I love the smell of Neeson’s in the morning

nice tenement block in the sunshine, stoops at the front of the building

So I was with my brother but we weren’t in the pub and we weren’t at the game, we were walking down Victoria Road instead.

Uncertain twilight, unsure of the time but knowing very well exactly where we were.

Does Govanhill always smell like this?

Like what?

Like a barbecue or a festival.

Aye, sounds about right.

We were right at the top of the road, near the gates of Queen’s Park, on pavements so wide it could be a boulevard, an avenue, even a thoroughfare. Like an old photo from the past, with a horse and cart, a tramcar, or a wee barra boy back in the day.

Places like Strathbungo – hiya – always have such narrow pavements because everyone drives there and no one walks.

But why would you drive a car in Govanhill? Ye just wouldnae. You might cycle a bike but even then, bikes and cars are almost the same. They’re not legs, which have feet and shoes which drive you forward, push you along, onward then upward on pavements this wide.

Is that grilled lamb?

Might be the vegan and veg café. Could be Anarkali, everyone’s favourite curry house. Maybe smoked sausage or black pudding from the chippy next door. A roll and fritter, a haggis supper, or chicken taco from the place across the road.

Grand tenements up here, bourgeois views over the park, stoops that could double for Brooklyn, aye right. Flowers in a basket, fragrant wee plants from a scratched patch of land in a damp backcourt. Cake box over there, kebab shoap round the corner, spearmint ice cream from the Italian down by. I could feel my brother trying to take it all in.

Every time I come here there’s something new. A café, a pet shop, a record store.

I know, it’s always the same round here.

Then he said there’s so many places to eat no wonder you’re a fat bastard and I said shut it Gorbals and he said calm doon Govanhill what are you having and I said I’m having the lot.



Thou shalt talk tae strangers

mural on a wall showing a man laughing and a woman holding  flower with the sun in the sky behind her

Be careful, non-Glaswegians.

All us lonely souls coming in and out of lockdown means there’s an epidemic of people talking to each other on the street. Watch yourselves.

Saturday morning on a pavement in Govanhill, strolling along as you do, shops a-bustling, cyclers a-pedalling, the smell of fresh bread from somewhere overhead.

There’s a girl in front and her wee pet dug is lying on the pavement panting in the sun and looking at her as if to say, there’s no way I’m getting up hen. She’s tugging on the lead and the dog’s like, no chance.

He’s going nowhere, eh?

That was me, walking past, piping up in that old Glaswegian way. Talking to strangers, friendly approach, salt of the earth, pain in the arse.

And she looked at me like I’d farted in her face.

So listen, Edinburghovians, Englandashians, Strathbun-go-gos or whatevers.

This is Glesga. It’s what we do. It’s not our fault.  

We know you middle class always socially distance from working class, service sector, lumpen proletariat.

You can never understand us for a start, with the glottal stop and weird dialect and all that terrible swearing.

What are we like, eh? Nuggets and jakesters and freakballs, all nicotine fingers and knives of Stanley.

But, you know, we built these streets through famine, immigration and poverty. And we have the teeth to prove it. 

So nae luck, strangers. There’s no one to talk to except you and us and all that’s in between.

Just don’t ever ask about Celtic or Rangers or football at all in fact, especially when we’re drunk, because we know too much and you’ll probably end up crying.

Then I kept on walking and passed other people but couldn’t think of anything to say.

So I made my way home and closed the door and got back to business as usual.

Sit down, drink cans, wake up.

That’s utopia right there.

Talk soon, strangers.

The Second Coming in Cathcart Road

statue of a woman with two children by her side

Turning and turning in the streets of Govanhill, I can hardly hear a thing.

Not Falcon Terrace in Maryhill, nor Falcon Court in Newton Mearns.

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, but if I fix the boiler and sort the floorboards I can worry about the plasterwork later.

New windows, new radiators, full re-wire too.

Surely some revelation is at hand.

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

Keep walking, round and round, lacking conviction, passionate intensity. 

Mad Tracy with lion body and the head of a man.

Rab fae Torrisdale Street, gaze blank and pitiless as the sun.

Watch me go as I slouch towards Bowman Street to be born.

Apologies, Yeats.

Back to stony sleep.


Chrs Gvnhll

view of a tenement through blue and red coloured glass

Govanhill’s not that big but it feels big.

Other places may have crunchier cornflakes or rollerblading dogs but we punch above our weight, so we do.

We run faster, walk taller, drop lower.

Govanhill’s not that big – what, ten thousand mthrfkrs round here? – but it gets talked about too.

Myth-making and misinformation from child trafficking and vice rings to top ten coolest neighbourhood.

Squalor, filth and decay to Brooklyn, Kreuzberg, Shoreditch.

Watch out Blackhill, Possilpark, Whiteinch. We’re coming after you next.

Accessible green space, aching hip ass, tasty places to snack, plus cycles lanes which are almost finished after work started during the first Gulf war. (The Persian Gulf, not the Gulf of Garthamlock near Hogganfield loch.)

Govanhill’s not that big but it ain’t all dandelion blossom and orange blush juniper crush candy pale ale either.

This place groans, man. You know it and I know it. The bulk download on our streets, black bags, dead furniture.

Stop it, landlords. You too, tenants. It’s not that hard. Put your shit in the bin, not the pavement, ffs.

But don’t give up hope. Believe in yourself, believe in Govanhill, in Glasgow, maybe even Scotland.

The world is watching. Polmadie is anyway, anxious to join in the fun, hang out with the cool kids from the other side of the tracks, the rough part of town.

Know what I mean, Strthbngo?