Mary Dejevsky: When life drains out of Sauchiehall Street

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

A Dutch-born executive of Stena Line got into huge trouble for describing British sailors as "quite fat", "covered in tattoos", and "not fit for the job". He was, of course, disgracefully guilty of national stereotyping, as he was forced to recognise. But I found myself making similar snap judgements on the way to Glasgow.

The train was so full that I failed to appreciate until afterwards the utter miracle of passing through Crewe without stopping or changing. The press of people also obscured the panoramic views of Cumbria, so I wasn't in the best frame of mind. But it did seem to me that the proportion of people looking generally unhealthy and unkempt, and specifically wearing greying T-shirts and stained tracksuit bottoms, and yelling into their mobiles and not controlling needy children, grew as we approached our destination. Indeed, after Carlisle, they seemed to constitute the overwhelming majority.

They weren't just noisy, but quite rude and physical with it. Oh yes, and the women looked like myriad ageing versions of Lulu. Then again, they were quite outstandingly considerate. The very same people I was silently so rude about practically competed to help me with my case, welcome me to Glasgow, tell me where to get the bus and even, when I had the wrong change, pay the fare. Strangely – or perhaps not – those first impressions stayed with me the three days I was there. Collectively a disaster; individually as open and welcoming as you could wish.

Still, I was disappointed. Glasgow has been showered with praise since it surprised and delighted visitors as European City of Culture in 1990. Certainly, much public (taxpayers') money has been spent, and I'm sure there have been huge changes for the better. But if Glasgow is competing, as it is, with cities all over the world, there are improvements it could make.

Even close to the centre, it's not a particularly walkable city; it's criss-crossed with dual carriageways and you hunt high and low, and often in vain, for any indication as to the street name. On Sauchiehall Street, pedestrianised through the city centre, you have to search for any indication that you are in Glasgow, or even in Scotland. This major thoroughfare is like any other British chain-dominated high street – except in one respect. When I strolled down it just before six in the evening, practically every shop, even the betting shop, was closed. Pubs and clubs may spring into life later, but in the early evening there was no reason to hang around.

Which brings me to a particular beef. Glasgow has built up a whole industry from its association with the currently fashionable Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. And why not? But the Hunterian Museum, which is the main place of pilgrimage for Mackintosh fans, opens Monday to Friday, from 10am to 5pm. And when I say 5pm, I mean they are ostentatiously packing up half an hour beforehand. The clock-watching reminded me of the former Eastern bloc – reliant, like much of this city, on public money.

Given that Glasgow is making much of its desirability as a tourist, academic and conference centre, perhaps it could keep its attractions open a little longer. This might also create some jobs in a city that – despite a reputation for success – could try just a little bit harder.



No need to guess who came to dinner

Bill Clinton popped up in Northern Ireland last week, and the next day he was in Istanbul. In between, though, he made the sort of stopover that distinguishes global superstars from everyone else. He dropped in on Ukraine for dinner, the Crimean resort of Yalta to be precise. Look at the map, and you'll see it makes a sort of sense.

Around 200 of us were seated in a hi-tech marquee in the grounds of the Livadia Palace, where the three powers carved up Europe in 1945. Bill bounded in and delivered with verve what I imagine is his standard dinner spiel around the world. But something else distinguishes global superstars: the ability to understand where they are and who they are speaking to. The former US president has long occupied a special place in Ukrainian hearts, first because he wasn't George Bush senior, who had foolishly advised Ukrainians to reject independence in 1991, and, second, because he instinctively knows how to treat Ukraine as a real nation.

The slight awkwardness came afterwards, when the Russian jazz band left the stage to Ukraine's pop diva. She was quite demurely attired, but not the two well-accoutred young dancers accompanying her – who were in hotpants and thigh-length boots. They were also brunettes, not entirely unlike a certain young lady whose name begins with M. I caught a Scandinavian diplomat rolling his eyes as he glanced from stage to Clinton and made the connection. It was said that the former president's security detail had a hard job dragging him away. He was two hours late for his Istanbul-bound plane.



A little slice of Britishness

A couple of years ago, on an early morning flight, I was introduced to the BA bacon and egg roll. This all-ersatz Eurotraveller staple became one of the few things I simply refused to eat.

It was on the same flight that I came across a mysterious little envelope in the packet with the napkin, the sugar and the stirrer. Having put it to one side, I became gradually aware that my more experienced neighbours now had little plastic bags on their trays, neatly knotted, where their bacon and egg rolls had been. It dawned that the envelope had a purpose, and my fellow countrymen fulfilled their responsibility with the same zeal and sense of duty that they strip down for airport security without being asked. It was a microcosm of Britishness, but not strictly necessary, I felt.

On BA again this weekend, I was delighted to find the egg and bacon roll replaced by a smaller, but more palatable, ham brioche, and the little plastic bag nowhere to be seen. George Osborne, you are so right: there are cuts that can be for the better.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Executive - Software

£20000 - £25000 per annum + 55,000 OTE + benifits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Software Sa...

Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton; £400p/d

£400 - £420 per day: Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month  

The Fairlife 'Coke Milk' adverts: Do we really need pin-up girls to sell us drinks?

Ylva Johannesson
Australian cricketer Phil Hughes has died aged 25  

Phillip Hughes: A sensational man, both on and off the pitch

Angus Fraser
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?