January ’17 news

The eyes of the world were unsurprisingly mostly directed at the new US president’s first days in office. He began by attacking his predecessor’s health care and climate change achievements. This failed to bring as much publicity as hoped for, so he banned entry to people from certain countries. (That would occupy journalists enough to have little time left to ponder about his following near-U-turns on the issues of NATO, Taiwan and Putin.)

Closer to home, Martin McGuinness resigned as NI deputy first minister to necessitate snap Stormont election; Theresa May realistically admitted UK would leave the common market; and the Supreme Court decided that the referendum result wasn’t binding. Not that it made much difference except perhaps to some lawyers’ wallets.

Sadly but naturally, there were some deaths: Peter Sarstedt, Gorden Kaye and Tam Dalyell.

And the number of pollution zones in Scotland has risen to 38, with Hope Street, despite its name, still topping the list. It was cold comfort to remind oneself that Edinburgh and Glasgow had more green space than any of the other 10 most populated UK cities.



Glasgow murals

According to a BBC article with photos of quite a few of them, “A new Mural Trail has been devised aimed at showcasing artwork which has been appearing on walls around Glasgow.”

To be honest, while there are exceptions to the rule, these pictures on buildings’ walls have always been one of the few things I did not like in Glasgow. In particular the outsized ones featuring people. To my eyes, they’re so bloody megalomaniac, so … so Russian.


August ’16 news

Not a bad month for transport: the ScotRail strikes over guards were finally called off to allow further negotiations; Queen Street station tunnel reopened and so did Glasgow Subway; and the Tay Road Bridge was 50 years old. The exception was the oil rig, travelling from Norway to Turkey, which was blown ashore on a western Lewis beach instead, losing thousands of gallons of diesel and later temporarily moved to a bay on the other side of the island.

Of course, there were the Olympics in Rio, but I’m not into this kind of showbiz, so I’ve only seen Ross Murdoch qualify to semifinals and my namesake create a new British record before ending 5th – yet later with not one but two silver medals from relays (the first with 2 other Scots, or 3 if you count in Renwick). But somehow I admired no less Ieuan Lloyd, whether bottle-fliping or dabbing – and even more than all these Nick Skelton. Winning an equestrian gold aged 58 … can you beat it? (Of course, I couldn’t help noticing that Team GB ended second in the medal table, with 16 Scots getting such a disc or two.)

In other news, bha briseadh-dùil ann mu dheidhinn fo-thiotalan air BBC Alba, on a tha Urras a’ BhBC dhen bheachd nach urrain dhaibh leigeil le luchd-amhairc an roghainn a dhèanamh; Michael Russel was appointed the Scottish government’s Brexit negotiator, although the UK government later indicated they’d only pay lip service to negotiating with Holyrood; Poles overtook Indians as the largest migrant group both in the UK and in Scotland (which slightly surprised me, I thought they’d already done so); and the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation named (on p 10) both ‘my’ Keppochhill and Tommy’s Wyndford among the 5% consistently most deprived areas in Scotland since 2004 (which didn’t; but it is interesting that the allegedly most and least deprived areas in Scotland are only about 7 miles distant).


July ’16 news

It looked a bit as if everybody – except for Glasgow Subway, which closed to be reconstructed – was in a hurry to have everything over and done with so they could go for holidays.

The Scottish Parliament was officially opened, only to be effectively adjourned for several weeks (then again I suspect they do this on a regular basis). Two days later, Nigel Farage resigned, as his “political ambition has been achieved” (good on him, if he means it). Two days later, the Chilcot Inquiry completed its report (having taken seven years to find out what everybody but Tony Blair already knew anyway). The following week, with Fox, Crabb and Gove already out, Leadsom surprisingly quit the final and two days later Cameron handed over 10 Downing Street to Theresa May (probably a lesser evil than Gove, but only just), who the next day formed a new government: nice to see Osborne and Gove go, fun (if a bit bitter) to see Johnson become the Foreign Secretary.

Westminster still managed to vote through Trident renewal (the British Empire strikes back) … and then nothing, until at the end of the month, the results of a major online child sex abuse investigation were announced* and the Right to Buy ended in Scotland (so all’s well that ends well).

* With Det Insp Andy McWilliam reported as claiming that “new technology meant there was no way for perpetrators to hide or erase what they had done online […] Whether they throw the computer in the bath or not, we can find what they have looked at. And we can use covert technology to identify who you are and where you are”, in other words confirming that all that hullabaloo about the Snooper’s Charter is just smoke and mirrors. Big Brother has come.


