Thursday evening saw the return of Cirque du Soleil to Glasgow’s SECC. Jim Wilson caught up with creative director, Sean McKeown and Cirque du Soleil’s publicist, MJ Gagnon to discover more about the world-famous spectacle featuring gravity defying acrobats, aerialists, contortionists, rope-jumpers, a balancing duo and of course the acclaimed crazy clowns.
Think you have what it takes to be the next GUM/Guardian editor or the new manager of Subcity? Well today’s your lucky day! The positions of Guardian Editor, GUM Editor, Subcity Manager are now available for the academic session 09/10.
Each provides a great opportunity to work in award-winning student media groups, hone your skills and gain invaluable experience for a future career in the media and communications industry.
We’re pleased to inform you guys that GUM is now available to follow on the websites listed below:
GUM is also available to pick up from the Glasgow University Library Cafe, The Fraser Building, The John MacIntyre Building, Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow University Union, all Glasgow University Student Halls of Residences and various pubs, bars and cafes throughout the West End of Glasgow.
If you would like to know more about GUM or would like to advertise with us please check the links on the top right of this page or alternatively contact Jim or Franck directly at [email protected]
In case you didn’t know already, GUM is 120 years old this year and so we felt it would be appropriate to mark the occasion with a look-back at previous editions of the magazine that Glasgow has grown to love. First up for inspection is the first ever edition of GUM. Published on 5th February 1889, it is a true blast from the past..
There is more to Texas that 10 gallon hats and George Bush. GUM’s native Texan acquaints us with the delights and eccentricities of the Lone Star State.
Music? Check. Sun lotion? Check. Set of wheels? Check. Ready for one of the world’s greatest road-trips? GUM asks you to buckle up for the road-trip in the land down under. Just don’t forget the camera or the shades.
A hidden jewel in India’s crown, Rajasthan is a place like no other. GUM invites you to explore the extraordinary cities of India’s largest state. Think camels, curries and lots of blue paint…
Later this year the film version of one of the best known comic books of our time will be hitting the big screen. Until that time, the gaze has turned to the comic book world in anticipation of this year’s celluloid smash.
Every year strange and beautiful formations appear in the fields. If you want to know what creates them don’t skip on to the end of this article – you will only be disappointed. GUM explains the phenomenon of the crop circles.
GUM speaks with Nick Davies, award winning journalist and author of Flat Earth News, about why the news media isn’t doing its job.
Zoe Grams pays tribute to one of Glasgow’s most talented artists and illustrators, Hannah Frank.
As we walked down the meandering, dusty passageway set in between towering, sandstone cliff walls, I felt like we were uncovering a secret. We were entering Petra – a unique, ancient city, sitting cosily in a canyon in the mountains of southern Jordan, which until recently, I had never even heard of.
Before me stood an all singing, all smiling, Hawaiian Shirt-clad Fijian four-piece band. I had just disembarked from a 22-hour flight, it was 5am and I had a splitting head ache, but I could appreciate the thought. These four Fijians, with their fantastic afros and enthusiastic bright, white smiles, set the tone for what would be a glorious week’s holiday on one of the planet’s most isolated paradises.
“Son, there’s no such thing as an easy job,” my father once told me, “if there was then every fecker alive would be doing it.” A useful gem of advice given to me in my darkest and laziest hour, and one which has stayed with me, like a bad smell, in my epic pursuit of employment that can cater for my dislike and fear of hard graft, but necessity for hard cash.
“I can open and close sections of my brain at will”, explains a straight faced Derek Ogilvie. It is a conviction matched only by my scepticism.
Mr Ogilvie has intrigued me ever since I happened upon his television show, The Baby Mind Reader, a few years ago on Channel 5. Essentially Mr. Ogilvie claims that he can communicate with A) Babies B) The dead. As such people’s reaction to Derek is one of extremes, to some he is a godsend while to the majority of society he is a delusional crack pot.
The ‘credit crunch’ is not a cereal bar. I bet you knew that, but just four weeks ago, I didn’t.
Any student returning home after a year studying abroad will tell you that whilst at first things may seem the same as before, little differences begin to crop up. For example, there are a couple of new cafes on Great Western Road, and there seems to be a building site opposite the library. Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLaughlin got married (I don’t really care), and Boris Johnson is now Mayor of London.
In a year the Recoat Gallery has snowballed from its West End corner to become a hub for Scotland’s graffiti and ever blossoming street art scenes. Gum met with owners Amy and Ali to find out how these artists got to where they are and learn where they hope to go.
Andrew Rae has come a long way from his days of producing flyers for a Shoreditch club night. He has published numerous books, released a short film and been involved in over ten major exhibitions while his BBC3 show, Monkey Dust, perhaps his most famous work, a macabre look at modern British society. Following his ‘Of Beasts and Machines’ exhibition at Glasgow’s Recoat Gallery earlier this year, the London-based artist Andrew Rae talks to GUM about art, illustrations, music and plug creatures.
Nobody can deny that the world around us is pretty sexy. It’s how advertising agencies sell products to us, it’s how we like our music videos and soap operas, it’s how we like our agony aunt columns, it’s just how we like things, ok? But imagine there were people in the world who had no interest in sex whatsoever, that would be weird, right? Well, not really: a rather large proportion of society maintain they have no sexual desire whatsoever, and what’s more are completely happy with their situation.
Ok, once and for all, pictures of your animals making stupid faces are not funny. Seriously. Lesson learnt. Lindsay Conn speaks to some local comedians about the real funny business.
Turn the telly on to any channel and it won’t be long before you see a comedian turning their hand to something outwith their calling. They present chat shows, they interview pop stars, they even give you guided tours into their struggle with manic depression. Comedians have become such huge celebrity property in recent years that it is easy to forget what brought them into the public eye in the first place.
With this in mind, I ventured down to The Stand Comedy Club on Woodlands Road, to see the reality at the grassroots of the profession. The comedians I spoke to there didn’t think it was as rock ‘n’ roll as the industry darlings would have you believe.
“I think it can be quite dangerous,” says Susan Calman, when asked about the Russell Brands of the world. “It encourages people to get into comedy for the wrong reasons; they want to get on the telly or be famous, and that doesn’t happen a lot”. But it’s not all attention-seeking anymore: comedians are often called on to take roles they haven’t prepared for. As the late, great Mitch Hedberg once riffed, “When you’re in Hollywood and you’re a comedian, everybody wants you to do other things. ‘All right, you’re a stand-up comedian—can you write us a script?’ That’s not fair. That’s like if I worked hard to become a cook, and I’m a really good cook, they’d say, ‘OK, you’re a cook. Can you farm?’” But even the immortal Stephen Fry had to start off by sweating out new material in front of a tough crowd.
Rather than being lured towards comedy for the promise of money and recognition, Calman entered the profession after walking away from a career that promised both. She studied law at the University of Glasgow, which led to an appointment as a corporate lawyer after graduation. “I had an epiphany on my 30th birthday, and I said to myself, do you really want to be doing this for the rest of your life?”
Tom Brogan of Glasgow-based sketch comedy troupe You Owe Me Glue has similar views on the 9 to 5 life. “Of course working in offices and constantly thinking about killing yourself is brilliant. Who wouldn’t want that life? But comedy is too much of a thrill to abandon for the daily conundrum of ‘how will I do it’ and ‘should I leave a note?’ No matter how much of an uphill struggle comedy seems, I really can’t see myself chucking it in to pursue that coveted team leader’s job at the box factory.”
Local comic Rab Brown agrees. After dropping out of a drama course at university, he decided that he missed the thrill of performance and emailed The Stand to see if he could join in on one of their Red Raw shows. Red Raw is an open mic night, which combines the uneasy stuttering of first-time comedians with more established acts trying out new material. The shows can be a baptism by fire, with a demanding crowd. Calman, who also worked up the ranks at Red Raw, confesses that she thought she was “the business” until her first ten-minute experience. “It was the worst fucking night of my life. I went home and cried for five days”.
