Intercity

Scotrail come in for quite a bit of stick. To be fair they do some things very well and other things very badly. Their marketing campaigns at the moment tend to focus on the new class 385 trains now running between Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as the Intercity services with refurbished High Speed Trains coming into service connecting Scotland’s seven cities. Those are quite cool. I haven’t been on one yet but I’ve seen some of the trains, complete with the silhouettes of prominent landmarks painted on the side.

The Intercity trains gave me an idea for a new series here on Walking Talking, one to get me out on the road across the country visiting each of Scotland’s seven cities. I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks now and at first I was going to find a street name that each of Scotland’s cities have in common and do a walk on all of them. High Street is too obvious, King Street was possible, as was Queen Street. On a walk the other night, I briefly considered Union Street, but there isn’t an Union Street in Perth. Eventually I decided to pick a street in each of Scotland’s cities and go for a walk, in true psychogeographical fashion. But to make it more interesting I decided that the chosen street should be the first one that came to mind when I thought of that city. The exception is Glasgow since I live here and I’ve written about fifty two streets in this city already for this blog.

Since this is my show and I can make the rules, I’ve decided to twist it slightly. I associate Dundee with two streets that join onto each other so I’m going to write about them. Same with Stirling, which will be part of the walk from the city centre up to the Castle.

I am not sponsored by Scotrail or any other transport company so I won’t necessarily be travelling by train to complete this particular quest. For Edinburgh, Stirling and Perth, most likely; Glasgow, probably.

Next week the series will start in Glasgow and then break out across the country every now and then, basically when I can fit a walk in. Inverness and Aberdeen are a bit harder to manage than Edinburgh, Stirling or Perth, for example, and require more planning. My last series Loose Ends often happened because I could find a connection wherever I happened to be but this can’t be like that. I can’t do Aberdeen after work, for example. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, for what it’s worth, so we’ll see how it goes, beginning next week down by the Clyde…

Thanks for reading. As of February 2019, I have managed six of the seven cities, Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth and Inverness.

Advertisements

Books of 2018

As promised, a special post going into the best books I’ve read this year. I should explain that I haven’t made a list of what I’ve read in 2018 so I’m going on memory. The most recent book I read (as I write this in early December) was Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming, which was interesting, not least in how it went more into Mrs Obama’s life prior to her husband becoming President of the United States than the time their family lived in the White House. She came over well, writing with verve, insight and intellect about her life and the experiences she had. I just finished it a few minutes before I started this post.

This year I’ve read more than in any year since I was a teenager. That’s despite working full-time, studying for the first part of this year and keeping up with life and blogging. I read fairly quickly, often when I’m travelling though sometimes on work breaks or at home, as today. I read print books and digitally too, rarely buying given what I do for a living. I can go from reading non-fiction to novels, from crime to football depending on mood and inclination. I went through a Dervla Murphy phase earlier this year and I’ve read a fair few Muriel Spark novels too, helped by it being the centenary of Spark’s birth. Some poetry came through my hands, as well as The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, found when I was in the process of moving house. The latest Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, Quintin Jardine and Alex Gray novels were devoured, often a few hours after they came out. In between times, I read a few magazines and periodicals, mainly about football, including Nutmeg, which I contributed to this year, and Glory‘s issue about Irish football.

At this time of year a whole lot of lists of best books of the year appear. Usually they feature the latest popular titles, some which haven’t even been published yet, and very few that are older than six months. I’m not like that. I’ve read a few books published this year, the crime novels listed above plus Michelle Obama, For Every One by Jason Reynolds, amongst others, but I don’t feel a great urge to read the shiniest books right away. For HWFG by Chris McQueer, a selection of beautifully twisted short stories, I made an exception, reading it within a couple of days of receiving it and inhaling it over a couple of sittings. Rebecca Solnit’s new book of essays Call Them By Their True Names is an important book for our times, not just railing against Trump and the other forces of darkness but making a powerful case for the protection and vitality of language (and much else) in these political times. A selection of writings by Nan Shepherd, Wild Geese, also came out this year with some essays never published before, a slim but powerful volume. The Hidden Ways by Alistair Moffat provided inspiration for future adventures with the author walking various routes across our country, pilgrim trails, old railways and herring walks. 

