Reading more often

When I go to the football, I tend to travel light, usually preferring to carry a book or a notebook along with my iPod. My normal mode is to pick a book off my considerable to-read pile, though I don’t always get it read. I’ve been trying to finish a book review for months but I have carried the book to at least three games and it’s still not done. Sometimes, though, I have managed to read a book in its entirety on the journey to and from Edinburgh or wherever the game is. It helps that I am a quick reader, even if I don’t read enough.

I suspect I am not the only one. I spend too much time looking at my phone. Twitter musings and Facebook updates aren’t conducive to good concentration, sadly. Just being able to read and not bother to scroll every few minutes would improve my life considerably. I probably still read more than most – I give out books for a living, after all – but most of my reading happens on a screen rather than in print. I don’t think I read the same on a tablet. I flick between pages faster and my eyes dance over the screen rather than lingering on each printed word. The other day I re-read the latest Quintin Jardine novel because the first time I didn’t get a whole lot out of the experience. It’s still reading and still a better way to spend my time than spear fishing or watching Hearts or whatever but it is still a lesser pleasure than actually sitting somewhere nice reading a book.

IMG_3984
Leith Links
Recently I took a book with me and read it in full well before I headed home. I read most of it on the train – it was called #girlboss by Sophia Amoruso, incidentally – and was going to go up to Calton Hill to finish it until I remembered that I was in Edinburgh and sitting on a hill to read wasn’t happening with the wind. I still went up to Calton Hill, though, but sat for half an hour in Leith Links instead to finish reading it. I think the best reading moments happen when outside and I don’t do it often enough. I of course live in Scotland, though, so the climate doesn’t always suit al fresco reading even at the height of summer. A few years ago, I went on a day trip to Dumbarton Castle and sat at the bottom of the Rock finishing reading what is now one of my favourite books, Findings by Kathleen Jamie. It felt appropriate to have a sweeping vista of the Clyde before me as I read such a far-reaching book.

So far this current season, I’ve read three books travelling to and from the football. The trip to Alloa saw me reading the wonderfully warped Hings by Chris McQueer, or at least for part of the journey as I was laughing too hard to read any more of the book on the train. Game one of the season, against Partick Thistle at Easter Road, was a re-read of My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir, a reminder of past work and hopefully a prompt to future travels too. The League Cup game the following Tuesday saw me take the memoir of the music journalist Sylvia Patterson, I’m Not With The Band: A Writer’s Life Lost In Music. I even sat and read some of it while sitting on the veranda of a pasta restaurant in Leith, perhaps looking a tiny bit cosmopolitan along the way. Probably not, though.

I’ve read various stories lately about the sales of eBooks going down and conversely people reading less generally due to how busy life is. Planning just how to take time out takes up more time than the time out itself. Reading is a powerful insight into someone else’s world, whether it be biography or a novel. It is in essence a conversation between writer and reader and there are times, like in real life, when the conversation is loaded on one side or another. From the writer’s side, it can be because it isn’t sufficiently clear to make sense to someone else. The reader might be hindered by whatever they are feeling or thinking at the time, as much as how they read it especially if they are like me and in front of a tablet computer screen.

Having time to read is precious. I spend a lot of my life in transit and my life is enriched by being able to read even for a little part of it. Reading makes me a better person and certainly a better writer. Carrying a book is a natural part of my life though mainly they are books to put on a shelf. Being able to get a book for me and really sit down and read it is an ever rarer treat these days. Then again I also have a deep urge to write so a balance might have to come down somewhere in the middle. I might just have to wait for every second Saturday and use the travelling as my weekly or fortnightly reading time, hopefully not during the game itself.

Advertisements

My favourite beach: Belhaven

Recently, the Guardian published an article featuring various writers spouting off on their favourite beach, including Irvine Welsh who wrote about Silverknowes beach in the north of Edinburgh. Irvine lives in Miami so perhaps might be writing with a wee tinge of nostalgia and relief that he doesn’t have to be there in November. I was there recently – read the Edinburgh’s promenade post for more on that walk – and it is fine, I have to say. The comments section of the article surprisingly didn’t descend into a whole lot of abuse as these things tend to do with readers instead talking about their favourite beaches, including a few I know well, Yellowcraig in East Lothian, Bamburgh in Northumberland and Prestwick down the watter in Ayrshire.

