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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Woodlands Road - West on the Corner & The Arlington

West on the Corner, 160 Woodlands Road, G3 6LF
The Arlington, 130 Woodlands Road, G3 6HB

Some roads are only widely known for where they take you, rather than for themselves or what they contain. Woodlands Road is one of them. It links the West End with Charing Cross and hence the city centre.

In way, it is a bit like the Finnieston stretch of Argyle Street used to be, before that drag became so hip and featured in all the magazines. But perhaps because Woodlands Road isn’t able to have a concentration of shops and food/drink outlets, being lined by the northern edge of Kelvingrove Park, such a transformation is unlikely.

Still, that isn’t to say that nothing happens on this road. At the eastern end, Uisge Beatha was replaced by Dram! just a few years back. The original pub wasn’t a particular fave of mine but it could claim to be unique in this city, Highland kitsch isn’t common in Glasgow. Now, Stonegate have it, having acquired it from the late Maclay Group. Nothing unique about Dram! but plenty of blandness, rest assured.

Further east, another multiple operator has moved in fairly recently. And again, the pub making way was a place of some repute. The Halt was its name. And it had one of the best-preserved interiors in the city including a beautiful U-shaped bar counter in dark wood and a wood-panelled snug.

What made the Halt even more notable was its clientele – the type of punters not normally associated with a traditional bar. West End dropouts you might call them. Crusties was another, less charitable, name. The ones I knew of, and went to school with, were just too young to have fully participated in punk but they held some of that attitude. Of course, most have drifted away over the years, or lost the faith, but I did see a familiar soul or two anytime I was in the area.

The main bar was adjoined by a function space that hosted some decent live music, often of the more raucous type. All in all, a joint worth a good few hours of your time, day or night.

It was common knowledge over more recent years that the Halt was struggling. Various plans were mooted for its revival. But nothing concrete until the burgeoning West operation (brewery and huge, but atmospheric bar at the Templeton Building, Glasgow Green) announced it was opening as a pop-up bar in the Halt premises, with the intention of making it a permanent affair.

In moved the refurbishers to rip out the soul of the old pub. In the place of venerable dark wood, and brass fittings they inserted an interior befitting a college cafeteria, minus the warmth.

Every angle is covered with cheap-looking, light-coloured wood and tabletops covered by something reminiscent of Formica, without the nod to nostalgia. Grey lampshades are scattered here and there, reflecting the haphazard nature of the total refurb. So bad, that the superb original wooden floor is rendered bereft.

The disheartening theme continues behind the bar with a completely unoriginal steel gantry that although well-stocked does not tempt you to discover any of its delights.

But on my first visit to West on the corner, as it’s now called, I of course did sample some of that alcohol. I went low-strength, for convenience sake and soon regretted that decision – the West Somme going as close to carbonated water as Trading Standards will probably allow, a real waste of barley. Of course, most West beers are reasonably good, and I agree with the concept of low-strength beers, but this version is a brewing failure.

Next door, in the former events space, is a slightly more elegant room in which the full food menu is served. Although the German menu is quite a novelty in this city, it is still just another restaurant serving middle-of-the-road fare, something that is not a rarity in this city, whereas decent live-music venues are dwindling in numbers.

No comprehensive BB bar visit is complete without a toilet inspection and downstairs I did just that. The red tiling contained within is easily the best design feature of the whole joint. That tells you something.

Down there, I recalled the anecdote that during the gutting of this place’s beautiful fixtures and fittings, the builder/desecrator was given the old bar to keep. Lucky for him, fuck the rest of us.

A hundred yards further along Woodlands Road in the direction of town is The Arlington, and hardly a starker contrast with West on the Corner can be imagined.

The Arlington has had a number of refurbs over the decades but I think its present look is the best of the lot of them – a bit of a midden, really, and all the better for it, because that’s what its punters want, an antidote to the rest of the West End. They want a place you can get drunk in without bothering if you spill some of your lager on the floor or you bundle over a chair or two as you stumble to the bar.

And they, in this outpost of counter-culture in this district of Glasgow, don’t care if the lighting is pretty decrepit – the fairy lights, for instance, quite ridiculous – or the furniture the cheap side of rickety, or the drink brands the very opposite of premium.

Craft-beer snobs would scoff at the drinks selection which includes the Arlington’s own Stone of Destiny lager (£2.70) which plays on the urban legend of the true resting place of that relic. The fact that the bar lets you pay for that particular pint with Scotcoin tells you a little bit more about the ethos of this bar.

