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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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April – May 2024 : Compassion READ ONLINE


The city speaks

April 01 2024
Secluded Beach by an unnamed artist at the St Mungo's Recovery College. © Homeless Diamonds Secluded Beach by an unnamed artist at the St Mungo's Recovery College. © Homeless Diamonds

Two short stories written in poetic style tell tales of life on the streets in an often-overwhelming city. Words by Chris Bird


The city flowed in oceanic contortions wrapping itself around numbers and equations, letters and alphabets that defined movement and time.
These alleys and sidewalks, avenues and boulevards, streets and plazas sparkled and shone with endless days and nights. Lit by stars, high windows looked out across the city skyline. How many had walked past these doorways and passages emerging out of dusk or morning?
The streets owned limitless secrets. Hints and clues drifted along the wooden doors and stone statues. Over and over, the city re-imagined itself.
Towers and steeples, domes and rooftops lit by streams of white moonlight maintained an uncanny and aloof silence. Who understood the old, turbulent city?

Reflections on car window screens were fleeting insights into the pattern of the days. Office workers, shop assistants, teachers and nurses, chauffeurs and servants, beggars and drug dealers shared this elaborate, congested space. The city streamed forward out of the darkness defined by street names and numbers. Endless as the stars, the streets were mysterious and enigmatic. Who perceived the links and associations between past whispers and current vows?

The city seemed to require an explanation. These complex balances of urban memory and truth were merging and blurring. There was nowhere else to go. There were countless, fragmented destinations interconnected in maze-like complexity.

Blindfold – Part I

The wind cut back over the concrete balcony. Glasgow's skyline was a fusion of greys and dark browns. Rain was in the chilly air. I smoked the final few drags of a cheap cigarette and headed out.

The radio was discussing a scandal in local government. I had the smack in small plastic £10 bags. I pulled my sweatshirt hoodie down and headed down the stairs. Graffiti on the stairwell read “The Saints are coming” in reference to a track by Dunfermline punk band The Skids. The wind rushed up the staircase. It tasted of snow.

I had a well-established pitch. I knew l had the protection of bigger characters in the local area. They knew exactly how much l had to flog.
A kid in a red Nike trackie appeared. I knew his face. The deal was done quickly in the cold of the stairwell. He looked skinny and pale. There was a distracted look in his eyes. He was from a Catholic family but smack blurs those divisions. His ten note was crumpled and filthy. He nodded as he walked away.

Another older boy appeared. He moved with clumsy intent. There was a faint Celtic tattoo on his left hand. He looked drunk. I didn't want any chat. “Ehhh big man,” he said in a croaky voice like a crow. I knew his older brother l realised. UVF graffiti on the staircase didn't alarm him. Soon he was gone. Across the road the freezing wind was pulling at a faded Socialist poster half stuck to the bus shelter.
Sunshine gradually crossed the Glasgow skyline in uncertain patches of light. Then all too soon the sky darkened with moving clouds. The noise of traffic filled the distance.

I craved a cigarette. A sense of emptiness filled my head. A radio from a high window sang out: "Here comes the sun."

Blindfold – Part II

In the town centre the shops gave out a half-hearted glow. A few old ladies pushed trolleys along. The electronic shop had a beefy looking security guard outside smoking a fag. He looked at the cigarette with a stare of disappointment.

The evening gathered wind and chucked it casually along the side streets. Grey stone blocks almost coloured the dismal atmosphere with a certain grim weight. I moved along looking for a friend.

The tavern on the corner bustled with life. A Rangers flag decorated the wide window. A Catholic lad full of beer might well take aversion to that later in the evening.

A junkie l recognised swept past implausibly, carrying a box of cosmetics under his arm. His skinny, grey face gave me a gaunt glance as if to say: “You cannae catch me!”