ADB3E6B0-0F00-4A19-A5C9-852E2B707EEBIMG_1275

My favourite beach is Belhaven, not far from Dunbar where I grew up. I haven’t been for a wee while but it is a place where I feel most myself, letting the winds wash my spirit clean, as John Muir might have put it. Belhaven is to the west of Dunbar and when approaching from the town, the bay just opens up with views to Fife, the Bass Rock, North Berwick Law and the Isle of May, not to mention further inland to Traprain Law and the Hopetoun Monument near Haddington. The bridge to the beach is cut off twice a day by the tide and it is popularly known as the ‘bridge to nowhere’. Indeed I remember when shelving CDs when I worked at Langside Library in Glasgow discovering a CD, possibly by the Battlefield Band, with said bridge on the front. It is a popular place for photographers and those of us who are merely tickled by a bridge being rendered irrelevant twice a day.

I don’t get there so often any more, living at the other side of the country. Usually when I write about Dunbar, I tend to be there the next week so I’m sure that will be the case this time. I used to walk there fairly often, with family or a succession of dogs, or otherwise alone coming up with ideas for writing. One Saturday morning, I ended up on the beach and saw a seagull lying on the sand with its ribs exposed, sticking up like city cranes. The image stuck with me and I even saw something similar in a Salvador Dali painting in the Modern Art Gallery in Edinburgh.

Why do I love it? It is a place where I feel close to nature, close to home and to lost loved ones. It is a place of comfort, of stability and it has stayed consistent ever since I’ve known it. The view of the Bass Rock and the May is never the same twice, however. I’ve been there in all weathers, even in the fog where the Bass Rock was the only thing visible for miles. The waves make it all the more special, a calming, rhythmic spectacle, every few seconds a new one. Stormy days, or wintry ones, are the best, the gnarling cold compensated for by those waves and the ruffled sky above.

There are those places which are special to us and feel unique to us, even while many others may feel exactly the same about them. I am lucky enough to have quite a few special places, some urban, others much more wild. Belhaven falls into the latter category, though close to the town too. Even while I love Glasgow, it is to Belhaven that I go to take stock and catch up with myself. There are few places better on earth and if you haven’t been, I heartily encourage you to go.

 

Names

IMG_4425

I like well chosen names, those folk have laboured long and hard over to get right. Unlike this blog with a name that took a minute and a half’s thought and takes the piss out of my East Lothian accent missing out the ‘g’s. Two of my current favourites are two Chinese restaurants in the Ibrox area of Glasgow, Wok This Way and One 2 Wan. Another good one is the barber’s I used to use in Dunbar, The Cutting Room, which is also the title of a Louise Welsh novel.

Anyway, the best place I’ve seen for names is Buckhaven in Fife. It isn’t the finest place I’ve ever been, indeed the neighbouring Leven and Methil never fail to lower my spirits, but some of the shop names are absolute crackers. Wax ‘n’ Relax is one; nearby is Mr Mechanic (Motor Factors), the brackets very important there, with the sign showing what looks like a villain from the Beano. I was on the bus or else a photo would swiftly have been snapped. A street name in the vicinity was Rising Sun Road. Undoubtedly top of the league is another hairdressers, Curl Up And Dye, which nearly made me collapse the first time I saw it.

Sometimes it is the little things that put a wee bit of sunshine in our day. They may be unique to us or universal but whatever works. At times the world can be a dark place. Life is too short to spend hypnotised by its complexity. There are times when, to quote Malcolm Middleton, we just have to laugh into the dark. That is at least until we curl up and dye.

When you’ve written better before

img_2395
Embleton Bay
After 330 or so posts, sometimes you begin to repeat yourself. Ideas recur and there is a moment of doubt when you think ‘have I not written this before?’ Even worse is the realisation that you’ve written it before but better than what you can come up with now. A case in point is an idea I had earlier to write a post about talking. I write better than I talk, well, most of the time. Sometimes I get tongue-tied and finding a way into a conversation can be difficult. I am quite good at talking too but to be honest I prefer writing. What appears below is from post 101 from 22nd May 2016, which says it better:

‘I like to talk. I don’t always do it very well. I sometimes talk too much and I often get tongue-tied, saying the wrong things or not enough at the crucial moment. What I say, and how I say it, depends on my audience. With my family, I am much less formal, speaking much more colloquially with far more swearing and liberal use of the word ‘ken’. At work, I am a bit more formal, speaking a bit slower and using a few more big words than I might do at home. My sense of humour is broadly the same, though I keep the darker stuff away from work, well, most of the time.

