One afternoon recently I got the Subway into town. I bought my ticket at Govan then proceeded down the escalator just as an Outer Circle train pulled in. What made this unusual was that there was rain on the window despite the Subway being entirely underground. The Subway was one of the very few modes of transport that ran during the epic snow at the start of March for that reason though even then it finished early. Then I remembered that across the road from Govan is the depot and this train will have just entered service for the evening peak. It was good, though, to imagine the train leaving its eternal loop to take a secret route into daylight or going through a cave and a waterfall like in Tomb Raider or something.
Yep, it’s time for another post of random junk clogging up my inbox. I e-mail myself all sorts of links for possible blog posts. Since Loose Ends and Subway Surface (from this Friday Streets of Glasgow) are taking up two of my three or four posts a week, posts about other things get squeezed out. Hence posts like these with a jumble of different ideas, a gallimaufry, in fact.
First is a recent story from the East Lothian Courier about how North Berwick is one of the twenty most charming towns in Scotland, alongside Anstruther, Broughty Ferry, Crieff, Cromarty, Falkirk, Fort William, Kelso, Kirkcudbright, Millport, Oban, Pitlochry, Pittenweem, Plockton, Portree, St Andrews, Stornoway, Stromness, Tobermory and Ullapool. Apparently NB is on the list due to the birdlife and golf courses around and about. No arguments from me, even with the golf. What struck me when I saw this list is some of the surprising choices on it. I’ve been to fifteen of them and I wouldn’t say Falkirk or Fort William are really that charming. Falkirk in particular has a pleasant town house and Callander House is okay plus the Kelpies but it is a bit of a hole apart from that. Fort William is rank too, its only saving grace that any possible direction the road takes you leads to somewhere much nicer, Mallaig, Glenfinnan, Loch Ness or Glencoe.
A memorial garden to victims of the Irish and Highland famines was recently unveiled outside the People’s Palace. When I went by there the other day, the cleanup after the Transmt music festival was still in progress so I couldn’t go get a good look. The helpful People’s Palace directed me to an upstairs window where I could see the garden and to the Winter Gardens where there was an interesting, informative and reasoned display about why the garden was there. I hope to get back for a closer look in the next few weeks. It is thoroughly appropriate that it is there, long overdue perhaps, and done in a sensitive but powerful way.
The East Lothian Courier yielded another article about a statue of an archer that has been put up recently by the river Esk in Musselburgh. Apparently it will be part of a larger arrow trail around Musselburgh relating to various major events in the town’s past including Roman settlements, battles and the Silver Arrow competition which dates from 1603. I hope to get there soon. I like imaginative public art like that.
In fashion news, there was a story on the BBC News website that tight swimming trunks are the least popular garment in Britain. I don’t do Speedos, you’ll be glad to hear. Other unpopular items include in order leather trousers (don’t like them), Crocs (or them though I believe they are popular in hospitals because they clean up good), flares (distress), clothes with elbow patches (yup), tracksuit (in context, fine), red trousers (check out the New Town Flaneur account on Twitter for red breeks capers), Uggs (whatever), deep v-neck T-shirts (anything that shows chest hair is too much for me) and sweater vests (don’t do them – too thick). I would also add jeans with holes in them. I absolutely hate them. Why pay a fortune for something that happens anyway? If you want ventilation, put on shorts.
And finally a nice story from the Edinburgh Evening News of a primary school pupil who has brought about friendship benches in her school playground where lonely kids can sit and other kids can go and befriend them. The benches were made by the charity Scottish War Blinded. I can’t be cynical about stuff like this, I just think that’s great. All power to Alix.
Anyway, enough of this. Easter Road West also has a post much like this one tonight though that one covers the campaign to provide female sanitary products in football grounds, as well as autism and old football grounds. That’s my inbox clearer for just now, until the next time.
My bright and sunny Borders day trip was originally going to consist of a trip to Melrose Abbey, a clear link to the last Loose Ends destination, Dunfermline, through Robert the Bruce. On the train down to Tweedbank, however, I got a suggestion to go to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, historical and not far from Tweedbank. I was soon off the train and setting off on foot for Abbotsford, passing through a housing scheme and by a pleasant pond with ducks, swans and a tree-filled island in the middle.
