“George Square Market Fair” – An Extract from Hoi Polloi, by David Murray

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
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“See what happens when you take up writin’!”  Jo-Jo irritably spoke aloud to himself whilst trying to peer over the thousand or so heads in front of him.  No one really took notice.  Only a few arrogant and aristocratic faces here and there.  They meant nothing to him though, but he’d certainly remember them when it came to writing his first ever novel.  That, of course, was the main reason why he was there at that point in time.  The horrified look on their faces as he passed them whilst shouting to himself.  They must’ve thought he had some type of disease for which there was no cure in the entire universe, which everyone at the fair would catch, and then slowly begin to dissolve into some horrendous form of sordid puree.  Barely loud enough to penetrate the festive bustle of George Square, he bawled the question with a pointing finger in the air.  “Havin’ a good time, aye?  You bunch of wankers.  It’s one bloody thing after another these days,” he effortlessly exhaled as he pushed his way through the mob.  “Away from the champagne socialists and onwards.  That’s what I say.”  It could’ve been the edge of the solar system for all he cared, so long as he managed to get some space to himself, he really wasn’t bothered.
The Christmas jostle was now certainly well under way.  Bells rang and people cheered, as children played and skated in excitement around the yearly established ice rink, whilst the parents sat back and relished amongst the local marquees and enjoyed the beverages on sale around the market stalls.  The whole area had become one gigantic metropolitan cultural explosion.  There were dozens of different places to choose from, and copious types of foods to tease the eye.  People came from all over the country to market fairs like this.  They would bring all their old family recipes along, cooked, prepared and ready to sell.  Some of the more recent cultures to enter the country such as the Polish and Romanians seemed to be very popular among the guests.  The Pierogi’s were selling like hot-cakes from the Polish section.  There were folks who would design homemade clothing and knitting patterns like scarfs and woolly jumpers.  Other stalls appeared to be bursting at the seams with homemade breads, jams and wonderfully home grown cheeses of all varieties, colours and tastes.  Over in the corner by the enormous lion statue, folk musicians went about setting up their equipment whilst tuning their violins and guitars, with the occasional “One… One Two… Two… Two…” as they tested their microphones.  The kids ran amok around the clowns as they tried to carry out their archetypal and very clichéd routines, whilst others flogged their homemade coloured balloons of endless shapes and sizes.  Just about every type of food available in the country could be found here.  Chewy sweets, desserts, fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, cheeses.  The list goes on.
“Get yer burgers here; two fir a poun’.  Here’s yer burgers; two fir a poun’.”  A small balding stall owner stared him in the eyes and aimed his hooligan-styled chants towards him as he passed.  For such a small man, his voice seemed to echo around the entire square like a stuttering psychotic Tourette’s sufferer.  If he’d been standing at the other end, he knew he’d still have been able to hear him proclaiming that he could get 2 burgers for a pound at his end.  There was also a heavy Police presence surrounding the square, like they’d secretly gathered everyone into this tiny section of the city to have them executed in some rancid Nazi gas chamber, or, maybe something even more sinister.  To Jo-Jo, Glasgow’s celebrated George Square really was overflowing with joy and excitement this year.  It was certainly living up to the reputation which preceded it.
As he made his way around the festival, taking in the sights and listening to the live music and so on, an old dishevelled drunkard dressed as Santa Clause began to make his way towards him.  The unshaven and, somewhat, decaying drunkard also came with the typical thousand yard stare, as though he’d survived a 10 year tour of Vietnam and then went back for more.  He’d unwittingly walked into the drunkard’s snare.  He now had Jo-Jo within his weary-eyed and beer-goggled radar and, even if he knew, there was nothing he could’ve done about it.  Totally reeking of booze, the drunk grabbed his jacket and began to slur.  To Jo-Jo’s disbelief, he’d been snared by Glasgow’s very own Willie T. Stokes as the Bad Santa.  “Bastard.  “How the hell could I have missed this old steamer?”  He muttered to himself.
“Alright man, enjoyin’ yourself?”  Said Jo-Jo whilst laughing, hesitantly. “It looks like it.” Meanwhile, he was trying to peel the mouldy fingers from his weathered leather jacket.  The old Santa mumbled now and then with a husky voice.  The sixty-a-day and 2 litres of Whiskey type.  Thick white frothy saliva oozed and bubbled from the corners of Santa’s mouth as he tried to string a short sentence together – reminiscent of Rab C Nesbitt – which made Jo-Jo sick into his own mouth for a second before managing to discretely swallow it again.  Santa wouldn’t have bothered anyway.  He could’ve spewed a load on Santa’s chest and he still wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.  It’s a miracle that he’d even been allowed into the Market, with people’s kids running around, and the coppers everywhere.

“Is he havin’ a seizure?”  He worryingly thought to himself for a moment.  His heart was in his mouth at this point.

