Books of 2019

Good morning,

The Saturday Saunter is being ditched this Saturday for a very special post about the books I’ve read this year. Normal service will be resumed next Saturday.

I made a list the other week of some of the books I’ve read this year. They broadly fall into four categories:

  • Nature
  • Football
  • Gender identity
  • Crime novels

Having said that, the book I currently have on the go as I start this a couple of weeks ago is the autobiography of racing driver Jason Plato so not quite in any of those brackets.

Undoubtedly the best book I read this year is Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie, a book I tried desperately not to rush as to take in every possible morsel of Kathleen Jamie goodness. This one covered a whole host of topics from climate change to archaeology, Tibet and indigenous cultures in northern Canada. I also heard her speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which was thoroughly, thoroughly braw. I’ve also heard Robert Macfarlane talk at Edinburgh before and his book, Underland, also came out this year and was another one to savour. It was a harder slog than some of his other books but worth it, going into caves, tunnels and all sorts of unlikely places to understand what goes on under the surface.

Another particular favourite this year was Constitution Street by Jemma Neville, a book about many things, including community spirit in Leith, political discourse and how people generally are in this society. I read it on a bus to Fife one day and it was superb. Its publishers, the mighty 404 Ink, put the eBook out for free on Election Day for the benefit of public debate and forethought on that particular day.

Football has been a major part of my reading as ever and I have read a right few memoirs, including those of Mark Walters, Peter Crouch, some dude who used to edit Match of the Day, and Tony Fitzpatrick, the chief executive of St. Mirren. Of these, Mark Walters and Tony Fitzpatrick particularly stick in mind, Mark Walters for his accounts of horrific racism while playing in Scotland and Tony Fitzpatrick for his poignant account of losing a child. The Match of the Day person, Paul Armstrong, did write about the Hibs going up to lift the Scottish Cup in 2016 which made his book more interesting to someone who couldn’t care less about English football. I also read the memoir of rugby player Gareth Thomas, who wrote movingly about being gay.

I have read quite a few books about LGBTQIA+ issues this year as part of a wider effort to educate myself about the world we live in. These have included quite a few books by gender non-conforming or non-binary people like Sissy by Jacob Tobia and Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness. Unusually two of the best books have both been graphic books, the memoir-folk history Sensible Footwear by Kate Charlesworth and the graphic novel Heartstopper by Alice Oseman featuring two teenage boys who fall in love.

Crime novels have featured fairly prominently in my fiction reading this year including the DCI Daley series by Denzil Meyrick, Death on a longship by Marsali Taylor and the latest by Stuart MacBride, Quintin Jardine and Ann Cleeves. Of these, my highlight was probably the last of the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. I still haven’t seen Shetland on the telly so my perceptions of Jimmy Perez, Willow, Sandy and company are entirely from the books.

The rest of my list seem to be miscellaneous, the best kind of reading, with a zine about Tove Jansson (Love Tove and I have since bought a compilation of Tove Jansson’s letters) as well as the book by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, which I liked. On a completely different topic I read a history of grime music earlier in the year, Inner city pressure: the story of grime by Dan Hancox, which was interesting in a lot of ways, serving as quite a valuable social history of these times.

My reading this year has worked around studying though I have really rediscovered my love of reading, reading more at home as well as heading to and from the football. A lot of what I have read has been in print, a very decent percentage from the library, naturally enough since that’s what I do for a living. I have read less on a screen though that might partly be explained by the fact I have bought more physical books this year and a lot of my studying requires a screen of some kind.

At time of writing, my to-read pile is fairly considerable with a mixture of library books, books I’ve bought, print and digital. Plus there are a couple at work which I’ll need to bring home. Over the Christmas holidays, I will hopefully get the pile down and even more hopefully not get any books as gifts from anyone. I’ve come to realise that I don’t particularly like people giving me books since my tastes are quite particular and having more added to my pile is more of an overload and hassle. Recommendations are fine, actual books naw.

I don’t really know where my reading will take me in 2020. I get the feeling, though, that some of my to-read pile will be going with me into the new decade. I never read as much as I would like to. But what I have read this year has generally been pretty decent.


Best of 2019

Happy Boxing Day!

