Tag Archives: glasgow

What I learned at DyslexiFest

12 Oct

This was supposed supposed to be a proper reblog, where the original post appears below, and you can read the first part of it right here, but I’m currently away from my laptop and it turns out not to be so easy on a phone. I’m doing my best, OK?

Anyway, the point of this pseudo-reblog is that I’ve just written a wee piece for Dyslexia Scotland’s blog, A Life Less Ordinary, about four things I learnt at DyslexiFest.

DyslexiFest (which I find ironically hard to spell) was a “celebration of all things dyslexic” that was held in Glasgow last weekend. Don’t think there’s anything to celebrate about dyslexia? Read my previous posts on the subject (here and here) or just have a read of the Dyslexia Scotland blog.

Anyway, you can read about it the event here: #DyslexiFest

Meanwhile, I will think fondly of my laptop sitting obediently on my desk. But with a smartphone (and, importantly, a charger) in my bag, I’m sure I will find plenty of ways to amuse myself while pretending I’m working.

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Let’s play Hyndland bingo!

26 Apr

It probably says a lot about the neighbourhood of Anniesland, in Glasgow, that after spending a month here I am writing a post about Hyndland. Anniesland is a bit betwixt and between, both in a literal sense (its main landmark is Anniesland Cross, a major junction between roads that run west out of Glasgow and south to the Black Hole and the Death Star (as I like to call Govan and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital) and also in terms of character. It’s kind of west end but not posh, a bit down at heel but not cheap, not that far the city centre, but not actually close. Continue reading

A-maze-ing Graffiti Art at SWG3

3 Jul

Another photo post – give the people what they want.

The story behind this is that I was at ‘Hypermarket’ this weekend at SWG3, an arts space behind the railway arches off the Expressway (if you know Glasgow at all). It wasn’t terribly ‘hyper’ – in fact it was a small-to-medium craft fair marooned in an over-large space, with a half-hearted selection of overpriced “street food” outside in the courtyard, under a dull grey sky.

I didn’t stay long, but while I was there I took the opportunity to photograph the one stand-out item of this whole setup: the graffiti art. There were walls and walls of it, freestanding, arranged into a sort of not-very-challenging maze, as you can probably see from this picture.

My favourite was this picture of ?vultures, painted on sheets of metal – appropriate for an old galvanizing yard.

I liked the joke on this Billy Connolly one. There’s a lot of Billy Connolly art around Glasgow at the moment, since he’s just turned 75.

This fish took me a wee moment to work out at first.

And I still haven’t worked this one out.

Or this. It really looks like a word, but I don’t know what it says. Answers on a postcard (or in the comments below).

There were others, if you want to pop along (check the SWG3 website for events) but these were my favourites.

And finally, the credits (I don’t know which name applies to which artwork, but I’m sure you know how search engines work.):

Coffee Quest

26 May

coffee quest

I have just completed a small but quite satisfying quest, which took me all over Glasgow. A month or two ago I was having coffee with a friend in the Glad Cafe, near where I live on the south side of Glasgow, and I saw some little loyalty cards. Never one to pass up the chance of something free, I picked one up and discovered that it wasn’t for the Glad Cafe itself, but for ten different independent coffee shops, all of which use Dear Green coffee, roasted in Glasgow.

People who succeed in collecting stamps from all ten are entitled to claim a free coffee at any of the cafes on the list, but it would clearly involve a lot of effort. At this point I suppose people either shrug and put the card back, or decide to go for it. I chose to take up the challenge, and my not particularly hazardous quest was born. I discovered some gems, had some less positive experiences, and drank a lot of curdled soya milk. Here are my impressions in order of visit:

Glad Cafe

Where it all started, and a place I’m very familiar with. Situated on Pollokshaws Road, opposite Queens Park, ‘The Glad’ serves decent coffee and great cake, but the service is sometimes slow. It’s a bit of an arts and music venue on the side, and rather “right on”, but not too aggressively. I like it, and often pop in just to get a loaf of the gorgeous Crossmyloof bread to take away. This is actually the most far-flung of all the cafes on the list, from the city centre at least, so it was handy that it’s one of my locals.

Laboratorio Espresso

A wee gem hidden away on West Nile Street, behind Forever 21. It is very Italian in the best way. It reminded me a little of the coffee shop where my Italian niece works, where men drop by in the morning to have their espresso in two gulps before going to work. I had an espresso and it was perfect, not bitter at all. There were little Italian snacklets to buy, just the right size to accompany an espresso, and newspapers lying about to read. My favourite of the new cafes I tried, and the one I now keep recommending to people.

