Digest: March 2019

Digest time and I covered less ground than in February but that isn’t always a bad thing.

My first adventure of the month was Saturday 2nd March when Hibs were playing Celtic in Edinburgh. Before the game I went for a rain-soaked walk to Newhaven.

The following Friday I was again in Edinburgh to see the Hibs.

The next Thursday I was in town for an event. Beforehand I went to the Glasgow Women’s Library to see the Artemisia Gentileschi painting on display there. On the way back I sat in Glasgow Green to eat my sandwiches then had a good wander around the Merchant City, managing two walks as part of this blog’s Streets of Glasgow series.

That Saturday I was once more in Edinburgh to see Hibs. It had been cold and snowy and it became cold and wet so it was brief. It got nicer as I got closer to Glasgow. It was ever thus.

The following day I went out around Glasgow. I visited the new Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue, Kelvingrove and Cathkin Park as part of a wider Glaswegian ramble. I had felt that I had neglected my adopted home and this went a great way to redressing the balance and satisfying the deep love I have for this city.

That Monday I was off for a very nice day trip with a friend around Glasgow. We were at the Women’s Library to see that Artemsia painting again then we went to the House for an Art Lover (which was all right, with very good scones) and finally GoMA which had a fantastic exhibition about filmmaker Margaret Tait.

The following Sunday I spent the day bopping around southern Scotland and Northumberland, taking in Dawyck Botanic Garden, the walls at Berwick and Eyemouth where we went for a perfectly serviceable chippy. It was good to be in familiar climes for a while, with the walk around Dawyck particularly soothing and good for the soul.

On Friday I went to Livingston to watch the Hibs.

Yesterday I went out for lunch then went on the train to Gourock, the end of the train line that runs beside my house. Gourock was nice in the breezy spring sunshine.

Today I am planning on going to Dunbar or at least somewhere in the east.

So, that’s the March digest. Thank you to all readers, commenters and followers. Post 600 will appear next month. It’ll be a good one. Streets of Glasgow returns next Sunday while Loose Ends appears on Wednesday. Cheers just now.

Posts this month –

Saturday Saunter: 2nd March 2019

Digest: February 2019

Loose Ends: Portobello Potteries

Saturday Saunter: 9th March 2019

Streets of Glasgow: West George Street

Loose Ends: Leakey’s Bookshop

Saturday Saunter: 16th March 2019

Streets of Glasgow: Jamaica Street

Loose Ends: Desperate Dan

Saturday Saunter: 23rd March 2019

Streets of Glasgow: Bell Street

Loose Ends: Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue

Saturday Saunter: 30th March 2019

Saturday Saunter: 30th March 2019

Good morning,

When this is posted, I hope to be away on manoeuvres working on the 600th post. I might not be out as on Friday night, last night, I was at the football, watching the Hibs play Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena, Livingston’s ground. That stadium, Almondvale as it was originally called, isn’t one of my favourites though the name some wag off Twitter has given it, the Spaghettiad, is quite possibly the best thing ever. A lie in might be the plan for today especially as I might have been pissed off after trudging the mile to the railway station around many, many roundabouts. Livingston is horrible.

I don’t really do tags. In the early days of Walking Talking, I sometimes entered the WordPress photo challenge but I can’t be bothered with that sort of nonsense anymore. I saw one on the Orangutan Librarian blog – not sure what the name is about – and it interested me. It was about good reading habits. I also saw one about reading your country, which was on the Portobello Book blog, so I’m going to break tradition and write a little about them. I just like the ideas so will take them without tags.

My own reading habit is to read when I feel like it and when it is possible to do so. I don’t read every day and I don’t read the same genres all the time. Often I like crime fiction, other times non-fiction, particularly about football or travel. I’m of the school that as long as people are reading, that’s good enough. At the moment I’m re-reading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time. I often read in series but usually the latest instalment as I’ve often binged on them previously. I usually read when I’m travelling and most of what I read is on paper right now. It’s a higher percentage than eBooks at the moment. Given what I do, a lot of what I read comes from the library. It is one of many reasons why I don’t like being given books. I’m not sure if my reading habits are good, bad or indifferent. It’s just what I do.

