Walking talking

Good evening,

Tonight I was going to post a selection of photographs from where I’ve been in the last few months. I don’t feel like doing that tonight. There’s a lot going on in the world just now, not least the tragic death of musician Scott Hutchison which was announced today, and cheery photographs might not cut it this particular evening. Instead I would like to write about walking.

This blog’s title Walking Talking was intended to take the piss out of my East Lothian accent but also because I like both walking and talking. Sometimes I even do both at the same time, would you believe. I walk whenever I can. Most days it is usually to and from the bus stop, though on days off I walk further. This past Sunday, for example, I walked a mile or two to Crookston Castle. Along the way I thought a bit. I do a lot of thinking. Not all of it positive, I tend to overthink a lot of things. But walking tends to ease that a bit since there are new things to focus on in the world around me as I pass by. On that walk, I thought about signposts and the blog post that was possibly going to come out of it. I remembered the last time I had done that walk, on an almost as nice day about two years before. I had hoped to get back to explore the nearby Rosshall Gardens but it didn’t happen. My head slowed down a bit as the rest of me kept a steady pace, one foot in front of another.

I grew up by the sea and I associate the seaside with calm and comfort, even though I now live a distance from any waves. At high school I didn’t have a lot of friends so I used to go sit by the sea and eat my sandwiches. Thinking on it now, it probably did me good to clear my head away from the hubbub of the hectic school day. I still do that sometimes. A week or so ago, I was on relief and at lunchtime I took my lunch about fifteen minutes away to the foot of the Gleniffer Braes with a view right across Paisley to the hills. A mostly urban picture but it worked that day.

The last time I was out by the sea was this past Monday. I went to Dunbar briefly and wandered over to the Battery, Lamer Island, which was fairly busy but I managed to ignore the other folk and just look out at that beautiful and endearingly familiar view towards the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law, the centre of my universe even though I live at the other side of the country. I felt my heartbeat slow for those few minutes as I walked and then I stood.

What I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of people who struggle with every day. Sometimes I’m one of them. I walk and it helps. Other things do too. On Sunday I’m going to see Hibs and football’s a major release for me, especially if the Hibees are on form as I hope they’ll be once more against that mob from Govan. I am lucky that I have ways to release. A lot of people don’t have that. Walking works for me, it doesn’t for everyone. That’s okay. We are all different, we all have our lives to live.

There are other people who can advise far better than I can about mental health and self care. It is nice that social media has been full of messages today encouraging everyone and men in particular to be open about their mental health, good or otherwise. This can only be positive. That’s where talking comes in. That has been known to work too.

Thanks for reading. Normal service will be resumed on Sunday with a Streets of Glasgow post, this time Waterloo Street.

There are numerous places to seek help if you need to. Here are just two.

Samaritans –

116 123 (24 hours)

jo@samaritans.org

www.samaritans.org

Breathing Space – 

0800 83 85 87 (Mon-Thur 6pm-2am, Fri 6pm-Mon 6am)

breathingspace.scot

Sunshine

Aaron Sorkin created quite a few TV series, most famously The West Wing and the much underrated Sports Night. He was also behind HBO’s The Newsroom. In one notable episode, set around the time US forces killed Osama bin Laden, Jeff Daniels’ character Will McAvoy had a party in his New York apartment, at one point duetting with Jim Harper on guitar on a song called ‘Sunshine’, with the lyric ‘Sunshine go away today, I don’t feel much like dancing’. Try and find it: it’s a nice song, originally released by Jonathan Edwards. Though it’s about the Vietnam War, it could also sum up how I feel a lot of the time about warm weather, which is surely almost upon us after a few nice days in the middle of April before coming right back down to earth. This past weekend was quite warm, to be fair.

While I’m happy not to wear a coat for a bit, I also tend to overheat very easily. Combine that with nice weather and tendency to walk fast and I don’t tend to do well. Very hot days usually see me in the shade whenever possible. The days I really loathe, though, are cloudy, clammy days. At least with the sunshine there’s light, wispy clouds and a sense of optimism. Having grown up in Dunbar with sunshine ever tempered by a near constant wind means I function best in moderate climes, just shy of twenty degrees max. T-shirt weather but not enough to break a sweat. I moved to Glasgow just shy of five years ago in July in the middle of a heatwave. I could be forgiven for imagining it’s like that here all the time, the recent heavy snow finally putting paid to that notion.

