Out here in the fields

My first commute was roughly 15 minutes on foot from where I lived in Ashfield in Dunbar to the museum I worked in on the High Street. Since then, my commutes have changed drastically. By the time I left the Birthplace, I merely had to walk along the street to work. One of my commutes, which I did for just shy of a year, took an hour and a half and two trains plus crossing Glasgow city centre in rush hour morning and night. Thankfully I don’t do that any more. My shiny new commute is a mere 15 minute walk followed by a 20 minute bus ride. Far more bearable. There are quite a few ways I can get from here to Renfrew and I may utilise more than one of them at various points but the simplest route seems to be a 26 bus which stops right outside the door of my new work. Braw.

Planning my new commute took about half an hour of utterly joyful working through timetables and Traveline Scotland. I love planning journeys, even to work, and twice this week already I have been called upon to advise others on their respective rovings, despite the widespread prevalence of Google on people’s phones. It is just easier to contact me, apparently, plus I genuinely love working out routes to places. I think it comes out of my love of maps and my autistic liking for order, lists and structures.

What took more time though was planning my new job’s ‘theme’, by which I mean the song I listen to first on the way to work. I wrote last year about listening to ‘Going Home’, the theme of the film Local Hero, which I will continue to do, but the first song is always a statement of intent. For my old jobs, I had the both equally good ‘Tillidh Mi’ in the version by Manran and ‘Spinning Around In The Air’ by the Proclaimers. Contenders for the new gig were ‘Dreams’ by the Cranberries, ‘Path to Home’ by Skerryvore, ‘Sky Takes The Soul’ by the Proclaimers and ‘Alive’ by Skipinnish, though the winner, after a week or so’s consideration, was ‘Baba O’Riley’ by the Who. The rest of the playlist will depend on the day but ‘Baba O’Riley’ will go down a treat in helping to wake me up in the morning since it is rousing and loud, which tends to be what I need first thing.

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Fields, near East Linton

The new commute is mostly urban and will pass close to Braehead and the Renfrew Ferry, affording a glimpse of the Clyde along the way. I have had varied commutes over the time. Both of the old ones were urban though my favourite was the one between Dunbar and Haddington, which was rural and covered some of the most beautiful country in Scotland, passing standing stones, hill forts, rivers and even the Bass Rock in its 12 miles or so. The new one will involve a walk across a flyover taking me above the M8 in full flow and the railway. Much less scenic, I would concede, but there are compensations. I have the considerable pleasure to actually like my job and the place I do it in. I like living in Glasgow and I can escape to the countryside with relative ease. Plus I have good music to accompany my rovings not to mention good books to read and to pass on, which is after all the name of my game.

Streets of Glasgow

I wrote here recently about my wish this year to write a day tripping book. Then life intervened. I have realised that working full-time and trying to do a degree and all that stuff will make committing time to writing anything worthwhile very, very difficult. So, it’s been ditched, for now. Instead I am going to work on something a little different but can be incorporated into life fairly easily. Plus it actually seems a better fit for me than the day trip book. First it needs some explanation.

A few years ago I became interested in psychogeography, a French Situationist concept come up with to reduce alienation in cities and to see them in a different way. Will Self wrote a column in the Independent about it for a while, usually involving a psychogeographical ramble or two, like his walk from London to New York, or at least from his hoose to Heathrow then JFK Airport into the centre of Manhattan. I read a little about it and ended up spending quite a few day trips in Edinburgh embarking on derives, walks without an end point in mind until some point along the way, turning this way and that on city streets on a whim. It was how I found quite a few interesting spots in and around the capital, some of which have appeared on this blog.

Walking around the New Town in Edinburgh recently I came up with this idea called the Streets of Glasgow. I have written here before about how I don’t know Glasgow as well as I do Edinburgh despite having lived here for three years. Plus my new job is not actually in Glasgow. Near it, certainly, but it is outside Glasgow nevertheless, meaning I will be spending less time in this city. The Streets of Glasgow interests me as an idea, walking from end-to-end on some of Glasgow’s great streets, some of which go on for miles. As I walked up St. Vincent Street in the capital, I came up with a few to start with, including Govan Road, Paisley Road West, Argyle Street, Sauchiehall Street and quite a few others. The first two are within walking distance of the house and Govan Road is certainly one I have been interested in doing for a while, owing to the interesting buildings en route, particularly around Film City.

