Great bunch of lads

cartoons of three pop art cans with the anarchist symbol

Here in the city, the inner city, and all its featured delights.

Green space and birdsong, quality turn-ups and sideburns, a stained mattress next to a three-wheeled pram.

Bakeries and takeaways, friends and brothers all in easy walking distance too.

Great bunch of lads.

Pork chop square slice.

Every shade of black.

In the city, the city of Govanhill, that’s where we are, where we’ve never voted Tory, we didnae vote leave, we don’t play rugby and we dinna even ken where Edinburgh is, okay?

Roman and Celtic, Hibernia and Caledonia, city feed with whisky bars, music in our feet, taste of continents in our food.

Yoga mats and hats from Vietnam and shoes from Sudan and graffiti on the wall that says we’re magic, we’re magic, graffiti on the wall.

Hot chocolate city, hot coffee, sitting on the stoop city, smelling the smoke, the weed, the cigarette blush and puff.

City evening rubbish and flowers in the pavement pushing through concrete ground.

The city is our family, although sometimes invisible in an empty city, an invisible city with buildings too high or windows locked in hidden tenements.

Late night tears, early morning wailing, never forgotten, always remembered, doomed to repeat again and again.

Every type of home in this city.

Early century urban slums, pre-war landlord slums, municipal disasters, free market buy to let and left to rot.

Or brutalist social housing masterpieces, empty space and spray paint wilderness.

Some backcourts are like a garden suburb, others like a medieval dump.

Some have hopeful pot plants, stained glass, perhaps a polite little pushbike chained up.

Others have timeless, placeless terror. No names on doors, haunted letterbox, holes punched in brickwork.

It will all end there, you know it will, in the dead of night, in a dark stairwell with no one to hear you scream.

That’s our city, the constant city.

Student flats or your cousin lives here or a drug dealer does or a family who fled war-torn Debenhams in a small boat.

Because we’re all immigrants here, it doesn’t matter what we wear, or the spices in our hair. In the rain we don’t get wet, or if we do, we don’t care, we ignore.

Straining in the silence, heads wrapped up against the hot and the cold, bare shoulders and tartan trews.

Flesh-coloured fools, a double-headed dragon breathing fire, all the big boots and greasy dust you require or desire.

Sorry, what were we talking about again?

Aye, non-binary fanny magnets, that’s it.

Cheers.

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Aye, so, still no Govanhill but eh

Three murals of Glasgow place names, Dennistoun, Battlefield and Govanhill

If an area of Glasgow doesn’t have its own mural, does it really exist?

I don’t mean the usual Glasgow stuff of Saint Mungo or Saint Enoch, Clutha Vaults or Billy Connolly, FTQ or FTP.

I mean a defining mural, a colourful place name like the Hollywood sign or the Berlin wall or you are now entering free Derry.

Cheers Dennistoun, Cheers Battlefield, Cheers Govanhill, to be sure.

If an area of Glasgow isn’t one of the best places on earth, does it really exist?

Last week Time Out magazine named Shawlands the eleventh coolest neighbourhood in the world, while Kelvinbridge was 38th in 2019 and Dennistoun number eight in 2020.

I know what you’re thinking – me too – but I don’t think these fannies have ever heard of Polmadie. There’s always next year, I suppose.

Dennistoun, Battlefield and Shawlands may look like Govanhill, with their rows of tenements, public park and public library, new-build social housing and hidden terraced homes.

Halal, kosher, fenians and billy boys, chop suey, peppermint chai.

Plus a few hip roasters with sustainable trousers who think they’re unique, a real one-off, but don’t understand that everything they say has been said before only better.

Aye, so, still no Govanhill but eh.

Dennistoun’s close to Paradise, of course, and when you live so close you hear the roar from the stands as the tricky wee winger turns his man inside out, the big centre half is winning every tackle, the new centre forward sticks the baw in the pokey.

The swell of noise, the rise and fall, chanting and singing, call and response, the ebb and the flow, tens of thousands of ooohing and aaahing.

Okay I’ll give you that, Haghill, Camlachie, Parkhead, Bellgrove.

Closer to Paradise, still no Govanhill but eh.

If an area of Glasgow doesn’t have its own blog, does it really exist?

Cheers Carntyne, Cheers Red Road, Cheers Maryhill and Whiteinch.

How can you be a real area if some wee nyaff – sorry, influential lifestyle and wellness blogger – isnae talking pish about you twice a week for well over a year, then about once a week and now maybe twice a month if you’re lucky?

So says the fictional narrator of a so-called blog about a made-up place.

