For me London and Glasgow are two of the best cities in Europe, so I’m always up for an excuse to visit Red Clydeside. My reason for heading north last weekend was to do a performance at Transmission Gallery on Saturday 10 December. The train I took was about five minutes from the Central Station when Katrina Palmer – who’d organised the event – called me to say she was close by and would meet me when I got in. Her plan was to walk me straight to Transmission so that we could go through what we were doing that night. I made her detour via Turquoise – AKA “Scotland’s Turkish Kebab House” – where I got a carry out falafel. From Oswald Street we headed down to the Clyde and ambled along the river to the gallery because the city centre was heaving with Solstice shoppers.
It took less than 15 minutes to sort out what we were doing. Katrina wanted each performance to take place in a different area of the gallery and I was happy with that. I then headed across the Clyde to the Premier Inn on Ballater Street, a walk of about 10 minutes. Once I was settled in my room I ate my falafel. I was seriously hungry having skipped lunch because it was too expensive to buy on the train; meaning I hadn’t eaten for more than eight hours. After my grub I ran through what I was doing in the gallery, took a shower, and then read until about 6.45pm.
I returned to Transmission shortly before 7pm and chatted to Keith Miller and a few other people before the live action. Katrina kicked things off with a short reading. Immediately afterwards, Jefford Horrigan did a kind of waltz with a table – turning it on its side and treating two of the arms as legs – with improvised sax provided by René Salemi. With a duration of around 4 minutes, it was even shorter than Katrina’s spoken word act. I went on straight after Jefford and began by doing a headstand and reciting from my recent book Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie. After that I shredded a copy of my novel Down & Out In Shoreditch & Hoxton – while simultaneously explaining that in transforming the tome into confetti, I was creating a work of art and thus greatly increasing the value of the book I was ‘destroying’. I finished by reciting from memory a lengthy passage from my novel Defiant Pose.
After these performances people stood around socialising and eventually most of us moved on to Mono for drinks. At 10.30pm I told Katrina I was hungry and I was going to get something to eat. She wanted nosh as well, as did René and Jefford. The Transmission crowd were more interested in drinking, so we left them in Mono (which stops serving food at 9pm). We went into an Italian restaurant only to be told they’d closed. The same thing happened in the first Indian we came across. We ended up in The Dhabba at 44 Candleriggs. My Palak Paneer (cheese cubes and spinach) was excellent – and Katrina’s Pilee Dal Tadka (yellow lentils), which I also tried, was really good too! As we ate, we talked about artists who do and don’t use the internet, and much else besides. I’m a real fan of the Banana Leaf in the west end of Glasgow – which does fantastic south Indian food – but the northern Indian cooking at The Dhabba made a nice change. Leaving the restaurant around midnight, I made my way back to the Premier Inn with Jefford and René. Katrina was staying at a different hotel, so she headed west down Argyle Street. Back at the Premier Inn I stayed up for a couple of hours to watch the TV news and read.
On Sunday morning I took a shower, made myself some tea and sat in bed reading. Breakfast in the hotel cost £7.99 so I decided to skip it. I checked out at 10am and headed into town so that I could drift through some of Glasgow’s many discount stores. I tried The Poundland on Trongate first, where I bought myself a sandwich which I ate outside the shop. They had one egg and cress special that was reduced by half to 50p – but it should have been removed from the shelf because it was past it’s sell-by-date. I wasn’t gonna take a risk on out-of-date eggs, so I parted with a round pound for my repast. Next I visited The Pound Shop, Pound City and Sports Direct. I got some Lonsdale shorts in Sports Direct and the girl at the till seemed surprised I wasn’t buying anything else – whereas I felt like I was really splashing the cash by paying a fiver for this piece of kit (with a special TV advertised bargain discount of around 70%). I then filled in more time by going to a remainder bookshop on the first floor of the complex above the Argyle Street underground station. The two and three quid books were mostly Scottish themed – and they even had discounted titles by writers such as Lorna Moon, whose work I rarely clock in London.
I kept moving west and where Woolworths used to be on the corner of Argyle and Jamaica Streets, there was a Poundland that I hadn’t seen before. Unlike the old Woolworths, Poundland weren’t using the first floor for their retail operation – but even on ground level alone it is a large shop space. Ignoring the many household items you might pick up at Poundland, I noticed they had a lot of HarperCollins (owned by Murdoch’s News Corp) titles in their book section. However, they’re not adverse to remaindering tomes critical of the Murdoch empire either, since copies of Peter Burden’s News of the World?: Fake Sheikhs and Royal Trappings were also on display. While I wouldn’t consider the Murdoch trash worth a pound of my money, I might have parted with a quid for the Burden book had I not already read it. Aside from showing up Mazher Mahmood (the so called Fake Sheikh) as a complete scumbag, Burden also explains how that wanker Neville Thurlbeck (a man at the very heart of the phone hacking scandal) acquired the nickname Onan The Barbarian – you can find this both in the book and on Burden’s website:
Thurlbeck is the hard-nosed hack who usually handles the dirtier celebrity shag’n’brag stories for the News of the World. A sting went badly wrong for him a few years ago. He’d set out to expose a naturists’ boarding house whose owners allegedly offered ‘extra’ sexual services to guests. Having made his investigations, Thurlbeck carelessly forgot to ‘make his excuses and leave’ (in the time-honoured News of the World manner). Instead, no doubt to his eternal regret, he made his excuses and came. He was caught on film begging the couple to have sex while he stood at the foot of their bed, exposed what, in its primmer days, the News of the World would have called his ‘manhood’ and indulged in an unmistakable act of onanism. Since the film was posted on the internet to the delight of his fascinated colleagues, it was inevitable that sooner or later the moniker ‘Onan the Barbarian’, bestowed on him by an uncharitable ex-colleague, would stick.
Obviously the Burden book is a few years old, so it has nothing about the closure of The News of the World in the wake of the ongoing phone hacking scandal. Still it’s an entertaining read – which is more than can be said for most of the trash published by various Murdoch presses.
Aside from books, I always find Poundland’s DVD selection curious. In the old days they often had a lot of £1 DVDs put out by the Manchester company 23rd Century – who among other things reissued a lot of public domain Italian horror classics of the 1970s and 1980s. The picture quality on these digital cheapies usually wasn’t great – but it was still good to see top of the range Eurosleaze reaching a vast new audience via pound shops. On this particular Poundland visit I noticed a bunch of DVDs released by GrabIt under the series title The International Martial Arts Collection. They had Bruce Li in Fist of Fury II and Return of the Tiger, Bolo Yeung in Bloodfight, Dragon Lee in Golden Dragon, Silver Snake (with Johnnie Chan) and The Dragon, The Hero (with John Liu), Chino in Five Fingers of Steel, Billy Blanks in Expect No Mercy and Showdown, and Mark Dacascos in Sanctuary. Some of these titles have long been popular with public domain budget repackagers – but it’s curious to see them turning up again as £1 disk reissues at a time when downloads and streaming are increasingly popular.
Crossing the top of Jamaica Street and staying on Argyle, a couple of doors along from the big Poundland there was a new shop called Thats Entertainment flogging cheap DVDs, CDs and games. The retail unit it occupied once housed the Glasgow branch of Tower Records, and more recently had operated as an outlet for the now defunct Music Zone chain. I got the feeling that there was some sort of morphic resonance going on, but since I had a train to catch I headed into Glasgow Central Station rather than pursing my psychogeographical investigations! Tower Records and Woolworths may have gone out of business, but pound shops and the like operating out of their old premises seem like a worthy subject for those into hauntology.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!