Saturday Saunter: Darkness and graphic novels

Why, hello,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter. It’s Saturday 31st October so I will of course be spending my night…watching the Scottish Cup semi final between the only Premiership team in Edinburgh and some mob from Gorgie. Hopefully I won’t be spooked by what I see through my tellybox from Hampden. I don’t do Halloween, though of course at least two of the bloggers I read regularly do, namely Natalie at Wednesday’s Child and Jessica at Diverting Journeys so please do see them for all your spooky needs!

What I can write about is darkness. The other day I was at Pollok House. Through the window I could see up an avenue orange with fallen leaves. The autumn colours, reds, yellows, oranges, go some way to redress the balance of the nights fair drawing in and thicker coats being deployed. As a person who particularly cherishes natural light, I intend to do what I do every year and soak up as much of it as I can over the coming months until the nights grow longer. The nights might be long but hopefully the days will bring some decent light too.

In the coming weeks I might read a couple of books I’ve bought recently. Not just the Northumberland book with the toty text that I mentioned last week but The Little Book of Humanism by Andrew Copson and Alice Roberts and a graphic novel about Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua. I’m particularly looking forward to dipping into the humanism book in the next few weeks, into nice heathen words. I’ve been trying to find a way into graphic novels in the last wee while. It is a complex world of books that I don’t know very well but I’m trying. I got into the Heartstopper stories by Alice Oseman and I have read Posy Simmonds in recent weeks too. On a pile I also have an illustrated version of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, which I read in print form when I was a teenager. Any suggestions would be gratefully received. I was particularly struck by the story of Ada Lovelace when I was at the Science Museum in London a few years ago so will hopefully enjoy this version.

Today is the last day of Black History Month in the UK and a particularly interesting article published in its honour is from the Historic Environment Scotland website about Frederick Douglass so go seek that out. At some point I will need to go to the Frederick Douglass mural in Edinburgh.

Talking of murals, yesterday I finally got to the mural of Andrew Watson, the first black international footballer, which is in Shawlands. The added bonus of Pele across the close was a particularly good surprise. I will write about that next week.

Today’s featured image is the view from Queen’s Park over the Glasgow skyline, taken about a year ago. Glasgow is still autumnal even as the clocks have gone back.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 31st October 2020. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow will be back on Wednesday and it will be Shuttle Street. Until then, keep safe, keep well. A very good morning to you all.

Streets of Glasgow: North Portland Street

a sign on a lamppost which states North Portland Street. There are tree branches and leaves behind.
North Portland Street: a sign on a lamppost which states North Portland Street. There are tree branches and leaves behind.
looking down a street towards tall, square office buildings with a city skyline visible between them in the middle.
North Portland Street: looking down a street towards tall, square office buildings with a city skyline visible between them in the middle.
looking across a road towards various square office buildings. On the walls are illustrations of a person skateboarding, a woman walking down the hill and people sat in a lecture hall watching a lecture.
North Portland Street: looking across a road towards various square office buildings. On the walls are illustrations of a person skateboarding, a woman walking down the hill and people sat in a lecture hall watching a lecture.

In recent weeks, I’ve covered two of the streets in the Strathclyde University campus, Rottenrow and Montrose Street, and what they have in common is that construction work continues apace. Most of North Portland Street is closed off for that reason, colourful hoardings declaring Strathclyde to be ‘the place of useful learning’. What I learned pretty swiftly was to stand back to get a photo down the street towards the hills without getting a fence in the road. A new university building was nearly done, one of the sharp-angled, pointy, glass school of architecture. I passed students as I descended, one saying they had only walked in the adjacent Rottenrow Gardens the previous day. Thankfully North Portland Street is less steep than Montrose Street. A poster extolling the virtues of electric vehicles had been graffitied over though I could still clearly see the murals across the street, a skateboarder, a girl walking towards George Street, some weird acrobats and students in a lecture hall with a staring guy in blue that I couldn’t unsee. I also couldn’t unsmell the distinct scent of urine nearer George Street, all part of life’s rich tapestry as North Portland Street undoubtedly is, just with new pointy buildings and the street art which adorns their neighbours.

