Welcome to another instalment of Loose Ends Redux, this time involving Fife, the Borders and Glasgow. Writing up these posts has brought back clearer memories than others, depending on the place. I remember Abbotsford and the Glasgow Women’s Library a lot more clearly than Dunfermline, which I had to look up.
Dunfermline is a place I know well. I wrote the notes for the Loose Ends Dunfermline post sitting on a step in the Abbey Nave. The Abbey Nave is beautiful, much like Durham Cathedral and created by the same masons. It connected from the previous Loose End, the National Museum of Scotland, since NMS is in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, and Dunfermline was once the capital. The Abbey Nave is a great place to sit and ponder for a few minutes and I hope to be back there soon.
The next instalment was going to be Melrose Abbey. Robert the Bruce is mostly buried in Dunfermline Abbey, though his heart is in Melrose. On the way to Melrose, however, I had a recommendation to go to Abbotsford, Walter Scott’s house, so I felt I had to oblige. The library was incredible and it was where I spent most of my time going around Abbotsford, sat in a chair by the window. There was a connection with Dunfermline in the entrance hall, wood from the old Abbey Church. The main thing was the library, though, a proper old-fashioned affair with leather book covers. I struggled to leave.
Libraries are places where I feel comfortable and I spend my working life in one too. I’ve been to the Glasgow Women’s Library four or five times and it is an incredible place. Above all it has a sense of calm and purpose. The GWL is a library, museum and archive. When I visited for Loose Ends, a couple of summers ago, they had an excellent art exhibition, artworks inspired by Muriel Spark’s novels. That day I joined the GWL and hopefully they’ll be open soon.
Three more Loose Ends down, 41 to go. Next week’s Redux will go to Ayrshire, the Borders and back to Edinburgh. Thinking back to this now, I can’t believe I managed to fit all of this into my life. I work full time, as I did then, and it seems all a bit unreal. Especially as I am writing this in April 2020 with the coronavirus outbreak when going more than a mile or two from my house isn’t possible. We hold ever stronger to the adventures we had when we hope to be able to adventure once more.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, once more being written on Friday afternoon. As I write it is sunny and warm outside once more, albeit with a cloud base higher up. It feels like it has been sunny for weeks, which of course isn’t entirely a bad thing. I hope everyone reading this is doing okay.
This week I have been rereading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time. Regular readers will know that I am a bit of a Potterhead and I maybe reread the books about once every year or once every couple of years. I decided the other day that I wanted to read something familiar and something that would actually get me reading regularly again as reading had fallen by the way side amidst everything else that’s happening. I started reading Harry Potter again on Monday or Tuesday and as I write I am in the midst of Goblet of Fire, book four. It’s the Quidditch World Cup right now. I have quite a lot of other things I could be reading so may be in the right place to read them after the Harry Potter binge is done.
Football is of course off at the moment though there is still news happening there. Hibs announced on Thursday that the 20/21 home kit will bear the legend ‘Thank You NHS’ with some of the proceeds from the shirts going to the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, which supports NHS Lothian. It’s a brilliant move and I am very proud of the club for making it happen. Key workers, in the NHS and outside, are keeping this country safe and functioning right now and they deserve our heartfelt gratitude and support in whatever way we can.
My e-mail inbox is full of potential blog post ideas and of course as the weeks go on, more ideas stack up and the number of words dries up rather rapidly. Monday is the centenary of the birth of Edwin Morgan, the first Scottish Makar. I am a Morgan fan and think regularly of his words, in George Square with the ‘Starlings of George Square’ or in other parts of the city or the world. Sometimes in the city centre I think about ‘The Second Life’, written as the city changed so radically in the 1960s, when motorways were cut through communities and tenements were replaced by high-rises. More recently I was reminded of Morgan’s versatility as I listened to Idlewild, since two Idlewild songs feature words by him and ‘In Remote Part / Scottish Fiction’ features his voice. I’m sure we have all seen many men or women on buses, in drink as the old-fashioned expression has it, trying to get down from the top deck on ‘very nearly steady legs’, as in ‘Good Friday’. Perhaps some might toast Morgan’s memory with this from ‘Canedolia’, ‘schiehallion! schiehallion! schiehallion!’
