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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Scottish grit

A city - any city - has many facets.

Unless you live there for awhile, all you really have are impressions based on what you've had an opportunity to experience and from that particular angle.

Perhaps if I had taken one of those tour buses, riding around high above the city streets, I'd have a different perspective. I've only observed Glasgow for a day and a half. And, at ground level. Just the areas I could access on my feet as I walked around the city.

So, that's my perspective. No one to show me "the sights" or tell me of the significance. Just what I observed and heard with "the ears of my heart" as Benedict would say.

My Apple watch says I walked 6.5 miles today. That was a slow day on the Camino but then again, I'm not on the Camino.

There's a lot of Glasgow that reminds me of Brooklyn. As in New York.

Behind the obvious tourist attractions - the city parks and the Art Galleries and Museums, Universities and Colleges - beats the heart of what we Americans would call a solid, "blue collar" town.

There's a lot of grit here.

You can hear it in the accents.

Besides the Scottish lilts and Irish brogue - and the interesting if not thoroughly incomprehensible combination of lilt and brogue - you can hear what one Scotsman called a "tossed salad" of humanity.

Or, as one 'table steward', a woman who dressed and looked for all the world like she came from the Caribbean but spoke in a straight-up Scottish lilt said to me,"We're a fookin' Tower of Babel, 'ere in Glasgow."

Which is to say, there are a lot of immigrants here. In fact, Glasgow is the one city in all of Scotland which had the largest number of non-UK born people in its census. Indeed, in the past 8 years, the non-UK population increased by 5.4%.

Believe it or not, the #1 country of origin for immigrants to Glasgow is Poland.

I know, right? Who knew?

Besides a large Indian, German, Irish, South African, American, Pakistani and Nigerian community I heard Italian, and French accents.

In fact, the increase in the immigrant population the main reason for BREXIT - and, they are keenly aware of it. Indeed, all anyone could talk about today - in the parks and the restaurants - was the fact that the Tories rejected PM Theresa May's final attempt at a BREXIT deal.

It is said that Mrs. May's resignation is on her desk, but the failure of a BREXIT plan pleased those who are immigrants because it meant that as long as there is no plan there effectively is no BREXIT - a scheme which has, at its core, a racist, xenophobic ideology, hiding behind "concerns about the economy of our country".

Stop me if any of this sounds familiar to Americans reading this in 2019.

Which is why lots of people are very keenly interested in America and what we're doing to "get rid of that bawface  (big, round face) gallus (arrogant) coo (cow)."

I had lunch at a lovely Greek restaurant which does very well, I'm told, because there's a large selection for vegans and vegetarians, apparently a growing demographic in UK.

The young woman who waited on me had apparently lived in the US but she and her parents moved last year to UK to live temporarily with relatives because they were very concerned about the current administration's immigration policy.

"ICE," she said. "Very bad. Very bad people.We leave Greek to get away from them. They are in America, now, too. And, BREXIT, too. But, they will lose. We will win. Fascist pigs!," she spit.

"We go back to America after they get that Big Pig out of DC and send him back to New York."

Can I just tell you that her eyes were flashing and she was twisting her dish towel when she was talking? And, can I say that I knew whose neck that dish towel represented?

The restaurant was slow and she actually sat down at one point and had some tea with me.

She's very smart. She's beautiful in that wonderful way Greek women are beautiful. She's at University. Wants to become an accountant. "See Pee Aaa," she said.

She'll do well in business. Although I hope she never loses her fire.

America would be a better place with her in it.

So, I do want to close with one last impression. I spent a little time walking around George Square by Queen Street and the train station there. I thought I should at least find my way to the other train station in town.

Yes, there are two. In the City of Glasgow. This IS UK, after all.

I did have myself a good chuckle watching the sea gulls and the pigeons "having their way" with all the statues of all the Scottish and British

There is one of Albert, Prince Consort, who was married to Queen Victoria and is much loved for his work in the abolitionist movement as well as the reform of child labor laws. He died a very young man and Victoria wore only black to mourn her loss. There are more "Albert" somethings - halls, theaters, statues, streets, alleys - in UK than anyone can number.

There is another statue to James Watt, inventor of the steam engine which inadvertently sparked the Industrial Revolution.

There they are, immortalized in iron or steel, looking grand and glorious along with all the other statues of brave or intelligent men in ages past.

I was thinking today that if anyone should consider immortalizing me or anyone I know and love with a statue for something inspirational, I only have one request.

As I considered these statues in George Square, rising on pedestals above the hoi polloi and hustle and bustle of a city life they could not have asked for or imagined, and far removed from the tourists and the parents with babes in strollers and the workers who’ve stepped out for coffee in a paper cup and a few puffs on a cigarette, or the poor folk who have hustled enough money to have purchased a piece of pie in a cardboard box and a steaming Styrofoam cup of tea (who offered me a bite, if I cared, and broke my heart with a kindness and generosity perhaps rarely shown to her); there, where only the sea gulls and pigeons can reach them and cover them in their excrement; I only ask that you please do take note of the . . . .work  . . .of the winged-ones and, if you would be so kind, take proper precaution with my statue or that of a loved one. 

A bit of netting, perhaps? An umbrella of sorts? 

Or, perhaps, an ingenious use of a traffic cone or two.

That would be, as they say here about almost everything, lovely. 

I was heading for Edinburgh first thing tomorrow morning but I discovered a dearly loved American friend of very long standing who is living here in Glasgow.

Last I knew, she was living in Morristown, NJ. And now, here she is, living in a convent in Glasgow.

Small world. Smaller church.

She is presiding at the 11 AM Eucharist tomorrow at St. Mary's Cathedral on the West side of the city. 

I figure it should take me about 45 minutes to walk there.

So, despite my best intentions, it looks like I'll get a little religion while I'm here in Scotland. 

Ah, the things we do for Jesus! And, old, dear friends!

We'll also do lunch after mass and get caught up on life.  I'm very excited to see her again.

And yes, of course I'll take pictures and post them.

Then, it's off to Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland. 

On Friday morning, I leave for Oban and then the pilgrimage to Iona begins in earnest. 

You know, I have always liked my spirituality on the gritty side. 

One of my Anamcharas (Spiritual Directors) called it "Divine Sandpaper". She said we need people in our lives who "rub us the wrong way". 

How else would we get to have our natural shine come forth, she asked. 

I have this feeling that Scotland will bring out the best in me.

1 comment:

Brother David said...

Say hey to Father Kelvin while you are at St Mary's.