It’ll Be Lonely This Christmas…

“Merry Christmas Tony…have a good one, see you in the New Year” were the last words Tony heard before leaving the office and heading up Bath Street. Christmas Eve morning in work was a joke and with the office shutting at midday, it was hardly worth the effort of turning up. Still, turning up and taking advantage of the early get away at least legitimised heading to the pub at such a sprightly hour. Regardless of the festive season, the weather in Glasgow was as damp and grey as you would expect for mid-December. This is not the Christmas Eve that they show in films or TV shows and as Tony headed for the nearest pub, he was hoping to put all thoughts of Christmas out of his mind.

Just as he was crossing the road, one of his colleagues came up behind him and pushed and pulled Tony to and from the road. “Saved your life there Tony mate…you owe me one. We’re all going to George Square for a skate and a laugh, do you fancy it?”

“I really don’t mate, I’m just planning on getting blitzed and falling asleep in front of the telly and then waking up tomorrow with a raging hangover. Skating is not part of that plan.”

“Don’t give us your bah humbag talk big man, c’mon..there’s a few of us heading down, come down for one skate and then you can drink yourself into oblivion.”

Sensing he was not going to get peace until he relented, Tony decided it was best to get it over and done with. It wasn’t that he disliked his colleagues, he just wanted peace and quiet. It had been a rough year and celebrating Christmas was not high on Tony’s agenda.

The walk down to the Square was full on excited chatter about the festive period and where and when they were spending it. Tony remained quiet but Stacey, the admin girl was happy to talk for everyone. “My Kevin is taking me out tonight for dinner and then tomorrow we’re going to his mum and dads for lunch before my mum and stepdad cook dinner in my new kitchen. Its bigger than their house so it makes sense, I said I’m not cooking though…can you imagine, the turkey will be bigger than me…no, I’ve gave my maw a set of keys and when we’re visiting Kevin’s family, she’ll be over at mine getting the dinner ready.”

The Rear of the GOMA at Royal Exchange Square - © Get Around Glasgow Photos

The Rear of the GOMA at Royal Exchange Square - © Get Around Glasgow Photos

The buzz around the town was palpable with Buchanan Street looking an ungodly mess. Panic had set in for a great number of people, not all men as the stereotype would suggest but every manner of Glaswegian. Tony thought it was great to see that Christmas was the great leveller, making fools out of all social backgrounds but he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy towards the group of guys who were clearly heading to Waxy’s.

“Err, how about we stop in for a quick one before we hit the ice….give us a bit of confidence” asked Tony, the first time he had spoken since walking with the group.

“Naw, you’re just fine there Tony, I’ll be on my arse enough on the ice rink without a drink, skating first and then you get a drink, that was the plan” chirped in Jenny, a girl that used to sit across from Tony but had moved to a different department. Tony didn’t think he knew everyone in the group but there were enough faces he was on nodding terms with to just about make it bearable. One skate they say…that’s all it will take to get it over and done with.

Even though George Square was the scene for some of the pivotal moments in Glasgow’s history, it still held a certain kind of magic when it was tarted up to the high heavens. A lot of the majesty had been stripped from the Square over the years but with the daylight fading, the twinkling of the Christmas lights and the big wheel could put a smile on anyone’s face.

“Right everybody, c’mon…the sooner we get on, the sooner we get off” shouted James but was quickly shot back with “Is that what your missus says to you?” As the old saying went, this lot were “mad enough without a drink” which didn’t actually mean they were mad…but it didn’t necessarily translate into them being the life and soul of the party either.

Much to his dismay, having size 8 feet ensured there were plenty of skates in his size and before he knew it, Tony was gingerly walking up the steps, onto the ice rink and boom, right on his arse! When there are 12 year olds skating by you shouting “she fall over, she fall over” it is hard to retain a sense of dignity and Tony was all for storming back off the ice. However, as he was getting to his feet, Pauline, a relatively new girl from the office, held out a hand to give some extra balance.

“Don’t you listen to them Tony, just cause they wee jessies have been skating half their life on this rink doesn’t mean you should be a natural. Hold on to me and we’ll go round a few times, you’ll see it’s no so bad.” Before Tony could react, Pauline had grabbed hold of his arm and after taking a second to steady herself, she pushed off slowly. Tony just about managed to react in time and even though he resembled a drunk penguin with his wobbling approach, he was off and running…or skating as the case may be.

