Friday, 29 July 2011


yesterday i spent time in the west end of glasgow. and by time i mean like one hour. when i first moved here, to glasgow, i would envy the west end. where i live - high street, which could be classed as either merchant city, university of strathclyde or city centre really - seemed so barren. it's not that i expect a lot but coming from relative country and clean housed streets where the worst act of crime was melting the bus stop with a lighter, the tribulations of living in the east of the city centre were uncomfortable. first there was the whole issue of security because our flat, though on the first floor from the front, was on the ground floor at the back due to a raised back court and the hill upon which all of the north east of the city centre is situated. our windows overlook a tarmac-ed court of red brick walls and flimsy, unspiked railings. the day we moved in to the flat was the day of the large orange order parade - a procession hitherto unknown to me in terms of origin or reason, that involved copious drinking; urinating; flighting; and skinheads. it also involved burly men climbing into the back court and attempting to defecate in our bins. i think it was probably this troubling start that worried us about security in the beginning. that and our colourful neighbour whose real name was ellen but we called queenie. she didn't seem that old, i'd venture no older than 75 but looks can be decieving as all the best lower working class old glasgow town types who think of the barras as tesco look about 60 after the age of 16, and time ceases to effect them. you wouls hear a knock on your door around nine in the evening and know exactly who it was as queenie would stoat about our door and once opened regaile you with tales of neighbours that probably didn't exist being broken into from the same row of tenements that we lived in. she tottered about at the door, continually appearing to retreat to her home and then coming back to you time and again with "aye, an...". aye an two blocks up was burgled last week. aye an i saw people outside last night and they were looking in my windy. and so it went on, her appearing drunk on gin and tonics she drank in who knows where telling us of the latest acts of violence and us adding lock after lock to the door; half from this fear of glasgow and half from fear of her. once we settled and became sure that, contrary to her belief, no-one in these blocks had been broken into in a long while, we relaxed. she still told her stories to us though and we took it in turns to have to go and listen to her. this close, she would say, used to be so clean i could eat my dinner off it, but look at it now. them above me, they're pigs, they flooded my bathroom again, and they are fags, you know, not that it matters, but they are, right above me. one time she appeared particularly enebriated, up in arms. unfortunatley it was me answering the door and she came right up, eyes swilling, why did you write that on the wall downstairs? that's awful, why would you do that? she was referring to a small pencil written name beside the buzzer on the wall downstairs, which i had not written, and was not even situated beside our flat numbers buzzer. despite this she conceded we were good neighbours but it softened her to do it when all she wanted to do was hark back to when times were 'better' as a way of regaining control. i can understand why, but not understand that she did. i didn't realise that whole time that she was dying, perhaps the drinking masked it all. haggared as she was, she still never seemed a day over 60. once she was gone her place was taken by her grand daughter and what happened was learned in part and i had ceased to feel a child playing home. my brother had moved in for a while and then moved to a flat in the west end where i would sometimes go and where i had other friends. at one point i had several friends there which i no longer have and i would marvel at their vintage shops, craft fairs, greengrocers and the lack of dubious looking people parading the streets. it was like being back where i used to live and byres road was like a little town on market day, willow basketed bicycles carting organic produce with women in full length floral dresses and floppy sun hats, and children with pudding bowl hair cuts wearing hand knitted scarves. as i walked about looking into shops selling clothing that seemed spun of gold and costing as much i took this view with me of people at ease with themselves, who had friends and neighbours and community meetings. a communal theme ran through and every man seemed to be his own boss and every perfect figured woman parent to perfect blonde children, shopping for shitake mushrooms and samphire. i don't know that it was even that i wanted these things or this lifestyle, perhaps i just admired the ability to do it if you chose to. i compared it to my own bit where bicycles were mangled three seater buggies and greengrocers were pawn shops. they had victoria wine and peckhams selling imported french beers while we lived above an offsales promoting tennents special in the window, and the remnents of these purchases lay dirtily in our close, in a puddle of piss. i think that perhaps the way that this has changed for me is indicative of my own view of myself, my own confidence and personality. looking back i see that the west end was the same as it always was and where i live is often similar, though improving on a grander scale. here waste land has become new perfect buildings in the space of a year and the din of workmen and construction a disruptive reminder of progress as it is happening. new shops have emerged, and failed, but it is in the attempt that i can feel secure. i lay in bed last night and listened to a slanging match between two reprobates on the street below and considered that it has been a very long time since i last heard this. when things are bad you notice them all the time but as they ease off you begin to think they never occur at all. i realised recently that i have been in glasgow for six years now, the equivalent to the entire time i was at high school, and on this street for five, which is equivalent to all the time i have been with stuart bar six months. i feel i have, if not grown up, then at least grown here. i'm a different person to who i was when i first came. in the west end yesterday a new colour took place as i looked at the places, the people, the shops. it seemed the same as here and the buildings not much different. the streets were the same and the trees were the same. the shops were overpriced and affected and the idea that a post office selling yankee candles was better than mine seemed an idea far removed from reality; when was the last time i bought a yankee candle? in a newsagent we waited at the counter and the man was unpacking boxes and he said, give me two minutes, and we waited still. everyone in the west end thinks they are something, it's like little edinburgh or what i imagine st. andrews it like, only with less english people. i looked at them all, people in brogues and pointed shoes, with teddy boy hair cuts wearing waist coats and trousers perpetually a little too short. it was as if chinos were just invented, and not that marks and spencers had been selling them the whole time. it seems odd now that i though of these people as somehow better, or aspirational. i look at them and they are hipsters and they pretend to be twee and they are all the same, sitting in kelvingrove park, looking the same, being the same, the same pain white basketed bicycle at their feet. i look at myself and i see a person still so divergent from their image, only now i know it is a good thing and i return to the east of the city centre and i feel at home and i feel secure.

we are thinking of moving shortly, out of the city, and though since i've moved here all i have wanted is a garden and some quiet and the country life once more, i think i will miss this place far more than anything i've ever missed before.

No comments:

Post a Comment