Stranger Things

 

Halloween is on the horizon,  and with it brings strange things…or perhaps even Stranger Things as the case may be, as I ready myself for a marathon binge-session over the weekend with Netflix set to release season two of their series of the same name, which, admittedly, is a bit of a homage to American pop culture tropes of the 1980s, especially those seen in Speilberg-related films like ET, The Goonies, and Poltergeist – nerdy kids on BMX bikes, sleepy suburban towns and supernatural happenings.

 

Season one left me wondering about the possibilities of there being a British version set in the 1970s when I was growing up and influenced by hair-raising kids TV shows like Ace of Wands, The Tomorrow People, Children of the Stones, the Jon Pertwee Dr Who, and all those really creepy public information films of the era, especially the one seemingly scripted by M.R. James warning about the dangers of playing beside water that scared the bejeezus out of me simply because we lived beside a canal!

 

The Stranger Things soundtrack also reached back to the 80s with throbbing analog synths straight out of Miami Vice or a John Carpenter film. In my imaginary show, the music would be influenced by the eerie themes of those 70s kid’s shows. They still sound scary today, especially if you were an impressionable kid when they were originally broadcast – and whenever I hear them, I still feel the hairs immediately rising on the back of my neck.

 

Yes, the more I think about it, Winona Ryder and her Hawkins crew have it tame by comparison dealing with the Upside Down.

 

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Ross Sinclair’s photo “Real Life” was the beginning of a life-long project after he got the words “Real Life” tattooed on his back in 1994, turning his body into a tool for his art practice. Sinclair had the tattoo done in Terry’s Tattoo Parlour in Glasgow, since then “Real Life” has featured in all of his works.

 

And one of his latest installations, We Love Real Life Glasgow, is a Commission for Centrum Building, Queen St, Glasgow that opened in early May of this year. This is a sculptural neon work (3m x 2m) in the foyer of the city center office building. The architects and owner had seen Sinclair’s large scale 13 part neon work, We Love Real Life Scotland, in the Glasgow School of Art exhibition ‘Devils in the Making’ that exhibited through 2015/16.

 

And when this neon work was then installed for 6 months on the exterior façade of Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the artist was asked to use that neon display on the GOMA as his starting point to develop a new project for the Centrum Building.

 

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For those of a certain age and a different generation, you’ll remember the BBC comedy It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, where, in deepest India, amongst the British Artillery Concert army camp of ‘raving poofters’, there would be a small contingent of local idealistic chai wallahs (or char wallahs, as they were called in the show) who, in the traditional role, would carry around an urn of hot tea to keep everyone refreshed.

 

But there’s something a bit different about this Chaiwallah in Glasgow’s trendy West End. Maybe this is down to the fact that it occupies what used to be public toilets that I talked about in the previous blog. Located on Eldon Street right beside the Gibson Street gate of Kelvingrove Park, you can now enjoy a nice latte and light lunch from the comfort of a glorified loo. 

 

Chaiwallah West End opened its doors (which, by the way, are complete with a ‘ladies’ and ‘gents’ entrance) in early May. Yet prior to this most recent success, this late Edwardian public convenience had been left derelict for nearly 25 years. It was only in 2015 that the Glasgow City Council granted a planning application for the refurbishment of the site, thus proving that a shine can be found even in the dirtiest of situations. 

 

The disused building has been wonderfully restored and refurbished, and the best part is that the new owners, BeanYet Ltd., not only transformed it into a modern functioning community hub but, in doing so, they managed to retain most of the original Edwardian fabric of the building, including its impressive green and white marble tiles universally used in public conveniences of the period. 

 

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What’s in a name, they say – and according to one popular myth, Crossmyloof, located near Pollokshaws Road in the south side of Glasgow, is said to have emanated from just before the Battle of Langside, when Mary, Queen of Scots and her forces pitched their tents there in the nearby small village in 1568 on the eve of the battle. 

 

Just down the road from the Battle of Langside monument, there’s a once iconic watering hole called the ‘Corona Bar’, which has sadly now changed its name and clientele by becoming a fancy new franchise pub rebranded as ‘The Butterfly and the Pig’. The name alone makes me walk past it nowadays without a second thought – but you don’t need to go in, because its exquisite Art Nouveau exterior left over from the Corona era contains all the information you need to know about one mythical meaning for the naming of Crossmyloof.

 

Above both entrances to the bar is carved a small plaster hand with a crucifix superimposed in the palm – and that alone took me years to finally twig as to why Rangers’ supporters would give this pub a deft Davie Cooper-like body swerve when heading up the road to Hampden Park for cup finals.  A ‘loof’ was an old Scots word for the palm of the hand – and the fanciful tale goes that en route to the Battle of Langside, Rome-backed Mary displayed her cross in the palm of her hand and declared that by the cross in her loof she would prevail over her enemies.

 

Not surprisingly, this is one of several possibilities.  Another tales goes that Mary, having been warned that escape was impossible, said: “By the cross in my loof, I will be there tonight in spite of you traitors.”  Another suggests a gypsy woman offered to cross Mary’s palm (loof) with silver before the battle. 

 

But according to those killjoy know-all historians, who are wont to spoil a good tale or possibly three, Crossmyloof predates Mary and has has nothing to do with her. They say the most creditable origin of the name is in fact derived from the Gaelic – Crois MoLiubha – St Malieu’s Cross. Maybe so, but I much prefer the apocryphal Mary tale better.

 

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