5 In 5: January

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

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

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

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

Saturday Saunter: Cold, podcasts and Bob

Good Saturday to you,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Saunter: Parks, books, football and Whithorn

Good Saturday to you,

How are you? I’m writing this on Wednesday afternoon and there is a big ominous rain cloud over yonder as I start this. To be honest I’m not sure what I will be doing when this is posted. I’ve had notions to go for a big walk, possibly as far as the mystical and mythical land of Glasgow city centre but definitely not to shop or go to a beer garden. It might be one of the hopefully much quieter local parks for me. That was what I did last Saturday. I went to Barshaw Park, though it felt too busy to take photos or sit in the walled garden, so I headed instead to Rosshall Gardens, which were much quieter. There’s a woodland walk there which is wonderfully peaceful and fools you into thinking that you’re not in a city.

Rosshall Gardens: a woodland scene, looking from under a tree over a pond, which reflects the trees and foliage above it.

When writing the Saturday Saunter each week, I sometimes have an idea or two, sometimes I don’t. Now and then I write out of frustration, more frequently with a skip and a jump as the words tumble out. I was tempted to write about some stuff in the news but I’m at the point where I want to avoid it. Instead I want to write today about other things. Firstly a blast from my boyhood. When I was a kid, highlights of Scottish football matches came twice a weekend, thrice if I had been at the game. Saturday night would be Sportscene on the BBC (probably Sunday as it was on late so it would get taped), Sunday Scotsport, which was on ITV (where I lived got Grampian even though we were in the catchment of STV). Scotsport is no longer and Sportscene moved later into the week, only on a Saturday night after games in the Cup. No more. Sportscene will be back on Saturday nights from the start of the season, currently looking favourite for August. BBC Scotland comes in for some stick. Some of it justified, some not, but this is a very good move. Roll on the start of August and the return of proper football, none of this corporate English pish. Even if it’s behind closed doors, it’s the real thing.

Whithorn is in Dumfries and Galloway, beyond Wigtown and Newton Stewart. It is notable as being an early centre of Christianity in Scotland. I went there once and the museum was excellent, just the right blend of text and images to appeal to most audiences. Researchers have found that the Whithorn monastery might have been established later than thought, using carbon dating to make their case that it might have come into being in the 7th century AD rather than the 5th. The BBC News story is worth a read though if you are squeamish, please be warned that it shows a burial.

Also, it is worth looking to Twitter for an interesting thread. Sara Sheridan has written about lesser-known Scottish female writers, including Susan Ferrier and Muriel Spark.

Our weekly different perspective comes from The Guardian with some black photographers looking through their archives and talking about them.

I’m currently listening to an audiobook, A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I’ve read Bryson’s travel books for years but I’ve never been able to get through one of his science books. I listened to The Lost Continent a couple of weeks ago and realised that audio might be the way to go with the science. So far I’m an hour in and it’s fine. I have to take science in small dozes. It is very important, of course, though understanding it and remembering it is harder.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 11th July 2020. Thanks very much for reading. The final instalment of 5 In 5 will be here tomorrow and it’s a sculpture. Virtual Loose Ends continues on Wednesday and it will be continuing back in Glasgow. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning.

5 In 5: River Clyde

River Clyde: looking upriver towards two bridges, a concert hall and crane on one bank and some modern offices on the other. The crane is reflecting on one of the office blocks in the foreground.

River Clyde: by the side of a river with two bridges including an arced one and a crane to the left. The crane, building and bridges reflect in the glass frontage of the BBC building to the right.

I hadn’t seen the river for months. I decided, as the afternoon wore on, that I would remedy that. My walk to the water took me through Elder Park, past Isabella Elder’s statue, and then to Govan Cross, by Mary Barbour leading her people against injustice. I crossed the road and the Riverside Museum came into view. As I walked closer, the river was there, the Clyde, the body of water which defines this city and which I hadn’t seen since March. The Riverside Museum was still closed, as was the Tall Ship, though people wandered by it. The ferry sat idle on the Partick side. I walked on, looking at the 1980s-vintage sculptures on slabs as I went. A tree commemorated the Govan Press, printed nearby, and that could have been a contender for this series maybe. Govan Road and over the railings was the dry dock and a view of the city skyline, at least the West End, the University, Park Circus, Yorkhill. Trains ran over the river too, going to such farflung destinations as Yoker and Dumbarton. My eventual destination was soon visible too: Pacific Quay, where there was a bridge to the other side. The nearest crossing to my house is the Clyde Tunnel but that wasn’t happening. Overground for me.

