I worked breakfast at a hotel in town this morning; just a one off through the agency. Argyll St is a main shopping area, full of big high street shops on one side of Central Station where all the trains come in. Just on the other side of the station it turns into this dodgy little area where some of the buildings are abandoned, windows boarded up, and generally grotty looking folk sitting on the pavement. It wasn’t the poshest hotel in all the world but all right, a lot of German tourists who probably didn’t know where they would be staying.
There was another guy from the same agency who walked out with me after and showed me some of the little gems of the area. Apparently we were smack in the middle of the Red Light District. “Down there is where the hookers go with their customers, and there is the cash machine they take them to, and there’s where the drive-by shooting was last week. Let me show you what every man in Glasgow wants.”
So we cross the street and I pull my skirt down a little. There’s a shop with windows full of guitars and pedals and banjos. Then we walk inside to this little hallway before the main door and there are stab proof and bullet proof vests about 20 quid each, Kalashnikov rifles, machetes the size of your head. “Yeah, I’ve got one.” Revolvers and pistols I only know because of my sister’s addiction to playing 007 on Nintendo. Bullets and knives of all kind. And all so cheap. 20, 30, 40 pounds. And they wonder why every Ned in the city is going about with a knife down his trackies. We keep walking. “How prudish are you?” Well, not very but I guess it depends what you have in mind… I am speaking to a man in his thirties who is shorter than me, with a stubbly face and missing teeth, a receding hairline, a buzz cut and about fifteen stone around his middle. I am sure you can understand my concern.
He walks me past a shop selling scabby looking cheap lingerie. A place you can just imagine the whores shopping in on their days off, for work clothes. A poster in the window advertises the blue pill. Twelve for 20 pounds. He walks me past a pub. Best gay pub in town. “That’s where the old men with fourteen year old boyfriends go. Oh, I didn’t tell you…well you can stop eyeing me up.” We walk into a shop selling rounds of fireworks for a hundred pounds and he mumbles that the Iraqis would be running for their air raid shelters after all of these. I’ve noticed there’s a hint of only-half-joking racism in this town. I’m not sure how to take it.
I come home and nap, do some work, have a sausage and egg sandwich for breakfast. The banging starts early. It sounds like a war zone round here. I talk to the boy on the phone in the dark and watch the fireworks go off outside. Someone is shooting them off his windowsill out back, someone else down in the park, where the grass is already on fire. I walk down to the hill over Springburn. We’re high up, supposed to be in line with the clock face at Glasgow Cross. You can see far over the city from here. I wish that camera was better because that was a fabulous image. Over all the city lights, watching fireworks pop up randomly from everywhere, from the edges of where my eyes could see, from beside me and behind me and below me. Canada is seriously missing out.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about, Guy Fawkes night happens every November 5th in the UK to commemorate the capture of Guy Fawkes. He and a gang of Catholics conspired to kill King James I way back in 1605 because Catholics were being persecuted by the Protestants. They stashed gunpowder in the cellers of the Parliament buildings and planned to blow them up. Guy Fawkes was caught and hanged after he was betrayed by one of the other conspirators. So now, all over the UK, we burn a Guy dummy on bonfires and set off fireworks all night.
Oh, and Saddam has been sentenced to hang. How appropriate.