Doon The Watter. ‘Didnae huv a minute tae post it but there it is aw the same.’ Mrs Myles from number twenty- six handed me the postcard. A woman and her man walked hand in hand along the pier et the seaside. Behind them was a huge crowd a people lying oan towels under great big umbrellas. The picture wis covered in a glossy seal. When oor’ big light hit the print the waves sparkled and the ripple-ribbed sand stretched on fur miles. Well, she wisnae two minutes oot the door a’fore our Joe stood up and headed fur the kitchen. Charging back through he gripped an empty tin a’ beans an’ slammed it doon onto the table in front a’ us. We’re gawn a holiday next fair, I’m no sufferin this any longer he says. The wee ones eyes lit up. He sat doon his half eaten stick a’ rock Mrs Myles hud brought him and dug his hawns’ deep into the pockets a’ his dungarees. A fun it on the grun’ the other day, he telt us as he gripped the coin between his two grubby fingers, we can use it fur the holiday he says. The shilling hit the bottom a’ the tin and we aw thought aboot getting’ sand between oor’ toes and clean air in oor’ chist. It wisnae jist the postcard that made him flip. Rheumatic fever said the doctor. A didnae ken whit that word meant but a just mind him saying he needed oot of the city smog and doon to the shore to fill his young lungs wi some fresh salt air. That wis it fur ma Joe. Am no huvin ma boy sick from this black city he says to me. At night you couldn’y bet on seeing more than a few feet in front a’ yi. Thick, stuffy air choked the life oot ae the city. The fuzzy orange glow of oor’ streetlight struggled to compete with the big grey monster in the sky. Hud to be in fur five et the latest a telt him. He wisnae fussed either way: couldn’y see his baw after that time anyway so whit wis the use in playin he’d say. Joe took every extra shift he could get his hawns on an’ returned hame from the factory in the black ours to drap a hawnful a coins intae the tin. Nearly there he’d tell me. Nearly there.
A wis up first. Left maself plenty a time to fix the sandwiches. The case hud been packed and buckled fur a fortnight. Aw our best clothes. The wee one wis moaning sayin Jamie doon the street wis laughin et his old broon shirt: you can nearly see ma belly button, it’s too wee he moaned. No a said, it’s only old clothes yur allowed till we’re away. The case is packed. Jamie willnae be laughin’ when he disnae see the sea an you do a said.
Joe took wan handle and a took the other as we shuffled shoulder tae shoulder doon the hall wey the bulging case. Pausing at oor’door he fidgeted wae the keys. The wee wan ran on ahead doon the stair rattlin on nummer twenty-threes door, we’re away on our holidays, he belted through the letterbox then went across the hall to twenty wan, see you in a couple of days, we’re oot of here!. Wait a minute, a shouted after him, we need tae lock the door. He said, don’t worry maw , we’ve got aw oor nice things wey us, there’s nothing left to steal in the flat. Cheeky wee so and so. A love him aw the same. Joe wis still futerin’ aboot. A looked at the frame that hung in the hall. The photae wis taken the last time we left Glasgow. A wis younger then mind. A different person almost. Thick black hair fell in curls against ma rose tinted cheeks. We’d went tae see a museum away in Largs. Joe liked tae look at aw the old photographs they hud in glass cabinets. A mind this one ae a woman dressed up all nice sittin oan a big chair. What a life I mind thinking et the time. Jist tae sit there and huv yer photae takin. When we came oot Joe said, away an sit oan that bench. Don’t be daft a said, am no
made up right the day. Go he said, an he took ma photae. Maybe he’d get another picture oan this holiday. It’d be different though. A caught ma reflection on the glass frame: extra pockets of fat hung fae ma chin. When did ma hair turn tae wire? Ma bones tae brittle? Aye, it’d be a different lukin’ photae .
