End of the line: Gourock

Glasgow has a considerable railway system, probably the best outside London. Every so often I walk through Central Station and I think about how many of the stations on the big departure board I’ve actually been to. It’s quite few. I’ve been to London Euston and Manchester Airport, Edinburgh, Stranraer, Ayr, Largs and Lanark, amongst others, but not Neilston, Newton, Larkhall or Milngavie. I took a picture once of the board, intending to go to every destination on it, but I just haven’t got round to it yet. I seem to remember Birmingham New Street was on the board as a terminating station and I’ve still not been to Birmingham, despite being told it has great museums.

Most embarrassingly up until recently I had never been to Gourock by train. Gourock is a town by the Clyde and it is where the trains that go my way end up. All I knew about it was that it had an open air swimming pool, a prom and ferries to Dunoon. One beautiful Saturday afternoon, I decided to go there, just to scratch that itch. I rocked up to my local station and a Class 314 train rolled up. I call them ‘rollerskates’. They don’t tend to have much elegance and I seem to have been on more of them since Scotrail announced they were taking them off. Anyway, class 314 away and absolutely everywhere is improved by sunshine. The train crossed rolling fields at Arkleston and into Paisley where the roof crosses and trusses were reflected on the buildings and the floor with the bright sun. The train was fairly busy, mostly with families, and later as we neared Greenock some kid was singing about someone called Sally and their various stages of life, which steadily got more tragic. She might have ended up a zombie, as I recall.

It being Saturday, there was quite a bit going on outside the window, including football at St. Mirren and Morton, which was strange being by a football ground when the game was on and not being there. There was also rugby later nearer Langbank. I am on this route fairly often and going past Paisley Gilmour Street felt strange. Going past Bishopton was downright revolutionary. The M8 was to the right and the airport soon came into view. Later the urban gave way to a great view over the Clyde to Dumbarton and Bowling, Ben Lomond and the Argyll hills, crannog posts sticking out the riverbed at low tide. It is one of my favourite stretches of railway in Scotland and it was familiar up to Greenock, where the line divides with one branch off to Wemyss Bay, the other unfamiliar towards Gourock. Old stone walls rose high at Greenock Central and the wonderfully named Fort Matilda had suitably old-fashioned railway buildings.

Then came Gourock. The station was all glass, giving great views to the Clyde that sat behind it. The route to the Dunoon and Kilcreggan ferries led along the platform under a glass canopy, not as nice as Wemyss Bay but still all right in the sunshine. Gourock sits on a point sticking out into the Clyde where it turns down south. I left the station and walked along the front. It was rather lovely, sunny but cooler than Glasgow being that bit closer to the sea. There were quite a few others walking along and I walked most of the way to McInroy’s Point, stopping at regular intervals to stand, stare and take photos. The views were great towards Cowal, Kilcreggan and Helensburgh. I always say that north of Dumbarton is where Scotland really begins and that was really evident looking north over the Clyde from Gourock. The bit I was in was quite fine, though, with flowers, yachts in the water and on the lampposts. The open-air swimming pool wasn’t open yet but I saw where it was and I could see ferries going back and forth to Dunoon. The high street was all right, a few local traders mixed in with the usual supermarkets, charity shops and off licences.

I was back on the train home about an hour later, just in time to get Partick Thistle fans heading back from Cappielow and guys from Greenock heading out on the piss in Glasgow. My earphones were in but the Partick Thistle fans were actually all right, quite civilised as you would expect from the mob who gave us Kingsley, the only football mascot designed by a Turner Prize winner. The train, unsurprisingly, was a class 314. Scotrail did promise they were taking them off, honest. They even mention on social media when they do their last run. Anyway, the views were still beautiful in the sunshine in reverse, my book was even better and I ended up back home, glad to have finally reached the end of the line.

Thanks for reading. Loose Ends returns next week.


