SLICE it which way you like, the idea that the rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow began over a loaf of bread is an intriguing one.
Robert Crawford, the St Andrews professor and poet, posits the theory in his forthcoming book, On Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The situation was as follows: back in 1656, Glasgow's bread was boggin'. The town's crusty councillors were outraged and, even though sandwiches hadn't technically been invented, they still feared an imminent breach of the piece, so to say.
But two Embra bakers stepped into the breach and brought superior bread from the east, thus causing mixed feelings among Glaswegians, who clearly wanted to have their cake and eat it.
I'm trying desperately to stop these corny jokes, but am on a roll now, and need only add that, to this day, the bunfight between the two cities continues – all because of resentment and envy brought about by better baked bread.
Stereotypes abound. Glasgow is plain, Embra a bit pan loaf. Glasgow is Highlandie-Islandie, Embra Anglo-Saxon. Glasgow is drunk, Embra sober. Each of these stereotypes is true. And each is a lie. (I hate to generalise about stereotypes, but that's typical of them). Parts of Glasgow are posher than Edinburgh. The poorer parts of Edinburgh still have Scottish people in them. Both city centres on Friday nights are overrun with inebriates.
You might say, in a sense, that there's more to unite the two cities than divide them, bur rivalry often seems more bitter the more folk have in common. Manchester v Liverpool: what's that about?
Once, I was at a footer tournament at Hampden between my Edinburgh team, Hibs, and that Glasgow side with all the British Unionist supporters: Celtic.
I was astounded when the fellows around me started taunting the Glaswegians about their alleged unfamiliarity with soap. Then, at half time, when I visited the lavatorial suite atop the terracing, I was unable to wash my hands as my Edinburgh compatriots were micturating in the sinks.
Talk about hypocrisy. You may say: "But Hibs are from Leith, and Leith is more like Glasgow than Edinburgh." That's a good point well made, even if underlying it is an implication that both places eschew washing products.
Both, I agree, share a gallus spirit. You might go as far as to say they are jaunty. But Edinburgh has its good points too. I'll just go away to look these up.
Ah, here we are. Edinburgh's situation is arguably more piquant. Not many cities in the world can boast a volcano, even if it last blew a gasket aeons ago. The capital is by the sea, which is always a good thing, though that honour really belongs to Leith. The Portobello and Cramond districts of the capital also sit by the seashore but, like Leith, they seem to me distinctive from Edinburgh.
Of course, Edinburgh central has yon massive castle, but that has become a source of shame to the nation, with its extortionate prices and a Union flag the size of Wales taunting the peasants below.
Edinburgh suffers more from bicyclists and people wearing Enid Blyton shorts – the hardiest, or most vain, continue even through winter – and, in the posher parts of the capital, a Scottish accent is as rare as a cyclist's hand-signal. Everyone's too scared to talk about this.
In Glasgow, people talk to you, which can be disturbing. Cliché or no, Glasgow is indubitably more relaxed. Relaxed as a newt. But, no, it is more at ease with itself. You don't have to be cursed with hyper-sensitivity like your scribe to detect that. But these little differences need not obscure the fact that we're a' doon on the register of births as the offspring of Mr Jock Tamson.
I fear too that rivalry can go too far. Prof Crawf believes it would be a shame if the rivalry were ever settled. "Only people from Edinburgh could dwell in a universe without Glaswegians; only Glaswegians could live on an Edinburgh-less planet," he says.
I need both places. Sometimes I prefer Glasgow. Sometimes I prefer Edinburgh. Always I prefer Leith. Oh, and as for bread: Greggs long ago conquered both cities.
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