Return to Clint Eastwood Toll

Spoof nameplates of famous people for the front door, including B Clinton, D Bowie

So they’re filming another Hollywood blockbuster in Glasgow city centre.

Two weeks ago it was Indiana Jones, now it’s Batman or something. Before that it was World War Z, some Fast and Furious bollocks too.

Either the scale of the buildings makes the city centre grid look like New York, Philadelphia or Gotham, or else Hollywood loves the teeth, the food and the patter over here.

Did ye, aye.

Anyway. We’re used to big stars. There’s a long history of Hollywood in Govanhill, a connection that goes way back to earlier this week when I started thinking of something to write.

There’s Clint Eastwood Toll, of course, and Steve McQueen’s Park. And once I saw Redford in Bedford Street and Newman in Newlands.

Superheroes all over the shoap in Govanhill too.

Wonder Woman smoking a tab outside the launderette.

Black Panther dribbling kebab sauce down his front.

Thor getting his baws booted outside the QPC.

It’s also a made-up fact that Marlene Dietrich liked a pie from Greggs, Ingrid Bergman loved queuing for an overrated coffee, and Denzel Washington enjoyed a game of pitch n putt doon the perk.

Remember when Humphrey Bogart had a flat on Kingarth Street? Me neither, but Greta Garbo also lived on Butterbiggins Road and they both went swimming at Govanhill baths but Bogart did breadths and Garbo preferred lengths and it ended in an underwater square go.

Or the night Gregory Peck was drinking in the Vicky Bar and got into an argument with early Marlon Brando over 50p for the pool table and when Peck spilled Brando’s pint it almost kicked off until Bill Murray arrived and distracted them both with some humorous facial expressions.

I’m joking, of course.

The Vicky Bar doesn’t have a pool table.

Anyway. I have an idea for a Hollywood blobbuster.

Miracle on Torrisdale Street.

Dick Tracy is winching Mad Tracy and they set out to save the world as well as city libraries earmarked for closure.

Al de Niro and Bob Pacino are interested, Meryl Fonda and Jane Streep too.

Did ye, aye.


United Colours of Polmadie

I keep on ringing the same bell, I know, but Govanhill always feels different.

People bringing their colour, melodies, eyes and shoes to our already mixed-up tenements.

It’s the second-best thing about Glasgow, after the fact it has the most illustrious football club in the world in the east end. More on that story later.

Govanhill is almost like a caricature of diversity.

Four Kurdish barbers, three French hens, two Polish delis, una La Bianca bistro, and the Niu café, which always makes me think of Krautrock bands like Can or Neu, all cosmic avant-garde and twelve-minute drum solos.

A family from Sudan having a barbecue in the park, men grilling mutton, women sitting in a group, kids playing football close by.

How do I know where they were from? Because I asked them. Because I’m not a dweeb. And because I’m a dork who speaks to strangers.

It’s not even invented, this diversity. Ye couldnae make it up.

Romanians at a corner on Allison Street, big guys, hard looking, wide shoulders, shouting at each other across the way or up to someone at a window.

The darkness of Allison Street, overbearing tenements on all five sides, something crackling in the air, always on the edge of chaos but never quite falling in.

Sweeteries, eateries, sunflower seed blossom all over the pavement.

Saturday evening hot food from the noodle bar down the road, the unique queer bookshop round the corner, Algerian dudes laughing at a car door in front of the off-licence.

Lentil brothers, bao sisters, non-binary fruitarians.

Jakeys like me wandering around, staring at buildings, chatting to dogs.

And Rab fae Torrisdale Street and his mate, long ball Larry, talking in that caricature weegie way – awright maaaate – walking quickly, drawn faces, nae teeth but good clothes, always with the good quality clothes. Maybe gouching outside the supermarket, eyes closing over, sitting waiting for a few coins.

It’s almost comical, this diversity, almost like a cartoon, like some nauseating marketing campaign, United Colours of Polmadie, some ruthless global conglomerate trying to wash its terrible face in our sinks.

A white couple in their twenties walking down Westmoreland Street in bare feet, long hair, wide trousers, loose skirts. It’s like Glastonbury, or Knockengorroch, or a beachfront in Goa. Or cosplay, fancy dress, imitating how nobody dressed fifty years ago.

Nothing wrong with modern-day hippies, but not many children of granola back when the local paper called this the worst street in Scotland.

Back before the hipster apocalypse of loaves and fonts and coffee, before we came to become up and coming.

Back when no one wanted to live here, when people were afraid even to say the word Govanhill.

Ask the wildlife, they’ll tell you.

A pigeon on the roof in afternoon sunlight, head popping, peck pecking, limping along after another day of eternal struggle, break the back to feed the faimly then fly away and shit on someone’s head.

Ask the seagulls attacking black bags at the litter bins, onion skins and used nappies strewn all over the road. 

The dogs in the park, they’ll tell you the same.

It was always like this.

But the guy playing the bongos on Vicky Road? Honestly, mate. I’m trying to work from home over here.

And moustaches? Leave them alone too.