I have relatively few traditions. Most of them pertain to football in some way. When I go to Easter Road, for example, I always use the same turnstile and exit. I invariably walk the same way to the ground as well, though not always. Since Hibs have been promoted, I have different grounds to go to so new traditions to build and maintain. Other than Easter Road and possibly Stark’s Park, the ground I’ve seen Hibs in the most over the last few seasons is Hampden Park. I am actually writing this the night after an unsuccessful visit to the National Stadium, this time against Celtic. (Don’t panic – this is actually a psychogeographical post. I’m not going to go all self-pitying about the Hibs. Football posts don’t tend to be popular here, for some reason.) Whenever I see Hibs play in a semi final at Hampden, I usually walk home. From Mount Florida to where I live in Cardonald is 4.8 miles, or about an hour and a half. The first time I walked it was after the Scottish Cup semi against Dundee United or the Conrad Logan game – more about the Polar Bear here. Hibs had the eastern or Celtic end of the stadium and even without that, there was a lot of traffic getting out of Hampden then Battlefield and Shawlands. As I got towards Battlefield Road and the old Victoria Infirmary, I realised I might be quicker walking as no bus would get through the cars and coaches all heading out of the area at the same time. I got home and collapsed in a heap. One year later, after the Scottish Cup semi against Aberdeen, same scenario. This time I just decided to walk it, since it had become sort of a ritual whenever Hibs played at Hampden that I would just hoof it home. In fact, since I had prepared myself for Hibs getting gubbed by Celtic anyway (we got beat but not that decisively), the walk home was actually something to look forward to.
My route from Hampden mostly follows that of the 34 (or 34A) bus, operated by First Glasgow, which runs from Castlemilk to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital or Govan. Usually, I am one of a great crowd streaming out of Hampden and crossing the road at Mount Florida Primary School onto Battlefield Road. After the Aberdeen semi last year, I was surrounded by Doric-accented folk with red scarves, definitely marking myself out by my green scarf and mostly east coast accent. Past the coaches, the mass of people thins out by the shops on Battlefield Road, definitely by Shawlands, only a few or none beyond there. By the time I get to the northern gate of Pollok Park, the supporters coaches tend to start passing, as proved yesterday when coaches, pretty much all with Edinburgh numbers on the side and green-clad folk aboard, started streaming along towards the motorway. After the Dundee United semi, I was actually over the motorway when the United coaches started passing. Invariably by Mosspark and Paisley Road West, I am the only indicator that a football match had been happening somewhere as people just dot around doing shopping and whatever.
The walk yesterday was brilliant, on a nice, cloudy-bright autumn afternoon. Battlefield was its usual, leafy elegance, with the exception that someone had just smashed the window of the Domino’s Pizza shop. I always like being in that part of the world and know it well from working there for two years. As I walked and thought over the game, my main impression was of the autumn leaves on the trees. Glasgow is a beautiful city at the best of times but very often it is best in the autumn. The trees are all yellow and orange at the moment and the route home from Hampden skirts the side of Queen’s Park as well as Pollok Park and Bellahouston for good measure. I had been along Mosspark Boulevard last Sunday en route to Cathkin Park and the trees were still turning and leaves falling. The game had finished around 2 and I got home around 3.30, having stopped only for a juice and a sandwich on Battlefield Road. I hadn’t been hurrying, just letting my feet guide me home, processing the game and thinking on future adventures. Pollok Park foremost amongst my priorities, given the wonderful autumn colours. It won’t be today, however, since I would rather be far away from the Motherwell-Rangers semi final at Hampden this afternoon.
Glasgow is an eminently walkable city. It can seem vast but it isn’t really. It is possible to cross the south side within an hour or two on foot, even a half-hour by bus. From Cardonald, it is possible to walk in any direction and end up somewhere. I can walk to Renfrew (and I have) or Braehead or Paisley (I’ve only done from Ralston home so far). Within Glasgow, I can walk to Govan or Crookston, Bellahouston or Pollok. Some of the Streets of Glasgow walks I have in mind are local ones, the long roads that pass through this part of the city – Paisley Road West and Govan Road are definitely ideas for the winter to come.
The walk from Hampden is a rare treat, like a visit to the National Stadium itself. I am lucky as a Hibs fan that I get to visit fairly regularly and even luckier that I can walk home in even less time than it takes some of my fellow Hibees to drive back to the capital, even if it might take longer to get over the game than just the walk home.