Posted in Blog Posts

No Looking Back

image_24-04-2016_21-35-28_0179I’ve been doing some research recently for a novel I’m beginning. It’s a crime fiction set in Glasgow and I’ve been using Google Maps to investigate the streets where the story takes place. I had two possible locations in mind: the Southside, where I lived last in Glasgow and where my more recent memories are from, or the east end where I was born and raised. Because I have an idea for a second book using some of the same characters which is very specific to a certain time and place, I had been going to plump for the east end. After poring over Street View, I’m no longer so sure.

I knew that the house I was brought up in had been demolished many years ago, but the last time I visited Queenslie the old street grid was still there and I could pinpoint exactly where my close stood, where my primary school was, the shops, the undulating piles of dirt where we used to play until it was flattened for a new nursery. Now, it’s like being on a different planet. Even the street names have changed and where 1950s ‘modern’ tenements used to stand there is a plethora of identical industrial and office units. Queenslie always had an industrial estate. Olivettie Typewriters had a factory there and the Canda made fashion for C & A’s. Now these have gone and the streets where I walked my dog are unrecognisable.

I went to secondary school in Garthamlock but school there has been demolished too, along with most of the housing. New and vastly improved houses and blocks of flats stand where the old landmarks were and I recognise very little.

I wish this is where it ends, but there is virtually nothing physical left of my past.

We moved to Carntyne when my dad had a lung removed and could no longer manage the stairs to our top floor flat. The house is gone.

The department store where I had my first Saturday job has been cut up and changed until it bears little resemblance to its 1970s and 1980s heyday.

My first proper job – demolished, as was the building I worked in when I got married. Even the hotel where we had our wedding reception has been pulled down and a block of flats built in its place.

I don’t know why this upsets me so much. I don’t have many particularly happy memories from Queenslie, Garthamlock or Carntyne, but they were a part of me, responsible for who I am today. Perhaps if I don’t keep moving, whatever it is that destroyed my past will catch up with me and start to destroy my present, my future. It’s totally irrational but I feel that if I visited Queenslie my physical presence would cause a tear in the space/time continuum and existence as I know it would disappear with a soft plop and the distant horn from the number 51 bus.

I am left today feeling discombobulated and antsy and very, very blue. Like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, my country has been taken away from me and I have nowhere I can point to and say, this, this is where I’m from.

My book will be set in Pollokshields. To try to set it in a past that no longer exists would be foolhardy. There’s no looking back.


Writer, photographer, creative fantasist.

8 thoughts on “No Looking Back

  1. I think it’s exciting that you have such clear and interesting plans for your novels, Nettie! I know what you mean about not looking back, too. When I write about the area where I spent my early adult years, I have to be really careful where I set the story – same reasons.

  2. What an interesting post. I lived in Pollokshields until I was eight, and again the place is now unrecognisable – so much of the Glasgow I knew has disappeared. And I think you’ve just put your finger on a sci-fi/Stephen King-esque story here:
    “Perhaps if I don’t keep moving, whatever it is that destroyed my past will catch up with me and start to destroy my present, my future.”

    1. Remember The Langoliers by King? There’s a similar premise in that. But yes, there is a story there. Maybe I’ll be asking to pick your brain about Pollokshields…? 😉

  3. Hi Nettie

    If your novel captures as much atmosphere as your blog, it will be a great read. In a way you will be taking control and recapturing your lost past, because you will be setting your memories down on paper to live on and last. Reminders in print for those who also miss their childhood Glasgow. You have certainly got one buyer here in the waiting.

    Wishing you every success in your new writing venture.

    Ange xxx

  4. I share something of the same feeling. I am in my early 40s and grew up in East Kilbride. My primary school and secondary school have been demolished and replaced with modern buildings. The old buildings, whilst no doubt badly need of repair, had a certain character, with secret hidey places and bolt holes, now replaced by functional but blandly uniform constructions(although the new primary school is a strangely psychedelic shade of turquoise blue).

    This gives me a pang of sadness too. I think it’s the finality of it. It reminds us of our mortality. Whilst these places continue to exist we can revisit them and they can serve as a link to our childhood and/or happier times. Albeit we are 20/30/40 years older these places can almost transport us back to those times. Once that’s gone it feels like a part of us has gone with it. Not trying to be melodramatic. My parents still live in the house I grew up in from 1979 to the 90s and I know one day I won’t simply be able to pop up and visit them in my childhood home. I imagine that will be sad. Thanks.

    1. You are spot on. We have had to downsize a few times over the last few years and ive lost so many links to my past. It’s been especially difficult getting rid of so many of my daughter’s childhood toys and books, etc. How will I remember all everything when I’m older and even more doolally than I am now?

      Thanks fo for commenting.

  5. Hi Nettie, the picture of the boy hanging from the washing pole’s is the back of lonmay path where I lived, thanks for the memory

  6. i was born and bred in Queenslie nettie. i lived at 17 Penston road. moved to 20 Horndean cresent,best pals were Tam Mcbain deceased to early,and stevie williams(murphy). moved to cumbernauld fpr my sins in around 74. Thanks for your blog insights. William(Connie) Conlin

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