Govanhill stories: Head south, they said

colourful collage of made-up gang names

I fled the regime in war-torn Shettleston and moved my family to the safety of Govanhill.

Forced to leave our homeland, our culture, in the hope of a better life.

It was a difficult time in the east end of the city.

Ballot rigging in Ruchazie, voter intimidation across Parkhead, an attempted coup in Garthamlock led to mass demonstrations, factory occupations, land seizures.

Defund the Baltic Fleet. Impeach Milton Tongs. Not in my name, Brigton Derry.

After the collapse of peace talks between Queenslie and the Garngad, Carntyne threatened air strikes on Balornock, a curfew was declared in Tollcross and food riots broke out all over Riddrie.

Unrest even spread to Dennistoun, once the eleventh coolest neighbourhood in the UK.

And when big Malky fae the high flats went on bunger strike until giro day, I knew the time had come.

There had to be a brighter future for me and my family.

Head south, they said. You’ll find sanctuary there, among the vineyards and olive groves, where cattle graze and flowers bloom, all that sort of shite.

So we paid a smuggler to get us over the border and he took us to the bus stop in the dead of night and put us on the top deck of the number 57 to Carnwadric.

Bawheids, growlers, goons, oafs. We’ve all been there.

Huddling together for warmth, trying to ignore the empty can of Irn Bru on the seat, the crisp poke on the floor. I was putting my family at risk, I knew I was, but we endured, we had to.  And thirty minutes later we set foot in the south side.

It’s a different world here. Here there is shelter, clean drinking water, sourdough bread. My kids can go to school without being attacked by Springboig.

We have everything we need in Govanhill. Pubs that are closed, overcrowded homes, a pond where a hundred people can go ice skating during a pandemic.

I might move back east some day. I still dream of the vast open spaces of Barlanark, the soaring mountains of Cranhill, lost civilisations such as Red Road or Hutchesontown, ancient tribes like the Yoker Toi.

Until then, I have the mighty rivers and valleys of Govanhill.

Cheers, tenth coolest neighbourhood in the UK.


Govanhill stories: Marius started painting again

closeup of a painting of a man with dark hair and a beard

It’s a better life in a new country, isn’t it? It has to be. It must be. I’ve started painting again.

Marius always loved painting. Failed all his exams at school, except art. He always loved art. He has an easel in the living room by the window and gets up early every morning to paint before he leaves for work. It’s quiet. No kids running around, his wife isn’t shouting at him, no noise from the neighbours through the wall.

Marius came to Govanhill six years ago with his uncle’s family, stayed on Allison Street, eight of them in three rooms sleeping on mattresses. Once he found a job and a flat through that agency on Victoria Road, his wife and kids came over. And he started painting again.

I do portraits mostly, of family and friends, from photographs. Sometimes pets, favourite movie stars or football players. I don’t make any money, just enough to buy paint, brushes or paper.

I’m still learning, so my favourite thing is to do copies. Van Gogh, mostly. I love van Gogh. Starry night, the café terrace one, the colours he used. I learned so much from him. I don’t show those to anyone.

I work in a car wash. Long hours, low pay, cold and wet, on my feet all day, constant back pain, rude customers.

My boss, a young guy, is a shit. Always trying to prove himself. Even fired my friend for being late one morning because he had to take his son to hospital.

The landlord, he’s also a shit. He put the rent up again, we had no heating for a week, took him a month to fix the front door.

My wife’s cousin is staying with us and he’s a shit too. I’m surrounded by them.

He sits around my house eating my food, wearing the skinniest jeans in Govanhill, listening to 90s hip hop. I love Wu Tang Clan too but not all day, man. But what can you do? He’s family. And he has massive shoulders.

I’ve had no real problem here. I like Scottish people. They’re friendly, but hard to understand. Scottish people are in every country in the world. 

There are a lot of people who look like me in Govanhill. And my uncle, his sister, her kids, my friends, Romanian food shops and Transylvania, of course.

I miss the music back home, and I don’t mean Wu Tang Clan. Whenever we go back to Romania there are only old people left, like my parents. They like to play but there’s no one there to hear. Me, I prefer painting.

My home is my family, my wife and two daughters. Maybe my daughters will grow up to be teachers one day so I can retire and go to art school. Until then, it’s the car wash.

I’m trying to give my family a good life, like your parents and grandparents did.

It’s better, isn’t it? It must be. Always better, always worth it. Isn’t it? At least I’ve started painting again.

Noroc, Govanhill.