Saturday Saunter: All the best things, books and football

Good morning,

Happy Saturday to you. As this is posted, I will soon be leaving for Stirling. I’m going to watch Hibs but also to cram another Intercity post in. Stirling is one of my favourite Scottish cities and I like being there, particularly up at the Castle which I always say is my favourite big castle in Scotland. In an ideal world, I would be able to combine the football with the castle and everything else but I know what I’m like. I’ll want a lie-in and leave at lunchtime, with little time beyond a quick wander and heading straight to the football then home. Dunfermline was like that last week. I had plans to do an Intercity walk and take a leisurely daunder up to East End Park. Not so. I had a lie-in and forgot that getting across town would be made harder by an Orange walk. So, I found another way to the bus station (by taxi and Subway) and eventually got to East End Park just in time to stand in a long queue for steak bridies (which were braw). Hibs won 3-1, incidentally, and played in the new away strip, which I may acquire soon.

Before I go into Hibs mode, I wanted to say a little something about the Women’s World Cup. I tuned into the Final just in time to see Megan Rapinoe, for it was she, scoring a penalty to put the USA one up against the Netherlands. The USA won and deservedly so. The main effect of the Women’s World Cup must be to raise awareness and to bring more people into the game. Women’s football in Scotland is very much secondary and it shouldn’t be so. I’ve thought a lot the last couple of weeks about Erin Cuthbert. She said that she achieved her dream by just playing at the World Cup. I imagine that there were a few people who watched this tournament and wondered whether they could reach that stage in a few years. I hope so.

As a sideline, read Laura Waddell’s article in the Scotsman about Megan Rapinoe and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This is turning into a football post and it’s really not supposed to be. Last Wednesday night I went up to Arbroath for the first pre-season friendly of the new season. I left work and made my way into town for the train up to Arbroath. I hadn’t been out of the Central Belt for a week or two and the train ride was brilliant, just being able to sit and read, write, stare out of the window and tan my bag of fruit. (‘Tan’, I should explain, is a Scottish word for eating and generally devouring food. It also means to steal or break windows. I didn’t steal or break any windows on this adventure.) At Arbroath, we had a chippy sat looking over the harbour. In the distance, ten miles or so out to sea, was the Bell Rock Lighthouse, a wonder of engineering. Every time I’m in Arbroath, I like to try and find it on the horizon. Also visible was the Fife coast, including Tentsmuir Forest, which I’ve meant to go to for a while. I wasn’t there to sightsee; I was there to watch the Hibs and they got beat. The young goalie, Paddy Martin, had a bad night. But the football was secondary. Gayfield, Arbroath’s ground, is very close to the North Sea. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, it is the closest ground to the sea in Europe. On a cold winter’s day, it would be dismal. On a summer’s night with the light the right way, it was glorious. Gayfield is an old-fashioned ground with a small grandstand and terracing. You can walk around the side of the pitch, indeed the full perimeter of the pitch. I absolutely loved it. The combination of the football, decent Vimto bonbons, a big sky and a sea was just what I needed.

My travelling book to Dunfermline last weekend was Underland by Robert Macfarlane, which I am still working through. I took it with me to Carlisle on Tuesday too. It seems to be yielding more from taking it slow, savouring rather than bolting it down. The chapters about walking in Slovenia and the Paris catacombs have been brilliant. Robert Macfarlane’s writing is tightly-packed and can be exhausting to read at times but I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. For a change of pace, though, I might starting reading one a friend gave me a couple of weeks ago, Confronting The Classics, a book of essays by Mary Beard. I started reading it the day after I got it but I’ve not been able to get back to it. Mary Beard is one of life’s good people and I get the impression I’ll finish that book with a broader perspective on the world.

Oh, before I forget (and I almost did), every year the Scottish Book Trust has a writing competition. This year’s is called Blether and SBT have been publishing a selection of entries online. Mine is the second piece in issue 15 so have a read.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 13th July 2019. Tomorrow’s post is Intercity. Next Wednesday is about history and why I like it. Next Thursday? It’s a bonus walk. Whatever you do this weekend, have a good one. Peace.


Saturday Saunter: Steps, love and good journalism

Good Saturday,

This Saturday Saunter is being started on Sunday night. Usually I write it during the week but I’m due to be away on Wednesday night to see the Hibs in their first pre-season friendly against Arbroath. Plus I had a whole load of ideas for this post and that’s quite unlike last week, which was quite improvised. Whether I get all of those ideas in, including talking about drag artistes, steps, Jackie Kay, wild places, love and good journalism, who can say?

