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.

18 thoughts on “Saturday Saunter: Gardens, postboxes and books

      1. I believe so. I remember walking towards the northern end of the island one time I was there and being there by myself after a few yards.

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  1. This must be a first, I have been to every single place you mention! Greenback not for years admittedly – sounds like time for a revisit. I have pics of that post box for my October gallivanting post, I’ve been to Lindisfarne (and loved the castle too), and of course I well remember Artemisia visiting GWL. Bingo!

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      1. Cambo looks nice. I’ve never been. We did drive the coast road on our way back from Dundee a few weeks back, which was as glorious as ever.

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  2. Alli Templeton

    A really enjoyable read, Kev. Greenbank House looks and sounds a great place to wander around, and as I sit here up to my ears in studying I quite envy you having some off to read some great books and swish around in the autumn leaves. Both the Northumbrian ones look just my cup of tea, especially as one of the modules I have my eye on for my MA is ‘Bede’s Northumbria’. As you know, it’s a place very close to my heart and where I hope to end up living, so I heartily approve of your favourite walk on Lindisfarne. Roll on next year when I might actually be able to get back there at last. Have a great week, Kev, and take care.

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    1. You too, Alli! Bede’s Northumbria sounds excellent. A good few years ago, I went to Bede’s World in Jarrow, which was excellent. It was a very cold December day, if I remember rightly.

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      1. Alli Templeton

        Oh yes, I’ve been to Jarrow too, a few years ago, and it was a fabulous place. One of the most amazing memories I have is from there, when a man called Adam, all dressed up as a Saxon, sat in the big chair by the crackling fire in the great hall, and played to me on a reconstructed lyre and sang a Saxon song called ‘The Wanderer’. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I’ll never forget it. Sadly, it seems the place has since deteriorated through lack of funds. I hope it pi

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  3. I want to visit that Artemisia exhibition at the National Gallery, but it’s been booked up every time I was free to go. Also I think it’s like £20, which is a lot, even for London (I’ll pay £18, but somehow once it ticks past 20 I feel it’s too much). I have a deliberately spooky post out today, which I hope you won’t hold against me!

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    1. Definitely not! I’m going to link to your (excellent) new post on my post this Saturday, so anyone reading can satisfy their spooky needs! £20 is extreme. In Scotland, we haven’t reached those levels for exhibitions yet.

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