“Glasgow days and grey weather,” writes Edwin Morgan in his seminal poem The Unspoken, “when the rain beat on the bus shelter and you leaned slightly against me.” It’s a truth universally acknowledged that if only Glasgow was eternally sunny, it would be the world’s best city. Sure, there’s certainly a case to be made for our famous ‘taps aff’ days highlighting the best of what our city has to offer — hitting up the beer gardens, sunbathing in Kelvingrove Park, dancing along with the city centre’s buskers in the sunshine. But I’m here today to propose something to you: that, as Morgan suggests in his wonderful poem, there is something tender and beautiful, something romantic, about a Glasgow Grey Day.
Although I was technically raised 30 minutes or so from Glasgow, I’ve always liked to consider myself a native of the city. From seeing the Christmas lights in George Square with my parents as a kid, to tasting my first breaths of teenage ‘freedom’ while strolling endlessly through the West End on a Saturday with my friends, I’ve come to associate a lot of my formative memories with the city’s gridded streets. And, common to most of these memories: grey skies and unrelenting rain. Shopping trips with my best friends — rain. Tentative first dates at the Renfrew Street Cineworld — full scarf-and-gloves weather in late March. My first sip of self-bought alcohol (a mojito in the TGI Fridays on Buchanan Street, the day after my 18th birthday) — completely and utterly drenched.
Other Glaswegians may grumble and sulk about what they perceive to be a perpetual lack of luck in the weather department; I’m sure many newcomers to the city would have their fair share of complaints, too. Call me an optimist, but I can’t help but love the city in spite of all of its grey weather — or maybe even because of it. Throughout all of these formative moments in my life, the grey weather has helped to narrate them, like it narrates the lives of the two lovers under the bus shelter in Morgan’s poem. If Glasgow has been another character in my adolescence — as much of a living, breathing thing as my friends and lovers and enemies — so, too, have the grey days. Ever-present, providing the atmosphere and ample conversation starters with the cashiers in Primark; the rain clings to us all, not unwelcomingly, but as a lingering remnant of the city itself.
Is there not a sense of tenderness in watching two lovers lean against each other at a city centre bus stop as the rain drums on the plastic above them? In watching friends freeze together in mini dresses as they stagger out of the clubs in the wee hours of the morning? There’s nothing as beautifully human as watching everyone run for shelter under the shop fronts of Sauchiehall Street as they’re caught in a surprise rain storm. Or seeing little kids plodding along the streets in their snowsuits, struggling to keep up with the others. I believe there’s unlimited magic in a Glasgow Grey Day, if you’re willing to look for it.
Although Morgan’s The Unspoken may be a love poem in its most literal sense, I can’t help but take those lines and interpret them as my own love letter to the city. Glasgow days and grey weather. If you want to love Glasgow, you’ll need to love the rain; it’s a package deal. A true Glaswegian, perhaps unlike citizens of most other world cities, must be able to find some shred of tenderness in even the gloomiest, dreichest, Glasgow day.
[Bea Crawford, she /her, twitter: @bearuth9]
[Photo Credit: Sinitta Leunen]