Impulses

I’m not very impulsive. I usually think on things then never act on them. Occasionally I do but there’s usually a day trip involved somewhere along the line. A few weeks ago, I was in East Lothian for the day, a fine visit to my home county on a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon. We had just been to Tantallon Castle, possibly one of the finest castles on this great planet of ours, and were driving to Pressmennan Wood when on impulse I asked my dad to stop the car at a place called Pitcox, not far from Dunbar. The reason I did was because of an old signpost that stood at the road junction there, produced by East Lothian County Council at least before 1974. The signpost marked four directions, towards Stenton, Garvald, Gifford, Pathhead Farm, Halls Farm, Bourhouse, Spott and Dunbar. I can’t quite explain the attraction of the signpost beyond I just like the link to the old-fashioned way of doing things. East Lothian is still a very old-fashioned sort of place and there are a few of these signposts dotted around the county, including one in the very heart of Haddington on the junction of Station Road and West Road. In this age of sat-nav and Google Maps, navigation by instinct, knowledge and simple guiding seems to have gone by the wayside. The world is deeply complex and all we can do as people is find something to relate to, even if it might not be totally obvious. It’s the psychogeographer in me that made me stop. There are wonders to be found in the unlikeliest of places. The Impressionist Camille Pissarro said it best:

‘Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing’.

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I realise I haven’t written so much here about psychogeography. I became interested in it a few years ago after reading some articles on the subject by the novelist Will Self who walked from his house in west London to New York, or at least from his house to Heathrow then from JFK into Manhattan. I think Will Self is up his own arse – he tends to throw spanners into the dictionary and use a polysyllabic word when a decent, shorter one might do – but psychogeography struck a chord with me. It is a French Situationist concept come up with by a philosopher called Guy Debord, who sought to make sense of the anonymous big city by getting lost in it on what he called a derive or aimless drift. His big city was Paris. Mine was Edinburgh.

The capital of Scotland is a city I know very well. I was born there, I went to primary school there. I’m even going there tomorrow to see Hibs. One of the reasons I know it so well is because when I used to go on day trips, all I could often afford was to go to Edinburgh and explore. I often went on derives around the New Town, often starting on Dublin Street by the Portrait Gallery and seeing where I ended up. Waverley Station was inevitably my final destination but it was the getting there that made it interesting, following psychogeographical concepts and taking random left and right turns. I haven’t been on such a walk for a while but I still turn off on a tangent from time to time even when I supposedly have a fixed route in mind to follow. The other week I was heading to Easter Road and walked up Leith Walk since I was running early. I ended up taking a diversion through the New Kirkgate shopping centre (less said the better) and found Trinity House museum then ducked through the very fine and springlike South Leith kirkyard.

The project I started a few weeks ago, Streets of Glasgow, has a psychogeographical dimension to it. I’ve lived in Glasgow for nearly four years but I still haven’t scratched the surface of it yet. Far from it. The walk on Buchanan Street was brilliant, a few snatched minutes in a lunchbreak from a training course, and I hope to get out some more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, there are always new things to spot when looking the right way, like the ghost sign I spotted on Nelson Mandela Place walking back from the bus station the other week.

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Just shy of a year ago, I went to York, one of my favourite cities. One of the highlights was the National Railway Museum, which I always refer to affectionately as the most autistic place on Earth. In the Station Hall was a signpost which tickled me when I saw it then and sums up much of my outlook on life. One direction points ‘To the glorious and unknown’. It might be just a little bit impulsive but that’s all good with me.

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Before I forget, very soon, probably some time in June, will be the 300th post on this here blog. I like to mark these things, as with The things I love are not at home and Post 101: Talking, so for the first time, I am going to crowdsource what I write about for the 300th post. So, if there are any suggestions, based around what tends to appear here, please do let me know, either through the comments section or by other means if you know them.

 

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What the…?

First, a disclaimer. This post is mildly sweary. It is part of the story to be sweary this time and I have a policy of not using asterisks as the world doesn’t need to be bowdlerised.