Of the older titles, I enjoyed delving into Muriel Spark’s back catalogue. Of the ones I’ve read this year, I think The Finishing School, her last novel, was my favourite, a carefully created book closer to the modern world but not missing Spark’s unique logic and caustic wit. For something different, I read The Life and Death of St. Kilda by Tom Steel, an history of the people of that group of islands far out into the Atlantic, from their first interactions with the outside world to the eventual evacuation of the last islanders in 1930.

Culross

In the Best of 2018 post the other day, I wrote about my best reading experience, sitting on a bench on a sunny day in Culross reading a novella by Chris McQueer. I am often to be found on buses and trains with a book in hand and I can think of few things better, especially which are possible on a cold December day like this one.

My to-read pile is fairly big with some that have been sitting for months, waiting for their time. I have a couple beside my bed now with some in my locker at work and quite a few more on my iPad. Hopefully some of those will make the Best of 2019 list. In my experience the best book is not the last one but always the next one, the one which tempts and finally encourages you to open it to begin. Let’s see what next year brings.

Thanks for reading. I would be interested in hearing what blog readers have enjoyed reading this year. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Postscript: This is of course Saturday and I am away shortly to watch Hibs play. Today’s travelling book is Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, a book I’ve meant to read for a long time but haven’t got round to yet. It is part of a big pile of books I brought home but haven’t had much room to read so far. I think I overestimated my reading time over the holidays.

img_7360
My to-read pile

Best of 2018

Hope you all had a nice Christmas.

Well, it’s Boxing Day so it must be time for the eagerly anticipated Walking Talking Best of 2018! I actually quite like writing this post every year as I get to look back on some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had over the year, sometimes having my memory jogged by looking through photos as much as going on my first answer. The usual categories apply. Don’t be alarmed, though. There will be a separate Best Books of 2018 post on Saturday. This is about the places I’ve been this year, with a few new entries from last year. Without further ado, let us start with the best museum of the year.

Best museum –

Winner – V and A Dundee

Runner-up – National Football Museum, Manchester

Honourable mention – National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Quite an obvious choice this one. The V and A is great. It is very new and shiny, architecturally amazing with diverse and stimulating exhibitions inside too. The Scottish Design galleries show off the best this country has to offer, done with the style and class of the V and A.

The National Football Museum was also great, the Homes of Football and Bands FC exhibitions both tremendous, particularly for the links to the mighty Hibernian, a nice sign this far from home.

The National Museum of Scotland is tremendous. It always is, of course, with exhibits about Scotland and the wider world. The Rip It Up exhibition about pop music was braw.

Best art gallery – 

Winner – Baltic, Gateshead

Runner-up – Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow

The Baltic is a good favourite of mine. I’ve seen many fine exhibitions there over the years, including the Turner Prize and Martin Parr. It can be hit and miss, like all art. I was there as part of the Great Exhibition of the North in the summer and I loved the Idea of North exhibition, which delved into what the north actually means, and the Lubaina Himid exhibition of banners, Our Kisses Are Petals, complete with my favourite ‘Much Silence Has A Mighty Noise’ which would be on any flag for the incredible introverts of the world.

GoMA is of course in Glasgow and I like wandering around its halls. I have been there a couple of times this year. The Glasgow International exhibitions were good, particularly the street model that was on the second level.

Best historic place – 

Winner – Culross

Runner-up – Aberdour Castle

Culross was brilliant. I was there on a beautiful day over the summer. I sat and read (Leathered by Chris McQueer, since you ask) and wandered around its stunning 16th century buildings, the abbey and along the pier. The weather, its effect on the light, and reading in the sunshine made it the best of days.

Aberdour Castle appears here because it inspired the Loose Ends series that took up much of this year here on the blog. I love Aberdour anyway and particularly the painted ceiling which I spent several minutes admiring while lying on the floor.

Best library – 

Winner – Abbotsford

Runner-up – Glasgow Women’s Library

Honourable mention – any library I work in, of course

Abbotsford was the home of Sir Walter Scott and I was there over the summer, as the result of a Facebook recommendation, would you believe. The study then the library were glorious and I spent many minutes looking around their shelves before I looked out the big windows over the Tweed. An incredible place and when I’m a big boy, I want a library like that.

