10/01/2003

Checking in here, really; I haven't abandoned my blog, I've just had a great deal weighing on my mind in terms of attempting to buy a house, if humanly possible. Time will tell, and it looks like I'll be spending a great deal more than I had previously intended, but needs must.

In the meantime, I found a site I always knew would have to be built. I'm going to repost come the Worldcon here in '05 as a dire and necessary warning to any visitors from afar not familiar with the culture in this fair city of Glasgow. The site is www.glasgowsurvival.co.uk, and acts as much as anything else as a guide to Neds. 'Ned' is a generic term referring to socially and economically disenfranchised youths frequently easily observable due to their uniform habit of wearing white sports gear and baseball caps. They are generally to be avoided. No, make that almost always; as a social phemonenon, they're probably one of the worst things about Scotland, and Glasgow in particular. The site in general doesn't run us down so much, but it does provide a genuinely useful and frequently hilarious alternative to the rather more anemic and sugar-coated official website guides to the city usually administered by the Scottish Tourist Board. If you're coming to Glasgow, read it and be forewarned.

There are really two Glasgows in much the same way as there are two New Yorks, depending on your social background and your relative wealth and opportunities in life. There's the deNiro New York of Taxi Driver, dirty, sleazy, and dangerous, filled with the worst excesses of human nature and lonesome potentially psychotic drifters; and then there's Woody Allen' New York, of writers and artists suffering midlife crises in splendid high-ceilinged apartments overlooking Central Park. Two worlds coexisting, side by side, aware of each other's existence yet doing their best to ignore each other.

I live in the West End of Glasgow - at least for the moment and possibly not for much longer - and I can see this same difference here. You can walk down Sauchiehall Street in the city centre on a Saturday evening and see fights, sirens going off, people chucking bottles at each other, you name it. Football in Glasgow is at times little more than an excuse for barely sublimated religious street warfare. Things are changing, but only slowly.

By contrast, I went for a walk through the West End the other day and found a middle aged guy playing Robert Johnson numbers with slide guitar as part of a small demonstration by a coalition of pressure groups like CND and others. I watched and listened for a while, with the University as a backdrop. It's like a whole other universe compared to other parts of the city. It's only because I may be moving a relatively short distance from the area that I can bear moving at all. A couple of feet away from me while I was listening was a half-finished carving of a leaping white tiger, shaped out of a tree trunk. I looked around some second-hand bookshops - the West End is infested with them - and on the way back, found the blues concert was over. A woman was speaking over a microphone to a small audience about the oppression of the Falun Gong religion (I think that's how you spell it) in China, while some women in traditional Chinese costume performed movements that were presumably a part of the religion. If they tried that in Parkhead up the East End, they'd be bottled off in minutes. I saw an ad for a new complex of modern flats in Parkhead, at the other end of the city, which went out of its way to emphasise the security aspects of controlled electric gates and high walls. Yep, gated communities come to Glasgow.

A considerable contrast.
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