Montrose Street was the fourth Streets of Glasgow walk that hot August day and it came right after Rottenrow. I walked over the crest of the hill to its junction with Allan Glen Place and Cathedral Street and started from there, passing an anchor hitched right by the Henry Dyer building of Strathclyde University. I liked the anchor immensely, reminding me of the sea. I couldn’t see the sea, even that high up, only wind turbines on Eaglesham Moor miles away across the city. The crest of the hill yielded this view as well as a look right the way down towards Ingram Street, Townhead giving way to the Merchant City. Huge, monolith university buildings were to the right, one with a tall tower reminding me of the Cambridge University Library, even if a smart book sculpture was nowhere to be seen. I could hear folk exercising in the gardens and soon saw them in a circle, impeccably socially distant. The 13% gradient made me thankful I was walking down and not up, as a boy with a scooter was doing. Three flagpoles stood further down, one a saltire, the middle one empty, the third the flag of the European Union, which fluttered in the breeze. I was curious about the middle flagpole. Perhaps it flew the flag of Strathclyde University? Answers on a postcard for that one.
The City Council had automated the pedestrian crossing at George Street as part of their efforts to make Glasgow’s streets accessible during the pandemic. I crossed pretty swiftly and came into a more traditionally posh Glasgow streetscape, ornate architecture though some more modern with protruding windows like something Frank Gehry would design. Flowers were on balconies and people sat outside Tinderbox on the corner with Ingram Street, the whole scene feeling more typical than it might have been of late.
It’s always amused me that Glasgow’s maternity hospital used to be on Rottenrow. Bairns, or weans as they are usually known here, are now born mostly at the Queen Elizabeth or the Princess Royal at the Royal Infirmary, but for a long time new life came into the world on Rottenrow, only changing in 2001. I had been in the area a few weeks before, walking for the first time in the city centre in many months, and found myself there again on a sunny August afternoon, ready for another Streets of Glasgow walk. There isn’t much left of the old hospital, largely been converted into a garden, part of the campus of Strathclyde University. A sculpture of a nappy pin stands in the garden, with the edifice of the old hospital shown in a doorway and a pillared entrance. By the pillars was a ghost sign, saying that only ambulances could park there.
Today Rottenrow is being developed again, part of wider redevelopment efforts by Strathclyde University. I liked that the Nourish @ Urban Bean Cafe stood on Rottenrow, a modern name on a street that sounds like something out of Dickens. The psychedelic-coloured hoardings stood out too. I walked through a garden past trees dedicated to former students, including one to someone who was ‘truly a big man’, a great complement in Glasgow. Soon I came up some steps and realised that I had reached the end of Rottenrow, Rottenrow East beginning nearby by a smart, Paoluzzi-esque metal sculpture. A lot had changed in Rottenrow, an university having absorbed an old hospital and even older tenements, and it was interesting to be there to see it change again.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, being written a week in advance. Great Continental Railway Journeys is on in the background, Michael Portillo in his bright breeks being shown round the post office in Palermo as I type these words.
I’m a firm believer that connections can be found anywhere between just about anything, even if they are not initially obvious. In the last couple of weeks, different places I’ve visited have been connected by old railways or more precisely old railway paths. I like that old railways have been repurposed into paths and cycleways even though trains running on them might be better. I was in Bridge of Weir the other week and to kill time I walked along part of the path which links it to Paisley and Greenock. A train adorns the sign which can be seen from the road, the path winding through the trees in a fairly straight line towards a bridge where the river Gryffe can be seen, running strong due to recent rain when I was there. I also walked on part of a railway path in Aberfoyle more recently. Aberfoyle is a pleasant place in the Trossachs and I hadn’t been there before, more than likely because there isn’t a rail link. An old signal stood at the start of the path, like another seen earlier in the day in Callander.
A railway which has become ever more popular recently is the Borders Railway, which runs from Edinburgh to Tweedbank. It reopened just over five years ago, though only part of the Waverley line which ran as far as Carlisle. I’ve been on it a couple of times and the run to Tweedbank can be quite beautiful as the train leaves Edinburgh, all trees and rolling hillside.
