Monday, May 12, 2008



I’ve teleported myself back to The Muscular Arms; this was a pub in Glasgow, not the nickname of uber-hunk. I was 18/19 and working in the super-coolest bar in the city; life was absolutely marvellous, and after my deflowering I was some kind of confident, as a woman. It’s a Pizza Hut now, but back then there was nothing like it. They’ve changed the name of the street and it’s now Nelson Mandela Place; my brain can’t retrieve the old name. A lot happened in my 1973; the main thing being the death of my father. I’d spent most of the time mooning around in the deep and meaningful words of The JeanGenie, Daniel and Happy Xmas War is Over

I don’t know what the theme was supposed to be in the main bar, probably just whacky: there was half a car (yellow beetle I think) on one wall; Rupert the Bear hung in a corner; and a dummy dressed like an old man leaning on the bar, became the cause of many one-sided arguments because he wouldn’t accept drinks or cigarettes or join in a song. I grew up in that job; that was where I learned to love coffee. For years I’d tried it with and without sugar or milk but just couldn’t get on with it, and then suddenly, coffee was the new chocolate! I felt at home and surrounded by family; there were parties somewhere every weekend – my mother reported me missing because I’d been gone for days…but she hadn’t contacted work. I’d either borrowed or bought clothes and continued life as normal but ended each night at a different party, waking up on strange sofas.

The Starlight Lounge, upstairs, had an ornamental stage with Fred ‘n’ Ginger stepping out in a dance (it might not have actually been them, but dancers anyway). It was all romance, sparkle and shadows up there. I think I only ever worked lunch in The Starlight. The specialities I remember were hot beef sandwiches and oxtail or tomato soup – fabulous combinations. Then we would go round to Diggs (the other coolest place to be seen) and eat cheesecake; their cheesecake was a seriously crumbly base and very soft creamy-cheese with great dollops of strawberry or cherries and sauce. My father was in and out of hospital every three weeks; he loved my long skirts and laughed till he couldn’t breathe at the make-up. We had to lock up the dog whenever he came home because he couldn’t take the weight of happy animal. I loved telling him the tales of my many mistakes.

When the new bar on the second floor opened, the theme was a surprise; even we didn’t know what it was going to be. They had opened up the old close (stairs and landings), keeping the original tiles on the walls and the old wrought-iron banisters; it was a journey into the past, to a version of old Glasgow. Oor Wullie’s Bar had a gigantic mantelpiece as a gantry, complete with a pair of wally dugs on each end, and high up on the wall was a beautifully decorated toilet cistern – you pulled the chain to ring the bell and call, ‘TIME.’ People would wait by the bar, hoping to see us pull that chain. Across the ceiling there was a pully (washing line) hung with huge bloomers, vests, bras and socks. I loved working up there but never used the toilet to call time.

I often ended up in the tiny basement bar by myself; it was a kind of mellow and quiet space that I was definitely too young to appreciate; I wanted to be in the midst of all the action. My father was the only one who could answer my question, ‘What’s a pink gin?’ A couple had come to the bar and while she sat down he got the drinks. Well, I searched that bar for a bottle of pink gin and neither he nor she told me any different; they obviously hadn’t a clue what it was either. So she had to have something else. None of the other staff knew; we were all too young to know something as dead as pink gin.

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