Social media undoubtedly has many bad points though in these times there are quite a few people making it easier to bear. Folk musician Duncan Chisholm plays a piece on his fiddle each and every morning, with the gorgeous backdrop of his Highland home, while Simon Prosser, the Publishing Director of Hamish Hamilton and Penguin Books, posts a David Hockney painting every day, originally of spring but more recently of Yosemite, a place I have wanted to visit for a long time owing to having grown up in Dunbar, birthplace of John Muir. David Hockney largely works now with an iPad, which some people think isn’t right but I think that art is art, however it is created. I remember a good few years ago going to York Art Gallery to see ‘Bigger Trees Near Warter’, Hockney’s work which covered an entire gallery wall with a scene looking up a country lane towards trees. It was amazing though I had to sit back to fully appreciate the thing. Duncan Chisholm’s pieces each day are brilliant, about two minutes in length and sometimes fast, sometimes slow but always to be treasured.
Tuesday past, 21st April, was the 182nd anniversary of John Muir’s birth. I came across a passage from Muir’s work which I hadn’t seen before, from Mountains of California, his 1894 book. It was about wind and I rather liked it. Having grown up by the Firth of Forth myself, I can relate. You can find it in chapter 10 of Mountains of California, near the end, available on the Sierra Club’s website, beginning ‘Winds are advertisements of all they touch’.
On Wednesday I watched a National Theatre production of Treasure Island, put on YouTube for a week. Patsy Ferran, who played Jim or Jemima Hawkins, was excellent. The National Theatre are putting a different production on every week and the current week’s show is Twelfth Night, starring Tamsin Greig, which I will watch at some point as I don’t know anything about it apart from it being by Shakespeare.
Anyway, a wee bit longer than usual but that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 25th April 2020. Thanks so much for reading. Loose Ends Redux will appear on Wednesday and it will go from Fife to Glasgow. There might be something else here too. We’ll see. Until then, stay safe. Speak soon.
It’s another Loose Ends Redux. The last instalment finished at Tranter’s Bridge at the edge of Aberlady Bay. Today’s threesome takes in Fife, Glasgow and Edinburgh. These I can remember fairly clearly. They were all about two years ago.
Culross is a village in Fife. It’s gorgeous, full of 16th century harled buildings. It has also appeared in Outlander, if memory serves. My visit for Loose Ends was on a gorgeous summer Saturday. I even remember what I read sitting on a bench there, a novella by Chris McQueer called Leathered. It connects with Tranter’s Bridge through Thenew or Enoch, the mother of St. Mungo who was cast adrift from Aberlady for being pregnant. She came to shore at Culross, where St. Mungo was born. This day I sat behind the Palace and read for a while, looking at the view across the Forth. I walked up to the Abbey ruins, which were lovely too. It was one of those perfect days where surroundings and weather combine just so.
Glasgow Cathedral connected very neatly with St. Mungo since his remains are there. I was at the Cathedral just before it closed and I wasn’t able to get into the Blackadder Aisle, my favourite part of the Cathedral. I’ve been a few times though I don’t think since this visit, strangely enough.
Originally the next connection was going to be St. Giles Cathedral (or the High Kirk of St. Giles to be exact) in Edinburgh but I couldn’t get a connection I liked. Plus I grudged giving the Kirk £2 to take photographs. In the end I decided to link Glasgow Cathedral with the National Museum of Scotland instead. I can’t think exactly why. I think it might have been because they’re both run by agencies of the Scottish Government. NMS is a very easy place to link to or from in any case, since it is the museum of Scotland and the wider world. This visit I can’t remember all that clearly. I’ve just read over the post from the time including this, which I have absolutely no recollection of at all:
‘At the Reformation display, revision for me for an upcoming exam, an American woman was opining about Martin Luther, her man confessing he knew hee haw about Luther.’
