Harry Potter and David Gray

I have been blogging for just under a year now. It has opened my world up and helped me to express myself a lot better. Plus I have been able to communicate with a wider range of people about a wider range of things. I have written here mainly about my own thoughts and feelings when travelling or going through life, which often for me is one and the same thing, though other people have related to what I’ve written or shared. When this happens, it is the best feeling. When you write, it can feel like the words are hitting the screen and the page and that’s the end of the matter. That isn’t always the case any more. My favourite example of this was not so long ago when I wrote about my love of flat Irn Bru and someone I know Tweeted me about it, starting off a whole conversation.

Sometimes, though, the words just don’t come. When I am really busy, as I have been recently, I either don’t have time to write or when I do, the words aren’t there. There may be a deep feeling, an urge, to write but nothing there. Even writing this piece now, having had a couple of weeks off from writing, is hard because I am thinking about it more than normal. Writing is best done every day, or most days, and I do. I have continued to write stories, which I have done most days for years and years. In my notebooks, there are even little marks to denote writing done on my birthday or Christmas Day. But there is a vast difference from writing in a notebook no one will see to writing here and thinking about themes and it making sense.

I used to say that I was better in print than in person. That with more considered thought, I came across better than in the moment where I could stammer and stumble. I still stammer and stumble but strangely the tables are turning. I find it easier to be funny, or at least to attempt wit, in person. I find it easier to talk about travelling in writing because there are times it is just easier to link thoughts together with letters and words, with spaces, grammar and punctuation. Now, I spend a lot of my life around people and, sure, there are times when I fall flat on my face. Often literally. I do the same in writing. I am a lot braver behind a keyboard and there are times I regret words I’ve written or thoughts expressed too flippantly. But that is life and you just have to persevere.

There are times when all I want to do is read and write. I am studying for an Open University degree and there are times it gets neglected by life and when I can get to it, I am too knackered to do anything. Same with writing. The last few weeks have been so mental that there haven’t been words to spare. My words have all been put to work in my actual life outside in the world. In an ideal world, I would be able to spend all my energies thinking beautiful thoughts, writing some of them down and working on my degree in splendid isolation. That won’t happen. I need to earn the money to be able to travel and chance upon even somewhat nice thoughts. Plus I want to be out in the world meeting people and you can’t do that behind a keyboard in your jammies (or equivalent). Well, you can but it’s not quite the same.

So, what’s the alternative? I’m going to keep writing and see where it takes me. Like in my working life, if there is an opportunity to take it forward, I will do it. Writing makes me happy. It gets out a lot of the feelings and thoughts from everyday life and it keeps me sane. Well, there are a lot of things that do that but writing is high up on the list.

What isn’t so easy is finding time to read. Someone once said that good writers are also good readers. I love reading but rarely get time to do it. For the last wee while, I have been re-reading the Harry Potter books and I am looking forward to reading the script of the new play, which I have ready to pore over. Harry Potter isn’t massively intellectual – I just like something familiar yet still filled with details and new things to discover, a subtext or a character not yet understood. JK Rowling is all about the details. The world the stories are set in is intricately sketched out, which appeals to me as it is fantasy yet close enough to the real world. Of the main characters, I would probably be Hermione, in a neat gender-swap, but I don’t have half her dedication to studying. I have been reading them on-and-off since they first came out. I read Deathly Hallows the day it came out, while at work in a museum. I managed to finish it in five hours, in between talking to my colleague and the public and answering the phone. Cursed Child I might leave until I am on my holidays, though, so I have more time to get back into it.

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One of the few vaguely Harry Potter pictures I have. This is King’s Cross Station, from whence the Hogwarts Express emanates

Apart from entering into Pottervana, I haven’t read all that much lately. I have read no fewer than two books about Hibs winning the Scottish Cup, Time For Heroes by Ted Brack and Moonshine on Leith by Sandy Macnair. Pleasingly, the latter features on my e-mail signature right now as the book I am currently reading. I was of course there at the Cup Final. (Not on the pitch, I hasten to point out. I was too busy greetin’ in the stand.) But reading about it doesn’t make my memories any less real. It is just interesting to hear someone else’s views. Macnair’s book is funnier, though. He is a great mate of Irvine Welsh and has written about some of their wilder experiences. He was also a frequent contributor to the now mainly defunct Hibs fanzine Mass Hibsteria, very often the funniest bit. Ted Brack is more restrained in his writing but that’s not a bad thing either. He brings a clear love of Hibs into it and his other books about the club, particularly the one about Franck Sauzee. Both books have a deep joy about finally winning the Holy Grail and it is one I share. Even in the midst of the last few months, of deep political uncertainty and being even busier than normal, watching the highlights of the Final, with the immortal line ‘And Liam Henderson to deliver!’ just before David Gray heads the ball into the net, never fails to make me smile broadly, sampling just a little bit the feeling I had back in the South Stand when tension gave way to utter delirium.

