Digest: February 2018

So, that’s February then. We are nearly into the spring, the nights are drawing out all the time and that’s always a good thing. I wrote most of this post, including the first couple of sentences, as the month went on rather than in a burst, as I normally do. Today, Wednesday 28th February 2018, sees a red weather warning across the Central Belt for snow and ice, which extends into tomorrow too. Presently it is extremely cold outside, well below freezing, and not much adventuring is happening at the moment. Or much of anything else really. Heed the warnings, keep warm, keep safe. So, it’s a good time to run through where I got to in February.

Saturday 3rd February saw me visit London. It nearly didn’t happen because I slept in but a new ticket later and I was on the way to Euston. I walked across to the British Museum and had a very decent couple of hours working my way around the crowds to see that place’s many fine artefacts. The rest of my day was spent walking, from Kensington to Marble Arch through Hyde Park and then along the Thames from St. Paul’s to Westminster. The journey home was complicated by trains not running out of Euston, necessitating a train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh then changing, which worked out well in the end when I eventually got home about midnight. I left London at 5.30. Despite that it was a very good day, free-form and nice just to rove. I wrote about it here.

The following Friday I headed into town to do a bit of shopping. I then undertook three Streets of Glasgow walks in the cold February sunshine, on Duke Street, Gallowgate and Trongate. I wore shorts for the whole affair too, which was part of the 30 Before 30 list. It wasn’t as cold as it is today, around four degrees, which was greatly beneficial for my legs and other nearby parts of my anatomy. I am relatively self-conscious about how I look though in the end I came to not care at all as I marched up Argyle Street in my shorts, the only one in sight. I liked these Streets walks particularly because they were in largely unfamiliar terrain, though my favourite was Duke Street due to the considerable variety in architecture, modern, Victorian and Greek classical.

Saturday 17th February Hibs played Aberdeen. I got to Edinburgh a bit early and took the scenic route to Easter Road, via Leith Walk and Easter Road. Hibs won comfortably.

The next day I spent around Glasgow with my dad. Being out before anywhere was open, we headed first for a walk by the Clyde through Glasgow Green. The Green was playing host to a running race organised by an LGBT charity. When it opened, we went to the People’s Palace, which had a good display about Mary Barbour and the rent strikes. Thereafter we headed to the Lighthouse, which I had never been to before and enjoyed immensely, except the shoogly staircase up to the tower. There was also an exhibition about timber buildings, which I liked. We also went to Kelvingrove and the Botanic Gardens.

Beyond that, the rest of the month I spent living quietly, working mostly, reading, writing and keeping warm. Wednesday 28th February I was due to go watch Hibs play Hamilton at Easter Road but the bad weather happened and the game got postponed. That’s why I had time to tidy up this post and get it out tonight rather than the planned post of views from the top of the Lighthouse. That appears on Friday.

This month I also launched a new blog, Easter Road West, which is about Hibs, going to the game and the general experience. I like having the variety. The ERW posts this month were Welcome!Eastern CemeteryAway daysThe tellyGetting beatWhen the game is mince and Thoughts on the weather and the national team. The one I particularly recommend to the Walking Talking readership is the one about the Eastern Cemetery, which sits behind Easter Road.

One of the posts here this month, 30 Before 30, was about a list I’ve come up with of 30 things I would like to do prior to my thirtieth birthday, in about 18 months time. In each digest, I will update on how many I’ve achieved. In February, I achieved 4, three of them on the same day.

I also have an article coming out next month in the next issue of Nutmeg, about being an autistic football fan. It’s out in the middle of next month.

That’s the February digest. In March, I will be on some more adventures, definitely for Hibs games. Thanks to all readers, commenters, followers, particularly for everyone who responded to the 400th post, the one in Scots. Have a nice month.

February posts –

Digest: January 2018

Streets of Glasgow: George Square

400: How Ah talk, written doon

30 Before 30

The London caper

Streets of Glasgow: Govan Road

Hamilton Mausoleum

Going underground

A day trip experience

Handwriting

Streets of Glasgow: Miller Street

Gazing across a map

Coming soon…

Robert Louis Stevenson

Streets of Glasgow: Queen Margaret Drive

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Streets of Glasgow: Queen Margaret Drive

One of the few things I knew about Glasgow when I was a kid was that the BBC was based in Queen Margaret Drive. It isn’t any more, they moved about ten years ago to Pacific Quay by the Clyde, but I used to wonder, in my ignorance of the city’s topography, why the Beeb would be based so far out of the city centre. I now know that the West End is a vibrant, thriving sort of place with trendy restaurants and other nice places to be so the BBC folk wouldn’t have been hard done by. North Park House is now posh flats though on the side of the building, there are parts where the stonework is slightly lighter reflecting where the BBC lettering used to be. The Kibble Palace in the Botanics and North Park House made a nice photo, taken by the roundabout before I crossed the river.

