30 Before 30

In about eighteen months time, I will be turning 30. I’ve mostly made peace with that. It’s just a number. When I realised I had a year and a half to go, I decided to make a list of thirty things I would like to do before I’m thirty. Some of them are things I’m actively planning anyway, like signing up to the last module of my Open University degree, which hopefully will be in 2019 anyway, walking the route of the Glasgow Subway (Buchanan Street shown above) and finally sitting down to watch Game of Thrones (I got six episodes in then got sidetracked). Others are ambitions I’ve had for a while, like walking across the Forth Road Bridge, going to a stand-up comedy show, sitting on the 3 bus which goes from Govan to Drumchapel via half the world, learning to swim and watching a football match at Palmerston Park in Dumfries purely because it’s a nice, old-fashioned ground. One or two seem things I should have done by now, like going to a music festival or on a protest, drinking a pint of Belhaven Best or submitting myself for a barber’s shave. Others are based on the fact I’m tight (buying underwear that costs more than a takeaway because it has a label on it) or sensible (wearing shorts on a winter’s day when not exercising and being able to finish an energy drink like Red Bull despite the fact they’re bowfin’). A fair few of them are travel-related, like going on a ferry to somewhere I’ve never been before or walking the length of the John Muir Way (Helensburgh end shown below) or taking a trip to Dunadd, the traditional crowning place for the King of Scots over in Argyll.

It’s a varied list and I’m not sure how many of them I’ll achieve over the next year and a half. The priorities are the ones that involve travel, naturally, but I hope I get through most of them, even for the new and exciting experiences that will hopefully ensue as a result. The protest one should be interesting though given how the world is turning to shite there is no shortage of suitable causes. I’ll be at one of them, probably with a placard saying ‘Down With This Sort Of Thing’.


400: How Ah talk, written doon

This is the 400th post here on Walking Talking. After much deliberation, I decided to go down the Dewey Decimal route. At some point soon, I will write a post based on a kind suggestion about 1618, also known as 400 years ago. For those uninitiated in all things Dewey, it is the system used to organise many libraries around the globe. Subjects have a number with many more past the decimal point to make it all very precise and specific. 400 is language. Recently I saw a Tweet encouraging more folk to write in Scots, the words of this country and the people who live here. In that spirit, and fitting with the 400 theme, here’s a post written entirely in Scots.

Ah dinnae write much in Scots. It’s the way Ah talk, ken, it’s the way Ah hink tae but when tryin’ tae be understood, Standard English wi’ an inflection an’ a smatterin’ o’ the right wurds is usually the way Ah roll. The other day, Ah saw a Tweet fi the poet Thomas Clark who said that writin’ in Scots ‘keeps ye honest. Staps ye fae gan aff on wan. An we coud aw dae wae a bittie mair honesty’. Ah dinnae disagree. A difficulty Ah huv writin’ in Scots is that there is nae standard version o’ Scots. Wurds ur different fi toon to toon, even bits o’ toons. The wurds Ah yaise ur maistly fi where Ah grew up in East Lothian, even wi’ the nearly five year Ah’ve spent livin’ in the Weege. Guid Scots wurds that appear in Scots editions o’ books tend tae need a glossary even fir folk like me since there ur many that didnae make it doon the A1 tae Dunbar. It wis like the Scots edition o’ Harry Potter an’ the Philosopher’s Stane wi’ characters, street names an’ even the names o’ the hooses in Hogwarts changed. There’s a case fir translatin’ but there’s also a point when it’s just no’ needit. Glad they did the book, like, but it wis still stupit. We should scrieve the way folk talk, the way folk hink, no’ workin’ a’ the time oot the dictionary. There’s no such hing as standard Scots an’ that’s fine wi’ me. Take the different versions eh The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. There’s The Gruffalo’s Wean but ‘wean’ is a Weegie word. Ah say ‘bairn’. Hence the many different editions, the Orkney or the Dundee Gruffalos. Thon Dundonians, though, they speak Martian, a’ the pehs, circles, clubbies and ingin yins an’ a’. Ma point is that there is a danger o’ makin’ these hings too standard. Language is ever-changin’, ever-evolvin’ an’ it should remain sae.