On this note, all three comics are unanimous on their opinion of the worst audience they can experience—a silent crowd. No response from an audience will guarantee that the material being performed isn’t up to scratch. On the other end of the scale, they tell me that hecklers aren’t a problem as long as the comedian at the receiving end is skilled enough to deal with them. “But sometimes your heckler isn’t trying to put you off or be hostile—he thinks he’s helping,” explains Brogan, a Red Raw veteran. “A lot of folk reckon that shouting out and interrupting is all part of it, and most times, it’s not. The real problem with heckling is when folk just won’t take a telling and, having had their wee moment of attention, don’t know when to turn it in for the evening. Once it spills over from good humour into hostility it can ruin the atmosphere in the room and potentially bring down the whole night.”
Calman has been performing for a few years, taking the set in her stride as she does tonight. Brown is not yet such a seasoned comedian, and appears more nervous. “I’ve not yet got to the standard where I can just go out there and wing it,” Brown admits, “I’m quite methodical in it”. Experience on stage and building up material is a crucial pathway for any new comedian, in order to the reach the stage where they feel comfortable chopping and changing a set, dependent on the audience in front of them. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to a comedy audience is never as successful as responding to the crowd you are performing for.
The need for the audience to be able to relate to a comedian directs many stand-ups in the construction of their material, and a prime source of inspiration often comes from personal experience. “Audiences can tell if you’re being honest, if it fits with who you are,” says Calman, carrying on by making the point that it’s a mistake for new comedians to think that they have to conjure up a new set every time they perform—it takes time and attention in order to perfect a set. Not doing so will ensure the worst nightmare of the stand-up—‘dying’ on stage, where a comedian is met with steely silence from their audience.
“Comedy is very much about turning up,” agrees Brogan. “Yes, you need to be funny, but putting the hours in is equally important. That may mean spending time in cars alongside blowhards and folk you have nothing in common with. It’ll mean a lot of long, lonely bus journeys and getting home at ridiculous hours. But when a daft thought that occurred to you when you were watching the telly one night makes a room full of people laugh, you’ll know if it’s all worth it.”
“Part of the joy of this is that if I was still a lawyer, I’d still be in an office,” says Calman. “With comedy, you travel around the country and you meet people. It’s an exciting way of life”. Surely the fast pace is another of the “wrong reasons” to get into comedy that she alluded to earlier? Calman disagrees. “Comedy can be absolutely horrible sometimes, very lonely, travelling around the place all the time,” she says, “but no matter how bad it gets, it’s still the first time I’ve ever truly been myself in my life.”
The expert’s guide to… the Martini
Vodka or gin?
Simple. If you choose vodka, then you’re not having a Martini. You have in fact fallen victim to a Smirnoff advertising campaign suggesting vodka could be substituted for gin, a clever and remarkably successful ploy as it turned out. A ‘Martini’ made with vodka is properly called a Kangaroo—don’t ask why—so for the authentic Martini, gin it is.
Shaken or stirred?
You’re thinking shaken, right? I mean, that’s how 007 has it, and if anyone knows, he does. Well, no, actually. Just think about it. If James Bond had to ask for his Martini shaken it was because it’s usually stirred—he just wanted to stand out from the crowd, show how exciting he was. He was wrong. While the relative advantages of shaking and stirring could be debated forever, stirring has one clear benefit: the appearance of a drink is crucial, and for a Martini this means crystal clear. Although shaking may well be more efficient, it invariably leaves the drink clouded with minuscule bubbles of air. For an opaque cocktail such as a Margarita—which, while we’re on the subject, should never be blended—this isn’t a problem, but for a Martini it just won’t do.
Dry or extra dry?
First, a little clarification. There are two types of vermouth: sweet and dry. Any cocktail made with vermouth can have three different sub-types: the basic version made with sweet vermouth (e.g. ‘Martini’), the Dry version made with dry vermouth (e.g. ‘Dry Martini’) and the Perfect version made with half dry and half sweet (e.g. ‘Perfect Martini’). In theory, therefore, what makes a Dry Martini dry is not the ratio of gin to vermouth but the use of dry vermouth. But in practice, a modern Martini is always made with dry vermouth and Dry Martini has come to mean one with less vermouth. A Martini with no vermouth, however, is quite clearly not a Martini, no matter how dry you say it is. So either add some vermouth, or call it what it is: cold gin. A good Martini will, depending on the drinker’s taste, have one part vermouth to anything between two and fifteen parts gin. I would recommend a ratio of one to five as a starting point but it really is down to personal preference.
So what’s the secret?
Water, believe it or not. When mixing the drink, melting ice adds water to the cocktail. Usually the process leaves the cocktail around one fifth water, although this depends on the quantity of ice used, the surface area of the ice, and how long it is stirred for. Shaking melts the ice faster, so if you do decide to take the lead from 007, then be careful not to shake excessively. The effect of the water is to blend the vermouth and gin into a smooth cocktail, and to take the burn off the alcohol.
Another important point is that the quality of the ingredients has a huge effect on the final quality. You get what you pay for, so some unbranded supermarket gin will not make a Martini anywhere near the quality of that mixed using a higher quality product. If you’re training to be a true connoisseur, go for quality not quantity.
The most important thing, however, is to enjoy drinking it. So add as much or as little vermouth as you like, or even none at all. If you really want to, then go ahead and use vodka. Go ahead. But you better not let me catch you calling it a Martini.
If, as seems increasingly likely, the world is actually a giant metaphysical sitcom created so God has something to enjoy when He’s relaxing at home after a hard day working on other, more plausible, realities (I mean, come on, He knocked it off in seven days! Where’s the pride, man?), then I’m in absolutely no doubt what my role would be. The klutz. The doofus. The well-meaning idiot who somehow manages to entangle himself in ridiculous situations and, while trying to extricate himself, somehow manages to make things exponentially worse. If you ever see me dangling from a hot air balloon, buck naked, covered in maple syrup, caught from my ankle by a string of bunting, rest assured that I was probably just trying to make some toast or something, before things got out of hand.
Take, for example, the sleepwalking incident. I mean, seriously. Who actually sleepwalks, outside of small-town America every Friday at six only on ABC1?
Well, okay. Sleepwalking doesn’t really describe what happened. Sleepwalking was merely the medium. My sleeping mind used sleepwalking like an artist uses a pen to create something truly dark, depraved, and, well, fucking embarrassing. Thanks, mind.
I was staying with my friend Mary (names have been changed to protect the innocent victims of this disgusting and unprovoked attack) for a few days, in her flatmate John’s bed. That night, however, our mutual friend Alex and his lady-friend Laura ended up staying over, so they took John’s bed and I stayed with Mary. At some point in the night, without really waking up, I got up, went to the toilet, washed my hands and went back to bed.
The bed I’d been staying in for the last week. John’s bed.
I woke up when I discovered that the bed that I was trying to get into was full of people. I found myself three inches away from Laura’s face.
I quickly summed up my feelings about the situation. “AAAAAAAAAARGH!” I noted.
Laura indicated her similar displeasure with the situation. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH GETTHEFUCKOFFME!” she responded. I rolled over, fell off the bed and neatly snapped my little toe on the floor. For the next week or so, I walked round with perhaps the most ridiculous limp that you’ve ever seen. And when anyone asked what happened, all I could say was “You know, I’m actually not sure”. Because what else could I have said? “Funny story, actually—I broke it falling off a bed when the girl I was straddling woke up and started screaming”?
And you can just imagine it, can’t you. God, on His sofa, feet up on His coffee table, slapping His thigh and saying “Oh, that Pete. What a dunderhead! What will he get up to next?”
As the post drops through the letterbox, something catches your eye. Among all the junk mail and the long-overdue bill reminders, one envelope stands out. Not just any envelope, but a thick cream envelope with your name in a lovely handwritten script. Barely containing your excitement, you rip open the envelope and take out three heavy pages of handwritten delight. A personal letter handwritten just for you…
7:15am: alarm goes off.
7:30am: get out of bed; prepare to get historic.
Every April, Historic Scotland kick off the tourist season by making all their properties free of admission for a day or two. This is great opportunity for big families and the lucky unaware visitor to get their history on. But it’s also a chance for skint students to completely abuse some hospitality. Did someone say ‘free’?