In really warm weather, I’ll break out shorts. As I wrote about recently in the post Some blethers, I’m quite self-conscious about my appearance, perhaps made worse by also having acne into my late twenties, though I’m relatively unbothered about wearing shorts outside. Billy Connolly said once that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes and that’s true. As it gets warmer I’ll swap long sleeves for short sleeves, going for shorts when it really merits it. I even managed to achieve a small personal ambition and wear shorts to Easter Road to watch Hibs the other week. For those who don’t know it, Easter Road can be a very cold place to watch football, being fairly close to the Forth. I will never make a male model but I’m learning in my years not to care and to dress for comfort rather than speed.

I don’t know what the solution is. I can dress for the weather but not spend too much time in it. That won’t work. There’s too many places to see and to be, many best seen with the sun on your back. Maybe the best solution is to adopt an amber alert and proceed with caution, slowing down as well as taking the usual precautions, just getting out in the world and hoping the pollen count doesn’t get too high.

Thanks for reading.

Loose Ends: Linlithgow Palace

From Aberdour there were a whole load of places I could have gone. I strongly considered Glasgow Cathedral, not only because I live in Glasgow and can reach the Cathedral in well under an hour from the house, though I decided I would try and get back there and decided on another place used as a setting in Outlander, Linlithgow Palace. It helped that I was overdue a visit and each time I passed on the train, I thought ‘I should go’. One Friday recently I did just that, rocking up there on a pleasant spring afternoon. As I walked up the hill, I gazed towards the gatehouse with the crests of four orders held by James V, the Order of the Thistle a possible connection with the High Kirk of St. Giles in Edinburgh. I walked around the side of the Palace. Every time I go, I always see something new. This time it was the buttresses on the eastern side of the Palace for I hadn’t ever walked under them before. That was swiftly remedied and I appreciated the new angle of the Palace from underneath. I also paid close attention to the angles and details of the exterior as I walked.

I headed on in and then downstairs first. I usually do each level of the Palace in turn, picking a corner and circling around. This time I fancied going down first, soon ending up in the kitchen downstairs, a possible link to the similarly big court kitchen at Dirleton Castle. I walked upstairs and around the Palace, stopping to eat my sandwich in the Great Hall, albeit in one of the big windows rather than at a banquet table set for the great and good. The bit of wind gave me an unusual sense of vertigo as I climbed the tallest tower, looking right out over West Lothian towards Falkirk on one side and the Forth Bridges on another.

Linlithgow and I have many personal connections too. I went there for camp when I was at primary school, once orienteering around the Peel in the snow and ice. I’ve been there with family and friends. I remember one time being there and my companion complaining of the many, many stairs. I wasn’t too sympathetic, as I recall. I’ve often said that Linlithgow is like Dunbar but with better train links. Linlithgow High Street has a few independent shops but less than Dunbar, the local bakers now shut too sadly.

Despite the connections to Dunbar, Dirleton, Edinburgh and the Forth Bridges, I decided to go next to Stirling, handily reachable in under an hour so I could do two that day. Mary, Queen of Scots was born in Linlithgow. I thought her father, James V, was born in Stirling, though I’ve since discovered he was born in Linlithgow Palace too. No matter, for Mary was crowned in Stirling, as was her father who also developed the Castle. It was Stirling for the next trip, which follows here in two weeks time.

This is the second post in the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The first was Aberdour Castle and the third Stirling Castle, which appears here in two weeks time.

Next Sunday there will be a Streets of Glasgow post which is Waterloo Street.

Causeway cliffs

I rarely watch TV as it’s being broadcast, preferring instead to delve into the bottomless reaches of catch-up and YouTube. The iPlayer is one of the great wonders of the modern age. One recent Saturday night, I watched a series from BBC Alba about the North Coast 500, a road trail around the bit of Scotland furth of Inverness. It was cracking so I looked for similar programmes. One was Coast Lives, from BBC Northern Ireland, about the coastline of Northern Ireland. I’m watching one of them now where the presenter is rafting under the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. I’ve been to said rope bridge and quite honestly even though I have no measurable boating expertise I would prefer to raft under it than cross it again. Even on the beautiful, warm summer’s day I was there a few years ago, it was frightening with a definite sense of vertigo ensuing.

