Loose Ends: Donald Dewar statue

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The previous Loose Ends connection was in George Square, scene of protest, celebration and much else. It was perhaps only natural that I came next the short distance to the statue of Donald Dewar, which stands at the top of Buchanan Street. There too people gather to protest, busk or eat their lunch. It was night and I only had a few minutes. I stood long enough to get a couple of photos, never easy with a phone to avoid streetlight glare. The scene was quite quiet for an early evening, folk heading home or further down towards the town and the shops. I looked up at Donald Dewar and left.

Donald Dewar was a politician. He was the first First Minister of Scotland and did a lot of work to set up the Scottish Parliament. He gave a very powerful speech at its opening on 1st July 1999, his words warm and passionate on that summer’s day two decades ago. The first words of the Scotland Act 1998 are carved on the base of his statue:

‘There shall be a Scottish Parliament’. 

Donald Dewar was particularly tickled by that concise statement which begat so much. I remember not only the Concorde flying over my primary school when the Scottish Parliament opened but about a year later watching his funeral on television. He had collapsed in the street, dying of a brain haemorrhage aged 63. I can only wonder what he would make of Scotland today, of the Labour Party and of the Scottish Parliament he helped to hansel.

To the connections and they are many from this statue. Donald Dewar represented Anniesland so a trip up Great Western Road might work. Or the Scottish Parliament, even the Royal High School up on Calton Hill that might have been its home at one time. The place of Dewar’s funeral, Glasgow Cathedral, has featured in this series already but not where he was educated, Glasgow University. I have the feeling it might be another Glaswegian one next…

Thank you for reading. This is part of the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. Other links in the series can be found on the Loose Ends page.

 

Saturday Saunter: Photos, woods and getting lost

Good Saturday to you,

This is one of those Saturdays when I’m working hence the post is coming early. I am actually writing it on Monday night, listening to Tide Lines.

Since I last posted here, I’ve been fairly busy. I wrote the last Saunter on Friday and on Saturday I went to do some Loose Ends business in Glasgow city centre then off to Kelvingrove. I had the idea of going to Rottenrow, now part of the Strathclyde University campus but once the city’s main maternity hospital. The site of the hospital is marked by part of the old building’s edifice and a garden with a sculpture of a nappy pin. That Loose Ends post will be a good few weeks away. I just liked that particular one. I finally got to the Linda McCartney exhibition at Kelvingrove, which closes tomorrow (Sunday). It was excellent. I wasn’t so bothered by the many photos of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and other musicians, more interested by the more arty ones. I think my favourite featured the model Twiggy, with a plait in her hair, thoughtful and staring down. Another cracking one was a group of old guys talking on a street in Campbeltown. It looked like it could have been anywhere. A picture of a London street scene was also cool, a nice sunset on a wintry day like this one, showing the car mirror with a pair of male eyes. I’m going by memory rather than notes hence it’s a wee bit vague.

This might be one of those posts when I rant less and talk more about adventures. On Sunday, the last day of my festive break, I went to Dunbar. While there I did some more Loose Ends stuff, the last of it something I was meaning to do anyway and which connects neatly, always a bonus. I walked from Belhaven to the new Dunbar Bear sculpture, taking the most direct route which took me through Lochend Woods, a place I know very well from my younger days. Despite not having been there for well over a decade, I still knew most of the paths without thinking about it. The woods are surrounded by new houses but there are still familiar places, including the glade where I hurt my ankle cross-country running in PE. It was a great blast from my past. The poems and creative thoughts that used to come walking those familiar paths.

After the Bear, which I liked far more than I thought I would (and which also features in Loose Ends soon so I won’t dwell on it here), I decided to take a path which led under a railway bridge. I thought it might come out at a hamlet called Broxburn but it turned out that it was a bit closer to Dunbar, at a farm steading called Newtonlees. Like much of Dunbar, however, even that is now houses and I soon came into a very unfamiliar row of houses. I actually had to look on Google Maps to find my way back to the road, which is very strange in the place where I grew up. I managed, though, and was soon on the East Beach, a place I also know very well. The sky was beautiful, a brighter pink on the horizon, oranges and yellows as the sun set behind.

