Streets of Glasgow: North Frederick Street

North Frederick Street is another street with a counterpart in Edinburgh, albeit without the ‘North’ in the capital. It is another road to George Square and I took it on the way somewhere else, a spur-of-the-moment decision to slow down and do some psychogeography en route. After I took the ritual photo of the street sign I heard the clanking of money in pockets and a couple came past me, evidently happy in love, by the end playfully pushing, shoving and laughing. I valiantly resisted the urge to boke as I carried on. On North Frederick Street is a huge tower block occupied by the City of Glasgow College, probably the most known of its properties since its top windows bear the city’s marketing slogan: People Make Glasgow. Indeed they do, annoying loved-up couples, solitary flaneurs and all. As I walked on, a very nice smell came from an Indian takeaway and I looked on a gradually shedding tree, a bit of nature in the heart of the city. People sat mutely in bus stops and I walked on, George Square dominating ever more of the view on this side street, mostly modern with a few gaps. Perhaps the most interesting bit about this street was its name, a suggestion of grander things amidst the office blocks.

Thank you for reading. This is the forty ninth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets which have featured in this series so far include George Square, George Street, John Street and Cathedral Street.


Design in Dundee

View to the roof and mezzanine, V and A Dundee
View to the roof and mezzanine, V and A Dundee

On Thursday I managed back to the new V and A Museum of Design in Dundee and spent a great couple of hours wandering around. I got a glimpse of the Scottish Design galleries and the temporary exhibition, Ocean Liners, which is fresh from the V and A down in London. It was a bright autumnal afternoon in Dundee and the sunshine shone through the portholes and down the slats that line the foyer of the building. There was a short wait to get into the Scottish Design galleries, the V and A operating a queuing system to ensure the galleries didn’t get too crowded. This was one of quite a few thoughtful touches around the place, including a quiet room and a Changing Places toilet.

Object wall, V and A Dundee Let Glasgow Flourish, object wall, V and A Dundee Mackintosh gallery, V and A Dundee

The Scottish Design galleries were magnificent. There wasn’t much of a linear structure so I could wander and look without losing the thread of what was going on. The collections, drawn from the V and A’s own holdings as well as from institutions across the country, were varied, mainly early modern or modern but encompassing video games and Robert Adam, Patrick Geddes and Alexander McQueen. The Mackintosh section, recreating a tea room, was wonderful, very appropriate given how Kate Cranston will be appearing on the latest Royal Bank of Scotland £20 note. It felt like being in the hallway at the Hill House, not at all a bad thing. There was a drawing from Patrick Geddes featuring a quote that neatly encompassed a lot of his work and what I feel about urban exploration:

‘Town plans are no mere diagrams, they are a system of hieroglyphics in which man has written the history of civilisation, and the more tangled than apparent confusion, the more we may be rewarded in deciphering it.’

From close to home were examples of the Paisley pattern and a beautifully illustrated ornithology book by Alexander Wilson. There were selections of lavish Turkey Reds from the Vale of Leven too.

This was only a small selection of what was there, a snapshot based on what jumped out at me. I hope to get back soon anyway and I think it will yield more on a second visit, the mark of a truly good museum.

Shipping advertising posters, V and A Dundee Swimsuit display, Ocean Liners exhibition, V and A Dundee Style display, Ocean Liners exhibition, V and A Dundee

The Ocean Liners exhibition was all about the glamour of big liners, their early history, construction and evolution. That normally wouldn’t be my bag but it was on and I was there. It was beautifully designed. At various points it really felt like being on a ship, including the crossing from the first room with shipping posters into a ship, complete with a water light effect on the floor. There were a lot of mirrors and good lighting choices which added to the overall effect. The middle room which featured an arrangement of swimsuits as well as smartly dressed mannequins was just magnificent, very well designed. It was worth it for the curatorial design choices alone, let alone the objects displayed. I should add that the exhibition exit featuring a dark room and a video screen above the exit door with seats at either side was a bit much for me but that didn’t overly detract from the experience.

Sitting in the cafe later, I enjoyed just looking around at the roof and the portholes, all sorts of triangles and sharp angles adding to the clever design making best use of the possible space. Some of the interior spaces felt like the Lighthouse in Glasgow, all sleek and modern. It being a bit quieter than my last visit made it a lot easier to savour the building and its collections. I left not a little inspired, which really is the mark of a good museum.