That being out of the way. Last weekend Hibs won the Championship. We will be promoted to the Scottish Premiership next season, which is brilliant. We won the league with a 3-0 win against Queen of the South, after Falkirk drew with St Mirren. When we won the Scottish Cup last year, there was an epic pitch invasion which is still being investigated by Police Scotland. Near the end of the Queen of the South game, the stewards started putting up barriers separated by flimsy red and white tape right in front of the East Stand, which is where the rowdier elements of the Hibs support sit and also where I sit. The absurdity of this made me laugh but what made me howl was the response of the singing section, which was the chant ‘What the fucking hell is that?’ to the tune of ‘You’re Not Singing Anymore’. Class.

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Why I’m telling you this is I had a similar response to this when I was in Dunbar the other day. In fact, twice. When I was at high school, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I often went out for a walk at lunchtime and ended up in one of two places, on the Prom or if I felt like walking further, to the bottom of a park called the Glebe, on a point jutting out into the sea. I walked along there to find a fence a good ten feet from where the cliff dropped and right in front of where I used to sit. My response was ‘What the fucking hell is that?’ Seriously, East Lothian Council! Without sounding like the Daily Mail, health and safety gone mad. Indeed whenever I am in Dunbar I make a point of sitting there for a while. I did this time too, by climbing through the fence and plonking myself on the grass and eating my pieces, on the wrong side closest to the sea. It was brilliant as the sun came out and I sat in my T-shirt as I ate and looked over to the harbour and to the folk climbing on the rocks nearby.

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Time number two was when I walked on the Prom. As long as I have been alive, the Prom path has always been cracked. Indeed when I was a kid I used to walk along the cracks for much of the route. But a small part, as it passes the Pin, has been tarred. No idea why. No other part of the path, which runs to about half a mile, has been tarred. It was very recent, not recent enough to draw your name in it or anything but only a week or two old. Even newer was a John Muir quote chalked onto the tarmac, namely:

‘These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.’ (The Yosemite by John Muir, Chapter 15, http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/the_yosemite/chapter_15.aspx)

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I spend a lot of my life thinking thoughts along the lines of ‘What the fucking hell is that?’ One of the ways I keep sane is marvelling at how absurd the world is, in how people think and what people think is a good idea. I don’t normally sing it, though, but I might just have to start, even just to be absurd myself for a bit.

Ingrained

The very first post on this blog, way back in August 2015, was a dwam about vivid memories of places that occur to you seemingly without warning:

‘I was just thinking about a place near where I grew up in East Lothian. Just outside Dunbar is the John Muir Country Park, stretching from Dunbar Castle to Tyninghame. It is a very varied place, encompassing golf courses, beaches and an animal park. I spent a lot of time there as a kid. Anyway, the particular part of the park that came to mind a few minutes ago is at the far end of the dump road, where it meets the Biel Burn near West Barns. There is a bridge there, leading towards the sand dunes or the firs, what is locally known as ‘John Muir’, and I was just thinking of walking there. It is nearly always muddy and usually smells rank (there is a water treatment works nearby) but the path leads to good places, whichever way you take.’

I hadn’t been there in years, in fact well before I moved to Glasgow. When I was in Dunbar recently, I hadn’t planned to be out there at all but when I was walking around the Prom, I looked across Belhaven Bay and saw the trees. I didn’t plan to walk so far, though, across what the map calls the Hedderwick Plantation but what I know as ‘John Muir’. I did because I was just enjoying setting one foot before another. I haven’t been there in quite a few years – I now live at the other side of the country, I have done many jobs since – but as soon as I got past the Linkfield car park, my feet guided me through the woods as if I had just been there the day before, feeling utterly at home, recognising paths leading this way and that. Even the smells were familiar, tree smells and from the beach across the dunes. There were a few folk in the woods but not nearly as many as were across the way in the East Links farm park looking at llamas and that. It was their loss. After a few minutes, I was alone and I felt utterly content, thrilled to be in a place where I spent a lot of time as a kid and finding it had changed not a bit in the intervening decade.

