Red wine, tonic wine, or a classy drink like sherry

Close up photo of a bottle of Buckfast tonic wine, on a window ledge with tenements in the background

Govanhill wants me be a better person. Jesus does too, probably.

Make the change, be the change, spare some change.

Be less like myself, that’s what to do.

I could cut back on things, that’s always a good start.

Drinking? Grow up. Smoking? Aye, right. Internet? No way. Swearing? Push off. Blogging? You wish. Women? I wish.

Doesn’t leave much, does it. That’s all my bad habits right there.

Need to start somewhere, I suppose. I could promise not to hang wet clothes on traffic lights. Try not to wear slippers made out of pet hamsters. Stop injecting crystal meth into my eyeballs.

But I’ve never done any of those things so it would be too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel. I could stop shooting fish in a barrel.

I should take up new hobbies, that’s it. Drink more wine perhaps, red wine, tonic wine, or a classy drink, like sherry.

Discover the new me, a fresh I, a rip-roaring, revved-up re-imagined me on an ever-improving quest for non-stop perfection, a glittering, hollow-eyed example to the rest of the universe, yeah?

Aye. Let you know, Govanhill.


Years later, here we are

Photo of the city centre in the evening, with people going home from work

I have a job, a steady job, as a slave, a wage slave.

Before that I had other jobs, sometimes none at all.

Every day we clock in, walk through, open plan, nowhere to hide. In the mirrored lift we’re left staring at ourselves stretching into infinity.

I complete tasks in a certain order and in a certain length of time. When I finish with this here I fill in doing that there.

Sandwich gridlocked at your desk, cigarette break next to the weeds outside.

Here we are, years later, still there, every day, what a place, oh no, same seat, same hair, same coffee, first thing, every morning.

Nothing ever changes, ever. Nothing.

Every morning, first thing, same coffee, same hair, same seat, oh no, what a place, every day, still there, years later, here we are.

The specific form of labour characteristic of bourgeois society, wage labour, corresponds to the most profound form of alienation.

But at least we get to wear jeans on a Friday.

Cheers, historical materialism.

Paris, Berlin, Auchenshuggle, Carntyne

Photo of an abandoned, rusting ship

Sometimes I wish I had enough money to afford a better flat, in a nicer part of town. Milton, Possil, Wine Alley.

Maybe buy a car, or a bike, some electronic devices or nice clothes.

I could do with a holiday too, a few days away, long weekend, city break. Paris, Berlin, Coatbridge, Merrylee.

Do me good, give me time off from sitting in a room with nothing to think but my thoughts.

Maybe book a wee cruise round the pond in Queen’s Park.

Get my inoculations beforehand, obviously. Anti-melancholia pills, anti-sleeping tablets for when it gets too rowdy.

Buy my holiday gear too. Flip flops, shades, fur coat and nae knickers.

Learn a few stock phrases to get by. Do you sell super lager? Why is it all so quiet? When’s the next bus home?

Watch out though, north Atlantic, icy depths, ducks or not.

Mainly fair, more or less. Occasional rising, miles ahead. Decreasing slowly, slight rain. Showers later, except good. Body variable. Becoming cyclonic.

Cheers, recent reports from weather stations.

That water reaches almost to my knees.

Refugees welcome here

Photo of two guys with  their trousers well above the ankles

They come here for a better life, with their exotic languages and distinctive customs.

The noise is unbearable. Quiet discussions about vegan sausage rolls, knitting all through the night, putting the kettle on.

And their dogs, Jeez, tiny things with their invisible shits and silent barking and nosing around clean carpets all day.

They look different too. Ironic moustaches, beards they’re too young for, hanging around street corners in big shapeless coats and pointy woolly hats waiting to nick slates off the roof for dinner plates.

Or foraging for food in the back courts, tearing open bin bags. Please, leave our truffles alone.

Crowds of them picked up near the supermarket every morning and driven to work in fruit farms, meat processing factories and distribution warehouses in Midlothian, Inverclyde and North Lanarkshire.

I try to curate my life too. The right, sustainably sourced brand of cockroach (German), the proper levels of dust in the flat, and if the music upstairs doesn’t kick off at midnight and last until 4am then I will not be happy.

I guess I just like nice things.

Fat bluebottles vibrating round the room

some pot plants in the flat, withered and dying

Plants keep me cool in the flat and they don’t mind if I smoke.

Cactus, cheese, rubber, spider, succulent, savoury, salt, vinegar, sweet and sour, lemon and lime.

I treat them all the same. Put near window and forget to water. The leaves go brown. I give them a drink, apologise, murmuring softly. Not all the time, sure. That would be weird.

The plants attract flies, lots of them. Wee tiny fruit flies that hover round the bin for a day. Other ones which grow into fat bluebottles vibrating round the room, banging their heads against the window.

