Thursday, 8 March 2018

Monkeys, Drag Queens, Glasgow and Van Morrison & the City of Paisley.

I went running a few days back and a group of twenty-odd monkeys came racing up the mountain from below out of the tea fields and spilled up onto the road around me and ran with me a few dozen meters.

At that moment I was listening in rapture to Van Morrison on earphones. Thinking about the opening lyrics to Domino with a big grin...

Don't want to discuss it
I think it's time for a change
You may get disgusted
Start thinkin' that I'm strange
In that case I'll go underground
Get some heavy rest
Never have to worry
About what is worst and what is best (get it)
Oh oh Domino (all right)
Roll me over Romeo

There you go

Lord have mercy
I said oh oh Domino
Roll me over Romeo
There you go
Say it again
I said oh oh Domino
I said oh oh Domino,

I had to stop and laugh and dance for the monkeys....."there you go... Lord have mercy..."
I punched the air Rocky-style smiling so hard I couldn't laugh and I swear a few of the monkeys joined in with me for the following verse dancing in the trees...
The Van Morrison and the monkeys....agh...  I never finished writing that blog in Glasgow started in December.

Domino Van Morrison

Back in Glasgow after some quiet time on the Isle of Skye I wandered for hours on end in the streets holding my camera by my waist with the flip out viewfinder secretly taking endless pictures of mostly unsuspecting random people walking down the street or preparing for a Christmas parade or staring into a pawnshop window looking at guitars.  I've been in the habit of this for years. In Russia,  Georgia, New York, Melbourne, India..
You get drunks and punks and mates. Occasionally a couple in love, a toddler with a walleye eating a sugar glazed donut.

The moment was gone.

The already low-angled solstice sun lowered, it was raining and snowing and the buskers were mixing in Christmas carols next to Rolling Stone covers. I nicked into a pub to sit quietly and edit out the blurry pictures, the empty frames, close-ups of down jackets and think about the habitats of the city I captured for my own amusement digitally.

I got my pint and some chips and glanced around the pub to see who my fellow sleet-escaping buddies were.

A little on the gloomy and serious side.

All ages and no specific dress code. Even the matron who moved in on me and was curious and looking to start up a conversation as soon as I looked away for my camera editing.....

Where you from?

I had to smile.

She was speaking with a deep Glaswegian patter.

She had to smile back...she raises both arched eyebrows, one at a time, and turns her head slightly, glances sideways, coyly up and away and takes a sip through a straw of her cocktail and lets the razor stubble, eyeliner and peculiar cleavage and husky voice register and then the eyes move back to meet mine and then the head follows for dramatic effect.


A few pints later I had heard her family story.

A North Irish bricklayer father who had eloped with her Scottish mother to escape the troubles and then escaped the troubles of looking after a family and vanished. She was living with her bloody handsome straight brother, built like a refrigerator, who came back from Iraq with a post-traumatic disorder and was between wife number three and four.

So what do you do in Canada?

I'm a farmer and a textile designer and actually, I have lived in Japan for the last thirty years.

I raised my eyebrows, turned my head slightly, gave it my best world-weary distant gaze, (probably man-spread a little), took an intentional manly drink of my beer and then moved my eyes back to meet hers and then slightly pivoted my head so the vision and the nose lined up and locked at 90 degrees.

I thought of that old song..."When love congeals, it reveals, the faint aroma of performing seals."

She blinked those clumpy mascaraed lashes in rapid succession. Three quickies and a slow rise. Set them and smiled while seemingly making her incisors grow a little...

Well.... you must go to Paisley then. It is only an hour away. That is where all the paisley was made for the world in the days. The trains leave Glasgow station every twenty minutes.

So the next day...

No weaving has taken place in the town of Paisley since before WWII. Living in my village in Japan where every single house had produced silk for hundreds of years I know how that industry determined generations of local's lives. Again, the not-well-funded-aesthetic of small museum rooms with donated looms with moth-eaten threads dryly suspended from the front and back beams, rusted heddles and miscellany of weaving production awkwardly displayed on poorly made display boxes and cabinets.

It was a wonderful three hours non-the-less. Reading through the placard history of the weaving union workers and the history of the shawl adaptations as styles changed and seeing some beautiful work was well worth the short trip from Glasgow.

The sad Christmas fair with almost empty amusement rides in the town square I'd have to pass through again to enter the train station made me reluctant to brace the cold and wind. I bought a good book on Paisley from the museum gift shop and sat in front of a life-sized paper mâché Darth Vader near a radiator and read it until it was 5:00 and the museum decided to close.

This makes the paisley shawl make sense. One minute clip.

I did go back to the Scottish pub in Glasgow the next day humming, 'Madame George' but she wasn't there.

Pure Heaven.

Down on Cyprus Avenue
With a childlike vision leaping into view
Clicking, clacking of the high heeled shoe
Ford and Fitzroy, Madame George
Marching with the soldier boy behind
He's much older now with hat on drinking wine
And that smell of sweet perfume comes drifting through
The cool night air like Shalimar
And outside they're making all the stops
The kids out in the street collecting bottle-tops
Gone for cigarettes and matches in the shops
Happy taken Madame George
That's when you fall
Whoa, that's when you fall
Yeah, that's when you fall
When you fall into a trance
Sitting on a sofa playing games of chance
With your folded arms and history books
You glance into the eyes of Madame George
And you think you found the bag
You're getting weaker and your knees begin to sag
In a corner playing dominoes in drag
The one and only Madame George
And then from outside the frosty window raps
She jumps up and says, Lord, have mercy I think it's the cops
And immediately drops everything she gots
Down into the street below
And you know you gotta go
On that train from Dublin up to Sandy Row
Throwing pennies at the bridges down below
And the rain, hail, sleet, and snow
Say goodbye to Madame George
Dry your eye for Madame George
Wonder why for Madame George
And as you leave, the room is filled with music
Laughing, music, dancing, music all around the room
And all the little boys come around, walking away from it all
So cold, and as you're about to leave
She jumps up and says, hey love, you forgot your gloves
And the gloves to love, to love the gloves
To say goodbye to Madame George
Dry your eye for Madame George
Wonder why for Madame George
Dry your eyes for Madame George
Say goodbye in the wind and the rain on the back street
In the backstreet, in the back street
Say goodbye to Madame George
In the backstreet, in the back street, in the back street
Down home, down home in the back street
Gotta go, say goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
Dry your eye, your eye, your eye, your eye, your eye
Say goodbye to Madame George
And the loves to love to love the love
Say goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
Say goodbye goodbye, goodbye, goodbye to Madame George
Dry your eye for Madame George
Wonder why for Madame George
The love's to love, the love's to love, the love's to love
Say goodbye, goodbye

Get on the train
Get on the train, the train, the train
This is the train, this is the train
Whoa, say goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
Get on the train, get on the train


  1. paisley.. the weaver's union ,the weavers they were owners of their looms so not slaves. always wondered if the exquisiteness and intricacy of their shawls had to do with that fact.
    loved the poetry of this entry.