Thanks for reading. This is the seventy seventh Streets of Glasgow post on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured here previously include George Street, Albion Street, Rottenrow, Montrose Street and Shuttle Street, which appears here next week. The Streets of Glasgow page has a list of all the walks so far.

Incidentally, yesterday the Glasgow Women’s Library posted a virtual version of its Merchant City walk, which was partly in this area.

Saturday Saunter: Gardens, postboxes and books

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, the first in a few weeks. This is being written about a week in advance, on a grey, drizzly afternoon here in Glasgow. On in the background is a BBC programme about the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. I was last there in January, during the annual Turner exhibition, and will hopefully be back ere long.

Greenbank House: a three-storey country house with a curved topiary in front of it.​
Greenbank House: a three-storey country house with a curved topiary in front of it.

Over the last few months, I’ve tried to devote some of this post to different perspectives about slavery and the role of BAME people in our society. This week by chance I have quite a few things to share. Two Saturdays ago, I visited Greenbank Garden, which is in Clarkston. I had never been there before and it was quite lovely in the autumnal sunshine. We wandered around the manicured gardens and sat and ate our sandwiches in the courtyard. There were also some very cool sculptures of owls and woodland creatures in the woods which surrounded the garden. Walking into the garden took us past an information board which informed that Greenbank House was built by a merchant called Robert Allason who, with his brothers, ‘ran a business trading in tobacco and slaves’. Short and matter-of-fact. Honest. The National Trust for Scotland, who now manage the garden, are going about investigating its properties’ links to slavery and this is undoubtedly commendable work. Indeed the page on the NTS website about the Changing history project features Greenbank House at the top, though its work will also involve Brodie, Brodick and Culzean Castles too. I, for one, will be interested to see what they come up with.

Walter Tull postbox: a postbox in black and yellow with information about postage on the left. The picture is slightly different as it is being taken facing into the sun.​
Walter Tull postbox: a postbox in black and yellow with information about postage on the left. The picture is slightly different as it is being taken facing into the sun.

For Black History Month, the Royal Mail has painted various postboxes in honour of eminent people. Byres Road in Glasgow has a box in honour of Walter Tull, footballer and soldier who perished in the First World War. Walter Tull was the first black infantry officer in a British army regiment and also the first black footballer for Rangers. History is often to be encountered on the street as much as in books and documentaries and I hope folk walking in the West End will see this postbox and think a little more as I did.

Since I last wrote here, I’ve had some time off work. I’ve visited a few places, walked and swished through autumn leaves, and read some books. One of my recent highlights is To The Island Of Tides: A Journey to Lindisfarne by Alistair Moffat. Lindisfarne, Holy Island, is an island just off the Northumbrian coast and it is only accessible via a tidal causeway. I have been a few times and my favourite part is the walk from the Priory to the Castle. Lindisfarne Castle is better on the outside than the inside – it looks like a sandcastle, which is a plus, even while I like my castles ruined. Anyway, Alistair Moffat’s book is following in the footsteps of St. Cuthbert, walking from near Melrose to Lindisfarne, dwelling on the history of Cuthbert himself, Northumbria, the Borders and of Moffat too, going into mortality and family grief. It is a very fine, very varied book and it took me to familiar places, not least Melrose, Dryburgh Abbey and the Northumbrian coast.

A book I started earlier this week is also about Northumberland. I felt that it was appropriate to start The Northumbrians: North-East England and Its People A New History by Dan Jackson, given I had just read about Lindisfarne, though after reading Moffat, adjusting to Jackson’s tinier text was particularly tricky. I may need to invest in a magnifying glass, quite a thing for a 31-year-old, even one with short sight.