As for reading my country, I’m very lucky that some of the finest works of literature have come from Scotland. I can’t think of a Scottish book I liked from my childhood but the first one that came to mind that I like to read aloud now is The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee by Michelle Sloan and Kasia Matyjaszek. A book I read in school was probably the poetry of Norman MacCaig, which I still like today. There are loads of examples of historical fiction but it isn’t a genre I read. Quite a few books are set in my favourite areas of Scotland – Glasgow, where I live, and East Lothian, where I’m from – though the Quintin Jardine Skinner crime novels mainly feature Edinburgh and East Lothian but Skinner did work in Glasgow at one point. Peter May’s Lewis trilogy features a part of the country I would love to visit. There are so many Scottish classics and I read a right few of them as a teenager. One I would recommend, and I’ve also seen it at the theatre, is The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins, quite a dark novel set in an Argyll forest during the Second World War. He was quite a versatile author, Robin Jenkins, and I would encourage anyone to delve into his work. A Scottish book I haven’t read but I would like to is Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. I’ve never read it though I know people who are very devout fans of his oeuvre. Finally, my favourite Scottish authors are Nan Shepherd, Kathleen Jamie, Muriel Spark, Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride and quite a few others that I couldn’t begin to adequately list.

Yesterday’s travelling book was a re-read, Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, an excellent book of essays.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. The March digest follows tomorrow. Have a very nice weekend, whatever you end up doing.

Loose Ends: Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue

I had been meaning to have a look at the new Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue for months since it was unveiled in December. One Sunday I got up and decided to make a day of it, heading first to Anderston to see the statue then going on a ramble to see what I could find. It linked just fine with the last instalment of Loose Ends, featuring the statue of Desperate Dan in Dundee, since it was also a statue plus there is a gallery dedicated to Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the brand new V and A Dundee museum. The statue was put up by property developers Sanctuary Group, sculpted by Andy Scott and unveiled by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on the ninetieth anniversary of Mackintosh’s death. I liked it immediately, far more than I thought I would, to be honest. I took photos then sat down and looked at the statue. I liked the little details, including the ring on Mackintosh’s finger and the distinctive chair he was sitting on. It fit in well with the sharp angles of the new flats behind too. I couldn’t help thinking that there should be a statue of one of the Glasgow Girls group of artists or even that Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh should have been cast up alongside her husband. Maybe one day. In the meantime, it was a cracking statue, well-worked and in an apposite setting, in a community rather than a great civic space.

To the connections and there could be a visit to one of the many structures linked to Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow and beyond, like House for an Art Lover or the Hill House. This could also include Kelvingrove just along the road or pretty much anywhere in Glasgow, really. Loose Ends tends to involve a bit of forethought, very often a hunch or an impulse, and the next connection, which occurred about half an hour later, was certainly one of those.

Thank you for reading. The next Loose Ends post follows next week.

Streets of Glasgow: Bell Street

Bell Street leads from the back of the Gallowgate right into the heart of the Merchant City, encompassing a pram centre and Police Museum, beds and Portakabins. I had never been on it before and I was only there because I was going to an event a short while later. The walk started at the back of Morrisons on the Gallowgate, where Google Maps told me Bell Street began. There wasn’t a sign to confirm that for about 200 yards but for Streets of Glasgow purposes, I started walking past the Glasgow Pram Centre, the cool neon lights of the Barrowlands peeking down the street to the left. Flats on the left and the road wound down underneath a railway bridge, a dapper Glasgow gent in a long brown coat and a blue bunnet opening the door to the flats as I passed.

Under the railway bridge not one but three different signs confirmed I was on Bell Street after all. A tall mill building rose high on the right and on the winding lane into a development there was a sign which declared it to be Parsonage Square. I remembered that the family behind the Glasgow Humane Society are the Parsonages. I wonder if it was named after them. The mill building, now houses and offices, was a muddy golden brown – in short it looked its age – and it reminded me a lot of Dundee. Not at all a bad thing. Across the street were some more modern housing blocks and at street level a pile of grey bricks, very much out of place amidst the reds and browns of the Merchant City.