Loose Ends: Bilsdean

The previous link in Loose Ends was my favourite painting, ‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart, which hangs in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. Many, many connections can be derived from that beautiful painting and I considered a great many of them, including the very long howk to Kintyre where this particular artwork came into being. Time and logistics made that one impractical. I actually had a suggestion which worked incredibly well so I made it happen. Kelvingrove has some very fine paintings, including a fair few by the Glasgow Boys, a group of Scottish artists who worked in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. Several places in Scotland featured as settings in the Glasgow Boys’ work, including Moniaive in Dumfries and Galloway, Brig o’Turk in the Trossachs and Cockburnspath in Berwickshire, the last of which became an artists’ colony.

I got up fairly early one Sunday morning, an act made worse by the clocks going forward that day too. It was sunny and pleasantly spring-like as I took the train across the country, changing in Edinburgh for the journey down to Dunbar. I grew up there so know exactly how to kill about 45 minutes before the bus, by walking down to the East Links to sit and look out at the waves for a few minutes. On a Sunday, there were just two buses to my eventual destination so I had to be sure to catch it.

Today Cockburnspath is probably best known as the eastern terminus of the Southern Upland Way, the long-distance path which stretches 214 miles to Portpatrick in Galloway. It is about eight miles south of Dunbar and the bus ride took me via Innerwick and down the A1 into the village. I went down to the beach via Dunglass Collegiate Church, a pleasant ruin that once served as the burial chapel for the Home family. Rather surreally there was smooth jazz emanating from the tent next door. From there I escaped the jazz and crossed the A1 towards Bilsdean, stopping by the waterfall that still fell but as a trickle. I walked down onto the beach, a rather pebbly beach with the tide quite far out. There was some nice spring sunshine and it was nice sitting even in the shade, my hoodie open and my jacket cast aside as I sat, scribbled and thought. I wasn’t alone as there were a few folk about walking their dogs.

I hadn’t thought to bring a picture of ‘Hard At It’ by James Guthrie, my favourite Glasgow Boys painting painted possibly on that very beach. That pretty much sums up my haphazard approach to blogging and after 600 posts it certainly isnae changing now. The view will have changed only a bit, only to the left where the hulking grey lump of Torness Power Station dominates. To the right, though, was St. Abbs Head, Pease Bay and Siccar Point a bit closer. As I sat, waves roared and crashed – the best sound on earth, closely followed by birdsong, some chirps and a bit of singing. I thought about next connections and about the history of the coastline, including smuggling, which happened a lot in hidden corners in that particular part of the world. Before I left, I kneeled down on the sand and drew ‘600’ with my finger, getting a photo before I smashed it out with my foot. Celebrate, commemorate and onto the next.

To the connections and I did the next one a couple of hours after this. If I hadn’t, Cumbrae would have been a decent contender, since parts of it are also in sight of a nuclear power station. The National Gallery of Scotland had a painting of nearby Fast Castle, last time I looked, and I’m due a trip there too. I also thought about Cove Harbour, which is also nearby, and East Linton owing to the connection with Arthur Melville, one of the Glasgow Boys.

Each connection in Loose Ends is special. Even if it’s a visit to a graveyard on the way somewhere else, or a bridge, or a castle, there has to be a significance to the place, a bit of thought or impulse to make it work. This series was named after a line in ‘Scotland’, a poem by Hugh MacDiarmid, and I can certainly say that I have, as MacDiarmid wrote, ‘a great love’ of Scotland, ‘deeply to read / The configuration of a land’. Whether I read it right is quite another matter entirely. After 600 posts, hopefully I’ve improved in that regard. Thankfully there are many more adventures to be had, gathering up all those loose ends.

Saturday Saunter: 13th April 2019

Good morning,

I’m starting this on Tuesday night, which seems to have become my night for writing. I’ve already written up a couple of Loose Ends posts which will be appearing here in the coming weeks. It is fairly late and I hope to write this then do a quick bit of yoga before bed. In my ears right now is the Lower League Ramblings podcast, presented by Arbroath player Danny Denholm. His guest this episode is Keaghan Jacobs, who plays for Livingston, talking about only playing for that club. That they are friends and have a shared background is an advantage and it’s a good series.

