“Find once again our simple ways” (Object 90)

1975 Aeroflot diary

1975 Aeroflot diary (with Lenin badge)

My trawl through the family archives has thrown up many surprises, but  I have also spent  a lot of time searching fruitlessly for something which I know must be in there somewhere, I just don’t know where. I plough through boxes of stuff, getting pleasantly distracted along the way, and eventually give up. Then some time later, whilst looking for something else, I’ll come across it in an unexpected place. This post is about one such elusive object.
In the course of writing this blog I have often mentioned that my Dad, as a young man, wrote poems and songs. I have childhood memories of  him reciting and singing them to me, and I knew I had seen them written down somewhere. I trawled through boxes of his old notebooks, finding plenty of material for other posts, but no verse. Then some time later I happened upon this diary from 1975, apparently a gift or souvenir from the Russian state airline, Aeroflot:
Diary illustrationDiary textAnd written on note pages inside, in Dad’s unmistakeably elegant script, are his poems. Some I recognise, like this one, which I can still hear him reciting:

Like rats we run a race
And if we cannot stand the pace
We’re forced against the wall-
Is this what life is for?
A weary peace between each war,
And one big bang to end it all.
Was there not a time in all our minds,
When each to every one was kind?
No bombs our neighbours kill and maim
And shall that time ever come again?
Stop before it is too late
And open wide the friendly gate
Find once again our simple ways-
Mankind, in common, better days.

Some of the others are completely new to me, such as this wonderful story told in the local dialect of his Glasgow childhood:

When I was a laddie
In Dobbie’s Loan
Whit ah liked to eat best
Was a wee sodie scone.

And one day ma mither
Because ah’d been good,
She gi’ed me a ha’penny
And ah bought yin at Strouds

At the heid o’ the stair
Ah met Maggie McGlone
And she wanted a bite
O’ ma wee sodie scone

And because Ah widnae
She gi’ed me a kick
Ah cried for ma maw
Because Ah felt sick

Oot came ma mither
And gi’ed Maggie a skelp
And then it was her turn
Tae cry for help.

Mrs McGlone
Came heengin’ oot
She got a hand o’ ma maw
And knocked her aboot

Oot came ma faither
Tae rescue ma maw
But Auld McGlone
Punched his jaw.

Then a’ ma relations
Attacked the McGlones
And a’ ye could hear
Wis howls and moans.

The polis were sent for
They came in a van
They stopped the hale fight
And arrested ma Gran.

Whit a commotion!
Whit a carry-on!
Ower the heid
O’ a wee sodie scone!

I wonder if this tale was inspired by the fighting neighbours he grew up amongst in the Gorbals?
The humour of this poem is combined with the politics of the first one in  The Sheikh & The Labourer, below. It seems to have been composed at this time (1975) as there are draft versions with crossings-out and corrections. I think this is his final version:

The Sheikh & the Labourer

In Saudi Arabia
A semi-skilled labourer
Was asked by a Sheikh
To mend his Cadillac
Which unfortunately was bung-
Full with camel dung
And sand, and diverse
Other stuff, including British fivers.
At the setting of the sun
The job was neatly done
The sheikh paid the labourer at the local rates
Namely, a handful of dates.
The Sheikh did not like the look upon his face
And with all the haughtiness of his race
Reminded him of his previous estate
When nothing but starvation was his fate
Therefore why this dissatisfaction?

Said the labourer, I’d rather be
A poor man in a poor country
Than be a poor man in a rich one.

My Dad may have come from a relatively poor family, but they were rich in artistic talent. I have previously featured art work by Dad and his brothers John and Robert. More examples of their literary gifts will follow in forthcoming posts!


About Hoarder of Babylon

A chartered librarian and curator of my family archives.
This entry was posted in 1970s, Dad, Diaries and journals and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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