In here you get misfits, dropouts, serious drinkers, ex-Halt-goers (probably), OAPs on a Wednesday afternoon pub crawl, down-at-luck salesmen with glassy eyes stuck in the corner with two pints for company, and just old-fashioned party animals partaking in concoctions like a Bucky Bomb.

The most recent time I was in, on a Wednesday afternoon, the handful of punters, who before entering the Arlington had mostly been strangers, were crowded around the bar chatting, laughing and drinking together. Down the road at West on the Corner, there was a similar number of customers but they remained separate, each little party of one, two, three or four keeping to their own table – circulation seemingly an impossible thing as they sipped and sipped and sipped…

The difference between the two joints thus confirmed in those two snapshots – and it tempts me to say that in The Arlington they have a good time, in West on the Corner they just think they do.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Sunny Dalmuir

Mountblow Bar, 832 Dumbarton Road, Clydebank, G81 4BS
Macintosh's Bar, 2-4 Swindon Street, Clydebank, G81
The Horse & Barge, 688 Dumbarton Road, Clydebank, G81

Clydebank gets by - just. Post-industrial may sum it up. The heavy industry has gone decades ago and nothing substantial ever really took its place. The town’s ‘centre’ is the shopping complex bulked up by leisure sites such as the cinema, bowling and Playdrome. The retail
experience here is a notch below that of, say, Braehead.

There’s a few modest business parks, a large college, two or three railway stations and very little else of commercial note. Quite a stepdown in prominence for a town specifically targeted by the Luftwaffe due to its extraordinary concentration of shipbuilding and other heavy industry.

Bordering Yoker and Drumchapel, Clydebank can be regarded as an extension of the Greater Glasgow conurbation but older Bankies, especially, would object to this description. However, the town does provide cheaper housing than in the neighbouring city thus allowing many folk the opportunity to be able to use the amenities and attractions of Glasgow without paying the premium for being within the city boundary.

On weekend nights, particularly, taxis, buses and trains ferry lots of Bankies into Glasgow to enjoy some nightlife, many only going as far as Partick, but I’m not interested in that phenomenon here – I’m looking at the places that will attract and keep locals. This time I’m concentrating on Dalmuir and Mountblow, the districts at the far west end of Clydebank.

Contrary to received wisdom a place like Clydebank should have a multitude of bars, but that number barely reaches double figures. And for a population of around 45,000, that is a relatively low number, well below my rule of thumb of one pub per 1,000 people.

Dalmuir has three of that number, all located on or near the main road through lower Clydebank – Dumbarton Road. The furthest west is The Mountblow, situated on a quiet corner.

The blinds were down as I approached. Not for my benefit, I realised, but slightly off-putting nevertheless. As if to emphasise this impression, my entrance elicited a few light sniggers and knowing looks between the barmaid and handful of punters. But exposure of this sort is momentary and has to be got over if you want to be a successful or indeed a non-successful bar reviewer of any kind.

And the blinds on this unusually sunny September Thursday served to filter the light in such a way as to render the brown interior pleasingly dusty, rather like a laid-back drink shack of the Southern United States.

I ordered my pint quickly and used the pouring time to establish that the US link was continued by the fair number of framed photos of Yank iconography such as an Ali v Liston – the second fight, I believe.

I sat under the snooker scorer that had lost its table. But sport of some sort goes on here, or at least amongst the punters, if the collection of trophies on the gantry is an indication.

Beside them are a distinctive row of pewter tankards and bells. I never quite felt able to ask to whom these belonged or if there was something down the stairs directly in front of my seat other than just a storeroom.

Many books are stuffed into available shelf and window-ledge space but it is a measure of this joint that I made no move to peruse the collection let alone buy another pint and actually start reading one of them.

So I was up and away in under half an hour, heading east to the next one on the list – Mackintosh’s, which is adjacent to a dreary selection of shops.
The exterior of Mackintosh’s is gloomy, the dark cladding overpowering the small windows. But this look is pretty typical of bars in outlying urban areas that have undergone ‘60s, ‘70s redevelopment.

Inside is probably of a vintage a decade or two antecedent to the exterior – very basic light wooden furniture and a basic glass gantry with probably the smallest selection of spirits I’ve seen in a bar since the 1990s.

But not holding that against the place too much, you have here a joint far busier than the last, with a more inclusive atmosphere to boot, new faces coming in and out in the time I was there, a revolving, evolving collection of punters one could say. Quite unlike The Mountblow.