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I soon reached the bridge. I had seen a photo of it a few days ago on Facebook and it must have stuck in my brain. I have long thought that if ever I get a memorial bench, by that bridge would be where it would go. It is a very secluded place, at the back of Hedderwick, right by the mouth of the river Tyne, looking across towards Tyninghame Links and up into East Lothian, with Traprain Law, Pencraig Hill and the Hopetoun Monument. It was remarkably still when I was there, save some runners and a guy walking his dogs, and I loved being there, especially because they have plonked a bench there, randomly as part of the Legacy 2014 project following the Commonwealth Games. I live in the big city and there are times when I feel overwhelmed by that, the noise, hustle, bustle and all round madness. Sitting right there I felt very far from all that, with the bird noises and the Isle of May out in the distance across the dunes. I rested my feet and looked at my OS map, wondering for a moment about whether I could walk the 4 miles more to East Linton. In the end, I decided against it, wanting to enjoy the rest of the long loop around the edge of the trees and walk back along the dump road to the Prom and back to the train. Eventually, I set off again, once more letting my feet guide me, stopping to look at the tank traps and old huts from the Second World War and generally letting my mind wander further.

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I walked back to Dunbar station, another few miles, some of them rainy, naturally smack dab in the middle of the golf course at Winterfield. The dump road I wrote about in this blog’s first post was on the route and I stopped a minute looking across Seafield Pond towards the old Battleblent Hotel and West Barns. On the way along, there was a heron on the pond. As I was reaching for my phone to get a photo, the heron got up and flew over the wall, a clear lesson as to why sometimes you should just capture the scene in your mind’s eye. When I reached the Prom it was wet but I didn’t really care. I had loved the walk, with not so many thoughts but a song going through my head (‘Clash Of The Ash’ by Runrig, incidentally, which I have just learned is about shinty) and stopping now and then for a photo.

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Sometimes memories are difficult to live up to. Places you once liked, that had resonance, don’t rise to the expectations placed on them. I was glad just to be there, for a step out of my life and for the walk to be so deeply familiar, those paths ingrained in my memory, not just in my mind but almost in my feet as I was led on almost without conscious thought into a place I knew so well.

Earth

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This photograph shows one of my favourite vistas in the world, in Northumberland on the road to Bamburgh. Bamburgh Castle isn’t the castle in this view, though, rather it is in Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island just up the coast a bit. This was taken as the sun was setting one day in January this year. There are some birds around this particular spot, feeding on the worms and other beasties, and it encapsulates what this week’s WordPress photo challenge theme ‘Earth’ means to me: the beauty of the world and that we share it with other species just living their lives despite ourselves and our actions.

Welcome! If you’ve never been to my little corner of the Internet before, please stick around. I post essays about my travels and thoughts now and then. Recent posts have included Writing about autismThe BatteryColdinghamSome popular placesDurham Cathedral and Notes From Walnut Tree Farm.

Ayrshire by map

Last holiday post and this one is all about maps. In the coming weeks, the blog will be awash with new posts all about my rovings plus some posts written ages ago about Brougham Castle, seaweed, railway signs, golf courses, Iona, walking around museums with a clipboard, and Edinburgh Waverley railway station. Wednesday’s will be about a walk I had in Dunbar last week, with a slight mention of Hibs into the bargain. It’ll be good, I promise.

I’ve written here before about my love of maps. The other day I went for a walk along the Ayrshire Coastal Path between Maidens and Culzean. It was a great walk on a beautiful but bitingly cold day. Anyway, the following day I was looking at the Ordnance Survey map for that particular locale. I spent ages visualising the area as my eyes darted across the map, giving language and putting names to my visual impressions and memories. That particular part of Ayrshire isn’t one I know well. Indeed I hadn’t been to Maidens before but I had been to Culzean a couple of times. It helped to solve little mysteries of what that headland was or what that interesting ruined building used to be.

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Culzean Castle
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Swan Pond, Culzean
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Looking towards Maidens. Using an iPhone hence this photo is darker than it actually was.