Christmas is all over for another year. This time between Christmas and New Year is usually a time for reflection on the year just past and here on the Walking Talking blog we’re not about to buck the trend. Here’s the annual Best of post, with the usual categories, which are:

  • Best museum
  • Best art gallery
  • Best historic place
  • Best library
  • Best place to watch football
  • Best fish supper
  • Best park
  • Best beach

There will be a separate Best Books post on Saturday. Without further ado, let’s begin with the Best Museum.


Best museum – National Museum of Scotland

Runner-up – Summerlee

National Museum of Scotland, a light-filled museum hall with a statue of a man and a lighthouse lamp in the foreground
Summerlee, a gate with the word Summerlee written across it, a red brick building in the background

The National Museum of Scotland is a place I know well and have been visiting in its various guises for most of my life. I was last there in September and went to the excellent Body Beautiful exhibition. I had a wander around the Scottish part, the new museum even if it’s over two decades old, and not for the first time fell ever more in love with this country.

Summerlee is an industrial museum in Coatbridge and it is excellent, covering a lot of industrial history. When I was last there in October, they had an excellent exhibition about the local football team, Albion Rovers.


Best art gallery – Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow

Runner-up – Tramway, Glasgow

Honourable mention – Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

A late entry this one, from December. Street Level Photoworks is in Trongate 103, an arts centre in Glasgow city centre. At time of writing, it is hosting an excellent photography exhibition by Oscar Marzaroli showing images of the city in the midst of redevelopment in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Tramway is another Glaswegian arts centre, inside an old tram depot in Pollokshields. Previously it has hosted the Turner Prize. This year it had an excellent installation of shiny things by Nick Cave.

The Portrait Gallery is always good value. They get a mention because they’re not hosting the BP Portrait Award any more.


Best historic place – Lochranza – 

Runner-up – New Lanark – 

Lochranza is at the top of Arran. I went there on my birthday this year, which was my 30th. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Lochranza is in a beautiful setting, with a castle on a promontory, ferries to Kintyre and hills as a backdrop.

New Lanark was a new one for me this year too. I went on another warm summer’s day, albeit heavily loaded with hay fever. I walked up by the Falls of Clyde then sat in the New Lanark village for a bit.


Best library – Any library I work in

Runner-up – Mitchell Library, Glasgow

The winner this year is obvious. It’s the people that make the place.

The Mitchell Library is a runner-up as any place with 1.6 million books can’t be bad.


Best place to watch football – Gayfield Park, Arbroath – 

Runner-up – Brunton Park, Carlisle – 

Gayfield probably isn’t a great place to watch football in December but on a warm summer’s night, right by the North Sea, it is glorious, properly old-fashioned with terracing round three sides. Hibs did get beat in the friendly but it didn’t really matter that night.

Brunton Park was a new one. Brunton Park had a strange design with about three stands on top of each other plus the pre-match music went Motown.


Best fish supper – Cromar’s, St. Andrews –

Runner-up – Tail End, Dundee – 

A fish supper is not an easy thing to get right. For me it’s about golden, crispy batter, chips without too much grease and the whole thing served with salt and sauce, the way these things are meant to be done. Cromar’s is award-winning and there are usually queues. Their scran is braw.

The Tail End is rather fine too. They do sauce in a little dish.


Best park – Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh – 

Runner-up – Mugdock Country Park, Milngavie – 

The Royal Botanic Garden is one of my favourite places on the planet. On a nice day, on any day, it is worth seeing, walking calmly, serenely under some incredible trees. I like to go there to think, sit, read, watch the world go by.

I went to Milngavie on Good Friday and wandered around the reservoirs. Mugdock had plenty of historical interest, as well as just being a nice place to be.


Best beach – Aberlady Bay/Gullane Beach, East Lothian – 

Runner-up – Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland – 

Aberlady Bay – beach on a grey day, looking across to hills from atop a sand dune

Gullane Beach and Aberlady Bay are beautiful places, heavenly on a good day. I even sunbathed when I was there in the summer. Much better than the Mediterranean.

It was much cooler at Bamburgh the last time I was there but it is a very fine place with views to Holy Island, the Farne Islands and Bamburgh Castle over the dunes.


That was a small selection of the very fine experiences I had in 2019. 2020 only has a trip to London in the diary at the moment. I’m sure some walks along the beach, fish suppers and superb football games will happen into the third decade of the century. Strangely, despite the current political climate, I’m quite looking forward to it. The blog will be back on Saturday with the Best Books of 2019. Have a good day.