I keep the window open so they can fly away but they never do. They must like it here, it must feel like home, with the tobacco haze and the rotting food.

The plants will die eventually but I’ll put that day off as long as possible, do what I can to keep them healthy, keep them flowering and blossoming and free of aphids.

It’s like a metaphor, I suppose, for my own life.

Keep breathing at all costs. Do everything I can not to lose the will to live. Ensure proper drainage and ventilation.

Anybody got any quinoa?

Everyone has fewer teeth

The names of Glasgow neighbourhoods written in colour

We grew with up the mysterious numbers and exotic destinations of Glasgow Corporation buses.

The secret shorthand of the 53 to Shieldhall, the 74 to Springboig, the strange 96 to Oatlands.

When we were young everything was green, from the smooth leather seats to the conductor’s uniform.

The 17 to Mount Vernon, the 35 to Blairdardie, the orange 68 that went past Cranhill.

We went everywhere on the bus, to school, into town, to visit family in Bishopbriggs, St George’s Cross or Priesthill, or to the swimming baths, or maybe Celtic Park if we were lucky.

Those wheels could take you anywhere you wanted, anywhere in the world.

Some cosmopolitan double-deckers traverse the better parts of the south side to colleges and universities in the west end. Comfortable, sophisticated, almost middle class.

Other tiny cramped ones rattle in cold and empty from Darnley, Cardonald or King’s Park. The driver might have a radio on and chat to the passengers, but everyone has fewer teeth and the suspension is terrible.

The 81 to Keppochill, the 29 to Riddrievale, 44 and 62 and Charing Cross and the Gallowgate.

Cheers, great villages of Glasgow. And you, Govanhill.

Disgraceful scenes in Govanhill

a very nice and clean back court in Govanhill

Look at this backcourt. Appalling.

Where are the used nappies, the blood-stained carpets and dead rats? Disgraceful.

Neatly-trimmed grass, clean pathways, tidy bins. Don’t these people know we have a reputation to uphold?

These are supposed to be the worst streets in Scotland, a slum, a ghetto, Ground Zero.

It’s what we’re famous for. It’s who we are.

I hope someone is bringing this to the First Minister’s attention.

Away talking about indyref and Brexit with her sonsie pals when she should be on her hands and knees feeding the mice in my kitchen.

Let’s get some time in the diary to discuss, Nicola.

Really, there’s no way we’ll reach our performance targets at this rate.

Thinking of organising a litter dump, a wee day out, volunteers in hi-vis leaving crisp pokes and takeaways, bin bags and empty cans of Special Brew lying around, yeah?

We need to protect our brand identity and remember our key messages here.

Cheers, Govanhell.

The stick thin God of second hand shoes

Photo of a church and a synagogue in Govanhill

Govanhill has many religious shrines, befitting an area with such an ancient history.

Garturk Street was first settled by the Aztecs, later the Incas, then the Mayans. Or was it the other way around?

Before that, there were Roman legionnaires and Pictish warriors in Annette Street, and before them, orcs and dragons and elves in Butterbiggins Road.

See? We’re all immigrants here.

Ye canny help thinking about God strolling past these religious monuments, especially on a Sunday. Maybe the devil sometimes too.

God might be absolute and infinite, eternal and incomprehensible, all-powerful and always present, an infinite sphere the centre of which is everywhere the circumference nowhere.

But where is the stick-thin God of broken teeth and trackie bottoms, of second hand shoes and supermarket own-brand sherry?

The God of soup kitchens and locked wards and prison cells.

Cheers, object of worship, supernatural being, transcendent and all-powerful in the cosmos in your relationship to it as creator.

As for the so-called devil, with his stupid goat face and idiot’s horns.

Ooh, I will lead you into temptation.

I’m tempted to knock you out. How about that Lucifer, ya fanny.

Good night and God bless, Govanhill.

Always the same, always changing

bricks in a wall, in a weird shape, like a wall within a wall

This place is a bakery but it used to be a pub.

Or was it a barber shop, and before that a launderette?

Maybe these days it’s a pub again, empty, card-only and selling schooners, not pints.

It’s hard to keep up.

I remember watching a football match on TV there one time with my brother.

Some team won and some team lost, blah blah blah, yada yada yada.

We both got pished and he went home and I lay down on the grass opposite, now a block of flats, eating a Chinese takeaway from next door, now a charity shop.

Or did he go for a haircut and I bought a loaf of bread?

I just don’t know any more.

Businesses close, pubs change hands, it’s easy to reminisce.

Boozy nights, drunken kissing, chicken fried rice for a fiver. 

Places grow old and die, just like buildings, even Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings.

Always the good times, memories from the old days. Someone else’s past, a revolving past, always the same and always changing, before this Scotland and this Govanhill were ever invented.