Lately I've been feeling homesick; but it's ok, it happens a couple times a year and after living in Scotland for almost six years now, I'm used to it. Actually, it might just be general malaise rather than actual longing for Canada. I mean, damn, especially after waking up this morning to find that Canada has pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol. Forget the USA and the dark days of George W. Bush - Canada might just well be on its way to becoming the shameful nation that inhabits North America. No longer is it the country that I recognise or the best part of North America. What the hell, Canada?!
So, yes, perhaps it is just a case of the Single-During-the-Holidays-Sads rather than actual homesickness itself. Although, I do love the snow and seeing as it's been raining since Friday over here, I'm probably more than a little depressed for the snow and crisp winter sunshine.
Also? My lovely friend, Lauren, performed in an orchestra (she plays violin) on Sunday night at City Halls and my motley crew of friends and I went along to support her. They even performed a beautiful rendition of The Pogues, Fairytale of New York. I'm not embarrassed to admit that I even got a little choked up at one point (I think it was during Bach...)
Now, before moving along to the photographs, I have one question for my fellow weegies. One that has alluded me for years....
1. Where is an awesome place to go dancing in Glasgow? N.B. Not skanky clubs but actual somewhat-cool joints that play wicked music so you can properly shake yo' ass.
Suggestions in the comments!
Can you spot Lauren? See the bottom of this post for additional video!
You guys? We need to talk about Aldi. Yes, you know? The German discount grocery store. I am seriously in love with it- not to mention a little addicted. Remember when I was a Fresh off the Boat Immigrant and all about Tesco? HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT ALDI!? It's even cheaper and better than Tesco. Sure, it doesn't have all the organic stuff that I love nor middle-class cooking ingredients like walnut oil but it does have DISCO BISCUITS! (Non-UK people: "disco biscuit" is slang for the drug of choice from the late 90s: Ecstasy). Hilarious, right?
Seriously though, Aldi is great. It's cheap but the quality of the food isn't. Besides, all my fellow immigrants seem to shop there too and we all give each other the look of approval. You know the one right? Kinda like, "yeah, we got this" one?
And what's a weekend without hockey? Not a very Canadian one, eh? Lauren and Erica (who are now fully-fledged puck bunnies) came along and we made a night of it. Beer, heckling, laughing and teddy-tossing (doin' it for the kids).
Later that night, Erica and I attempted to go dancing - we hit up Nice N Sleazy and Blackfriars but never ACTUALLY danced. Nice N Sleazy seemed to play "bleepy bloopy" music that tried SO hard to be obscure. I don't mind bleepy bloopy obscure music but please don't play it for the sake of being obscure; we came to dance, not to sit in the corner and nod our heads along to the beat. And I'm not going to discredit my argument by saying, "I guess I'm just old" because: (a) I'm not (fuck you. 32 is not old) and (b) I'm super immature and usually like bleepy bloopy music.
Blackfriars just seemed to play sped-up disco tunes. Again, we wanted to dance; not be in awe of a DJ speeding up vinyl. Although, to be fair, DJs using old-school vinyl is nice.
So, are we eternally damned to dance in the basement of Oran Mor? Or, if in town, The Flying Duck? Suggestions? Thoughts? A telling off? Email me! Jennifer@idreamofhaggis.com
WEEKEND IN PICTURES. BUT FIRST, A FORTHRIGHT, STRAIGHTFORWARD RANT (OF SORTS)
Sometimes I underestimate just how much of a cultural difference there can be between Scottish people and Canadian folks. Or, at the very least, Torontonians (and maybe the rest of the world?) The problem is, such differences can be quite subtle and not necessarily apparent on the surface of things. Indeed, even after residing in Scotland for almost six years now, I still find there are collective cultural experiences that many Glasgwegians refer to (for example, the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival), that I have never heard of. Nor fully appreciate the significance of.
On numerous occasions, I have had work colleagues and friends tell me how straight-forward and forthright I am. One of my fellow colleagues even admitted to being intimidated when she first met me. It was only after working together for a few months, that she realised I was just a bit odd and...well, Canadian? In fact, she recently went on holiday to Canada, and when she came back to Scotland, she said, "Jen. I totally get you now! And I get where you're from. Canadians are so damn honest, friendly and nosey!" Indeed, she couldn't believe how forward Canadian men were - asking her to her face, if she was single - gasp! I mean, can you imagine that happening in Scotland?! (No).
