Veganuary

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again when diet fads pop up literally everywhere.  Many of us over-indulge during the Christmas and New Year break, and so hopefully resolve on January 1 to atone for it all by swearing to eat healthily, perhaps even a total body detox, to help shed the extra weight put on.

 

Now I grew up in an era where ‘body detox’ usually meant taking a double dose of Alka-Seltzer the morning you return to work after the festivities – but now there are many fancy fads to help kick-start your body back to reality.  ‘Dry January’ is a popular option, not imbibing on the hard stuff for the month.  Another new charity trend is ‘Veganuary‘, as people are urged to do try being vegan during the month of January, helpfully supported by lots of supermarket promotions and media articles on vegans and vegan recipes. 

 

And in view of today’s photo, I thought it might help if I passed on this useful, failsafe piece of etiquette for you all.  How can you tell if someone is a vegan? Don’t worry about it, they’ll soon tell you.

 

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Situated in the heart of Glasgow’s shopping metropolis on Buchanan Street, the Argyll Arcade was built in 1828 by the architect John Baird Snr. for John Reid Robertson. By the 1840s there were sixty-three shops ranged along the glass-roofed L-shaped thoroughfare, selling a wide variety of luxury goods.

 

Today the arcade is predominantly occupied by high-end jewellers’ shops, offering the largest and finest selection of diamond rings, diamond jewellery, wedding rings and luxury watches in the one single location in Scotland; and the largest diamond repository outside of London’s recently ill-fated Hatton Gardens.

 

But for those of a certain age, before the jewellery takeover, this was the location where generations of small boys would immediately run towards – and especially at Christmas time! – to press their well-snotted noses’ up to one certain window, in the shop at the corner of the “L”, underneath the glass roof supported with ornate hammer-beam roof trusses.

 

It could only be the fabled ‘Boys’ Own’ Glasgow toy and model shop, Clyde Model Dockyard! Initially established in 1789 as a producer of models for the Admiralty, then shipping models, parts and accessories, it went on to be located at 22-23 Argyll Arcade from the mid-1950s through to the late 1970s, and dealt with a veritable Aladdin’s cave full of model railway products, steam engines, model aeroplanes, racing yachts, steamboats, motors and Meccano.

 

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According to recent figures released, UK retails sales are falling off a cliff, and Scotland is losing shops from its high streets faster than anywhere else in Britain.  Vacant and boarded up shopfronts have now become a permanent fixture in town centres, all a casualty of rough economic times – and don’t expect it to get any better with Brexit playing out now like some piece of surreal performance art that you’d normally expect to see during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!

 

Whether or not you support Brexit, it is hard to deny that Theresa May and the Tories are going about it in the most catastrophically incompetent way possible. It’s not a question of hard Brexit or soft Brexit – it’s that we’re getting stupid Brexit. We’re getting the most disastrous, stupid, incompetent version of Brexit led by clueless stupid people, making stupid clueless mistakes – and all because of a schism in the Tory party.

 

Effectively we are looking at a ten-year recession. Nothing ever experienced by those under 50 (been there, seen it, got the “Maggie! Maggie! Maggie Out! Out! Out!” tee-shirt).  Across the board we will see prices rising, more high street shops closing, and we are going to lose a lot of manufacturing. And the irony is that without cheap seasonal foreign workers, domestic agriculture won’t be able to compete. And just don’t get me started on the impact on the NHS.

 

So anyone who considers themselves “Just about managing” right now will wistfully look upon this time as carefree prosperity. Believe me, there are going to be a lot of very pissed off people very soon.  Just remember pitchforks folks, only pitchforks. Nothing will change until the pitchforks come out.

 

Well, that’s that rant out of the system!

 

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Here’s a blast from the past, a controversial Glasgow bronze statue, ‘The Spirit Of Kentigern’, which perched for more than two decades outside the House of Fraser store in Buchanan Street, baffling shoppers and dividing critics into those who loathed it and those who simply tried to forget it.