Steps is the most prosaic so I’ll start there. A colleague of mine has a fitness watch which does pretty much everything except cooking breakfast. I had notions to get one to count my steps – I do a fair bit of walking in a week, including on the job – until I was informed that my phone probably does the job already. It does. I have an iPhone (other phones are of course available) and it has been counting my steps since I bought the thing a couple of years ago. Today, Sunday, I haven’t been out of the house so no data has been recorded. Yesterday involved walking the 3 miles to work then about a mile or so back (I got a lift part of the way) which was about 12,404 steps or 9km (roughly 5.5 miles). The day I walked around Cumbrae back in May was 33,378 steps or 21.2 km (13 miles). I looked out of polite interest rather than anything else. I walk because it’s an efficient way to get to work plus I actually quite enjoy it. It’s a good way to combine thinking and getting stuff done.

On Saturdays and Sundays I tend to start my morning by reaching for quite a few news sources. On a Sunday, I tend to glance towards some of the political comment articles in The Observer but mainly I read the two articles from the Scotland on Sunday by Dani Garavelli, who writes insightful articles every week about many things. Recently she has written about the social effects of lapdancing and a whole lot of politics though last Sunday’s two, about restorative justice, and the recent case of a mother being prosecuted in Alabama for the death of her unborn child after being shot in the stomach, were particularly insightful. Every week I find myself nodding along, whatever the subject. She also wrote an excellent piece recently in the Scottish football magazine Nutmeg about the lack of funding and attention for women’s football, particularly timely given the Scotland women’s team being in the World Cup recently.

Scottish Parliament (on right)

Talking of writers I love, the Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay, was in the news last weekend for delivering a poem at the Scottish Parliament. The Queen and her eldest laddie were at Holyrood to mark the 20th anniversary of the legislature and amongst the speeches and the forelock-tugging, Jackie Kay delivered a poem and it was typically braw. Read it if you can. ‘Under the Common Weal, we’re taking the long view’, ran the closing refrain. I certainly hope so. In other Jackie Kay news, she also did a good interview in The Guardian having a discussion with the outgoing US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, which is particularly good to read.

Jackie Kay’s poem made several mentions of LGBTQ people and I watched a particularly good show on All4 the other day, which is worth mentioning. It was called Drag SOS and involved a group of drag artistes going into a town, gathering up some locals and putting on a show. That’s interesting enough but it delved deeper, with the people involved lacking a lot of confidence for a lot of reasons. One was a father whose son was gay and also a drag queen. It was incredibly moving to see them bond as part of the process. It is part of a series, with the first in Dover before the Family Gorgeous, as the group are known, go around the country. It hit home with me, not least as a person who sometimes lacks confidence. I’ll be watching some more.

Talking about love, I was reading some more of Underland by Robert Macfarlane the other night and came across a passage which was particularly moving and relevant in my particular stage of life. It began by talking about trees moving closer together and sharing roots. ‘I think of good love as something that roots, not rots, over time, and of the hyphae that are weaving through the ground below me, reaching out through the soil in search of mergings. Theirs, too, seems to me then a version of life’s work’. Good love is the goal for many of us, even if finding it is harder sometimes than we want it to be.

I also wanted to share a couple of good posts from other blogs I’ve read recently. Our blog pal Wednesday’s Child has written a post about statues and another about Glasgow’s High Street, both worth a read, and for dark humour, go to Cheers, Govanhill for some slightly dark musings.

I’m continuing this post on Saturday morning. It is about twenty to eight and it’s sunny out my window. I’m listening to the Hibs Talk podcast. Today is six years to the day since I moved to Glasgow. I don’t regret it, not for the moment. It’s been a rollercoaster ride but it’s made me a stronger and better person as a result.

Before I go, I wanted to share a Twitter thread I saw the other day and haven’t really stopped thinking about it. It is very difficult to convey what it’s like to be autistic. The autistic experience is different for every single autistic person but this chimed with me and my own experience. Pete Wharmby wrote the thread so salutations to him. Two that I relate to: ‘Autism can be like…Missing every implicit cue anyone ever gave you, meaning you miss out on all sorts of things’ and ‘Having a dark as hell sense of humour whilst being told “autistic people don’t have a sense of humour” and laughing at them’. Very, very true.

Finally, today I am heading away to Dunfermline to watch Hibs. Steak bridies await. Also an Intercity walk to do. In order of priorities, though, it’s steak bridies, Hibs then blog. Sorry, blog. On that subject, tomorrow’s post will be Intercity in Paisley, Wednesday Streets of Glasgow and Thursday post as yet unwritten. Whatever you do this weekend, have a good one. Cheers for now.