In the raised area there was some serious dominoes going on – no blood was likely to be spilt, largely because of the 8 blokes in the two groups at least 5 would be on warfarin – but as close to that state of strife as is possible otherwise.

A more convivial recreation is the twice-weekly fish-tea dinner dances (adults only) advertised on Mackintosh’s exterior and these occur, I believe, in the large lounge area to the side of the saloon bar. The lounge is extensive but doesn’t appear to be in regular use, apart from those fish-tea extravaganzas on Tuesdays and Fridays.

But this was Thursday. I had to go. Leave. Be on my way. There was one more to do today. The Horse and Barge by name, previously O’Kane’s. The biggest of the three, so large that the space taken up/lost by a pool table is hardly missed.

This spaciousness is exaggerated by the large windows that go right around the corner from the main road to the side street. Probably cold and draughty in the winter but on this day of sunshine a pleasant warmth and light engulfs the whole joint, most particularly in the raised area of tables nearest to the windows.

The heat made me wish you could enjoy a drink or two outside, perhaps with a view of the nearby Forth and Clyde Canal from which this pub derives its name, but in Clydebank there is next to no outside provision, apart from a few chairs outside a couple of establishments near the bus station.

But at least this keeps one’s attention focussed on the interior. And in here the main point of interest is the snugs, or departments as they used to be called in old-pub nomenclature.

I edged around them trying to see if there was access to any of the three of them, or even if they actually were snugs. Was I mistaken?
One has its door slightly ajar and I peer in, but all I see are brushes and a mop before the aperture creaks closed. I decline to ask at the bar about the true nature of these features and instead take my pint of 70 and chaser of Scottish Leader up to the raised area.

The 70-shilling was spectacularly off but I didn’t let it bother me. I sat and looked around and wondered if the two blokes sitting at separate tables were prosperous retirees who had just strolled down the hill from the bungalow-heavy district of Overton for a quiet pint or a whisky and Irn Bru with their papers and mobiles.

Hurricanes and the 1968 riots are on the TV but the atmosphere is contemplative and tranquil and somehow it gets more so as over the shoulder of one of those gents I spot a holiday jet rise high into the sky without a cloud to obscure its climb to the heavens. I could almost imagine being in that plane, leaning back in my seat, resting my head – ten seconds later closing my eyes…

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Dennistoun Duke Street - Old v New - Part Two

Redmond's, 304 Duke Street, Glasgow G31
The Duchess of Duke Street,380 Duke Street, Glasgow G31
The Vintage at Drygate, 85 Drygate, Glasgow G4

“Eh, I haven’t been that far along the street,” said the barman in Redmond’s, the newest bar on Duke Street, Dennistoun. I had recognised him from Bo Bar and a number of other West End joints, but now he had headed east, and judging from the general thrust of his conversation he felt that he was now part of where it was “at”, the new place to be.

He had mentioned the Duchess Of Duke Street and Bar-B-Que - and The Vintage at Drygate back towards town beside the Tennent’s brewery. But as soon as I told him my pals and I had, that evening, been in the Alexandra and The Crown Creighton, he suddenly became reticent. As if an iron curtain was in place halfway along the Dennistoun stretch of Duke Street, and a corresponding division in his mind between one half of the area and the other.

Redmond’s is clearly in the incomers’ camp, the large variety of craft beers on draught and in bottle, and the emphasis upon food the obvious clues. Its interior is simple, verging on basic, with a low ceiling, cheap-looking booth partitions, and a bluey grey colour scheme. The statement seems to be, “Forget the interior, it’s all about the beer.”

But more could have been done in here, rather than just mimicking Brewdog. There is a recessed den-like area decorated with a mosaic wallpaper – the owners were conducting a family meeting in it the first afternoon I visited Redmond’s – but it needs more, it needs a striking feature or a creative deployment of seating to make it a true focal point. And the toilets need more than just the partial refurb they have been given.

On that same afternoon, a guy walked in looking slightly bewildered, seemingly unaware of the new premises and the changes from when this was Isa’s Bar or Molly’s Bar or the New Variety. He went up to the bar, nonetheless, and ordered…a Smirnoff Ice. I sucked my teeth in anticipation. Others –drinking snobs – would have laughed inwardly at the unsophistication of the guy. But that was what he wanted to drink. No comment required.
Of course, Redmond’s don’t stock alcopops. The barman did his best to sound apologetic but the bloke was out the door in less than five seconds, not waiting to hear of any alternatives if such an attempt was going to be made to suggest them. As a new bar it’s all very being “true to your ethos” as innumerable ad slogans declare, but you still have to offer things to punters who’ve experienced the old place.

