Nine years ago this coming week, I lost my old man. My wife and I will meet my now, mid- octogenarian Mother for lunch next Friday and dine on warm memories. The old dear utilises the repast as an exercise in continuing to let go. Last year, she arrived with a hessian bag, full of family holiday photographs from the early sixties, and three cigar boxes. The vast majority of the pictures were grainy, grey, and crenulated. They captured the pain of a four year old being taught to swim in the waters of the outdoor pool at North Berwick, the raindrops hid my teardrops. There's a large coat clad arm engulfing a windswept five year old, on Brodick pier. Calun Kennedy is smiling and am reliably informed, is sporting a Rangers scarf. I am the prisoner of a bobble hat.
The few dozen coloured photies scream optimism, they are ordered; beginning with the family beside Dad's new Morris Traveller, fire-engine red encased in cedar wood. It's 1965 and we are off to France. Norman and Breton beaches are hoaching with joie de vivre. Mum volunteered that both the car and camera had been purchased because Dad had been so enthused by the 63/64 treble winning team. He was convinced we would win the European Cup in the next season or so, wanted the means to attend and record. There you go, I travelled from stroboscopic black and white to full technicolour because of Rangers.
The car made it to the ECWC final, Nuremberg in '67. Dad took a few mates, no room for me. A one nil extra-time defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich meant the car had to go, he traded it in for a blue Rover. It's first away game was at ra Piggery, a 2-4 win for the Bears. Even a half brick through the passenger side window, all the parked blue cars on the eastern side of London Road suffered the same fate; could not put the old man off that car. A broken window for a win was fair trade. Mother loved it too, she embraced the vehicle at the end of our street as it delivered us home to deepest, darkest Lanarkshire on the 2nd January'71. I celebrated it's piercing azure tones as it took us to Prestwick Airport for a flight to Barcelona. There is no family record of Barca'72, the camera, like many others fell victim to the Guardia Civil.
The cigar boxes contained 48 Wee Blue Books, mostly belonging to my grandfather. The earliest being 1902/03, they contain numerous annotations, the auld boy loved both Neilly Gibson and Archie Kyle. The last box opened held the mundane and a genuine surprise, a dozen or so old season tickets, several dozen pre-decimal ticket stubs for the Main Stand, and my matriculation cards! More photos of a period when hair was long and time was short. I studied, rather endured Economics, hated it. Adam Smith, Galbraith, Jan Pen, .... et al provided criteria, frameworks, and those model equations that included both constant and random variables and equated to zero. Nonsense, everything in my life culminated in Rangers.
Academia taught me compromise and discipline. I had made my tertiary guttural bed, but remained determined to look at the stars. Another undergraduate, Norrie was a mature student. He was a time served draughtsman at UCS, aged 26, married, and an unrepentant Bear. My first matric' card contained a red backdrop to the photie, under 18 and thus alerted the Union bar staff, bastards! Norrie knew a better, cheaper place, Clyde Place to be exact, the Star Club. None of your angst-filled, pseudo intellectual, pretend working class members of the IMG, SWP, Maoist types that populated the Strathclyde Uni' corridors in the mid-seventies, these guys were fun filled hard line Commies. There was an easy distinction to be made, the fun filled guys played Dominoes, were well read, and supported Rangers. The rest didn't matter.
There was a reading room, reserved on alternate afternoons for the Vanguard. Mainly consisted of the then remaining red Clydesiders, veterans of the International Brigade, and those who had done time in the pokey. Norrie's wife was a Library Assistant and as such, had access to council remaindered books. On a couple of occasions, he asked me to help unload and I gained entry to a groaning shelved space. As expected, it was heavy on polemic and unfortunately, economics. Surprisingly, travel books were huge favourites. I took heed and began with Jack Kerouac, 'On the Road', clocked more miles with one of my own established literary heroes, John Steinbeck as he, 'Travelled with Charley', and culminated, no zeroes involved, with the guy that started it, Robert Louis Stevenson and, 'Travels with a Donkey'.
This was confirmation I could understand, cerebral travel was a comfort. I was already well practised, Rangers had fuelled my travels both physically and emotionally. Further, I had kudos, Franco's fascist bully boys had oppressed us by stealing the family camera, they robbed us of heart felt memories. I received more empathy when I informed the Tankies that the camera was a Smena-8, Soviet Union produced. Blue shirted Paco or Pepe squeezing the life out of a last ciggie, waiting on the inevitable because they were in possession of an inappropriate camera, that was the journey of a lifetime for the fun filled.
Our journey continues tomorrow evening, we alight at the latest terminus amid maroon livery. My team selection and prediction is arbiter in light of today's reported events. I will protest, then I will support. Rangers are a dynamic, my map, compass, and protractor. As surely as I will lunch with my auld maw next week, I will travel with Rangers until I hit the buffers.