 

Arguably it was the most reviled piece of public sculpture in Scotland, even although the abstract statue of the bird depicted the story of Glasgow founder St Mungo – also known as St Kentigern – who is said to have brought back to life a wild robin. It was the first modern art installation in the city, and all the more controversial because it didn’t represent imperialism, and nor did it have Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns or John Knox atop it.  

 

More often than not, it was referred to by Glaswegians as “The Blob”, and usually mistaken for a ship’s propeller, a whale, or something glimpsed on a bad acid trip. It was part of city life from 1977 till 2001 and then put in storage because it didn’t fit in with Buchanan Street’s snazzy new streetscaping. But now Glasgow City Council has brought it back to life by loaning the Spirit of Kentigern to the City of Glasgow College, and its new resting place can be found close to the Allan Glen’s entrance of the City campus, just off Cathedral Street. 

 

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The window display of the Cats Protection Shawlands Charity Shop was cleverly done, but it had a very important message nevertheless behind it for this time of the year, as it proclaimed – much like the renowned and often imitated slogan about a dog and Christmas – that “A black cat is not just for Hallowe’en – it’s for life!”

 

And no matter whether it be Easter, Christmas or Hallowe’en, this little charity/thrift shop on Pollokshaws Road always gets into the “spirit” of things with seasonal displays that tempts you in – and once lured in, it was another spirt of sorts that grabbed my attention.  Well, perhaps not so much spirit, more like a spectre.

 

Mexico’s Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a national holiday that was normally held 1-2 November and would largely consist of sedate family gatherings at the graves of their departed loved ones in celebration of life and death.  But that all changed spectacularly with the opening scene to the 2015 James Bond movie Spectre, where 007 literally brings the house down as he chases a villain through crowds of Mexico City revelers in what resembled a parade of people in skeleton outfits and floats.

 

Despite the utterly ridiculous helicopter fight, perhaps even the most unbelievable part of the entire scene was a Day of the Dead parade even happening in the first place at all, because it was all artistic license on the part of the filmmakers, as no such procession had ever taken place in Mexico – that is, not until a year after the movie came out in 2016!

 

Inspired by the global popularity of the movie’s opening scene, and in a clear case of Hollywood influencing real-life events – or perhaps more likely, a cynical money-making tourist attraction opportunity – government officials have now moved the Day of the Dead more towards our tradition Hallowe’en date, with similar Spectre-styled parades and revelry throughout the country, the largest and most influential held on Saturday, in Mexico City itself.

 

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For the cheapest cup of tea in the city, just head a little further down Victoria Road from the previous photo to the Bungalow Cafe. It’s a great little greasy spoon spot if you’re looking for a simple breakfast; and at last check, a good cup of tea in a real cup can be had for only 40p – and as the tea-foisting housekeeper Mrs. Doyle from Father Ted would say, “Go on, go on, go on…”

 

It’s been owned by Italian immigrant George Verrecchia since 1948, and now run by his daughters Nicola and Paula – both of whom have more than just a little bit of the Mrs. Doyle persona about them. In a street of flux, the Bungalow Cafe has remained a constant – largely unchanged since the 1940s, with an original Cadbury’s advert in the window apologizing for the rationing of milk, cocoa and sugar…which just might come in useful again when Brexit reality begins to kick in!

 

Inside, as you pass the wooden shelves behind the glass counter where there’s a wonderful array of old-fashioned sweeties displayed in glass jars, there’s a large Coca-Cola Bakelite radio in livery red with nobs to find a station, and also old-fashioned wooden booths with yellow Formica tables, all giving a surreal sense that perhaps time really did stand still here.

 

Just remember to bring cash, as – surprise surprise – they don’t take cards!

 

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Ah, hipsters…don’t you just love ’em?  Apart from drinking out of jam jars (honestly, what’s wrong with just using a plain glass?), riding around on absurd bikes, and overly ostentatiously having a love for vinyl, they’re seriously hirsute and seem to take their grooming cues from the latest series of Vikings, and like to show off their very visible animal tattoos. 