Side note: I am such a nosey bitch too. Whenever I go round to my friend, Claire's house, she always warns me not to go through her kitchen cupboards. It's such a bad habit. Not to mention weird. See? That's me being TOO DAMN HONEST. Whatever. I just wanna know what y'all are eating and if I can have some.
Then again, maybe it isn't entirely a Canadian thing? I remember in high school (back in Canada), one of my teachers asking me if I was of German heritage as I had a tendency to "march" up to him, state my intentions ("I will be late to your class tomorrow and I hated our homework assignment!") and marching away again. So, maybe it's just me?
Speaking of German, I am in the midst of learning it. Or trying to, anyway. (ICH LIEBE DEUTSCH!) And it is hard y'all. Anyone who is fluent in another language besides their mother tongue? Much. Damn. Respect.
The British love nothing more than sitting down at the pub for a good banter and pint. Brits and Scots also love word play, wit and puns. And after six years of living here, I've learned that they also love panel shows comprised of comedians, participating in meaningless games for points that don't really matter. Take, for example, the very popular BBC panel show, QI. Personally, I don't really like panel shows because - and here is where our cultural differences comes in - I just get frustrated and think, "just shut up with your stupid witticisms and ANSWER THE FUCKING QUESTION!" When, really, it doesn't matter what the answer is - that's the point. It's a mere vehicle for said comedians to wax their comedic skills.
And maybe, that's what is at the heart of it all: British/ Scottish people want to talk about EVERYTHING BUT the issue to hand, and I just want to cut to the chase. Does that make me Canadian? Or just impatient when it comes to small talk?
In short: subtle cultural differences; my forthright Canadian-ism; and shy Scottish men do not make for a successful mix when dating. Actually, that sounds like I'm actively dating when, in reality, I'm not. You see, despite my straightforwardness, I am actually quite shy. And Scottish/ British men are notoriously shy. What's a brash North American bitch to do?
Go to hockey and drink beer with girlfriends, of course!
Best seats in the house!
Look! It snowed in Glasgow today! I love the snow and wintertime!
You know what I don't like? Glasgow City Council's inability to salt/grit cycle lanes. Each year I wake up after the first snow fall and each year I think, "maybe this will be the year that Glasgow City Council salts the bike lanes and I won't have to fear wiping out on my way to work!" I am an eternal optimist. WHEN WILL I LEARN?! Look at that!
Oh, man. What a concert...I went to see Death Cab For Cutie in concert at Glasgow's O2 Academy; I have loved Death Cab For Cutie for about 10 years now but only managed to see them live for the first time ever last night. It was one of the best concerts I have been to for a long time - they are such talented musicians live! I especially loved the duelling drums on We Looked Liked Giants - both Jason, the drummer - and Ben, the lead singer - totally rocked out for a good solid 5 minutes on their own individual drum sets.
They even finished the night with Transatlanticism (one of my favourite songs and albums).
Whilst they played one of their other songs from Transatlanticism (A Lack of Colour), I heard a girl behind me say to her friend, "I LOVE THIS SONG! I first heard it when I was 14!!"
You guys? That album came out in 2003. And I was 24 at the time.
I suddenly felt so old. Yet, I don't feel it. I don't think I look it. And I certainly don't act it. Those adults that we all talk about? I'm not one of them, am I?
And then said girl screeched, "Ben is SO FUCKING HOT!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE HIM!!!!!!!!"
I'll take a decent, down-to-earth, intelligent, thoughtful, respectful and kind dude over Ben Gibbard anyway (if such a thing exists in Glasgow?!) Although, apparently poor Ben Gibbard is also divorcing Zooey Deschanel too. What is the world of indie rock coming to!?
Besides rocking out with tweenagers and their parents last night at the concert, during the day I partook in one of my new favourite weekend past times: cycling out to Clydebank with my friend, Claire.
Bike parking at the canal in Clydebank
enroute with father and son ahead
Claire - geared up and ready to go!
This time, however, I took my tank of a Dutch bike, as it would be able to withstand the broken glass that seems to populate the route. Besides, it was a beautiful day to leisurely pedal along the banks of the canal, gossiping with one of the most brilliant Weegies around.