Commitment-phobic? Check. Fancy a bit of that, a bit of this? Check. Move around a lot? Check. Require a taste for fine interior design? Check. How’s your wall looking these days? Ikea-beige? Then you may be interested in Blik and their self-adhesive surface graphics. Chose your own graphics and create a custom wall (and thus, room). Best of all, you’re able to peel them off with no damage to the walls when you leave, so your landlord need never know. It ain’t wallpaper if you call it Blik. www.whatisblik.com
When throwing around ideas in GUM meetings, we often disagree on what has been deemed in or out. Someone will bring up a movement or trend they think is in, only for someone else to declare that it’s been out, and so on all night long. But, of course, this is the realm of the red-topped, monosyllabic gawk-mags, where things can be arbitrarily in or out without any evidence of reason, fact, or sense. Liquid eyeliner: in! Phosphorus: out! External radicalism: in! It’s so hard to keep up with what is in and out that your best chance is to assume that what was once out is now in, and vice versa. Your most central beliefs, everything that you stand for, are out, and everything that you hate and despise is so in right now. Try it. It’s weirdly liberating. We’re calling it denihilism, and it is so totally out.
After a 10,000-year romance, it seems mankind has lost its taste for fire. Fireplaces are a quaint ornament in many Glasgow flats, now bricked up or used as a makeshift bookcase. Even Bonfire Night is no longer celebrated with bonfires, but rather with fireworks—fire dressed in lurid colours and forced to dance for our viewing pleasure. The only fire most city-folk get to gaze upon is the puny tealight at your local curry joint. The constant, stable light of a candle is like a slap in the face to its ancestor, the central hearth which gave our ancestors life and whose flickering roar formed the only nighttime entertainment in the days before Lost. No longer do we feast by a fireplace as big as a bus, as found in any self-respecting medieval castle. Now we panic at the merest spark in the grill, and neds are the only people allowed to start bonfires, usually in other people’s cars. Let’s reclaim fire. GUM doesn’t know exactly how, but as of now, we are definitely pro-fire.
What? Are we, like, 5? Well, no, we just think that balloons are the ultimate survival tool. Never mind the Bank of England, balloons are the easiest way to control inflation. What’s more, you can use them to generate static electricity which will be oh so useful when the oil runs out.
George W. Bush
It is possible that George Bush was not the greatest president in the history of the USA. That’s a possibility. It is also possible that he has crippled his country with a hilariously massive national debt, led it into unwinnable wars fought with a combination of barefaced capitalism and insane colonialism, and made militant Puritanism the hottest philosophy of the day. But, you’ve got to admit, for us out here in Europe, it’s been fun. The most apt metaphor for the last eight years in America has been Major TJ ‘King’ Kong, riding a nuclear bomb dropped from a B-52 Stratofortress, waving his cowboy hat around his head, a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ to the end of the world. Here’s to four—no! Eight!—more years of that. And before you say that it’s banned in the American constitution, do you really think it’s the first unconstitutional thing W’s ever done? Motherfucker’s got the thing printed on his presidential toilet paper.
You know, it’s often hard to pass hundreds of potentially fatal volts through someone’s body if you’re worried about important stuff like colour co-ordination and fashion trends. Which is why we sure are glad the TaserC2 has been released. Not only is it handy enough to fit into your handbag, it comes in a range of styles and colours. Choose titanium if you want to feel like a sophisticated business woman shooting baddies on the streets of New York; pink for a coy, little-girl lost approach to street violence; and, of course, leopard print if you’re the sexy siren who’s not to be messed with. A novel—and stylish—approach to combating violence in society. Wait a sec… why did we put this in the No section?
I don’t have a problem with her getting wrecked and doing stupid shit: if going out in the middle of the night and buying 300 ice pops is a sign of a life falling apart, then every single person reading this should just go and check themselves into rehab right now, because we’d all do exactly the same thing if we were as stupid rich as she is. No, my problem is: if she takes as much cocaine as she apparently does, how come she makes such boring music? Seriously, how is that even possible?
It ruins umbrellas, it gets cold through even the thickest coats, and it makes the rain go upwards and right into your nose. Everyone hates it.
Wholesale panic about ecological disaster means land that used to have food grown on it now fills petrol tanks. Add to that actual ecological disasters and the price of grain has started to rocket upwards. We can probably live without as many sandwiches, but what if the price of beer goes up?
The amalgamation of Christmas and generous parents has resulted in every other person carrying a piece of technology that Inspector Gadget would happily give his super-bendy extending legs for. Everywhere you look people are whipping out their iPhones (or cheaper, less cream-inducing alternatives) to conference call their mates on where to meet for lunch while texting 15 people simultaneously. The sheer technological splendour of such devices makes your phone look like Margaret Thatcher’s dirty pants. But we gadget-paupers can take heart in the fact that our phones probably won’t murder us in our beds or tell our flatmate it was us who ate the last chocolate mini-roll .There’s something seriously sinister about a device that can do so much and yet isn’t actually human. Get out of our heads, iPhone! We deny you! Ah, screw it, lend us £300.
What would happen if there came a new, unstoppable plague that basically wipes out humanity overnight? Some argue that packs of starved, ownerless dogs would rule the cities. Some think the next evolutionary step is for chimps to emerge from the jungle. But when you think about it, the real heirs to the throne are much less exciting. Centuries of selective cow breeding, and now “designer cow” cloning, is all well and good when under strict scientific supervision: the labcoats can select for size and quality of meat, while killing off the deranged bovines that inbreeding inevitably creates. But what happens when the scientists disappear and the Schwarzeneggerian Belgian Blue bulls start breeding with the Holstein cows that grow at a rate of 8 pounds per day? Humongous, fast-growing, disease-proof, dangerously psychotic, and perfectly lean, delicious Powercows, that’s what. The future is lame.
We’ve all used them at some point in our lives. The cold seats, the leaking roof, the graffiti on the walls not to mention with the added joy of sitting beside complete strangers and their quirky little ways always make them an interesting, if not enjoyable, experience.. They even struggle to protect you from the rain, wind, sleet (and whatever else is thrown at you in Glasgow these days). It’s all part and parcel of the experience. Camera in one hand, notebook in the other, I decided to hit the streets to find out more about the people that frequent our trusty bus-stops.
The fashion of tomorrow starts today. Just look beyond the banality of the high street, and cast your attention to the up-and-comings of the fashion world: fresh and innovative designers to emerge from Glasgow School of Art’s Masters of Textiles Design. It’s a course that has a formidable reputation for releasing the likes of Eley Kishimoto, Matthew Williamson, Julien Macdonald, and Jonathon Saunders, to the fashion world. So let me introduce you to the new generation: Florence To, Shona Douglas, Lori Mitchell, and Emmi Lahtinan.
I’ve got beauty pageant fatigue, or more precisely, Miss Scotland fatigue. My preconceptions of beauty queens, and the general populous as a whole cause me to think that beauty pageants wrongly attempt to represent the ‘ideal’ woman and figure of beauty. Surely a competition that promotes young women as mere one-dimensional characters, where their sole requirement is to be judged by their appearance and decorum and ranked accordingly is shamefully outmoded, and well, sexist? Why do these girls hold themselves up as (seemingly) dim-witted Barbie dolls, presenting themselves as role models?
What drives one to leave their mark on public property? What inner forces are so strong that a person cannot help but express them for all to see? Well, according to a scientific study of bathroom wall graffiti undertaken by GUM, the driving force is usually thoughts of sex. Who knew.
I like food. I’m a fan of food. It’s the most efficient way I’ve found for cheese to enter my body. But, I’ve got to admit, I pay about as much attention to the food that I eat as I do to the air that I breathe. I’m pretty sure it’s important (extended periods of time without either tend to become quite uncomfortable), but I don’t go to fancy West End shops to buy imported vine-ripened Italian air, or spend evenings discussing with friends the most pleasurable ways to inhale. Delia Smith’s How To Breathe does not sit on my bookshelf. It’s air, and I like it, but that’s about as far as it goes. And I really have no inclination to feel otherwise about food. Consequently, if 1) it can go from the shop to in my mouth in fifteen minutes, and 2) a cow was somehow involved, then I’ll probably eat it.
