The Longest Fortnight

As this weekend starts the period that was traditionally known as the Glasgow Fair Fortnight I thought I would write a poem about this late lamented part of Glasgow history the significance of which has become somewhat diluted since my teenage years of the late 1970’s due to the diverse nature of the post industrial nature of our economy and the greater flexibility and choice both of timing of holidays and potential destinations. As  I struggled to think of a suitable title for the poem I asked friends for some ideas and as usual on these occasions there were plenty of replies. Eventually , I decided that The Longest Fortnight suggested by fellow poet, and independence campaigner Shaun Moore best summed up the sentiments expressed in the piece which captures the  memory of a Glasgow which has slowly faded in to history. I hope you enjoy the read. 

The Longest Fortnight

This was the day the factory gates closed early 
and  the shipyards and steelworks ceased production

as Glasgow shut down for the fair   

for many this meant a holiday by the sea

usually the Ayrshire coast or Blackpool 

If they could afford it 

budgets were a factor which couldn’t be  ignored 

of course I had dreams 

but living within our means 

was a lesson learned early 

looking back on my memories 

those days seem like yesterday

reality is the thief of time 

and time the burglar of years

now I realise the hopes and fears 

my parents had 

which adolescent me dismissed as sad 

were genuine to them 

but on this the first day of the workers break

I thought not of where we would go 

that was tomorrow’s concern 

I learned only of possible options 

in the Scotland of 1970’s 

and  knew boredom would drive me up the wall 

meanwhile my mother paced the hall 

wondering when my dad would come home from the pub 

and what state he’d been in on arrival 

looking back on my childhood memories

I realise the workers were celebrating their survival 

with their well earned break 

their work was hard work 

what my dad called a real job

where they were given a weekly wage 

for their eight or nine hour shifts

no wonder so many homes were rented 

people were conditioned to be content 

with what they were told they could afford 

our families accepted these attitudes

and showed gratitude by saving their  pennies

for what my mother would call rainy days

It was important she said to have some spare change 

for essentials and a few wee luxuries

the fair fortnight was an escape 

from the drudgery of their routine 

for the other 50 weeks year in year out 

when there were such things as jobs for life

where people worked from leaving school till retirement 

the ability to graft and learn on the job 

the main requirements for success

in the not so good old days 

so revered by those on nostalgia trips

eventually and usually a lot later than my mother liked

my dad would  come home mildly drunk 

with fish suppers in hand 

 a fair Friday tradition you understand 

on the day the factories closed 

and a city took a fortnightly break 

until one by one the jobs disappeared 

and the gates were closed 

for the final time 

and the last to leave switched off the lights. 

© Gayle Smith 2017

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