Avenue G

In the west end to do some research at Glasgow University library, and just a little too hungry to wait for lunch, I took the opportunity to tick another coffee shop off my list. I had an americano (I think – I didn’t take notes) and a slice of carrot cake that came with a deliciously boozy chocolate sauce. The place was stuffed but I was pointed to a seat on their tiny balcony. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. The coffee was good, the cake was good, the service was too, and the place smelt of bacon and chocolate – a wonderful brunch time aroma. I was at the branch on Byres Road, but they also have one on Great Western Road.

Papercup

It was at this point that I started making an effort to work through the list instead of just relying on happenstance, which could take a lifetime. I arranged with my friend Ann to take a trip to the West End on what turned out to be a horrific day of weather. Papercup is on Great Western Road, not too far from Kelvinbridge underground. It is very far from Gartnavel, where we ended up walking to afterwards, but that’s another story. Papercup wasn’t really worth the effort, I’m afraid. The stripped back look has been taken so far that you would think the place was derelict if there hadn’t been staff at the counter. They had some nice little cakes and colourful macaroons, but the coffee was only ok, and I think this was one of the places where the soya milk curdled, making the coffee taste black when I take it white. I don’t think I’ll be back.

Tapa

Anyone who has scrolled down will realise that there are 11 coffee shops on this list, not ten, and this relates to the scribbled out entry on the loyalty card. I got it into my head that Riverhill Coffee Bar was directly opposite Central Station, and when I didn’t see it there, assumed it had closed. In fact it’s a block further along Gordon Street, and has been open all the time, but labouring under this misapprehension, and sad that I wouldn’t be able to complete my card, I decided to substitute another independent coffee shop I been meaning to go to.

I have often passed Tapa on the bus and seen its claim to have “the best coffee on Glasgow by a country mile” so one pleasant day I walked down beyond Queens Park to try it out. The claim is a bit exaggerated, but the coffee was good, and there was a wide choice. I had a cafetiere of something interesting and wondered why I had never been before. It’s not that far from where I live.

Riverhill Coffee Bar

Of course, immediately after scoring it off the list, I discovered the real location of Riverhill. In need of a quick coffee, I popped in and discovered that at least one of my friends already knew about it, since he was sitting on one of the few available chairs. (This is a bit of a theme with the independent cafes – not much seating at all.) I had an espresso and a nice crackly biscuit, but nearly got charged for something completely different by the friendly guy on the till. Paying when you order might be safer. The coffee and biscuit were good, but I did feel a little cramped, and certainly couldn’t have done much work on my laptop there. Even so, I’m glad it’s not really closed.

McCune Smith

Off to the east end for the next one, with a friend who lives round the corner from this cafe but had never been. Another horrible day, raining sideways, but it was good to go back to my old stomping ground and see how much the High Street area has been improved. There was some great graffiti art covering the whole sides of buildings, and I would have taken some pictures, but I wanted to get out of the rain.

McCune Smith is a strange place, like a cross between an eighteenth century coffee house and the tenement flat of someone you don’t know very well. A trip to the toilet involved going through an unmarked door and then choosing between a further three unmarked doors. It also charges west end prices in an east end location, which was a surprise, and shows how much the area is going up. The coffee was good (though the soya milk curdled) and there was a good choice on the menu. The staff were extremely helpful, even swiping my Swiipi card for me, repeatedly, when it wouldn’t work.

Dr James McCune Smith, by the way, was the first black man to study medicine at the University of Glasgow, back when it used to be located near High Street, so I learnt something while I was there.

Siempre Bicycle Cafe

The low point of my quest. I’m glad I didn’t make a special trip to this cafe on Dumbarton Road, because it would have added to my annoyance. Instead, I just popped in on my way to a friend’s house, and ordered an espresso – but didn’t drink it. It was that bad. I took two sips, and the second was only to confirm that it really was as bad as all that. All the seating was at long benches, which isn’t great if you’re not feeling sociable, and the place is covered in bikes, bits of bikes, and books about bikes. I don’t like bikes (nasty accident as a child) and I don’t like bad coffee. I won’t be back.

