That front door is going nowhere

a mural in govanhill of singer Scott Hutchison

It’s still there, the outside world. I know it is. It must be.

There are murals out there, like these ones, on the streets of Govanhill.

Paintings on gable ends, the side of buildings, underneath a bridge.

Colour, imagination, messages of hope and wonder and a future we can believe in.

mural in govanhill of a village in India

Sometimes I like to paint murals on the walls of my flat.

I might be seeking enlightenment or practising mindfulness, or we might have lost another late goal at home and dropped two more points in the league.

Or I might just have been pished one night and got tore in with the felt tip pens.

You know what it’s like. We’ve all been there.

Helps hide the gravy stains down the wallpaper and curry sauce on the skirting boards too.

mural in govanhill, hip hop style

I tried drawing a map on the floor once, an easy-to-follow guide for the mice, with arrows and directions and clear signposting all the way to the traps in the kitchen.

But it didn’t work. Their knowledge of cartography was poor, they blatantly ignored stop signals, didn’t even know their left from their right. Idiots.

two abstract murals in govanhill

But the longer I stay at home, the less likely I am to find my way from the couch to the front door.

It’s still there, the front door. I know it is. It must be.

Buried behind mattresses, old newspapers, fax machines and computer monitors, or underneath garden equipment, stray dogs, a wheelbarrow, a tumble drier, a motorbike, probably a forklift and has anyone seen my glasses?

We’ll find that door. I know we will. We have to.

Cheers, Govanhill.


Tricky Dicky, Hicky and Vicky

People sometimes ask me if Victoria Road and Albert Drive were named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and I’m like naw, they wurnae.

Govanhill’s main thoroughfare actually got its name from the fictional Queen Vic pub in Walford, east London.

And Albert Drive is named after Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses, the favourite TV show of Alexander Greek Thomson, who wasn’t Greek but who did design a nice row of tenements just off Victoria Road.

It’s confusing, I know.

But you hear things on the streets, especially if you keep your ear to the ground.

Like Dixon Avenue was named after American president Richard Dixon, and Hickman Street after Hollywood actor Alan Hickman.

So said a bloke I met in Neeson’s. But then he also said Donald Trump can’t read or write and Sean Connery is a cardboard cut-out, so you never know.

What’s probably definitely true is that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert met round here, back when he was German and she was Empress of India.

Their first date was three courses for a fiver at the Star Bar. A round of pitch n putt in Queens Park – then just called Park – before a few swallies at the Queens Park Café – or Café – and up the road.

Classic day out for anyone with the divine right to rule.

Cheers, hereditary monarchy, idolatry, tyranny and absurd elite privilege.

You are not alone and you are not unique

A nice historic building in Govanhill with some tenements in the background

A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.

So said Mary Queen of Scots or Darth Vader or Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans or Vito Corleone or whatever.

Me, I have my brothers. I share everything with my brothers. Facial expressions, character flaws, personality defects.

I love them, love them like brothers in fact, but it’s like listening to my own stupid self all the time.

I get enough of the mood swings from me, don’t need it from that mob too.

Can’t live with them, can’t live with them.

But it makes me perfect for staying in Govanhill.

Coming from a big family means I’m used to lots of strange people hanging around and saying things I don’t understand.

We remember bin strikes too, piles of rubbish two storeys high, so the odd black bag on a pavement in Govanhill is fine.

Grew up with multinational neighbours, made a lot of noise when we were kids and had nowhere else to hang out but the streets.

So remember, Govanhill. You are not alone and you are not unique.

You are part of a city, a big city, bigger than it looks, with the crunchy and the gallus and the loud and the drunk.

We are not exceptional. Things just seem to change faster round here, that’s all.

Cheers Pollokshaws east, Pollokshields west, Cathcart circle, Queens Park (Glasgow).

Margaret Thatcher and her union jack nipple tassles

tenements in Govanhill and a nice blue sky

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

I was telling him how Govanhill was Scotland’s most diverse neighbourhood, home to a wide variety of people from pure everywhere.

Johnny Cash, Malcolm X, Germaine Greer, Mahatma Gandhi, Siouxsie Sioux all come from round these parts.

He told me to stop talking shite but I said it’s true, I’m telling you.

You see famous people in Govanhill all the time. Muhammad Ali, Michelangelo, Eminem. That’s just the Ms. Don’t start me on the Ps. Penelope Pitstop, Pablo Picasso, Pelvis Presley.

Pol Pot?

No. He was from Queen’s Park or Langside or the Bungo. So was Vlad the Impaler, Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump and Cliff Richard.

Margaret Thatcher?

Aye. Her too. Apparently she got the jail one night for taking her tap aff at the old Cladda club and shaking her union jack nipple tassles. I know, I could hardly believe it myself when I made it up at first.