The Glasgow Women’s Library is a place of light in an ever darker world. I am proud that it exists, especially in this city. I need to get back to read more of their Dervla Murphy stock, which I started earlier in the year. Their Muriel Spark exhibition in the summer was tremendous. The ‘PISSEUR!’ print, inspired by A Far Cry From Kensington, was superb. They were robbed in not getting Museum of the Year too.

Any library I work in is very obvious. I have to be biased.

Best place to watch football – 

Winner – Easter Road Stadium, 9th March 2018

Runner-up – Coldstream, 22nd July 2018

9th March 2018 saw Hibs beat Hearts 2-0 at Easter Road. It was glorious, made even more so by the impeccably timed unveiling of a flag that read ‘Natural Order?’ taking the piss out of some poorly judged remarks by Hearts manager Craig Levein.

Coldstream involved watching the Hibs young team against Coldstream, standing by the pitch and having a good wander by the Tweed. It was a warm afternoon and the football was secondary to just being there in that fine place.

This category stays despite also writing a football blog.

Best fish supper – 

Winner – Anstruther Fish Bar

Runner-up – North Berwick Fry

The Anstruther Fish Bar is justly one of the most popular chip shops in the nation. It is in one of the nicest parts of the country too but even if it wasn’t, it would still be stowed out. Their lemon sole supper, sampled more than once this year but one Friday in August, on a bench drying after rain as I looked out to sea, it was truly, truly braw. Served with salt and sauce, as these things should always be.

The North Berwick Fry fish supper was also served by the sea and also with salt and sauce.

Best park – 

Winner – Kelvingrove Park

Runner-up – Dollar Glen

Kelvingrove Park is a very fine place. I’ve been there with my favourite little people, playing on the swings, or eating lunch during a training course. Or on a beautiful autumn day recently in order to get the right words for a blog post.

Dollar Glen technically isn’t a park. It is glorious, wild and dramatic, leading up to Castle Campbell. I was there on a gorgeous, warm day in the summer.

Best beach – 

Winner – Gullane Beach

Runner-up – Embleton

Gullane was visited one glorious day in May. It was very quiet but beautiful, warm and just a perfect place to be.

Embleton is another favourite, visited on a cooler day but another dear, familiar place.

So, that’s the 2018 Best Of. I had a look through the last three of these and there are quite a few new entries. Easter Road has appeared here before, so has Embleton, Glasgow Women’s Library, NMS and Culross and any library I work in. Writing this on a cold night in early December, the Gullane day, started with a wild game of football before heading out into East Lothian, was the best ever, warm, sunny and richly varied, like life at its best.

Next year there will be a few interesting things here. I turn 30 next year. Before then Intercity, walks in each of Scotland’s seven cities, will be happening. As this is published, I’ve managed three of those walks. I like to be thinking of the next thing though posts like this make me think of just how interesting this year’s jaunts have been.

I end each Saturday Saunter post with thanks to all readers, commenters and followers. It is a reflex but I truly mean it. I write this mainly for myself and it makes me happy to think other people get something from it too. Best of wishes to you all, thanks a lot again. Cheers just now.

Walking along the beach in December

Some people associate the beach with warm, sunny, wavy, hazy days of summer, maybe by the Mediterranean or in the Bahamas, people clad in bikinis or swimming shorts, the sand warm under foot, the drinks alcoholic and flowing. I of course grew up in the east coast of Scotland and what I’ve described just isn’t what I think a beach should be. It should preferably be quiet, sunshine and warmth is fine but not a prerequisite. The beach itself would be reachable from my home in a fairly short time, which certainly rules out the Bahamas, probably anywhere by the Med too. There should be waves, proper, crashing ones maybe with an accompanying wind. The dress code is up for debate but the kind of beaches I like tend to be best experienced wearing many, many layers. Maybe even a bunnet, scarf and gloves.

The other day I went to one of my favourite places on the planet, Aberlady Bay in East Lothian. I had been in Edinburgh the previous night, at the football, and while I was in the capital, I had the notion to head out into the wilds of East Lothian the next day, which I had off. Barely twelve hours after I had got off the Scotrail Express at Queen Street heading for home, I was back on it, going east again. After picking up supplies I was soon on the East Coast bus out to Aberlady, the express version, no less, skipping Musselburgh, Wallyford and the Pans in its haste to reach the coast.

