Another little outtake from my psychogeographic tour across Glasgow. This is all the stuff which, sadly, can't make it into my essay but which were the best bits for me.
I should say at the outset that Glasgow's East End has a bit of a reputation. It has the lowest life expectancy in Europe, some of the worst gang violence, and it has the horrific Bellgrove Hotel (I once read a brilliant review of the place that said "First class place, close to all local amenities - Barlinnie (jail), Haddows (off licence) and Glasgow Royal Infirmary (nearest A&E department). There is also a lot that is good about the East End. It has a lot of character, some great people, and some excellent community projects. However, the fact remains that it is not a place that someone would normally send a tourist. Hence my surprise when coming back into the city centre on my psychogeographic journey, I had the following encounter.
The bus was fairly empty - a few people at the front and myself and one other person towards the back. Just opposite the aforementioned Bellgrove Hotel a guy got on. He was wearing a San Francisco 49ers shirt and shorts. My interest was piqued. You don't see that very often in Glasgow.
My interest was further piqued when he said to the driver in an American accent "How much is it to get my black ass out of here?" Incidentally, he was not black. He then had a conversation with the driver about not having slept for 48 hours. I pulled out my notebook. I had a feeling this was going to be gold dust for a postmodernist flâneur such as myself. He came swaggering towards the back of the bus, saying "How you doin'?" to various people as he passed them. They all ignored him. He didn't seem bothered.
As he passed me he stopped and said "Girl, green is your colour. Damn." (I was wearing a turquoise coat, he wasn't referring to the colour of my face." I smiled politely. When accosted by the Bus Nutter I try not to speak. It only eggs them on.
He sat down behind me and engaged the guy opposite in conversation with a classic opening gambit. "Women are crazy, huh?" The guy gave the perfect comeback (albeit one possibly fraught with danger) "Ah dinnae ken, pal. Ah'm gay."
It did not stop the American bloke. "How long until we're into the city?"
"Two minutes, pal."
"Two minutes? I bet you £2 it won't be two minutes...it'll be four."
The gay guy catches my eye. He taps his head in the ubiquitous sign for 'we've got a right bugs case here'. I grin and turn back to making my notes.
"So, is it right that Glasgow is the murder capital of the world?" This, in a very loud voice.
"Naw, pal, just Europe," says the gay guy.
The American bloke is silent for a few seconds, apparently taking this in. Then, right behind my left ear I hear "Oh-oh, she's taking notes." I have apparently been rumbled, but continue taking notes, just to pretend I'm not. "I knew this guy once - good looking guy, not as good looking as me though, ya know? So, we're out and I tell him to watch my style, take notes. I hope you're not taking notes?"
I turn round. "No, no, I'm just writing myself a reminder," I say, trying not to sound guilty.
"Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, I love your accent." This is one of the reasons I do not like to speak to the Bus Nutter. "You wanna go for a drink?"
"Um, no thank you."
Of course, it is too late. Me and the gay guy are now in the loop. "You sure? I'm just in from the US and I'm jetlagged, can't sleep, totally wired."
"No, you're OK, but thanks."
"I mean, I know you're a little older than me...what are you? 34? 35?"
"49? Man. You're looking hot, babe."
"Errrrr...thanks. I think. But I think that's the jetlag."
He nods philosophically and turns to the gay guy. "I suppose you're waiting for me to ask you out now?"
I ask him why, if he's just landed, he's ended up in the East End of Glasgow. Apparently, someone has told him that the best fish and chips are in the East End and so he had to have some. The gay guy and I tell him he needs to be careful about who he listens to. Eventually, having tried to get me to go for a drink one more time he gets off the bus with a cheery high five for us and a cheery wave for everyone else on the bus.
The gay guy and I watch him swagger off. "Do you think he'll be OK?" I say, worriedly. "Aye. I think it's Glasgow you need to worry about, rather than him."
Anyway, Scottish crime fiction news:
Ooooooh! Paul Johnston has a new book out, and you can read the first chapter of THE SILVER STAIN here.
Val McDermid and a host of other luminaries part of The Library Book.
Alexander McCall Smith's Yuletide festivities.
Guitars and Life reviews Charles Cumming's THE TRINITY SIX.
Sometimes, the brilliant Douglas Lindsay is a miserable ****. And sometimes, he gives us treats.
How do you fancy a nasty story for the 12 days of Winter? Then check out this from Stuart MacBride, with a new story every day.
Ian Rankin at the University of Sussex in January.
A wonderful post from Aly Monroe about Spain's Robbed Children.
Those lovely paper sculptures again.
And, finally, what Glasgow swapped for the new pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.