1 June 2014
“What are you doing? Watch yourself!” her voice trailed off as the boy in the tracksuit sloped off with barely a look to see what he’d done. She shook her head and threw out a hand as he went further down the street. She hobbles off still shaking her head and muttering to herself.
As ten o’clock ticks on she arrives at the Old Govan Church. Resplendent in its own majesty in the bright June air, the grass blows gently as the congregation arrives, beckoning them along the path and towards its doors. Jeanie sees people she recognises on the way in. She used to come with her two sons when her husband was still alive. Since they moved away and he passed on though her commitment never wavered. Being part of such a group even just once a week helps her feel like she still belongs to something worthwhile, regardless of how dreary the surroundings of Govan can look or feel.
The service passes by as it always does. Jeanie sits near the back. In her younger days she would take her family right to the front to fully take in the words and the majesty of the church itself, but she’s old now and doesn’t like the walk to the front and then back when she leaves. Resting on a pew alone she sits, taking in the whole spectacular building. The minister’s voice echoes around inside the church, amplified and thrown forward by the arch behind him. The words sound as clear to Jeanie as they do to those in her old seat. The church isn’t as full as Jeanie remembers it being in her youth. She sighs when they rise for hymns, wishing for the days when there were people, when she knew she was with other people.
When the service ends and the few in attendance shuffle out Jeanie stands in the door for a moment to ready herself for her journey home. The minister waits with her, having followed his congregation out the door. “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is Jean. What a pity it seems most of Govan would rather enjoy it elsewhere and elsehow than with their fellow citizen.” “Ach, what can you do?” The minister smiled wryly. “You just asked the question that keeps me up at night and that I’ve been able to come up with an answer for. If I could answer that, well, I’d have a queue of people waiting to talk to me.” “You’ve got the Govan Fair next week, maybe there’ll be a bump in people wanting to be out and together in Govan.” The minister was still smiling. “Perhaps. Will you be bringing anyone?” “Aye, my two boys will be through for the Fair anyway, they’ll be getting it in the ear if they’re no’ down here next week, you have my word for that.” “I’m glad I can could on you Jean. Safe home, now.”
Jean hobbled off again as the minister retreated inside, closing the door behind him. Aside from the service, his personal words to her made Jeanie feel more confidence in Govan. She had enjoyed the Fair since she was a little girl and always felt faint pangs of envy watching the new Queen each year, remembering the time when she herself had been a consort rather than the main focus of everyone’s attention. She was proud to see the young girls each year, always looking so pretty and grown-up in their robes and crowns at the height of their youth before going on to grow up and become real people when they went on to high school.
The thoughts of past Queens and Fairs occupied Jeanie’s mind all the way home. As she was coming up on the street where the boy in the tracksuit had nearly knocked her over earlier she saw a bright yellow man at the end of the road walking towards her. Getting closer, her focus improving, she saw it was a policeman, walking and looking with the confidence of someone who knows the streets he is on completely. When they met each other they stopped. The man was her son, Phillip.