Now on in the background is another part of the Inside Museums series from the BBC, this one about Artemisia Gentileschi. I remember going to see her Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria at the Glasgow Women’s Library a year or two ago – the documentary even gave the GWL a wee nod, which was good of them.

That’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 24th October 2020. Thanks a lot for reading. Streets of Glasgow will return on Wednesday and it will be North Portland Street. The Saturday Saunter will be back with a defiantly unspooky post next Saturday morning. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning.

Streets of Glasgow: Dixon Street

a street sign stating Dixon Street on a white brick wall.
Dison Street: a street sign stating Dixon Street on a white brick wall.
looking up a street with blue temporary buildings and hoardings on the left, white and grey buildings on the right. On a gable end is a mural of a man with his arm up in the air. It depicts Billy Connolly.
Dixon Street: looking up a street with blue temporary buildings and hoardings on the left, white and grey buildings on the right. On a gable end is a mural of a man with his arm up in the air. It depicts Billy Connolly.

Dixon Street is a back street in the city centre, most known because it has a Billy Connolly mural on a gable end. That mural, the work of Jack Vettriano showing the Big Yin windswept and interesting on a Caithness clifftop, might have been too austere for a bright, autumnal Glasgow day, though of course it can be like that in Glasgow and indeed in Wick in October too. Building works were ongoing and people were sat in the beer garden underneath the mural. Earlier I had thought of the beer garden and a Janey Godley video from a few months back came into my head. Advertising hoardings covered the building works, some advertising the TV serial killer drama Des starring David Tennant, others with old photographs of the street and the Clydeside more generally. Those were particularly welcome. It was a busy stretch, builders, drinkers and a busker towards St. Enoch Subway singing some acoustic singer-songwriter pish. If it hadn’t been sunny, it might have been something else. No matter. Dixon Street was brief but busy, cosmopolitan with a hint of change soon to come.

Thanks for reading. Dixon Street is the seventy sixth Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured here previously include Argyle Street, Clyde Street, Buchanan Street, Oswald Street and Mitchell Street as well as the Broomielaw which featured in Intercity. The Streets of Glasgow page has a list of them all.

The mural of Billy Connolly has featured in Loose Ends too and I wrote about them also here not long after they were first unveiled.

The Saturday Saunter will resume here on Saturday. Another Streets of Glasgow post will appear next week.

Streets of Glasgow: Clyde Street

a street sign saying Clyde St. on the wall of a building.
Clyde Street: a street sign saying Clyde St. on the wall of a building.
Clyde Street suspension bridge: looking up at an archway with suspension cables extending left and right.
An orange and black mural with the letters Black Lives Matter.
An orange and black mural with the letters Black Lives Matter.
A pub in front of a market building. On the black walls of the pub are illustrations of various people, including a man with a face mask at the top.
A pub in front of a market building. On the black walls of the pub are illustrations of various people, including a man with a face mask at the top.

An autumn afternoon saw me back in the city centre with a few minutes to fit in a couple of Streets of Glasgow, the first right by the mighty river Clyde. I walked along from the Broomielaw and realised that not only were there pavement works on Clyde Street, I would also have to run across the road on the Glasgow Bridge as there isn’t a pedestrian crossing at that side. Once safe on the other side, I started along Clyde Street. Folk sat by the river in the crisp autumnal sunshine, some chatting, others ensconced in their phones or their books. Two polis officers patrolled and soon headed across the bridge with purpose. The Clydeside is changing as ever with construction works on Clyde Street and at the other side with a huge office development continuing even in these times. A wall was adorned with the words ‘Black Lives Matter’, another sign of our times. Further along, the murals by the Clutha had changed. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was adorned with a face mask, other faces newly painted, a girl with sparkly glasses, a neon figure, another with the words of Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss around her. I like them, probably even more than the well-kent faces who were there before.

