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Sheila

High Flyers, Govan Style | In Remembrance– Uncle Jimmy | “Glasgow Green” |

Sheila O’Hara – Biography Biography Born longer ago than I’m going to say, I have written all my life. I also paint and have had a thirty year long fascination with all things esoteric, especially
Astrology. I write, short stories mostly, and wrote my first poem (“A Remembrance – Uncle Jimmy” which is on this website) since joining Tollcross Writers. I enjoy writing anything at all, and take classes (at Strathclyde) as well as being a member of various writing groups. I got my History Degree in my 40s, but I am also interested in comparative religion, psychology and just about anything that attempts to explain how humanity works. I’m at an age were five year plans don’t really make sense – my life plan is to live and breathe and write and paint today. If I get a tomorrow then I’ll do exactly the same thing all over again.

Sheila O’Hara, December 2005

 

 

In Remembrance– Uncle Jimmy ©


Jimmy was the brightest star in his
Mother’s sky, her soldier boy
Tall and strong with hair so red,
Her abiding pride, her loving joy

Marching out, to death or glory
Fresh faced, young and brave
Nothing special in his story
Wasn’t there a world to save?

He fought in France survived Dunkirk
Rejoined his ranks, far from rattled
Without protest, no questions asked
I’m a soldier, where’s the Battle?

In foreign Imphal on a summer’s day
Sniper bullets finished Jimmy’s war
The Army, no more use for him
Returned him to his mother’s door

Her brain smashed son, still smiling, his
Young heart’s clock kept ticking along
Forever twenty, never ageing
For Jimmy, Life would not be moving on

In his never ending present,
Where no March of time slows down
He sits upon his wheelchair throne,
Red hair still aflame; a hero’s golden crown.


© Sheila O’Hara 2005

 

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High Flyers, Govan Style ©

 

It was the week before Christmas and Nick’s two pals, Charlie and Pat came round to help him lay wooden floors in his house in the South side of Glasgow.
The three guys had been mates since school and on the promise of a few beers and a right good tightener, were getting stuck in. Margaret, the wife, had left clear instructions to bin everything except the old rug in the corner of the spare room. Knowing the guys well, Margaret cleared off to Braehead with daughter Gemma, and left them to it.
Job soon done, the men piled the carpets up on the landing and, feeling the new floors a bit cold, laid the old rug back down in the upstairs back bedroom. They turned the heat on, and set up a table for a wee game of cards to pass the time till Margaret came back to make their tea. Passing round the smokes and the cans, they settled down to a cushy afternoon.
Soon enough, with the tiredness after the graft, the heat and the booze they began to feel a bit groggy. Time served drinkers all and partial to the magic smoke, they’d all had a few “missing moments” before now, but Nick finally realised that this time it was different. He didn’t just feel woozy inside his head – the carpet was moving and the floor stayed still.
“A cup of tea, lads” he said, trying to stand up.
The shock of such a suggestion would normally have raised scorn from Pat and Charlie – but Charlie said “Aye” in a long drawn out puzzled kind of way. Pat said nothing. He had a reputation to protect, and didn’t want the guys to think he couldn’t hold his booze.
As Nick stood up, he came back down with a bump. He could have sworn the carpet had moved again. He looked at Charlie and Pat. Charlie was looking out the window, pretending to admire the view, but obviously slightly bemused. Pat just looked like he was in a right panic.
Nick said, “The carpet moved!” Pat and Charlie turned to look at him, then at each other, then back to Nick.
“Aye” they said, the best duet in Govan, a great smile across their gobs.
Nick couldn’t resist it, and started to give it the old “Abracadabra” patter, implying he was responsible; Charlie and Pat played along, but only half heartedly, since they all knew something odd was happening. They gave it a couple of minutes and, when things seemed normal, they opened some more cans and settled back to watch the racing.
It was just after the 2 45 at Doncaster, when it happened again. The Carpet moved. They all stood up this time, and brave to a man, cleared the table and chairs and lifted the carpet. All that could be seen was the new pine floor. Pat and Charlie put the chairs back and sat down, looking at Nick. It was his house; after all, it was up to him to explain it.

Nick hadn’t an answer. He put the chairs back on the carpet and the next thing was that the carpet definitely started to lift off the floor. The threesome glared at each other, each thinking “since I’m not at it, one of these two must be.” All thoughts of blame left their heads as the carpet slowly raised itself and hovered at an altitude of about two feet.

