Saturday Saunter: 16th February 2019

Happy Saturday,

Before I start, thanks for all the kind comments after my impromptu post on Thursday night about the places I love. It was a nice post to write and it cured my Valentine’s Day grumpiness.

Our Saunter today comes as I’m about to head to Edinburgh to see the Hibs for the umpteenth Saturday in a row. Thankfully there’s no rugby on today so the trains will be considerably quieter on the way to the capital and I can leave later. This is actually the last Saturday for a while that Hibs will be playing at 3pm with a few fixtures on midweek evenings at 7.45pm on the horizon. It is also the first game with Paul Heckingbottom in the dugout so interesting times.

Last Saturday I had a bit of an interesting day. I was of course in Edinburgh to see Hibs and the trains were busy with the rugby. They were also delayed because of a broken-down train at Haymarket. Happy days. I had a decent walk as far as Ocean Terminal then went to the ground. I managed to be back in Glasgow earlier than I expected before going to the Theatre Royal with my work colleagues to see Abigail’s Party. It was all right with a lot of references going over my head. It was the kind of thing best enjoyed with a drink in me. Thereafter we went out on the town and a few new experiences were had. Good ones.

Book reading this week was fair to middling. I managed to get through Night Falls On Ardnamurchan by Alasdair Maclean which was interesting in talking about his family crofting but less so when it went into his own stream of consciousness. On a better note, I also read another of the Denzil Meyrick Kinloch crime novel series. I’m taking Fingers In The Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham with me today. I’ve been meaning to read that one for years, the autobiography of the naturalist and all round good guy. His speech in support of Alan Turing on BBC Icons recently was amazing and inspiring and I urge everyone to seek it out.

My soundtrack was Grace and Frankie on Netflix, incidentally, then the episode finished so now I’ve shifted to The Chase on catch-up. Only on the first person so not sure who it is today. The first contestant is a floppy-haired English guy who looks like he could have been in David Cameron’s cabinet. The Chaser is Anne. Happy days. A good ambassador for autistic people too.

Dysart, sculpture by Donald Urquhart

Tomorrow is a rescheduled trip to Fife and I’m looking forward to it immensely. I would imagine Dysart will be on the cards, possibly Cellardyke too, definitely fish and chips for tea, served with salt and sauce. There might be a castle involved, more than likely Kirkcaldy art gallery.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Intercity returns tomorrow and it will be Inverness. Loose Ends will be back on Wednesday and that will be down in Porty. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a very nice weekend. Peace.


The places I love

Good evening,

I haven’t written a post out of the usual Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday run for ages but I was spurred into action by reading a post on another blog that struck home. It’s a post from the Books and Guts blog with a love letter to a museum and as a former museum assistant and current customer-facing gadge, I agree with every word. I heartily loathe Valentine’s Day. I believe love should be celebrated every day of the year and that a Hallmark holiday shouldn’t be rammed down the throats of those of us who find the whole process of human interaction hard enough without having to try and find love too. Hence this particular day tends to make me angry, ranty and a little sad.

Rather than dwelling on this, I wanted to write something a bit more positive this Valentine’s night. It was either do this or yoga and I’m in a writing mood. Here’s a rundown of some of my favourite places.

My favourite place on this earth is Belhaven beach, near where I grew up. It has all sorts of personal resonances with me, lonely school lunchtimes, walks with family and dogs lolling about in the surf. It is a place I associate with good times and with people I dearly miss. I go there to think, celebrate and sometimes shed a tear. Belhaven is like a reset switch to me. Even though I now live in a city, I am by nature quite a solitary person and I like nothing better than walking along a beach, the winds and the waves doing their stuff to wash my spirit clean.

I’ve lived in the city for just about six years and I love it dearly. Every time I come home from a trip away, I feel I am coming home. Dunbar was home and I’ll always be attached to it but I am a Glaswegian now and that’s fine. Stepping off the bus or the train, I know I’m in the right place. I cannot claim to have scratched the surface of this city yet. That’s why I do all these walks around the city, Streets of Glasgow and the rest, and why I have a list as long as my arm of places still to see. Glasgow fascinates me. It has an incredible history and architecture like you wouldn’t believe. It is the hidden corners that get me, those little nooks and niches that yield such power and beauty.

