1. You regard Edinburgh as part of England.
The animosity between Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, and its capital, Edinburgh, runs deep along the M8 motorway connecting the two. Glaswegians are suspicious of the capital dwellers’ accents, lack of hospitality, and salt and sauce and snobbery, and deep down we regard the city as part of the Auld Enemy, England.
2. You feel a surge of pride when the city’s grim crime statistics are reported.
Civic pride takes perverse forms in Glasgow. The city has undergone a huge amount of regeneration in the last few decades, although its reputation as a hotbed of violent crime has not diminished. Curiously, while Glaswegians enjoy a new-found identify as sophisticated urbanites, there’s an underlying machismo that seeks to retain the hardman status.
Whenever the latest crime statistics are published, I find myself checking to see if Glasgow is still level with Moscow. Think of it as a masochistic alternative to checking the football scores.
3. “Being baltic” doesn’t mean hailing from northeastern Europe.
It means it’s very cold. And this is usually the case during the 50 weeks of the year when it isn’t summer. Glasgow’s rich vernacular, or “patter,” means almost any phrase in the English language will have an alternative meaning.
4. You take your top off when the temperature soars above 15˚C.
For those two magical weeks of the year when Glasgow isn’t baltic, half the city phones in sick to enjoy this novelty weather event. Streams of skinny bone-white Glaswegian men beeline to the city’s parks to catch, if not some rays, then perhaps a mild cold and declare, “It’s pure roastin’ man. Taps aff” (i.e., “The weather is rather clement; we should remove our tops”).
5. “Yer maw” is an appropriate response at any juncture in a conversation.
No further explanation required. You either know it or you don’t.
6. Joining a “young team” doesn’t mean a youth sports association.
A group of teenagers congregating in a city park drinking bottles of Buckfast, wearing Kappa tracksuits, listening to happy hardcore techno, and engaging in casual violence — this is a “young team” and it’s a common youth pursuit in Glasgow. No wonder we mourn the decline of our national football team.
7. Your house appeared in an episode of Taggart.
Sometime back in the 1990s, I was walking home from school when I noticed a congregation of cars, trailers, and guys with beards, cigarettes, and cameras talking conspiratorially while pointing up and down my street. I ran home anxiously and burst into my living room crying, “Maw, there’s a film crew out there. Do you think they’re…?”
“Aye, son,” she interrupted gleefully. “They are. They’re filming an episode of Taggart.”
I lived off this story for weeks in the playground while perfecting my delivery of the show’s infamous catchphrase, “There’s been a murder,” in guttural Glaswegian. However, we weren’t a privileged few. The series ran for 28 years, so the chances are if you lived in Glasgow over this period they would eventually film an episode on your street. Who knows, there might even have been a murder in your house…
8. A mate from school is a world-class artist.
Yes, that’s wee Malky from fourth-year biology collecting the Turner Prize.
Like a bleak post-industrial renaissance Florence, Glasgow boasts a world-class creative arts scene to balance its violent hard-drinking reputation. From a relatively small population base of 600,000, the city punches significantly above its cultural weight and is home to numerous national cultural institutions such as the Scottish Opera, the Scottish Ballet, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. And, in the Glasgow School of Art, the city possesses one the world’s best-regarded art schools. In the last two decades the latter has fostered a community of artists who have dominated the Turner Prize to such an extent that commentators have coined the phrase “the Glasgow Miracle.”
Chuck in some of the best theatres in the UK, glorious Victorian and Art Nouveau architecture, thumping underground clubbing, and a contemporary music scene that Time favourably compared to Detroit at its 1960s Motown zenith, and it’s a wonder that wee Malky didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize and a couple of Grammys while he was at it.
9. You know over 50 phrases to describe inebriation…
Blootered, pished, steamin, reekin, mingin, gassed, jaiked, fu, bevvied, miroculous, wasted, mangled, mad wae it, stoatered, hammered, rat-arsed, stotious, legless, fleein, jiggered…
I could go on. Just as Eskimos have over 50 words for snow, Glaswegians have over 50 words for drunk.
10. …yet you know only one phrase for salad.
A “Glasgow salad” doesn’t involve anything green or nourishing. It’s a euphemism for deep-fried chips and forms the cornerstone of the city’s notoriously unhealthy diet. Add some chicken pakora to that and you’re approaching a balanced meal.
11. There are only two football teams in the world to support.
All Glaswegians at some point have been asked aggressively, “Who d’yae support?,” or a markedly less polite variant of this question.
The answer can only ever be one of two teams: Rangers or Celtic. Otherwise known as the “Old Firm,” the bitter rivalry and hatred between these Glasgow sides is infamous. Even if you don’t follow football, you’ll often be expected to pick a side. And no, answering that you support Glasgow’s other team — Partick Thistle — doesn’t cut the mustard. You’ll only receive the menacing followup question, “Aye, but whit wan d’yae really support? If you hud tae,” at which point you rapidly calculate a) which team the inquisitor supports, and b) the likely aggravation caused should you say the opposing team.
12. The Clockwork Orange is part of your daily commute.
The world’s third-oldest underground system connects central Glasgow in a circular loop across the north and south sides of the River Clyde. It is affectionately referred to as “the Clockwork Orange” due to its garish orange trains. Somehow I can’t believe it’s a coincidence that the Glasgow subway shares its name with Anthony Burgess’s classic novella exploring disaffected youth and recreational violence in a dystopian near-future (see “young team” above).
For a fun-packed day out, you could buy a day pass and try the Clockwork Orange pub crawl, or “sub-crawl”: one drink in the closest pub to each stop. There are 15 stops. Only lightweights have anything less than a pint at each. Good luck at Shields Road Station.
13. You’re more likely to manage a football team than play on one.
Okay, I should qualify this — a world-class football team.
While Scottish football has steadily declined at both a national and domestic club level over the last few decades (cue pelters in the comments, but come on let’s not delude ourselves), Glasgow has been blessed with a succession of distinguished managers, including greats Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Matt Busby, and Jock Stein. A few years ago, of the 20 managers in the globalised English Premier League, seven came from within a 13-mile radius of Glasgow’s city centre. In fact it was a clutch of fearless Glaswegian footballing sociopaths who transformed Manchester United and Liverpool into the European football powerhouses that they are today.
14. You’ve ended up in The Garage.
The Garage, Scotland’s largest nightclub, festers at the tail-end of Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow’s city centre. But I don’t need to tell you that. You’ve been more times than you care to admit and certainly more times than you can remember.
Nobody plans to go to The Garage. You end up in The Garage. It’s usually at the end of a long and messy evening, when you’ve been knocked back from more discerning establishments and someone utters the words, “Fuck it, let’s go to The Garage.” You spend the next few hours drinking cheap vodka and cokes from plastic cups and peeling your shoes from the rancid sticky dance floor.
If you manage to drag yourself to the shops the next day to buy a bottle of ginger and some aspirin and you have the misfortune to meet someone you know, they’ll assess your pasty complexion and ask, “What did you do last night?” You’ll reply, “I ended up in The Garage” with a rueful shake of the head. No elucidation is necessary. It’s shameful, it’s embarrassing, but we’ve all been there. This piece was originally published on July 30, 2014.