This weekend, then. Yesterday, Friday, I was due to have a day trip to Falkirk and the Kelpies. More on that soon, I’m sure. Tomorrow I’m on the way to Newcastle, probably for some museums and culture. Over the weekend I’m hoping to finish Harriet the Spy and probably try and do some OU reading.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 11th January 2020. Thanks for reading. Nothing scheduled for tomorrow though Loose Ends will be back on Wednesday with a statue, once more in Glasgow. For the next few weeks Loose Ends gets very Glaswegian. Never a bad thing. Have a good weekend.

Loose Ends: George Square

On the way home from Edinburgh one Sunday evening, I decided to kill some time and have a wander around George Square. George Square is where the City Chambers is. The City Chambers is home to Glasgow City Council, who own the Kibble Palace and Glasgow Botanic Gardens. It was late November and Christmas lights were up but I forgot that there was also a big wheel, shows and stalls in the square. I did a circuit, actually liking the subtlety and class of the lights, even if the Christmas muzak was a bit grating. That I could hear someone belting out ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’ by Shania Twain in one of the tents cheered the miserable Scrooge in me up no end. The City Chambers was lit up, the square full of people enjoying the festivities. I looked and listened, turned around the square and headed for the train home.

George Square is very easy to link to. There is a George Square in Edinburgh, part of the University. There are other City Chambers about the country too, other places which have a Wetherspoons or a Greggs or a train station backing onto them. George Square has seen some incredible events in its time and has been the setting of numerous paintings and poems, including one of my favourites, ‘The Starlings of George Square’ by Edwin Morgan. Perhaps a place linked to Edwin Morgan might work, like the University of Glasgow or the Scottish Poetry Library. It won’t be hard to find somewhere to go from George Square, that’s for sure.

Thanks for reading. This is part of the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. Another instalment will follow next week. For the other parts of the series, please see the Loose Ends page.

Digest: December 2019

The last digest of the Old Year, the Old Decade, even, and December 2019 was busy with work and getting ready for Christmas. Now Christmas is over and there is just a great sigh of relief. I was in Morrison’s on Boxing Day and the music was normal, cheesy pop, not Slade or Wizzard or Mariah Carey or anyone else. Bliss.

On Saturday 7th December I went to see Hibs play Aberdeen. Jack Ross’s green and white army won 3-0. Braw.

The following day I spent the day around Glasgow with my dad. The Santa Dash was on as I headed to meet him at Queen Street and my spirited march was captured for posterity by the BBC Scotland cameras filming Inside Central Station at Christmas. We went to Kelvingrove and there was a pop-up orchestra on the go, which was glorious, making excellent use of that fine building and its acoustics. We also went to Street Level Photoworks and its excellent exhibition of Glasgow photographs by Oscar Marzaroli, featuring parts of the city which are no longer there.

On Tuesday 10th December I went to see Gremlins at the Glasgow Film Theatre, which was the monthly autism friendly Access Film Club film.

Friday 13th December saw me doing a bit of shopping. In between times I managed a look at the view from the flagpole at Queen’s Park, as well as a rather fine mural on Drury Street.

Sunday 15th December was a busy one, football then a Christmas night out. The football was at Celtic Park and it was as nauseating as ever. Celtic are very cringey and the combination of Christmas songs, Celtic songs and Celtic Christmas songs nearly put me over the edge. My meal out was nice, though.

I managed a trip out to Aberlady Bay on Friday 20th December, getting a wee while walking along the beach as the light faded. The football later was dreadful.

Sunday 21st December involved running a couple of errands in the town. Between the errands I managed a walk along the riverside, a wee bit of street art spotting and a turn around the Necropolis.

On Saturday 28th December I went to Durham, via Carlisle and Newcastle. Durham Cathedral was glorious as ever, just right for my mood that particular day.

This month also saw the annual Best of 2019 and Books of 2019 posts so have a read at them.

On Sunday 29th December I went to Livingston to watch Hibs. They got beat. It was awful.

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Tuesday 31st December is usually a day I like to go somewhere. I don’t really do New Year yet it feels right to see the last light of the year while out and about. I went on the bus to St. Andrews. It was bright, cold and utterly glorious walking by the sea there.

December’s Scots word of the month is ‘thon’. As in, ‘aye, thon ‘hing’, or yes, that thing. I’ve also encountered it in Derry Girls recently so there may be an influence from over the water too.