Clydebank, despite what you may have heard/read, isn't that bad. In fact, it's pretty awesome. They even have a Costa Coffee - which, by Scottish standards - is pretty cosmopolitan.
Cycling out to Clydebank even makes the torturous activity, known as "shopping", more tolerable; knowing that - at the very least - you won't be stuck in traffic and afterwards, you can hop on your bike and cycle home. Seriously, I am suspicious of anyone who claims to love shopping; what's the allure!? Online shopping/ browsing, doesn't count, obviously; I love nothing more than doing my essential shopping (food, books, Nespresso coffee) and then having it delivered directly to my work. Now that is progress.
Some of the best weekends I've had in Glasgow, are the ones where you're without plans or direction and then suddenly, you find yourself out on the town with near-strangers, having an awesome time; a true testament to the friendliness of weegies and most folks that live here. Indeed, even this morning, I was struggling with my bike lock at the grocery store, and a lovely older man came over and helped me unlock it (it's gone a bit rusty and tends to stick when unlocking). I've had countless friendly run-ins with the locals.
On Friday night, a woman from my work was leaving and so, to celebrate, we had a couple drinks at our work. Which then turned into a couple more drinks with more colleagues at a local pub. Which then turned into ending the night by eating at an AMAZING Malaysian-Chinese restaurant: Asia Style. Seriously. How have I lived in Glasgow for almost six years and have never eaten here?! And really, I have no excuse when they're open until 2.30am - it was almost like being back home in Toronto, in Chinatown!
Ohmygawd. That is spicy Kang Kung with shrimp (or, "king prawn", if you're of the British persuasion). Side order of coconut rice. AMAZING! Albeit spicy but you know me, I'm a pro when it comes to eating.
Some work colleagues had congee (advertised as porridge on the menu. Hey, this is Scotland; we love our porridge). Not pictured: Malaysian pancakes 'cause we inhaled them too quickly. Highly recommended.
To burn off all the Malaysian/ Chinese food I inhaled on the previous night, I cycled out to Lennoxtown on Saturday to visit my friend, Erica, who had surgery on her right ear. Poor Erica has had more surgery than most people I know (apart from my best friend in Toronto, Bob - a.k.a. Coco/ Cocobaby/Bombo/ Seymourbeast - who has had countless chemo/ bone-breaking operations than I care to recall and bitch hasn't even had cosmetic surgery! yet). Anyway. Every time I cycle out to and around Lennoxtown, I am endlessly blown-away by the scenery and reminded just how luck Erica (and her husband, Mike) are to live out that way.
This is one of my favourite stretches of road on the way out to Lennoxtown. On a good day you can see Ben Nevis (I think?) in the distance.
What a beautiful (and all too rare) weekend in Glasgow; both yesterday and today were those sunny, crisp but cool winter days that are so commonplace, back in Toronto. I love those bright and cold winter days where you finally pull your scarf, gloves and tuque out of storage and bundle up before heading outside.
Yesterday my friend, Claire, and I had every intention of setting off early to cycle along the Kelvin river to Bowling. I arrived at Claire's flat in Queen's Cross in the morning and after adjusting Claire's bike and a strong cup of coffee, we headed off into the sunny winter day. Not even 15 minutes into our ride along the canal and I got the Dreaded But All Too Ubiquitous Back Wheel Puncture.
For the last two weeks, you see, I have been riding around with a large gash in my back wheel - which most likely occurred whilst I cycled through the Clyde Tunnel (a.k.a. Rape City) early one morning on my way to an appointment. As such, I've had to do about 3 puncture repairs in the last two weeks, as stray pebbles and broken glass (which seem to proliferate the streets of Glasgow), worked their way through the huge slash in my tire and pop my inner tube. Luckily we were only in Maryhill, so we pushed our bikes all the way along Byres Road - where I spotted Grant Morrison (the famous Scottish comic book writer) and his wife - to West End Cycles, where I finally caved and got a brand-new back wheel tire right then and there (normally I'd buy such a thing online). The dude in West End Cycles was so nice - not to mention knowledgeable - and swapped my back tire in a mere 5 minutes. Unbelievable.
And then we were off! As we made our way back to the canal, Claire took me on a cycling tour of the area she grew up in (Knightswood) and regaled me with hilarious stories from her childhood.