I came to the junction with the High Street and noticed a bed warehouse and offices belonging to Unison. In the distance was a mural dating from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, this one showing a badminton match in progress. I walked in its direction, first stopping to look in the window of the bed shop which had a bed with the mattress propped up to show the wooden bed frame drawer below. I don’t understand why they did that. Beds are for sleeping and occasionally other purposes. Why would it being propped up sell it better? Anyway, the building across from it had an attractive gable end featuring the city crest and the year 1896. An archway below featured a ghost sign for a produce agent with offices in Tontine Lane.

Soon I was outside Merchant Square and looking across the street once more to another handsome building with a grey cupola and railings around the roof. It featured the rather pleasing juxtaposition of the Glasgow Police Museum and a bar below. No comment. Above the building next door were six rather lovely golden leaf sculptures, each in line with the pillars below.

I stopped a short distance later and looked back along, in another world from the post-industrial surroundings of only a few minutes before. One of the best bits about Glasgow is how it changes every few minutes. It’s why it’s best to explore it on foot. You just see more, Bell Street a case in point.

Thank you for reading. This is the fifty eighth Streets of Glasgow post on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured in this series before include Gallowgate, High Street, London Road, Duke Street, Albion Street, Trongate and Glassford Street. Wilson Street, which is also nearby, follows next week.

 

Saturday Saunter: 23rd March 2019

Good morning to you,

The hardest bit of writing is very often getting started. I’ve had a few first sentences fly across the screen then swiftly deleted with some judicious key presses. The Saunter is a blank page so it is harder than writing about a walk or a visit somewhere. Sometimes I can do it no bother. The beginning comes then paragraph follows paragraph until it naturally winds down. Other times it can be a bit of a grind and just getting words down is an achievement. This is one of those. We’ll persevere.

This is being written on Wednesday night since I am working on Saturday. It’s been a busy week but it began with a few adventures. Last Saturday I was at the football. Hibs won. On Sunday I roved around Glasgow, managing a couple of decent wanders plus a few minutes at Cathkin Park, one of my favourite places on the earth. A few parts of Sunday will appear here at some point, including two of the best Streets of Glasgow walks in that series so far. Monday was another day around Glasgow with a friend and we went to the Women’s Library to see the Artemisia Gentileschi painting and then to the House for an Art Lover. They have fabulous scones. White chocolate and raspberry. Thoroughly tidy. The Margaret Tait exhibition at GoMA is also worth a look and I’ll be heading back soon. It was a great weekend.

St. Vincent Street

Sunday’s Streets walks involved St. Vincent Street and Argyle Street, two major streets in this city and very high up the list of choices for the series. Argyle Street might be my favourite walk so far being very varied in terms of architecture, people and everything else. It had street art and pigeons, globes and gantries. St. Vincent Street was also very cool, particularly the bit from Buchanan Street to the motorway.

On the topic of the blog I’ve decided that the 600th post will be a Loose Ends adventure though at this point I’m not sure what that will be. I have to find a connection from the last one I did, which involved a favourite painting. It might be a very big day trip. We’ll see.

Cathkin Park

Cathkin Park was braw, as ever. For the uninitiated, Cathkin Park used to be the home of Third Lanark, a football team here in Glasgow until they went out of business in 1967. Cathkin’s terracing has been reclaimed by nature though recent work has cleared away some of the weeds and moss. It is near where I used to work and I don’t get over as often as I used to. It is a spiritual place, often quiet and a little eerie, summoning up memories and imaginings of past games. I stood for a little while behind a green and white post then walked around the perimeter of the pitch. Then I walked across the pitch, its condition not much worse than the dry Easter Road pitch I had seen the day before. Not for the first time I relived a game held at the third Hampden across the way about three years ago. The second Hampden was just where I needed to be.

