Handstands In The Dark: A True Story of Growing Up and Survival (12 page)

BOOK: Handstands In The Dark: A True Story of Growing Up and Survival
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‘No I won’t. Peter’s no’ a bad man.’

‘Ann and I are going to have tae explain to your grandweans that you are deed an’ the reason they never got tae see you was because you let a man kill you. That’s what I’m going to have tae say in years to come –
I’m sorry you never saw my Mammy, but she let a man kill her
!’

Mammy burst out laughing: ‘I cannae imagine you being a mother! … You don’t seem like the mothering type tae me. I don’t think ye’ll be a mother. You’re good wi’ weans but I cannae imagine it but, don’t you worry, I’ll be there the day you have a wean.’

So we all carried on with life and waited for the next big disaster to strike. I had no idea how my Dad felt about it all. By this time, he was living down in Bridgeton, at the other end of Glasgow’s East End, working in a chemical factory and he worked a lot, so I rarely saw him. He still came back to our house when he got really drunk. Most weekends, I would waken up and see him and Mammy in bed together. I have no idea how Peter took this. As he lived opposite, it was hard to miss my Dad arrive, staggering, loudly singing his drunken megamix medley of Frank Sinatra and Protestant marching songs. Mammy did love Dad being there on Saturday nights because, on the Sunday, she would still dip his pockets for cash, then both of them would get pissed and reminisce as I sat with them and we all imagined we were one big happy family again. On Sunday nights he would go home, leaving Mammy feeling sad and me feeling confused.
Why could she not make him stay?
Adult relationships flummoxed me.

* * *

One weekend in early March 1979, I was passing the Palaceum bar to go for my weekly wash at the swimming baths (our bath no longer worked and we had never had hot water anyway) when I met my nemesis doorman. We got chatting and he offered me a job as a weekend waitress. Mij’s girlfriend Cathy already worked there and he said she would show me the ropes.
Brilliant! I had a job!
That first weekend was fun and the cash was good. I found out that the new owner of the Palaceum was a Catholic called George Storrie; he had seven sons, one of whom was also called George, so they were differentiated as Old George and Young George; my nemesis doorman was the sixth son and was called Sean Storrie.

I asked around and local people told me Old George Storrie had been in prison when he was in his late twenties for armed robbery. He had graduated into various other crimes including safe-cracking and jewellery robberies and had lived and worked as a driver and general worker on the Gadgies’ travelling fairgrounds for many many years until he became accepted as a Gadgie not by birth but by association. After his marriage, he settled down more and eventually became a troubleshooter for the city breweries. In Glasgow at that time the pubs were hard-drinking, hard-fighting places; Old George was known for his fist fights and for always confronting gang leaders head on.

One famous tale I found was that, when Old George was around 30, he was dragged into the back of a police Black Maria van. Inside were five uniformed policemen with truncheons and wooden sticks. The van was driven to a back street in the south side of Glasgow, where they tried to beat him up. He fought his corner. He knocked two policemen unconscious and beat the other three to the ground. When he got out of the Black Maria, he was bloodied and badly beaten, but they were in an equally terrible state. Old George had survived and his relationship with the police was established.

In the 1960s, Old George was once in the company of Arthur Thompson when Thompson met with the Kray Twins and some other well-known criminal ‘Faces’ from London. Arthur Thompson was regularly called Glasgow’s ‘Godfather of Crime’ by the Scottish press and lived in a house called The Ponderosa – named after the family home in the Wild West TV series
Bonanza
. They discussed flooding Glasgow with Purple Heart tablets (popular illegal stimulant drugs of the time); George was opposed to the idea and withdrew from the meeting. He hated drugs and drug dealers. He had no criminal gang. He had his seven sons, some of whom worked at the Palaceum. My nemesis doorman Sean Storrie was a real bastard to work for and his nickname was ‘Mad Eyes’ which was a fair description of the prolonged, angry stare he sometimes gave. But they were also sometimes soft, brown, reassuring eyes. He made me do all the shitty jobs like wipe up vomit and broken glass and any other crap that needed doing. I would tell anyone who listened what an arse he was. He also had the Storrie family habit of mumbling and tended to talk in telegramese so he might say to me:

‘Guy bar near payphone, red hair Guinness, called Frank, name on pool board.’

