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Friday, 27 May 2011

Double Bank Holiday - Part 2 - Oran Mor to Oran Mor via the Southside

That was the first night of eight. And already it seems like a real while ago. And it is. Things move on but those weekends are still worth reflecting on because they show where the city is at in nightlife terms.

Saturday the 23rd and we surveyed the West End. Sedate was the word. Middling to low numbers and plenty of space in most joints. Add to that, my cigars that had dried out after too long in my drawers and even Ashton Lane’s outdoor benefits were looking unappealing with an early ending in store.

Up and down Byres Road, owners reporting the state of business. Thursday night was ok, Friday busier than usual, tonight quiet but good takings expected for Sunday. People picking and choosing their nights. We finished at the top end, Oran Mor wine bar sucking in what was left of the night.

Kelvingrove stramash

The next Friday was the extra holiday, even for republicans. There might have been some of those sorts in Kelvingrove Park that afternoon, celebrating in the impromptu, unofficial, Glaswegian way. Hordes of them toasting posh Kate and even posher Wills. The weather was ok too, so the flanks of the mound in the park were covered with people, whisper it, drinking.

What happened next has been the subject of some argument. Our boys in blue claimed that people were “behaving in an unacceptable fashion,” while revellers countered that the polis were heavy-handed. What is undeniable is that the city’s draconian anti public drinking laws made confrontation inevitable. The place was cleared anyway, and later, after sequestering a vehicle, we observed hundreds of folk straggling through the city from Kelvingrove to as far as away Broomhill. Most looked finished for the day, and seemed to be declining the chance to pop into any of the pubs on their way home.

Going south

Our car journey continued straight through town and across the river. I wanted to stop at the Star Bar, situated at the gushet of Eglinton Street and Victoria Road. Its long heritage, proximity to the old Plaza ballroom and legendarily cheap 3 course lunches make it a steady draw round this quiet stretch. But the vehicle was moving too fast for my request to be observed.

Across the road is The Maxwell Road pub, address self-explanatory. Has been Logues, and for far longer period the Maxwell Arms. I remember watching one of Scotland’s Euro qualifiers in 2007 in the place when it was Logues. Nice wee atmosphere for the game, spoiled a little by a regular who was trying desperately for eye contact with anybody as a precursor to some fisticuffs, I’m sure. Thankfully, the attentive bar staff eventually persuaded him to desist. Now, it often shuts during the day, another bar rationing its hours.

Passed a few other possibilities for our first stop, especially the wee group around the junction with Allison Street, the Allison Arms, Heraghty’s, Kelly’s (previously the well-named Elcho Bar – he was a general in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army I believe) and Mulberry Street all possibilities.

But The Muse wanted some fresh air and as I had some new cigars, I agreed. The only place nearby for alfresco is The Waverley Tea Rooms. The narrow interior was warm, unlike the terrace, even out of the April wind. So cold we didn’t stay long amidst the south side’s young professional classes.

Instead we continued south along Kilmarnock Road, before turning off at Coustonholm Road. On its left The Quaich sat in the dark near a stairway access to Pollokshaws East railway station, the line overshadowing the modest hostelry.
We pulled in a little further along, where the road becomes Greenview Street, opposite the small Old Stag Inn.

Customers outside were having a good time when we pulled-up, more royalists obviously, and they weren’t deterred by our arrival. The pub’s semi-isolated position reminded me of The Pinkston between Possil and Springburn, and this too is small inside. Cosy, even, and with good prices, but the atmosphere promised outside didn’t quite appear, perhaps the locals were keeping their secrets for a good night to themselves.

Thornliebank and back

Our route onward was southeast, rejoining Pollokshaws Road then onto Thornliebank Road, passing the Rowallan Bar, somewhere in the news recently for trouble during an Old Firm game, and The Arden. On into Thornliebank, no more drinking holes visible, before taking the Rouken Glen road along the southern periphery of the city proper.

From there into Clarkston we passed no bars, only a sports club with plenty of cars parked outside. Heading back into town, The Bank on the Clarkston Road was busy, but we stopped in at The Beechings, a little further along, under the railway bridge. A castellated building whose appearance and location inspire romantic notions of secret assignations and passionate encounters as the trains shudder overhead.

Inside, however, despite its welcoming nature with friendly enough staff and punters, the uninspired refurb of a couple of years back has robbed the place of identity, sense of place and any sort of traceable heritage. You drink its beer, sit at its unremarkable tables and move on with less of a bump than a train over a point in the line.

Is that Alea there is?

The Beechings was our last for that night, but the next evening we were south of the river again, revisiting the Alea Casino, Springfield Quay, for the first time in over a year, looking to sample its bars and restaurants as well as its tables. On our way up the interior escalator the fire alarm sounded. It took ten minutes for the fire brigade to arrive but by that time we had tired of waiting and were away in a fast black, back over the bridge into the city centre.

The Horseshoe and Vroni’s were only moderately busy, just like the rest of the city all around. We headed back west where on a whim around midnight we joined the queue for the Oran Mor club, itself like the Alea, a place we haven’t visited recently, invariably staying overground in the wine bar.

Bobby Bluebell is still there, as he has been for seven years now. Many of his staple tunes from the middle of last decade still appear too. They still fill the massive dance floor, but even to me, they seem mainstream. Or you could call them inclusive, because as clubs go, Oran Mor is hardly avant garde. After a fallow couple of years, Saturday nights here, at least, are back to being pretty busy.

Not as mobbed as five or six years ago, and it’s ironic that there is plenty of bar space now, as opposed to then, when the side area was a walkway rather than serving area.

The bottleneck by the main stretch of counter still occurs, people waiting to buy. But this is a positive feature, because every joint needs a focal point, the mixing pot where people meet and talk. The rest of this area at the top of the main steps is filled by guys gawping at the ladies on the floor. One reason why this place remains popular.

The extended couple of weekends were over. Ok, not quite. Over a couple of Spanish beers at La Bodega, South Street, on the Sunday afternoon, friends offered me an invite to the music festival Get a Room at the Brunswick Hotel. But the funds were gone, so I had to decline. As it turned out, the licence for that event only lasted until midnight rather than the 3am from previous years. When I heard, however, that the after party was in Chambre 69, Colin Barr’s newish underground club off Nelson Mandela Place, I wished I’d gone.

But it only goes to prove; you can’t be everywhere. Though some of us almost manage it.

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