Loose Ends: Arden Street

I passed through Marchmont on the way back from the Hermitage and Blackford Hill and realised that I was near Arden Street. I could link it into Loose Ends through books. I had been reading about geology and Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus lived in Arden Street. There’s been more tenuous connections. Anyway, Arden Street is a non-descript Marchmont street and it was sunny with a few residents dotted around, cars and vans parked. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and all was calm. It probably wasn’t under the surface, mind.

To the connections and I could have gone to anywhere linked to Ian Rankin, like Edinburgh University or Cardenden which has a street named after him. Not the Oxford Bar, though: we don’t do pubs. Any place connected to any Scottish literary character would have done, maybe back to Glasgow or somewhere in our capital, which is after all an UNESCO City of Literature. Arden, albeit with a different spelling, is also a part of Glasgow. Thinking laterally would lead me to the next destination.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows in two weeks’ time. The Loose Ends page features the other parts of this series.

Glencoe

I am no fan of cars. Or most motorised transport. Personally I would rather we all travelled on trains or walked or cycled everywhere. It would be better for humanity. Sometimes, due to the vagaries of public transport, and sometimes its non-existence, we need to rely on the internal combustion engine and a few other parts to get us places. Scotland is a big country. Some people think it’s small. It really isnae. The middle of the UK isn’t Meriden, near Birmingham, no, no, no; it’s near Haltwhistle, just by Hadrian’s Wall. Some of our country’s trunk roads pass through some beautiful places. The road down to Stranraer has fine views over to Northern Ireland and before that the Ailsa Craig. The A1 gets beautiful through East Lothian then towards the border with that great sweep of sea and cliffs at Burnmouth and Lamberton. The A90 at Stonehaven is incredible while the A9 passes through Killiecrankie, scene of battle and just a stunning place in all weathers. The best road in the country, however, is the mighty A82, the Great Western Road, which runs from Glasgow city centre to Inverness. The A82 passes through urban sprawl then by Loch Lomond and past Arrochar into mountains and moorland. Past Fort William comes Loch Ness with its monster and a castle. When I did my Streets of Glasgow walk on Great Western Road a few months ago, the thought occurred to me of how this road eventually ended up in the wilds of the Highlands, a long way from retail parks and canals.

My favourite part of the A82 is from Tyndrum to Fort William, particularly running through the otherwise desolate Rannoch Moor into Glencoe. Glencoe is one of my favourite places on the planet. It transcends description with mountains, running waterfalls and burns, hillsides and boulders. Plus it was in Harry Potter. It also looks magnificent in all weathers, in rain as much as glorious sunshine. On our way back from our camping weekend, we stopped in Glencoe and had a wee wander along the valley floor. I hadn’t been there for about eight or nine years but I felt utterly, palpably content, happy to be back in a familiar place and one which amazes me every time I go. I may have walked barely a couple of hundred yards from the car and the trunk road it was parked by but it was easy to ignore the cars and the many languages spoken by the people around me and go wordless, just to look around and be in that magnificent place. We had many miles to go but this was definitely worth every moment later stuck in traffic and planning diversions. The best diversions come with nature and being in the moment, in the right place.

 

Saturday Saunter: Darkness and Glasgow lights

Good morning,

Our post is coming earlier than normal since I’m working today. It is being written fairly late on Tuesday night. I was at the cinema earlier tonight (Brittany Runs A Marathon, at the Glasgow Film Theatre. It was quite decent, funny, dark and a little uplifting. A real millennial sort of film. The cinematography was excellent with big sweeping shots of New York and Philadelphia.) and I’m a little tired but I feel like getting some words out before bed. Our soundtrack tonight is YouTube, currently the very wonderful Tide Lines.

