Glasgow - Today this city and the rest of Scotland will wake up, a wee bit hungover on the spirit of the Commonwealth Games, a little tired of being happy hosts and get back to fighting over whether to say “yes” or “no”. Independence is on the card for Scotland. There are Saltires with “yes” and “no thanks” written on them in the windows of flats and shops.
They banned Saltire badges with “yes” written on them at the Glasgow Green on Sunday. They were deemed a “protest” and likely to cause unpleasantness. There was to be no unpleasantness during the Games. These were two weeks of fun and joy, where the newspapers filled themselves to bursting on stories of Scottish medals. It was parochial and ignored the performances of any one else, save for Usain Bolt. Apparently Chad le Clos won seven medals, and the South African bowls team took five.
These have been a wonderful Commonwealth Games in the city that can be a “bit sh*t”. My memories of it will be of working 16-hour days, wondering at how the sun only set after 10.30pm and rose not long after 5am. It was like jetlag by weather. You never really get to see a city while you are working at an multi-sport Games. There is little time to stop and look around, to be able to take a long breath and consider instead of rushing to meet deadlines that fly towards you in a rush because you are an hour behind South African time. The Olympics is madder. It’s a good way to go gently insane.
Glasgow began by learning that I had been booked into a hotel room with several other people from “The Star”. I assumed the hotel manager meant anyone working for a paper with the word Star in it would be camping down on my floor. She’d made a mistake, but it was a weird start.
My daily commute to the Main Press Centre at the SECC was a 50-minute walk down West Nile Street, right past the Central Station and along the Clyde. I was told the media bus stopped at Hope Street and went to the SECC, but no matter how much I waited and hoped, it never came. And so I walked. Taxis aren’t cheap in Glasgow.
I walked the streets, on Sauchiehall Street, to Kelvingrove Park, back to the Glasgow Green, along the Clyde at night, and Buchanan Street and Renfield. You get to know a city by walking it.
And I walked home, or back to the Holiday Inn Express in the Theatreland, which became home.
They drink a lot in Glasgow. Saturday night was a big night. So was Friday night. Thursday night was a warm-up night for Friday and Saturday. Monday was a post-first-day-of-work-this-week drinks, while it seemed they drank on Tuesday and Wednesdays because it would be rude to stop. When we, the small party of South Africans on tour, would get off early – around 10.30pm – we’d head to the Counting House for a drink. It used to be a bank. I know this because three barmaids told me it used to be a bank. The person behind the counter at my hotel told me it used to be a bank. So, it used to be a bank, just in case anyone asks.
I found a few other pubs I fancied, but never got the time to sit in one and make it my own. On a long trip, you need places you can call your safe place. Where you can walk in, have a coffee or a beer and recharge. In France in 2007, I found the Lux Bar in Montmarte, where a barman with a magnificent Elvis tattoo would play 50s rock ’n roll. In Wellington in 2011, it was St John’s, a bar in the former home of the ambulance-first aid people. There have been none in Glasgow, but I would recommend The Raven on Renfield Street.
Tomorrow, my last day here, I hope to visit one or two more before a 3am taxi trip to catch a 6am flight home via Amsterdam. I do not know whether I will return to Glasgow. I suspect not. These Games will have been their time in the sun. By the time I next think of this city, it may be in an independent country. They may have said “yes”.