Time seemed to slow down as the two of them made their way around the rink in a slow but steady fashion. It was certainly a different way to see the city and it gave Tony time to look at the surroundings. Life in Glasgow can pass you by quite quickly and it’s not as if many locals spend a lot of time in George Square examining their surroundings. The square is commonly a cut-through to the station, to the Merchant City, to Uni, to the shops or to Greggs but when you are circling in a short radius looking around you, it is easy to see a bit more. Tony had plenty of reasons to be grumpy this Christmas and those that knew him weren’t begrudging him taking some time for himself but you don’t need to take yourself completely out of the game.

Christmas in George Square, Glasgow - © Get Around Glasgow Photos

Christmas in George Square, Glasgow - © Get Around Glasgow Photos

“Right big man, that’s enough for me, fancy a coffee?” asked Pauline but Tony was in a world of his own as he glided across the rink. A dig to the ribs got his attention as Pauline put the brakes on, with Tony following suit. “You were lost in a wee world there Tony…you can carry on if you wish but I’m going to grab a hot drink.” “Aye, I’ll come with you” replied Tony as he held on to the perimeter wall and made his way to the exit gap.

Just as Tony and Pauline were making their way off the rink, one of the goading youngsters went skating by and slipped of his own accord. Before Tony could react, Pauline was quickly laughing and pointing at the kid; “aye, no funny now is it?” but to be honest, the reaction from all around, including the 12 year olds mates was of genuine mirth and merriment. To his credit, the fallen youngster managed to retort with; “good to see your bird has got a better comeback than you ya bawbag” but when you’re shouting this when lying on your back on an ice rink, it’s never going to sound too cool.

After handing back their skates and entering the covered food and drink enclosure, Tony said “you grab some seats and I’ll get the drinks in. Coffee you said?” “Milky and one sugar please” was the response as Tony made his way to the overpriced beverage section. You can say what you want about Glasgow retailers but they certainly know how to gouge their customers.

The Bells of George Square, Glasgow - © Get Around Glasgow Photos

The Bells of George Square, Glasgow - © Get Around Glasgow Photos

Upon sitting down and handing over the coffee, Tony had barely drawn breath before Pauline asked; “So are you alright Tony. You always seem pretty quiet in work and I noticed you didn’t seem too keen to come here today?” At first Tony was hesitant but perhaps caught up in the spirit of the moment and the season, he started opening up to a near stranger in a way that he hadn’t done before.

The pair sat closely as Tony talked of the divorce he went through during the year and the fact that he wasn’t going to see his wee lassie until nearly the New Year. It hadn’t really been a bad break-up, Tony and his ex-wife Liz had married young and just grown apart. Their daughter Janie was seven years old and Tony used to get to see her at weekends but after one weekend when Liz went away with Janie and a new man, he had some pretty choice words to say to her upon her return. This led to difficulties and it was agreed that Tony would only get to see Janie every few weeks when Liz’s mum and dad were about.

It’s not as if this was going to be a permanent thing and Tony could see the need for some boundaries but he was still pissed off with Liz for changing the rules when it suited her. With Liz’s mum and dad being away from Christmas, Liz and Janie were heading down to Liverpool to be with her man’s family…so Tony wouldn’t get to see Janie until the following week.

“That’s terrible Tony, that’s really not called for, you’d think that your ex-wife would be a bit more thoughtful than to take the wean away.”

“You’d think so…but with her mum and dad heading to the sun, I can see her point.”

Pauline was thinking that Tony was taking this far too mild-mannerly and if she ever had kids, nobody would be stopping her from seeing them on Christmas Day. Things are a bit different for the mums but still, Christmas is about the weans isn’t it?

“So have you got a lot of stuff lined up for next week?”

“Aye well…we’ll be having a Christmas Dinner together; my mum is going to come over as well to see her.”

“So what have you bought her?”

“Just some dolls and fashion accessories at the moment, see because I knew I wasn’t seeing her on Christmas Day, my heart hasn’t been in it. I’m going to wait until the Sales begin and then I can get more for my money…hopefully put her old man in a better light.”

“I’m sure the wean loves you Tony, you don’t need to be put in a better light.”

