Stop Me If You Need A Favour.
Sometimes I think I am a magnet for bams. Here in Glasgow we call them neds, Edinburgh calls them schemies, I think Liverpool calls them scallies, and most of the rest of the UK calls them chavs – those tracksuited perpetrators of underage drinking, muggings, stabbings, and the provision of unwanted children.
First off, I think it is all a question of circumstance – I think everyone is fundamentally decent, and it is the life you experience that shapes you. It is easy (too easy) to write people off as dole scum, benefits cheats, as unworthy – it is less palatable to examine the decay of industry, the social decline of areas, and the mass unemployment that has helped shape this class. This doesn’t mean that I want to engage with folk like this on the dark streets on my way home though, and yet I am constantly being accosted by them.
It used to be easy – they asked you for money, and you either gave it or declined. Now, though, they want a conversation – “excuse me, pal, can you do us a favour?”
Now I have to find out what this “favour” is, even though we both already know. It’s this instigation of a dialogue that irks me, I don’t want to talk to you, and I certainly don’t want to stop (or even break stride) to do so. Just be upfront. “Don’t suppose you could do me a favour?” You suppose correctly.
Here are two recent incidences.
I was outside the Classic Grand nightclub, which neighbours a huge McDonalds and has a bus stop outside. These are two of the main draws for nutters. I was standing outside the club with my friend, with whom I’d been for a drink prior to her shift starting, and she was making her way inside but talking to the door staff. The next thing, a ned comes up to me, removes his knitted hat (with the long tassles hanging down at either side, you know the kind), thrusts his temple at me and says “Here, mate, am I bleeding?”
I resisted the urge to answer “not yet”, or “aye, bleeding annoying.” Instead, I just answered in the negative.
He then turned to his friend, standing nearby and wearing the brightest blue and yellow tracksuit I have ever seen, with matching baseball cap. It was in primary colours, and he looked for all the world like a bammed-up version of children’s cartoon hero Bananaman. The one who had addressed me turned to him, removing his headgear, and shouted “Quick, swap hats afore the polis get here!”
That’s a Glasgow master of disguise right there – one who thinks the police will be foiled by the adornment of a different hat, regardless of the fact his accomplice is decked out like a fucking disco…
Later that same night, as I walked up Hope Street, I was stopped by some drunk looking for directions to Central Station. I gestured down the hill, as it is a straight road and the station sits on it, with one left turn onto a side street to make in order to get to the main entrance. I said this to him, just go down and turn left at the — looking, I could see the distinctive spire of the Central Hotel — “look, see the skyline?” I asked him. He looked at me without comprehension.
“Look at the skyline,” I said, “See that spire? Turn left there.”
“Left??” he asked with uncertainty, bordering on disbelief.
“Aye, fucking left. You’ve asked me for directions, I’ve just gave you them. Don’t question my knowledge of my own city, ya dick!”
So this is Glasgow, a place of hope or despair depending who you bump into (or who bumps into you) as you walk through it. Most of the time I love this city, it’s just the arsehole element that lets us down. Repeatedly.