My accent also shifts a bit. I am far more Dunbar when I am at home though I have noticed my voice is slightly different when I am out and about. To my ear, I still sound quite east coast though I have noticed Glaswegian words and inflections in some of what I say. In my defence, I do my best to make sure I am understood. I have tried to slow down a bit in what I say and naturally in being around people from the west of Scotland all day, some of what they say seeps into my speech. There was someone at work last week who asked if I was English, which I really am not, and there have been people who have thought I am from Fife or worse still Aberdeen. My voice is a little higher when I am out in the world and it is there that it seems to be more Glaswegian while when it is deeper, it is more Dunbar. At least that’s what I think.

I wanted to share a story. Recently I made a colleague laugh by how I naturally rolled my r’s in talking about the title of the HG Wells book War of the Worlds. From me, ‘worlds’ has a whirl attached, which I suppose is appropriate given that the world is constantly rotating anyway. It makes me think of my favourite Proclaimers song, ‘Throw The R Away’:

‘But I wouldn’t know a single word to say

If I flattened all the vowels

And threw the ‘R’ away’.

Talking isn’t all I do with my voice these days. For work, I have been leading Bookbug sessions, which involve singing songs and nursery rhymes to an audience of little people and their parents. Thankfully they join in. That has turned out to be far less terrifying than first thought, as  I just focus on doing it and doing it well, less on the act of singing itself. Before I consigned my singing only to my bedroom or being in a football crowd, which is probably better for humanity.

How I speak invariably goes into my writing. I tend to write as I speak, particularly here, with some Scots expressions and syntax invariably coming in along the way. In the stories I write mainly as a release, I tend to write in standard English though there are some characters I write mainly in Scots, reflecting a broad accent perhaps or simply the mot juste. One character I love to write but hasn’t appeared for a while is written in very broad East Lothian Scots with phonetic spellings and lots of swearing. It makes me laugh, writing that way is a real pleasure and feels right for the situation. I couldn’t write here in broad Scots for the simple reason that I have been conditioned to express myself in standard English in a way that most folk would understand. So I add wee touches here and there instead.’

Elsewhere in that post, I mentioned that I had been thinking about doing a podcast version of the blog. I’m not sure what time I’ve got to do a podcast any time soon but we’ll see. The writing is what counts and I enjoy most, to be honest. Anything else is a bonus.

Membership

Like most of the population, I carry several cards in my wallet for a panoply of purposes. Some financial, others retail. Two are there just in case I happen to be in a place to use them: membership cards for Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland. I have just renewed my membership for Historic Scotland for the eighth time – it is probably the easiest money I spend all year. The NTS card hasn’t been renewed as often, partly for financial reasons, also because I prefer ruined castles to the kind the NTS tends to manage. I bought an NTS membership again last year after a few years’ absence. I had recently visited the Hill House, the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed hoose high up in Helensburgh, and I decided to take the plunge and buy an NTS card, even if I might not use it that often. I have used it a few times over the piece, most recently at Alloa Tower in July. I also used it to get back into Brodick Country Park after popping into the gift shop.

dscn1926
Hill House
My nearest NTS property is Pollok House, sat in the very fine Pollok Country Park. I can be there in half an hour. I haven’t been in for a few years – country houses really don’t float my boat though Pollok does have a very fine collection of Spanish art, as well as its magnificent grounds. Glasgow also has the Tenement House, a strange wee time capsule in Garnethill, a flat once belonging to a Miss Agnes Toward who kept the flat just as it was in the early part of the 20th century, and Holmwood House, which I went to last year some time. Holmwood is a pleasant house, in its own grounds in the south side not far from Cathcart Station. It was owned by the Couper brothers, local mill owners who donated the funds to build the Couper Institute, still the public library and community hub for the area, and designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson with all the characteristic stylistic touches that are his hallmark.

IMG_0778
Holmwood
Many of the NTS properties are in Ayrshire or Aberdeenshire. Ayrshire is fairly close to me though a fair few of the NTS properties there are only open seasonally. Even those tend to be Robert Burns-themed. I like our national poet, don’t get me wrong, I just need to be in the right mood for the Burns overkill that can sometimes ensue. My favourite NTS property in Ayrshire is Culzean Castle. I visited the castle about three years ago, getting the train down from Glasgow and then a bus from Ayr. The castle is in a stunning setting and as much as it is a fine house, the views are really more up my street. I walked in the country park one baltic day in February this year, thankfully sheltered a bit by the trees until we got back to Maidens and the wind hit.

