Saturday, 30 August 2008

Hic! Hic! Glasgow

I had been warned of Glasgow’s famous drinking culture, but I didn’t expect the city to live up to its reputation. Glaswegians take their drinks seriously, if I may add, way too seriously. For any outsider, it’s a shocker to see the streets fill up every weekend with drunken splendour. In fact, there’s never a dull moment in Glasgow.

It’s unbelievable how the city never lets you down – old, young, teenagers, men, women, they all drink up. From early Thursday afternoon, Glaswegians start swaying with brown-paper packed bottle tucked half-way in their coats. Drinking over the weekend is like the ONLY entertainment. It almost feels like alcohol is the national past-time and the only weekend routine for the Scottish blood.

I often travel by bus to work. And every weekend, there’s a chance of bumping into a ‘happy’ person during my journey. Actually its a rarity not to find a drunk person. One time, I was sitting by myself, staring out of the window, when a Scottish boy, not more than 17 years old, tapped me for a cigarette. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t smoke,’ I said. He moved on, to another passenger but when he didn't get any from the passengers, he approached the bus driver! Knocking on the glass-walled cubicle, which protects the busdrivers from hooligans, he politely asked for a ciggi. When he didnt get any, he swayed back to his seat with a sullen face. I barely moved a limb, clutching my bag, for the want of some outside power to protect me. He then sat quietly, while his drunken friends continued to create a ruckus. And just when I thought the drama was over, the boys rush to the driver, asking him to stop before the marked bus stop. The driver obliged. But one boy, refused to step out, instead he insisted on talking to his co-passengers. So while he spurted out a few muffled words to a passenger sitting in front of me, the driver waited patiently. And before he finally stepped out, after what seemed like eternity, he had a word for the driver – ‘If you ever need any help, don’t forget to call me. I might not look big, but I can bring down a few men.’ I smiled, only because they were out of the bus!

On another day, my husband and I were returning home by bus and had the ill-fortune of sitting behind an old man, who was openly enjoying his Guinness, even though there's a rule that drinking ain't permitted on public transport. He balanced a plastic mug on one hand and a can of Guinness on the other. And when the bus driver stopped at his destination, the man sat calmly, finishing off his drink, completely unconcerned about the other passengers. So when the driver yelled: 'This is not a pub, but a bus.' He turned around, asking me to help him put the can of Guinness back into his plastic bag. After I helped him, he struggled to get up. He then reached for his crutches! That's when I realised that despite having a walking difficulty, he didn't find it any more difficult to sip on alcohol on his bus trip home!!!

With alcohol overflowing through the city every weekend, it's not shocking that the crime rate is high. Glaswegians are friendly, but it's the alcohol that makes them go bonkers! Newspapers are filled every day with stories of petty crime, and the only logical explanation is ALCOHOL. During the street fights, the people are so highly intoxicated that they drunken eyes don't see reason. They'd rather break their beer bottle on some blokes' head than talk things through.

Alcohol is their lifeline, but if taken responsibly, Glaswegians will go a long way!

Monday, 4 August 2008

A place called HOME

A change of any kind is always exhilarating. So the decision to move base to another country was an adrenalin rush for us. We were geared up for an unending dose of adventure. The thought of learning and living a new culture, to trying out new cuisines, to adapting a new lifestyle, was highly ‘intoxicating’. Glasgow lived up to its promise. In fact, intoxication was found in its entirety and in abundance!

Our flight to Glasgow was rather unexciting, more like the lull before the storm. Our first interaction with an airport cabbie, left us drained as we couldn't comprehend his twisted Glaswegian tongue. After prompting the cabbie to rewind and replay, a tad slower each time, we barely communicated where we had to go. Our ride was short and quick to a "friend's" place, someone we were meeting for the first time. It’s amazing how we Indians are quick to create a bond with strangers, well only partly cause we come to know of them through family or distant friends because of their place in same alien city. Anyway, our introduction was short and broken by a drunken brawl outside the bar, above which the couple lived. Terrified, confused, we trekked our way up.

Our new-found friends were moving back to India in 3 days, “enough time” we thought before we found an apartment for ourselves. However, we continued to be homeless when the D-day came. So we sought the help of their friend’s and moved into their house. However, their hospitality was short-lived, so we were very close to moving out on the streets. The thought was slowly breaking us down. That’s when our family in Rugby offered us a place at their cousins’ place, which we readily accepted. I recall the first time we met that lovely family, we were starving, having eaten only bread n jam for the past two days, we gorged on the dinner like we had never seen food before! The stay, an hour from Glasgow, proved like a refuelling station. And with family coming from Rugby for a weekend, we were rejunvenated, both mentally and physically.

Our search for a roof over our head proved longer than we had anticipated. The rules of the ‘house-hunt’ game was beginning to be tiresome. Firstly, you need to book an appointment for viewing a place you’d like to rent. It could take anywhere from a few couple of hours, from the call, to a few days to get the viewing. And once the viewing was in place, you had to impress the flat-owners. There were times the viewings were scattered across the city, with 2-3 hours to spare, and we had little money to spend on a cuppa. So, we sat on the benches outside and braved the cold. We had decided on sharing a flat with another person/persons, as it proved more economical. However, our skin colour proved disadvantagous for flatshare. Then, we thought of playing the game the other way round, rent a flat on our own and then find someone to share it with.

After a gruelling week of trekking across Glasgow’s numerous holes -- some tiny, some big, some dingy and some posh – we found our apartment. There is no emotion to explain how fortunate and happy we felt on our first day in our apartment. And, minutes before we lugged our baggage in, we found a flatmate as well. So it all ended “happily ever after”!

A year older

It's going to be a year since we moved base to Scotland. And I thought what better way to mark the first anniversary than to write a blog exclusively about Glasgow...