Saturday, 29 January 2011

Heart of Darkness.Part Two.

Of course you don't need to go down rancid, rat infested holes in the ground to shake away the cobwebs in your mind. Fear not. Bleak, forbidding  places can also be found above ground as well if you know where to look. Over the years I've assembled a modest gallery of these places. Take my grubby hand and I will guide you to lands that lie to the East of Eden.
On old maps "Here Be Dragons" could be used for areas unknown or shunned by the general populace. The modern equivalent of this I suppose is the urban housing estates that have acquired a certain, sometimes undeserved, reputation. Unless you live there yourself or know someone they are not the places most people care to visit.

Glasgow, until fairly recently , had some of the most "colourful" housing estates in Europe. We also have some of the best parks and  varied mountain scenery right on our doorstep. But just for once lets visit the dark Mr Hyde instead of sunny Mr Jekyll.
Graffiti has been with us since we lived in caves. It can say the obvious. "This is our place. We live here."
But it can also be more poignant in areas getting knocked down. "We had a life here. This was our area. Will we ever see each other again?" For teenagers too young to have a say in where they are going it may be their only voice. Despite appearances a lot of folk had happy  times in these areas before the community spirit eroded everywhere during the thatcher era. I'm not blaming her entirely its just a fact. It was going downhill before that but she didn't help by throwing so many out of work. Mind you ,that great age of unemployment couldn't happen again, could it? In any case I think its only fair now to capture the last breaths of these stone dragons who have sheltered so many under their care for so many years.

The central belt of Scotland has always had this dual character of great beauty versus gangs and self destruction sitting side by side. Ten minutes walk from this house above are two of the largest and nicest parks in Glasgow with stunning views. Two faces of a coin.
I've been fortunate in my life to experience both having grown up in a fairly "colourful" area perched on a hilltop on the outer edge of the city. Glasgow is built on Drumlins(dozens of small hills) left over from the last ice age.
Luckily for me and my like minded friends though it had an explorers dream country right behind it of busy farms, cow studded meadows, hills, woods, cliffs, dams and deep flooded quarries overlooked by the crumbling towers and ruins of a large estate. This is were we spent most of our free time. It was an enchanted land for us, still is. It saved me from another,much darker life ahead. In life you can go through Mirkwood or Avalon.

Covers on Books can be misleading. Most of the folk around me then were kind, honest  hardworking people just as you can always find a few nasty ones even in the most exclusive and well heeled  suburbs. I had a childhood I would not swap with anyone's full of excitement, danger and sheer adventure in these dragon filled lands.
No computer game could match this world of amazing sights and discoveries around every corner. Obviously these areas did not look like this until much later, at their end. I've always been fond of my dragons so I had to say one last goodbye to them all. Mind you, In those days children could walk many miles from home together over the fields and no one would worry about strangers. Believe it or not even here it was a more innocent time. I could often be found, even on my own, ten miles from my door aged  twelve, jumping some stream or climbing a hill for the view.(Think this looks rough? These days you are  far more likely to be killed by a stressed mum or dad, late for work on the school run.) This more than anything else set me up for a life time of exploring the outdoors, woods and mountains further afield. Its what I've been doing since I could crawl out the back door of the house. This, surprisingly, is where I formed my love of nature.
Update. For the last two years I have been writing a book. It starts off in Pollok/Nitshill, where I grew up, then features chapters on Arrochar, Arran, Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Skye, and many other wild and scenic areas in Scotland. Part autobiography, part novel, part travel guide, part unusual love story it is set around  the humorous adventures of a Glasgow hillwalking club, detailing their relationships, love affairs, falling outs, and weekend trips down caves, visiting islands, climbing mountains and adventures on the high seas over three decades. You can read the first  couple of chapters for free to see if you like it by clicking this link. .
The full book is £1:85 on kindle e books. Cheaper than a scratch card but with better odds of  some excitement and a chance of a laugh.

It is full of unexpected encounters and dark surprises. Just like life itself.


The Glebe Blog said...

I don't know Glasgow very well Bob,it's mainly what I've read.
Looking at some of your pictures in part 2,I wonder whether Alexander McArthur's 'No Mean City' still lives on.Has the Razor King been replaced by some more savvy character quicker with a knife or gun maybe.I'm guessing there must be by the fact that the papers in Scotland never get sued by the people they call gangsters.