Saturday Saunter: 27th October 2018

I am starting this post on Thursday night, live from a Citylink bus powering along the A90 somewhere between Dundee and Perth. I’ve had a rather good day in Dundee, including a couple of hours in the new V and A. That was wonderful but I’ll not be writing about that today. A post all about the V and A will appear tomorrow instead. After the V and A, we had a good walk along the side of the Tay, encountering a McGonagall poem on the pavement by the Tay Bridge and a graffiti wall featuring some incredible work. And Count von Count from Sesame Street. Ha ah ah. We ducked into the DCA where there were two decent exhibitions, one of photos of the North and South Pole, the other video art about Detroit.

Count Von Count graffiti in Dundee
Count Von Count graffiti in Dundee
View from the Prom to North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock, Dunbar
View from the Prom to North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock, Dunbar

This week I’ve covered quite a lot of ground. On Monday I was in Dunbar and had a windy walk along the Prom to Belhaven. Tuesday I was in Manchester including a couple of cracking exhibitions at the National Football Museum, a photography exhibition by Stuart Roy Clarke called ‘The Game’ and the rather fabulous Bands FC.

As this is posted I may well be off somewhere. Current contenders include Kirkcaldy to go to my favourite art gallery or Edinburgh, just because. To be fair I am also in Edinburgh tomorrow but that’s going to be a walk along the Water of Leith so there’s plenty else to do.

To the books and I’ve managed to get through a wheen of books this week:

  • Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova
  • For Every One by Jason Reynolds
  • Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves
  • In A House Of Lies by Ian Rankin

I started the Nan Shepherd compilation Wild Geese earlier and I am near the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it in the thirteen years since it was published but it was one of the bits the film messed up.

As for the books I finished this week, the Jason Reynolds poetry one resonated quite a bit as it dealt with existential angst and the dying of dreams and all the stuff that afflicts people staring down the barrel of 30 like me. It was published by the wonderful 404 Ink, who put out good books including Hings by Chris McQueer and Nasty Women. Ann Cleeves is excellent though I must be one of the few people who have only encountered the Shetland series in book form not on the tellybox. I like Jimmy Perez as a character. In contrast to hard-drinking male detectives like Rebus, Jimmy Perez and Lorimer from Alex Gray’s books are more sensitive and often better characters. I like Rebus too but I’ve found lately I’ve enjoyed Ann Cleeves and Alex Gray more. Rebus is supposed to be retired and it just didn’t seem right in the latest one that he got shoehorned into another police investigation. Surely Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox could carry a book on their own?

For what it’s worth, my favourite detective is undoubtedly DS Roberta Steel from Stuart MacBride’s Logan MacRae novels. As an aside, I spent one very enjoyable lunchtime at work recently listening to the podcast version of Stuart MacBride’s event at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. He is one sarcastic son-of-a-gun.

Other recent podcast highlights include the Scotland Outdoors special featuring a tour round the Hebridean places that feature in Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy novels and – guilty pleasure time – the podcast version of the Ellen DeGeneres show. Yes, seriously. It’s presented by Ellen’s executive producers and features clips of interviews from the show. I can confirm I skipped the recent edition featuring Simon Cowell. Marina Hyde of the Guardian had it right when she called Cowell the Karaoke Sauron.

Anyway, gang, I’m just about home, quite near Cumbernauld to be precise, so I’ll wrap this up. More about the V and A appears tomorrow. Next Sunday here will be the October digest, I think. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a good Saturday whatever you get up to.

Streets of Glasgow: Woodlands Road

It was a bright autumnal afternoon as I walked down from Kelvingrove Park. Woodlands Road had been on the list for Streets of Glasgow for a while, another main road into the heart of the city ticked off. The afternoon was sunny and not for the first time in this series a lack of street signs brought doubt as to whether or not I was on the right street. Seeing the Stand Comedy Club soon put me right. I passed an old school on my right, another mighty red school house in the Glasgow Corporation style, now home to the Scottish TUC. On my left were tenements and trees bearing leaves turning yellow and soon to fall. I came to the roundabout but not before noticing a sign in a pub beer garden proclaiming it to be the Fanzone for the Glasgow Warriors rugby team. One can only imagine how genteel that gathering must be. Gin glasses tinkling, pheasant and venison burgers nibbled on. The very thought.

On a food theme, another pub I passed had a sign in the window: ‘Yo Shizzle Kitchens’. I don’t speak gangsta nor foodie so I’m not sure if that’s an endorsement of the food on offer or not. The Asian food shop I passed nearer Charing Cross definitely looked good, sweets piled high in the window in towers and walls. The buildings along the way were mostly conventionally Glaswegian, some yellow, others red sandstone, one even bearing a turret at its top. Some of the bollards on the street were colourful mosaics like those on Great Western Road, giving a greater sense of community as I walked along.

