We is all there is

Two colourful paintings side by side: a woman sitting on grass in a backcourt, another woman sitting indoors drinking tea

It’s me and you Govanhill, like it or not.

Stuck with each other like a pair of cranky old buzzards arguing over a dead mouse.

We’re too much alike, and too different for words, but there’s nothing else to talk about, so what can I say.

We is all there is.

Wonder what it’s like in other places. Open space, ocean views, tumbleweed? Dysfunctional homes, hidden violence, addiction? Aye, here too.

But at least Govanhill is a weird moveable feast, like a train station concourse spread over a few square miles.

Everyone’s leaving or everyone’s arriving or halfway between the two.

This overworked, undersized constant crowd of limbs and masks and bikes and prams and fireworks being let off in the street, ffs.

Lorry drivers, dog walkers, shelf stackers. Trans activists, trade unionists, migrant workers. And those young minds who entitle themselves and whose main entitle is themselves.

What a main road we have too.

Charismatic wee Romanian deli, new Italian bistro, hardware store with floors and aisles invisible from outside.

Silversmiths, tattooists, Asian outfitters, organic grocery and community food bank.

Primary schools, building sites, pubs sometimes open but mostly closed, and right at the top is the best one of Glasgow’s ninety three parks, dear green place and that.

The supermarket chains, the global fast-food brands that gie ye the dry boak.

Great institutions like the library and the swimming pool yet to reopen.

The start-ups, closed downs and gone for evers.

Miles and miles automatic, recent rain now rising.

Dry afternoons and wet evenings becoming drier, wetter too.

So it’s me and you Govanhill, like it or not, in it together, together as one.

Not walking on air, soaring over the rooftops or flying through the heavens but down here, swimming on the pavement.

It’s our nature, and everything has to be true to its nature.

Cheers.

Go.

Van.

Hill.

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Lovely couple flee Govanhill in a bathtub

a tidy row of rubbish bins outside a block of flats

This flat used to be a great place to live but it went downhill after I moved in.

A lovely young couple were here before me. She worked in newspapers, he was a university librarian.

But they fled Govanhill in a bathtub one night and are now seeking asylum in a three-bed semi just outside the city with good transport links and excellent schools.

Lovely couple would never have let things deteriorate the way I did. They were always too busy holding hands and sailing through life having fulfilling careers and beautiful kids.

And then I arrived, from just around the corner, and brought the tone of the place right down.

House prices began to fall, estate agents started rebranding Govanhill as south central Polmadie, wider Crosshill north, western Bathstrungo.

It was a different time. More chaotic, much less chaotic. A time when you could get to the game, go for a swally, visit a restaurant, catch a movie, go to the hairdressers all on your way home. I mean, I haven’t been to a soft play area in ages.

But don’t worry, lovely couple. Things have changed since your day. My poor performance meant the flat was placed in special measures, with a new management structure, co-opted board members, an interim chief exec. Now it’s an area on the up.

Check out what I’ve done with the crib.

The windows were washed just three years ago. An avocado might have been in the fridge last June. There’s even a pot plant somewhere.

I made other improvements too.

Stole the flag pole from the top of the hill in Queens Park and put it in the hallway and now I have great views over the city and beyond.

Applied for planning permission to rebuild the old Cladda club in the back bedroom.

And I recently decreed that every pub in the area closed because of the pandemic shall reopen in my kitchen, free of charge.

So nae luck, lovely couple.

And fingers crossed, Govanhill.

A piece and Jamieson Street

Fireworks at night, with brightly-lit window of a tenement at bottom left

A wee spell in Govanhill should be on everyone’s to-do list, bucket list, shopping list.

Living round here should be on the syllabus in schools, legally prescribed by doctors.

Think about it. Your five a day could be Butterbiggins, Inglefield, Torrisdale, Hollybrook and Carfin.

I mean, Govanhill already gets great reviews on Amazon, tripadvisor and we buy any car dot com too. It should be a compulsory purchase.

Folk could stay here for a six-month stretch, on a rotating basis, in alphabetical order.

Hello, is that Aaron fae Ardbeg Street?

People might learn a few things living round here.

Tolerance, humility, a new language every day, how to drink communion wine laced with caffeine without getting the jail.

You’d soon start to appreciate the innate beauty of a bin bag, I tell thee.

Free your mind. Come live round here and hang with our punk poets, queens and queers, free radicals and earth mothers.

Tickle your tartars with our dive bombers and gable enders, our weirdo wackos, sleekit wee bastards and glaikit downing outs.

A wee spell in Govanhill would do you good, people.

Send your CV on a postage stamp to the usual address: Cheers Govanhill, Govanhill Street, Govanhill.

Please include relevant experience, qualifications, career highs, career lows, career goals, goal of the season, and ideas on how to fix a football team which is in danger of falling apart in the most important year in its history.

Cheers in a row.

Why Govanhill looks like you and looks nothing like you

photo of a pool table outside in an alleyway

I thought Govanhill was expanding but turns out it’s collapsing.

By collapsing, I don’t mean the buildings and by expanding, I don’t mean more buildings.

I mean Govanhill is shrinking and Govanhill is also taking over.

It’s everywhere. When I’m outside I’m in and when I’m inside I’m out and vice versa.

My flat is Govanhill, a tiny Govanhill, with the same unruly parts, raggedy bins, boarded-up corners and fresh layers of dust.

Fewer funky places to snack, right enough, and no real evidence of recent renovation.

It’s not just Govanhill either. Bet it’s the same where you are too. Balornock all over the shoap, Kelvindale round every corner, universal Provanmill.

I mean, we’d like to get away, away from home, this never-ending home. A wee holiday, trip up north, a weekend break, take care, see you soon, bye bye.

But the travel’s not essential so there’s nowhere to go and we cannot escape, inside or out.

Stuck in yer ain midden, it’s not funny. You know what it’s like, claustrophobia, climbing the walls, walking the same floors day after never-ending day.

That’s why we’re all meditatifying, practising emptyheadness, learning empty’s good, empty’s your friend.

Anyway. There are worse places to be, I suppose. And always reasons to be cheersful.

I’m lucky Govanhill is always there when I open the door and still there when I close it again.

I’m grateful it’s nowhere else and it’s all there is, inside and out, the place that won’t leave me alone.

So aye, cheers Govanhill for keeping going and keeping me going. For staying the same by always surprising. For the constant reminders it’s not all shapeless shapes and vegan brunch. (Nae offence, calcium-fortified plant milks.)

Cheers for looking like me and looking nothing like me.

Cheers for not being neutralised or gently-fried.

Not yet, so far, let you know, Govanhill.