leave behind whenever I go home - my Dads sister, not the one with the locked up room full of mystery, the one that we last heard of when she was dating Rangers reserve goalkeeper from 1971, being a notable example - and how we all swap e-mail addresses at the end of the holiday and promise to keep in touch but we never do, apart from ending up on a mailing list that ends up with us getting links to clips of the fat kid on the rollercoaster screaming or version 29 of the Demotivational poster e-mail. The truest example of this dislocated set of relationship came when I was in tears in aunties house in about 93, homesick and desperate not to leave at the end of the holiday, while my best friend from school in Scotland calmly explained me to what was happening in the wrestling without even looking up from the TV. Now, we accept everything for what it is, a holiday with magical meaningless moments with no connection to real life, a sort of break from norm that means not much more. The hug at the end of the holiday means something still, but not what it once was. My Dad agrees with me, and over some beautifully made tea we gaze out over my deck and talk about football and how we couldn't live in Scotland anymore, unless we won the lottery. As he leaves he sees Manchester United on the TV, begins laughing at Liverpools lack of trophies and tells me how much fun we had in Manchester. I guess that's the moment isn't it? It seems a world away...

My Dad and I had quite a wonderful blissful argument to start with in Manchester, the sort of male and male bonding I think everyone should have with their father. We were drinking with the New Zealand cricket journalists in an Australian pub called The Walkabout - which was notable because it sold Boags, the official beer of Tasmania, and obviously there was no Australians there, just a man who cracked my mysterious T-shirt code and worked out a big green T-shirt that said "Celtic Lios De Lisboa 67" meant I was quite happy Celtic won the league. Dad luckily didn't any of the New Zealand journalists know that I have a lot of sporting based racism towards New Zealand, and I went off into my own corner to drink Guinness off a table shaped like a barrel, that I realised actually was a barrel when a slender blonde with no time to waste on colonials brusquely motioned that I had to give it up. Her air disappointed me, as it wasn't genuine, it was just someone under stress, but I thought she could have handled it better - Dad obviously was still buying the conversation at his own table, since it seemed like he was about to meet Richard Hadlee or Dave Dobbyn or the guy who writes Footrot Flats or some other New Zealand icon. We reconciled late in the evening, my attempts to befriend the virulently anti Rangers table of Mancunians having met with some success, and he had three pints of Guinness lined up. He was drunk and cocky, and said something about how he had outdrunk me, which was strange for my Dad, a man prone to a neatly trimmed beard, afternoon naps and a knowledge of what Smiffy will say next on The Bill. I shook my head, drank a pint of Guinness in three seconds, called him a sad old twat, and left him alone to go to the hotel. I went back for him five minutes later, and he hadn't moved. In fact, he said exactly the same thing - he hadn't even realised I'd gone. We were arguing about not arguing when the barrel girl walked past, and I said something like was she happy at her work, a self explanatory Scottish expression to a miserable shop keep or service worker. She looked so weary, and I realised I was being a horribly tourist foreign dickhead to someone going about their business, and I immediately apologized. She smiled, then subtly motioned with her head to a cranky boss cleaning classes. She said a rude word about him, and walked off, into the back room, with the air of a broken girl ready to quit...we left her to it, walking along the road in the rain while I called New Zealand all sorts of horrible names...

I don't like Manchester Airport, mostly for reasons that involve the herding pen of the departure lounge and a great feeling of depressing loneliness that swept over me when I was there as a teenager - I even recognised the vending machine I had such a horrible moment at. Long story. We sat at the bar nursing weak watered down glasses of coke, passing comment on the excess of flesh on display from the Benidorm crowd. Two Americans eyed our seats voraciously since they were in prime position to watch the big screen TV, but we glued ourselves to them until they gave up and took out some trashy romance novels instead. At one of the restaurants, a girl was on her mobile phone, a quite thin pale girl in a crop top with her hair in loose freeform and a pair of strangely sensible trousers, distractedly picking at some cold chips on a filthy looking plate. I was smiling at my Dad because I had just found a positive sports score on the Internet but he wasn't listening, he was too busy laughing with someone about something or other. Her boyfriend, a shaved headed load of bulk and energy in a Leeds United top, all macho swagger and certainly no vegetables with his steak, was staring at her with great intensity. I fully expected him to begin berating her for not listening to his fascinating story about Leeds or Shannon Matthews or whatever he was looking at in his copy of your super soaraway Sun, but instead he put the paper down and held out his hand across the table. She simply looked down at the ground, and flipped her phone around to show him whatever had come up on the screen, and he took her hand and squeezed it with an amazing tenderness, shoving various condiments out of the way and putting his paper down, a sort of modern gallantary unfitting to the hustle of Manchester airport. I turned back to my coke, absolutely aware that what had started off as idle table watching had turned into an intrusion on a deeply personal moment. It could have been something simple, but soon they were off, and whatever happened at that table at that moment was soon replaced by a pair of animated Korean girls talking about Victoria Beckham, while my Dad bemoaned loudly how long we had to sit and wait. I didn't table watch again, I may have idly watched cute girls going on holiday, but I was so hopeful that everything was OK with the couple, that if there was any cute girl staring back, it went unregistered...