Not far along was a statue in honour of Bud Neill, a cartoonist of the parish. Having no little Glaswegian genetic matter myself, I recognised the figure of Lobey Dosser, Neill’s Western creation, the Sheriff of Calton Creek. I also encountered a nuanced bit of marketing from the Free Presbyterian Church along the way, with an arrow pointing towards its Bookroom and the slogan ‘Repent ye, and believe the Gospel’ from Mark 1:15. It was shut as I passed, so no Gospel for me. The West End Saturday night was in evidence with a takeaway box with a plastic fork sticking in the top plonked on top of a bin. It almost looked like an art installation, a bid perhaps for the Turner Prize.

I soon came to Charing Cross and the end of another walk. I like walking along Woodlands Road anyway and it was absolutely no hardship on a beautiful autumnal Sunday, between all the folk just enjoying the sunshine. Another walk down and onto the next.

Thank you for reading. This is the forty seventh Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured in this series so far include Sauchiehall Street, Otago Street and Glasgow Street.


Park Circus

I’ve been thinking for a little while about how to fill the Sunday post here. Last week was a walk along the Restalrig Railway Path in Edinburgh, more often recently it has been Loose Ends and connected trips around Scotland. This week’s offering will be about a place that has been on my to-see list for a little while and just so happens to be in Glasgow. I was out last Sunday afternoon and managed to get quite a lot of wandering done. Some of the results of this you will see in the coming weeks in Streets of Glasgow posts.

Last Sunday was gorgeous, a proper lovely autumnal day. I had a lie in and decided well after lunchtime to go out for the afternoon about the town. I walked along for a bus and a short while later got off on Sauchiehall Street, not far from Charing Cross at this side of the motorway. I was bound for Park Circus where I was pretty sure there was a monument and a viewpoint. The walk up a gentle slope and then steps was rewarded by a lovely Hindu cultural centre and then further up with a view across the south of the city, including the Armadillo, Hydro, Finnieston Crane and the Moss Heights, not far from where I live. Even this was good enough for me though as I rounded the corner I came into Kelvingrove Park and up to the memorial. The view was incredible, Glasgow University dominating the landscape, the neat houses of the West End to my right, Kelvingrove, Yorkhill and southern Glasgow to my left. I wasn’t alone – after all, it was a beautiful day with folk on the benches all around, others taking photos, some just talking and enjoying the day. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been there before and I had picked just the right day with the autumn colours burning and thrilling in the sunshine. The view might just be clearer and sharper as the winter came, I thought, as I smiled and walked on bound for another adventure and another place ticked off my list as I went.

Thank you for reading. A Streets of Glasgow post appears here on Wednesday.

Saturday, Saturday

Manchester Piccadilly railway station

New V and A museum, Dundee


Our agenda this morning is upcoming travels, books and any other business. Maybe in that order, maybe not. We’ll see. It’s Saturday morning and I am going all the way to Parkhead later to watch the Hibs. I am currently off for ten days with a few travels planned for the coming time. I have a couple of trips sorted already. I am off to Manchester on Tuesday and Dundee on Thursday. I will be in Edinburgh next Sunday and at some point I will try and get to Dunbar. I think I’m due a fix of my home town. Beyond that I’ll be having a few lie ins and trying my very best to read some books, maybe getting round to a few Glasgow jaunts too, probably resulting in a right few posts for the blog in the process. Manchester should be interesting. At time of writing, I have done absolutely no research for Manchester but I’m sure I’ll manage to cobble together a decent day.

I haven’t read so much this week. I have a lot of books on my tablet plus I’ve still got Maria Sharapova’s autobiography and We Only Want The Earth, Sandy Macnair’s rundown of Hibs’ fortunes last season. Also sitting by my bed are For Every One, a book of poetry by Jason Reynolds, which I bought mainly because it’s published by 404 Ink, an independent publisher from Edinburgh behind Nasty Women and bringing Chris McQueer to the world’s attention. The world or this corner of it are immensely grateful for that. I also have The Silver Darlings by Neil Gunn still. Digitally, though, I have the latest Ian Rankin and Ann Cleeves, which I might work through on my various journeys this week.

I did read The Railway Adventures by Vicki Pipe and Geoff Marshall, the duo behind All The Stations, the YouTube series from last summer going around each and every railway station in the land. It was a nicely illustrated book but I liked the attention-to-detail, the asides and quips that made it feel personal rather than just another travel guide.

