‘Promenade’ is a wonderful journey through Glasgow, and by extension, Scotland, moving from the past to the present, a voyage of discovery as our guide sees the city as if with new eyes, wondering at the sites he sees and the people he meets. Same as it ever was, yet always changing.
by James Carson
I meet Jesus on the stairs.
“All right, buddy?”
He grins, “Yeah, not bad – for a Monday.”
I give him a tell-me-about-it nod and we head into the groggy morning. His lift is revving up outside the Templeton building.
“Have a good one, bud,” he says, an odd blend of Hispanic and Weegie.
“You too, Jesus.”
Still can’t get his name right: Jesús Dávila Ormeño. I keep telling him since he’s in Glasgow he should call himself Jeez-O. He just gives me a funny look.
I set off towards the city, skirting the fringe of Glasgow Green. Victoria’s atop her perch, glowering at the People’s Palace. She has the look of Angela Merkel after her phone’s been tapped. On the lower reaches of her preposterously ornate fountain, the daughter nations of the Empire are gathered: Australians shearing sheep; Canadians with a dead moose; impeccably-dressed Indians looking faintly embarrassed to be part of such a confection.
In summer, the Green is a seething jungle of sonic skirmishes: orange-walking-gay-priding-pipe-banding. This morning, it’s quiet, apart from a thuggish crow excavating the remains from a packet of smoky bacon.
On London Road, I pass the usual landmarks: the Barras at slumber, the Polish deli. Homes for the future are betraying signs of the past, one of them adulterated by a rusty skid mark. Inside a doorway, a page ripped from a jotter has been taped on to the glass:
DO NOT DO TOLIET IN THIS CLOSE
At Glasgow Cross, the tollbooth steeple chimes quarter to nine, a counterpoint to the rumble of traffic. Marooned on its little island, the clock tower is encircled by pawn shops, pubs and chippies ; a 17th century relic of a city that went west.
Leaving Trongate, I’m into the Style Mile. I know this because it’s inscribed on the towers of flowers. On this side of the street, it’s Caithness paving, boutiques selling designer-onesies and the Portland stone monolith that was once the mighty Lewis’s.
The sky is the colour of day-old mushroom soup. It’s not not raining, again.
I dart into Argyll Arcade, the boulevard of bling. Through one of the windows, a gloved hand is carefully placing rings into their little coffins. Behind, there’s a poster of George Clooney on his yacht, trying not to look as if he’s flogging watches.
Re-emerging into the smirr, I take pleasure in the sweep of Andrew Buchanan’s street, a string of architectural pearls that confronts La Rambla: “ ‘Mon, then, beat that!” I brace myself before turning into Gordon Street, where a wave of wage slaves is bearing down from Central Station.
At the Union Street lights, I glance into a building society, where the staff are getting a pre-match team talk. A woman has a bottle of water in one hand, a coffee in the other: dual weapons in the battle against dehydration and death-by-flipchart.
Across the road, I pass a bookie’s, then another, then three in a row. In this part of town, you’re never more than a heartbeat away from Kempton Park.
Journey’s end approaches. A couple of guys squeeze into the lift. They’re talking world affairs.
“See the game on Saturday?”
“Was at Hampden, mate. Shocking. Absolutely shocking.”
“He put that boy on far too late.”
“Aye, bit of a plank.”
“Seventh floor,” says the lift.
It’s the same journey every morning, but every morning something different.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but of having new eyes.”
But I’ve no time for Proust: I’m late for work. Again.
Read the other winners:
Homesickness By Katriona Kerr
Snow Globes By Max Scratchmann
Photo Credit - London Road by Simon Godley