Thursday, April 16, 2009

25 Random Things about Glasgow

1. The corner of Great Western Road and Belmont Street ALWAYS smells of burning coal. I still can't figure out who might be responsible.

2. After centuries of this tradition, Glaswegians still technically have the right to dry their laundry on Glasgow Green, a large public park. 

3. Down in the Kelvin river valley, under a bridge near our new flat, there is The Wall of Liverwort.  Liverwort is one of the most embryonic forms of plant life, even older and less complex than moss.

4. Birds that sing at night - all night.

5. There used to be a bridge that crossed under the Great Western Bridge at Kelvinbridge at a low level just above the water that dated to 1825.  They didn't leave it there long after they built Great Western in 1891, but you can still see the stone reminants of it in the water, and I saw a painting once of how it wound crossways under the new bridge before it was removed. 

6. Holly and rhododendrons - growing everywhere. And neither one loses their leaves in winter.

7. Whenever it snowed enough to stay on the ground, snowball fights seemed to break out everywhere. My supervisor, Dawn, at my job at the university told me about "The Sunday it snowed" several years back when people went sliding down the hills in Kelvingrove park in old bathtubs.

8. On days when the Rangers play at Ibrox, they post a notice in the subway stations to say that "football is on today at Ibrox". There is also a noticable increase in the numbers of men and boys out and about with close cropped hair - (they must use clippers.)  One day when my parents were here, we got out at Buchanan Street station to find tons of security guards and roped off areas directing people into streams entering and exiting the station.  It looked like there was some major celebrity nearby.  When Aaron asked one of the guards at the entrance what the occasion was, she just said casually: "Ibrox.  We're just here to prevent the riots."

9. There is a tree on campus at Glasgow University that, all throughout the winter, was leafless but bore the most beautiful berries I've ever seen.  They looked like ash berries, but were white with a dusting of pink.  They were there all winter.  Once spring came, they disappeared.  

10.  Random nights of fireworks - people like to set off their own from their back gardens.  There was a week around Guy Fawks day in November when it sounded like a siege. Nightly explosions. 

11. When my parents were here, we were out one night looking for a place to eat and wandered by a particularly popular restaurant in Ruthvan Lane.  As we were looking at the menu, a young guy in a dapper suit who was outside smoking, asked us if we were looking for a place for dinner and what we were in the mood for.  He said he was the owner of the restaurant and he recommended it, but not for the seafood we were interested in.  He said all they had for fish that night was salmon and that was common.  So he recommended some other places.  He also asked us if we were Americans, and when we said we were Canadian, he apologized profusely and colourfully: "that's the fucking cardinal sin, in't it?", and proceeded to kiss my Mom on both cheeks.   Then he asked us if we could find him a Mountie.  Because he could "mount",  and he mimed a "mounting".  He was like a 21stC Scottish Oscar Wilde in his cups.  

12.  The variety of flora here.  and there are so many things that look like things I recognize but aren't that thing.  Like a tree with leaves that look like Maple, but aren't.  A bush with giant red rose-like flowers that is no rosebush.  Little yellow flowers that are like snapdragons, but bigger and wrinkled.  The prolific daffodils are unmistakable, however. Even in their multitudinous varieties.

13. Saturday and Sunday morning sidewalk puke.

14. Litter.  I actually saw a lady throw her empty cigarette pack into a bush last week.  It deeply shocked me, reminding me that I am so Canadian.  

15. The steepest hill in any city I've been in is  from Renfrew St. to Sauchiehall between the School of Art and the Centre for Contemporary Art.  I'm sure others would argue with me, but it is hell on the calves of an 8 months preg Waddleoppolus.

16.  All the trains, buses and the subway are run by different private companies.  In fact, there are many different bus companies.  So you have to pay separately for each leg of your journey if you are going via, say, subway and train.  And if you buy a return ticket with one bus company, you have to wait for that company bus on your return trip, even if there are dozens of other buses from other companies coming by your stop. 

17.  The Co-operative, the UK's largest consumer co-operative.  They have grocery stores, a bank, a radio station, funeral care, insurance, pharmacy, travel agent and are now launching a TV channel. And they are indeed a co-op.  You can buy a membership.  We bank with them and buy groceries there almost all the time.  Mainly because there are two of them near by where we live.   They have a lot of local stuff and fair-trade stuff too.

18. No stop signs 

19. One day when we were walking downtown, Aaron pointed out the most amazing thing.  I wanted to include this as a photo, but sadly when I went back it was gone.  We had just passed the Central Train Station on Gordon Street and he stopped me in front of a long alleyway. It was a very grey and black, dingy, dirt and trash filled alley, but at the end of it was a big bright indigo board or banner with white words written on it -  "You are Beautiful".

20. People drive like they expect pedestrians to get out of their way.  In a cross-walk, with a walk light, when the pedestrian light starts to flash to let you know you don't have much time left to get to the other side, at the same time, the traffic light flashes amber, presumably to let traffic start to flow if there is no one in the crosswalk.  However this usually means that if you are waddling across the street and the light turns amber for the cars, you better waddle faster because they will be revving engines and starting to drive towards you, even if you're 8 months pregnant.

21. I frequently notice on the weekends groups of 4 guys walking down the street together.  What's noteworthy about them is that the groups are consistently made up of four, they are all "hip" in that hair in-the-eyes, skinny-jean kind of way, but they all have their own special look, just like they were a band, and they all called each other to make sure they wouldn't wear the same thing, but that together they would form a clear unit.

22. The Sub-Crawl - a Glasgow tradition involving the beloved Clockwork Orange, the 3rd oldest underground metro in the world, after London and Budapest.  One is meant to ride the subway, get off at each stop and have a drink in a pub nearby. There are 15 stops. 

23.  Glasgow claims Adam Smith, the father of capitalism (sort of), as one of their natives.  It also has a long history of strong unions and socialist politics (the Red Clydesiders).  In fact, 'in January 1919, 10,000 troops armed with tanks and machine-guns occupied the city to quell what the Secretary of State for Scotland called "a Bolshevist rising".'  It is a city with some strong polarities.

24. Kingfishers at Kelvinbridge. The other morning as I was walking to my midwife appointment, I saw a teal coloured bird with a rusty breast flying under the Great Western Bridge.  My first thought was "Kingfisher", not that I'd ever seen one before, but I had heard that they are sometimes seen along the Kelvin river.  Our friends John and Vi later supported the theory, and said that it was pretty special that I had seen one. 

25. Connie, the Irish midwife at the Southern General Hospital, who clinched my decision to transfer there.  She was so completely given over to her passion for the birth process, that she almost had an aura around her.  She was encouraging the other women on the tour with me to consider a water birth, or at least labouring in water, which seemed unusually progressive to me for staff in a hospital.  But it was the moment when she actually put her head between her own legs, demonstrating what the baby has to do in order to come out, that really made me hope she'd be around at my delivery. 

Pics: (Top) Great Western Bridge(Middle) Liverwort(Bottom) Fireworks over Hamilton Park Lane

Next Posts Coming soon:  15 Random Photos of Glasgow and Inveraray (No, really. I really mean it!)



ad-terra said...

"The finest outside chronicler of Glasgow ever, second overall only to James Kellman."

- Aaron Franks
Independent Researcher

Reebs said...

That's some high praise!