As we cycled along the canal pathway to Clydebank - avoiding the pot holes - I couldn't help but feel optimistic; cycling in Glasgow (and to an extent, Scotland) has such potential! If Glasgow Council only invested a little bit more and took more of an initiative into creating proper cycling infrastructure within the city, we could have such great cycling routes - and not just token second-class cycle paths. It is entirely possible to cycle to grocery store (as Claire and I did) and get your weekly shopping and cycle home. Next time, however, I think I'll do it on my Dutch bike and not my practical (but lovely) road bike.
Speaking of cycling infrastructure, one thing that I hear over and over again from people who wish to cycle in Glasgow is, "I would love to but I would be terrified of riding a bike on the road!" And you know what? I can understand their fear because it would seem to me, that an otherwise decent person, completely transforms into a raging abusive beast when they get behind a car wheel. Why is that? However, I refuse to be intimated off the road and you know, this is EUROPE, after all; deal with bikes, people. To a ride a bike is one of the most simple and beautiful pleasures I can think of. Also, the more people who cycle, the more motorists and the city will have to accommodate; strength in numbers!
Anyway, we never did make it to Bowling because once in Cyldebank, we were distracted by cake, coffee and gossip. After stocking up on some groceries (again, next time I'll need to take my tank of a Dutch bike), we headed back home. Seriously. What a civilised way to do your shopping - along the canal, away from cars, catching up with a friend while you experience the cool winter air. Heaven.
And again, today was crisp and cool - without a cloud in the sky - so I took the opportunity to go for a run.
Through Kelvingrove Park
Honestly, how can you not love Glasgow when it's sunny out?! On days like today, I am reminded over and over again why I love this city and its people.
As I was out running today, I realised that I'm often running in other aspects as well - whether it be away from something (a predictable and unconvincing life in Toronto) or towards something (an attempt at happiness and control over my own life). I guess I've gotten pretty good at running. I'm not entirely sure why but I've never been one for planning ahead and indeed, I've often lived my life (especially in the last 6 years), as if each day were my last. Obviously this has its positive aspects but also a lot of detrimental effects too (I can't imagine what or where I'll be in one year; I'm totally shit at saving money and would rather blow it all travelling; I'm way too enthusiastic about mundane things and that makes me inherently unhip).
Anyway, at one point I stopped running and looked up. I saw a wee Scottish thistle engraved in the street lamp above and was totally blown away. How on earth have I lived here for 6 years and failed to notice?! See what happens when you stop running and look up?
I also made a wee pal along my route.
You often see this around Glasgow - tuques, hats, mittens and the odd baby sock that has been accidentally dropped/ left behind by its owner - only to be picked up by a stranger and placed on the nearest fence/ pole. I can't recall seeing this whilst I lived in Toronto, but maybe I was too busy running away to notice?
Firstly. And most importantly. I passed! I passed your stupid Life in the UK Test!
I took the test on Thursday morning and after showing documentation, ID and confirming my birth date and address, I was escorted to a computer where I - once again - had to show my passport and photo ID to another UK Border agent. I was then informed that if I ever discussed the Life in the UK test after sitting it, I would be immediately disqualified. I replied, "like ever? I can't talk about it EVER?" Mouth agape; eyes widened. HOW WOULD THEY EVER KNOW?!
"Yes, I suppose not ever," the UK Border agent replied.
Woah. That is some serious shit right there.
Needless to say, all those long nights of memorising dates, figures, and percentages paid off because I passed! Do I feel anymore "British" for knowing that 8% of children in the UK attend independent schools? No, I do not. However, I have now been granted the right to pay £870 and start my application for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. That means that I can live here for like, EVER!
So, it's Halloween today and that means most kids in the UK tonight, are becoming more and more Americanised. Er, sorry, no. I mean, most kids in the UK tonight went trick or treating or "guising", if you're lucky enough to live in Scotland (I am!)
On Saturday, my friend Robert and his wife, Claire, had a Halloween party. After the initial feasting of homemade pumpkin soup, I proceeded to eat pretty much an ENTIRE bowl of Robert's homemade salsa. It was AMAZING salsa (obviously) however, I was left an aching stomach afterwards. I guess it's a bad idea to eat spicy salsa and little else after cycling 25miles around the outer skirts of Glasgow.