After paying in, my first stop was the visitor centre which was interesting in its way, a nice blend of text, pictures and objects. It didn’t shy away from talking about the financial difficulties Scott had later in his life or indeed that he was an arch-Tory, being virulently against the 1832 Reform Act. Being a Hibs fan myself, I was just glad reference wasn’t made to a certain football team named after one of Scott’s novels (or really a dance hall named after one of Scott’s novels), Heart of Midlothian.
The visitor centre would have been enough for me since I’m not really a fan of big hooses but it was good manners to go down to the house. I was handed a state-of-the-art audio guide which I ditched whenever possible since I’m a reader by instinct and inclination. What the audio guide did yield, and one of the battalion of volunteers elaborated on, was a link with Dunfermline, namely wood on the walls of the entrance hall that came from the Abbey when the newer church was built in 1818. The entrance hall was fine, a riot of suits of armour, heraldic crests and other yad Scott collected over his life, including a plaster cast of Robert the Bruce’s skull, another connection to Dunfermline where most of his remains are buried.
Next door was his study, a proper old-fashioned room lined with books on two levels. That would have been worth the admission money alone, if not for the library. I think I started drooling when I got in there. It was huge with bay windows looking out over the Tweed. I spent a good while in there, perusing the books, most with Scott’s cipher and portcullis motif on the spine, then peering out towards the river. The audio guide informed me it was the most substantial writer’s library in the world and I could believe it. It is the most glorious room and like when I went to Trinity College Dublin, I considered building a little fort and never, ever leaving.
Before I left there were diverting displays about Scott’s often fraught friendship with JMW Turner and his career as a lawyer and sheriff at Selkirk. I could easily have found connections between Abbotsford and other places through those but not this time. It’s through the library, the ultimate node of accumulated knowledge, and there are a few old libraries in Scotland, Innerpeffray and Leighton’s Library to name but two. But as I left Abbotsford, thoughts turned to a library I’ve meant to explore more for a while and it’s why the next Loose Ends trip will be to the Museum of the Year finalist Glasgow Women’s Library.
Thanks for reading. The next instalment of Loose Ends follows next week.
As I walked past Kinning Park Subway, I was asked directions. Since I had passed where they were looking for only a few minutes before, I was able to oblige. I was now at Plantation Park and I stopped because my feet were lowpin’ and I needed a drink. Plus to make notes. Plantation Park was a pleasant green space, one of many in the city though much quieter than at the Botanics and in town.
I soon turned onto Paisley Road West and there was a feeling of being on familiar ground and of relief too. I knew where I was. The end was near. My feet may have been pounding but I still felt good, not flagging despite the distance covered.
The thirteenth station was Cessnock and I already knew I had to get a photo of the station gates, a relic of the old Subway prior to its modernisation in the 1970s. I did so though I hadn’t realised that the building above Cessnock is part of a very handsome crescent designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It was an unexpected joy and even better to see it lived in rather than as a museum piece. The Paisley Road West walk led me past lots of food shops with very nice smells, particularly kebabs. I desisted, however. Nearer Edmiston Drive there were quite a few new housing developments springing up, which was nice to see.
At Ibrox Subway I felt quite conspicuous. There was a view to Ibrox Stadium and the Rangers Megastore. The combined effect of this and the Louden Tavern was enough to bring out the deepest Hibs fan in me, particularly the Louden Tavern which proclaimed itself to be not just a pub, since it had a beer garden too.
Between Ibrox and Govan were quite a few factories, many of them still going, including Maritime House which looked particularly venerable. I came to Orkney Street, much more urban than the islands, but interesting with a view of the back of the old police station with bars still on the windows. It is now an enterprise centre. I soon turned by the TSB back onto Govan Road, crossing the road and finding myself back at Govan, the walk completed in four hours and eight minutes. Again I had the Mary Barbour statue to myself. From there, I decided to do the whole thing again, though this time on the Subway itself, doing a whole loop before getting off in the town.
As the Subway train looped, I thought about the walk just concluded. I had seen many parts of Glasgow, the city centre, industrial and the chic, some areas which have seen better days and others flourishing. I had seen architecture from Rennie Mackintosh and ‘Greek’ Thomson, both south of the river, the best side, as well as 1960s concrete jungle sprawl near Cowcaddens and Kinning Park. I crossed the Clyde twice and the Kelvin twice too, once each on the longest leg of the journey, Govan to Partick. I passed three of the city’s 33 public libraries – Partick, Hillhead and Ibrox – and at least four branches of Subway. I passed four statues, including two featuring women – Mary Barbour and the one commemorating the Spanish Civil War by the river. Plus of course fifteen Subway stations, the guiding posts that kept me right throughout this walk around the many parts of Glasgow. My favourite stretches were less familiar, from Hillhead to St. George’s Cross with the pigeon-dwelling statue and diversity, plus Kinning Park to Ibrox, the Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson crescent and being on familiar ground once more yet still seeing something new at almost every turn. That’s the object of the exercise, after all, and it’s why it’s worth following your feet some times. What can be seen will make life more interesting, for good or bad, plus your other senses will be satisfied, guaranteed.
