My Dad was good at hair trimming and always cut “the girls” hair and mine. He was adept at the fashionable bob and got no complaints – until the day he snipped Auntie Annie’s ear. I was an interested spectator to the ensuing hubbub. An ear being such a small thing, it was incredible the amount of blood that flowed from it all over the white towel covering her shoulders. Bob helped a lot by saying, “He’s cut her throat”: cue for Mary to feel faint. When things got back to something like normal, Annie realised only one side of her hair was done. So like a sheep at the shearers she had to let Percy carry on cutting! They both recovered and didn’t fall out.
For a number of years John and Janet spent a week in Islay during the summer, thanks to the Co-op “divi”, although never while John’s parents were alive. My cousin Nettie always went with them. Two, or perhaps three, times they took Nettie’s sister Isa and me away for a sail down the Clyde in a steamer. The train from Kilmacolm took us to the pier at Princes Street Station in Greenock. They were real steamers, and incredibly popular, with a long queue right along the pier. It was magical being on the long sail to Rothesay through the Kyles of Bute. There were porpoises swimming alongside the boat, leaping out of the water, and all the gulls swooped and screeched. For a wee girl it was wonderful.
A big thrill was going to see the engines, down a lot of steps. They were hot and smelled of grease, and it was scary and fascinating at the same time. We had afternoon tea in the restaurant, then went on deck to listen to the band. After a stroll around the prom looking at the flower gardens and having a pokey hat (ice-cream cone), not to mention watching the steamers coming in and out and a paddle in the shallows where we could see wee tiny fish swimming round our feet, we would sail back to Greenock, tired but happy. But there was more to come: we walked along to MacKay’s, a baker with a restaurant upstairs, and had High Tea. This was fish and chips followed by tea and cakes and scones and (the highlight for me) chocolate biscuits wrapped in paper. They were called Motoring Biscuits and each had a picture of a different car on its wrapper. Grandad, on our first time at McKay’s, said to me when we were finished: “Chrissie, the waitress isn’t looking, take a biscuit in your pocket to eat on the train”. He was a rascal and I did it – not very happily though. However, Granny told me you had to pay for all that had disappeared from the plates so I enjoyed the biscuit! Isa looked after me on the boat and took me home afterwards. The Grandparents walked up with us to Laird’s Garage and hired a taxi to take them home. They were probably just as tired as I was, but it was a happy day for us all.
My memories of early childhood are very random and I’ve only now remembered the cuckoo clock. It was high up on the wall in the Room and had long chains hanging from it with heavy weights shaped like long pine cones. Somehow the weights kept the clock ticking away by moving them up to wind it. It was like a wee house with flowers and leaves carved on it, and a small window at the top where the cuckoo lived. If we were there at 12 o’clock it was the best because there were 12 cuckoo calls! They would remind me when I should run to the room for the exciting spectacle. Another source of interest was the wee weather house. It was smaller than the clock by a long way, and stood at the top of the kitchen dresser. It was nicely decorated and had two doorways, one with a wee man and the other with a wee lady. Every time we were at the Toll we looked at it to see who was out and if it was the lady we were sure it would stay fine weather. Simple pleasures! Topped off with rhubarb and sugar, of course.