Rain at first, high expected

I’m perfect, you’re perfect, everyone’s perfect, but are we allowed to talk about the past? Will people get angry?

Govanhill is better than it was because when it was bad it was worse, much worse.

The brutalised streets and closed curtains. The soul-crushing air of decay. No getting away from it.

The only music the noise from outside. No pavement but someone else’s dustbin. No colour but a palette of debris and half-eaten food.

Some guy won a tenner at the bookies and bought six bottles of cider and went with his cousin and five mates to stand in front of the two-bedroom flat he shares with his wife, her mother, three sisters, four kids and his uncle who didn’t want to stay at home alone while his whole family came to our street to shout and curse from now until the end of time.

Just as our grandparents did.

But things change.

Now the crowd outside is of hipper people, desperate for a piece of the action over at my place, chez moi, party central, where it’s all happening.

Colouring-in, mindfulness, changemaking. Content creation and editorial support for online brand partnerships and corporate in-house publications.

But things don’t change.

Dear old Glasgow tenements and their back courts, in the1930s, the1970s, this year and next, dancing with rats in the bin sheds.

But we know Govanhill is always still in there, with its jolly wee coupon, salty characters, colourful clothes.

Some say you are whatever we want you to be because you only really exist in our heads. Others say, fancy a pint?


I am not a clown, I just have big feet

Mural of a person with a box for a head,  with the words 'And indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition'

Writers, and the hats they like to wear.

Maybe their nappers are bulging with so many literary fireworks they need a bunnet to keep it all in.

James Kelman or Tom Leonard never wore a fedora hat

Great writers don’t need fripperies. Neither does Govanhill.

We wear enough uniforms. Football fans, commuters, clubbers. Creatives, wind talkers, fanny dancers.

Tech overlords like Mark Zuckerberg or Alan Sugar with their jeans and plain T-shirts.

This old thing? I just threw it on.

Aye right.

Or hipster beard trauma, shapeless shapes and mankles turn-ups hell.

Maybe I should start wearing a hat.

One of those branded Govanhill bobble hats from that wee place at Shawlands Cross.

Or a big enormous Velcro hat, a massive thing where I can stick ten cans, a packet of fags, sandwiches, post-it notes, to-do lists.

Pick up dry-cleaning. Buy avocadoes. Finish writing searing indictment of modern capitalism-slash-great Scottish novel.

Anyway, calm doon. Don’t want to be splattered all over Annette Street because I burst with frustration at minor pretentious antics.

Maybe I should write about it instead. Spark the imagination, get the juices flowing.

Put on my writer’s shoes, big red clown shoes, size 18s that make farting noises when I walk.

It’s in my nature, and everything has to be true to its nature.

Cheers, Govanhill.

Why is the devil driving a speedboat?

People sometimes ask what gives me the right to talk shite about Govanhill and I’m like shut it, right.

Then they’re like got any advice for a new blogger and I’m like thanks for asking dude.

It’s all about the start-up.

Get your marketing and social media strategy right.

Then just talk to strangers at the bus stop and in the pub.

Also, try not to get yourself banned by a popular local facebook group.

I set myself a target of as many followers as Jesus, or Kim Kardashian, or Govanhill Go.

But I got stuck on 666 instead.

That’s when the devil drove by in his speedboat.

All right my son.

And I was like whooooa goat face, idiot horns, you must be the prince of darkness and he’s like yes I am Lucifer, I will lead you into temptation and I said I’m tempted to knock you out, how about that?

So that sponsorship deal fell through.

Then there’s your advertisers.

Those global brands want a piece of your ass.

A Nike executive chased me along Bowman Street waving a contract above his head.

Okay, all you can eat at Anarkali and ten per cent off at Locavore, that’s our final offer.

Even Jeff Bezos, bless him, from Amazon, came with Alexa and got me drunk in the Penny Farthing and pestered me for a Kindle version of the blog.

I was like grow up Jeffy-boy and tell me again how a Saudi prince broke into your gaff and rearranged all your furniture.

He said there’s a special place in hell for bloggers like you and I said I know, mate.

Cheers, Govanhill.

Thou shalt be fond of the bevvy

Global brands, our pathway to a higher world.

Coca Cola, obviously. Apple, too. Google, Amazon, Poundland.

They know more about you than you do yourself. Especially the cashier at Poundland. 

Then there are brands that are your friends.

Celtic. Radio 4. Govanhill.

They speak to you, understand you, know what you want. 

And there’s the I Belong to Glasgow brand.

Old mean city, united by football, thriving razor scene. Tough, sassy, salt of the earth.

Tenement life, tight-knit community, doors always open, poor but happy. Yer maw, a jeely piece, the backcourt.

No dull nostalgia or sentimental gushing here. No sweetie wrappers or kids’ comics or Chopper bikes.

Just satanic closes, whole blocks boarded up, evil dereliction, pouring rain. Sword fights, brutal police vans and the busiest courts in Europe.

