Saturday Saunter: Books and places

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Thursday night with The West Wing on in the background as I start this. Unusually, I have a list of things I might want to include in this post so let’s dive right in. Last week’s post very quickly went out-of-date as I wrote about the Scottish Cup Final, of which less said the better. I found the best strategy after the Final was to avoid social media as there were a lot of inflamed passions. I know it was the same but only worse after the Europa League final this week when Marcus Rashford received abuse online after Villareal won on penalties against Manchester United. I saw a sensible Tweet from Jackson Irvine after the Final on Saturday which of course got piled on too. The off button works well. Folk should use it rather than venting. One thing that took my mind off the Final, for instance, was the Eurovision Song Contest which was brilliantly silly for the most part. I haven’t watched Eurovision in a few years and it was good, a decent antidote. A summer without football works for me, beyond a polite interest in the Euros in a few weeks.

I read a good post the other day from the excellently named Orangutan Librarian blog about the restorative power of reading. It won’t be a surprise that I agree wholeheartedly with this and it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as folk are reading something. Whether it’s a Mills and Boon or Tolstoy, a Booker Prize winner or a football magazine, whatever works. ‘Every person his or her book’ goes the second law of library science and it’s true. This week I’ve been reading about football, two issues of Nutmeg and Pat Nevin’s autobiography, which is newly out and probably one of the best football memoirs I’ve read in years. Also sitting by my bed is the Dervla Murphy book I restarted last week and I’m hoping to read it over the weekend. Reading soothes and takes us away from our sometimes frenetic lives. It gives us perspective. In these times, more than ever, we need books. We need films too, TV programmes, whatever gets us through the shift. For me it’s books.

Alexandra Park: sunshine shining through trees in an urban park.
Alexandra Park: sunshine shining through trees in an urban park.

The weather looks like it’s going to be better in the coming days. There’s been a fair bit of rain lately and there’s been a couple of days when the nicest weather has come towards the end of the day. Last weekend I was having dinner and looked out the window to see sunshine on a wet city street, always one of my favourite sights. There was a great article from The Guardian a week or so ago about unremarkable places that struck a chord with me. It included Seafield, an unsexy part of Edinburgh home to car showrooms, a sewage works, cemetery and crematorium, cat and dug home, all next to the Firth of Forth. Seafield also used to have the Eastern General Hospital, where all the best people were born. At a time when going beyond Glasgow except for permitted reasons is verboten, as has been the case for much of the last year, the less beautiful places should be treasured as much as the Pollok Parks of the world. Being able to see hills and water helps and thankfully that’s possible across the city.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 29th May 2021. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow returns on Wednesday and it’s around the corner from King Street. Until then, mar sin leibh.

Streets of Glasgow: King Street

King Street: a street sign on the side of a building stating that it is King Street.​
King Street: a street sign on the side of a building stating that it is King Street.
King Street: a quiet city street with light from windows reflecting on the road in the sunshine.​
King Street: a quiet city street with light from windows reflecting on the road in the sunshine.

May has been particularly cool in Glasgow, the weather perhaps reflecting the news and the world around us. It felt particularly good therefore to go into town on a sunny spring morning and even better to turn into King Street as the sun was in my eyes on the Trongate. A bar called Super Bario stood near the corner – the east coast person in me thought ‘barry’, meaning good, rather than about a certain Italian plumber. I missaw Treasure Bunker, which sells medals and miltary stuff, and thought it was Pleasure Bunker, which would possibly sell other products for other purposes. The Glasgow Print Studio had a John Byrne exhibition on with a rather cool drawing in the window featuring two men, one clearly Byrne with cigarette poking out his mouth. The City retro fashion shop looked quite retro in itself while Streetlevel Photoworks featured up–to-date posters for actual events, which was reassuring in the midst of Level 3 restrictions, including a poster saying BAM! in a comic book font. Bam of course has another meaning in Scotland but there weren’t any kicking around King Street that morning. Well-put phrases were happening around me, Social Rescluse had in its window ‘Better Stop Dreaming Of The Quiet Life Cause It’s The One We’ll Never Know’, which seems about right, while an advertising agency across the way talked of the ‘community of ideas’. I crossed the road and the street opened up with a car park to the right and just before it some quite psychedelic tiles in front of a phone cabinet with an open door. Far out. The Billy Connolly mural by the aforementioned John Byrne stood high to the right as I walked towards a railway bridge and the end of King Street as it joined the Bridgegate. Some graffiti encouraged people to take a look and I had been doing just that around a cool corner of this ever-changing city.