I bought a new hat. Not a beret, not a beanie, and certainly not one of those appalling knitted caps. A real hat: the headwear of choice for the siren and seductress. As I tried it on, posing in the mirror, arching an eyebrow and admiring how well the colour went with my pasty complexion, I asked the shop owner if she sold many hats. Apparently not. “Girls come in here to buy them,” she lamented, “but only to wear to Club Noir.”
I left clutching my veiled, jade pillbox vision with her words ringing in my ears. Either the hat had become an item of fancy dress, or simply something for the stereotypical crazy old lady. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, but, regardless of the reasons, women today are terrified of wearing fancy headgear. A gander at The Answers (i.e. Google) confirms this, with a plethora of results instructing the phobic on how they can wear a hat without feeling like a tit.
Local milliner Holly O’Hara reckons that hat-wearing went out of fashion with the big hair of the early Sixties. “Then Woodstock happened and everyone was wearing flowers in their hair.” According to Felicity Faichney, milliner and founder of Hatwalk, a theatrical event showcasing the talents of Scottish milliners, ‘the rot’ goes back even further, to the Twenties. This was a time when women had to opt for more modest hats, such as cloches, in order to comfortably fit inside their boyfriends’ fancy motor cars. Since then, hats have become the social outcast of style, a relic with no place in contemporary society.
Knowing this, I was a little sheepish when I first wore my beautiful purchase. I carried it around with me until midday, when I met a friend for lunch. She didn’t bat an eyelid when I returned from the loo, hat tilted to the perfect position. I wore it in the front row of a lecture, and received only complimentary comments. During those first two hours, I couldn’t meet the eye of any stranger: I felt like the antithesis of the ‘hold your head high’ attitude I am endorsing. The transformation came on that scariest of places, Great Western Road, where I cast my shame aside and promenaded with pride. To my surprise, the great majority of people didn’t even notice. Those who did gave admiring glances, and there was even a wolf-whistle or two (not that I approve of such behaviour). An hour later, I was strutting around with abandon. I even popped down to the shop for a pint of milk wearing it.
What could be bad about a stream of complements and an outstanding chance to flirt? You’re always more likely to have a bad hair day than a bad hat day. I give the last word to the sadly departed Isabella Blow, a woman idolised by many for her lavish headwear. No-one else could say this with the same veracity: “Men love hats. They love it because it’s something they have to take off in order to fuck you. Anyone can wear a hat.”
Andy Yates runs Where the Monkey Sleeps, “the most metal sandwich shop in Glasgow.” His clientele is largely folk coming in for their lunch, but bands like Anthrax are also fans, and he has the bathroom-wall autographs to prove it. Beyond his taste for hardcore thrash metal, Yates is also a sandwich connoisseur, and has gracefully agreed to share the delicious knowledge with GUM.
I was dubious about the abilities of the Vibrogym a platform similar to a step up bench that vibrates to increase exercise efficiency. The literature for it contained phrases such as “human performance enhancement” and claims that it is “the most widely studied, evaluated and tested device in the world”, linking it to the vast world of weight-loss and body-building fads, populated by sinewy monsters with fake tan and tie-dye swimwear. Nevertheless, with the principle of nothing ventured, nothing gained (or in this case, nothing lost), I embarked upon a month’s experiment at Heaven Health, where I would train with the Vibrogym three times a week to find out whether it did indeed help people firm up, shift cellulite, and lose weight. Once there, the logic was explained: During exercise only 40-50% of muscle fibres are used. The vibrations cause up to 95% of your muscle fibres to be ‘recruited’, so your training is more effective.
Thankfully, Heaven Health held none of the hurdles for self-esteem that gyms usually contain. For starters, there are no full-length mirrors. More importantly, training is very much a private affair, so there is no worry that you are less fit or able than your neighbour. The staff are friendly and incredibly helpful, providing you with everything from moral support to tips on how to get the best results to meal suggestions. Training can be done in your own clothes, so there’s no need to take a heavy bag of decaying, slightly damp clothes around all day. And – this is really brilliant – each session only takes 20 minutes, tops.
Having your entire body vibrate at 50hz is an unnerving experience. I felt nauseous and light-headed. My legs became itchy. It wasn’t pleasant: just imagine thousands of bubbles travelling up your spine and around your body. My idea of doing very little to lose weight quickly vanished. You work hard with a Vibrogym. For 30 seconds you perform certain stretches or hold positions such as press-ups, squats and sit-ups, and for those thirty seconds you sweat, shake, curse and ‘feel the burn’. Each muscle is used and toned but by the time you’re ready to give up, it’s time for the next exercise.
Does it work? Well, I didn’t lose any weight. In fact, I gained some. Muscle is heavier than fat, so while eventually I will lose weight when my metabolism speeds up and reduces my fat content, for now I had simply gained muscle that led me to be more toned. Within two weeks my jeans were loose and I had to make an extra hole in my belts so that I didn’t look like a dirty old man who can’t keep his trousers up when he walks (actually, because I’m a relatively clean, young girl, I wouldn’t have looked like this at all, but paranoia is a wonderful thing). I could feel my previously neglected muscles working, and, when they weren’t, I missed it. For the first time in years, I ate close to the government-recommended allowance of fruit and veg.
It didn’t all go according to plan. I got bored. Bored of having to eat in places that served salads, bored of saying no to offers of take-out and beer, bored of my flatmate’s continuous complaints about the tasteless-looking items in the fridge.
This problem was compounded by the fact that I’m a girl. You see, men and women think very differently about food. Most men see health as an ongoing process. Men understand that if you eat too much at one meal, you simply cut down on calories on the next. Conversely, if you eat salad throughout the day, a bowl of ice-cream probably won’t do you any harm. For women, however, weight loss and health is done on a 24-hour basis. Days are categorised as Good or Bad. There are no mediocre days. So, while most logical people, when faced with a nagging desire to scarf down some crisps, simply do so and then eat a little less the next day, I couldn’t. Instead, I ate a pack of crisps, and since that day was instantly labelled Bad as a result, I continued to eat crisps, and wheat, and chocolate. And drink aplenty.
After this bender, I learnt my lesson. The next day, I did my usual workout and then saw a dreadful film at the cinema – and ate some popcorn. I’ve managed to find a balance. Heaven Health’s policy is to make beautiful, healthy, happy people. They do as much as they can to make that possible, and now, I’m a convert. My fridge is still full of strange foods that will always scare my flatmate, I train 3 times each week, and I still think that Guinness is man’s greatest invention.
A few weeks ago I was on a train coming back up to Glasgow from my home town (yes, I am English, and yes, I do count it as a failure). For reasons unknown to me to this day, I sat myself across the aisle from two idiotic neds, talking loudly and quite drunkenly about the merits of sectarian violence. They talked for so long and so passionately about how absolutely great it is to smash one of them damn Papists in the face that the Arab girl sat opposite them was forced to move down the train. Naturally, this brought up the next topic of conversation: the comedic potential of suicide bombers. Oh, what wags! What wit! Brilliant, I thought, and settled down to pour some quite astonishing vitriol onto their heads. Silently, of course: I didn’t want to be mistaken for one of those damn Papists.
