The sound of this place

The corner of a tenement with blue sky behind reflected on a puddle

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.

Or maybe it was Cathcart Road or Dixon Avenue, Calder Street or Kingarth Lane, or some other thoroughfare popular with traffic and pedestrians and sourdoughballs.

Does Govanhill always sound like this?

Like what?

Like a building site.

He’s right, of course. He always is. Just don’t tell him I said that.  

Road works might be over, cycle lanes complete, but blocks of flats are being built, sewers and drains need replaced. Diggers and rollers on pavement tarmac, cutting and drilling through landscape concrete, hi viz slow motion lo viz blur.

Not quite suburbia round here, is it?

He’s right, again. Too much shared space, too many exotic lifeforms, not enough deadly white silence. No kids in crash helmets on their bikes in a cul-de-sac.

You hear more languages round here, too. Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi and a hundred more to go with the high-density housing, exclusion and ill health. Creaking floorboards, a dripping radiator, the sound of a mattress dropped in an alleyway.

We both look up but there’s less sky in Govanhill, we see roofs instead of sky, hear seagulls on those roofs, not like a gentle sunset by the evening shore but like screeching banshees angry at a tree.

Barking dogs, scurrying mice, I’m sure I heard an owl in the attic last week.

Still, it’s good to be out of the house, walking around, sight and sound. It helps us stay alive.

Up near the park now, buskers busking, almost jazz in the almost sunshine, or Roma musicians with fiddle and squeezebox. A siren in the distance, probably an ambulance or a fire engine or a cop car. Thunder overhead, rain starts to fall in long grey sheets that make so much noise because there’s only us there to hear.

I ask my brother what it’s like in the Gorbals and he said the ice cream van plays the Benny Hill tune, sometimes the theme from The Godfather, and the neighbours through the wall were playing a game of rugby last night. Still, makes a change from listening to you talking pish.

I said shut it Gorbals right and he said by the way Govanhill, keep it down.



The best of all possible Govanhills

A white rocking horse on a pole in a shop window with a purple frame

Too much, Govanhill.

Too much place, the same place, the one that never changes.

Relentless rows of street after street, tenements with faces, big glass faces, walls closing in, blocking the view, limiting our horizons, everywhere we turn.

Inside is too crowded, even if you live alone, office, restaurant, entertainment hub all its own.

There must be different places, other things going on, over there not here.

But I don’t know and neither does Govanhill.

So we’re stuck together going round and round in the streets, in the flat, on the page.

The same shops at regular times for essential purposes, daily walking along identical pavements.

Reheated eating, repeated every day, always on that chair, wearing this set of clothes, the usual rubbish lighting on Zoom. We even go to sleep in the same position each night.

I’ve worn you out, Govanhill.

Crossed all your roads, climbed all your trees, been down those forest trails, mountain paths and hidden glens.

Stared out at your flat sky from the living room, bedroom, kitchen window.

Clapped with my neighbours, heard the ambulances in the street and the crying relatives, and sat and watched the moon rise over the roof of the tenement opposite.

In the best of all possible Govanhills.

So it might be too much but there’s nothing else for it, it is all there is.

I can’t see less of Govanhill, nor less of myself.

Can’t sing in another voice, wear a new outfit, breathe different air, not here, not yet.

So it’s me and you, round and round, nothing less, nothing more, no more than Govanhill.

I have to be where I live, otherwise it would be a different blog.

Cheers, drinking cans.

Cheers, watching telly.

Cheers, walking aimlessly round the flat.

In the best of all possible Govanhills.

Can’t live anywhere else

A bench in a park overgrown with weeds

You know I love you, Govanhill.

Yes, I went to Shawlands. But only the once and only for a coffee. It meant nothing to me.

Yes, I used to live there but now I love you, so I do.

Sick of the sight of you too, though. Your daft face there every morning as I wake up, looking just that bit worse than yesterday.

Bored of you, mate. Seen it all before. And these days there’s nothing else to look at so aye even better, cheers. Nightmare. You’re a nightmare.

No. I didn’t mean that, I’m sorry I said that, please forgive me. You know I pure love you.

But really, neither of us are at our best.

I’m in a state of extensive disrepair. Face collapsed, knees too, other bits needing replaced, recharged, tarted up.

Exhausted and rundown, and everyone I see is the same. An attempted hairstyle and colourful clothes can’t hide the inevitable sense of decline, eh? We’re all falling apart.

But I can still pass for a young man, of course. Therty at most, probably younger. No? What are you laughing at? Cut me some slack, Jack. These are challenging times. Unprecedented, even.

Your four walls don’t look great either, Govanhill.

Boiler leak and room freeze, broken floor to suspect window, cooker dead and chairs unknown. And don’t talk to me about the backcourt.

You could do with a lick of paint, a few nips and tucks, spruce yourself up.

And don’t worry, I’m not going to move to a three-bed new-build with a posh balcony in Langside, or hook up with some wee trampy bedsit in the west end.

You know I can’t live anywhere else.

Don’t know if we need some time apart, a bit of space, get our heads together, find out what we really want.

Me, I fancy a pint.

Talk soon, Govanhill.