Speaking of which, I went for a cycle on Saturday morning out to Lennoxtown where I discovered an amazing bike store/place called, Wheelcraft. It's run by a lovely man called "Big Al" who is renowned for his handmade bike wheels. We (my bike group and I) rolled up and Al was so lovely and friendly, he offered us all free coffee and cookies. While I chatted away to Al about Canada, I couldn't help but notice another cyclist sitting quietly in the shop, fixing his bike wheel. While Al and I discussed Canada and our mutual disgust for instant coffee (if I come to your house and that's all you have to offer, don't bother. There are few things in life I am snobby about but coffee is one of them. Sure, I dig Tim Hortons but I draw the line there), the quiet cyclist continued to fix his bike wheel, barely even bothering to look up from his work. I wish I was cool enough to say that his dashing and handsome looks barely phased me but to be honest, I'm not. And of course, being the mature adult that I am, I pretty much ignored the hot cyclist and avoided all eye contact with him.
(By the way, apparently his name is Philip and I wish I had paid more attention to what kind of bike he was riding but you know, avoidance of him and all that...)
Right, Halloween party. Too much salsa. Lots of dancing to Prince (of course) and The Smiths.
Can you guess who I went as?
This past weekend I decided that I am pretty much a bike goddess (sorry, but it's true) and finally got around to cleaning and tweaking my bike. For some ridiculous reason, I also decided that it was a good idea to clean my bike IN MY BATHTUB. I think I spent more time degreasing my tub and porcelain than my actual bike. Ugh, the one drawback of living in a tenement (apartment) building on the top floor; where the hell are you meant to obsessively scrub and hose down your bike and chain?!
I've also pretty much mastered changing my own inner tube after getting two punctures this past weekend. Also? my expensive handmade German Continental Grand Prix 4000 back wheel has a big ol' gash in it. Despite the fact that I only bought the wheels in July, I'm gonna have to buy a new one because it is FUBAR, y'all. Goddamn.
I don't really know why but lately, I haven't really been feeling it. And what it is, I'm not entirely sure of that either.
Normally I'm a pretty enthusiastic person and a happy-go-lucky kinda gal. In fact, you may have noticed that I don't really plan; I don't have a life plan and I tend to just live for the day (or week, depending on the mood). In fact, moving to Glasgow, almost six years ago, was most likely the only conscious "life-decision" I ever really made. All those years of university (not to mention student debt)? Yep, didn't have a plan then either - I just picked majors that interested me (art and film).
Obviously living such a bohemian and "unsettled" life has it positive and negative aspects: I don't feel too rooted to one place and ultimately, I feel fairly free and in control of what I want in life (or on that day/ week, depending). On the flip side, I live paycheque to paycheque - something which, I know, is pretty foolish for a woman of my age (*ahem*) and I have a lot of trouble anticipating what lies ahead. Indeed, I simply can't envision it AT ALL. And somedays that troubles me.
And so as of late, I have this feeling that I just can't seem to shake - perhaps it's the change in the weather (it's getting darker earlier now); perhaps after almost a year of unsettled living, I've fallen back into a routine of being (mostly) single; perhaps I need a change of sorts; perhaps it's just all sinking in.
You see, I'm at that age where a lot of my friends are settled/ married/ coupled whereas I, in turn, walked out of a Serious Four Year Relationship back in January. And now, almost 10 months on, where am I? Kinda back to where I was before I ever met my ex - single and just a little bit wiser and a little more jaded. And when you're in the minority, you can't help but compare yourself to the majority and therein lies the ruse. You think, "maybe if I was in a relationship and settled, then I wouldn't be feeling this way." The thing is though, being single can be difficult, and being in a relationship can be equally - if not more so - difficult.
Societal pressure to be married/ coupled is real but the older you get, the less you give a shit (one of the great things about getting older). Another brilliant thing about getting older is that you learn more about yourself (hopefully. Therapy helps) and the world we live in. If we're lucky we may even figure some stuff out along the way - like what really matters in life (hint: not big houses or cars but rather, health, altruism, happiness and fulfilling interpersonal relationships)
Mostly though, I am happy. Joyous. Just wanting to burst out into a fucking musical number. No, honestly. And so this feeling of not feeling it, is somewhat frightening. I've been very fortunate in my life to not suffer blights of depression (I seem to know a number of people whose lives it seems to bear a lot of weight), so I don't think this is depression. Perhaps just a change in the weather?
