“Hey! That’s your home town.”

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In his book Let’s Wreck, Craig Brackenridge describes his hometown Cumbernauld as famous for being culturally twinned with downtown Kabul. It is also my hometown. Admittedly, I have only returned recently (and have stayed much longer than planned) because it costs me buttons to live there allowing me to live the jet-set lifestyle I want without having to think about moving out of the public sector. I mention this because Will Self* mentions visiting it in his Psychogeography column in the Indie. Not only is he about as nice as you can be about the place but the thought of bumping into him in a Greggs has been freaking me out like one of his pieces of short fiction (he’s yet to successfully pull off the longer format IMO).

Poor, poor Cumbernauld: poured and hammered into being in the white heat of Britain’s brief affair with Modernism – ever since, rejected and derided as the ugliest town in the land. Channel 4 viewers have even voted to have it blown up – without specifying evacuation first. Yet why such savagery? We can’t all live in Poundbury, or otherwise crawl up the Prince of Wales’s arse. Admittedly, it is a brilliant October day, but Cumbernauld doesn’t seem such a dreadful place to me; in fact, it doesn’t even look like a town at all: but the biggest motorway service centre ever conceived of, straddling the A8011 like a steel and concrete cabre tossed by the McGods.

Cumbernauld has the distinction of having been Britain’s first shopping mall – and its first multi-level covered town. It may be derided now, because its penthouse apartments never found tenants and have cracked and spalled with time, but the mall remains, almost a kilometre of retail outlets! I take the boys to Greggs to liberate some doughnuts, and then we give the flightless smokers outside the Kestrel a swerve and head on to the Royal Burgh, where – to be blunt – we find the same thing.

With its princely apartments, vast kitchens, arching chapel and soaring great hall; its garden, its battlements, and its Argyll and Sutherlanders’ regimental museum – not forgetting its plentiful retail opportunities (if, that is, you get off on shortbread and pipe bands), Stirling Castle clearly beats Cumbernauld as the first multi-level covered town in this neck of the woods.

*And, if anyone can tell me what word it was that I was looking for to look oh-so-clever when describing Self, I’ll be very grateful. It means someone interested in collecting words and starts sesp/cesp.


Written by Tony Kiernan

07 November 2007 at 3:47 pm

Posted in 'Nam, Stuff & nonsense

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