I WOULD speak today of a place where life can get on top of you.
As you may have guessed – perhaps given the screaming headline above – I'm talking about a tenement.
Tenements are often considered peculiarly Scottish, perhaps even Glaswegian, and while that isn't necessarily true, you can see where it's coming from. We Scots are tenemental people. It's a rare Caledonian who hasn't lived in a tenement. Even folk from peculiar places offshore have found themselves in tenements, perhaps as students or when visiting friends.
Are tenements a good or a bad thing? This column likes to accentuate the positive – a challenge for any Scottish writer – and, to be sure, tenements can be places of community and warmth. I'm talking old stone tenements, not modern harled "blocks" where, if you stand up suddenly, you bang your heid on the ceiling.
It can be reassuring to have people around you, and tenement life forces people to say hello, unlike in the suburbs, where they avoid each other by crouching down behind cars.
Many of you will be familiar with Avril Paton's painting Windows in the West, depicting a Glasgow tenement in snow. It's early evening in 1993 and, through the windows, you see people getting on with their lives, doing stuff. Children are still up before bed. You may also have seen Bryan Evans's depictions of couples in stairwells snogging – getting up a close and personal.
All human life is here, from the moment you get through that communal door and climb these solid stone steps. Like everything else, tenements were better in the past, before electronic racket-making and trendy wooden floors.
But everyone should live in a tenement at some time and, under independence, legislation will enforce this.
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