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.