I had been thinking of this walk for a while and it only became more pressing when I walked up Queen Margaret Drive towards Firhill when Hibs played there in December. This time I stopped on the bridge looking down the river slightly shimmery in the bright January sunshine. I wanted to have a look at some of the trendy shops on the next stretch of the street, tickled variously by the Londis boasting that it stocked Irish Craft Beers, a couple of the shops declaring themselves part of the Dear Green Coffee Roasters initiative, the barbers called Kelvin Hair and the undoubted quirkiness scale winner, Opal Moon, which looked like it was absolutely rammed full of stuff. There were also the inevitable witty signs advertising some of these businesses.

Further up, I looked over to see a barren stretch of ground, fenced in by railings which had a Christian cross on them, perhaps a hint as to what once stood there, possibly a candidate for the Stalled Spaces scheme. I was also intrigued by the Belhaven Nursery School up the road, a reminder for this Dunbar exile that you can never escape where you come from. Queen Margaret Drive until Maryhill Road and Bilsland Drive gets quite urban and residential at this point, with playing fields and mounds with trees to the right, also getting steadily higher as I walked. It was also busy with cars and people going from school and work, the families eagerly chattering about their day as they headed homewards.

I like these kinds of walks because they take in different sides of Glasgow, in Queen Margaret Drive’s case from the classic, trendy West End to the redder sandstone, rougher and readier Maryhill, very varied but no less interesting as I go along, another street down as I continue to seek to understand and explore this great city I call home.

This is the twenty second post from the Streets of Glasgow series here on Walking Talking. If you’ve enjoyed reading this one, there’s plenty more, including last week’s instalment, Miller Street. Near Queen Margaret Drive is Byres Road, which I wrote about last year, as well as University Avenue and Kelvin Way, which will follow in the coming weeks.

I also write a blog called Easter Road West, which is about football and Hibs in particular. Yesterday’s post was about how I occupy myself if the football is mince.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson statue, Kelvingrove, Glasgow

A few years ago, there was a BBC Scotland series called ‘Writing Scotland’, which included a vignette with the artist and author Alasdair Gray, he of Lanark. He said that he and a group of friends once half-seriously thought of replacing the statue of Walter Scott underneath his monument in Edinburgh with a memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson. I’m not much of a fan of Gray but I could sympathise with this notion. Stevenson and Scott were vastly different writers, both producing a vast array of books about a whole host of things. Sir Walter Scott appears on banknotes as well as having the aforementioned muckle rocket ship-shaped monument in Princes Street and also Abbotsford near Melrose. RLS has to make do with a bit of the Writers’ Museum, a grove of trees in Princes Street Gardens and a plaque on the corner of Drummond Street and Nicolson Street, just off South Bridge. I spotted it a few years ago and then promptly forgot about it until the other day when I was in the area. I wonder just how many students have been inspired by it.

As it is, I haven’t read all that much of Stevenson’s work. I wrote recently about wanting to read more of Muriel Spark’s work and she is at the front of the queue. Beyond Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, read in my teens during my ‘working through the school library classics’ stage, right after I read James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, I haven’t read so much of RLS. But I hope to some time, perhaps while I still am a student but hopefully not when my heart is down.

Some words I’ve written are going to be published in Issue 7 of Nutmeg Magazine, the Scottish football periodical, namely a piece about what it’s like to be an autistic football fan. I’m very proud of it. Print copies of Issue 7 will be available from the Nutmeg website in mid March for £10 or you can download it for £3, again from the website. I do read Nutmeg and there are usually very interesting articles about the past, present and future of Scottish football. I usually read and re-read each issue, A particular highlight of the last issue was Daniel Gray’s piece about taking his wee girl to the football, indeed to a game I was actually at, Hibs vs Dundee back in November. It’s quite dizzying to see words of mine in print anyway, let alone alongside those of some well-respected people. When it’s out, have a read.

Also, Easter Road West has a new post today, which is about when football games are mince.