The Briggait is one of my favourite buildings in Glasgow, an old fish market with sphinxes and arches and elaborations about the place. It was looking particularly fine as I passed, as did the St. Andrew’s Cathedral a little way behind, reflecting in the glass frontage of the offices beside it. I hadn’t looked at the railway before, the sides almost fortified with a tower on either side. It was very fine and reminded me of Perth, which I had visited a couple of weeks previously, where the railway is raised as it passes between the station and the Tay. An old building was now student flats with trousers and washing hanging out the window to dry in the sun. It was a fine day to be out, right enough, a nice, light walk through the heart of the big city.

Thanks for reading. This is the seventy fifth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets which have appeared here previously include Argyle Street and Oswald Street, Dixon Street (which will appear here in two weeks time) and the Broomielaw, which was part of Intercity. Other instalments of Streets of Glasgow can be found on the Streets of Glasgow page.

Here the blog will pause for a hiatus until Wednesday 21st October. Streets of Glasgow: Dixon Street will be here then. Until then, keep safe.

Saturday Saunter: Cemeteries, books and history

Good Saturday to you all,

Welcome back to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written not too long in advance on Tuesday. As I start this, I only have a vague inkling of what to write beyond the first paragraph so this could be interesting!

I’ve written here before about the journalist Peter Ross who chronicles the lives of interesting people across Scotland. He’s brought out a new book, A Tomb With A View, which is about cemeteries. It features a few familiar graveyards, including the Necropolis in Glasgow and Warriston and Greyfriars in Edinburgh, as well as others further afield in London, Dublin and Belfast, delving with sensitivity into their stories and the lives of their denizens both living and dead. The bit about ossuaries I would rather have missed, frankly, but that’s because I don’t particularly like skulls. The preface about walking in cemeteries during the early days of the pandemic particularly resonated as I sometimes did the same thing. The Easter Rising keyrings and the Eamon de Valera mugs on sale at Glasnevin in Dublin sound spectacularly tacky.

Over the weekend I was away so didn’t read that much. What I did read were the September entries from Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin. I haven’t delved into that particular favourite for a while and Roger’s jottings were particularly soothing, about fields, trees and much else besides. I did buy books over the weekend, though – Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty, and the Grampian Quartet by Nan Shepherd, the latter bought in a second hand bookshop in St. Andrews. Dara McAnulty is a young autistic man from the north of Ireland who writes compellingly about his local area and conservation more widely. I hope to read his book more properly soon.

A white wall featuring illustrations of various people wearing face masks hugging each other.
A white wall featuring illustrations of various people wearing face masks hugging each other.

The Dundee V and A is a very fine museum and I had the pleasure to be there this past weekend. The Mary Quant exhibition was on and that was fine, featuring many dresses and the stories of those who wore them. One thing that caught my attention elsewhere was on a corridor wall, drawings by Eleni Kalorkuti called ‘Reimagining the hug’, featuring face mask-wearing people hugging; the illustrations sought to ‘adjust behaviour to connect safely’. A hug from a special someone can’t be beat, it really can’t, but in these socially-distanced times, we are continuing to find new ways to connect with our loved ones.

Historic Environment Scotland are running a new campaign to get Scots talking about heritage, asking about childhood favourite stories and places. The picture which accompanies the HES Facebook post is of Hailes Castle not far from where I grew up in East Lothian and a place I went to as a kid. A place I went to as a kid, and hope to see again soon, is Linlithgow Palace, which is just a great place to roam, complete enough but still ruined with fine views over hills, the Peel and the loch.

Our interesting perspective is about a movement in the Shawlands and Battlefield areas of Glasgow to put up murals in support of Black Lives Matter. One, by a cafe called Jodandy’s in Pollokshaws Road, depicts Andrew Wilson, the first black international footballer. I’m going to have to see it soon.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 3rd October 2020. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow will be here on Wednesday. After that the blog will be on hiatus until Wednesday 21st October. There might be a book recommendation or two on the blog Twitter feed too. Until then, have a nice weekend. Keep well, keep safe. Bye for now.