Digest: May 2018

That’s the end of May then. Another busy month and a whole lot of adventures. In May I’ve been to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, East Lothian twice and all the way to Crookston. A lot of travels have been football-related though some haven’t, not least the first adventure I had in May neatly packed into a lunchtime. I was in Glenburn, a suburb of Paisley, and over lunch I ended up going for a walk a little way into the Gleniffer Braes, sitting down on a bench with a considerable view across Paisley to the hills beyond. It was a new perspective on a place I am becoming increasingly familiar with.

On Saturday 5th May I went to Aberdeen to watch Hibs. I left fairly early in the day and read and listened to music on the way up. I went to the football then took myself out to dinner before going home. I was thinking about the Bank Holiday Monday which was coming and ended up buying Ordnance Survey maps for two very disparate bits of Scotland, the area around Hawick in the Borders and Elgin in Moray, before I boarded that bus to civilisation. As it turns out I didn’t get to either one.

The following day was lovely and warm and I had a lie in. After all I had been all the way to Aberdeen the previous day. Mid-afternoon I went out to Crookston Castle, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends, a series featured on this blog on Sundays at the moment. The place was fairly busy with people though that didn’t stop me enjoying the views across this bit of the world. Crookston Castle is within half an hour’s walk so I did just that. On the way back I finally made it to Rosshall Gardens where I wrote up notes and pondered a ruined boiler house in the grounds. I still need to write that bit of the adventure up.

The next day was Bank Holiday Monday and after much deliberation I ended up on the way to Edinburgh. I wanted to do a dry run for visiting Tynecastle that Wednesday so I proceeded in lovely sunshine into deepest darkest Gorgie, found where the away end is then swiftly came away again with no fixed agenda. I found myself at the bus station thinking about where to go and I just missed a bus to St. Andrews. There was a bus sitting bound for East Lothian and I thought briefly about Hailes Castle before eventually concluding I quite fancied a trip to Dunbar. On the way down I felt like going to Lamer Island, the Battery, which has featured here before and that was where I ended up after a turn around the harbour. I managed to find a connection to Crookston Castle and thus my visit also became part of the Loose Ends series. Alas time and train timetables meant I didn’t have long before I needed to head back to Glasgow.

No wonder I’m tired. The following night I went out for dinner. On the way we looked at some of the very fine street art which is scattered around the Merchant City.

Next night was the derby at Tynecastle, another item off my 30 Before 30 list.

That Sunday was the last game of the season and it was at Easter Road. I don’t have any end of the season traditions and when I left the ground, leaving through exit number 7 as always, I decided to go get fish and chips by the sea. That became North Berwick and after walking to a shop to get provisions, it became a walk around Aberlady Bay first. Aberlady Bay, for those who don’t know it, is a nature reserve with a long, deserted beach at the end of it. But first I had to cross Tranter’s Bridge, a wooden bridge across a burn named after the author Nigel Tranter who often walked there trying to think up ideas. The bridge, which I knew about but Google Maps didnae, features in Loose Ends soon too. The walk was beautiful but very warm. I ended up on the beach and to my slight surprise I ended up sunbathing for a bit. I don’t sunbathe. I think the sand that was still stuck to my body hours later when I got home is probably why. After that interlude I walked to Gullane then got myself to North Berwick for fish and chips, which were no’ bad, eaten by the harbour.

That Tuesday I was doing a work thing in Renfrew Town Hall, recently refurbished, and it is a fabulous building.

The next Friday I ended up in Edinburgh and went for a long walk along the Water of Leith from Leith to Murrayfield, ending up there on the bus home. Particular highlights of this walk were St. Bernard’s Well which was gorgeous in that light and the grounds of the two Modern Art Galleries in the Dean Village.

That Sunday I went to watch Partick Thistle play Livingston. Thistle got relegated.

I walked home from work the next Friday and walking over by Arkleston, there was a brief moment by the motorway when I could be fooled into thinking I was in the proper countryside.

