Its under a month until Paul Larkin aka Paulie to me launches his latest book. I’m very honoured to be a guest as I have been at the previous 2 in Glasgow. I’d like to if you don’t mind share my first book launch experience with you all, on what was a magical wee day. I’d have loved to have made this my first blog for the website but I feel and hope now the people who have read and touch wood, enjoyed my previous stuff appreciate the vodka soaked tales. This one is from a very different sober me, here goes I hope you like.
I was sitting in a hotel bar area at George Square, my friends drinking champagne me sitting like a fanny with a soda water and lime. It was 10.30pm and I got an email from Paul Larkin. He told me I was on the guest list for his upcoming book launch at the Admiral Bar. At this stage I had never met Paulie only having a brief chat with my usual pish rambling and rumours on the HomeBhoys. My announcement of thats me on a book launch guest list went down well sitting with 4 merchant seamen half drunk and a few girls. Anyway the night finished I got home, a few sleeps later and its the Saturday of Paulies book launch, which was also the day Celtic travelled to Kilmarnock to hopefully clinch the league. It all sounds quite straight forward so far, then the mischief started, religious types would realise it was the day before Easter, my brother the much mentioned Pope Paul gives up most things for Lent or as I call it the Feniaan Ramadan. This is due to my late fathers strong beliefs yeah you remember him from the scouser in Glasgow blog. My dad was that zealot, even a few non catholic friends do lent in his honour every year. Funny thing its always the booze they give up. I think the 6 weeks off it each year keeps them alive.
I got a call from Pope Paul on the Friday you have a ticket for tomorrow, we are having a day out. My brother and the black cab mafia had arranged a lift down on one of the southside buses which was also picking up in East Renfrewshire, all good so far? Well the fun begins on getting into the taxi to the pick up point. Our kid decides that he is coming off lent a day early this year since its official Celtic duties. I thought nothing of it to be honest, we stood on the outskirts of the city waiting for the bus to pick us up. Now I know we are all Celtic fans etc, but when someone you don’t know gets on your regular transport I feel there is a sense of noseyness or the equivalent of when a dog pees on a tree. Both forms of letting them know who and what you are, I may add I’m always the receiver of these looks as I float about bus to bus. But anyhow we shuffled on the bus my brother and his mates with a few refreshments for the journey down to Ayrshire.
We did the final pick up and began the journey down the forgotten back roads of Ayrshire heading to Kilmarnock, a few tunes were blasting away, sing songs were going and the patter wasn’t bad to be honest. Now you know when your on a bit of a bus when your the only guy on board that does Twitter. I passed the phone round showing everyone the tweet from the Gaffer on that day of days saying bring the thunder. The regulars on the bus were looking round chests out, wearing there Ralph Lauren tops guzzling Tennants lager. I sat in an italian coat reading the Times drinking a sparkling water, more worrying Our Paul had cracked open his 5th can of Stella of the hour. The 6 week ramandan was defo over as 6 rows away I sat listening as his voice started cranking up like a concorde engine. Someone was gonna get it! He casually shouted full wellie as the records stopped, how all the farmers on the bus must be enjoying their big day out on the bus!!! I slid down to check the spare tire. They all turned away not wanting to know, Pope Paulie had his poetic license. He was now passing the beers, cuddling, singing Crystal Gayle all the classics, as we proceeded through the wilderness of these wee forgotten villages which the motorways had killed off.
We arrived in Kilmarnock early made it to a pub and noticed and nodded to the usual guys you have seen for years at Celtic games but never got round to talking to. The atmosphere was building up and things were looking good. Then the problems started, whilst walking down my brother pulled out a vote Scottish Labour green flag. Now politics apart this was on the back of the first ministers rambling from the week before. Our kid was minding his own company when he was barracked by 3 teenage guys from about 70 yards away. F~ck you and your banner was the cry, 3 against 1 usually safe odds. I was there but I don’t count I couldn’t fight a fish supper truth be known.
Alas a 90 degree turn and stare and everything was sorted, the 3 cash and carry green brigade wanabees vanished in the fine ayrshire mist they managed to find. The lads had the huge HMRC banner with them which had been approved for entry by both Celtic and the stadium manager. Problems being when we got down there the local police didn’t want to let it in. Why I hear you ask? the letters on it might upset people!! Yes welcome to Scotland where you cant put a government dept on a banner and advertise it. Anyway the banner was collected and proudly walked back to the bus after our epic win and fantastic sing song all the way through the town of Kilmarnock. To be fair the majority of the town took it in good banter but a few angry middle age ladies didn’t see it that way.