Which meant:

‘Go and serve the guy with the red hair, near the phone, a pint of Guinness, then put his name up on the pool list.’

It was infuriating.

He would say, ‘Shops. Ye want?’ instead of, ‘I’m going to the shops. Do you want anything?’

After I had worked at the Palaceum for a week, he asked me out, but I was not really interested – he wasn’t my type. He was very very quiet and very moody. He also always sneered at me when I was in with my mates dancing and chatting to young guys. So, out of curiosity, I said
Yes
.

Sean was the sixth of seven brothers – just as my first boyfriend Barra had been; Sean and Barra were both Catholics; I had become Barra’s girlfriend outside the Palaceum where Sean now worked; and Sean was even born on exactly the same day of the same year as Barra.

On our first date, I had to wait until he finished his shift at the Palaceum and he got Shuggie, one of his drivers (the Storries had drivers who worked for the family), to sweep us off in a big golden Mercedes. We were chauffeured to Sean’s home. He lived at the other end of Tollcross Park in a big house that everyone called Toad Hall and which stood alone on the corner of a main road surrounded by an eight-foot-high brick wall. It had what seemed to me a vast back garden and looked like one of those houses you draw as a child: four big windows and a door, but it was no ordinary door. It was impressive by any standards. A giant wooden door with beautifully ornate carvings of roses on it. We went into the living room and I was amazed that he owned a video player – they were not common at the time.

We watched
In the Heat of the Night
. He never really spoke – like Barra, he was not a great talker and was a year and a half younger than me. I think I talked nervously all the way through the movie. I felt truly out of my depth. This boy lived in a mini-mansion and I lived in a house with graffiti on the inside. Eventually, I decided to stop talking and call it a night. He leaned over before I had a chance to speak again and held my hand then kissed me on the lips. It was weird, coz normally at this point I pretended to be dead. But this was good! I liked him holding me in his arms and he was a really sensitive, lovely kisser.
Wow!
I thought.
So this is what it is meant to feel like?
That night, he walked me back to Shettleston through Tollcross Park and, within weeks, we were truly, madly, deeply in love.

He never pushed me into sex. I told him about the abuse. He listened patiently and never made any judgements. I fully expected him to dump me.
Who wants ‘used and damaged’ goods?
But, slowly, he made me feel more at ease and my first ‘consensual’ sexual experience was such an awakening.
I actually liked sex!

About three weeks after our first date, one night after a late shift, Sean and I sat in the back of his large golden Mercedes, listening to music on the radio and kissing as we were driven by Shuggie for what seemed like hours through a beautiful spring night. Eventually, we arrived at the small town of Blairgowrie, sat by an old wishing well and held hands as we made our wishes. I thought:
This will be the most romantic night of my life!
I was still a wee, curly-headed tomboy, but I was holding hands with this young guy who had a Mercedes and a chauffeur and we were kissing in the moonlight. That was the night we got engaged. Three days later, he gave me a wee solitaire diamond ring round the back of the Palaceum.
Me!
I thought.
I have a diamond!

My family never really formed much of an opinion of Sean as he was very quiet and never made any effort to impress them; he also disliked my father as he felt Dad had never protected me from Uncle David Percy. I had been very embarrassed taking Sean to my home for the first time, because of the graffiti, the dirty smelly toilet and the general poverty it revealed. But it never bothered Sean and he seemed to accept all the wacky ways of the Curries. His own family was hardly perfect. Early on in our relationship, he told me, ‘People will do things, but you’ve got to ignore them.’

‘What do you mean?’ I asked, confused.

‘My brothers. People will do and say things. Ignore them. In this family, trust naebody.’

Young George in particular would sneer at me. When I persuaded Sean to get the spectacles he’d needed for a while, Young George told him: ‘Now you know what she really looks like, you’ll fucking want your ring back,’ and, in the Palaceum one night, Young George shouted out at me, in front of all his mates:

‘Your ma is a daft old cow, your brothers are arseholes an’ you are a begging bastard. Everyone in Shettleston has fucked ye!’

‘Well,’ I shouted back, ‘at least I havnae fucked you, coz I’m allergic to pork an’ you’re a pig’s arse and if ye think
my
brothers are cunts ye should see my Sean’s brothers – he has
six
daft bastards in
his
family!’