Restalrig Railway Path

Talking of which, I’ve been thinking about last Sunday’s post, which was a walk along the Restalrig Railway Path. At the moment Sunday posts here are a bit freeform. Tomorrow’s, for example, is about the view from Park Circus here in Glasgow. Anabel’s comment on the Restalrig post got me thinking about the lesser-spotted parts of Edinburgh, the bits that aren’t on the tourist trail. Edinburgh, to many, is about the Old Town and Princes Street, maybe a diversion to the Botanic Gardens or the Royal yacht down in Leith. That stuff doesn’t interest me, or not very much. Off the top of my head, I have a few thoughts, either posts that I can write here from memory or would need a visit. For starters, though, I can recommend the beautiful Colinton Dell, on the Water of Leith walkway and which I hope to visit next weekend, or the equally lovely Hermitage of Braid, which I was in a few months ago. Both of which are well outside Edinburgh city centre though very reachable via public transport (Colinton Dell is near Slateford train station and served by many buses, particularly the 44, while the Hermitage gets the 5, 11, 15 and 16, if memory serves.)

Since I started writing this post the other night, I have added to the to-read pile. On Thursday I was killing time at Braehead on the way to work and ended up in Waterstone’s. Fatal mistake. I bought a new compilation of writings by Nan Shepherd, Wild Geese, which currently sits in my backpack. If it’s anything like the book of Muriel Spark’s essays I read a few years ago, it will be a big hit. My favourite book is The Living Mountain and the most popular post on this blog, thanks to Google, is It’s a grand thing to get leave to live, since those words appear on an RBS banknote. This new collection has been edited by Charlotte Peacock, whose fine biography of Nan Shepherd Into The Mountain came out last year. Charlotte Peacock also has a blog, which I can heartily recommend too. I think Wild Geese will be one of those books to savour and read slowly to get its best effect, like The Living Mountain and the best books, in my experience.

Anyway, that’s us for today. As ever, thanks for reading, liking, following, commenting. Tomorrow’s post here features Park Circus and Streets of Glasgow on Wednesday features Woodlands Road.

Have a very nice weekend.

Streets of Glasgow: John Street

Glasgow means different things to different people. To me it’s where I live, a place of culture, variety and strangeness. To others, it is music or crime. John Street is in the city centre and it is also where the police station was on Taggart, the long-running police procedural drama on STV. In that spirit, my walk down from Cathedral Street was soundtracked by the Taggart theme music. DCI Burke, Jackie and Robbie were nowhere to be seen, sadly. I walked past the Student Union and admired the side of the Royal College building last seen on George Street. Straight ahead was the archway leading to the back of the City Chambers, all pillars, sculptures, towers and cupolas. Even on a Sunday, there were a few people dotting about, tourists taking photos. I did the same and generally revelled in the architectural splendour, the back of the City Chambers truly stunning and even nicer than the front.

Across the road the cafes were full. I looked up to see the Roman god statues of Mercury, one at either end. It was pleasantly cosmopolitan and I was cheered to see the rainbow flags flying proud there too. In a few short minutes I had walked from the busy Cathedral Street through reminders of No Mean City and the grandeur to the swish modern bars of the Merchant City, all on one street, Glasgow in miniature.

Thank you for reading. This is the forty seventh Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured so far include Cathedral Street, George Street, George Square, Cochrane Street, Ingram Street, Albion Street and Miller Street.

Railwalk: Restalrig Railway Path

I had seen signs for the Restalrig Railway Path a few times on the way to Easter Road but it was only when I was on a roundabout walk of Edinburgh that I finally ended up on it. From Salamander Street I saw a bridge over the road with people cycling across it and that swayed my decision. I turned onto Leith Links then onto the path. Walking above the street was great, feeling removed but not detached from the city around me. There were a few cyclists and walkers, even a family foraging for berries. To the left was Seafield Road, industrial premises and the sludge works, the right the crematorium and cemetery, trees lent greater beauty by a coy sunshine. I hadn’t been in the area since a funeral a few years back and thoughts turned definitely on. Behind the crematorium is the site of the old Eastern General Hospital, now a care home but once the place where babies from the east of the capital and East Lothian were born, including me. I didn’t check to see if they had put the plaque up yet.