This Saturday is another one without football. At time of writing, I’m thinking about a wee trip on the bus to St. Andrews. I’ve done that journey quite a few times and while it is a fairly long bus ride, around two hours and forty minutes from Glasgow, I like it for its variety, from the very urban to rolling fields and countryside. It features some beautiful places and two, TWO, New Towns, Cumbernauld and Glenrothes. Plus the bus has spacious leather seats and plugs for phone chargers. What more could anyone possibly want? I may stop at Dunfermline en route but will see. When I write things like this, I often end up doing something differently so don’t be surprised if I do something entirely different.

Now listening to David Tennant interview Ian McKellen. Two very fine actors and Ian McKellen’s voice is wonderful, without even focusing on the words.

I’ve finally finished my Harry Potter re-read and I’m still working on Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, which I’ve had in my bag for the last couple of weeks. The book currently gracing my iPad is What Kept You, Hibs? by James Stephen, a thoughtful account of Hibs going up to lift the Scottish Cup in 2016. No sarcasm in that epithet. To be more serious, I also have a few crime novels which I could be reading. The Hibs book is getting me over a reading slump. When that happens, it just needs to be the right thing to get back in the way of it.

Dirleton Castle

Last Sunday I ended up going to Dirleton Castle. I’ve been to Dirleton many times and I seem to go once every couple of years, even living on the other side of the country. From Edinburgh I could have taken a train to North Berwick and walked or bussed the couple of miles from there but I ended up taking the bus there and back. I am a very regular bus passenger and in my time I have been on some very rickety buses. The East Coast Buses 124 I got to Dirleton was immaculate with comfortable seats and USB charge points, as well as an immensely irritating automated announcement of the next stop. A lot of the buses here in Glasgow are being replaced right now, pretty much because of the Low Emission Zone the city council is gradually introducing in the city centre, so many buses operated by First and McGills are all shiny and new, which is weird and makes me self-conscious as I don’t want to dribble, spill crumbs or break anything. It feels a little space-age though thankfully the bus I got home tonight was older with the lining of the seat cover coming away.

Ian McKellen has given way to Jodie Whittaker being interviewed. I’m not a Doctor Who fan but luckily the discussion is going far beyond the Tardis.

Dirleton Castle is a fine place and I was glad to wander around it for a while. It’s going to be part of the Loose Ends series in the coming weeks so I won’t write too much about it now. What I will mention briefly is killing time walking around the village, around the kirkyard. Dirleton Kirk is a lovely church and the graveyard was quiet, unspoiled and full of old gravestones. Some of the graves were modest, others more elaborate for landed gentry. I did think about walking down to Yellowcraigs but time was against me and it was a bit cool with haar (sea mist) rolling off the Forth. Another time maybe.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Tomorrow’s post is the 600th post, part of the Loose Ends series. On Wednesday will be a post about the end of the line. Loose Ends returns next Sunday and Streets of Glasgow is back a week on Wednesday. Have a lovely weekend, wherever you end up.


Saturday Saunter: 6th April 2019

Good Saturday to you,

Today’s Saturday Saunter is being written a few nights ahead of time. It’s Tuesday and the weather has been strange today. I walked home from work – about three miles – and it was pleasantly sunny, cool but not freezing, though only a few hours before that there was hail. Very odd. This post is being written with YouTube playing on my telly. All The Stations, which went to all of the railway stations in Great Britain in 2017, is now doing Ireland and they are on the way to Tralee at the moment. As with the British version, I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar stations. I’ve only been to some of the stations around Belfast though I don’t think they’ll be there for a few days.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing when this is posted yet. Hibs are playing today, against Hearts at Tynecastle, but I now boycott Tynecastle so I won’t be there. I’m off so I’ll be away somewhere but keeping a very beady eye on the score from Gorgie.

