I studied in Glasgow once on exchange, and ever since those sparkling university days I’ve looked on it as a benevolent, candy-coated city – despite the perpetually grey sky and freezing cold.

Funny how different a place looks without financial stability and with a $50,000 student loan to attend to.

Still, Glasgow is definitely a step up from London: pints decrease to a pleasant £3(ish), chips come with options of curry, gravy and cheese, and the population seems made up entirely of struggling university and graduate students, so drink specials are plentiful.

There comes a point, though, when you feel a little old to be sipping on a lighter-fluid version of gin in a reggae bar opposite two undergraduate girls ferociously making out (one of whom has just been accepted into art school). There comes a time at the mid-twenty mark when you look at these slick, guarded young women and feel glum, because you know their insecurities, because their worries are like whitebait compared with what’s to come. A few gins into all this and I feel like a crinkled Bukowski, surrounded by a dank cloud of dreadlocks, sex-me faces and old men dancing with all-night party pranksters.

Funny how different a place looks without financial stability and with a $50,000 student loan to attend to.

Maybe it’s the early twenty-somethings. Maybe it’s the mice watching me write in the kitchen. Maybe it’s the ice-cream truck that almost knocked me dead (apparently the turf wars here are vicious). Maybe it’s the broken shower and the workmen staring down at me in bed from freshly erected scaffolding at 9 a.m. in the morning.

“Why are we doing this?” I blurt out in Starbucks. “Why didn’t we just go to Thailand? It’s warm there and the food has more vegetables.”

“Maybe we should.”


“Maybe we should give up and move to Thailand.”

But there’s always a silvery grey lining, and that lining is Gumtree. I love Gumtree like I love cleanskins: it’s within my price range, guarantees results and, behind the mysterious name, there’s often a delicious reward to surprise you. Gumtree is there when you need it most: sending bountiful job offers to your inbox just when you’re scraping bottom and contemplating a career in psychology. Composing the perfect Gumtree ad is a delicate art (just search ‘copywriting’ to discover new and surprising forms of cliché), but if you get it right the payoff can be majestic. Just remember to load your ad before you venture overseas, or you could find yourself navigating the stringent demands of IP addresses.

Though the real beauty of Scotland isn’t in its metropolitan spaces or the complexities of its IP addresses – it’s in the wild.

Head a meek forty minutes out of town and you hit Stirling, technically Scotland’s newest city (it was granted ‘city status’ in 2002). Gingerbread blocks of flats waggle up Castle hill to Stirling Castle, where its walls are eternally cloaked in mist like a poorly ventilated shower. Legend has it that the beast of Stirling – a wolf – saved the craggy town from Vikings in the ninth century after howling so loud it woke the lot of them up.

“We’re in Winterfell!” cries my manfriend.

Gumtree is there when you need it most: sending bountiful job offers to your inbox just when you’re scraping bottom and contemplating a career in psychology.

Of course, this is nothing to what can be achieved if you venture another thirty minutes out of the ancient town to a wee place called Callander, situated on the edge of the Trossachs National Park and acting as a ‘gateway’ to the bountiful Scottish Highlands. Callander, as it turns out, is also a smorgasbord of smells. The streets waft inexplicably but persistently of bacon, and are populated with whisky, fudge and Christmas shops. The whisky shops smell of whisky, the fudge shops of heated caramel, and the Christmas shop of cinnamon.

“Where’s all the cinnamon coming from?” I ask the shopkeeper, a graceful, silver-haired lady with a puppy that’s yipping between the fairy lights and tinsel.

“We don’t know. We only sell cinnamon fragrance during the Christmas months, but we’ve been selling it for over twelve years now and I suppose the smell has just stuck.”

She smiles and her marshmallow of a puppy begins to play around our feet.

“Be careful of that one,” she says. “She’s learnt how to untie shoelaces.”

We laugh and leave the delightful shop sadly but tenderly, our shoelaces untied.

Call it procrastination, but getting out of Glasgow is a must for the wistful, unproductive freelancer. Out of Glasgow, there are castles to explore without builders watching you shower. Out of Glasgow, there’s a town that smells of bacon.

Pros of working in Glasgow:

  • Glacial temperatures constantly keep you in check, forcing you inside to work.
  • Very culturally keen, with places like The Lighthouse, a national design and architecture centre, which boasts free WiFi and hosts some rad exhibitions (with resources to peruse).
  • Tap water is delicious and pints come cheap.
  • A supportive and close-knit artist community with glorious accents.
  • Everything in walking distance, which cuts on transport costs.

Cons of working in Glasgow:

  • Glasgow seems to prefer a grey colour scheme, which can become a tad depressing when coupled with a ceaselessly grey sky.
  • Can feel like a bit of a university/ghost town most of the time, with a distinctive lack of wrinkles.
  • Fresh vegetables/fruit/food appears difficult to come by, which I’ve heard is bad for the concentration span.
  • Aggressive ice-cream trucks.

Megan Anderson is Going Down Swinging’s online editor.