I don’t particularly like this time of year. I’ve written here recently about my antipathy towards Halloween and Bonfire Night plus of course Christmas is coming. My eyes just rolled typing that. Winter is darkness. I work full-time, year-round, now but I used to work casually and that usually meant seasonally. I think a bit of me still sees this time of year as a bit bleak for that reason, leaving aside that the last few mornings have been baltic and all the various festivals this time of year are lousy. I get overloaded in Christmas markets so tend to avoid them, the lights intense and unsettling rather than bringing any sort of bonhomie. I can deal with the cold and there’s a bit of me that would rather be by waves or in a wood than anywhere near a city centre this time of year. Winter is often the best time to experience wilder places, not least because not a lot of others do that. I was off yesterday (Friday) and had been thinking about going for a walk at New Lanark, which I visited on a very warm day in the summer, or possibly on a beach down in Ayrshire. We’ll see.

Last Saturday I was in Perth to see the mighty Hibees win for the first time since early August. They won decisively. I did plan to take a Dervla Murphy book with me but instead I decided to finish Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie, which I have been reading slowly over the last few weeks. It was good to the very last drop. Unfortunately I had only a few pages to read by the time I got on the train home and I had consumed the programme from the football. I bought a new notebook but ended up just looking out the window into the darkness. My journey to my current workplace takes 10 minutes on the train so not much reading to be done. By the time I’ve put earphones in, and shown my ticket to the conductor, it’s about a decent song’s worth, usually something upbeat and dancy for that time of day.

Still Tide Lines on the screen at the moment. It’s songs from gigs they’ve played. I always wonder why on earth people film these things but I’m grateful nonetheless.

Sauchiehall Lane, with lights across the street illuminating a bit of street art

One of the best bits about the monthly trip to the GFT, apart from the film itself and the rather fine pasta I normally have beforehand from the Via Italia street food place on the corner of Gordon Street and Union Street, is undoubtedly the walk through the city after the film. I usually find going back into the world after a film a bit intense. It’s like turning the big light on after sitting with just a lamp on. (I should explain for non-Scottish readers that the big light means a light usually hanging from the ceiling.) The walk from the GFT to Central Station takes me from one end of the city centre to another. Glasgow city centre is mainly laid out on a concentric grid and I usually go along a bit of Sauchiehall Street then down Hope Street. I have a great and fierce love of my adopted home and it often comes out walking its streets. The lights, the tall buildings and the rush of life are thrilling. Sometimes I still can’t believe I live here. Even with what I wrote about earlier about waves, you can’t beat Glasgow.

Finally, this week is Trans Awareness Week. This year I’ve read a fair bit about trans issues, as part of trying to be aware of the society in which we live. I read an excellent post produced by the mighty Jessica Kingsley Publishers with a few of its authors talking about what trans means to them. Take a look.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 16th November 2019. Thanks for reading. Tomorrow’s post is about Glencoe, one of the very finest places on the planet. Wednesday is another Loose Ends post, still in Edinburgh but less geological. Cheers just now.

Loose Ends: Blackford Hill Rocks

A layered rockface with a tree overhanging

As I was walking around the other side of Blackford Hill, I came to a sign pointing towards an old quarry. I climbed the steps and came to a sign pointing out the various layers of mostly igneous rock in front of me. The sign was gloriously nerdy, not at all dumbed down for scientific dunces like me. I had been reading about geology so some of it made sense. I knew enough to see that it was interesting, took some pictures and moved on. We don’t pay enough attention to how places have come to be. I know I don’t.

The Blackford Hill Rocks connect to the Agassiz Rock by geography, being at either side of Blackford Hill itself. As I walked on, I wasn’t at all sure what the next connection would be.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows next week. The Loose Ends page features more links from the series.

Here’s some bonus content since this post is a wee bit short. I am writing this a good couple of months after this particular adventure. I remember merely how unapologetically nerdy the interpretation board was and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. I know very little about geology but layers are important. In those layers can be found a past beyond the human. I don’t always understand science but I get enough that I am impressed by how we have got here, as much as acknowledging how precarious our existence is.

