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.



A place you don’t meet every day

A mural depicting an orangutan with its hand held out

Inevitable walking in parts of the city that aren’t Govanhill.

The quiet southside of Battlefield, Camphill, Langside, Pollokshields.

Some of these places get a hard time from us superior Govanhill neds, though not as much as Strathbungo, for obvious reasons.

They have leafy avenues, grand tenements, softer air.

Winding streets, unlike the perpendicular grid you see in most of Govanhill, and sudden villas which appear as if from nowhere.

Less density, less of everything, fewer languages. Fewer people too, and the ones you see are better-dressed, with bigger cars, higher ceilings and a cleaner close.

Then there’s Shawlands, an area of Glasgow, Scotland, located around two miles (three kilometres) south of the River Clyde with an approximate population of 7000, with over 82% dwelling in flats and 79% living alone or with one other person, according to local legend. Or Wikipedia.

We like Shawlands. It’s been there for centuries. I remember it as a kid. Shawlands, we used to call it. Sometimes Shawlands Cross.

Govanhill’s slightly better-off cousin who looks a bit sharper, has a well-paid job and lives in nicer flat with rounded bay windows.

Shawlands is popular with folk from former dry areas of the southside that still have very few boozers, maybe Mount Florida, Newlands, even Castlemilk.

It has solid Glasgow pubs like the Georgic, similar to its brothers and sisters the Viking in Maryhill, the Smiddy in Partick, or the Brechin in Govan.

There’s a Nepalese restaurant in Shawlands, a massive Romanian supermarket, two dormant nightclubs, murals, bookshops, Pollok football ground close by too, so it’s not exactly a wilderness.

But I don’t know how much we have in common any more. Whenever I’m with you, I’m thinking about other places, like Govanhill. We want different things.

I want the weirdness of Govanhill, teeming with exotic lifeforms, interesting boutique shops, drinking dens and dive bars, squealers and dealers and total bastards. Cardboard gangsters, kid-on tough guys, plastic hardmen from the rubber scheme.

That big-city feeling with the brown faces and unusual clothes, looking more like London than any other place in Scotland.

The glint in the eye, the grit on the tongue, the mud and the blood and the beer.

So close, Shawlands, but so different. I think we should see other people.

And then Shawlands Cross got drunk with Eglinton Toll and nine months later Tollcross happened.


Can’t live anywhere else

A bench in a park overgrown with weeds

You know I love you, Govanhill.

Yes, I went to Shawlands. But only the once and only for a coffee. It meant nothing to me.

Yes, I used to live there but now I love you, so I do.

Sick of the sight of you too, though. Your daft face there every morning as I wake up, looking just that bit worse than yesterday.

Bored of you, mate. Seen it all before. And these days there’s nothing else to look at so aye even better, cheers. Nightmare. You’re a nightmare.

No. I didn’t mean that, I’m sorry I said that, please forgive me. You know I pure love you.

But really, neither of us are at our best.

I’m in a state of extensive disrepair. Face collapsed, knees too, other bits needing replaced, recharged, tarted up.

Exhausted and rundown, and everyone I see is the same. An attempted hairstyle and colourful clothes can’t hide the inevitable sense of decline, eh? We’re all falling apart.

But I can still pass for a young man, of course. Therty at most, probably younger. No? What are you laughing at? Cut me some slack, Jack. These are challenging times. Unprecedented, even.

Your four walls don’t look great either, Govanhill.

Boiler leak and room freeze, broken floor to suspect window, cooker dead and chairs unknown. And don’t talk to me about the backcourt.

You could do with a lick of paint, a few nips and tucks, spruce yourself up.

And don’t worry, I’m not going to move to a three-bed new-build with a posh balcony in Langside, or hook up with some wee trampy bedsit in the west end.

You know I can’t live anywhere else.

Don’t know if we need some time apart, a bit of space, get our heads together, find out what we really want.

Me, I fancy a pint.

Talk soon, Govanhill.

Here be Castlemilks

Cherry blossom tree with white flowers in a small city park

Everyone’s world has shrunk. Now we’re either pacing the floor in the flat or circling the streets in early morning, early evening and sometimes in between.

Seeing more of the neighbourhood, at least, so Govanhill is expanding.

Walking around with these feet and shoes, we own these streets, we have to. Yours and mine, this public space, nae cooncil developer or private investor.

Bestride that path like a colossus, go on.

Maybe stray into Langside, Mount Florida, even the Bungo, though I need a disguise round there these days, a mask or a visor in case I get jumped by a vegan and punched in the kidneys.

Or Shawlands, I like Shawlands, even lived there for a while in a big wonky flat in a tenement block that was sinking into the ground.

Shawlands has pubs, shops, fishmongers, nightclubs, five-a-side pitches and Young’s Interesting Books.

But it’s too quiet, nothing happens and everyone walks around wearing earphones. 

No hundred languages, food you’ve never seen, flymen at the lights to tap you a fag.