As a glance at the reputable modern role-model, Ms Amy Winehouse, will show, big brassy tattoos make no excuse for their presence. They make your tiny nautical stars look more ridiculous by the day. Reacting against the trend of shame for that hideous thing you had etched on some shrouded part of your anatomy, it displays your taste for pin-up girls/horseshoes/your significant other for the rest of us to judge. You might appear to be a raving idiot, but you’ve got our respect for it. [LC]
Intelligent Toilet Graffiti
There’s something surreal about sitting in a toilet cubicle (don’t get embarrassed, it happens to all of us) and being faced with an erudite discussion on topics diverse as (but not limited to) last night’s football and poetry criticism, as opposed to the usual tripe about who’s either gay or a slag or just looking for a good time. People with nothing better to do than spew the intriguing and sometimes downright disturbing workings of their minds over the four walls (and yes sometimes even the toilet itself) of toilets throughout Glasgow have been doing just that, and we thank them. Beats taking a paper in any day. [DB]
As far as it’s possible for a microscopic invertebrate to be cute, the water bear, or tardi is right up there with a YouTube video of a kitten falling asleep. They’re chubby little fellas with eight stumpy legs, a heart of gold and a can-do attitude. What’s more, they’re hard-fucking-core. You can shoot them into space, freeze them to absolute freakin’ zero, chuck them into a nuclear reactor, even starve them of water for as long as you like, and they’ll still keep on doing this sweet little waddly walk and whistling a little song. If you were at a party and it was raining outside and you were out of beer, the tardigrade is the kind of dude who would be like “It’s cool, guys, I’ll go,” and you’d be all like “Man, that tardigrade, he’s okay.” So here’s to you, water bear: you’re officially GUM’s favourite of all the Panarthropoda. [PM]
Japan is a country famed for origami, high fashion and advanced technology. Fashion retailer Onisuka Tiger have combined all three to create the world’s first origami shoes which you, dear reader, can make yourself! A cheap, if slightly impractical, approach to fashion. Make at least 18 pairs out of this issue, with our pretty paper. http://shin.onitsukatiger.co.uk/ [JW]
The re-emergence of our favourite bubbly chocolate, like, ever, has probably made our very year. OK, so it’s just an Aero made with significantly better chocolate encased in an aesthetically superior wrapper, but it’s the childhood memories it evokes – a time when a chocolate bar cost less than 60p – that make it. The only problem is finding a shop that sells them. We still think 60p and a 3 mile round-trek is a price we’re willing to pay for a chocolate love-explosion. [DB]
He Shoots, He Scores
“It will make men’s hearts leap and make the women’s league give a loud groan.” Manufacturers of the fastest cars and the finest biers, the Germans are at it again. This time they’ve combined the beautiful game with the call of nature. The KloKicker, translated literally as the Loo Kicker, is a green plastic inset for a urinal that incorporates a mini football goal on top. A football dangles in front of the goal and the ‘aim’ of the game (see what we did there?) is to hit the ball into the goal as accurately as possible. Upon completion of said task, the ball even changes colour! Guaranteed to be ‘a lot of fun for top goal scorers’, the KloKicker is available now in your local German Brauerei. Next stop: Glasgow. We hope. [JW]
Everyone knows that watching TV nowadays is a long, deathly trudge through a dire trench of stupidity, fear, hate and Hollyoaks. Right. That’s just TV. But Freeview is TV’s retarded second cousin who likes to rub himself up against table legs. Searching for something to watch on Freeview is like getting lost in the desert. You wander for days through the ravaged hinterland of cancelled shows and repeats, hoping for the meanest morsel to sustain you, until you stumble across a decade-old repeat of Friends. You gingerly raise it to your mouth. You grimace. But after those hours of cultural deprivation, you have no choice but to swallow. Five hours later, your skin has taken on a waxy complexion, your friends don’t recognise you and you’ve got a strange compulsion to consolidate all of your existing debts into one easy monthly payment. You are wretched, living death. And you’re still more entertaining than watching E4. [PM]
Ok, we get the picture. You want everyone to know you went to a festival this summer and had a really, like, amazing time. That’s great, we’re really pleased for you. Just take off the damn wristband already. The germ count on that thing is probably verging on dangerous biohazard levels. [JM]
Kids in Restaurants
Listen up, parents.Just because you once read a parenting book that told you to never restrain your child or else they’ll never blossom into their full potential doesn’t mean I gotta put up with it.If you never tell your kid to shut up, that kid will grow up to be the loudest, bigoted asshole on the planet, or even a politician.Now, sit that kid in a chair like a normal human being or I’m ‘a slap you. [AM]
My melancholy detects no horizon
So I diffuse it
For it’s all I can accomplish
Earlier this year, the western world guffawed as a Russian submarine planted a flag in the seabed, claiming the North Pole the Christopher Columbus way. How we laughed. But as it turns out, we’re busy doing the same thing in the South Pole. The UK is claiming a 1m sq km area of the Antarctic seabed for oil and other prospecting. Never mind that Argentina also claims the same area, and that this is bound to stir up some bad blood just months after the 25th anniversary of the Falkland Islands conflict.We’re just against planting underwater flags. [AM]
They tempt you in with those shiny models of perfect homes, both in their catalogues and in their gargantuan labyrinthine showrooms, where you make the fatal error of thinking that yes, you too could take a stab at interior design.Several hours and much blood, sweat and tears later, all you’re left with is the same, slightly sad-looking flat, but with new cushions and throws that clash horribly with the sofa, a bookcase inexplicably named BÃ˜NK lying in pieces on the floor where you gave up building it half an hour ago, and a general hatred of all of mankind. [DB]
It’s happening behind the infamous tacky club, The Garage in the centre of town, in the depths of a Finnieston industrial park, beside a traditional drinking-den in the West End, opposite a supermarket in the streets of Maryhill. The art-scene is back in full bloom, and there’s an energy, atmosphere and momentum that’s fuelling some of the most interesting and accessible art projects in Glasgow.
I visited four studios, galleries, and art project around the city, each with a different vision, but all sharing an independent, DIY spirit. Any remodelling, building, painting and general handy-work is done in-house. Studio Warehouse held skip parties, where donations in return for some banging DJ tunes would pay for the next skip of junk to be hauled away; Artpharm had its creators getting messy for three months before opening; Low Salt was remodelled in a few weeks of spare time.
Even with this surge of activity, Glasgow is still behind many of its European and Worldwide city counterparts. Sure, there is Berlin, London, New York: the metropolitan hubs for creativity. But even cities such as Copenhagen and Auckland are buzzing with small gallery spaces, exhibitions, projects, and shows.
But what makes Glasgow special is that there are so many abandoned shops, surgeries, and warehouses to commandeer for art’s sake. Ali and Amy Whiten realised this when they set up their small gallery, Recoat. Their vision encompasses graphic art, illustration, photography, and street art. “Basically, anything we like,” they say. Sure enough, there’s too much of a cacophony of ideas on the walls to simply brush over with the term urban or young. Detailed pencil drawings of fascinating faces surrounded by lurid colours hang next to art-deco stencils of a Young Leith Team logo, previously seen only on bus shelters, next to a collage of paper making an interesting story about a cookie. Much of this type of work could be found around the city only on the walls of skate stores and a few cafes. Now there’s a dedicated space for it which has local artists’ work residing on the walls next to the likes of world-famous Crash, Suzie Q, Bernie Reid and other established illustrators.
The driving force behind these projects is to pursue that over-cited mission of the young art world, now skewed with stereotypical cynicism yet still strangely underachieved: they want to “make art accessible.” But what does this even mean any more?
Firstly, it means that you don’t just have to wait for middle age and a mortgage to buy original art. Recoat has just finished its bargain basement sale, where all artwork is £40 or under. There’s also a variety of t-shirts, bags, and prints which let people own original art in a more casual manner, without putting it on a pedestal. The sale, which is now set to become an annual tradition, balances the need to appreciate the work, while being honest with the public. Ali and Amy explain, “It’s difficult because one of our friends is a socialist and he argues, how can you put a price on a painting of something like £800? How do you decide? But it’s important as an artist to have integrity and value your art. Why shouldn’t it be £1000?”
Value in the art world, however, is based on marketing, PR and how you portray your work. It’s about hype. Ali and Amy remind me of a recent auction in which a Damien Hirst painting was to be auctioned off amongst other works. No-one was to know which piece of work was his. When a suitable obscure, indifferent sculpture that had ‘Hirst’ written all over it (figuratively, although that could be an idea for one of his next pieces) came up for grabs, it was sold for thousands. The actual Hirst piece was sold for £20. When this was found out, there was uproar. The Hirst piece was re-auctioned off and unsurprisingly sold for thousands, and all was right again in the art world.
