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.


No Govanhill, yes

So I woke one morning from uneasy dreams and Govanhll was no longer there.

Gone, girl. Disappeared.

No roads or traffic or trees or people or wind and rain or anything.

Aye right, Gvanhll.

I tried to go outside but it wasn’t the same, it was totally different, nothing was happening at all.

Nae Rab fae Torrisdale Street, mad Tracy who torched her flat that time, vegan young team, nothing.

Aye cheers, Gvnhll.

Where’s Victoria Road and its ever-changing shop fronts selling strange items and trinkets? Tin pot pale face trying to tap you a few bob, slummer with accent and slight entitled air?

None of it there, all of it gone.

Gvnhl, disappeared.

No more stories to write or read.

Not an eye or a pen to neither see nor tell.

Nothing to say, not even a goodbye.

I didn’t know what to do.

I always knew there was something missing in my life. Turns out it’s Gvnl.

Then I remembered that we are dust and to dust we shall return, so I returned home to the dust and shadows to sit on the couch and drink cans. But there was no couch, and no cans either, so I went to sleep and tried to remember those uneasy dreams and bring Gvl back to life.

I heard laughter outside, clinking glasses, a stranger swearing, a motorised wheelchair speeding down Cathcart Road.

An evening class in Mandarin, a night of Lebanese cuisine, knock-off Russian cigarettes.

Vast bellies, slapping flip flops, the smell of baked bread from somewhere overhead.

Not gone, Gl.

Pictures, sounds, impossibilities running through my head.

Still here, G.

Hope I wake up soon.


Nae luck, travelists

upside down photo of a sunny beach with blue sky, sea and palm tree

It’s travel writers I feel sorry for in these troubled times.

All those pricks, dicks, dweebs, twits and twats with nowhere to go and nothing to say.

They’re the real victims of this lockdown.

Chat heads inactive, content ungenerated, adventure bollocks adrenaline rush untold.

Nae luck, travelists.

Nae Vietnam, Burkina Faso nor Pata-bastard-gonia for you.

Don’t go for it, just leave it, be less than you can be.

Try punching yourselves in the face instead.

So I started thinking maybe I should have a gap year. And naw, I don’t mean being on the broo again.

I mean do some volunteer work in Shawlands or Langside or Pollokshaws or Crosshill.

Build a school, teach English, help clear bulk items dumped in a close because it’s unsightly, attracts vermin and is also a fire risk.

Some of these people haven’t seen an outsider in years. Know the feeling.  

Immerse myself in the indigenous culture, top up those wilderness-based core skills climbing the north face of Mount Florida.

There’s so much to see and do, travelisers.

Have your voyage of self-discovery, coming of age, personal pilgrimage, travelist odyssey right here.

Wait till you plunge into Cathcart, get dragged into Strathbungo or swallowed up by Polmadie. 

Asda Toryglen broadens the mind.

If you want hidden lands, there’s always Inglefield Street.

And if you’re looking for ancient culture unchanged for centuries, try auld Fred in Aikenhead Road.

Cheers, Govanhill.

You’re welcome, Tripadvisor.

Daddy, Haystacks, Nagasaki

A person dressed in black sitting on a couch with a hat pulled down over their face

So I was sitting at home keeping my distance, staying indoors, not going outside.

Thought I’d put on a mask, help keep me isolated from my own face and head.

Kendo Nagasaki himself would be proud.

You’d wear a mask too, if you were me. You know you would.

At least there’s no chance of me looking in the mirror now. Wouldn’t see much if I did.

I don’t trust mirrors, with their double meanings, twisted reality and sleight of hand.

There’s one in the bathroom. I don’t like the infinity of it, that something so small contains the whole world, the universe reflected in just one piece of glass.

Plus it makes me look like I have a fat belly and a tiny cock.

I remember cutting my own hair the night this photo was taken.

Didn’t even have to take off the mask, just worked round it, bowl-cut style.

Lost the end of my beard at the front and the tip of my pigtail at the back.

It was a good night, a Saturday night, and I might have been drunk but I can’t really remember.

I was taking a break from learning a language and baking a cake and practising yoga on the mantlepiece.

Alone in the kitchen, cans from the fridge, the sun was shining, even indoors.

New hip hair, haystack affair, high heels on. Wrestler’s trunks, light strappy dress, don’t need a mirror to make you do your best.

No time like the present, no place like home, it’s all we can do.

Here we fucking go, Govanhill. Cheers!

This pish used to write itself

close up of a lilac flower

So I’ve been writing this blog for about a hundred years and I’ve seen a lot of changes over that time.

World wars, moon landings, vegan sausage rolls.

But not this. No one’s ever seen anything like this.

Think I might need to shake up the blog in these difficult times.

This pish used to write itself. Not any more.

I need to raise my game, improve the standard, step up to the mark.

More dramatic openings, for a start.

Once upon a time.

Woke up this morning.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Maybe some kind of cliff hanger or weighty dilemma faced by the main protagonist, ie me.

Lentils or barley, White Lightning or Eldorado, Lionel Messi or Henrik Larsson.

Larsson, obviously, but the point is I could still do with well-rounded characters, sharp dialogue and a consistent sequence of events.

Maybe I should bring in a grizzled detective, a maverick cop who doesn’t play by the rules but who gets results.

Recovering alcoholic, probably. Still in love with his ex-wife.

Make it all like a rollercoaster where you fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.

So, aye. Good luck with that, me.

