The Great American Reach Around - The Northeast & The UK
How do the Scottish view America? I have an unfair point of view because I lived in Pennsylvania for a year and have a personal love for the country, but this is not a love which is shared particularly strongly by my fellow Scots. I would say that many of us view America as it currently stands with a mixture of friendly amusement and bemusement - a huge number of us feel little or no connection to Tony Blair and company, so we don't necessarily embrace the Alliance Of Freedom vibe too strongly. Many of us live over there with you, and many of you can trace roots back to us. We're a tiny relatively carefree country and we are well aware that the sum total of our value to many Americans is as a place to be mystically referenced when discussing heritage.
Focusing on part of this sleepy little country in more detail, Glasgow is a city with a massive inferiority complex. It is Scotland's largest city and is a major centre of industry and technology, but it lies firmly in the shadow of The Other Place - Edinburgh, only an hour's drive away to the East.
Through cunning use of a large castle and some really quite pretty gardens, Edinburgh has the marvellous honour of being Scotland's capital. It's where the tourists go. It's fun to visit. It's practically draped in tartan and haggis. Glasgow hates it with a seething fury.
Coming second to Edinburgh in the fight for Capital seems to have affected Glasgow on a fairly deep level. It is a city always striving to be number one at something, anything. It never quite succeeds.
Glasgow has a vibrant and modern commercial centre with several excellent museums and the second best shopping scene in Britain (after London). The city centre contains George Square, a one-block area which often plays host to outdoor concerts and which looks a little like a mini Trafalgar Square. It also boasts nearly the tallest single-purpose cinema building in the world, and has a riverfront area which compares reasonably well to London, Newcastle and several other British cities. This area in particular is currently undergoing extensive development and is managing to quite successfully fuse the city's prestigious industrial past with shiny new modern delights.
Notice a theme beginning to emerge? No matter how hard it tries, Glasgow is never ever number one in the world at anything fun. In this city, the word "best" is always prefaced by "second" "third" or "nearly the". Our shopping is great, but yours is probably better. Our architecture is phenomenal, but go to Barcelona or Paris and decide which is more sophisticated.
Nothing illustrates Glasgow's futile drive for perfection better than the recently built Glasgow Tower. This 127 metre high masterpiece of engineering opened alongside the city's new interactive science museum and IMAX theatre in 2001 and was lauded as the feature which would finally put Glasgow on the international map of awesomeness. The Tower is the tallest structure in Scotland, and crucially is the tallest base-rotating tower in the world. Finally! Now anyone in the entire world who wakes up thinking "Man, I'd sure love to check out the tallest base-rotating tower in the entire world" will have NO CHOICE but to come to Glasgow!
The tower doesn't work.
Somehow, during all the back-patting and cheering and celebrating, whoever designed and built the Tower forgot to make it actually able to do the thing that it was supposed to be best in the entire world at doing.
Never willing to admit defeat, the people of Glasgow have come up with a novel way of dealing with the embarrassing issue of The Tower. We just don't speak about it. Ever. It sits there in all its glory on the bank of the River Clyde, stretching into the sky like a shining Freudian metaphor, and no-one ever mentions it. The news doesn't report about it. The papers don't write about it. Even the staff in the Science Centre right beneath it do a very good job of never ever looking above eye level.
We might even be the best city in the world at dealing with elephants in corners. Almost.
However, please don't leave thinking that Glasgow is utterly incapable of doing anything at all better than anywhere else. Sure, it might struggle with the fun stuff. Yes, it is constantly overshadowed by its tourist-friendly neighbour. There is still one thing that the city excels at, one crown it shows no signs of giving up in the near future.
Glasgow is without a doubt the best city in all of Europe at killing you slowly and horribly. We have the highest rates of coronary heart disease and cancer in the entire continent.
Highest? Some might say best.