Thanks for reading. This is the eighty-fifth Streets of Glasgow walk to appear here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets which have featured here include Trongate, Argyle Street, Clyde Street and Parnie Street, which will be here next week. The complete Streets series can be found on its very own page.

Saturday Saunter: The Big Cup

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being started on Wednesday. Today is Scottish Cup Final day, a day I feel should be a public holiday for us football fans. Hibernian face St. Johnstone, live on the telly from Hampden Park. Either it’ll be a highlight of a lifetime or enough to put folk off football for a while, nothing in between. It is sad that no fans will be able to be inside the National Stadium though of course Glasgow remains in Level 3 so that isn’t possible. Hibs have had the best season in nearly twenty years and the only folk who’ve been able to see it in the raw have been up ladders. Five years and a day have passed since the Hibs last went up to lift the Scottish Cup and even if I’m not going to be there this time, it’s just a little special. Either way, I’m happy that neither of the Gruesome Twosome nor Hearts are involved today, that last mob dispatched many rounds ago by Brora Rangers. I’m hoping for a good game but above all for a win. Still, if there aren’t green ribbons on the Cup tonight, I’ll be gutted.

Scottish Cup: a trophy on a plinth in a museum display case. The trophy has a footballer on the top.​
Scottish Cup: a trophy on a plinth in a museum display case. The trophy has a footballer on the top.

I was thinking the other day about five years ago. In the lead-up to the 2016 Final, I took a trip around Glasgow to Hampden and then the two venues where Hibs had won the Cup up to that point, Cathkin Park (the second Hampden) and Celtic Park. Parkhead was the scene of the 1902 Scottish Cup Final where Hibs beat Celtic 1-0 to lift the Cup. Little did that team know that Hibs wouldn’t lift the Cup again for 114 years until that glorious day in May. The manager of Hibs then was Dan McMichael, still the longest-serving manager in the club’s history, and the story of his death in 1919 is a tragic one. He died in the midst of another pandemic, the influenza or Spanish flu pandemic, and was buried in a mass grave in the Eastern Cemetery in Edinburgh, unmarked until 2013 when a group of supporters fundraised to put up a stone. I couldn’t help thinking about it in the midst of another Final and the current situation.

For the last couple of years, I have tried to make my small corner of the Internet as accessible as possible. I add alt text to the images here and an image description to the Tweets sharing posts. There was an article on the Guardian website the other day about how they are trying to make their own content more accessible and I liked the idea of narrative descriptions. I tend to be very literal when writing image descriptions though I like the idea of making them more descriptive. Unfortunately WordPress allows sharing onto social media directly from the app but not to add alt text to the Tweet, which is a pain in the hoop and limits the length of any descriptions. Pith is the order of the day, in other words.

I had quite a successful reading day last Sunday, finishing two books, a Nick Hornby novel and Westering by Laurence Mitchell, which I had been reading for a couple of weeks. I enjoyed Westering a lot, despite covering unfamiliar terrain. It was the kind of book I like to read, a rich blend of memoir, history, travel and nature, and spurred me to delve back into the work of Dervla Murphy and Cameroon with Egbert, which I started before the first lockdown last year. I know that quite a few blog readers are Dervla fans and so am I. After Cameroon with Egbert, I’ve got a couple of others on the shelf that might just jump the queue and be next.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 22nd May 2021. Thanks for reading. I’m all out of Streets of Glasgow posts and the two Intercity walks I did in Edinburgh have appeared here too. I may manage a Streets walk or two over the weekend but I’m not sure. Since Glasgow will probably be in Level 3 for a wee while, unfortunately, there’s only so much I can do. There will be something here on Wednesday though. Until then, tìoraidh an-drasta. I don’t know the Gaelic for Glory Glory to the Hibees so I will be content with the English. COME ON HIBERNIAN!

A late update just before going to press. Streets of Glasgow will be back on Wednesday. It’s a good one too.

Intercity: Edinburgh (Dublin Street)

Dublin Street: a street sign stating Dublin Street on the wall of a building.​
Dublin Street: a street sign stating Dublin Street on the wall of a building.
Dublin Street: looking down a street with buildings on either side towards trees, a cityscape, water and hills.​
Dublin Street: looking down a street with buildings on either side towards trees, a cityscape, water and hills.