Coast Lives reminded me of a walk I took the day before. I was there on holiday with my dad about four years ago, just prior to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In fact we hit Glasgow as the Opening Ceremony was in progress. Anyway, that day we went to the Giant’s Causeway, getting the bus along the coast from Ballycastle where we were staying. It was cloudy but unbelievably warm. Indeed the following day the Giant’s Causeway was the warmest place in the British Isles, hitting the high twenties. We got to the Giant’s Causeway about 10am and sat there for a bit. It wasn’t too busy at that point of the day. It was beautiful, looking out to sea and marvelling at the rocks around me. A few years before, we had been to Staffa, off Mull, and the basalt formations are much the same. I don’t pretend to understand the geology. I just liked being there, watching the waves and contemplating life’s imponderables.

We ended up walking along the clifftop for much of the way back to Ballycastle, the cliffs darkening then lightening, the path hugging the cliffs then meeting a few interesting coves and harbours. We had been walking through the heat of the day and we eventually gave up and got a bus the rest of the way just short of the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in a place called Ballintoy.

Northern Ireland gets a lot of tourist attention, mainly now because of Game of Thrones. Or that boat built in Belfast and sunk by an iceberg not in Belfast. When I see programmes like Coast Lives, or the BBC Alba one about the North Coast 500, I want to book tickets and go. This year might be more likely to get up north so I’ll just need to settle for the telly and my memories of the place, by the Causeway and on the walk back, even if the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge still makes me nauseous just thinking about it.

Thanks for reading. The next post here will be on Sunday and it’s part of the new Loose Ends series, this time about Linlithgow Palace.

Digest: April 2018

April’s over and it’s featured snow and sunshine, not always at the same time. I’ve worn a thick jacket and shorts, though definitely not at the same time. So, it’s Digest time, beginning on the tres, tres cold Easter Monday. I took a train into town and as it stopped waiting for a platform at Central, I took a photo of a warehouse in the process of demolition. I stopped off in Edinburgh and managed to source a Stephen’s steak bridie or two for lunch before getting the train down to Dunbar, where it was cold and windy. It often is there though it doesn’t snow very often. Despite it being baltic, I felt in the mood for a walk and ended up walking as far as Tyninghame, sheltered for much of the way by the woods and then heading inland up a muddy track. At Tyninghame I grabbed a bus up to North Berwick where it was even colder. I got a bus into Edinburgh and headed home. It snowed as the bus headed along the M8 towards Glasgow. At least two blog posts have resulted from the Dunbar walk, namely Dunbar in the snow and Defences.

The following day Hibs played at night and I was there. It was wet, I think.

That Friday I had a Glasgow day, with two Streets of Glasgow walks. I had the notion to do a Streets walk on Firhill Road, partly because of the cool mural I had heard about at one end of Partick Thistle’s ground and also because I had featured streets near the grounds of Rangers, Celtic and Queen’s Park but not the Sizzle. The Firhill mural is excellent and I’m glad I got there. On the way across town, I decided to put Streets on hiatus, not because I don’t enjoy writing it but because I felt it was time for it to take a break. The last Streets walk was deliberately chosen, Addison Road, which is near the Botanic Gardens. It started to rain as I came the other way and I hid out in the Kibble Palace until it dried off a bit. From there I wandered up Ashton Lane and Cresswell Lane before walking into town along Woodlands Road and then Renfrew Street, which may feature in Streets when it starts up again.

The following Sunday found me out and about again though not with a great masterplan of where to go. When I was on the train into town, my eye fell on a poster advertising a Lego exhibition at Aberdour Castle in Fife, a place I like. I found myself trudging up to the bus station and then on a bus to Dunfermline, changing there for another to Aberdour. The Lego exhibition didn’t excite me a great deal as I would rather go and see places then see them represented in brick form. Aberdour is a cracking castle though with a painted ceiling and interesting gardens. It was also where the new Castle connections series was conceived – it’s since been renamed Loose ends, inspired by reading the poem ‘Scotland’ by Hugh MacDiarmid. The next post in that series will appear on Sunday 6th May. That day in Aberdour, though, I also walked down to the Forth and looked out towards Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Back to Fife the next Saturday as once more I didn’t have a grand plan. I found myself on a bus to St. Andrews though as I got closer to that fine town, I had a notion to check out a football match even though Hibs weren’t playing. My two options within distance were East Fife vs. Arbroath or Raith Rovers vs. Queen’s Park. The fact that St. Andrews was mobbed made the decision easier and I ended up on a bus out of there after a polite walk around the town streets. The bus to Leven, where I would have to change, had great views across the hills and then the Forth too as the bus came into Lundin Links and Upper Largo. I was bound for the San Starko to see Raith Rovers play Queen’s Park and I got into the Penman Stand just before kick off and in time to see Roary Rover, Raith’s mascot, dancing to Taylor Swift. Game finished 2-0. After the game I got the bus to Edinburgh, had a wander then had a very fine chippy sitting in the gardens on London Road.