January will be busy with getting back to work, a couple of planned trips to Newcastle and Dundee, plus life in general. I’m looking forward to it, strangely.

Thanks as ever for reading this December digest. Loose Ends returns on Wednesday and the Saturday Saunter will return on Saturday, naturally enough. Until then, have an excellent month. Toodle pip.

Posts this month –

Digest: November 2019

Loose Ends: Espedair Street

Saturday Saunter: Hate will never win

Ruling passions

Loose Ends: Glasgow Central Station

Saturday Saunter: Normality, podcasts, women’s football and boys in high heels

Statues

Loose Ends: Kibble Palace

Saturday Saunter: Radio, being an OU student and books

Short on time

Best of 2019

Books of 2019

 

Saturday Saunter: VAR, rain and vivid light

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to the first Saturday Saunter of 2020. I am writing this on Friday morning. I am off until Monday so I am still a person of leisure. It’s one of those days when it is bright outside but when I went out to the bin a few minutes ago, it was raining. Glasgow is like that quite often. As this is posted, I have a couple of bits and bobs to do in Paisley then might try and catch a lower league football match since the Premiership is on its annual winter shutdown. Then again I might not. On Sunday, I might go to the art gallery in Kirkcaldy, one of my favourite places.

I try not to write much about football here. I appreciate that a fair few readers here really don’t care. If you’re in that group please scroll down to the next paragraph. I’ve been thinking a fair bit about football and unfortunately about the off-the-field stuff more than the actual game itself. Then again Hibs getting beat by Livingston last Sunday isn’t worth dwelling on. Sunday also saw the Old Firm match. Either way humanity lost. Anyway, the following day a statement was dispatched from Ibrox calling for Video Assistant Referees (VAR) to be introduced in the Scottish game, specifically citing three incidents which went against The Rangers. This was set against a backdrop of English football where VAR has been widely criticised for its impact on the game, taking the spontaneity and vivacity out of it. I am firmly against it. Referees aren’t great but decisions are made in the spur of the moment. It is an interpretation, a subjective decision following supposedly objective rules. They can go wrong. That’s part of life. The joy of football is flowing football, good play, sometimes a dicey tackle. Plus I can’t seriously see the point in Ross County, Hamilton, Livingston, St. Mirren or anyone else spending money on screens and technology that might realistically be employed three times a year, i.e. when the Gruesomes come to town. It would make the game sterile and I would probably find something else to do with my Saturday.

One thing might be walking in the rain. On Thursday I went east for my first foray out into the world in the new decade. I decided to walk along the coast from Portobello as far as Prestongrange, about 4.5 miles. It was cloudy as I got to Edinburgh, though by the time I got off the bus in Porty, there were some spots of rain. Despite that the Prom in Porty was busy with walkers, cyclists, even swimmers in the Forth. Better them than me. I was soon alone walking by Joppa with the Forth opening out before me. The rain got heavier and I gave myself until Fisherrow Harbour before I made the decision. I ended up walking on, managing an impromptu Loose Ends mission along the way. I was there, I might not get there soon so I walked on. I reached Prestongrange after first walking across Morrison’s Haven, standing looking back towards Edinburgh, Porty distant across the bay. I didn’t realise how wet I was until I got off the bus on Princes Street about an hour later and I was still ringin’.

Tuesday was brighter but colder as I went across the country to St. Andrews. I like a run to St. Andrews and the bus ride is 2.5 hours, long enough to read, lunch, listen to music and otherwise chill as the bus rolls forward. I got off then headed towards the sea, through the Cathedral kirkyard. The sky was cloudless, the sky and sea a bright, sharp blue. I walked to the end of the pier then back up by the Cathedral and Castle. Being by the sea was all I needed. I didn’t care that it was cold. It was just the right light, at a time of year when there isn’t enough of it. It was dark by Kincardine on the way home, a low ring of orange on the horizon the last light of the year as the bus moved steadily back to Glasgow.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 4th January 2020. Thanks as ever for reading. Tomorrow will be the December digest. Wednesday will be the return of Loose Ends and it will be right at the heart of Glasgow. Have a good week. Peace.