Dublin Street is a street I’ve often walked in Edinburgh, often at the start or end of a New Town derive. It leads from Queen Street down into the New Town. The day I was there the place seemed to be held up by scaffolding, scattered on quite a few buildings. There wasn’t any on the dolls’ houses I’ve often admired in a property management office nor on the shop bearing the name of my last favourite punctuation mark, the ampersand. That shop looked fine enough and I walked on, stopping by the Stac Polly restaurant. I reflected that until recently, due to restrictions, Edinburgh had felt as remote and unreachable as Stac Pollaidh itself, all the way up beyond Ullapool. The unbridled joy I had felt of being able to go more than a few miles had turned to tears at the time the First Minister had announced the changes in restrictions and more than once since. Posters for Nicola Sturgeon’s party covered a window ahead as I stopped at the top of Dublin Street, turning to look back down across the city and towards the Forth, one of the better vistas our capital offers and an invitation to adventure in more ways than one.

Thanks for reading. This is another instalment of the occasional Intercity series here on Walking Talking. Other instalments appear on the Intercity page. Other Edinburgh streets which have been here previously are St. Vincent Street, Leith Walk, the High Street and Easter Road.

This post was written prior to the announcement that Glasgow and Moray will remain in Level 3 restrictions as of Monday 17th May.

Saturday Saunter: Gardens and reading

This post was written prior to the announcement that Glasgow and Moray will remain in Level 3 restrictions as of Monday 17th May.

Good Saturday to you,

It’s Saturday, it’s a fairly decent hour so it must be Saturday Saunter time. This is being written way back on Tuesday and unusually I don’t have many ideas to start with. Last Saturday was a bit of a Carlsberg day with Hibs winning in the semi final against Dundee United. The football was the priority though I also kept half an eye on the election results too. I think I prefer the more chilled out counting during the day rather than staying up overnight. I suspect those counting the votes might do too, if not the candidates waiting to find out whether they’ve convinced enough voters to cast a ballot for them or not. That the Scottish Parliament now has the most female members ever, with two of them also being women of colour and another the first permanent wheelchair user to be an MSP, is excellent. The election was of course made more interesting because of those candidates not elected rather than those who were, but we won’t give some of them the oxygen of publicity here.

Benmore Botanic Garden: two rows of redwood trees on either side of a grassy path.​
Benmore Botanic Garden: two rows of redwood trees on either side of a grassy path.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and there has been quite a lot of interesting posts and articles about it. The Mental Health Foundation Scotland released a survey that almost two thirds of respondents found that being out in nature helped them, which I can relate to, while the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh posted that each of their gardens – Edinburgh, Logan, Dawyck and Benmore – has a Silent Space where people walking there are asked to switch off their technology and try and just be present in the space without distractions. Of course many folk in cities don’t always have green spaces near them though I am lucky to live in a city with many fine parks. Even being in one of them, even near cars and bustle, can help, trees and birdsong never far away. Indeed I was in Paisley Gilmour Street station the other day and clearly heard birdsong while stood in Scotland’s fourth busiest railway station. Whatever works.

Talking of the four Royal Botanical Gardens, I’ve not been in any of them for a wee while, though I have been to all four. I was thinking about Benmore the other day. It’s near Dunoon in Argyll, on a hill and very varied. The entrance features a line of redwoods, by far and away the nicest entrance to a garden in Scotland, and there are trees from mountainous places across the world like Chile. I know the Edinburgh Garden a lot better and have been there on bright days and some more thoughtful. I haven’t been for well over a year and I miss it. The views over the capital are excellent and it’s the only place where Edinburgh Castle looks threatening and striking rather than something off a tea towel. I think I might need a trip there before long.

I’m still reading Westering by Laurence Mitchell, which I’m enjoying. After that I’m toying with reading Dervla Murphy, who Laurence Mitchell has written about, and I’ve got a couple I haven’t read, plus Cameroon with Egbert which I started before the first lockdown and still haven’t finished. My more immediate reading will be the latest issue of When Saturday Comes with its shiny pullout Euro 2020 wallchart and Super John McGinn on the front of the magazine. My attention span suits magazines and articles this weather though I have liked going in and out of Westering.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 15th May 2021. Thanks for reading. Intercity is back again on Wednesday and it will be back in the capital too. Until then, have a good weekend. Mar sin leibh.

Intercity: Edinburgh (St. Vincent Street)

St. Vincent Street: a street sign on the side of a building with St. Vincent Street on it.​
St. Vincent Street: a street sign on the side of a building with St. Vincent Street on it.
St. Vincent Street: a city street with a church and clock tower in centre, trees on left and buildings on either side.
St. Vincent Street: a city street with a church and clock tower in centre, trees on left and buildings on either side.