“Fuck you Santa!  Don’t you fucking dare die on me!  On this one night, when I’m here to enjoy myself and you have to go and fucking die!  You dirty bastard!”  The sweat was gushing from Jo-Jo now as the worst possible scenario began to slowly seep through his dense skull.  The festival would be closed and everyone subjected to an arduous thick of questions from the coppers.  Especially him, since he was holding Santa when he died.  He would be the number one murder suspect in their eyes.  He could see the news headlines flash before himself.
“Breaking News:  Glasgow drop-out murders Santa Clause at renowned George Square Market Fair in Glasgow’s City Centre.  Police have extended the search area towards the River Clyde.  Suspect is on the run.  Dog Units in pursuit.”
Santa spoke.
“Thank fuck!”  Jo-Jo celebrated.
“Ah wis here when Thatcher died son.  Cow.  It wis busy then ah tell ye.  Busy, busy, buseeee.”  He began to happily rejoice and hop around on the spot, one knee in the air and his cider spilling down his red and white Santa suit.  “Aw them lovely people celebratin’ the death of that rat-faced…  bitch.”  Bad Santa then developed a certain degree of aggression as he mentioned Thatcher.  He reached for Jo-Jo’s jacket once again and began to slur.  “This, oan the other hand my loyal companion, simply has to top it.  Commonwealth Games o’ Two-Thousand-and-Thir-teen is the year to be.  Let the games commence.”
“That’s lovely old timer, you have a good one.  Jo-Jo finally managed to pull himself away from Bad Santa and began to laugh aloud. “Ha! He thinks it’s the Commonwealth Games celebrations, no way!”  Revellers began to look him up and down as he celebrated the rebirth of Santa Clause.  “He doesn’t have a bloody clue where he is, or what day it is.  I’ve seen many like him before, but he has to top the list.  See you later Santa, and don’t forget ma presents!”  He casually strolled off waving goodbye to the drunk addled Mr Clause.  His heart safely back where it belonged, and the confidence within himself that Santa was alive and well was enough for him to be on his merry way.
He was an Ayrshire fellow, born and bred.  He loved ‘The Shire’, – as he called it – and any chance to go back to visit his parents and he was on it like a dog in heat.  City life never quite seemed to suit him, and right at that moment in time he felt like an extra in a scene from a Sex and the City episode.  As the furry-coated winter shoppers, and fine-suited wined-and-dined hoi polloi gave a wide berth as they passed him, they gawked him up and down in what he thought to be disgust, or even revulsion and went about their business.  To them, he never existed.  Jo-Jo Hunter had no meaning.  To himself though, he was a flowering masterpiece, awaiting the light of the Gods to shine upon him so as to flourish and reign supreme…  Finally, for once in his life, he felt the need to be successful.  He felt that he had it in him to succeed at something, rather than just give up half way through something or near the very end, where it would’ve been a complete waste of time.  Like the balding burger salesman’s incessant determination to make the simple 2-for-1 sale.  He was here for a reason.  To be triumphant.  For himself, and nobody else.
“Jo-Jo!”  A badgering voice began to escape between the layers of the crowd.  “Is that you Jo-Jo?  Is it really you?”
He scoured the area like a hawk in search of its doomed prey for a few seconds, hoping that it was just a case of mistaken identity.  He pondered for a brief moment over what friends he’d actually made in the area.  It wasn’t many.  He allowed the impossible hope that it wasn’t him to enter his mind, and began to move on within his man-made fraudulent bubble of relief.  However, as he turned, the voice beckoned again.  This time, he was shocked to find the very person he’d least expected to see.  Stevie Young.  Otherwise known as, Youngsy.
“Ah knew it wis you mate!”  The tone of Stevie’s voice painfully made its way along Jo-Jo’s ear canal towards the drum.  What’s hapnin?  Where ye been hidin’ aw these days?”
“Stevie!”  Jo-Jo shrieked reluctantly.  “Ach, you know, the usual shite, pal.  I just popped down here to see what all the fuss was about.”  Truth be told, Jo-Jo hated Youngsy, he couldn’t stand him.  Almost as mental as they come.  Couldn’t care less about anyone else but himself.  Jo-Jo had it in his best interests to get the hell out of there, before anything happened as Youngsy was as volatile an old stick of dynamite.
“I’m actually jus…”  Jo-Jo continued, but Youngsy cuts in over him.  “Never you mind pal.  ‘Mon wi’ me Mr Hunter.  We’ll grab a few beers up the road n’ get a good catch up.  Wit d’ye say, eh?  That’s ma boy.”  Before he knew it, he was hooked under the arm and dragged towards George Street, away from the safety of the crowds and into the shadowy cobbled back streets of Glasgow’s city center.  “I feel as though I’ve just been lifted by the Undercover’s.  Do I really have a say in the matter, Stevie?  Stevie just stares at him.  Naw.  I didn’t think so.”  Frustration began to emanate from the whites of his eyes.  Jo-Jo’s weakness was that he was always a bit too tolerant, especially with Stevie Young.  Every time he was in his company, something bad would happen.  A fight that, inevitably, he would end up having to try and split up, or a chase from the coppers, or he’s be the victim of some gangland drug deal gone wrong.
Looking like the usual and, typical alchy vagabond who would normally frequent the area, Jo-Jo groused to himself and his situation.  He resented the decisions that had led to him being there that evening.  He certainly didn’t want to be in Stevie’s company. It was a pretty poignant period of his life, and as he was led away from the hustle and bustle, he chanted to his conscience repeatedly.  “One beer, that’s it.  One beer…”
They disappeared into the murky back alley night-life together, away from the sanity and safety of the George Square Market Fair.

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