The next day was Saturday and I was off. I went to Culross, via Dunfermline where I partook in some steak bridies for lunch. I was a bit too late for the Palace but I wasn’t heartbroken since I was able to wander in the sunshine, sitting and reading for a bit and looking at the many fine buildings. I went to Culross Abbey all too briefly and the Abbey ruins were great to explore on that beautiful day.

The next day I spent the day with my dad, bopping around central Scotland, starting in Linlithgow with a turn around the loch. We then drove the few miles to Cairnpapple Hill. From the cool but pleasant weather in Linlithgow, Cairnpapple was shrouded in haar. This made the experience all the more beguiling, other-worldly as we made our way round the henge with visibility only a few feet in front of our faces. Barely five minutes away in Torphichen, it was much clearer and sunny. We had lunch in Callander Park in Falkirk, looking over a duck pond. It was good to see the museum and park busy with people. Thereafter we drove across the Forth to Castle Campbell, one of the more atmospheric Scottish castles, with a walk through Dollar Glen an added bonus. Dollar Glen feels like something out of a fairy tale, or where trolls, goblins and nymphs should live. Castle Campbell is great, a blend of ruins and a fairly intact though restored tower house. Before dining in Linlithgow, we headed back to Cairnpapple Hill where it was now sunny and decent views could be had despite the haze. We first had to contend with some cows. A family were already there, reluctant to venture across the field. To slightly misquote We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, we couldn’t go over them, we couldn’t go under them: we had to go through them. We succeeded and the perspective was well worth the close encounters of the bovine kind.

Monday was a bank holiday and I decided to satisfy an ambition and another thing on my 30 Before 30 list to boot. I decided to walk the route of the Glasgow Subway. On the hottest day of the year. I succeeded in 4 hours and 8 minutes from leaving Govan to getting back there. Tales of that adventure will appear here shortly. Afterwards I had a fleeting visit to Glasgow Cathedral, which will be part of the Loose Ends series after Culross.

That’s us for May then. On Friday it is Streets of Glasgow time and it is the final post of that series before hiatus, Addison Road. Loose Ends returns on Sunday and it is Lamer Island this time.

Before I forget, the Wednesday’s Child blog featured an interesting post recently about what constitutes being well-read. I said I would share a list of some books that have been important to me and these appear below. At some point I will go into greater depth as to why I like these particular books:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark

The collected works of Roald Dahl

The collected works of Douglas Adams

The Harry Potter series

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

Candide by Voltaire

The collected works of Kurt Vonnegut

The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins

Nasty Women, the feminist anthology compiled by 404 Ink

Godless Morality and Looking in the Distance by Richard Holloway

Findings by Kathleen Jamie

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

Waterlog by Roger Deakin

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

Tony Benn’s diaries

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Walking Talking takes a week off next week. That’s for practical reasons. As some of you might know, I’m doing an Open University degree and the exam for my current module is next week. I’ll have to revise. Exams aren’t good. I don’t see the point in them but that’s easy to say when I’m staring down the face of one.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. It is one of the nicest bits of blogging that sometimes lengthy digressions can occur because of comments or seeing just which random has liked a post today. Cheers, folks.

Posts in May –

Digest: April 2018

Causeway cliffs

Loose Ends: Linlithgow Palace

Sunshine

Walking talking

Streets of Glasgow: Waterloo Street

The beginning

Flotsam and jetsam

Streets of Glasgow: Cadogan Street

Loose Ends: Stirling Castle

Shoelaces

Streets of Glasgow: Firhill Road

Loose Ends: Crookston Castle

Millport

I have a list of thirty things to do before my thirtieth birthday, a bit over a year from now. Yes, really, I am that old. I have achieved a decent percentage of them now – buying expensive underwear, drinking an energy drink, wearing shorts in winter, getting an article published, attending a derby at Tynecastle, walking the route of the Glasgow Subway and walking across the Forth Road Bridge. Another item was ‘going on a ferry to somewhere new’. I managed it about a month ago. I went to Cumbrae. Now, for those from the west, that isn’t that exciting. Having grown up in the east, it was never on my radar. It happened on a stunning day at the end of April and keeping up a fine tradition, I got sunburnt, which last happened on a CalMac ferry to Arran.

