notes from the northern colony

greum maol stevenson on scotland in the end times of the uk

Wyndord tower block, sunset

Three days ago, on Monday morning, I learned that Glasgow Housing Association plans to destroy the community I live in.

This explains why neither Cube Housing Assocation, nor its new owner, GHA, has cleaned the tower blocks in Wyndford for many months, while still cleaning the other buildings in the scheme, as I have reported here. On hearing the news, my wife, daishin, said: “I think GHA's lack of cleaning, building maintenance, and the continued lack of repairs in the high flats is a strategic move to make tenants want to leave the Wyndford.”

On Tuesday, members of Wynford Tenants’ Union, residents of the blocks that are to be demolished, held a meeting, outdoors, to decide what to do.

On Wednesday, I was interviewed by Glasgow West End Today about our plans. The article is a refreshing corrective to the one published in the Glasgow Times, which is effectively an ad for GHA.

GHA’s brochure is a work of weird fiction. The reality is that the four blocks of high flats are populated by a wonderful, diverse community. There are people who have lived here for decades, people who have lived here for years (like me), and people who have been here a short time and will move on soon. There are people of all ages, and more nationalities than I can keep track of. The reputation for criminality is mostly mythical. When we were offered our flat in 2017, I asked the housing officer how dangerous it really was. Her answer: “Nothing will happen to you here that couldn’t happen to you in Bearsden.” She was correct. What I was not prepared for, though, was the warmth and grace daishin and I have found here.

Bizarrely, GHA is letting everyone who lives in Wyndford, not just tenants of the high flats, but all tenants, and homeowners, vote on the fate of our flats. How would you feel if everyone in your neighbourhood was allowed to vote to evict you from your home, whether they knew anything about you or not?

GHA will soon learn the truth about the people who have made our homes in the buildings they are describing as “low demand” and “low occupancy.” We will support one another, and we will not go easily or quietly.

#wyndford #maryhill #glasgow #GlasgowHousingAssocation #CubeHousingAssociation #gentrification #landlordism #SocialHousing #DaishinStephenson #ScottishBlogs

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Vintage photograph of Maryhill Library

Glasgow Live reports that the city’s five closed libraries are to reopen.

This is a relief, after an email I received yesterday from Glasgow Libraries, announcing new opening times for various libraries, but making no mention of Maryhill, Whiteinch, or any of the other closed libraries. Previously, it had been announced that Maryhill Library would not reopen, and then Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken, a crypto-Thatcherite who has stated that she prefers that services be provided by community volunteers rather than government, claimed the library would not be closing, but its services moved to a nearby building. Since she made that statement in April, the library has not reopened, and its services have not been relocated.

The campaign to save Maryhill library, led by Keiran O’Neill, former Scottish Labour and Co-op candidate for Maryhill and Springburn, has been holding a read-in outside the libary from 11am-noon every Saturday. Mr O’Neill welcomed today’s news, but told me, “This money is welcome, but it’s not enough to guarantee a full future service, and that’s not good enough. So the campaign to save the library is not over. There will be the 30th read-in on Saturday which will celebrate what is a community victory but also discuss next steps.”

So this may only be a stay of execution rather than a reprieve. And it is unclear whether Maryhill Library will reopen in the building that has been its home for more than a century, or if Ms Aitken’s half-baked plan to move its services to the other side of Maryhill Road is still being considered. I asked Bob Doris, MSP for Maryhill and Springburn, who told me he had just written to Bridget McConnell, aka Baroness McConnell, Chief Executive of Glasgow Life, seeking additional information.

As I have said before, Maryhill Library is a life-saver for some people in this community, one of the city’s most deprived. Children benefitted from story time and homework club. There was a writing group. The library is not a luxury, it is a necessity for so many of us: unemployed people, pensioners, young people, those who cannot afford to buy books and newspapers, people who do not own computers, people who just need a quiet, warm place where they can go to read, write or think. The staff are compassionate and supportive. It must be reopened, permanently.

#MaryhillLibrary #GlasgowLibraries #LibraryClosures #GlasgowLife #SusanAitken #BaronessBridgetMcConnell #BobDorisMSP #KeiranONeill #ScottishBlogs

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Graffiti on wall, the word ZEN with the second and third letters mirror imaged, above a painting of a spotted green mushroom, and a Fixodent box on the ground

It amuses and baffles me when street art is referred to as vandalism. If this is because of the quality of the art, it makes no sense, because the best street art — and there is a lot of great street art in Glasgow — is far superior to most commissioned “public art,” which tends towards the generic and mediocre. If it is because street art is done without permission, it makes even less sense, as most citizens have no role in deciding what “public art” is commissioned and created.

Graffiti, the letters ZEN haphazardly arranged

The city is a book of art and text in which artists and writers are constantly in dialogue. I love to read the city as I walk, and am fascinated when I see new work. Recently, I have noticed a new tag, which seems to be various arrangements of the letters ZEN, so of course I approve. Is this one artist mixing it up stylistically, or a crew with each member doing their own version? Does it refer to Zen, or is it initials or an acronym?

