Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Scots on the box

Sighthill Stories, BBC2 Scotland, Tuesday, 9th December 2008

Those readers who remember the good old days will recall that some years ago I wrote a feature concerning the rough treatment being meted out to asylum seekers in Sighthill. It wasn't a particularly good gag, but I tied off the story by suggesting that the "indigenous" residents wanted to move out with the asylum seekers since Sighthill was basically a collection of filing cabinets wi' windaes. Well, a few years down the road and now everyone's getting moved out.

Sighthill Stories charts the three month period leading up to the demolition of two of the last remaining tower blocks in the area. On one side of the blocks, a cemetery that has probably seen a lot of coming and going over the centuries, and to the other side of the blocks, the unprepossessing Sighthill Primary School. While nothing to look at, the school forms the safe haven for kids, dealing with various forms of dislocation and loss.

There's Jason. Jason is 12, he has Asperger's and he takes refuge against a threatening world by interpolating himself into Power Ranger stories, where a braver, more confident Jason can hold his own. Jason is due to move to the big school next year, and Jason is crapping himself.

There's Sasha. Sasha comes from a single parented family of 11 and we're led to believe that Sasha's Mum takes a drink. Sasha's best friend is Rahma, but we'll get back to her.

Dawood, recently arrived to join his Dad and brother, is from Kurdistan, this big lump of a laddie is at the primary school to improve his English.

And then there's Rahma. Rahma's family were originally from Somalia. Arriving in Glasgow, they were originally housed in Castlemilk, but as Rahma tells us in faultless Glaswegian "the flats were getting knocked doon, so they moved us tae Sighthill."

With Rahma's existing flat next on the chopping block it's left uncertain where Rahma and her family are going to end up. Somewhere in Glasgow, but will her friendship with Sasha survive the possible distances, the interminable bus-rides that are the only way poor people can get around?

The final scene of the programme shows the tower blocks coming down, the dust temporarily blanking out the headstones and statuary of the cemetery. Of course, long after fate and circumstance have dealt out the hands these kids will play in life, the cemetery will still be there. Permanence amongst the flux and change that is our lot as human beings.

My betting on the kids?

Jason and Sasha, I hope the best for, but I've a horrible feeling that life for them isn't going to be easy.

Rahma is tough, she might only be twelve but she's got an adult's head on her shoulders; I think she will endure because that's what she knows.

Dawood, unlike his Mum who talks daily of returning to Kurdistan, is going to stay in Glasgow whatever happens, "I like it here" he tells the camera, "Glasgow has been good to me."

And he has another reason for remaining, a few weeks after being reunited with his Dad, (here since 1999), his Dad died of a heart attack.

He will stay because his Dad is here.

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