Central Station

Earlier tonight I stood in the main concourse at Glasgow Central station waiting for my platform to come up on the board. I do that fairly often though rather than scrolling through my phone I ended up peoplewatching, wondering where people were going, appreciating the variety of the never ending stream of folk heading past. Central is currently starring in a documentary on the BBC Scotland channel, the station building and its staff, of course. It is strange seeing a familiar place on the telly but even stranger to be in that familiar place after seeing it on the box. I do love Central, the busiest railway station in Scotland (11th in the UK) and undoubtedly the finest.

That is us for today. Tomorrow’s post will be another instalment of Streets of Glasgow, this time in the Merchant City. Wednesday will be Loose Ends and that’s also in Glasgow. Next Sunday is the March digest. Anyway, have a very nice weekend. Cheers just now.

 

Loose Ends: Desperate Dan

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Statues of Desperate Dan, Dawg and Minnie the Minx

The last Loose Ends featured the beautiful and crammed Leakey’s Bookshop in Inverness and there were a right few contenders for the next connection. My intention that bright February morning was to link Leakey’s to the Tay Rail Bridge through one William Topaz McGonagall since he wrote wonderfully dire poetry including about the Tay Bridge Disaster. As I walked down Reform Street, my gaze fell on the statue of Desperate Dan and realised that Dan, Dawg and Minnie the Minx connect to Leakey’s just fine, since the DC Thomson oeuvre counts as literature and indeed some of the finest examples of it.

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Desperate Dan and Dawg
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Minnie the Minx

Desperate Dan was the main character of the Dandy comic, printed only in the annual each year, sadly. A cowboy with a penchant for cow pies, he was a deserved recipient of a statue in Dundee city centre in 2001, along with Dawg, his faithful companion, and Minnie the Minx from the Beano. As a reader of the Dandy when I was a kid, I love the statue of Dan in Dundee and like to get a photo whenever I pass. I like to say that Dan’s my style icon as I very often sport stubble and haven’t been known to say no to a steak pie or as they would call it in Dundee a peh.

To the connections, then, and the statues in Dundee would link to those of other fictional characters such as the Bud Neill characters in Woodlands Road and Partick railway station in Glasgow. Dan being a cowboy would link back to the Wild West in Morningside or to the Buffalo Bill statue in Dennistoun. That Minnie the Minx featured prominently in last year’s libraries Summer Reading Challenge could of course take me to any library, even if the SRC might not have happened there. I was using a Bananaman bookmark for weeks.

Whatever the next connection, I was glad to make this one, unplanned but fitting in just fine as Loose Ends moved onwards and away.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Streets of Glasgow: Jamaica Street

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A quick Streets of Glasgow walk before a train somewhere else and I chose Jamaica Street because of its proximity to Central Station. I came out of Central, under the arches and as I came to the four corners, the sun was in my eyes. It was a busy Friday lunchtime and folk were bustling around. The doorways were full of people getting a fly cigarette. Surprisingly there was no disembodied voice coming from the bingo, a bored monotone giving out numbers usually emanating forth. I hadn’t noticed before that the Crystal Palace Wetherspoon pub had once been known as Gardners’ Warehouse, built in 1855 for storage, one of the earliest prefabricated buildings, built in the style of the Crystal Palace in London. MacSorley’s across the way had some cool drawings of the city skyline in the window, drawn in white on a black background, certainly more interesting than the posters by Richer Sounds advertising Netflix. The walk came to an end and I turned along the Clyde for a minute, the walk instantly forgotten and doubts as to what could be written about it, those soon dispelled as I sat down to scribble.

Thanks for reading. This is the fifty seventh Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured in this series before include Oswald Street, Union Street and Mitchell Street. The Intercity series also featured the Broomielaw, which is also close to Jamaica Street.

This street is one of many in Glasgow which has a name linked with slavery.

