You is from around here

drawing of a building with lots of faces at lots of windows

We live in the city, an inner city, hundreds, thousands of us sitting on top of one another in tall buildings.

Tenement life, all colour and noise and constantly moving.

Tracey, daft bastard, arguing with her neighbours every day before she tried to torch her flat that time.

Or those two Romanian women in my street, screaming at each other up and down the pavement.

I’d love to mind my own business pal, but you won’t let me.

Can’t breathe, can’t concentrate, too many people, leave me alone.

But where else can you get Chinese food at 4am? Or visit the theatre, the opera, museums and galleries, concert halls, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas, as we all do.

Sometimes the noise is reassuring. The sound of the traffic, an argument next door. It means I’m at home, means I belong.

The pubs where they know your name, if you’re going to the game at the weekend, or watching it in here, or round a mate’s house instead because at least there you can see what’s happening, can’t you, concentrate on the match without the jostling and the drunks.

Or the corner shop, where you pop in for milk or fresh rolls, and if it’s late in the day and they’re no longer so fresh then he’ll give you them for free because who’s going to buy yesterday’s rolls tomorrow?

So don’t worry, we know who you are, you have nothing to prove. 

Usual please cheers Govanhill.

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Thou shalt buy thy round

Photo of the mural at the Clutha bar, with Glasgow people including Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Billy Connolly, Alex Harvey, Gerry Rafferty and Frankie Miller

What makes Govanhill unique is being part of Glasgow.

Same with Oatlands, Easterhouse and Blairdardie.

The best thing about them all is the city they’re attached to.

Glasgow’s like an independent city state and I’m like a partisan. Cheers, Ruchazie. Cheers, Barmulloch. Cheers, Partick Cross. You too, Govanhill.

The great villages of Glasgow and the grand thoroughfares that run through them.

Victoria Road, Alexandra Parade, Paisley Road West, Duke Street.

Unmissable day trips on your doorstep. 

The art deco cinemas and Victorian burgh halls, municipal parks and swimming baths. And public libraries too, havens for self-educated men and women, a place of silence away from the noise and the clutter of the house.

These great villages had their own football teams, Benburb, St Anthony’s, St Roch’s. Sometimes their own newspapers, Springburn Herald, Govan Press, Rutherglen Reformer.

The same rows of boutique shops, cafes and bars and diverse populations, just like Govanhill.

Indian and Pakistani in Ibrox and Pollokshields, Irish in the Gorbals and the Garngad, Italians in Dennistoun and Yoker, Chinese in Garnethill.

And the people. Salt of the earth, rough diamonds, cracking jokes singing songs, ready to pick a fight at a moment’s notice.

And our most important commandment.

Thou shalt buy thy round.

So cheers, mother Glasgow. And welcome home, Govanhill.

Coconut water will save us

Close-up photo of red apples outside a fruit shop

We knew nothing about food, until recently.

We didn’t grow up on porridge or lentil soup, or barley or butterbeans.

Or uncle Frank’s root vegetables from his allotment down by the old dry docks, you know, next to the motorway flyover.

We didn’t have delis or grocers which sold cereals and pulses and grains, or milk in bottles or bread in paper bags from the local bakery.

We cycled because it was cheaper than the bus, recycled because we couldn’t afford to buy new.

I mean, I wore my sister’s hand-me-down shoes for two years at primary school.

Of course I didn’t. But my brother did.

We didn’t even understand that roll-ups were just organic cigarettes.

We have no memory of the past. Job security, trade unions, collective bargaining, social contract, welfare state.

We didn’t know anything about radicalism either, so thanks for inventing that too.

Now we have vintage emporiums instead of tacky second hand shops. Thank goodness that old army coat is thirty quid instead of forty pence like it used to be.

And now we can pay six pounds for a schooner of piss-poor craft ale instead of three for a pint of foaming Czech lager.

Vinyl, video tapes, board games. Feels like we’ve been here before.

All we need now is a future we can survive.

Fingers crossed, Govanhill.

Half a person, or less

photo of bare branches of a tree against a blue sky

So I had an argument in the street.

I know, I know. Mindfulness, compassion, zen-like calm.

But it’s easy to get wound up round here. And some people have too much to prove.

You know what it’s like, coming home from work, where you don’t matter and no one listens, and now there’s a chance to have power and influence and bend people towards your will.