The Duchess of Duke Street, just along the street (but not too far), seems to fit in with area’s history a little better, even allowing for the name being borrowed from a ‘70s TV series set in Edwardian London. Inhabiting the premises of Mills Bar, it is painted black with decent hanging baskets giving the place a substantial, refined appearance, this added to by a pleasant use of dark wood inside.

I also like the full-length glass retractable doors that allow a wide panel opening to enjoy some sun and air, prevailing wind allowing. Other things that work include the slashes of green in the lightshades, the velvet corner of the room, and the boxed whiskies in the gantry. Less impressive elements include the incongruous table top on a barrel, the cut-price toilet refurb and the tearoom look of the main eating area.

Not that this last bit seemed to bother the fair number of folk eating well as I drank. Most of their number were women, perhaps some of the growing number of “ladies who lunch” in Dennistoun. There is a standard list of cocktails in the Duchess at £5.50 – a reasonable price. And the draught beer comes in at the low 3s, with the ‘craft’ beer bottles at a price slightly below what you would pay in the City Centre or West End.

A bearded one had walked in during my more intense observations. His more regular venue was probably The Vintage - that flagbearer of change east of High Street. I recently met a founder member of that enterprise – he now helps drive the development of the Spit/Fire Bar in Edinburgh. Both these joints are interesting spaces with innovative marketing and drink creations/selections. But for some unexplainable reason the two of them are as sterile as the brewing vessels in The Vintage.

And the same tag can be applied to many incoming bars – a severe lack of revelry contained within their walls. I could demonstrate it across the world, if the day (or night) ever comes when I am paid handsomely to tour and review.

They are riding a wave called “gentrification” that mostly destroys more than it creates. OK, bars are just one small component of the whole phenomenon, but they demonstrate the vacuum that the process can bring to an area or a community.

At their worst, these pubs possess no edge, no warmth, no excitement, no welcome, no frisson, no communality. They provide no reference to place or past and render their target area as just another offshoot amongst countless offshoots of the area deemed to be the most fashionable in present existence.

I went on record around a year ago in forecasting Dennistoun as being the “next Finnieston.” Often, being right is no comfort.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Dennistoun Duke Street - Old v New - Part One

Alexandra Bar, 468 Duke Street, Glasgow G31
The Crown Creighton, 480 Duke Street
The Duke, 631 Duke Street
The Snug, 402 Duke Street
Garvale Inn, 187 Reidvale Street, Glasgow G31

Duke Street is a famous thoroughfare, as far as Scottish thoroughfares fare in popular consciousness. Thanks to a number of articles and documentaries – most notably the excellent The History of Our Streets – it is now widely known to be the longest street in the UK. But a few other, more interesting, facts emerged, too.

For instance, Britain’s first housing association was formed in the Dennistoun area around Duke Street in the 1960s, and Duke Street and its environs were originally designed – in Victorian times - as a bucolic overflow from the overcrowding and squalor of areas nearer the centre of Glasgow such as High Street and Saltmarket.

Gardens and squares surrounded by large houses and substantial terraces characterise the area north of the street, while more standard “working class” tenements fill in on the south between Duke Street and the railway line. This dichotomy defines Dennistoun, and perhaps explains why all the pubs are on the south side of Duke Street and any cafes and restaurants to the north.

Ever since house prices the west end of the city really began to rocket, north Dennistoun has increasingly become an overflow from that part of town. But that is only one way of looking at it. Perhaps that class of people were there from the very origins of the district and it’s only now that the microscope of 21st-century social inquiry has been employed we outsiders can observe and comment fully.

Whatever the truth, Dennistoun is now, as before, at the front end of urban change. And the fortunes of its pubs, of course, reflect that.

Bars such as the The Alexandra, The Duke and the Crown Creighton have been watering Dennsitoun’s citizens since at least the late 1800’s, as old as the tenements housing them.

In the heyday of Glasgow pubs, local demand and travelling workers would have kept these bars buzzing and thriving. The slow decline since then means they are much quieter, especially midweek. And the area lacks the kind of passing trade only enjoyed by the city centre and west end.

On the occasions that I have been that passing trade, the impression is that these are definitely ‘locals’ much as I hate using that term. Punters know each other and the staff. But not to the exclusion of everyone else. A pretty good state of things.