I am known to opine about the pointlessness of exams and I was thinking about a teacher who said for a few weeks before an exam he was a world expert about middle eastern politics then forgot pretty much all of it. It was a couple of OU courses ago, as I recall.
Next week will be three more connections from Loose Ends, including two libraries and a return to Fife. There might well be another post this week too. Until then, keep well, stay safe.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, again being written on Friday afternoon. There’s a blue sky out there underneath some white fluffy clouds. There are buds and leaves on the trees. The warmth of last weekend has given way to a pleasant spring day and right on cue I’ve just sneezed from hayfever. Happy days.
I hope everyone reading this is okay. I’m doing fine, just trying to keep myself occupied. I managed to finish a book for the first time in goodness knows how long – Barcelona to Buckie Thistle: Exploring Football’s Roads Less Travelled by Mat Guy – and I am now working on Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall, which is a very readable book about geopolitics. Not a sentence I ever expected to write. I did also read a couple of eBooks this week, travel guides about the railways by Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe from All The Stations. In TV binging news, I have been bingewatching Brooklyn Nine Nine, which is the favourite TV show of someone very important to me. Initially I didn’t get it but six seasons and a bit in, I actually quite like it. I’m the same when I’m reading a good book, or even an average book, I just want to get it finished so I can get on with my life.
I realise that with everything else that’s been happening, I didn’t bother with a March digest. Of course much of last month was spent at home but by no means all of it. On Sunday 1st March I was in North Berwick on a cold, windy but sunny day, browsing books, eating chips and cake. Plus being by the sea, which is always a bonus.
Tuesday 3rd March saw me at Easter Road for a game we won’t mention against the mob from Gorgie, winners of the statement league and soon-to-be inhabitants of the Scottish Championship.
Thursday 5th March involved yet another trip east, this time to a talk at the National Library of Scotland about how books help us form relationships. It was a really interesting talk by Professor Tom Mole of the University of Edinburgh which covered book groups, illicit declarations of love in a language the intended recipient didn’t understand and much else besides. We also went to Toppings Bookshop on the corner of Picardy Place and London Road, which is excellent, old-fashioned and well-stocked. The travel section was particularly excellent.
Sunday 8th March, International Women’s Day, was spent at a talk by Sara Sheridan about her book Where Are The Women?. It was wide-ranging covering how she became a writer and how the book came about, including how she managed to crowbar mentions of no fewer than 1,200 women into the book and had to ask the publisher a couple of times for more words to make it happen. Indeed, the paperback version will use the half-pages spare at the end of the chapters to discuss 12 more women.
Hopefully soon more new and exciting adventures will be possible. In the meantime adventures are still possible, in our memories, planning new adventures, virtually, looking out the window or just turning a different way on our daily exercise. Being safe and looking after each other is what’s necessary just now. Until next week, then. Cheers for now.
I hope everyone’s okay. This is the second week of Loose Ends Redux, some stories and reflections on the 63 Loose Ends adventures I’ve had so far. Right now, thinking back to past adventures is soothing and it brings a bit of hope that soon we can once more wander free, or relatively free. Last week’s post featured Aberdour Castle, Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle. This week’s trio are:
If I remember rightly, there was a link from Stirling to Crookston via Mary, Queen of Scots but I’m not sure. In fact, having consulted the post, it was through Robert the Bruce to Bannockburn through the National Trust for Scotland. Crookston Castle is a ruined tower house about a mile from here. It has excellent views across south western Glasgow towards Renfrewshire and the hills. I’ve been a fair few times and this particular visit began one Sunday afternoon stepping out my front door and walking towards Paisley Road West and then across by a burn to the castle. It was a nice, warm day and according to the post there were a few folk dotting around the castle. The views brought me there and I remember spending a wee while looking across familiar vistas. Afterwards I went around Rosshall Gardens, which I hadn’t been to before. It was lovely in there too. I’m not sure if Rosshall Gardens are open at the moment or else I might take a wander across.