On my bedroom wall is the OS Landranger map for Duns, Dunbar and Eyemouth, covering from North Berwick and the border as well as most of the Lammermuir Hills. Every so often I spend a while looking at it, putting names to places and visualising those dear, familiar locations too. It also springs ideas of places to get to next time I’m in the east. One that’s percolating in my mind is the waterfall at Bilsdean, not far from Dunglass Collegiate Church, which I visited just before Christmas. Bilsdean is a quietly lovely, twinkly, dingly dell sort of place, usually deserted despite its beauty and being within 300 yards of the A1. It’s also not so many miles from a road I often follow on the map, the moor road from Coldingham that ends up high on the cliffs over Pease Bay with that view to Torness, the Bass Rock, the May and Fife beyond. I was just thinking about it the other day since the road from Culzean to Dunure is very similar with its dramatic views towards Arran and the Ailsa Craig. Sometimes it’s good to think back to those places you’ve been and like in Norman MacCaig’s poem ‘Two men at once’, cut:

the pack of memories

and [turn] up ace after ace after ace’.

Conrad Logan

Tomorrow, Hibs will play in the Scottish Cup semi finals for the third season on the bounce, this time against Aberdeen. I will be there in the South Stand at Hampden, just as I was on Saturday 21st May 2016. I wanted to repost this from a month or so ago, all about last year’s semi final and the Polar Bear himself, Mr Conrad Logan.

I try not to write too much of the trials and tribulations of Hibernian Football Club on this blog, honest – there are enough other people who write on the various messageboards and some other blogs about our team without my input. I wanted to write a little something, though, about Conrad Logan. Conrad Logan played for Hibs at the end of last season. He now plays for Rochdale in England’s lower leagues. Now, that’s the boring summary. He came to play for Hibs after our first-choice goalkeeper got himself booked and thus suspended for losing his contact lens. After no competitive football for 16 months due to injury, Conrad Logan was between the sticks for our Scottish Cup semi final last year against Dundee United. Quite honestly, watching him warm up didn’t fill me with much confidence. He was, to put it charitably, not looking in the best shape. Then the game started. The game was not the finest Hampden has ever seen. After 90 minutes, and extra time, it was still goalless, due in no small part to the role of Conrad Logan. Then the penalty shootout came. We left the National Stadium with a spot in the Final. Logan saved again and again, not by a fluke but great motions across the goal to deny United. Unaccountably, Alan Stubbs dropped Logan for the next game in the league, which was the following Wednesday against The Rangers (score: 3-2 in the glorious Leith sunshine, just as a few weeks later down Mount Florida way), though he featured in most of the rest of the games last season, including on 21st May.

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Conrad Logan retains an affection amongst many Hibs fans, myself included. There is even something called the Conrad Logan Hibs Supporters Club, which I believe is based in West Lothian. Their flag has appeared prominently at our recent away games against Dundee United and Raith Rovers. Members of that august group went down to see Rochdale play a few weeks ago but sadly Conrad was on the bench. The previous Saturday, unfortunately, Rochdale had got gubbed in the FA Cup and our hero was in goal.

There is a film out just now called Logan. I have absolutely no clue what it’s about, only I know it isn’t about Conrad Logan. The Hollywood movie hucksters have undoubtedly missed a trick. A few weeks ago, Manchester United Tweeted an advert for the film and wonderfully Hibs replied, in a vaguely trolling kind of way, with a picture of Conrad with the movie’s strapline. Every time I see the adverts on the sides of buses, I think ‘no, his time came last year at Hampden’.

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Tweet from Hibernian FC. Conrad Logan is wearing the lurid green top.

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It certainly has.
As this post is published, I will be watching Hibs play, this time in beautiful downtown Paisley. We have an excellent goalie just now by the name of Ofir Marciano, who was our best player against Dunfermline the other night. Our goalkeepers tend to have random stories. Mark Oxley, the goalie who lost his contact lens, once scored in a game against Livingston, his goal kick assisted by the wind as it found its way from one end of our ground to another. Marciano is married to a supermodel and now lives in Musselburgh, a very unsupermodel type of place, as fine though it is. But undoubtedly my favourite of recent times has to be Conrad Logan, Mr Incredible himself, for his time, unlikely as it was, became one of heroes.

