Remember the future, Govanhill

six windows in different coloured buildings

I’ve been here before, I know I have, I must have been.

I’ve been walking these streets all my life, drinking in these pubs since before I was born, in a previous life as a Roman centurion, some Spanish aristocrat or a flea-bitten medieval jakey.

Not a Friday night but a Saturday morning, sunshine on sandstone glowing in that morning when the sun is up but the streets are quiet, people out running with dogs alongside and fat legs in shorts, that’s the time, the best time.

Green land in the city’s grandest park, blossoms in gardens and wee backcourts, pot plants crowding tenement window or balcony space.

There’s beauty among the middens too. Seek and ye shall find, I tell thee.

A queue of people, and not just white people, outside the bookies and the boozers and the chippy, not a tote bag in sight, no ankles or moustaches nor expensive loaves of bread either just warm people who talk to each other but have fewer teeth and different tattoos than design consultants, picture framers or brave makers and doers.

Old souls from yesteryear who’ll always have your back. Ways of behaving that bind you to a place.

Remember the future but remember the past too, a heavyweight past, not just Govanhill but the black and white city we knew as kids.

That lost civilisation of gaudy murals on gable ends, rotting wood and dead masonry, empty space with giant puddles like vast lakes beside mounds of earth and piles of tyres that seemed hundreds of feet high.

We lived and died there and nobody knew.

Quieter streets too, odd pockets of suburbia in Cessnock, Springburn, Tollcross and Maryhill. Smart terraced homes on neat little avenues, villas and bungalows with garden paths, hooses with an upstairs where each child has its own bed, even its own bedroom.

Strange eyes round every corner, unknown buildings like a synagogue or an art gallery or an ice cream parlour. A little girl in red shoes.

Or cheap sannies, ninety-nine pence slip-ons, black canvas with caramel soles, the shoes of municipal socialism.

Football learned in those shoes on tarmac and concrete and gravel, red ash and black ash, blood and snotters from sliding tackles and diving headers because to do is to be and to be is to struggle.

Council grass worn away to smooth earth, two young trees as perfect goalposts for tenement kids kicking a ball around.

Dreaming of Celtic Rangers, Scotland England, home internationals, world cup glory.

Reflected dreams from telly and playground. Diced carrots next to the roundabout, broken glass in the sandpit.

Crouching pavements, hidden walls.

Black tar also softens in the sun, yellow flower dandelions reach out from cracks in a concrete wall.

All in this place, always this place, it’s all there’s ever been.

It was always the most fascinating city in the world to me.



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