Pacific Quay is increasingly modern, with the Glasgow Science Centre, BBC Scotland and STV there. I looked politely at the Beeb then decided I would stop at the other side of the river, since I had to walk back and I was beginning to flag. The Millennium Bridge is not fancy, it’s metal and rises in the middle. It’s not as nice as, say, the Millennium Bridges in Gateshead or London, both of which I’ve crossed this year, but it does the job. I could see the reflection of the Armadillo and the Finnieston Crane in the glass frontage of the BBC and then the Clyde Arc and beyond to the constant traffic of the Kingston Bridge. I felt like a citydweller for the first time in ages, like I was surrounded by people. The path was fairly busy with folk walking, cycling or running. I plonked myself on the wall and drank juice and looked for a while, sending some texts and getting myself ready to walk back.

The Clyde starts in the hills of Lanarkshire and reaches the sea in Ayrshire, going from a stream to a river to a firth in that time. It has an immense history as much as the communities which line its banks. As a seaside person by origin, I miss the sea and I still haven’t seen it in months but being by the river, the mighty Clyde, no less, I couldn’t help but feel at home and uplifted.

Thanks for reading. This is the fourth instalment of 5 In 5, a series on Walking Talking about five places within five miles of my home. At the start of this series, a restriction on travel for leisure was in place in Scotland. The last instalment will be here next week.

Saturday Saunter: Wandering near

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Wednesday night. It’s grey and windy out there at the moment, though dry, I think. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing on Saturday when this is posted. It is to be showery so might preempt the usual vague thought of going for a decent walk. I did go for a big walk on Tuesday afternoon as far as Pacific Quay and back, seeing (and crossing) the Clyde for the first time in nearly four months. I walked first through Elder Park then through Govan towards the river, looking at some interesting sculpture along the way. My first glimpse of the mighty Clyde came at Govan, looking across the way towards the Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship. I didn’t tear up at the sight of the river but I did smile. I have encountered the White Cart several times and in more than one place but as fine a river though it is, it doesn’t quite count. The Clyde at least runs to the sea and the river had a slightly maritime smell to it, not at all a bad thing.

River Clyde: looking upriver towards two bridges, a concert hall and crane on one bank and some modern offices on the other. The crane is reflecting on one of the office blocks in the foreground.

By the time this comes out, the five mile limit for relaxation and leisure in (most of) Scotland will be no more. There will still be two posts left in the 5 In 5 series here, even though I can travel beyond five miles, beginning tomorrow and then next week. I’m not sure what I will have for next week. I’ve been trying to feature places that I haven’t written about before, which rules out quite a few interesting places in the hereabouts. Theoretically, my five miles would also take me north of the river, towards Renfrewshire and the south side, so we’ll see what happens in the next wee while.

It’s now Thursday afternoon as I continue this. I’ve now got another, final place for 5 In 5, which I will write up soon for next Sunday. I was in Bellahouston Park having a picnic this lunchtime, which was excellent, not too hot, not too cold. It was just right, as they say, with good company and nice surroundings. We sat by the House for an Art Lover, surrounded by some cool sculptures including a foot, seats shaped like jelly (not jam for any American readers) and an archway. There was also an excellent elephant which got a bit of attention. Every time I’m in Bellahouston Park I always see something new. Living in a city, particularly in these times, it can feel like we see the same places every day in life but I’m glad to be able to vary it up a bit.

I’ve not read much this week. I’ve been listening to a few podcasts. This morning I listened to an episode of Scotland Outdoors from the BBC about the Royal Highland Show, which normally happens at the end of June but for obvious reasons was called off. The Highland Show, for the uninitiated, is an agricultural trade show which happens at Ingliston, near Edinburgh, though it attracts people from all walks of life as it features displays about farming, food and all sorts besides. I was hoping to go this year but alas.

In interesting things to read, the BBC featured an interesting article about how UK museums are responding to Black Lives Matter, which is worth a read.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 4th July 2020. Thanks very much for reading. 5 In 5 returns tomorrow and Virtual Loose Ends is back on Wednesday. If you missed the first instalment on Wednesday, which included Huntingtower Castle and Lochend Park, amongst other places, it can be found here. Until next time, a very good morning. Peace.


5 In 5: Pollok Country Park

Pollok House: looking through a doorway to a country house on three levels with wings on either side. In the foreground is an ornate decoration atop a wall. 

I wasn’t sure what to include in the third instalment of 5 In 5. I thought about street art or my local cemetery but instead I reasoned it had to be Pollok Country Park. It was once Best Park in Europe after all. I can walk to Pollok Park in about 40 minutes and I’ve been twice since lockdown began. I entered from the Corkerhill end as it was raining fairly steadily. I got most of the way there dry and decided that I had walked too far just to turn back. I hadn’t went in that way before. The path wound under the M77 and up through woods towards Pollok House. The woods were beautiful. I’ve long thought that a walk in the woods can cure many ills and these woods were particularly fine, leafy on the ground and with enough of a canopy to keep me relatively dry. The place was fairly busy despite the rain with varying degrees of social distancing happening as I stepped off the path at regular intervals. A group of girls were sitting under a tree near the Cart at Pollok House and further towards the stables folk stood under a canopy to avoid the ever heavier rain. A planter shaped like a galleon stood and I had a memory of Belhaven, near where I grew up, and of the planters made out of old fishing boats in Coldingham in Berwickshire.

