IKEA For The Homeless

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They say some of the best engineering projects are the simplest – but best of all, this unlikely one solves a social problem and makes a big difference to the lives of homeless people living on the street at this time of the year, as temperatures plummet and wet weather increases the risk of illness.

 

We’ve all witnessed homeless people using broken-up cardboard boxes (such as in today’s photo) for sleeping rough on – but one of the biggest issues is trying to sleep, as the cold, hard ground cuts right through to the bone and causes joint pain. But psychology graduate and former primary school teacher Elliot Lord put his creative mind to finding a solution; and he came up with an almost IKEA-like approach to the problem.

 

He created cardboard beds for a warmer, more comfortable Christmas on the streets for the less fortunate – and using the same, flat-pack cardboard they would be using to sleep on anyway. Lord has set up a site, called “CardBeds”, dedicated to this novel approach to sleeping rough, including the free template, which he is keen for people to take and use it themselves. “Once you’ve got the template all you have to do is draw around it and cut it out,” says the inventor. “It takes one hour. [The designs are] public domain, are as easy as possible and free.”

 

The video is well-worth watching to see a simple solution to a very serious problem. Thank the Lord, as they would say.

 

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Just to show you that we Scots have a sense of humour…here’s the height of Caledonian sartorial elegance in today’s photo – the See You Jimmy hat. This is perhaps the most potent symbol of national self mockery, almost as if straight out of Mike Myers’ brilliant movie So I Married an Axe Murderer (“Heid! Move!) – and here we are giving them away to anyone buying Scotland’s main national newspaper!

 

Ok, I can perhaps hear those hard of Scottish Stateside now asking: “But who’s Jimmy, and why do I see him?” The phrase “See you?” is a charming traditional Scottish preamble to warm and friendly conversation. “Jimmy”, due to the popularity of the name James in Scotland’s quainter districts, is a sort of John Doe, a wildcard for any random passer-by. And taken as a whole, “See you, Jimmy” is a warm opening to a folksy chat.  

 

The hat with combined ginger wig became a caricature of our nation when we used to beat England at football (and again, for those Stateside, this is soccer) on a regular basis and continually qualified for the World Cup.  And if it wasn’t Wembley being ‘invaded’ by hordes of Scottish fans – commonly known as the ‘Tartan Army’, who invariably would be attired in battle dress of kilt, Scotland top and tartan Tam O’Shanter-styled bunnets with a clump of their ginger hair sticking out of the side of it – then it was countries with decidedly warmer climes such as Argentina, Spain, Mexico and the USA.

 

Recent years we haven’t faired so well in qualifying for the World Cup. But instead, with no team in the finals to support, we have no problems in qualifying in the subtle art of xenophobia: otherwise known as Anyone But England, as witness last year’s World Cup in Brazil, when the TV cameras panned around the jubilant Uruguay fans after they took the lead against the Auld Enemy, and there was this iconic image that went viral of an even more jubilant lone Scot, frantically waving the saltire above his head that had a See You Jimmy hat on it.

 

Yes, there speaks a nation – and it says “See you, Jimmy!”

 

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In 1935, as the Queen Mary was taking shape on the Clyde, the Rogano in Royal Exchange Square paid homage to that great Cunard liner by being refitted in the very same Art Deco style, along with all the associated elegence.  But unlike the Queen Mary, the Rogano is still very much afloat today – and it still retains all of its original decor from the period!

 

With its unique 1930s ambience, Rogano is the oldest surviving restaurant in Glasgow. For eighty years its chefs have dedicated themselves to the delicate art of cooking and serving the finest fish and seafood in the world from Scottish waters – and its just the place to indulge your inner Gatsby with oysters and champagne after a long day’s trek around the Necropolis.

 

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Glasgow’s Necropolis was always intended to be a multi-denominational burial ground, and one of its oddities is that while some of its monuments relate to multiple burials, others are in memory of people who are not buried here at all. The most striking example of the latter category is what became the first and also the tallest monument in the Necropolis, dedicated to the Protestant reformer John “No Popery here” Knox  (c. 1505/14-1572), who scowls down over Glasgow from his summit perch.