Saturday Saunter: 16th March 2019

Good morning,

I haven’t actually written anything for the blog in a couple of weeks so it’s nice to be able to sit down and write something new now. The luxury of having lots of scheduled posts ready to go. What I like about the Saturday Saunter is usually it is current, written a couple of days before it is published, and it is spontaneous, invariably without a clear plan or focus as I start it. Today’s is no exception.

This Saturday I am off to Easter Road to watch the Hibees play Motherwell. My team has been in the news in recent days and for all the wrong reasons, a pitch invader during last Friday’s game against The Rangers and for a bottle of Buckfast chucked in the direction of a Celtic player when we played the lesser greens in the Scottish Cup the week before. Leeann Dempster, the Chief Executive of Hibs, has released a statement detailing just how the club will deal with unacceptable conduct and I agree with every single word of it. For the first time in a while, in fact since a similarly tumultuous fixture at Tynecastle in October, I sat at Easter Road last Friday and actually thought ‘what am I doing here?’ I felt unsafe and uncomfortable in one of the few places on earth where I feel I belong. The strong words from Leeann Dempster immediately after Friday’s game and again in the statement released on Wednesday have reassured me. The actions of these morons at Easter Road, St. Andrews and the Emirates over the weekend tarnish a game so many of us try to enjoy. Thankfully Hibs are back in action today and hopefully Paul Heckingbottom’s team go and get three points and keep us on the road to a top six finish.

I’ve not read terribly much this weather. I finished an history of grime music last Friday night before the Rangers game and apart from that I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on my iPad. Today’s travelling book is Why Are We Always On Last? by Paul Armstrong, a book by the former editor of Match of the Day about the trials and travails of scheduling football matches to try and please a large audience. Randomly my very favourite song, and of course favourite football song, ‘Sunshine on Leith’ is currently playing in the background. The finest song on this planet. I’ll pause as it comes up to the good bit.

Back now. The Paul Armstrong book comes with mixed reports. One of my colleagues had said it wasn’t very good so we’ll see. It’ll come with me to Easter Road anyway.

Ghost sign on Paisley Road West

This is the 587th post on Walking Talking. I publish three posts a week here so the number count just goes higher. I thought it was lower so I maybe should get round to thinking about the 600th post. The 500th was Streets of Glasgow along Paisley Road West and the 400th was in Scots. I loved writing that one. I’m not sure what I will do yet. Any thoughts will be gratefully received.

The above was written on Wednesday night. On Thursday evening I managed to cram in a trip to the Glasgow Women’s Library to see Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, which is on display at the GWL until Monday as part of a national tour. I’m not really a big fan of 16th century Italian art but I was interested by this one, particularly reading the information boards beside it. Anabel Marsh wrote a post about it, if you want to find out more and can’t get down to GWL. There was a pleasant bustle of people at the GWL, which was nice to see. Also beside the Artemisia was a display called Decoding Inequalities, which was insightful in quite a lot of ways, featuring objects and printed material from the GWL’s collections to try and understand inequality in our society.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Tomorrow’s post will be another Streets of Glasgow, this time Jamaica Street. On Wednesday will be Loose Ends. Beyond that, who knows? I think I need to get some adventures undertaken. Whatever you end up doing, have a good weekend.

Loose Ends: Leakey’s Bookshop

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I hadn’t planned to do anything for Loose Ends while in Inverness but it occurred to me while browsing in Leakey’s Bookshop that it would be just dandy to link from the potteries in Portobello, a book on Leeds pottery catching my eye. I had seen pictures of Leakey’s on Facebook, of all things, and I decided that when I was in Inverness I would pay a visit. Not that I need more books but the fact I had finished my book on the bus up confirmed this particular notion.

