I don’t go in for the whole “set piece” Valentine thing – much to Mrs B’s chagrin – and that makes it any old Tuesday night. This particular evening finds me here in central Glasgow. When I say central, I of course mean The Central. The Grand Central Hotel to be precise. (The Central if you’re local.)
This imposing edifice is 15 minutes from the airport on the (gobsmackingly otherworldly friendly) 500 Express bus. Free wifi, a smile, travel advice, toe massage, all-in for £10 return. [One of those is an optional extra. Where’s m’streotype slopy shouldered grumbling jobsworth?] Walking across the street to the entrance the exterior of the hotel is a Queen Anne style facade which is up there with the other Great British termini: St Pancras, The Balmoral, Swindon… The interior doesn’t disappoint either, it’s all rather dashing and of it’s elegant time. Restored in 2010 it is a credit to the hotelier.
FUN FACT: The world's first long-distance television pictures were transmitted to the Central Hotel in the station, on 24 May 1927 by John Logie Baird. Unfortunately the folk in London didn't buy their telly until 1974 so the event was a bit lost on them.
The reception staff are charming, helpful and have all the time in the world. (A difficult illusion to pull off I’d say.) As the hotel follows a linear floorplan my room is approximately one mile away from the lift above platform 9 ¾ and stiflingly hot. Flinging up the sash window all of a restricted 2 inches – ow! – the station canopy reveals itself and the kitchen exhausts bellow below.
Dammit, I want chips. NOW.
I ditch my kit and head out. 10 minutes and countless “spare any change there pal?” encounters later I am stood in the cavernous Bosphorus Turkish restaurant. Alone. When I say alone, I mean ALOOOOONNNNE. I walked in the door, noisily climbed the metal (indoor fire escape) stairs and waited for someone, anyone, for a good few minutes. It was starting to get a little zombie apocalypse. Click the link above, the piccys don’t do it justice. It’s spacious. Spooky even. Eventually the shopkeeper appeared. Although there was a touch of the Mr Benn, he was more long lost uncle in character – he was that friendly – and soon I am filling my face with delicious Turkish scoff.
The big advantage of dining out for one? No “helpful” commentary/advice. So it’s ARNAVUT CIGERI followed by BURSA KEBAB with a parsley salad, bulgar rice and some hummus on the side. To finish a syrupy coffee – mind not to drain the cup for fear of a gritty finale – and – natch – Turkish Delight.
When I say Valentine for one I really mean it. For the duration of my meal I was the sole occupant of the establishment leaving 179 seats free for lovers. I leave a tip and clank gracelessly down the echotastic staircase taking my newly engorged food baby tum into the night.
So vibrant is the centre of this town! Couples on their way out in high spirits. Such fab buildings, great lighting, funky bars, so many talented buskers – including a kick-ass jazz drummer who got my coins – and so very many homeless. The latter sadly conforming to every caricature and heart wrenching cliche you might imagine.
How easily we ignore these poor sobs. How few further steps of my walk to cast off their memory.
Rounding the corner to the Hotel pondering a nightcap I consider taking up a skulking, brooding corner of the Champagne Bar in an ironic anti-romance fashion. “What about the homeless eh?” I’d hiss through gritted teeth. But I’d only spoil the look of the place and put off the other punters on their special night. I mean look at it:
By the way, Mrs B is out on a “date” checking out par-tay venues nearer home.
How lucky we are to have each other.
Even if we are three hundred and thirty three miles apart and I stink of chili, raw onion and garlic.