Lamer Island could link to Crookston in several ways. Lamer Island, otherwise known as the Battery, is at the Victoria Harbour in Dunbar. It could link through war, Mary, Queen of Scots or me since I grew up near the Battery and live near Crookston now. The Dunbar Shore Neighbourhood Group have redeveloped the Battery and put up interpretation boards and art installations. It was a sea defence then a hospital, eventually becoming derelict which is how I remember it growing up. I don’t remember this visit that clearly though I gather it was a May Bank Holiday. I think this might have been the day some trains were cancelled and I had about 40 minutes to go to the Battery then head back for Glasgow. There is a fine and varied panorama from the Battery, to the Isle of May, Bass Rock, Dunbar Castle, the New and Old Harbour, the East Beach, the Lammermuirs, the Cement Works, Torness and St. Abbs Head. Plus the North Sea. Every time I go I make sure I spend a few minutes at each side, getting a top up.
Tranter’s Bridge crosses into Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve, a few miles around the coast from Dunbar. It is on the John Muir Way, which ends in Dunbar, plus I read a Nigel Tranter book when I was in high school, in Dunbar. I remember this day very well. Hibs had been playing that day and it finished 5-5 against The Rangers. It was a gloriously sunny day, warm, and I had no particular rush to go home. I decided to head for the coast and ended up on a bus out to Aberlady, where I had walked when I was a kid. I ended up on the beach and sunbathed for a bit, an act most unlike me. I had bought a book, juice and sun cream en route though was still a bit overdressed, which was soon remedied. I then went to North Berwick, ate a fish supper by the harbour and reluctantly headed home to Glasgow as I was working the next day. Tranter’s Bridge is a splendid place. For a while it was my screensaver. It is just a wooden bridge across a burn but it’s very fine all the same. It is dedicated to the writer Nigel Tranter who lived nearby and walked across each and every day.
That’s our three for this week. I’ve enjoyed writing this a lot. Tune in next week for another three Loose Ends adventures, beginning by the Forth once more and finishing in the heart of the city. I’m sure there will be another post from me this week. Until then stay safe. Ta ta for now.
Hope everyone is okay. I’m writing this on Friday afternoon with not much of an idea of what to write. Some things never change. It is of course the Easter weekend and in normal circumstances I would have been off to the football today. These, of course, are not normal circumstances. Rightfully the focus right now is on keeping ourselves and others safe.
I’ve seen a few posts this week about where folk want to visit once circumstances permit. To be honest my first priority is to see those I love first. FaceTime (or your video calling app of choice) is wonderful but it is absolutely no substitute for being with people, their smells, looks, gestures, all their dimensions. It is for love that we are apart right now but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. In the meantime FaceTime will have to do, to share our joy, sadness, fear, gossip and, above all, hope. Hope is vital in these times more than ever.
After the people will come places. My second priority is to walk by the sea. Having grown up by the sea, the closest I can get to it right now is through social media, photographs taken on other folk’s daily exercise or from their windows. Sea Window Craster or Shetland Webcams are just two sources of waves right now. Or of course photographs. My iPad’s current screensaver is a picture from a recent trip to North Berwick. For those who know North Berwick, it was taken on the beach right near the Edinburgh bus stop on Church Road. Despite the fact I prefer Dunbar, it was a particularly fine day all the same.
I haven’t read much in the last few weeks. Rather than reading books, I’ve been catching up with the Scottish football magazine Nutmeg. Nutmeg is excellent with lots of interesting articles about the game, its past, present and future and that view is in no way coloured by the fact I wrote an article in issue 7. I read one issue while on holiday in Lochaber last year, waiting for a road to reopen. I approach it like a book, reading it cover to cover. I have two actual books on the go, one by Mat Guy, Barcelona to Buckie Thistle: Exploring Football’s Roads Less Travelled, which a library colleague saw and thoughtfully sent my way, and a re-read of my favourite book, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd.
My telly watching has been dominated by quiz shows, railway programmes and Scot Squad on Thursday. (Watch Scot Squad. Seriously.) Yesterday I watched the entirety of the second series of Sunderland ‘Til I Die, the fly-on-the-wall documentary about the life and times of Sunderland AFC. The fortitude of their fans and people amidst their team’s struggles made me all emotional at times.
Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 11th April 2020. Thanks for reading. Loose Ends Redux is back on Wednesday. There may well be other posts as I go. Until then, keep well, keep safe.
Welcome to Loose Ends Redux, some thoughts and memories of places visited as part of the Loose Ends series here on the blog. I hope to do this every week for a while. 63 places have appeared so far so if I do three a week, there might be enough for 21 weeks. Hoorah. This is part of my attempt to achieve some sort of normality amidst the current situation. I hope everyone reading this is okay.
Without further ado, this post features the very early Loose Ends posts, at Aberdour, Linlithgow and Stirling, complete with some photos from the time. Links to the posts are below:
Aberdour Castle: a castle with a ruined, roofless section on the left and a roofed section on the right with two protruding towers
A view out of a castle window towards a garden with a curved dovecot in the centre
Loose Ends was originally inspired one Sunday morning on a train into Glasgow. I was about to get off at Central and while standing in the aisle, waiting for the train to stop, my gaze fell upon a poster advertising a Historic Scotland exhibition at Aberdour Castle. I live in suburban Glasgow and there is no direct train to Aberdour. Indeed the train I was on, a Class 380, is electric and can’t run north of Dunblane or Edinburgh. Anyway, I was thinking of where I wanted to go that day and decided on the spur of the moment to go to Aberdour. I had been there a good few times before. I like Aberdour not just because it’s a castle but because it has a fine painted ceiling, ruins and a pleasant garden. Plus it’s right next to the train station. More recent visits, owing to my move to Glasgow, came by car though this time I needed to go by bus. I seem to remember going back by train, unusually from Inverkeithing directly to Glasgow as there were train works and trains evidently weren’t running via Stirling. I got to the castle, wandered around and left. I lay on the brown wooden floor and looked up at the painted ceiling. Historic Scotland also provide a mirror, if I remember correctly, though lying down on the floor was the best option. At some point that day I must have decided to start a new series of adventures based on connections. What I remember of that day was wandering around a sensory garden which is across the road from the station in Aberdour. It had been officially opened by Gordon Brown, who was the local MP at one point. The garden is rather fine with lots of chips, wood, smells and sounds.
A couple of weeks later, after I came up with the Loose Ends name in an echo of Hugh MacDiarmid, I decided to connect from Aberdour to Linlithgow Palace through Outlander. There was a board at Aberdour which talked about the Historic Scotland properties which had appeared in Outlander. One was Linlithgow. Plus I never need an excuse to go to Linlithgow Palace, one of my favourite Historic Scotland properties and favourite places full stop. I seem to be there at least once a year, though it used to be more. I have a routine every time I go to Linlithgow Palace. I proceed around each floor in turn, starting in one corner and working my way around systematically. I usually stop in the Great Hall for a while and also at the top in St. Margaret’s Bower. I think that day was quite windy but I sat for a bit there too. It was mid-afternoon and I decided that the next connection would be Stirling Castle, connecting through James V or Mary, Queen of Scots. Stirling is fairly close by and my next move will have been to check train times for the trip there then home to Glasgow.
I remember the trip to Linlithgow quite clearly. Stirling I really can’t recall at all. I’ve cheated and looked at my photos so I can say that I was there on 20th April 2018 and it was a cloudy day with a bit of a blue sky peeking through. The pavement on the Esplanade at Stirling looks wet so it must have rained that day. My photos are of the view from the garden west and down to the King’s Knot as well as of the Palace and Great Hall. The usual shot towards Abbey Craig and the Wallace Monument appears too. Stirling is my favourite big castle in Scotland and I’m sure I had a good day there.
Next week will be some recollections from the next three Loose Ends adventures, beginning not so far from home. There might be something else from me this week too. Until then, stay safe.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day. I presume you are now sufficiently aware. Good. Acceptance is the thing, not just awareness. I’ve been thinking for days about what I can write about this year but the words haven’t come. Instead I just want to write and see where it goes.