It was grey, cloudy but not oppressive nor gloomy. It wasn’t cold either though I made sure I was wrapped up anyway. I got off the bus in Aberlady and walked by the coast road to Tranter’s Bridge, which I’ve written about here before as part of the Loose Ends series. The car park had a couple of vans in it but nothing much else. I crossed the bridge and started into the nature reserve, meeting only a couple of people along the way, including someone riding a mobility scooter, made possible owing to the well-made paths. The bay opened up as I walked and I could see up the coast towards Edinburgh, particularly Arthur’s Seat, the Castle and Calton Hill. Turning left and the capital disappeared, sand dunes higher on the horizon as I walked towards them.

I came to the biggest dune and made my way up, putting one foot before another into the clefts left by previous walkers. At the top I stood and looked back, my view to the left and behind to Aberlady and across to the Lammermuir Hills and Hopetoun Monument. Ahead was the beach, the sea and tankers beyond. Long steps down through the dune carried me down. The last time I had been on this beach was a warm afternoon in May. I sunbathed and everything, a rare move for me, and it was utterly joyful. I sat and read, looked out to sea, lay back and relaxed for an hour or two. It was of course entirely different this time. The sun was nowhere to be seen and it was at least seventeen degrees colder but it was no less braw, with not too much of a wind but waves still crashing to the shore. I could look around and see rain on the horizon, at first towards the Forth Bridges, by the time I left moving east up the Forth towards Burntisland and Kinghorn.

John Muir wrote about the benefits of being in nature, of keeping ‘close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean’. With every step I felt my spirit being scrubbed, the day-to-day not quite eradicated but diminished temporarily, as I looked, listened, thought. I walked along the beach, stopping near the Point at some slippy black rocks. I stood, took photographs and just stood. There was one other person on the beach and as I stood there, looking towards Edinburgh and the Pentlands, they got closer and closer. I only moved when this guy was passing me. I nodded and started to move, reluctant to do so, my body almost figuring out movement again after ten minutes stood still.

The walk back faced the city and I thought about my journey home, the bus then trains across the country into the darkness and rush hour. The bus to Edinburgh left in an hour and most of that time would be spent briskly walking back to Aberlady and the bus stop. I couldn’t help lingering a while, as I reached the dune and especially at the top, once more savouring that view across much of eastern Scotland, before I sighed and pushed myself forward. I reached Aberlady with a couple of minutes to spare, a bus soon coming, a double decker so I could properly appreciate the view coming back into Longniddry, probably the finest stretch of road in the country, certainly the best bus route.

I spent my formative years living by the sea, seeing it most days, usually every day, hearing it, smelling it sometimes. I now live at the other side of the country, in the city and miles from the nearest waves, and there are times I greatly miss being able to be by the sea in a matter of minutes. I tend to think best when I’m walking and at my very best at the water’s edge. The winter experience is often colder, quieter and harder than the sunny, summer equivalent but that’s not always a bad thing. The time is just more precious, the light scarce but scattered and rationed as the solstice nears. The return comes when it feels a little too early, one’s hand pushed by the light draining from the sky rather than timetable constraints. My visits to the beach are rarer now but all the more special in that rarity, affording a rare pleasure of just being able to think as I watched the waves do their stuff.

Thank you for reading. The next post here is the Best of 2018, which appears here on Wednesday. To all readers, have a very merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Saturday Saunter: 22nd December 2018

Rather than writing about books and the usual stuff, I feel like blethering a bit about this time of year and self-care, since for me those two come hand in hand.

Christmas is stressful. I find it a bit of an overload, filled with lights, music, screaming, forced bonhomie and too much stuff. This being a religious festival that is incredibly far removed from the actual point of the thing annoys me ever more every year. But for the little people in my life, I would quite happily hibernate in December or at least bury myself in a fort made of books.

For many people Christmas is about gifts. Children are justly excited about what they might get this time of year. I remember it well. That bit will be the bit I hold to this year. I’ll just be happy to be with my family and the little people particularly as they get stuck into their presents. I am of course an adult and I really don’t want anything. As I repeat with ever more vehemence every year, anything I want I can’t buy. You can’t buy inner peace, nor world peace, and the type of people you can attract with money aren’t really the ones you want in your life. The rampant consumerism this time of year leaves me cold. I have enough stuff.