There ur loads o’ guid books in Scots that folk should read. Yin o’ the best books Ah read last year wis Hings by Chris McQueer, written largely in pure undiluted Weegie. One o’ the maist famous Scottish books o’ the last thirty year wid be Trainspottin’ by Irvine Welsh, which has nae shortage o’ Edinburgh wurds, sayins an’ mannerisms in it, plus a fair few mentions o’ the Hibees tae. While the crime writer Stuart MacBride writes mainly in English, his books are aye fu’ o’ the Doric tae, even decipherable for those o’ us whae live south o’ Perth. Harder tae figure oot is The Tartan Special One by Barry Phillips, a wonderfully funny novel written in Dundonian and publishit by Teckle Books, a wee publisher whaise Dundonian pride is right there in their name. Writers like Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Nan Shepherd, Jessie Kesson, James Kelman, Liz Lochhead an’ loads o’ others bring Scots intae whit they write an’ their work is much better fer it. An’ us tae, like.

When Ah write like this, Ah usually end up wi’ a muckle grin on ma puss fi the pure pleasure o’ it. Ah write stories much mair than Ah write blog posts. Mair dialogues than anyhin’ else. They help me work through life an’ hink a bit tae. Yin character Ah love writin’ talks like Ah dae, ken, usually wi’ much swearin’ as again Ah often dae an’ like a hairy-arsed engineer fi the Pans wid. He speaks a hail load o’ sense an’ while Ah dinnae write him very often, Ah’m always gled Ah dae, fir the way ma pen rattles across the page. Like Thomas Clark said, it keeps me honest, plus it’s braw to write intae the bargain.

Ah wrote a bit here aboot Muriel Spark recently. She spent her latter years livin’ in Tuscany (as yeh dae, ken) but she wid huv tae come back tae Edinburgh every noo and again tae git the voices back in her heid, the inflections, wurds an’ everyhin else fi’ the folk o’ the capital so they could make her books mair authentic. Ah live in Glasgow an’ some Weegieisms huv crept intae how Ah talk, maybe even how Ah write, but Ah’m aye gled tae go tae the fitba an’ hear the right kind o’ voices a’ aroond me as we a’ watch the Hibs. When Ah git through tae Dunbar, that bit further east o’ Edinburgh an’ that bit broader tae, it’s a relief tae hear folk speak proper, even fir a wee bit. As Ah travel back hame, the wurds change wi’ each passin’ mile, goin’ fi braw an’ muckle tae ra champion, pure dead brilliant an’ wan insteid o’ yin. The wurds ur important an’ it’s guid noo an’ then tae hear yir ain an’ even read it on the page rather than it bein’ lost, tae me an’ everyone else.

Streets of Glasgow: George Square

When I used to visit Glasgow on day trips from Dunbar, I invariably came through Queen Street Station. My first sight of the city was invariably George Square and the City Chambers and it never stopped being exciting. Even now, walking around George Square this time, I still felt something, the pride of an adopted Weegie, I suppose. I was there as the sun went down one cold January afternoon and the place was busy with people, tourists, commuters, City Council staff done for the day, delivery people sitting on the statues waiting for their next call. I ignored the statues and just looked around at the buildings, particularly at the City Chambers. It is a fine building from a distance but stunning up close, stood at its base looking up. I looked at the measures bolted to the wall and noticed another etched onto the pavement nearby marking out 100 links. These were useful once when tradespeople might have been tempted to be inconsistent in their measures and officialdom had to intervene.

Not for the first time, I walked around George Square thinking of Edwin Morgan’s poem ‘The Starlings of George Square’, slightly nonsensical with the cables to Cairo getting fankled, asking of the boats to Milngavie and the Lord Provost licking an audible stamp. Now, the nearest Post Office is on West Nile Street and the Tourist Information Centre is in the basement of the Gallery of Modern Art, though the Lord Provost, Eva Bolander, still works from the City Chambers. All the rest are offices and restaurants. Even Queen Street Station is changing, currently under scaffolding as it gets enlarged and all snazzy and modern. At least the tarmac isn’t red any more.

