Mr. Alfred is a teacher in a shit part of Glasgow, teaching (mostly) shitty kids. His one ray of hope is Rose Weipers, a female student. But his feelings for her (which are never entirely clear — is he honourable or a dirty old man?) are soon found out and his life comes crashing down around his ears.
Like Robin Jenkins was really good at doing, Friel wrote very descriptively about life in Glasgow’s less-than-prosperous areas. History tends to repeat itself, or young people with nothing to hope for all turn out the same, no matter the decade. And lots of men still spend their evenings like Mr. Alfred — drinking.
Is it a cautionary tale? I don’t know. But it’s edgier and harder than Robin Jenkins. Worth a read if you’re at all familiar with the city.