The Christmas muzak and the lights gall, I think, partly because I am usually pulling forward to finishing work for the year, which I don’t do this year until Monday at 2.30. I’m too busy trying to keep on with the day-to-day to feel any sort of magic or ersatz magic. I tend to go through the motions, singing the songs, wearing suitably festive clothing, giving people good wishes, and just want it over and done with. I crave the time off more than the festives.

This time of year isn’t easy for a lot of people. Those people working this time of year plus those who might be spending 25th December alone or in a bad way. I personally struggle because of the overload possibilities plus I am usually winding down from a busy time at work. It is generally quieter for me over the holidays, giving more time to reflect and lament. Thankfully I have a pile of books I want to read plus some football and family time, all of which will hopefully keep me going over the time.

How I handle Christmas Day itself is to make sure I get time away to read and generally recharge myself. Half an hour usually does the trick as does a few precious minutes in the shower. Beyond that, the season is helped by utilising the same self-care regime I use all the time. Reading, writing, podcasts, generally. The first day buses and trains are running, I usually get out. It is usually quieter on public transport and anywhere I might want to be. Last Christmas holidays I ended up walking at Fisherrow Harbour near Edinburgh and another day in St. Andrews and Dundee. This time I have no set plans. Hibs are playing on Saturday 29th in Edinburgh so I’ll be there for that but I am not sure what else I’ll be up to. I tend to like a decent walk or two this time of year.

Anyway, I feel better for writing this down. That’s our Saturday Saunter for today. Tomorrow there will be a post about walking along a beach in December. Have a good weekend. Thanks to all readers as ever, cheers for now.

Streets of Glasgow: Gorbals Street

img_7151

This one had been planned for a while, the Gorbals long since a part of the city I’ve meant to get back to in this series. I came over the Victoria Bridge, looking at the golden tower of the mosque standing high over the cityscape. The street was fairly busy with pedestrians and cars but the Sheriff Court, the busiest court in Europe, they say, was deserted, lights on but nobody about.

img_7144img_7149img_7150img_7147

Gorbals Street is mostly modern now, lined on one side by new and ongoing housing developments. The street is modern though once it was classically Glaswegian, bustling with Victorian tenements and shops. The buses are there but just one traditional tenement block, railway arches and the Citizens’ Theatre left from even thirty years ago. Even from when I came to Glasgow, Gorbals Street has changed, the huge tower blocks that once stood there now levelled to make way for the new. Every time I’m there there’s always something new, a photo soon an archival document.

This particular afternoon there were schoolkids heading for buses, a fair few folk heading for home with the usual Friday rush of cars beginning to take shape. I walked and thought my thoughts, remembering days at the Citz and wondering what this street would look like when I get there next.

Thank you for reading. This is the fifty fifth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured here include Cumberland Street and Cathcart Road.

Glasgow stuff

Every so often my inbox gets clogged with all the stuff I mean to write but never get round to. A fair bit of it this time relates to the city I call home, usually bits that might inspire adventures or rants here. I still have two articles from last year that I haven’t put words to yet, one an article from the Sunday Times talking about the air quality on the Subway and the other from the wonderful History Girls blog about murals in Possilpark Library, which I still haven’t seen.

Just yesterday I came across a post from the Glasgow City Archives Facebook page, which showed a map from 1938 during the Empire Exhibition. It was in fact a bus map showing visitors to the Exhibition how to get round Glasgow, with the reverse showing the tram routes. What was interesting was the emphasis on the city’s many parks, including Cardonald Park which I walk through every morning on my way to the bus stop, and also how many prominent streets and areas are very different as a result of development. The southside seems particularly intact, with the exception of the Gorbals, with the absence of the M8 and other big roads particularly evident. Each letter is carefully inked, the map brightly coloured with only the city centre inset in black and white, that at least not dissimilar from what is there today.

Another old Glasgow article I found recently featured archive footage and photographs of the M8, built between 1965 and 1980 with clear changes in the surroundings, particularly the big modern buildings in the city centre. One of the pictures, which appear on the BBC News website, was taken in 1973 and shows the M8 at Anderston entirely deserted, which it probably hasn’t been since. The difference in the cars is particularly noticeable, as is the scale of traffic. On my way home I’ve been caught up in traffic at least twice this week, which might not have been so much of a problem when the road was built. Indeed I can hear the faint, constant whir of cars on the motorway as I write this. The M8 has been cursed for cutting right through communities and being part of a wider plan to ruin Glasgow’s architecture but it is here and its history is worth considering.