This was a really cool day. I covered a lot of ground. I left Waverley Station, walked down through Morningside to the Hermitage of Braid then around the other side of Blackford Hill, where these rocks are. I walked through the Grange and Marchmont to the National Museum of Scotland before eventually getting back on the train back to Glasgow. The National Museum had an excellent exhibition, now finished, called Body Beautiful about diversity in fashion, featuring style for LGBTQIA+, disabled and ethnically diverse people.

I also undertook the next instalment of Loose Ends that day, in fact about a mile from Blackford Hill. Tune in next week for that.

 

 

Ford in Fort William

Sometimes I have to stop and laugh at the sheer absurdity of the world. One recent example which knocked me sideways occurred in Cameron Square in Fort William. Right in the square, in the heart of Fort William Town Centre, is a statue of a man driving a Model T Ford. I’m a sucker for a good statue and I took a closer look. That was the killer move. This was a replica of a car driven to the summit of Ben Nevis by Henry Alexander in 1911. Yes, they drove a car to the top of a mountain. Just because they could. Even worse than that, in 2011, to commemorate the centenary of this event, 77 volunteers carried pieces of a replica Model T Ford to the top of Ben Nevis because the authorities, sensibly, denied them permission to airlift one to the top of the mountain. At the top they assembled the car so they could take a photo and did so IN A SNOWSTORM. On a glorious summer’s day, of which they don’t have too many in Fort William, that would have been utterly insane but in a snowstorm. Anyway, this statue, cast at Powderhall Foundry in Edinburgh, was unveiled in May 2018. Here’s some more information on it, from the BBC News website. It’s cool and bemusing at the same time. It was a nice diversion as we walked to find some food.

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Saturday Saunter: Fireworks and assignments

Good Saturday to you,

Our Saunter for today is being written on Tuesday night, Bonfire Night, as a train has just passed by my window. My part of Glasgow has quietened down now so my earphones are now off. I absolutely loathe fireworks, for their loudness and shrillness, and would ban them except in organised displays. They play havoc with my nerves, having the same effect as a very crowded bus crossed with a drill. Tonight’s music has been mixed, currently Skipinnish. I did hear earlier that it has been suggested that Bob Marley is particularly effective for soothing dogs on this night, so may try that on my human ears.

This post appears as I will be away to Perth to watch the currently managerless Hibees. My current plan is to head up a bit early, scoop up some lunch and eat it at Huntingtower Castle, a rather fine castle just outside Perth and about 15 minutes walk from McDiarmid Park. I like Huntingtower. If I remember rightly it has a painted ceiling somewhere as well as a small colony of bats. I like an away trip when I can combine some history with my football.

My laptop is still warm from working on an assignment for my current OU module, analysing a wallchart and saying how it might be relevant to historians of empire (a wee bit). I think I’ve done enough for tonight. My books and a print-out of said wallchart are scattered on the bed beside me. By the time you read this, the assignment will be submitted and my mind will be turned to next week’s work. It won’t be coming with me to Perth, though. I think I’m going to take Cameron with Egbert by Dervla Murphy, which I bought in Leakey’s Bookshop in Inverness at the start of the year. Regular blog readers will know that I went through a Dervla Murphy phase last summer and I think it suits my current mode and mood.

In my voracious intake of articles and popular culture, I came across a rather cracking thing on Twitter the other day, which showed two colours of shopping baskets. One was coloured to indicate that staff could approach and assist, the other not to make it clear that the shopper wanted left alone. I do most of my clothes shopping in person and particularly for shoes. I particularly like Schuh though get irritated by their very eager staff when I just want to look and make my decisions from careful observation. I suppose being able to shoe shop in under ten minutes might just be my superpower.