We are now well into September and our weather has been rather autumnal recently. The colours of the trees are changing and the sun is setting earlier. I like the trees, not so much the nights drawing in. The trees by the road which I mentioned a few weeks ago have been turning yellow and soon they will be orange and then bare once more.
Our different perspective is from the BBC News website and it is about Maja Antoine-Onikoyi who has been donating books to people who cannot afford books about black history and racism. Reading combats ignorance and projects like this are excellent.
Finally, I’m bursting in quickly this Saturday morning to talk briefly about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the United States Supreme Court justice who died yesterday. She did incredible work to uphold justice and work for equality. Even on this side of the Atlantic, we can do worse than learn from her example and what she achieved over a long career.
Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 19th September 2020. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow returns on Wednesday. There won’t be a Saturday Saunter next Saturday as I will be away. Until then, keep safe, keep well. A very good morning to you all.
Hutcheson Street: a golden building on the corner of a street with Hutcheson Street on a sign. Trades sculpture: a sculpture of a bucket with tools sticking out of it. It is between two tall city buildings.
This post could be subtitled ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’, the title of the recent album by Bombay Bicycle Club. A poster peeled off a hoarding on Hutcheson Street and it just seemed apposite for the times, prescient maybe. Posters advertised events whose dates had passed but nothing would have transpired due to the pandemic. I’ve noticed that in recent weeks. Advertising won’t have been changed on buses, bus stops or city streets so everything has stood still, films advertised as coming out at the cinema in March. The world had changed. There was hand sanitiser outside Brewdog to prove it, a graffiti argument on a wall, other words against the police. A development towards the Trongate looked like it had resumed after a long pause, diggers silent since it was Sunday rather than for any other reason. A plane flew overhead, shimmering in the bright August sunshine. A man and boy sat on a bench, others parked their car prepared for an afternoon in the big city. A sculpture, a circular blob with two holes, sat in a window near Ingram Street; a bigger piece, a pot of craft tools, promoted the history of tradespeople in the city. The old blended with the modern, the buttresses jutting above the modern glass roof leading to the Scottish Youth Theatre and a bar with its red T lit.
I couldn’t remember who the street had been named after. I sensed there might be a slavery link, like much of the Merchant City, and wondered if one day soon it might have a new name. I had been wandering looking in a different way, not just through the prism of the pandemic. As far as I can make out, Hutcheson Street is named after the founders of the hospital, who don’t seem to have been involved in the slave trade. I did wonder if it had been named after Francis Hutcheson, philosopher during the Scottish Enlightenment, who argued against slavery, but the hospital founders would be more likely. Their old hospital, now a restaurant, stands at the top of a very varied city street.
Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, again being written in advance. Football highlights again grace my screen as I start this week’s post.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally finished Alphabetical by Michael Rosen. It’s a very fine book, an history of the alphabet and much else besides. A couple of passages in the final pages particularly interested me, including discussions of the derive and the conception of the London A-Z. The derive, a psychogeographical walk seeing the urban in a different way, is a particular favourite pursuit of mine and Rosen talks about walking around parts of London where during the English Civil War (or War of the Three Kingdoms, depending on your philosophical hue) defences were laid out in a semicircular formation to combat the Royalist forces. A derive is possible just about anywhere and, as Rosen says, with guidelines for the walk entirely personal to those doing it.
Recently I bought a road atlas. I like maps anyway and this one was bought to aid future day trip planning. It now lives in the back seat of a car. It is an A-Z atlas, the descendant of the original London A-Z, considered the ultimate street atlas of London and surrounding areas. I have one beside me now and it sat in my backpack throughout my trip to London in February. It was the work of Phyllis Pearsall, who set about walking thousands of miles across the metropolis to create the map. As much as Google Maps is useful, nothing beats a paper reference and particularly one as detailed. A fact that I’ve always liked is that it is common for map manufacturers to include fake streets (or trap streets) in order to beat copyright infringement.
Today’s interesting perspective is from Patrice Evra, a footballer who experienced more than his fair share of racial abuse. This interview from the Guardian is an interesting account of his career and its highs and lows.
