The Chronicles of St Mungo Square

Published: 15 February 2024

Wednesday 31st May 2023 - Nearby a man is cutting grass and another has just walked past with a leaf blower, creating a huge amount of noise. An elderly woman stops to tell me what she thinks of this – ‘they should be banned!’

The Chronicles of St Mungo Square

The Chronicles of St Mungo’s Square are written by Aileen Paterson, a member of one of our Hub groups, The Scribble Creative Writers. Aileen has been working on them since the group started meeting in the Clarice Pears.  She has been following the work and changes outside the building.  We are very grateful to Aileen for allowing us to share her writings.  They provide a social history of the Western Campus development from May 2023 until May 2024 and we will publish them in instalments. They remind me of Glasgow artist, Mitch Miller’s ‘pigeon’s eye’ drawings he terms ‘Dialectograms’  which are ‘illustrations drawn not from on high, but as those at ground level see and live it’. The Chronicles describe the new campus and Clarice Pears becoming part of the West End community.

Wednesday 31st May 2023
Nearby a man is cutting grass and another has just walked past with a leaf blower, creating a huge amount of noise. An elderly woman stops to tell me what she thinks of this – ‘they should be banned!’ Mercifully the leaf blower gets loaded in the back of a nearby truck. This small area of mostly concrete seems to get a lot of attention from maintenance people. A nearby sign, still shrink-wrapped, reads ‘St Mungo Square’.
I have bought an oat latte from the machine in the Clarice Pears building as it seems to be out of cow’s milk again. The writing group have become documenters of life around St Mungo Square. I rather envy the students the opportunity to study, their clearly marked out days, the chance to socialise. A man in a high vis waistcoat and a hardhat wanders past, talking on his phone. A woman walks past wheeling a catering trolley. The sun comes out again. People with lanyards wander past. A truck goes past with piles of newly cut grass and mowers. Nobody seems to see me, apart from the woman who doesn’t like leaf blowers.
There is a large metal pole in front of me with floodlighting, and possibly cameras, although they don’t seem to be especially pointed at me. Still, writing in a notebook outside a university is probably not terribly unusual or suspicious. A white van goes past me and stops, putting on its hazard warning lights. They must surely run out of maintenance tasks sometime. A while later he drives off again.
A man with a three-legged shih tzu comes out the Clarice Pears building. It looks extremely happy, in spite of its limitations. A man in a high vis jacket enters the building and measures the doorway with a long tape, then goes off again.

Wednesday 7th June 2023
On a day like today, the Clarice Pears building looks like it has landed from outer space, dropped from a perfectly blue sky. A passing gull is mirrored in its windows as it spreads its wings, soaring. A nearby building seems to fold in on itself. Everything is in flux, changing fast. I long for stillness, for certainty, for peace, to be more comfortable with not knowing, allowing life to unfold before me, everything happening in its own time. Even as I sit quietly, men in high vis jackets are planning more construction and destruction. Life is change.

Wednesday 14th June 2023
Once again I am sitting in St Mungo Square, amazed at all the activity going on. The men in high vis jackets have obtained a cherry picker from somewhere and are using it to alarm the students and staff in the Clarice Pears building. They are also randomly bashing the sides of the building with various metal implements, for no clear purpose other than to disrupt the air of calm studiousness within the building. A border collie follows its owner obediently through the square. The St Mungo Square sign has finally been freed from its shrink wrap and is allowed to fulfil its true purpose, reorientating confused passers-by with its colourful map.
I have realised there is a roof terrace on the Clarice Pears building. I feel I would like to visit it but am unsure how to gain access. I sense it may be forbidden, except to the men in high vis jackets and other special people. The man on the cherry picker is soaring happily towards the upper floors of the building, whilst his colleagues look on, everyone fulfilling their true purpose.
I too am fulfilling my true purpose as scribe to the universe, sitting in the shade of a young tree, noticing everything.
Wednesday 21st June 2023
The square is increasingly feeling like a building site. More areas are fenced off and the cherry picker is resting but poised for action. Many colourful signs provide instruction and health and safety guidance, and a Pride flag has appeared from somewhere, half-heartedly fluttering in the wind. The men in high vis jackets are gathered near the Pride flag, perhaps pausing to reflect on the value of diversity. I sit in the shadows beneath the tree, the shadowed leaves dancing on the path before me. Green bulbous shoots have emerged but are yet to open. Dark clouds gather in the blue sky.
These days are strange and sometimes I want to slow down the rate of change so I can catch my breath, press the pause button, but this isn’t possible as life moves relentlessly forward at its own pace. An Uber delivery man speeds across the square on his bicycle. The university tower is almost hidden by stacks of portacabins proclaiming they are Green Space.
The Mathematics and Statistics building sits unashamed in its ugly rectangular functionality, perhaps appreciating the simple beauty of its own geometry, its disdain for conventional aesthetics or curved lines. Each building has its own mood and character, its own way of being that others must accept or not, just as they wish.

Wednesday 28th June 2023
The weather has finally broken and rain is dripping off the gleaming red cherry picker. The men in high vis jackets are cheering themselves up by investigating what’s happening inside the upper floors of the Clarice Pears building with the aid of the cherry picker. Others are gathered at the bottom of the square or are milling about in dungarees and hard hats.
A bird lands on the branches of a nearby tree and sings loudly, demanding attention. ‘Stop looking at those boring men’, it tells me. ‘I am far more interesting.’
I have to agree, although I feel the bird is lacking appreciation for the efforts of the men to build a super-campus for the university, a place of inspiration and learning, a meeting place for future leaders, scientists and great thinkers. The bird cares little for all of this. People wander past, head down, carrying umbrellas. An Uber delivery man cycles past at great speed. The young trees wave in the breeze. The sky is steel grey, and the rain a little half-hearted. The fierce energy of June is giving way to something else, an uncertainty, a lack of resolution. The weather is considering all its options. Students with colourful umbrellas saunter past with a sense of purpose.

To be continued…



First published: 15 February 2024

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