Picters in yer heid
Author(s): Robert Fairnie
Copyright holder(s): Robert Fairnie
As a bairn o that age, he aye kent thare wis a war comin. He’d kent for a while an thare wis monie the time, when he or his wee brither wis bein a wee bit ower gutsie at the table, thair mither wad git on tae thaim wi, “Greedy pootches! Ye’ll ken aw aboot it if the’r a war an awthin gits raitioned. Ye’ll no can eat then the wey ye git tae eat the noo. Juist you think yersel braw lucky wi whit ye’v hid.”
In thae days, Geordie an his pals wis, in a wey, kinna leukin forrit tae a war for, tae aicht year aulds, it soondit a lot mair excitin nor the kinna life they war uised wi up till then. The onlie excitement they hid then, kythed at the picters on a Seturday efternuin whaur they micht see cowboys fechtin wi Indians or mibbie, if they war lucky, a picter aboot sodgers or airieplanes fechtin in the Gret War. But for aw that tho, they did hae some doots. Gin they thocht thare wis onie chance at aw o gittin bate, they wurnae aw that keen an stertit tae feel a wee bit feart sae it aye gart thaim feel better when they aw hid a guid gaun crack aboot whae hid the best sodgers, the fastest airieplanes an the biggest battleships. Whae wad hae thocht aicht year auld bairns cuid mak up thair ain propaganda?
Geordie mindit thon day his mither hid taen him, an his wee brither Wattie, ower the street tae a kirk ha no aw that faur frae the Toun Ha. Inower, it wis fu o raws o tables an muckle cairdboard boxes an he mindit weel that the souch o the place wis bowfin wi the guff o rubber. Thare wis men an weemin thare, aw thrang wi fittin oot the fowk that cam in, wi gas-masks an then fauldin a bit o cairdboard intae a box tae cairie the gassie in. When it wis Geordie’s turn, a man taen a gliff at the size o his heid an taen a gassie oot yin o the muckle boxes. He sortit a wee, roond filter kistie sort o thing tae the bottom end o the gassie an pit it ower Geordie’s heid, fitted it tae his face an then sortit the straps at the back. The guff o the rubber wis strang but he suin got yaised wi it. The mannie shawed him the richt wey tae pit his gassie intae the wee cairdboard box then slung the cairiein string ower his shouther. Coorse, when they aw got hame, Geordie an his wee brither hid tae try thaim on an play aboot wi thaim for a wee while an they got a rerr lauch yince they fund oot that, gin ye breathed oot fast, it gart a kinna rude fartin soond at the side o thair chowks. Thair mither telt thaim tae git the gassies sortit intae thair boxes an then tae pit thaim awa ben in the room press.
On a Sunday, Geordie an his wee brither wisnae allooed tae weir thair ordinar, ilkaday playin claes. Thay aye hid tae weir thair Sunday claes an, in thae days, that wis the kiltie claes thair Grannie hid bocht thaim the year afore. Geordie wore o a Grant tartan kilt an Wattie hid a Robertson yin, no throu onie faimlie sib tae thae tartans like, but juist cause thair Grannie liked the colours. They war aye gart an aw tae gaun tae the Scottish Coast Mission’s Sunday Schuil ilka Sunday forenuin at eleeven o’clock an sae, on this parteeclar Sunday, the first yin o September, thare they war, baith cled in thair kilts an baith wi a bawbee in thair pooches for the plate. They war sent awa airlie sae they cuid cry in for Johnnie, thair freend that bid athort the road, an still hae time for a smert-like walk doon tae the Mission afore eleeven.
The three o thaim got tae the Mission Ha wi rowth o time tae spare, went in an taen thair sates an hid thair names ticked aff on the register. When awbodie wis sattilt in, the Missionary got the service stertit wi a wee prayer an then on tae singin “Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam.” They’d nae suiner gotten the first verse feinished or the door at the left haund side o the ha burstit open an a wumman breenged in screamin for her bairns.
“Oh ma bairns!” she cried, “Gie me ma bairns! It’s the war! It’s stertit! The war’s stertit!”
Awbodie got sic a fleg an it wis a guid wee meinit or aw the stushie quietened doon a bit an they war able tae hear the eldritch screich o the syreens. It wis thon hert-stoondin up-an-doon soond o the ‘air-raid warnin’ an this time it wis the real thing - nae practise drill.
The open side door wis haufweys atween Geordie’s sate an the pletform, whaur the Missionary wis haudin baith his haunds up in a kinna ‘stop’ sign an tellin awbodie no tae rin or they got oot the door an then they war tae gaun strecht hame. Lang afore Geordie won tae the door, his hert wis lowpin in his chist for thare wis a wheen o bairns greetin wi panic an a wheen o mithers an aw. The panic wis kinna catchin an Geordie kept howpin he wad win hame tae his gassie afore the gas stertit comin doon. Yince thay got oot tae the street, the soond o the syreens deefent thair lugs an the three laddies aw taen tae thair heels an rin awa hame juist lik awbodie else. Thair mither wis at the front door as Geordie, an his wee brither, rin up the ootside stair, twa steps at a time, an she shut it ahint thaim yince they war inside.