Digest: June 2019

It was only on Sunday that I remembered I hadn’t written this digest yet. Usually I write it over the course of the month, rather than doing it in one big burst. Now, then…

The first photographs of the month are from Saturday 8th June, the day I attended an Open University history day in Edinburgh. Later in the year I will be going back to my degree and the day had a few lectures on emigration, the French Revolution and Islam, and talks about the current crop of OU modules. Afterwards I had a walk around the New Town in the rain, thinking and planning and not giving a toss.

On Friday 14th June, I went to see a friend at Prestongrange. I had a good wander around the site before and after.

Sunday 16th June I spent the day in the Borders. We met in Linlithgow due to engineering works (allowing me to do an Intercity post) and then we went to Dryburgh Abbey, Smailholm Tower (as written about here) and Bamburgh beach. A rich full day with history, views and waves, the last of which were particularly appreciated.

The following Tuesday I went into Paisley after work to do the Intercity walk there, which appears here on Sunday.

That Saturday saw me at a wedding reception in the east. It was great to catch up with old friends and acquaintances.

The following morning saw me have a walk along the prom at Portobello as far as Fisherrow Harbour. Then my friend and I took a bus down to North Berwick for a daunder in the sunshine.

On Friday, I went to New Lanark and the Falls of Clyde, neither of which I had been to before. I thought with the considerable heat that being by the river and waterfalls might help. Not really. The surroundings were gorgeous, though, more about walking than sampling any of the history. I think I will do New Lanark again on a winter’s day. A post about this adventure appears here tomorrow.

That’s the rundown of where I went in June. July is to be busier. I am in Arbroath tonight to see Hibs play their first preseason friendly and I will be travelling around the country for football over the next few weeks. It feels like no time has passed since last season ended against Aberdeen. Plus at the end of the month I have a week off, which will be very welcome indeed. At that point the blog will take a break from Saturday 27th July until Wednesday 7th August.

The digest usually covers where I’ve been over the month. It doesn’t delve into the finer details. This month has personally been busy with a wee bit of sadness, one or two happy days and a big personal step. I don’t know how that last one will end yet. What I’ve come to appreciate with ever more intensity is that life’s too short. I’m an humanist and I believe that we have but one life. It is up to us to make the best of it. The best words I can find are from my favourite book, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd. ‘Love pursued with fervour is one of the roads to knowledge’. It’s true.

Our Scots word of the month is ‘hansel’. It was used in Jackie Kay’s poem at the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament on Saturday. I’ll be mentioning it in the Saturday Saunter this coming Saturday. Hansel, or handsel as the Dictionary of the Scots Language has it, is a good Scots word meaning to inaugurate, to begin. It could also mean a gift to mark such an occasion.

Finally, in popular culture I have enjoyed this month, I haven’t read so much this month but what I can do is talk about a couple of podcasts I’ve enjoyed. David Tennant’s discussions with various folk he knows, including Michael Sheen, Samantha Bee, Tina Fey, Jon Hamm and Jodie Whittaker, are particularly good and got me through a fairly sleepless night recently. I like conversations between two people and a new podcast came my way recently called These Are The Days, presented by Ronny Costello. The first episode, featuring a discussion with Paul McNicoll, was particularly insightful about raising a child with a disability as well as just being a right good blether about growing up in Scotland and Dundee in particular.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. There have been some nice conversations recently so thanks for that. Over the next few weeks here will be some more Intercity adventures and a few more havers about places I’ve been recently. Tomorrow’s post was written on location at New Lanark so have a read at that. Have a very nice July.

Posts published this month –

Digest: May 2019

Loose Ends: Bearsden Bathhouse

Streets of Glasgow: West Graham Street

Glasgow amidst the art

Saturday Saunter: Studying, writing and reading

Loose Ends: Queen’s Park

Streets of Glasgow: Great Western Road

Mackintosh and Kingsley

Saturday Saunter: Poetry, statues and lighthouses

End of the line: Milngavie

Streets of Glasgow: Clarence Drive

Walking rules

Saturday Saunter: Fruit, podcasts and walking

Intercity: Linlithgow

Streets of Glasgow: Prince Albert Road

Smailholm Tower

Saturday Saunter: Sunshine out my window

Intercity: Glasgow II

Saturday Saunter: Fruit, podcasts and walking

Good Saturday,

Unusually, this post is being started on Wednesday night. Normally it gets written on a Tuesday but I couldn’t be arsed last night. It’s about 8.30 at night as I start this and it’s quite cloudy tonight. I have my lamp on even though it’s nearly 2 hours until it’s supposed to be dark. In my ears is a new podcast I was told about earlier tonight. It is called ‘These Are The Days’, presented by Ronny Costello. His guest is Paul McNicoll and they are talking about music at the moment though I believe it will go on to talk about raising his son who has a disability. The first couple of minutes are interesting, going into the early days of The View, a Dundee rock band. This came as a suggestion so any podcast or telly suggestions, please send them my way.