Artisan Roast

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The end was in sight now, so I arranged with a west end friend to try out this cool student dive on Gibson Street. (There was cool graffiti on the way once again, and this time I did stop to take a photo.) The ambience was great, with quirky tables and nice little nooks, and cushions made out of coffee sacks. In fact, all the coffee-related stuff made me think I might be in for a treat. I asked for a recommendation, took it, and didn’t baulk at the somewhat elevated price. However, the service was very slow (my friend had to chase hers up and still didn’t get it for a good 15 minutes) and the coffee, when it came, was rather bitter and served in a glass jug. Maybe that fits nicely with the quirkiness, but it’s a terrible way to serve coffee. Cafetiere to cold jug, jug to cold cup, and my coffee was tepid before I even started it, and stone cold long before the end. Cool coffee is not cool, Artisan Roast – not in my book, anyway.

All That Is Coffee

Another dud , I’m afraid. This cafe is in the achingly hip bit of central Glasgow behind Argyle Street, where if you throw a music technician he’ll probably hit a graphic design studio. It is based in a…something. I couldn’t really tell what it was or did, even after bypassing security and wandering round the building in search of the toilet. The building plan was full of cool and ironic non-literal descriptions, so that was no help. My best guess is that it’s some kind of design college, but who knows? It’s that kind of area, even the shops won’t say what they’re selling. If you have to ask, you’re not hip enough.

Normally I would feel very out of place, but in fact I had just bought new, bright blue over-ear headphones so I put them on like armour and listened to OMD – unironically.

As for the coffee, it was OK, but when I asked for a recommendation the woman looked at me as if I was mad and said, “I don’t know how you like your coffee.” Not confidence-inspiring. I had had enough of curdled soya milk, and it was 40p extra anyway (Really ? These days?) so I helped myself from the communal milk jug, examined the design work (Earrings the size of golf balls, made of unworked ores. Why?), listened to my music and got out of there, retreating to the cool-but-not-confusing Parnie Street by way of Mr Ben’s vintage clothing shop.

Veldt Deli

Last one! And a good one. Ann, who should get at least half a free coffee for her efforts, came with me again to Great Western Road, this time the other side of Kelvinbridge, to try out this South African themed cafe. The decor is stripped back but not excessively, and although there was one big bench, there were also a couple of tables. There was South African food on the menu and on the shelves to take home. I had an unpronounceable type of pasty and a lovely coconut and vanilla cake. The coffee was good, the soya only very slightly uncooperative, and the prices were reasonable too.

I don’t know if I’m the only one who has ever finished this coffee quest, but there some confusion at Veldt about the free coffee, whether it was the tenth one or the one after the tenth. The wording on the card seemed to imply the latter so I chose to return to my favourite for another espresso at the Laboratorio. It was very strong, but still good, and there was just room to squeeze in me and my multi-lingual friends for a confusing conversation about comparative grammar. ‘Cause that’s just how I roll.

So if you’re looking for a new coffee shop, here they are in order from best to worst. But don’t take my word for it, pick up a card and go questing yourself.

  1. Laboratorio Espresso
  2. Avenue G
  3. Glad Cafe
  4. Riverhill
  5. Tapa
  6. McCune Smith
  7. Veldt Deli
  8. Papercup
  9. Artisan Roast
  10. All That Is Coffee
  11. Siempre Bicycle Cafe

Calling all truth seekers!

23 Apr

You are warmly invited to the launch of Augustine: The Truth Seeker on Thursday 1st May at 7pm in Faith Mission bookshop, Glasgow.

Augustine is being launched as part of a special prizegiving evening (which doesn’t mean they’ll be giving out prizes, it means it’s a chance to buy prizes for children to receive at upcoming church prizegivings) and there’s 15% off books on the night.

There will be drinks and nibbles, a talk about St Augustine and the book, plus a reading and the chance to chat and ask questions. The event will go on till 9pm, but feel free to drop in just for a short while if you have other committments.

I hope to see you there!

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Art Attack

2 Aug

Unusually for me, a photo blog post. I’ve been meaning for a while to upload photos of the amazing graffiti art on the corner of Argyle Street and York Street in Glasgow city centre. There are billboards advertising shows, but they are surrounded by painted frames as if they are in an art gallery, and they share the walls with clever rip-offs of famous works of art. Below you can see The Great Wave off Kanagawa with an octopus escaping from it, along with The Scream and a Dali clock.Image

If you look carefully at the scene below you can see a thief trying to steal one of the paintings. If you look even more closely, you can see another one

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Round the corner, on York Street, a passer-by is startled by a girl climbing out of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, while the Mona Lisa of Glasgow gazes out complacently.

