Glasgow was once the biggest city in the world… well no but it was one of the largest seaports in the world! Being at the entry spot of the Clyde River, it naturally became a point of trade for sailors to find scallywags and where big business took place.
Glasgow’s population inflated rapidly and eventually it became known as the tobacco trading capital, when more than half of the UK’s trade came from Scotland, sending internationally to the Americas and 47,000,000 lb. of tobacco a year.
Banks grew, wealth grew and the population grew swiftly and by 1939 it reached over 1.1 million and by the 1960’s they had to spread out the population and started the urban renewal project relocating families to Glasgow’s outer areas.
Western Europe’s murder capitol, Glasgow was voted the friendliest city and ranked as UK’s most violent city the same year. Contradictory reports perhaps but it explains the diversity of Glasgow. On one hand, you have wealthy business and the other a dirty drug crisis.
Entering a shop, the cashiers say hello, and tell you their specials. They comment on our accents and ask where we are from. It reminds me of Vancouver. Awe. It has been a long time since I encountered customer service. Living in France there is zero. I felt so loved in Scotland, even if artificial it felt great!
My stepsister has a special place in her heart for rainy Glasgow since she moved from England and met a wonderful circle of friends through her work at the University of Glasgow. Eventually she met her husband and had a beautiful baby boy. And they lived happily ever after. Everyone deserves their happy ending and after meeting her family, she definitely has hers.
The Uni, interestingly enough, was founded in 1451 and ranked in the top 100.
Which brings me to…here is the thing about blended families. I met my stepfamily when I was at my worst; sixteen-years-old, your typical raging teenage with a temper that could put a fist through a wall, especially after my parents split, I was not very happy. In addition, my stepsiblings were just about as unbalanced. We eventually learned to get along. The adjustment was hard as our family placement changed with our new family unity and we had to learn the new pecking order. Twenty-four years later, we are family none-the-less.
It is different when you grow up with someone from birth. With my older brother, I figured he was smarter and I naturally believed and trusted his judgment. New people had to earn my trust, especially being children coming from broken dysfunctional homes. Functioning dysfunctionals is what my step sister called us, and she could not be more correct. Although I thought, barely functioning. The older we got the more fun we had at Christmas and Easter. Our time together was full of laughter around our big family table and there was always piles of food. And boy did that table grow.
Glasgow gave my sister something she never got from our home in Aldergrove. A type of confidence that comes from trusting your own instincts. Being unaided by family, she not only surviving, she succeeding. I am proud of who she has become but also never saw her so happy. Glasgow is to her is like Kitsilano is to me. A place where you do your most personal growing and end up excepting the things you cannot change and changing the things you cannot except.
My impression of Glasgow after the few hours walking around was a mixed bag. I saw two mothers, one pushing a stroller and the other dragging a screaming kid down Buchanan Street, the promenade. Later I saw them at the KFC, and after that, they shopped at the local Primark. The child had not stopped screaming, and her mother looked about sixteen. I thought I saw her lift something from the store, except that may have been wrong. It would fit the picture and I do have a vivid imagination.
Nicole and I stopped at a bench in the middle of the walking street to check her phone, and a woman with very dirty pants, rummaged through the garbage and then abruptly turned to a man beside us who was busy talking on the phone and said, DO YOU KNOW HOW TO ROLL? The women asked as she sprinkled the old tobacco from the cigarette she pulled from the trash into a rolling paper a man gave her a few minutes before. The man gave her a dirty look, and turned his back on her. Annoyed by his indifference to what was obviously an urgent situation, she stormed off, but only after I got a glimpse of her face under the hoodie. She was a beautiful girl; green eyes and black hair (my guess is she was not yet twenty), then I noticed the pockmarks on her face, a sign of a heroin addict. So sad.
Behind us were two junkies, high as kites, walking super fast and animated as crack heads do. We have them in Surrey BC too, and Alfonz used to get them down at the shop trying to sell their stolen goods. He’d shoo them away like annoying flies. Most were so week from years of drugs and the paranoia that comes with, they would leave without much incident.
These two men were again surprisingly young and already lost their teeth, giving them the caved in old man face. Whatever was going on between these two friends, they were having a blast. I bet their high seemed it was going at normal speed to them while we were in slow motion. It makes sense that the film Train Spotting filmed not far from here, in an economically depressed area of Edinburgh (starring the awesome Ewan McGregor although it has nothing to do with my post on Glasgow, in my imagination Ewan and I are friends).
My sister laughed, yup that’s us, a little bit of everything. Moreover, she is right. Men on lunch breaks in designer three-piece suits walk with beautiful co-workers dressed for business. Their shirts still perfectly creased from the John Lewis box. They looked as though they just walked off a runway while they pick up their to-go coffees and hurried back to work.
The architecture too I found interesting and took photos of random buildings.
Although Glasgow is not particularly beautiful, the drive home to Cupar, Fife was. We stopped to change the baby and pulled off on a random road at the side of the highway and I snapped the last of my shots.
I talk about Scotland with friends here in France and say, it reminds me of Vancouver. After a good laugh, I explain. Not the building of downtown, obviously, but the beach in the rain and the surrounding green fields smell like home. The lush vegetation greener than green from the abundance of rain. Moreover, when I made my morning cuppa and looked out my sister’s window, I thought, if someone told me I was in Vancouver I would believe it. I watched the rain streak down the window as I looked up towards the neighbors’ tree, and the mist hung low in the early morning hours.
Cupar, Fife and Vancouver BC are not sister cities, however, the lower mainland of British Columbia, the open spaces of the West Coast sure feel a lot like Scotland. On the other hand, perhaps with my sister near it just felt like home.
I don’t have a blood sister and have no idea what that’s like. I do know, I love that I have someone who went through the last twenty-four years with me and has a whole bunch of shared memories. Maybe not exactly the same, but I feel lucky anyways…
Thanks for showing me Scotland sista’!