My dream therapist said this blog was a role model for young people, but my social worker went off work with stress and my parole officer quit to go backpacking in Auchenshuggle.

Aye, so, still Govanhill but eh.

You are me and I am too and neither of us really exists.

Cheerio.

Three cheers, Govanhill

Front of a building with multi-coloured squares beside some windows

So I’m walking through Govanhill the only way I know how, slowly, repeatedly, religiously.

Walking these streets is just like going to church.

I don’t mean worshipping dead leaves by the railway line, praying on your knees before a boarded-up shop, or seeing the face of baby Jesus in a used nappy on the pavement.

I mean because it’s boring, it goes on too long and can’t I just stay in bed?

There must be a quicker easier way for my sins to be forgiven.

I could try being rescued by the dogs in the park, the freedom and abandon of these charismatic wee bandits, running around, chasing a ball, legs twirling.

Redemption every morning watching a puppy do a shite on the grass.

Walking these streets doesn’t clear your head either, it just muddles your thinking, adds extra complexity, a burden of truth it’s impossible to ignore.

Confusing your thoughts, darkening your outlook, multiplying grief, just like Shawlands Cross or Eglinton toll.

Rubbing salt into your wounds, pepper in your eye, mustard up your arse, just like Langside Avenue or Battlefield Road.

Forward into oblivion, or Pollokshields East at least, Pollokshields West at best.

Walking these streets doesn’t clear your head because your head is never clear, nothing ever is, you understand less, certain of nothing, trust in everything.

I walk therefore I’m not.

I do it because I don’t.

I can’t because I won’t.

See? Nothing is clear. Litter on the road, the rattling in your ears, dust in the creases of your face.

So you head out from Govanhill, out towards the light where the sky opens up, where everything looks bigger, things might be better, and you might be too.

Higher ground, clearer path to the truth and the light, the same light as on the tenth floor of that high-rise block, one solitary light on at seven in the morning, someone just finished work or just starting work, who gets up early or goes to bed late, or both at the same time, watching Starsky and Hutch, listening to Radio 4, tending their plants, rubber, cheese, succulent or savoury, too skint to turn the heating on.

There’s always a hill to climb, a decision to make, a puzzle to solve, so you keep on walking because it’s all you know, there’s nothing else to do.

Aye right, fresh air.

Nae bother, steps.

Very good, exercise.

It’s just daft shoes on black ice in dull darkness and cold wind and look and feel ridiculous.

Three cheers, Govanhill.

Why a Jacobite is our favourite chocolate biscuit

Mannequin dressed as a workman sitting on toilet seat with a tenement in the background

Getting drunk with wee Nicola in Glasgow southside is a political act, a separatist act, a nationalist act.

Me and the First Minister out on the razz in her very ain Scottish Parliamentary constituency.

Wee Nicky is the current manager of bony Skotchland, of course. First team coach of the smallest country in the best world, the countriest world of small bests, the bestest world country of smalls, whatever.

Hoots mon, help ma Boab, haggis, neeps and twatties.

Rabbie Burns and Johnny Walker, Sunday Post and Highland flings.

Bag a Munro, finger a MacTavish, tickle a Corbett’s bollocks.

Makes ye proud to be Skarrish.

But wee Nickla is also every citizen of Govanhill’s very ain elected member.

So we had a few swallies and a couple of goldies propping up the bar in Neeson’s.

Went round to Yadgar for a lamb biryani, Peshwari naan and takeaway mushroom pakora.

Then across tae Rab’s over in Torrisdale Street to score some late-night blaw.

Chap the door, just say Mel Gibson sent ye, aw right, job done, nae bother.

And after that we sat on the pavement to have a wee toke and discuss the issues that matter.

The Westmoreland Street question, the Northern Pollok protocol, power sharing between Cathcart Road and Garturk Street. A wealthier, happier, fairer Polmadie?

Indyref too, how now is the time, like it almost was last time and though the moment had gone here it is again, and how once-in-a-lifetime doesn’t come round very often.

And we both agreed we were Glasgow partisans, Govanhill nationalists, tenement city separatists.

Then I poured wee Nicola into a taxi back to Bute House and she said Cheers Govanhill and I went home to my tenement flat for more bonnie wee national stereotypes.

Yesterday I was tartan shortbread tin laddie. Tomorrow I’ll be kilted hunk eating porridge. Day after that I’ll be bagpiping through the glens.

But tonight I’m solving my problems and making them worse by being drunk and falling asleep on the couch.

Wha’s like us?

Me neither. Me too.

Cheery.

