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15 March 2013

You are either out or you are in

I was in a supermarket in London last month.


I watched three young children, around five or six years old, sliding up and down the store squealing and pulling stuff off the shelves. They were like chattering, screaming meerkats on a hunt through the Kalahari Desert.


I looked for the parents and spotted three women chatting to two men. Every now and then, the kids would huddle round them and then bound off screaming again. The parents were pushing those extremely expensive three wheeled prams and feeding organic seaweed sheets to a baby who was spitting it all back out. One child had one of those wooden bikes with no pedals, let’s be honest pedalling is SOoooo last year.


That wee munchkin was crashing into giant displays of organic cereal. One child ran up and kicked it’s mum right on the shin, she merely rubbed her leg and limped off.


It made me recall childhood shopping trips with my mammy in Shettleston. She would frequent the King-Co shop, the nearest thing we got to a supermarket in Glasgow’s East End. It contained about seven aisles of food, a few shelves containing bleach, carbolic soap and some household goods, with maybe four till points. There was a cold meat counter and usually two women in men’s socks wearing slippers, pushing a steamie pram full of washing tied in a tight bundle.


Before we entered the glass doors, my mammy would grab me by the neck of my damp duffel coat and read me the riot act: “If you touch anything, I will stamp on your neck”


I would walk the cool aisles of that store, scared to even look at stuff. If my mammy caught me making eye contact with the ice-cream freezer, she would hiss: “Don’t even think about it!” The rest of the shopping trip would be spent with me staring at the ground.


Then we would waddle down the road, struggling with our shopping, a string vegetable bag full of papery onions scratching my legs and plastic bags full of cans cracking my knees. Once we got home, she would take the bags off me.


“Go out and play!” she would yell. “Take your skate with you!”


Rain or shine, we all went out to play, even if it was with just one broken roller-skate tied to the ankle with a discarded brown nylon our mammy could no longer wear. That was how I spent my long summer holidays. You weren’t allowed back in for ages or your mammy would shout “you are either out or you are in bastard face” It was illegal back in the 60s to open and shut a door too many times (obviously a joke).


I know I must be getting older, now that I start to tut at other mothers’ parenting skills.


Today’s kids even answer their mammy back! I don’t know anyone who was born in the 1960s who would have dared to mouth off at their mammy. We didn’t come from mothers who tolerated a kick to their shins. I would still be in a coma ward to this day if I had.


I know better than most people that the old days weren’t as good as we think. I know there was a lot of poverty, abuse, robbery and murder, but I still believe that kids didn’t dare disrespect their parents the way they do in today’s society.


Then again, in our day we didn’t have shedloads of TV shows that explained how to make your child behave. We had The Golden Shot and The Avengers: two things my mammy was already good at. She could fire a sling-back shoe like a warrior and – trust me – she could avenge like no one I knew.


Ah …the good old days.

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