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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Strange city

My son's girlfriend has completed her degree course and moved to Glasgow, and has found the transition tougher than expected, she tells me, as we're wandering down Hill Street towards the Oxford Café. 

"The people are nice, but they're very Scottish," she says.

"I'm not sure what that means," I say and for such an articulate young woman she seems to struggle. 

"I dunno," she says. "I was expecting it to be much like Newcastle, I guess, which I always thought was half Scottish culturally. Everyone's talking about the referendum here. I suppose the biggest difference is that all my friends are down there and I don't know many people yet."

It's a statement of fact not a request for sympathy, so although my heart goes out to her, I don't do anything stupid like put my arm round her shoulder or pat her on the head. You have to be careful at my age not to treat young people like kids. 

"So listen if you and my boy come to Susan's house tomorrow, she's throwing a birthday party and it'll give you a chance to meet lots of new people, all nice and friendly."

"It's your birthday?" she says

"Will be on Tuesday," I say.

"So it's an old fossil's party," she says.

"I can see why you don't have many friends," I say. "Where has your young man got to?"

We stop, look up the hill and fail to spot him at first. "There he is," Linda says. "Rootling around in that skip. He loves them. He's always coming back to the flat with stuff he's found in skips." 

"Is that where he got you?" I say and she laughs. 

I turn to the café door and she goes, "Hey Douglas."


"Thanks for the wee hand chatting through my dissertation. You're a genius."

"I get called that a lot."



My son catches up, we get seated and the friendly but bumbling waitress, who's standing in for her daughter, she says, takes our orders. Egg and chips all round. 

"We're going to visit his mum, the day after tomorrow," Linda says. "Your ex-wife."

"I know who his mum is," I say. "Give her a big kiss from me."

"I will," she says and her expression sends a surge of panic to my tummy.

"I was kidding," I say.

"I wasn't," she says.

"Bugger," I say. 

My son's napkin and cutlery have become the raw materials in what seems to be a scale model of the Eiffel Tower he's putting together, oblivious to our chat. I lower my voice to be sure he can't hear.   

"So are you regretting moving to Glasgow?" I say.

She shakes her head. "No, I'm not," she says, studying his sculpture. "I really love him." 

This time I'm not fast enough to stop the impulse. My arm goes around her shoulder and I give her a squeeze.

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