Springingtiger's Blog

My Glasgow, My Home.


It has been a strange day as people looked back a hundred years to the battle of the Somme other circumstances reminded me that in a couple of months I will be celebrating forty four years since I first moved to Glasgow.

The Reverend John Peck died last night or early this morning. When I first moved here I joined the congregation of St Silas Church in Gibson Street for a couple of years. John Peck was very heavily involved in St Silas and its mission work. I was very lucky on occasion to have been paired with him as we knocked doors, lucky because my social skills were even worse then than now and my flexibility of attitude zero. I found myself missing him today on this day for remembering the dead. He was born just a few years after the Somme, just six after the war.

However today has not been a gloomy day because among the post I found the latest issue of the Glasgow City Council’s ‘Glasgow’ magazine and as ever it reminded me of what I love about this place and how much it has changed since I arrived.

My father first drove me into Glasgow via the London Road in 1972. I thought I was entering Hell with its soot stained black buildings and boarded up windows, it looked like the worst possible nightmare dreamed up for a post apocalyptic Hollywood science fiction film. Fortunately the West End where the University was was less grim, but the buildings were still black.

It did not take me long to fall in love with Glasgow even before I met the girl I would marry. I know it’s a cliché, but I fell in love with the people. I have often told of the man who turned back at Charing Cross and walked me all the way back the way he had come to ensure I got to the City Halls when it became obvious that I didn’t know the city’s landmarks well enough to follow his directions. Glaswegians are like that. Even the thugs, when they’re not being Neds, are ready to help a stranger. Yes Glasgow does have some nasty bastards its true, so does every city, but at least they are not boring.

Glasgow was always entertaining and a great place for concerts and theatre. That’s never changed its only a few years since that Time Magazine declared it to be one of the world’s top ten cities for live music.

In the mid 1980s something happened in Glasgow. It was as if something dormant awoke and everything changed. The dreary black buildings were all washed to reveal the beautiful gold and red sandstone that had been hidden beneath the soot. In 1988 we had the Glasgow Garden festival and it was magic. Since then the Clydeside, ravaged by the decline of heavy industry has been reborn with posh apartments, hotels, and more importantly The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, The Armadillo, The Hydro, Television stations, Science centre, The Riverside Museum.

Just a couple of years after the garden Festival Glasgow became the European Capital of Culture and it has never ceased to punch above its weight in cultural terms with a number of major annual international festivals, Jazz, Comedy, Film, Celtic Connections as well as local festivals like the Merchant City Festival that begins on the 30th of July and the West End Festival that has just passed.

On the 17th July we have the annual Glasgow Mela a day that celebrates the many communities and cultures of the West of Scotland in a day of performances and great food. In August the World Pipe Band Championships are back on Glasgow Green with pipe bands from all around the world.

Glasgow is a place where cultures meet. Tomorrow the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society will be joining in the fun at Glasgow Comic Con in the Royal Concert Halls where the various fandoms will be found mixing and sharing ideas, taking photos and generally having a laugh.

Tomorrow also the Orange Lodges will be joining together for their annual parade. As always people have been putting out warnings to people to avoid the city centre, but I am going to stick my neck out here. The Orange Order has asked that this year its followers don’t misbehave and don’t indulge in drunkenness and anti-social behaviour. When I was a child I was taken to watch the ‘Black Men’ march through Bangor co. Down. It was very confusing because they were all white, I knew nothing of the Black Men properly known The Royal Black Preceptory. I remember that the Walks on both Black Saturday and the Twelfth were very smart and disciplined with their black suits, the Orange and purple sashes, bowler hats and white gloves, the women in their summer dresses and the wrought iron arch with King Billy on his horse across the road, even as a child I felt no cause for anxiety. It came as a shock to me when I thought in my first summer I’d watch the Walk and almost got attacked because someone thought my ‘White Rose’ badge from Yorkshire was a Shamrock. After the walks of my childhood I was disgusted by the threatening behaviour, drunkenness and the general scruffy dirtiness of it all, I felt badly let down and eventually like most people tried to avoid the Walks. However this year the Scottish Orange Order is calling for its supporters to behave and I, for one, am prepared to allow them the possibility to hold a proper dignified Orange Walk and I hope no one spoils it for them, or for the City through which it passes.

I have talked too much about Glasgow as a cultural city, it’s also a great sporting city and the Council has schemes to promote sport and exercise throughout the city of which the crowning glory will be the refurbished Kelvin Hall, already known as a sports arena. We have an international standard rugby team in the Glasgow Warriors as well as a couple of major association Football clubs and the National Stadium with its museum (you might have guessed I’m not a footy fan, but many are!) Not only did Glasgow host perhaps the best Commonwealth Games ever (I worked at the Edinburgh one in the Eighties) but every year it hosts several major tournaments in its facilities like the Chris Hoy Velodrome.

A friend of mine in Yorkshire before I came up for the first time explained the Glasgow accent as the result of Irish men trying to teach Poles to speak English in Scotland. I suspect that may be a little bit racist, but it hints at a fundamental truth about Glasgow. Glasgow is the most welcoming city in the world, certainly of the ones I have visited. Glaswegians like people. If they’re honest they would have to admit that they even welcome the English and, worse, people from Edinburgh. Thats why I love Glasgow, it doesn’t matter who you are (okay Nigel Farage and David Cameron may be exceptions) you will always feel welcome here. I arrived over forty years ago and I’m still having the time of my life!


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