New Year Natter

Good morning,

And Happy New Year! Or if you don’t follow the Gregorian calendar, it’s Wednesday. Woo. Lang may your lum reek and all that. A lot of people care a lot about New Year and there will be a lot of sore heads this morning, as well as sore faces and feet and the rest. It is also a new decade, the beginning of the Roaring Twenties. What the world will be like in ten years, who can say? Whether Scotland will be independent, whether we or any part of the UK will be in the European Union, whether the Conservatives will still be in government, we can only but speculate at this stage. On 1st January 2030 I will not long have turned 40, which is another frightening prospect.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. They are all too easily broken and so I have stopped making them. My only aspiration this year is to be less cautious. Nebulous I know but that’s why it’s an aspiration, not a resolution.

I still have a few days to go before I go back to work. My plan for today is probably to go for a walk, maybe to Pollok Park, which I haven’t been to in ages. There are no buses or trains running in Glasgow today, indeed precious few in Scotland at all. On Christmas Day there were only a couple of freight trains running along the line by my house which normally sees trains every few moments throughout the day. I haven’t been to Pollok Park in yonks. I usually like to walk there in autumn but alas, it hasn’t happened in the last couple of years.

On Saturday I went to Durham. I had originally planned to go the previous week but I got back from Edinburgh late the night before and I was really knackered. On Boxing Day I ended up booking train tickets going to Durham via Carlisle. The train from Carlisle to Newcastle was absolutely stowed out and I stood next to a gaggle of lads heading to the football. They weren’t too bad, just a wee bit coarse. I looked out the window and read my book, a book of essays by Mary Beard on that occasion.

Durham is best approached by train and I was happy to step off the train to the view across to the Castle and Cathedral, a familiar sight from many visits over the years. I headed straight to the Cathedral and wandered around that magnificent building, sitting for a while on a pew thinking big thoughts. I hadn’t been to the Cathedral in about two years and it was brilliant to have an hour or so just being there. Since I was last there, the Cathedral have allowed people to take photographs within its walls so I took a few snaps, one of which graces my iPad screensaver as I write this. Despite being a devout heathen, I adore Durham Cathedral, not least because of its history and architecture, with every detail carefully worked.

Since I last went to the Cathedral, a new window had been unveiled, the Illumination Window, marking the life of Sara Pilkington, a Durham University student who died in 2012 of a cardiac condition. The window is glorious, full of colours, reflecting perhaps the seasons and how they affect Durham, also the diversity of humanity, I think.

The early part of 2020 will see me in England a couple more times. I am going to Newcastle in a couple of weeks time for the day then to London for a few days in February. In deference to that impending Newcastle trip, I didn’t linger when I was passing through on Saturday. I’ve always liked Newcastle, particularly being by the riverside and its fine museums and galleries. The London trip will include a visit to the Harry Potter Studios, which should be cool. The creator of Harry Potter has of course been in the news recently for expressing some controversial views, which I happen to disagree with. As ever the world is complicated and I have come to the conclusion that there are authors and artists I disagree with who have created some wonderful things.

The other day the artist and author Alasdair Gray died. Amidst the many tributes were words from writers, politicians and many others who were influenced by his work. For me, I cannot claim much of an influence. His finest work, for me at least, is the mural in Hillhead Subway Station. I find a lot of his work a bit hard to approach, full of symbolism which I don’t always get. As ever, that’s more of an issue with me than the art itself. Alasdair Gray was immensely talented and as a Scottish cultural figure, he will undoubtedly be missed. Plus he declined a knighthood, which can only be a mark of the man.

For those who might have missed them, I have written my list of the Best of 2019 and the Books of 2019. It might not be as resonant as Barack Obama’s lists but it might be worth a read.

Anyway, that’s this special New Year Natter for today, Wednesday 1st January 2020. Crikey, that’s a strange one to write. A Saturday Saunter will be here on Saturday while on Sunday will be the December digest. Have a good week. A very Happy New Year to all.

Books of 2019

Good morning,

The Saturday Saunter is being ditched this Saturday for a very special post about the books I’ve read this year. Normal service will be resumed next Saturday.

I made a list the other week of some of the books I’ve read this year. They broadly fall into four categories:

  • Nature
  • Football
  • Gender identity
  • Crime novels

Having said that, the book I currently have on the go as I start this a couple of weeks ago is the autobiography of racing driver Jason Plato so not quite in any of those brackets.

