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DAY 45

JOAN GOES TO TOWN

          “Right, Joan. Are you ready?” Mags shouted across the lounge.
          Joan was pacing back and forward in front of the toilet door, her hands in her cardigan pockets. She was absorbed in singing to herself. She stood still and was quiet when she heard Mags’ voice.
          “Yes, hen…I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
          She took hold of the skirt of her dress at either side and swished it about, a coquettish grin on her face.
          “Aye, you’re a wee bobby dazzler,” said Mags looking Joan up and down with a smile, “You’ll no need a jacket. It’s a nice warm night, and we’re gaun in the car.”
          “Gaun in the car?” Joan’s face lit up. “Where are oo gaun in the car?”
          “We’re gaun tae see the fancy dress parade in Gala,” Mags replied.
          “I telt ye aw this afore…mind?”
          She took Joan’s arm and they began walking towards the door out into the corridor.
          “We’re gaun tae see the pipe bands an aw that kinnae thing. You like pipe bands you tellt me. You were fair excited earlier on when I said.”
          “Pipe bands?” Joan sounded puzzled.
          “Aye, and the fancy dress parade.”
          “I like tae hear a pipe band.”
          Joan was smiling now.
          “Are ee shair it’s the music ee like best, Joan an no aw thae big men in their kilts?”
          “Hey,” Joan shouted, “….come on….ya dirty wee….”
          Joan’s laugh had a rough crackle in it. She started to dance a mock Highland fling.
          “Wheeeooch!” she screeched.
          She bent down and lifted the hem of Mags’ dress.
          “Up yer kilt,” she yelled.
          “Here ya wee besom.”
          Mags caught her skirt to stop it going up any further.
          “Hooch!”
          Joan was starting to get out of breath.
          “Right, come on, let’s go.”
          Mags tried to sound stern as she took Joan’s arm and made for the door.
          As they went up the corridor, Mags shouted into the male dormitory,  
          “Kedzie, we’re just goin…come on.”
          “Aye, come on,” shouted Joan, “we’re rarin tae go.”
          “Here I am.”
          Kedzie smoothed down her white dress and repositioned a hair grip to catch a loose strand of hair.
          “I was just turning down the beds for later.”
          “Aye,” said Joan in an appreciative voice,  “you’re aye busy, hen.”
          She linked arms with Kedzie.
          “Come on,” she said, “this yin’s takin us oot.”
          “Aye, I’m takin her oot tae see some big men in kilts, isn’t that right, Joan?”
          “Ohoh…you’re a wee smasher right enough,” said Joan.
          She started to skip.
          “I doot thae men’ll no be safe,” said Mags speeding up to keep up with her.  
          “We’ll need to keep an eye on you, Joan.”
          “Div ee  think sae?” Joan winked at Kedzie.
          “Oh, definitely,” replied Kedzie sounding very serious but smiling.
          “Wheee…..ooch!”
          Joan kicked out a leg.
          “We’ll have a grand time though, girls, eh?”
          “Well it’s a lovely night, Joan, and we’ll get a hurl in the car. It’ll be a fair wee treat,” said Mags.
          “It’ll be lovely, hen. I’m fair pleased.”
          Kedzie let go of Joan’s arm so that she could turn both door handles simultaneously to let them out of the ward.
          “By here, you’re a clever yin,” said Joan.

 