Millport is a pleasant village at the southern tip of Cumbrae. It has low property prices and only one shop that could be found anywhere else on the planet. In short it is a place out of the Daily Mail or the 1950s. That doesn’t make it bad at all, quite the opposite. It is an hour and a half from here, served by SPT buses but it feels like another world. We went for a walk to one end then another, sitting by the harbour, looking out and across to Arran and Little Cumbrae. The Cathedral of the Isles, the smallest cathedral in these islands, was rather nice too, a pleasant church with a labrynth etched out in the grass outside.

One of the main thoughts I had was ‘how have I never been here before?’ I’ll be there again, definitely. I was reminded that while I love the east, the Clyde has some incredible places around it and in it, Cumbrae not the least of them. I plotted a trip to Arran which has yet to materialise but that’ll happen too. It needs the right day, the right moment. For Millport it was that day.

Loose Ends: Crookston Castle

Stirling Castle gave a lot of scope for the next instalment in the Loose Ends series. One Sunday morning recently, I briefly considered going to the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow because it once housed Stirling’s Library. Then as the day went on and it got sunnier and warmer, I decided to head for Crookston Castle. While it is also a castle managed by Historic Environment Scotland, the real connection was looser. Outside Stirling Castle is a statue of Robert the Bruce. Robert the Bruce’s most famous contribution to history, apart from murdering his rival in a church, the Declaration of Arbroath and some deal with a spider in a cave on Rathlin Island, is winning the Battle of Bannockburn. Bannockburn is managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The first NTS property was…Crookston Castle. That was good enough for me to proceed. Plus Crookston Castle is half an hour’s walk from my house and I’ve wanted to head back for ages.

Around Glasgow are a whole lot of signposts. They have been put up over the last few years to encourage walking and cycling in the city. In my bit of the city, the signs point towards the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Braehead, Crookston, Pollok and Paisley. From Paisley Road West, I looked to see if they pointed towards Crookston Castle. I knew the way but I always like to check. Even when I was fairly close to the castle, the signs pointed towards Rosshall and even Crookston railway station but not where I was heading to. Strangely I headed the other way back, via Rosshall, Crookston Road and Paisley Road that way, and there were signs aplenty that way, including brown tourist road signs. I might need to take it up with someone.

Anyway, I got there and the place was busy. It was a beautiful, warm Sunday afternoon and there were a few teenagers lolling about on the grass plus folk up the top of the tower and a family about too. I did my thing anyway, looking and snapping away, generally keeping out folks’ road. I thought what I always do when I go to Crookston, that if it was anywhere else, it would be better advertised and better tended. I’ve been to other castles in Scotland and paid in. Crookston is a freebie and excellent value for it. My HES membership hopefully pays for something there. There were new interpretation boards since my last visit so maybe that’s it.

As much as the history was interesting, including a reminder of the links with Lord Darnley, the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots (her again), I was partly there for the views. Southwest Glasgow is not the most beautiful place on the planet but it’s my place on the planet. I couldn’t quite see my house but I could see across the city and to the Campsies, Gleniffer and Cathkin Braes, Bellahouston Park and cranes on the Clyde. I brought my camera to take a few photos, plenty more on my phone as I enjoyed a few minutes just looking over my domain, placing familiar landmarks and trying to guess at other prominent points around. I was soon joined by a young couple doing the same thing. As I clambered down the ladder, I soon heard some teenage girls climbing up too. At least they were there, keeping the place busy on a sunny day.