Undoubtedly the best book I read this year is Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie, a book I tried desperately not to rush as to take in every possible morsel of Kathleen Jamie goodness. This one covered a whole host of topics from climate change to archaeology, Tibet and indigenous cultures in northern Canada. I also heard her speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which was thoroughly, thoroughly braw. I’ve also heard Robert Macfarlane talk at Edinburgh before and his book, Underland, also came out this year and was another one to savour. It was a harder slog than some of his other books but worth it, going into caves, tunnels and all sorts of unlikely places to understand what goes on under the surface.

Another particular favourite this year was Constitution Street by Jemma Neville, a book about many things, including community spirit in Leith, political discourse and how people generally are in this society. I read it on a bus to Fife one day and it was superb. Its publishers, the mighty 404 Ink, put the eBook out for free on Election Day for the benefit of public debate and forethought on that particular day.

Football has been a major part of my reading as ever and I have read a right few memoirs, including those of Mark Walters, Peter Crouch, some dude who used to edit Match of the Day, and Tony Fitzpatrick, the chief executive of St. Mirren. Of these, Mark Walters and Tony Fitzpatrick particularly stick in mind, Mark Walters for his accounts of horrific racism while playing in Scotland and Tony Fitzpatrick for his poignant account of losing a child. The Match of the Day person, Paul Armstrong, did write about the Hibs going up to lift the Scottish Cup in 2016 which made his book more interesting to someone who couldn’t care less about English football. I also read the memoir of rugby player Gareth Thomas, who wrote movingly about being gay.

I have read quite a few books about LGBTQIA+ issues this year as part of a wider effort to educate myself about the world we live in. These have included quite a few books by gender non-conforming or non-binary people like Sissy by Jacob Tobia and Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness. Unusually two of the best books have both been graphic books, the memoir-folk history Sensible Footwear by Kate Charlesworth and the graphic novel Heartstopper by Alice Oseman featuring two teenage boys who fall in love.

Crime novels have featured fairly prominently in my fiction reading this year including the DCI Daley series by Denzil Meyrick, Death on a longship by Marsali Taylor and the latest by Stuart MacBride, Quintin Jardine and Ann Cleeves. Of these, my highlight was probably the last of the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. I still haven’t seen Shetland on the telly so my perceptions of Jimmy Perez, Willow, Sandy and company are entirely from the books.

The rest of my list seem to be miscellaneous, the best kind of reading, with a zine about Tove Jansson (Love Tove and I have since bought a compilation of Tove Jansson’s letters) as well as the book by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, which I liked. On a completely different topic I read a history of grime music earlier in the year, Inner city pressure: the story of grime by Dan Hancox, which was interesting in a lot of ways, serving as quite a valuable social history of these times.

My reading this year has worked around studying though I have really rediscovered my love of reading, reading more at home as well as heading to and from the football. A lot of what I have read has been in print, a very decent percentage from the library, naturally enough since that’s what I do for a living. I have read less on a screen though that might partly be explained by the fact I have bought more physical books this year and a lot of my studying requires a screen of some kind.

At time of writing, my to-read pile is fairly considerable with a mixture of library books, books I’ve bought, print and digital. Plus there are a couple at work which I’ll need to bring home. Over the Christmas holidays, I will hopefully get the pile down and even more hopefully not get any books as gifts from anyone. I’ve come to realise that I don’t particularly like people giving me books since my tastes are quite particular and having more added to my pile is more of an overload and hassle. Recommendations are fine, actual books naw.

I don’t really know where my reading will take me in 2020. I get the feeling, though, that some of my to-read pile will be going with me into the new decade. I never read as much as I would like to. But what I have read this year has generally been pretty decent.

 

Best of 2019

Happy Boxing Day!

Christmas is all over for another year. This time between Christmas and New Year is usually a time for reflection on the year just past and here on the Walking Talking blog we’re not about to buck the trend. Here’s the annual Best of post, with the usual categories, which are:

  • Best museum
  • Best art gallery
  • Best historic place
  • Best library
  • Best place to watch football
  • Best fish supper
  • Best park
  • Best beach

There will be a separate Best Books post on Saturday. Without further ado, let’s begin with the Best Museum.

