Like Govanhill, but without the branding

Scary trees beside the pond in Queen's Park

Keep going up Victoria Road, through Queen’s Park, straight across, past the ice cream van and the band stand and the pitch n putt, the boating pond and the tennis courts and the botanic gardens.

You’ll notice a change in the geography and the climate, how people talk differently and have their own customs and traditions.

Do not be alarmed. This is the notorious Langside-slash-Battlefield, the dangerously prosperous and leafy badlands.

Handsome tenements, flowering trees, quirky boutique shops.

They speak fewer languages, make much less noise and there aren’t that many pubs.

You may feel a bit disorientated. And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?  

Head to Young’s Interesting Books, just beyond the park, into Shawlands. You’ll find sanctuary there, time to pause, take stock, browse a little, maybe come away with a rare James Kelman first edition.

Then take a deep breath, step outside, put one foot in front of the other and you’re off, straight on, through the park, heid doon, trap shut, ten-minutes, job done, nae bother.

photo of rubbish in the street in Govanhill

Ah, home at last.


Brammers and bodyswervers

Allison Street in Govanhill, densely-populated, tenement city

I like the internationalist bus stops, whole families browsing in charity shops, the butchers and the greengrocers and all day Saturday along Victoria Road.

I like the chaos of Westmoreland Street, the darkness of Allison Street, narrow and crowded and noisy.

You lose your bearings, forget where you are, don’t recognise the places around you.

Boarded up closes, people at street corners, black Alsatian dogs.

Ooh, it didn’t used to be like this.

Glasgow was always that way. A malevolent city, bitterly cold, stricken by violence and the gruesome humiliations of poverty.

The black smokers of Rotting Row, the rattling junkies in sportswear, the chip pan fires and fatal stabbings.

Maryhill, Tollcross, the Garngad. Kinning Park, Whiteinch, Pollokshaws.

Brammers, bodyswervers, nervous wrecks and clatty bastards.

The blisters, the plukes and the haemorrhoids. Lambhill. Woodside. Kennishead.

Things weren’t better in the old days.

I was there.

I was always there.

It’s all the same.

Cheers, and nae luck, Govanhill.

The one where I punch Chandler in the face

A cooker in the building, which I pretended to use for a barbecue for my hipster friends

So I invited some friends round for a barbecue. Ross, Rachel, the whole gang.

What a fascinating bunch they are, my pals. They are architects or freelance graphic designers or work in marketing. One has an online cupcake business, another runs regular spoon carving workshops.

One of them, God forbid, is a blogger. The rest are changemakers and upcyclists.

They’re contractors, digital nomads even, so they cycle crosstown every morning to their co-working space where they stare into their laptops, maybe grab an Uber Eats for lunch, while devising unexpected solutions to creative challenges.

At the end of the working day they go home and lie down and close their eyes and start banging their heads on the floor and crying uncontrollably until they fall asleep.

But the barbecue went well.

After the cauliflower waffles and pulled jackfruit I drank ten cans and passed out next to a bin bag on the stairs.

Woke up the next morning and started wondering what it would take to become a better person.

I hope it’s jojoba

The wall of a garage in Govanhill. It says 'bodyshop' in spray paint, I'm pretending it's a branch of the Body Shop because I'm trying to be funny....

Great to see a new branch of the Body Shop opening in Govanhill.

At last, seaweed oil aqua boost overnight serum whenever I need it, which is often.

Other vast transnational conglomerates with terrifying economic power recently based their call centres here in Glasgow.

They appreciated our soothing, approachable, non-threatening Scotch tones.

We don’t make things any more, but at least we have a weird way of talking.

Cheers British empire, rapid industrialisation followed by the wholesale destruction of manufacturing as part of the disastrous neo-liberal late twentieth century experiment.

All you’ve left us with is our distinctive accent.

It’s all so vibrant, by the way, how us locals speak.

We are so gallus, ya eejit.

Aye, the Scottish accent is sexy, isn’t it, as long as you don’t mind the alcoholism and psychosis that usually go with.

Oh look, a drunk man puking on his shoes.

Must have put that shea nourishing body butter on his pieces.

Cheers, bamboo charcoal water lotus shower gel.

Billy and his mates go for a kickabout at Queen’s Park recs

Billy McNeill, Celtic Lisbon Lions, European Cup Final, 1967,

Within a few blocks in Govanhill are the Victoria Bar, McNeill’s and the Queen’s Park Café, all pubs once owned by former Celtic players.

The Green Mile it was called, back in the day, not that long ago.

