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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, March 26, 2007
    A tourist in your own town
    On a momentous day in Irish politics, I've been reading about Scotland. Some disagreement as to whether the Act of Union which merged England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain, took effect 300 years ago today, or a bit later, on 1 May 1707. Whatever, this week's NS is a thoughtful and insightful Scottish Special issue.

    I especially enjoyed Lucy Sweet's report from behind the condensation on her home town's sightseeing bus:

    Although I've lived in Glasgow for 11 years, my day as a fake tourist bears no resemblance to my everyday experiences of the place. The tourist office is like a weird parallel universe inhabited by ex-cast members of Take the High Road. Here, the city I admire for its drunken spontaneity, creative diversity and ready, self-deprecating humour has been replaced with a Rennie Mackintosh oven mitt and leaflets documenting a variety of bizarre attractions. "Visit Taylor's Bowls!" says one flyer. "If you are a bowler or you are simply interested in our manufacturing process, you will enjoy our factory tour." No? Well, if you don't fancy that, £30 will buy you a lunch with a genuine Scottish person called Gordon, who will invite you into his home to enjoy a glass of whisky around his beautiful lounge fire. (Er, no thanks.)

    She loses it a bit when she complains that this ersatz Glasgow bypasses Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the Armadillo building, neglecting to acknowledge that those two visitor attractions are equally manufactured and mediated, just to a different audience - and arguably at far greater cost to native Glaswegians - than Mackintosh oven mitts. I'm sure many locals who've never visited Taylor's Bowls would never dream of stepping inside either of those buildings either.

    But her thought-provoking adventure might have been taken directly out of a Mis-Guide: Spend the day as a tourist in your own town. Fascinating exercise. Must get myself booked on a Yellow Duckmarine.