In the last few years I have come to quite like Dundee. It is on the up-and-up, of course, with lots of fine street art as well as the new V and A and much else besides. I’m there next week, mostly for football, but I hope to get a wander plus a wee turn around the Scottish Design Gallery at the V and A, which is fabulous and deserves a second look. It’s quite like Glasgow in a lot of different respects, including its rich and diverse history, some of it hidden in plain sight.

In the comments the other day, we were talking about Northumberland and York. Northumberland is quite near Dunbar so I know that stunning part of the world well. One of my most treasured memories was driving late at night to stay at a cottage in Embleton for the weekend. We left Edinburgh in busy traffic and arrived in Northumberland with clear roads and the starriest sky I had ever seen. I wish I had taken some photos but it was freezing and I was knackered after a very long day. Northumberland is gorgeous. Thankfully also nearby is Durham with its mighty Cathedral, the very finest building on this planet. Durham Cathedral is beautiful and endlessly fascinating with details for days. I never fail to feel peace there, even as a committed heathen. York is also very fine, an historical Disneyland, plus it has the National Railway Museum. The last time I was there I went to the Minster and enjoyed just walking around, the splendour just about worth the lavish admission fee.

Iona is another place I truly love. I’ve been there a couple of times and it is gorgeous. Being far away also helps and there is a true feeling of distance from the world’s cares.

That’s just a few places off the top of my head. On this as every day we should celebrate the people we love but also the things we love, which hold us and sustain us on darker days when we have to trudge on. Anyway, enough from me for tonight. Whatever you’re doing tonight, or whoever you are with, I hope all is well. Night night.


Loose Ends: John Witherspoon statue


Presbyterianism led me to the next place in the Loose Ends cavalcade, the statue of John Witherspoon outside the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister who worked in Paisley before going off to America to found Princeton University and sign the Declaration of Independence, one of six Scots to do so. Like the best people, though, Witherspoon came from East Lothian originally, even if it was Gifford and he went to high school in Haddington.


The statue is the work of Alexander Stoddart, sculptor of many prominent statues including those of David Hume, Adam Smith and James Clerk Maxwell in Edinburgh. Stoddart is the Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland and works from a studio in Paisley. I always like the thoughtful details in his work; the volumes of Cicero, Principe, Locke and Hume at his feet in this case.

Many connections can arise from Witherspoon’s statue, not least the May Donoghue ‘snail in a bottle’ statue along the road or indeed any of Stoddart’s other works around the country. Witherspoon comes from Gifford so I could go there or anywhere in East Lothian, maybe the Giffordgate in Haddington where John Knox was born but that might be one religious connection too many for now. He was also educated at the University of Edinburgh, which might be another destination or through its alumni lead elsewhere. I was passing the Witherspoon statue on the way to watch the football so another connection would have to wait until another day.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Intercity: Perth


I’ve never been sure what to make of Perth. It is a pleasant enough place, for sure, convenient to get to, culturally blessed and generally quite perjink, prim and proper, for the most part. Perth might not be as vibrant as Edinburgh, Glasgow or even Dundee but it is not bad. It strikes me like it would be an all right place to live, even if supporting St. Johnstone would be a step too far.

The train arrived and I headed straight along the South Inch. The sun was out and everything, a pleasantly mild January afternoon, and I was bound for the riverside. I associate Perth with that stretch by the Tay between the Fergusson Gallery and Perth Bridge, a contrast of civic buildings and a real, no-fooling-about river with wildlife and everything. As I came round by the Fergusson Gallery, a train was going across the bridge, one of the Scotrail Intercity trains, no less, and there was a man across the road just looking up at it. I looked for a moment then headed over the street to begin.