I like to illustrate these posts whenever possible though in the last weeks, that has been harder. Like today. I’ve decided to delve into the blog photo archive and pick a vaguely interesting and apposite image. It’s the featured image at the top of the post if on the website or what accompanies the post on the WordPress Reader. It helps to make the post more interesting, especially when shared on social media. That isn’t without its problems either, especially when the accompanying picture ends up being different from the one I’ve described. It’s been sorted for the posts I’ve got lined up. Anyway, today’s is definitely from a deserted country road, taken when walking between Dryburgh Abbey and Melrose a few years ago.
Well, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 12th September 2020. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow returns on Wednesday. A Saturday Saunter will appear here next Saturday at 8.30. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning to you all.
It’s fair to say that Glasgow’s streets have changed quite a bit since my last Streets of Glasgow post, back in May last year. The history hasn’t, only the context. I wouldn’t have imagined, for instance, hand sanitising stations or carrying a face mask in my hoodie pocket. How history is seen has changed too, with Glasgow’s links to slavery considered like never before. In the coming weeks, I will be chronicling some more walks down Glasgow’s streets, considering what I encounter in more dimensions than before, hopefully.
The first four of this new tranche of Streets of Glasgow was undertaken on a warm August Sunday, beginning on Hanover Street.
Hanover Street is one of the shorter streets in Glasgow city centre, leading off George Square to Ingram Street and onto Miller Street. It reminded me of its namesake in Edinburgh, both named for the ruling dynasty of Britain in the 18th century at the peak of the city’s powers. I had time to kill one sunny Sunday morning and decided to do a bit of psychogeography for the first time in a while, certainly the first for a while on a city street, and set off from George Square, finishing a few minutes later on Ingram Street. It was a blend of the old and modern, cash machines set into an old bank building, a pigeon walking on the road, flowers in an office window. In these socially distanced times, I wondered if the offices were occupied once more. The talk on the cash machine screen of remortgaging was a reminder of how the world had changed since I had spent much time in the city centre. A hair salon promised a fresh take on blonde and through the window folk were in, everyone in sight done up in PPE. Emporio Armani stood behind scaffolding with bars on the window surrounding the posh clothes. I cheerfully passed on, wondering merely where to next?
This Saturday Saunter comes early because of work and being written a couple of weeks in advance for much the same reason. I am writing this on a Sunday afternoon with highlights of the weekend’s football on in the background. It’s a cloudy and wet afternoon here in south west Glasgow and it’s just as well I didn’t plan to go far today anyway.
The other day I was reading Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, a memoir of how reading had shaped her life. I was struck by how she would read everywhere and anywhere, which I did, up to and including cereal boxes, though I had only read a few of the books important to her growing up. I was trying to think of those books I cared about as a kid, including Roald Dahl’s oeuvre. I did read CS Lewis, as she did, though not many impressions linger. Harry Potter, of course. I read a fair bit of non-fiction, as I still do, mainly about football and history, indeed as I still do. Horrible Histories and encyclopaedias. I remember getting a book out of the library about London and being particularly fascinated by Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment, which had a time capsule buried underneath it. Strange the random things that stick in your mind.
I’ve been reading about the US Presidential election. I’m writing after the Democratic National Convention has finished but before the Republicans do their stuff. Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, quoted Seamus Heaney in his speech the other night, a passage from The Cure at Troy about hope and history rhyming. Heaney is also a favourite of Bill Clinton, who quotes it occasionally in his speeches, as he did most notably, as the Guardian writes, in the wake of the Good Friday agreement. RF Foster is quoted in the Guardian article and says that Biden read Yeats and Heaney to overcome a speech impediment, which is interesting. Poetry is often used to underline political points, to make the prosaic seem beautiful, and sometimes it feels like an add-on rather than benefiting the speech being made. Judging by Biden’s history with Heaney, I would like to think this quote comes from him and his wider reading.