          Mags parked the car at the side of the road.
          “I think this’ll be as good a spot as any,” she said.
          “The parade comes right along here so we’ll get a good view.”
          “Right, hen,” said Joan.
          She looked out the car windows. She grabbed the back of Mags’ seat to help her turn round to look out the back.
          “There’s plenty folk gaun aboot. Look at them aw. They dinnae seem to be in much ae a hurry.”
          “They’re watching for the parade coming, Joan,” said Kedzie.
          “Are they?…It must be awfy popular.”
          “It’s cause they’ve heard you were comin,” said Mags.
          “Div ee think sae?”
          Joan rolled down the window, jerking the handle and shouting, ‘Hello!’ to the people on the other side of the street even before the window was fully opened. Her hand slipped off the handle and she lunged forward saying ‘bugger it’ under her breath as she refocused her attention on the handle and got the window down.
          “Hey you…hello!”
          She waved. Some people across the street waved back. She pushed her face right out of the window.
          “Hello!”
          Her voice broke into rough giggles as she bounced back into her seat.
          “I thought thae folk were gaun tae be awfy snooty there,” she said to Kedzie then turned and stuck her face out the window again.
          “Hey,” she yelled, “hello!”
          The people on the other side waved again.
          “It’s a grand night, eh?”
          “Shh now, Joan,” said Mags, “leave thae folk alane…the parade’ll be here the now. I can hear the band and folk cheerin. We’d better get out now so that we can get a better view.”
          Joan looked at Kedzie and winked a great big exaggerated wink.
          “She’s got aw the good ideas eh, hen?
          Mags had got out of the car and opened Joan’s door.
          “Come on then, let’s be havin you.”
          Half-way out, Joan looked back at Kedzie with a dead-pan expression.
         “Here, I’m gettin treated like the Queen ae Sheba.”
          “Come on,” said Mags pulling Joan’s arm, “the parade’ll be here the now. We dinnae want tae be in the road. I cannae very well go back and tell them you were run ower wi a lorry now can I?”
          Joan was struggling to stand up out of the car. She giggled at Mags and sank back down again. At the third attempt she stood up straight. Both she and Mags let out big sighs of relief.
          “Aye, auld age disnae come itsel, hen,” Joan said as she stepped forward on one leg to steady herself.
          Kedzie had got out the other side of the car and was standing in a gap between two groups of people. Mags steered Joan onto the pavement beside her.
          “Room for a wee yin?” asked Joan as she stepped up onto the kerb and took Kedzie’s arm.
          A man in a yellow shirt moved out of the way to let her in.
          “Thanks, son,” she said.
          The man smiled and said,
          “Nae bother.”
         The pavements on both sides of the road were crowded now.
          “Can you hear the band, Joan?” asked Kedzie.
          Joan nodded. She was la-la-ing Scotland the Brave and tapping her right foot.
          “Oh aye, I hear them.”
          She sang the words ‘Scotland the Brave’ and burst into a loud laugh.
          “Oh it’s fair guid, hen,” she smiled to Kedzie as she cuddled into her.
          The sound of the pipes and drums got nearer. There were loud cheers.
          “Hurray,” shouted Joan.
          A pipe band appeared over the crest of the hill to their right. It was playing Rowan Tree.
          “Woohoo,” she yelped, “hurray.”
          Holding on to Kedzie’s arm, she swayed to the music, singing at the top of her voice.
          “Oh..oh rowan tree, oh rowan tree ye’re aye sae dear tae me, e-entwined thou art wi’ mony ties o’ hame and infancy. Your boughs were aye the first tae bloom dum dee dumdee dee du-um dee dee, dum dee dee dee dum dum diddle dee dum dum dum dee dee dee, oh..oh rowan tree.”
          The band was level with them now.
          “Hello, son….gaun yersel…that’s it…sook and sook and sook and blaw.” 
          Joan bawled the words of the song as she mimicked the puffing in and out of the pipers’ cheeks. She roared with laughter. She started to dance a jig, jiggling Kedzie up and down with her as she shouted,
          “Wheee..oooch!”
          Then she lunged forward and made a grab for one of the piper’s kilts. Mags and Kedzie managed to catch her and pull her back.
          “Up yer kilt,” she shouted, “wheee….ooch!”
          “Joan,” barked Mags, “come on, stop it, or we’ll have to take you hame.”
          “Away, I’m fair enjoyin masel.”
         Joan sounded incredulous as they dragged her up onto the pavement.  
          “Were they no just lovely, hen?”
          “They were, Joan. They were really good,” said Kedzie taking her arm.
          People on either side had turned to look at the three of them. Most of them were laughing. The man in the yellow shirt shook his head as he caught Mags’ eye and said,
          “You’ve got your hands fu’ there.”
          But Joan was oblivious. 
          “Did ye see the legs on them?…Did ye see their hairy knees?”
         Then she was singing again.
          “There was cheese, cheese and mince wi hairy knees in the Store, in the Store. There was cheese, cheese, and mince wi hairy knees in the Co-operative Store….behind the door!”
          Joan clapped her hands and swayed her hips as she sang to Kedzie.
          “My eyes a-are blind I cannot  see….”
          A line of children caught her attention. They were dressed as wax crayons.
          “Aw, look at them.”
          She was standing still now.
