COP26 : a Guide to Glasgow

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I'll not be going to COP26 in Glasgow in November but here's some advice for those who are:

–  You'll be drinking lots of beer to help you get through the tedious hangings around that accompany all such meetings.  You should learn something about the language used for and about beer in Scotland as it is likely to be more arcane than where you come from.  Here's a handy guide for the novice.

–  Billy Connolly is an expert on all things Glaswegian and so I recommend you spend a few days listening or watching everything he ever said.  You could usefully start here with his personal experience of the "excellence" of the Scottish education system, and the part that the Lewis Bridal Song played in his musical education.  Trigger warning: you might find it funny.

  For a complementary (and much less musical) view of a Glasgow upbringing, try Douglas Stuart's debut novel, Shuggie Bain, which won the 2020 Booker Prize.  And/or you could read the three Laidlaw books by William McIlvanney for their insights into Glasgow's gangland culture.  If you've only time for one, then read The Papers of Tony Veitch.  As Alan Massie notes, Glasgow is one of the main characters in these novels.

–  Glasgow is a football city so buy yourself a Rangers tartan scarf and a Celtic snood and wear them on alternate days.  That way you'll keep warm (remember it's November) and show yourself au fait with the cultural sensibilities of the city.  If you're there on a match day, wear both; no one will mind.

–  Whether you get there by train or you've committed COPSINONE (arriving by air), spend time in the magnificent Central Station.  In Britain's 100 Best Railway Stations by Simon Jenkins, the station was one of only ten to be awarded five stars.  While you're there, if you have an urge to escape the city / conference / tedium, you might travel to Wemyss Bay whose station is even more awesomely 5*.  The journey takes about 50 minutes.  Stay for lunch at one of its many fine eateries.

–  Hire a kilt for all those formal COP events and dinners you'll be going to; better still, wear one all the time so you blend in with the locals.  Just search online for an outfitter, but do it now as 30,000 other people will be doing this as well.

–  The Glasgow accent can be difficult to understand, or so non-Glaswegians slanderously say, but don't fret as there are lots of websites offering guides and translators.  And this is a guide to commonly heard phrases and sayings in the fair city.  You might find it helpful in reading Shuggie Bain.  If you yourself find you can't be understood, just do what the English have done for centuries: speak slowly and loudly whilst maintaining an air of studied condescension.

–  Earn some cultural brownie points by writing and talking about Glaschu instead of Glasgow.  This is the Gaelic word for the city.  Don't worry, you're bound to be understood everywhere you go.  Fàs air clàr na Gàidhlig ann an Glaschu a'toirt sealladh lèirsinneach air a'Ghàidhlig mar a bha agus mar a tha sa bhaile.

–  Finally, be careful what you say.  Scotland, one of the birthplaces of the Enlightenment, has recently passed ill-defined legislation which has criminalised stirring up hatred and abusive speech.  This is punishable by up to seven years in gaol.  Happily, I am writing this in England.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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