Govanhill needs a break

Purple cardboard cut-out of a figure playing the violin against a blue sky with tenements in the background

I need a break from Govanhill.

Hit the road, the open road, Pollokshaws Road, see where it takes me.

Route 66 to Shawlands, Newlands, Merrylee.

Highway 61 to revisit the Gorbals, Oatlands, Richmond Park.

Big world out there.

I could be crossing the continent coast to coast, desert freeway with the top down. Carndwadric, Thornliebank, Hillpark.

Rickety gas stations and burger joints and neon-lit diners selling corndogs and grits and refried beans. Myrtle Park, Toryglen, Langside.

There’s a soundtrack too, with slide guitar, probably in D minor. Maxwell Park, Pollokshields, Dumbreck Road.

It’s Jack Kerouac, isn’t it, wise mystic bum saint in that soft desolate west, howl of the freight train in the soulful American night.

Junction three on the A727 just past Clarkston.

Want a lonesome ballad about life on the road? Try waiting for a late bus from Polmadie on a wet Tuesday in February. It’ll break your heart.

I might need a break from Govanhill but there’s no need to leave tenement city.

Glasgow has the best beaches in Scotland.

Pristine sand, sunset cocktails, relaxing sea air, none of that shite.

I’m talking the Broomielaw, Yoker, Clyde and Forth canal.

Go swimming at Kingston docks, Prince’s dock, or the old dry dock, splat.

Take a cruise on the Renfrew ferry, the Govan ferry, or round the pond in Queens Park.

Wild camping in the wilderness of Kelvingrove, Glesga Green, Pollok estate.

Escape to the mountains, and not just Mount Florida but Mount Vernon, even Mountblow.

Flee to the hills, and I don’t mean Crosshill or Maryhill, I mean Sighthill and Prospecthill.

And then back to Govanhill, jewel in the crown, hidden gem, perfect holiday destination.

It’s out there, I know it is, I’ve seen it, I’ve been it.

Stunning landscape, vibrant culture, friendly locals.

Nae midgies either.

Cheers.

Increasing Victoria Road later

Cartoon picture on a wall of a pigeon, with 'pigeons make Glasgow' written behind it

And now the shitting forecast, issued by Cheers Govanhill on behalf of the Inglefield Torrisdale maritime and coastguard agency.

Weather reports from coastal stations, ya bass.

Thundery showers. Irish Sea in Govanhill. Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Black, North and Baltic.

Westerly Pollokshaws at the moment, perhaps gale nine later in Pollokshields east.

High pressure Cathcart Road, Daisy Street recent hail, Ardbeg Lane spilling shortly.

Fog banks, ten sometimes, a hundred after that, but very poor, unusually poor, visibility poorer still.

The wind was four by north three or something when it happened outside the Queens Park Café.

Guy had it coming, didn’t know what he was doing, said the wrong thing.

Punched in the face, moderate not fair.

Walked away, backing south easterly.

Becoming variable, then cyclonic.

Collapsed in Kingarth Lane.

East side of south, Govanhill Street then Butterbiggins Road, veering northerly into traffic. Thousands and se7enty se7en, falling slowly.

Low cloud, complex low at best, violent storm ten, perhaps storm eleven.

Otherwise becoming speechless, or less.

Occasionally nine nine nine later, so it must be Dixon Avenue, Niddrie Road or Calder Street.

Now rising more slowly. Inshore welcome coastal waters alongside Langside Drive.

Drizzle at times on Allison Street. Increasing Victoria Road or not. Govanhill Baths automatic.

Southerly, sisterly, moonlight, oh moonlight, thank you moonlight.

That completes the shitting bulletin. More to follow, midnight every night.

Cheers.

If you can’t be terrific, be cool

White sticker with 'Cyclists stay awesome' on a black background

So I was walking down the street not minding my own business when I spotted this sticker on a car window.

It wasn’t in Govanhill, it was in a place nearby which starts with ‘Strathbung’ and ends in ‘o’.

But I’m not sure cyclists are all that awesome in the first place.

Obsessing about ankle clips, fondling wee tins of puncture repair kit, saving up all their pocket money to buy a space helmet. They might just be pedalling pedants instead.

I saw a cyclist picking her nose last week, heard another one farting in the saddle at the lights, and I know at least two more who voted for Brexit.

See, that’s the reality behind the ‘sustainable future for our kids’ brigade and the Chris Hoy’s thighs fanatics. Madness, I tell thee.

Actually, don’t stay awesome, cyclists.

Stay terrific instead. It’s much better.

What’s for tea tonight?