 

Best museum – National Museum of Scotland

Runner-up – Summerlee

National Museum of Scotland, a light-filled museum hall with a statue of a man and a lighthouse lamp in the foreground
Summerlee, a gate with the word Summerlee written across it, a red brick building in the background

The National Museum of Scotland is a place I know well and have been visiting in its various guises for most of my life. I was last there in September and went to the excellent Body Beautiful exhibition. I had a wander around the Scottish part, the new museum even if it’s over two decades old, and not for the first time fell ever more in love with this country.

Summerlee is an industrial museum in Coatbridge and it is excellent, covering a lot of industrial history. When I was last there in October, they had an excellent exhibition about the local football team, Albion Rovers.

 

Best art gallery – Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow

Runner-up – Tramway, Glasgow

Honourable mention – Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

A late entry this one, from December. Street Level Photoworks is in Trongate 103, an arts centre in Glasgow city centre. At time of writing, it is hosting an excellent photography exhibition by Oscar Marzaroli showing images of the city in the midst of redevelopment in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Tramway is another Glaswegian arts centre, inside an old tram depot in Pollokshields. Previously it has hosted the Turner Prize. This year it had an excellent installation of shiny things by Nick Cave.

The Portrait Gallery is always good value. They get a mention because they’re not hosting the BP Portrait Award any more.

 

Best historic place – Lochranza – 

Runner-up – New Lanark – 

Lochranza is at the top of Arran. I went there on my birthday this year, which was my 30th. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Lochranza is in a beautiful setting, with a castle on a promontory, ferries to Kintyre and hills as a backdrop.

New Lanark was a new one for me this year too. I went on another warm summer’s day, albeit heavily loaded with hay fever. I walked up by the Falls of Clyde then sat in the New Lanark village for a bit.

 

Best library – Any library I work in

Runner-up – Mitchell Library, Glasgow

The winner this year is obvious. It’s the people that make the place.

The Mitchell Library is a runner-up as any place with 1.6 million books can’t be bad.

 

Best place to watch football – Gayfield Park, Arbroath – 

Runner-up – Brunton Park, Carlisle – 

Gayfield probably isn’t a great place to watch football in December but on a warm summer’s night, right by the North Sea, it is glorious, properly old-fashioned with terracing round three sides. Hibs did get beat in the friendly but it didn’t really matter that night.

Brunton Park was a new one. Brunton Park had a strange design with about three stands on top of each other plus the pre-match music went Motown.

 

Best fish supper – Cromar’s, St. Andrews –

Runner-up – Tail End, Dundee – 

A fish supper is not an easy thing to get right. For me it’s about golden, crispy batter, chips without too much grease and the whole thing served with salt and sauce, the way these things are meant to be done. Cromar’s is award-winning and there are usually queues. Their scran is braw.

The Tail End is rather fine too. They do sauce in a little dish.

 

Best park – Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh – 

Runner-up – Mugdock Country Park, Milngavie – 

The Royal Botanic Garden is one of my favourite places on the planet. On a nice day, on any day, it is worth seeing, walking calmly, serenely under some incredible trees. I like to go there to think, sit, read, watch the world go by.

I went to Milngavie on Good Friday and wandered around the reservoirs. Mugdock had plenty of historical interest, as well as just being a nice place to be.

 

Best beach – Aberlady Bay/Gullane Beach, East Lothian – 

Runner-up – Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland – 

Aberlady Bay – beach on a grey day, looking across to hills from atop a sand dune

Gullane Beach and Aberlady Bay are beautiful places, heavenly on a good day. I even sunbathed when I was there in the summer. Much better than the Mediterranean.

It was much cooler at Bamburgh the last time I was there but it is a very fine place with views to Holy Island, the Farne Islands and Bamburgh Castle over the dunes.

 

That was a small selection of the very fine experiences I had in 2019. 2020 only has a trip to London in the diary at the moment. I’m sure some walks along the beach, fish suppers and superb football games will happen into the third decade of the century. Strangely, despite the current political climate, I’m quite looking forward to it. The blog will be back on Saturday with the Best Books of 2019. Have a good day.

Short on time

Yesterday was the shortest day. From here the nights get shorter and there will be a few more moments of light every day.

