Hiya! It’s been a wee while I know, things have been a little slow and challenging recently, but I’m moving into a flat with some pals, and all is well.
Here are some ramblings from a chat I had with a chap who came round to install a smart meter this afternoon.
A man came round to install a smart meter at the flat just now. I offered him a cup of tea which he thanked me for but declined, and as this person I had never met before (nor would probably meet again) set about his job in my home, I thought about the oddness of these situations and my incessant awkwardness with it.
And, sure enough, as I am want to do in these situations, we got chatting towards the end of the job. He was a lovely man, a top bloke, top drawer. Very chatty and easy to talk to.
Born and bred in the city, he’d moved 6 months ago to a new part of the (greater) city. He is now near Bearsden, “dead quiet, it’s lovely”, but also one stop on a train from Glasgow Queens Street Station, which suits him fine. He lives on his own, and likes it that way, but is always chatting to people on his Bluetooth headseat when he is driving between jobs, and seeing pals when the weekend comes around.
I can’t remember how we get onto talking about London, but we do. I think he was talking about remembering how Glasgow used to be really bad in the 80s (he was in his 40s), and that regeneration had made a huge difference. “They’ve even got things on trip advisor now” he says, smiling and saying “outwith London it’s one of the top cities in the UK to visit, great for shopping”. (I’m paraphrasing slightly here but I’ll blame my poor memory for this)
He lived in London when he was 22 for 8 months, with 6 or 7 pals. They worked in university halls, cleaning towels for the international students who were renting out the halls during the summer months. He was living in Camden and loved it, “I loved that you could go out on a Monday night and it would feel like a Saturday night in Glasgow – it sort of reminded me of Glasgow a bit” – but couldn’t go back now, and we both bemoan the bonkers prices of things in the capital today. I talk about where I was from, what I’m doing in Glasgow and we laugh about the weather in the city. He says he contemplated moving to Marbella, but the money for work wasn’t good, even though accommodation prices were alright and the weather was bloody gorgeous, so he didn’t.
We talk about London and Edinburgh, how he’s been treated by people in Glasgow’s ‘sister city’; not one person offering him a cup of tea when he was working the winter it was -5 and dark and miserable. The last guy he saw offered him a cuppa and he said “not one person on this street has offered”. The man admitted that he wasn’t from Glasgow, which he says explained it all-!
He speaks of the generosity of folk in Yorkshire (“’d’you want a cup of tea and bacon butty?’ A bacon butty!!”) and the furthest northern corners of Scotland (John O Groats specifically), and tells me a beautiful story about a trip he made up to John O Groats for work. He’d never been that far north before, and there was a lovely bit where he described calling his dad to tell him “the beaches are like Spain!” and getting an ice cream in the depths of winter, licking it happily and people around him probably thinking he was weird. It had taken him many many hours to drive to, and the woman whose house he went to was very concerned about whether he had accommodation for the night, and insisted on speaking to his boss on the phone and checking that he did have somewhere to stay, as she had offered him a spare bed in her place if he didn’t.
“People are so different up there, just waving at each other in the street, you know.”
He relays a tale told to him by his client, who had been to Glasgow just once in her life, and received a parking ticket for parking in a space not intended for parking. “They just pull up on the side of the road up there, so they don’t know what any of the signs mean”. She returned to her car to find them about to lift the car and take it, but she told them where she was from, how it was an honest mistake, and they let her off with a ticket. She later wrote to the council, explaining that she was from (he “does the voices”, as my niece would say when I’m reading to her, which made the story all the more enjoyable to listen to-!), and saying that she hadn’t understood what the signs on the road had meant, as they don’t have them in that part of the country. “She didn’t have to pay in the end!” he laughs.
A day out to Inverness was akin to a trip to London for her, he says. He seems amazed and fascinated by the way of life up there, his favourite bit of the story (which I was captivated by, I love a good tale), was that a big lorry drove up from Inverness on a Tuesday bearing Dominos pizza. This, he found out by enquiring about the nearest Dominos, to which she said “oh that’s only on a Tuesday”. “No, I don’t mean the two for one offer they do, I’m just after one for myself”, to which she then explained that they are driven up specially. “There’s no competition up there, see” he explains. “”And the cinema comes on a Friday” – they drive the cinema up as well!” he says, eyes as wide as his amazed smile. “I’m just a wee city boy, me.”
I ask him what he likes about Glasgow and he references many things I’ve heard before: people are friendly, if you’re sitting on your own in a pub someone will get chatting to you eventually, and he’s never come across a sense of humour like it. “People in Glasgow are just great at laughing at thereselves and having a good time”, in a way he’s never found anywhere else. He does give a little leeway for Yorkshire which I’m glad to hear, but says that Edinburgh is akin to London in some ways, “sure it’s beautiful, but I’m not sure the people are beautiful…!” by which, following the story about not being offered a cup of tea by a single local Edinburghite, I’m assuming is more related to their readiness to offer hot beverages to strangers than their aesthetic qualities.
Anyway. He finishes the job, shows me how much energy my shower, kettle and electric heater use (terrifying) using my handy smartmeter regulator thingymajigg, and then packs up the rest of his tools (he packed most of them as we were chatting). “Great talking to you”, I say, shaking his hand “aye, and all the best wi’ your work and your move” he replies, smiling. We bid one another a cheerio, and he leaves, going back to his flat at the end of another day of work.
I smile to myself, I do so love chatting to people I don’t know (one of the best things mum and dad have passed on to me, a fondness for meeting strangers), and I’ve got more stuff to talk about, write about, think about, share, challenge, question, etc etc.
What I feel so lucky about with this job, is that it centres around having conversations like this with people, about this city and it inhabitants, and I recognise (although I forget sometimes) what an amazing privilege it is. I mean, I’d have chatted to the feller anyway, only in this context, I can call it ‘work’.
Clockwise from top left: kettle, microwave, toaster, no applicances on, SHOWER (in case anyone is interested in their monitoring own energy usage. Seriously, woah.)