Rows and rows and rows of people. Loads of them! A spotted Martin with his ma, and Kyle and Craig kickin a baw wey their dad and Lucy was there eatin’ a piece n jam. I asked ma dad how long the queue went back, fur miles he said. I asked him if he would take a picture so that I could see what miles looked like but he said that he wanted to save the film fur when we got to the seaside because it would be more important to remember whit the seaside looked like. We were always at Queen Street. Mum rested our case up against the wall of the train station and sat on it. She was trying to save aw her energy, a knew it. She was the most excited about the trip. She got up extra early tae make sure she looked nice. A saw her looking at herself one last time afore we left just to double check. There wis a group of men wearing hats in the queue in front of us and wan of them turned aroon an said are you going doon the watter son? A said yeh we’re going tae celebrate. Then he smiled and went aw really whit ur’ you celebratin’, yur birthday? That’s no till Feburary a said. Naw we’re celebrating because fur a while a had this really bad cough and a couldn’y
run aboot wey Jamie or that but now am better so we’re gawn tae see the seaside. Isn’t that right dad a said, because I’m a bit better than a wis afore? He didn’y really say anything and a thought well maybe he disnae like me talkin’ to this stranger. Anyway, the man said a have just the thing to help you celebrate. He flipped up the buckle on his case and pulled oot a box with lots a buttons and keys. He pulled the sides apart tae reveal a squashy fan. An accordion ma dad said. He began to sing a song. A would huv joined in but a’d never heard it a’fore. My father worked for buttons in a wee dry salters shop But we were young and didnae have a care Our shoes were scuffed and worn, our dungarees a’ torn Our sloppy joes they wirnae fit to wear Noo me and ma wee brother we were headaches to my mother And dirty for the best part o’ the year But she had us clean as whistles in our kilts and co-op sandals When we went doon the watter fur the fair. Tae the great escape fae the city wan of them shouted as he raised an invisible glass in the air. The men around him cheered too. A wis ded excited now. Oan the train and a wis staring at belt buckles and cases. We were packed in tight swaying to and fro wey the rocky carriage. A needed to cough but ma arms were stuck at ma side so a couldn’t cover ma mouth and ma mum always said that it was rude if you coughed and didnae cover yer mouth. A didn’t want to be rude on holiday. A wanted to be the best I’d ever been. Off the train and onto the ferry. Ma mum didnae like stepping onto the gangplank but a held her hand tight and told her nearly there, nearly there. A climbed up to the very top deck. A was so high up, a could almost touch the seagulls. The heavy ship blew steam out its head and pushed away from the shore churning blue water into froth and bubbles. Ma mum gave me a sandwich but a only had hoff then a threw the rest tae the fishes underneath us. The man fae the train queue was on the lower deck singing mare songs an everyone sang along. The summertime was all I’m sure that kept my father gain’ A wished so hard that a knew the words. He’d laugh and sing and bounce us on each knee, ah finish work on Friday, his troubles seem to vanish in the air. We’re going doon the watter to the fair. Not just vanilla but chocolate, strawberry, toffee, banana, mint, coffee. Ones with flakes on top, ones with sprinkles all over, ones with sauce dripping down the side. I tried to remember them all. Take a picture dad. I have to remember all the flavours so I can tell Jamie. He thinks there’s only vanilla! Dad take my picture with this sand castle. Dad take my picture at this ice cream truck. Dad, wait until I jump off this, quick take my picture.
‘Calm doon son or yer gonnae burst a banjo string. Mind yer body isnae as good as aw the other boys.’ The father said to his son. The couple stood and watched as he ran in circles around his sand castle. ‘Am aw better now that am on the beach. King of the castle’ he chanted as he paraded in front of his kingdom. The waves lapped against the shore and everyone was alive. They tried to picture the black flushing out his lungs and the clean air pouring in taking it’s place, but they both knew it wasn’t that simple. Gather round children the Punch and Judy show is about to begin. Their tiny toes crumple into the sand as they wait patiently for the curtain to be pulled back. The sun beams down illuminating their fresh faces and best clothes. ‘I’m glad we made this trip to the beach Judy.’ ‘Me too punch, I hate the city.’ ‘I hate the city too but not as much as I hate you!’ The two puppets begin hitting each other with foam bats and the kids roar with laughter utterly enslaved in their magical charm.
The black haze roams the empty city streets and waits quietly for the crowds to return from the fair. He crawls up closes, resting on welcome mats as he peaks his beady eyes through key holes and letter boxes looking for life. The grey monster smirks each time the men arrive for work in the early murky hours and grins when they leave the factory in the thick black night. He runs up nostrils and makes a life for himself in lungs. They’ll never learn he says to himself. They go to their factories to work day in day out. The work they do makes them sick. They work even harder to save up and escape the city. The harder they work, the sicker everyone else gets. And they blame me for making their children sick. They’ll never learn. He drifts patiently knowing holidays don’t last forever. But for now they were doon the watter and they’d buy postcards so they’d never forget it.
Word count: 1,931
Analysis For this short story I have taken inspiration from the Beatrice Collins novel The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite studied in class. I have incorporated photographs to place emphasis on the juxtaposition between the two narratives through using the same photograph twice and spotlighting the different characters to match with the running narrative. I was initially interested in the photograph taken by my grandfather because it captures two very different generations: the energy of the young boy is contrasted with the static nature of the elderly lady slumped in the deck chair. I have tried to capture this juxtaposition by experimenting with free indirect speech in the two narratives, playing with pace in the latter to evoke the voice of a young boy as his excitement builds. I have also accessed sources such as Scotland on Film, a series of documentaries covering life in Scotland during the 1950s. I was interested in the way the interviewees recall memories of their past and how people reconstruct conversations and have therefore attempted to offer a snapshot of the same event through the eyes of two different characters in this same style. This technique was intended to highlight the naivety of the young boy in his observations and understanding of the world. For example he remarks that his mother was up early and sees her looking at the picture frame and decides she does these things because of excitement and the desire to look her best. The juxtaposed narrative reveals that it is in fact due to anxiety and a realisation that she has changed physically. I also looked into songs which were written during this time in Glasgow to again offer a more realistic sense of place. All this information allowed me to create a short story based on a historical event set in Glasgow 1950s on the run up to the Glasgow Fair, with fictionalised characters. I decided to switch to third person narrative for the final section of the short story to create a dark, ominous undertone and to portray the â€˜grey monsterâ€™ that is the city smog/pollution as an outsider, very distant from the events taking place at the beach. The first person narrative used in the first two sections allowed me to build sympathy from the readers and hopefully this will sharply contrast with the final section which is sinister and offers little hope for the characters mentioned previously. Word count 465