Short on time

Yesterday was the shortest day. From here the nights get shorter and there will be a few more moments of light every day.

On Friday I managed a little while at one of my favourite places, Aberlady Bay in East Lothian, walking along a beach I had entirely to myself. I only had a little while as it was mid-afternoon. The light wasn’t bright, except over the Forth Bridges, the sky over there red to compensate for the grey and flecks of white more generally. As I walked back to the bus stop, it got darker and it was properly dark by the time the X5 came. It was only 4pm and for once I was at peace with that. Light in the winter is more precious and very often the best walks come on wintry days. The world feels bigger and bigger thoughts can come with the perspective of distance. It was that kind of walk, when time is short but we are richer for what we could do with what we had.

Saturday Saunter: Radio, being an OU student and books

Good Saturday to you,

This last Saturday Saunter of 2019, indeed of the decade, is being posted as I am having a quiet Saturday at home. I did plan to go to Durham today but due to just feeling tired, there was a late call-off. Hopefully I will get there again soon.

I am starting this post on Wednesday night. I have just downed a bottle of white chocolate milk and I have the radio on, Hearts vs Celtic. At the moment Scott Brown has just been booked for the lessers. After I finish writing this, I think I might pick up a book from my formidable to-read pile or else do some more scribbling. I have been reading more than I have been writing the last few days. I started re-reading Tony Benn’s diaries again the other day, prompted by the defeat of his compadre Dennis Skinner in the election last week. I also started the autobiography of motor racing driver Jason Plato but I wasn’t quite in the mood when I started it on Saturday.

Friday morning now. I was quite sleepy when I was writing on Wednesday. I’m going to write this then get ready to go to Edinburgh. There’s football tonight, Hibs vs The Rangers, but I’m off today so I’m going to head through early for a walk somewhere, hopefully by the Forth. My soundtrack this morning is Lauren Laverne on BBC Radio 6 Music. I haven’t listened to much radio for a while but my work has had the radio on, though it can’t get digital. I have a digital radio I bought about six or seven years ago, a Pure one with a CD player in it. Unfortunately there’s a Christmas song on at the moment, but it’s a 1960s number rather than Slade or whatever. There was a cool version of Auld Lang Syne earlier.

Lauren Laverne has just recommended Underland by Robert Macfarlane to her guest Tim Key. I think I might need to listen to this show more.

I read an article the other day seeking to bust myths about studying with the Open University. To be fair, the article was on the Open University Facebook page so it can hardly be impartial. Neither can I, to be honest. I have been an Open University student on-and-off for just shy of a decade and I haven’t really thought of what that means for me. Of course it can impress people but that’s not an important factor. At the moment my student experience is me with my iPad, sitting in bed while having a lie-in or sitting on a train or a bus. Sometimes lately in football grounds before the match starts. It is wonderfully portable. I fit it in around my life, often with a wee bit of guilt at not having got round to this week’s reading until just then. It needs mental energy and time, when you simply don’t want to give it as much as on sunnier, brighter days when it’s a pleasure. It is those late nights when struggling with a stray reference in a bibliography when a warm bed and sleep is the goal, ready to feel deeply unrested for the morning. The goal for me is to get the degree done then decide what I want to do when I grow up. The current module, Empire 1492-1975, has been interesting but with a lot of reading. After that’s done, one module left and hopefully that’s it.

Christmas tree, with lots of clear lights

I finish up for Christmas on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, at 2.30. After that it’s straight home, feeling deeply relieved. It has been a long year. Personally I’ve had a lot on work-wise and in my life too. Turning 30. On Christmas Eve, I will feel Christmassy. Anything before that detracts from the fact there’s work to be done, preparations to be made. Then I can chill, read, spend time with family, sleep, eat, all that for twelve whole days. The best bit is that the Christmas tunes, Wizzard, the Pogues and all the rest, they go back in the box, not to be heard for another year. Braw. The lights get turned off and overloads come from other sources instead. I might manage a couple of trips out. I like the interregnum between Christmas and New Year. The weather is usually grey and a bit cold, much like today, actually, but I don’t mind that.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 21st December 2019. Tomorrow’s post is about something called the Sunshine Award. No post on Wednesday but Thursday, Boxing Day, will be the annual Best of 2019 post. Next Saturday will be the Books of 2019. They’re both written already, I’m happy to say. To all readers, commenters and followers, all the very best. For those who celebrate Yule, a very Merry Christmas. To all who follow the Gregorian calendar, a Happy New Year when it comes. Oh, and trans rights are human rights. Peace.