To the connections and there were quite a few. If a place isn’t linked to Mary, Queen of Scots, it usually has something to do with Sir Walter Scott who set one of his novels, The Abbot, there. To be fair I could justifiably link Crookston with Tynecastle Park since a football team called Heart of Midlothian play there, also the name of one of Sir Walter’s tomes, but I won’t. It is possible too that Mons Meg might have been used in a siege on Crookston in 1489. A trip to Edinburgh Castle, where Mons Meg sits on the ramparts, is definitely doable. There’s a legend that Mary, Queen of Scots watched the Battle of Langside from Crookston but that is sadly unlikely due to geography. The Battle of Langside took place on what is now Battlefield Road – part of the Streets of Glasgow series here last year – and I know that area well, having worked there for a while. Sir John Stirling-Maxwell donated Crookston to the NTS. He was also involved with Pollok House, not so far away, and I could go there very easily. Maxwells also held Newark Castle over in Port Glasgow but I might need to diversify away from castles for a bit. Maybe to an abbey since Crookston was a lookout post in World War II and Inchcolm Abbey was used for wartime purposes too. Dryburgh Abbey in the Borders is where Sir Walter Scott is buried. Or I could go somewhere to do with the poet Robert Tannahill since he wrote about Crookston. If all else fails, I could go to Millport which has a rock called Crocodile Rock. Sir Robert Croc built the first Crookston Castle in the 12th century.

Those are thoughts for another time. As I stood atop that tower, I just looked out and savoured the May sunshine, revelling in my surroundings, now home, an adopted home I only appreciate more with each passing week.

Thanks for reading. This is the fourth of the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The last instalment was Stirling Castle. Next week will be Lamer Island.

Crookston Castle has appeared on the blog before, in Why the south side is the best sideCrookston and Shadows fall, amongst others.

Streets of Glasgow: Firhill Road

I realised recently that during this Streets of Glasgow series, I had walked streets near the grounds of Celtic, The Rangers, Queen’s Park and even Third Lanark but not anywhere near Firhill, the home of Partick Thistle. That needed to be remedied, especially after I discovered on Google Maps that there is a rather cool mural at the side of Firhill. What I didn’t realise is that Firhill is right next to the Forth and Clyde Canal, proving that Google Street View has considerable limitations and there’s no substitute for actually going somewhere and seeing it with your own eyes. The view from the top of Firhill Road wasn’t too bad, towards the Cathkin Braes and the city, though I was tickled by the row of shops that soon came up on my right, including an off-licence with the unbeatable name of Bammy Beverages. I didn’t go to see what the bam’s beverage of choice is, though I’m sure it will have a rich and varied selection.

There were a few walkers by the canal, even on an overcast afternoon. A sign by the tow path pointed towards such exotic destinations as Maryhill Locks (1.5 miles), Clydebank (6 miles), Kirkintilloch (8 miles) and the Falkirk Wheel some 22 miles away at the eastern extremity of the canal. It was quite busy generally this walk, with a few folk up and down on their phones and a guy shouting for his pal Billy at the top of his lungs. Billy probably lived in Oban or somewhere.

Firhill, or the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill as it is officially known, is home to Partick Thistle. Or Partick Thistle nil as the old joke has it. The main stand faces onto Firhill Road and inside it is basic, wooden-floored and with a major lack of leg room. Cracking pies, though. Outside it is quite old-fashioned with old ticket prices lettered over the turnstiles at either end, which is quite endearing. On the side of the stand was a big ‘Welcome to Firhill’ sign, a product of the very adept Partick Thistle PR department. The mural on the lane up to the Jackie Husband Stand is superb, though, featuring the club crest, a player’s boot, a ball, a crowd and the city skyline. Even with the parked cars, I got a good look at it and I was really impressed. Partick Thistle may be mince – indeed they’ve just been relegated – but they are a real community club, the only team in Glasgow, some might say.

Further down towards Maryhill Road was a grassy bank, with trees and daffodils coming up nicely. Spring finally seems to be here though I suspect we haven’t seen the last of the snow yet, even if the rain continues unabated as it did just after I finished this walk. Firhill Road was quite short but a reminder of how so much of this city is unfamiliar to me. I knew the way to Firhill but a few hundred yards away was the canal and I didn’t have a clue it was there. In nearly five years, I’ve seen a fair bit of this city but every time I go out, I see something new. However long I live here, I hope that continues whichever corner I turn.

This is the thirty fourth Streets of Glasgow post from Walking Talking. I wrote here recently about Queen Margaret Drive, which is fairly nearby.