They say Rabbie Burns once had a shite in Govanhill too. He invented Burns suppers. Or was it haggis suppers? I can never remember. I know he wrote I Belong to Govanhill, though. Or was it My Old Man’s a Dustman?

Anyway, when you get a couple of drinks on a Saturday Govanhill belongs to him.

How pished are you?

This much.

It’s your round, Govanhill.


Fish fingers, cauliflower ears, bingo wings

close up of some red peppers

You know I love you Govanhill but sometimes I just won’t leave the house.

It’s cold, it’s raining outside, I’ve had a few cans, it’s gone nine, I canny be arsed, okay?

Maybe I’ll try a street food takeaway instead.

That new Vietnamese joint, the Ghanaian place, or Errol’s hot pizza, yum. Kebabish, Yadgar, Ranjit’s kitchen. Anarkali, New Gandhi, or that wee Punjabi shoap for a paratha.

A burger from Buddy’s, Kurdish shawarma, the chippy, Chinese chow mein, or the new Italian restaurant that no one’s ever been in, you know, next to what used to be that pretentious bakery, remember? Or KFC, McDonalds, Chicken Cottage.

Ouch. So much choice is bad for my mental health.

I want a food-based diet but I don’t know what that means any more.

I’m at maximum head limit input level here and choice-based decisions are beyond me now.

Until help arrives, I might try cooking for myself. 

Fish fingers, cauliflower ears, bingo wings.

Turn my hoose into one of Govanhill’s main centres of culinary experimentation.

Yesterday’s macaroni, bruised peaches, Kirkintilloch trifle, a trotter on a bun.

But there are stereotypes to nurture, clichés to cherish, class clown patterns to embrace, so maybe I’ll deep fry a Mars bar.

Or mix my favourite cocktail, Bucky Fizz, Buckfast and Alka Seltzer, hangover cured while you’re still getting drunk.

Come on over to my place. The grey coffee, it is said, tastes like meat.

Cheers, ovenhill.

Desert island dicks

five pigeons perched on a wire

I’m walking down Victoria Road and seagulls are out to get me, I know they are.

Woodpeckers, pelicans, golden eagles too, probably.

Perched on top of the tenement opposite, scanning the joint with their beady wee eyes, making me nervous.

Stop staring at me, man. You’re not the cops, or my boss. And I’m not going to try and snatch your wee furry weans, okay?

Quit swooping on me, too. No, you’re not having my fish supper. Nor my miniature poodle.

Typical wildlife, making my life a misery. Why not just unite in silence against me instead of shitting on my head from above?

No wonder vegans don’t eat seagulls. I wouldn’t either.

Desert island dicks.

So I keep walking, head down, straight on, homeward bound.

Along side streets and alleyways, back roads and dead ends, shadows within shadows.

Late evening, then twilight, now moonlight and stars.

Spring lambs gambolling down Garturk Street. Plum trees and lavender all along Annette Street. Buttercups and dewdrops and garlands of daisies on the corners of Allison Street.

Is this still Govanhill?

Flamingos, zebras, great apes, kangaroos.

Don’t know, but it must be. Not sure, but it has to be. There is no other place.

A shoal of mackerel, sardines, tuna chunks in brine.

That’s more like it, Govanhill.

There is another place. There always is.

Cheers, mint sauce.

If we build it, yes they can come

'Post no bills' sign on a door, with picture of actor Bill Murray looking at it

Must have been some square-go back in the day when Govanhill broke away from sunny Govan to form its own neighbourhood with its own development trust and swimming pool and everything.

A right stooshie, ken. 

I know Govan, and Govan likes to throw its weight around, so fair play to the Hillsters for standing their ground.

Shut it Govan, right. We are the city on the hill and if we build it, they will come.

And Govan’s like okay, ffs, calm doon. We’ve still got Linthouse, Wine Alley, Teucharhill and Drumoyne, so go. And take Polmadie with you.

After the Govan team, Govanhill was occupied by the ancient Egyptians.

I know what you’re thinking. Surely it was the Trojans. Or the Abyssinians. Or the Maryhill Fleeto? Tongs, ya bass.

Early Byzantine settlers were the first to introduce cycle lanes, even though bicycles weren’t invented until much later by the Cherokee, I think it was. Or it might have been the Monkees.

It took the invention of Locavore in 2018 or whatever for anyone to think of growing veg in a field and selling it in a shop.

Govanhill also has many ancient burial grounds. Christopher Biggins was buried in Butterbiggins Road. Other fossils discovered from the 1970s included kipper ties, flared trousers, Labour governments and punk rock.

They’re still looking for the remains of a dead football club, apparently.

And Third Lanark too.

Cheers, Govanhill.