Loose Ends: Kibble Palace

For a long while it looked like I would follow Glasgow Central Station with Wemyss Bay Station. They link together because direct trains run between them, plus both were partly designed by James Miller. Then I realised it might not happen this year plus on a recent trip to the West End, I thought I could link Central to the Botanic Gardens instead. That became the backup plan but the day I was over there, they were setting up for a light show so I couldn’t get near the fence which encloses the old railway station. Plan C was swiftly hatched and I walked over to the Kibble Palace which had some rigging and lights set up too. It worked as a Loose Ends link since the Kibble Palace is in Glasgow and near an old railway station.

The Kibble Palace is located in Glasgow Botanic Gardens and houses temperate plants. Plus a fish pond and a room of killer plants. It says so right on the door. It was originally built in the 1860s for a private home then brought up the Clyde and plonked in its current location in 1873. I like to sit there and have done so many, many times, to think, read or eat lunch on a cold day. I remember one time being there and reading Bob Dylan’s autobiography and eating a Marks and Spencer sandwich. One of those is fairly typical of me, the other wasn’t so much at that time. On a cold day the Kibble Palace represents warmth but I’ve been there on warm days and it has been cooler than outside. The day I did the Subway walk I stopped there for lunch and it was definitely cooler in a glass house than in the hot May sun. This day, unseasonably cold for October, there were a few folk reading, talking, or sitting with my thoughts. I did a couple of those things, sitting studying for a bit, before moving on, suitably refreshed.

Connections aren’t hard from the Kibble Palace. There are some interesting places even within the Botanics. Or I could go to one of the many other fine gardens around the country, including the Edinburgh Botanics which I still see as the real deal. Or if I keep up the palace route and go to Spynie, up near Elgin which has long been on my list, or the People’s Palace since that’s more about the people than powers and potentates. It’s always worth having a backup plan, though, just in case.

Thanks for reading. The Loose Ends page features links to the other parts of this series.


A photo post today. Our blog pal Wednesday’s Child has featured a few excellent posts about statues lately and I decided to put together a post featuring a few of my own favourite statues. The first features Donald Dewar, which stands at the top of Buchanan Street here in Glasgow. At his feet protests and marches often gather, as well as folk just watching the city pass by or eating their lunch. This statue features in Loose Ends in the New Year.

I have tried to feature a few of women, much underrepresented in public monuments. Glasgow currently has just four statues of women; in Edinburgh there are more statues of dogs than women. I always make a point of stopping by the Mary Barbour statue at Govan Cross. We need more like her. Anyway, enjoy.

Donald Dewar statue – a tall, suited figure with a yellow brick and glass-fronted building behind. Photograph taken at night.
Ford in Fort William statue – featuring a man driving an old car. The statue is on a modern street.
Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh – the back end of a statue of a man on a horse in a park.
Oor Wullie figure, near the Hydro, Glasgow – this one features a cartoonish boy sat on a bucket. The bucket features a drawing of a crane.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue, St. Vincent Street, Glasgow – a man sat on a chair, with modern housing behind
Minnie the Minx, Dundee – a statue of a comic book character, a young girl holding a slingshot (or gutties)
Desperate Dan statue, with Dawg and Minnie the Minx behind – Dundee – a cowboy with a dog on a lead. A statue of a young girl holding a slingshot is in the background. The statue is on a busy city street.
David Hume statue, High Street, Edinburgh – a man in robes, sat on a plinth. He holds a book and his toes are golden. Behind is a court building.
Snail in a bottle statue, Wellmeadow Street, Paisley – featuring May Donoghue, a woman from Paisley who established legal precedent after finding a snail in a bottle of ginger beer in a cafe.
Statue of the Duke of Wellington, Queen Street, Glasgow – the back end of a statue of a man on a horse. The man has a red-and-white traffic cone on his head. The photograph is being taken between two pillars of a building. Office buildings are in the background.
Statue of Mary Barbour, Govan – a woman leading a group of people, some holding banners. Behind is a bus terminus with a bus pulling out from the stance.

