Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Glasgow Money Toilet

I've now got a holiday flat in Glasgow. It's next door to this:

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but I've been busy with the Shoreditch Web Project (however did I used to cope with a day job and a life? I mean, really, how?).

Anyway, flat in Glasgow next door to a 30-foot neon sign. It's not much of a flat, but I love it. It's in an old warehouse, and has window boxes. It's a reposession, which makes it feel a bit weird, moving in somewhere that's fully furnished with someone else's microwave.

The whole idea was to go up for a long weekend at the end of February, tidy it up a bit and then go back when I wasn't working. It didn't quite work out like that. It ended up being the most expensive weekend of my life.

I remember ages ago someone cloned my credit card and spent nearly two grand on gambling in Venice and lingerie. And I remember thinking "just once, I'd like to spend that much money."

Turns out it's easy to spend that much money - just on stuff that isn't fun. For a start, when the bank removed their nice steel we-own-this door, they pulled the frame out, sealing the flat shut. So I ended up spending £100 just to get into the flat and £600 on a new door. This is not a stylish way to spend money, even though my locksmiths are lovely (they've invited me round to tea next time I'm up).

"It's a rough area," they said.
"Really?" I said. "It seems charming." And meant it.

Putting some rubbish out that night, I trod on something. It was a mouse. I wondered if I'd killed it.

The useful thing about living in the Barrowlands is that your rubbish just goes. I figured if I put out the dining table someone would sell it, but it was gone within minutes. Along with a candleabra, two cupboards and a coffee table. A novelty light made out of spinning twigs hangs around for a bit longer, maybe a quarter of an hour.

After clearing the living room, I look at the bedroom. It's eerily neatly made up like a dusty hotel room. I'm shattered, but I'm not going to sleep on someone else's sheets. But I fancy an early night, perhaps just change them and then.... I peel off the sheets... and find mushrooms growing out of the mattress.

The next day is match day. My locksmith has solemnly warned me - don't be on the Barrowland streets after 2.30. Celtic are going to lose. It'll be nasty. However, come 2.30, I've lost all track of time and am wheeling a new memory foam mattress through the Barrowlands. The only thing that happens is that someone helps me lift the mattress in. Which is kind of them. I notice a police van drive past. It's covered in riot shielding. I don't care. I'm just thrilled I found a memory foam mattress for under £200. Well, as thrilled as you can be at spending money on a mattress.

I'm still sleeping on the carpet. Which really needs to be cleaned. A man called Gordon comes out. He hisses through his teeth. "This Gibson Street?" he says. I shrug. "What do you mean?"

"Nothing," he says, and parks the van. "It's just... well, if I'd known then maybe I wouldn't have come out."

"Oh," I say. "But everyone's so friendly. Mind you, that man there is going through that bag of rubbish I just put out. Can't think why."

Gordon hisses again. "He's seeing what boxes you've thrown out so they know what you've just bought for the flat."

"Oh." I say. I help Gordon carry his carpet cleaner up the stairs.

"Nice mirrors," he says, pointing at the stairwell's mirrored wall. I nod. Personally, I think they're a bit 2-star Dubai hotel, but hey. Gordon hisses through his teeth again. "I don't want to worry you," he says, "But it's so that you can see if there's someone waiting round the corner to jump you."

"Oh." I say.

Gordon cleans the carpet. "No needles," he says, with quiet surprise. He looks at my door. "Been burgled yet?" he asks.

"No," I say.

"I don't want to worry you," he whistles, "But just pray you're out when it happens."

I help carry his carpet cleaner back down the stairs. "Well, they've not taken your van," I say. He frowns. "Oh they would if I was any longer," he says. He scowls suspiciously at a nearby cafe. Inside are two old ladies. Clearly he means them.

I go to Ikea. The cab driver is lovely and she tells me all about her kids and her regular hospital visits. She pulls up on a street. "There you go, pet." She says.

I get out. "This isn't my street." I say.

"Yes it is, Gibson Street," she says.

