‘This is no mean town, no mean city.’
Mad, bad and dangerous to know. That’s what I thought about Glasgow growing up ‘doon the water’ in Rothesay. It always felt as though there was an undercurrent of violence simmering just beneath the surface any time I visited.
The fact that when I visited it was specifically to Easterhouse, the biggest and most ambitious housing development in Europe, probably didn’t help. Despite having some of the friendliest people on the planet, it felt like badlands – what shops that existed were protected by iron grills… and that was on the inside. My cousin who lived there didn’t help with late night tales of people getting ‘axed’ as they walked past the entrances to the tenements, and also of a canal that was home to a beast that swallowed up those who strayed too near. Incidentally, I recently learned that the canal was the Monkland Canal which was known as…the killer canal. Not all tales are as tall as they might seem.
Glasgow no longer feels like this to me. Like other British industrial cities, including Manchester, it has seen regeneration and renovation. The removal of soot from the buildings has revealed stunning examples of Victorian architecture that I don’t remember ever having seen before. It has also probably contributed to the city feeling lighter, more airy. It is modern, friendly and cosmopolitan…and yet the traces of the Glasgow I remember still exists in shady alleys and half demolished walls.
Sauciehall Street – a lovely and rich street name which rolls deliciously off the tongue; if you say it properly (saw-kay hall) . The place where everyone came to do a bit of quality shopping. Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed a building on this street and Glasgow’s first skyscraper was erected here. It still possesses a vibrancy and energy that thrills.
Just before Sauciehall street is Sauciehall Lane, a gritty back alley that is so uninviting looking that it perversely exerts a magnetic pull. It seems the most unlikely place for a couple of bars. Can’t see those being popular with the tourists. The fact that there’s a relatively flash car parked in the alley just adds to the Taggartness of it all. I mean would you park your car there unless you knew for a fact that no-one would dare touch it?
The Alley II
I was so taken by the look of the alley, that I wanted to see it when it was a bit darker and that little bit more dangerous looking. I persuaded my nephew to walk up it, head down and shoulders hunched just to help add to the atmosphere. But it was very, very dark and the result seriously grainy. I deliberately left the faint shadow of me taking the photo in the shot because I thought it might add to the sense of someone being followed down a dark alley. I checked out the pubs in the middle of the lane to see what occurred there after the hours of darkness. A bit of karaoke and someone singing The Crystal Chandelier as it happens. Needless to say I didn’t go in.
This invoked memories of childhood because it had been a long, long time since I remembered seeing a scene like this where a building was being demolished by a bulldozer and its innards were hanging out like the architectural equivalent of road kill. The fact that it was on Buchanan Street just a few yards from the grand Glasgow Royal Concert Hall made it stand out like a sore thumb and that appealed; in fact I felt sorry for it.
The Skyline at Night
I didn’t have a tripod so couldn’t get a decent shot, but this view from the Thistle Hotel hypnotised me for a number of reasons. The first being that there’s something about the way a city’s streets are lit after dark that sends a surge of excitement running along my spine. The second was that the skyline reminded me of the opening credits of Taggart; a series I always had a soft spot for after sharing bar space with an actor who was the killer in the first episode of Taggart just before it aired. The Third is the sky. This was after 1am and it hadn’t gone completely dark…in fact it just didn’t happen. I’d forgotten that about Scotland in the summer.
The Urban Art Scene
Speaks for itself. Did ever a street name proclaim itself in such an uber-cool urban fashion?