It was a never-ending battle. All of the other six Storrie brothers would make sniping remarks at me. I was either too loud, too mouthy or too giggly. I was not good enough. Sean was too young. I was too poor. Sean had a great future in front of him. I would only hold him back. I would only get pregnant to snare the rich boy. The objections went on and on. In actual fact, the one thing we were very careful about was birth control. I was determined not to get pregnant. Sean felt the same. But his family put so much pressure on us both that, after about six weeks, he left Toad Hall and we both moved in with my maternal grandfather Granda Davy Percy – the father of my abuser – who was a friendly if slightly strange man. He had talked openly about sex to me when I was younger. When I was around 16, he had told me, ‘You should go on the pill and get oot and enjoy yourself.’

What grandfather says that to his granddaughter?
When I was younger, he had often sat by the fireplace with the zip of his trousers down and, inside, I could glimpse his floppy old penis as he chatted to me. I used to think he never knew his flies were undone; I just put it down to sloppiness on his part.

This was the house in which Sean and I were going to live. We were desperate to be together and I knew my Uncle David Percy would not come near his father’s house when Sean and I were there together. In fact, David Percy had not been heard of in ages. Sean knew of the abuse, so I felt if my Uncle
did
show his face, it would be OK. Sean would protect me. And, for once, things happened as I wanted them to. Uncle David Percy never did once visit my grandfather while we lived with him in Shettleston. And Granda Davy Percy’s strangeness did not reoccur.

It was a small flat with Granda sleeping in the living room and Sean and I taking over his bedroom. We created our own wee home within Granda Davy’s house. For the first time in my life I owned a fridge and we spent that summer lying in the garden enjoying the sun and making love every spare moment we had. Sean was very shy and, by nature and family upbringing, ever so quiet but my Granda was good company and he could get Sean chatting.

Granda Davy was a Protestant – his son David was still a very active member of the Orange Order – and Sean was Catholic, though not a practising one. They debated religion and politics vigorously and I liked that side to Sean. I had been brought up in a home where my father always expressed strong political views. But I did feel sorry for Sean at times. He had never really got an education and had a lot of literacy problems – those were the days when dyslexia wasn’t recognised – but he was intelligent. I felt he could have done anything he wanted, but he had never even got to choose a job; his father had decided he would work in the Palaceum … and he also had very bad migraine headaches. One night when I went over to see him at Toad Hall, I found Sean lying on his bed alone in the dark.

‘It’s the headaches,’ he told me.

He told me he had tablets for them.

Meanwhile, I carried on working alongside him at the Palaceum. The previous owner had been forced to hand over weekly protection money to a local gang who were friends of my brother Mij. When they tried this on the Storrie family, a ‘heavy’ came in and said to Old George, ‘You gie us 50 quid every week and yer bar will be safe – there’ll be nae fights in here.’

Old George calmly walked round from behind the bar, coshed the heavy then battered the fuck out of him. ‘I like fights in my bar!’ George said as he kicked him. ‘I start most of them!’ Old George was very well ‘connected’; these local boys were small potatoes in comparison. His philosophy of life, which he had inbred in his children was:
If ever anybody fucks you about, face up to them. Never show weakness. If you do, then they will get you
.

The Palaceum was safe under Old George’s management, although accidents did happen. A regular called Jonah McKenzie had his left eye knocked out in a freak accident when a heavy glass ashtray – not intended for him – was thrown across the dance floor and struck him on the eyeball.

Not long before I met him, Old George’s nephew Harry was taken into police custody for dealing with a trouble-maker at the Palaceum; both Harry and the bloodied hatchet he had used were taken to Tobago Street Police Office. Old George walked into the building and insisted his young nephew was released. They refused. He then walked into the chief investigating detective’s office and, after a short discussion, left with both the bloodied hatchet under his coat
and
with his nephew. It was rumoured locally that Old George had been carrying a gun during the discussion. Harry later had to pay a small fine. It was sometimes easier even for the police to let Old George do what he needed to do, as he could be extremely vengeful.

BOOK: Handstands In The Dark: A True Story of Growing Up and Survival
11.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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