Why Govanhill is first, best and most

Names of neighbourhoods around Govanhill written backwards

It’s a scientific fact that Govanhill is one of the world’s best places to live.

The rest of the south side, not so much.

The sinister neighbourhoods surrounding Govanhill – your Queen’s Parks, your Langsides, your Mount Floridas – have an air of menace about them.

Best not to venture there after dark. Everyone’s in bed.

Polmadie’s like that too, but with added siege mentality. Nothing much comes out of Polmadie. I’ve known good people go there and never be seen again, just like Toryglen.

Places like King’s Park or Oatlands don’t appear on any map and only really exist in people’s imaginations, like in ghost stories.  

Then there’s Crossmyloof, where the weather is different and the language is too. It’s a foreign country, like Strathbungo.

I used to work beside a guy from Crossmyloof who spoke in code all the time. What year was your granny born and how many sugars do you take in your tea?

And your Gorbals, your Shawlands and your Pollokshields are all tartan trews, shortbread tins and thin-lipped fundamentalists who chain up swing parks on a Sunday.

They pretend to have beautiful scenery of lochs and castles and glens, but when you get there it’s just horrible weather, terrible food and songs about jumpers. Fiddly-diddly bollocks.

Govanhill is too weird for all that.

We have our seductive urban vibe of loft apartments, art galleries and boutique hotels. Our radical poets, golden retrievers and overlapping left backs.


It’s in our nature, and everything has to be true to its nature. Don’t you worry your sweet ass about that.

Cheers, Govanhill.  


Muttering clownball stares at concrete

Photo of a perfect, white family, mum, dad and two kids

Saw this guy passed out on the pavement, small crowd of well-wishers gathered round.

It’s a traditional Glasgow scene you don’t see much of these days.

Steaming man, lying on the ground, pished his troosers, bleeding from a bump on his forehead.

Concerned pedestrians fussing over his damp body, laying him in the recovery position, phoning an ambulance.

Wish they’d leave him alone. He’s fine. He’s drunk, he fell down, he’ll get over it. Here he is with his family the very next day.

But we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

You know what it’s like. Long week at work, all that overtime, yeah? Friday and Saturday out with friends, discussing recent events, current affairs, sports, entertainment.

Then Sunday morning comes around and you have a couple of quick ones to take the edge off, you know, clear your head. And before you know it, you’re a muttering clownball staring at concrete. 

Could be any of us.

Bet this guy deserved a drink. Bet he’d earned it, earned the chance to forget all that he’s been through and get to sleep and wake up tomorrow and start all over again.

Cheers Thunderbird, cheers Old England, cheers Eldorado.

They’re cheap wine brands, by the way, not Brexit slogans.

No, I don’t know how we ended up in this mess either.

Why Govanhill is just like Tenerife

Photo of a beach, with sun, palm tree, blue sky and sand

Tourists huddling together in holiday resorts in Europe. Full English, roast beef, Daily Mail.

Know what you like, stick to your own, same kind of clothes and your own kind of food, proper food.

It’s like that in Govanhill, but with less fluorescent beachwear.

Went for a meal round here recently and while we waited for our food we were approached three times and told sorry, this table is reserved.

Aye, by us.

Made to doubt our own hipness. It was a blow to our self-esteem. Needed a few cans to cheer ourselves up afterwards.

Or the sign I saw in a bakery. Jeez, I’ve had nightmares about that sign. Lost sleep over it and everything.

Thanking customers for choosing to go out of their way, for taking the chance, making the journey to this strange location.

But we live in this strange location. We didn’t have to take the chance or go out of our way to make the journey.

See, that’s why we feel excluded.

Because we’re excluded.

But anyway. Let them eat cake. We all write stupid things, eh? Especially me. Jeez, remember that one? What was I thinking?

Just breathe in and start walking. Go home and sit down and shut up. Stay still, stay tuned, coming soon, on its way, any day, peace and love.

Then I went to bed and fell asleep and woke up the next morning and didn’t feel very different at all.

Sorry, Govanhill.

Buddha, can you spare a dime?

photo of dozens of empty cans of beer on a wooden floor

Sometimes I think maybe I drink too much. Other times I think being a jakey might be my ideal job.

You know, a tramp, a dosser, a blue-sky tinker.

Self-employed, flexible hours, working outdoors, casual dress code. Could be just what I’m cut out for.

But the pay’s not great and there’s malnutrition, hypothermia and the constant threat of violence to think about too.

I remember as kids, me and my brothers used to talk about being a down and out when we grew up.

Not like a beggar or anything but like sitting in the park drinking champagne out of a glass slipper.

Or bin men, raking through the middens all day, finding stuff, be great.

Or playing for Celtic, aye, and having eleven kids and naming them after the Lisbon Lions.

So I sat down and opened a can and started thinking about my brothers and wondering who was the jakiest of us all.

I looked down at my thinning denims and Charlie Chaplin shoes. A right trampy baws, to be sure.

So I opened another can and tried not to think about the past or the future and decided just to wait for enlightenment instead. After that I went straight to bed, jakey or not.