Coming soon…

Sometimes this blogging lark can be a bit of a blur. I am a fairly prolific writer though at the moment my writing is divided between two blogs, other projects and stories. I have been writing more for Easter Road West lately, my blog about Hibs, though Walking Talking has become a wee bit more disciplined with posts scheduled in advance and a Streets of Glasgow post ready to go each Sunday until Easter. The post I planned to put here tonight was about Ordnance Survey maps but I was reading it over and I decided to ditch it. Sorry. Instead I’m just going to blether a bit about what’s coming next.

At the moment, I’ve undertaken 27 Streets of Glasgow walks, of which 22 have been posted here so far. In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting the rest, one each Sunday. In order, they will be Queen Margaret Drive, Mitchell Street, Duke Street, Gallowgate and Trongate. I don’t have any others planned in the near future though I have some notions percolating around my brain.

Streets was conceived to try and understand my adopted home better. I have thought about branching out and writing about Edinburgh, a city I know well, or even doing one street in each of Scotland’s seven cities, seven of course being the most magical number. Dundee’s was going to be Commercial Street, incidentally, Edinburgh possibly Constitution Street, down in Leith. The problem is that while that would be fun, Streets is about Glasgow and figuring it out. I can do a derive in Edinburgh any old time and I did just that the other day.

Having undertaken 27 Streets walks, I don’t have any great insights about Glasgow. Peter McDougall said that Glasgow is not a geographic site, it’s a state of mind and I broadly agree with that. There are many different Glasgows, just as there are several different Edinburghs. There is the PR version, the one of the city skyline, a cone on top of a statue and the pure dead brilliant-ness. There is the Glasgow which is rough with immense poverty and considerable differences in life expectancy from one end of a street to another. The city’s slogan is ‘People Make Glasgow’ and it’s true, the side that makes the tourist brochures and that which really doesn’t.

What has worked with Streets has been spending more time exploring the city, looking up, looking down and writing about it. I like writing the pieces and I have a well-honed routine. Not long after I finish the walk, I scribble some notes about it. Sometimes I’ve thought about the piece along the way, particularly on the longer walks, but normally not. I usually come home and that night I write up the piece, which usually comes through reading back my notes and looking at my many photographs taken along the way.

Anyway, enough of me. Here are some photos of the walks that will appear here soon, beginning with Queen Margaret Drive.

The Kelvin, from Queen Margaret Drive
The Kelvin, from Queen Margaret Drive
West Regent Street
Mitchell Street
Duke Street
Gallowgate
Trongate

Gazing across a map

If I am running a little late in the morning on the way to work, I usually have to walk a wee bit further to get a bus, to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, to be precise, about a mile from the house. The QEUH is served by a lot of buses, with no fewer than four bus stops outside the main entrance of the hospital where it is possible to get a bus across most of the west of Scotland. On each of the bus stops is a map, produced by SPT and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which shows where the buses all go. It is sort-of like a circuit diagram, vaguely paying attention to geography but more focused on clarity and concision, much like the London Underground map. Now and then I look at it and trace out bus routes I have covered in the city, usually realising I’ve been to most of them over the last few years. I still harbour the notion of going on the 90 or the 3 around the city but I would probably have to pack enough provisions for an assault on Everest.

I like maps, particularly schematics like the bus or Tube maps. I get lost in them for a while, planning future adventures and reliving old ones. Very often working out ideas is as good as the actual experience itself.

I was looking at the Edinburgh bus map earlier and it has become significantly more complicated in recent years with Lothian taking over lots of new routes plus the addition of the trams. It is an absolute mess. Strangely it is actually easier to navigate the capital’s public transport network in person than figuring it out with the map, even with Leith Street being shut and the roadworks at Haymarket. Edinburgh is a wonderful city but it is an absolute nightmare if you desire a simple life.

The London Underground map is rightly a design classic and Transport for London have capitalised on that, putting it on duvets, wrapping paper and notebooks, amongst many other things. I sincerely hope there isn’t London Underground map underwear or condoms or something. (Having just looked up the London Transport Museum shop online, they actually do sell London Underground map-themed boxer shorts, for the mildly reasonable sum of £8.99. They don’t sell condoms, yet.) Anyway, I don’t visit London that often but when I do, I usually use the Tube to get around, not least because it is supremely logical and the stations often have a lot of character architecturally. Looking at the map just now, I seem to have been on quite a few of the Underground’s various lines, including the Northern line when I made a special pilgrimage to Mornington Crescent. I wrote about that a wee while ago here. I don’t think I’ll ever get round them all but it’s nice thinking about it all the same.

