With coffee and tea gone, G. and I collected our things and made for the ground floor. The front door let us out onto a grey day, cool and overcast. The drear did nothing to spoil the general mood, as we had a full day of light under which to explore Glasgow beyond the narrow confines of the West End. There remained only the question of where to begin.
Examining the map on my phone, I was just as astonished as I had been the night before to find the West End aligned in a grid. As we strode the length of the neighborhood’s dark red sandstone facades and concrete pavements, my companion and I noted that the structures were built in such a way as to hold street-level and below-street-level shopfronts. Bookshops gave way to tattoo parlors, which in turn ceded to nail salons and corner shops, all arrayed in accordance with the grid.
I debated with my companion how this regularity had come to lay upon the landscape. Our best guess, as it happened, posited a spike in the city’s population in the second half of the 19th century. Drawn to opportunity in the Empire’s second city, immigrants from the Highlands and Ireland would have flooded the city-center and cathedral precinct and would thus have necessitated a new quarter in which to accommodate their unwashed masses. That quarter would have been established to the west of the city-center, on ground which either previously occupied by shantytown or the city’s outbuildings or still else wholly bare, and then would have received a complete makeover by the city’s gracious elites, tobacco, cotton, textile barons alike.
The story, as we told it, seemed to fit but remained no less a story for that. Still, it proved an excellent initiation for G. into my own travelling ways: wander, observe, comment, repeat. To just such activity did we dedicate a good part of the day, in the end, and he took to it with greater gusto than I had perhaps expected. Then again, we had always shown obscure affinities for which little apparent gave us reason to hope.
Pursuing this course, we came in time to a large square and knew that we had arrived in Glasgow proper.