I’ve been trying to describe to myself why I love Glasgow so much and have been having difficulty. I came across this bit in the Lonely Planet guide that describes it better than I have been able: “Glaswegians strip any false pretenses and tell it like it is- both the inspiring and the infuriating aspects of life here. Glasgow combines urban mayhem and black humour and is so friendly it is sometimes downright unnerving for a city. [The people] are all about fun.” Now, it ain’t the healthiest place in the world; most folks smoke and they aren’t exactly fit or concerned with nutritious food. And yet they do know how to have a good time. I spent most of my day wandering around my old stomping grounds in the city. My friend, Mubbasher, said over e-mail that it has not changed but it has- he’s just not noticed because he hasn’t been away as long as I have. There are WAY more cafes and other trendy places around then when I lived here and fashion seems much more important to Glaswegians than it did a decade ago. Another remarkable change is St. George’s Square and other parts of the city that have been cleaned. I can now see details on the old Victorian buildings that were obscured by black soot from the coal factories of the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago. As I walked down Sauchiehall Street, all the memories started flooding back of Lisa and I going to the Glasgow Opera matinees together when Uni was out. Buchanan Bus Station where, when I first got to Glasgow, a kindly Glaswegian gentleman escorted me down to my University and talked the whole way in a language I did not understand; it turns out it was English! LOL. Glaswegians still speak a mix of Old Scots and so they can be hard to understand at first. They are proud of having kept their language and often show disdain for Edinburgh and the more “posh” parts of Scotland for sanitizing their dialect.
Sample Scottish lesson for the day:
Aye means Yes
Nay means No
Nay bother means No problem
I cannae be arsed means I can’t be bothered
I dunnae know means I don’t know
As I walked down Cathedral Street, I remembered my friends and I walking along after grocery shopping together back to the residence. For those of you who didn’t know me then, I lived in Glasgow a decade ago as an exchange student at the University of Strathclyde. I was here for fall and part of winter that year finishing my undergrad in English and History. It was the most liberating thing I had done in my life at that point. I had traveled before but always with others. My trip to Scotland (and Northern Ireland and the Republic) was the first one I’d gone solo. I marveled at my ability to do this and I discovered inner resources I was not sure I had. While living in residence at Uni, I lived with what we called “The United Nations”- several women from different countries including Singapore, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Scotland, USA and Canada. When I found my way back to Birkbeck Court (the name of our residence), I sat on the steps in front of my old house and remembered. I recalled the dinners we had there where we shared in each other’s cultural food, the conversations that opened my eyes about how other people lived and what they believed, and I remember celebrating Ramadan (a Muslim holy time) with Haniza and Mubbasher. I remember the fire alarm that was always going off every time someone burnt (using the Scottish spelling) toast. This inevitably sent us all out into the rain standing freezing on our front lawn until the fire brigade gave us the OK for us to go back in. I remember Emma having to come out of the shower in her towel and shower cap one time! LOL. And I recalled all the nights Mubbasher came to pick me and the other ladies up to dance salsa.
And as I sat there, I realized that part of the reason I came to Scotland was to put to rest the wondering I’d always had in my mind in regards to whether I made the right choice to leave and come back home to Canada. Some of you may not know this, but I was offered a spot at Jordanhill Campus here in Glasgow to do my teacher’s training back then. I really wanted to stay but I was accepted to SFU’s exceptional program in BC and decided to go back home. In retrospect, it was a good thing I didn’t stay in Scotland. I experienced many things in the last decade that have altered my course in life and made me more of who I am. I dunnae know if that wouldae happened here. So Scotland was a catalyst in my life. Saw a really neat quote on a card I liked today: “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” And I realized that creating myself never ends; there are always more gifts and interests to bring to the fore when I am willing.
The next stop was Glasgow Cathedral. This is the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland to have survived the Reformation virtually intact. I spent a good two hours in there praying, looking at the stained glass windows, imagining what it would have been like to live in Glasgow when it was built in the 1400s, and looking at the architecture (this picture is of the wooden vaulted ceiling). The Cathedral is now in scaffolds undergoing it’s cleaning. If you compare it to the pictures of St. George’s Square below, you get an idea for just how much soot was kicked up in the Industrial times. Before 1750, Glasgow was comprised just of the Cathedral and the University of Glasgow. There wasn’t much else here so you can imagine how much growth happened after that! I was taken by this glass of Jesus holding a lamb with all the little children at his feet. I remembered getting my confirmation done in the Catholic church when I was 12 and pledging to be a disciple of Christ. I had no idea what that meant back then but as I looked at this piece of art, I realized that my work with kids and families is fulfilling that mission in ways that I did not expect. Christ was a healer. Although I am no longer Catholic, I resonate with his teachings of peace and strive every day in my work to create conditions where folks can return to that state again and again.
Another quote I saw today that I like:
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
It seems that people are as charmed by my accent as I am theirs. I went in to a local shop to buy some fruit and the man at the checkout was apparently smitten. “Hallo bonny lass (beautiful girl). Lovely accent you have there.” I said, “ I was just about to say the same to you.” And flashed him a smile. Well, he proceeded to ask me if I liked jokes and gave me the choice of categories as he had a self-proclaimed talent for them. The categories were: kids’ jokes, political jokes, dirty jokes, and clean jokes. Of course I chose the dirty ones which were quite funny but I cannae relay them here because of the young ones who are reading this blog. Probably the most surreal thing I walked by today was a shop that sold “Western” clothes like cowboy boots, t-shirts with images of Native American chiefs on them, and LOTS of leather. I wondered where a Glaswegian would wear such a thing but was too afraid of the answer to ask the question so I kept walking. LOL. Well, I am off tomorrow to the town of Troon by the sea. I am leaving by train quite early so will post my adventure tomorrow night. For now, I am off to the pub for a cup of tea and some live local music before going to bed.