Pat was so surprised he crashed off his chair, which toppled off the edge of the carpet. Two more crashes and Nick and Charlie’s chairs went the same way. Nick looked over the edge and was shocked to see the chairs disappear in mid air. “Margaret will kill me” thought Nick “she loves those chairs”.
Charlie said “I’m aff the booze for life!” and shut his eyes. Pat, it seemed, was praying. His lips moved soundlessly, as he intoned something dredged from his long neglected memory banks. Nick couldn’t hear him, he was still thinking about the chairs.
Pat suddenly shouted “We’re on a flying carpet!”
Charlie and Nick just looked at him. Talk about stating the obvious!
With just the right amount of booze and other enhancements to relaxation in their system, the three of them decided to sit back and enjoy it. They felt quite at home as the carpet glided gently through the walls and out into the December air above the Clyde at Govan. Three wise guys, sitting cross-legged on a flying carpet – even in Govan such a sight hadn’t been seen for quite a while. That was the interesting bit, though. They could see the Black Man and the P.I., all looking at their best covered in a new fall of white snow, and heard Pat’s wife in the market arguing over the price of socks and hankies for his Christmas, but nobody could see them.
They just hovered for a couple of minutes, then Nick said “Where will we go?” and with a flourish of his hand said “to the shipyard!” and the carpet turned towards the River.
“To the Bells!” snapped Charlie, wanting to see who was in the pub, and the carpet turned right.
“I’m going round in circles!” said Pat, getting the wind up again, and the carpet gave a few twirls, seeming ever ready to oblige.
It took a couple of minutes before they learned to steer the carpet, with everyone taking turns. It was also a weird feeling that, in the middle of a snow storm and high winds racing down the Clyde, they were all tucked up in a warm air bubble. This was definitely pure magic, they all agreed.
By late afternoon they were confident they could do anything at all, time travel, bring about world peace – see the future winning numbers on the Lottery.
“We’ll go to Braehead” said Nick “If we could land the carpet, we could give Margaret and Gemma a lift back. Margaret would love to see this and Gemma would be right chuffed. Her da on a Magic Carpet!”
They had trouble landing the carpet, it was one command it wouldn’t obey, so they decided just to coast it for a while. They caught up with Margaret in M & S as she was trying to decide between two jumpers. She had to be kidding, Nick thought, if he put on that plum thing they’d think he was a right ponce. “The blue one” he said to Margaret “the blue one”. Margaret scratched her ear, and said to Gemma “The blue one, I think, if he puts that plum one on he’ll look like a ponce”. Nick was shocked, his Margaret didn’t even know what a ponce was!
The carpet followed Margaret to the pay point and Nick whispered “That’ll be 25% off Madam” and the sales girl said “That’ll be 25% off Madam”. Margaret and the sales girl were very surprised – but having said it, the girl stuck with it.
Great stuff this magic carpet, but it was wearing them out, and they kept falling asleep. Next time, they decided on a show of hands, there would be less boozing before they took a trip.
They landed safely in the back bedroom and Nick was wakened up by the sound of someone banging and he ran down the stairs to the front door.
“I cannae get in” said Margaret “What’s behind the door?”
“Its just a roll of carpet” replied Nick “It must have slipped down the stairs – I’ve got them piled up on the landing ready to take out for the bin men on Monday.”
He kicked the carpet aside and opened the door.
“The Three stooges all still here?” she asked, grinning from ear to ear as she saw her new wooden floors, and, at his nod said “you’ll all be wanting your tea then!”
He went upstairs, and shook Pat and Charlie awake “that’s Margaret back” he said “she’s putting the tea on”.
Charlie rubbed his eyes and then looked down at the carpet, Pat looked at his two pals. Nobody said a word.
“Do you know, lads” said Nick “I’ve just had the funniest dream. All about Magic Carpets, I’ll be leaving the waccy baccy till after New Year, I think”.
Charlie said “Aye, me tae”.
Pat started praying again.
They sat at the table and started to tuck into the meal Margaret had made for them.
“You deserve it, boys” she said “to be honest I never thought you’d get it done – I had visions of you all with your cans of lager watching the racing and me having to wait for the new floors”.
They nodded, and kept eating.
“I got you a jumper” she said to Nick, opening a Marks and Sparks poly bag “they had it in plum as well, but I thought you’dve looked like a ponce, so I got you the blue”. The men kept their heads down, not daring to meet each other’s eyes.
“Funny thing” she went on “there was some kind of till fault so I got 25% off”.
Pat put his fork down and started praying again. Charlie said “that was good, aye!”.
Nick asked casually “where did you get that old rug in the back bedroom, Margaret?”
“That was your Granny’s” said Margaret “a right old witch” and went on “I cannae throw it out since it’s the only thing she ever asks about when I visit the Home” she didn’t notice the silence around the table as she poured out the tea, and finished “Imagine – 97 years on the planet and she’s reduced to babbling on about some old carpet!”
“Aye” said Gemma “She’s gaga, she keeps on saying to me “You take care of it Gemma, it’s a magic carpet, hen, it’ll take you anywhere - its definitely magic!”.

