Saturday Saunter: Books, walls and roads blocking sculptures

Good morning,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on a dismal Thursday. I have not a scooby what I’ll be doing when this is posted though I imagine I might be out for a walk somewhere. As I start this, I have a Robson Green documentary on in the background. He’s walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall, from east to west, and it’s been all right. I’ve been to a few parts of Hadrian’s Wall and it is showing the rugged landscape particularly well.

Model of the Angel of the North in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge - a silhouetted model of a figure with two large wings protruding from either side. The model is in front of a big window and is also reflected on the walls on either side of it.​
Model of the Angel of the North in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge – a silhouetted model of a figure with two large wings protruding from either side. The model is in front of a big window and is also reflected on the walls on either side of it.

Staying in the north of England, the sculptor Antony Gormley isn’t happy that proposed upgrades to the A1 just south of Newcastle will stop people from properly seeing his best known work, the Angel of the North. I’m not a big fan of Gormley’s work but I do like the Angel of the North, which can be seen from the A1 as well as the East Coast railway line. It’s striking and brings people to the area, as well as being a landmark when travelling north reassuring the weary passenger that home is relatively near. Highways England has said that they will seek to ‘minimise the effect on the landscape’ so who knows what will happen? Hopefully some decent views will still be had.

I read a fair bit though lately I haven’t had much of a plan for what I wanted to read. The last book I finished was a profile of the last ten Prime Ministers by Steve Richards, which was half decent. I don’t have anything in particular lined up. I read a fair few book blogs and I know they have been going into the most exciting books that will come out this year. To be honest, the only book coming out this year which I’m looking forward to reading is the memoir of Pat Nevin, a former footballer. I have a significantly sized pile from last year and probably previous years too, so new books might not feature too much for a while. Near the top is The Unremembered Places: Exploring Scotland’s Wild Histories by Patrick Baker, which I got for Christmas, as is an anthology of Scottish nature writing edited by Kathleen Jamie, Antlers of Water. Also near my bed at the moment are Hibs Through and Through: The Eric Stevenson Story, about a Hibs player who played in the 1960s, and The Little Book of Humanism by Andrew Copson and Alice Roberts, which seems more for delving into than reading from end to end. I usually go with whatever I am in the mood for so I might continue with Snapshot by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie for the next few days.

Our different perspective today is from the historian Christine Whyte who shared some resources to help folk read more about Scotland’s imperial history. Knowing where to start definitely helps.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 30th January 2021. Thanks for reading. There will hopefully be something here on Wednesday. Until then, cheers for now.

Books and pictures

Good evening,

For want of anything else to post tonight, I’ve got a post in the Saturday Saunter discursive vein. Hopefully I’ll have enough left in the tank for Saturday! I’m writing this on Tuesday night though I don’t doubt that when this is posted, I’ll be in much the same position, sat at the dining table on my computer. It’s been a wet, dismal day here in Glasgow today but that has come after a few cracking, cold, sunny days so that’s not too bad.

I’ve read a fair bit this week, more than in a right few weeks. Last week I read the autobiography by Doddie Weir, rugby player and Motor Neuron Disease campaigner. It was excellent, funny and insightful. I’m currently reading The Prime Ministers: Reflections on Leadership from Wilson to Johnson by Steve Richards, profiles of each of the Prime Ministers who have presided since 1964 to the present. It’s decent so far. I’ve read about Harold Wilson and Edward Heath so far though there’s still Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and May to go so quite a lot. It’s accessible, going beyond a recitation of policies, successes and failures to discuss how they were perceived by their contemporaries and how they are seen by history now. I also started Snapshot by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie, words and pictures capturing Scottish football at all levels. I’ve skimmed the pictures and now I’m going through the excellent words by Daniel Gray. Braw. The last picture of the book is on Albion Road in Edinburgh, which made me smile even if the team’s last result at Hampden really didn’t.

Looking back through my photos of recent walks, there’s quite a few sunny, shadowy pictures in parks, which is never a bad thing. January is a great month for walking, especially if it’s sunny.

Tynemouth Priory: a ruined church with gravestones in the foreground.​
Tynemouth Priory: a ruined church with gravestones in the foreground.
Tynemouth: a seaside scene in the midst of a winter sunset. Waves roll to the shore; a pier with a lighthouse at the end stretches out to sea. A cliff is to its right.

I was watching Susan Calman’s Grand Day Out the other night. She was in Yorkshire and went to Whitby Abbey, a place I’ve never been. It looked gorgeous, though, all ruined and gothic on a headland. It reminded me of Tynemouth Priory, which I have been to, on the coast near Newcastle. Tynemouth is in a particularly good setting, on a cliff top with a beach. I was last in Tynemouth about a year ago – it’s a good place to park if going into Newcastle since they’re connected by the Metro.