Saturday Saunter: Normality, podcasts, women’s football and boys in high heels

Good morning,

Saturday Saunter time again. This post is being written on Friday morning, about 8, with trains full of commuters passing my window. Life is going on. Skipinnish is playing in the background as I start this. I’ve just gulped down some chocolate milk. White chocolate milk. It’s tidy.

This morning I’m not going to dwell on the election in any great way. There is enough coverage out there. You can find views reflecting your own in your echo chamber of choice. All I will say, once more, is that hate will never win.

In that spirit, then, I’m going to write about Greta Thunberg. She is this year’s Time Person of the Year, deservedly so. I read a selection of her speeches on the way to Edinburgh last week and her message that the world is on fire and that we have a very short time to do something, anything, is all the more relevant this particular morning. Her giving shade to Donald Trump, who was his usual, was particularly pleasing. We need to listen, all of us.

Also contained in one of her speeches was a wonderful line I’ve been thinking about for days, spoken in Parliament Square, London, as part of an Extinction Rebellion rally in October 2018.

‘I think in many ways that we autistic are the normal ones and the rest of the people are pretty strange’.

Hear, hear. There are some good strange people, I should point out, and a right few bampots. Some of that last group just got elected to Parliament. As a society we dwell too much on what is normal, ordinary. In truth I am very often perplexed and bemused at the world and many of the people in it. My normality is by no means perfect. But it is normal to me. Sitting with a 3D-printed Minecraft doodah in my hand at the cinema is normal. Trying to walk around people who crowd doorways and bus stops is normal. Wanting to ban fluorescent lights is normal. Reading a book rather than going out on the piss on a Saturday night is normal. Treating people as I would like to be treated is normal. Giving a flying fuck about people who are less fortunate is normal. My normal might not be your normal. Whatever.

Anyway, I’m just getting angry again. This weekend I am off. I’m not sure yet what I’ll be doing when this is posted. I will be off but it is a rare Saturday when I have nothing planned and there’s no football. The mighty Hibees are in action tomorrow against Celtic at Parkhead. Despite the Disco Lights Arena being a horrible place to watch football, I have a ticket so I’ll be there, with a pillar blocking much of the view. I will be hightailing it back along the Gallowgate to get home, change and get back out to a Christmas night out. It’s in an Italian restaurant in Paisley and I love pasta and pizza so the night will end well, at least.

I’ve been listening to a few podcasts this week, mainly The West Wing Weekly, where this week’s episode has featured discussion of the death of John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry, the White House Chief of Staff in The West Wing. John Spencer died aged 58 just before the series finished in 2006 and his passing was marked by his character dying on election night. The episode was particularly poignant because of all the kind words his fellow actors gave in his honour. Leo was a superb character, a person of substance and depth, definitely my favourite in The West Wing. I have also had a few sport podcasts going down, including the BBC’s LGBT Sport podcast, which features interviews with various sporting figures who also happen to be LGBTQIA+. I first came across it when Jack Murley interviewed Laura Montgomery, one of the founders of Glasgow City FC, the side which has dominated Scottish women’s football for over a decade, and also works in her day job for Hibs. I’ve also been listening to The Terrace and Longbangers, a Hibs podcast. Longbangers has transformed since it started and now has regular discussions on mental health, which is brilliant. I’m a bit behind with my podcasts, downloading with good intentions but little time.

I’m going to stay on women’s football a moment as on Thursday night Hibs announced that Jamie-Lee Napier has left the club. That’s a great shame as she is an excellent attacking player with incredible pace. In women’s football, as in the men’s game, the money is in England and America and she has been snapped up by Chelsea. Good luck to her. She is a talented footballer and she will do well wherever she goes.