While on a brief foray east to the capital, wandering about the New Town gave me the notion to do a bit of psychogeography, appropriate given that’s where I often used to drift. It felt appropriate to pick St. Vincent Street, much shorter than its counterpart in Glasgow but with an old church at its foot that I’ve always liked. St. Vincent Street only runs a few hundred yards from Great King Street but it’s interesting enough. Leaving aside the old church with its clock tower (inevitably now flats) I noticed an interesting decorated window high up on the other side with what looked like cuddly toys, possibly Moomins or Gremlins. I would keep the latter of direct sunlight, if possible. A fair few of the windows I had passed on my wander about the New Town had featured political posters for the upcoming election so toys were definitely a change of pace. An opticians was open with a colourful display in the window too. A few folk were walking by, including the postie darting between buildings. I stood on the step outside the old church and looked up towards George Street, into a city just starting to reopen once more. I thought that this church with its steps would be the ideal spot for a grand city wedding though now that wouldn’t happen. The church was the work of William Henry Playfair, distinguished architect, and a stone above the door marked that and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh at the time. I looked at that and then back up into the city I went, reflecting as I went about Circus Lane, which leads off to the right from St. Vincent Street. How many carefully curated pictures of Circus Lane hadn’t appeared on the ‘Gram in the last few months? I was sure we could cope without them, as I walked on by heading for another street before home.

Thanks for reading. This is part of the occasional Intercity series here on Walking Talking. Dublin Street, also in Edinburgh, will be here next week. Other Edinburgh streets which have featured are the High Street and Leith Walk, with Easter Road as a bonus a couple of summers ago.

Saturday Saunter: Dancing and being worth your room on this earth

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written fairly late on Friday night. There is still a bit of light in the sky, which is a hint that it’s actually May even if there’s been snow and coldness kicking around in recent days. I’ve been paying attention to the election results over the course of the day and of course more will be announced by the time this is posted. One of the main things that has come out of Friday is that hatred and fascism will never win and that shone through in the speeches by Nicola Sturgeon and Anas Sarwar after the declaration in Glasgow Southside. I also particularly commend the words of Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Health minister, in this Guardian article which should be heeded by more than a few politicians of a few different parties and places. I have other priorities today though and that of course includes Dundee United versus Hibernian in the semi final of the Scottish Cup, experienced in my living room rather than actually being at Hampden Park. Soon, hopefully, that will be possible again.

Normally when the Hibs win an important game, there’s a rendition of ‘Sunshine on Leith’ by the Proclaimers and hopefully there will be a few refreshed folk singing that in the comfort of their own hooses tonight after a decisive victory against United. Studio Something, a TV production and marketing company, have painted a new mural outside their offices in Leith featuring a lyric from ‘Sunshine on Leith’, ‘You’re worth your room on this earth’. In this age where many feel uncertain of that, when times are hard, a positive message helps and especially one as succinct and beautifully conveyed.

I haven’t had the opportunity to share a picture I took a couple of weeks ago of a mural on the side of the Barrowland Ballroom here in Glasgow, inspired by the Booker Prize-winning novel Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. ‘You’ll Not Remember the City. You Were Too Wee. But There’s Dancing. All Kinds Of Dancing’. I like it a lot. As more folk see it, hopefully as the Barrowland sees performers once more, I think it’ll be well-loved.

Shuggie Bain mural, Barrowland: Words in different colours on the side of a building reading 'You'll Not Remember The City. You Were Too Wee. But There's Dancing. All Kinds of Dancing' with stars and a dancing figure in the centre.
Shuggie Bain mural, Barrowland: Words in different colours on the side of a building reading ‘You’ll Not Remember The City. You Were Too Wee. But There’s Dancing. All Kinds of Dancing’ with stars and a dancing figure in the centre.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 8th May 2021. Short and sweet today, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The blog will be back on Wednesday with the return of Intercity for a wander in the capital so stay tuned for that. Until then, tìoraidh an-dràsta.

