Hammerhead shark under my bed

A big hole in the ground on a building site in Govanhill

That hole in the kitchen floor is getting worse.

It just opened up one morning, like a rip in your jumper or a massive tear in the space time continuum.

All I could do was hang on and watch as my six cans disappeared down the hole.

Think the living room must have fallen down there too because I haven’t seen it in ages.

Wonder if the mice are responsible. Maybe they broke in during the night and trashed the joint, messed the place up.

If not mice it might have been ruffians, or hooligans. Or the guy on the second floor who’s trying to build a conservatory.

Or it might have been my fault.

I’ve had a skip in the living room since Christmas. A bulldozer in the back bedroom too.

Pigeons in the bathroom now. A herd of goats in the hallway. Hammerhead shark under my bed.

Maybe the flat represents my state of mind, like a metaphor or something.

Some internal refurbishment required, new boiler, full rewire, backcourt in need of an upgrade.

It’s a big ask being me. Some people hunt big game, others shoot rabbits. I chase bluebottles round the room with a rolled-up newspaper.

Cheers, Govanhole.


We’re rubbish at eating

abstract shapes in bright colours

Must be exciting for hipsters to be around so many poor people.

What are we like, eh? We don’t do enough yoga, we need better fonts and we’re rubbish at eating.

Sorry about that. Thank goodness you’re here to put us right, teach us to appreciate, consider and understand where food comes from.

I used to cook all the time. Blue chicken, terminal rice, angry bacon.

I made soup, homemade soup, at home. Threw things in a pot – horses, trees, baseball boots – and boiled it all day.

Now I’ve forgotten how to cook, I don’t know what to eat and everything tastes of smoke.

Could try more fish, that’s always an idea. Tasty, nutritious, personality-enhancing fare.

Mackerel, seahorse, piranha, plankton.

Life on a brutal fish farm, though. Manacled to a radiator in a tiny underwater cell. It’s a nightmare for the wee scaly bastards. Then they’re skinned and boned, packed and stacked, sought, bought, roasted toasted and eaten by me. Nae luck, fish. 

We’re rubbish at recycling too. We can’t help it.

The cooncil gave us food bins. First week there was a broken chair inside, the next week part of a car engine, and we never saw the bins again.

Cheers, Govanhill.

Empty self in half a place

A broken window in an abandoned factory taken through a fence

I walk, pointlessly, in places you’re not supposed to walk.

Along embankments and hard shoulders, beside torn-up concrete and boarded-up windows, among debris and shrapnel and weeds in the wind.

I’m drawn to these non places because it’s quiet.

There’s never anyone else around to gaze upon the banal majesty of some garage forecourt.

Discount vehicle and motorbike spare part, import export wholesale retail, low-rise one-storey sheet metal steel shutter iron railings van hire car wash.

Half places in any city, always there but always unseen.

I’ll still find a way to get shouted at in these non places.

Bus drivers, because I’m walking across the bus operational area. Receptionists, can I help you? Security guards, where do you think you’re going? You’re a non person to them and they to you.

Danger, no entry, keep clear, stay away.

A black dog barking at a barbed wire fence.

Jeez, what am I doing here? No one belongs in these half places, not even the empty self.

I should be in the warm pub, or at home by the hearth. Bowl of hot soup. Scotch broth, probably. Crusty bread. Comfy chair. Twelve cans.

Cheers, Govanhill.

Buying it, drinking it, cursing it

Southside Drinks off sales on Victoria Road

This shop on Victoria Road is the greatest in Govanhill.

Two friendly brothers, giant retail behemoth to right of them, overbearing supermarket tyrant to left of them. Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to have cheap cider, malt whisky, German lager, available to buy and drink right here, right now, nae bother. What more could a bozo want?

I remember sitting on the pavement in front of this place one afternoon after I’d been out bevvying with my brother. Cristal champagne, it might have been. Or White Lightning. I forget which.

My brother must have gone home and I must have had a wee sit down to think things through, work out my next move, ie. how to get up the road.

This shop might be a place of worship, like a religious monument. If it were on Great Western Road or, even worse, Finnieston, it would have protected cultural status.

Been to Finnieston lately? Jeez. People wandering around looking dazed, wondering what the fuck happened to their neighbourhood. Maybe it’s because the BBC moved out of the west end over to the riverside. Maybe that’s why the bohemian west end is now just student blocks and fast food.

So watch yourself, Govanhill. And cheers for the beer.

I’m not going to Polmadie at this time of night

A statue of Oor Wullie dressed as Jimi Hendrix, one of many across Glasgow

Was going to try mindfulness, but I forgot.

Thought about going on a retreat, realised it would be a step backwards.

Sorry. Can’t help the stupid jokes, trying to be popular, make the other kids laugh so they won’t beat me up.

I shower once a week, whether I need to or not.

There I go again, boom boom. I’m out of control.

My wife asked me to cut the grass, said it’s almost at the windowsill. I said can’t the guy downstairs do it?

Enough now, please. In God’s name, stop.

That long grass is a worry, though. Sure there are foxes in there, urban foxes, gentlemen thieves, trendy wee buggers wearing spats, cravats and a cheeky grin, robbing my bins of fag ends, empty cans and dead rodents.

Anyway. Think I need more jokes, better jokes, one-liners, funny tales. Witty observations on the absurdity of modern life.