But wait.

Escaped its industrial, violent past. Reinvented itself with nightlife and galleries and Britain’s best designer shopping outside London.

And the Duke of Wellington, the traffic cone, a wacky and enduring symbol of our irreverent sense of humour.  

But wait.

Vegan food, green space, cheap rent, creative scene. Online start-ups, hip new festivals, east end, south side, merchant city.

But wait.

Smart arse alcoholic maniac thieves. Black teeth, chip fat, quick to take offence and start fights then fall over.

Our brand name is hinterland here.

Stay angry, be poor, sit down, drink up, smoke more and above all remember to die before you’re old.

Glasgow belongs to me. Cheers.

Nostrils on fire

So I went for a haircut and ended up in a ball of flame but in a good way.

It’s one of the things that make Govanhill, on the south side of Glasgow, Scotland’s most diverse neighbourhood, such a vibrant place to live.

Walk in, sit down, strap in, here we go, ten in a row.

What will it be today, sir?

Usual please. Head torched, eyebrows burning, ears on fire, nostrils ablaze, cheeks aflame.

No problem, sir.

In some neighbourhoods, barbershops and expensive restaurants are the new heavy industry.

But this is Govanhill not Finnieston so it’s Kurdish barbers and friendly service and it’s seven quid not twenty five. The pubs are better round here too.

Snip, clip, razor and shear. Steamed and powdered and ironed.

Then it’s on with a blowtorch for the ayebrows, lawn mower the nasal hair, combine harvester on the chin, flame thrower for those difficult to reach bits around the ears.

Purified, consecrated, cleansed. Until all that’s left is a smoking pile of ashes on the chair.

Will that be all for today, sir?

Aye thanks yes please fine good great mate bye.

Govanhill’s next superhero will be wearing that cape one day.

Cheers, Kurdistan.

We will always have Daisy Street

Road sign with Govanhill, Mount Florida and Cathcart on it

We all love a referendum. Up or down, heads or tails, Special Brew or Super Lager. Binary choice and that.

So good luck to our British neighbours as they leave the Uefa Cup, or Europa League as it is now.   

Glad it’s all working out for them, especially since Scotland became independent after the landslide nearly vote in 2014.

Maybe now it’s time for Govanhill to declare independence.

The community council could impose the dictatorship of the proletariat while we hold a consultation on socialising the means of production and abolishing the hereditary SNP monarchy.

I Love Govanhill facebook group could be our new BBC, and we already have our own university-slash-library.

Royal Bank of Allison Street, Govanhill Baths ministry of culture, you can see where this is going.

It’s a big step, but we’ll be fine. We just have to believe in ourselves. Keep that positive, can-do attitude.

But would it mean a hard border with Pollokshields? Passport controls at Queen’s Drive, Cathcart Road, Pollokshaws Road and Butterbiggins Road?

Just don’t get Rab fae Torrisdale Street involved. He still owes big Malky and ye don’t want him oan yer tail when you’re trying to negotiate a customs union with Shawlands and Langside.

Especially when we no longer recognise Mount Florida as the highest peak in the south side.

Anyway. Friendship treaty with Rutherglen, non-aggression pact with Pollok, entente cordiale with the Gorbals and Castlemilk.

Leave Eglinton Toll as is. Uninhabitable, post-apocalyptic barren landscape.

Let Aikenhead Road worry about Polmadie and if Battlefield start to get wide we’ll set Toryglen on their ass.

Cheers Govanhill.

Rolled-up newspaper of death

photo of a neon sign which says 'we are 11 million' with industrial building in the background

Positive thinking, constructive endeavours, sustainable food, glittering future.

I know.

Cockroaches, though.

Laying siege to the flat from behind the walls and that crack in the floorboards.

They’re not cuddly, like mice. Mice are friendly, wise-cracking, often just trying to look out for their wife and kids, yeah?

Cockroaches, though.

Vast numbers, 200 million years of experience, seeping from the woodwork around midnight, the cockroach hour.

Crawling across the ceiling, stopping only to look down at you and laugh.

I will go wherever I want and you ain’t going to stop me, you big quivering jessie.

You shape to crush them with your rolled-up newspaper of death but they drop the shoulder, throw you a dummy, and they’re gone, the wee bastards.

Anyway. Keep it light, Govanhill.

People don’t want to read this kind of thing. Why the negativity and the scare-mongering? What’s the point?

True, I suppose. Must try harder.

Could start pretending this isn’t where I live. That might work. Or that it’s not raining outside. Even better. Or that my bathroom didn’t have ice in the toilet bowl last winter. That would cheer me right up.

Maybe, if I close my eyes for long enough, I might imagine being able to afford to shop at Govanhill’s favourite grocery store. Imagine the generous welcome, the humble and inclusive attitude.

This is a local shop for non-local people.

There’s nothing for you here.

Cheers, Royston. Vaisey.