March ’16 news

Several things ended in March: For the first time, a professional 9-dan go player was defeated by software. Shortly after the Budget (whose main point, according to media, was the sugar tax), Iain Duncan Smith resigned as the DWP secretary: apparently even he had finally got fed up with the way Mr Osborne mishandles the revenue. The Holyrood Parliament was dissolved before the election: it was the last session for some MSPs, including Alex Salmond, who gave his (possibly) last speech there. On the same day the Longannet Power Station, the last coal-fired one in Scotland, was switched off for good.

And then there were the deaths: George Martin, without whom the Beatles in all probability wouldn’t have been as trailblazing as they were, and Ray Tomlinson, generally seen as the inventor of one of the most important features the internet’s ever had: the email.

But Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba can be seen both as an end and a beginning, and the closure of the Glasgow Queen Street railway station’s upper level for a renovation of the adjacent tunnel is definitely more about the future than about the past. As were the approving of the Scotland Bill (which would later in Westminster become the Scotland Act ) and the Land Reform Bill by the Scottish Parliament before its dissolution.

But I’ve no idea where belongs the news that Ben Nevis is somewhat higher than we used to think.


Remaining Red Road flats blown up

After the first in 2012 and the second in 2013, the remaining six Red Road blocks were brought down last Sunday. Unlike with the first two explosions (and a recent demolition of the two Cockenzie Power Station chimney stacks), things didn’t go completely as planned and the tops of two blocks remained sitting on the ground.
BBC: Exclusion zone lifted after Red Road flats demolition
YT: Red Roads Flats Demolition 11 Oct 2015 (by Mandy B)
In a following apology, Glasgow Housing Association claimed that 10 floors of the blocks had been meant for later machine dismantling anyway. Be that as it may, one thing is certain: Glasgow skyline is changed forever.

Unfortunately, I may not be able to ever have a look from the Ruchill Park hillock myself.


Reduction in plastic bags since mandatory charge

Similarly to Wales in 2011 and Northern Ireland in 2013, the introduction of a minimum charge shoppers must pay for each plastic carrier bag in Scotland was followed by a sharp drop in the number of these bags handed out by retailers.
BBC: Charge cuts plastic bags by 147 million in Scotland
Well done. What about the next logical step now – deposits for drinks bottles (or, as Zero Waste Scotland calls it, deposit refund system)? This might make even Glasgow streets look less like a place where half the population still haven’t sussed out what a litter bin is for . . .


The Clutha reopened

Almost 20 months after the fatal helicopter crash into The Clutha near Glasgow Green a new bar, created in the former smoking area, was opened to relaunch the pub while the interior of the old pub remains sealed off.
BBC: New bar at Clutha opens after helicopter crash
As far as I remember, The Clutha was back in 1990 the first pub I ever visited in Glasgow, and indeed in Scotland. I have never been inside afterwards, although many a time I passed by, often reminiscing about that pint of McEwan’s lager with Jamie. Let us hope that in a few years the sight of the venue will in most passers-by trigger similar pleasant memories instead of recollections of the 2013 tragedy . . .


East Park school awarded lottery funding

Big Lottery Fund Scotland awarded half a million pounds to the East Park school in Glasgow’s Maryhill for its planned three-million campus development.
BBC: Three Glasgow projects share £1.6m lottery funding
East Park: £½Million Lotto Boost For East Park’s Expansion Project
Another building taking a photo of which I kept postponing until I lost the chance . . . I regret this more than with some others: I’ve seen the tops of the ‘steeples’ so many times over the red-brick fence from the Canal path on my way back after some Tesco shopping . . . lighted up on a winter evening they emanated warmth and cosiness as well as a village pub . . .


Bemusing royal opening ceremonies

Last month, Queen Elizabeth II and I officially opened the new hospital in Glasgow, and Princess Anne the Kelpies sculptures near Falkirk.
BBC: New South Glasgow hospital named after Queen Elizabeth
BBC: Kelpies officially opened by Princess Royal
So the mother ‘opens’ a hospital two months after it receives its first patients, and it’s renamed in her honour from South Glasgow University Hospital to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. (Maybe not such an honour with the reputation the hospital at the moment had following the patient migration scenes and A&E waiting time figures. Anyway, some didn’t like the idea per se.)
Only to be overdone by her daughter, who ‘opens’ a tourist attraction one and a half years after its completion, and more than a year after its having been opened to the public.
This makes one wonder how much traffic will cross the Queensferry Crossing (expected to open in late 2016) before it’s ‘opened’ – conceivably by Prince Charles on his round birthday in 2018: they could then rename it in his honour to Princeferry Crossing . . .

