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Issue 27 - There was this bloke in the front once...

Scotland Magazine Issue 27
June 2006


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There was this bloke in the front once...

Dominic Roskrow talks Scotland to a Glasgow taxi driver

If you use taxis a fair bit then from time to time you get lucky and you stumble across one who is less the moaning cynic and more part tour guide and part information centre.

It happened to me the other day in Glasgow. My journey was a short one – 10 minutes or so – but in that time my driver was a one man entertainment centre.

I should have suspected that the man was bit of a player from the cool shades and the way he was sprawling out his window like he was an LA cop in some heist film. And sure enough, from the moment my door was shut he was off.

He started predictably enough. Having found out that I’d travelled from Edinburgh he informed me that it was highly unlikely any driver in the capital would bother to hold a conversation with a passenger, before moving on to the relative merits of Glasgow.

His glasses weren’t exactly rose-tinted, but let’s just say his interpretation of the facts was wonderfully optimistic.

Now admittedly the sun was beating down and Glasgow did feel like a summer town. But I wasn’t sure I totally agreed with the driver when he told me that the West coast city was bordering on tropical.

“Edinburgh,” he informed me, “is cold and dry. Glasgow is warm and a bit wetter.” And, he said, Glasgow’s a better city because the Victorians made it, a better group of people altogether than the Georgians, who had been responsible for Edinburgh.

“The Victorians knew how to build a city and you can tell a Victorian city by all the gardens,” he said. “And let’s be honest, once you get off the Royal Mile and that area, there’s really nothing to Edinburgh is there?” He carried on in this manner for a few minutes but it was as we were reaching our destination that he said something that really got me to thinking. We had arrived at Kelvingrove and while we waited at lights he looked at it with what I took for pride (though I couldn’t see his eyes because of the shades).

It’s a stunning looking building anyway, but as the workmen applied the finishing touches to a massive refurb, it really did look like an art gallery reborn.

“You can’t touch a place like that anywhere,” he said. “And the best bit of it from a tourists’ point of view is that so many of our museums are free. I’ve been abroad and paid to get in to places and they have been rubbish. In Glasgow you could spend days going to places such as the Transport Museum and not have to pay for any of it.” And with that we pulled up at my destination and I got out. But I came away feeling totally positive about Glasgow.

In this issue we profile the new look art gallery as well as Mackintosh’s legacy to the city of Glasgow.

But my encounter got me thinking. I’ve often argued that taxi drivers should be monitored by the local council because they are very often a tourist’s first point of contact and they create an impression of a place from the off.

Certainly McStarsky in my cab did a wonderful job. More like him and the tourists will be flocking to Glasgow. And that’s no bad thing at all.