Dunglass Collegiate Church

Last weekend I went on a few adventures. Some of them will appear here on the blog in the coming weeks but one that won’t is a trip I took to Dunglass Collegiate Church. I’ve been there a couple of times before but this time I was there on foot. Dunglass is about eight miles south of Dunbar and it is fairly awkward by public transport. On a Sunday a grand total of two buses go to Cockburnspath from Dunbar and I had to be on one and then on the last one back, 2 and a half hours later. I wasn’t really going to Dunglass but it was rude not to when I was passing. The church sits in an estate. Right next to it was a marquee from which emanated music. Actual live jazz singing, perhaps a soundcheck for a function later. That was slightly surreal. I wasn’t even alone in the church with a few likeminded souls. Dunglass was a burial chapel for the Home family and it might be small but it has some character, the light reflecting the right way whenever I’m there.

One contender for today might be Linlithgow Palace. I’ve been to Linlithgow many, many, many times and I’ve written about it here a right few times too, most recently as part of Loose Ends, I think, but I’ve been past it a lot on the train and I’m overdue one of my twice-a-year visits. Linlithgow has lots of Royal connections and those are interesting but I just like going there, wandering about and looking out.

I was really tired on Tuesday night so ran out of steam. It’s now Friday and still no further forward on what to do tomorrow. Thoughts I’ve had include Dumfries, Doune Castle or the East Neuk of Fife. I also thought about Arran but it might be too cold and windy. I fancy a long bus or train ride so hopefully I can figure out something.

This week has been World Autism Awareness Week. My line is always that it’s not just about awareness, it’s about acceptance too. I’ve had a lot on this week and I couldn’t think of anything to write here, as I did last year. One thing that gave me cheer this week was reading about Watford Football Club installing a sensory room at their ground. Other clubs have sensory rooms and plans in place to support autistic supporters though Watford seems to have done a lot, which is encouraging. My club, Hibernian, haven’t done so much yet though I can only hope they will at some point. I seem to remember a small-scale effort to try and get something happening. Going to the football is very important to me as therapy, really, a source of enjoyment, pleasure and sometimes deep frustration, as on Wednesday night. It can be an overload but I’ve found a way to try and make it work.

Talking about overloads, I wrote here recently about cutting down the number of Twitter accounts I follow. Mainly I culled all the political stuff and anything that didn’t give me joy, in true Marie Kondo stylee. That is helping during this time of political uncertainty. At time of writing, it is uncertain whether the UK will still be in the European Union by next Saturday. It’s much nicer to read about football (mostly), nature or ghost signs than the latest fuddery from Westminster. I avoid watching the news and I only really glance at the headlines otherwise. That’s probably best.

I’ve been re-reading Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, which has been a very good antidote to all the shite in the news. I haven’t been reading a lot apart from that, apart from my Harry Potter re-read, which is just about done. I’m not sure what I’m in the mood to read at the moment. Over the last few years I’ve read more than in the last decade so maybe a barren period is natural.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Tomorrow will be Streets of Glasgow, as will Wednesday. Next Sunday will be the 600th post, Loose Ends-style. Have a very nice weekend. Toodle pip.

Postscript: Staying in to watch the football today. Possible day trip tomorrow.

Digest: March 2019

Digest time and I covered less ground than in February but that isn’t always a bad thing.

My first adventure of the month was Saturday 2nd March when Hibs were playing Celtic in Edinburgh. Before the game I went for a rain-soaked walk to Newhaven.

The following Friday I was again in Edinburgh to see the Hibs.

The next Thursday I was in town for an event. Beforehand I went to the Glasgow Women’s Library to see the Artemisia Gentileschi painting on display there. On the way back I sat in Glasgow Green to eat my sandwiches then had a good wander around the Merchant City, managing two walks as part of this blog’s Streets of Glasgow series.

That Saturday I was once more in Edinburgh to see Hibs. It had been cold and snowy and it became cold and wet so it was brief. It got nicer as I got closer to Glasgow. It was ever thus.

The following day I went out around Glasgow. I visited the new Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue, Kelvingrove and Cathkin Park as part of a wider Glaswegian ramble. I had felt that I had neglected my adopted home and this went a great way to redressing the balance and satisfying the deep love I have for this city.

That Monday I was off for a very nice day trip with a friend around Glasgow. We were at the Women’s Library to see that Artemsia painting again then we went to the House for an Art Lover (which was all right, with very good scones) and finally GoMA which had a fantastic exhibition about filmmaker Margaret Tait.