Postscript, 10/8/15: As if on clue, today I’ve read that the Queen “is to officially open the new rail line between the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh […] on 9 September […] The first passenger services are due to run along the line a few days earlier.” However, this time I was reconciled: nice of her to come to Scotland on the day she’ll become Britain’s longest-serving monarch.


I don’t want to jinx myself…

. . . but perhaps things are looking up again. Today I’ve got a call from a number I didn’t know. Yet I answered it – and was invited for an induction. Needless to say, that improved my mind a lot. Even receiving a letter telling me that I was only eligible to vote in Holyrood, not in Westminster election, couldn’t dampen my spirits. I had to keep reminding myself that this can still turn into another fiasco like my latest job.

So I did what I had intended to: the weather having temporarily improved as well (even donned my leather jacket and my cap again instead of the anorak and the beanie), I went for a walk to Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace (revisiting after years St Andrew’s Cathedral on my way back), and it seemed to me that my footdrop was, however slightly and slowly, decreasing. Anyway. Tomorrow I’ll know more . . .


Hillhead Library

Mediocre exterior, but beautiful interior. So I wasn’t even much disappointed that what Glasgow Life advertised as an ‘exhibition’ by Martin Hunter consisted of less than a dozen photographs. Most of these, except for being large-format, so uninspired than you would find a better selection just surfing Tumblr for five minutes. Although one, of a car wreck under the Canal’s bank, was really good.


Illustrating Glasgow

The Glasgow Life website promised that today’s Mitchell Library “presentation would display a cross section of the many illustrations of Glasgow through the ages, both humorous and descriptive, including a sample of the fine range of 19th century cartoons that throw light into some of the people and events of the past” [copyedited].

As it turned out, Bill Black’s presentation was as much about the life in and architecture of the city from the 18th to the 20th century as about illustrating it, but so much the better. It was my first visit to an event of this kind here and I quite enjoyed it.

The two pieces of information which I found most interesting were (1) that the McLennan Arch, which stands at the western entrance of Glasgow Green, was originally a part of 18th-century Assembly Halls on Ingram Street, and (2) that the Glasgow Looking Glass (later renamed to Northern Looking Glass) was probably the world’s first comics.


Air ais a Ghlaschu

I let a lot of things slip.

Seachnadh, mar eisimpleir. Bha co-dhiù ceithir ath-thillidh alcolachd agam an-uiridh. Ri linn sin, chaill mi dà obair. Cuideachd, smocaidh mi cus. Leis an deoch, tombaca ’s cion-cosnaidh, cha mhòr nach do chaith mi na bha de dh’airgead agam. Chan eil gu leòr dhe shàbhaladh agam tuilleadh airson iarrtas an t-saoranachd. Is mar sin sìos.

’S e fear dhe na rudan seo Glaschu. (Agus ’s e Gàidhlig tè. Bha am briathrachas agam a’ sìor lùghdachadh.) Mhothaich mi gum bithinn a’ siubhal timcheall na dùthcha, ach sa bhaile seo, rachainn dìreach dhan obair no dha Tesco ’s air ais; dhan phàirc as fhaisge air a’ char as lugha. Cha robh mi a’ fuireach sa bhaile, dìreach san fhlat, mar gum biodh.

Mar sin, chaidh mi an-diugh (uill, an-dè) an dèidh mhìosan (bhliadhnaichean?) dha taigh-tasgaidh Kelvingrove a-rithist. Chuir mi seachad barrachd air uair a thìde am measg nan dealbhan Albannach, Frangach is Duitseach air a’ chiad ùrlar agus bha mi a’ faireachdainn math. An dà chuid dar a choisich mi ann, dar an robh mi ann agus dar a bha mi a’ tilleadh. Bha mi nam phàirt dhe bhaile a-rithist.

Feumaidh mi dhol a-mach nas trice – agus gu tuilleadh àiteachan diofraichte.

(PS Chuir e ionghnadh orm an t-àm seo dè cho mòran bucais snaoisein is ‘gavels’ a bha ann – agus chuir mi Old Duff le Samuel John Peploe agus Cottages and Fishermen by a River le Jan van Goyen ris mes tableaux préférés.)



I was a bit worried about how I would cope with ten 10-hour day shifts in a row, but in the end I managed all right. Having to neglect the Net wasn’t all that frustrating, and I was rather surprised that on most of the nights I even found the time for a proper dinner. (All the same, at the end of it I was exhausted – not physically, but by the routine of it.)

And several glimpses of those days remain in my memory, both related and unrelated to the actual job:

Noticing that the Speirs Wharf footbridge had finally been opened (and actually walking across it a couple of days later).