There’s definitely that hype, image and PR-machine at work in Glasgow. It’s understandable to think that these places and experiences are part of a sub-culture that you have to be immersed in, rather than bobbing in and out at your leisure. It’s definitely a scene, and, to be honest, it can seem rather elusive. Yet most of this image is built not by the galleries or projects, but by outside sources wanting to cash in on the movement. While I was interviewing Mutley from Studio Warehouse, he was visited by a market research company who wanted to find out who the coolest kids in Glasgow are. He was one of them.
Regardless of PR companies’ take on the project, Studio Warehouse is one of the most exciting projects around, with 35 spaces on the second floor of a huge warehouse, plus a photography studio, gallery and recently acquired stage/gig-venue. Mutley’s known the space was here for years. He used to organise parties here, and, one year, started to think that it would be great as an art studio. The result is by far the largest project of its kind in Glasgow. But perhaps that’s because, really, it’s one of a kind. Four years later, it has a waiting list of over 100 people and a solid reputation.
Fed up of the hype surrounding art? Then create your own. Low Salt opened its doors to Art School students one fateful afternoon. Choose a record sleeve, they said. One with an interesting design. Then screen print it onto a t-shirt, throw, whatever. We’ll show you how. There were queues out the door.
Low Salt resides in an out-building beside The Garage, just around the corner from the Art School. As a result, its opening nights are usually packed with students. It’s easy to see why. Exhibitions for Low Salt are chosen based on, amongst other things, whether they can hold up and stand their own in the space that’s unpainted walls, huge high-beam ceilings, and open-work carpentry. This isn’t, as co-founder Becki explains, the sort of place for a few paintings subtly hanging.
Their not-for-profit project began last spring in, unsurprisingly, the Saltmarket in Glasgow. The three girls, recently graduated from art school, “plotted and schemed” each night to develop the idea into a reality. The result is monthly shows from artists from around the world, specialising in a wide variety of media. My first visit there led me unsuspectingly into the mob of Draw or Die: a quick-fire Pictionary game for the creative, involving an overhead projector, 6 pens, one minute, and a concept.
Where the energy and momentum to create such projects and communities comes from is difficult to trace, but from time to time there is an underlying layer of anger that occasionally bubbles to the surface. Becki told me “We were angry at University in general. The teachers were on strike for a while. There was a lack of teaching, lack of tutors, lack of art space. We’re getting graded on everything: it seemed dishonest. Everyone was standardised.”
Whether it’s frustration that propels artists or not, it’s clear that a lack of official artspace has culminated in the creation of these projects. And there still isn’t enough. Artpharm, a collection of studios and a gallery in Maryhill, was founded by two Art School graduates, Sasha and Natalie, who discovered that there was no room at the creative inn: studio space was hard to come by, overheads were high, and what space there was, was cramped or unsuitable. So they created their own. Artpharm now houses ten artists, each specialising in different media, and there’s already a waiting list for studio space. Glasgow is just brimming with talent.
How all these projects are financed is another matter. Recoat used all of Amy’s savings to start up, but they’re primarily a commercial gallery, trying to make a profit (or, at least, break even). Artpharm, Low Salt and Studio Warehouse rely on sporadic funding from councils, lottery-funds and smaller bursaries which get awarded to everyone from magazines to other galleries. Studio Warehouse received £20,000 from the Millennium Award, an amount which barely covered electricity for the top floor. Artpharm are working from the reasonable rates they charge artists for the studio space. Low Salt received one-off funding, and regularly fill out 16-page forms in hopes of getting more. But these folks don’t revel in a romantic ideal of poverty: no-one I spoke to was eager to mull over the hardships of surviving. Mutley summarises the tone: “Why should a creative industry be different to any other model? It should stand on its own two feet.”
Glasgow’s art scene is certainly doing that. What’s been happening throughout Glasgow isn’t simply a redecoration of a few art galleries, though. Art is affordable and accessible; something that can merge with your every day life. And it’s set to keep moving: word is spreading, interest is growing. For every dozen frustrated artists, art-lovers or culture junkies, there’s someone keeping an eye out for the shacks and ghettos that can be reclaimed. There’s plenty more where this came from.
On a cold, wet Saturday afternoon in September, I find myself horizontal on a sodden football pitch on the outskirts of Fort William. I have just been brutally cut down by a burly, bearded Jacobite. As I lie there skyward, in the suitably mangled position of a casualty of war, I have time to reflect on the day’s events and the unfortunate nature of my untimely death as an 18th century redcoat in King George’s army.
For many students, the chance to assume a glamorous new persona is one of the most alluring prospects afforded by university. This rite of passage, involving the systematic abandonment of every personality trait acquired over the past eighteen years, has traditionally been undertaken with the aid of certain classic novels. We’ve outlined these quintessential books below, so you too can join the fervent ranks of would-be bohemian undergrads, all questing for that Ueber-intellectual, Nietzsche-quoting, espresso-drinking, ebony-clad identity. Be different by being the same!
Nestlé is one of those companies that everyone loves to hate. Like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola, it has become a scapegoat for the perceived failings of capitalism. Aidan Cook finds out whether the criticism is justified.
This morning I woke up, yawned, and padded through to the kitchen wearing my Tesco pyjamas. There, I poured myself a bowl of Tesco cereal and looked over the holiday photos I had developed at the Tesco Photo Centre. Then I got to thinking. I could go check my email using my Tesco Broadband, or I could text my friends on my Tesco mobile. If I was feeling particularly flush, I could buy a house with a Tesco mortgage, take out Tesco insurance for it, and heat it with Tesco Gas. If anything should happen to me, I could feel safe that I had written my Tesco will using Tesco legal advisors, and my friends could buy me Tesco flowers for my funeral…and so on.
Tennents, Carling, Miller, San Miguel. These lagers are widely available, largely flavourless, and suspiciously fizzy. They are what White Lightning is to cider, what Buckfast is to wine, what U2 are to rock music. They are the Tesco of lager, the McDonalds of beer. These lagers are the beer equivalent of tap-water: largely flavourless and suspiciously fizzy. “Hey, wait a sec”, you say. “You’re telling me this Kronenbourg isn’t really beer?” Sit down, dear, and let us tell you a tale of ale.
The Rise of Ale
All beer falls under two categories: ale and lager, the only difference being the way they are fermented. Both are essentially liquid bread, made of barley, hops, yeast and water. Lager is currently the world’s preferred beer, and rightly so: authentic lager is refreshing and delicious. Shame that British lager is neither.
What few people realize is that lager is quite new to Britain, becoming popular only in the 1960s when folks began to holiday in Germany and Central Europe again. They came back home wanting to feel more European and drink cool, light-coloured, refreshing beer. The first attempts at a British lager were stunted by the fear that the larger imperial pint (568 ml, compared to the 500 ml German serving) combined with the native propensity for downing lots of them in one sitting, would destroy civilisation. Thus, the new home-brewed lager was watered down to as low as 3% alcohol by volume. We have since caught up with Europe and drink the same 4-5% abv lagers they do.
The flavourlessness of this earlier era has sadly remained, however, mainly due to the demands of mass-producing a product as delicate as lager. A true lager requires at the very least two months of careful, low-temperature fermentation to achieve its distinctive pale colour and high carbonation. Today’s big brewers can sidestep all that by warm-fermenting the beer, then spinning it in a centrifuge to make it artificially clear, then pasteurising (by boiling) it so it won’t spoil in a can or bottle, and finally injecting it with carbon dioxide to replace the natural carbonation it would have had before it was all jostled about. By the time it gets to you, what was once fresh beer is now more like Frankenlager. To make matters worse, the Americans soon realized they could get away with using less barley and marketing their beer as “less filling.” Instead, they can replace up to 50% of the barley malt with cheaper adjuncts: Miller’s use of corn lends it that syrupy aftertaste you may have noticed after a couple of pints; Budweiser’s preference for rice gives it that trademark nothing-flavour we have come to expect.
Contrary to the received wisdom of the age, beer is not supposed to be ice-cold and fizzy, attributes that actually mask any flavour it may have. Think of what Coke would taste like after it has sat in a plastic cup overnight. Filthy, innit? That’s why it’s best served chilled and full of bubbles. The advent of cold, artificially fizzy lager was perfect for masking the fact that it actually sucks. It’s a credit to the marketing man that this is precisely what now passes for beer.