Fearsome left back Jim Brogan at one end, chunky bubble permed Benny Rooney at the other, and in between is Billy McNeill.

Yes, really. It’s Billy McNeill. Cesar. And not only is he pouring you a pint but he’s asking if you were at the game, lads, and you’re awestruck and you almost reply, yes sir, because it’s Billy McNeill, it’s really him, and you’re in his pub and he’s handing you a drink and smiling at you. It’s Billy McNeill.

Here’s Billy leading some of his mates out for a kickabout at Queen’s Park recs.

Emerald green is God’s favourite colour, and that’s a scientific fact.

The mythical origins, the noble traditions, the legendary commitment to truth and beauty.

Nae luck, supporters of any other team.

Cheers, greatest love story in football.

Why Govanhill is just like Hamburg

St Pauli sticker, pirate, in Govanhill

Govanhill is a tourist hot spot with supporters of St Pauli, a football team from Hamburg with a long history of radical players and anarchist fans, squatters, activists, socialists, nutters.

st pauli sticker collage, chucky, cantona, garfield, in govanhill

You see these stickers all over Govanhill, on lamp posts and litter bins and street signs and bus stops.

You can follow the trail all the way down to the Gorbals and into town.

It’s a bit like the West Highland Way, but without the joyless mountaineers from Kent in their Gore-Tex scanties.

st pauli sticker collage, glasgow emblem and che guevara

Went with my brother to see St Pauli against Dortmund a few years ago.

He wore the new away top, I was in the early 80s home strip, all Dom Sullivan, George McCluskey and Danny McGrain.

Foaming pilsner lager, the Reeperbahn, skull and cross bones, anti-fascism, punk girls and fanzines and rebel songs. Best fans in Deutschland.

Standing on terraces in a cage drinking beer. Now that’s what I call football.

Cheers, St Pauli. You remind me of home.

Footprints in the butter

a collage of mice, all over the flat

Mice. Twice. Wee bastards.

Mice keep happening, in the kitchen, on the surfaces, on the floor, terrorising me.

I feel invaded, violated, also a bit bloated because I’m still carrying a little holiday weight right now.

Did they come through the ceiling? They’re like uninvited guests who drink all your bevvy and empty your fridge and just won’t leave.

Wee sleekit bastards.

What’s next, eating my porridge, sleeping in my bed, wearing my clothes, turning up at work pretending to be me, doing a better job than me, getting a pay rise ahead of me?

Wee cowerin bastards.

So I asked Saint Google what to do. Old-fashioned traps with peanut butter are best. Nae luck, vegans.

Also read about a plug-in device which emits an excruciating noise for mice, a bit like listening to the Proclaimers at top volume. Or the Beatles.

Whoah, steady on. Only joking there. Not slagging off the Beatles. Course not. No way. Macca, John and that. Great bunch of lads. Really good at what they do.

Sorry, what was I talking about again?

Aye, mice. Wee bastards.

At least they’re not cockroaches.


What am I, a schmuck on wheels?

a buzzer with a sweary word - bullshit - on it

Words are important, and so is language.

My online dating profile, for example. It’s clear what I mean when I use certain words.

Vibrant (won’t shut up), sociable (alcoholic), cheerful (obese).

Sometimes, though, one disnae understand one’s ain language.

You know what I’m talking about, you reinventors and imaginators of the future. You and your secret codes and special information of provenance and purpose and community.

Stop making up names to make yourself look creative.

They are not crofts, they are allotments.

It’s not bone broth, it’s soup.

One feels excluded in one’s ain midden.

Some might admire your chutzpah, but it’s not Yiddish, so enough already.

You must think I’m a putz, a klutz or a schmuck.

Words are all we have. You may be doers and creators who re-think conventional wisdom, but stop adding beetroot to coffee to make yourself look good.

It’s all shite.

And I mean shite as in utter pish.

At least I don’t have a ponytail

Queens Cafe on Victoria Road, Govanhill, where a bbc4 documentary on primal scream was filmed.

Sat in the flat the other night watching a BBC4 documentary about the Byzantine empire. Or was it astronomy? Might have been about trains or something. And there was probably a guy with a ponytail in a recording studio.

But then this place, the Queens Café on Victoria Road, showed up in the next programme, about Primal Scream.

Bobby Gillespie grew up in the south side and here he was having a conversation with pop Svengali Alan McGee in this very café.

Got bored with what they were talking about, started thinking about the café instead, old fashioned décor, delicious coffee, best ice cream in the city, yum.

Like most rock stars, all Bobby Gillespie really has is his hair.

Me, I have the hair of a total bastard.