Back to the present and the Glasgow Connectivity Commission recently released a report (article from the BBC News website) talking about ‘transport isolation’ and how many Glaswegians do not have adequate access to the city’s facilities due to the sheer number of cars and relative lack of public transport. I added the ‘relative’ since most of Glasgow’s public transport, certainly compared to the rest of the country, is superb. The commission, chaired by transport expert and good Hibee Professor David Begg, has recommended, amongst other things, making more of the city centre pedestrian friendly and using something called a smart grid to better segregate transport. Professor Begg has also talked about the decline of bus usage and how this should be addressed, with more modern buses and cheaper ticketing just two of the commission’s suggestions. I don’t think any of this is a bad thing. I like ideas. I wonder how all this can be put into practice. Glasgow city centre is big and busy and full of vehicles. Buchanan Street works well without cars now but the city authorities would need to think long and hard about how to expand that, particularly on how to convince those who drive not to. The case for better buses is not a bad one either. I live in a very well connected part of Glasgow. Others, particularly north of the river, are not as well served and it might be worth doing a study into the need for buses compared to the population and demand. It’s all interesting anyway and I’ll look forward to the next part of the commission’s report.

I think that’s my inbox a bit lighter than it was. Before I go, I’m starting to think about Streets of Glasgow walks for next year. The last one for 2018, Gorbals Street, appears here on Wednesday but I am currently considering ideas for the next batch. Great Western Road is one I haven’t got round to yet, St. Vincent Street, Berryknowes Road. Maybe looking at that 1938 map might give me a few ideas. If anyone has any suggestions of interesting streets in the city, do let me know.

Saturday Saunter: 15th December 2018

Good morning,

It’s Saturday Saunter time and I’m in the rare and unexpected position to do this live. As I start this, I’ve not long woken up. There is some light in the sky and frost on the ground. Here in Glasgow there is an amber weather warning out for snow, ice and something called frozen rain so I may not be going far this particular day. Tomorrow I’ll be out as Hibs are playing Celtic in an early kick-off at Easter Road so I’ll have my layers on even though the weather warning will have passed.

In terms of reading, I finished Michelle Obama’s book last Sunday. I rattled through it in a few hours, something I used to do quite often when I was younger but don’t really get round to now. When I was a teenager I used to read whole novels on Sunday afternoons, Small Island by Andrea Levy being one example. Working through a book in one go can have its good and bad points. There is the satisfaction of getting the book finished but in my experience there is not a lot of memory of it thereafter. When I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the first time, it was in one go but it was only through slower re-reading that I was able to fully comprehend the plot. Anyway, Michelle Obama’s book was good, particularly the parts prior to her husband winning the Presidency, which were more interesting and detailed. The Presidency bits have been widely trailed and made the subject of talk-show anecdotes, making them much less interesting to come across in a book. I’ve also re-read a couple of Quintin Jardine novels too this week.

The travelling book last week at Hamilton was Michelle Obama’s book. Tomorrow’s choice hasn’t been decided yet but it will either be Walking the Song by Hamish Brown or The Silver Darlings by Neil Gunn, which have both been sitting for a while. Walking the Song is a selection of mountaineering essays, which might be particularly apposite given the snow. It looks like it could snow out my window now, the sky that light grey way.

I was up a bit earlier this morning and did my usual reading, going from The Guardian to the sports interview in The Scotsman (this week John Hughes, incidentally), ending up on the BBC News website. There were a few stories which got me interested, the first being pictures of the brand new Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue in Anderston, unveiled on Monday. This year, 2018, is the 150th anniversary of CRM’s birth, though that has been overshadowed by the School of Art going up in flames in June. The statue, which features CRM sitting on a chair, is a handsome one and I’ll be going to have a look. There is a bit of me that would like to have seen Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh featured too, since she was a particularly fine artist herself, but alas no. I like the sculptor Andy Scott’s words, quoted in The Scotsman, about how he tries ‘to make things that communities can identify with and feel a sense of pride in’. He is also the creator of the Kelpies, the massive metallic sculptures over near Falkirk, which are also rather lovely. It is difficult to find art which appeals to a general audience and Andy Scott seems to be well up on that, as of course Charles Rennie Mackintosh was too.

