"Fantastic coffee and home made cake are our passion (are they not everyone's ?)
art college had a dual purpose, one that transpired when there, not one that was in any way premeditated. in retrospect, i learned a lot at college, even if it was only what i subsequently didn't need to know, but it did instil certain values that still permeate the day to day even now. it's secondary purpose, and one that was tested by more than just yours truly, was rock'n'roll. actually, it wasn't quite rock, but neither was it pop and it sure as heck wasn't jazz. this at least i have in common with eric clapton, brian eno and brian ferry, all of whom spent at least a few years in the melting pot of a british (in my case, scottish) art college. artistic folk generally do not restrict themselves to a single realm; that is the remit of the architect.
during those four years, a mix of the visual and audible seemed quite normal. so many of us partook of a skiffle at the weekend, pre-empted by several rehearsals in the art college hall, that to say it was unremarkable is altogether unremarkable.
by year three, competence was looming. four of us were all in the same year at college, while the bass player maintained that he was studying for a degree in marine communications, though two of us learned alpha, bravo, charlie, delta while testing him before an exam which he subsequently failed. competence brings with it delusions of grandeur, all of which had been subjugated up till that point, but as a now well-known band, it had become relatively simple to spread our meagre talents further afield. thus, in the days when megastardom and a 200 watt pa system beckoned, we often found ourselves in the smaller principalities bordering the region, mostly hitherto unknown by anyone including our roadie.
the preamble would almost always be the same; make sure the road map was the correct way up, and find the most direct route to the scene of our next gig. on arrival, it was usually necessary to find some hapless soul wandering the streets and query them for directions to the venue. "well, you'll need to turn back the way you've just come, take a left past the newsagent's on the corner, carry on along that road until you come to a phone box. there's a blue painted house on your right, so you want to head towards that, but take left just before you reach it, down the lane by the 30mph sign. you can't miss it."
unfortunately, every request for directions in any town or village you cared to mention, would always end with "you can't miss it". what they actually meant was, they couldn't miss it, because they lived there and probably had done so for years. we, on the other hand, were from the big city; we could quite easily miss it and more often than not, we did.
armed with the memory of these local misdirected meanderings, i have become highly cynical of any propensity to pinpoint a location via suspiciously simple directions. the two words 'next to' usually entail a long walk in the wrong direction before realising that, in fact, the truth has been stretched just a tad. i was, at one time, informed that victoria street bus station in london, is next to victoria railway station.
however, always on the look out for new emergences of a cycling context, i had recently come across the name siempre as the moniker for a new cycling cafe in glasgow's dumbarton road. erroneously, the article pertaining to the cafe's opening described it as the first in scotland which, bearing in mind the two neils at ronde made the assertion technically incorrect. however, the first in glasgow it most definitely is, an excellent proposition given glasgow's lower profile as a cycling friendly city. perhaps things were taking a giant leap forward in the west.
the centre of glasgow i know almost as well as i know the roads around islay, but the peripheries of the city are less well-kent. thankfully, siempre's website helpfully provides directions on how to get there, an option of which is to take glasgow's almost unknown (elsewhere) underground railway. this consists of the outer circle and the inner circle, so named because the trains do indeed travel in circles. according to siempre, the cafe was just next to kelvinhall underground station. i therefore expected my non-existent knowledge of this part of town to involve a considerable amount of leg work looking for just next to.
by heck were they pinpoint accurate with their directions. step out the exit of kelvinhall station and only two paces in front is the unmistakeable purple logo of siempre (it's spanish for always). though the two large logo'd windows face onto dumbarton road, the side entrance could not be closer to the station if they'd parked a train in the doorway.
it's a cafe of two parts that is only a hop, skip and a jump away from becoming three. the all-important coffee machine and a counter decorated with an array of enticing food, cakes and biscuits resides at the back, facing a raw brick wall (exhibitions here we come) and edged with several tables and chairs from which froth supping may be partaken. walk through an archway in the selfsame brick wall, and you enter the brighter and larger front portion. this is populated with more tables and chairs looking out over the road and traffic, with bicycles in the window spaces, clothing racks and a changing room, serving counter and a pile of tyres, tubes and a rather hefty vice.
siempre is owned by kirsteen caldow and callan dickson. the former has a day job away from siempre, while callan handles the day to day in the cafe. he's the bike guy, while there are others taking care of the food and beverages. there are no hidden strategies for their opening a cycling cafe in glasgow. though they're fortunate to have done so just as the bradley bubble begins to take concrete form, siempre has been in planning a lot longer than those 21 days in july. business is business, so the cafe does not make itself a martyr to serving only cyclists; however, it's a large, bright and incredibly amenable space that does not hide its light under a vulpine rainjacket. there's no denying the cycling influence that hopefully might just spread itself a little further into the civilian population given time.
callan plans to add in a large screen tv before the spring classics next year, allowing those with a fascination for the sport to enjoy moving pictures with their coffee and cake. there's free bike parking in a rack in the front section of the cafe, but serving coffee and selling bikes is not by any means the end of kirsteen's and callan's plans for the space. i referred earlier to a third area, one which currently resembles a flat wasteland accessible through the back door of siempre. "We'd like to develop the rear area of the property," said kirsteen, "to complement our strategy of cycling, health promotion and inner city regeneration. We've proposed to Glasgow City Council that we lease the land and repurpose it as a ‘Bike Town’.
"The intention is that this will offer an opportunity for children and young people to get involved in cycling. It's an area that will be developed with the purpose of allowing them to learn how to ride a bike as well learning to have fun on their bikes, safely."
"And", added Callum "it may also allow us to offer bike-parking for those using the underground, making a combination of bike and train a viable proposition to travel to the city centre."
of course, to be bluntly superficial about such admirable plans, i can tell you're all dying to know just how good the soya cappuccino really is. i'd stop short at referring to myself as a connoisseur of the roasted beans, but i have never shied away from passing judgement for the benefit of others. suffice to say both cappuccino and double-espresso, hailing from dear green roasters were a truly excellent accompaniment to a piece of millionaire's shortbread and some siempre-made flapjack biscuit. now that i'm home, however, i'm kicking myself for not having requested some french toast as advertised on their breakfast menu. granted, i was hardly at siempre while breakfast was being served, but a guy can ask, can't he?
my ignorance stretches to not knowing how much of a hassle it is to ride to 162 dumbarton road from wherever in glasgow some of you may reside; it is perhaps not even close to your regular commute, but in the light that it is open seven days a week, and impressively, from 6:30 in the morning on weekdays (8:30am at weekends), i'm sure that a little ingenuity and effort would get you over if only to see what it's like. with look mum no hands! in london, ronde in edinburgh, debbie's on islay and now siempre in glasgow, the surreptitious plan for world domination begins to take shape.
as edinburgh bicycle are keen to foretell 'the revolution will not be motorised'.
monday 12th november 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................