After walking to Barns Ness lighthouse, I somehow had the mental notion to climb up Doon Hill. I hadn’t been up there in years, usually doing so as a result of a hare-brained scheme. I remember being up there as the Queen Mary 2 sailed past, the massive cruise ship looming large as it motored up the Forth from Rosyth. From Barns Ness I had to walk a while past Portlands then when I reached the A1 I had to run across the road as cars come up and down there with some lick. I was soon rewarded, though, on the way up the road by a fine view back across Dunbar to the Bass Rock and the Isle of May beyond. That vista was to my right all the way up to Doon Hill or at least as long as I kept sweat out of my eyes. I’m not built for heat.
Doon Hill overlooks Dunbar. It is also notable for the fields below which were the scene of the second Battle of Dunbar, the one on 3rd September 1650 when Cromwell won and 3,000 were taken to Durham Cathedral to be executed, transported or imprisoned. I passed a stone on the way up which bore a quote about the battle from Thomas Carlyle. The hill was the site of an Anglian hall but also, archaeologists have discovered fairly recently, a Neolithic settlement too. When I got to the top, I found I was not alone for there was a tour group getting a talk by the big information board. The guide was freely admitting he knew hee haw about medieval architecture so might have to defer to his pal Chris who was also there. I glanced at the board then set off around the traced out edges of the homestead, getting far enough away to completely tune out the group.
I sat for a few minutes looking down the hill towards Torness. Blocking out that and the cement works, it was possible to readily imagine the value of Doon Hill not only as a domestic structure but for defence, giving views right to St. Abbs Head and over the surrounding lands to Brunt Hill and beyond towards North Berwick. The thing that amazed me was that Doon Hill’s significance only came to light due to aerial photography in the 1950s, then as now a vital resource in finding hitherto hidden traces of our past. Looking across the site it was easy to bring to life its past, as a place for communal living, entertaining, and venerating their dead.
Back down the hill I looked again across Dunbar. Even with the new houses I could pick out landmarks, my high school, where I lived growing up, the Castle, Town House, churches and Knockenhair House, to name but a few. Despite the climb and the heat, I was glad I diverted that way to get a wider appreciation of the history, plus just to stand and stare for a while.
I didn’t like high school much. Sometimes at lunchtime I would sit in a classroom and eat or in most weathers I would go out for a walk. If I was really going for it, I would end up nearly at the Castle, sitting by where the old pool was, watching waves. I wrote poems then and a lot of them seemed to involve waves, usually free verse even though Robert Frost likened it to playing tennis with the net down.Very often I would end up at the Prom, ten minutes or so from school, and I would sit on my favourite bench. It’s just around from the second gate with views across the bay to Traprain, North Berwick Law, the Bass and the May. In all weather it is a beautiful, lovely spot and even when I go to Dunbar today, I like to spend a few minutes there. I was up there just now. I’m now sitting writing this on the beach, looking back up towards the Prom. Bird calls chattering back and forth, waves, not much man made noise at all on this warm July evening.I’ve been on the Prom too many times to count. Sometimes I’ve run on it, other times walked, sometimes with the wind at my back, actually a lot of times with the wind at my back, with some visits thoughtful and others joyful. I’ve been there on bright sunny days like this and cold, clear, dark winter nights too, the way shown by a torch. I never feel lonely there, however I feel elsewhere. There I feel connected to the wider world, not so much cities but passing ships, birds and places on the horizon, to memories, hopes and dreams. A lot of what I write about is connections and it all comes from here, this place, and wherever I live, that won’t ever change.