Two people were stood at the other side, deep in conversation as the river water lapped up. The river was strong, the result perhaps of snow earlier in the week. A bird – I’m never sure of my ornithology – sat up and took flight, skipping across the water and up into the air. I walked along and stopped by the little creature sculptures which sit on the wall. I knew they related to a poem by local poet William Soutar and I’ve always liked them. The figures looked like ones I used to collect out of chocolate eggs when I was a kid but none the worse for that. The riverside had lots of art, sculptures of birds, a bench with leaping salmon shapes cut-out, plus all the poems and history carved into the wall.


This was quite unlike any walk I had been on in this series so far. It was urban but with clear hints of the country beyond, away from the human and the cares of our busy world. Walking along the riverside took me away from the traffic and I thought a bit about the history too. Perth Bridge dominated the skyline, a fine, historic structure amidst the modernity. The red stone looked particularly fine in the lazy January sunshine and it tempted me to go across, even to write about it. I had no great plans for my time in Perth, a turn around the Fergusson Gallery the only real goal, and I just wandered for the rest, over the bridge and around a graveyard too, a neat little ramble in the Fair City.

Thanks for reading. Intercity returns next Sunday. Loose Ends continues on Wednesday.

Saturday Saunter: 9th February 2019


Today’s Saturday Saunter is being written on Friday night live from a Citylink bus just leaving Inverness on the long road home to Glasgow. My earphones are in and I am ready to read and write my way down the road. It’s been a good day. I managed to get the Intercity walk for Inverness done and also do a bit of walking, book buying (more on that story later) and museum visiting. These kinds of day trips happen less and less these days now I work full time and spend so much time watching the still-managerless Hibees. I must manage ten or twelve a year and that’s okay. Most adventures are on a smaller scale now. I left for Perth at lunchtime a couple of weeks ago so I could fit in some life stuff and a lie-in. Today I left the house around 8am and will get in around 9.15 tonight, traffic and weather permitting.

When you read this I will be on the move again, this time to the capital to see the Hibs. For the second week on the bounce, there is also rugby on at Murrayfield so I’ll be heading through early to avoid the hordes. Scotland are playing Ireland so things could be fun. I have to get back quick from Edinburgh because I have a work night out at the theatre. We’re going to see something called Abigail’s Party, about which I know next to nothing except that Alison Steadman was in the original. Then I fully intend doing as little as humanly possible on Sunday.

Today’s travelling book is one from the pile I bought from Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness, Night Falls On Ardnamurchan by Alasdair Maclean. It’s about his family’s history on a croft in Ardnamurchan, according to the blurb, which tempted me to buy the thing in the first place. I’ll see how it goes.

Leakey’s Bookshop, Inverness

I’ve managed to finish two books this week, Di Stefano by Ian Hawkey, about the Real Madrid talisman of the 1950s, and Moonwalker by Alan Rowan, tales of climbing Munros at night time. That last one I finished on the way up to Inverness hence I justified the book purchases at Leakey’s. It is a glorious shop, incidentally, built inside an old church and containing a real fire as well as books kept at a safe distance away from the flames. I’m going to write about it for Loose Ends because it’s an interesting place. It will appear in a few weeks time, after I write the thing and after the next three instalments after Greyfriars Burial Ground appear.

Celtic Park

I know this blog is a football-free zone but I wanted to write a little bit about my trip to see Hibs get beat by Celtic the other night. For those unfamiliar with the game in Scotland, Celtic Park is the largest football stadium in Scotland, holding just over 60,000 people. Celtic take the matchday experience seriously and over the summer they spent £2 million sorting their ground including installing a brand new PA system and spotlights. The spotlights have been widely derided but they were used on Wednesday night. MC Parkheid played the usual nauseating Celtic tunes pre-match then announced that there was to be a light show. The tannoy got cranked up to 11, the lights swirled around and AC/DC’s Thunderstruck played with bass level visuals on the advertising boards. This tableau was completed by Celtic’s mascot, Hoopy The Huddle Hound, dancing around in the centre circle. It was awful on many levels, so cringey that I laughed in disbelief. Then I realised how much of an overload it was, the whole combination of music, vibration and lights just far too much. I could thole them, just, but for many people, autistic or not, they would have been a major problem. It was only the surreal spectacle of some poor soul dancing about in a foam costume that kept me going.