Culzean Castle
IMAG0280
Barry Mill
My membership is up in October. I’m not sure to renew it yet. One reason that might sway me is that it might subsidise some of the smaller NTS properties, such as Preston Mill in East Linton and the wonderful Barry Mill in Angus. I am known to Tweet in praise of places I visit and in special circumstances to write to the organisation concerned to pass on my complements more directly. I went to Barry Mill about two years ago and the miller was doing an amazing job of showing folk around and passing on the skills and history of the place. It is in a very nice setting, between Carnoustie and Dundee, with trees and a burn passing nearby. The afternoon we had there stayed with me for a while. I wrote to the NTS in praise of Barry Mill, because if the management in Edinburgh don’t know the value of their outlying places then they might be lost. It’s why I will probably renew my membership, even while I might not necessarily get to all the places I want to see. It’s an investment to ensure other people can do so and enjoy them just as much if not more so than I ever would.

 

Cardonald

DSCN0505
Cardonald’s in the distance. Taken from Crookston Castle
I live in a part of Glasgow called Cardonald. If you don’t know it, you’ve probably passed by on the M8. It’s a suburb and it’s fine, I like living here. I’ve lived here four years now, which is amazing to me given I never thought I would leave Dunbar. Despite being here for four years, there are still places in the locality I have never been to. Just across the railway and the M8 from here is Cardonald Park. It is what was left after they built the motorway across the Fifty Pitches where once there were fifty football pitches. I pass Cardonald Park every day on the way to work but until the other day I had never been in it. It’s fine. I was walking across it on the way for a bus at the hospital. It seems pleasant enough to be in, with dog walkers and folks just passing by.

Five minutes walk away is Craigton Cemetery. I don’t really do cemeteries normally; not because they creep me out but because they generally have little interest to me. The social historian in me tends to come out, though, as with my visit to the Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh (as written about in Hibstory) or when I’ve been in the Necropolis just behind Glasgow Cathedral. Despite being in both of these places in the last few months, I still haven’t been to my local cemetery. Since at some point I will probably be a customer of the crematorium on site, I maybe should go while I’m alive. Like an increasing number of cemeteries, Craigton has a Heritage Trail, produced by Glasgow City Council. One of the more prominent people buried there is Bill Struth, one of the more successful managers of Rangers, who play just over the hill at Ibrox. Apparently it is possible to see the ground from Struth’s grave, which has an agreeable sort of symmetry, I suppose.

Not so far away is Crookston Castle, which I have been to, as written about here, but in that post I wrote about Rosshall Gardens, which I still haven’t been to.

DSCN0527

 

In writing this post I feel embarrassed that I have seen many fine places all across this land but places minutes away are still to be seen. To be fair, when I worked in museums, one of the things I heard most of all was ‘I’ve walked by for years and never been in’. You visit those places far away because of the journey. Even the streets I have written about so far in the city centre and the West End are far enough away to feel exotic. Even turning a different way, as I did in the park the other day, yields some insight, a sense of belonging, of being on my own turf even when where I step is unfamiliar. It might wait until the winter to do some more exploring of my area, perhaps when light is short and I just feel like going a short way rather than further afield. It will wait, though, since it’s all around me and I can just set out whenever it appeals.

IMG_4504 (1)
Rather lovely mural on Paisley Road West

Walk this way

img_3031
Where it began: Buchanan Street
For the last couple of months, I have been writing a series called Streets of Glasgow, basically essays about walks along the full length of Glasgow streets, part-psychogeography, part-stream of consciousness. The last one I wrote (early summer), Ingram Street, was the one I enjoyed most and I feel I am getting into the stride, so to speak, of this project. Hopefully you find them interesting. Anyway, I wanted to write about the process of them, how I come up with the street and then what I do on the actual walk.

The street usually comes down to where I happen to be that day. Buchanan Street and Ingram Street were both near places I was on training courses that day, Byres Road is by a bus stop and High Street was a chance glance out a bus. I have a few contenders for the next few – Queen Margaret Drive, Wellington Street, Waterloo Street, St. Vincent Street and George Street – though as ever when I get down to them will come down to when I can fit one in. The walks so far have been brief, 15-20 minutes in length, and that’s not stopped the writing flowing, I have to say.

