Nae luck, travelists

upside down photo of a sunny beach with blue sky, sea and palm tree

It’s travel writers I feel sorry for in these troubled times.

All those pricks, dicks, dweebs, twits and twats with nowhere to go and nothing to say.

They’re the real victims of this lockdown.

Chat heads inactive, content ungenerated, adventure bollocks adrenaline rush untold.

Nae luck, travelists.

Nae Vietnam, Burkina Faso nor Pata-bastard-gonia for you.

Don’t go for it, just leave it, be less than you can be.

Try punching yourselves in the face instead.

So I started thinking maybe I should have a gap year. And naw, I don’t mean being on the broo again.

I mean do some volunteer work in Shawlands or Langside or Pollokshaws or Crosshill.

Build a school, teach English, help clear bulk items dumped in a close because it’s unsightly, attracts vermin and is also a fire risk.

Some of these people haven’t seen an outsider in years. Know the feeling.  

Immerse myself in the indigenous culture, top up those wilderness-based core skills climbing the north face of Mount Florida.

There’s so much to see and do, travelisers.

Have your voyage of self-discovery, coming of age, personal pilgrimage, travelist odyssey right here.

Wait till you plunge into Cathcart, get dragged into Strathbungo or swallowed up by Polmadie. 

Asda Toryglen broadens the mind.

If you want hidden lands, there’s always Inglefield Street.

And if you’re looking for ancient culture unchanged for centuries, try auld Fred in Aikenhead Road.

Cheers, Govanhill.

You’re welcome, Tripadvisor.


The wee mini dinosaurs of Langside Road

Side-on view of various tenements in Govanhill with a very blue sky

I’ve seen a cow before and I know what a sheep is, so wildlife holds few surprises for me.

But I learn things on these early morning walks through Govanhill.

Turns out birds don’t just shit on your head from above.

Turns out they write poetry and play music too.

You hear these wee fly men chirruping and whistling away just for the sake of it, for the joy of it, and it’s such a melodious highlight to the day it makes you wonder if this sunshine will ever end.

And to think these wee birdies used to be dinosaurs back in the day.

These things with wings have their own worries too, their own viruses to contend with.

Bird flu, avian flu, mad crow disease.

No lockdown for them, although I did see one fella social distancing on a telephone wire and another alone at the top of a tree beside the railway line.

Was that a great tit, a blackbird or a song thrush? Who knows, mate. Is this a lime tree, a rowan tree, sycamore, walnut? Could be.

They’ve been there performing for years, decades, centuries, but only now are we paying attention.

We may never hear their likes again.

Goldfinch, swallow, maple, giant redwood, doesn’t matter. I’m only a child, a puny child, so these birds, any birds, in these trees, any trees.

And you stand in the stillness and listen to this tiny wonder on a spring morning with no traffic and the sky bluer than ever and you think how beautiful and how generous your city is.

Thanks, Govanhill.

Because without that, all we can do is sit down and weep.

Go on up the road

photo of a nice row of homes designed by famous architect Alexander Greek Thomson

So I left Govanhill for the first time in years to stroll along the boulevards of old Pollokshields, tree-lined early morning with sunshine and bird song.

I’d been out for a walk, one piece of walk in my exercise yard, these hometown streets I know far too well.  

Tenements and building sites and half-finished bike lanes, road works barriers strewn all over the pavement.

I wanted Govanhill to show me something else.

So I walked to Pollokshields.

I’d been there once before, ages ago, years ago, when I landed in some pub which was closed for the winter.

I say winter, it was September. I say pub, I mean village hall with plastic chairs and cans of beer from the shop next door.

Asked the woman if the pub was going to open.

Aye, she said. In April.

But you know how things look from here in Govanhill, our city on a hill at the heart of the metropolis.

We see the Shields, the Shaws, the Gorbals and Cathcart as the rural idyll, all mountains and meadows and midgies all over your face.

But it’s not, I’m telling you.

I know, I’ve been there.

Detached villas and grand tenements, spacious homes on wide avenues with hedges and trees and a Mediterranean blue sky.

Early morning, no one around, always helps, looking fine.

And then, Pollokhill, after we’ve had our walk, Govanshields, we go home to stay in, lie low, steer clear.  

Do you really need that piss poor overpriced takeaway coffee or to stand at that street corner with four other people?

Go on up the road, eat chocolate, drink wine, masturbate, watch telly, remember a virus and stay in the hoose.

Cheers, or not.

Stone age dust

white cherry blossoms on branches of a tree against a blue sky

I didn’t want to go shopping and get arrested by the cops for having too much self-raising flour in my trolley.

So I didn’t go out, I stayed at home and went travelling round the flat instead.

My Govanhill flat, tenement flat, all the usual things. Walls and that. Ceiling, plumbing, wiring. Neighbours, mice, messy backcourt are just a bonus.

Exotic land, hidden gem, rich heritage, something for everyone.

Set off on the overnight train from the bedroom to the kitchen, a quick stopover in the hallway to stretch your legs, smoke a cigarette, browse the newspaper stands.

Hang on, these newspapers are at least five years old.

At the kitchen door you pick up a connection overland to the sink.

Scientists believe that noise is Radio 4 coming from somewhere in the corner, but they don’t know the origins of the local delicacies. Worm quiche. Knuckle kidney spleen.

From the kitchen, catch a ferry to the bathroom, with its ancient ruins, mouldy tiles, dead plants.

Fascinating, but a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria and infectious diseases.

Alien spores, toxic gas, you know what it’s like, we’ve all been there.

Just don’t sit awhile in the bustling centre, soak up the atmosphere, or watch the world go by.

Then it’s the long day’s journey into night, through the badlands of the so-called living room, past the burnt-out fireplace, the uninhabitable sofa, medieval coffee rings, stone age dust, all the way to the bay windows.

It’s all worth it for the views to the tenement opposite. And as a special treat, if you lean out the window and hang by your feet you’ll see a bus stop on Victoria Road just out the corner of your eye.

Diverse continent, land of contrasts, vibrant culture.

Next stop, Westmorland Street.

Cheers, lonely planet.