Or it could be autism, according to an article by Joanne Limburg on the Guardian website the other day. It is a very nuanced article, going into the perspectives of a fair few autistic adults. My perspective is summed up better by the writer Katherine May and it’s worth quoting here: ‘My autism brings some things I really value – the flood of words I experience, the ability to fixate on a subject and burrow deep into it, and an intense relationship with the natural world. But there are other bits I’d get rid of. I break things and hurt myself all the time; and I hate the way that I don’t remember faces and so come across as rude.’ She also talks about how it can often be easier to speak to a group of people than one person, something I relate to from years of working with the public.

I can also relate to the actress Emma Watson, who is approaching the thirtieth birthday which is recently in my own rearview mirror. In an interview with Vogue, she talked about how she is ‘self-partnered’ rather than single, which is quite a good way to look at it. Self-respect, all the way.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 9th November 2019. Tomorrow’s post is about a statue in Fort William, Wednesday’s Loose Ends about a rock not in Fort William. Any ideas for the 700th post, please send them my way. Have a very nice weekend. Cheers the now.

Loose Ends: Agassiz Rock

The last Loose Ends post was in Charlotte Square Gardens, in the heart of Edinburgh during the Festival. My next trip to the capital brought another few Loose Ends adventures, made much easier by the Festival being over and done with. I was walking through the Hermitage of Braid, a green place I dearly love (and which featured in my alternative Edinburgh post recently), and it occurred to me that the nearby Agassiz Rock might be a good Loose Ends place, being suitably obscure and linked to Charlotte Square Gardens by books. At the time I was reading a book about geology so it worked. Louis Agassiz was a 19th century Swiss scientist who did a lot of work into glaciation, some of it in Edinburgh at the back of Blackford Hill. I came to a big bit of rock that I thought was it but judging by a quick Google search, I wasn’t so sure. After a wee bit of rock climbing, I came to a clearing where a group of folk were gathered, just minding their own, gathered and talking together. A much bigger bit of rock sat behind them and a couple of folk started to climb it as I walked up. Some graffiti was on its left side. It was an ‘other’ kind of place, the kind which you wouldn’t find by accident. I wonder how the folk gathered there would describe it, the stories they could tell. It is a common climbing place so there will be a few stories, some names for spots which wouldn’t appear on a map. I like places like that.

To the connections and I could have gone across the city to the Forth where Charles Darwin did some of his early research while studying at Edinburgh University. Agassiz inspired John Muir so I could have gone somewhere connected to him. Siccar Point was another contender, one of Hutton’s Uncomformities, or Dunsapie Loch, another hidden place around one of Edinburgh’s seven hills. This time I really wasn’t sure.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows next week. Other Loose Ends posts can be found on the Loose Ends page.

Digest: October 2019

It’s the October digest and another busy month full of life, of football, studying, art, walking and sitting on buses and trains. Let us begin.

The first adventure of the month was on Sunday 5th October and I went on the bus to Kirkcaldy. I often like art galleries on quiet Sunday afternoons and Kirkcaldy is a particular favourite. Some different contemporary art pieces had been put up since the last time, including one from a boat looking towards St. Kilda and another painting, more colourful and possibly Cubist, showing two St. Kilda lads falling from cliffs. I don’t have notes so can’t remember who painted the latter. Frances Walker painted the beautiful one looking back over the sea to St. Kilda with seagulls flying and waves lapping.

That Tuesday I went to the Glasgow Film Theatre for the monthly Access Film Club autism-friendly screening. This month was The Farewell, which featured a Chinese-American woman whose grandmother was dying of cancer in China. Her family decided not to tell the grandmother about her terminal illness. That makes it sound much more miserable than it was, with some wonderful darkly comic moments.

On Saturday 12th October, there wasn’t any football so I went first to Summerlee, the industrial museum in Coatbridge, where I had a wander around the site then took in its temporary exhibition about Albion Rovers FC. The exhibition featured some fine photography and a documentary on a loop. Thereafter I headed to Cathkin Park where I stood, wandered and pondered for a bit. On the way back to town, I went to the Tramway for the Nick Cave exhibition, which I liked a lot more than I thought I would. I thought it would be a bit of a sensory overload but it was really fine.