There’s just one more city left in the Intercity series, Aberdeen. I hope to get there in a couple of weeks’ time. After a break I might expand it to include places with cathedrals. It’s an interesting series and I like doing it. I’ve enjoyed the last two – Perth and Inverness – particularly and those places are very similar, both by rivers and yet in the heart of the city. The Perth one appears here tomorrow.

Well, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a very nice weekend.

Before I go, a wee bit of blog admin. I’ve added a page where all the Saturday Saunter posts can be found in one place. It should be in the menu at the top of the screen.

Loose Ends: Greyfriars Burial Ground


After crossing Perth Bridge, I didn’t feel quite ready to nip into a gallery just yet so I had a wee derive around Perth city centre. I was heading back towards the river and the Fergusson Gallery when I noticed a graveyard and a suitably fortified structure at the gate. Naturally I had to go in. I found myself in Greyfriars Burial Ground, apparently once the site of a friary demolished in a riot after a sermon in St. John’s Kirk by John Knox on 11th May 1559. This probably connected better with the Martyrs’ Monument over in St. Andrews but it came after Perth Bridge, purely because of geography. I’m glad I stopped by. The graveyard was a place of the dead but also one of wildlife, a biodiversity area, no less, with plenty of trees, including a particularly fine willow. I wandered for a while, looking idly at the stones, focusing on the occupations represented, tobacconists, printers, soldiers and many others. There was traffic noise but it felt completely removed from the city. Indeed I almost got a fright as I was roused from my note writing by the council caretakers, wanting to lock the gate for the night.


Greyfriars could connect to quite a lot, through John Knox to John Witherspoon, another Presbyterian luminary, or to Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. That was all secondary, though. As I wandered, I was just glad to have stumbled over the place. I doubt I could find it again without recourse to a map. That’s not always a bad thing. I imagine Murdo, of From Hill To Sea, could do it better justice than me, even if it is outside Fife, capturing its essence with a few, well chosen words rather than my many, gallumphing ones.

Thanks for reading.

Digest: January 2019

January Digest time and it’s been a busy month. I’m not a fan of New Year and I was impatient, after not feeling right over the festives, to get out and about as early as I could relying on public transport. On Wednesday 2nd January, I got a train into town and then a bus to St. Andrews, the day cold but bright, enjoying a walk around by the Castle and Cathedral before going home as the sun came down.


The following day I went to Edinburgh. I only have two photos, featuring the Portrait Gallery, which has the BP Portrait Award on just now. As ever, the ones I liked the most didn’t win.


Saturday 5th January saw me in Dundee, with a wee interlude in Cellardyke. It was cool and cloudy but I had a good day, managing a whole host of adventures which have featured on the blog by now. The walk by the Forth in Cellardyke was just ideal, the grey light pensive but open to the East Lothian coast beyond. It was good to explore Dundee a bit more, with Dundee Law a particular highlight.


After work on Friday 18th January, I went into town to do a wee bit of shopping. Before doing that, I managed a Streets of Glasgow walk for the first time in ages, along West George Street. I also took a turn along the Clyde in the half-light, which was incredibly worth it.

That Saturday the Hibs were playing Elgin City. It was baltic. The trains weren’t right so I didn’t get as much of an Edinburgh wander as I hoped.

The following Wednesday Hibs played Motherwell at Fir Park. The game was awful, the pies weren’t. I hadn’t realised how high up Fir Park was with many distant streetlights twinkling in the distance.


On Friday 25th January I went to Perth, really to do Intercity but I ended up having a great wander, particularly loving Greyfriars Burial Ground, which I stumbled over on a bit of a derive.

That Sunday the still-mighty Hibees went to Paisley and won. After the game I took my auntie on a tour of the street art and architecture of Paisley. It was absolutely baltic but nice in the pale, wintry sunshine.

Well, that’s the January digest. Loose Ends features here again on Wednesday, staying in Perth. There will be a wee bit of a shuffle after that, with Streets of Glasgow returning too. Saturday Saunter continues, purely because I like writing them. Thanks as ever to all readers and followers. There’s been a few new ones in January, which is nice. Anyway, have a good February.