How all men seem to have beards these days. I mean, what’s that all about, yeah?

And coffee, it’s everywhere, isn’t it, and with all these weird names. Skinny flat white, long black. They sound like porn movies, ha ha ha ha ha.

And airport security, that’s weird, and why is everyone always staring at their phone these days too? It’s so funny, isn’t it.

Like staring into the ever-expanding abyss of pain and desolation inside. And how it’s like that on Twitter too.

That’s all I’ve got time for ladies and gentlemen. I’ve been dreary Dave, you’ve been a great audience, thank you and good night.

Crosstown traffic and a hole in my shoe

A photo of limes outside a fruit shop

Outside the sun is shining and the fruit is glistening on the crates on the pavement.

If that way is midtown, up here must be downtown. Down there is uptown, top ranking Kurdish and Ghanaian and authentic Punjabi cuisine.

Past the hairdresser that went on fire, the artisan bakery, big men cracking their knuckles outside the bookies.

The library. The people’s swimming pool. The only queer bookshop in the country.

There’s a buzz about the place. Vibrant, you might say.

The fruit shops with the mangoes and the dates and the pomegranates, Jeez, the size of them.

And Rab, fae Torrisdale Street, and Billy, his mate, whose bones you can see under the skin of his face, walking quickly, wondering if Stan has any gear, or Tracey, aye, sure she moved round here somewhere after torching her flat that time, daft bastard.

Walk on, past the nail bar and the jewellery shop, second hand and earnest vintage and the charity shops, always with the charity shops.

Crowded bus stops, girlfriends arguing, organic food and busy pubs and people who know that things get better and things get worse and all you can do is make a go of it.

So you keep walking, towards the horizon, the edge of the world, where all roads lead and where everything makes sense.

It never gets any closer.

Cheers, Govanhill.

I pure love you, so I do

Two Govanhill signs with a cross through 'hill' to change them to 'Govan'

People sometimes ask me why I don’t move out of Govanhill and I’m like, Whoa steady on there pal, what’s your problem?

But what if Govanhill dumped me? Decided to end the love affair, chuck my sorry ass because I’d been getting on its tits.

Please Govanhill, I so love you. I love you to bits. What will I do without you and where will I live?

And Govanhill’s like, Aye, very good wee man. Bye!

I’d be rejected, banished, forced to flee the hood, pack up and move back down the hill.

To Govan.

West Drumoyne. Teucharhill. Harmony Row. Pirrie Park.

Govan, teeming tenement city. Linthouse, Shieldhall, the ship yards and the dry docks. Fifty Pitches, the Vogue and the Lyceum.

The swimming baths and the steamie at Summertown Road and Harhill.

Elder Park library, loved by James Kelman, probably Alex Ferguson and Billy Connolly too, and the trees in the park at a forty five degree angle.

The rubber scheme, where nothing ever happens.

The ice cream tunnel under the motorway. Rebel, founder of the Govan Team, buried under Govan Cross.

Rab C, Steg O and Paulie McGhee. Drummy Tongs and young young Winey.

The pubs and the bookies and the street corners. Dark, man.

Cheers Govan.

Back soon, Govanhill.

Why Govanhill is just like the south of France

a deckchair pictured below the M74 motorway extension in Govanhill

Open space in Govanhill, like a midwestern prairie or the vast Russian steppes.

A wee acre of green grass below the motorway flyover. The most expensive stretch of road in Europe at the time. Half a billion for five miles, ten thousand per inch. I know, because I counted it.

With a deckchair and sun cream and a book I’m not reading it’s a good place to sit in peace.

Faint clatter, muffled rumble, a hundred and fifty thousand vehicles a day overhead.

It could be a tomato field in the south of France. All that’s missing is a genial farmer with overalls and mutton chops and a stalk of grass in his mouth. A few cows in the pastures, free range geese in the meadow.

The flyover slices through the south side on forty-foot stilts but is somehow discreet, almost unobtrusive.

Reminds me of the city growing up, motorway roundabouts and slip roads, pedestrian tunnels and off ramps, non place dead spaces under concrete bridges.

Dry miles of road with signs and directions and people in control of their own destiny.

Don’t know if I am. In control of my own destiny, that is.

Doesn’t look like it from down here.

Cheers, Govanhill.

What a giddy urban spectacle it all is

The number 5 bus going along Victoria Road, Govanhill

Had a row with a guy getting on the bus.

Here mate.


There’s a queue.

Okay. Fine. Jesus.

Then staring at each other for ages. It’s hard, that time in the morning, on the way to work.

Cold, dark, crowded. Day ahead looming, knowing you’ll get the blame for yesterday’s disaster although everyone knows it was never your fault.

The 4, the 5, the 6 and the 7 can get really busy by the time they hit peak Govanhill.

Strangers push so close I can almost taste their oily breath. A lassie with a Rangers scarf wrapped round her fat neck. A boy with a shirt and tie under his trackies.

Boof. A middle-aged woman head butts a young guy in a cheap suit. He bobs and weaves.

That girl cracked me in the ribs when she got on and your man there trod on my toes.

Hold your breath, hold on tight, till it’s your turn to get off.

Cold city centre looming over me, black puddles pin pricked by rain. The crush of double deckers in the rush hour grid.

Stop start pavements full of people just like us, pretending not to be someone we hate.

What a giddy urban spectacle it all is.