Dear Green Place aka Glasgow

red road

Red Road Flats, courtesy of the BBC

For those who have visited down the years, and for those who have only seen it as the gritty and grim backdrop to thrillers and crime stories, Glasgow’s nickname would come as something of a surprise. It does have its share of open green spaces, but then so do a lot of British cities; the name comes from before the urban sprawl and industrialisation of the last 200 years or so.

glasgow kiss

Duncan Ferguson trials his version of the Glasgow Kiss Courtesy of the Scotsman

Indeed more people might be familiar with the ‘Glasgow kiss’ as an image of the city than any greenery. And then there is the Red Road Housing Estate which has come to be synonymous with urban decline. BTW if you haven’t seen the film of the same name, catch it. It is excellent.

All of which fails to do justice to as vibrant and edgy (in all senses) city that is Glasgow.

I like Glasgow. I don’t think it is a town you love easily, in the same way you don’t love the mad uncle who first takes you on a bowel-lessening motorbike ride as a kid or the reckless friend who encourages you to jump off a rock into a pool of uncertain depth. You admire, respect and envy them perhaps and you certainly want to spend time with them, for the thrills. But often those same people sometimes surprise you with their sophistication, cultural awareness and open mindedness that is often lacking in others. That’s Glasgow for me. It’s a city comfortable with itself, able to take the mick out of itself. It had the courage to be the first one to give Nelson Mandela the freedom of the city when a lot of the rest of the world wanted to see him as a violent terrorist because it was easier in a tense and distorted cold war world.

My blogging friend Willow blogs regularly ‘If we were having coffee, I’d tell you…’ She blogs some lovely poetry of simple beauty and elegiac grace; do have a peek.

Her posts have prompted me to do something similar with Glasgow. If we went there I’d show you

  • Charles-Rennie-Mackintosh-rose-glass-panel-House-for-an-Art-Lover-©-2012-Scotiana

    Rennie Mackintosh, House for an Art Lover, courtesy of http://www.scotiana.com

    the legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and, especially the House for an Art Lover, the School of Art and the Willow Tea rooms (I don’t think they belong to Willow but I’m sure she’ll put me right!) and how his art (and that of his wrongly unsung wife Margaret McDonald) helped shape a lot of 20th century creative thinking;

  • the football rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, currently somewhat suspended through the bankruptcy of the latter, and try and explain its religious backdrop and why it puts in the shade other same town rivalries such as those in Manchester and Liverpool;
  • the MOMA and its small but beautifully proportioned collection – one of my favourite museums not least because there I first encountered Bridget Riley and was entranced;
  • Steam engine designed by James Watt

    James Watt’s steam engine, courtesy of http://www.glogster.com

    why Glasgow’s importance in the history of the modern world is second to none: its impact on the success of Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries through the industrial and intellectual capital it generated is extraordinary, as is Scotland’s generally. There are too many to name but consider two: Adam Smith without whose ‘The Wealth of Nations’ and economic insights we might not have developed the world we enjoy today; and James Watt whose steam engine transformed the world’s industrial growth.

But mostly, right now, I’d show you its human side through its hosting of the Commonwealth Games. I will be there for a few days from this weekend with the Textiliste and I will report back with some posts and some pictures. Hopefully it will inspire you to put Glasgow on your list of ‘must sees’.

So, with that thought in mind I will leave you with one of the great modern loves songs, which has many reasons to like it, not least because there aren’t any bloody bagpipes anywhere near it….

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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10 Responses to Dear Green Place aka Glasgow

  1. somemaid says:

    Currently watching the Commonwealth Games on the telly. Surprised how nice Glasgow looks, my previous impression comes from watching gritty Scottish crime dramas. Must visit there one day.

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  2. Archaeologist says:

    I am sure you would be pleased to know that, on reading your opening paragraph, I actually had to go to my study (book-lined of course – aren’t all studies) to consult ‘The Place Names of the British Isles’, to confirm my recollection that the name Glasgow probably means ‘Beloved green place’, where the first ‘Glasgow Kiss’ took place between Saints Kentigern and Columba.
    My memory must be going, it is only about twenty years since I read the book and I couldn’t remember the name of the saint who met with Columba, terrible.

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  3. Annecdotist says:

    Dear Archaeologist and His Brother,
    I wanted to pitch in with my two pennoth of cultural highlights amidst the greenery but couldn’t remember the name of the country park in which the Burrell collection is housed (Pollak courtesy of my non-Google search engine). Also to flag up the socialist history and Billy Connolly mementos within the People’s Palace Museum.
    Enjoy the games, though hope you realise there’s no cricket there (actually an assumption on my part I’ve no idea really).

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    • TanGental says:

      Thank you for mentioning the Burrell we haven’t done that yet. To keep the Textiliste sane we have a free day and some afternoons so we will be getting a culture fix. And the People’s Palace is new to me but I love the Big Yin so we will check it out. Thank you.

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  4. willowdot21 says:

    Well sir you really have sold me on Glasgow … if I needed selling for such an interesting place full of history and drop the Hi just go with the story! Yes you sold it! Thank you so much for the mention I am pleased to know that “If we were having coffee” is evolving, always a good thing. ….. Sadly the willow tea rooms are nothing to do with me! 😦 xxxxx

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