It might astonish you to learn that these posts actually have a bit of preparation behind them. I usually write notes and then work from those and the photos to get a post together. This one’s notes were actually written sitting on a step in the Abbey Nave in Dunfermline, under those pillars architecturally interesting as ever and reminding me in style of Durham Cathedral. The last Loose Ends post was the National Museum of Scotland and that could lead virtually anywhere. In the end the link between NMS and Dunfermline was that Edinburgh is the current capital of Scotland and Dunfermline was once our capital. Plus Edinburgh was the birthplace of King James VI (I of England) while Dunfermline was where his son Charles I was born, as I was reminded at the gate of the Abbey. Usually I just go to the Abbey Nave though this time I also went to the Palace, once the Abbey’s guesthouse until it was taken over by James VI’s wife, Anne of Denmark, and became an expansive palace even if it was only used for a brief time. There were connections galore as I walked around, indeed in the gatehouse is a display of gargoyles and other features with photos of other places with similar things, including Linlithgow and Aberdour visited in this series already. All sorts of links were coming to mind, Charles I leading to Oliver Cromwell and the Cromwell Harbour in Dunbar. Anne of Denmark would lead to North Berwick and its witch trials. Mason’s marks would lead to Rosslyn Chapel with the Mason’s and Apprentice’s Pillars. Graffiti in the Palace reminded me of the fine graffiti on the walls of Crichton Castle in Midlothian. Indeed the only place that I hadn’t been to before was Brechin Cathedral, mentioned in the gatehouse display.I had forgotten how good the Palace is in Dunfermline, a secret staircase leading down to the range and vaulted cellars. As I took my leave, the same guy was still bending the stewards’ ears about the Picts as when I had gone in.The Abbey Nave just makes me smile, sprays of coloured light just like Durham Cathedral with chevron pillars and the rest. It is braw. There are also examples of pre-Reformation decoration and fine carvings. My hay fever was particularly bad that day and my sneezes echoed high into the ceilings. The cellars of the Palace and the Abbey Nave itself were perfect for such a warm day and I sat there for a bit, scribbling notes and just looking around. Behind me in the Abbey Church was the grave of Robert the Bruce, making me think of trips to Melrose where his heart is buried or Dumfries where he killed a rival in a church. In the meantime I just sat and looked, feeling momentarily at peace amidst the ancient stones, at the centre of Scotland and its past revelling in where I was and where I might be another day.
Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows next week. Elsewhere in the blogosphere today is a post from my other blog, Easter Road West, all about Paul Hanlon’s testimonial.
I like the modern canopy at St. Enoch and I never miss an opportunity to stop and stare at the fine glass construction. Nearby there was another bar by the mural of Billy Connolly, also full, and there were lots of sunbathers down by the river. I soon crossed the Clyde for the second time and looked up and down, not quite seeing Pacific Quay where I had crossed earlier, but seeing much of the city skyline and discovering that the trains were disrupted courtesy of the Central Station PA system carried by the wind.On the pavement as I crossed the road was a chalked drawing, looking very new, featuring an unicorn and the legend ‘From Canada With Love’. This Weegie liked it a lot.Bridge Street was once a railway station too and the surface buildings are still there, now shops and offices. Station number ten and they were fair mounting up now. The walk to West Street featured the second Google Maps check of the walk and I walked through Tradeston with polite curiosity and empty streets. SAS wear was one, causing a slight frisson of anxiety of what I had come into.From West Street to Kinning Park involved keeping close to Scotland Street, even when it was divided by the motorway and Google Maps came into play again. This was a walk into streets and by buildings I mainly see from the train and it was interesting, a foray into parts of Glasgow pedestrians don’t often get to and certainly not the tour buses. There were lots of gaps between buildings and particularly along Scotland Street. A football centre in an old factory had lots of flags in the windows but the only club crest and mural featured FCB Barcelona, carefully neglecting the Gruesome Twosome who play in this city.Nearer Shields Road is the very fine Scotland Street School Museum, open since it was a bank holiday, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Even the school gates, painted in bottle green, bore Mackintosh’s touches.The third map check came as I navigated the junction with a deep chasm underneath the M8 flyover that looked like it had seen a few drag races in its time in true American B-movie style. Towards Kinning Park I came near to those big warehouses that now host soft play and children’s entertainment. I also saw from the ground the big adverts that you can see from the M8 on the approach to the Kingston Bridge, one for Slaters menswear and the other usually bears the legend ‘People Make Glasgow’. Kinning Park was time for another break, luckily there’s a park nearby and I could rest my feet and pause before the final part of this Subway Surface walk.–
Thanks for reading. The final instalment of the series follows next week.