Scotland’s national newspaper

Still on holiday so here’s an old post (from January) all about the Scotsman newspaper. Ironically since I wrote this, I’ve read more physical newspapers than I have read in about two years, usually sitting on trains. The Scotsman has been amongst them, incidentally.

Catching up with programmes on the iPlayer tonight led me to watch a documentary marking the 200th anniversary of The Scotsman, one of Scotland’s great newspapers. (It is available for just over three weeks on the BBC iPlayer here). It made me think of a childhood memory. I went to primary school in Edinburgh, more precisely in an unit specifically for autistic children. Each day we had a copy of The Scotsman though only I read it in much depth (I was always a weird boy). One of my classmates did usually look at the sport though. The Scotsman was and is the morning paper of Edinburgh and surrounding areas, just as The Herald is Glasgow’s, The Courier Dundee’s and the mighty Press and Journal of Aberdeen. It was only natural that the paper we got was published only a few miles away, at that point on North Bridge in the very heart of our capital though soon to move to Holyrood Road in the shadow of the then-new Scottish Parliament. I became deeply interested in the Parliament after I was encouraged to do a project on it and then I read of its doings and sayings each morning, sitting in my little cubicle ‘office’ in the Miller class flicking through The Scotsman.

The Scotsman of Saturday 21st January 2017, courtesy of Glasgow Libraries

I haven’t read The Scotsman in a long while, at least in paper form. I do read it, or parts of it, most days online, usually from links on Twitter. I might buy a copy once a year, perhaps if on a long train journey and it hasn’t changed much in a while. When I was a kid, it was a broadsheet while it has been a tabloid for quite a few years now. I never paid too much attention to its politics, which is probably for the best since when I read it regularly, it was a High Tory sort of paper. I would read it for the news, not bothering to stay for the views.

The stablemate of The Scotsman is the Edinburgh Evening News, or the ‘Evening Blues’ as I sometimes call it because it used to be exceedingly bloody miserable when I looked at it each day as it came into the library. Very often I buy a News if I am in Edinburgh, mainly to catch up with Hibs coverage. That stems back to a tradition of my boyhood. I got a taxi each day to school in Edinburgh and the driver and his wife always had a copy of the News, keeping aside the Monday sport supplement for me to read the latest affairs of Hibs over the weekend, catching up even if I happened to be at the game or indeed if I had read about it in the Pink on the Saturday night (blog post on that subject here). Courtesy of one of my relatives, I have a complete set of the News, including its special tribute edition, following Hibs winning the Scottish Cup last year. It felt right.

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One of the best things I’ve seen in my life, that headline
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Closely followed by this

When I was a teenager, I used to read The Herald, an unusual move for any teenager or indeed someone living in the east of Scotland. I now see The Herald at work and it is a friendlier paper than its Edinburgh rival in typeface, design and even its history. Then for lots of years I read The Guardian each day until I realised I read more of it online than in print. At one point I read four papers on a Sunday and two on a Saturday, one on a weekday. Now I buy a paper at best once a month, sometimes on a Sunday, sometimes if I’m travelling. I read my news online, like most people, and again like most people I don’t pay for it. That does give me a moment’s pause but I am also employed to give people books for free so I like free knowledge.

The Scotsman is now produced in a drab office block on Queensferry Road in Edinburgh, to be fair with quite nice views across the north of the city. Its previous homes on North Bridge and Holyrood Road are both beautiful in their ways – the former dominates a fair bit of the city centre, stood high up on North Bridge and hitting the ground outside the station on Market Street, while the latter is a modern building in the shadow of Salisbury Crags. One is a hotel, the other, ironically, housing new media in the form of a video games company. Undoubtedly The Scotsman has seen better days. Whether it is on the right side of political opinion now, as it often was in the past, foremost in the campaign for Home Rule, who can say? Particularly in these times of Brexit and Donald Trump, we need a free press and we need The Scotsman, and every other paper, just as much as ever to keep the powers, princes and potentates honest, in Edinburgh and a lot further afield.