Anyway, those are some musings for this Wednesday. The Saturday Saunter will be back on Saturday. Until then, cheers just now.

Saturday Saunter: Music, Scots and Sunny Woodlands

Good Saturday to you,

What a week it’s been. I’m writing this on Thursday night and unusually I have a load of ideas for this post today. Whether I’ll get through them all, I’m not sure. I didn’t want to tempt fate by writing this post earlier than Wednesday in case I used expressions like ‘President Biden’ or anything like that. Amanda Gorman, the inaugural poet, was particularly brilliant.

One of the other things I’ve watched this week, aside from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s inauguration, has been Celtic Connections, the folk music festival which normally happens in real life in Glasgow in January. This year it has been online, a wee bit on TV too, and it was one of the best investments of the year to buy the Festival Pass. I’ve watched a couple of the concerts so far, including the opening concert featuring Duncan Chisholm and the one the other night with Karine Polwart, Rab Noakes, Siobhan Miller, Findlay Napier and Eddi Reader. Karine Polwart’s opening song, Come Away In, inspired by a Burns poem, was particularly brilliant. Hopefully it’ll be possible to go to Celtic Connections in person next year.

The Scots language often features in Celtic Connections and this week there’s been a bit of a stooshie with people slagging off Len Pennie, otherwise known as Miss PunnyPennie on Twitter, for posting in and about Scots on social media. Many of us talk and think in Scots. It is a language and varies widely across the country with influences from all sorts of languages and media. Len Pennie is a talented person and she chooses to communicate in Scots. Braw.

End of the pier at Eyemouth - a wooden pier with a post at the end and waves lapping at either side. Cliffs extend to the left. The grey clouds are ​low, below a light blue sky.
End of the pier at Eyemouth – a wooden pier with a post at the end and waves lapping at either side. Cliffs extend to the left. The grey clouds are low, below a light blue sky.

Since travelling great distances isn’t possible at the moment, I’ve found a fair bit of inspiration from social media. One was from the wonderful chip shop Giacopazzi’s, in Eyemouth, which shared a view from their harbourside shop across to the old Maritime Museum which is in the process of demolition. Eyemouth is one of my favourite places and I was glad to visit last summer when restrictions were eased. Last February, meanwhile, was my last visit to Kirkcaldy Galleries, my favourite art gallery, and one of my favourite paintings there, which is ‘Sunny Woodlands’ by Thomas Corsan Morton, with a person sitting under some leafy trees. They posted it on social media the other day and it was a wee boost, I have to say.

An excellent and timely article I read the other day was by David Leask, of The Herald, about the importance of learning the truth about Scotland and its links to slavery unfettered or diluted by political narratives.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 23rd January 2021. Thanks as ever for reading. Not sure what’ll be here on Wednesday. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning to you all. Peace.

5 In 5: January

January isn’t usually considered a month for roving. It’s invariably cold, dark and miserable. This year, since we can’t rove anyway, it feels particularly grim. Being able to get exercise outside has been particularly beneficial, probably even more than in the summer as light is more precious this time of year. The last few weeks here have been cold, sometimes snowy, other times rainy.

January 2021 sees most of Scotland under lockdown restrictions. We are limited to our own local authority areas except for essential purposes. In summer 2020, the restrictions were 5 miles, even if that was over a local authority boundary. There's plenty of interesting things in my local authority area - I live in the City of Glasgow, the biggest city in Scotland, and we have plenty of parks and all sorts that can still be explored as part of essential exercise.
Picture from the summer, looking through trees at Bellahouston Park – densely packed trees with gaps looking into a park.

Rather than coming up with a list of five interesting places in my local area, which I was going to do, I’m just going to write a little about some of the best parts of walks this January. They’ve included being able to look out and see snow on the hills. From different places nearby, I can see hills to the north, south and west and there’s been lots of snow to change perspectives nicely. Even without snow, it’s been good to see hills over yonder – a reminder that there is indeed a world beyond and hopefully I can cross those hills before too long. I like a synoptic view and some of my local parks, like Bellahouston, have a rewarding vista over much of southern Glasgow.

I find that keeping in the moment helps. When I can, I like to stop and stand for a minute, in front of a view or just to look around. It’s useful to see a place in all its dimensions or even just to savour being outside, just for a moment, without any other considerations. Walking often clears our heads; stopping to look for a moment helps too, if there’s not a biting wind, that is.

