Authors: Alison Miller
an imprint of
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road,
Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre,
Panchsheel Park, New Delhi â 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London
First published 2005
Copyright Â© Alison Miller, 2005
pp. 323 â 4 constitute an extension of this copyright page
The moral right of the author has been asserted
All rights reserved.
Without limiting the rights under copyright
reserved above, no part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior
written permission of both the copyright owner and
the above publisher of this book
For Irene Eliza Miller
Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number â
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you â
Ye are many â they are few.
âThe Mask of Anarchy', Percy Bysshe Shelley
It was deadead good they let me go. I've never went abroad before except Majorca or Tenerife. And only in the summer to lie about on the beach and that. This was November and I'm like, will I take my big coat or will it still be warmer than Glasgow? My ma didny know. My da says, Oh aye, Italy can be cauld this time a year. Willy Bauld. And he showed me the world temperatures in the
: Venice 6 degrees Celsius, Rome 9 degrees, Florence 8, Glasgow 10. Like it was football scores. Aye, hen, take your coat, he says.
I goes, Puck, puck, puck, puckeck and flap my elbows, cause I don't like it when he calls me hen, and I dodge behind the sofa before he can swipe me with the paper. A right comedienne, he says.
My daddy's alright really. He wasny that keen at first when I says I wanted to go on the demo. Och, Da, it's no like it's for a daft holiday; it's a good cause. Anti-war, anti-globalization! I bet you'd have went if you were my age. It's everything you're always goin on about.
You're too young, he says, sixteen's too young to be gallivantin about Europe. Like I'm still a wean!
But I says, Danny'll be there, he'll look efter me. He's organizin the bus and runnin the Glasgow end a the trip.
Oh aye, my da says, that's reassurin; couldny run a menodge, that brother a yours.
That's no fair, my ma says; you're too hard on the boy. And that pure sets my da off on wan.
Hard? Listen, when I was twenty-four I was bringin in a
wage tay keep my wife and familyâ¦ blah blah blahâ¦ and the vein's standin out on his forehead and he's went pure puce. And my ma's at the sink with her back to him, but you can see she's mad cause she's rattlin the dishes and clashin them ontay the drainin board an shakin her head. My da keeps goin on about Danny no havin a job. Like it's his fault he got his books fae the Call Centre. They're always arguin. My da givin it, When ye gonny grow up and shoulder your responsibilities? At least the Call Centre was a
Danny used to say nothin, but since he joined his group he's more able for my da and he gives it, So where's your politics now? The big socialist, eh? The Big Red Clydesider. That kinda work's crap and you know it. You're no even allowed out for a pish. Some a they boys in there have never even
of a union.
Aye, well, my da says, if they didny turn the colour a biled shite at the mention of the word
mibby they could get off their arses an
wan. And Danny's went the same red as my da by this time and just swears under his breath and goes through to his room and turns up his stereo dead loud.
Anyway, to cut a short story long, as my da would say, he eventually says I could go. I think he felt likeâ¦ guilty about Danny. Or maybe my ma's went on at him. I don't know. But when Danny and me are just leavin to catch the bus, my da's went, Here, son, there a wee contribution. For the vino. Mind an look efter my lassie. And he hands a few notes to Danny. See he
alright my da, when it comes down to it.
But for a minute I think Danny's no gonny take the money; he just stands there lookin my da in the eye. And my da's like, Suit yersel, son. And I'm just away to say, I'll take it, Da, when Danny puts it in his jeans pocket and says, Thanks, dead low and goes out the room.
I looks at my da and his face is like deadead hurt and I goes, Thanks, Da, and I hug him hard.
He pats me on the shoulder and says, You look efter yoursel now, hen, and keep outay trouble. And I'm like nearly greetin and I think my da is too.
Danny comes back in then with his rucksack over one shoulder and says, Right, we ready to rock an roll, Wee Yin? And I'm glad he's makin an effort so I goes, Who you callin Wee Yin, Big Yin? And my da laughs and says, Away yous go, the paira ye. Have a good time. Say hello to the comrades for me. And come back in wan piece, will ye.
I hug him again and I burst my coldsore on his stubbly cheek and I'm like, See what you've went an did now! So he takes his hanky out an dabs my mouth dead gentle. And Danny says, She'll live â come on, Clare, or we'll miss the bus. Say cheerio to Ma for us. Tell her we'll text her when we get to Florence.
You and your mobile phones! Da says.
When we gets to the square there's buses standin and a lot of folk millin about smokin. There's this guy with amazin dreadlocks tied back and one a they black and white Arab scarfs round his neck with the tasselly points hangin down his combat jacket. Danny flings his rucksack on top of a heap of other bags at the back of one a the buses and shouts over, Hey, Julian. And the guy with the dreads looks at us, takes a draw on his roll-up, makes his eyes into slits, says somethin to the guy next to him and comes over dead slow. He doesny even smile nor nothin. I'm thinkin, Who is this guy?
Alright? Danny says.
And the guy Julian says, I'm good. Who's this then? And he's got like this posh voice, definitely no Glasgow. It sounds dead funny with the dreads. He's lookin at me with these huge
blue eyes. Lookin right at me. And I feel my face gettin hot and my coldsore's pure lowpin. I look down and his fag's burnin away in his hand. The ash is blowin off in wee grey flakes.