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Before the Cup Final

I will never be over the Cup Final. Luckily, I have other books to read that aren’t about the Cup Final. The other day I was working at Ibrox Library and got a book off their New Books stand that I’m going to take away to Ireland next week. It’s called A Sky Full of Birds, by Matt Merritt, all about birds and how they often gather around our islands. That’s according to the blurb. I have a small pile of other library books I hope to read in the next few weeks even though I have had them for months. One is Uniquely Human: A Different Way Of Seeing Autism by Dr Barry M. Prizant with Tom Fields-Meyer, which I picked up because of the subject matter, mainly. Another is Claxton by Mark Cocker, which is a nature book about a village in Norfolk, while I also have a book of photographs of human nature and architecture closer to home called Look Up Glasgow that should hopefully inspire new wanderings when I get the chance to read it. Finally, inspired by this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, titled The Big Friendly Read in honour of the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth, I have Matilda, shamefully one of the few Dahl books I haven’t read despite enjoying the film when I was a kid.

Before I started writing this, I went through my inbox reading through articles and blog posts I had saved to read at a later date. Some for blog ideas, the others just interesting without words to write about them. Since I have been blogging, I have discovered other blogs in turn, reading about a variety of things including urban art and travelling on trains, to name but two. When you don’t have time to read books, picking and choosing is the way to go. It is just about widening the net a little and being more discriminate about what you catch. It’s the same when writing. There are some ideas, some thoughts that just stink. They still need to be tried out and if they get tossed, that’s fine. You can’t like everything. Writing still makes me smile, though, because like in life, you never know where you end up. In this case, Harry Potter and David Gray in the same post. No’ bad at all.

I will still be a wee bit quieter on the blogging front in the next few weeks due to being on holiday and that. I will probably write a little something about being in Edinburgh last week that will appear before I go to Northern Ireland on Saturday. Or not, we’ll see. Until then…

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Ever closer home

I have long since noticed that I get more Scottish when I’m not there. Not that I’m a nationalist or anything like that, just that I get more patriotic and tend to get Scottish songs in my head. This morning, in Manchester, I discovered that in addition I become more of a Hibs fan with ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’ going through my head as I walked towards Piccadilly Gardens. It’s not out of any Anglophobia or anything, it’s just how I get. I can’t quite explain it.

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Manchester in the rain. Not bad, though

When I make a long journey down south, I tend to get a couple of newspapers before setting off. I read my news almost exclusively online but for some reason I go on a train with a paper. Thus it was that I was on the train down this morning, just after Carlisle, reading about Hibs getting beat by Brondby last night in the Edinburgh Evening News, which apparently you can purchase in Glasgow city centre at 7am. We need to stop calling them evening papers when you can source one, even in a city 40 miles from where it’s published, before the start of the working day.

The journey south this morning was relatively uneventful. The journey from Glasgow down through Lanarkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire is quite familiar to me now though still fresh enough to still feel like an adventure. My chariot was a TransPennine Express train, as ever vastly inadequate for the number of people on it and of course their luggage. How in the name of David Gray can a company with most of their services going to Manchester Airport get away with that? I’m sitting writing this on the way back and it’s full, mostly it seems of Lancashire commuters. Unfortunately going to Manchester requires the use of TransPennine Express at some point and I give not a whit that I’m sitting mildly comfortably in my reserved seat while many other folk are standing.

Soon after I hit Piccadilly, I walked through the shopping district, grabbing a bite of lunch on the way to the People’s History Museum. Bizarrely, the PHM is near a quite swish business quarter, complete with an Emporio Armani outlet. It’s also near Manchester Crown Court. One of the main buildings looks like something out of the Third Reich. No sooner had I thought this but I heard some other dude voice the exact same observation.