So we keep walking, because we have to, through the streets of Govanhill.

Wee Betty with her mask and bag talking to Agnes and Mags at the bus stop. Kurdish guys outside the barber shop, crates of mangoes on the pavement, a crowd dropped off at the street corner after a day’s work labouring or crop picking.

Tiny Govanhill Park, a few streets away from Victoria Road and not a middle class changemaker in sight.

Romanian, Slovakian, Bangladesh, Pakistan. Kids on bikes or the swings or playing cricket, women in headscarves talking, laughing.

Nan’s famous hot and cold takeaway, backcourts that don’t have committees or websites. Over to Riccarton Street, maybe Bennan Square, four in a block with big gardens, space to grow.

And from there Polmadie, Myrtle Park, across to Toryglen, King’s Park and beyond, where there be Castlemilks.

Later, I’m turning down Allison Street and two young guys walk past, faces swelling with alcohol, and one of them asks in Russian I think if I know where the nearest bank is and I’m like yeah just down there at the corner mate and he says cheerski or nostrovia and salutes me.

So, aye. Stay weird, Govanhill.

Why Govanhill is first, best and most

Names of neighbourhoods around Govanhill written backwards

It’s a scientific fact that Govanhill is one of the world’s best places to live.

The rest of the south side, not so much.

The sinister neighbourhoods surrounding Govanhill – your Queen’s Parks, your Langsides, your Mount Floridas – have an air of menace about them.

Best not to venture there after dark. Everyone’s in bed.

Polmadie’s like that too, but with added siege mentality. Nothing much comes out of Polmadie. I’ve known good people go there and never be seen again, just like Toryglen.

Places like King’s Park or Oatlands don’t appear on any map and only really exist in people’s imaginations, like in ghost stories.  

Then there’s Crossmyloof, where the weather is different and the language is too. It’s a foreign country, like Strathbungo.

I used to work beside a guy from Crossmyloof who spoke in code all the time. What year was your granny born and how many sugars do you take in your tea?

And your Gorbals, your Shawlands and your Pollokshields are all tartan trews, shortbread tins and thin-lipped fundamentalists who chain up swing parks on a Sunday.

They pretend to have beautiful scenery of lochs and castles and glens, but when you get there it’s just horrible weather, terrible food and songs about jumpers. Fiddly-diddly bollocks.

Govanhill is too weird for all that.

We have our seductive urban vibe of loft apartments, art galleries and boutique hotels. Our radical poets, golden retrievers and overlapping left backs.


It’s in our nature, and everything has to be true to its nature. Don’t you worry your sweet ass about that.

Cheers, Govanhill.  

Scotch broth, probably

Forgot to brush my teeth last night and now I have toothache.

Aye, cheers teeth. Nae luck, face.

My whole head throbs, pulsing in the jawbone and neck muscles and ear drum that won’t stop and doesn’t go away.

Swelling my face till it’s like a golf ball, a goofball, a poolball, a loonball.

A haircut or a pair of sunglasses won’t make this head any happier. Bowls of hot soup might. Scotch broth, probably. Croutons. Antibiotics. Ten cans.    

So I went to the dentist, see what he had to say for himself. He’s at Shawlands Cross. Wish I lived at Shawlands Cross. Traditional tenement, converted two-bed flat, large bay windows, quiet neighbours, little old ladies who keep an eye on the place and sweep the stairs and water the plants on the landing.

He’s a bit tall and weird, my dentist, as most of them are. Not great at the small talk either.

How are your upper molars? See that story about toothpaste on the BBC website? Used any decent floss lately?

But he used to have a season ticket, so he’s okay.

I agree, the manager is doing well. Yes, I hope we win that game too. No, the winger is still shite.

So he slipped me twenty dihydrocodeine for the tooth and another twenty to give to my neighbours upstairs to help keep them quiet for a while.

Cheers, Shawlands Cross.

Like Govanhill, but without the branding

Scary trees beside the pond in Queen's Park

Keep going up Victoria Road, through Queen’s Park, straight across, past the ice cream van and the band stand and the pitch n putt, the boating pond and the tennis courts and the botanic gardens.

You’ll notice a change in the geography and the climate, how people talk differently and have their own customs and traditions.

Do not be alarmed. This is the notorious Langside-slash-Battlefield, the dangerously prosperous and leafy badlands.

Handsome tenements, flowering trees, quirky boutique shops.

They speak fewer languages, make much less noise and there aren’t that many pubs.

You may feel a bit disorientated. And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?  

Head to Young’s Interesting Books, just beyond the park, into Shawlands. You’ll find sanctuary there, time to pause, take stock, browse a little, maybe come away with a rare James Kelman first edition.

Then take a deep breath, step outside, put one foot in front of the other and you’re off, straight on, through the park, heid doon, trap shut, ten-minutes, job done, nae bother.

photo of rubbish in the street in Govanhill

Ah, home at last.