Mornington Crescent

A schematic map doesn’t need to be strictly accurate, as long as it makes sense. The whole process of planning an adventure, particularly the best adventure, involves a bit of order but a whole lot of not being exact and just plain winging it. When I want to plan an adventure, I invariably have to be somewhere else but the planning is always worth it, even if I won’t actually get to set sail in the other direction that day, that month or even that year. One day it will happen, even if it is just in my mind as I gaze across the map.

Streets of Glasgow: Miller Street

This was an utterly spur-of-the-moment walk, a true derive in the psychogeographical tradition as I was walking up Argyle Street and decided to turn left. It was busy with folk using it as a shortcut to cross the city centre or to go to the various shops, offices and restaurants along its short length. The sole reason I knew Miller Street existed was because I knew it used to house Stirling’s Library, one of Glasgow’s other libraries, which is now known as the Library at GOMA, in the basement of the Gallery of Modern Art. The library had been founded in 1791 after a bequest from Walter Stirling, merchant, and was housed in his own home before eventually joining the city library system in 1912 and moving nearby to premises which used to be the Mitchell Library, now of course in North Street in Anderston. It’s a library thing, basically.

Miller Street was a blend of elegant mercantile buildings and street art for me. Of the former, my favourite was the Tobacco Merchant’s House, which was originally designed by the architect John Craig for himself in 1775 and much like many of the houses the Tobacco Lords built for themselves in the Merchant City. Pleasingly it is now the headquarters of the Scottish Civic Trust and the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust. We have the Scottish Civic Trust to thank for Doors Open Days here in Scotland. The street art couldn’t have been more different, a Banksy-type mural of a guy in a shellsuit with a Scottie dug on a lead. Nearer Argyle Street was a barbers called Safe Hands. On the side was the rather cheering tableau of a skull with a pair of scissors lodged in it. Might give them a bye myself.

Before I reached the end of the street, I had to stop and look at a sandwich shop called ‘Piece’, which is what many Scots call a sandwich, though they don’t necessarily refer to shops that sell them as ‘Gourmet Sandwichmongers’. At this point, I thought, as I often do on these walks, of an Edwin Morgan poem, this time ‘The Second Life’, with the noises of planes flying overhead. I came to the junction with Ingram Street and the walk came to an end, a splendid diversion with good architecture, art and reminders of the dangers of getting your hair cut.

Sources and further reading –

The Glasgow Story, ‘Stirling’s Library’, available at http://www.theglasgowstory.com/image/?inum=TGSA00860

Architecture Glasgow, ‘The Tobacco Merchant’s House’, available at http://www.architectureglasgow.co.uk/oldcity.millerstreet.html

Before I go, I have a recommendation to make. Manchester is one of my favourite English cities, a place I hope to get back to ere long. The Wednesday’s Child blog features a very nice post about walking along Oxford Road in Manchester. Go read it, it’s excellent.

This is the twenty first post in the Streets of Glasgow series here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets I’ve written about are Streets of Glasgow: Ingram StreetStreets of Glasgow: George Square and Streets of Glasgow: Queen Street.

Handwriting

It was reported in The Herald recently that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) are considering stopping handwritten exams in secondary schools over the next decade. SQA chief executive, Dr Janet Brown, was quoted as saying that some subjects will ‘always need’ paper exams but electronic examinations would simply reflect societal change. The teaching union, the EIS, said handwriting is still important while the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said much the same. The article, which appeared on the front page of The Herald on 8th December 2017, mentioned a SQA report from 2014, where many Higher English exam scripts were ‘near-illegible’. Making people write at speed for three hours at a time tends to do that, leaving aside anything else. For OU courses, I write exam scripts in block capitals, to give the examiners a chance.

I don’t like exams anyway, either doing them or as a part of the education system, but I think this would be progress. The fact is that very few people handwrite anything any more. Typing is faster for many people, either on a screen or a keyboard. Our thoughts go at typing speed rather than writing speed now. A comment that the Scottish Parent Teacher Council made in the article was interesting, though, about how touch typing used to be taught and ‘would be invaluable to many’. I have to differ with that. When I was at high school, I was taught touch typing and I couldn’t do it. I had to leave the class as I was getting so frustrated. To this day, I still can’t do it. I am not well-coordinated and even though I can type very fast with multiple fingers and without looking at the screen, it is hardly the way that Mavis Beacon intended me to type.