Saturday Saunter: Borders, sculptures and monuments

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on a dark and dismal Wednesday night. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing when this is posted but the weather isn’t to be great, which is not out of character for this year so far.

Recently I mentioned the Turner watercolour of the Rhymer’s Glen at Abbotsford. I’ve been thinking about the Borders quite a bit lately and maybe later in the year I might get back there. A wander around Dryburgh Abbey would be nice. I’ve only been there in the summer but I imagine it would be great on a cold, bright January day. Same with Melrose Abbey. Hermitage Castle is a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time – it’s a castle in a very rural part of the Borders with links to Mary, Queen of Scots – though it isn’t usually open in the winter anyway. Plus it isn’t easy to get to, even with a car. Randomly it was owned by a forebear of Sir Walter Scott, since this is a small world. The book I’m reading at the moment was written by a Borderer, actually, Doddie Weir, My Name’s Doddie, and it’s decent so far, going into his rugby career as well as his more recent diagnosis with motor neurone disease. He has a great sense of humour and his book is enjoyable even for someone like me who doesn’t like rugby.

Kelpies - two large sculptures of horses, one in side profile, the other to the right with head up. There is an electricity pylon between the sculptures.
Kelpies – two large sculptures of horses, one in side profile, the other to the right with head up. There is an electricity pylon between the sculptures.
DunBear - a sculpture of a brown bear stood on a plinth.
DunBear – a sculpture of a brown bear stood on a plinth.
Poised - a metal sculpture of a cat sat on a plinth. The cat is in an office building.
Poised – a metal sculpture of a cat sat on a plinth. The cat is in an office building.

I was looking at some photos the other day, including the Kelpies and the DunBear, both of which I visited last January. What I didn’t know was that the leopard sculpture in Marischal Square in Aberdeen was also the work of the same sculptor, Andy Scott, as is the memorial to the Ibrox disaster and the Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue in Anderston. The Kelpies have become a symbol of Scotland since their unveiling in 2013 and they are even more impressive close up than they are in pictures. The leopard sculpture, Poised, is cool too and it sits in the confines of an office block above an ice cream shop.

Glenfinnan and Loch Shiel

This seems to have become a discursion about interesting places around Scotland. That’s okay with me. I’ve written before about the National Trust for Scotland’s efforts to delve into the history of its properties and their links with slavery. The Glenfinnan Monument, which stands at the head of Loch Shiel, commemorates the ’45 Jacobite rising. It was built, according to new research, as written about in The Guardian recently, using funds gleaned from the work of slaves on Jamaican plantations. Even in the Highlands, there are links. It would be interesting to know if there are other connections in Glenfinnan to slavery. It’s a small place but nothing would surprise me.

Before I forget, WordPress is trying out native sponsored posts. One might appear if you read this on the website as opposed to WordPress Reader. I don’t endorse any adverts which appear here. It’s a bit annoying really.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 16th January 2021. Thanks for reading. A post about interesting local places will appear on Wednesday. That appears just when Joe Biden will be sworn in as President of the United States, which is infinitely more important. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning to you all. Peace.

Streets

For about three years I’ve been doing a series called Streets of Glasgow, which involves a psychogeographic walk along a street in the city I call home. 81 streets have featured so far and they tend to be popular posts, which is cool. My process is generally to walk along the street, paying close attention to what interests me, what I hear, see, smell, taking pictures along the way. Sometimes I do research, sometimes not. I have done many of the walks on the spur of the moment, which I prefer, really, with the longer walks invariably involving planning. Some of the streets have changed since I wrote the post about it – Cathedral Street, for example, which has seen extensive redevelopment with new college and university buildings having sprung up. Businesses have closed and opened, plus of course there’s been a global pandemic with all that has entailed. I’m hoping to do more Streets walks when the current restrictions change, hopefully in the spring. I have done walks in all seasons though spring is the best season to walk in, as there is more light and trees and flowers coming into bloom.

Parkhead Cross: a tall building with a cupola to its left. On the middle of the building are the words ‘Glasgow Savings Bank’.​
Parkhead Cross: a tall building with a cupola to its left. On the middle of the building are the words ‘Glasgow Savings Bank’.

The longest walks have generally been my favourites, though I particularly liked Govan Road and Miller Street, which I did on the same day, if memory serves. Cumberland Street was another highlight, due to the statues. Any street with statues or art tends to be a winner, like Mitchell Street early one morning to kill time before a train. Alexandra Parade was an interesting one too. Some of the walks have taken me into unfamiliar territory, particularly in the East End like Alexandra Parade, London Road and Duke Street, which are varied in all sorts of ways.

