Dispatch #3: Glasgow

We took the train into Glasgow last night shortly after finishing our classes for the day. All of our classes are held on Zoom, thank you, Covid. When they run back-to-back, it makes for a very tiring day.

It didn’t help matters that yesterday was one of the worst weather days we’ve experienced. We had everything from snow, to rain, to sleet, to hail, to massive amounts of wind. By the time we reached the train station – a 20-minute walk from our dorms – we were both sopped. Even the insides of my coat were drenched.

But I had read about this music event at Sloane’s in downtown Glasgow and convinced Renee that she needed to attend with me.

I can’t say she was keen to go but she was a good sport about it. The featured singer was Iona Fyfe who is quite well-known around these parts. You can find her on YouTube and Twitter. She was wonderful but the real treat was the fiddle player and for me, the lute player. I had to ask Renee what the instrument was, as I’ve never seen one before. What an intriguing instrument and no, I won’t be buying one of those for Tim. Where do you store such a thing?


The first thing we saw when we stepped off the train was a Krispy Kreme store.  A very fancy one. We had to step in and get one, given Renee is from West Virginia and we don’t have them where I live in Oregon. Let me just say that nothing about the food in Scotland is anything like the food in the US. Bread. Yogurt. Doughnuts. Coffee. Renee explained it best last night when she said, “I don’t understand why the Brits overtook all those countries for their spices if they had no intention of using any of the spices.”

Anyone whose eaten in the UK will get that remark.

The best way I can explain it, politely, is to say a lot of the food is similar in taste to baby food. A bland bite that leaves an aftertaste.

It was a good thing we had those doughnuts though because I had wanted to go see the architecture at the University of Glasgow, which Renee’s ap said was only a 10 minute walk from the station.

This is the point where locals laughed at us for not knowing better.

The trip is much further than a 10-minute walk.

I think by the time we reached the university, my FitBit had registered 15,000 steps.

Renee was a good sport though and didn’t chew me out for wanting to get photos of the towers for my Harry Potter loving grands.

It was a bit frustrating since we didn’t arrive until nearly too dark to take photos but it was grand to see the university towers.

Have I told you yet how friendly and nice the Scots folks are? If you ever want to tour anywhere, come to Scotland. A cheery group of people can’t be found anywhere. There Renee and I were, standing on a street, trying to make heads or tails out of the map on her ap, trying to figure out whether to go straight or turn and a man walking a dog rounds the corner. Instead of shining us on and passing us by, he stops, unprompted and asks, “Can I help you? Where is it you are wanting to go?” He gave us clear directions and then, in the sweetest of manners said, “So sorry about the weather.”

As if he was personally responsible for the rain and wind.

And he wasn’t the only one. Several people apologized to us for the weather during our visit to Glasgow. It was so sweet. I don’t think anyone in the Pacific Northwest has ever apologized for the days when we have bad weather. I must remember to do that.

Thanks to that fine gentleman we were able to make our way to the university through a lovely but very dimly-lit park. Renee is sworn to secrecy about all the ways in which I defied the signage around the campus. I am proud to report that I have retained all my sleuthing abilities, however, and can jump over barriers and make my way through towers even without a cape or magical powers.

She is a very good rule-follower. Her momma should be proud.

My own daughters, however, would be mortified.

Glasgow is an interesting city, a mix of the very old with the very new.

Even at the university there is the most regal of architecture smack dab up next to skyrises that look like they could have been imported from Tokyo.

Furniture tends to be bright and of the Ikea design mode. Streamlined and easy to clean.

Trains, however, are a different matter. Take wipes with you. One of the most uncomfortable and funnier moments of the trip was on a recent train trip when a child of about 3 years of age, pulled on the handrest between two seats and began to lick it like it was a double-scoop of B&R. Then he climbed up in the seat and began to lick all across the top of the seatback.

He was directly behind Renee doing this.  I didn’t quite know how to warn her. So I sat there, freaked out, and silently feeling like I was watching a bad moment in a funny sitcom.

Last night’s train ride involved a woman and a drunk man.

I had noticed him when we boarded. He was asleep in one of the seats nearest the door. I assumed he’d either had a bad day at work or was totally smashed.

Turns out it was the latter.

The woman jumped on the train, in flip-flops, yelling his name. I can’t even recall what his name was, but it should have been Earl, if the Scots have a name for Earl.

He popped up soon as he heard her voice and looked like the proverbial drunk deer in the headlights. Apparently this was his stop and she wanted him to get off. But the door shut, trapping them both. He was trying to make his way back to sit down, resigned to his lot, but along the way, either purposely or by accident nearly sat in my lap. He was quite happy about the prospect but the woman was mortified. She apologized profusely, which then made me wonder, do Scots apologize because religion makes them feel guilty for all the wrongs in the world? Bad weather? Drunks? Putin?

I really have no idea.

Someone tried to explain a lot of it to me today. They claimed the Masons were responsible for the ills of the world, or at least for the problems of the Trump cult, but I’m not sure I grasp it yet. So much to learn when you come to a new country, which is the point I suppose.

One of the most delightful things about our trip to Glasgow was having the good fortune of stumbling upon Mother India. When you get to Glasgow, and really, you must, go in search of the good people at Mother India. 

We literally stumbled past it in the rain as we headed back downtown in search of a real meal before our engagement at the Ballrooms Sessions.

We stopped because I wanted a photo of this, which is etched in a window outside of Mother India. I was thinking we were going to have pizza, but Renee told me Indian food was her favorite. And, she afterall, had been such a good sport indulging me on the march through Glasgow.

I asked if they could seat us for two.

The owner/manager, I’m not sure his name or his role, was gracious enough to make a place for two of us.

I suspect if we had tried to get reservations it would have taken us weeks. This was a quiet moment between rushes.

This place was hopping. And there is an even bigger dining room upstairs, which was completely full.

And that didn’t take into account all the take-out orders.

I had the chili/garlic chicken at Mother India, which I highly recommend if you like spice. It was enough for dinner last night and again tonight.

The people at the table next to us were so friendly – Scots, you know. They made several recommendations and asked all about why we were in Scotland.

The woman congratulated me for being in school still. She seemed quite shocked, as she probably should be, that I would be living in a dorm with what she thought was my daughter? My friend?

Well, I explained, Renee is a friend but she lives in West Virginia and I live in Oregon.

Oh, she said, so you are used to this weather.

She stopped short of apologizing for it.

Yes, I said, not bothering to explain that I actually live in the high desert region of Oregon.

Oregon did at least teach me how to dress for such weather.

For a gal from West Virginia, Renee came well-prepared for the weather as well. Although, she admits to hating wearing a hat. The third-leg of our team arrives next week.

For those of you worried about me being in Europe during this alarming time, I understand. I am paying attention. I don’t know where “safe” is anymore. My heart is broken for the way this madman is holding the world hostage. I wish Germany and the UK would step up. I wish humans were more humane. I pray for the deaths of evildoers. I will leave Europe if things become more unstable, whatever that might look like. I did speak with a gal today whose family is fleeing Poland because they fear Putin won’t stop at the Ukraine border.

God help us.

Karen Spears Zacharias is the author of the forthcoming true crime story The Murder Gene (May, 22).

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

1 Comment

AF Roger

about 4 months ago

Is there a Russian or Chinese consulate in Glasgow? Every diplomatic and consular office of these two nations needs to have a crowd working in shifts to chant 24/7 non-stop, "The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching!" Russia started this, but China gave it the green light. China could stop it in one day with a phone call. Their abstention at the UN is equal to Russia's invasion.


Leave a Comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that.
Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.