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Manchester Crown Court. See what I mean?
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The People’s History Museum, with sculpture to do with Manchester being a nuclear-free city

[caption id="attachment_4213" align="alignnone" width="403"]IMG_0878 Museum of Science and Industry. In the rain. There was a lot of it.

The People’s History Museum is class. It is possibly the most left-wing place on earth with copies of Engels proudly on show in the gift shop. It shows an history of the working-class, trade unions and the struggles for electoral reform, against the Corn Laws and much else. I remember being impressed by it when I was there a few years ago though I got the distinct impression there was only one political party in the entire universe. Now, while I am generally left-of-centre in my politics, I am not the biggest fan of the Labour Party, though I think Corbyn is more representative of the party membership than any leader in the last half-century. That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned and the guy should be accorded a bit of respect for being elected by a large majority, especially by people at Westminster. Strangely, Theresa May’s appointment of people like Boris Johnson to her government might be good for Corbyn and Labour. If the Tories fuck up over Europe, as they surely will, there’s but one alternative and it’s Labour. They need to keep the heid. Anyway, rant over.

I expected to have to keep my politics in check at the PHM but it really wasn’t necessary. The PHM is really a museum of politics, albeit with a left-wing tinge, and it does an excellent job of showcasing the political history of these islands in the last two centuries plus discussing issues like rights of LGBT people, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities. There was a wonderful exhibition of photographs taken of workers during the Industrial Revolution, accompanied by poems by Ian McMillan. One image that particularly gripped me showed cleaners at a railway workers standing around (and in some cases on) a locomotive. I am sad to report that the Labour Pains exhibition about schisms in the Labour Party wasn’t on due to a delay. I suspect the panels are getting updated with each day’s papers.

I walked in the rain to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), which always has a good exhibition on. Today they had no fewer than 3, about cravings, railway stations in times gone by and the Wellcome photography prize respectively. The cravings exhibition was billed as outlining the latest research into why we crave certain foods but it went further including into the lovely subject of faeces. This was, sincerely, incredibly interesting including an experiment involving the astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, who are identical twins. While Scott was in space, they analysed the bacteria in his stool and compared it with that of his brother, who was still Earth-bound. The point of this was to see just how much impact being in space has on your gut. Quite a bit, it transpires. There was also an artificial gut used to test foods for sensitive paletes and the results of some study on the differences between addictions to drink, fags and certain foods.

The exhibition on railway stations was a brief display of old photographs from stations that are still there but in a vastly different form, most notably London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly. Euston is now a dark and horrible concrete affair but prior to 1961 it was incredibly different with an elaborate arch and grand hall. It reminds me of reading of the demolition of Penn Station in New York, which was similarly swish, to make way for Madison Square Garden. The 1960s urban planners really didn’t have a clue, did they?

The Wellcome prize photos were also excellent, including a cracking colour-altered shot of the insides of the brain and a close-up of a henna-tattooed arm coming out in blisters due to an allergy. That one’s better seeing than trying to describe it.

Afterwards I headed to the Manchester Central Library where I spent a few minutes sitting in the reading room, the quietest and most serene place I have been in a long while. It was almost like sitting in a church.

There comes a point in any day when you’ve had enough. I reached it at the Manchester Art Gallery. There were some cracking artworks from Cameroon but I truly couldn’t give a fuck about Vogue fashion photographs so I gave them a bye.

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The stairwell in Manchester Art Gallery

After dinner, I headed to the Alan Turing memorial, which is in the Gay Village. The Gay Village featured lots of purple flags and bunting, which I gather was to do with the transgender community. The Alan Turing memorial is a statue on a bench with a wee plaque underneath. Turing’s story always makes me angry at society of the time for failing a pioneer of technology who had given so much. There are some who think Turing had Asperger’s, which only makes me sadder at the circumstances he lived with.

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Alan Turing memorial

On a happier note, one of the best things I saw in the People’s History Museum was in the display about LGBT rights, namely a badge which stated ‘How dare you think I’m heterosexual?’

So, that’s the story of today. I started writing this on the outskirts of Manchester and I’m now just outside Penrith. The train is a fair bit quieter though there’s still an hour and a half to go until home. Incidentally, to follow up from the Manchester post from the other day, I managed to both follow my nose and be an OU nerd. The studies were taken care of by the PHM and by working through some notes on the train down.

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Stick people climbing a building. As they tend to do.