Posts this month –

Digest: December 2018

Saturday Saunter: 5th January 2019

Intercity: Glasgow

Loose Ends: Calton Hill, again

Saturday Saunter: 12th January 2019

Intercity: Stirling

Loose Ends: Dundee Law

Saturday Saunter: 19th January 2019

Intercity: Edinburgh

Loose Ends: Martyrs’ Monument

Saturday Saunter: 26th January 2019

Intercity: Dundee

Loose Ends: Perth Bridge

Saturday Saunter: 2nd February 2019

It’s Saturday Saunter time again and once more I’m writing this in advance. Away to the football this Saturday morning, leaving early since there is also rugby on in the capital and a train full of rugby people is more than I can possibly stand. I hope to use this extra time in Edinburgh to maybe do a Loose Ends adventure, possibly just wander aimlessly before going to watch the first game of the post Neil Lennon-era.

A little earlier I finally managed to finish the book that’s been in my backpack for over a week and which I took to Motherwell last week, Dark Suits and Sad Songs by Denzil Meyrick. It is a bit more fantastical than a normal police procedural novel but it was all right. I have the next volume downloaded through the library eBook app, ready to go for whenever I feel like reading it. In physical book form, I also have the new Hania Allen crime novel, Clearing the Dark, the follow-up to The Polish Detective, and some of the books I picked out before Christmas. Unfortunately, though, those are all fiction and I feel like reading something with a Dewey Decimal number. I was going to take Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie. Apparently Surfacing will be out in 2019 and I am looking forward to it already. We need more of Kathleen Jamie’s words in our world. I might sit down and read it tomorrow. Instead today I’m going to read a biography of legendary Real Madrid player Alfredo di Stefano, which I came across yesterday. I need something different in my head.


A CalMac ferry at Brodick

The other night I saw a Tweet from CalMac Ferries, suggesting that instead of chocolates and cliches, loved-up folk should celebrate Valentine’s Day by going to a west coast island somewhere. The Tweet was illustrated by a well wrapped-up couple snogging with a snow-capped mountain in the background. It’s bad enough that Valentine’s Day has conquered whole supermarket aisles and a load of library displays, it has to take over day trip planning too. Don’t get me wrong, love is fine. I would rather people be happy and in love than the opposite. It is just this nauseating shite promoting the mushy, romantic ideal which rarely exists in actuality. It is also rude to those of us who don’t have a significant other for a myriad of different reasons, by choice, circumstance or some other factor. I suppose the Tweet I just saw from Sesame Street‘s Oscar the Grouch makes it feel a bit better. It states: ‘“What are you getting for Valentine’s Day?” Me: Trash.’ I suspect a lot of people would share that sentiment. Anyway, if any Valentines go on a CalMac ferry on 14th February, all power to them. Our islands are very fine indeed. Thankfully they are often best experienced alone too.

In other thoughts, the Oxford comma is a wonderful piece of punctuation, often maligned but sometimes necessary. I didn’t use it in a Tweet promoting a post here a couple of weeks ago and I noticed and it bothered me. Some people don’t like the Oxford comma. I aim for clarity and don’t often succeed so I use whatever tool I have to hand. Except the ampersand, of course.

I was very sad to hear yesterday that the comedian Jeremy Hardy died, of cancer at the age of 57. At one time I listened to a lot of Radio 4 and he spoke softly but with passion, verve and no little political conviction. His ‘singing’ on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue was truly woeful but unforgettable.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Thanks for reading this muddle of thoughts. Tomorrow the January digest will appear here. Wednesday will see the latest instalment of Loose Ends, staying in Perth. As ever, cheers indeed to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a very nice weekend.