Beer soup.

Terrific!

See? It works a treat. Say ‘awesome’ and you’re just a twat.

Wheel spokes are on special at Lidl.

Awesome!

Shut it, ya twat.

See? It works both ways.

But if you can’t be terrific, at least be cool. Cooler than you’re being right now in Govanhill.

Try going the right way up a cycle lane for a start, ya fannies. Think of us poor pedestrians with our big clown feet, weighed down by our anxiety, neuroses, never ending trauma and struggle, plus a couple of shopping bags too.

Just ask Rab fae Torrisdale Street. Knocked over by a yoga mat sticking out a cyclist’s backpack, stepped on a baby pigeon and ended with his legs all up the wall.

Namaste, Govanhill.

The noise of this place

Black and white sign with an arrow and the words 'Hidden Gardens' on a brick wall

Listen to the music of the pipes in a tenement.

The low-level hum through the whole building when flat three-slash-two flushes the toilet.

The high-octave drone when ground-slash-one turns on a tap.

If top floor guy runs a bath it sounds like a spaceship coming in to land.   

But at least the neighbour through the wall is quiet.

Must be exhausted after last night’s cattle stampede.

Or maybe he’s fixing the bolts in his neck.

The noise of this place.

A mouse scurrying, the trap’s snap, a faint squeal from under the sink in the bathroom.

Nae luck, wee sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous bastart.

Or maybe it was a giant cockroach, you just never know.

The noise inside, like tinnitus. Interior monologue, voices in the head, the stories you keep on telling yourself. Round and round, on and on, never stop.

The noisiest place.

The people at the front of the close playing music, smoking weed, drinking cans. Fair enough, quite respectful, you did it yourself back in the day, but not now, it’s a young man’s game now.

Seagulls squalling and circling overhead then prodding through the bin bag pavement smorgasbord.

Six angry women arguing in the street about payment due and tic fae big Malky that someone did or didn’t get.

A speeding car roaring fifty yards down the main road then having to stop at the lights because wee Betty’s crossing to the bookies to put a fiver on Kyogo to score first and nae boy racer in nae kid’s motor is getting in her way.

But tonight it’s quiet in the inner city, in Govanhill. The weather is calm, roads are silent, there’s no one around, no fireworks either.

It’s hidden now, the noise of the people, the will of the people, we are noise and to noise we shall return.

The people are resting, waiting for a happy ending in the strangest corner of the most mysterious city in the world.

Cheers.

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.

Cheers.

Only wan Govanhill but

close-up of a pink flower on a stem with a blue sky behind

Queen’s Park, everyone’s favourite 60-hectare green space at the top of Victoria Road.

I’ve loved it since Victorian times, back when I was a gentleman in a top hat promenading with a lady in a bonnet, enjoying a little light music at the bandstand, throwing stones at the ducks on the pond, then joining the chaps for a game of fives while the chapesses grabbed a quick hawf at the pub over the road that keeps changing its name.

A central meeting point for the whole of the southside, busy residential areas all around its perimeter.

Our own city non-place, urban version of the countryside with municipal verges and tarmac but a steep hill too, obscure paths along its sides and clumps of trees, tall trees, and wooded areas and secret trails.

On a pleasant summer evening a citizen of the world can stroll past the glasshouse, read feminist graffiti on gendered family roles and the patriarchy, smell the basil and rosemary from the allotments, look over the tennis courts and bowling greens.

And the cricket pitch, jeez, the speed of the bowler and the distance the batsman gets.

Serious-looking groups of young people having a picnic, cheese n crackers, maybe leaning against a tree reading a book.

Tea in the park. Too civilised, middle class, well-behaved.

No one shouting or being drunk or building fires. No lurking neds in sportswear, bottle of Buckie in the back bin, no black Alsatian dogs.

A couple of hipster types trying to play football. Aye right, lads.

Back in our day a kickabout in the park drew a crowd of thousands, a wee guy hitting a Mitre 5 against a wall was live on TV, match reports of three and in were on the radio every day.

The 23-a-side kick and rush on the big open space at the end of your street, occasional grass and broken glass, wee Frankie Devlin goes on a mazy run and beats eight men, mad Slugger does what he wants because he’s pure mad so if he pushes you out of the way or uses his hands you just let him get on with it.

So aye, everyone’s favourite green space that isnae Celtic Park, Hampden Park, or Jurassic Park.

There’s a Queen’s Park in London, a Charing Cross too, probably other areas of both cities with the same names.

Only wan Govanhill but.

Londinium wouldnae dare.

Cheerio.