The Barras <<
In a way, this week’s pairing is one not only that of our subjects, but also one which conjures the old rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow. While not wishing to suggest the distance between them is identical to that between the two cities, it is an indication of it at its most extreme – and this is Scotia Extremis after all! Jenners department store has stood proudly on the corner of Princes Street and St David Street since 1838. The haunt of Edinburgh’s ladies-of-a-certain-age – and class – it was the oldest independent department store in Scotland until sold to House of Fraser in 2005. Known as the ‘Harrods of the North’, it has held a Royal Warrant since 1911. At the other extreme, The Barras in Glasgow’s East End, is famous as the place to nab a bargain. A mixture of street markets, indoor markets, shops and pubs, just about anything can be purchased there, from antiques to a kitchen sink. Originating as a series of stances where goods were sold from handcarts, the site was formalised by the ’30s and continues to thrive to this day. Both establishments have been significant elements in their cities’ identities for over a century.
by Tessa Berring
‘Because Symbolically Women are the Support of the House’ (Charles Jenner)
When I dream about slim-line peppermints,
it is because I want to be a bird, and when
I want to be a bird, I really want to be a flock
of birds silhouetted on a tablemat, and when
my wings get sticky from ox-tongue soup
and marmalade, a hand will come to wipe
them clean with a sponge that tastes of meat.
And when I dream about meat, it is because
I want to be a woman, and when I want to be
a woman, I really want to be a woman
carved in stone, with stone bones, stone hair,
and a stone bow and arrow. And I will stand
as a buttress on the old department store,
and never doubt that I am hefty and angelic.
But when I dream about never doubting,
it is because I want to get lost, and when
I want to get lost, I really want to get lost
in a little curtained cubicle, full of coat-hangers
and clumps of dust, and squares of coloured silk.
Of course this is not glorious or realistic enough,
just as measuring spoons are not glorious enough,
and nor are faux leather pine cones, or abstract pears
on coasters. But when I dream about abstract
pears on coasters, it is because I want domestic bliss,
and when I want domestic bliss all I want
is to stop pushing cupboards against insufficient
doors, and peeling snails off pvc nasturtiums.
by A C Clarke
At the fag-end of afternoon – the sky a yawn
behind dark buildings, stalls half-dismantled –
cheap cardis, limp oversized tee-shirts
fail to convince, stage-props after the last
curtain. Under this sprawl of East End streets
the centuries jostle, stacked like pauper coffins.
Do you hear street-cries – a fish wife’s screech
out of the Briggait, a wide boy’s weegie patter,
accents from Irish to Punjabi? In the blurred light
a few late punters morph into brylcreemed hopefuls
queuing for Barrowlands, shopgirls in quest
of bargain glamour. This place trades on illusion
like Glasgow herself, raddled beauty
with Tennents breath, getting her gladrags on
for a night on the lash, a dab of fake Chanel
behind her ears, the jewels in her hair
winking so brightly that we never ask
whether they are diamond or glass.
Tessa Berring is an artist and writer based in Edinburgh. Her work centres around the phenomenology of objects and in particular how they appear at the boundaries between real and imagined spaces. Her poems have been published in a number of print and online journals including Pickled a Body and Magma, and her art practice involves a combining of text, image, and homemade objects.
A C Clarke is a poet living in Glasgow and a member of Scottish PEN. Her fourth collection, In The Margin (Cinnamon Press), came out last year and a pamphlet in collaboration with Sheila Templeton and Maggie Rabatski is due out from Tapsalteerie later this year. She is currently working on a collection about the medieval visionary Margery Kempe.