I must have been about six years old the very first time I came to Glasgow. My dad drove me to the city to pick up a relative from the airport and we stopped off in the city centre for some lunch. As a small town boy from Wishaw being in the city was like being dropped into the heart of a throbbing metropolis. The grand Victorian buildings seemed like skyscrapers and the people scurrying around the streets made me feel like I was standing in a crowd of millions. I was mesmerized by it all and immediately fell in love with the city. I remember walking down Buchanan Street and seeing Gwyneth Guthrie who played Mrs Mack in Take the High Road and thought my head was going to explode with excitement. I knew then and there that my dream was to live and work in the city and naturally become best friends with the entire cast of Take the High Road. It didn’t quite work out like that but I did move to the city in 2005 with my boyfriend.
Our first flat was in Kinning Park with stunning views of the motorway. It was situated right next to the underground station which meant that the plates rattled every time the train went through the station. It was a tiny one-bedroom flat and that we could barely fit all of our clothes and shoes in. We had so much stuff crammed into such a small space that we had to stack all the shoe boxes at the side of our bed, which meant we had to climb out the bottom of the bed rather than step gracefully out the side like a normal person. It was my first flat and despite the space issues, I was in absolute heaven. I felt free for the first time in my life. First thing I did was go out and explore the city, well I explored the shops more than the galleries and museums if I’m honest, but immediately loved being part of the buzz.
The longer I live in the city the more I love it. I love the abundance of Victorian architecture that’s here and no matter how many times I’ve gazed and admired them I still get a crick in my neck from looking up at the grandeur. This is a great pastime until you accidentally walk into an old lady laden with shopping bags or almost fall into a baby’s pram (both of which have happened to me!!) I love being in the west End and visiting the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, or going to the East end to see the regeneration projects that are taking place there. I was really impressed by the the new Athletes Village but so disappointed to visit and not find half naked athletes doing star jumps in nothing but a jockstrap. I wrote complaining to the local MSP I can tell you!! I live in the South Side and still enjoy walking through Queens Park which seems to be beautiful at any time of year.
But most of all I love the fact that Glasgow to me represents freedom. As a gay guy living in a small town you become known as “that gay guy” which can be really oppressive. Dealing with the taunts and mild bullying did make me stronger but I knew that I certainly wasn’t cut out for a life living in what seemed like a goldfish bowl, and whilst my situation was far from extreme I knew that my heart lay somewhere bigger. For the majority of my time at high school I was in a constant state of ‘monitor mode’, monitoring and adjusting my behaviour in order to fit in with the other boys. My every gesture, movement and expression had to be meticulously thought out before I would speak or move. Having to moderate my behaviour and checking myself constantly to make sure that I wasn’t ‘gaying it up’ was extremely oppressive, but necessary in order to avoid being an easy target for the Wishaw lads who were handy with their fists. It was both exhausting and stifling and the best part is, it never worked. The straight people in my year, and in every other year, could see right through it!! How they managed to see through my Oscar worthy performance I have no idea but it was when I came out to my closest gal pal that I came to realise that it was me who needed to stand up as a gay man and be myself. “Fuck all those guys” was the advice given to me and, as my single days will testify, I certainly had a good bash at that one!!
Going out on the Glasgow scene for the first time was the most liberating experiences of my life. Knowing that there was a gay scene for me to go and explore thrilled me no end. The thought that there would be other guys and girls like me was incredibly liberating, and, as clichéd and tacky as it sounds, I actually felt as though I had arrived. I stood on the dance floor in AXM (what was then Bennets) and I shook my ass and threw my hands in the air like every confident gay person should, getting off with some random guy in the dark recesses of the club without fear. It was the best experience of my life (up until that point at least).
So my dreams of being a cast favourite of Take the High Road may have faded but my love for the city certainly hasn’t. I’ve been to many other cities in the UK and abroad, and every time I go away I can’t wait to come back again. I can’t really explain it other than to say that Glasgow just feels like home to me. My family still live in Wishaw but my home is here in the city. Don’t get me wrong the city has its downsides but I don’t have the time or the energy to list them all. I’ll save that list for the next time I’m pissed off at First Bus for taking what seems like 100 years to change drivers and go on another rant.