 

Originally, it was erected in 1825 and placed on top of Fir Park Hill, 200 feet above the River Clyde. The 12ft high standing stone statue, with Knox all glorified in his Geneva gown garbs, was designed by William Warren and carved by Robert Forrest. But to show Knox’s importance to the Calvinist-leaning City Fathers, he was further mounted on top of a 60ft Greek Doric column designed by Thomas Hamilton.

 

And when the Necropolis was mooted as Glasgow’s first planned cemetery – and to be modelled on the Père Lachaise graveyard in Paris – the opportunistic City Fathers realised this would indeed be an important, grandiose affair; so they immediately transfered Knox there so that their hero would become its centrepiece, around which the rest of the graveyard would be built. Knox’s body, though, is buried in the grounds of St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.

 

To modern eyes the location of his monument seems a little ironic: Knox is facing west, overlooking Glasgow Cathedral, one of the few medieval churches in Scotland not destroyed during the Reformation in which he played such a leading role. His firebrand preaching is credited with a large influence behind Parliament’s passing of an act abolishing Papal jurisdiction and approving the Confession of Faith as a basis for belief in Scotland. The Scottish Reformation decisively shaped the Church of Scotland and, through it, all other Presbyterian churches worldwide.

 

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The city fathers in Glasgow have torn down several large theatres, such as the Alhambra – but the most recent, the wonderful old Odeon on Renfield Street, that closed its doors in 2006 for the last time, was the one that hit home the hardest for me, as it played such a big part in my cinematic life from being a kid, through my teens and into early adulthood.

 

The 2,800-seat cinema was originally opened in 1934 and was then known as The Paramount. It became a landmark in Glasgow because of its art deco lobby and curved facade. The auditorium was originally decorated in green, copper and silver and used to boast more than a dozen dressing rooms. In its time it has been used as a venue for concerts with live music acts in between cinema screenings, hosting big names from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Ella Fitzgerald, Dusty Springfield and Roy Orbison.

 

But in 1969 it closed for a major refit; and in 1970 it re-emerged from its metamorphosis as the Odeon – and this was how I only ever remember it as. This was THE cinema in Glasgow – it had the most wonderful and comfortable plush velour red seats you’ve ever seen; floored lighting throughout; and the biggest screens ever – with the Odeon 1 being the largest in all of Europe.

 

This was where I saw my last Disney feature-length cartoon, The Aristocats. It was where in Glasgow all the Bond movies were screened, and I saw my first Bond movie, the very-underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with one-off 007 George “This never happened to the other fella” Lazenby. It was where I queued outside for a week in a vain attempt to see Star Wars – but “The Force” wasn’t with me, as I couldn’t get in for any of the evening performances, so I had to bunk off of college midweek and just managed to get in for an afternoon screening.

 

In its place now is a new office block costing £60 million that’s home for 1800 workers deployed across 10 floors. However, the historic white granite art deco facade and main foyer is being saved and renovated as part of an additional £3.5m makeover. While all the wonderful neon signs and the electric marquee around the main entrance have long gone, the only reminder that will remain of its former existence is the steel “ODEON” signage beside West Regent Lane.

 

Those Odeon days were simply the happiest of days for me – kid, teenager and adult.

 

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“Meet me under the clock” has long been part of the vocabulary for young courting couples, lost relatives or travellers looking for an easy way of locating someone in the rush. And with more than 100,000 commuters using Glasgow’s Central Station every day, most pass through – or indeed wait under the clock – without taking the time (no pun intended) to looking up towards its wonderful architectural features.

 

And that’s a pity in many ways. Scotland’s busiest and biggest station was built in the 1870s, with the concourse and booking hall completed in 1882 – right at the height of the fashionable Victorian era. For many years, the clock was the only noticeable thing to look up towards and see – but once where there was only darkness beyond the clock, there’s now light.