Very often I have to walk up part of the street to get to an end of it, as with Ingram Street and High Street in particular. On that part, I am not thinking so much about what I’ll see, though I might spot something and file it away to look properly later. When I get to the start, I switch into full-on psychogeographic mode, looking all around and keeping alert for the sights and sounds of the street. So far I have relied on my memory and also iPhone photos. It has sort-of become a tradition that all SofG photos are phone photos since they are more spontaneous, a reaction to a moment in time. All of these walks so far have involved good weather, impressively, and there have been some interesting overheard conversations – Byres Road being particularly good for that. As I walk, thoughts might come about how the blog post will form, though usually that all comes later, usually at the end of the walk when I sit down and scribble a page or so of notes of thoughts and observations. This is a bit I particularly like as it tends to involve sitting on a bench somewhere pleasant – Byres Road led me to the Botanic Gardens, Ingram Street I sat outside the Gallery of Modern Art.

Later that day or the following day I sit here and the words appear on the screen. I liken writing to crossstitching, in that lots of patches and bits are brought together to create a greater thing than the words itself. Hopefully.

Streets of Glasgow has been enjoyable because it is on-the-spot and instant, the impressions I get would never be the same on another day. It is portable and also quite a bit educational, as with Ingram Street and the research I did to make sure I could write something worth reading about it. I never know when the next one will come but I am averaging one or two a month at the moment. Hopefully it will be soon, even while I am not sure where it will be. It has helped me understand Glasgow better and that is no bad thing, even while some people go their whole lives and never understand a place. I am getting there, though.

Morrison’s Haven

Morrison’s Haven
I’ve written a few times here about Prestongrange, a mining museum in East Lothian where I worked for a few years and for which I have a deep and lasting affection. Some of them are My somewhere, Pans, Being autistic in a museum (again) and Books. I get there every few months, usually spending about an hour just wandering around the grounds, by the Beam Engine and the Powerhouse before circling around the Hoffman Kiln. Before I go onto the site, I usually spend a while walking around Morrison’s Haven, once one of the busiest ports in Scotland, the rival to Leith just up the Forth that once had vessels carrying coal, bricks and much else besides from Prestongrange to all parts of the British Isles and even abroad. It was filled in as part of a land reclamation project in the 1950s with rubbish and rubble from the mines and surrounding communities. Today there are some traces of the harbour, including banking and the harbour mouths, and there are some boards put up by the Prestongrange Community Archaeology Project showing boys swimming in the harbour in times gone by. Due to the mine being nearby, the harbour water was very often warm, apparently.

Looking towards Edinburgh
I was there just the other day, as normal getting off the bus just into Prestonpans and walking back towards Prestongrange along the coast. It was a gorgeous afternoon, in the midst of a heatwave, and I relished being right by the Forth and looking across to Fife, the sea quite calm and just enough clouds across the sky to make it not absolutely roasting. I ended up sitting on a rock for about half an hour, doing some sunbathing and practising mindfulness. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on each element of the sounds around me in turn, from the waves to the wind to the cars on the coast road nearby. I tend to have a lot of mental chatter and just being able to focus on one thing and let my brain quieten down was utterly brilliant, even just for a bit.


After I walked around Prestongrange, I headed for the bus stop. I’ve stood at that bus stop many times, often for a fair bit of time when ostensibly there should be a bus every ten minutes heading into Edinburgh. There are many worse places to stand, though, with a view across Morrison’s Haven to the Fife coast and towards Seafield, Leith and the Pentland Hills. Similarly there’s a broad view with the top of the bus usually visible over the trees nearer Sammy Burns’s yard. Every time I’m there, I always think back to those days when I stood there on the way home, in the rain and the sunshine, after days of seeing noone as much as event days when hundreds of people passed through.