I protest. I live on the other Gibson Street. She stares at me as if that's an impossibility. "But this... this is a nice area." And it is. It's very leafy. A couple are wheeling a pram like they're in an insurance advert. We leave Glasgow's trendy West End and head East. The market is in full flow. The nice cab driver snorts with horror. "I'll stay with the car," she says, "But I've got my eye on you. You'll be fine. Go!"

I unload a bag of cutlery and tealights like I'm in a war zone.

Truth to tell, it's all rather nice. It's a bit run-down, but I'm used to that with Kings Cross. I'm a five minute drunken stagger from the Merchant City. I spend my evenings sat in the Polo Lounge. I don't talk - I'm just shattered, and I smell a bit of oven cleaner. I go back to the flat, and sit on the floor, watching Honor Blackman Avengers and drinking Scotland's own Glen's Vodka.

In the mornings, I wake up, go to one of the cafes downstairs and get a bacon roll. The market's great - it's got DVDs and primroses. I'm suddenly fascinated by primroses as I've now got window boxes.

There's also a crack in the bedroom wall, but I'm not Amy Pond, so I don't care.


Hugh said...

Welcome to Glesga. you'll be fluent in weegie before you know it :)

on the whole most people are lovely, the same dodgy characters in London are up here, cept they're more likely to speak to you first, before stabbing you and they all look the same - shell suit and look like they're out of some famine in Africa

if someone says he'd like to "chib" you, he's not going to be asking you to have an indepth discussion about social deprivation in Glasgow and its effects on the modern healthcare setting, though you'll soon seeing the modern healthcare setting, and its prob likely to be the GRI up the road

I love it up here

Skip said...

Thanks Hugh

It is lovely - and I just can't wait to go back. I'd love to learn how to type in Scotch. It looks brilliant.

What I really loved was that it was snowing, a bit, but that didn't stop people going out clubbing in t-shirts.

I love that city. I love that my local shop is called "News & Booze". I just love it.

Hugh said...

remember Scotch is whiskey...

everywhere is different up here, there is even different Bank Holidays in different parts of Scotland

take a bus that goes to anywhere in the Eastend - you'll soon pick up the lingo, though you might also pick up a trip in an Ambulance :)

i live in the WestEnd, have a huge flat, that costs me less than what i'm renting my little flat in Brighton for

the council tax is a killer - the most expensive in Scotland, it includes the water rates, but meters are not really the done thing up here - so you have to pay a flat rate :(

if it was snowing, then it not likely to be very cold - cloud cover and temps 0-2C - i've had -16C displayed on my car dashboard this year

some reading for you
Youtube: Parliamo Glesga
Youtube: dolmio Glasgow

Hugh said...

oh and have a look at Burnistoun on BBC iPlayer

Orchis said...

Using the wonderful Google Streetview I've taken a troll down Gibson Street. Are you in one of the flats above 'Marketland' just opposite 'McIver's Markets' ? Or a bit further down towards 'Yumms Cafe' (sit-in/take-away). That 'For Sale' sign might even be for your flat. And so many Irish theme pubs close by !

Skip said...

ooh! Cyber Stalking - how brilliant. Yes, that's my street, although not my for sale sign.

The "Irish Theme Pubs" probably wouldn't appreciate you calling them that!

Rather sweetly I've already got a friend house sitting for me for a couple of weeks while she's up on a telly assignment. This means that she's watering my primroses and making the place look lived in.

And yes, the council tax is interesting, isn't it?

Skip said...

ooh! Cyber Stalking - how brilliant. Yes, that's my street, although not my for sale sign.

The "Irish Theme Pubs" probably wouldn't appreciate you calling them that!

Rather sweetly I've already got a friend house sitting for me for a couple of weeks while she's up on a telly assignment. This means that she's watering my primroses and making the place look lived in.

And yes, the council tax is interesting, isn't it?

Nairnski said...

If anyone ever asks you about fitba, don't say the words Rangers or Celtic. If really pushed say Partick Thistle. It's just best that way.

Skip said...

I'm rather hoping they'll find my pronounciation of celtic with a hard C endearing and lovable.

FireFawkes said...

Haha, it's nae 'at rough pal!

Skip said...

oooh Fawksy, say something else! say something else! YOU HAVE MY TOTAL ATTENTION.