© Sheila O’Hara 2005
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“Glasgow Green” ©

I walk in under McLellan’s Arch, and see Nelson’s column in the sun
I hear the sound of rushing river; beneath my feet Camlachie Burn
Then pink marble drinking Fountain, for Wm. Collins, man of clout
Who left diaries, tearooms, and temperance, but, alas, no water down the spout.

I see Nelson’s column front and centre, dominates the view
But left and right and straight ahead, they all have interest too
There’s gray St Andrew’s, the Whistling Kirk, its organ stilled forever
But the name lives on in the wee white pub, which still provides a brew.

I’ll skip the abattoir - press along to “Homes of the Future” looking down
Dazzling white with awnings striped, I blink and have another look, is this Ponza on the Clyde?
The fancy new scowls at the old, across the glittering Green, Design Award faces High Rise stack
And good old Gorbals town – it scowls back.

On grass all round there are the people who really own the green
Kids and mammies, lovers and joggers, in every colour you’ve ever seen
Workers with their Chook-Panini’s, and Bottled Water of every kind
Mix and match with Rol1 and Sausage and Ketchup please if you don’t mind

Birds whose names I’ll never know, fight for the remains
While dogs of every shape and size enjoy the jogger’s games
The chase, they bark, they trip to nip the blighted runners’ bums
But in the end give up the chase and just go back to Mum

Next its terracotta heaven, pink and twinkly in the sun
Victoria and Progress have a face-off, across the water’s run
Progress sits, higher yet than any Queen, atop the Palace of the People
Radical, polemical, she is the Voice of Glasgow Green

The Fountain’s beauty does reflect the Venice of the East
A factory designed to pacify the posh folk of Monteith
They couldn’t stand an ugly building, right outside their door
So Terracotta once again, and fol de rols galore

Around factory, fountain, and palace, the tourist bus has been
Out they come, a smile, a click, a pee and then they’re done
They don’t hear the echoes I can hear from women of the town
Who used to do their washing in the steamies on the green.

Forced indoors to Greenhead steamie, I can hear the women laugh
A gale blew the roof off, so they had a public bath!
The clothes poles are still there, a fully protected species
With dwarf lines for smalls and higher ones for longer trailing fleecies

The latest treasure on the Green is the space in which to wed
Its yellow and white and merry and bright, as a change from Terra Red
You hold your reception by the fountain wearing your flowing gown
Then Tea in the Palace, and all that Matters is you’ve really shown the Town!

The Rangers Green of Glasgow Parks have really done me proud
As they walk me around the heart of the place and tell me of their town
Did you know, fr’instance, the Winter Palace is a boat turned upside down?
No less a vessel than Victory, yelling “Triumph!” quite out loud.

So back I come to the question, what is Nelson’s column for?
The reply is easy right enough, although its sad to bear.
Sixty four young Scotsmen shared in Trafalgar’s lore
And four dead Scottish sailors brought Nelson to our door.

As I come back the other path, past George Parsonage and his kin
A family bent on saving lives of the silly folk who keep falling in
It’s a long tradition of Glasgow’s folk (the idea of payment they couldn’t abide)
Paddling across, “I’m be fine” they cried, sinking slowly under the Clyde.

At the entrance to the Glasgow Green, where McLellan’s arch now stands
Is where they did the hangings, the last in eighteen sixty five
No matter if you missed it, you had no worry there, by public demand and for tuppence
A Head, they sometimes managed to do it twice, just by keeping the poor sod alive.

The last remaining thing of note is the Weir which looks like a Bridge
A tidal basin held at the brink – if the banks fail here then Glasgow will sink!
That helps explain the Law Court’s Basement, which isn’t one at all
In keeping with its quirky mind, Glasgow raised the pavement and let the ground floor fall.

A gift to the people six hundred years ago, the Green has Glasgow’s beat,
I hear it still as I step along in the Indian Summer’s heat
My little walk is over, and I stop to watch the Ferry’s foam,
Before I cross Bell’s Bridge, past the science centre, and along the Govan Road to home.


© Sheila O’Hara 2005

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