Take me home, Govanhill

three boys on the streets of Govanhill, one carrying a football

So I was over in the west end but I really wanted Govanhill to take me home.

To familiar faces, streets we walk, where there’s nothing else to know.

Home to the displaced, immigrant and refugee. Edinburgh, London, Brighton.

To people in transit or running on the spot. Transylvania, Kurdistan, Saracen Cross.

Our doorstep is your doorstep.

Home to sharing a room with four sisters, long hours and low wages, dying before you reach sixty-five.

Fenians and billy boys, Afghan and Somali, kosher and halal manbuns.

Private schooling, family connections, socially-distanced yoga.

Or a square go outside the pub because what the fuck are you looking at?

Poets and academics, neighbours and their bin bags, a place so vibrant you have to close your windows in the evening.

All of the above, thanks.

Oven chips are cheaper than avocadoes but we’ll have them both, please.

Happing and clapping and jigging the joie de vivre round the bin sheds every day.

Two portraits of a woman with a dog and a man with a dog in Govanhill,

Our photographers know it.

Two close up portraits of an older woman with short hair and a man with a tattooed face smoking a cigarette

You can see it in on display in our shop windows.

Photo of a young man with a hat with eyepieces over the top half of his face

So nae luck, west end ten-storey concrete hell.

The cheap rent and never-ending streets are here, not there.

Writer’s block and works in progress are in a tenement off Cathcart Road, a basement in Dixon Avenue, a bedsit in Daisy Street.

Not Crown Circus, Athole Gardens or Woodlands Road.

So take me home, on the bus that still goes from Donegal to Govanhill four times a week.

Home to artists’ collectives, gallery co-operatives and jakeys and bams and rockets.

Place of chaos we always come back to, place of refuge which won’t leave us alone.

The starting point, the final destination, and the map that gets us from one to the other.

So then I was making my way home and I met my brother for the first time in years and asked him what it was like in the Gorbals.

He said it’s pishing with rain and full of vampires.

I said cheers Govanhill.

(Photographs: Simon Murphy)



Microeconomics is pish easy

A lockdown sign asking people to stop shaking hands and hugging each other

Lockdown was great, didn’t want it to end, wish it had lasted for ever.

I miss the panic buying, the empty shops, the deserted streets.

Birdsong, sunshine, walking down the middle of Victoria Road because there’s no traffic.

I miss the fear of other people, the prospect of other people with their bodies and surfaces and those killer droplets from their mouths.

I’m often asked how I managed to cope so brilliantly with lockdown.

I say that after I woke up on the floor in the first week, naked and cold and soaked right through, I realised I had to start fulfilling my potential.

I knew I had to learn to play the cello, do eight thousand press-ups every morning, finish my PhD on string theory or learn ancient Greek, whichever came first.

That’s why the flat is spotless, a spiritual place full of hope and pure joy.

Staring at the wall, drinking too much, tired all day, not sleeping at night?

Not round here, pal. No way. Not at all.

Didn’t grow a beard, either. No gingered grey rusting collage of tufts knots and waves.

No unsightly magnet for viruses, moths, other people’s fists.

Instead, I gave an inspirational TED talk to help my fellow strugglers survive lockdown, called Microeconomics is Pish Easy.

Advice on speaking Mandarin, taking ice baths at dawn, studying one-handed knitting.

How I’ve been learning sign language because there’s no one to talk to.

How my flowers are blooming because I don’t have a garden.

How I’ve been swimming laps of the pool in my basement.

Practising the pole vault in the living room, the javelin in the kitchen.

Tried the hammer too but the nails fell out because the walls of my building are five thousand years old.

See ye, Govanhill. Maybe, some time, one of these days.

Tongues, you bass

Photo of flower sand plants outside a row of nice terraced homes

So the Strathbungo young team turned up outside my flat, started throwing toilet rolls at the window and shouting at me.

Here Cheers, you rotter. Stop pushing Strathbungo around. It’s so unfair.

Tongues, you bass.

(Wee Glaswegian in-joke there, tongs ya bass being a popular pre-ned rallying cry. Nae offence, neds.)

Anyway. Crikey. These bungo bawbags mean business.

I know Strathbungo sounds like some Highland spa town, and it’s really just five streets with large terraced homes the other side of Pollokshaws Road, but don’t be misled.

The very name strikes terror into our God-fearing Govanhill hearts.

These bungo blawhards flooded the streets with sourdough, ran the sweet potato protection rackets and other avocado-related activity.

The shit they used to pull. Baggy trouser displays, ankle of the year awards, most insufferable vegan championships. Nae offence, vegans.

All those organic carrot incidents, the pumpkin seed riots, so many innocent people going to bed at a reasonable hour. Tragic.

Their last spoon carving workshop got out of hand when the Battlefield binliners stormed in on tricycles and shot up the place with water pistols. Three fringes ruined and a beard needing towel dried. Madness.

And remember the notorious southside turf wars with the Crosshill Puzzlers, Polmadie Dobbers, Pollok Park Peculiars?

It got so bad even the Partick Monkeys had to play a benefit gig to try to calm things doon.

Anyway, we should feel sorry for these bungo bawheids. They just don’t enjoy the advantages we take for granted.

Decent boozers, love of football, an eclectic mix of streetwise bampots and clatty bastards.

So I thought I’d better get the old crew back together, the ones who were outta the joint anyways.

Rab fae Torrisdale Street, mad Tracey who torched her flat that time, the bloke with the big knuckles from the Queens Park Café.

But then I thought nah, canny be arsed, and I drank ten cans and fell asleep on the couch instead.

Nae luck, bungo boabies.