Anyway, this past weekend I mostly studied for my upcoming Life in the UK test - what a drag. On Sunday, I met my friend, Erica, for a long boozy lunch at Number 16. Wow. What a meal. What a restaurant. I live just around the corner and yet, I've only been once in my six years of living here - criminal! It was such a fantastic meal that I ended up taking pictures - much to the embarrassment of Erica. "You're like a tourist!" she exclaimed. What can I say, I love good food porn. Alas, my crappy first generation iPhone seemed to erase the pictures I took apart from this one of Erica's fishcake.
Oh my god. You guys? I fucking LOVE Margaret Cho. I've seen her twice before in Toronto and she sells out HUGE theatres. So to see her in Glasgow at a small venue was an opportunity I could not miss! I was so pleased to also share the opportunity with Erica, who had never heard of Margaret (like most British people).
I love Margaret because well, obviously she is funny, but more importantly she puts it all out there. What she says and represents (humour from a uniquely feminist perspective) - you don't tend to see a lot of that in mainstream culture. And I guess that's why a lot of people haven't heard of her. Seeing her last night definitely brought me back to where I should be.
After last weekend of doing very little (apart from read an entire novel and study for my upcoming Life in the UK test), this weekend was action-packed! But first! For the first time in about oh, two weeks, the sun managed to come out today. As such, I went for a run this afternoon to take full advantage of what feels like limited sunshine these days.
I mean, how can you not love this city? LOOK AT IT.
On Friday night, Claire was due to come over to my flat for some of Tesco's finest Vina Mara Rioja (yeah, that's right). However, we decided that despite being absolutely broke, with about £20 between us until payday, we would hit the town. In fact, we took it as a challenge: just how awesome a night can you have with about £20 between two awesome bitches. Well, a lot actually.
Initially we went to Curlers Rest on Byres Road and nursed two pints each. Not only did we manage to savour those pints, but we also caught up on our gossip since we hadn't seen each other for about two weeks.
After our two pints each, we decided to raise the bar: we were to go dancing with only about £10 between us. Bring it!
And so, we staggered off to Sauchiehall Street. And since Claire knows half the city (as well as all the juiciest gossip about Scottish soccer/ footballer players; she's brilliant like that), we bumped into someone she knew. Someone who could get us into Nice N Sleazys, front of the line and without paying cover. YAAAAAAAS! That's about £4 saved right there.
Nice N Sleazy is a Glasgow institution: it's open until 3.00am every night and plays some pretty awesome music. Although I seem to remember it being a bit more sleazy/ grungy when I went there as a student. Anyway, after Claire and I had some pints upstairs (£10 for a HUGE pitcher of Fosters beer), we went downstairs to dance. We ended up out on the tiles until 3.00am. And because we were both skint, we ended up walking home - which was brilliant because Glasgow at about 4.00am (we stopped in at a 24-hour grocery store and got distracted by all the junk food), is a whole other city. A mainly deserted one. So, I walked home at 4.00am, documenting my trip in photos.
Avenue G, one of the few joints in this city that does great coffee. Admittedly however, Glasgow is getting better for coffee. I'm such a snob. Whatever.
If you don't know what a Munchy Box is (and I'm sure that most people outside of Scotland don't), it's essentially every disgusting but oh-so-delicious fast food item you can think of deep-fried and invariably covered in various sauces. French fries, pakora, kebab meat, onion rings, coleslaw and naan bread - it's all in there. Glasgow - it's not for pussies.
What kind of take-away place is this?! Why is it even called "Decent Sweets" when it sells pizza, kebabs and no doubt, munchy boxes. What the hell?!
On Saturday, Lauren, Linzi, Erica and I headed to our Saturday ritual: to watch the Braehead Clan in action!
It was an intense game as the Braehead Clan took on Coventry Blaze. There was lots of body-chucking, people being sent to the sin bin, and would-be fights. The Clan ended up winning though: 4-2!
Ahhh, the good ol' hockey game. Nothing like a bit of violence and beer to rectify a somewhat shitty week. Until next time.