Chris Alexander 1958-2009 RIP.
Gordy reminded me of the time Chris Alexander got lifted. He’d been coming back from the Boilermakers on Dumbarton Road, Chris was always a smart dresser and got the best of gear from Dees in Clydebank. No change from a fifty-quid note, especially if it was a Provy cheque. He had on his best clobber: red single-breasted jacket and white shirt open wide at the collar like a seagull in flight, flared trousers and Weegin shoes with black tassels. He pulled out his cock and decided to pish through the railings and into the canal. A busy road, so he turned to Gordy and told him to keep an eye out for the police.
‘There’s the police there,’ said Gordy.
The bold Chris didn’t believe him. The police couldn’t believe Chris either. They put him in the back of the meat wagon and took him to Hall Street station. Court on Monday morning.
I didn’t know Chris the way I knew Gordy. I didn’t grow up with him. He was a few years older than both of us. But now we’re hitting sixty and Chris barely made it to fifty-year-old. And we were from Parkhall and he was from Dalmuir. Gordy was a bit of a gambler and talked about investing in Bitcoin. I’m not sure Gordy knows what it is, but had a £1000 punt on it anyway. ‘Genesis’ the first block of cryptocurrency was created in 2009, the year Chris died of multiple sclerosis. I’d heard he could no longer take care of himself and was in some unit in some godforsaken place like Bonnybridge, where UFO’s landed and just as quickly left. Michael Jackson also died that year. Barrack Obama became President of the United States after the banking crisis. ‘Swine flu’ was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation, but wasn’t really.
When Chris was born a Daily Record cost two-and-a-half pence. Peter Manuel was sentence to death. Hearts were Scottish champions, Clyde won the Scottish Cup and Tommy Steele fainted as 3000 teenage girl fans mobbed the stage at Dundee’s Caird Hall. Chris had the same kind of swept-back hair as Tommy Steele but dark coloured eyes like Peter Manuel’s. Chris had a slight scar, a nick, under his right eye. He’d often looked straight through me, as him and his brother, Billy, rubbed shoulders at the end of the Club Bar, fag in hand, as if plotting the end of the world before shutting time.
Billy was nearer my age and better at remembering my name. Billy had three kids and married Teresa Adair in 1978, the same year I was best-man at my brother Stephen (Sev’s) wedding, and mumbled a speech that wasn’t a speech. Billy’s first son was naturally named after himself. His second son was called after his brother, who like me was unmarried and, technically, had no kids of his own.
I’d met Chris when I was attending the buroo club at Dalmuir C.E.Centre. Chris might have been signing on like me, but he also cleaned the butcher and rolls' shop windows beside the Horse and Barge for cash-in-hand. I envied him. In later years, I’d see Billy doing the same thing, doing more chatting to passer-byes than window cleaning and eyeing girls as they passed. Chris didn’t come into the C.E. Centre to knock the ball about and play three-a-side in the panelled hall or table tennis beside the stacked chairs of the kitchen. He might take his dress jacket off and fold it over the back of a chair to play the occasional game of snooker in the side room looking onto the huts, but the snooker room was also a card school, where I never ventured a coin: pennies made pounds and a fortune of five quid could be won or lost. Even a tenner on a good or bad day. Chris had that swagger as if every day was a good day.
Chris floated from the Club Bar, which was renamed the Horse and Barge to Macintoshes Bar and back again. He hooked up with my cousin Bernie, who was seven year’s younger than him. She wasn’t really my cousin, but we’d live in the tenements behind the old Club bar, and her mum Josie, and da, Charlie, were godmother and godfather to a few of my family and vice-versa. I remember as kids them eating white Sunblest bread folded over and dripping with brown sauce, which gave me the boak. Chris lived not far from there in the high flat beside the Cressie Stairs and train station. As Gordy used to say, when he got his girlfriend pregnant, I didn’t get on the train and get aff at Partick. Chris didn’t get off at Partick either. He got Bernie pregnant.
Jimmy Dalziel’s (1962-2006) wee sister Joan dyed her hair blonde and was old enough to vote, but not get pregnant. Chris didn’t get off at Partick and she went the whole way too. Only one of them was holding the baby.
I started bumping into Chris when he was in a wheelchair. I was in Castle Street that wasn’t far from the high flat he still lived in. He’d never really talked to me before, but it worked both ways, I’d never really talked to him before. I’d heard about his MS diagnosis and here he was, and his deterioration was rapid. I used to do a bit of jogging and Chris talked about being able to wheel his chair up the incline at Dalmuir Park—which was steep—and building up his body and…