The path soon curved and there were more trees. I soon realised from a sign that I was now in Restalrig, at the other side of a golf course from where I went to primary school. The path now sat in a dip with houses at either side. Nearer Lochend allotments came to my right and smart flats to the left. Bridges came at regular intervals with signs telling the casual visitor where they were, which was appreciated as while I was on very familiar terrain, I had never been on this path before. I knew I would soon come to Hawkhill Avenue, round the back of Easter Road. The cantilever atop the Famous Five Stand peeked above the wall, the modern Lochend Butterfly flats dominating the landscape. A kid cycled around and around the path, waiting for his mum and dad to catch up. I turned left onto Hawkhill Avenue and I was back in urban Edinburgh once more. Some time I’ll finish the walk, finishing near the top of Easter Road the street, but it felt right to finish near my spiritual home, even on a quiet Sunday.

Thank you for reading. This is the first of a new series here on Walking Talking, probably occasional rather than weekly. Something entirely different will be here next week.

Book blethers

Well, it’s Saturday morning again. I am on my way to work just now so here’s one I prepared earlier.

Books. I spend a lot of time around them, at work and of course at home. I’ve recently moved house and as part of it I decided to downsize fairly drastically. Before the move I must have had 500+ books, most of them living in a cupboard though some also ended up in a box or beside my bed. Over a couple of days I went through them and filled a grand total of 14 supermarket bags for life and a suitcase full of books to go to charity, some of the best of them donated to the library. I don’t have any strong feelings about it. Working in libraries and having weeded thousands of books has rid me of any sentimentality. I think there’s some catharsis there from having shed some of the many, many books I would never have read, some of them presents, most bought with good intentions. I’m glad they will go to good use, even for recycling. This is also not an invitation to get me any more either.

A few weeks ago I wrote that I was intending to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, a book I found in the clearing out process. I managed to read it in a couple of sittings, finishing it on the train to Edinburgh one day. It was one of those books that shakes up your head and leaves you feeling a bit woozy afterwards. That’s a good thing. The best fiction does that. The Bell Jar covers all sorts of different notes and themes, a period piece in its insights into 1950s New York and how mental illness used to be treated, certainly, but also universal and timely in how it covers feminism and loneliness too. I believe that in most things it is right to get out of habits now and then, particularly with reading. I bought the book a few years ago with good intentions, probably because I had heard of it at some point. I tried to read it on its own terms, not seeing it as some seminal tome but just as the book I was currently reading, and it wasn’t bad at all.

The next on the ‘books I bought ages ago but never got round to’ list is The Silver Darlings by Neil Gunn. It’s sitting by my bed as I type this. I bought it years ago, it might even have been a gift, and one of my teachers used to talk about it as one of her very favourites. More recently I’ve discovered that Neil Gunn was also a mentor to Nan Shepherd, author of my favourite book, The Living Mountain, which is certainly another reason to read it, to establish a broader context to that great book. The Silver Darlings, according to the blurb, is about herring and the Highland Clearances, a struggle with landlords and nature. I look forward to finally getting round to it. I’m off on leave soon so might get round to it then.

Incidentally, in the move, I discovered my original copy of The Living Mountain. I had bought a replacement a couple of years ago plus I have an eBook on quite a few different devices. I bought the original at one of the National Trust castles in Aberdeenshire, possibly Craigievar, and read it in my auntie’s conservatory in Aberdeen that night. It was very short but it made a lasting impression. I re-read it every so often, the last time on the way to the football earlier this year. Even though I’ve never been to the Cairngorms or even to the top of a mountain, reading Nan Shepherd’s words are usually just what I need, inspirational, life-affirming and just plain beautiful. I’ll hopefully get round to another re-read soon.

Well, that’s my book blethers for another week. Tomorrow there will be a post here about a recent walk I had along the Restalrig Railway Path in Edinburgh. I’m going to be trying a few things on Sundays in the next few weeks, maybe a new mini-series. Let me know what you think. Anyway, have a nice Saturday.

Streets of Glasgow: Glasgow Street

Yep, Streets of Glasgow finally came to Glasgow Street, just off Otago Street in the West End. It is one of the many West End streets that sits on a hill, leading eventually to Hillhead Street just up from the University. When I realised I was in the vicinity, it just had to be done, right after Otago Street and visiting a succession of bookshops. Glasgow Street is for the most part residential, lined with smart tenements in golden sandstone though Hillhead High School in its red sticks out. There are also lots of trees, the whole effect rather nice in the bright September sunshine. I walked quite happily, pacing myself for the steady inclines, looking up and down the lanes, sometimes seeing landmarks like the University Tower, other times the lanes winding off out of sight. It was a nice walk, not much to write about except nice to live in the present.

Thank you for reading. This is the forty sixth Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured in this series so far include Otago Street (which appeared here last week), University Avenue and Kelvin Way.