A Tale of Ale
Before the rise of British lager, the standard tipple down the pub was what is known today as “real ale”. This is different from your standard lager in that it actually tastes of beer.
Ale is made with a different kind of yeast than lager, one which can ferment at higher temperatures. This process results in a darker colour with more pronounced flavours and aromas. To qualify as a “real” by the standards set by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the beer has to be brewed using traditional methods (i.e., no centrifuges or other scary lab equipment), and “alive” when served, meaning no pasteurisation and no added carbonation. Derek Moore, the brewmaster behind the Kelburn Brewing Company in Barrhead, Glasgow, considers his ales to be fresh produce. “It’s an experience. Sometimes you’ll get an orange that’s better than another orange. Like fine fruit, there are subtle variations from cask to cask. The brewer’s art is not brewing the best beer in the world – it’s to brew the same beer you drank the last time.”
Ales vary from hoppy bitters to chocolaty darks to citrusy blondes, so if you’ve tried an ale and weren’t impressed, chances are you just haven’t found the right one for you. As Moore explains, “even I don’t like every real ale.”
And it isn’t just the brewer’s art that determines your ale experience – it’s also largely down to the server. Paul McDonagh, owner of the Bon Accord alehouse in Charing Cross, believes the barman has an art all his own. And he should know: the Bon Accord keeps ten real ales on draught at all times. “A cask ale takes at least three days to condition before you can sell it. Some ales take five. You’ve got to know when it’s ready. You’ve also got to learn how to pull a good pint: four pumps, let it settle. As for hygiene, it’s all about having a good standard. Keep your beer lines clean and proper: it’s as easy as brushing your teeth every morning.”
Scotland in particular has a thriving microbrewery scene, with nearly 30 brewers in business. But this is quite a recent development. When Moore first dabbled in brewing in the 1980s, there were only a handful of real ales on tap anywhere in Scotland. “I wasn’t too happy with the beer quality, so I thought I’d start making my own. And I genuinely believed I was making better beer in the house than I could get in most of the pubs.”
Now he brews the award-winning Kelburn ales, and wonders why anyone settles for bland lagers with the choices anymore. “If lagers are done right they’re tremendous. But sadly I don’t think there’s one lager I can say I like from Britain. Then I look at my Goldihops and my Pivo Estivo, and I see very light beers with flavour. If your sole purpose in life is to get wrecked, why not just buy some fortified wine?” Sage advice, which we hope the reader won’t take literally.
But as with any business, there’s more to this tale than craftsmen doing what they love. One thing about the ale business is that it’s never very stable – brewing is an expensive occupation, and with the titanic lager breweries running the show, it can be a bit like starting your own burger stand next door to Burger King. The bad news is that many smaller brewers disappear if they can’t keep sales up; the good news is that there’s often a new brewer in town, and nowhere more so than Scotland.
Chris Randall is the manager of the Peckhams deli and wine shop on Glassford Street, and a fan of a proper pint. “Our ales really draw people in, and no shop in Glasgow stocks more Scottish ales than we do.” But one can’t always be sure to find what they’re looking for even here. “The real ale thing has gone a bit crazy, a bit corporate. When I was growing up, you’d never have seen them on the shelves at supermarkets.” Smaller shops now find themselves trying to keep up a regular supply to the standard found at your local megastore. “99% of everything is finding a consistent supplier.”
Moore’s Kelburn Brewery is doing well, supplying Glasgow pubs like the Bon Accord on a regular basis. But it hasn’t been easy getting to where he has. Moore founded the brewery in 2001, and it took him two years just to break even. In the meantime, the number of small brewers in Scotland has almost doubled, and to stay ahead of the game, it’s all about negotiating ever larger supplies to national pub companies (or pubcos), often for ever lower prices. “Folk come into a pub and say there’s much more choice now…but the wee brewer like us makes pennies, whereas the middleman is making a killing. But it’s good exposure and it helps the turnover as well.”
The Kelburn’s relationship to the Bon Accord, an independent alehouse, is more personal. When Moore’s Cart Blanche won CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Scotland last year, McDonagh was right there with him. Moore is also a regular at the Bon Accord. McDonagh remembers a time when one of his customers was enjoying a pint of Kelburn’s Goldihops. “He says, ‘that’s absolutely beautiful,” and I say to him, ‘see that man right over there? That’s the brewer, you can tell him yourself.’” But the independent pub is a dying breed, as more and more get snatched up by the pubcos.
It isn’t easy being a small brewer, but Derek Moore keeps at it for the love of a good pint. “Just ask yourself, do you like fresh coffee, or instant? Fresh fruit, or tinned? Not to be derogatory, but I believe that some people have taste buds and some don’t.” Paul McDonagh bought the Bon Accord in 2001, by which time the pub had “hit rock bottom.” But he brought it back to life because, as he puts it, “I believe in real ale for real people.” And Chris Randall maintains that he couldn’t run a business selling ale alone. “But sometimes, your cup of tea isn’t a cup of tea,” he smiles. One gets the sense that these people keep at it out of love for the product rather than any financial incentive.
That said, it is quite clear that the real ale business is thriving in Scotland. The Bon Accord makes an amazing 80% of all its beer sales from cask ales. Scratch the surface, and you’ll find that Glasgow is a cask-loving town, with ale on tap all over the West End. Just ask a barman near you. Tell them GUM sent you.
Get your cask ale on at: Tennent’s Bar, The Aragon, Oran Mor on Byres Road. Others are The Three Judges on Dumbarton Road, Uisge Beatha on Woodlands Road and, of course, the Bon Accord (153 North Street). For bottled ales, try Peckhams or The Cave (Great Western Road). For more on real ale, go to www.camra.org.uk.
Everyone remembers their first time; from that first kiss with the girl you thought you would love forever to this: the first dog that has your hopes riding on its back. With a love for Blur’s Parklife album, a good knowledge of my times tables and a spare twenty quid burning a hole in my pocket, my brother took me to Shawfield Stadium.
Some time ago, in a place I can’t say, two policemen spotted a car with an expired tax disc, across a dark and wide street. They walked over and noticed the trigger of a sawn-off shotgun ‘sticking’ out of a bag in the back seat. The man in the car blamed it on his mate, saying the bag holding the gun must have been slung in the back without his knowing. His mate was in the nearby chippy at the time, and legged it when the coppers appeared. The coppers didn’t spot him running.
I was on the jury. We were asked to decide whether the man in the car was guilty of knowing that the bag containing the gun – not the gun itself – was in the back of his car. After being presented with evidence from both sides for two days, we were asked to adjourn and, without speculation, deliberate a verdict.
What they asked of us was impossible: to remove any thoughts we may have had on the case – which come naturally given the 2 days of chat about the bigger picture – and decide if the accused is telling the truth about one detail of a story swamped in lies.
I voted not guilty. I was half-lying when I did. The chances are he saw the bag in the back seat.
It doesn’t matter whether the gun was sticking out the bag or not; to be guilty he had to have knowledge of the bag in his car – even if it belonged to the absconded friend. One thing the jury did agree on was the mate being ‘more guilty’ than the accused himself.
A majority verdict found the accused guilty. I see the convicted man as a scapegoat, taking the blame to satisfy records. With rates of gun crime in urban England worrying the public (we may have seen figures decrease for the first time in 7 years, but news coverage remains constant with recent youth killings), one strategy of the home office has been to ‘strengthen the law’.
The law is so strong that a man has gone to jail because the jury I was on decided he knew there was a bag in the back of his car. It’s a shame the figures for convictions on gun related crimes are, in this case at least, skewed because justice got twisted up with politics.
I know first impressions are important. I know that. And yet if there was such thing as the Society For The Advancement Of First Impressions, and they gave out awards, they would undoubtedly give me the wooden spoon. Actually, they wouldn’t. They’d probably kill me, wrap me up in a carpet and throw me in the foundations of a construction site, because if me and my first impressions ever were associated with them in any way, it would have a seriously deleterious effect on any first impressions people might make about them in the future. And I’d imagine those guys would probably care about that kind of thing a lot.