This Saturday I am going to a wedding reception tonight in East Lothian. The bride is an old friend of mine and I know a fair few folk who’ll be in attendance. Unusually for me I’m not too nervous about it. I normally get a bit uptight before social things but I think being busy in the last couple of weeks has helped take my mind off it. There is a vintage theme and I will be dressed as a rocker. I don’t particularly mind dressing up – it’s all decent craic. There won’t be photos here. You will have to take my word for it.

I haven’t been reading much lately. My brain has been elsewhere, to be honest. My travelling book for the weekend, even though I won’t get much chance to read it, will be another recommendation, The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong, a South Korean thriller. Most of what I’ve been reading has been online articles or my own notebooks. Occasionally I sit and read through my stories and scribbles. I need to get myself into gear with my reading.

I’m on a bit of a health kick at the moment. Most readers won’t know what I look like. I’m a fairly tall, fairly slim kind of dude. I also have acne. I came to realise recently that I eat too much chocolate, which may be affecting my skin and probably my general health. I’ve replaced the chocolate (well, pretty much all of it) with fruit and I’m on the apples and oranges. A lot of the folk who know me have been amazed by the transformation, the fruit appearing instead of chocolate and crisps. I’m trying to resist a lot of the sugary treats that are around me (libraries tend to run on sugar) and I’m mostly, mostly succeeding.

Walking to work is probably helping the health kick, even unintentionally. I’m not good in the mornings and I often run late. To get to work on time, due to the vagaries of public transport, it is often faster to walk and I’ve been doing that a lot in the last few weeks. It isn’t the most scenic walk, taking me through an industrial estate and across the motorway, but it’s all right. The view from the bridge to the hills and the cityscape could be a lot worse.

I’m starting this post again on Friday. A campaign was launched this week by the Jo Cox Foundation to try and solve loneliness. Let’s Talk Loneliness happens this weekend and that’s good. Being lonely is one of the worst things in the world. I’ve felt it and it isnae nice. It is possible to be lonely and be surrounded by people all day, every day. People of all ages, all backgrounds, feel lonely sometimes. There is no shame in feeling lonely. I don’t know how to solve it. For myself, this helps. I have a busy life and while it isn’t perfect, and it can be more solitary at times than I might like, I’m better off than a lot of people. Just talking about it makes a difference.

Today has also been a busy day in the football world. The fixtures came out for the Scottish football season this morning and within ten minutes, I had my annual leave sorted out. Hibs have launched their new kits, sponsored by the club’s charitable arm, the Hibernian Community Foundation, which is good and a bit more socially conscious than being sponsored by a bookies or a drinks company. I also sat and watched an interview with Hibs’ new signing, Scott Allan, who talked about using yoga as part of his regimen. I had lapsed but I think after finishing this, I may need to get my shorts on, my mat rolled out and get into a pose.

Anyway, that’s us for today. Intercity returns tomorrow and it’s Linlithgow, one of my very favourite places. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday and there might be something on Thursday. Have a very decent weekend, whatever you end up doing.


Glasgow amidst the art

All too often recently I’ve had a purpose when going about Glasgow. I’ve had streets to walk or hills to climb. I’ve been crossing town to go somewhere else rather than stopping. Even my recent trip to make sure the Gorbals Vampire was still in situ (it is) was on the way to Haddington, which is at the other side of the country. Last Friday I decided to change that and to spend the afternoon just dotting around Glasgow. I got a bus to streets that I could walk down, to quote the Proclaimers, and ended up at the Mitchell Library. Given my line of work, spending my day off in a library seems a bit like a busman’s holiday. The Mitchell, however, is one of the finest buildings on the planet and I never fail to feel inspired there. I did a little research and just wandered for a bit. Whenever I’m there, I tend to have big thoughts and I came away with one or two creative ideas.

I walked in the rain to Kelvingrove, spending some time around its very fine art collections, particularly in the French room. Each room I visited had a favourite for the day, colourful sails in Venice from the Scottish Colourists, a portrait from Bessie MacNicol – a Glasgow girl – and the pointillist painting by Paul Signac in the French. I forgot to go into the Glasgow Boys collection, which is another favourite. The anthropology gallery is another highlight and I took my usual keek at the displays about St. Kilda, also reminding myself of past OU studies as I looked at the Benin bronzes on show. I made sure I got a look at the early Scottish history gallery too, which is probably the best displayed selection of such artefacts in the land. Even though it’s about ten years old (the gallery, not the stuff in it), it is still fresh and current in style.