That week I had an OU essay to write. It got written and I was even under the word count.

On the Friday I decided to go to Linlithgow as part of the Loose Ends series. Linlithgow Palace, like Aberdour, appeared in Outlander. It is also one of my favourite places on the planet and I was glad to wander about for an hour in the pleasant April sunshine. I had my piece sitting in the great hall. What I did which I had never done before was walk under the buttresses at the Peel side of the Palace, a new perspective on a familiar place. From Linlithgow there’s lots of connections though I decided to find another I could do that day and found myself on a train to Stirling. Stirling Castle is my favourite big castle in Scotland and it’s linked to Linlithgow by being where Mary, Queen of Scots, born in Linlithgow, was crowned. It’s also managed by Historic Environment Scotland, as is Aberdour. I was happy just to wander about Stirling, not bothering with the Stirling Heads and instead just looking out across central Scotland and beyond to some mountains.

The following day I went to watch Hibs decisively beat Celtic 2-1 on a warm sunny afternoon in Leith. After that I went for a swift walk around Morrison’s Haven, just outside Prestonpans. The sunshine was beautiful, the surroundings even finer. It was great to be there, even briefly.

The next Saturday, last Saturday, Hibs were playing Kilmarnock and I headed through a bit earlier to sit up Calton Hill to think, look and remember.

On Sunday I went to Cumbrae. We parked in Largs then got on the ferry. Millport is a very pleasant town and the sunshine just made it and the views to Ailsa Craig, Arran and Lesser Cumbrae all the more spectacular. The Cathedral of the Isles and its labyrinth were particularly interesting. I’ll write a longer post next week about it. I managed to get sunburnt, keeping up the fine tradition I have of getting burned in the most exotic places, like last year on the ferry to Arran or a few years ago at Lochleven Castle near Kinross.

So, that’s us for April.

I try to keep up with other blogs and last night I was on the way home and read a post on FiveThirtyEight, an American politics blog, about posts they wish they had written. I think they in turn had nicked the idea from Bloomberg. In the Books post last week, I recommended Wednesday’s Child‘s post about bookmarks. Alex Cochrane’s post from the other night about Grangemouth is also worth a look. I like the way they write and their subject matter particularly, which is usually about lesser-spotted places and sights, always insightful and showing another side beyond the obvious. This Digest originated from Anabel Marsh’s monthly digest, the most recent instalment of which appeared the other day. She features a Scottish Word of the Month and included a fair few synonyms for being drunk, including my personal favourite jaked. I drop in a few Scots words here – indeed I wrote a post in Scots here not so long ago – though the only one I can share off the top of my head is ‘fleein’ which can also mean drunk.

The next post here on Walking Talking is about the Northern Irish coast and that will appear on Friday. Loose Ends appears this coming Sunday with a post about Linlithgow Palace.

As I was revising this post last night, news came that the Glasgow Women’s Library, which I visited and wrote about last year, has been nominated for the Art Fund Museum of the Year, alongside Brooklands Museum, Ferens Art Gallery, the Postal Museum and Tate St. Ives. It is brilliant that GWL are nominated for this award. GWL benefits the city and the wider world by its mere existence, let alone the fine work it does. Hope they win.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers.

Posts this month –

Streets of Glasgow: Trongate

Some thoughts…

Digest: March 2018

Manchester and Liverpool

Streets of Glasgow: University Avenue

Dunbar in the snow

Defences

Walking across the Forth Road Bridge

Streets of Glasgow: Kelvin Way

Castle connections

Some blethers

Leith Walk the other way

Streets of Glasgow: Bath Street

Crossing the road

Books

Streets of Glasgow: Dundas Street