Also out there this morning is an interesting article from the BBC News website with the headline ‘Do autistic people “get” jokes?’ The short answer is depends on the autistic person, depends on the joke. The article seems to be an advertisement for the BBC’s new podcast 1800 Seconds on Autism, which I haven’t got round to listening to yet. The hosts, Robyn Steward and Jamie Knight, I’ve heard on other things before and they’re good, thoughtful people, particularly adept at communicating the autistic experience. From my own experience, humour is subjective. What really makes me laugh is often the strangest thing. I sometimes have to decipher when to laugh at other people’s humour. Glaswegian humour is often blunt enough that I can get there the right way. Punchlines are harder to get. I don’t really laugh on command. I’ve got a bland smile ready to go for such occasions, which is part of my toolbox for working with people. The other day I caught a few minutes of a new Kevin Bridges DVD, which was observational and funny. I could watch stand-up all day and usually laugh along with it. I don’t get things like The Office nor the need for much humour to be cruel and cutting. Humour brings light to dark situations. This week, for example, I was tickled by the video of Andy Serkis, the actor who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, imitating Theresa May talking about Brexit. We need people like him in our world.

Next week’s Saturday Saunter is written already. It talks more about Christmas and how the season isn’t always jolly. Over the festives I’ve got the annual Best Of post coming on Boxing Day and a special Books post on Saturday 29th December. Next year I’ve got a new series coming and I might do a bit of work for that when I’m back in Edinburgh on Wednesday. It will involve my second least favourite street in the capital but it is one I and a lot of people associate with Edinburgh so it’s going to be written about.

The view from Edinburgh Castle towards the Old Town and Arthur’s Seat

Anyway, that’s us for today. I don’t have a scooby what will be here tomorrow yet but I’ll sort that out shortly. Wednesday will be the last Streets of Glasgow of the year and a trip to the Gorbals. Easter Road West‘s post appeared about an hour ago and it’s a wee bit about each of the 12 Scottish Premiership grounds, since I finally completed the set last weekend in Hamilton. There will also be a post there tomorrow leading up to the Celtic game.

Have a nice weekend, folks, whatever you end up doing.

Streets of Glasgow: Glassford Street

img_7134

Another Streets of Glasgow, another one in the Merchant City named after a Tobacco Lord. This one began keeping out of the road of a gaggle of passersby as I snapped the obligatory street sign pic that appears above. All sorts of symbols were around, a gay bar with the rainbow flag flying, Easter Island heads in an office window, Christmas food and drink in Marks and Spencers’ window. The Steps Bar, probably not the type of pace that would play anything by that particular cheery 1990s pop band, still had ‘5, 6, 7, 8’ swirling around my head. This street was a blend of old and new, typically classical mixed with glass and concrete, a thoroughfare that got busier as I went with buses and folk bustling about in the afternoon half-light, hastening out of the cold.

img_7138img_7139

Thanks for reading. This is the fifty fourth Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured in this series so far include Trongate, Ingram Street, Virginia Street, Cochrane Street and Miller Street.

Caledonia Road Church

img_7158img_7160img_7155

I’ve lived in Glasgow for five and a half years and I cannot claim to have seen it all. Constantly I see things which surprise me. Luckily I have a blog to write a lot of them down, which is just as well. The Caledonia Road Church was spotted on the Cathcart Road Streets of Glasgow walk last year and I’ve been meaning to go back for a look, only managing it the other week when I did a Streets walk on Gorbals Street (appearing here on Wednesday 19th December).

The church was designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson and opened in 1856 with many of his stylistic touches present in the ruins, caused by a fire in 1965. I like ruins, though, and this is a cracker, with so many traces and indicators of what it would have been like as a functioning church as much as the curls of an architect’s pencil.

I saw it on a cold and briefly bright afternoon. I had a few more minutes to linger than last time and feasted on the details above the windows. I tried to ignore the traffic and the modern bus depot opposite, almost succeeding as I walked and looked. All around me, especially in the Gorbals, are signs of modern construction, new developments springing up from the old. I like that there are still ruins, not removed but just left to be, maybe part of someone’s vision of the future but in the meantime still a sign of the past, of architectural splendour and religious certainty, of which this city and this building certainly has no shortage.