A Song from the Darkest Hour

I think I might be an actual genius. Because tonight – drumroll please – Alfie Robert MacDonald… ate… all… of… his… dinner. I know. Except for the bits that ended up on the floor and spread liberally around his face, but shhhhh 😉

It all started when I plonked him in his high chair and he screamed as though I was branding him, because how else could he be expected to withstand the torture of being spoonfed pasta and chicken? Just as I was about to join him, I had this mad memory of years ago, when I was at uni in Glasgow, my best pal Rab and I were in some manky bar in Sauchiehall Street somewhere. We were celebrating Rab finishing his probation for driving a stolen ice cream truck into a tea shop in Kilmacolm, (…long story) so naturally Rab was on it. Within about an hour he’d picked a fight with a crowd of nutters (I know drink emboldens most people, but Rab takes it to suicidal extremes) and I was convinced that any minute he would end up either back in prison or scattered in bits across the road. So I burst into song. As you do.

I got up on this rickety, sticky table in the wee, dark basement bar and I started to sing. The Kylie song that was massive at the time, the la-la-la one. I might, come to think of it, have even made an attempt at the dance from the video.

They all stopped, and stared, and there was that moment that occurs in most Glasgow nights out when they could either have torn me limb from limb – or joined in the singing. Given I’m alive and well and typing this, you already know that they joined in the singing. Whatever Rab had done to piss them off forgotten, this shower of headcases all stood and belted out Kylie – there might have even been some harmonising – long enough for me and Rab to scarper.

So if it worked on feral bampots, was there a chance it would work on my angelic boy-child?

There was.

I couldn’t remember the words of the Kylie song, so I went classic, with a bit of Oasis then some James. And he ate in stunned silence. I sent Tess a video of him headbanging to the chorus of Sit Down, face and hair liberally smeared with tomato sauce, but, essentially, most of it down his gullet.

So I’m feeling pretty smug as I type this. He’s fast asleep, Tess’s dinner is being kept warm in the oven, I’ve poured myself a glass of red – life is pretty excellent. I can vaguely hear some people out in the yard having a party or something. The apartment building is in a kind of horseshoe shape, with a paved yard in the middle where the bins are, and a bike store, and there is a set of patio furniture which seems to get used from time to time even in this weather. Mattias once told me that Swedes are obsessed with being outdoors, and consider any temperature above zero perfectly pleasant for some alfresco hanging. Sure enough, yesterday I noticed that our local supermarket has wee tables set outside it, and despite the frost glistening on the pavement all around, there were people sitting drinking coffee.

So being the nosey bugger I am, I’ve just gone over to the door that leads to our tiny balcony and peeked out at the party going on below.

There’s five or six people standing in a circle. It almost looks as though they’re wearing dark cloaks or something, but they could well be just winter coats. They’re all holding what looks like candles, or maybe those wee candle-like torches. They’re walking slowly in a circle, murmuring something, like a chant or soft song.

The chant kind of floats up to me in the still night air, and I don’t might admitting goosebumps scuttle down my spine. It’s creepy as.

As part of his Sweden crash course that weekend he and Catriona came down, Mattias explained that Swedes celebrate the old pagan festivals – Christmas is called Jul (pronounced Yule), and Valborg and Midsummer are huge deals. There is something a bit Druid-y about the affair below, but what they’re celebrating in the middle of October I don’t know. Early Hallow’een? It could be some kind of candlelit vigil.

Just as I’m about to Google ‘creepy pagan celebrations Sweden October,’ there’s a yell from below, and even before I see the person who comes charging out of the building, I recognise her voice. It’s the American. Paisley. She’s demanding how they got in, roaring at them that they’re morbid and creeps and telling them to fuck off before she calls the police.

Well this just got interesting.

The Druidy folk are scattering, most of them dashing for the door. Even from the tops of their heads I can tell they’re a bit abashed. But one of them, his hood has slipped down and I can just see he’s a gangly teenager, white blond hair in a ponytail, that stage of adolescence when your limbs have kind of outgrown themselves. He’s facing up to the American (brave kid) though annoyingly, I can’t make out his soft voice. I can hear hers clear enough.

“None of this will bring him back. Fuck off and die all of you.”

On the last word, her voice breaks a bit, and I’m horrified to realise that she’s crying. Feeling like a voyeur, I shut and lock the balcony door and come back to the table.

None of this will bring who back?



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