Loose Ends: Perth Bridge


Loose Ends left off at the Martyrs’ Memorial in St. Andrews with thoughts of the Reformation. Perth connected through the Bible. St. John’s town is Perth, its bridge built by another John, the engineer John Smeaton, from 1766 to 1771. The bridge is handsome  in red and it caught my eye as I walked along the side of the Tay for Intercity, appearing here in the next few weeks. Instead of turning into the city, I took a right across the bridge, instantly celebrating that decision as I got a particularly fine view down river towards the Fergusson Gallery, railway and the city skyline. This being the main road out of town, it was particularly busy with traffic that afternoon. I reached the eastern side of the river and came to a boarded up building which once housed a greengrocers, of all things, judging by the signage. Across the road I went and upriver the view was towards distant hills and a winding river, suburban houses in the foreground, an almost pretty scene, really.


Since this is Loose Ends, I had to think of connections and I did that on the way back. Perth Bridge could connect to any bridge anywhere across the country. John Smeaton worked with John Rennie, who has no shortage of structures to his name in Scotland either. I could go to Rennie’s birthplace, Phantassie, near East Linton, or indeed the place nearby called Smeaton, not because of that engineer. As it was, I stayed in Perth for the next part of the series, found by accident on a psychogeographical derive.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next Wednesday.

Intercity: Dundee


From the Royal Mile to somewhere entirely different but no less interesting. I began at the bus station on the Seagate and proceeded along and up through the city along a route I’ve come to know quite well. Since I was six, with a few lapsed years in between, I’ve been a Hibs fan and one away trip I went on a few times as a kid was to Tannadice, home of Dundee United. Tannadice is on the same street as Dens Park, the ground of United’s deadly rivals, Dundee. Naturally as a football fan I came to associate Dundee, the city of the three j’s, of Oor Wullie, Jocky and Lorraine Kelly, with one street in particular and it’s why Intercity’s Dundee visit started on the corner of Tannadice Street and Arklay Street one Saturday lunchtime.


Dundee United were playing Partick Thistle that Saturday and the build up was getting going. Yellow cones lined the roads, yellow jacketed stewards were positioned and as I passed Tannadice there was a definite meaty smell that might have been the pies or the offering for the folk in the dear seats. This was matchday, so early the last game might just have been over. In the meantime, all was quiet on Tannadice Street, a dude in a Partick Thistle dugout coat stood in one of the entrances blethering in Weegie to his pal and a couple of stewards outside Dens were putting the world to rights too. I didn’t see anyone on the allotments that sit behind Tannadice’s Eddie Thompson stand, even with it being a Saturday morning.


Roughly two hundred yards separate Tannadice and Dens Park. I didn’t measure it, that was Wikipedia, but it is the shortest distance between any two football grounds in the country. There are all sorts of cool links between the two clubs including the same folk who sell programmes and operate the turnstiles at the two grounds. My favourite one is that the same person does commentary for blind and visually impaired people and Tannadice and Dens. As I walked the few paces past the Shed, Dens Park was right on me. Dens has an Archibald Leitch main stand, one of the few left in the country, and it is unusual because the stand isn’t sheer against the pitch, its two ends meet in the middle then go at an angle to reflect the road behind it, Sandeman Street. I’ve been to Dens and I’ve even been in that stand. What I hadn’t noticed before was the art-deco stylee ‘DFC’ over the main entrance. By the time I passed the shop at the Bobby Cox Stand end of Dens, it was possible to get a cool view over the stands with the Tannadice floodlights behind.

Before I finished my eye turned to the Rough and Fraser shop on the corner. I’ve since discovered that Rough and Fraser are a well known Dundee bakery and I passed another branch on my way up to Dundee Law. The thought struck me that Rough and Fraser could either be a fearsome defensive partnership or a detective duo, a Scottish Dalziel and Pascoe or whatever. Ironically I had read a crime novel on my way up to Dundee which featured a detective called Fraser who got killed. I won’t tell you which novel in case you happen to pick it up. Anyway, I digress.

So far, Intercity has featured four cities and four very different places. The first one when I thought I might struggle to fill the post was Dundee, ironic since this might be the longest post yet for a walk that didn’t even last ten minutes. Funny that. This one couldn’t have been more different to Edinburgh and the High Street but I think they played to different parts of me, the historian and the football fan who still gets excited in the vicinity of a stadium. Both were happy with this one.

Thanks for reading. The January digest will appear here next week while another Intercity post follows the week after.