While I am typing this post, I am referring to handwritten notes I made. I write a lot and it tends to be split between stories and notes on paper and articles, essays and blog posts on my computer. With some pieces, I handwrite the first draft then type it and redraft from there, variously scribbling on a printed copy and then working from there. My handwriting isn’t brilliant. It can be spidery and illegible to some but that’s not always a bad thing. I sometimes refer to it as encryption. It remains remarkably consistent wherever I write, from buses to trains to actually sitting at a table. I’ve spent years writing leaning on a clipboard or a folder so it’s fine.

I think handwriting is actually important. It is a skill thousands of years of evolution in the making and we shouldn’t simply dismiss it in favour of technology. Even though exams are fundamentally pointless, we have to stick with them and making people write their answers out at speed by hand seems unnecessarily cruel and excessive. For exams, technology is the answer. For a lot of things, though, for creative writing, even just for the pleasure of it, by hand will still be best.

A day trip experience

When I realised Valentine’s Day fell on a Wednesday this year, I thought about how to mark it. I looked through my photos and quite seriously considered using a photo I took last year at Seton Collegiate Church of a compost heap to write about manure, neatly summing up my view of 14th February. It’s shown below. Instead, I’ve got this.

A few weeks ago, I managed to delete photos from quite a few posts on the blog. I had to go through every single one of around 370 posts to edit, add or delete accordingly. This gave me the opportunity to read some of the posts back, particularly some of the earlier ones. I found this one which I really liked. It is still one of the most personal posts I’ve written here but one that still rings true. Thankfully I am much less lonely than I was even when I wrote this two years ago. It’s called ‘Day tripping‘:

There is one part of the day trip experience I haven’t covered yet. It is an exceedingly difficult one to write about, however, but I feel it might be time to cover it here. I apologise that it is a slightly more personal post than normal, covering more emotional and difficult terrain.

Being autistic is quite a lonely business. People on the autistic spectrum aren’t known for having fabulous social skills. Making friends is not something I find very easy. I wish I did. I have somehow become a social person. I work and I am told I am an outgoing person, good at being with people. But making friends and building relationships is very difficult for me and it still remains. Even though I can look at people in the eye now, and I can even sometimes charm people and people like me, it is not easy to do. At times I can be lonely. Less so than I have been for a very long time. But it still remains.

I have been going on day trips for eight years, since a friendship ended. I used to go on day trips with him. Then I found myself with a free Saturday and I ended up going away myself. Then I did it again and again. My travels became a topic of conversation and informed my work. Many people now think of me because of my day trips. It’s ironic because what I first did due to being lonely connects me with the world now. The subject of this blog stems from these experiences I have had mostly on my own, sitting on buses and trains across this country, watching the world go by and spending a lot of time entirely on my own.

On some day trips, I used to feel very lonely and long for someone else to be with, to talk to and so not to have to make all the decisions myself. I walked or I visited places rather than sit in my room on my own. The worst day trips were always in the summer, when more people were around, couples, families and there I was, on my own and feeling it.

That’s much less of an issue now. I live a very active life. I still don’t have many friends, I still don’t have a relationship, but I spend a lot of my life with people. And that’s good. It’s not perfect but it’s my life and I’m not so lonely now. And my day trips are rarer but I often look forward to them for the escape, to actually be on my own for 10 or 12 hours, just to think, read and be in my own company. I went on holiday in October on my own. I had a great time. I talked to some people but spent most of the time on my own.

I once wanted to advertise for a day trip companion. I wasn’t sure where to do that or what kind of person I was looking for. A person of a like mind, maybe, someone I could share a conversation with and wasn’t shy of making the decisions. I am not sure I want one any more. If more people appear in my life, then in the words of Roger Deakin, I don’t want to have to cultivate them. A day trip companion can be other things too. The world cannot be compartmentalised and neither would I want it to be.

I have made some sort of peace with myself. I am not an extrovert. I am a reader and a writer. I am an introvert who manages to be outgoing when I need to. I don’t always want to. That’s fine. Sometimes I simply can’t. That’s fine too. One of the finest things about being on your own is that you don’t have to share. I can amuse myself quite happily. I make myself laugh, which is hard to conceal at times, and I think a lot. The best experiences I have had on day trips have been on my own, as have many of the best places I have discovered.

One of the earliest was my first trip to Durham, a place I have visited many times since, not always alone. Across the room now is an old railway poster showing the Cathedral towering high above the River Wear. The Cathedral is one of my favourite buildings on the Earth, despite my lack of religious belief. I feel at peace there, feeling a deep sense of connection and joy there, with the combination of magnificent architecture and beauty in that ancient place. My first visit was one morning in May. As I walked around the Cathedral, I think near the Crossing, heading towards the Chapel of the Nine Altars, I felt something that had eluded me for quite a while, that things were going to be okay after all. I used to go to that magnificent place and try to sort my life out. The last time I was there, last summer, I didn’t have to bother.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Durham. One of the best views in the world.

