I’m seventy years of age and I live in a town on the Clyde coast.
I’ve always written for various reasons. Sometime just to get things off my chest, writing can be so cathartic, but mostly for pleasure.
I’m married with one son, a daughter in law and a granddaughter who also, to my great delight, writes.
I enjoy writing ghost stories although I would run a mile if I ever saw one. I also write fiction and memoirs and am at present busy writing a book of those memoirs for my granddaughter in the hope that she will be able to use the places and the people that I have loved in her stories.
When I pulled back the curtains that morning the fog was still there, the houses on the opposite side of the road drifting in and out of view. It had been with us for almost a week now, causing disruption with travel. Trams were managing to run but the buses found it almost impossible.
It was 1958, I was ten and accustomed to the foggy winters we had in the West of Scotland, caused in part by all the coal burning fires. I actually looked forward to foggy days in the hope the school would give us a half day holiday. They very rarely did. But this was a Sunday and we always went to my Grandparents on a Sunday.
Before leaving for work Dad told my Mum not to go that day. ‘It’s bad enough now, think what it will be like when darkness falls,’ he told her. Even at ten I wondered to myself why he bothered. Telling my Mum that she couldn’t do something only made her even more determined to do it.
'We have to go,’ she told him. ‘They’ll be expecting us.’
To be fair, there was no way of contacting them. No-one we knew had telephones in those days and perhaps it wasn’t foggy where they lived, but the fog had been pretty widespread over the last week and I’m sure my grandparents could have put two and two together when we didn’t turn up.
We left after lunch, my two year old brother, myself and my Mum rushing to catch the first of the three buses needed in order to get to my Grandparents house. Although it was only about one o’clock darkness already seemed to be falling. After waiting for what appeared like an age in the freezing damp air the bus loomed out of the fog. We crept agonisingly slowly towards the town centre. What should have been a fifteen minute journey took well over three quarters of an hour but we finally arrived. This was the point where we should have stayed on the bus and gone home but my mother was insistent we would press on to my Grandparents.
‘The fog’s not so bad here,’ she told us. ‘I think it’s lifting.’
I was slightly dubious about that, it still looked pretty bad to me, but what choice does a ten year old have in the face of such a determined mother, so we set off to catch the bus that would take us on the next part of our journey. This took longer than it should have done because my brother had to walk and he was quite averse to walking any distance which was understandable as he only had little legs. We should have brought his push chair but ever since his pushchair had been stolen from a bus, my mother refused point blank to take the new one onto buses in case it too was stolen, so Jim had to walk. Unfortunately he was as thrawn as my mum and when he didn’t want to walk he didn’t, so my mother had to carry him. No mean feat as my brother was a big boy and my mum only a little thing.
The fog did seemed to lift a bit on the journey from Paisley Cross to Jura Street in Glasgow, where we caught the last bus of our journey, but by the time we were walking to my Grandparents house it became thicker again.
My Grandpa met us at the door and promptly began berating my mother for coming, for ‘bringing those weans out in this weather.’ ‘Once you’ve had a cup of tea and get warmed up I’ll take you to the bus stop and you can get yourselves home,’ he told her.
I was glad we were at least going to get a cup of tea, well not the tea, I didn’t drink tea but what went with it. I loved my Grandma’s baking and she didn’t fuss too much if we wanted to skip the obligatory bread and butter and go straight to the cake. ‘She’s at her Granny’s now,’ she’d say to my Mum. ‘Let her have a bit of cake.’
Before long we were back out in the fog, our bodies and our stomachs warmed by my Grandma’s hospitality. My brother in his balaclava, short coat and the long spat like puttees that very young boys wore over their trousers to keep their legs warm. With a scarf tied tightly across his nose and mouth to keep out the fog and mittens that were joined together with a long piece of elastic threaded through his coat and down each arm it wasn’t surprising he found it difficult to walk any distance. He was like a fat little butterball, if he had fallen he would have bounced back up again.
The cold was penetrating and for once I was glad I was wearing my hated knitted bonnet as it covered my ears, but it still scratched under my chin. I had knitted it at school and much blood sweat and tears had been invested in it, mostly tears as knitting did not come easily to me. Once finished I imagined I would never see it again but I reckoned without my mother. I had lost my school beret, again, and this time Mum said she wasn’t buying me another and by way of punishment I would have to wear the bonnet I had knitted. No amount of tears and pleading and promising I wouldn’t lose my beret again moved her and to my hideous embarrassment I had to wear the hated hat.
I’m glad to say the hat situation was resolved a couple of weeks later when my Grandpa gave my mum the money to buy me a new beret telling her I couldn’t go out looking like little orphan Annie anymore. My mum was annoyed, but on the whole she did what my Grandpa told her. He was the only person she ever listened to.
We made faster progress to the bus stop this time as my Grandpa was carrying Jim. Unfortunately the fog was denser than ever but we knew the route well. Past the little shop that made the most glorious, teeth rotting, four for a penny, toffee balls, then down past Govan High School, the school my mum had attended.
We’d been waiting for a while when a man appeared out of the fog and told us we were wasting our time standing there, the buses were off. He’d been waiting at the terminus and had been told by an inspector that there would be no more buses running that day.
Once again it would have been sensible for us to have turned round and stayed with my Grandparents but no, now my mum was going home and nothing would stop her. My grandpa decided to go with us to the main Paisley Road, a good twenty to thirty minutes’ walk, to make sure the buses into Paisley were running so we set off on that strangely quiet, strangely lonely journey to the main road.
By this time we literally couldn’t see our hands in front of us. The fog swirled and eddied around and I was very scared. If I had known the word claustrophobic and also know what it meant I would have been able to describe the horrible sensation I felt walking in that blind world, wet damp fog pressing against me. I was glad my grandpa was there and held onto his coat and my mum’s hand for dear life. Even a couple of steps away from them and they would be swallowed into the dripping nothingness and I would be left alone in this silent, eerie world.
Although we hadn’t walked to the main road before, we knew the way, but fog has a way of disorientating you. We had been under the impression that we had been following the left hand pavement all the way towards the main road but suddenly we found ourselves bumping up against a keep left sign on an island on the middle of the road. I think at that point even my mother realised we should have stayed with my Grandparents. We were thoroughly, miserably lost, but had come too far to go back so we had to plough on.
I’ve no idea how long it took us to walk to the main road or how circuitous our route was but as we got nearer the fog began to clear a little and we found our way to the bus stop. There was a crowd of people waiting, ‘There hasn’t been a bus to Paisley for ages,’ they told us but buses to other destinations appeared to be running so we joined the queue and waited hopefully. Eventually one came along and we left my poor Grandpa to make his way back home through that eerie, fog bound world alone. I don’t know how long it took him to get back but he obviously did as he was there when we visited the next week.
After a long, slow journey we reached Paisley Cross, then made our way past the Abbey to catch the bus for our last leg of the journey to Hunterhill and home. We were delighted to see one standing at our bus stop. As we started to board the conductress told us that the buses had stopped and that this one was only going back to the terminus.
I think I told you my mother was a very determined lady. She told the conductress that if they were going to the terminus then that would take us home. No amount of protest from the conductress, then the driver could persuade my mother they couldn’t take us back because the bus wasn’t picking up passengers. In the face of such determination they gave in and we crept through the ever thickening fog towards Hunterhill.
Finally we arrived home where my Dad was anxiously waiting for us. I don’t know what he said to my Mum, I think he kept it until we were warmly tucked up in beds heated by the stone hot water bottles he had put in earlier.
It had been an exhausting day. Exciting, frightening but very different. As I drifted off to sleep my last thought was, I hope Grandpa got home.