So our trip to Glasgow has come to an end. Because day three was so action packed and we didn’t hit our pillows until one o’clock with a six thirty alarm I’ve combined two entries to a bumper edition. As a child who lived for my weekly comic – Beano, Dandy, Beezer, Boy’s World, The Eagle – the arrival of the bumper album, usually at Christmas was so exciting. Perhaps I’m kidding myself when I hope this will have the same affect on you, my dear readers!
Day three saw an equally early start. We were due at the Netball for 9.30 so had to be on our train from Motherwell at 7.30. Am I learning to love Motherwell? I think I care about it as one might a friend’s elderly parent – sort of at one remove. Mostly harmless.
Commuter trains, when you aren’t commuting are the best places to people watch. Opposite me was a smartly dressed Scot. Blues suit, sharply knotted tie, iPad on its stand, earpiece in. He had striking red hair (with a parting) and freckles that even the strongest sun would struggle to merge. He exuded a shield which screamed ‘I don’t do talk’. You could almost feel his disappointment when a colleague got on two stations down the line and sat next to him.
‘Morning Gerry. How’s mother’
‘Morning Hattie. Och well….’
The slow mordant way he unplugged his ears and switched off his iPad spoke volumes.
‘So did your brother visit?’ Hattie clutched her bag and glared at Gerry’s ear now available ear.
‘Och, you know…’
‘Did you tell him? You know you need to tell him.’
At that point Gerry caught my eye. ‘Rescue me,’ he screamed silently. ‘I’m drowning not waving.’ I turned back to my paper. I didn’t think Gerry thought badly of me for my cowardice. Neither of us have the spine to resist the Hatties of this world when on a campaign to extract the gossip that will found today’s water-cooler agenda. I plugged in my music and left him to the Inquistion. When they alighted at Glasgow Central Hattie led the way. I’m pretty sure, for just a moment Gerry was planing on staying on board with us. But a swift glare was enough to pull him to his feet and drag him away, like a schoolboy without his homework done.
The Netball is being held at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. It is on old reclaimed dock land and while there are similarities to the Excel Centre in London, the architecture here is so much more imaginative. I posted a picture of the Armadillo at night in Glasgow day one. It’s just as good in the day.
I’ve not watched netball live before and wasn’t sure what to expect. It was fast, skilful and surpassingly confrontational. And the women were huge. The England GK (which I learnt was goal keeper) was both tall and muscular but mostly an impressive athlete as graceful in the air, taking control of a ball that seemed destined to elude her grasp as she was swift to intercept an opponent’s flat hard pass. The game is at its best when the ball is passed at pace with the deftest of touches, when the players do not even have to stop to pass but manoeuvre the ball as part of their choreographed flight. The New Zealand GA (goal attack) was the best at seeing the unlikeliest of passes and bringing in her team mates.
Both NZ and England needed to win to reach the semis. They did, fairly easily so ultimately the games were disappointing for being one sided but netball, with the spectators close to the action, is a great watching sport. I will go again.
To ingratiate myself with the Textiliste I offered a trip to the People’s Palace in the centre of Glasgow Green but I hadn’t factored in that this is where the big screens are situated. We walked all the way around the park and were defeated by the queues, airport security a full bladder and a rumbling stomach. So we headed back to the centre, grabbed a perfectly acceptable sandwich (the Textiliste chose a crusty Italian which I did wonder at – sliced Berlusconi?) and made our way to the GOMA; which I mistook for a clumsy acronym of Glasgow’s Museum of Modern Art when in fact is it the obvious Gallery of Modern Art. Who’s clumsy now, pal?
Outside the Duke still sported his traffic cone and the crowds were in a good mood. It is now so iconic that cone, that it featured in the Opening Ceremony of the Games and I expect people now try and take it and the Council have to replace it – such is the post-post modern way of things.
The gallery, showcasing contemporary Scottish Art lacked direction – in the normally fabulous ground floor gallery there was a video installation that had little to recommend it. Upstairs I enjoyed Sara Barker sculptures and some of Moyna Flannigan’s paintings – her Maman was especially powerful as were her unsettling series of Stares. But we didn’t linger.