Saturday 19th October saw a visit to Hamilton to see Hibs draw.

Monday 21st October I was off and went to the Riverside Museum with my favourite little people.

The following day I was in Edinburgh. I went to see the Hibs Development Squad play Hearts Reserves at Meggetland. Rock ‘n’ roll. Before the game started, I sat and did some OU reading. Exotic. On the way to Meggetland, I walked along the Water of Leith walkway for a bit and then through deepest, darkest Gorgie and by the Union Canal. I sat and ate lunch by the Water of Leith near the Dean Village and it was quite lovely. A heron sat on a weir. It looked like something out of a painting.

Wednesday 23rd October saw me in Dundee in a blur of street art, exhibitions and walking.

Thursday 24th October I went out for a couple of hours and had a wander in the West End, sitting for a wee while in the Botanic Gardens, reading some more of that week’s OU chapter in the Kibble Palace.

Friday 25th October was Arran. It was an excellent day, with a little while in both Lamlash and Brodick. Going on a ferry always makes a good day.

On Saturday 26th October I went to Edinburgh to see Hibs.

Monday 28th October saw me in Dunbar. I walked by the waves. I thought and pondered and it was absolutely ideal.

Wednesday 30th October was another trip to Edinburgh to see Hibs.

In blog news, post 700 will probably come in November. Any thoughts on what I should do or questions, send them my way. The blog is on Twitter at @walkin_talkin1. Our next post will be Loose Ends and it will be at Agassiz Rock in the shadow of Blackford Hill. Until then, thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Cheers just now.

Posts this month –

Digest: September 2019

Saturday Saunter: Stars

Glenfinnan

Loose Ends: Arandora Star Memorial Garden

Saturday Saunter: Persevere and autumn colours

Skye and coos

Loose Ends: Leith Links

Saturday Saunter: The Unexpected Return

Loose Ends: Charlotte Square Gardens

Saturday Saunter: Waves, autism and Arran

Hello,

It’s Saturday again and it’s time for another Saturday Saunter. This one isn’t being written live: we’re back to Tuesday night. The clocks have gone back and it’s well dark now, about half eight at night. I’ve just had a chocolate milk, one of my current vices. I’m not sure what I’m going to write tonight so we’ll play it by ear.

On Monday I was in Dunbar. I managed to get there for a walk. The day was cold and sunny plus there were big waves. My kind of day. It was the last day of a good few days off and I managed to be in some very fine places. Dunbar was fine but Arran on Friday was magnificent. I got such a lot from the time there. I’m going to try and get back to Lamlash next summer, just to be and possibly to get across to the Holy Isle too. It was an incredible day. I like Arran more every time I’m there.

When this is posted, I will probably be having a lie-in. Hibs are playing tonight against Celtic at Hampden. I’ll be there and it might just be grim. Tomorrow should be nicer. I’m off to Stirlingshire and in particular Doune Castle. I like that part of the world a lot and with the autumn colours, it should be particularly beautiful. I think I’ve written about Doune here before and how it combines my historian side and the deeply rooted nerdish side of me which likes Monty Python. It is also in Outlander but I’ve never seen or read it so can’t comment on that. To get to Doune involves going to Stirling, which is a place I like. I was last there in the summer, there for the football with an added visit to the Engine Shed. I went past Stirling last week on the way to and from Dundee and made sure I turned my head the right way to see the castle.