 

The station’s historic “ridge and furrow” design glass roof is the world’s largest, with 48,000 panes making up 2.2 square miles of glass. During World War Two, though, the whole thing was painted jet black to avoid being spotted and bombed by the Luftwaffe. But when the war ended, the black paint proved impossible to remove – and looking up towards the bleak blackness was the only thing I can ever remember of Central Station’s roof.

 

It was only in 1998 that they finally started replacing every single pane – and as they did so, it suddenly shone a bright light on the wonderful glass architecture of the roof with its supporting steel pillars. The original 15-foot, four-faced Victorian clock with elegant wooden framework and a lead-sheafed cupola, was replaced in 1962 but proved unpopular. A replica of the original was installed in 1992 and remains a big rendezvous favourite to this day.

 

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The former site of the Rottenrow Maternity Hospital, where many of Glasgow’s older residents would have been born, was bought by neighbouring Strathclyde University in 2001 after the the old Victorian building was deemed not fit for purpose, with it failing just about all and every modern health and safety regulations, and then some.

 

Strathclyde Uni redeveloped the land – and when they inherited many of the works of Glasgow-born artist George Wyllie, in a tip of the hat to its sterling services to the city, in 2004 they permanently placed his giant safety pin directly on the site of the former maternity unit. Although known locally as the “Monument to Maternity,” the official title for the seven-meter-tall stainless steel nappy pin (with the little sculpted bird perched on top) is Mhtothta, the Greek word for maternity.

 

Wyllie is famous for his many wonderful whimsical works, such as the running clock, that featured in a previous blog entry, Running Late – and this is just another classic Wyllie sculpture. He also wrote a poem about Walter Hunt, who had invented the modern safety-pin in New York. Hunt sold the copyright, making very little money from his invention.

 

In 1849 in New York City
Walter Hunt was a figure of pity
destitute – without a cent
couldn’t buy food or pay the rent
stomach empty, body thin,
he made the very first Safety-Pin
for poverty was the great incentive
which encouraged him to be inventive.

 

Walter’s finances were extremely tight
and he had to sell the copyright
for a hundred dollars – a meager sum
to save him from becoming a bum
but the buyer made a fortune quicker
for that is the way of the city slicker
to be financially manipulative
and exploit the brains of the innovative.

 – George Wyllie

 

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Only in Glasgow could this possibly happen.  Fifty Shades of Grey might advocate a little light violence between consenting adults, but cinema-goers in Glasgow took it a step too far on Valentine’s Day last weekend, by “glassing” a man over the head during a screening of the BDSM movie.

 

Three women were arrested at the old-style Grosvenor cinema (and yes, only two hours after I had taken this photo!) off Ashton Lane, during a particularly rowdy screening which saw people vomiting in the aisles – and apparently the vomiting had nothing to do with how bad the movie was. “Besides being the worst film I have ever seen, three women were getting arrested and put in a police van when we arrived,” 33-year-old Michael Bolton told The Mirror newspaper.

 

“A woman came out the theatre and said that a guy had been glassed. One woman was in handcuffs and another two women were in tears. She said that three or four girls had been very loud and were shouting. The man had asked them to shut up and he was glassed.”

 

And for those American readers of the blog perhaps not nuanced on all things Glaswegian, “glassed” is being physically attacked (in the face or head) by a glass – and in Glasgow, the drink in it is invariably first consumed! – being used as a weapon. Apparently it was also reported that cinema staff were frantically mopping up the blood and wiping down seats before the start of the 8.20pm screening.

 

In a previous blog, Sex in the City, I told how EL James’ erotic novel was set beside where I used to live in Seattle’s Belltown, and how the British author (and I use that word loosely, unlike the bondage knots), having never once visited the city – nor any other part of the US, for that matter – and based her background scenery on what “research” she could glean by online Real-estate listings, Google Street View and restaurant reviews.

 

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