Saturday, April 23, 2011

Glasgow from a distance.

It's the end of a frenetic week back in Shetland, one full of council and broadcasting business, great weather,a flurry of filming with Jolene and Rich's Precious Productions for BBC Online, preparation of holiday cottages for the season and the climbing, in torrid conditions, of a very small hill.

And of course, after a fortnight in Glasgow, thoughts turn to the weans and grandweans on the mainland or in Northern Ireland. Only Martha at home these days, for another year or so. And then...

Leaving aside the food poisoning (fish pie, chicken salad or Eggs Benedict?) and ripping the back/bottom off the Subaru (potholes and gatepost) we had a splendid time in the Dear Green Place. Lots of friends and family, movies, great coffee,music and the sense of urban connectedness you get from working in Europe's most advanced digital broadcasting  centre at Pacific Quay, and hurtling there on a groovy folding bike.

Now we're back on The Rock, missing everyone, working hard, driving and bussing everywhere, soothing the troubled psychology of Lulu the St Bernard, and connected, plugged into the very different network of Shetlandic life.

Looking at Glasgow from our northern outpost, we can take a deep breath and wonder: what would it be like to live in...oh, the west end, Kinning Park, Tradeston, the south side, the east end...why is there no north side in Glasgow? Creating villages of likemindedness again, slipping into the teeming mass where there's both anonymity and familiarity, where finding the stuff, the talent, the people you need is easy, instant. Because people and abilities gather in cities, coelesce, hit the market, buy, sell, live...

A million people in Greater Glasgow. 23,000 in Shetland, a place and a population it's easy to idealise. There are huge disadvantages to living here. The cost of travel, food, fuel and indeed, everything but housing, which is rapidly catching up with the mainland. Being apart from the extended family.

But there are many good things. Shetland's economy is still relatively buoyant. There are jobs, massive industrial projects like the gas plants at the Sullom Voe oil terminal and the impending wind and tidal energy developments. If you love the landscape and the wildness of the weather, there's only the religion-afflicted Western Isles to compare.

And as we gaze at Glasgow this weekend, the absence of a religious culture in Shetland (there are churches, tolerated as ritual providers for deaths, marriages, births and the lke) seems an enormous blessing. There will be Shetland folk at the Old Firm match. I have no idea if they're travelling down in a shared bus, as has happened in the past. Sectarianism here is looked upon as baffling idiocy, occasionally flaring as it does in bars, courtesy of incoming casual workers. Amazingly, people support Rangers or Celtic because they' teams.

Glasgow on Easter Sunday. It'd be good to drink some West beer out at Glasgow Green, go to the Barras, listen to some jazz. But do I really want the walk back into town amid whatever the Buckfastian outcome of the match is? Someone's being sending 'viable' nail bombs to Neil Lennon and other Celtic supporters. Easter, eh? Undoubtedly, tomorrow, there will be blood.

So I worry about the kids, mine and other people's. I wonder about the separation of state schools on sectarian grounds. I look at the people who have literally fled west central Scotland for Shetland, come here to escape the brutal divisiveness of  cartoon religiosity, found a rough and ready sanctuary.

Like them, on the whole, I'm happy to be here. And for the moment, I can afford to visit Glasgow relatively often. Choosing the dates carefully.


JimmyC said...

Completely wrong about sectarianism in Shetland Tom. Plenty of bigots on both sides up here without casual workers needing to start anything.

Tom Morton said...

Really, Jimmy? I must be running with the wrong crowd up here in Northmavine! I've never come across religious bigotry in Shetland. Other kinds of bigotry, yes.

Tom Morton said...

Tell a lie. I forgot that anti-Islamic stuff from a few years back.

colin black said...

Hi Tom
I remember ma father telling me he was baffled going for a job when he moved to Glasgow from Fife (windygates) . What difference does it make what school i went to he said to the gaffer .

Elaine Nelson said...

Thoughtful stuff Tom. You sound very pensive, hope you haven't traded in the single malts for gin. Be in touch soon about Shetland this summer. Take care, Sandy, Elaine & Wee Dave in wet and windy Boston

Brian C said...


Suggest that Edinburgh may well be the answer.

The two football teams here are too poor to cause much bother.......,

Salt and sauce.

Brian C