6 June 2014 – 5PM
Elder Park is full. The people are packed in so densely it’s become difficult to see the grass under their feet. The different sounds of the rides, the pounding music and people screaming combines with the talking of the crowd to create a blanket of noise enveloping everything. From outside the park the mass is loud and overwhelming, as you approach the park and enter it seems to spread out and engulf you even before you reach it and enter. The sounds and the colours and the movement of the people are the centre of the universe, drawing everything to it. Only when you enter and become part of the crowd do you realise that rather than an imposing, impregnable sprawl of humanity it is a collection of individuals. It is individuals then it is smaller groups of three or four or five then it is everyone, together. For the people on an individual level as much as on a complete level as a group it is the same. They are in a place they are happy to be. A place they are proud of, a place they are proud to be of, a place they are equally proud to share with everyone else there.
Andy and Phil are walking among the crowds in the park. “A good day for it.” “Aye, it is that.” Andy smiles as he talks to a young boy in Spiderman face paint who says he wants to be a police when he grows up.
Donna stands with her mother and some work colleagues, waiting for a good spot to see the procession as it goes along Govan Road between the park and the boarded up shipyards. Her mother is able to stand without help. “I’m glad you’re here for this, mum.”
Jean is with some friends from her church. Feeling stiff if she stands still for too long she is on the move through the park, delighting in seeing so many families and children out enjoying themselves in Govan in the nice weather. She says an excited hello to Andy when she sees him, though she wonders where she’ll find Ryan.
Ryan in fact is standing nowhere near the park, instead waiting on Arklet Road where the procession is due to end. Lady Elder looks down on him, removed enough from the noise of the crowd to be able to hear his own thoughts. He almost feels at home.
Darryl and friends are in their positions. Some stand at locations along the procession route, some in the park. Darryl is one of those in the park, only a few yards from his sister although neither realises. She had tried to call him earlier but it had gone ignored. They hadn’t exchanged any words after she had come home from work last night. He didn’t want to.
In Ibrox there was a tangible sense of excitement among both those watching and those involved in the procession as it started. The movement would be led by a marching band, followed by the Queen, followed by various local groups and organisations. The streets were well-lined early as the procession began, filled with people cheering and waving. Along Summertown Road the first of Darryl’s friends tried to spring into action. Upon seeing the tracksuited boy moving around suspiciously one of the police officers following the parade left and ventured onto the pavement heading towards him. On seeing the luminous yellow vision heading towards him the boy swore loudly, dropping the eggs he was planning to throw and turning to run away. He only got a few steps before the officer grabbed him by the collar. Pulling the boy’s arms down to his sides he spoke into his walkie-talkie which was perched on the front of his uniform. “Warning for police stationed on Govan Fair parade route, possible disruption planned, stopped one potential suspect at Summertown Road who seemed to be expected to be stopped, over.” The boy was protesting his innocence and solitude to cheers as he was led away by another police officer on the side of the road. The procession carried on, leaving him alone facing stern questions from an officer who looked unwilling to give him much benefit of the doubt.
In Elder Park, Phil and Andy listened as the message came in. “Have you seen anything?” asked Andy. “No. I’ve seen trouble at Fairs in the past but this one seems okay, so far. Certainly if it’s just daft wee boys at the side of the road trying to throw eggs or something, I’ve seen much worse than that even just last year. But keep an eye out.” The Park had quietened down as the procession drew near and people moved out to the street to watch. There were officers dotted around on the pavement but Phil and Andy moved forward anyway, just in case. Among the last people milling around the fence at the park Phil saw someone he thought he recognised, a blue tracksuit with sleeves shoved tightly into pockets. Nudging Andy and motioning to stay reserved Phil went over to the apparition, while Andy moved to cut off any potential escape if it tried to run away.