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Meanwhile, a tired businessman makes his way to work, ignoring all the mural goings on.

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If you liked that, there’s more of this kind of thing in a public Flickr gallery by someone called D7606. (I’m assuming that’s a sort of numerical username. It would be very hard on the person if it was a real name. You’d feel like you were in Les Miserables the whole time.)

Look Up

19 Jul

In Glasgow we are blessed with some amazing architecture – so much of it, in fact, that after a while you hardly notice it. You hurry past Regency era terraces and shelter from the rain under ornate Victorian overhangs, and keep your eyes on the pavement. If you lo0k up, though, and actually see the buildings, the view is inspiring.

Yates Wine Lodge, West George St, Glasgow

Yates Wine Lodge, Glasgow

I was reminded of this fact the other day when I was out for “food and a flick”, a semi-regular social event organised by a lovely couple of friends. The food was at Yates Wine Lodge on West George Street, one a chain of cheap eateries. While it’s a bit loud and rough in the evening, it is a great place for cheap, plentiful, tasty, quick food until about eight o’ clock. I mentioned to the “food and flick” group that I had once taken a South American friend out for lunch to Yates and apologised that it was “nothing special”. He was taken aback and gazed around him. “Nothing special?!” he said.

Looking around, I had to take his point. While Yates is,  indeed a cheap eatery, that branch is also a beautiful Georgian building with polished sandstone pillars and gorgeous proportions outside, while inside it has a spiral staircase, dark wood appointments and lovely plaster mouldings. Visually, at least, it is something special, but I had totally overlooked the fact.

The Counting House, George Square, Glasgow

Counting House, Glasgow

Later in the evening, after the flick (Ice Age 4 – not great, not bad, pretty funny) we repaired to The Counting House on George Square for a beverage. We left without having one because it was so crowded, but I was struck by the beauty of the place. Look around and you see crowds of people between you and the bar. Look up, and you see prints and paintings, Georgian plaster panels, and an impressive dome. I don’t go to The Counting House much, so I wasn’t so blind to it, but most people there weren’t giving the surroundings any thought at all.

I first noticed how stunning Glasgow is – really noticed it – when I took a bus tour with a Greek friend, for his benefit (so I thought), and saw not shop fronts, but the rest of the buildings above them. It was a revelation.

So, if you are ever in Glasgow city centre, or any other old city – look up!

 

 

One Seven Ate, Shawlands

24 Jun

I chose my days off well this week. Monday was cloudy but warm, while yesterday was just lovely. It was so lovely, in fact, that my sister and I, and her tiny baby, decided to explore another eating establishment n Shawlands. The one we chose was One Seven Ate. We’ve been working our way through a number of them but I probably wouldn’t have tried this one if it wasn’t for the sign that appeared in the window saying it had been awarded the title “Best Diner on the South Side”. So we decided to give it a go. It’s a tiny place, easy to miss, just opposite Shawlands Post Office. There was a two person table outside, just the one, so we plonked ourselves there and started reading the specials board. We had hardly been there a minute when the waitress appeared, offering us drinks and admiring the baby. Throughout the visit the service was extremely attentive, and very flexible. In fact, the waitress even walked the baby up and down the street in the pram when she wouldn’t settle. (Seriously!)

So what about the food? Well we didn’t feel like trying the heavier main meals so I just had a toastie while my sister had one of the specials, home made chilli on a baked potato. We were offered the choice of a side salad, and of three dressings (out of a bottle). The salad was very impressive for an optional extra, although rather weirdly it contained a lot of sweetcorn. The toastie (with my own choice of ingredients) was lovely, and so was the (home made?) coleslaw. My sister’s tap water came with a slice of lemon – always a classy touch.

The only thing I would criticise, really, was the price scheme. It seemed that just about everything was £4.99, which meant that baked potatoes and fajitas seemed a bit overpriced, while proper meals like macaroni cheese or fish and chips came in very cheap. Drinks were also priced a bit confusingly. All coffees cost the same – just over £2 – from an espresso to a mocha, while ice cream and fruit was less than that. A bit odd, but still basically affordable. The coffee, by the way, was rather bitter in an eastern sort of way (think Turkish coffee) which suited me but wouldn’t suit everyone.

All in all, a friendly, good quality local diner, and I would go there again.