Craster again

Welcome to the Walking Talking blog. I am presently on holiday so I’ve decided to share some older blog posts again while I unwind and try and write some new ones. Today’s post is about the utterly lovely village of Craster in Northumberland. Go sometime, it’s braw.

A few days ago, I was in Craster in Northumberland. I wrote a bit about it in the post Along the way, published on Tuesday, but I wanted to expand a bit. We arrived about 11am and left about 1.30. The weather, the light changed utterly in the space of that time. So did the sea. When we arrived, the sky was cloud-filled and grey. The sea was like slate. Barely an hour later, the sea was brighter because the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. Much of the sky was blue, light and pale since it was still January but it was blue nonetheless. It was stunning and an utter joy to be there.

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Every morning, I look at Twitter and see a picture posted on the Sea Window Craster account. Seeing that sky and those waves usually sees me right for a while. To walk there and see it for real was even better. A screen is a poor substitute for real life. I know people who will post social media updates while they are away somewhere. I tend not to do that because I like to live first and tell the story later. Words are an impression. They cannot possibly encapsulate every single aspect of an experience. But we, I, spend a lot of time trying. A photograph inspires and makes you want to go back, even if the place you are looking at is 139 miles away, as Craster is from here.

Craster is beautiful and thus it is a very popular place. If you are there in the summer, getting a parking space is incredibly difficult. (Public transport rules!) Being an out-of-season sort of guy is useful only occasionally. A lot of the places I like are only open in the summer months. Craster in January was quiet with only a few non-locals, like us, about to share one of the finest places in these islands. It wasn’t particularly cold, not stormy unlike what it has become towards the end of the week. January is a good time to go places and it was certainly glorious to be in Northumberland over that time. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, not least in Craster with the light changing even as we were there for a short time.

I think I wrote the other night about the sculpture Couple in Newbiggin-by-Sea and how I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. I’m still not convinced but I am beginning to see the point of putting the sculptures there in the first place. Being by the sea actively invites contemplation and wider, deeper thoughts than often seem possible inland. I suspect people who go up mountains would disagree with that – that’s fine. When I am by the sea, I spend a lot of time looking out, whether at the waves or further afield, to land across the way or just to the horizon. In Craster, the gaze was drawn to the horizon or to Dunstanburgh Castle, just up the coast.

What I gained from the experience, as I did later in the day on Bamburgh beach, was a sense of calmness, gained from my surroundings and a quieter pace quite removed from the city life I live now. Right now it is there and all it needs is the right thought or looking at a photo to soothe and lower my heartrate. I’m like that with Belhaven a lot of the time, same with several places on the East Neuk of Fife. Prestwick Beach and Lochaber too. I hope this doesn’t go away too soon, even while the holiday mode is even now a distant memory.

Country bumpkin

From tomorrow night, for the following 10 days or so, I will be on holiday. In that spirit, I’m going to repost some of the better recent posts on the next couple of Wednesdays and Sundays. The blog is all about the writing for me and what will appear here will be some no’ bad words. There will also be a repost next Friday of the Conrad Logan post, in honour of Hibs being in the semi final of the Cup.

Tonight’s offering is ‘Still a country bumpkin’, which is about food and poetry. Sunday’s will be all about Craster in Northumberland. Enjoy.

To some extent, I am still a bit of a country bumpkin. I am a product of my upbringing but I am also autistic and a fussy person when it comes to food. I am getting better. My love of croissants, for example, came after a meeting I had with an employment adviser in Edinburgh when he shared his breakfast of an almond croissant with me. I tend to be more adventurous when there isn’t a choice. For example, recently I was at a friend’s house for dinner and almost everything I ate and otherwise consumed that evening was unknown to me, with the sole exception of a French martini, which I had tried on a previous visit. I enjoyed it too, not just the food and company but encountering something new. I spend a lot of my leisure time travelling but it isn’t entirely new as an experience. Spending time on buses and trains is familiar and comfortable. Eating chilli or broccoli soup isn’t. Neither is being social, at least to start with.

