Celtic Illumination, part 266, Kissing cousins.
I have to admit that I was enjoying myself, I didn’t like the job, but I was earning good money and travelling about the country. I always had one eye open on the job market looking for something better. While still in the air force I underwent various tests that indicated a sales environment would be the best place for me to operate, I was a people person, so that’s where I was looking. I do remember having to spend two weeks in Taunton as it wasn’t just me who thought the estate agent I was working for was a bit of an arse. People didn’t mind getting work from him but they didn’t want to be associated with him, it sort of made that job pure sales rather than the standard blackmail. During the second week I gave myself another afternoon off, I know, the excess is just so extravagant, and went to Wells where my cousin Charles lived.
I hadn’t seen Charles for well over twenty years, we didn’t normally communicate, but I still felt obliged, as I was in the area, to go and visit him. I got the shock of my life as he answered his front door as he looked exactly like my father, not the father who left the country but the one who brought me up. Charles had run a bookshop which he had had to close, he was now working as a stone mason in Wells Cathedral, but he had kept most of his stock of books and it was lovely to find someone else, especially a family member, who was as much of a book nut as I was. His whole house was full of books which he could never part with; each book had a special meaning to him and he knew each book inside out. He also liked a drink and I can assure you the pair of us got absolutely hammered.
My next estate agent was in London, well Leytonstone in London. I actually got on quite well with the estate agent, who was a young fellow, well; about my age. He took me out on several viewings he had to complete and explained the system he used and the system other estate agents used. He was very much a spiv but like me he wanted to be honest in his business dealings. He would complain that the increase in house prices had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual value of a house, but greedy estate agents trying to raise the price which in turn made their percentage bigger. In fact after one viewing, where he had to value a flat, I found the valuation figure to be so ridiculous I told him so. To back up my claim I showed him a local newspaper from Skelmersdale where you could buy a three bedroomed house for five thousand pounds.
The next day he went to Skelmersdale and bought a row of houses. I’m not joking and this was quite common in Skelmersdale. I could see that there was a good chance you might make some money buying houses in Skelmersdale, but it would have to be a long term strategy and my plan was to get out of there and back to Ireland as quickly as possible. Leytonstone is situated in the North East of London so it was close to the main A12 road which leads to Ipswich. So rather than stay in London I went and stayed with Tony and Mary up in Shotley. It was good fun to see the old gang again; I even called in to the Families Club for a drink. There were one or two familiar faces but it had all changed and left me feeling like an outsider, which I was.
After London I was sent to Glasgow, I know, I felt like a snooker ball bouncing around the country. I did enjoy it. I remember having an argument with my mother over Glasgow. I had telephoned her and explained that I was in Glasgow. I knew that I had some sort of cousin in Glasgow so if she would give me his address I would contact him and say hello. My cousin owned a couple of pubs in Glasgow and my mother was reluctant to give me his address as she feared I would meet him and get drunk and let the family down, I hadn’t the heart to tell her that both Charles and myself had done a good job of letting the family down in a pub in Wells. Eventually I managed to get his details and contacted him. He invited me around to his house that evening. Certain areas of Glasgow are quite rough and run down so I was pleased to find that my cousin lived in quite a prosperous looking area. Lovely well-proportioned houses made from red sandstone.
I felt a little out of place parking my humble company car next to his Rolls Royce but I received the warmest of welcomes, beginning with a traditional quaich. We actually watched his wedding video, which I know you may think strange, but it was actually very good. It had originally been shot on a cine camera but he had had it transferred to video tape. It was strange to see all my uncles, even my dad and even the pervert uncle leaping about on the television screen. Tradition had it that the groom and his, all male, party would go for breakfast to The Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow on the morning of the wedding. The Willow Tea Rooms, which I wasn’t aware of, was world famous as it had been designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and is still to this day a tourist mecca.
After the breakfast meal the table would be cleared of dishes, ornaments and cutlery and the groom would be wrapped up in the tablecloth and carried from the tea room, at shoulder height to wherever the wedding was being held. I have to say most of my family went up in my estimation as I watched them carry my cousin along Sauchiehall Street, at shoulder height, wrapped in a white tablecloth. After the video and some small chat we went, with his wife, to an Indian restaurant and had a most enjoyable meal. We didn’t get roaring drunk in fact we hardly touched any booze and I was so amazed to discover that he too had been imprisoned at Violent Hell like I had been. He hated the place too but as we spoke it was so strange to find out that he had been through almost exactly the same scrapes that I had, the same traditions, pranks and nightmares.
It was so interesting to hear first-hand about the mindless violence that surrounded the two football teams in Glasgow, there could be more than two, I’m not sure, but Celtic and Rangers are the two teams I mean. I consider myself lucky that I have never had any interest in football whatsoever, in fact I find it most ridiculous, but when people were actually killing others over which football team they supported, I found this to be madness in the extreme. My cousin told me that he wouldn’t allow any of his children to wear a football related scarf, or badge, or even shirt because it was basically putting a target on your back. It was fun meeting him but I had my job to do. The estate agent in Glasgow was a young Thatcherite. Nothing else mattered but money, and pretence, let’s not forget about the pretence.
I noticed in my Mensa magazine that there was to be a meeting in a Glasgow city centre pub one evening so made my way over to see what was happening. There was nothing specific planned to happen, no multi-lingual scrabble or the like, just meet in a pub for a drink. There must have been about twelve people there and all of them were great fun. One fellow I remember was ex royal navy so we got on quite well. At the time I was there, there was some huge exhibition on in Glasgow and one of the Mensa members gave me his admission card saying that I could visit the exhibition as often as I liked, during my time in Glasgow, with free access thanks to his card, and when I was leaving simply post the card back to him. All very civilised and fun, but I knew myself, and I knew that my patience with the job was wearing thin. I may have been a people person but I most certainly was not a blackmailer, a new job would have to be found.