As I crossed the railway tracks towards the old glassworks, I thought about living in the west of Scotland. I have a deep familiarity and love for Prestongrange. I know a lot about the place, as I do about Dunbar, even Edinburgh. I’ve lived in Glasgow for four years. I have been writing about it for a while now and it is home geographically and in many other senses. But I don’t feel it in my bones and my soul as much as I do the east. It is happening, though. I love the west. There are places here I have come to deeply love – Cathkin Park, Pollok Park, Prestwick Beach, Culzean – but the deep knowledge comes from spending a lot of time in a place. Time is on my side, though, as I don’t plan to leave here any time soon. Being a visitor to Prestongrange, as I now am to Dunbar, means a trip through there is now a treat, something to be savoured and the feeling of being back on solid ground stays with me for a good few days. It starts when I get off the bus at Morrison’s Haven and doesn’t go even when I step back on it and head back into Edinburgh and then for home. The best places you leave behind physically never actually leave you. Even with distance, they stay deep inside, memories returning once we return or when far away and we smile and look in that direction. It was good to be back.

Site of the glassworks at Prestongrange

Railway signs

There are some day trips when I take loads of photographs, others not so many. Only a fraction get used on this blog while others only exist to make me smile, to ignite a memory or as a reminder of an idea for later. One day trip last year when I took far more photographs than ever appeared here was the day I went to York. Being a details guy, I love signage and the National Railway Museum has absolutely loads dotted about the place, some more obvious than others. I have been there maybe seven or eight times and every time I see many new things. That particular day was great. I remember unsuccessfully trying to take a selfie beside the sign for the NRM’s library, which is wonderfully named Search Engine. (Serves me right for trying to take a selfie.) Anyway, here are some photographs of some of the very fine signs around the National Railway Museum in York. Hopefully I’ll be back there soon.

dscn0956dscn0930dscn0927dscn0926dscn0942dscn0939dscn0941

Digest: August 2017

It doesn’t feel so long since I wrote the last one of these. I seem to have been here, there and everywhere in August. I spent the first part of it on annual leave then much of the rest of it in transit. August seems to have been spent either at work or in the east of Scotland, mainly Edinburgh, with not so much time spent actually writing here. As ever, I have my iPad in front of me with photos to help me remember what I’ve done this month so here we go.


1st August I went to Dumbarton Castle. I had been away to East Lothian the day before and a lie in was required after a busy day. I was in the house around lunchtime and decided on the trip across the Clyde. I’ve been to Dumbarton Castle quite a few times but not since I stopped working in the town in late 2015. The train journey up from Glasgow was surreal, familiar terrain but not covered for a while, remembering past commutes and people I knew when I worked up there. It was a pleasant day, well, mostly, since it started raining while I was there, but I enjoyed the walk around the Rock, looking up the Clyde to hills and sea lochs and across the landscape to city streets and the Vale of Leven.

The following day was my birthday and I went to my favourite art gallery, Kirkcaldy Galleries, and spent a wee while amidst the Colourists, MacTaggarts and Glasgow Boys paintings.


That Friday, I had a turn around Glasgow, deciding to take in some of the lesser-spotted interesting bits of this great city I call home. First was the Buffalo Bill statue in Dennistoun, put up by a housing company to celebrate the East End Exhibition Centre that once stood nearby, hosting shows by Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley in 1891-1892. This statue stands in a square in the middle of a housing scheme, a wee bit of the Wild West in the East End. It’s a nice touch, paying homage to a past glory and also to the side of every Glaswegian, even us adopted ones, who aspire to be Americans. I hadn’t been to Dennistoun before and it was fine, particularly the stunning library building. I walked back into town along Alexandra Parade, one of those Streets of Glasgow walks, and it was nicer at the eastern end, I have to say, even with the church that looked like a fortress. I also did a Streets walk along Cathedral Street, which I know fairly well, but thought more en route about the ever-changing city landscape, sort of channelling Edwin Morgan. When I reached Queen Street, I ended up doing another of those things I had been meaning on doing for a while, on the train to Anniesland, via Maryhill and Kelvindale. It is one of the city’s branch lines, only opened about ten years ago and I wanted to do it because I had head it announced on the PA at Queen Street so many times as I was en route somewhere else. It was a brief journey, only about 20 minutes, and I mainly just looked out the window at the city passing by. I ended up on a bus from Anniesland to the Botanic Gardens, which spawned another post about the old railway there.

That Saturday I went to see Hibs at Easter Road. We won against Partick Thistle 3-1.


The next day I was away with my dad to Aberdour Castle in Fife and Elcho Castle in Perthshire. Aberdour is a castle I know well and I was glad to wander around the gardens and to get a gander at the painted ceilings, a lesser interest of mine. Thereafter we walked down to the harbour, looking across the Forth to Edinburgh. As we walked down the road, we passed two laddies who had peeled off most of their clothes and were headed for the water. Brave boys. As we walked back, they were out and clad in a towel to warm up. It was a full day and we headed to Dysart for lunch and then to Kirkcaldy for my second visit to Kirkcaldy Galleries in four days. Never object to it, mind. Elcho Castle was a new one to both of us and I liked it, particularly the little design touches characteristic of later Scottish castles.

