Back to the East End…
I went back to my home town of Shettleston today to pick up a parcel from my brothers son David. It was really strange being there again, seeing that bar where I first met my husband at 16 years of age, standing on the exact spot where at age nine I was hit by car as I crossed the road in my Brownie’s uniform.
Back then I was so engrossed in trying to recall all the details for my ‘Road Safety Badge’ that I got smashed by a car as I crossed! Oh the irony.
It took almost a whole year to learn to walk again.
Shettleston looks so bloody grim, the old tenements have been cleaned, yet still have an air of desperation about them….I can’t explain why. New houses and blocks of modern flats are everywhere, yet feel drab.
The shops are so dirty looking, filthy windows with badly painted shop fronts that smack of cheap fags and stale bread.
You can almost the smell the mice that scurry amongst the chocolate bars as you walk in through their front doors, so I turned around and decided to buy a juice carton when we made it back to town.
I hated the feeling that seeped through me as I stood in my old main street.
I can never quite shake the memory of watching my mum walk away from me on that road in 1982, her brightly coloured woollen coat, merging with other East Enders as she huddled against the cold spring afternoon and even as I waited and watched – she never looked back. It was the last time I ever saw her alive.
Husband and I drove down to the main shopping Mall called ‘The Forge’ as we needed to bank some cheques.
It is on the grounds of the old Parkhead Forge iron and steel works, many generations of men from Shettleston had worked there, including mine. My daddy worked there and so did his grandfather and his uncles and brothers.
The brightly lit shopping mall with a smattering of high street stores, cheap POUND stores and crap 1980’s musak was busy, mostly with mums and kids after school.
Children wearing a uniform from my old school were walking, moaning, crying, screaming, laughing and shouting alongside world-weary women, much younger than me ….but yet all looking tired and mostly very fat.
I hate that generalisation, but I cannot write this without mentioning their appearance.
Women with short boyish haircuts, dull almost colourless clothes and big fat legs pushing empty prams with staggering slightly drunk-looking small toddlers ambling alongside them, passed me time and time again.
Even the small toddlers looked bored and exhausted.
There were some women who had that burnished bronze skin that is favoured by people who live under tanning beds.
Racism is rife in Glasgow’s East End, Glasgow is Scotland’s sunbed capital, and we have more tanning salons than any other city North of Carlisle.
Loads of white people in Glasgow’s East End despise Blacks and Asians yet spend the majority of their cash on trying to look brown! Funny? Yes.
In the main part of the mall there were stalls that sold various goods.
One sold cheap costume jewellery, one sold tee shirts with a distorted child’s face on it- “Your Kids face Here” it announced and another stall was hawking Native American Indian’s faces on clocks! Who buys this shit? I thought.
I decided to stop near the food store and wait on husband coming back from the bank.
Beside me there was a gaudily lit stall with gold lame fabric over the table and it had a huge white awning that shone out strong lights.
“Britt Ekland’s Bronzing Powder!!” the gold letters screamed and the stall had two very fat ladies; short cropped blonde hair, on the very small stools that sat at the front.
A curvy bleached blonde, very brown looking older woman was stroking her ‘Bronze like the Stars’ powder over the pudgy face of one woman, as a screaming toddler sat on the knee of the other.
The two women had a glut of plastic bags bursting with recent purchases, slung over the various handles and hooks off the two pushchairs that sat beside them.
The saleswoman continued her sales patter, her hands flourishing over the woman’s face, animated chatter as she bestowed the virtues of Britt Ekland’s magic make up.
I wondered if the Famous Britt was lying on some fancy sun deck in the South of France, sipping on a Champagne Martini and listening to the tinkling of some classic pianist. Was she living the dream?
Meanwhile her ‘magic’ was being worked on a few hard faced East End Glaswegians and a woman the colour of oak was speaking profusely of her products, what would Britt make of that scene?
The heavier of the two ladies turned her face upwards to the brown-oak coloured sales assistant and offered up her pasty white Scottish skin to the be ‘bronzed’…just like Britt but without the Azure coastline and fresh Martini.
The stool creaked, her abundant bum-flesh leaked over the sides of the tiny frail metal chair, I watched with freakish excitement….watching but worried the stool might just give way.
A sticky faced toddler clambered out of the pushchair and climbed onto the fat woman’s knee, surely this added weight is not going to help this situation?
The chair held fast, the women with their rusty brown faces and white necks were satisfied and purchases were made. More dreams sold to women who really need that boost.
Both women stood up, fixed their clothes and arranged small children back into prams, complimenting each other, smiling and gathering up their shopping.
I stood quietly watching the scene when a beautiful Japanese woman interrupted my thoughts. Her tiny stick thin frame and dark eyes covered my vision.
“Would you like to try the “Human Hair extension” she smiled?
I turned to see I was standing beside a cart that advertised “Real Human Hair for You, Look like a Star as worn by Jennifer Lopez”
“No thanks, I have more than enough hair already” I answered, but she had already clipped a huge blonde fountain of ‘human hair’ into my scalp.
I stood there shocked and tried to quickly unclip it out, it wouldn’t move!
She thrust a mirror into my face and the sight was horrible, I looked mental.
“You look lovely Madame” she said in her faltering English.
“I have really dark hair and that is blonde, I look like a freak, please take it out!” I demanded.
Just at that I saw the shocked look on my husbands face as he came down the escalator, he had big shocked -bush baby eyes and a horrified squint in his face at the hideous blonde slash that fell down my back.
The Japanese lady took the hair section out of my scalp, smiled, bowed and I ran off towards my poor shocked husband “Jesus Janey, you weren’t really thinking of going blonde were you?” he said as I grabbed his hand and headed for the car park.
“No, I never even asked for that hair extension, and it may have nits or lice in it, how many people had that in their hair before me? Quick I need to get home and shower” I hissed as I dragged my fingers through my tuggy hair.
I don’t want to be brown skinned or blonde, I am me. Janey from Shettleston, with thick bushy- dark hair and pasty white skin and that’s the way I will always stay.
Britt Ekland and Jennifer Lopez can sell their crazy elsewhere._