 

Shoelaces

The footballer James Milner has a reputation for being rather drab and dull. Indeed there is a spoof Twitter account called Boring James Milner which covers that ground. Milner has taken that in good spirits and often Tweets playing up to that image. One recent example featured Milner and a referee tying their shoelaces during a match with the legend ‘Double knot races are never boring! #roundthebunnyear #hooploopandswoop’. This interested me because that is just how I was taught to tie my shoelaces. I’m autistic and my motor skills aren’t brilliant. I learned to tie my shoelaces when I was fairly old, still at primary school, with the help of a book. The bunny loop method was how I learned and to this very day my shoelaces are uniformly loopy, much like myself.

I am famously clumsy. It is, I’m told, genetic but I tend to take it to the nth degree. It takes me a few gos with elastic bands and I tend to drop books on a regular basis. That’s an occupational hazard. I pick them up again, though, just about every time. That’s before I go into the adventures I have with pastry. Going to the football can be fun too including the time at Ross County when I fell into the aisle when Hibs scored and when I sat down at Kilmarnock only to cowp hot Vimto over my hand. It’s all about the motor skills. Plus I bump into people with considerable frequency. As a person who doesn’t really like touching other people, trust me, it isn’t deliberate. I walk through busy places thinking a few steps ahead, finding gaps, actively trying to avoid other people. Sometimes that goes awry. Other people just go everywhere.

Some shoelaces can be better than others. I normally wear Skechers, currently one of three pairs – a tweedy colour, a brown pair and another which is blue – and Skechers’ laces tend to be quite thin and need re-tied quite frequently. Coupled with my fumbly fingers, that tends to make life interesting too. But I haven’t yet had to rely on slip-on shoes or worse going barefoot. Bunny ears still win. James Milner says so and he might win the Champions League on Saturday.

Loose Ends: Stirling Castle

Stirling is like a Scottish historical theme park. The very streets of the place are teeming with history, from the station (which appears in a Glasgow Boys painting in Kelvingrove) up past the Tolbooth, Old Town Jail, Mar’s Wark and the Church of the Holy Rood towards Argyll’s Lodging and the Castle itself. The car park was busy as I walked up, including with a right few coaches. I got my membership card scanned and into the Castle I went, straight into the garden which I’ve always liked for a lot of reasons, not least the views over the ramparts and of the Palace. The introductory exhibition gave me a few ideas for future visits in this series, mentions of Alexander III taking me either to Haddington where he was born or Kinghorn where he fell off a cliff and snuffed it, talk of Balliol possibly to Sweetheart Abbey or whichever of Oxford and Cambridge has a Balliol College. Robert the Bruce got an early mention and I could go to Dunfermline or Melrose where various parts of his body are buried.

The Great Hall has a handsome hammerbeam ceiling and I like to spend a few minutes there each time I visit. The harling on the exterior of the Great Hall is very similar to that which lines Dunbar Town House, another possible connection for a future visit. I didn’t bother with the Stirling Heads this time, though I got to the Palace with its unicorn tapestries and folk dressed up talking about their weekend plans. I was mainly happy to be outside and look around at the views, of hills and peaks with snow, a mixture of clouds over a vista right across central Scotland, to the Ochils, Wallace Monument, Pentlands and Falkirk, amongst many other places. I also enjoyed exploring the little nooks and niches, surprising in such a big castle like Stirling. Big castles don’t do small so often.

At the northern end is an area with some old artillery stores and a tapestry studio. Also there is a small rocky outcrop. Stirling is one of at least three castles in Scotland which sit on a rock, Dumbarton, Edinburgh and Dirleton being some others. There’s others, Cardoness in Dumfries and Galloway being another, but Stirling is probably one of the best known, second only to Edinburgh. Luckily being prominent in Scottish history means that a lot of places have a connection to Stirling, for their topography, scenery or even just their history. One good adventure to Stirling down, another soon awaits.

This is the third of the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The second was Linlithgow Palace, which appeared here two weeks ago.