Anyway. Your rubbish football team, those bloody roadworks, strolling hipsters who get on your tits, none of them matter any more.

Now it’s your future, my future, the nature of love and the foundations of the universe.

So, aye. Cheers, Govanhill.

Govanhill will

close-up of empty cans of beer

I often feel there’s something missing in my life, something I lack.

I don’t want that to be cans.

So I started panic buying years ago. Not because there’s a shortage of cans, just a shortage of time in which to drink the cans. I don’t want to take the risk.

But I’m only drinking as much as is sensible, of course.

I am a responsible adult, after all.

I’ll know when I’ve had enough.

Until then, there might not be any toilet paper but don’t worry, there’s sixty cans in the fridge. Whisky, rum, vodka, gin, tonic wine too.

No, I don’t have fifteen bananas or eight loaves of bread but I’m sure there’s some kind of peach schnapps thing back there. Probably Ouzo as well. Cointreau, Tia Maria, Midori. Must-haves, all of them. And what’s that coconut one again? Aye, Malibu. Classy.

Anyway. I only drink to keep myself safe.

And the best way to do that is by getting drunk, instead of being drunk.

Getting drunk, you know what I mean, the best part, the bubbly part, the first, second or third. Loosening tongue, flush in the cheeks, fresh air in your head.

Better than being drunk, the clumsy part, when your eyes have gone and your balance is gone and you repeat yourself over and over, again and again.

So keep on becoming and it might start being better or it might stay the same or it might not be either, but whatever goes on it will come to an end then we’ll think about starting all over again.

Let you know, Govanhill, but we will, Govanhill, cheers.

Mutton dressed as mutton

the empty inside a tenement with no walls, bare rooms open to the fresh air

I had big plans for this flat. Thought it was going to be my forever home.

But I was walking down the street one day – ages ago, so long ago it was like a different time – and I got so annoyed at the turn-ups on some hipster’s trousers that I went home and wrecked the place.

Phoned my insurance company the next day and they told me to fuck off, so I went round and wrecked their place too.

I’m joking, of course. I trashed the bank next door. It made me feel like I was more than, and that was okay.

Anyway. You don’t get many forever homes in Govanhill. Your landlord’s either putting the rent up or kicking you out to get more money and if you own your flat, it’s probably falling apart.

Back when the world was still turning, when we could go outside and breathe, I would come home from work every evening dodging chunks of plaster falling off the walls in the close.

When real life comes back – and we know it will, it has to – I think I’ll move to a new flat, a penthouse flat. A massive, huge, enormous flat.

Throw lavish parties, show off my vast wealth, become a great benefactor and noted philanthropist.

But I am what I am, mutton dressed as mutton. I exaggerate things, edit scenes to make myself look good, blame other people when it all goes wrong.

Could try some lipstick, but not sure it would work.

Sorry, Govanhill.

Like meditation, only worse

photo of paintings in a shop window

Sleepwalking, who needs it? It’s like meditation, only worse.

Me, you, us, as zombies, the undead, roaming around the house, bumping into furniture in the middle of the night.

It’s like some eerie twilit world. Twigs cracking under your feet, wolves in the forest, trolls under a bridge.

And all this supposedly happening here, right in front of you, in your own flat, just off Victoria Road?


I hear people sleepwalking in Govanhill all the time. Top floor up above, downstairs underneath, next door left and right. Cheers, tenements. They’re madness too.

How do they remember to stay upright? Is their blood still flowing round their bodies and do their toenails keep on growing?

Nobody knows. You could get up to all sorts of things during the night and be back in bed asleep before you know anything about it.

Solve cosmic mysteries, witness intergalactic revelations, attain some fleeting oneness with the universe.

You know, like after drinking ten cans and passing out on the couch.

Because that’s what happens when you become temporarily free of the conscious mind.

Once you get your head round that your brain will finally be at rest.

I know. I’ve been there. I’ve tasted it.

Absinthe, man. Crunchy nut cornflakes.

I’m telling you.

Cheers, Govanhill.

I am not a clown, I just have big feet

Mural of a person with a box for a head,  with the words 'And indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition'

Writers, and the hats they like to wear.

Maybe their nappers are bulging with so many literary fireworks they need a bunnet to keep it all in.

James Kelman or Tom Leonard never wore a fedora hat

Great writers don’t need fripperies. Neither does Govanhill.

We wear enough uniforms. Football fans, commuters, clubbers. Creatives, wind talkers, fanny dancers.

Tech overlords like Mark Zuckerberg or Alan Sugar with their jeans and plain T-shirts.

This old thing? I just threw it on.

Aye right.

Or hipster beard trauma, shapeless shapes and mankles turn-ups hell.

Maybe I should start wearing a hat.

One of those branded Govanhill bobble hats from that wee place at Shawlands Cross.

Or a big enormous Velcro hat, a massive thing where I can stick ten cans, a packet of fags, sandwiches, post-it notes, to-do lists.

Pick up dry-cleaning. Buy avocadoes. Finish writing searing indictment of modern capitalism-slash-great Scottish novel.

Anyway, calm doon. Don’t want to be splattered all over Annette Street because I burst with frustration at minor pretentious antics.

Maybe I should write about it instead. Spark the imagination, get the juices flowing.

Put on my writer’s shoes, big red clown shoes, size 18s that make farting noises when I walk.

It’s in my nature, and everything has to be true to its nature.

Cheers, Govanhill.