Nevis Ensemble in action at Kelvingrove – an orchestra playing in a grand hall, with a small audience in the foreground

794 words down and I’ve still got a few things I want to write about this morning. Last Sunday I had a Glasgow day. I was with my dad and we went to Kelvingrove then to Trongate 103. Kelvingrove was excellent. We got there just after it opened, which was particularly joyous. An orchestra started playing in the main hall, which was amazing, particularly as Christmas songs weren’t part of their repertoire. It was the Nevis Ensemble, a group which can apparently pop up in museums, shopping centres and other places, getting themselves out of a van and set up within minutes. Trongate 103 was new to me. We went to the Oscar Marzaroli exhibition at Street Level Photoworks, which was tremendous, a selection of black-and-white photographs of Glasgow in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, capturing large swathes of the city which have been caught up in redevelopment. I left spiritually enriched but with a pack of postcards. My favourite, three boys trying on high heels out on the street, has been immortalised in Cumberland Street in the Gorbals, as written about in my Streets of Glasgow post there a couple of years ago.

Anyway, that’s us for this Saturday, 14th December 2019. Thank you for reading. Tomorrow’s post is a series of photographs of statues. Wednesday will be Loose Ends, which will be in Glasgow’s West End. To all readers, commenters, followers, a very good morning. Peace.


Loose Ends: Glasgow Central Station

Loose Ends started fifty connections ago at Aberdour Castle in Fife. All sorts of links later, via the most recent at Espedair Street in Paisley, I came to Glasgow Central Station. I was going home anyway but Central had a tenuous link to Espedair Street through the works of Iain Banks. As well as Espedair Street, he also wrote The Bridge. Bridge, railway, station, Central Station. It came to me walking down Hope Street. Looking up at the clock tower and the station frontage, I knew I had made the right choice.

Central is one of two mainline railway terminals in Glasgow. It is the busiest railway station in Scotland and the 11th busiest in the UK with 32 million entries and exits in 2017-2018, according to the Office of Rail and Road. Trains leave Central bound for all sorts of destinations, London, Penzance, Manchester further afield, Milngavie, Lanark and Gourock just three closer to home. Plus my bit. This particular night was busy with commuters, folks with buggies, kissing couples, engine noises, dispatchers’ whistles and a near-continuous stream of announcements, all the classic staples of a busy railway station. I spent a few minutes looking around, watching the people but looking up too, admiring the curve and elegance of the station buildings. The glass roof reminded me of Edinburgh Waverley with city buildings above and around Central too. Central is very familiar but rarely do I stop to really look. I suspect most folk are the same.

To the connections and the only one that really occurred to me at the time was Wemyss Bay station, down the Clyde, since it is also curved in design. I’m sure something will come to me, maybe on a train.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure will follow next week. Other instalments in the Loose Ends series are on the Loose Ends page.

Ruling passions

David Hume statue – a statue of a man sat on a plinth. He is wearing robes and holding a book. His toes are golden, while the rest of him is a pale grey.

I tend to avoid Edinburgh’s Old Town. It is incredibly touristy and while beautiful, the sound of tinned bagpipes and the sight of tinned tartan tends to grate after a few short minutes. One thing which always amuses me as I pass is the statue of philosopher David Hume, which sits right outside the High Court. For such a rational person, it seems incongruous that by him usually stands a phalanx of Jehovah’s Witnesses and his toe is golden from all the rubs for luck from passers-by. Anyway, David Hume is mentioned in an exhibition just down the way in the National Library at the moment, which is about the Scottish Enlightenment. He’s mentioned a lot, being a key figure in that particular part of our nation’s past, but Hume’s words feature pride of place on the National Library’s steps. ‘Literature has been the ruling passion of my life’. Apposite for a mighty repository of words like NLS.

My life has been guided by books. I give them out for a living right now. My words have been in one or two as well. I was brought up to read and I am to this day a fierce reader. I go through fits and starts but in the last week I have got through a couple of books and hopefully the coming Christmas break will afford a lot more time just to curl up and ignore the festivities. I have a pile of four sitting by my bed now and that’s without considering the two currently in my library eBook app and several more in the Kindle app on my iPad. My time is precious but the joy of just sitting and reading, be it in bed or on a train, cannot be underestimated.

I’ve found that when I want to find out about something, I turn to a book first. The Internet is very useful for a lot of things but it tends to be a whole lot of noise and chatter. A book is between you and the writer. It’s their words channelled through your consciousness, your own thoughts and ideas. When I did yoga earlier in the year, I learned from a book. A lot of what I’ve read about gender and particularly when it isn’t binary has come between a set of covers. Plus a whole lot of what I know and understand about basic human interaction has been from books. I think that has partly been because I take things in better if I’m reading them. I can’t listen for long. Plus a book has some authority. The Internet has some very authoritative sources kicking around but you have to know how and where to look. Same with books, certainly, but they are easier to spot.

