The last time I went into the city centre properly for a walk around, other than to catch a train or bus straight out again to a destination elsewhere, was probably the last doors open day I attended, two years ago in September 2011.
There is a good reason why I mention this.
It was a day of mixed emotions, some surprising highs and some unexpected lows with everything thrown in for good measure in-between which is why this post will be a schizophrenic hybrid, just like the day itself.
The photographs are large and all are worth clicking full screen.
The first high came ironically at near enough the same place. This is the Central Station as well but taken in the underpass tunnel called the Broomielaw where the stations trains run over the road creating a dark wide cavern beside the River Clyde between the King George the V bridge and Glasgow Bridge. It is busy with rush hour traffic during the day and empty at night.
A good spooky place to have a collection of eye-catching individuals.
I posted about that visit on Open Doors, Churches and Mad Actresses. 22 March 2012 on this blog. Well worth a read if only for a laugh. Sorry S. I never doubted you for a moment :)
Now the schizophrenic bit. Although I really enjoyed my walk around the city centre due to all these fantastic new murals and some old favourites like the one above I couldn't help notice the difference from when I did a similar walk two September's ago. Then the Europe wide recession didn't seem to mean much as it was a sunny day, several Hollywood A listers were making major movies in Glasgow and it was all rather exciting and fresh.
Two years on it may have been just the fact that it was a dull day but the vibe seemed entirely different somehow.
Away from the colourful murals, which are great and a real improvement, outside the famous network of streets that make up the so called Style Mile of shops: Buchanan Street; Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street etc., Glasgow city centre seemed tired, sordid and neglected. Wandering around the lesser shopping streets I lost count of the number of small business units lying empty with 'to let' signs up. It was mainly shops whose goods could be just as easily purchased over the internet. Many of the buildings themselves in the city centre looked shabby and unmaintained. Some were getting knocked down. New ones were springing up but the place still looked dejected. The government's Austerity Programme is definitely working as Glasgow that day to me felt undeniably austere and I initially arrived off the bus in a positive mood and frame of mind. A corpse with bright make up on came unbidden into my thoughts. Not exactly the image you want for the Commonwealth Games 2014 but that was my honest impression of the place. I normally see the best in cities as I like living in one but I would be interested to hear anyone else's impression of Britain's city centres recently, and in particular, Glasgow. Just from a visual point of view the on-going recession and changing shopping methods seems to be biting hard. If there are any green shoots visible here they are in the murals. I could now understand the reason for so many scattered around. There are others I haven't had room for here. Same idea as with empty shops in malls. Paint a picture on the hoarding then maybe it will not look so bad. Nothing against the artists or the murals. They look fantastic and I'm all for more. Like changing wallpaper in a house they help to lift the spirits and freshen things up. Maybe it's just me and the result of a strange surreal day but after I'd wandered around for a few hours I was quite glad to get back to my clean suburban bubble again. Compared to the city centre a council scheme on the outskirts suddenly seemed upmarket.
Ironically, the only outlets off the main shopping grid that seemed to be still doing well (i.e. Open, at least) is what I would term 'The Hedonistic Sector.' Pubs, bars, restaurants, nail bars, beauty parlours, hair stylists, Games and graphic models shops, tattoo parlours and legal high shops. Hard to tell with these how well they are doing with so many fighting for custom. Some people obviously have money to spend but I also noticed a sizable chunk of the central district floating population seemed to be, for want of a better word, the underclass. A lot of folk begging in the streets, several with razor slashes on their faces from recent attacks, a teenage girl throwing up copiously, out of her face on something or other and obviously burdened with mental problems as well. In fact a lot of folk seemed to have troubles of one sort or another. Even on the bus in and out of the city centre on a Saturday late morning and again late afternoon I was aware it was mainly old folk that couldn't drive, still clinging to the old routines of yesteryear by going into town on a Saturday; folk that didn't have a car for one reason or another; and ethnic minorities who would probably get a car as soon as they could.
I know this is a sweeping statement but it's formed from a dozen similar journeys over the last year on buses bound for the city centre to go somewhere else.
Unless you work in the centre of Glasgow, or go in Fri Sat night for the nightlife and venues, there is no real reason nowadays to ever go near the place. Most families have cars, rarely use buses, and have little cause to go near the central district during the day. They do their weekend shopping mostly in out of town retail parks on the outskirts where they live and where they can get everything under one roof. It's easier and quicker so why not.? Why does this even matter I hear you ask?
Incidentally, I was far happier and uplifted in this environment, my urban explorer kicking in. Tellingly, maybe that was because there were no people around. Only ruins and nature slowly reclaiming the city. Surprising amount of birdlife here, none of them throwing up near me.
( I ain't afraid of no Ghosts, only the living.)
By the way I've got rid of some of the older, no longer updated, blogs on my blogs list and added two
new ones I've followed for a while. Andamento and Street Art Utopia. Both are full of colourful photography and creative artistic ideas. Worth a visit.
Update. After two years hard graft in a locked room I have completed my new novel. Autohighography by Bob Law. It is part autohighography, part novel, part travel guide, and part unusual love story. A humorous tale set in Glasgow and stunning areas of Scotland including Arran, Arrochar, Loch Lomond, Skye, and many others well off the beaten track. A tale of a Glasgow hill walking club and their exploits, love affairs ( or lack of them) holidays and adventures on the high seas, in caves and tunnels, crossing mountains and exploring remote islands. you can read the first couple of chapters for free by clicking on this link. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Autohighography-A-Tale-Summits-Sinners-ebook/dp/B00JNAIGAO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1397745985&sr=1-1&keywords=autohighography.+bob+law
All chapters are fully illustrated with colour photographs of Scottish landscapes and mountains described in the book which is available in full for £1.85 to download. Cheaper than a scratch card but better odds of a surprise or a laugh once opened.