Lighthouses conjure up images of far-off, lonely places, tall towers spreading light in a storm. There was an interesting article in the Heraldabout the relevance of lighthouses in the modern world and undoubtedly they are relevant, aiding safe navigation even in these technological times. Some time I will need to go lighthouse bagging – I don’t think I’ve been to very many. One I have been to is Kinnaird Head, part of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, which recently reopened. For its reopening, the Museum published autism friendly visiting guidance, which is deeply commendable.
I’ve read quite a bit in recent weeks, including Miracle Workers by Simon Rich, an increasingly rare foray into fiction, which was hilarious. As I mentioned last week, I’ve also read the memoir of Clyde Best, The Acid Test, about his footballing career at a time when there weren’t a lot of other black footballers in England. I also finally finished Alphabetical by Michael Rosen, which I will write about in next week’s Saunter.
That is the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 5th September 2020. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. Wednesday will see the return of Streets of Glasgow, my psychogeographical series wandering around Glasgow’s streets. Another Saunter will be back here next week. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning.
Welcome to this final instalment of Virtual Loose Ends, a connections adventure around Scotland but done on a screen. By the time this is posted (I am writing this in late June 2020), it might be possible to visit some or more of these places once more.
We left off last time at the Girl With A Backpack statue on Cumberland Street in the Gorbals in Glasgow. Along the street is a set of sculptures by Liz Peden of three boys wearing high heel shoes out in the street, based on a famous Oscar Marzaroli photograph taken nearby. I rather like the photograph and have a postcard of it beside me as I write.
Also close by is a mural of the Gorbals Vampire. The Gorbals Vampire was an urban legend of a creature who would come from the Southern Necropolis and come after children. The mural is of a more recent vintage and adorns an arch under a railway.
The DPM park is in Dundee, near the Hilltown and the football grounds. It is a legal graffiti spot, adorned with some amazing and creative art. I believe art can be found everywhere and can be created by virtually any means, be it a paintbrush or a spray can. DPM stands for Dundee Pasteurised Milk, which used to be made on the site. Nearby, incidentally, is a great mural of Oor Wullie talking about mental health, which is well worth a visit too.
Firhill Stadium is the home of Partick Thistle FC, the only team in Glasgow as they often proclaim. The only one in League 1 at the time of writing, certainly. They have a cool mural on the wall which leads up to the Jackie Husband Stand at Firhill, which features fans, a ball and general football scenes. It links with the DPM Park not only because of the art but also because the DPM is near Tannadice and Dens Park.
Brown’s Lane in Paisley also features street art and indeed art relating to football. St Mirren won the Scottish Cup in 1987 and this feat is depicted on the wall in Brown’s Lane as well as musicians, since the Bungalow music venue is nearby, and much else besides. It’s worth exploring the street art in Paisley but particularly the lane.
Another place which depicts the Scottish Cup is the Famous Five Stand at Easter Road Stadium, home of Hibernian Football Club who won the 2016 Scottish Cup. I don’t think I mention that here enough. A panel featuring club captain Sir David Gray and Lewis Stevenson lifting the cup hangs on the side of the stand. The Famous Five Stand is at the northern end of the stadium, built in 1995. The Famous Five were a notably successful forward line for Hibs during the 1940s and 1950s, comprising Gordon Smith, Eddie Turnbull, Willie Ormond, Lawrie Reilly and Bobby Johnstone. The Hibernian Historical Trust has done a lot of work showcasing the history of the club around the ground and the lower concourse of the Famous Five has a plaque about James Main, a Hibs player in the 1900s who died of a ruptured bowel the day after being kicked in the stomach during a game.
On the open-top bus route when Hibs win a trophy is the statue of Queen Victoria, which stands at the bottom of Leith Walk outside what used to be Woolworths. The statue is one of very few of women in the capital. Indeed there are more statues of dogs than women in Edinburgh, which surely, surely should be remedied.
Victoria and her husband Albert gave their name to a museum in Kensington in London, which in 2018 opened a branch dedicated to design…in Dundee.
That’s Virtual Loose Ends. Thanks so much for reading. I’m not sure what will be here next week but something there will hopefully be. Until then, keep safe. A very good afternoon.