“Ach, you’re probably right but you just never know do you?” At that moment, Tony moved his attention away from Pauline because he felt a tear welling up in his eye and he didn’t want to be seen in that sort of state. However, just as he did, who did he see at the other side of the seated area but Liz, his ex-wife. Tony knew she was meant to be in Liverpool, the wean had told him they were due to leave the previous night and Tony’s blood was boiling.

“I’m sorry Pauline, you’ll need to excuse me for a minute” said Tony as he rose quickly and marched across the seated area. Thankfully Liz saw him coming and was ready with her response; “Tony…what a surprise, look before you say anything sit down, our plans changed, the trip was cancelled.”

This completely took the wind out of Tony’s sails and before he could even sit down, Liz continued; “He was a prick. A lying prick and I dumped him so it’s just me and the wean now. I know I should have said but I didn’t know what was for the best..you might have made other plans and I didn’t want to ruin them” and there was an air of genuine sympathy in Liz’s voice. Even though he had no desire to be back with her, Tony was still fond of Liz and he could tell when she was hurting. It was usually him who put her in this sort of mood but on this occasion, his conscience was clear.

“So where is Janie?”

“She’s on the ice-rink with her pal Kirsty, I took the two of them out for the day to try and make it up for not going down South. We’ll probably head for a McDonald’s when they’re done…would you like to come…you can bring your date.”

“She’s not my girlfriend, she’s just a work colleague, there’s a bunch of us here from work.”

“It’s fine Tony, I’m just glad to see you out and about with folk…I’m sorry you got messed about a bit…I really see that now after putting up with that toerag. If you’ve no plans for tomorrow, you’re welcome to come over to mine for your dinner, the wean will love that.”

“I don’t know Liz…I’ve not really got much stuff for her yet, as I wasn’t seeing her until next week, I was waiting for the sales to get her a lot more gifts.”

“You were always the practical one Tony…we’ll sort that out, I can put some of mine aside for you and we’ll do a swap later, she knows that Santa is dropping off presents at granny’s house so she’ll be getting presents all next week too. It’ll not be a big meal the morra, but I got some turkey and I rattled Iceland this morning so there’ll be loads of wee nibbles and stuff, it’ll be fine. So what do you say?”

It was a tough decision for Tony even though it was no decision at all, getting the chance to spend Christmas with the wean changed everything…he had to say aye. “Aye Liz, I will come over, thanks…you wanting another coffee?” “Im fine here Tony, go back to your date and when Janie is done I’ll come and get you.”

It was perhaps one of the problems in their marriage but Tony always did as Liz told him so he headed back to Pauline who was still sitting there, draining the last of her coffee. “So you’re a dark horse…you moved right in there, did you pull?”

George Square at Christmas - © Get Around Glasgow Photos

George Square at Christmas - © Get Around Glasgow Photos

Tony was slightly bemused at the fact that everyone seemed to think he had plenty of women on the go when he had none but replied “that is my ex-wife and it turns out the Scouse louse is a prick so they’re not down there for Christmas. I’m getting to spend the day with my wee lassie Pauline”

“That is brilliant news Tony, I’m delighted for you, are things okay between you and Liz?”

“She’s got another guy to hate more than me at the moment so I’m out of the firing line. That won’t last forever but while it does, I’ll take advantage. When Janie and her wee pal finish skating we’re going to grab something to eat, do you want to come with us? It’ll not be fancy, McDonalds or something for the weans.”

Pauline immediately felt uncomfortable and was humming and hawing. She had liked Tony and had maybe thought that there could be some mileage in him but going for a meal with his ex-wife on Christmas Eve didn’t seem like a great starting point; “Nah, it’s a family thing Tony, you go see your wee lassie and catch up” trailed off Pauline, even though she knew it was for the best.

“Don’t be silly, Janie’s pal is coming too and having another adult around would be good. C’mon you saved me from that gang of neds earlier, come save me from two seven year old’s and a loopy ex-wife.”

“Well, all girls just want to be wanted Tony so how can I refuse…but the dinner’s on you…and I’ll be going large with the meal.”

“Ach why not Pauline, tis the season” and the pair laughed…in the space of a couple of hours Tony’s plans had changed dramatically and it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

 

 
Here’s some more Glasgow Christmas Stories:
Into The Valley
Fair Means or Fowl?