On Friday I managed a little while at one of my favourite places, Aberlady Bay in East Lothian, walking along a beach I had entirely to myself. I only had a little while as it was mid-afternoon. The light wasn’t bright, except over the Forth Bridges, the sky over there red to compensate for the grey and flecks of white more generally. As I walked back to the bus stop, it got darker and it was properly dark by the time the X5 came. It was only 4pm and for once I was at peace with that. Light in the winter is more precious and very often the best walks come on wintry days. The world feels bigger and bigger thoughts can come with the perspective of distance. It was that kind of walk, when time is short but we are richer for what we could do with what we had.

Saturday Saunter: Radio, being an OU student and books

Good Saturday to you,

This last Saturday Saunter of 2019, indeed of the decade, is being posted as I am having a quiet Saturday at home. I did plan to go to Durham today but due to just feeling tired, there was a late call-off. Hopefully I will get there again soon.

I am starting this post on Wednesday night. I have just downed a bottle of white chocolate milk and I have the radio on, Hearts vs Celtic. At the moment Scott Brown has just been booked for the lessers. After I finish writing this, I think I might pick up a book from my formidable to-read pile or else do some more scribbling. I have been reading more than I have been writing the last few days. I started re-reading Tony Benn’s diaries again the other day, prompted by the defeat of his compadre Dennis Skinner in the election last week. I also started the autobiography of motor racing driver Jason Plato but I wasn’t quite in the mood when I started it on Saturday.

Friday morning now. I was quite sleepy when I was writing on Wednesday. I’m going to write this then get ready to go to Edinburgh. There’s football tonight, Hibs vs The Rangers, but I’m off today so I’m going to head through early for a walk somewhere, hopefully by the Forth. My soundtrack this morning is Lauren Laverne on BBC Radio 6 Music. I haven’t listened to much radio for a while but my work has had the radio on, though it can’t get digital. I have a digital radio I bought about six or seven years ago, a Pure one with a CD player in it. Unfortunately there’s a Christmas song on at the moment, but it’s a 1960s number rather than Slade or whatever. There was a cool version of Auld Lang Syne earlier.

Lauren Laverne has just recommended Underland by Robert Macfarlane to her guest Tim Key. I think I might need to listen to this show more.

I read an article the other day seeking to bust myths about studying with the Open University. To be fair, the article was on the Open University Facebook page so it can hardly be impartial. Neither can I, to be honest. I have been an Open University student on-and-off for just shy of a decade and I haven’t really thought of what that means for me. Of course it can impress people but that’s not an important factor. At the moment my student experience is me with my iPad, sitting in bed while having a lie-in or sitting on a train or a bus. Sometimes lately in football grounds before the match starts. It is wonderfully portable. I fit it in around my life, often with a wee bit of guilt at not having got round to this week’s reading until just then. It needs mental energy and time, when you simply don’t want to give it as much as on sunnier, brighter days when it’s a pleasure. It is those late nights when struggling with a stray reference in a bibliography when a warm bed and sleep is the goal, ready to feel deeply unrested for the morning. The goal for me is to get the degree done then decide what I want to do when I grow up. The current module, Empire 1492-1975, has been interesting but with a lot of reading. After that’s done, one module left and hopefully that’s it.

Christmas tree, with lots of clear lights

I finish up for Christmas on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, at 2.30. After that it’s straight home, feeling deeply relieved. It has been a long year. Personally I’ve had a lot on work-wise and in my life too. Turning 30. On Christmas Eve, I will feel Christmassy. Anything before that detracts from the fact there’s work to be done, preparations to be made. Then I can chill, read, spend time with family, sleep, eat, all that for twelve whole days. The best bit is that the Christmas tunes, Wizzard, the Pogues and all the rest, they go back in the box, not to be heard for another year. Braw. The lights get turned off and overloads come from other sources instead. I might manage a couple of trips out. I like the interregnum between Christmas and New Year. The weather is usually grey and a bit cold, much like today, actually, but I don’t mind that.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 21st December 2019. Tomorrow’s post is about something called the Sunshine Award. No post on Wednesday but Thursday, Boxing Day, will be the annual Best of 2019 post. Next Saturday will be the Books of 2019. They’re both written already, I’m happy to say. To all readers, commenters and followers, all the very best. For those who celebrate Yule, a very Merry Christmas. To all who follow the Gregorian calendar, a Happy New Year when it comes. Oh, and trans rights are human rights. Peace.