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Paisley Road West
What I propose to do is to walk from one end of a street to another, mostly in a single day, and write about what I see, hear and otherwise experience. A lot of places in Glasgow I see from buses or trains but there is no substitute for putting one foot before another and getting out there. An essay might appear here occasionally but I don’t propose to be so formal about it, saying I will do one a month. It just strikes me as an interesting exercise, to see more of the city, to do some writing and not to be under pressure doing it. Watch this space…

 

Kirkcaldy

Friday day trips are strange creatures. I am usually working until 8 the night before and as a consequence my timings are all over the place. I invariably like a lie in and thus don’t end up going terribly far. Sometimes I wake up about 8 and think about going far and wide but four hours later I am still in bed and not moving any time soon. There are other times when I just want to go somewhere and I can pull my carcass out of bed early enough to get somewhere a wee bit further from Glasgow. A few Fridays ago, I was up early and thought about St. Andrews or somewhere like that but of course I wasn’t out of bed until about 10. I had a good idea for somewhere to go, however.

My favourite art gallery in Scotland is not Kelvingrove or the National or even Portrait, fine places though they are. Rather it’s the one in Kirkcaldy, recently refurbished to include an expanded museum, cafe and central library but with the art gallery bit delightfully unchanged in style and contents. Kirkcaldy has a fine collection of 19th and 20th century Scottish art, from William McTaggart through the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists, all favourites of mine and all in the one place. I visit at least three or four times a year, usually as a result of a notion like I had a couple of weeks ago just to be there. This particular visit, though, was different as just before I went in, I received some happy news which meant that I was looking at the art through a haze of tears and general heightened emotion.

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Like in many things, I have a routine when I visit Kirkcaldy. I start in the first room, currently containing a John Bellany amongst others, then work through each room in turn, finishing at the far end where the McTaggarts are then work my way back through each one again, invariably stopping for a seat and a ponder once or twice along the way. Usually I am entirely alone but there were a couple of folk dotting around plus the normal loud-footed attendants clomping through at regular intervals to make sure we weren’t nicking anything. Particular favourites in the second room were two of Kellie Castle, near Pittenweem, by John Henry Lorimer, showing the castle and its surrounds with spring flowers and shadowy light. They must have been pulled from the museum stores recently as I only became aware of them recently and every time I go, I think I must get to Kellie Castle, even while it is a bastard to get to by public transport. Of the Scottish Colourists, I was drawn as usual to the Iona paintings by Peploe and Cadell, the best looking towards Ben More and Mull. Again, another enticement to visit a place far-off. And the McTaggart has a few crackers, not least the one of a glen near Roslin and the just plain braw painting of a wave crashing to shore on a grey day. I also paid particular attention to two quite esoteric sculptures by Martin Rayner, whose brother I used to work with, strangely enough. I thought a little about him and tried to work out the symbolism of these richly allegorical works.

My brain was all over the place this time, looking at the art with heightened affection while trying not to dance about the place with happiness. I must have looked a right mess.

Before I left, I made sure I got to the temporary exhibition about the Forth Bridges, showing art and objects relating to the best bridge on the planet and the road one next to it. The new Queensferry Crossing will open in September so there was a bit about that. The art was by Kate Downie and was rather fine with drawings, etchings and paintings depicting the bridges, my favourites charcoal drawings of the crosses and angles of the Rail Bridge. For the person that will invariably ask me when it’s on rather than looking it up on Google or the Kirkcaldy Galleries website, the exhibition finishes on 25th February.

Before I left, I walked down to the waterfront. Kirkcaldy has a big road right next to the Forth but I crossed over it all the same and looked across in the twilight to Edinburgh and East Lothian, sorting my fix of the sea and waves for a bit. Quite a few places in Scotland ruin their rivers by having big, nasty roads right next to them (I’m looking at you, Dundee, for starters) but sometimes you just need to shut out what’s around you and just look out. I did the same when I was in Dundee, strangely enough, a couple of weeks before and it was strangely quite joyful. This time, I stood a while then headed back to the bus, plugging in some music and reading my way back to Glasgow, another Friday well spent.

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