A guy dumped a black bag on the pavement in front of me and I asked if he’d like me to come and leave my rubbish outside his house.

He called me a name and I told him go away.

Then I described him as something and he told me to push off.

He took a step towards me and I took a step towards him and there we both stood.

It’s a long moment, isn’t it? Don’t want to back down. Don’t want to brawl in the street in your work suit either.

But he knew and I knew and you know that when nothing happens in the first two seconds then nothing’s going to happen at all.

So after a bit more gazing into one another’s eyes and some more muttering I went home and sat on the couch and had a few cans and woke up the next morning a man’s man, a real man, half a person, or less.

Wonder what happened to the bin bag. Cheers, him. Cheers, me.

Magical safe space where people gather, share tables, break bread

Photo of the sign outside the McDonalds in Govanhill

Lots of breakfast options in Govanhill. Greasy spoon, avocado, eggs benedict, tea and toast.

So I went to McDonalds. Sorry, diversity. Sorry, idiosyncrasy. Sorry, human nature. Too tired to protect myself.

I’d been to a McDonalds before, years ago, in town, after work, lining my stomach before meeting the lads to watch the football down the pub. European tie, early rounds, solid away win.

The McDonalds in Govanhill sits next to KFC and right between two primary schools, including Hutchie grammar for young princesses, no less.

Felt like I was on holiday. Eating out for breakfast, bright sunshine, wearing the stupid T shirt I bought for going to the beach that time.

Familiar, invisible, open 24 hours, machines doing most of the work. Could be anywhere. Argentina, Tennessee, Helsinki, Cumbernauld.

Same brown almost food. Same salt and fat and sugar. Same corporate graffiti outside and minimalist decor inside.

Same customers eating in the same silence, celebrating our common humanity and shared self-destruction.

Cheers, devastating environmental impact, mind blowing ubiquity, global obesity, insufferable marketing.

Bacon rolls and coffee no worse than anywhere else.

I am not from here, or there, but nowhere.

I will come again.

Ye dancin, Balornock?

Photo of a Glasgow tenement at night

Driving through Tollcross, I think it was. After Parkhead anyway. Towards Sandyhills but well before Baillieston. Close to Springboig though not as far as Garrowhill. Might have been Shettleston, come to think of it.

Anyway. A long row of sturdy tenements gently curving in the sunshine. Bay windows, high ceilings, wooden floors. East end, a happy place, a Glasgow place.

I’ve always admired Drumchapel, Cessnock has its charms, and Castlemilk is a mighty fine place to be. Same with Knightswood and Milton and Scotstounhill. And who among us isn’t secretly in love with Balornock?

But sorry, troops. It’s Govanhill for me. Isn’t it?

Yes. Every corner an adventure. Rag tag chaos and overflowing madness. The country’s most international. Chip shops and bottle shops and the sound of a drill demolishing a wall. Dizzying, you might say.

And these new cycle lanes. At last, people round here have something to complain about.

Not forgetting those 42 modern, spacious, energy-efficient homes for social rent on a former derelict site at the corner of Victoria Road and Butterbiggins Road which help increase the supply of much-needed affordable housing across the city.

So it’s Govanhill for me. It must be.

And did I mention the lychees?

Too right, fanny baws

Photo of two Glasgow double decker buses on the road

The Glasgow punters and the legendary native wit.

Too right, fanny baws.

Raucous but intelligent, spontaneous and earthy, drawing on a bipolar linguistic continuum including west central Scots and Hiberno-English, isn’t it?

Pure pish, ya fud.

Our distinctive vernacular is so vibrant, by the way. You hear it in pubs, on the street, in football stadiums, in former industrial heartlands and demolished tenements, but not in joyless cafe bars selling cocktails for twelve quid.

You find it on buses most of all. The banter with the passengers, the chit-chat and the patter, pound for pound it’s the funniest on four wheels.  

Better than drinking beer on the disco bus in Germany, or those five days spent sitting beside a cow on the seat in India. Pure gallus, so it is.

The woman with the shopping bags asking if she can sit on the driver’s knee.

The drunks who climb on and ask for two pints of heavy.

The three New Zealand girls and the driver trying to guess where they’re from.

America?

No.

Australia?

Nah.

South Africa?

Nope. Here’s a clue. It’s as far away from here as you can get.

What, Eastwood Toll?