Saturday, October 10, 2009
Night in the strange lost boulevards of the West End
Out for a wee cycle in the dry stillness of an autumn Saturday night, in the hinterlands of the West End; this is where Kirklee interfaces with Dowanhill, where Maryhill parallels North Kelvinside, and the grand, deserted boulevards sweep across the Kelvin on mighty, magically lit bridges.
Like any city, Glasgow's posh parts are seconds away from the unequivocally dodgy. The deserted car park of the Maryhill Tesco has a substantial team of loud and screechy youngsters kicking bins and shouting in the shadows. But then, next to Kelvinside Academy I glimpse a couple posing in grand drawing rooms for formal photographs: engagement? Departure? I'll never know.
The last time I cycled in Glasgow after dark, just for the hell of it (as opposed to making more or less inebriated journeys back from pub to pit) was, I think, in 1983. A Falcon racing bike, Christmas night, woozy with wine and far from home, for some reason in Paisley Road West, counting Christmas trees in tenement windows. My earliest memory is in the glorious Greek Thomson sweep of Cessnock's Walmer Crescent. In maybe 1959, my dad worked in a dental practice there, and we lived in a cold flat with somebody else's cat. My first memory is of what happens when you try to embrace a cuddly puss and it objects, jaggedly.
2009, and back to Magnus's flat, past lurching parties both beginning and ending, piggybacking kids ('Hoy, cyclist! Save the world! Nae motors!') Always aware of the great, black depths of the Botanic Gardens, Kelvingrove, falling away on my left left or right. A dangerous and frightening place once night has fallen. But the lights of Queen Margaret Drive (Full Bhuna! Bagels! Bike Love!) loom, with the promise of Irn Bru and Dairy Milk.