Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The hinterland

T minus 12 days...

Yesterday I was out on my bike for another 60-miler. I travelled east to Linlithgow, birthplace of that old pub quiz favourite, Mary Queen of Scots. Averaged 14.7 mph on the way out! Although I had been lounging about the flat for the previous three days, and there was very little wind. Two miles before arriving home my average had reduced to 13.9, so of course I manically pedalled the last bit to get it up to 14. There were some showers and it was cold.

Glasgow and Edinburgh are the two largest cities in Scotland and less than 50 miles apart, yet the bit inbetween is a kind of “land that time forgot” wasteland. There are all these ex-mining villages and dreary towns, that no one ever goes to except for the people who live there and oddballs like me, who are drawn to depressing places. The countryside is sometimes surprisingly attractive, in a gentle, subtle way and there are some crumbly old farmhouses, but by and large it’s a disconsolate part of the country. So, today I whizzed through the nasty towns of Coatbridge and Airdrie (it’s OK, people who live in these places would never read something like this). Then through the villages of Stand, Greengairs, Slamannan, Avonbridge and Standburn. All desperate, with two lines of featureless, grey houses edging the road. No thought has gone into the layout or look of these villages and no one cares. The High Streets in the towns are full of fast-food joints, pubs, off-licences and bookies. Most of the adults are fat, and smoking as I pass them. Teenage girls walk about playing tinny music on their mobile phones, identically-groomed teenage boys wear shellsuits and fearsome expressions. Here individuality is verboten. One youth on a bike rode straight at me, to impress his friends. A dog also attacked me; a yappy black monstrosity raced after me and bit my ankle!

Standburn is the saddest of the lot. All the houses are plain until you come to this one huge nouveau riche affair, with its purposeless white pillars. Unlike the other houses it is surrounded by a fence and also features a triple garage. My belief is that it’s owned by a local lad made good, who rather than move somewhere nice, had this vast pile erected to rub the neighbours’ noses in his tasteless new money.

There’s a wind turbine near Airdrie that takes your breath away, because unusually it’s right by the road, so you can truly appreciate the scale and seems straight out of science fiction. In Linlithgow there’s a pub called The Black Bitch, which is nothing whatsoever to do with black people or women, but a dog - that appears on the town’s coat of arms. People born here are also known as black bitches and apparently proud of the fact.

1 comment:

Yoleen said...

You'll see a lot of the nouveau riche stuff here in Bend, Oregon on your way through, but not at my house! I think you'll enjoy your ride through Eastern Oregon, because there are lots of desolate wide open spaces. I like the drive from here to Burns. Most people don't, though.