As you say though,most folk are honest,hardworking and know the difference between right and wrong.It's a pity we can't get that message through to the bankers and politicians.
Enjoyable post.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim.Thought I,d stick something different up just for a change as I had all these old assorted photos lying around.Glasgow does not look like this now as most of them are now gone.Funnily enough although these areas have been transformed with smart new " for sale only" housing estates the wonderful rolling drumlin filled countryside around Nitshill /Barrhead ,In my opinion the best little set of hills and ridges to be found anywhere around the Central Belt, is a pale shadow of itself.Most of the farms have gone, the land looks dirty,overgrown and neglected without its farmers and several new "desirable" housing developments have eaten into what was once people free green belt feilds and meadows.What,s left for modern families is now called laughingly "a country park"after what was once so special about it has been mostly ruined."Where are the apple orchards and soft fruits now then?".Just as well modern kids seem to live mostly indoors nowadays.It you want to see what it looked like when I was growing up see the post.Walls Hill near the start of this blog,a further away area that still retains some of its old magic.
So although the pictures may look rough the surrounding countryside then really was an Eden for children to explore.I had a childhood not a million miles away from that of Swallows And Amazons. bob.

blueskyscotland said...

Opps! Couldnt remember my own old posting.Its actually called "The Golden Triptych of the Shire" from May 2009.I was more arty then with my titles!
This is the world wot I explored when I were young.bob

Robert Craig said...

A great post. Have a look at an ordnance survey map of Glasgow now compared with one from the 1960s (if you can get your hands on one). The amount of gap sites is immediately obvious. They're knocking Glasgow down but nothing is replacing the lost people.

blueskyscotland said...

You are right Robert.I always thought Greater Glasgow was around 1 million people or so I learned in school but its fast approaching half that number now.At this rate Edinburgh will overtake Glasgow.Everyone with any income wants to live in the "country" nowadays but theres not much real country left due to increased mobility for the all the population and its waste products .If folk with cars move into a "perfect" village it kills that village instantly as they drive to supermarkets to do the shopping.I,m as guilty of that as anyone so I can,t point a finger.It was adventurous scheme children like me I.m sure invading farmers lands however innocently and stealing apples,rubarb and strawberries from their gardens that made them give up farming more than the share price. Humanity almost always destroys the natural world it finds.Just as adventure tourists today almost always destroy the unknown,remote places they find and talk about. A hard fact I learned very young when I was captured.Just as anyone that owns a cat moving to a new area kills birds and small furry things if they let it outside.Anytime a village gets a bigger population the wildlife goes downhill.Sorry but its true.Bob.
Next week......Dont worry folks.. Alex will give out the happy pills once again next week.My bad!

Anonymous said...

Your post made me think of the Glasgow of Robin Jenkins' novels. Not a Glasgow I've ever seen.

blueskyscotland said...

You,ve got me there Peter.Not came across Robin Jenkins before.I will look it up.However,If you want to read the real story of Glasgow,s dark underworld then Reg Mckay,s- "The last Godfather" is by far the best book on the dark heart and history of Glasgow from the 1920s onwards.Its not dull.You will not be let down.Its mind boggling stuff.Even for someone like me thats been in every single area of Glasgow over the years it was an eyeopener.Its in my top 20 books of all time.You can never claim to know about Glasgow til you read this book. bob.

Ragged Rambler said...

Fascinating to learn how your love of the hills came from childhood play. It challenges assumptions about working class communities and 'dangerous' places. I also agree that nature can be discovered in and around urban spaces. Really powerful heartfelt words; and the photographs are an amazing archive of the dereliction of those Glasgow estates. One of the best blog reads I've had in a long time! Thanks for sharing.

blueskyscotland said...

To Ragged Rambler.
Cheers for the comments.As Dolly Parton once said "we never knew we were poor til somebody from the city came and told us we were".If you are brought up in a loving family that,s all you need in life.That and enough food to eat.
Been reading in the news recently about several " Highly respectable" suburbs in the Glasgow area having high teenage crime rates.The sort of areas folk with money aspire to live in.Ive seen my fair share of gang fights,(From a distance ,I,m still quite fond of all my body parts)and general havoc growing up but the only time I felt really abandoned was when both my parents had to work longer hours to make ends meet and I was left to my own for a while after school.Its not hard to figure out,is it?There will probably be a highly paid think tank set up somewhere who will reach the same conculusion after 60 grand,s worth of funding.Doh!!!

Ragged Rambler said...

Hi Bob, yep, you're dead right - a loving family and positive expectations go a long way. I'm glad you've still got your body parts - especially your kneecaps. Pretty important if you like the hills and heights.

Really like your blog!

Anonymous said...

Amazing so true. I have also grew up in Glasgow and life expectancy in Iraq is more likely. I am very lucky to have my life stil

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anon.
Glad you liked the pictures.
Mind you after reading about the sex abuse case in scenic Wester Ross grim events happen in the most beautiful areas of the country too.