Monday, 9 March 2015

United Colours of The Port, Greenock and Paisley too.

On Friday night I went along to the New Hellfire Club's music shop in the Hidden Lane area of Argyle St in Glasgow to watch the amazing James 'Bar' Bowen and Johnny Campbell. While I was there, I picked up a copy of San Fran and the Siscos​'s EP. It included a music version of a poem by Jim Monaghan​ called "United Colours of Cumnock". I've had it's words and rhythm going around my head all weekend.
While the poem is set in the Ayrshire town of Cumnock, it reminds me just as much about Port Glasgow where I went to High School, Greenock where I spent much of my late teenage years, and Paisley where I have come to live now. I have to think long and hard about any night out that I have had in these towns that hasn't fallen down the conversational pithole of "where are you from?"

I was born in the west end of Glasgow, but then grew up in the relatively well off village of Langbank (catchment area for Port Glasgow High School), before going back to Glasgow for University, it's a hard question for me to answer in a confident manner. I've had my house in Gallowhill, Paisley, for around 9 years now, yet I feel that I'm not allowed to respond to the question and call it my home. It's always followed up by "yeah, but you're not from here, where did you go to school?". I left school in 2001, the people asking the question probably left many years before that.

If it's not my accent, it's my shyness, or my reluctance to pepper every fucking sentence with another fucking swearword in front of fucking strangers. I am more than likely politically aligned with most of the people I meet in Scottish bars (in that, I mean that I don't tend to hang out in the Bullingdon clubs of Glasgow nor am I Little Lord Fauntleroy observing the citizens), yet they have a scepticism of me based on something I have no control over.

Yet, despite this, I don't move away. I don't think I really feel an attachment to any other place in the country. I tried living in Dundee for a few years, but the city didn't ever really click with me. Strange, since on paper it should have done so, especially with some of the closest friends that I've met up there.

That said, I have tried living in New York too, and if money, commitments, and lifestyle had allowed I doubt I would have boarded the return flight.

Why? Because it gave me most of the things that I love about living in the west coast of Scotland, but without the bagagge of classrooms, football, and hypothetical silver spoons. Hell, I even found myself living in an area with not that dissimilar an economic demographic to that of Gallowhill. Pub conversations were an anxiety-free utopia where no one that I met cared for where I came from beyond the door of the bar (once we'd established that I wasn't from Ireland, and didn't know their pal from Edinburgh).

Anyway, this wasn't meant to be a well formed blog post, more a way of bringing an amazing and brilliant poem to your attention. It hasn't helped me to truly understand why I'm drawn back here, but it made me think about it.

by Jim Monaghan 

My town is a green town, but it's not a 'fuck the queen' green town,
it's a tree in every scene town,
wae gairdens freshly dug.
That's green that pours through every crack,
through pavements, viaducts, fitba' parks,
where men who suffer heart attacks,
go walks wae three-leg dugs.

My town is a blue town, a 'who the fuck are you' town,
a 'what school did you go to' town
and 'are you one of us?'
That's blue that seeps through doors and walls,
fae pubs and bookies, village halls,
where men would guard old Derry's walls,
instead o' guarding us.

My town was once a red town, another miner dead town,
a men who fought and bled town,
wae brave and stalwart wives.
That's red that came fae meeting rooms,
fae folk that worked the pumps and looms.
when burgh bands played different tunes,
and we marched for better lives.

But now my town's a grey town, a 50 mils a day town,
a watch life slip away town,
a tunnel wae nae light.
That's grey that weeps fae dying eyes,
bewildered parents, children's cries,
wae skinny arms and stick-like thighs,
and nae strength left to fight.

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