I’ve been feeling stupidly lucky about the amount of roaming I’ve done around Scotland over the past few months, and in tandem with that gratefulness has come a creeping nervousness that this too-good-to-be-true setup will come crashing down. But then I just remind myself: even if it does? I’ll still be living in Glasgow. The dear green place. A city where ornate architecture older than the country I was born in is nestled side by side with hideous monstrosities of concrete and glass, the legacies of misguided 70s architects . A city where the people are helpful and friendly, but not terribly polite because they’re too busy being honest or funny, or, more often, both.
The home of banter.
When I first moved here in 2001, I had never been to Scotland before. All I ‘knew’ about Glasgow couldn’t even properly be described as knowledge – it was more that to me the city possessed a vague aura of violence and football-based stupidity, likely absorbed through films and rumour. My parents were apprehensive; my brother assured me somewhat gleefully that I would be murdered. I was warned repeatedly to never wear green, red, or blue.
I didn’t care. I moved here anyway, dragging my talented best friend (artist Kat Frick Miller ) with me. Folk from home kept telling me how brave I was, but all I could think of was past immigrants boarding boats to far-off shores with no expectation of ever seeing their families again. I didn’t feel especially brave. I kept telling them that if I didn’t like it, I’d just get back on a plane.
But from the very first day I knew I’d made the right decision.
Staying in an absolute tip of a hostel (so bad it was later the subject of a viral social media shitstorm) in probably the least-charming part of town didn’t deter me in the least. Kelvingrove Park was a revelation to a couple of girls from a concrete-covered suburb in Ontario, and being surrounded by so much history in addition to all the greenery was a feeling I quickly grew addicted to.
Canada is a beautiful place, but it’s definitely lacking when it comes to any sense of civilisation echoing back through the ages – there’s no cultural identity that has been built up through hundreds of years of shared hardship and war and triumph and just general living.
Scotland as whole offered me that, but Glasgow in particular seemed to have a character all its own. The people I met every day were gruff sometimes to the point of outright rudeness (shocking to a Canadian), but I was continually astonished by how helpful they were. Bus drivers took detours to deliver me to my destination, folk so new to my acquaintance it seemed cheeky to call them ‘friends’ donated furnishings for the flat, and, though I stayed for months in Govan, I remained unaccosted the entire time.
Once after a night of hard dancing (and probably 2 pints, which has always been enough to knock me flat) Kat left me crumpled against a wall on Great Western Road, too sick to stand, while she tried to find us a cab. My ill advised white-girl dreadlocks were plastered to my clammy brow, and my moddish charity shop dress was wrinkled and soaked with cold sweat. I remember my nervousness as groups of drunken revelers approached me, and how quickly it turned to amazement when every party, without exception, stopped to check if I was okay.
I think of that night every time I’m asked why I keep returning to Glasgow.
There are a million other things. Not being raised here, I can’t begin to compete with the lightning speed of the banter my pals throw around, plus I’ll probably never quite manage to be rude/honest enough to really fit in, but I’ll keep pretending.
I swear 150% more than I used to before I lived here, but the quality of the light coming through the window when I wake up makes me happier every day.
It’s chilly in this flat and the rain never seems to end, but all it takes is a quick walk down my street and I’ll be a bit warmer inside just for the sight of these (poorly-insulated) sandstone tenements.
There’s always a park nearby, always a chippie in quick reach for greasy indulgence, always a wee old granny in the street to commiserate when you drop your messages or trip and fall or get tidal-waved by a motorist speeding through a puddle.
And of course there’s always a puddle, reflecting the city back at you. I’m probably the slowest pedestrian in town for the number of photos I take, but Glasgow is full of reflections, shadows, and silhouettes that feed my creativity like nowhere else I’ve been.
I love traveling through the rest of this jaw-dropping country.
And I’ll still be completely content here if everything changes and I can’t do it anymore.