My next journey was up the hill to the Hunterian Art Gallery. I hadn’t been to the Hunterian Art Gallery in ages, making vague notions to go on various Sunday afternoons but never getting round to it. It was getting refurbed with staff working even late on a Friday and the displays were thematic, portraits joined by Scottish Colourists and Glasgow Boys, which was quite a beguiling mix. The German Expressionist exhibition, featuring work from between the First and Second World Wars, was dark in almost every sense, interesting, though, and I would recommend it. Sometimes we need darkness to make sense of the light.

I stopped off across the road at the University. The University is known for looking quite like Hogwarts and it’s a fine place, sitting atop Gilmorehill. I stood in the cloisters for a few minutes, thinking and soaking up the architecture, before I headed down to Dumbarton Road for a bus home. One soon came and as it headed under the Clyde, I thought about the afternoon just gone, feeling happier and not a little inspired by where I had been, familiar places all. Glasgow is my adopted home but an afternoon is never wasted here, between the shelves and amidst the art.

Saturday Saunter: Haircuts, day trips and Underland

Well, hello,

It’s Saturday Saunter time again. It is being posted a wee bit early because as this post appears, I will be on my way to work. As ever, though, it is being written on Tuesday night. It is about ten past nine and there is quite a bit of sun in the sky. It has been a beautiful, sunny evening here in Glasgow, warm even. On in the background is a certain football match which took place three years ago today (Tuesday). Anthony Stokes has just scored the first.

On the way home tonight I got a haircut. I hate getting my haircut. I don’t like people being near my head and I usually close my eyes. Same at the dentist, incidentally. I tried a new place and it was efficient, back out the door within ten minutes. My hair is fairly short anyway and now it is even shorter. Unusually, though, I left feeling absolutely great. I’m not so confident about my appearance so any positive feelings like that are to be cherished. The chair span, which was cool and suited the little boy in me. I resisted the urge to say ‘Whee’.

This is also a bank holiday weekend and I am off tomorrow and Monday. I have no immediate plans for the weekend and might go out on a bus somewhere on Monday. It might be Dumfries though I have a feeling it could be East Lothian. If it is to be my home county, I haven’t been to Prestongrange for ages or I might finally get to the Hopetoun Monument or Chesters Hill Fort, which will require an OS map and walking across some fields. Then again I might feel like sitting on a bus and end up in St. Andrews. All options would suit me fine.

I’ve been going on regular day trips for eleven years. Eleven years this weekend, actually. The first real solo day trip I took was Durham, a place I had never been to before. I had only read about it in a Bill Bryson book and decided to book train tickets for the following day. It was a balmy May Saturday and I walked from the train station up to the Cathedral, walking about that magnificent building for a couple of hours, also spending some time sitting in the pews. Afterwards I walked by the river and sat for a bit there too. At the time life was a bit interesting but that day I felt that everything was going to be all right. I’ve been back many times since and that sense doesn’t change. This weekend, wherever I go, I’ll be celebrating that day and the many benefits it has brought to my life, to give me things to talk about and write about, to open my world to new possibilities I might not have considered before.

Last weekend I started reading Underland by Robert Macfarlane, getting about 55 pages in. I plan to read it in stages, savouring Macfarlane’s prose rather than bolting it down as I do with so many books. He wrote about going caving, which made feel claustrophobic even reading it. Macfarlane is an excellent writer and he managed to scale back his words to reflect his limited physical space and broaden them out to fill all the dimensions resumed when he hit the surface again. The closest experience I’ve had to that was going to St. Andrews Castle, which has a mine and countermine dug during a siege in 1546-1547. The countermine is much more narrow and you have to stoop down into it then the mine is much more comfortable, reflecting the lack of urgency in trying to dig into the castle.

A lot of my news comes through social media. Not politics, normally, since I’ve heavily culled political accounts from my Twitter timeline. I suspect I am better off. A happy bit of news was that a book has been written about Walnut Tree Farm, home of Roger Deakin, a place of wildness and wonder in the heart of Suffolk. Roger Deakin was an incredible writer about nature and I try to read a bit of Notes From Walnut Tree Farm, a posthumously-published volume of jottings, every month. Waterlog and Wildwood are also class. Anyway, Roger’s son Rufus and the farm’s owner, Titus Rowlandson, have published a book about Life at Walnut Tree Farm and I will procure myself a copy on pay day.

Before I go, a bit of blog business. The other day I was tagged into a blogging challenge. Please, oh please, don’t do that. That is especially pertinent when it’s not about what I tend to write about. Right now I’m keeping to this format of Saturday blethers, Sunday Loose Ends and Wednesday Streets of Glasgow. Occasionally Thursday something else. I write around my life which can be quite busy so please don’t make this harder than it needs to be.