          “Aw thae lovely wee bairns, an aw thae lovely colours.”
          Her hands went up to her face and covered her mouth. The children waved to the crowd as they went past. Joan bent down and waved back to them.
          “Cheerie,” she said loud enough for them to hear but not too loud.
          Her stare followed them up the road. She turned back to see what else was coming along.
           A ripple of laughter preceded a group of men dressed as women as they came over the brow of the hill. They wore suspenders and fish-net stockings, short skirts and bras stuffed with socks and balloons. Coloured paper cut-outs of fruit were stuck on their bodies and dangled from their hats. They had placards around their necks with ‘Stevie Dunn’s Border Tarts’ written in felt tip pen.
           The men came nearer. They were strung across the road. They played to the crowd. They sashayed, hands on hips. They stopped and lifted up the hems of their skirts. They pinged their garters.
          Joan caught sight of them. She stood still and watched them with a huge grin on her face. Then she shouted out,
          “Come on then, ya dirty wee….”
          She stepped off the kerb and cupped her hands to her mouth.
          “Look at thae legs…..here…son….”
          She lifted up her own dress to just above the knee and started prancing onto the road.
          “Joan,” shouted Mags,”come here…stop that.”
          But Joan was off. The nearest ‘tart’ came running up to her and grabbed her by the waist. He waltzed Joan round and round, the cardboard pears and apples that dangled from his hat catching in her hair. Then he gave her a big kiss on the cheek before running to catch up with his friends, straightening his hat as he went. Joan stood at the side of the road.
          “Thanks son…that was lovely,” she shouted after him.
          Mags pulled her back onto the pavement.
          “Did you see that…what a nice fellae.  Gave me a kiss…did you see it…a big smacker right there.”
          She put a finger to a smudge of lipstick on her cheek.
          “Aye we saw it awright, Joan,” said Mags, “we’d better no tell Jimmy.”
          “Jimmy…whae’s that?” Joan looked worried for a moment.
          “Jimmy…him ye’re aye gi’en a cuddle in the mornin,” said Mags.
          “I dinnae ken ony Jimmy.” Joan was adamant. “Ma man’s name’s Jock.”  
          Mags put her arm round Joan’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze.
           “Och aye, so it is. Fancy me forgettin that, Joan.”
          The silver band was playing ‘For we’re no awa tae bide awa’. Joan started to march on the spot. She la-la-ed the tune, swaying to and fro and pumping her arms up and down.
          “Are no gettin tired, Joan?” asked Mags.
          “Me, hen? No, I’m just fair smashin.”
          “You’re no needin a seat, for we could go across to that wall and sit doon, or we could go back into the car?”
          “Here,” said Joan, “you’d think I was an auld wummin the wey you’re gaun on.  I’m okay.”
          She turned to Kedzie,
          “Are you awright, hen? Do you want to go and sit on that wa’ across there and get a wee rest?  You’ll have been workin hard aw day the day.”
          “No I’m fine thanks, Joan, honestly.  I’m happy to be wherever you want to be.”  
          Joan smiled and tucked one arm into Kedzie’s and the other into Mags.
          Behind the band a circus ringmaster led his troupe of performers. Four clowns cartwheeled and lollopped around a three-piece band. The band, a drummer, a trumpeter and an accordionist, wore the dishevelled remnants of dinner suits. The accordionist also wore a tartan tammy from which protruded a fringe of fluorescent pink hair. They played the theme tune to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. One of the clowns mis-timed a cartwheel and collided with the accordionist whose instrument let out a loud wail as it was squeezed too hard at the wrong moment.
          “Whoops,” shouted Joan, “that was a sair yin.”
          Mags nudged her and said ’ssshhh’ as she put her finger to her lips.
          Decorated floats started to come past. Joan watched them, shouting ‘hello’ and ‘hurray’ with the crowds that lined the street, yelling to a lorryful of scantily clad devils that they would ‘catch their daiths’. Cheers followed the last of them up the street.
          “Still something else to come by the looks of things,” said Kedzie.
          “It’ll be Sandy Jamieson. He’s aye near the end ae the parade, “ said Mags.
          A tall well-built man appeared. He wore a blonde wig and a Margaret Thatcher mask. He wore a dress made of ripped and torn Union Jack flags. The dark hairs on his legs were flattened beneath a pair of pink tights. There was a hole in one knee. He wore white high heels. Pinned to his chest was a placard with the words ‘I’m making a right arse of it’. He had a hand on one hip. A handbag swung from his wrist. He walked with an exaggerated catwalk swagger. With his free hand he swept the blonde curls of the wig back from his face, and blew kisses to the crowd who squealed in shocked delight as every now and then he stopped to wiggle his behind at them.
          “Is he no just the limit,” giggled Mags.
          “She’s a caird, right enough,” said Joan.
          “Gaun yersel, Sandy!” shouted the man in the yellow jumper beside them.
          Sandy came across at the sound of the familiar voice. He lifted up his mask.
          “Div ee think Maggie’s feet get as sair as this, Tommy?” said Sandy, taking his feet out of the high heels and wiggling his toes.
          “That’s mibbe how she’s as hard faced, Sandy.”