Graffiti, the letters ZEN, red paint on black

The three photos here were taken in the Wyndford, but daishin and I have noticed similar tags in other parts of the city.

#StreetArt #PublicArt #graffiti #zen #wyndford #maryhill #glasgow #ScottishBlogs

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A week into September, I wrote about the cognitive dissonance caused by the Scottish government’s washing its hands of any leadership role in the pandemic. I pointed out that branch meetings of the SNP (of which I am a member) were being held online, but that people were free to gather in clubs unmasked.

Yesterday, with 2262 new cases, and 20 new deaths, also came the news that the SNP’s national conference will take place online, not in person. This, a party spokesman said, is “to keep everyone safe” and “protect the NHS.”

So, the SNP knows it is dangerous to have in-person events, and has, rightly, decided not to have any. But everyone else can…

I have no anlysis to offer about this; the congnitive dissonance is too overwhelming. If there is any logic here, it is dream logic, and the result will be a nightmare.

#PlagueDiary #Scotland #Covid19 #EndOfLockdown #ScottishBlogs #level0 #ScottishPolitics #NicolaSturgeon #SNP

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French TGV high speed train

When I was in France earlier this month, I travelled by train from Pau to Paris. It took only four hours, and seemed comparable to the Japanese bullet trains. The train was elegant and comfortable, and I could not even tell that it was going so fast, until I tried to take photos of the passing scenery, and each photo was a blur.

Here in the Anthropocene, it is absurd that such trains are not the international standard. They would make a major difference to the carbon footprint of America, but there is no governmental discussion of such a measure. Nor is it likely to happen in Scotland, as the UK becomes Western Europe’s only “developing country” as a result of Brexit.

#FrenchHighSpeedRail #ClimateCrisis #GlobalHeating #anthropocene #ScottishBlogs

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In the weeks since the Scottish government decided to pretend the pandemic is no longer happening, daily infections have been in the thousands, and, accordingly, there have been deaths from the plague.

The TRNSMT music festival went ahead, and it lived up to its name, causing 551 infections. As the Gaelic poet Babs Nicgriogair remarked, “It does what it says on the tin.”

#PlagueDiary #Scotland #Covid19 #EndOfLockdown #ScottishBlogs #trnsmt #BabsNicriogair

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On Wednesday I was forced to pay money to enter my country.

I was travelling home from France, where I had been for six days and had won the Prix Marianne at the Pau literary festival Un aller-retour dans le noir. I flew from Paris to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Glasgow. When I tried to board the flight to Glasgow, I was told I had to pay, in advance, to Rainbow Labs, a private company, £54 for two Covid tests that would be mailed to me. I had to pay by card, not cash, and if I did not then I would not be allowed on the plane.

Never mind that I had lateral flow tests awaiting me at home. Never mind that I could get tested by the NHS. Never mind that France has far lower infection rates than Scotland, which last month had the highest in the world. Never mind that I could legally go straight from Glasgow airport to a crowded club and dance unmasked.

I asked one of the airline officials what would happen if a person did not have a credit or debit card, or enough money in their account to pay. The answer: “Hmmm… that’s a good question.”

I was tempted to ask what would happen if I refused to pay and was not allowed on the plane. Would I be stranded in Amsterdam? As I am no longer a European citizen, would the Netherlands deport me home, where I was trying to go anyway? I only refrained from asking because the official, a young black woman, was being shouted at and argued with by white male passengers who seemed to think she was responsible for the UK’s stupid, classist rules, and I did not want to add to her stress. She helped me and others fill out the required forms on our phones (it took nearly an hour), and I wondered what people who do not own smart phones are supposed to do.

My first of two tests is to be delivered today, and I feel tempted to refuse to share the result, but I do not want to cause the NHS any hassle. But the UK government’s business deal with a profiteer is another form of sickness.

#RainbowLabs #UKCovidProfiteering #PlagueDiary #classism #exploitation

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The Rebel City podcast is one of my favourites. But I have now tried several times to listen to this episode, and each time I have had to stop listening quite early because of how the two male hosts kept interrupting their female guest, Jen Murray. They kept asking her questions, then talking over her as she began to answer.

If you listen to other episodes, it is clear that these are decent, compassionate men, and their willingness to discuss their own mental health and other vulnerabilities is admirable. But male conditioning is a horrible thing, causing harmful blind spots in all men. Such blind spots are likely incurable, so the best we can do is try to be aware of our impaired vision, and, when it is pointed out to us, listen.

#RebelCityPodcast #GlasgowPodcasts #ScottishPodcasts #MaleEntitlement #ToxicMasculinity#JenMurray #sexism #ScottishBlogs

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Pilate Washes His Hands, painting by Duccio

The Scottish government’s current handling (or absence of handling) of the pandemic has created a terrifying cognitive dissonance.

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