Great Western Road: a city street with a church with a tall spire to the right.​
Great Western Road: a city street with a church with a tall spire to the right.

Every so often I make a list of streets I’ve still to do and they are spread right across the city, usually the longer roads that lead out, like Edinburgh Road, Dumbarton Road and Maryhill Road. A lot of us have become more aware of our local authority boundaries lately though in planning a long walk I usually have to find where some of those roads cross a boundary into another council area, since this is a Glasgow series after all. Great Western Road continues into West Dunbartonshire and then up the A82 right up to Inverness. I started the Paisley Road West walk right by the boundary with Renfrewshire, which cuts across the road diagonally. Google Street View is useful, as is figuring out how to get to or from wherever the boundary is.

In doing some of the walks this past summer, I often thought about how Covid and the Black Lives Matter movement have changed how our streets are, the perception of their past and the reality of the present. Glasgow is a city with a complicated past and exploring it in the present necessitates dealing with that past in some way. I often bring an outsider’s perspective, having grown up in the east of Scotland, which means usually I learn something new, either on the walk or after when I do some more reading.

I never stop learning about Glasgow. I still go to new places, most recently the Aldi car park which sits above the shop and Paisley Road West, and that’s pretty decent. I’ve lived in Glasgow for nearly eight years and walking its streets helps me figure it out, though I reckon I’m a long way from completing that particular process.

Incidentally, a full list of the Street of Glasgow walks, all 81 of them, can be found on the Streets of Glasgow page. Please also feel free to share any suggestions for when it is possible to do some more.

Saturday Saunter: Cold, podcasts and Bob

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on a cold and foggy Glasgow Wednesday night. It’s been cold and icy for days here, only a dusting of snow a few days ago and a whole lot of ice. Some have skated; others like myself have tried not to skite right off their feet. By the time this is posted there might have been much more wintry weather with snow and cold forecast.

With the current lockdown I have been finding different paths around my local area once more. I’ve decided to bring back 5 In 5, the posts I did last summer about interesting places near me. These will start a week on Wednesday and I’ve got one idea so far featuring a bit of nearby graffiti.

Tonight I’ve been watching an excellent documentary, The Years That Changed Modern Scotland, presented by Kirsty Wark, the start of which talked about the department store Goldberg’s, which used to be on the corner of Candleriggs (shown in the featured image above) and Trongate. I didn’t know what had stood on that now empty site and it was interesting to see a vibrant Glasgow city centre in the archive footage. It was a wide ranging documentary, the first of four, covering how Scotland changed in the 1970s and 1980s.

Before Kirsty Wark, I watched what is fast becoming my favourite show, The Joy of Painting by Bob Ross, which is on BBC Four from time to time. For the uninitiated, this was a show made in the 1980s and early 1990s for American public television showing people how to paint. Bob Ross makes it with his asides and enthusiasm. It’s quite naff but compulsive viewing. Looking the show up on Wikipedia was a mistake, though, since I read that Bob Ross died over 25 years ago, in 1995 of lymphoma, so there can’t be more. The Wikipedia page did note that Bob has become more popular in the UK since the beginning of the pandemic, which is cool.

I’ve been listening to a right few podcasts lately, including binging the World of Wallace and Gromit podcast, which delves into the Wallace and Gromit oeuvre, films, shorts, adverts, books and everything in between. I’ve managed to watch or rewatch a lot of Wallace and Gromit over the festives, which has been a lot better than watching the news a lot of the time. I’ve listened to a few episodes of Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend and David Tennant Does A Podcast With…, with both men particularly adept at the long form interview, even when conducted over Zoom as so often lately.

Our different perspective comes from reporter Barbara Blake-Hannah and how she was removed from television screens in the 1960s because of racism.

Well, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 9th January 2021. Thanks for reading. There will be something here on Wednesday but I’m not sure what yet. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.

Further afield

Right now, with most of Scotland in level 4 restrictions due to the pandemic, it isn’t possible to go far. Hopefully it will be possible soon to go a bit further, as restrictions ease and more folk will be vaccinated. To that end I’ve made a list of places in Scotland and a wee bit further afield that I might want to go to when it’s possible to go.