Anyway, rant over. On a more positive note, it’s Saturday and it’s the weekend. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Loose Ends is back tomorrow and it’s back in Milngavie. Streets of Glasgow is on Wednesday and it is down south again. Another north Edinburgh Railwalk will be here on Thursday. Next Saturday is the May digest. Have a very good weekend. Peace.

Saturday Saunter: Writing, walking and special interests

Hey, hey, it’s Saturday Saunter time,

This is being posted as I’m about to head off to Kilmarnock to watch Hibs. This afternoon’s match is quite meaningless in the great scheme of things. Hibs can’t now qualify for Europe or anything like that. There are two games left and Hibs can only finish fifth or sixth. I’ve had the pleasure of going to Kilmarnock a few times and going by experience, I actually asked the Hibs ticket office to give me a seat on an aisle due to the crap leg room on offer. On the plus side, the pies are excellent and they also do hot Vimto, a niche drink but rather fine. The last time I was at Killie, I managed to make an absolute mess of sitting down and cowped a fair bit of my hot Vimto on my hand. I don’t do hot drinks as a general rule – it’s a sensory thing – but it was a cool night. Hence the seat on the stairs. I’m not that tall – about five foot eight, five foot nine – but every little helps.

Tomorrow I’m off to Cumbrae for a walk around the island. A lot of people cycle the 10 miles but that’s not an option for me so the walk it will be. The forecast is to be about 11 degrees and cloudy which is fairly decent walking weather. I’ve been to Cumbrae once before, about a year ago, and it is a very pleasant island, calm and not completely removed from the world. It should be good.

One of my special interests over the years was American talk shows. I still watch clips on YouTube. I just read the new memoir by Craig Ferguson, who hosted the Late Late Show before James Corden, and as well as talking quite candidly about his life, issues with drink and whatever else, it included a chapter on one of his favourite places, Millport. I don’t really believe in coincidences but they happen rather a lot. Reading about a place I’m about to go to in a book about something else is mental. Craig Ferguson’s book was interesting. It went in a lot of different directions, quite tangential, which is the kind of book I like since it’s how I think.

Autism is one of those things that people tend to know dribs and drabs about. One aspect that’s perhaps most familiar to neurotypical folk is special interests. I’ve had a right few. They include American talk shows, The Simpsons, football, the media, the Scottish Parliament, castles, maps and any number of other things that aren’t coming to mind right now. Luckily this makes me quite an interesting person and I can talk about a lot of things, or more often write about them. At the moment I don’t really have a special interest. My life is busy and I have a lot of things going on. That’s okay, though. It means that each day is different, which is quite nice.

I managed to get my to-read pile down quite a bit over the Bank Holiday weekend. Underland by Robert Macfarlane is still there but I’m saving that. I’ve added a few library books to the mix. I ended up going along the shelves and taking some titles that tempted me. They were Proud by Gareth Thomas, the Welsh rugby player, The Hills Is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Jane Austen has been recommended to me several times and I managed a few pages into Emma before giving up. Gareth Thomas I’ve heard about and I think his book should be good, giving some perspective into his life and particularly in coming out as gay in that world. The Lillian Beckwith book about the Hebrides was picked based on reading the blurb. I think I’m taking Proud to Kilmarnock with me today then I’ll read the others as I go.

Every time I write this post it turns out differently. Last week it was a bookish post, the one before went on a bit of a rant. This one’s turned into 700 words without knowing quite how. I treat this a bit like psychogeography: starting without a clear goal in mind then finding that goal somewhere along the way. It’s usually a lot of fun to write. Loose Ends follows a format, which is tougher for me. Paragraph one is the story of wherever I’ve been then the connections in paragraph two and bringing it all together in the last one. I usually work with notes and photos. With this, I’m just working with my head, which is strangely easier. I’m not sure why but that might be the point.

Anyway, enough of this. Let’s get on with Saturday. Loose Ends follows tomorrow and it’s back in Edinburgh. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday and it’s a street I know well down south. There will also be a post on Thursday about the end of the football season and the beginning of the day trip season. Thanks to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a nice weekend, wherever it takes you.

Saturday Saunter: Book talk

Good Saturday,

As this is posted, I’m on the way to work. It is a holiday weekend so at least I get Monday off. Tomorrow I’ll be watching the football. Hibs are at Ibrox and I boycott that particular place so the telly it will be. Monday I am off so I might do a day trip. I’ve been thinking about really going far and ending up in Fraserburgh at the Lighthouse Museum or maybe Dundee or somewhere like that. Earlier tonight I saw a Tweet from STV reporter Mike Edwards who seems like my kind of guy. He travelled from Glasgow to Kyle of Lochalsh by train, by road from Kyle to Armadale (the Skye one not the one in West Lothian), ferry from Armadale across to Mallaig then a train all the way from Mallaig to Glasgow, all of this in one day. I’m not quite sure how he managed it plus it might be a bit dear but I love day trips like that. I’ve done London in a day a few times, usually by train, and Dublin once too, though that one involved a plane. It might not be south but I feel like a proper journey.