I pay a fair bit of attention to autism and diversity issues and one thing I really liked recently was a sensory map the Scottish National Portrait Gallery have produced. It not only shows the layout of that magnificent building but also but how loud or quiet areas are as well as whether they have strong smells and indeed whether the toilets have hand dryers or not. I’ve been to the Portrait Gallery many times and it is generally fine for my own particular blend of sensory sensitivities. I don’t like that they’ve plonked a shop in the ambulatory, the balcony area with the historical friezes, as that always was a calm place where I could get my breath back. The hand dryer issue is one I have mixed feelings about. I prefer paper towels because they dry my hands better plus the noise can be overpowering of dryers. Plus dryers don’t tend to dry properly, except the Dyson ones, which thankfully the Portrait Gallery has, even if they’re too loud.

I read an interesting phrase just now in an article from the Washington Post about how listening to the perspective of autistic adults helped a mother with an autistic son. The phrase was about ‘how autistic happiness manifests’. I don’t really think about how my autism and my happiness are linked, to be honest. Sometimes they are wildly conflicting. In the last week the things which have really made me happy are:

  • Big waves at Dunbar
  • Inspired Halloween costumes
  • The Hibs team running out at 3pm on Saturday
  • Reading a good book
  • Looking at train departure boards

I suppose the phrase could mean when my autistic brain is in sync with the rest of the world. Sometimes it happens. I prefer cool and calm days and places. The best moment I had recently was last Friday standing at the bus stop at Lamlash. In front of me was a road then a patch of grass then the bay and then the Holy Isle. It was quite calm, an occasional car, some words in my ears. In the city I’m happiest under trees or slightly above the bustle. Or looking up. I seem to need a decent balance and thankfully the few days I had off recently managed to bring a good range of experiences, city, sea, gardens.

One last thing. I share these posts on Twitter and it’s quite pernickity to customise Tweets on WordPress. Usually, it’s just the title, sometimes a comment on the post. What I’m going to start to do is to add an image description to describe the featured image that accompanies the Tweet. I’m aware of the growing movement to make social media more accessible, which Glasgow Women’s Library highlighted the other day, so that’s my small contribution to that. Today’s, incidentally, is ‘a coastal scene, with a hill and a rock in the background, with foamy, crashing waves in the foreground’.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 2nd November 2019. Tomorrow will be the October digest, another Loose Ends post on Wednesday. Post 700 comes soon. Any thoughts about what I could write about or indeed questions that only I could answer, send them my way. Have a very nice weekend, whatever you end up doing. Cheery bye.

 

Loose Ends: Charlotte Square Gardens

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Leith gave way to the New Town and the Festival bustle, if the more civilised Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens. I was there anyway to see Kathleen Jamie and had got there a bit early to buy books and sit. It was busy, being a sunny and warm August Saturday evening and I plonked myself down on the grass. The connection with Leith Links came through me being a voracious reader but also through Charlotte, the square named after the Queen and confusingly also first daughter of George III or so Wikipedia tells me. Queen Charlotte Street is just off Leith Links. The Gardens are closed for most of the year, opened only if you know the right person or for everyone in August during the Book Festival. The rest of the time Charlotte Square is quiet, one of the nicest parts of the New Town. August it is busy, not as bad as the High Street but enough to be doing with.

To the connections, then, and I could go anywhere related to any of the authors speaking at this year’s Book Festival or indeed anywhere in Scotland which has a book festival, like Wigtown, Dumfries House or Lennoxlove, to pick three off the top of my head. Gin trollies could take me to just as many places which make gin, a burgeoning industry in these islands. I don’t know nor particularly care if our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, drinks gin – she’s a big reader, though – and the fact her official residence is on Charlotte Square could take me somewhere linked to her, the SNP or the nationalist cause. Or just to a square someplace. The possibilities are endless, just as many as could be found in the books across the way in the bookshop or the heads of those writers talking away at the Festival. As long as we read, we’ll be all right. That’s what I think.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post will follow next week. Other Loose Ends posts can be found on the Loose Ends page.

Incidentally, soon will come the 700th post here. I’m opening it up to suggestions. Any ideas of what I should write about will be gratefully received. Or questions for a question and answer. Any thoughts, put them below or in a message another way.