Nostrils on fire

So I went for a haircut and ended up in a ball of flame but in a good way.

It’s one of the things that make Govanhill, on the south side of Glasgow, Scotland’s most diverse neighbourhood, such a vibrant place to live.

Walk in, sit down, strap in, here we go, ten in a row.

What will it be today, sir?

Usual please. Head torched, eyebrows burning, ears on fire, nostrils ablaze, cheeks aflame.

No problem, sir.

In some neighbourhoods, barbershops and expensive restaurants are the new heavy industry.

But this is Govanhill not Finnieston so it’s Kurdish barbers and friendly service and it’s seven quid not twenty five. The pubs are better round here too.

Snip, clip, razor and shear. Steamed and powdered and ironed.

Then it’s on with a blowtorch for the ayebrows, lawn mower the nasal hair, combine harvester on the chin, flame thrower for those difficult to reach bits around the ears.

Purified, consecrated, cleansed. Until all that’s left is a smoking pile of ashes on the chair.

Will that be all for today, sir?

Aye thanks yes please fine good great mate bye.

Govanhill’s next superhero will be wearing that cape one day.

Cheers, Kurdistan.


We will always have Daisy Street

Road sign with Govanhill, Mount Florida and Cathcart on it

We all love a referendum. Up or down, heads or tails, Special Brew or Super Lager. Binary choice and that.

So good luck to our British neighbours as they leave the Uefa Cup, or Europa League as it is now.   

Glad it’s all working out for them, especially since Scotland became independent after the landslide nearly vote in 2014.

Maybe now it’s time for Govanhill to declare independence.

The community council could impose the dictatorship of the proletariat while we hold a consultation on socialising the means of production and abolishing the hereditary SNP monarchy.

I Love Govanhill facebook group could be our new BBC, and we already have our own university-slash-library.

Royal Bank of Allison Street, Govanhill Baths ministry of culture, you can see where this is going.

It’s a big step, but we’ll be fine. We just have to believe in ourselves. Keep that positive, can-do attitude.

But would it mean a hard border with Pollokshields? Passport controls at Queen’s Drive, Cathcart Road, Pollokshaws Road and Butterbiggins Road?

Just don’t get Rab fae Torrisdale Street involved. He still owes big Malky and ye don’t want him oan yer tail when you’re trying to negotiate a customs union with Shawlands and Langside.

Especially when we no longer recognise Mount Florida as the highest peak in the south side.

Anyway. Friendship treaty with Rutherglen, non-aggression pact with Pollok, entente cordiale with the Gorbals and Castlemilk.

Leave Eglinton Toll as is. Uninhabitable, post-apocalyptic barren landscape.

Let Aikenhead Road worry about Polmadie and if Battlefield start to get wide we’ll set Toryglen on their ass.

Cheers Govanhill.

Rolled-up newspaper of death

photo of a neon sign which says 'we are 11 million' with industrial building in the background

Positive thinking, constructive endeavours, sustainable food, glittering future.

I know.

Cockroaches, though.

Laying siege to the flat from behind the walls and that crack in the floorboards.

They’re not cuddly, like mice. Mice are friendly, wise-cracking, often just trying to look out for their wife and kids, yeah?

Cockroaches, though.

Vast numbers, 200 million years of experience, seeping from the woodwork around midnight, the cockroach hour.

Crawling across the ceiling, stopping only to look down at you and laugh.

I will go wherever I want and you ain’t going to stop me, you big quivering jessie.

You shape to crush them with your rolled-up newspaper of death but they drop the shoulder, throw you a dummy, and they’re gone, the wee bastards.

Anyway. Keep it light, Govanhill.

People don’t want to read this kind of thing. Why the negativity and the scare-mongering? What’s the point?

True, I suppose. Must try harder.

Could start pretending this isn’t where I live. That might work. Or that it’s not raining outside. Even better. Or that my bathroom didn’t have ice in the toilet bowl last winter. That would cheer me right up.

Maybe, if I close my eyes for long enough, I might imagine being able to afford to shop at Govanhill’s favourite grocery store. Imagine the generous welcome, the humble and inclusive attitude.

This is a local shop for non-local people.

There’s nothing for you here.

Cheers, Royston. Vaisey.

Single to Babylon, please

Cartoon photo of two reggae musicians, Sly and Robbie

I love fog. The soupy mystery, the smoke-filled uncertainty. Makes the whole city look more interesting.

Not in the living room but. Disnae augur well for one’s house-keeping skills, ken what I mean?

Haven’t emptied the bins in a month.

I’m joking, of course. It’s two months.

Last time I looked, the kitchen sink was empty and the cooker was clean. And isn’t a bit of dirt good for the immune system anyway?

It’s fine. Everything’s fine. Even in Babylon.

Been through a lot lately. Really hard time. Screaming terror of the yawning chasm at the very heart of this empty godless universe affecting my mental health, yeah?

Time to put myself first for a change. My own time, my me time, sat in a room with nothing to think but my thoughts.

Cup of tea and a slice of cake, glass of beer and a whisky chaser.

It’s because I’ve been listening to that dub reggae.

Prince Far I, King Tubby, Burning Spear.

Started seeing Jah all over the shoap too.

Neeson’s at closing time, the wtf aisle in Lidl, that empty space on Victoria Road where the bus stop used to be.

