Low life

Low life

13 May 2017

9:00 AM

13 May 2017

9:00 AM

I was sitting between mother and daughter on the sofa, and we were having a ‘wee night’ as Glaswegians put it. Having a wee night roughly means ‘celebrating’. Yesterday the daughter finished the final exam of her English degree. On the low table in front of us were three gin and tonics, two packets of fags, a souvenir ashtray from Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, a packet of transparent French cigarette papers, a plastic syringe with hash oil rammed up one end, a disposable lighter, a portable Bluetooth speaker, and an open laptop. Mother and daughter were taking it in turns to choose music videos on YouTube. So far we’d enjoyed an hour of ‘girl power’ classics — Gloria Gaynor, Miley Cyrus, Whitney Houston — during which the conversation was about babies, perfumes, bras, depilation, the pleasures of the companionship of gay men, and the sheer silliness and gullibility of heterosexual males.

After the girl-power music hour, we looked at some video clips posted on Facebook. We watched a Welsh collie doing yoga on a mat with its owner; an athletic baby climb a two-storey safety gate; and a compilation of clips of various household and exotic pets embracing their owners with apparent deep affection. The daughter said that she and her generation want the whole world to be like one of these cute Facebook videos, a world of fun and love and an absence of nastiness. Then she showed us how the dating app Tinder works, flicking the young men’s photos to the left to reject them and very occasionally — about once in 50 photos — flicking a photo to the right to ‘like’ him. Both her and her mother were scathing about the majority of the chaps’ appearances, finding something absurd to jeer about with pretty much every single one. They didn’t like this one’s hat. That one had eyes like a rapist. This one looked a bit neddy. ‘Ned’ is Glaswegian for an aggressive young working-class male. So ‘neddy’ means something like ‘common’, presumably.


After that we watched the daughter’s favourite scenes from the musical Chicago. The first song-and-dance clip was a lot of aggressive-looking women in a prison cell dancing and singing about how and why they had murdered their male partners. One chap had given offence by drinking beer and chewing gum. For that he’d got both barrels. He had it coming, they chorused. He only had himself to blame. The second clip was a song and dance about a puny man who is so transparent and insignificant that he is called Mr Cellophane. ‘Have you seen Chicago, Jeremy?’ they asked, in a sort of recruiting tone of voice. ‘I’ve haven’t seen a musical since Mary Poppins in about 1967,’ I replied.

Now I’d had enough of our feminine, feminist, girl-power, girlie theme night. ‘It’s my turn to choose something,’ I said, grabbing the laptop and starting to type. They wrestled the laptop out of my hands. I must wait, I was told. Because first we had to watch that video of Led Zeppelin performing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and marvel at the famous bulge in singer Robert Plant’s tight blue jeans. So there they were, Plant’s meat and two veg, wonderfully defined and halfway down his thigh. The sight of it made them shriek. Then we had to watch the Rolling Stones at Glastonbury playing ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ because the daughter has a thing about Keith Richards. Even though he is about 70 and looks about 150, she still might, she said, if the opportunity ever presented itself. So we watched that and admired the outfits, and Keith, and especially Keith’s choice of shirt.

Eventually, reluctantly, they granted me permission to choose something. I typed in a search, set the laptop back on the table and pressed play. I’d chosen a video of Herts v. Hibs fans fighting in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh. It’s one of my favourites. I could watch it again and again. At first mother and daughter watched complaisantly, perhaps hoping or imagining it might be an exceptionally innovative introduction to a Frankie Goes to Hollywood music video or something. Finally, they realised it was just a clip of a lot of middle-aged drunks battering one another in the street, some of them falling down without being anywhere near an opponent. ‘Isn’t it great!’ I said. ‘It’s horrible,’ they said. ‘Take it off.’ So off it went in spite of my protests. They couldn’t believe I would choose such a thing, they said. What on earth was I thinking about? In its place we watched a doggy courtship scene from Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.

Finally, they wanted to get up and dance. To Abba. ‘Dancing Queen’. So we did that. This was a bit more to my liking. We danced and sang along with our arms in the air.

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