Everyones back on the bus, refreshments are being passed around, I’ve got an Irn Bru and we are off. A bottle is being passed around, it ends up one of the guys is drinking the poison liquid, Angus Doory Bitters used on vodka cocktails straight and he’s got 4 cans of cider which cost him £1.80. So you can tell what kinda journey back up its gonna be. Now on this day, as we all know Rangers were coming to and end, the party was nearly over, most of the little places we went through and had to stop because of traffic lights, were mostly Rangers areas. The streets were deserted as the Bhoys and Ghirls sang there hearts out. In a brief interlude of the journey everyones plans were discussed. It came to me, I proceeded to say yeah I’m going for a latte in the Merchant City then I’ve got a book launch to go to, the driver nearly crashed into a field when he heard that one. I then spent 10 minutes explaining to a toy story alien like crowd, (Green and going OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH). As i explained Paul Larkins work, I think the latte didn’t go down well though but anyway…
We got dropped off at one of the Bhoys houses, tunes were put on, I even got a coffee which was a treat and the game was beginning to be rewatched on the big HD telly on the wall. Now it came to the awkward bit of being a Celtic fan on a good day for the club, you bump into too many old pals, and too many plans are made, your nearly pressganged into going to 5 different pubs and parties, luckily we had a drink and headed to the Merchant City. Now we entered a so called nice pub with an affluent crowd sitting drinking beers they couldn’t pronounce and trying to look manly with sleeve tattoos etc. Then we walked in! The only table available was beside 6 guys all dressed in rugby tops, now you know a rugby fan when you see one and these guys I think had just bought the things and were trying to hide who they really were. I popped up to the bar and was ready to ask for refreshments when the young barmaid enquired about our Paul’s top, it was green and white hoops and the girl said is that a football top?
Now the only good thing about being a teetotaler in a pub is your bulletproof, I relayed my shock and alarm at such a question and informed her it was from a shop in the states called A and F was there a problem? would she like me to discuss it with management? She went down quicker that Neil McCann in his zombie days and all was well. The lads were planning a night and I was having this one drink and heading to my first ever book launch.
As someone who used to work, with a constantly rotating work force due to crew changes etc meeting folk isn’t a problem but when your stone cold sober, going to an event like this and your alone while doing it, i would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit uneasy. I arrived just as Paul got up to make his Speech and I had a look around the room, in hindsight now its amazing the folk that were there that night. I didn’t know at the time but who are pals now. After the speech, Paul was signing books and I went up, picked one up and had a brief chat. I was very lucky to meet a great wee guy Party Marty who kept me supplied in soda water and lime all night and then briefly met Boobbhoy Gaffney. Also the one and only The Rebel Mc was up slamming it down only the way he can. Paul tried to introduce him to me but he looked as if he had done ten rounds with Hagler by then, or someone spiked his Cinzano. It was a lovely night if truth be told I to this day reckon I must have been the only sober one there, who can remember the one and only Fenien Breakdancer the Bhoy who after everyone had did the conga at the end of the night. He got down and gave us a few moves and bodypops. I had my JFK moment when talking to a few guys with Party Marty who told me they always loved listening to the HomeBhoys show. One of them a Bhoy from Johnstone told me when he heard me tell my tale of my wee pal having to stand and sing a song on a supporters bus heading to Parkhead, the problem being the only song he knew was tainted love by Soft Cell. The guy was sitting at the dinner table with his family listening to the download and spat his dinner all over the table when he heard me tell the tale. The night finished and we all went off to different bars, although I do confess to heading home on the last bus, on a total natural high on what a great day it had been. To say how I felt as a sober guy at the do was to feel like a schoolteacher as a school-leavers disco everyone steaming and slamming it down apart from you.
So as I prepare myself for Paulies latest book launch what do I find? I find that more than half the folk from the first book launch I attended are friends now who I meet before games or drop a text and find we have a lot in common in life, as well as our love for our football team. In the cyber world it is easy to portray yourself as something or someone and be found out when your meet various folk, as anyone who knows me I’m even more cash and carry in real life than when I’m subjecting the HomeBhoys to my pish and rumours. Paul Larkins book nights are a chance of interaction and celebration and a remit back to the good old days. I will tell you why. Since Paradise went all seated I feel, apart from the Green Brigade a sterile environment was built at the ground. It is hard to interact with people like we used to on the terraces because of goals being scored, drunks going for pees, or even someone thinking they were Chuck Norris and going for a Jungle Pie. You were never standing beside the same person for long, so friendships were made on those sacred old bits of concrete our forefathers stood on for generations. People drive home after games now or have their kids to stop any before or after match celebration of our club. A Paulie Larkin book launch is like a Feniaan Woodstock for me, it has high brow folk, normal punters, and charlatans like myself, music of our culture and great debate and discussion on what has happened and what the future holds for our beloved club. It gives folk an excuse to have a knees up and meet folk who although you chat to on twitter, would you even know them if they stood next to you at a bus stop? The only downside is for whatever reason certain bampots for whatever reason, whether it be distance, money issues cant be there. At the last book launch the Carluke Bhoys were able to record some of it and give folk a feel to how the night went. The only upside of not going to this book launch is that you don’t have to taste my buffet!
Finally, November sees our clubs birthday, a Paulie larkin book launch, and Barca coming to Paradise. Who said Christmas was in December?
Hail Hail, The Parrot (twitter @machrie72)