Saturday, 30 August 2014

Get it on

Get it On

A blue haze of cigarette smoke hung above the heads of the noisy partygoers like a noxious fog. The crowded room had all the ingredients to make a memorable new year’s gathering except for one thing; music. That’s where Tommy Bryce fitted in. Tommy was one of the few teenagers in the Gorbals who owned a portable record player and a considerable collection of singles. As he entered the first floor flat laden with tell-tale carrier bags, a cheer went up. He quickly found a spot on a table in the corner of the room and opened up his little yellow case like a magician at a children’s party. Within a minute the room reverberated to T Rex booming out ‘Jeepstar’ and the young people gathered in the flat began to dance. Tommy watched the magical effect music had on those who had drank a little before he stacked another six singles up on the machine. They would each fall in turn and fill the room with music without him having to attend to it. He then headed through the bustle and noise of the busy living room towards the kitchen. It was slightly less crowded and he noticed the seemingly endless rows of beer cans and bottles which lined every available surface. ‘Aw right Tommy boy? Cheers fur bringing yer wee machine o’er, the record player on oor radiogram’s knackered,’ grinned the ever cheerful Mick Barry, a friend of Tommy’s since primary school. ‘Nae bother, Mick,’ Tommy replied, ‘Glad ye managed tae haud this wee shindig. Been a real lack of good parties this year.’ Mick nodded ‘Ye can thank my old man for takin’ my maw tae see her clan in Letterkenny.’ He handed Tommy a can of lager which had an image of a bikini clad model on it who looked a little out of place in a chilly Glasgow January. ‘No way she’d allow a party like this,’ Tommy nodded, ’It’s gonny be a good night Mick, I see yon burd fae the Calton is in and she’s brought a pal.’ Tony nodded knowingly, ‘Let them get a bit more drunk and we’ll move in later. You get a few slow songs on that machine of yours and we’re oan tae a winch at the very least. Just don’t play ‘Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep’ and we’ll be fine!’’ In the other room the music changed and a muted cheer went up as T Rex went into action again with their big hit from the previous summer ‘Get it on.’ Tommy and Mick headed into the living room and found the room pulsating to the beat and their friends lost in music and dancing…

‘Well you're dirty and sweet
Clad in black, don't look back and I love you
You're dirty and sweet, oh yeah
Well you're slim and you're weak
You've got the teeth of the hydra upon you
You're dirty sweet and you're my girl

Get it on, bang a gong, get it on
Get it on, bang a gong, get it on’

The two friends joined the crush of dancing teenagers in the living room of the tenement flat and began to dance with the rest. Most of the 50 or so young people in the room knew each other from school or the local area and the vibe was good. This had the makings of a party they’d all remember for a good while and that was important to Mick. No one wanted remembered as the host of a crap party. The night played out in an enjoyable and predictable fashion with the usual coyness of the young men and women melting away as alcohol worked its magic. Tommy knew when it was time to switch the music to a slower beat and the love songs had the desired effect. Those still on the floor dancing used it as a pretext to hold each other close. Others made bold by the drink paired off into kissing couples and Mick quietly nudged Tommy towards the girl from the Calton who sat gabbing to her pal in between sips of her vodka. The night, it seemed, had endless possibilities, especially if you owned a portable record player.

Tommy Bryce awoke with a searing headache and thirst which seemed to have swollen his lips. He glanced around the room, his alcohol soaked brain only slowly recollecting the events of the night before. He knew he was in Mick Barry’s house and even in the half light of a Glasgow winter’s morning, he could see the pictures of hoop shirted Celtic players around the bedroom walls. Mick loved the tic alright. As he gathered his thoughts he sensed someone was behind him in the bed. ‘Pound to a penny it’s Mick,’ he mumbled to himself as he slowly edged around to look. It was in fact the girl from the Calton’s friend and even though he had no recollection of how they had got here, what they had done and even her name, his headache faded a little. He decided to test the water and looped a lazy arm over her and snuggled in close. They were both fully clothed under the blankets which suggested the alcohol had made them sleepy rather than amorous the night before. He could feel her breath on his face as his hand slid down the contours of her waist. She sighed contentedly and surprised him by pulling him closer and kissing him. Just as things were heating up, Mick burst into the room, ‘Tommy, ye need tae get up mate. It’s the old firm game the day. Mon, move yer arse!’ The cold air enveloped him as he reluctantly got up from the warmth of the bed. The girl from the Calton’s pal smiled at him and shrugged, ‘Aw well if fitbaw is mer important tae ye?’  

