30th of December, 2016. I packed my bags, left town and went to sit for about an hour and 45 minutes at Crewe station. I waited for my train which had a little departure delay, thanks to the whole festive-period-inspired cancellations and engineering repairs that were scheduled for the holiday season. I ended up arriving at my destination by 21:43. 26 minutes more than the scheduled time of arrival, 21:17.
The Central station had the feeling of a big city’s terminal, with a homely and welcoming allure. Stepping outside the train station confirmed that feeling. This was a big city. Riding in the back seat of the cab gave me the impression that I was in London, just without the uptight atmosphere. The cabbie was friendly and highlighted that this was the 4th largest city in the UK.
‘Don’t wear blue tomorrow’ he said from across the table.
Not knowing if it was a trick statement or some new-guy-trivia, I decided to play it safe – the only way I knew how – by smiling and nodding in approval.
‘Whatever you do, don’t wear blue tomorrow’ he reiterated, ‘and you too’ he added, turning to my friend who was engrossed in her plate of rice, spinach, plantain and chicken wings. It didn’t appear to be a trick statement and so, I asked why.
‘Because, Celtics and Rangers are playing tomorrow. Heck, don’t even wear green’, John* interjected from my left. ‘In fact, just wear black’.
‘You’re staying at Macy’s* place right?’ Mohammed* proceeded. I nodded in approval. ‘Then you can wear green there. The residents there are Celtic fans’.
‘Prophet*, the best thing is for them to remain indoors.’ John, responded. Apparently, that’s Mohammed’s nickname. Mohammed bursts out laughing by that advice and told us that John had got beaten a few years ago when he was new in town and wore green on a match day. He got cornered by a group of Rangers’ fans and they beat him up. Fortunately, he escaped before it got bad.
John acknowledged that it did in fact happen and for that reason alone, he became a Celtic fan since he had already been beaten for them. Celtic, of course, after his main team, Manchester United. I liked the logic of this afro imbued, loosely groomed bearded, Kenyan male; if you’ve been beaten for a cause, you might as well support it. What do you have left to lose?!
Less than 3 hours in Glasgow and I was already able to sense the colour-coded nuances of what is perhaps, football’s greatest rivalry, blue, green and Santa’s red was rife in the atmosphere. I was looking forward to the next day to see how the streets would be, but alas, I slept silly that night, woke up late to meet a heavy downpour that continued for most of the day. Amazing!
Notwithstanding, I was excited to be here. It was an absolute delight eating out with my friend’s friends; Ugandans, Kenyans and one Scottish bloke, who is technically an African that happened to have a Celtic origin. This place felt like Lagos. Not that I’m a Lagos boy. I’m an Abuja-bred butty kid. I was in an African restaurant named, Calabash, on Union street. Anybody, who’s been there would agree with me that it’s technically an African pub. The noise, the music, the Afrocentric, Lagos-style table layout, service attendants and customer cadence was purely home. I was back in Nigeria!
A section of the pub restaurant had a dance-floor with a DJ. Music was booming from there while the TV was on right next to us, as everyone was shouting discussing with each other at deafening decibel levels, while the occasional and yet, continuous heart-wrenching clanging of booze bottles crashing into the glass recycle trash can, was coming to me all at once. Strangely, I found it to be disturbing, and yet, sublime.
Glasgow has definitely won my heart. A shame I wasn’t there for too long. I am definitely looking forward to another exciting time there.
*names of my friends were changed to protect their identities
Photo location: Glasgow Cathedral, Castle Street, Glasgow