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BOWLING BALLBuy it from Amazon, iTunes, Waterstones and B&N
There's the tree that never grew,
There's the bird that never flew,
There's the fish that never swam,
There's the bell that never rang.
Aye, that’s right. Glasgow.
Glasgow. Home of the Garden Festival, 1988. European City of Culture, 1990. UK City of Architecture and Design, 1999. Glasgow. Home of prestigious awards, festivals and past Scottish Tourist Board glories.
Aye right ... who are we trying to kid!
‘Glasgow Smiles Better’ my fucking arse. Glasgow. Knife Crime Capital of the UK. Glasgow. European Capital of Software Piracy. Glasgow. Global leader in coronary heart disease. Heart attacks, unprovoked stabbings and illegally copied computer games are the only things we’ve ever been any good at in Scotland. Well, that and fucking snooker.
Still, you’ve got to look on the bright side, try to find some sort of silver lining in the permanently dark, overcast skies that hang above our city. We might not be the nation’s capital, we might not even be the nation’s favourite, but at least we’re not all ridden with needle marks and HIV over here on the west coast of central Scotland. Who cares if we don’t have a castle, an annual festival or a regal 1.609344 kilometres, even without all those things, tourism is still booming in Glasgow. Americans with big waistlines, Japanese with bigger cameras, visitors of every colour, creed and credit card coming to Glasgow with one thing in common: more money than sense, but less money than a Glasgow taxi meter charges whenever the cab driver hears a foreign accent.
These come in their droves these tourists, to sit in the back of taxis and wonder why the driver keeps taking left turns and they have driven along the same street five times. To huddle on the upper deck of overpriced open-top buses, listening to a purpled-faced tour guide speaking in an accent that they could never hope to understand, even if he wasn’t drunk. To spend their money on deep fried mars bars and tartan tins of shortbread and be given wrong directions to the Burrell Collection, Peoples Palace and all the other tourist traps with expensive gift shops that local weans steal from on primary school trips.
Glasgow’s weans: the Anastasias, Donatella’s, Henriks and Keanus of the city. Children with fancy birth certificate names but undernourished childhoods and an underprivileged upbringing from the day they are shat out of the womb into one of the colostomy bag council estates spread across the city. Gorbals, Sighthill, Balornock, all those ugly high-rise tower blocks that are shit to look at, but even shitter to live in when you are up on the fifteenth floor and the lifts are (bang) out of order, with water dripping down the walls (open brickwork from before it was fashionable) and plumbing that leaves a dirty brown log in the toilet bowl every time the person living upstairs flushes.
Still, at least the residents are safe from the bailiffs and money-lenders up there in their badly plumbed shoeboxes on the fifteenth floor. Even if the debt collectors do possess the prerequisite nerves of steel needed to risk the vast array of mortal dangers that present themselves in these tower block stairwells on a daily basis, they could never hope to kick in the front door once they got up there, partly because of the sudden acute sickness brought on by the thin air and high altitude smog, but mostly because of the Maginot defences of unopened bills piling up like a Himalayan mountain range behind the council-green front doors. Aye, those unopened bills: red ink on final reminders, crippling the credit-blacklisted scratchcard-addicted populace with low-cost crisis loans at high-interest small print.
One thing is definitely for sure: ends never met for the social under-classes of Forgotten Glasgow and their reduced-to-clear living, chasing best-befores on two-for-one supermarket own brands. When the food stamps run out, the natives survive on false insurance claims, credit-card crime and robbing from charity shops. Nobody helps them, so they have to help themselves.
Shopping? Barcodes get swapped. Electricity? Nail varnish is painted on the power-card. Gas? Spiders’ eggs are persuaded into the meter to weave their webs. And water? It drips down the walls, what more do you fucking want?
Rising Glasgow damp, rising Glasgow crime. Not that Strathclyde Police lift a finger, of course. How can they, with their funding deficits and manpower shortages, and their shrinking workforce already stretched to the limit on the more serious matter of arresting snake-bitten University students for flinging bin-bags on Thursday nights. I hereby charge you with being drunk and placing an orange traffic cone on top of your head.
Glasgow’s drinking problem was going from bad to worse, with only the breweries profiting, as lager sales go from strength to super-strength. Blue black. Starch on potato. Blue black. Snooker with the pink missing. Blue black. The colour of Glasgow’s battered wives swollen faces the morning after the night before. Always swollen faces. That and missing teeth.
In Glasgow, domesticated violence always came hand in hand with broken homes and unannounced visits from Social Services wanting to put all the Anastasias, Donatella’s, Henriks and Keanus into foster care. Two parent families are rare, but public spending is even rarer. Aye, it was several local government task forces and since the last fresh coat of council green paint on the front doors of Forgotten Glasgow, insufficient funding the same excuse every time, a definite case of New Labour but Old Socialist Tactics, a Downing Street rubric of bloated truths, scantily clad lies, broken promises and dangled carrots that always swung far and wide. The local authority corruption in Glasgow smells worse than the breweries on a warm day and the smackheads on any day.
Aye, and talking of which: the Junkies. Nowadays, the heroin addiction in Glasgow is almost as bad as it is out eastwards in the anus of Scotland. Council estates and tower blocks across the city littered with desperate Junkies and their crack bottles and used needles, swarming with rabid addicts’ intent on bringing bad neighbourhoods down even further. Even worse, the drug abuse is starting younger and younger. Ten year old children necking over the counter prescriptions like Smarties, all those Anastasias, Donatella’s, Henriks across the city, all with baby habits by twelve, addicts by thirteen and strung-out corpses by fifteen; smack the salvation of choice, needle sharing and an early grave the best alternative to YTS and future unemployment.
Glasgow. A bleak, unforgiving landscape of run-down social housing and boarded-up shops, a cruel panorama of burnt-out motors and stoved-in bus shelters at every turn. Look closely and you can see the joblessness and hopelessness. Look closer and you will see the petty crime and drug addiction that is never far behind. That is the real Glasgow, the Glasgow that doesn’t Smile Better.
That is the Forgotten Glasgow.