          “Well, Christ, I tell ee, I’ll be gled tae get rid ae ther.”
          Sandy made a face as he squeezed the shoes back on and pulled the mask down over his face. He turned his back to the crowd on the pavement and wiggled what would have been a pair of plastic buttocks except that the left one had been cut out. The crowd guffawed.
          “Here, is that no bein’ a bit cheeky son,” piped up Joan.
          “Joan, he’s only havin a laugh,” said Mags.
          “I ken,” said Joan.
           “I can have a laugh tae though. Here, son,” she shouted, “yer erse has fa’en oot yer breeks.”
          She let out a loud dirty laugh. 
          Sandy ignored her comment.
          “Hello darlin,” he shouted, and blew her a big kiss.
          “Never mind kissin,” she roared.
          “Come here and I’ll skelp yer erse.”
          There was a loud burst of laughter from the people round about.
          Mags turned to Kedzie and said,
          “Right, that’s it, Kedzie. Get her back in the car quick.
          Mags took Joan by the arm.
          “Come on, Joan,” said Kedzie, “time to get back home… that’s it finished.”
          They started to walk back to the car, one on either side of her, Joan shouting ‘Whooo!’, swaying from side to side and singing
          “For we’re no’ awa tae bide awa, no we’re no awa tae leave ye, for we’re no awa tae bide awa, we’ll aye come back an see ye.”
          “Joan, ye’re a rare singer,” said Mags guiding her to the car and opening the back door.
          “But right now, in you go…come on..here’s the polis comin…we’ll need tae shift the car.”
          Joan looked horrified,
          “The polis…where?”
          “Just there, look, comin up the road.”
          “Oh, I see him. Here,” Joan’s tone changed,  “he’s a darlin. Evenin all,” she shouted in the direction of the young policeman who was almost level with them.
          “Aye, aye,” he nodded and smiled.
          Mags and Kedzie were trying to get Joan to sit in the car
          “Come on Joan…into the car….”
          “But I’m speakin tae Dixon o Dock Green…have ye seen him? He’s a wee honey.”
          Mags and Kedzie had managed to get her to sit down but she was still facing out of the car. She stood back up again, grabbed the top of the car door and swung round to look at the policeman who had stopped beside them.
          “Hey, son,” Joan shouted again.
          The policeman turned round. Joan gave him a big wink.
          “Ye’re lovely.”
          He shouted ‘thanks’ to make himself heard above the music that blared out of the sundry tractors, trailers and pick-up trucks bedecked in multi-colouerd crepe paper and foliage-entwined superstructures full of adults armed with water pistols and alcoholic beverages that continued to straggle past at the end of the parade.
          Mags and Kedzie managed to get Joan into the car this time. She shuffled along the back seat and wound down the window before they could stop her. She stuck her head and shoulders out and was more or less right beside the policeman.
          “Evenin all,” she shouted again, her voice rough with all the roaring she had done, and burst into loud giggles.
          The policeman smiled as he turned towards her and said,
          “Aye, aye.”
          “Joan, get back inside the car…come on…you’ll get us arrested. Sorry,” Mags said to the policeman.
          “You’re okay,” he said, turning to keep an eye on the crowd.
          Mags got into the back seat beside Joan and pulled her back in.
          “You’re lovely, son,” Joan was still shouting, twisting her head through the diminishing space as Mags managed to wind the window up.
          “Get your face in here, Joan, afore I strangle ye. Now come on…Kedzie, get in the back and keep an eye on her.”
          Kedzie got in beside Joan. Joan shrugged her shoulders, pursed her lips together and opened her eyes wide like a mischievous child.
          “What’s eatin her?” she asked.
          “She’s worried you’re going to get us into trouble I think, Joan,” said Kedzie.
          “Me-e-e?…trouble?…away…dinnae be ridiculous.”
          Mags got into the driver’s seat. She was out of puff. She eyed Joan in the rear-view mirror.
          “Right, are we settled now? Are you gonnae behave yoursel, Joan Scott?”
          “I aye behave masel,” said Joan in sweet voice.
          “I’m as good as gold.”

 

          The three women linked arms as they went down the last flight of steps before the corridor that led back to the ward. Light shone down on them from a window at the turn of the stairs. They were singing Scotland the Brave.
          “There now, we’ve had a rare night,” said Mags as the song finished.
          “Oh, it’s been smashin,” said Joan, “fair smashin.”
          She paused to get her breath back.
          “Mind, I’m fair buggered now.”
          “Aye, you’ll sleep the night.”
          Mags squeezed Joan’s arm, and hugged her close.
          “What was your favourite bit, Joan?” asked Kedzie.
          “My favourite bit? Bit ae what?”
          “Tonight.”
          “I just couldnae right say. It was aw lovely.”
          “The pipe band?”
          “What pipe band was that, hen?”
          “The pipe band earlier on…at the parade.”
          “Oh?…was there?…I love a pipe band!….wheeeeeooch!”
          Joan kicked out her right leg as she breenged forward pulling Mags and Kedzie with her.
          “Well, you fair enjoyed yoursel, Joan, when you heard them,” Mags laughed.
          “Oh I did. I did that…you lassies have been right guid tae me……I love you girls, hen,” she said right out loud.

 

Copyright © 2008 by Dorothy Alexander all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.