It’s amazing how the floodgates often just open and then they sometimes mysteriously close. One day you can have all the luck on the planet and the next, no one wants anything to do with you. Between the ages of 15 to 18, the rejection can often hurt and it can make or break an entire career. For me, rejection was just another phase, and one that I learnt to deal with very quickly. Very close to Mr. Amin’s Indian restaurant, there stood a store which specialized in clothing for babies . It was run by two of the most frustrating women I had the pleasure of ever meeting. In all the years I’ve been in business, they still rank top 5 of my most disliked list of clients. In the 1970’s, lesbianism was just about accepted, although in Scotland it was still, for the most part, hidden. I knew what a lesbian was, but I don’t think I’d ever met anyone who claimed to be of that affiliation. One never knew, and one never judged, but the two women from this kiddies store made it their business to inflict their views on anyone who cared to listen. At 17 years of age, I was learning. I was learning to sell, to listen, never to judge, and most importantly, I was learning what strange creatures the human race could actually be . Fresh from my ‘huge’ sale to Mr. Amin, I just happened to walk into this children’s store that next morning. The shop itself was on the Dumbarton Rd in Partick, another, not so leafy suburb of Glasgow. It was a busy road and my friend David’s mother ran a toy shop two doors down. Anne, or Mrs. B, as I often referred to her, had encouraged me to try and sell bags to this kids store because she’d seen people coming out of that shop carrying their purchases unwrapped and without any bag at all. And so, with that in mind, I walked in, all smiles.
Excuse the Glasgow slang, I hope you get the gist of the conversation.
“Hello son, whit ya want’n”
“Well, my name is….”
“Ah dinnae care whit yer name is son, jist git right tae ra point”
She then, and I was to later find out her name was April, turned round and gave her business partner, who turned out to be her lover too, a peck on the cheek and continued.
“W’ur buzy in here, ya ken, so get tae it laddie”
“I want to sell you plastic bags so you can give them to all your customers when they buy stuff” was all I could muster.
April turned to Violet, her lover and partner, and she said in a sarcastic tone, “ye heer that hen, he wants tae sell us plastic shoapin bags” Violet raised her eyebrows and made a very strange whooping sound. “Well dinnae just stond there son, let’s see wit you goat” And she made a motion to Violet as if she was cupping my testicles.
I was tempted to run. I was tempted to cry. I was tempted to laugh, but in the end, I lifted my briefcase onto her counter and opened it up. The two of them went at it like ferrets. They pulled all my samples out, scattered them all over their store, and began insulting one another, in a manner that was hilarious and frightening, all at the same time.
“Ah like the white.”
“Naw hen, gimme blue”
“Piss aff. White is no shite, it’s purfect”
And it went on and on, until Violet, who seemed to be the woman in this relationship, acquiesced and agreed with everything April wanted. Without saying more than 3 words, I had another order. It was a small one, but an order indeed. They chose the color, they chose the font, they chose the size and then they chose to kick me out.
“Be aff with ya, and dinnae come back until you’ve goat oor bags” And I was off. Off like a shot, but not before April and Violet began smooching all over again.
Welcome to Glasgow lesbianism Alan!
Two weeks later, I was back, but their bags weren’t ready.
“Oh he’s back Vi” said April, as I walked nonchalantly into the same shop.
“Where’s oor bags sonny?”
“Well” I began, “There’s been a wee delay”
“Whit????” shouted April.
“The machine printing them broke down, but the good news is…..”
“Good news? Just geez ma money back and we’ll call it quits”
“Hang on April” I shouted, “they will be ready tomorrow. That’s why I came in, just to let you know.”
She calmed down and then spoke. “Jist as weel sonny Jim, I hov mare peepel who want tae buy from you” She then continued. “Sonny, we are part of the lesbian community in Glasgow, and believe me, there are no too mony of us. Onyway, all oor pals heard aboot you and some of them are interessed in seeing you ond guvin yoo oarders”
“Really?” I was now intrigued.
“Jest get oor bags son, and we wul soart it oot fer you.”
She showed me the door. I was again, thrown out, but this time, the hope of more business beckoned, only I didn’t realize what grief I was about to receive from both them and their pals. Well, maybe I did, and I just didn’t want to accept that fact just yet.