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Leakey’s is housed in an old church, a Gaelic church, to be exact, built in 1649 and rebuilt in 1792-1793. Inside it featured a main floor with multiple mezzanine levels. I passed a fire burning and crackling away though it was cold the further I got from it. There was a sense of organised chaos with just a semblance of order, labels segregating sections. It wasn’t too cluttered. A fair few people were milling around, mostly younger folk. The Scottish, fiction, history and travel sections were biggest and I had to exercise severe self-restraint not to come out with more than I could carry. I ended up with four books – Cameroon with Egbert by Dervla Murphy, A Traveller’s Life by Eric Newby, Night Falls On Ardnamurchan by Alasdair Maclean and Seeds of Blood and Beauty: Scottish Plant Explorers by Ann Lindsay – and they came away with me back to Glasgow clad in a paper bag. It was a joyous place to while away an hour, realising not for the first time just how much I want to read and how little time I have to do it in.

To the connections and a bookshop, like a library, yields links to practically anything and everything. Some books could take me to familiar places, those in East Lothian linked with witches or just Haddington though not for any occult reasons; I just saw a book about it. One of my book choices was about Ardnamurchan on the west coast though there is absolutely nae chance that I’ll be going there, unfortunately. Dervla Murphy could lead me back to the Glasgow Women’s Library or to Maryhill, a place Anabel Marsh writes about from time to time. Anabel catalogued the GWL’s Dervla Murphy collection. The book about plant explorers could lead to the botanic gardens at Dawyck or Benmore. 1649, the year the Gaelic church opened, could lead back to Dunfermline, the birthplace of Charles I who met his end in that year. I could also go to a church which is now something else, the Mackintosh Centre in Maryhill or the Mansfield Traquair Centre over in Edinburgh. An interesting bookshop, like Category Is Books in Glasgow, might also be an option. This one was amazing and I’m glad I got to be there.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Streets of Glasgow: West George Street

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This walk began as the light faded out of the sky. West George Street had long been on the list for Streets of Glasgow but it only happened late one afternoon when I was in the town to do some shopping. I got off the bus then walked up West George Street to reach its western end at Holland Street. Like West Regent Street, covered last year, I soon cae to the back of the old Strathclyde Police HQ, not for the first time imagining Taggart or Alex Gray’s Lorimer going about the place. It had the air of a scuzzy back street just there but of course it got busier as I headed back towards the city centre, the place full of folk heading home from their work. I soon came to Blythswood Square, a pause of offices and banks. I always think of Edinburgh’s New Town in that part of town until I see the steep slope down towards Argyle Street and remember where I am.

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That end of West George Street had more To Let signs than most of the city centre. It was a mixture of more modern office blocks and older red sandstone buildings more typical of Glasgow. The view down from Blythswood Square was dominated by the St. George’s Tron Church, maybe half a mile in the distance. Amongst the old and the new buildings were a few crackers, some with railings on the top, one with a cupola about three quarters up the building. The old banks on this street were worth a look, one particularly 1920s with high windows. Most were now hostelries of some sort or another. Another pub, though not in an old bank, was called the Golf Tavern despite looking all trendy. I’m from a part of the country where pubs with golf in the title tend to be near a place where walks get spoiled, not tucked away in the city centre by solicitors’ offices.

Another pause came behind St. George’s Tron Church onto Nelson Mandela Place, also written about in this series previously. The bench with the homeless man statue was a poignant reminder of the hardship life can often bring.

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West George Street began again by New Look and I covered the couple of hundred yards to George Square with a wee bit of speed. The obvious interest here was the redevelopment of Queen Street Station, the office block that sat in front of it now removed to reveal the curved roof of the train shed. I’m often busy heading for a train so it was nice to stand and stare for a moment. The walk ended just up the street under a curved entryway with elegant carvings. The address panel told me I was still on West George Street and that was entirely fine.

It was on this walk that I realised that Streets of Glasgow is more varied than I thought. I do the walk then I write about the walk. I also take photographs, making it more of a multimedia effort than just words scribbled in a notebook. That’s probably better as the different media cover a broader range of experiences than mere words can. Longer walks like West George Street tend to be better for photographs and overall, yielding a greater insight into the city in all its many facets.

Thanks for reading. This is the fifty sixth Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured in this series include West Regent StreetRenfield StreetWest Nile StreetHope StreetNelson Mandela PlaceBuchanan StreetDundas StreetGeorge Square and Streets of Glasgow: George Street.