Scotland’s West Coast has to be one of the most dramatic coastlines anywhere in the world. Although appearing jagged and erratic on a map, the islands are tranquil and spectacular on the ground. This glassy calm is countered by life in nearby Glasgow. Relatively fast paced and famous for it’s contribution to music, art and literature.
The islands have their own stories – not least that KLF burned a million pounds on Jura – but we’re going to present a very alternative guide to life on the West Coast. Ok, so we’ve neglected some of the more popular sights, but until you’ve tasted Joe Baldi’s famous carbonara you really haven’t experienced the best Scotland has to offer.
A couple of years ago, I tried to cycle to Stornoway, which is on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides (incidentally, I used to think the Outer Hebrides was like the Twilight Zone. I couldn’t have envisaged how a place, which sounded so frightening, could be so close). Anyway, following a series of missed ferries I ended up having to cycle West rather than North. I was devastated, however my disappointment was replaced by amazement at how wonderful the West Coast really was.
From the Kempock jukebox to Alasdair Gray, please enjoy our guide to the West Coast.
We haven’t even mentioned Catman.
People in the West of Scotland are funnier than the North, East or South. Fact! Maybe it’s something to do with our ability to rip the pish out of ourselves and Glasgow comedian Limmy does this better than any of his contemporaries. Limmy has had quite a big impact on us and dare I say cultural life in the West of Scotland. I honestly don’t think I have ever met someone my age who can’t word for word act out the “Gies yer jaiket” sketch or the one when he receives a birthday card from Blue. His website is one of the only sites that’s not blocked at my work and his blog offers a bit of relief and escapism into the world just outside my office walls. If you’re not able to visit Glasgow, or outright refuse to, then his “World of Glasgow” podcasts offer a pretty accurate and dark insight into Glaswegian characters. Best save the “You – are – a – fucking – cunt” xylophone to a time you’re in the house, it becomes extremely hypnotic. Limmy is fucking hilarious! Fact!
James Kelman is a Scottish writer or novels, plays and political essays. He controversially won the Booker Prize in 1994 for his novel ‘How Late It Was, How Late’, when one of the judges stormed off the panel decrying “frankly, it’s crap”. She was wrong.
The book follows Sammy, a shoplifter, who following a drinking binge, wakes to find himself beaten and blind following a run in with the police. He is unable to perform the simplest of tasks, and although Sammy’s lack of self-confidence is tragic, the book is incredibly funny at times.
James Kelman describes a Glasgow which is short of confidence, and having an inferiority complex. He believes that the use of swear words can be how people inject meaning, and that what some people consider bad English, is perfectly acceptable.
“These bastards think they own the language. They already own the courts. They own everything. They want to block your stories, and they will, if you let them”
I just finished eating a peanut butter sandwich. I was thinking about what I was going to write about for a guide to Glasgow. I thought of all the places that people like to go and all the stuff the tourists come to see. Most cities have these things. Then I couldn’t help think of some of the other things that makes Glasgow cool rather than plagiarising some “tourist” guide. One of these things, is the people that come out of the cities. One of these is Alasdair Gray. He’s a painter, poet, playwright, novelist, and socialist. He’s living there today, and he wrote a book called Lanark. It’s his biggest work of fiction and incorporates, auto-biography, science fiction, fantasy,art and politics. Most of the band are fans of his. I started with a blank document 4 years ago called “What I Would Say to Alasdair Gray”. It’s still blank. I probably can’t sum him up in the little number of words here, or decide what I would say to him. So here’s picture of him:
Greenock’s most celebrated musician is Magazine, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Visage and Public Image Ltd guitarist John McGeoch.
One of the most original and distinctive guitarists of his generation, his style was famously mimicked by Johnny Greenwood on ‘There There’ after Nigel Godrich challenged him to play like McGeoch. McGeoch attended Greenock High School, which was the same school as Ryan.
THE KEMPOCK JUKEBOX
One of the most celebrated pubs in Gourock, also hosts the towns entire music collection. Every long player in the seaside town is brought down to the Kempock bar, and placed in the jukey. Members of the local population must then visit the pub and pop in a ten bob bit in order to listen to their own tunes.
It is typical on a Saturday afternoon for us to head down to the East End Bakery for a bacon and tattie scone sandwich, and head into the Kempock for a half pint, a wee whisky and a bit of Queen.