The first thing the twa laddies did wis tae gaun ben the room an pit thair gassies on then they went ower tae the windae, still pechin for braith athin thair gassies, an leukit oot at aw the hooses ower the ither side o the road, wunnerin whit yin wad be the first tae be dingit doon athin a muckle explosion o fire, reek an racket. Geordie wis expeckin the first bombs tae come crashin doon onie meinit an wis feelin a wee bittie feart. It wis juist aboot then the syreens stopped blawin an, for a wee while, the suddent silence wis gey near as deefenin tae the lugs as the noise hid been. Thair mither cam intae the room, taen yin leuk at thaim an telt thaim tae git thair gas-masks aff. She sayed a man wad come roond the streets birlin a wuiden rattle if thare wis onie gas aboot an she poued baith o thaim ower tae a corner awa fae the windae for fear o fleein gless. The syreens went agane but this time it wis the lang streetched oot yowl o the ‘all clear’. Inside, Geordie wis gled it wis ower an his fear wis stertin tae dee doon. He’d gotten throu his first air-raid athoot gittin bombed an e’en athoot hearin onie guns gaun aff but it hid felt a gey lang while syne he hid pitten his fit ower the door thon mornin, tae gaun tae the Sunday Schuil. They’d gaed oot the door in peace-time an come hame wi the kintra at war.
Efter thon day, naethin wis the same agane for a lang, lang while. Tho the bairns wis aw at the end o thair schuil holidays, they war aw telt no tae gaun back tae the schuil or the yin they gaed tae hid gotten air-raid shelters biggit in the playgrund. Geordie didnae argie aboot that. It wis his paitriotic duty noo tae dae whit he wis telt an, gin that wis whit the kintra wantit him tae dae, he wad juist hae tae dae it – for the war effort. Nae doot, if the kintra hid needit him tae stey awa fae the schuil for the hail duration o the war, Geordie wad hae makit thon sacrifice an aw. It wis his duty.
As the first weeks o the war dragged on weel intae Hairst an the wather wis gittin a wee bit mair airish, the bleck-oot wis stertit an fowk stertit tae git bleck-oot curtains for thair windaes an a wheen o fowk criss-crossed the insides o thair windaes wi strips o sticky paper an aw tae cut doon on fleein gless. Sand-bag wa’s wis biggit tae bield the entries tae the likes o the Post Office, the Polis Office an the Toun Ha. Baith ends o the Pend, doon Caird’s Raw, wis biggit up wi sand-bags tae mak it intae a shelter an ither shelters wis biggit aw ower the place. Wi raitionin came a scant o sugar an they got thair first taste o sacchareens in thair tea – Geordie cuidnae thole thaim at aw an thocht they war ugsome.
Ae day, afore the schuils went back, Geordie an his pals wis juist hunkerin doon bi the side o the road wunnerin whit tae dae, when a motor lorry wi twa three workmen an some graith on the back, poued up on the ither side an they aw got aff an stertit sortin oot thair gear. Geordie an his freends thocht the lorry hid twa bombs on the back but when they aw went ower tae hae a closer keek, they cuid see thare wis a lang rid rubber tube fixed tae the end o ilka yin. Yin o the men hid bleck glesses on an, whit leuked tae the laddies lik a muckle brass poker in his haunds, wi the twa rubber tubes fixed tae the end o’t. He did somethin tae his poker an a blue flame stertit tae come oot the end. Back fae the kerb, thare wis a wee dyke wi airn pailins on the tap o it, richt alang the front o the gairdens an the man wi the bleck glesses knelt doon at the fit o the dyke an pyntit the flame at the fit o yin o the pailins. At first, naethin happened then, o a suddentie, thare wis a muckle ‘whoosh’ an syne a guid shooer o bricht orange sperks, juist lik a Roman caunle. The laddies wis aw fair taen wi this an steyed tae watch as ilka pailin wis burnt throu, wi a muckle shooer o sperks an clouds o gray reek, mingin wi the guff o burnt airn. Efter a while, the back o the lorry wis piled high wi airn pailins, alang wi airn yetts an aw, an thay speirt the men whit they war takin thaim awa for.
“It’s for the war, son.” cam the repone, “This is aw guid prime steel an it’ll aw be meltit doon an turnt intae guns an tanks an ships an that.”
Geordie cuid weel mind, as he dandert on tae his paper shop, that no lang efter thon day, thare wisnae an airn pailin or airn yett tae be seen oniewhaur in the hail o the toun. E’en the pailins roond the schuil playgrunds wis taen awa. They war aw cut doon in thair prime tae help wi the war effort but thare wis millions o wee stumpit bits o airn, ilka yin wantin a wee bit for an inch in hicht, rinnin alang the taps o aw the caip stanes o aw the dykes ower aw the kintra an, gin a bodie disnae gaun aboot wi thair een steekit, the’r a guid wheen o thaim still tae be seen tae this day.
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Picters in yer heid. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 23 February 2024, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=115.
"Picters in yer heid." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 23 February 2024. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=115.
The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Picters in yer heid," accessed 23 February 2024, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=115.
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