THEY say that tae belang tae a place is tae remember it the wey it uised tae be. Ye’re finally at hame somewhaur when ye can lead a visitin freend bi the haun an tell them: this claes shop uised tae be a swimmin baths; thon industrial estate wis nocht but empty fields; that bus wis green an ran aw the wey tae Crindledyke. Forget yer tests o citizenship, yer perpetually unsettled status; wance the history o wha ye are becomes the history o whaur ye bide, ye’re in wi the bricks.

Weel, kind o. Nostalgia nooadays is no aw it uised tae be … No when a thirst for the past is associatit wi the hoyin o minorities back intae their boxes an the weirdo death-cults o the alt-alt-richt. But tae be progressive, ah dout, is jist tae believe that better roads are possible, no that we’re ayeweys on them. An if the places we grew up in are fantasies noo, they’re fantasies we’re entitled tae. Sae here’s ma Glesga, the wan that’s nae langer there – the abandoned swing-park, the schuil that’s aw hooses, the sticky cairpets o the auld Odeon. The train conductors. Alasdair Gray.

Ah didnae ken Alasdair, but ah kent the Glesga he lived in; the wan he wrote aboot in weys that makkit it possible for fowk fae aw ower the warld tae imagine themsels bidin there. Ah dinnae ken how much money we’re flingin at tourist quangos tae rebrand Glesga as an international hotspot, but it’s an unco thing tae see whit passes for Weegie iconography amang sic fowks. A sweepin shot o the Squinty Brig, a quick deek at the Armadillo – there’s an apologetic aspect tae it aw, these tentie rearrangins o oor scabby auld furniture, Maw Broon’s last meenit scurry-roond wi a duster afore Maggie’s new man turns up for his tea. If Embra’s kenmairk is its castle an Dundee’s is the V&A, Glesga’s is a statue o some nae-mark wi a traffic cone on his napper. As shorthaun for the city as a hale, it has aw the dignity o a slogan on a hen-nicht T-shirt, a needlepoint primer on a scabby waw; “Hame Sweet Hame”, likesay, or “Ye Dinnae Hiv Tae Be Mental Tae Live Here, But It Helps”.

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See, it’s haird tae explain tae the middle-managers o capitalism, as they rin radge wi their pricing guns, that naethin in Glesga is wirth the cost o admission; no the concert haw, no the cathedral, no the views fae the tap deck o the city bus. How can ye sell a place whase landmairks are as transient as its people, convince fowk tae tak their weekend break in a bijou niche that’s no sae much a city as a kind o collective hallucination?

Cause if Embra is a city o wynds, Glesga is a city o minds. For aw its urban sprawl, ye could fit everythin that maitters aboot the dear green place atween twa lugs in the back o a Queen Street taxi on a Setturday nicht. But this empyreal delusion o a city bi the Clyde didnae jist drap oot o the sky. In the same wey that Dante mapped oot the psycho-geography o Hell, Alasdair Gray laid oot Glesga’s. Draw yer ain parallels.

See, cartographers o kintraes hiv got it easy. In ten thoosand years o drawin maps, aw that’s really chynged are the fanciful boundaries we continue tae draft atween Us an Them. But the chartin oot o a livin idea – noo, that’s a hale ither story. An as the Glesga Alasdair Gray sketched for us hoves permanently oot o sicht, it’s up tae aw the rest o us tae trace it ower anew.

There’s this wan bit in Meet Me In St Louis when Judy Garland (or mebbe it’s somebody else) says o her bland wee Midwestern naewhaur o a hame: “Wasn’t I lucky to be born in my favourite city?” Ah cannae tell if we’re supposed tae find that funny, but there’ll ayeweys be somebody in the cinema laughs – weel, cept in Glesga. The notion that Gleswegians “jist happen” tae luve Glesga is yin o the staunin punchlines o Scottish comedy. Fowk fae Glesga thinkin that they were lucky tae be born there – noo THAT’S funny.

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An if ye liked that wan, here’s anither. When the Americans built airstrips in the Pacific durin the war, the indigenous fowk watched fae afaur as planes stappt-fou o wunners drapped doon fae the sky. Then they did the anely thing that makkit ony sense – they built their ain airports fae straw an wid, an waitit for the mony bounties that were shuir tae be sent tae them fae the heivens. That the gifts that came tummlin oot fae thon skies were measured maistly in megatons is a crackin wee punchline that unnerscores the laughable moral fallacy o believin in onythin or onybody at ony time, onywhaur.

An that IS funny; that in this advanced age o nae gods an precious few heroes, millions o us aw ower Scotland are bidin in cargo cult cities, teirin doon oor hooses tae fling up a McDonald’s, cobblin thegither franchised replicas o ither, mair successful places in the howp o somethin ither than disaster rainin fae the sky…

There’s a sayin that politics is doonstream fae culture. Ah’m no shuir how true that is ony mair o modern Scotland, whaur even the deith o a literary colossus is liable tae become jist anither backdrap tae a constitutional square-go. Oor political moment has burst its banks, an we’re aw knee-deep in the cauld, cauld watter. Oor waws, oor bulwarks, oor flood defences – aw o them, it sometimes seems, for naethin.

An yet, in the age-auld city that exists anely in oor dreamins noo, Willie McIlvanney still tells the gaithered crowds o George Square – “You are the walls of Glasgow”. It’s no much tae believe in; jist a pretty wee fable. A life in fower books, set in a city whaur the sun never shone; a better nation in its early days; auld fairy-tales for bairns. But blessed be the tellers o tales in these, oor bookless days, when we maun tell oorsels stories in order tae live.