Streets of Glasgow: Cadogan Street

This one was planned when I had some time to kill on the way home one Saturday night. I was at the traffic lights and trying to think of any streets in the vicinity I hadn’t covered in the Streets of Glasgow series before. I took out my phone and opened Google Maps, my eyes soon alighting on Cadogan Street. The Harry Potter nerd in me approved, with thoughts of the swashbuckling knight portrait in Hogwarts maybe replicated in a Glasgow street. It wasn’t like that at all but a man can dream. It was quite boring, really. That’s fine – boring is good, it is nice to see places when they’re quiet and not occupied by their usual people, office workers or whatever.

I started right after the Waterloo Street walk (which appeared here last weekend). Cadogan Street begins with the Cadogan Square car park under a very Brutalist office block. Uber Brutalist. I knew that Anderston was redesigned in the 1960s and won awards for its design though I hadn’t seen as much of it up close. In the square were some trees behind a white metal fence and writing about it just now reminds me of the Joni Mitchell song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and a tree museum where people pay a dollar and a half just to see them. Further up some of the buildings were being redeveloped, including a former beauty salon which still had some of the signs up advertising IPL laser, Hollywood lashes and laser teeth whitening.

Most of the rest of Cadogan Street was modern offices, though gratifyingly one of the archetypal red sandstone Glasgow buildings reflected in the dark glass office block. The red sandstone building on the corner had a nice tower with a curve on the corner and a cupola on the top. It was nice to see. I walked by the side of it to where the street came to a dead end with another modern office block. I liked being able to look at the gaps though between buildings with foliage growing up the side and other blocks visible, gaps perhaps emerging by an accident of an architect’s pencil. I also liked the street sign which had been cut in half by a building’s pipe, the word ‘Street’, white letters on black, without a name. It wasn’t such a boring walk, really, even if it was curtailed as the rain got that bit heavier and I headed all the faster for my train home.

This is the thirty third Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Firhill Road follows next week. I wrote about the nearby Waterloo Street last week.

Also, for those viewing on a web browser, yes, the blog does look different. It has reverted back to the Lovecraft theme. The header image on the homepage is Tranter’s Bridge at Aberlady Bay in East Lothian, a place which will feature in a future post.

Flotsam and jetsam

Now and then I have to clear out my inbox of all the ideas implanted there, just waiting for a blog post to come out of them. It just doesn’t happen every time, which is why every so often I have to write a post like this, like Commonplace inbox and Clearing out my inbox, bringing all these strands together.

One comes from the news of 7th May 2018, that Glasgow Queen Street had the lowest satisfaction rating of any railway station in Britain, with only 58% of respondents to a Transport Focus survey positive about the place. To be fair it is in the midst of a massive refurb. It’s a building site. It is also a bit of a scrum to get a train there, particularly as loads of folk dart up the platform for the Edinburgh train announced only a couple of minutes before the thing is due to leave. There isn’t a station I particularly loathe but Queen Street is manageable at the best of times. There are definitely worse.

For some reason, I’ve kept a Virgin Trains East Coast marketing e-mail bigging up Newcastle, which Rough Guide has dubbed the number one city to visit in some survey. Newcastle is great and I’m overdue a visit. Go to the Baltic and walk by the Tyne. The Laing Art Gallery and Hancock Museum are also fabulous. The city centre is like a mix of Edinburgh and Glasgow’s best architecture, I like to think, and I need to be back soon.

Next is an article from the Metro giving eleven reasons why Glasgow is better than Edinburgh (flatter, smaller, cheaper, rocks, funnier, greener, not a building site, still functions in August, doesn’t have trams, isn’t touristy and puts salt and vinegar on chips). As a Glaswegian resident who grew up in the east, I agree with most of these. Salt and vinegar is just plain wrong, with salt and sauce on a chippy the food of champions. The aforementioned Glasgow Queen Street station is a building site right now though it’s easier to navigate that than Leith Street in the capital at the current time. Whether Glasgow is greener than Edinburgh, I’m dubious, especially since the first team to wear the green plays at Easter Road. No contest for the bits about still being able to get about the city centre in August and the tourist tat that fills much of inner Edinburgh.

After that was a clip from a BBC Scotland documentary about living with autism, featuring a girl called Chloe speaking with some incredible insight into her condition. Watch it here.

