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What's on in Glasgow this week...

Football, policing, the difference from Edinburgh, and more drink...

semi-overcast 19 °C

So, moved on again across towards Glasgow now. The weather is still being pretty kind, though it did rain well yesterday. Like the eskimos, the Scots have about a hundred different names for rain, like 'dreich', which loosely translates as 'it is raining so heavily that if you don't have a hat it will make your head bleed, but at least it is coming straight down.'

The other day it was to the south of the country (which I think is actually where England is). There I found this wall, built by some Italian bloke named Adrian, who was having trouble with his neighbours a while back. They were a bunch of blue people with red hair (which is where we get the custom back home of calling people with red hair 'Bluey') who painted pictures or something. All they wanted to do was fight so Adrian put this wall up. Then he ran off. And if all that sounds true, then go read a book other than one where the main character is a dog called Ben with a big red ball.

I also went to a typical 18th century castle: this is generally how they come about. This particular one, called Culzean Castle, was built by the Kennedy clan, who were the local lairds (i.e. lords). Basically, they ruled the roost along the coast, and everyone who lived there paid taxes to the Kennedys for the privilege. When it was permitted by those in charge, the Kennedys took over all the local land, including the church which had its own profitable lands. The problem came when the abbot objected and pointed out how out of order this was. So, to make it legal, the laird had the abbot turned on a spit in front of his fire until he signed the lands over. A bit later, the government intervened and said that the contract was void, due to coercive methods used. So the laird went and asked the abbot to sign a new one, which again resulted in the abbot being turned on a spit when he refused again. At the same time, the laird was controlling the smuggling and piracy rampant along the coast and in the port facility (which he owned) near the castle. This control consisted of allowing the smugglers to use caves under the castle to hide the loot (for a 20% cut), while officially the laird knew nothing. This was not unusual, and it turns out other lairds were all doing this type of thing, some better than others. The Stewart clan did so well they ran the country for around 400 years. A bit of irony came later, as many of the clans found themselves broke when inheritance taxes were brought in, so now most of the castles are owned by the government, sometimes with a clause that allows the family to still use the place. As an aside, Culzean was notable as the place where Eisenhower planned the D-day invasion, and he had exclusive use of the place into the 1950s.

Also visited Bannockburn, which is where Robert the Bruce with 6000 men beat the crap out of King Edward I's 16,000 men. Opinions vary on Bruce, with many who hail him as a hero, and others who don't think much of him (one guy told me 'he changed allegiances more times than he changed his underwear'). So, not as popular as you might think. And neither are William Wallace or Rob Roy either, sort of like the image Ned Kelly has. Rob Roy was a cattle thief who was clever at covering his arse, while William Wallace (who looked nothing like Mel Gibson apparently) was not the working class hero he is made out to be.

And this is where Scotland is divided on independence at the moment. They have already moved down this road a way, with a National police force that is under pressure at the moment. Now a combined force, they have cut back numbers (that resources word again). So it wasn't long before two big events happened: in June, there was a single car rollover off the freeway (think the Western or the Hume just past the suburbs), where it took 3 days for police to respond, with one occupant found dead and the other later dying in hospital. Apparently the D24 call was made, but not passed on. The fallout for that has been compounded by a missing person last week, who was found dead after 9 days missing, despite a sighting call made the day after the report, which also wasn't passed on. Still think we have troubles at home...?

While in Glasgow, the opportunity came up for attendance at Celtic Park for a football (i.e. soccer) match involving the local team, Celtic. The team has roots in the Catholic populace of Scotland, and now has a primarily Catholic following around the world, especially from Irish, Italian and Polish supporters. Their arch-nemesis is a team known as Rangers who are Protestant, and have a strong English support base. So these two teams (and their supporters) act like they are at war every time they play. Opposition fans are separated at the ground by security fences and police lines, and at 10 minutes before the end an announcement is made that all visiting fans have to wait for half an hour while home fans leave, and are then escorted to their buses, then further escorted by police convoy to the freeway.

On the way to the ground at 1030 for a 1545 kick off, we passed through Celtic territory, a district that has definitely seen better days. Glasgow is the poor cousin of Edinburgh: while Edinburgh represents the diligent scholar who has studied hard, made a name for himself and has all the trappings and charm of a successful life to show for it, Glasgow is the labourer who has worked hard all his life, without regard to outward appearance, though still feels modestly proud of a job well done, and insists on now getting pissed every day. So on the way to Celtic Park, the distinction was obvious, and it is probably why Celtic enjoy such support from fans of this background. We stopped along the route at Bar 67, a well known and half full (at 1100) Celtic-themed pub, complete with walls adorned with football memorabilia. As we started our first pint, the place quickly filled up. Before long we were drinking and talking with several members of the Italian Celtic supporters club who had flown over for the game. By the time they left (several pints later) we were long lost brothers. By now I was on the way to well smashed. We finally staggered towards the ground, with two serves of chips and gravy on the way.

Fortunately for me, Rangers were elsewhere this day,but the security measures still took place. The word to describe the atmosphere is 'tribal'. Sports fans in Australia have nothing on the fanaticism of these guys. And while there was no trouble at all between fans, this was only because there was no opportunity due to the police line. For the most part it was restricted to chants and taunts by supporters of both sides. We went back to the area the following day, and it still looked run down, only more so now in the absence of any crowds of the previous day. A street market district had appeared, similar to Victoria market in Melbourne, but in line with the poorer quality of the district. Stalls were run down, vendors shabby and furtive, and the items for sale ranging from suspect (like imitation brand name clothing and DVDs) to stuff that had only one previous owner, who wouldn't be back till Thursday, when his stuff would be missed.

I have moved on now to the north of Scotland, the true Highlands, past Inverness. The weather is still fine till mid week, and I am hoping to head to Skye while the weather is so good.

Posted by VP28802 00:46 Archived in Scotland

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