The reason I mention it is the serendipity that sometimes happens when you are thinking about something and the world responds to it. I subscribe to an e-mail newsletter called Lunchtime Poetry, put together by Laura Waddell of Freight Books. I think I have written about it before in the context of Pablo Neruda. One of the poems a couple of weeks ago was ‘Naming it’ by Leontia Flynn, published in 2004, which reads:

Five years out of school and preachy

with booklearning, it is good to be discovered

as a marauding child.

To think the gloomiest most baffled

misadventures might lead so suddenly

to a clearing – as when a friend

taking me to her well-stocked fridge says:

look

this is an avocado and this

is an aubergine.

I should add that to my knowledge I have never encountered an avocado or an aubergine. This poem is 54 words long and contains at least three moments that give me pause. I am just shy of ten years out of school though while I can be preachy at times, hopefully what comes out of my puss isn’t always booklearning. Hopefully I am still a marauding child, though, or at least a marauding man-child. I am still on the hunt for new experiences and adventures, or more likely baffled misadventures, which seems like a neat description of much of my life to date.

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Belfast

Leontia Flynn, incidentally, I hadn’t encountered before. I’m glad I did. I just looked at her website and she is from Northern Ireland, County Down to be precise, though now lives in Belfast. Read some of the poems on her website, ‘The Vibrator’ particularly is excellent. They are neatly worked poems, conveying a lot with not a lot, the best kind of poetry with those that take the feet out from under you with just a few stray words.

Writing about autism

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Sitting on the edge of Bowling Harbour

April is Autism Awareness Month. I did plan to post something on World Autism Awareness Day, which is April 2nd, but the only autism post I had wasn’t quite right. It might appear some time in the future – it’s about special interests. Anyway, I want to write something about autism this month but to do it in my own way. There are plenty of autistic bloggers out there. They cover the Actually Autistic perspective well. When I write about autism, I always feel it is a diversion from what I like to write about, visiting places and what I see along the way. Writing about autism, particularly its drawbacks, is hard and doesn’t feel quite natural. I haven’t known any other life than the one I’ve lived. To write about what it’s like being autistic needs a certain amount of looking from an outsider’s perspective and indeed one of the characteristics of being on the spectrum is not being able to see things from another’s point of view. I can to some extent but only so far.

What I am getting round to is that being autistic can be hellish. But it is who I am. It gives me the problems with eye contact as well as the words that make other folk laugh when I say them or think when I write them. It makes me good for helping fill out forms or sort out dissertations but less good at speaking up when I have a problem. I hear too much and I have to focus extra hard. Sometimes I fall into bed exhausted from my day being all social. If I could change it, though, I wouldn’t. I would be a different person and that wouldn’t be right. I am me, autism and all.

This blog has been one hell of an undertaking. It is a blessed relief and a beast that needs fed regularly to keep it sweet. It is written by an autistic person but not necessarily fuelled by autism. I write out of more than my condition. I write because it is how I best express myself. It is loosening my shoulders as I write. Writing releases the thoughts and tensions of the day and the life I’ve lived and it is, some of the time at least, an absolute joy. What appears here is an insight into my world, how I see and how I think. Autism is a part of who I am. But I am also what I write about here. I find fulfillment in writing but also in walking the world, visiting castles and watching the mighty Hibernian FC in action.

The strapline of World Autism Awareness Week this year was:

‘Until everyone understands’

Until everyone understands. I’m not sure I agree with this. Understanding is one thing, accepting is quite another. I don’t entirely understand neurotypical people. That doesn’t mean I necessarily want to or have to. But I accept them without question. I have to. I quite like neurotypical people, well, some of them. They form the majority of the population, after all. Some of them are funny, thoughtful, interesting. Some of them might even be sexy. Or not, as the case may be. Understanding and acceptance comes when you least expect or realise it. It takes time. Autism is hard to write about because I live with it every day. It doesn’t go away when the whole world feels like it is smiling nor when it’s falling around my ears. It’s why if I have something interesting to write about autism then I’ll share it whenever I feel like it, not waiting for a particular month to come around. Awareness is good, though, and I hope it continues into May and June and all the way back around to next year and the year after. Then it builds into understanding and acceptance then maybe even love, which we all need most of all.