Glasgow - The barmaid at Denholms opposite the Grand Central station in Glasgow said she hadn’t been impressed when a policeman stopped her walking across the road yesterday morning. He told her to get her phone out and be ready, but she wasn’t fussed with that.
“I told him I had to get to work, but, eh, he told me I couldnae go across the road because someone was going to be driving on it,” she said. “I knew it must, eh, be the Queen coming, but I didnae get me phone out. Why would I, eh, want a picture of her. She’s nice and all, but, eh, I don’t need a picture of her. And I had tae get to work. But I saw the Queen, so, eh, that was good. Have you seen her?”
I had. A few times. She’d never waved back. I had seen her close up at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, when Ian Thorpe had sat one seat up from her. But that was in the days before he admitted that he and the Queen had more than just the Commonwealth in common.
Work at the oldest pub in Hope Street (established in 1872) was slow yesterday. It hasn’t been fast since the Games started, not as hectic and profitable as had been predicted by the organisers. She gave me a run-down on beer prices, what I should expect to pay and where, and how I shouldn’t wave my Games accreditation around as it would be an invitation to be ripped off. “They’ll charge you weekend prices if they see that.” Weekend prices for beer. It’s like a happy hour in reverse.
The bar staff at the Scotia, Glasgow’s oldest pub (established in 1792) in Stockwell Street, told the BBC they had had training to make them especially nice to the visitors. That implies that they are grumpy for the rest of the year. They still have some work to do.
When asked about whether she would be watching Susan Boyle and the Queen during the opening ceremony, the manager-owner-bouncer gave us a look that suggested she might make us look like Boyle before she had her eyebrows tweezed and her hair washed. We shut up sharpish.
There are no shortage of pubs in Glasgow, but they could do with a few more foreign patrons if they are to consider the Games a success. The staff are, in the main, personable if not particularly worldly. Explaining the concept of South Africa to them takes some doing. At the Main Press Centre this week, we came across a young worker in the dining area who proudly told us she had studied South Africa in social studies at school. She asked us about all the important things: “Do you like Jacob Zuma? What do you think of Inkindla (Nkandla)? What do you think of crime? Do you like democracy?”
What in the name of all that is holy have they been teaching these kids about South Africa?
We educated her quickly. Democracy was good, Nkandla was bad. Zuma was Zuma and crime was bad. We had cheap, good, plentiful beer. Food was cheap and good. We lived in the sun, we had been world champions and had hosted more world championships than we cared to remember. Would she be voting for independence for Scotland, we asked her? She would. Why? She didn’t rightly know. It just seemed like a good idea.
An independent Scotland is wonderfully romantic, but a tad economically silly. They might have to put the price of beer up to sort out more sin tax to pay for it all. That wouldn’t make the barmaid at Denholms too happy.
* Kevin McCallum is chief sports writer at Independent Newspapers.