The journey starts at Newton station. As the train approaches, the Eyeball Game starts. My fellow passengers and I try to establish who is getting on where, looking for the quietest carriage and the prospect of a window seat. We size each other up, trying to read which way the wave of people will flow. It is not like chess.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the station is inhabited by vampires. On rainy days a crowd of people pour from the ticket office as the train arrives. At first I assumed that they were merely smart people taking cover from the rain. But on a lovely, warm, sunny morning, the train neared. And sure enough, at the last second, a rush of ‘people’ poured from the office and into a carriage. Glasgow gets ten hours of sunlight a year. And these people were avoiding it. Definitely vamps.
Rutherglen station awaits. Rutherglen is a hybrid of levels from a Rainbow Six computer game: seemingly abandoned train tracks (except the one I’m on of course), huts and cabins, random metal structures, barrels, a field of plants high enough to snipe from. And the whole thing is concealed below a motorway. Pure Tom Clancy gaming.
Bridgeton station looks ominous during the day. I’ve been there late on a Friday night – then, it’s haunting. The noise of London Road – of drunks, neds, anger, and worst of all, hen nights – pours over the bridge and crashes onto the platform. Standing there, it’s as if every angry person in Glasgow is heading downstairs towards you. At any second a squad of drunken scumbags could arrive, stab-happy, with you the captive victim.
Anderson is my personal mystery station. I pass through it, but don’t understand where it is. It’s been wiped from my mental map of Glasgow city centre. Yet I don’t have the urge to alight there and figure out where I am. It would ruin the mystery, I’d be JJ Abrams opening the magic box. Me not knowing the location is surprising, given my enjoyment of hoemongering, and Anderston being Glasgow’s mecca of lady-using.
I still feel resentment towards Partick station. It was, in my train ticket avoidance days, the only stop that consistently foiled me. I was a regular of unstaffed stations – Bearsden, Westerton, Dalmuir. Short journeys. I’d be on and off the train without even a through-carriage glance of a ticket inspector. Once a week I’d make a trip to Partick. Most of the time I’d avoid paying a fare. Then one day Partick literally manned up. I exited the train to be faced with staff, expecting me to pay for my journey. The audacity! There are two ways to escape Patrick station. So the next week I tried the other. Trapped. Every week since, the station has been staffed, a free ride no longer an option. There was a desperate point where I considered how realistic it would be to get a grappling hook and abseil down the side of the station.
Scotland has a high rate of depression. Hyndland station is where it begins. The source of negativity opened here, and now sad-waves emanate from it across Glasgow. If you made a film where a character slumps on a bench, head in hands, as life passes him by at an incredible rate, you would film it at Hyndland. As trains pass on either side of the platform, everyone there considers leaping in front of one. Hyndland is where hope goes to die. Apart from that it’s okay.
Let’s get overly-dramatic – Westerton’s is the knife’s edge. It’s the line between have-nots and have-lots, between suit and tracksuit, between apple cider and apple trees. From Westerton station you can go south, eventually reaching Drumchapel, or north, through Westerton itself, eventually reaching Bearsden. To simplify, Drumchapel is hood, it’s council estates and crime and hawww. Bearsden is anti-haw. It’s posh people with garages and two cars and pets with people names. Westerton station is the Rubicon. Except you can turn back whenever you want. Unless you get killed. Or you get a bus.