Albert was one of the ‘trainees’ from the residential home. It was referred to as ‘the hostel’, although for security, residents were taught to give their address as ‘100 Brechin Avenue’, not ‘Brechin Hostel’.
Most of the hostel residents took a bus that headed first into town and than back out again on another diagonal to the Centre, but Albert preferred Shanks’ pony. He didn’t follow the bus route, but took a direct line along the third side of the triangle, and although it was still a good half-hour’s walk, he never missed, rain, shine, or snow. We worried when it was snow.
“Why don’t you get the bus, Albert?”
He certainly did. Albert also went for a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon ‘daunder’, always round the same pattern of streets, and then he walked home in the evenings. I often bumped into Albert stotting round town at the weekend as well, small and skinny, and walking rather like Charlie Chaplin, if you can imagine Charlie Chaplin in a flat cap, a knee-length straight coat, and drainpipe trousers.
Albert was a man of many steps, but few words. When he did talk, though, his speech was full of cherishable phrases.
“You off on your walk, then, Albert?”
“W-workin’ on m-ma phys-eek.”
“Physique, is it? C’mon, let’s see who’s got the best legs.”
“Hah! M-ma b-budgie’s got better l-legs than th-that.”
“Cheek! What about so-and-so, then? There’s a fine shapely pair o’ legs for you.”
“They l-legs’d b-break the hairt o’ a ch-cheeny d-dug. “
Or he would break into song:
“La donna è mobile
Yir legs are wobble-éy
Nae blimmin’ wonder
Look whit they’re under…”
Like many people with a stammer, Albert did not falter when he was singing.
If all else failed, and he felt that he was being held up for too long, Albert would fall back on his ultimate conversation-stopper, his verbal Kryptonite.
“Ach, a-awa’ an’ r-raffle yersel’!”
Then, having delivered his put-down with a triumphant grin, he would button his coat, tie his muffler round his neck, settle his cap on his head, and stot off again.