Before I forget, I’m going to take a writing break for a couple of weeks, probably until I come back from Northern Ireland in mid-August. It’s going to be a busy old time in the interim and it will keep me away from my keyboard for a bit. In the meantime I would like to recommend some of my favourite posts from the last few months: Cutting the lemon, Holmwood, Seeking light, Three reasons and Struck home. The last two are a wee bit more personal since both are about being autistic in one form or another. I’m signing off now, putting down my pen just as the train crosses the border, edging ever closer home.

Rooftops

Recently, I went to a training session at the mighty Mitchell Library, a leading candidate for best building on the planet. It was right at the very top of the Mitchell, in the Digital Making Space (yes, there really is such a thing and yes, those words really go together. They haven’t just been mashed up.) Anyway, I like a view across rooftops and that from Level 5 doesn’t disappoint, looking across the city towards the new hospital, which is just across the railway from where I bide, and to the University and Park Circus.

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Towards the West End

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Chimney tops

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Looking west. The hospital is the grey blob in the middle.

Manchester

When I am not giving people books, helping others on computers and spending time in transit between places to do that, I should be studying. I don’t always manage that but today I have managed to get myself just about back to where I should be. The next three years or so will be taken up by studying but I have to work hard not only to keep up but to keep up the momentum in the midst of a busy calendar and busy mind. The chapter I have just finished was about Manchester in the industrial revolution and I ended up booking train tickets to go to Manchester this coming Friday. Part of the chapter was about Engels and it reminded me of the People’s History Museum, which is in Salford. I went there when on holiday a few years ago and it was rather skewed to one particular party’s viewpoint. The Corbynista version, not necessarily the Blairite one, I should say. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. I found it really interesting and inspiring. I still have a poster I bought on my wall which covers the struggle for universal suffrage in the form of a flow chart. Right wing people probably aren’t the target demographic, though.

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Piccadilly Gardens from the hotel room I stayed in last time I was in Manchester

I tend to go to Manchester once a year. Of England’s northern cities, it has taken a while to grow on me. It’s not that I don’t like it, I do, but it is more bustling and just more of a big city than, say, Liverpool and Newcastle. It’s more like London, which is also a place that took a while for me to get. It is also the furthest I have ever travelled for work (long story involving searching for Irn Bru at lunchtime. It was that kind of day.) Anyway, I haven’t quite scratched the surface of Manchester yet as each time I go there, I tend to see something new. The last time I explored the Gay Village (where there is an Alan Turing memorial) and went to Manchester Central Library. The time before was the National Football Museum where the sole mention of Scottish football came in discussing stadium architecture. It was in a panel about Archibald Leitch who designed, amongst others, the main stands at Tynecastle and Ibrox. Indeed.

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Mural in the Gay Village, Manchester.

Going to Manchester also involves going to possibly my least favourite main train station, Piccadilly, and using my least favourite train company, TransPennine Express. But it’s a small price to pay since it’s quite a nice journey down to Manchester and the incredibly cramped platform where the Glasgow trains stop must only be suffered for a few moments. And when I get to Manchester, there will be somewhere interesting new to explore. Not the National Football Museum this time, though, where the summer exhibition is all about England winning the World Cup in 1966. Naw, no’ happenin’.

Browsing the exhibition programmes, I can see a few possibilities. Vogue 100: A Century of Style, all about fashion photography, is a maybe at the Manchester Art Gallery, which is a stunning, slightly weird building with lion statues. A contemporary art exhibition called Syzygy is on at the Lowry, which might be a goer purely because I like going on the tram plus Syzygy is a cool word. The two that I have seen that are likely are an exhibition about railway stations at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI to its friends) and the insanely topical ‘Labour Pains’ at the People’s History Museum, captioned ‘Intra-Party Tensions and Divisions, from Cole to Corbyn’. Round of applause for that one. That is amazing. Check out the link, if you don’t believe me.

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The aforementioned funky lions

The best bit about a city day trip is going without too much of a plan. It’s the psychogeographer in me, I think, the impulsive guy who just wants to chuck out the rules and get on with it. I will have from 10.27 until 17.15, and it will fly by, even with just two exhibitions. I could either go down the proper OU student route like I did in Dundee a few years ago when I went to the Verdant Works and made notes about jute for my course of the time or I could just indulge the wanderer in me and see if some history comes up as I go. The latter should hopefully win. Naturally, you will soon be reading about my day in Manchester as an OU nerd. Stay tuned.