Last night I was walking home from the bus stop. Usually my main focus is decompression and just getting in the door. As I turned over the first overpass, my gaze fell on a considerable expanse of daisies between me and the road. This little triangle sits between the slip road and the link to the Clyde Tunnel and previously all I was aware of were weeds. The daisies stood high in that little bit of shade, a wee bit of wildness in urban sprawl, only to be seen a few pedestrians and cyclists, never by the drivers in the cars as they speed right on by.
Heat. Exam. Buses. Shorts. Sunshine. Castles. The first six words I can think of to describe my June. It has been very warm here in Glasgow for the vast majority of June. I am writing this on Saturday night and it is sweltering. I don’t handle the heat well anyway but this week has been beyond belief. This whole month has, really. We tend to get summer for about a week then it gets all horrible again. This year it’s been summer with a few days of dreich. I could do with some dreich soon, though.
Friday 1st June saw me going to the capital for some shopping. I walked up the Royal Mile, had a look at the quotes lining the wall outside the Scottish Parliament then ducked into St. Giles, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends here on the blog. It didn’t happen as I was scunnered by the £2 to take photos. I spent far longer in the very lovely National Museum of Scotland, which did feature in Loose Ends this past Sunday. I had forgotten how good NMS is and I only went to a few select bits, much of the Scottish and some of the old museum. Brilliant place.
The following week I was off for my OU exam. I revise better with less distractions and amazingly well on buses. I ended up on a bus to St. Andrews, reading my books on the way and having a good wander around the town and along the beach when I got there. The following day I ended up in Dunfermline, again revising on the bus and taking in the Palace and the Abbey Nave, the latter the work of the same stonemasons who did Durham Cathedral. That was another Loose End, featuring here this coming Sunday. The Friday was exam day and I sat in the Botanics before sitting my exam. I think it went okay. To chill out my head I walked into town to get the train home, going via Renfrew Street. It was a week before the fire and that night with the sunshine it felt good to be there, lots of folks around for the degree show.
Sunday 10th I went to the Fossil Grove, just over the river from here in Scotstoun. I had never been but it was fine, a wee bit neglected but interesting all the same. I walked to Kelvingrove via Partick, turning off Dumbarton Road past the West of Scotland Cricket Ground and Partick Burgh Halls, both fine looking places. I went into Kelvingrove and made sure I saw my favourite painting, The Paps of Jura by William McTaggart.
That Monday I had a day trip with a good friend and it was great. We started at the Kelvin Hall, looking at the museum displays, before going across to Kelvingrove to sit in the atrium cafe for a bit. In Edinburgh we walked up to Leith and just generally blethered. It was great.
Next adventure was the next Sunday, the Hibs Historical Trust Open Day. For more on that, read the post on Easter Road West. Here’s Neil Lennon’s view from the dugout. Normally it doesn’t have red tape.
The following Saturday I had been thinking about for ages. Eventually I decided on the Borders and it was the right move. A social media recommendation took me to Abbotsford, a country hoose once home to Sir Walter Scott but with a braw library. I walked to Melrose by the river through the hay fever and took a turn around the Abbey, a place I had been to before but I had never fully appreciated before. On the train back to Edinburgh I decided on a chippy over in North Berwick, which I ate at the harbour. Post on this adventure appeared here the other day.
The next day I was with my dad and we went to Cardross and Dumbarton Castle. Cardross featured a wee glimpse of the St. Peter’s Seminary. Dumbarton was the right place to be on a gloriously sunny day. The ice cream just made it so.
On Wednesday I went shopping after work. I soon realised that the trains were off because of the heat. I got the Subway to Govan then had a few minutes before the bus. I walked down to the river and had a good look at the Mary Barbour statue. The bus had difficulties again because of the weather but eventually it got moving and I got home.
Friday I was off and went out for dinner in Paisley at night. I went up Browns Lane to see some street art and ticked off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, a drink of Belhaven beer. I wasn’t keen.
That’s June. This month I have read We Shall Fight Until We Win, the graphic anthology produced by 404 Ink and BHP Comics to mark the centenary of some women getting the vote, as well as The Marches by Rory Stewart and What Goes On Tour by the Secret Footballer. Plus too bloody much about Huguenots and Martin Luther. I am currently reading the memoir by mountaineer Cameron McNeish and re-reading Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin.
Finally, there’s also a post on my football blog, Easter Road West, tonight. It’s about Dylan McGeouch.
Thanks as ever to all readers, followers and commenters. Have a nice month.
Posts this month –