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Words: Jenny Nicol (She/Her)

March 2022. My mother drives me to the University for an open day. She knows the lanes to pick and the corners to turn, the buildings and floors and lecture halls. She remembers Glasgow in bus routes and hospital shifts. I recognise four buses–three of which I only ever take as far as Maryhill Road. The 17 heads West to Faifley, to her Aunt Jean and Uncle Willie. She recognises buildings I would never think about twice–her grandparent’s flat, the consultant and his wife’s house. She drives me to Murano and points across the road and says, “Now that’s where the infectious diseases hospital used to be!”

I am seventeen and frightened of daddy-long-legs and my fast-food restaurant manager. I think I might be outgrowing the town I’ve spent my whole life in. My dad was ill but is getting better, my brother lives two hours away. The world might be going back to normal.

November 2022. I learn that my grandfather lived on Oakfield Avenue. I’ve never walked up that way, even now, but it belongs to him nonetheless. My mum mentions that a boy I grew up with (an almost-first-kiss, sun-tanned, lovely-mother kind of boy), lives there now with his girlfriend and I wonder if they feel my Grandpa there, not knowing it’s him. When they find things in exactly the place they should be or hear an off-key hymn, they won’t think of John Nicol, but he will be there. 

I turn eighteen in December 2022 and the real ‘university experience’ begins. Nights out are frequent and varied in success–queuing for five hours in January to decide I’m too cold and miserable and going home before I even make it through the door, the joy of meeting strangers over broken soap dispensers, kissing people I’ll never meet again, kissing people I will. Dozens of nights spent out, dozens more spent in. I’d love to be snarky about Murano–tell you that the things I remember most are cold showers, middle-of-the-night fire alarms, and constantly broken ovens, but my most vivid recollections are softer, warmer. A pint of ice cream shared between six, eating cheese and drinking wine around a table too small for eleven. I met girls there who I’ll love for the rest of my life and it makes it a hard place to hate.

August 2023. I am driven into Glasgow once again, bags filling the boot, but this time I know where I am going. Familiar faces greet us and hand over brand new keys. I have spent a summer with girls who were strangers a year ago and friends who I have known since before I could read and everyone I have loved inbetween. My second year of University begins surrounded with laughter and comfort. I miss home more, phone my mum more. She covers the distance. It feels so wonderfully grown up to say street names and subway stations that she recognises. She guesses where I am over the line, “You’re out of breath, is that University Avenue or Belmont Street?”, “I can hear sirens passing–are you on Maryhill Road?” I get to tell her about new construction, she gets to tell me the names of tuba-players after too many pints and the familiar click of her mother’s court shoes. We know the streets of Glasgow the same way we know one another, an ever-expanding, ever-patient type of learning. How lucky we are to see the things we love change.

I am eighteen and frightened of daddy-long-legs and my bank balance. I’m not sure how to prevent mould or what to do when you can’t. I think I might be in a place I can make my own. My dad is better but tired, my brother has permanently come home. The world is never normal, but always exciting.

February 2024. Memories gifted to me don’t so much seep out of Glasgow but instead beckon, gentle hands and familiar lilts. The Kelvin unfreezes and the Botanics bloom and every year the whole city begins to blossom. Streets fill and pubs glow and Glasgow is alive and as fickle as I am, as we all are. And these memories–the fiddly, slippery things that they are–fill up spaces I don’t even notice. Some are left behind, dropped under benches or onto train tracks, some tucked into bus stops and pint glasses, some carried carefully in pockets and clasped hands. 

I am nineteen and frightened of lots of things, I realise. There are bad managers and never enough money and mould in lots of places, but look how the world heals around us, how the gash of winter heals, laced up with stitches of soup and coffee and the promise of sunshine. There has always been shifting, boundaries pushed and questions asked, but watch how we build our lives within it out of the things we share with one another, brick by brick.


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