This is my wee sister, Clare, Danny says, and I could've kicked him.
Delighted to make your acquaintance, the guy says. And he flings his fag onto the red tar stuff they've went an covered George Square wae. Red Square, my da calls it. And he slaps the heels of his boots thegether and sort of likeâ¦ bows and holds out his hand, keepin his big blue eyes on me the whole time.
Clare, meet Julian, Danny says.
I try to think of somethin clever to say but I can't so I just goes, Hi, and keep my hands in my pockets and look across the square. Folk are startin to move towards the buses now and I'm dyin to get on and get movin.
So how's things? Danny says to Julian.
Bit fragile this morning, he says. Mouth like the inside of a vacuum cleaner.
Vacuum cleaner! A vacuum cleaner.
Bit of a dodgy old tum, he says. And he rubs his belly under his green jacket.
Well, just as long as you don't spew your ring aw ower me on the bus, Danny says and laughs.
No way! Was this guy goin to be sittin next tay us? Great! I flings Danny a look and hope the guy Julian doesny catch it. But Danny's all over him and he ignores me.
Did you see the report in the
Julian says, about Firenze's preparations for the Social Forum?
No, Danny says, I've already telt you I don't read that bourgeois rag. Oh God, is Danny gonny go off on wan?
Well, terribly sorry, your Supreme Proliness. I forgot, the guy Julian says. God, sir, you jocks don't half have the old chip
on the shoulder. The old deep-fried Mars Bar and chips. Mahz Bah, he says it like.
I'll give you a Mars bar. Anywhere you like, Danny says, I've taen my chib. Come on, Jules, drop the English Upper-class Twit act, why don't you, or you'll put my wee sister right off her Irn Bru.
Wot? Julian cups his hand round his ear and leans forward. Some of his dreads swing round over his shoulder. They smell of smoke and somethin else. They look that matted way my hair used to go at the back when I was wee. I would like to touch them, see what they feel like. A bit clatty but. Could be introduced to a bar of soap, my ma would say. Wot's that you say? Class act you say? Well, of course. And he staggers towards the bus with a kid-on walkin stick and his hand shakin like he's an old old man. When he gets to the door he straightens up and turns his lamps on me. Ladies first, he says.
Come on, the driver says, what's the hold-up? He's in a right bad mood! I take my rucksack off, hold it in front of me and climb on. The driver's a wee fat man with greasy black hair. He draws me a dirty look.
It's already half full, the bus, and I don't see anybody I know. It's a shame my pal Farkhanda couldny come with us; her da wouldny let her. I was dead disappointed when she telt me. We would a had a good laugh. Everybody's older than me and they're all dressed kindaâ¦ weird. Like students and sort of likeâ¦ hippies. Well, no really hippies, cause my da says they were a sixties phenomenon, a product of post-war affluence in the West. He uses a lot of big words, my da. His mates at work say, You swally a dictionary, PK? They never call him Peter. Just because I don't read the
my da says. Rot your brain, they rags.
So I'm lookin for two seats thegether for me and Danny,
and suddenly he's right at my back and says, This'll dae for the three of us. And he swings his polybag fulla books and leaflets up on the rack and goes to take my rucksack off us and stick it up too. But I'm like, I want to keep it on my knee the now. And I squeeze into the window seat.
Suit yersel, Danny says, like he knows I'm pissed off, but isny gonny ask me what it's about. There's a seat for you, Jules, he says, and he points at the one across the passage. Then he paps hissel down on the seat next to me.
Great, Julian says, and sits in the seat next to a lassie with dyed purple hair. I'm tryin no to watch him but it's dead hard no to. He keeps movin his head up and down against the back a the seat, like he canny get comfortable for his dreads. So he sits up, pulls the black scrunchy off at the back, holds it in his mouth, and pulls all his hair up on top of his head, twists the scrunchy on and lies back against the seat. Ah, that's better, he says. I'm tryin no to laugh. All the ends ay his dreads are movin about like fingers growin out his head. The guy's a pure weirdo.
Danny does laugh. You look like a â thingmy, whatdyecallit â sea anemone.
Yes, creature of the deep, that's me. Hidden depthsâ¦ still waters and so on.
I get my CD player out my rucksack and feel about for a CD. The bus is full now and the driver's arguin with a couple a guys that are tryin to get on.
I don't care if you're wae the official party of the fuckin Queen of Sheba, yous are no fuckin gettin on my bus.
The door hisses shut and he starts the engine. And the two guys are like bangin on the window and shoutin and givin him the finger.
Danny laughs. Dickheads, he says. Should've got here on time. And he leans over me, chaps the window and points to
the bus behind. There's still spaces on that wan, he says, talkin quiet but makin his mouth big so they can read his lips.
And next thing we're off, up the big hill at Rottenrow, headin for the motorway.
Time to knit up the old ravelled sleeve of care, Julian says. And he yawns and closes his eyes. The tentacles on top of his head waggle about a minute and then go still. His face is awful white but, kinda likeâ¦ seethrough. Well, no really, but you know what I mean. He's got purply bits under his eyes that I've no noticed when his eyes are open. And he's got a wee kinda beard â no exactly a goatee â more straggly. More blondy than his hair too.