Dumgoyne is a pointy hill north of Glasgow at the end of the Campsie Fells. You can see it from the higher levels of the library. It’s also a classic day out, far enough away to feel like an adventure, close enough to get home in time for tea. What’s more, you’ll get some free whisky for your trouble – the Dumgoyne happens to be the home of the Glengoyne Distillery.
There’s two ways of getting there. You could take the bus straight to the distillery. But if you’re really hardcore, and we know you are, you can make a day of it and take the path from the nearest village two miles away. Let’s make a day of it.
Go down to Buchanan Bus Station, or Maryhill Road, and catch the #10 to Blanefield (hourly Mon–Sat, every two hours Sun). It takes 35 minutes, and before you know it, you’re in pure Scottish countryside, where you’re more likely to see a Lady on a horse than a lady in a fake tan.
Just beyond the tiny village of Strathblane, you’re in the even-tinier village of Blanefield; get off at St Kessog’s Church and start walking uphill on Campsie Dene Road. Pass the mansions that you’ll never see the inside of, until you hit the last farmhouse – Cantywheery – and take the kissing gate to the right. From here, just follow the path across a burn until you see a big hill in front of you. Don’t climb that one, silly. This first hill is not Dumgoyne but Dumfoyne, a rocky little practical joke nature’s playing on you. Skirting Dumfoyne, you’ll eventually see a big, scary cliff. That’s where you’re headed.
The climb to the summit is mercifully short but steep, so wear decent shoes. You may be out of breath by the time you reach the top, but try to save some for when you check out the view. In one direction, Loch Lomond and the Highlands; in the other, Glasgow in all its sprawl.
Tumble down the hill and cross a stile to get what you’ve earned. No matter what day of the week it is, you can take a tour of the Glengoyne Distillery every hour for £5. Their smokeless 10 year-old malt is as smooth as whisky gets, and their 17 year-old was once named “Best of the Best” by Whisky Magazine. Chill out with your dram on a couch overlooking the waterfall.
What a nice day you’ve had. You can walk the 2 miles back to Strathblane for the nearest pub, or grab some tea and a scone at Blanefield’s tearoom. Otherwise, just stick your thumb out and catch the #10 back to your place, and slap yourself on the back for being such a master daytripper. Then celebrate by sitting in front of the DVD player all night.
The John Mac Vending Machines
There’s a robot arm, and it, like, grabs the bottle you chose, and then moves it to the opening. No more over-fizz. A technological development that’s a complete waste of time and money, and that we just love.
At first we watched it because it was awful and reminded us of the annoying students we know with their annoying parties and their annoying involvement in storylines of assaults, gangsters, alcoholism and pub explosions, featuring their annoying families and friends. We deluded ourselves that the ropey characterisation and sympathetic acting had a charm about them but then something changed. We developed a rapport with the characters. We want to jump into fictional Chester and give JP and Hannah lots of hugs for different reasons. At the same time, we want to give those who play the Valentine family redundancy payments. We are beginning to watch Hollyoaks for non-ironic reasons.
Autumn (in Theory)
Autumn is probably the most under-appreciated season in all the natural calendar. Winter is characterised by over-indulgence and painful detoxification, Spring gives us the horrible contradiction of nice weather and nasty revision and Summer is a perennial disappointment either being too hot or too rainy. Autumn provides pleasant surprises and beautiful images of grey squirrels amongst the leaves of University Avenue – the perfect time for Freshers and hardened Finalists to trudge back up to university. Somebody start the Facebook group demanding a change in the calendar to make New Year start the day after the September Weekend… What do you mean the date changes?
One for the Geeks
“A film about fonts? You want us to go see a film about fonts? How much time have you spent on this magazine?” you’re probably thinking, but hear us out. Helvetica—the film—isn’t just a 2-hour long discussion of one font and all the geeky things like paper texture, page spacing and typography. With interviews with designers, artists, and advertising moguls throughout the world it’s an exploration of cities and their inhabitants, the creative process behind marketing, and an in-depth look at how society communicates. This film will make you think about what you see from day to day that you pay attention to but never knew existed. Screenings around the country from September 1st. Go to www.helveticafilm.com
I’m not Checking You out,
I’m Keeping up with Current Affairs
Since George Bush has revealed his plans to re-start the space race, Japan have launched a satellite that can monitor the goings on of the entire world. You know how we found that out? By reading the latest issue of T-post: a Swedish magazine that has subscribers in over 40 countries. If you’ look at the picture of those attractive people over there, you’ll read it too. T-post is a magazine in t-shirt format.
The brainchild of a group of friends who wanted a new way to engage people in forgotten and important news stories, T-post translates news into graphics to encourage people to communicate and interpret the stories in their own way.
What’s more, it’s exclusive: copies are made only for subscribers, and no extras are made. If subscription rates continue to increase (the latest figure was 2000), T-post will operate a ‘one-in’, ‘one-out’ policy to ensure that you don’t bump into anyone with the same T-shirt in the pub.
Magazines cost 26 euros, and are released every 6 weeks. Sure, it’s about 15 quid more expensive than the Economist or the NME, but we think it’s worth it.
To Catch a Predator
It was top of the ratings charts in the US for a while. A show based on entrapment, To Catch a Predator lures ‘real, live’ pÃ¦dophiles to a staged house only to record their reactions when a man with a clipboard tells them they’ve been busted and reads out all their seedy conversations with under-agers. They usually break down into tears. Then they’re tackled by armed policemen. Pretty funny, eh?
Autumn (in Reality)
Yet some of you would be quick to point out that there is a reason that nobody rates Autumn as a season that much. This Summer’s rainfall shows no sign of abating. The nights get darker and bus journeys home on the 44 become much more fraught. Panicky students at the workstations in the Library during the bulk of Week 8, give rise to the burgeoning ‘Emo Wednesday’ phenomenon. The ongoing quest for Christmas employment. Aggressive marketing of the back to school season one week and unloading the tacky Halloween decorations onto the shop floor the next. And did we mention Christmas employment?
Everyone tells you to take extra special care of that face of yours the night before your matriculation photo is going to be taken. Don’t get too drunk, don’t get in a fight, and don’t wake up 7 minutes after you should have been in a snaking queue. After all, that picture’s with you for 4 years. But trust us, it’s not worth it. No matter how much sleep, hair gel, or make up you have, the lighting and queuing in Bute Hall will make you look like Cher on a bad day (minus the lack of clothing). Embrace it: it’s an essential university tradition to compare horrendous photos in matriculation cards.
Fast replacing pigeons as GUM’s official Most Disliked Bird. At least pigeons don’t hang out in our backyards yelling at each other at 4am. Pigeons may be more disgusting creatures, but there’s nothing quite as irritating as a seabird, miles away from the coast, waking your ass up so he can chat with all his buddies about how much easier it is to eat our leftover chips and cheese than it is to go fishing. Urban seagulls, your place is on the coast. Go home! Are you too good for your home?
Our ever decreasing finances and experiences with patronising sales staff smugging it up about getting to see the bands that you just got into put us off shopping in Fopp for a while. Then it had an extraordinary ‘stock take’ and it later closed down. We felt upset and guilty for a while but still secretly comforted ourselves with splurges in Amazon or HMV (‘Fopp killer!’ – the GUM readership). Then HMV ‘resurrected’ the two Glasgow stores. The reloaded Fopp stores were alright but they just were not the same, down to the pricing label. We are still feeling really really guilty.
You know the drill. They give you too much eye contact, do a funny walk, smile madly and you talk to them because you’re a decently-raised young ‘un and don’t want to appear rude (and if you don’t talk to that one, there’s another 10 yards up the road). After about 30 seconds you’ll feel super uncomfortable for not saving all the children by donating a tenth of your student loan to an obscure charity. It’s a pretty disastrous 77 seconds. Unless you see how long you can talk to them for, and explain that you don’t actually believe in children, or charity, or, indeed streets. Be smooth and charming, and always appear knowledgable. Then offer to sign them up to your club.