A who’s who of who knows. Fog patches and fag packets, dread beat and blood.

Sometimes decreasing, otherwise poor.

Can’t see the living room at all now.

Cheers, aye and aye.

Apocalypse Tollcross

Photo of bowling green and trees and blue sky

Listening to the news the other day and someone was talking about tension in the middle east.

Wondered if Riddrie had invaded Barmulloch again.

Might have been about bombing children in Yemen, the murder of journalists in Saudi Arabia, or American economic decline and the end of empire.

I mean, we may think these faraway places don’t affect us, that we don’t have enough in common with people there to feel empathy.

But what if Riddrie did send troops down Ryehill Road?

Carntyne would be raging. But they wouldn’t do anything without Shettleston’s approval.

Shettleston’s got its own troubles, what with the Blackhill question, border skirmishes in Tollcross, the Mount Vernon balance of payments crisis.

And everyone knows Royston is desperate to avoid a trade war with Cranhill and that Provanmill and Craigend have hated each other for centuries.

So really, it’s up to Springburn. Riddrie will back off if Springburn threatens to withdraw military aid, as long as Haghill and Barlanark don’t get involved.

And by the way, special forces fae Ruchazie would run over that fucking Riddrie mob any day of the week.

That’s what I heard anyway.

Just hope Govanhill doesn’t get dragged into any illegal wars for oil.

Not in my name.

Down with the imperialists.

Hands off Garthamlock.


Think it’s time for me to have a lie down now.


Why Govanhill is just like New Jersey

Photo from TV show the Sopranos, featuring Tony Soprano, Chris, Paulie and Syl

So I was with my brother in the Queens Park Cafe and we might have been drunk but I can’t really remember.

I told him I saw Tony Soprano in Govanhill and he said stop breaking my balls over here.

It’s true, I said. He was with his goomar. Fur coat, high heels, chewing gum.

Who, Tony?

Naw, his goomar.

Tony from the Sopranos in Govanhill? You being a wiseguy?

I’m telling you. He was talking on the phone. Something about needing a sit-down because that crew is way outta line.

Tony wouldn’t talk on the phone. Feds all over his ass.

Then something about Vinny coming out of a two-stretch in Sing Sing and wanting what’s rightfully his plus a little on top for keeping schtum all that time.

Where was he?

In Greggs, queuing for a pie.

Tony wouldn’t wait in a queue.

Might go for a Scotch pie though.

We each had a drink of our drink and looked around for a bit before he asked if I thought he was a schmuck on wheels and I said not really and then he asked if I spoke to Tony and I said of course.

I asked him if he paints houses and does he clean up afterwards.

What did he say?

Something about me being a cocksucker motherfucker. And a bit about how we won’t be seeing that schnook no more. So I gave him directions to the hardware shop on Vicky Road.

Are you drunk?

I can’t remember.

Stop making shit up.

Cheers Govanhill.

Do not believe what you think

Fed up with the quirky and the new. Don’t want to be individual or unique, interesting or esoteric.

Sorry, Govanhill.

Sometimes it’s good to be anonymous, where no one knows you and no one wants to.

Hello, uniformity. Come on in, orthodoxy. Welcome home, self-destruction.

Is this an airport, a hospital, a restaurant, or a slave warehouse, sorry, fulfilment centre?

Walk in, press screen, pay with card, stand around, say nothing, collect your items, almost items. Lucky dip, multiple choice, pick a winner. Leave or continue in silence.

Is this a furniture shop, a cinema queue, a job centre?

You don’t know any more, and it doesn’t matter.

You might be trapped inside your own head, but don’t worry. What you think and say are not who you are.

You hope you’re a person, almost a person, now you’re here, the invisible here.

But don’t believe what you think you are.

Banish the ego, immerse yourself in the routine nausea, the ordinary horror, the here-we-go-again desperation.

And lo, thy parcel shall be delivered unto thee but the workers shalt have just ninety seconds for a toilet break.

Thank you. Please remember it is forbidden to set yourself on fire within the bagging area.





The invisible here

detail of a stained glass window

Many different cities have been here over the years.

Each one a memory of a story overheard, a photograph, a fragment of written word.

City of industry. Tenements lining the great arteries of the old town, the black streets of this dark metropolis and the buildings that went on for ever.

Factory gates and subway stations, slamming doors and shrieking whistles, where the trains take you all across the country and the ships all over the world.

City of the past, where big guys in oily blue overalls play19-a-side football in the park at lunch time and when the four o’clock horn sounds the streets crush with men.

A radical city, red Clydeside, trade unions, class struggle, suffragettes, rent strikes.

Mary Barbour, John Maclean, Manny Shinwell, Jimmy Reid. A workers’ city, not a merchant city.

City of the dead. Factories closed and derelict yards, silenced docks, shadowy warehouses in the rain. No more locomotives or tramlines or container ships.

Just acres of empty land with giant puddles like vast lakes beside mounds of earth and piles of tyres that seem hundreds of feet high.

A lost civilisation, defeated and stripped bare, its people abandoned.

All that’s left is the terrifying groaning of the dredgers on the river, sounding like the rise of the killer machines in some science fiction nightmare.

Me and you and our ancestors’ songs of anger and loss.

Still here, the invisible here.