The following Tuesday night, I was at Easter Road to see Hibs horse Ayr United in the League Cup. Beforehand I dined at an Italian restaurant in Ocean Terminal and sat on the veranda in the gorgeous Leith sunshine reading my book.


My next trip out of the west was Edinburgh again and Easter Road again. Prior to the game, I decided to go a slightly different route to the ground, going round the back of Meadowbank Shopping Park to the old Dunbar’s lemonade factory just behind the stadium.

Guess where I was the following day? Yep, Edinburgh again, Easter Road again, this time though for a play about the early years of Hibs, from its formation in the Cowgate to good days and bad, ‘A Field Of Our Own’, produced by the Strange Town theatre company and staged actually in the stadium, more precisely the East Stand concourse. It was excellent, thought-provoking and emotional at times. I left with my faith in Hibs very much restored after the dire performance against Hamilton the day before. I love my club. I walked to spend a few minutes with my favourite trees, the sequoias in the Botanic Gardens, sitting scribbling, reading and thinking. The evening was to be cultural again, this time an event at the Edinburgh Book Festival about the new book Who Built Scotland, featuring essays on 25 of the most interesting and important Scottish buildings written by Alexander McCall Smith, Alistair Moffat, James Robertson, Kathleen Jamie and James Crawford. I am a big Kathleen Jamie fan but sadly she wasn’t at the event. Instead the other four authors were interviewed by the splendidly acerbic Ruth Wishart, who is an excellent chair of these sorts of events, with the various authors talking about some of their chosen buildings, with the four authors expounding forth on pre-fabs in Kelso, Cairnpapple Hill, Bell Rock Lighthouse, Innerpeffray Library and Abbotsford.


My next trip to the capital came on Wednesday night. I was supposed to be going to a poetry reading at the Book Festival but couldn’t be arsed. I left work early and decided to head straight out of Edinburgh towards Musselburgh, having a chippy at Fisherrow and wandering around the harbour in the warm sunshine. I walked as far as Joppa and as I sauntered, I realised I wasn’t in the right mood for poetry. I headed back into the city, spent a few quid in the Book Festival Bookshop then came home, feeling the benefit of the quieter train home and being in my bed a few minutes earlier.

The Saturday saw yet another trip to Edinburgh, again for the Book Festival, this time for Ian Rankin. I had never seen Rankin live before but wasn’t disappointed. I’ve fallen in and out of love with Rebus but Ian Rankin is on a good run of form. He’s also a very captivating and compelling speaker and held court talking about Rebus in various media, writing and Police Scotland. I had once more left work early and got to Edinburgh earlier than I perhaps had to. I ended up walking up Easter Road and sitting by the Water of Leith for a bit in the sunshine before I walked along the side of the river back into the city to get a chippy before seeing Ian Rankin.


Very early on the Sunday, and I mean early, I left for Dundee. Hibs were playing on the live Sky game at Dens Park. I had a ticket for the posh seats, a very new experience, surreal but not altogether unpleasant, as it happens. Hibs should have won but it turned out 1-1. I also had my first taste of beef bourguignon, which was far better than the football. On the way back into town, my auntie showed me a trail of various murals in some of the city centre’s closes. I haven’t written a post about them yet but I like the idea of using hidden city spaces in that way.

Screenshot 2017-08-29 at 21.02.55

Right, that’s August. Today, Tuesday, is also the second anniversary of when I started this blog. In the last two years, my confidence as a writer and as a person has grown considerably. Let the words flow. Thanks to all readers and followers. It’s been fun so far. Tomorrow, there will be a post. It’s one I wrote absolutely yonks ago about the National Railway Museum in York. In conclusion, I would like to share a particular place and quotation etched upon it I’ve shared here before but means a lot.

August posts –

Digest: July 2017

Dirleton, Seton and a coastal walk

Streets of Glasgow: Alexandra Parade

Stairs

Places that can’t be reached by public transport

Streets of Glasgow: Cathedral Street

The Dunbar End

In praise of being alone

The Botanics

Castles as cardio