It’s Thursday and as I write there are moving white fluffy clouds in an otherwise blue sky. I am listening to Tide Lines. For the first time in weeks I’ve felt up to listening to music. I’m about to have breakfast and later I’ll go out for my daily exercise. I’m thinking of a walk through the cemetery. My local cemetery is ten minutes walk from here and it’s particularly overgrown and atmospheric. I’ve been there a couple of times since this started. There have been others and social distancing has been the order of the day, even in that place. The cemetery sustains the historian in me as much as it does anything else. There are war graves and big families, Russian Orthodox, Jewish and many others besides. Plus it’s spring and there are plenty of daffodils, my favourite flowers. It’s quite near the motorway and the railway so traffic still passes. There’s still a world going on outside its confines.
The last patch of blue sky is being shielded by bigger clouds. Since this has started, I’ve not read a lot. I started to re-read The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd last night. Robert Macfarlane has started a book group on Twitter with The Living Mountain as its subject so a whole new cadre of people are getting into Nan Shepherd, which is never a bad thing. To be fair I already recruited someone to the cause a few weeks ago. I’ve also read a Scottish football history book which really annoyed me. It was too-Old Firm centric, too many mentions of the national team, with only token acknowledgement of the other clubs who play in Scotland. On a nicer note, and appropriately for today, I read Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic: A Comedian’s Guide to Life on the Spectrum by Michael McCreary, which is a memoir by an autistic stand up comedian. It was very relatable, variously a guide to autistic adulthood and stories of his life.
Since travelling is not essential, I have watched a whole lot of train videos on YouTube, virtually exhausting the works of Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe (who do All The Stations) as well as the iPlayer’s stock of Michael Portillo programmes. Some of the Portillo programmes have audio description as well as being signed. They actually describe whatever lurid abominations he’s wearing. One said his clothes were ‘uncharacteristically restrained’ when he wore a grey suit. Excellent.
There’s now a blue sky above the clouds. Hurrah. I’ve been reading about one of the inadvertently positive aspects of the current time, which is that there’s less pollution. We can smell the earth and goats can apparently roam a Welsh seaside town, according to the news the other day. Last night was too cloudy but one night soon I’m going to step out after dark and see if I can see stars. That’s normally not possible in my part of suburban Glasgow, only on very cold, clear nights. There was one a few months ago when I stood on the railway bridge and saw stars. I’ll report back if I manage to see anything.
Before I go, I wanted to mention The Late Late Show in Ireland which featured the beautiful song, ‘The Parting Glass’, sung by Hozier. Watch it if you can.
That just leaves me to say stay safe, heed the government advice and look after yourselves. Take care.
Welcome to the last of the current run of Loose Ends, from an adventure I had in January to Dundee. The world has changed utterly since then. This post is my attempt to try and achieve some sort of normality amidst the chaos and uncertainty. I hope everyone reading this is okay.
Next week there will be a post about the previous Loose Ends adventures so far, with some new words around some older photos.
Until then, this is Loose Ends, from Dundee, from January, in an entirely different time.
I like to pause Loose Ends with a broad, sweeping view. The last twice it has been on a hill, Calton Hill in Edinburgh and by the flagpole in Queen’s Park in Glasgow. This time I realised that the V and A in Dundee was ideal, since it was possible there to get a view up and down the Tay. I stood on the balcony and due to the angles of the building it was indeed possible to do just that. I looked left towards Dundee, Broughty Ferry, Tentsmuir and Fife, the light grey and a little bright. The hills to the right stood above the wending river, the silvery Tay. My relief at finishing this series for another time came standing there, not at all bothered about what would come next.
The V and A – I don’t do ampersands – provides a lot of scope for future adventures. Its Scottish Design gallery has plenty of objects with links right across our land, not to mention what can be seen from around the building, by the Tay or in Dundee itself. Connections will emanate forth from here again, probably in the autumn.
Thanks for reading. Loose Ends Redux follows next week. The Loose Ends series features 62 other adventures and the page links to those.