Winter Wander on Byres Road: George Mewes Cheesemonger and The Chip
29th February, 2012
The 29th February only comes along every four years so it’s a very special day. Yesterday was that date and I spent the day in Glasgow’s West End and it turned out to be particularly enjoyable, not least of all because it was a really beautiful day, our first this year. In the morning I had a couple of MOT type hospital appointments at the Western Infirmary, good result, so afterwards I meandered up Byres Road enjoying the blue skies.
The Ubiquitous Chip
I had a meeting arranged with Martin Gray, the photographer, who had been assigned the task of taking photographs of local worthies for inclusion on the new mural at The Ubiquitous Chip, where Michael Lacey has been commissioned to produce a modern mural reflecting the original ideals of the existing Alasdair Gray murals. Unlike other candidates I have no claim to fame regarding any spectacular achievement nor am I a regular customer at The Chip but nonetheless a space had been retained for my phizog – because I run the local website.
George Mewes Cheesemonger
I had some time to spare before Martin was due to arrive so thought it would be a good idea to purchase a few delicacies and browse in the shops in the lower part of Byres Road. It had been a wee while since I’d been in George Mewes’ wonderful cheese shop so that was my first stop. There I enjoyed a chat with George, of the sparkling blue eyes, and his smiling-faced assistant Lee, who encouraged me to admire the array of camemberts, cheddars and chevrotin. Apart from fine cheeses they also stock tasty oatcakes and a fine selection of chutneys and preserves, including Partick Honey, made by local beekeeper Kathleen Friend.
I would love to tell you exactly what I bought but it really is a daunting task choosing cheese from such an impressive selection and I can never remember the names. Thus Lee came to my assistance and selected three cheeses, possibly, Azores Flores, Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage or Vacherin du Haut-Doubs, I couldn’t say, but her choice was good. I had a nibble at all three just to verify.
Just up the road from the cheese shop is Rodgers the butchers, anyone from Duntocher or Clydebank will know the name, and here I stopped to pick up some potted hough and black pudding. Very tasty and quite unlike anything you can buy in the supermarket.
I crossed the street to investigate a new shoe shop, Charles Clinkard, apparently the first of this chain to open in Scotland. I had a blether with Susannah, the very pleasant manager, who was full of enthusiasm for this new venture. I’ll definitely return. A pair of pricey purple sandals caught my eye – perhaps a treat for summer. I hope the shop will be a success as shoe shops are much more alluring than estate agents or charity shops, too much in abundance on this stretch.
A fine chat
Still with time to spare I headed for my rendezvous at The Chip. I ordered a cappuccino, served in the bar upstairs by a most affable barman/barist. Sometimes I enjoy a seat beside the open fire with my book but as it was such a pleasant day I headed downstairs to sit outside in Ashton Lane – it was relaxing sitting in the sunshine watching interesting folk stroll by. I noticed a sophisticated woman at the table next to mine. She was very elegant, with her upswept blonde hair, leopard print coat and eye catching ankle boots with a fur cuff. Later, when we struck up a conversation, I found out that they were from River Island and ‘not at all expensive’.
We started talking when the woman called to me ‘What cheese did you buy?’ gesturing towards her white paper bag with the George Mewes’ logo. I explained that I had no idea – she was in the same boat and had also left the critical task of selection in the hands of the West End fromagers.
Anyway we had a fine old chat and it transpired that we both came from the same village, Old Kilpatrick, and knew many people in common including one of her cousins. I learned that these days she lived out of town but loved to spend a day in the West End, where she had lived at one time in Oakfield Avenue, as I had too. She’d studied at Glasgow School of Art and after graduating worked as an interior designer and also taught art. I would have liked to speak to her for longer as she was so vivacious and amusing. She was a bit cheeky too – I explained to her that I was waiting for Martin and about the photograph and when he arrived she cautioned, ‘no topless’. We laughed when he responded with a saucy quip ‘That’s just week-ends’.
It was such a pleasant day. Perhaps it was the rare sunshine that made everyone particularly friendly and amusing. I hope it wasn’t just because of the special date, although perhaps that had something to do with it.
Pat Byrne, 1st March, 2012
Watch out for Ryan Irvine, a more recent, and very enthusiastic member of staff at George Mewes.
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