Pollokshaws

I am currently in the midst of a really busy spell work-wise. In such times, it’s hard to keep perspective and find escape from the commuting and the drudgery. Luckily, this past week has been spread around quite a few places. One of them was Pollokshaws, which for those not so acquainted with Glasgow is a bit of the city between Pollok Country Park and Shawlands. I was working there one evening. When I left, it was sunny and pleasant so I walked to a few bus stops further on. I was glad I did as I walked past Pollokshaws Burgh Hall, which shone beautifully in the mid-evening light. I have seen it in passing but not had much chance just to look at its weathervane, cupola and general look. It is an incredibly Scottish building, apparently inspired by the design of the University of Glasgow’s former digs in the High Street, and the red sandstone just makes it.

The next bus stop is on Barrhead Road, just after a roundabout. In the middle of the roundabout is an old squat, circular building, which I gather was a tollhouse. It is just so incongruous in the midst of the tower blocks and modern houses. The bus stop faced it and I sat there for a few minutes feeling glad all over from just a few minutes walking in a new direction and seeing what are now fairly familiar surroundings afresh. Sometimes it’s just worth looking the right way.

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Single or return?

While in the National Railway Museum in York recently, I stopped by possibly the best signpost I have ever seen. I suspect it was created by the NRM to evoke memories of the railways but for me it was quite philosophical and with the phrase ‘to the glorious and unknown’ pretty much summed up my worldview. This is the first of a few posts about each of the directions on that signpost beginning with ‘Single or return?’

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One of the many vagaries of the railway ticketing system is that very often it is cheaper to buy a return than a single ticket for the journey you are making. Scotrail are famous for it here in the west of Scotland. You would think it would save paper for one thing just to make a single cheaper but I suppose they have to get people onto the trains somehow and it manipulates the stats even if only one portion of the ticket ends up getting used.

I am a single kind of guy, not just in my relationship status but in how I tend to travel. I often set out for one place and end up in another, sometimes taking a different route home than the one I took to get there. That means I tend to buy single tickets and that can often be dearer but what price can you put on acting on a whim and seeing where life takes you?

(North) Channel crossing

I’ve been swithering for weeks about what to do during my week off at the start of August. Last night, I came down to two contenders: Northern Ireland or Bristol. I had rooms on my laptop screen for both and I had looked up transport for both. I had been thinking of Orkney and for the previous hour, I had been looking at prices of rooms across Scotland and England. Finally, Northern Ireland won. I managed to get three nights in Belfast for a rather reasonable sum. Chuck in a bus and ferry ticket and I have change out of £200. Result.

So, away the Saturday, back the following Tuesday. The route I am taking is one I took the very first time I went away myself, when I went to Dublin, by bus and ferry via Cairnryan. I enjoyed being able to chill out and take my time travelling. I sat on the ferry, right at the front and read and looked out at the North Channel. Thankfully, I’m only going as far as Belfast this time, as sitting for 8 hours then getting stuck in a traffic jam by the Liffey in Dublin just isn’t much fun.

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Belfast City Hall

I was last in Belfast about a year and a half ago but only for a few hours. There was time to go to the magnificent Linen Hall Library, which had an incredible collection of political posters from the Troubles. It’s right on Donegall Square, a great old-fashioned library which is undoubtedly. We also got to the Ulster Museum, which I liked on lots of levels, particularly the grown-up way it treat Northern Ireland’s more recent history as well as the science displays that managed not to lose me along the way. Both of those places are firmly on my list. I’ve been to the Titanic exhibition in Belfast before and I’m not fussed to see it again. No doubt other things will be added to the list between now and then.

One of the days will have to be a wee trip down to Dublin. I have written here before about that fine city and a wee look around the Chester Beatty Library and the Archaeology Museum would suit me down to the ground. Plus just being there with the different accents, buildings and the fabulous traffic lights is good enough. Never mind the drink and the things the majority of folk go to Dublin for, the culture and the traffic lights are where it’s at.

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Dublin

Apart from that, I also have a Sunday to use up and I am not sure how yet. I loved the Giant’s Causeway when I was there two years ago but I am not fussed about being back there again. I am curious to see Derry-Londonderry but will check ahead to make sure there won’t be any marches or anything going down.

