When I moved to Scotland, I was already keenly aware of the vast divide that separates one Glasgow demographic from another: ‘Do you support Celtic or Rangers?’ I resolved to avoid taking sides publicly — I didn’t need to put myself at odds with anyone (I have had more than enough of unwillingly being at odds with people, believe you me). Gary advised me to support the Partick Thistle, which sounded good to me, but I knew without even deliberating that I would not align with one or the other of the Old firm.
Once I got here, and began paying attention to football, I realised that my resolution was more complicated than it might have seemed. Partick Thistle does not, in fact, play their home games in Partick, which is an affront to the good name of my neighbourhood (as though anyone would prefer to play in Maryhill rather than Partick!). If they honestly called themselves the Maryhill Thistle, I might be able to appreciate their candour and adopt them, but if they want my allegiance, they will have to depart Firhill and put together a stadium in some of the open land in our end of town. So no Jags for me.
That leaves Celtic and Rangers, and for my first two years here, Rangers were the decided overdogs — and brash about it, at that. They reminded me a little too much of the New York Yankees (by the way, what’s with so many people in the UK who wear Yankees gear? Are there not many other deserving baseball teams to support? Wearing a NY baseball cap in Glasgow is like saying, ‘I can’t be bothered to find out about a team I might actually like, so I’ll support the best-publicised team’), and the Orioles fan in me felt an obligation to prefer some team other than the overdogs — which meant, Celtic. (Their association with the Catholic community likewise played to my favour; in fact a couple of people have, after asking where my loyalties lay, have told me that I seemed to them like a Celtic supporter, with that circumstance in view.) That worked well enough for the past two years, where the Hoops played well, bettered most of the rest of the SPL, and finished second to the loud and proud Rangers. And in none of this time did I really feel tempted to voice a public allegiance among the Glasgow teams.
But at the beginning of this season, I felt as though Celtic had had enough hard times (well, finishing second to Rangers) that my determination was slipping. Two years was long enough for Rangers to dominate the SPL, and when Celtic stumbled to a haphazard start, I began leaning into public Celtic support.
And Celtic rewarded my support by turning on a streak of determined football, pulling from nine points behind Rangers to one, then three, then four points ahead. Huzzah! The on-going buzz of news reports that Rangers had been overspending like a sodden hooligan, had been dodging bills and neglecting their taxes, only affirmed my sense that Celtic represented a team of prudence, probity, and grit.
But then all fell to bits: Rangers’ financial troubles caught up with them, they’re shedding players and losing points, and suddenly Celtic is alone atop the SPL standings with a twenty-one point lead over second-place Rangers (equal to the distance between second-place Rangers and eighth-place Kilmarnock). It’s no fun to root for a steamroller in a league of Matchbox cars, and my appreciation for Celtic is now shadowed by compassion for everyone else in the league (besides Rangers, for whom my only positive feelings come from Christine (our building’s cleaner) supporting them). So there’s the dilemma. Support the superpower Celtic FC, the new overdogs par excellence, for whom I’ve been building sympathy during their years of (relative) hard going, or just stand off from any allegiance? Or support the Jags?
Well, baseball season is nearly on us, and there’s March Madness*, and maybe Celtic will win some games in the Europa League, and there’s the Scottish Cup, and eventually World Cup will start up again…
Another thing we love about living here: Margaret got a personal letter from her GP today, apologising for not having written her sooner about a routine test she recently had. Her GP had lost track of the results, they hadn’t been sent to him, and then one day he remembered that he hadn’t heard back from the lab, followed up, and passed along the nothing-to-worry-about news to Margaret.
After thirty years of adult life spent dreading communication with medics and onsurance companies, it’s now a pleasure for us to hear from our doctor. This we love about living in Scotland, and (by the way) this is what the benighted Con-Dem coalition is willing to endanger in favour of having a system more like the US (more costly, less even-handed, with profits for the few). Well, it’s lovely while it lasts.
I’ve been grinding my own coffee and making filtered coffee cup by cup, because I just don’t much like Americano. I suspect that it’s a trick of my imagination — is there really that much difference between filter-brewed coffee and diluted espresso? — but there we are. I prefer my coffee brewed, not diluted, and that’s that.
Now on Byres Road a coffee-aficionado’s haven has opened up, Avenue G, and every now and then we go to give AKMA a treat: my choice of three single-location varieties, fresh ground and filter-brewed. IF you care about coffee and live in Glasgow, Avenue G is the only place I’ve discovered where the coffee warrants a special trip. (We still love S’Mug for its atmosphere, and the tea is fine, but the coffee can’t hold a candle to Avenue G).
* Scotrail uses the term ‘March Madness’ to characterise their reduced-price ticket scheme — ‘Wow, only £2.90 to Motherwell! Let’s have a holiday!’ I think they don’t quite grasp what March Madness is all about.