Often reading a book is far easier than actual human interaction. I remember taking a book to a school disco. (It was about The Simpsons, as I recall.) I read in my high school common room and got some strange looks when I burst out laughing reading Bill Bryson. To this day I try to get to the football early, partly to dodge the crowds but also to read the programme. In recent weeks I have read my OU textbook in two different football grounds before the game started. Having a book with me is a useful thing. I can retreat behind it if I need to. It’s a control valve, often a very valuable one.

My tastes have evolved in recent years. When I was a kid, I liked Roald Dahl and football books. As a teenager I read more broadly. Douglas Adams, JD Salinger, crime novels, Iain Banks. A lot of John Muir. Into my twenties more crime fiction but it was interspersed with football books again, more travel, nature, memoirs. Muriel Spark too. My favourite book is now The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd though for a long time it was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. My to-read pile fluctuates. When I want to read, I go into high gear and get a mix; at times when I just can’t, a football book or two will be the way to go.

Reading has helped me reach out to people. I’ve found common ground with many people based on books and as a fairly solitary person I appreciate it. Like David Hume, literature has been a ruling passion in my life and it has made it inextricably better, for the days with people and those without, when all I want to do is avoid the overload. A book in whatever form is always nearby and always waiting to be opened and savoured, with any luck.




Saturday Saunter: Hate will never win

Good Saturday to you,

Our post is being started on Monday night and I’ve got the Beatles in my ears. ‘Hello, Goodbye’. A train has just passed by my window. That does happen a lot considering I live next to the railway. I’m quite blase about trains. I spend a lot of my life on them so it’s only long journeys that excite me these days. The Scotrail Express to Edinburgh or the ten minutes to my current workplace are now utterly routine. Talking of which I am in Edinburgh today for football while tomorrow I am out and about around Glasgow, as far as possible from Hampden where the Gruesome Twosome are playing.

A graffitied wall with the words ‘hate will not win;

I’ve been looking through my photos for inspiration tonight and I’ve come up with one I took down a close in Dundee on a cold night at the very start of this year. There is a close quite near the bus station which is very well decorated by graffiti, some of it incredibly artistic. The last time I was there it featured lots of contempt towards the Prime Minister. In that spirit and since this is the last Saturday Saunter before the election, I wanted to share some words from January:

‘hate will never win’

I am quite cynical about politics at the moment. I am cynical about a whole lot of things, really, but politics particularly. I don’t particularly see the point in an election now and it just seems to be an excuse to change the conversation rather than to change society. Nevertheless millions of pounds are being spent on this ridiculous exercise and it is important to go and do the business on Thursday. For the last few years have been toxic. Hate is all too prevalent but it cannot, will not win. I believe in little except the power of humanity for good, even if sometimes it is misapplied. I believe that fundamentally we want the same things, even if we sell it from a different point of view, as Bob Dylan said. Hate will never win.

I am an humanist though I have a deep respect for those who are religious. There are some very good religious people. One is Rose Hudson-Wilkin, until recently the Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. I remember years ago hearing the Reverend Rose on Desert Island Discs and she had once climbed on top of her church in Hackney to protest gentrification when her church’s roof leaked. Every time I hear about her, as in this recent Guardian piece, I think just how sound a human she is. There were many tributes when she stood down recently to take up the post of Bishop of Dover though they were overshadowed by the obsequious tributes to the departing John Bercow.

Another quote in my camera roll is from The Gender Games by Juno Dawson, which I read in April. She quoted Kate Bornstein – ‘Do whatever it takes to make your life worth living’. I made a note of that one for a reason. My move to Glasgow six years ago was a radical move but unequivocally the right one. I sometimes get frustrated by life. My instinct is often to rush forward when my head advises caution. To do whatever it takes is tough. But so is life. It’s all about living your best life.

Anyway, on that rather ponderous note, it’s time to close for another Saturday. Tomorrow is a post about books. Wednesday is Loose Ends and it’s back in the very heart of Glasgow. Thanks as ever to all commenters, followers and readers. Cheers just now.