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Giant’s Causeway

At this stage, I am not planning too much. There’s still a month until I go plus I like to have a fair bit of flexibility about when I go away. I am looking forward just to going on the ferry. I haven’t thought about much else yet but there’s time yet. I will do a fair bit more research over the time plus I know at least a couple of people who know Belfast so no doubt I will get some suggestions. The Ulster Museum and Dublin are two certainties but everything else is up for grabs. We’ll see what happens.

Three years

So, today is three years to the day since I moved here to Glasgow. It feels a lot longer. A lot of stuff has been packed into the last while, including dozens of day trips, reading hundreds of books and even having sporadic moments of personal growth and self-development. Few and far between but still.

Glasgow still surprises me. Just last week, for example, my trip to Holmwood House took me into parts of the city which felt incredibly idyllic and remote. Then barely fifteen minutes later I was on a busy city street and a bus route I know well. I bop around the city a lot and my mental map of the place is growing all the time with ever more connections. A few weeks ago, I was working at Govanhill Library and I took a diversion on the way home to Cathkin Park. The walk from GH to Cathkin took 10 minutes and took me past streets I only knew by name and near Crosshill station, which again I only knew by name. Mere seconds later, I saw the gates of Cathkin, back in the land of familiar. Then, the other week, I was in a taxi coming back from East Kilbride early in the morning (the glamour of the life I lead, I tell you) and mere seconds after leaving EK, the taxi was roaring through Castlemilk. My bus out to EK from Glasgow took over an hour, via Bridgeton, the East End, Rutherglen and half the bloody world, but the taxi did the whole journey to my bit in half an hour. With stops en route. And there was some exploration as I went.

Last summer, I said it would be the summer of rural Scotland for me. I would go out and explore more of the country. Where did I go on holiday? Liverpool. Nowhere close. This year I have decided to explore more of the city. So far, I have been to Bellahouston, Cathcart and Celtic Park but there are so many more places on my list plus places to revisit. Provan Hall, in the East End, is one, the House for an Art Lover is another place I am yet to see, despite it being barely two miles from here. I haven’t been to Garnethill for a while, nor indeed Glasgow Cathedral. On days off when I can’t be bothered going too far, or before or after work, Glasgow is always there, all around me to see something new, even if it is just on the way back from the shops.

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What I sometimes see on the way back from the shops: leaping salmon on bus stops. Other people might see them too but they might be explained by substances of some kind.

I want to close with a Dunbar thought. I lived there for just shy of 24 years but I still could find something new. One day I was walking down East Links Road and decided to turn left up a lane. It led towards the East Beach, which was hardly a surprise, but it also led to another lane at the back of the houses which reminded me a bit of an artist’s colony with the different decorations on the houses and sheds. It also made me think of Footdee in Aberdeen and it was 10 minutes walk from my house. You never have to go far to find something interesting.

So, three years. It’s been quite a ride so far. The best thing is that I still don’t completely understand Glasgow. Not Glaswegians, I am just getting used to them, but the place itself. If it isn’t a word, it is a new light or a new building, even a new space where a building used to be. I really wouldn’t be anywhere else.

 

 

Opening Line

It was the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. I was in Iona on holiday and walked into a cove at the back of the island. It was quite an isolated spot but we weren’t quite alone. There was a family nearby with a young kid quite contentedly playing about on the sand. It was a beautiful place, rocky on either side of the bay with a sandy beach. Looking straight out, the horizon fell towards the Atlantic. The next landfall was Newfoundland, though even on the clearest day it would never be visible.

Occasionally when I’m at the sea, I have the urge to stick my toes into the water. I don’t always do it because I’m feart but right then, on Iona, I decided just to do it. YOLO, as the young folk say. I rolled up my jeans and waded a little way out into the quite cool water. Iona is blessed by the Gulfstream so it is a wee bit warmer than in the river by Samye Ling, as I discovered recently, which was absolutely baltic. The photo below was taken about 3 feet from the shore, water up to my ankles. I didn’t go much further, incidentally. I didn’t take the boat for a joyride or anything. I didn’t go crazy.

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That day, the rest of my body soon got soaking as we walked back across the island towards the Abbey. It was worth it, at least when I thought about it later. We walked around the edges of bays straight out of a Peploe painting and across heather and bracken but we were ringin’ by the time we reached the Abbey, when of course the sun had come out again. Again, not the last time that will ever happen, even if it was the first there.