Embleton Bay, Northumberland - facing towards Dunstanburgh Castle - a beach on a grey, cloudy day wi​th a ruined castle on a raised section of land in the centre of the image.
Embleton Bay, Northumberland – facing towards Dunstanburgh Castle – a beach on a grey, cloudy day with a ruined castle on a raised section of land in the centre of the image.
  • Northumberland – Berwick and Bamburgh beach particularly. I would like a walk around the walls at Berwick, to look out to sea and down the coast, and to imagine these walls besieged. Bamburgh beach is glorious in all weathers, particularly on a bracingly cold day.
  • Edinburgh – what I wouldn’t give to have an hour in the Botanics.
  • Dunbar – ditto for Belhaven beach. The world just feels further away there.
  • Iona – I was watching a TV programme earlier about Mull and its surrounding islands and it made me want to travel to Oban and get on a ferry.
  • Durham – I was there about a year ago and looked at the pictures recently. A few minutes sitting in the Cathedral would be ideal, just to think, look and be.
  • The Borders – Melrose and St Abbs particularly. Very different places and geographically spread out but both interesting.

In the meantime, Glasgow will more than do and there’s plenty to explore here. I was in Bellahouston Park recently and the cold day and the white on the hills was something else. I’ve come to realise that the nearest places can yield just as much interest and joy as those further afield, even if being able to go further would be excellent too.

Saturday Saunter: Football, local and the Borders

Good Saturday to you,

Happy New Year to all readers too. Lang may your lum reek and all that jazz! This is being written about a week in advance so still in 2020. Space Jam, that seminal 1996 classic motion picture, is on in the background. It’s cold out and there was a sleet shower earlier. I don’t have a scooby what I’ll be doing when this is posted but I may be out for a walk.

I’ve been reading Extra Time, a series of short essays about football by Daniel Gray that I got for Christmas. I’ve written here before about football and how it is very different right now with the pandemic. Daniel Gray’s writing is a valuable reminder of the joys of the game beyond VAR and just being able to see it on the telly, as is currently the case. Last week Jim McLean, the legendary Dundee United manager who led them to league success and to an European final, died aged 83 after a long illness. The reactions to McLean’s death have been interesting, not least because they serve as a reminder that his career came at a time in Scottish football when it wasn’t just dominated by two teams from Glasgow. At a time when league rules seem to be made up on the spot, fans of the most dominant team in Scottish football history protest during a global pandemic because their team got beat by Ross County (which happens to proper teams too) and Jack Ross can’t seem to pick a striker to support Kevin Nisbet, it’s reassuring to read of a time when events were different, possibly better.

East Beach, Dunbar - a seaweed strewn beach with a blue, orange and yellow sunset above over the sea​
East Beach, Dunbar – a seaweed strewn beach with a blue, orange and yellow sunset above over the sea

Where I grew up in East Lothian, accessing many services and shops required travel, with just over 10 miles separating Dunbar from nearby towns Haddington and North Berwick, which invariably had more choice of stuff. They were considered local. Local has a different meaning these days. At the moment, Scotland is under level 4 restrictions which only allow travel outside our local authority area for essential purposes. I live at the edge of Glasgow quite close to the border with Renfrewshire. What has long fascinated me is that many people in the west don’t consider places which are quite geographically close to be local. Paisley could be at the other end of the world rather than a few miles from the heart of Glasgow. Dumbarton is a half hour from the city centre but another world with a fairly similar accent. Even for me, there are parts of Glasgow I just don’t know. I was at Tolcross Park recently, which was cool but also the very first time I had been there. It’s within my local authority area but hitherto unknown. During the first lockdown I particularly enjoyed exploring my local area on foot, seeing new things even though I had lived nearby for years. This might be a time to rediscover the local once more, even in the cold of January.

I was just thinking about the annual Turner watercolours exhibition which usually appears at the National Gallery in Edinburgh in January. At this stage, it is uncertain whether the National Gallery will reopen in January, since it depends on any changes in restrictions from the Scottish Government. I always like to see the Turners and managed it last January, getting a good look by working around the many others trying to do the same thing. There’s one which shows a watery glen near Abbotsford in the Borders. I could do with a walk in a place like that though not many exist here in Glasgow. Abbotsford is nice, though. When I was there a few years ago, I loved being in the library, not just for the grand room or the books but looking out to the river Tweed. A trip to the Borders is high up the list for when wider travel is permitted again, maybe Dryburgh Abbey further up river or St Abbs by the coast. Maybe both.

It’s got dark since I started this and a nearly full moon is shining ever more brightly in the sky, not massively high but enough to be going with. It’ll probably be clear tonight, though still a bit above freezing.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 2nd January 2021. Thanks for reading. Something will appear here on Wednesday but I’m not sure what that will be. I will try and do more Streets of Glasgow walks soon when it isn’t Level 4. Until then, keep safe, keep well. A very good morning to you all.