Recently the poet Kathleen Jamie wrote that she prefers not to use Scots when writing now. Here’s a response to that, written in Scots, naturally enough:

Ah felt sad recently when Ah read aboot the poet Kathleen Jamie whae has decidit no’ tae write in Scots any mair due tae the political connotations o’ writin’ in the language. Kathleen Jamie is yin o’ the best writers in these islands an’ anyhin she brings oot is eagerly snapped up. When Ah wis in Cambridge a year or twae ago, it wis her latest poetry collection, The Bonniest Companie, that Ah read amidst the learned folk doon there. Oor political cultyur is painfully polarised in Scotland, atween yoon an’ nat, wi’ precious fuck all room in atween. As a person whae hasnae yit decidit how Ah feel aboot independence, particularly wi’ Brexit an’ the utter, utter bawbags in cherge in Westminster, the nationalists dinnae hae the monopoly on how we speak. Ye cin be a very proud Scot, very proud, but no’ vote fir the SNP. Wurds cin be political, of course they cin, but they at least ur universal an’ nae writer should be deterred fi’ usin’ them.

Below that in my inbox was an article from the Evening Times back in March about possibly introducing a congestion charge in Glasgow city centre. The Labour group on the Council put an amendment that’s going to the Administration Committee to consider. I don’t think it’s a bad idea then again I’m amazed anyone drives in Glasgow at all, given how good our public transport system is over much of the greater Glasgow area.

Also worth sharing is an article about the writer Jessie Kesson, a pioneer of Scottish literature and an interesting woman to boot. Dani Garavelli is a fine journalist and writes incisively about many things for many outlets. She’s the kind of person we need in the world, her and Jessie Kesson both.

Finally, to sort of tie in with the bit earlier about Scots, I also had a brilliant blog post from the Scottish Book Trust’s website by Donald Murray about the joy of Gaelic and Gaelic words in particular. I can’t do it any justice, go read it and see for yourself.

Right, that’s my inbox a bit emptier now. Cheers just now.

Thanks for reading. To clear the backlog of posts here, I’ve decided to do a rejig. For the next three weeks, Streets of Glasgow moves to Fridays while Loose Ends feature on Sundays. I love both these series and being an unrepentant enthusiast, I want to share these places I’ve been to. Cadogan Street will be here on Friday.

The beginning

I don’t normally post on a Monday but I wrote it yonks ago and this keeps being pushed down the list. Here it is.

I recently read So They Call You Pisher!, the memoir of children’s author Michael Rosen, and greatly enjoyed it. A fair few bits of the book grabbed me, particularly a discussion about his years studying English at Oxford University. He attended one lecture where the lecturer proceeded to spend a whole hour talking about one word in the epic poem ‘Beowulf’. The word was ‘Hwaet’, apparently the origin of the English word ‘what’. Rosen writes: ‘In this moment of the epic it means ‘Lo!’ or ‘Listen!’ It’s how the storyteller grabbed people’s attention’. It got me thinking about writing more generally. At high school I was taught that the first line is incredibly important in any piece of writing. It shapes how the piece will go for both the writer and the reader. Sometimes they come to me right away and I can go at a canter through the whole thing. Other times, they just don’t.

I like concision. I’m not always good at condensing down so I admire those who can. I’ve written here about Muriel Spark who was able to distil a whole lot of character traits, even a whole atmosphere to a few carefully-chosen words. Muriel Spark was a poet and there are quite a few writers who use poetry to craft their prose, for flow and brevity, Robert Macfarlane and Roger Deakin being but two. I myself used to write poetry when I was a teenager. There was a point when I wrote more poetry than I did prose and it was hard to switch between them. For lots of years I’ve written stories in the form of a dialogue like a script and I think that’s helped hone my style too, attempting to write in my own voice or that of characters.