Not having to share also helps in choosing what to do. Instead of compromising, I can be entirely autocratic and follow my impulses. I doubt that if I had been with someone else, I would have decided to cross the country on a whim or ended up in Aberdeen instead of Dundee or York instead of Newcastle, to name but two examples.

There is a significant difference between being alone and being lonely. You can be both or one or the other. Or neither. I have known both, often at the same time, often far from home. But I have become the person I am because of spending time on my own. I write because of being on my own. I read and I know what I know because of being on my own. Making the best of it. It takes time but fundamentally I am confident. In the meantime, I will plan the next day trip around my busy life and see where it takes me.

Incidentally, there’s a new post tonight on my other blog, Easter Road West, about why watching a football game in person is far superior to catching it on the TV.

Going underground

Glasgow has a Subway. It runs in two loops around the city and for a while I used it daily on my commute. Now I tend to be on it maybe once a month. It’s not always the most pleasant experience. It’s loud and screechy, playing havoc with my particular blend of sensory sensitivities. At some point I hope to do a walk around the Subway on the surface – I did a test walk from Buchanan Street to Bridge Street recently and still need to write it up – and that should be much better.

Strangely, though, I actually prefer the London Underground to the Subway. Not when it is mentally busy, mind, but as an experience the Tube wins. It is a bigger system, the trains themselves are quieter and it is well organised. When I was in London recently, I made four journeys:

  • Holborn to South Kensington – Piccadilly line
  • Marble Arch to St. Paul’s – Central line
  • Westminster to Embankment – Circle line
  • Embankment to Euston – Northern line

The trick I’ve found with the Underground is taking it slow and looking around to make sure I’m going in the right direction, if necessary checking and re-checking posters. I tend to take the right side of escalators in order to pace myself. This is natural since the Tube is not a part of my everyday life.

I also like the Tube because each station is different in architecture and design. The Glasgow Subway is mostly uniform save for some art pieces in a few of the stations like Kelvinhall and Hillhead. The London Underground is piecemeal and inconsistent and I like that. It is the product of different companies running the show over time and their different priorities.

At one point when I was in London recently, possibly on the train from Embankment to Euston, I sat back and thought about where I was and how I got there. I was just in the moment, I was on the London Underground, one of the busiest transport systems in the world in one of the busiest cities in the world. I felt fine. I was glad to be there, feeling confident in myself and my ability to navigate it.

Hamilton Mausoleum

Quite a few years ago, I used to work in a museum. One of my colleagues, now sadly gone, was once a countryside ranger in Chatelherault Country Park near Hamilton in Lanarkshire. We were talking one day about a feature on the news the previous night about a concert taking place in Hamilton Mausoleum, a building she knew well since it sits on the edge of Chatelherault Country Park. The Mausoleum, she told me, had the longest continuous echo of any building in the world and it was an incredible place to visit. I only got there a couple of years after she died, not long after I moved to Glasgow. I booked a ticket to go for the tour and got myself to Hamilton, a place I had never been to before. To be fair, a whole lot of the west of Scotland was still new to me at that point. The tour started from the nearby Low Parks Museum and lasted for roughly an hour and a half. It was brilliant with a very knowledgeable tour guide. The Mausoleum was the final resting place for the Dukes of Hamilton and sat in what was once the grounds of Hamilton Palace. The echo took 15 seconds to pass around the Mausoleum’s central chamber. I spent a fair bit of time not making a noise but looking up at the dome ceiling which somehow reminded me of both a church and a dovecot. What stuck with me was that due to mining nearby, the Mausoleum was no less than 18 feet lower than it was when it was built and I gather that it is also tilting as a consequence. I was glad I finally got there, after hearing about it years before and to visit such a fascinating, quirky place.

I was reminded of the Mausoleum recently when I read an article from The Skinny about Francis Macdonald, the drummer from Teenage Fanclub, who has composed ‘The Hamilton Mausoleum Suite’, an instrumental work inspired by the Mausoleum and featuring musicians from the Scottish Festival Orchestra. An album was released on 26th January and it will actually be performed in the Mausoleum on 19th February, a week tomorrow. I think that’s great. Every now and then, I think about the Mausoleum and the time I spent there. It is a weirdly fascinating place and it is inspiring, if downright creepy at times. I’ll have to give the album a listen.