by Agnes Owens
Life in the not so genteel side of Glasgow is evoked in these two novellas BAD ATTITUDES and JEN’S PARTY.
The first story, BAD ATTITUDES, concerns the Dawson family who have recently been moved from their old home to a new council house. Peter, a sixteen year old, bored, chain-smoking “disaffected” youth spends his days bunking off school harassing the interfering neighbours and hanging out in his old, soon to be condemned, street. Here he chats with an old neighbour, the brilliantly monikered, Shanky Devine. The rumour is that, because he refuses to move, Shanky has a hidden fortune in the old flat. Also present is a mysterious family of travellers who fascinate Shanky and Peter.
Events take a turn for the worse when one of the travellers, a young girl, goes missing and a social worker is murdered.
JEN’S PARTY is a poignant little tale. Jen and her mother Maude live a quiet existence until the arrival of Aunt Belle, Maude’s sister. As Jen’s fifteenth birthday approaches Belle announces, “I think a birthday party would be just the thing to cheer us up!” Jen agrees but soon comes to regret it as she realises this is more for Belle than for her.
Consider a combination of ABIGAIL’S PARTY and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE with some extra strong lager, a few bags of crisps thrown in and you’ll get the picture.
These are brilliantly observed vignettes of people on the edges of society. As a Glaswegian I feel that Agnes Owens conveys in her writing a mixture of the cheerful cynicism and homespun philosophy that those of us from the west of Scotland recognise so well.