The living room looked as if a bomb had gone off in it as Tommy entered. Beer cans, glasses, bottles and cigarette ash littered the carpet. Here and there sleeping figures snored oblivious to the world. Mick handed Tommy a roll on black pudding and a can of beer, ‘Get that doon ye and we’ll head. These early kick offs ur a pain in the arse.’ Tommy nodded and took a long sip of the cold beer, ‘Aye, ye’d think we were drinking too much or something.’ As Mick cleared the worst of the debris into large black bags marked ‘Glasgow Cleansing Dept’ Tommy rescued his record player and singles and stowed them in the kitchen larder. Mick grunted, ‘Auntie May’s coming in tae help clean up later so it should be ship shape when we get hame fae the game, let’s go.’ The two friends headed out into the January chill leaving a mountain of tidying and cleaning to the indefatigable Auntie May.

More beer in the Blarney Stone Bar had Tommy’s head swimming a little but he was composed enough to join in each rousing chorus the packed pub could offer. He watched Mick punching the air, eyes closed as an old favourite, altered somewhat by the Celtic faithful, was belted out…

‘Hail Glorious Saint Patrick, Dear Saint of our isle

On us and our children bestow a sweet smile

And now thou art high in the mansions above

On Erin’s green valley’s look down in thy love

In the war against Rangers in the fight for the cup

When Jimmy McGrory put Celtic one up

We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again

On Erin’s green valley’s look down in they love’

As was the custom, rounds were still being bought right up to the minute people set off for the waiting supporters’ bus which was to transport them the short distance to Celtic Park. As the bus set of the windows were thumped and feet stamped in unison with the bellicose singing which it seemed everyone joined in.  Mick and Tommy sat together near the back of the bus and let the atmosphere sweep over them. ‘God I love these games,’ Mick said, ‘Nothin beats doin the Huns.’ Tommy nodded, ‘Not won both league games against them since 1912. Hope we put that right today.’ Mick shook his head, ‘That right? Sixty years since we gubbed them in both League games?’ Before Tommy could respond the bus reverberated with a familiar song…

Oh Hampden Park was crowded
The fans began to roar
The Rangers fans were singing
Of the sash their father wore.
But very soon
The changed their tune
When the Celtic plan was set,
For Lennox crossed to Billy McNeill
And the ball was in the net!

Putting on the agony
Putting on the style
One, two, three, four lovely goals
Scoring all the while.
There's nothing in this whole wide world
That makes you want to smile
Like watching Glasgow Celtic
Putting on the style’

The Bus parked as it always did in Society Street and they flowed out and merged with the raucous green river flowing towards the stadium. The noisy queues at the turnstiles in Janefield Street swayed and sang. There was an air of excitement and expectation and as Tommy and Mick inched closer to the turnstile they joined in with a chorus of…‘A lorry load of volunteers approached the border town…’ Tommy loved it, the songs, the passion, the ‘click, click’ of the turnstiles as the fans piled into Celtic Park. There was an air of confidence among the Celtic support. Hadn’t they already beaten Rangers 3 times this season? Tommy and Mick squeezed into the Jungle near the Celtic end just as the teams appeared. A huge roar went up around the stadium and from deep in the Jungle a low, visceral chant started… ‘Hail, Hail the Celts are here…’ It spread around three quarters of Celtic Park until it boomed in the chill winter air… ‘We don’t care what the animals say!’ The players took their positions for kick off and Mick noticed that all 22 were wearing black armbands in respect of the disaster at Ibrox a year before. The game got underway as the swaying crowd on the terraces shouted and sang to encourage their players. Celtic were soon on the attack with Deans, Hood and young Dalglish all forcing saves from McCloy in the Rangers goal. In a frustrating period for the home team, they seemed incapable of turning their obvious superiority into goals. Johnstone bore the brunt of some crude tackling from the Rangers rear guard who gave away free kick after free kick as Celtic probed for an opening. Then in 35 minutes Hood lined up another free kick wide on the Rangers left. McNeil headed into the box and as Hood flighted the ball towards him, the Rangers defence instinctively followed the ball. McNeil however missed, as did everyone else, and it dropped towards the back post where the smallest player on the field, Jimmy Johnstone headed it into the empty net. Celtic Park exploded into a crescendo of noise as three quarters of the crowd roared in unison. Mick and Tommy in the Jungle grabbed each other and hugging and screaming! ‘Yaaaas the Celtic! Come on Bhoys finish the job.’ The game restarted amid a tumultuous racket against which the rest of the first half was played out. The masses crowding the Celtic end and jungle bounced in unison as they belted out…‘We shall not, we shall not be moved, not by the Hibs the Hearts or the Raaaa-aangers, we shall not be moved.’