In fact, recently Paul endured an hour of Runrig before his selected tunes came on. Peak Jukebox times should be avoided if possible.
GRANNY KEMPOCK STONE
“Ok, so it may not be in Glasgow but its not too far away. It also may not be my favourite place but it does have some significance to me in that its about 30 feet from my flat. There are a couple of theories as to the history of the Granny Kempock stone. The first one is that it was initially an alter used in witchcraft in the 17th Century and they cursed the ship’s coming up the Clyde. Regardless of date, culture or social surroundings, the very concept of witches surviving in Greenock for more than a minute leaves me questioning this theory immediately. The second theory is that it was used in pagan good-will rituals and that rotating several times around it would bring good luck for sailors about to depart on long voyages. To be honest, I initially thought it was used as a landmark on the coast to ensure ships could get there bearings in poor weather. Whatever it was initially used for it serves a completely different purpose now. Like most things quaint in Greenock, whatever its historical significance it is now reduced to a drinking den for the areas young hopefuls… I might join then next time I see them there!”
JOE BALDI’S CARBONARA
Adlib is the only musical instrument shop I’ve ever known to exist in Greenock. I think Greenockians used to make their own instruments out of sugar and rope before it existed. It’s owned by a Greenock legend Joe Baldi who was the drummer for the band Them, and ultimately cooler than Van Morrison has ever been. I reckon you could say without Adlib there would be no My Latest Novel. There’s a running joke in the band about a recipe for Carbonara the Baldi family passed to the McGeachy family. For about 3 years they have all been trying to get their hands on it and I have resisted until today. I shall now share it with one and all unedited in all it’s wonderful glory. Who’s saying grace?
Joe Baldi’s Carbonara
3 sets of guitar strings
4 Rashers Bacon or Pancetta
Pinch of paprika
1 egg yolk
2 oz of grated parmesan
1 oz softened butter
Tagliatelle or fettucini
1) Remove rind from bacon, cut into strips, cook gently in frying pan til crisp. Drain off bacon fat leaving about 2TBSp. Add cream and paprika, stir to combine.
2) Beat egg and egg yolk and ½ parmesan until combined. Cook pasta – drain – return to pan, add butter and toss to combine.
3) Add bacon/cream mixture and mix in.
4) Add egg mixture and mix in.
5) Serve sprinkled with remaining (or extra) parmesan and garnish.
ps. I don’t always stick to the exact quantities eg. Bacon, cheese, butter – I just do what feels right.
WINE, FIRES & BEACHES
Generally being rooked encourages most to find a means of having fun in a relatively cheap way, i.e. £2.53 bottle of spanish table wine coupled with setting things on fire down the beach. This is what I like to do sometimes.
SPORTS & HOBBIES
When visiting Inverclyde, it is custom to attend Cappielow to watch the famous Hoops. I include one of the popular ditties sung on the terraces so you won’t feel out of place.
‘We Follow Morton’
“We follow Morton from Cappielow, they are the pride of Greenock town
They play like thoroughbreds, that’s why they never let us down
When things get tough and the chips are down it’s then they’re really at their best.
Because it’s all for one and one for all and the fighting spirit does the rest
From Greenock, Gourock and the Port and miles and miles around
A happy band of honest folk make for a certain ground
With tammies, scarves and banners too, all our faces glow
We sing as we go for we want the world to know”
Typically, Morton will respond to this chanting of the support with the scoring of a wonderful goal.
6 FACTS ABOUT GREENOCK
1. Celebrated pirate Captain Kidd was born in Greenock. Captain Kidd was worked into literary mythology by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving.
2. Another famous son of Greenock was James Watt, who’s improvements to the steam engine helped herald in the industrial revolution worldwide.
3. Rod Stewart’s right foot once touched soil in Greenock. Thus Securing his Scottish adoption.
4. If you’re born on a bus in Greenock, you can ride for free till the day you die.
5. In the 1940′s a “Sea Monster” was washed upon the shores of Cardwell Bay. Eye witnesses reported the beast to be 28 feet in length with a neck as long as its body. Orders were given by the Royal Navy to destroy the creature.
6. Jay Leno and Julianne Moore both have mums who were from Greenock.
My Latest Novel headline Bush Hall tonight (7th September) with support from Chimes and Bells and The Kissaway Trail. Unmissable stuff, grab tickets here.