Eventually, there was a deep depression settled over us - when we lined up in a queue to go back to Ayrshire, we weren't just sad to leave Manchester, but the UK, because it was the second last day of our holiday in total. Three behind us in the queue was Billy McNeill, the ex Celtic captain, standing perfectly still and holding his case with no airs and graces. He had his family with him, but he still had a poise and dignity to him, a sort of unwilling superstar air. A kid was running around his legs at high speed that he was trying to tell to stop running around. He shot the kid a final, stern glance, and then the kid got the message and went back to serenity and Starbursts. The plane was delayed, and Billy threw his case down the ground, now just a worried and depressed and harried traveller despite his status in Scottish society being assured by his column in the Sun. Eventually he smiled broadly, and shrugged his shoulders in a what can I do motion. My own patience had worn exceptionally thin, and I tried hard to stare intently at my William Shatner book to pass the time. My Dad was amused as he always is by my lack of patience - I think sometimes he had me just for amusement - and was in his dopey bewildered pretending not to notice mood. British society in most cases is built on complaint - Mum still can't get over the fact that in Irvine they say "Don't mind the bus driver, he doesn't like this route" as if that gives the bus driver right to treat you like crap. As the people in the queue that weren't me, Billy McNeill or my Dad began to arc up angrily, I saw a beautiful older woman in black trousers with a walkie talkie try and fend off most of the initial complaints. As she did so, another flight crew, pilots, promotions models, air hostesses of sub par quality, all walked past off her another flight. They were excitedly talking about going out and getting drunk, and one of the promotions models made her sexual desires abundantly clear, which amused Billy no end. As the woman with the walkie talkie kept talking, she suddenly stopped, and drew the sexually desirous flight attendant a filthy disgusted horrified and jealous glance all at once. It was so loaded with meaning that to encode it would open up a walkie talkie full of worms. It was one of those looks that tells you everything about a relationship - I realised that every single day I was passing these kind of relationships - the tender touch, the hate filled glance, the work girl who hates her boss, even Billy and the small child - straight by without ever knowing the circumstances of them. It made me curious what else I wasn't noticing...

At which point, I instantly began a conversation with my Dad about what a wonderful time we'd had in Manchester. He smiled and told me how much he hated Liverpool. Ah, that's the kind of relationship I can always control...

11 comments:

JahTeh said...

Never mind all this loving stuff, what about the 'Big Penguin' being lethal? And you worry about riding on a bus.

Mama Zen said...

This was just fascinating!

cube said...

We could all benefit from paying more attention to the reality around us.

BTW which Shatner book? Seems like he writes one every 3 weeks.

Miles McClagan said...

I did hear that, that the BP was made of asbestos, however it came from a paper so unreliable in it's facts that you have to check the quick crossword answers twice to make sure you aren't duped...we'll wait on the tests (gulp) as they say in the classics!

Thanks mate, and thanks for visiting! Fascinating is a good thing to be called!

The autobiography - my favourite Shatner thing is his album Captain of the Starship, where he poses with a gun suspiciously like a camera tripod...

http://franklarosa.com/vinyl/Exhibit.jsp?AlbumID=56

Miladysa said...

I'll have to come back and read this in the morning with a cup of tea :D

Just popped in to let you know you've been tagged! Bet that made your weekend ;D

myninjacockle said...

My erstwhile girlfriend (current wife) and I would sometimes have drunken arguments, often on different topics, resolve them and go to sleep only to wake up with the resolution forgotten. Thus we would have to repeat the argument, which is tricky when all you can remember of its cause is that someone made 'a face'.

Bimbimbie said...

Yes calendars are a little confronting at this time of the year, when you realise a new one soon be sitting in its place and all your good intentions that you plan to do remain that ... perhaps we could just have pretty pictures on both sides to make us smile instead.

Baino said...

Miley you spend hours noticing the reality around you! This story must be ancient history. You're one of the most observant authors I know!

There's a big penguin? God I'm so coming over next year! That and penguin markets with litres of honey are simply irresistable!

Miles McClagan said...

I've been tagged? Hopefully that doesn't mean I'm lost in the wilderness...I have just had a cup of tea though, it was great!

My girlfriend always remembered what we had argued about even if it was when we were stoned or drunk...me, I was usually over it by the next day. I'm like that, I argue like crazy, then get over it...I'm the total opposite of my mother!

Once this St Mirren calendar gets down to John Potter, the year is over, which is depressing! You are right, some pretty pictures would cheer me up...my calendar has all these red crosses from when I still hadn't gone on holiday...I might need cute puppies!

Yeah, if you goggle The Big Penguin Penguin, you can see a picture of it in all it's fibre asbestos glory! I'm an attentive person by nature, I always have been...it's how exactly where to get the honey buckets the size of Latvia!

cube said...

Yeah, the Shat man is a special dude. Not many would have the guts to allow something like The Encyclopedia Shatnerica written about their exploits.

Miles McClagan said...

Yeah definitely, most people would have sued! He just doesn't care, and his work on Boston Legal is just sensational...who else wins an Emmy and says "What took you so long!" and gets away with it!