I wanted to live somewhere else, but wasn’t sure where. I had outgrown Manchester. The city I once loved had become my home town, in a way that reawakens adolescent emotional baggage. But then, I have a major problem with my actual hometown of Swindon; the very mention of it makes me fidget, drink cider, and threaten to run away from home.
The hard part was deciding where to go next. I don’t do countryside. It’s empty there, and the silence at night is eerie; I can’t sleep without sirens and alarms. Worse, it’s full of animals with their puddles, and no buses. I need the busy sense of threat, the sense of possibility that goes with life in a busy city.
I pinned a map of Britain on the wall, and stuck a pin on every place that counts. I have developed my own, idiosyncratic selection criteria: any future home town must have two football teams, a university (preferably two) and an art school. Another essential is a music scene that has spawned several all time top twenty bands. Throw in bonus points for additional factors such as sprawling parks, proper markets, and people you like (deducting points for people you don’t, like regretted ex’s.) Most important of all - plenty of flats, all cheap and easy to rent. Having work there helps, as does knowing a few people.
I crossed out a few possibles. I have an irrational fear of Sheffield, so that wasn’t going to happen. From an initial list of Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bristol, Dublin, Leeds, Brighton and Glasgow, I was left with the last two. Brighton had the beach, but even Sophie who loves the place finally concedes that Brighton is Neverland. Everyone’s a web designer, or ‘working towards’ becoming one.
Now my brain hurt from all that possibility. I asked for advice. Friends pitched in with peculiar suggestions: ‘I went to Huddersfield once – it seemed alright,’ ‘Why not Aberdeen?’ ‘Plymouth looked nice from the train window.’
And so I visited Glasgow for the day. I know the city has an edge; Danny was mugged there for his trainers a few years ago, but it’s not the city of heroin and string vests certain clichés lead you to believe. There’s music: Glasgow is home to the magnificent Mogwai.
And it’s beautiful. The architecture is disarmingly grand. The public transport is cheap and efficient (what’s more the Clockwork Orange – the local underground - is really cute, and usefully skirts the city centre). The university, is a red brick temple of learning set in a beautiful park. There are hundreds of bars and restaurants, and a defiant, indefinable buzz.
My friend Dan’s family own a flat in the West of the city, and I stayed there for two weeks, flat-hunting, and deciding if I could stay. The weather was unusually hospitable. I felt comfortable. The people were friendly.
Glasgow has soul. It has an edge, and music, trains, and flats. I decided to move to Glasgow.