Of the well-established Dennistoun joints The Alexandra is the largest and most notable. Trading since 1891 under the same name, it shares its title with the main road running parallel to Duke Street – Alexandra Parade.

Inside its walls there are two rooms, one with relatively modern décor and a blue-baize pool table, the other larger area with a large island bar and more traditional fittings and appearance. Elements that make up a decent-looking pub of this era – a tidy gantry, red ceilings with gold cornicing, red leather banquettes and elegant booths – are all present. And I am reminded of another bar in another city, The Central Bar in Leith. Both places that are perhaps past their best days but which still present excellent examples of pub architecture.

Prices are good - £2.70 a pint of basic draught lagers and beers and signs let you know that “All bottled beers = 50 bob”. A downside is, however, the very limited whisky selection. Very poor for one’s national drink.

From my knowledge, the Alexandra is the busiest bar in the area, and its numerous TVs allow it to cater for the big-match demand. Saturdays can still get pretty busy around here, with or without football.

The Duke and the Crown Creighton have more modest interiors, and share an understated clientele. Of the two – The Duke, with its rapidly crumbling exterior looks the one most likely to be at risk of closure.

These three are located at the eastern end of the Dennistoun stretch of Duke Street. The Snug is a little further west. It shares the more upbeat atmosphere of The Alexandra, condensed into a far smaller interior. For some years the property lay empty, after the demise of the original – Ramsay’s – a mainstay of the area, owned firstly by the eponymous John Ramsay, a well-regarded publican who blended his own whisky in the cellars.

Traditionalists might think that was that for Dennistoun, but they could delve a little more and find one more example of an unfashionable bar. Down a side street – Garfield Street – is the Garvale Inn, an obscure place that even the most comprehensive of bar guides seem to have forgotten.

We’ve all heard of the apocryphal “one man and his dog” in the context of pubs. This place is so tiny that such a couple would take up around 20% of the available space.
Not that that is an issue for me, most of the best bars are on the small side, but the Garvale’s modest dimensions are accompanied by an air of limited resources, too.

There is room for a TV and a dart board, but these feel like an extravagance in here. Even more sorry is the small, ill-composed photo montage of “good times” like one sees in many holiday bars, along with the paper currency of innumerable countries pinned to the ceiling.

No notes are on display here, however, again it would feel like an affront to the parlous state of the place and its punters. Approaching the counter, I couldn’t see any pumps – “Perhaps this place can’t even afford draught beer,” I thought. But they were there, a guy sitting at the bar had obscured my view. As it happened, the Best was off, no matter, I took a cheap lager instead.

This joint appears like a community initiative, a venture to give locals a place to go to during long afternoons – with no thought to profit and loss. Who knows how much the Garvale makes or loses, but pubs like this used to do OK, and there were hundreds like it all across the city.

But the bar business isn’t like it used to be, as I will show when I look at the newcomers to Duke Street in my next blog.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Free Strathbungo

The Rum Shack, 657-659 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow G41 2AB
The Allison Arms, 720 Pollokshaws Road, G41 2AD
Heraghty's Bar, 708 Pollokshaws Road, G41 2AD
Kelly's Bar, 686-688 Pollokshaws Road, G41 2QB
The Salisbury Bar, 72 Nithsdale Road, G41 2AN

I neglect the Southside. Just like some people neglect an unassuming cousin or an earnest columnist. Every so often – of course – a new bar opens and my interest is piqued – for an hour or two. Sometimes longer, if there is a concerted development in an area.

The last time this occurred was over a decade ago around Shawlands Cross, the Southside’s only real nightlife hub. Since then, things have quietened in that particular zone, partly due to the recession.

The most recent scene of activity is further up Pollokshaws Road, at Strathbungo. The Bungo, for instance, on Nithsdale Road is at the forefront of a number of bars, restaurants and innumerable coffee shops opening here in the last three to four years.

Being part of a mini-empire including The Left Bank (Gibson Street) and The Two Figs (lower Byres Road), it has a relatively high profile, a large flexible interior and a downstairs space that has been utilised for a variety of arts events. Add to that the fact that I ate one of the best curries of my life (Goan fish) in The Left Bank and I should like The Bungo.

But it lacks the edge you feel in the best bars, it’s a little too respectable. And it does feel like a West End import. Also, I had an unpleasant confrontation with one of the co-owners when she was a humble barperson at Oran Mor. She took great exception to me exploring the about-to-open brasserie/wine bar. Thus, I am reluctant to ever add another penny to her fortune by imbibing in any of her establishments.