Since the last Saturday Saunter, I’ve managed to read two full books plus finish another one. Unfortunately, though, I think I might abandon the one I’m reading now. I read a bit of it on the Subway earlier and it annoyed me. It was a series of first-person essays, thoughts about love in all its forms gathered as the writer walked across Scotland. Love can move mountains, as the Proclaimers said, but this one brought to mind another couple of Scottish cultural icons: Jack and Victor. One episode of Still Game featured the two old codgers at the cemetery as Victor spoke to his wife standing by her grave. Victor defends it but Jack decries it as ‘birthday caird pish’. That’s what I think of this book, unfortunately. For the non-Scottish readers, the book’s getting ditched.

I try to read a range of things and this week I’ve read a book about football (State of Play: Under The Skin Of The Modern Game by Michael Calvin), a crime novel (Well of the Winds by Denzil Meyrick) and a coming-of-age book about a trans girl (Becoming Nicole: The Extraordinary Transformation of an Ordinary Family by Amy Ellis Nutt). I’ve enjoyed all of them for different reasons. I am a Hibs fan to my fingertips and I like to read about football beyond 90 minutes at Easter Road. The Michael Calvin book was superb, delving into dementia, women’s football, mental health and all sorts of things which are around the game. Calvin manages to be objective without being passive, which I like. I’ve read a few Denzil Meyrick books and the one I’ve just read was good, going into a bit more depth about each of the three main characters. Becoming Nicole was interesting, a bit of journalism rather than a memoir as other books I’ve read about transgender people, giving a really valuable perspective about the legal and moral battles that can be fought just to be yourself completely.

I actually bought books on Thursday. The brand new Robert Macfarlane book, Underland, is out. Macfarlane is one of the few authors whose books I have to get hold of as soon as they’re out. I might save it for a long journey as Macfarlane’s books are to be savoured rather than rushed. He has an excellent perspective on the world, writing with verve and passion about wild places and how they must be preserved. The other book I bought was about yoga, incidentally.

I have a couple of books on the go at the moment. The one in my backpack is The Relentless Tide, the most recent DCI Daley story by Denzil Meyrick. Well of the Winds was a return to form and The Relentless Tide is shaping up fine so far. Sitting on the side in the house is The New Girl by Rhyannon Styles, a memoir by a trans woman. I’ve started it but there’s only so much room in my backpack to carry books and all my other junk.

That’s the Saturday Saunter for this morning, Saturday 4th May. Loose Ends returns tomorrow and it’s in Paisley. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday and that’s going to the heart of the city. Both series take a break in about five weeks time. I’m working on some new things to put in their place. Anyway, have a good weekend, whatever you’re doing. Cheers.


Saturday Saunter: 27th April 2019

The view from Queen’s Park, last Friday

Good Saturday,

Not sure what I’ll be doing when this is posted but it’s Saturday so I’ll be somewhere. Tomorrow I’m off to Easter Road to see the Hibees play Hearts which will be another early rise. Afterwards I’m going to find somewhere nice to walk. Hopefully it won’t be as warm as last Sunday when Portobello was absolutely hoaching with people.

This week I’ve been thinking about nuance. This was after last week’s Saturday Saunter post in which I mentioned reading a book about transgender issues. We live in a world of instant reactions where perspective and taking a broader view just seems to have gone. Social media isn’t wholly the cause of the problem. Naturally enough it is broader than that. While I read a lot online, I think that it is worth taking the time to read more widely around things. I don’t pretend to know much about anything. It’s why I prefer to count to 100 before venturing an opinion on a lot of things in society. There is usually an explanation behind the headlines. Maybe social media needs a ‘count to 100’ button. Certainly a story needs more than 140 characters to be told.

Anyway, rant over. This week I’ve been reading State of Play: Under the Skin of the Modern Game by Michael Calvin, an excellent book about the people in football. I was reading the chapter about Jeff Astle and the many footballers who have ended up with dementia the night before it was announced that former Celtic player and manager Billy McNeill had died at the age of 79. Billy MacNeill was an important figure in the Scottish game and it was touching to read the tribute from John Greig, for a long time captain and then manager of Rangers, which was filled with genuine warmth and affection. they could be opponents but friends too. In these times, we could do a lot worse than respect the rivalry, beginning tomorrow at Easter Road and in a couple of weeks when the Gruesome Twosome play again.

I’m getting on my high horse a bit today.