Buddha, can you spare a dime?

Prince of darkness, bearded twat

A man with a mask whose outstretched arms form the 't' in the word 'bastard'

People sometimes ask me if I have that twenty quid I owe them and I’ll change the subject and start talking about how it might be funny if I grew a beard.

Might make me look like a wolf.

Or the devil.

Fallen angel, prince of darkness, bearded twat.

Might be a good disguise too.

You’re never alone with a beard. Something to scratch, somewhere to collect food. Cheap, chunky and sexually appealing, yeah?

Charles Manson. Giant Haystacks. Telly Savalas. A man’s man, a real man, half a person, even less.

People might look at me differently if I have a beard. They might see me stroking it and think I’m an intrapreneur or an entreflaneur, a pop-up master of start-overs.

An idyllic safe space. A great place to live, work and invest.

Hair is important for any neighbourhood so maybe I should grow a tache instead.

Tam Sellic, Josef Stalin, the weird guy from Sparks.

Or a tattoo, aye, a cartoon to last a lifetime on my neck or my face.

Anyway. Twenty quid? Been skint mate, honest, but I’m good for it, you know I am. Next week, I promise. Meeting big Tam ootside the bookies, I swear.


Hi, is that you Tam? Four o’clock, ootside the bookies, no problem. I’ll be the guy with the beard.

67 Lisbon Street

Govanhill has cathedrals and temples and synagogues and mosques, and McNeill’s bar on Torrisdale Street.

The original address here was 67 Lisbon Street, though I might have just made that up.

Might not look like much from outside, but worshippers across the world know Billy McNeill.

Captain of the most charismatic football team in Europe, revered across the continent for their immortal manager and the verve and skill of the players.

Cesar and his mates, our greatest heroes, old men forever young.

The European glory nights. Your Duklas of Prague, your Partizans of Tirana, your Red Stars of Belgrade.

The singing and the floodlights and the stadium so crowded your feet don’t touch the ground.

St Etienne, Grasshoppers, Benfica-ca-ca.

And Internazionale, the best night of our lives, though we weren’t even born.

The players singing in the tunnel, the captain leading out the team, the goalie’s false teeth.

The swashbuckling midfielders, the dazzling wee winger, the left back who scored in two European Cup finals.

And that green and white outfit. Historical masterpiece, timeless classic.

Bet you wish your side dressed like that.

You think back to those old TV pictures.

Every game you watch takes you back there.

Your mothers and fathers and ancestors are all there too. The collective memory, a past you can believe in, the love of the people, summoned from inside and coursing through you to those players on that pitch.

So cheers, Billy. And one for yourself, please.

Ring a ding ding, knuckleheads

A bike chained to a pole on the pavement beside a main road

Walking home from work the other day, passed an old geezer standing on the pavement, shouting and shaking his fist.

Knock it off, cyclers!

You okay mate?

No traffic coming in either direction, and definitely no bikes, but that wasn’t stopping him.

Drop this bycling bunk or it’s ring a ding ding for you knuckleheads.

What’s wrong?

It’s these pesky pushbikers. They razz my strawberries.

Seriously, dude. Let it go. This is the nineties. It’s only a two-wheeled tricycle.

I left him to it, moved on, wondering why some people get so wound up. Drivers, passengers, walkers, talkers, on the road, on the pavement, at the lights.

Don’t want to be that guy. No way, man. A numbskull like that? No, sir. Not me. Ain’t gonna happen.

I like two wheels, I really do. I know I said things before about byclers and that but I was only joking, I swear it.

I used to cycle to work years ago, across the city in the early morning from west end to south side before helmets and road safety were ever invented.

I don’t cycle to work any more. Now I walk, through bike lanes and bus corridors, over railway lines and motorway slip roads, across gutters and embankments and roundabouts and hard shoulders.

Head down, keep going, never stop.

Cheers, Govanhill.

And quit razzing my strawbs.

Didn’t have the fingers for it

close-up of a yellow and red flower with green leaves in the background

Got an allotment but was driven out by pests.  

I thought an allotment would be somewhere to grow organic veg and drink cans in the sun.

Tulips, parsnips, peas, bees.

Maybe turn it into a social enterprise in the heart of Govanhill. Take on volunteers, placements, internships, work experience. Have them dig up weeds, clear away debris, fill black bags, while I sit back and drink cans in the sun.

I stood leaning on a spade staring at the ground for a while.

Thought about getting a fire going, or building a patio. I could concrete it over, use it for storing car parts, maybe a washing machine, definitely an old sofa.

But there was a committee, of course. There’s always a committee. And the other folk there were nice, helpful.

Don’t do that, do it this way instead. Stop listening to him, he talks through his arse. Make sure you finish those before you think about them. Leave her alone and don’t touch him until September.

In the end I had to give it up because I couldn’t give it 110 per cent. Didn’t have the fingers for it, nor the ruthless ambition to make it a success.

So I went home and sat on the couch and looked up to make sure the ceiling wasn’t going to fall in and opened a can and started writing in a notebook instead.

Nae luck, Govanhill.