Glasgow: Vision Thing

Posted by in Culture, Travel

You got that vision thing.

SINCE YESTERDAY

15 years since my ill fated interview with Glasgow School of Art I return to Glasgow to find it more or less as I left it save for newbies like The Hydro, the revamped bus and train stations (Buchanan and Queen Street). It’s one of those cities I was never happy with my photos (though I have used some from previous visits to augment the places)

From the outset at Glasgow Airport, Scotland proclaims itself OPEN but on first inspection Glasgow is as dirty if not dirtier than Budapest and at certain times of day or night the streets smell of pub. Likewise the city’s strapline is ‘PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW’ which is true too, the crazy walk among the sane.

300*252

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The Trans Europe Express cafe of yore has disappeared and I can’t find some of the ones I had down to check out. But I do find the very cool Black Sheep Coffee with iPad menus of what beans you want, whether you want full fat or semi skimmed milk. Course I wouldn’t have a bloody clue! 

Sprigg is among the current school of cool but is again more pricey than sitting at home with a bowl of muesli. It’s easy to spend at least £5 on breakfast but baker Greggs comes to the rescue – a coffee and pastry for £2.50 – as good as it’s going to get in Britain at the moment, save for supermarkets and buying your own cereal if you’re able to.

ROOM IN YOUR HEART

Unfortunately something else hasn’t changed in 15 years – the city is still abysmal for budget accommodation; one wonders how many hostels there may have been prior to COVID. As of summer 2022, there are only two; Euro Hostel facing the River Clyde not too far from Central Station and the SafeStay closer to Sauchiehall St and the Mitchell Library. 

The Brazilian manager is nice but like Barcelona, you’ll still have to pay to ditch the bags (they won’t watch them for you like some hostels). The Euro though is really disappointing, the bed is comfy and although it does have a bed lamp and usb port, don’t expect a curtain or wait for it… a locker, hello the lights are on but no one is home! And speaking of lights they are on a timer so if you’re in the shower don’t be surprised if they cut out mid-way.

The hotels Holiday Inn Express, IBIS Budget, Easyhotel and Travelodge have all increased prices since last summer so forget a bargain there. Pity, they were great to stay in.

Curling as an architectural art form; the Mitchell library left and MOMA right.

LIBRARIES AND GALLERIES

One of my first ports of call is the aforementioned and excellent Mitchell Library – not new but new to me. Old school but with spacious desks and the plugs in the right places. It also has a cafe and I can’t resist the cake and tea deal. Does a piping hot scrambled egg bun too if savory is more your thing but no croissants or pain au chox at the Mitch.

The Merchant city is bolstered by the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) but the architecture centre The Lighthouse is STILL closed to the public! And unfortunately the school of art is still under scaffold from the ravages of two fires. You can still see the famous Rennie Mackintosh typographic and house style at the Willow cafe/restaurant who do an afternoon tea for £30.

If it’s even more modern art you want try the CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts) on Sauchihall Street. Much more cosmopolitan than I remember with Greek, Thai and Vietnamese eateries as well as favourites like Subway (not to be confused with the Glasgow Underground). 

I also note the city’s musical heritage and could only wish some of the bands were playing – it was such a coup for me to see Paul Buchanan play at the city’s Royal Concert Hall way back in 2006 – building still present and appropriately adjoins the Buchanan Galleries shopping mall but not its namesake bus station behind it. 

Summer rain.

MUSIC MAKES THE PEOPLE COME TOGETHER

Ricky Ross didn’t call the first Deacon Blue album Raintown for nothing and the silver stuff is never far away even in high summer and as it smears the windows of the bus station and makes the streets shiny and smell of petrichor songs by Jerry Burns, The Silencers, and Del Amitri come to mind. The temp is also fresh for the time of year and turns a stifling summer into spring (or autumn).

And speaking of music it is of course one of the reasons I’ve come to Glasgow. This is a city that over the years has given us Simple Minds, The Blue Nile, and CHVRCHES among so many others. 

For music venues Glasgow also delivers: King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, The Royal Concert Hall, The Armadillo and The Hydro as well as the now defunct T in the Park festival and its ultra cool replacement the ban on vowels TRNSMT. See also my Hats off to the Scots blog (if you don’t know already).

Westend bohemia.

THE WESTEND

Toward the end of Sauchiehall St you’ll notice the shops get a little more bohemian as it morphes into student-land. This is especially the case in Kelvinbridge with cool cafes: Kelvin Pocket (if you like Belle and Sebastian and that kind of quirky indy music, you’ll really like this place). Fortunately there was no sign of a catastrophe waitress.

Across the River Kelvin the Cottonrake Bakery is raking in the customers and their cash with what must be very scrumpolicious cakes! There’s a queue outside the door to prove the point. Lost World is another one and if you get bored of cool cafes and restaurants then Caledonia Books should quench your thirst for cultural knowledge.

I retrace my steps from the past ending up at Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum (Glasgow’s V&A). It’s dressed in red stone as are many of Glasgow’s buildings. No Kylie exhibition this time but it’s thriving with willing guests despite the cloak rooms being closed due to COVID concerns (strange that it didn’t hinder their cafe being open).

Killermont St and the cool St Enoch station entrance.

ONWARDS

Onward travel? The city is well connected to the capital Edinburgh with buses every 15 minutes (£9) and a separate bus AIR also serves its airport. Glasgow’s own airport is served by the purple double decker and costs £9 one way. 

There are buses to Perth, Dundee, Oban and Inverness. London, Manchester, Bristol and Brum are among the longer haul coaches but forget Liverpool and Cardiff for now. Local connections are also catered for at the newly revamped Buchanan Bus Station, it seems Roddy Frame is right, you can get most places on a bus, from Killermont Street.

At the time of writing – no air connection to the Welsh capital either but there is one from Edinburgh with Loganair. The trains are going through some industrial action and some including the London Euston service are cancelled so tread carefully – this may all be over by the time this blog goes live. 

Note also that while the Glasgow Subway is modern in its design, it is one of the oldest by construction and isn’t suitable for people in wheelchairs. I can’t see how this could be changed because of narrow platforms and even narrower trains! Some stations are only accessible by stairs.

And speaking of stations, arriving on a late night train into central may be the only old school romance you’re going to see. What lies outside the station walls will remind you, you’re very much in the now.

PLAYLIST AND CREDITS

Thanks for reading here, should you be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, check out the MEDIA page, and/or the UNIVERSITY page for my teaching ethos.

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A quick bit about the title. The original title was Vision Thing as per the new Simple Minds song. Then I suddenly thought maybe it should be Raintown Revisited. So I put it to the vote on Twitter and Vision Thing won so there you are.

PLAYLIST
Vision Thing – Simple Minds
Raintown – Deacon Blue
Scottish Rain – The Silencers
Safe in the Rain – Jerry Burns
From a Late Night Train – The Blue Nile
Sing Song Blue – Altered Images
Killermont Street – Aztec Camera

Images by KH summer 2022 except the Deacon Blue cover from Discogs as usual.