Over Nithsdale Road is The Salisbury. Previously a coffee shop called Cookie, this re-invention is notable for its large selection of gins. Despite the offsetting of the more traditional Titwood and Samuel Dow bars in the same street, some locals regard the area as being under attack by gentrification – more on this later.

If you return to Pollokshaws Road, you look right and see Mulberry, a place that still regards itself as “the Southside’s coolest bar/bistro.” It isn’t. And I’m afraid, even a decade a go, it wasn’t. All-round media man Dominik Diamond was a frequenter in those days – that tells one all one needs.

To your left, are a number of more “authentic” locals, including Kelly’s. It also has a Diamond connection. He claimed in his autobiography that he experienced his nadir when he found himself consuming vast amounts cocaine in Kelly’s toilets, either before or after a Celtic game. Not quite the same as an epiphany in Groucho’s but he has since “found himself” again, this time as a decent God-fearing fellow, I believe.
So bully for him.

The nearest bar to Kelly’s is Heraghty’s. I believe it shares its neighbour’s footballing allegiance but surpasses it in terms of interior. It is well-preserved and has an interesting nook by the door.

A nice wee place, but the most rewarding joint on this side of the street is the Allison Arms. The stone-clad frontage reminds me of the Doublet and the now-defunct Mackintoshes. The use of brick is continued indoors with varied effect, looking scrappy in places. In fact, at first look the whole interior is slightly ramshackle, and it looks like a very basic knock-through extension has taken place sometime in the last 30 years or so, without much effort to smooth the marriage, so to speak.

However, there are a couple of details that made me warm to the place. The wooden gantry is beautifully bowed with age. OK, so there are lots more impressive-looking gantries in this city, but not many that speak of their longevity and of witnessing years of good times quite so vividly.

And there is an original spittoon! It makes my day seeing one of these. There are only a handful left in Glasgow, their presence very welcome despite their present-day redundancy. Spitting in a bar?! It’s almost as heinous as getting drunk.

But if you do want to at least approach that state, you can take your pick from a healthy variety of unusual bottled beers from around the globe – three fridges-full of them. This kind of offering is the best price-efficient way of bars offering a wide range without the cost of putting on draught – showing that the craft-beer revolution has spread its influence very far.

In this kind of bar you can thus have the best of both worlds – a good choice of tasty beers in an environment free of bearded nerds blethering on about cask-conditioning. Did I mention Brewdog?

If I did it is as a contrast to the free house over the road from the Allison Arms – The Rum Shack. This is very much a one-off, especially round here. The name gives it away – a Caribbean experience. And before you groan about yet another themed joint, this place isn’t just another chain tiki bar, it is run by people with a genuine feel for that part of the world and its culture.

In this site used to be Strathie’s and, more famously, The Kind Man’s, and housed a snooker hall downstairs. That same space now holds regular music nights; reggae, soul, blues and ragtime the constituent parts of a body of sounds that rivals that of many dedicated musical venues.

Five minutes into The Rum Shack and I notice the presence of Ford Kiernan. Ho-hum. Five minutes after that, and in comes Bruce Morton, a comedian I’ve always found more interesting than the former chap. They began talking. I tried to eavesdrop. Not ethical but good if you want an edge to your piece with some insider information.

But I couldn’t get close enough, so used my imagination instead. It came up with a new sitcom. Or an agitprop radio series of which you used to hear pretty regularly on public broadcasting. Or just a coming night at The Stand.

I left with my questions unanswered, but with a free magazine in my hand – Art Village Voice – Arts and Culture in the Southside. Later, I read a piece within by Mr. Morton. The article was part of his ongoing satire – the Greater Shawlands Republic, in which he campaigns for Southside autonomy from the market-driven claws of GCC and its encouragement of gentrification.

A funny wee read, from a man passionate about this area – not bad for a guy from Paisley. And his aim is to create what could be described as a funky republic, of which The Rum Shack could be a mini version.

The magazine also features a number of local artists, the most interesting of which, if I can tender my second artistic opinion of this piece, is Brian W McFie – look out for his work.

On the back of the magazine, restaurateur Domenico Crolla showcases his pizzas which feature likenesses of celebs such as Gino D’Acampo, Tom Ford and Jay Z. He describes these things as works of art. I’m sorry, Mr Crolla, volunteering my third artistic judgement - this blog is closer to that definition than your pieces of dough, tomato and cheese.