Waterstones is a gem here. Not only is it huge and you can lose yourself so easily but the cafe in the basement has enticing sofas and lots of plugs allowing you to read or write as you wish. What is not to like? We spent an hour or so reading and drinking tea – good to take the bustle out of the day for a while.
Outside we crabbed across the slope that is Sauciehall Street to the Bus Station – earlier, while queuing for coffee at the netball, I overheard a conversation about travel to the Athletics venue which said avoid the trains like the plague and take the free shuttle bus. Probably a good call because there was a minimum of queuing and a thirty minute journey. Though if you have a bad sense of direction the route taken by the driver was designed to lose you. By the end of it the occasional glimpse of the sun was all that told you which direction we were going.
On the bus my mind wandered rather. Hampden Park is now a modern sporting bowl, much like many you see on the TV the world over. It’s suited to athletics and has a grand atmosphere. Ibrox, where we saw the rugby, is a little more careworn, still with sides and mismatched stands but there’s no mistaking it is a modern sports stadium. But on the way there – this trip is my first visit to both stadia – I couldn’t stop thinking about the first time I registered the names Ibrox and Hampden Park. It was 1971. I think it was first the horror of hearing about the disaster that killed 66 people at Ibrox during a crowd surge. This was followed by a statistic that my dad mentioned – that Hampden held the record for a crowd at a football game – 149,000 – for an international with England and had had a capacity of 135,000 when dad visited. He recounted never being so scared as then, in the seething mass. Dad wasn’t a big man but he had been in the Paras and was strong and tough; but the way he described being picked up in a sea of bodies and moved wherever it took him with no control on his part while a game of football went on out on the pitch was spine tingling. By then I’d been in big standing crowds, at the rugby at Twickenham. I’d been moved a little and felt hemmed in (and excited at the same time). I’d never felt scared.
I’m not sure I understood Dad then but when the Hillsborough and the Heysel disasters happened it brought it back. I understood how awful that must have been. And even today, with the Hillsborough enquiry taking place in Liverpool we still see the suffering it caused. Perhaps, visiting Iborx and Hampden has been good for me in other ways than just sporting.
I didn’t linger on the gloom as the crowds were excited and noisy. Our seats were along the 100 metre straight so we saw a lot of action. The highlight had to be the 10,000 metres for women, not least for the gutsy performance by the Scot Laura Muir. Eventually the three Kenyans took the medals as the Jamaicans did later in the 400 metres. It was a silver night for England with the joy on our triple jumper, Laura Samuel (Jamaica took gold) standing out.
We planned to catch the bus back but my gyroscope was completely discombobulated so we ended up walking back. Nothing to write home about though it didn’t take long. That was a plus as it was always going to be a late one.
Day 4 and hockey. The National Hockey Stadium feels rather temporary and rain threatened but the lady who scanned our tickets said ‘Ooh posh seats’. A roof! Yippee! Btw why do the water an artificial pitch? Speed it up? Slow it down? Make it slippy? Seems kind of unnecessary but what do I know.
Anyway it was a must win game for England v Scotland. England had the names – Kate Richardson-Walsh who broke her cheekbone at the Olympics and played with a mask; Alex Danson the blond stick magician. Both played well but England are a work in progress with some of the youngsters looking clumsy in comparison. And while the Scots were almost overwhelmed in the first quarter they fought back and were a better side in the second half. And I learnt something; it isn’t just footballers who hassle the ref. Walsh-Richardson was almost Roy Keane-esque in her vein-popping challenge of the Aussie umpire and Danson audible used some industrial language to tell the other umpire what she thought of her decision making. Really not good role models ladies. And weak umpiring to let them get away with it.
So there we have it. Glasgow’s games. Excellent. Home via friends near Nottingham and a few licks from the Dog. Oh yes and did you notice we won at the cricket? At bloody last lads.