 

They are the ones who globally embrace Movember, supposedly “for charity”, but really because they just love any excuse to manscape. Yes, they are the ones with waxed beards, ‘taches and sideburns, tattooed from head to toe, and invariably accompanied with various body-piercings (private or otherwise).  And with it, they like to scream “I am a hipster.  Hear me roar.” 

 

They also like wearing statements on their (almost always) goth-like black apparel, whether that be t-shirts or hoodies, the latest craze being “Metal & Ink / Beard & Kink”, as spotted here on Glasgow’s Viccy Road.

 

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This is practically on my doorstep on Victoria Road (more affectionately known to all as the “Viccy Road”), the main artery of Govanhill – easily the most racially and culturally diverse communities in Scotland, a district on the south side of Glasgow, home to some 15,000 souls, with people from an estimated 42 different nationalities all living and managing to coexist with each other within one square mile.

 

Here, you’ll find two mosques, one synagogue, and about half a dozen churches.  Its boundaries are narrow yet its horizons are broad, with community action having a long tradition in the area. On May Day, 1960, thousands marched along the Viccy Road to Queen’s Park demanding better housing, led by Paul Robeson, the radical American civil rights activist, who sang Ole Man River for them.

 

And this year proved a special one for the community, as the same venue hosted recently the inaugural Govanhill International Carnival, a new addition to the UK-wide summer festival circuit – and to help its launch, it also included a music festival that ran alongside the main carnival, and the political speeches coming from Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

 

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I love the uplifting community attitude of the Milk Café on my doorstep on the very diverse Victoria Road in Glasgow’s Southside – it’s a shabby chic social enterprise with all of the profits going to supporting Asylum seeking women and aiding the local community. There’s a great food choice, and everything is served in gloriously miss-matching old-style crockery with no uniformity whatsoever. The chalkboard menu changes daily, often including unusual ethnic dishes prepared by volunteers from the local migrant community.

 

They also have a policy of donating to the local community – many of whom in these austere times, have to rely on foodbanks – the surplus free bread that’s been donated to them. And this will come as spiffing good news to the austerity pantomime villain that is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative backbencher with designs on becoming Tory leader, who today showed  that one of the benefits of an Eton education is that you don’t develop a moral compass, or the ability to read reports from charities that are actively involved in organising foodbanks.

 

The honourable member for the 18th century – who wouldn’t be out of place in a Charles Dickens storyline – caused a bit of a stushie by claiming today that the very existence of such foodbanks was “uplifting” because it showed how charitable people are and that the state doesn’t need to provide for those in need. Not only that but also the real reason there’s been such a prolific rise in their numbers of late, is that previous Labour governments deliberately didn’t tell the public all about them!

 

Honestly, words just fail me when it comes to politicians of the ilk of Jacob Rees-Mogg.

 

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As sartorial elegance goes, it isn’t a sight you see every day, but as is my wont of aimlessly ambling around Glasgow in my sensible Doc Martens, I recently found someone wearing a pair of uncomfortable looking, über pointy-toed winkle-pickers, a decadent, downright underground style of shoe so associated with rock ’n’ roll but, in fact, comes from deep Medieval regal origins.

 

It was once called a crakow or poulaine, and indeed hailing from 15th-century Poland. Worn by the upper class, the shoes had stiff exaggerated beaks, and when rendered in silver or another metal (just as in the photo), they were frequently used as a weapon, sort of like the memorable Bond villain in From Russia with Love, Colonel Rosa Klebb, whom 007 quipped at the end, “had her kicks.” 

 

But the dagger-toe shoe became more popular by their British term, winkle-pickers, famously worn by Teddy Boys through the Fifties and Sixties – and just like loveable Rosa, they used them also as lethal weapons in many a seaside Bank Holiday fracas between the tribal warring factions of the Rockers and the Mods of the era – and the seaside was where they picked up their nickname from. 

 

The main characteristic of the shoe as a winkle-picker is the very sharp and long pointed toe. Imagine you are in one of the many British seaside towns in the late 1950s and having a traditional snack there of periwinkles and you are picking the winkle out of its coiled shell with a long sharp pin…and you soon get the point of how they became known as winkle-pickers.

 

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