A warm welcome to Glasgow

It was time to head to Glasgow by train for the first of two re-arranged stages of The Cycling Podcast’s tour of Britain. We’d originally been scheduled to appear at Òran Mór at the start of March but the snow put paid to that. Our tour organisers were unable to re-book Òran Mór but The Trades Hall was a glorious alternative venue and the crowd filled the room and gave the grand setting plenty of warmth.


We mixed things up a bit and this time, we each read a bit of our own work from The Cycling Podcast book, A Journey Through the Cycling Year. I went first and I found it trickier than when I’d read an excerpt of one of Richard’s chapters during the previous events because my inner monologue was asking, ‘Who on earth wrote this?’ There’s a time for critical analysis of your own work but perhaps while reading it to an audience is not that time.

The question and answer session in the second half was great fun with some excellent questions. The first was from someone whose son was moving from Glasgow to Marseille to study. He wanted to know from François how he could be sure his son wouldn’t turn a bit fancy after moving to France. François talked a bit about how Glasgow and Marseille had quite a bit in common, being misunderstood by outsiders, but nevertheless glorious cities with great character. Orla wanted to know what the questioner meant by ‘a bit fancy,’ to which he replied, ‘Will he start dressing like Lionel?’

I wasn’t quite sure how to take that, so I decided to take it as a compliment. We decided that the presence of a spotted handkerchief in the breastpocket of a jacket must be seen as a bit fancy by some Glaswegians. In any case, it gave Richard, Orla and François a good laugh over dinner.

We went for a very fine curry at a place called Obsession of India in the Merchant City area of town. The slightly sticky table might have been off putting if the food hadn’t been so good. James, from our tour organisers Penguin Live, ordered a madras and dismissed the warnings from the staff that it would be a pretty spicy with the sort of London-based nonchalence I’ve paid the price for in the past.

It reminded me of a few years ago, when Ellis Bacon and I had just published one of the volumes of The Cycling Anthology and, together with my sister, ran a book stall at The Cycle Show at the NEC in Birmingham. We stayed in a cheap, no-frills hotel on a dual carriageway and restaurant choices within walking distance were restricted to an absolutely terrible pub where (as my memory has it) Ellis had sausage, chips and beans for £1.99, and a curry house that looked unpromising inside and out but was actually pretty good. We ended up in the curry house three nights out of four.

The first night I ordered a madras and was a bit disappointed that it was quite mild. The second night I went for something else that was described as medium-hot but that didn’t pack much of a punch either. So on the final night I picked something hot and said to the waiter, ‘Is this actually a hot dish?’

‘It can be, yes. How hot would you like it?’

‘Well, only as hot as it comes. I don’t want anything ridiculous but something with a bit more spice would be good.’

Photographs by James Robinson.

Photographs by James Robinson.

Within a couple of mouthfuls my eyes were watering and my forehead was sweating and although I managed to battle on through, it was a bit of a trial.

As the waiter cleared the plates away he asked how it had been. I put a brave face on things and said, ‘It was certainly a lot hotter than the other two dishes I’ve had here.’

The waiter replied, ‘Well, we figured you were from down south so we thought we’d better go easy on you.’

Back in Glasgow, James polished off his madras, finely-chopped chillis and all, but he did look like he was in need of my handkerchief to mop his brow by the end.