A swinging sporran

Getting on a bit is bobbins, intit?

You’d think this much would be obvs, given the amount of coverage devoted on these here pages for my 50th birthday just a few short weeks ago. But even I, in my full-on in denial mode, am forced to admit, that technically, I am no longer in the first flush of youth. Flushes yes, youth no.

It was a trip down memory lane which caused the rose tinted specks to fall from these ageing eyes, and it sure did induce a bout of wistful longing for a youth well and truly lived. This reminiscence included mental meanderings about the twists and turns of my working life, and how I got from there to here. And all because of a swinging sporran.

Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the land, when The Smiths were riding high in the affections of thousands of earnest young men, when The Hacienda was in its hedonistic heyday, when it was a quid to get into The Ritz on a Monday night for some rollicking good tunes and a bit of chucking one’s youthful self around the dance floor, pint of snakebite’n’black clutched in sweaty wee paw, I was a student in Manchester.

Good timing eh? Manchester in the mid 80s was pretty much the centre of the world, for a Scots lass away from home for the first time, anyway. Believe me, this was The Place To Be for nightlife, music, high jinks and low life.

But living it large had to be funded somehow or other, and as I didn’t come from the silver-spoon-in-mouth situation common amongst a fair few of my fellow ne’er do wells, it was necessary to work as well as study and paaaaaaartyyyyyy… And the most memorable of these first forays into earning a crust made a huge mark on the psyche and social conscience of that young Scottish student.

There was the job running a summer playscheme for the children of homeless families. Picking those kids up every day from their shabby and pathetic B&Bs, rammed five or six to a room, with their life’s possessions rammed in there with them, was the wake-up call I badly needed. Witnessing the poverty, the quiet desperation of their parents, and the relief that the kids could at least get out from those four walls for a few hours, has stayed with me to this day. Looking back, I realise I was not really street savvy enough to cope well with children from chaotic families, but I loved that job and those kids, they made me see the world in a different way.

And so did the clientele of my other mode of meaningful employment. This lot had money to burn, mainly on booze and bloody gigantic motorbikes. They were greasy, sweary, hairy and scary, covered in scars, tattoos, chains and leather. This gang were the chapter of Hell’s Angels who frequented the pub I worked in at weekends, The Swinging Sporran, no less.

Naturally, I was the only genuinely Scottish thing in there, but as a rude girl with a skinhead, sat-prest keks and braces, I might have expected a bit of grief from the big, bad boys on bikes. But d’you know what? They were pussy cats, really. They taught me a life lesson in not judging books, even great big biker books, by their covers.

So, on a trip to the land of the red brick building, the barm cake and the Gallagher brothers this week, I was sorry to see that the Sporran swings no more. I was sorry that so much of the city I knew and loved has been replaced by the glittering edifices of commerce. And I was proper gutted when it dawned on me that THIRTY years have passed since I arrived in Manchester to begin my passage into proper adulthood.

But I’d like to think that a lot of what I learned then has stayed with me, and informs the way I do business these days. So, thanks Mancs, you’re still the bizzo.