As he moved closer Phil realised it was a boy he had seen on the streets and spoken to a few days earlier. He looked uneasy. Phil was also struck by how young he looked. “Hello son, you lost?” “Whit? Naw, naw, I’m going out there to watch the floats and stuff as they go past.” Darryl’s arms were firmly in his pockets. He didn’t look at Phil as he spoke. “Is that all you’re doing?” “Aye.” Phil wasn’t convinced. “Are your hands cold?” Preparing for an aggressive response Phil was surprised at what happened next. “I… I don’t want to do this.” “Do what?” asked Phil, waving Andy over with his hand. “Me and some boys, we, we’re gonnae dae stuff. But I don’t want to.” Darryl pulled out his pockets, careful to not drop the eggs and flour he had hidden in them. Andy had reached the two of them. “Okay me and my partner here can help you, do you want to tell us how many boys you’ve got and what’s been planned?” “There’s other boys along the route ready to throw stuff… and in here there’s me and then at the end, the stage thing in the middle’s no gonnae work. It’s gonnae fall down if somebody goes near it.” Phil took a moment to look round the park, as if hoping that the planned disturbances would reveal themselves to him. “Right,” he said. “You are going to come with me and tell me where the things are going to happen – it’s alright,” he added as he saw Darryl start to protest. “I’m not going to do anything bad, we’re just going to stop this, okay?” Darryl nodded. Phil turned to Andy. “You need to get someone to see about that thing in the middle. There must be people around who’re involved in keeping it up or whatever, find them, and do it without causing a panic. You have time before the parade gets here. Go on.” Phil left with a sheepish looking Darryl.
Andy marched off in a hurry, looking for someone in charge. He knew the people in charge of running the rides but the stage that was to be the centrepiece was unattended save for a bored looking man who said he was just sound, sorry. Irritated, Andy kept looking and began to despair when a voice called to him. “You got a problem there?” He turned round to see Ryan in a suit looking slightly sheepish. “I… you’re here. Wow. Look I’d love to shout at you but I need help. Do you know who’s in charge of setting this thing?” He turned and waved an arm at the compromised stage. “We think someone might have done something to it but there’s no-one around now to see to it, they won’t be back until the procession’s here when it’ll be too late.” Ryan had pulled out a mobile phone and had it to his ear even before Andy had finished talking. “Thanks,” added Andy when he saw his brother reacting immediately. Within five minutes, with the procession not yet in sight of the park a van had appeared. It was waved in at the gates by Andy and Ryan who followed it to the centre and the stage. As Andy had been away Phil had rounded up some other police officers and had taken in all the boys given up by Darryl. The men in the van were free to work on the stage as Andy and Ryan looked on. “You can’t hate Govan that much. You seemed really eager to help here,” said Andy with a faint smile. “Well. I have some good in me, I may as well use it here while you asked.”
The park was full as the parade reached its climax. Donna and Jean were both near the front, able to see the Queen as she was crowned and gave a speech that drew mass awwing even from the men in the crowd. Jean remembered the young girls she had seen and cheered for decades previously. Donna remembered the girls from her time at school and was glad to see something so young and pure at the heart of a celebration of the town. Any worries she had carried about her brother were apparently unfounded. She hadn’t noticed any disturbances so assumed he had seen sense. The Fair ended in a collective sense of mass celebration and triumph, as local artistic groups put on performances, readings and entertained the crowd for hours. To close, the chairman of the Fair Association had his specially grown beard shaved, after which the Fair was closed for another year. The people went home content, the weather having stayed pristine the whole time and the Fair having passed without unsavoury incident. Several voices in the dispersing crowds agreed it was the best Fair they had ever attended.
Once the parade had finished and the park had emptied there was silence. The rides had packed up and moved on, the rubbish had been cleared and the park largely returned to normal. Only some holes that had been dug for supports betrayed that anything had happened at all, along with dirt dragged onto the paths by vehicles driving on the grass. Darryl had remained in the park. He knew that his friends, his last school days were over. In changing schools he had an opportunity both to reinvent himself and to put behind any associations with what had happened. He had been surprised at the understanding of the police officer that had dealt with him. From the stories he had heard of trouble at past Fairs there was no consideration given for anyone who even merely planned trouble. In Darryl’s case the man that he had told everything to took it in, understood it and solved all the problems virtually instantly. Seeing a process work so seamlessly and kindly had made Darryl feel something he had never felt before. He understood now why the Govan Fair had persisted through years in a town that for three hundred and sixty-four days of the year often seemed completely contrary to the idea of such a mass social event. To see ties of community renewed in such widespread and enthusiastic joy reinforced, or rather made new to him as it wasn’t a consideration he had ever thought of, to him the importance of a community being able to come together to celebrate the most important aspect a community could celebrate – itself.
With the night still and the stars beginning to peak out in the darkness, Darryl went home. He felt pride at what he was going to be able to tell his mother and sister. He didn’t remember having ever felt like that before.