Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vertigo in Pacific Quay

Looking down at the River Clyde from the third floor of the BBC building at Pacific Quay is a vertigenous business. Looking over the river towards the university (my alma mater: that's it with the rocket-like gothic spire) is fairly disturbing, in that such a view would have been impossible back in 1973, when I first came to the city as a student. Unless I'd climbed up a crane.

True, the Morton family lived on the border of Shawlands and Pollokshaws from 1957 until 1962, but I can remember very little about that. Other than the fleets of taxis outside my dad's dental surgery on 'gas day', there to pick up the dozens of folk who had ALL their teeth taken out in a oner. The ruined racks of abandoned tenements surrounding Greenview Hall, soon to be demolished. And Pollokshaws shopping centre when it was downright posh, with a Fergusons' grocery shop. Kayakers on the River Cart, chestnuts in Pollok Estate, losing a model boat in Maxwell Park pond. Getting lost aged five in Pollokshields...

In 1962 we moved to Troon, and 11 years later I came to Glasgow to study. There was no Clyde Walkway in 1973, there were still puffers (small coastal cargo steamships) on the river, and bigger boats too. On Hogmanay, at midnight, you could still throw open your windows and hear the ship's whistles howling.

Then, the river was still hemmed in by warehouses and shipyards. Now it's all private housing (much of it plummeting in value), hotels and offices, the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. Ships don't come up as far as Pacific Quay, which used to be Plantation Quay. Cargo and passengers used to depart from here to the West Indies. the river was so dirty, awash with raw sewage and chemical waste, nothing surivived in it.

Nostalgia? Looking out past the Crowne Plaza Hotel to the university, there is that. But there are salmon in the river now, and capuccino in the cafes.

So that's all right then...

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