The Architect, That Author & the Lost Boy

By, Sergio Burns

Imagine the Tamla-style bass riff of the Jam’s single, ‘Town Called Malice’, starting up as he enters Mamita’s coffee shop, Bank Street, Kilmarnock. Keyboards, drums, Weller’s plaintive voice and the message. What is it? Time short, life cruel? The song set to an urgent, infectious beat like the prose in David Ross’s body of work:  The Last Days of Disco, The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas, The Man Who Loved Islands and Welcome to the Heady Heights.

We agree to meet at the cafe where Ross’s books are displayed in the window, he is obviously well-known. A couple at the front of the shop stand to greet the Glasgow-born architect and author as he walks in. They shake hands, chat, before he is also greeted by the owner, orders a cappuccino and makes his way over to me.

Later, as we shift venue and drive to his house he revealed how he almost gave up architecture while studying for his ONC (Ordinary National Certificate). ‘I got fed up with bald, humourless lecturers,’ He revealed, but did go on to graduate from Glasgow School of Art.

It was not unusual for him to be restless at this time, telling me, in an aside, that he had once made an unsuccessful application to join the RAF.

“That’s true, it could easily have just gone down a… different route,” The Kilmarnock-based author said leaning in toward me across his kitchen table. “I remember having a discussion with my then boss, who, probably, was trying to work out: ‘Look what is it you want to do with your life?’ I remember saying:
‘I don’t know. I think being an insurance salesman might be an interesting thing’. Now, anybody who now knows me and looks back at that would think : ‘What is he on? What is he talking about?’ But, it probably falls into that same category of being
a wee bit lost and being directionless, that would make me think the ‘RAF’, for Christ’s sake! Nobody would be further from the RAF poster boy than me!”

His books reflect this. Lost boys and girls seeking purpose, looking to give meaning to drifting, uncharted lives.

“I think there was a lot of us in that early 80’s context, sort of searching a wee bit for what life is going to hold for us,” Ross said thoughtfully. “You were probably on the cusp of the 70’s, where a lot of kids from a working class background, if they were lucky, followed their dad’s route into work. There is that capitalist drive to focus on the individual and not community…

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