The second half saw Celtic content to draw Rangers forward and hit them with lightning breaks. Hood and Johnstone were foiled by McCloy but as the clock ticked down, it seemed as if Celtic had done enough. Tommy, however was a natural worrier and said to Mick, ‘Wan’s never enough, we need another goal.’ No sooner were the words out of his mouth when a through ball from Rangers’ Mathieson split the Celtic defence and found Colin Stein and Willie Johnstone racing towards Connaghan. Stein reached the ball first and his snap shot was parried by the keeper and rolled agonisingly over the line and into the net. The Rangers fans now roared as it seemed the late goal would secure them a fortunate draw. The Celtic support was momentarily quiet, taking in the unjust nature of football. They had been so much on top and now with just a few minutes left it was 1-1. From the Rangers end came a cry of… ‘It was worn at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne…’ This was met by a chorus of boos and whistles from the Celtic fans. From the back of the Celtic end a lone voice called out a single word which was taken up in turn by thousands of voices… ‘Cel-tic….Ce-ltic…..Cel-tic…Celtic!’ The players in those famous green and white hooped shirts were stunned by the late equaliser and threw themselves at the Rangers defence seeking one last chance to win it. Then, with the allotted 90 minutes up McNeil picked the ball up thirty five yards from the Rangers goal and glanced quickly ahead of him. Tommy watched as a Celtic player raced towards the back post just as McNeil flighted the ball into the box. The horrified Rangers defence reacted too late as Jim Brogan, the Celtic full back, dived and connected with the ball. Mick watched open mouthed as it exploded into the net behind McCloy. Celtic Park exploded! ‘Gooooaaallll!  Yaaassss!’ roared Tommy as he and Mick grabbed anyone nearby and hugged them. ‘We’ve done!’ yelled Mick, ‘We’ve only fuckin gone and done it!’ Brogan was buried under a pile of delighted team mates as the massed ranks of Celtic fans around three sides of the pitch went wild. The final whistle sounded and it was over. The never say die attitude of Celtic had seen another victory snatched at the death. The team was cheered off the field by the exultant supporters as a stunned silence enveloped the fast emptying away end.

As Tommy and Mick marched along the crowded Janefield Street in great spirits the singing continued… ‘We don’t need your Colin Stein, Eusebio or Alan Gilzean, We’ve got someone twice as good- we’ve got Harry Hood!’ The songs flowed on the bus back to the Gorbals as did the beer. This new year was turning out to be a good one. Tommy grinned at Mick, ‘That was fuckin great!’ Mick laughed, ‘I love sickening them like that, last fuckin minute and Jim Brogan tae!’ As the bus windows were thumped again and the ‘Grand Old Team’ was belted out, Mick turned to his friend, ‘By the way, I got that Calton burd’s phone number, you fancy a wee double date? She’s bringing her pal again.’ Tommy grinned thinking there was unfinished business there, ‘Sounds like a plan mate, sounds like a plan.’ That was for later though for the moment they were just happy to be among the Celtic family enjoying another famous victory. It was indeed, a grand old team.


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