I don’t get to George Square as much as I used to. Coming into Queen Street Station isn’t as exciting as it used to be. I’m usually heading home from somewhere. If I’m in George Square, I usually like to stop, one of many in a crowd, strangely not so claustrophobic in one of the most open places in the city centre. I think of Edwin Morgan, normally, I marvel at the City Chambers and I watch the people go by. It sums up Glasgow to me, art, crowds and architecture, and it’s a good place to enjoy all three, ideally served with something from Greggs for lunch.

This is the nineteenth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets written about here include Buchanan Street, Cathedral Street, Ingram Street, Miller Street, Queen Street and Dundas Street which is forthcoming.

Digest: January 2018

January’s over and done with already. Mostly I’m relieved. There was a whole lot of snow and ice in January and getting about got a bit difficult as I slipped and slid around the place. Still I managed a few adventures and a fair few of those were around Glasgow.

The first business day of the year, Wednesday 3rd January, I was still off and I decided to head for Buchanan Bus Station and get on the first bus that tempted me. I had been thinking Dumfries but the St. Andrews bus pulled in first and a few minutes later I was on the way to Fife. Somewhere between Glenrothes and Cupar, I decided to have a quick wander in St. Andrews and head for Dundee and go home from there. It was cold and windy in St. Andrews and I took a turn around the streets then went to Dundee. I walked up to the McManus (above), which was quite busy with an event though I managed to dodge most of it by judicious choices of which galleries to visit.

That Saturday Hibs weren’t playing and I decided to head for Dunbar, which I had planned to visit during the Christmas holidays. It was cold and windy but I had a good, long walk, on Belhaven beach, through Winterfield Park and around the two harbours. The waves were incredible, at various points falling high over the harbour walls.

The following Friday, I rose late and decided to go to Kelvingrove before doing a Streets of Glasgow walk. Kelvingrove was fine as ever as I walked around the French art room and spent a few minutes with my favourite painting, ‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart. In the end, I did three Streets of Glasgow walks that day, Sauchiehall Street, Cumberland Street and George Square. The first two had been planned for a while, the third was spur-of-the-moment. Of the three, Cumberland Street was my favourite, due to the public art and architecture of the St. Francis Centre.

Durham is one of my favourite places and I was there that Sunday, spending a while in the Cathedral before wandering by the river. It was a deep pleasure to be there, good for the soul.

I am off two Fridays a month and both of them this month have been Glasgow-based. Friday 26th it was a bright, cold day and I decided to do another Streets of Glasgow walk up Govan Road, which I enjoyed immensely. I walked into the town, intending to do another walk in the East End though got diverted up Miller Street. I decided to head on the bus to the West End and had the bright idea to do another walk, this time on Queen Margaret Drive. I went after that to the Hunterian Museum, which was being set up for an evening event so I didn’t linger. Yet another Streets walk followed back in the town, this time West Regent Street, complete with the smell of fish. I went home after that, this time by train as my feet were throbbing.

That Sunday I went to Edinburgh and did some more walking, in Leith and then around the Meadows, Bruntsfield Links and back into the city centre.

Wednesday 31st, Hibs played Motherwell. I was there. It was good to be back at the football.

Well, that’s the condensed version of January. February I am due to go to London. I would imagine I will be other places too. No doubt some of those adventures will appear here in due course. As ever, thanks so much for reading, commenting, liking and sharing. Sunday’s post will be the Streets of Glasgow post about George Square. Have a good month.

Posts this month –


Digest: December 2017

Natural light

The day when the trains stop

Streets of Glasgow: Hope Street

Walking on the waves

The last train

Streets of Glasgow: Nelson Mandela Place

Not the best castles in Scotland

Durham Cathedral

Streets of Glasgow: Sauchiehall Street

London notions

Role models

The May

On the way to the dentist

Walking, talking, blogging

Streets of Glasgow: Cumberland Street