Word of foot

multi-coloured polka dot thing that looks like a ball with green grass and trees and a blue sky behind

Immigration enriches a place, refreshes it, reminds a culture of its own neglected parts.

Things people used to do but don’t anymore.

Street football, street food, hanging around street corners.

Remember that was us? Immigration brings us closer to home.

Kids from Romania, Kurdistan and Somalia playing football on the basketball court in the park, just as we did when we were young, a Mitre 5 or a plastic job from the corner shop, black sannies or a pair of your granny’s wellies.

Sacred working-class knowledge passed down through word of foot.

We always played football, especially as adults, a game with the brothers every Saturday in the park, whatever the weather and whatever the hangover, then back to the cluttered house swirling in smoke with the endless stream of visitors and friends, relatives and neighbours, the hiss of beer cans opening and voices raised in drunken discussions about politics or Celtic and dad shouting at us to keep it down.

And now a fool like me is kicking a ball around with kids at the end of my street.

The global language of keepie-uppie, noble pastime, a pastime straight from the gods.

An Iraqi boy, fourteen, good player.

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, head, chest, both knees, even that catching it on the back of the neck thing which always annoys me because you can never do that in a game but I let it go man, he’s only fourteen.

Then he passes to me – what, with my hamstrings? – and a clown’s hooter sounds or a comedy trombone starts up as I stumble and flap in mid-air and the ball bounces from my face to a car bonnet and out to the main road and as I run to retrieve it I’m nine years old again, a bus driver beeping his horn and shaking his fist, me giving him a cheeky wee wave. Hope he doesn’t call the fuzz.

So cheers Kurdistan, Romania and Somalia, for reminders of the old city, city that’s always changing but where a good first touch always remains.

We belong to Glasgow.

Drink, smoke, football, die. That’s what we do.



Govanhill doesn’t really exist

Tenements reflected on a car window, with other tenements in the background

Govanhill doesn’t really exist.

I invented these streets, built these tenements, paved these roads. I serve in the shops, pour the pints, empty the bins.

It’s me who keeps the lights on in MyGovanhill.

Invisible me walking the streets of my imaginary city.

I walk these streets but I don’t really know where I’m going.

Bouncing from sky to pavement and back before standing, standing looking out to the horizon or the end of the road at least.

There may be other places but I haven’t been and I can’t think what goes on there.

Clockwork through these streets instead, catching only my own reflection everywherever I go.

Businesses on this main road, some local, some global, pop-up, closed down. More empty shops than you might think.

Hip wee dogs with English accents, owners’ white skin prickling outside a bakery.

Forget the bakery. The bread tastes like tarmac. Govanhill doesn’t really exist. Leave your tote bag at home, check out these streets I invented instead.

Where nobody knows your name.

And they’re never glad you came.

Forget the bakery. Try queuing outside the pawn shop, the bookies, the chippy. Or the pub, repository of ancient knowledge passed down through the generations by word of mouth.

Bevvy, warmth, companionship, sometimes a guy who’ll throw up on your shoes.

Hings happenin in the streets I paved. Magic.

Tap dancers and pure rockets are singing my songs. Utter bampots and total madmen painting my pictures.

Because I’ve always been here, lived and died round here many times over.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t here.

Might try writing a sitcom about it.

Set in a bar in Govanhill where a group of locals meet to drink, relax, and socialise which runs for 275 half-hour episodes across eleven seasons.