F A DEGKGHAIR ATTENDANT
Enjoying a day out?
Spare a thought for the people at the sharp edge
of the tourist industry.
It all seemed so easy at first. Lazing about. Irn Bru and Flashman novels to hand. Test Match Special in the background and only the occasional demand fora deckchair to disturb us I made the mistake ofmentioning to one ofthe old-timers that this seemed a pretty relaxing way of Spending the summer and making a few quid into the bargain.
‘Maybe so. son.‘ he said. smiling in a curiously sardonic way. ‘but wait till the Fair.‘
‘The Fair?‘ I asked innocently.
‘Aye.’ he smirked. “you won‘t know what‘s hit you!‘ With that he was off. cackling hysterically.
‘The Fair‘. [was to learn. is feared by the employees of Kyle and Carrick District Council Parks and Recreation Department in much the same way as the citizens of ancient Rome feared the arrival of the German hordes. But this was all in the future. so for the time being we turned our attention to the radio as Botham walked to the crease.
The morning of Glasgow Fair Monday dawned. unfortunately for us. as bright and clear as could be. Promising. for the tourist. endless hours of lazing on the beach and for us. endless hours ofabject misery. The weeks prior to this fateful day had been spent listening to tales of woe and misery which had befallen casual workers at this time of year.
‘Remember ‘71? Nobody got home until half past ten.‘ said one.
‘Aye.‘ said another. shaking his head ruefully. He brightened. ‘Wasn‘t that the year Archie lost his front teeth?‘
We listeners quaked and looked at the first harbinger ofdoom. ‘Don‘t be so stupid.‘ he replied. We smiled hopefully. ‘That was in ‘73.‘ All in all, the past few days had been less
than cheerful. There had been one note of optimism on Saturday when the good news circulated the seafront that ASLEF has called a train strike. Unfortunately our glee was short lived when it transpired I that the threat ofindustrial action had been ended through the good offices of ACAS. Collectively we cursed the malaise currently . sweeping the British Union movement. ‘Remember the Winter Q of Discontent?’ someone said and we all fondly looked back on the days = when the working man was not scared to ﬂex his industrial muscle.
So here we were. Apprehensively hopping from one foot to the other. peering nervously up the road to where the cars and tricoloured buses would appear. bringing with them the nearest thing to the days when the Mongols swept across Asia. ‘Maybe they won‘t come.‘
I suggested brightly. ‘Maybe they‘ve all decided to go to
Troon and Largs for the day.‘This raised the odd. brave smile; but in our heart of hearts we knew it was a forlorn hope.
At last the first carload appeared. followed shortly by another. . . and 1 another. Then the first bus arrived.
It doesn‘t take us long to realise that for the average punter. a l deckchair was the ultimate status . symbol. We were besieged. At first ' by orderly queues and increasingly as our stock depleted. by mad i crowds all desperate that they should ; not be the ones to suffer the indignity l of lying on a towel while those ' around smiled down at them from a their thrones ofwood and canvas. Eventually. after an hour ofpanting. i hauling and counting change. it was all over and the ‘Sold Out‘ signs went ' up. We collapsed to the floor and . smiled smueg at each other. Well. it‘s all over until going home time. How wrong we were. Almost immediately the first head appeared round the hut door. ‘Nane left?‘ it inquired.
‘Sorry. sold out.‘ we replied cheerfully. Within seconds another one appeared.
‘No.‘ we answered. ‘sold out. sorry.‘
In the next ten miniutes we must have repeated this little scenario a score of times. Eventually I could take it no longer. Very soon the entire but was covered in ‘Sold Out‘ notices. visible from a distance of 20 yards in every direction. It was no use. Still the heads appeared and the
same question: ‘Nane left?’ By this I time we were getting desperate. i Taking our last sheet of paperI I scrawled ‘Nane Left‘ on it and stuck it next to the door. ‘And that,‘ I said.l ‘is that.‘ l
A head appeared. ‘Sold out?‘ We wept. Shortly afterwards our boss arrived and made us take down our ‘Nane Left‘ sign. At intervals during ‘ the day people would arrive at the hut having had enough of lying in the sun and determined to head for the nearest bar or souvenir shop. Their returned deckchairs were immediately fought over by hundreds of day trippers who materialised from nowhere. Sometimes it got quite nasty and we feared for our safety.
The days went on like this. Hour after hour. day after day with the sun : stubbornly refusing to go away and every morning bringing with it more train. bus and car loads of trippers determined to have a good time no matter who might suffer as a consequence. Many of us took solace I in strong drink. but this was only a temporary solution. It just meant that you started the next day with a
headache rather than developing it over a period of hours.
Ofcourse. it wasn‘t all misery. About twice a day the Park Ranger would pull up in his little red van . scatteringholidaymakers.prams. dogs and children in his wake and : entertain us by showing us his boils ; and his ability to swear for fifteen ' minutes at a time without repeating l himselfbefore roaring off. scattering ; more tourists. prams, dogs etc. One I day a simply enormous woman . appeared and ordered a deckchair i which we supplied. She stood there regarding this narrow piece ofwood I and cloth dubiously. By this time my partner‘s senses had left him. ‘Would,’ madam prefer.‘ he inquired solicitously. ‘a deckchair for each bittock?‘
If the mornings were hard work the
evenings were the worst. It was all very well telling the tourists that we finished at half past six and would they kindly bring their chairs back by then. thank you very much. But retrieving them was another matter. Either they weren’t leaving until seven and wouldn‘t bring them back. or they had consumed far too much Special Brew and were incapable of moving even if they wanted to or they had simply disappeared. last seen heading off in the direction of Girvan. We complained to our boss. He thought about this and disappeared. Shortly he returned bearing a megaphone and beaming. ‘At halfpast six.‘ he suggested, ‘cycle up and down the prom and shout through this that it‘s time to bring the chairs back.‘ We smiled and nodded and hid the megaphone behind a pile ofbroken chairs where it remained for the rest of the season.
At last it was all over. The last deckchair had been hired and the last deposit returned. At the end ofthe summer I had indeed made a few quid. but I also had a bad back, a very sick liver and the dreams. Even now I still get them. I‘m running along Ayr beach trying to escape from an army of deckchairs chasing me along the sand. Like in some Hammer Horror movie. I‘m getting nowhere and can sense them getting closer. . .smell the foul odours of
seaweed. sun tan lotion and Special f Brew. Luckily I always wake up at this point but I was worried about it x and made the mistake ofconfiding in .3 a friend. The big clipe ran away and i told all our friends. They laughed themselves sick. ; One thing I have learned. though. ' which makes me smile scornfully at the endless comedy sequences of people tying themselves in knots trying to put a deckchair up. I can lay ‘ a deckchair on the sand and wheech it into a sitting position with a deft ﬂick of the foot while swigging casually from a bottle of Irn Bru. This. Ofcourse. assuming I can bear to go near one of the bloody things. .
BACKLIST ON THE BEACH The other side of hohdays l ON THE SHELVES Both sides of the page g ON THE TOWN ' The good side of Glasgow and Edinburgh
The List 25 July — 7 August 33