For me writing is about being natural and I try to write almost as I speak. Not quite since writing is essentially about keeping control of mind magma, putting those ideas into some sense. The first line does set a tone and I usually keep to a short sentence. Writing is about ducking and diving so the sentences can vary in length and in punctuation. It keeps things from getting boring. I like punctuation. Dashes and semi-colons are my friends. Commas are good. They are natural pauses. That very rare creature, the Oxford comma, is very useful and I am in favour of them. I read this morning that Kirsty Logan does too so I’m in good company. (For more Oxford comma goodness, try and follow @IAmOxfordComma on Twitter. You’ll be glad you did. Don’t listen to Vampire Weekend who had a song with the lyric ‘Who gives a fuck about the Oxford comma?’ I do, Vampire Weekend, so beat it.)

I wish we could begin all sentences with ‘Lo!’. An Act of Parliament in the UK, but not the Scottish Parliament, Welsh or Northern Irish Assemblies incidentally, begins with the great phrase: ‘Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—’ What an amazing phrase! This was taken from the Northern Ireland Budget Act 2017, incidentally, which I’m sure is important but deeply boring to actually read, especially if you’re not a lawyer. It sounds like magic. That’s what words are, though. They are portals to another world and help us to understand and make sense of this one. It isn’t a bad idea to begin anything with ‘what’ either, since through writing we can very often find the answers we have been searching for, if only we start with the right questions.

Sources and further reading –

Rosen, Michael, So They Call You Pisher! A Memoir, 2017, London: Verso, p. 266

Northern Ireland Budget Act 2017 – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2017/34/introduction/enacted

Streets of Glasgow: Waterloo Street

Most Streets walks happen in the daytime, often on Sundays, otherwise in the middle of the working day. Before this one, I had only done one on a Saturday night – Queen Street – and it was a strange experience, trying to be all psychogeographic and admire the architecture while other folk are enjoying the joys of a Glasgow Saturday night. On Waterloo Street there was a couple winching up a close and a bit of pavement dancing, some laddies play-fighting as they walked up the street. Meanwhile I walked along the street and looked at the architecture, which was quite varied. There are quite a few swish glass corporate offices, including SSE, JD Morgan and Aberdein Considine, as well as more brutalist 1960s stuff closer to the motorway. There was also the troubling juxtaposition of a typical Glasgow red sandstone building with a finial right next to a smoky glass office block. It was a right hotchpotch, really.

Beyond the SSE building as I headed west was a pub. Above that pub was an elegant red sandstone building, complete with statues, including one looking down as if sitting on the ledge. I could imagine the pub’s bouncers looking quizzically as I wheeched out my phone and took a few photos. I actually liked the JP Morgan building. Despite it being a temple of Mammon, it sort-of fitted in with its surroundings and particularly the stunning older building across the street with the high arched windows. I got the sense as I walked that Waterloo Street was a place to work hard and play hard, with the pubs plus the posh Marco Pierre White restaurant which was housed in what looked like an old bank. By the sign was a strange symbol, a handle with a circular top, maybe a pizza slice or a magnifying glass. Answers on a postcard for that one.

Not far away was the aforementioned red sandstone Glasgow building right by the smoky glass office block. The red sandstone building seemed like it was overcompensating for the modernity around it with cupolas, statues and railings above ground, all the stuff that makes Glasgow city centre such a joy to look up in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Prince Charles. I like a lot of modern architecture. I like things in glass. It makes me feel like I’m in Manhattan. Waterloo Street was a nice mix. The building across from SSE was a cracker, very like the buildings on Hope Street in particular with the pillars and the many, many windows.

During most of my life, I tend to have a tune in my head. Sometimes they can be things I’ve been listening to elsewhere, other times they can be entirely random. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this walk was soundtracked by Abba, particularly by the point I reached the end of the line, as the road joined the M8 bound eventually for the Kingston Bridge. There it was also a junction with Bishop Lane, leading to the Hilton, and also Pitt Street with Telephone House on the corner with its art deco stylee. The 1960s space age resumed with the twisting, spiralling pedestrian bridge curving off into the distance. I felt I had travelled quite a bit from Central Station in just a few metres, from city centre Glasgow to the edge of another adventure, even if it was just a few metres into Cadogan Street.

This is the thirty second Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Others nearby include Gordon Street, Hope Street and Cadogan Street, which follows here on Friday.