Pollok Country Park is home to Pollok House, once home to the Maxwells and now a National Trust for Scotland property, and the Burrell Collection, a world-class museum currently being refurbished. Up until now I’ve approached the park from its eastern side at Pollokshaws though there is also an entrance at Dumbreck, which I used last time, and between Titwood Road and Haggs Road which is towards Shawlands. The walk under the motorway from Corkerhill was perhaps less scenic than the Pollokshaws entrance with the winding river but it’s not bad. On a nicer day I might have roamed a bit further, to visit the highland cows or traverse some earthworks I’ve been meaning to find for yonks, but it wasn’t to be. I walked around the back of the gardens and Pollok House then headed for home, wet but unbowed. 1.8 miles from the house.

5 In 5: Ghost sign

Ghost sign: peeling signs on the side of a tenement building. From the top are adverts for the News of the World, beer and Coca-Cola. Below the Coke advert are the words ‘Thirst knows no reason’. 

I’ve always liked this ghost sign. It feels like a relic from a bygone age, when advertising was more pervasive and the cityscape was more traditional. It advertises a newspaper which is now defunct, a beer that might well have brewed its last pint and Coca-Cola, which is very much still going. The only thing I’ve been able to find out about it online was a Glasgow Times article that it might date from the 1950s and one of the local councillors was trying to get it preserved for future generations. As it is, it’s on the side of a tenement, by a bookies and a bus stop.

I came to it on the way back from Bellahouston Park. A right few people were on the pavement by the shop and post office, a few more stood at the bus stop. I walked on the road past the shops though got a section of pavement socially-distanced enough to get a couple of photos of the ghost sign. I realised I probably had nicer photos of it, sunnier photos rather than in the overcast cloud, but that didn’t matter so much. It was there, a fine example of urban archaeology, albeit high up the side of a building. 0.7 miles from home.

Thanks for reading. This is the second of the 5 In 5 series here on Walking Talking, a few interesting places within five miles of my house. It is inspired by a Historic Environment Scotland social media campaign during June 2020 asking folk about five interesting places within five miles of where they live, due to the coronavirus restrictions which limited movement.

This particular ghost sign has also appeared in my Streets of Glasgow post aboutPaisley Road West.

5 In 5: Bellahouston Park

Bellahouston Park, view towards Mosspark: view from a path across a tree-filled park towards some houses on a hill with more hills in the background.

Bellahouston Park, looking west: looking from a park towards a leisure centre with trees and various tower blocks on the skyline.

Bellahouston Park is one of the biggest parks in Glasgow. It has seen two Papal masses, several pop concerts and the Empire Exhibition of 1938. It houses the House for an Art Lover, a ski slope and leisure centre too, even though all of those are currently closed. Bellahouston is a park of several parts, flat plain, hill and cultural quarter. Calmer towards Mosspark, busier towards Paisley Road West. I can walk there from my house and I’ve now been twice since lockdown started. A decent view can be had over much of the city, particularly in winter when the trees are bare, but it is particularly fine to look from the Cathkin Braes to the Gleniffer Braes to Eaglesham with the wind turbines. From the Empire Exhibition monument, I could see almost to my house, across an urban landscape but a familiar one. The best urban landscapes to survey are familiar in my experience.

Sunken Garden: an art installation featuring eight concrete blocks arranged in a line. A wall and trees are behind.

Having said that, the Sunken Garden has had better days. It sits where Bellahouston House once stood. The blocks of Glasgow Roots are still there and they work as contemporary art, even if their information has gone in many cases. The libraries one is close to my heart though I liked reading the history of railways in the city. The other day railway historian Tim Dunn Tweeted a picture of cut-and-cover works during the redevelopment of the Glasgow Subway in the 1970s, the old ticket office at St. Enoch standing still amidst the chaos. Our city has a lot of railways still but much less than it did. I could hear more cars than trains from Bellahouston, to be fair.

Glasgow is known as the Dear Green Place and it has many parks, some more celebrated and visited than others. Bellahouston is not even my local. Two cemeteries and even another park are closer. I like Bellahouston. It’s huge, it has a history all of its own. An estate to an exhibition space to an encounter with a Pope or two. 1.3 miles from the house.

Thanks for reading. 5 In 5 is a new five-part series here on Walking Talking, some interesting places within five miles of where I live, which is at time of writing the recommended maximum distance to travel for leisure in Scotland. It is inspired by a social media campaign from Historic Environment Scotland, encouraging its users to share five historical places near them.