I got a phone call from the University of Glasgow yesterday afternoon. They call me once or twice a year to check in, and sometimes to ask for donations, which I try to give when I can. The girl I spoke to yesterday was incredibly sweet, and we had a great chat about my master’s degree, and about Glasgow in general.
“How did you like living in Glasgow?” She asked.
“I loved every second,” I replied with zero hesitation, “I still miss it every single day.”
And it’s 100% true, but it also got me thinking about the very first time I visited Glasgow, and how different my opinion was back then.
My very first trip to the UK and Ireland was back in 2006. You may remember this trip from stories like the time I almost starved to death* in Limerick, the day I learned that I have a spiritual connection to peacocks, or the day I STOLE FROM A CHURCH. (That one goes in all caps because I still feel weird about it.)
Anyway, when it came to Scotland, I was most focused on two places: Edinburgh and Loch Ness (obviously).
To be entirely honest, I’m not sure why I wasn’t so keen on Glasgow. I think it was mostly from the guidebooks that said it’s a much more working-class town, and that it was known for more crime, etc. It’s weird, though, because I’ve been a Scottish literature devotee since I was a teen, and a lot of the books I love most are set in Glasgow and/or written by Glaswegians.**
I was a stupid 19-year-old. I don’t remember what I was thinking. Let’s skip me trying to come up with a nice explanation…
I spent a big chunk of time in Edinburgh – about 8-10 days, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a beautiful city, with lovely architecture and a huge tourism industry. I could have kept myself busy forever exploring all of the closes and wynds and just wandering around. But I thought I had better go to Glasgow for at least a quick visit, just to see it. So I devoted a day to it and I hopped on a bus.
You know how when a city is brand new and you have no idea where you’re going, it looks entirely different to you? And then you get used to it and everything changes? When I think of Glasgow now, I can picture the entire layout of the city, complete with the various neighbourhoods I lived in/frequented, and some of the surrounding areas. When I think of Glasgow now, I think of it as home.
When I think of Glasgow in 2006, though, it doesn’t even match up with the real Glasgow. I remember how things seemed to looked back then, and I can’t even place them within the city. I remember certain streets and touristic spots I stopped at, and they don’t even look the same in my 2006 memory as in real life. Does that make sense? It’s weird, I know.
All you really need to know is that my first trip to Glasgow was doomed. I got off the bus and couldn’t find my way to George Square (which makes me laugh now, because I was just down the fucking street from it). When I finally got onto my hop-on-hop-off bus tour, I thought Glasgow looked kind of “dingy,” and then at my first stop, I made the mistake of getting something to eat. I think I was at a restaurant attached to St. Mungo’s or something, and I ordered a plain baked potato – one of the only things that seemed to be vegan. Only the “plain” baked potato must have still had butter on it…
I spent the remainder of my day in Glasgow sick. I managed to get back onto the bus, but had to run from the bus to the Museum of Transport (then located across from the Kelvingrove) so that I could go be sick in the public bathrooms.
And that’s basically what I remember.
That and being so glad to get back to the safety of my B&B in Edinburgh. And trying not to think about Glasgow again, lest I feel a pang of potato-induced nausea.
And then years later, I would move there and fall in love.
And then I would learn that first impressions of a city are not always accurate.
*I was nowhere near actual starvation, but it sure did suck.
**Those Glaswegians (and Scots in general) know how to write.
***I mean no offense, Geneva! It’s not you, it’s definitely me.