Going out to do something in the town during a tea time like a true Briton: without taking off the hi-viz vest.

Receiving a letter from the Sheriff Court. What could I have done? Quite on the contrary, I had been selected for “Potential Jury Service”. I don’t know whether with my auditory verbal agnosia I would make a good one; anyway, I had to inform them I hadn’t been in the country long enough to qualify.

And finally overhearing somebody call my city [ˈglɛzgə] rather than [ˈglɑːzgo:]…


City stroll

Just a couple of hours and divers minor discoveries:

Of the five Pinkston high rises, the easternmost two still stand, but the other three were turned into rubble. (All five are still on GoogleEarth, although the westernmost one was already down a year ago.)

It only occurred to me that I might be near them at the last moment, but it did, so I discovered the “grooves on the cast iron rubbing strakes” of the former Monkland Canal.

The scaffolding around the SW corner of the Cathedral, there when I arrived two and a half years ago, is apparently finally being dismantled, I suppose because of the approaching Commonwealth Games.

I finally crossed the Albert Bridge. Couldn’t help playing the Pogues song on my mobile when there; was surprised to find next to it what is apparently a “lifeboat launch tower”.

Will be even more surprised if they complete work on the GoMA clock tower in time for the Games, as they haven’t visibly begun even preparations.


Changing Glasgow

I must have had the idea for this blog long ago, but so far I was only adding notes. Here goes then.

There are many interpretations of what constitutes a ‘home’. One possibility is describing it as a place where you have lived long enough to see it change – and tell newcomers “oh, I remember when there still was (or wasn’t, as the case may be) where now . . . ”

I have only been living here for two and a half years; don’t really know large areas of the city, especially south of the Clyde; and I have never been renowned for observancy. Still, so many changes that even I couldn’t help noticing happened during that short time . . .

The scaffolding on Cambridge Street was taken down and an EasyHotel emerged.

So did the scaffolding around the new QCHA building on Murano Street (although one section stayed there for months, as though forgotten) and inhabitants moved in.

(Another scaffolding which went down was the one around the Royal Infirmary, though still not the one around the Cathedral.)

The Whisky Bond at Speirs Wharf was transformed from a warehouse into studios.

The water tower of the former Ruchill Hospital was renovated, while all the other buildings were razed to the ground.

Buchanan Quarter opened. (They also tore down the building opposite the bus stop from which I used to go to my then job in Queenslie, and something new is already rising there.)

Two of the eight Red Road Flats high rises were demolished (five more to go down soon).

Dalmarnock railway station was closed, revamped and reopened.

Strathclyde Police and Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service became history, having merged with their seven counterparts to form nationwide Scottish forces.

They began demolishing the five Pinkston high rises (in fact they may have finished, haven’t been there for almost a year).

The famous (or infamous?) Anderston Bridge to Nowhere became a Bridge to Somewhere at last.

Hillhead subway station was revamped and furnished with a mural by Alasdair Gray.

The SSE Hydro venue opened as scheduled (despite a fire shortly before completion).

The Kelvingrove Park Bandstand was redecorated (although they did take their time before they began, even after being assigned money from the National Lottery).

A Watersports Centre was created from the desolate area at Pinkston Basin.

New houses are being built on the Timber Basin site next to Nolly Brig.

There is probably more. Even after taking into account that a lot of this activity is (or was) related to the approaching Commonwealth Games, I find it fairly impressive. I’m sure I haven’t noticed so many changes in the city I was living in before coming here – for nineteen long years . . .


Pinkston Watersports Centre – and more

It was hard to imagine how they could fit an “artificial white water course” into Pinkston Basin, so last Sunday I went to see. It is tiny indeed, but then the Commonwealth Games are not the Olympics. And it is good that the area does not look as decripit as it had only two years ago.

I learned a few more things during the stroll. What I took to be pillars from a destroyed bridge at Speirs Wharf are actually remnants of a World War II flood defence – and they are building a footbridge on them now.

I quite appreciate these educational boards Scottish Canals have recently put along their Glasgow waters: another even disclosed to me that the mysterious tower at Lynedoch Place was indeed initially a part of a church (called Park Church).

Disappointingly, the one asking “Who was Archibald Spiers?” only hints at who the Wharf was named after; more time on the Net still did not solve the old puzzle whether the ‘correct’ spelling of (his, and consequently) its name is Speirs or Spiers.

Regrettably, too, the captivating mural at the foot of Borron Street was painted over.

Returning by a route I haven’t taken before I was also surprised to come across a Diageo office so near to where I live. Later I emerged on Craighall Road instead of on Saracen Street, but that didn’t suprise me: I never suffered from a sense of direction.