It was a busy day Friday 30th January, I called my 82 year old dad, like I do every day, there was no answer on his landline and he lives alone.
My heart clenched, I called his mobile trying hard to stem images of him lying at the bottom of his stairs in a crumpled heap, he quickly answered and I could tell he was in a busy ‘outside’ place.
He informed me he had got in a cab to go get a ‘much needed haircut’ his words. He is practically bald but let’s not get into silly details, he basically escaped into the freezing cold with a thin jacket and a walking stick, the stick was tokenism (he uses it as a street pigeon sword not as a walking aid).
I told him to stay put, I was coming to meet him, I chose my words, for saying “I am coming to get you” makes him annoyed. I can see why, he fights for his basic independence and I get that, imagine you had a sign up at your door that said “DO NOT GO OUT ALONE” and you didn’t have any other illness other than being a bit wobbly and old? You would fight that eh?
Anyway I jump out of the car at the shopping area, the sleety rain slashing me sideways, I leapt over flooded pavements and got into the barbers. It’s a proper wee old Glasgow mans barber and there were four old blokes cutting four older blokes hair in a small room. I rushed in and quickly scanned the faces…no dad.
“Excuse me, was there a wee man just in, probably wearing a waistcoat, tie and suit combo?” I blurted out.
My mouth was dry, where was my dad? Was he lying in a street face down in a puddle surrounded by pecking pigeons bleeding from a head wound as the sleet landed on his dead body?
The barber closest to me smiled and said “Was that a wee dapper bloke with a lovely smile and …”
I shouted interrupting him “My dad, where is he, was he here? Shut up with the long winded story..wee man in a waistcoat?” My frantic eyes must have been swinging wildly round the room.
The old men all look scared, I wasn’t up for barber chit chat….where is my dad? The bloke behind him wielding a comb over a pensioners head quickly said “Your dad was here, just left two minutes ago.”
I ran as I banged the door behind me and spotted the MacDonald’s beside the barbers and ran full pelt nearly knocking people over at the bus stop. Where was my dad, was he lying in the car park? Was that family of foxes that reside there eating him? Then through the big glass windows I spot him, sitting banging his mobile off the table with a wee red face and very shiny head. Through the doors I go.
“Dad” I shout and he looked up.
“This mobile is rubbish, I tried calling you am ready to batter it to bits” he yelled as he ripped the phone off his neck and shoved it at me.
“Dad, why didn’t you call me and I would have taken you to the barbers, its freezing out there and am worried” I blurt out.
He looked at me with his twinkly blue eyes that belie his 82 years and said “Janey, I once ripped up the cinema seats when a Bill Haley film came to the cinema in Shettleston so I could make room for the women dancing, I drove a tank in National Service and spent my childhood hiding from German bombs, if I want to go for a haircut nobody will stop me.” He is right.
I am glad he still has that spiky streak inside him, he recently recovered from a stroke and I suppose I should be grateful for his determined grit, as I am my father’s daughter. As we drove dad home, he pressed the button to play the radio and by utter coincidence my comedy monologue was on BBC Scotland. Dad sat quietly chuckling away at my story about an elderly woman in Glasgow “you are funny you know” he said.
The day got better, my daughter Ashley could finally announce that her radio sitcom pilot has been commissioned and it was her one year anniversary of doing stand-up comedy as well. Both of us were onstage at night on different parts of the city.
I was at Glasgow Jongleurs and the crowd were amazing, I had a great night. I love the home crowd and after the show, I stood outside waiting on my lift home. It was still very cold and the icy rain slashed at my face.
The people outside the club were gathering as the show was over, at that moment a small skinny guy in a thin jacket wandered over to me. He stood shivering and whispered something in my direction.
“Excuse me, I can’t hear you come closer” I said. He walked nearer, he had sores round his mouth and his eyes were dead looking. “Can you spare me some change, sorry for asking” he said.
Now, I don’t know nor care for anyone else’s policy on the street beggars but I always ask them their name and offer a few coins, as it’s my money and I don’t care if they spend it on drugs, as I used to own a pub and never told alcoholics how to spend their cash and in Scotland booze kills more people than drugs.
“My name is Davey” he mumbled and thanked me for the cash. He then moved very discreetly onto the crowd coming out of the comedy gig and a few guys shouted and pushed him away being really abusive. “Ya Junkie, beat it” they yelled.
Well, my hackles went up. I stepped into the crowd and grabbed Davey by the arm and put him behind me and shouted “Guys, really? This is how you treat people? You don’t have to give him money but you don’t have to give him abuse, he is someone’s son, his mistakes are his business but don’t abuse him.”
The wee crowd immediately noticed the wee woman in the big parka was the woman just off stage and they all wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed the show. They forgot about Davey and drunkenly wanted to shake my hand and be nice which is cool but I was still annoyed at the abuse he got.
“Thanks for enjoying my comedy but please don’t abuse this wee guy or any other homeless or person begging on our streets, please be a wee but humane eh?” I asked them. To their defence they apologised and Davey slopped off into the rain, shivering. My heart was like a brick in my chest, I know you can’t fix people and you can’t cure the begging and drugs etc, but you can be polite and humane can’t you? My brother and my cousin both died as a result of drug addiction and half my relatives were alcoholics, it affect us all.
I got my lift home and wondered how Ashley got on at her gig four streets away. It was a gig that had a predominately a gay audience.
She came home 40 minutes later and told me she had a brilliant time onstage, she was glowing as she told me all about it and was buzzing, I know that feeling and I smiled as she recounted the show. Then she added “Mum, a wee guy in a thin jacket wandered round and was begging outside the gig and he was so cold looking and had sores on his face, I gave him some change and the gay guys from the audience were so kind to him as well, one of them gave him gloves and a scarf.”
You see humanity exists in Glasgow, they may not be the same as us, they may have different life choices but the homeless and the beggars on the street don’t deserve to be abused, you can ignore them, you can step over them, you can get concerned if they are Eastern European begging gangs…I get that… but please don’t abuse them. When famous people die of drug addiction, the world views it so differently and there are outpourings of ‘wasted life’ well, they are ALL wasted lives then. It takes us all to make a wee difference.
So thanks for reading, if you want follow me on twitter @JaneyGodley for updates and daily shenanigans.