Sometimes I get songs in my head which I have to listen to. A few days of one and onto the next. Last week it was ‘Miracle’ by Chvrches, a Scottish electronic band, and today it’s been that and the completely different ‘It’s Not Unusual’ by Tom Jones. ‘Miracle’ was probably a bit appropriate as personally last week was busy (but successful) while Tom Jones is generally more jaunty. There’s quite a good version of ‘Miracle’ on YouTube, incidentally, featuring Chvrches and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, produced to hansel the new BBC Scotland TV channel.

Right, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Loose Ends returns tomorrow (it’s a castle) and the April digest is on Wednesday. Have a nice weekend. Cheers the now.

Postscript: After typing up this post, I watched back the funeral service of journalist Lyra McKee, killed in Derry last week. The coverage of the service tended to mention the prominent politicians present rather than the awesome person Lyra McKee clearly was and the difference she made in an all too brief time. Watch it if you can. And her TED talk too.


Saturday Saunter: 20th April 2019

Happy Saturday,


As ever, this Saturday Saunter is being written ahead of time. When this is posted, I should be having a family day around Glasgow. It is of course the Easter weekend so I’m off until Tuesday, which is quite lovely. Tomorrow I’m off to Edinburgh for the football, which has been thoughtlessly scheduled for a Sunday lunchtime, necessitating an early rise for the trip to the capital. Still, it’s Hibs and I’ve had two weeks without football, a dire situation indeed.

I actually managed to read a book the other day. It was a bit of a diversion from what I normally read, Trans Like Me by CN Lester, a series of essays about the transgender experience. I picked it up off a new books display in the library and read it very quickly, pretty much over a lunch break. As a person who doesn’t know a whole lot about trans issues, it was a great introduction, insightful and thoughtful, tinged with sadness, anger and hope to varying degrees. There were quite a few moving passages and one sentence really got me, in a discussion about feminism. ‘This labelling of the world into things for men, and things for women – good things, bad things – twists what is designated ‘womanly’, ‘feminine’, and uses it to punish nearly all of us’. And another: ‘We do not need to pursue only one goal at a time, help only one type of person’. I think we have a danger of thinking in a silo, to use a horrific management term, keeping in our lane without trying to actively explore and comprehend the world around us. This book broadened my perspective a little, which is always a good thing.

Easter Road

I’ve also been reading the latest issue of Nutmeg, a Scottish football periodical. I’ve actually contributed to Nutmeg (issue 7, if you’re interested) and even if I hadn’t, I would be reading it. I also listen to the podcast and particularly enjoyed the recent interview with Leeann Dempster, the Chief Executive of Hibs, who comes across as knowledgeable and passionate. Any time I hear Leeann Dempster speak, I feel confident about how my club is run. Her focus on community is impressive and even though she didn’t grow up as a Hibee, it is clear that she is emotionally invested in the club and its ups and downs. Nutmeg‘s podcast is excellent and has previously featured various football writers and personalities, including Ron Ferguson, who wrote one of my favourite books, Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil, about Cowdenbeath FC. Issue 11 of the magazine is great and I’m 68% of the way through my digital copy. I enjoyed the articles about Stirling Albion, women’s football and stadium architecture, though I particularly liked the articles at the start about youth football and the Performance Schools run by the Scottish FA, giving a good insight into the future of our game. Reading about football is no substitute to going to the game but Nutmeg is a good way to keep thinking about football in the long week between games. It’s good to have thoughtful comment about the Scottish game, beyond the instant, social media and tabloid headlines.

John Muir Country Park, last Easter Monday

This is of course the Easter weekend. Like Christmas, Easter is very far removed from its original meaning, lost in a whirl of bunny ears and chocolate. I am a convinced heathen and for me this weekend is all about the time off, first and foremost. The last two Easter Mondays have seen me in Dunbar, last year in snow and general gloom, 2017 a bit sunnier and warmer, and this year I’m not sure where I’m going to end up. Maybe on a bus. With being out today and Sunday, I may just spend Monday in bed. We’ll see.

Craigmaddie Reservoir

The above was written on Tuesday. It is now Friday night and I’ve had a very full day out and about. I had never been to Milngavie and set off for there. It has been very warm and sunny today, almost summer, and I had a good walk around the reservoirs at Milngavie, which were beautiful and historically interesting. I then stopped off at the Bearsden Bathhouse, ruined and very well interpreted, built by the Romans nearly two millennia ago as part of the Antonine Wall. Later I headed across town to Queen’s Park to look over the city from the flagpole, then I did a bit of wandering in that rather fine bit of the city. Some of this will appear on the blog in various forms in the coming weeks.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Loose Ends is back tomorrow and Streets of Glasgow on Wednesday. It’s a street most Glaswegian readers will know. Have a lovely weekend.