Scotland: I belong to Glasgow

By Liz Light

Liz Light survives a bonny weekend in Scotland's party city.

It's no accident that deep-fried Mars Bars are one of Glasgow's culinary creations. To add to the list of gastronomic treats, one can find deep-fried black pudding - and cheese and haggis toasties taste terrific. And there's nothing like a greasy Scottish breakfast to settle the stomach after a big Glaswegian night out.

Of an evening, downtown, the pavements are littered with chatting and laughing smokers, beers and fags in hand, evicted from pubs as a result of an irritating new law passed last July.

National unhealth is worn with pride and Glaswegians are far too busy licking their greasy lips, making music, partying, shopping and having fun to worry about longevity. Glaswegians get trashed with enthusiasm, and Scotland's best nightlife is found in its rollicking pubs and pavements.

Cocktails are served by the jug in trendy bars, with Fun on the Beach (vodka, peach schnapps, OJ and cranberry juice), £11.95 ($32) a jug, being the most popular.

Lassies dress to kill, despite years of greasy spoons, and don't give a hoot about hedonism playing havoc on their bodies; lots of them carry 10kg too many. Never mind superfluous flesh and that, in autumn, it's nippy. Hot pants, miniskirts and boob tubes are the late-night rage. A wee way up Vincent Street I swear I see silver lame hot pants on a size 20 bottom, shimmering above large, white thighs.

Predatory groups of women, with bellies full of Fun on the Beach, prowl about Victorian cobbled pavements, stumbling in silly stiletto heels. They egg each other on, happily grabbing likely lads smoking outside pubs, giving them succulent mouth kisses in passing.

The younger folk, teens still at school and wishing they weren't, loiter about on the sidewalks down by the River Clyde. There are two distinct groups; the neds (non-educated delinquents) and emo-following goths.

A goth, explains Fiona, 16, wears skinny-legged black jeans, T-shirts of bright colours and heavy black boots. Hair must be dyed jet black, bleached blonde or coloured pink. The neds have short undyed hair, wear baggy, low-slung jeans, hoodies and sports shoes. Neds are apparently doomed to trades whereas goths will likely attend Glasgow University when they finish school. These smoking, swearing youths are the city's future engineers, doctors and economists.

Stately George Square, in the city's heart, is another loitering place for goths and neds. It's fronted by the grandiose City Chambers built - no expense spared - in 1880, in the days when Glasgow was the trading, shipbuilding and textile hub of the Empire.

Among the trimmed gardens there are 12 statues of notables with Sir Walter Scott taking centre stage on a plinth so high, one can't see his face. Poor old Robbie Burns; his brass head is covered in pigeon poop.

Queen Victoria and Albert, sitting on horses, dominate the west end of George Square. She would fall off her horse if she knew the antics of today's Glaswegians and who knows what Albert would make of silver lame hot pants.

Glasgow's wise town planners turned intersecting Buchanan and Sauchiehall (pronounced sockyhawl) Streets into pedestrian-only shopping precincts, and, on any sunny weekend, there are literally thousands of people out and about, shopping and just hanging about.

Adjoining the bottom of Buchanan Street, Prince's Square and Merchant City, where many Victorian trading houses operated, have been redeveloped to become trendy bars, restaurants, boutiques and galleries. In the middle of this arty coolness, a grandly colonnaded, neo-Greek, 1780s tobacco merchant's mansion, now the Gallery of Modern Art, has one of Britain's best collections of contemporary art.

The statue outside it, a camp-looking Duke of Wellington astride a horse, is irreverently updated by Glaswegian wags who crown him with a traffic cone.

Glasgow wears its Victorian heritage with casual pride, and has street after street of ornate stone buildings. I remind myself to look up; doorways are crowned with stone gargoyles, lions, Neptunes, and beautiful women.

On the hill above the city, the Royal Infirmary (hospital), cathedral and Necropolis (cemetery) line up next to each other with creepy predictability; enter the infirmary and passage to the other two becomes inevitable. All three are huge, dark and Gothicly imposing. The Necropolis is stuffed to bursting with elaborate monuments to the dead, and goths of a different kind hang here, shooting the breeze and enjoying great views.

The still-beautiful infirmary and cathedral are architectural and engineering triumphs that have withstood the test of time, 600 years in the case of the cathedral. Far below, on the River Clyde, the massive, silver, titanium-skinned egg of the Glasgow Science Centre; the curved, interlocking plates of the armadillo-like Convention Centre; and the simple, but significantly skewed, bow-shaped bridge, the Clyde Arc, prove Glaswegian engineering and architectural excel-lence still thrives.

The riverside goths say architecture is one of the things they love about their city, along with its cheerful accommodation of drinking and carous-ing. Chances are, in a decade, these dishevelled youths will have finished university and will be designing more impress-ive examples of Glas-wegian engineering and the neds will be muscling-up on build-ing sites rather than slouching about in hoodies.

IF YOU GO

Getting there: Cathay Pacific flies to London every day with stopover options in Hong Kong. There are many flights from London to Glasgow each day.

What to visit:

The Lighthouse: Glasgow's museum of architecture and design.

GoMA, Gallery of Modern Art: One of the most controversial and proactive contemporary galleries in Britain. Great building.

Glasgow Science Centre: Interesting for adults, terrific for kids.

Where to drink:

King Tut's Wah Wah Hut: Bands every night. Oasis made their debut here.

Waxy O'Connors: Six bars on three levels.

Pivo Pivo at 15 Waterloo Street has 100 different kinds of beer.

Further information: See visitbritain.com.nz.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 17 Sep 2014 03:20:02 Processing Time: 744ms