And Happy New Year! Or if you don’t follow the Gregorian calendar, it’s Wednesday. Woo. Lang may your lum reek and all that. A lot of people care a lot about New Year and there will be a lot of sore heads this morning, as well as sore faces and feet and the rest. It is also a new decade, the beginning of the Roaring Twenties. What the world will be like in ten years, who can say? Whether Scotland will be independent, whether we or any part of the UK will be in the European Union, whether the Conservatives will still be in government, we can only but speculate at this stage. On 1st January 2030 I will not long have turned 40, which is another frightening prospect.
I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. They are all too easily broken and so I have stopped making them. My only aspiration this year is to be less cautious. Nebulous I know but that’s why it’s an aspiration, not a resolution.
I still have a few days to go before I go back to work. My plan for today is probably to go for a walk, maybe to Pollok Park, which I haven’t been to in ages. There are no buses or trains running in Glasgow today, indeed precious few in Scotland at all. On Christmas Day there were only a couple of freight trains running along the line by my house which normally sees trains every few moments throughout the day. I haven’t been to Pollok Park in yonks. I usually like to walk there in autumn but alas, it hasn’t happened in the last couple of years.
On Saturday I went to Durham. I had originally planned to go the previous week but I got back from Edinburgh late the night before and I was really knackered. On Boxing Day I ended up booking train tickets going to Durham via Carlisle. The train from Carlisle to Newcastle was absolutely stowed out and I stood next to a gaggle of lads heading to the football. They weren’t too bad, just a wee bit coarse. I looked out the window and read my book, a book of essays by Mary Beard on that occasion.
Durham is best approached by train and I was happy to step off the train to the view across to the Castle and Cathedral, a familiar sight from many visits over the years. I headed straight to the Cathedral and wandered around that magnificent building, sitting for a while on a pew thinking big thoughts. I hadn’t been to the Cathedral in about two years and it was brilliant to have an hour or so just being there. Since I was last there, the Cathedral have allowed people to take photographs within its walls so I took a few snaps, one of which graces my iPad screensaver as I write this. Despite being a devout heathen, I adore Durham Cathedral, not least because of its history and architecture, with every detail carefully worked.
Since I last went to the Cathedral, a new window had been unveiled, the Illumination Window, marking the life of Sara Pilkington, a Durham University student who died in 2012 of a cardiac condition. The window is glorious, full of colours, reflecting perhaps the seasons and how they affect Durham, also the diversity of humanity, I think.
The early part of 2020 will see me in England a couple more times. I am going to Newcastle in a couple of weeks time for the day then to London for a few days in February. In deference to that impending Newcastle trip, I didn’t linger when I was passing through on Saturday. I’ve always liked Newcastle, particularly being by the riverside and its fine museums and galleries. The London trip will include a visit to the Harry Potter Studios, which should be cool. The creator of Harry Potter has of course been in the news recently for expressing some controversial views, which I happen to disagree with. As ever the world is complicated and I have come to the conclusion that there are authors and artists I disagree with who have created some wonderful things.
The other day the artist and author Alasdair Gray died. Amidst the many tributes were words from writers, politicians and many others who were influenced by his work. For me, I cannot claim much of an influence. His finest work, for me at least, is the mural in Hillhead Subway Station. I find a lot of his work a bit hard to approach, full of symbolism which I don’t always get. As ever, that’s more of an issue with me than the art itself. Alasdair Gray was immensely talented and as a Scottish cultural figure, he will undoubtedly be missed. Plus he declined a knighthood, which can only be a mark of the man.
For those who might have missed them, I have written my list of the Best of 2019 and the Books of 2019. It might not be as resonant as Barack Obama’s lists but it might be worth a read.
Anyway, that’s this special New Year Natter for today, Wednesday 1st January 2020. Crikey, that’s a strange one to write. A Saturday Saunter will be here on Saturday while on Sunday will be the December digest. Have a good week. A very Happy New Year to all.