Streets of Glasgow: Bain Street

Bain Street: a street sign with The Barras written in red and Bain Street in black. It is on a red brick building with golden brick around black-framed windows above.​
Bain Street: a street sign with The Barras written in red and Bain Street in black. It is on a red brick building with golden brick around black-framed windows above.
Bain Street: a red and gold building of four levels to the right with a curved frontage. The top has 1899 written in gold letters. An elaborate gateway, red with gold lettering, is to the left, with The Barras written across the centre.​
Bain Street: a red and gold building of four levels to the right with a curved frontage. The top has 1899 written in gold letters. An elaborate gateway, red with gold lettering, is to the left, with The Barras written across the centre.

Bain Street wasn’t planned – a route thrown up by Google Maps on an urban ramble. It leads from the Gallowgate to London Road, starting by a Celtic pub and ending near Glasgow Green, with all sorts of city in between. St. Luke’s is an old church now turned into a cultural venue with a very cool winged Highland coo featuring on a mural to its right. Red and gold buildings stood near the Gallowgate end that I liked a lot, with cafes and hairdressers doing decent business underneath. An entrance to the Barras with its red and gold gates were nearby as was Bill’s Tool Store, a DIY shop with Bud Neill cartoons above the door, he of Lobey Dosser fame. There were a few folk going about, some buying tools, and I lingered looking at the Bud Neill art before moving on. The landscape was more modern to the left, older, white buildings to the right until London Road and Glasgow Green came into view. I’ve always said that it’s always worth looking up in Glasgow and that was certainly the case on Bain Street. There’s some very handsome buildings in Glasgow and many hidden in plain sight.

Thanks for reading. This is the eighty fourth Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured here include Gallowgate and London Road. All the posts in this series appear on the Streets of Glasgow page. Intercity will be here next week.

Saturday Saunter: Walks, blossoms and Edinburgh

Good Saturday to you,

It’s a sunny Friday morning as I start this. It’s been cooler and more changeable this week, not as nice as last weekend but just in time for beer gardens to be open, naturally. The blossoms have been out too. The other day I heard a discussion on the Radcliffe and Maconie show on BBC Radio 6 Music about blossoms and they were questioning why anybody wouldn’t like them. I don’t mind them but with tree pollen being at its peak and everyone cutting their grass, my hayfever has been having an absolute party the last week or two. It’s a tricky balancing act between wanting to be out in the world and being all snotty and sneezy as a result.

Edinburgh: a city street with a church and clock tower in centre, trees on left and buildings on either side.​
Edinburgh: a city street with a church and clock tower in centre, trees on left and buildings on either side.

I was in Edinburgh the other day for the first time in many months and it was excellent, sunny but not too warm. I walked up Calton Hill and then along to Easter Road and back through the New Town. Being in Edinburgh, indeed being anywhere, was glorious and did wonders, I must say. When I was walking through the New Town, I stopped on a bench on Drummond Place. It was dedicated to a Kenneth Morrison, 1883-1968, with the phrase below ‘Ann an taing’. I recognised this as Gaelic as I’ve been doing Gaelic on Duolingo recently and it works out as ‘in thanks’, which is about what I was feeling. It wasn’t my first foray out since restrictions changed but it was just good to be in Edinburgh again, to feel an east coast wind and see familiar places once more. I stood on Calton Hill and looked for different landmarks, from the Queensferry Crossing to the Botanics, Leith to North Berwick Law, and it was wonderful.

I don’t think I followed any of the walks suggested by VisitScotland recently. They picked a few Edinburgh walks scattered across the city but guess where the Glasgow ones all were? That’s right, the West End. In fairness, the Mitchell Library isn’t but it’s still west of the motorway. Don’t get me wrong. The West End is perfectly nice. They have a Waitrose. There are, however, some very fine walks in other parts of this fine city, encompassing canals, cemeteries, country parks and other things not beginning with ‘C’. I could rant about this for a while but the fact remains, there’s a city beyond the West End. One of the few pleasures of the last few months has been being able to explore some of Glasgow’s parks, for example. I was in Buchanan Street last week and it will probably never be as quiet again just to look up at the buildings. In a time when people are rightly being prescribed going for a walk, it’s good to promote a greater diversity of places to walk in. I can recommend Rosshall Park, for example.

My current reading is Westering by Laurence Mitchell, a walk from Norfolk to Wales encompassing history, philosophy and a bit of psychogeography for good measure. I’m enjoying it a lot even if I read a few chapters going east instead of west.

Before I go, this is the last one of these posts before the elections to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Parliament and English local authorities, all on Thursday. As Will Bailey said in The West Wing, no matter who you vote for, make sure you vote.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 1st May 2021. Streets of Glasgow resumes on Wednesday. Until then, have a good one. Mar sin leibh.