The following Sunday I spent the day bopping around southern Scotland and Northumberland, taking in Dawyck Botanic Garden, the walls at Berwick and Eyemouth where we went for a perfectly serviceable chippy. It was good to be in familiar climes for a while, with the walk around Dawyck particularly soothing and good for the soul.

On Friday I went to Livingston to watch the Hibs.

Yesterday I went out for lunch then went on the train to Gourock, the end of the train line that runs beside my house. Gourock was nice in the breezy spring sunshine.

Today I am planning on going to Dunbar or at least somewhere in the east.

So, that’s the March digest. Thank you to all readers, commenters and followers. Post 600 will appear next month. It’ll be a good one. Streets of Glasgow returns next Sunday while Loose Ends appears on Wednesday. Cheers just now.

Posts this month –

Saturday Saunter: 2nd March 2019

Digest: February 2019

Loose Ends: Portobello Potteries

Saturday Saunter: 9th March 2019

Streets of Glasgow: West George Street

Loose Ends: Leakey’s Bookshop

Saturday Saunter: 16th March 2019

Streets of Glasgow: Jamaica Street

Loose Ends: Desperate Dan

Saturday Saunter: 23rd March 2019

Streets of Glasgow: Bell Street

Loose Ends: Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue

Saturday Saunter: 30th March 2019

Saturday Saunter: 30th March 2019

Good morning,

When this is posted, I hope to be away on manoeuvres working on the 600th post. I might not be out as on Friday night, last night, I was at the football, watching the Hibs play Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena, Livingston’s ground. That stadium, Almondvale as it was originally called, isn’t one of my favourites though the name some wag off Twitter has given it, the Spaghettiad, is quite possibly the best thing ever. A lie in might be the plan for today especially as I might have been pissed off after trudging the mile to the railway station around many, many roundabouts. Livingston is horrible.

I don’t really do tags. In the early days of Walking Talking, I sometimes entered the WordPress photo challenge but I can’t be bothered with that sort of nonsense anymore. I saw one on the Orangutan Librarian blog – not sure what the name is about – and it interested me. It was about good reading habits. I also saw one about reading your country, which was on the Portobello Book blog, so I’m going to break tradition and write a little about them. I just like the ideas so will take them without tags.

My own reading habit is to read when I feel like it and when it is possible to do so. I don’t read every day and I don’t read the same genres all the time. Often I like crime fiction, other times non-fiction, particularly about football or travel. I’m of the school that as long as people are reading, that’s good enough. At the moment I’m re-reading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time. I often read in series but usually the latest instalment as I’ve often binged on them previously. I usually read when I’m travelling and most of what I read is on paper right now. It’s a higher percentage than eBooks at the moment. Given what I do, a lot of what I read comes from the library. It is one of many reasons why I don’t like being given books. I’m not sure if my reading habits are good, bad or indifferent. It’s just what I do.

As for reading my country, I’m very lucky that some of the finest works of literature have come from Scotland. I can’t think of a Scottish book I liked from my childhood but the first one that came to mind that I like to read aloud now is The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee by Michelle Sloan and Kasia Matyjaszek. A book I read in school was probably the poetry of Norman MacCaig, which I still like today. There are loads of examples of historical fiction but it isn’t a genre I read. Quite a few books are set in my favourite areas of Scotland – Glasgow, where I live, and East Lothian, where I’m from – though the Quintin Jardine Skinner crime novels mainly feature Edinburgh and East Lothian but Skinner did work in Glasgow at one point. Peter May’s Lewis trilogy features a part of the country I would love to visit. There are so many Scottish classics and I read a right few of them as a teenager. One I would recommend, and I’ve also seen it at the theatre, is The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins, quite a dark novel set in an Argyll forest during the Second World War. He was quite a versatile author, Robin Jenkins, and I would encourage anyone to delve into his work. A Scottish book I haven’t read but I would like to is Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. I’ve never read it though I know people who are very devout fans of his oeuvre. Finally, my favourite Scottish authors are Nan Shepherd, Kathleen Jamie, Muriel Spark, Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride and quite a few others that I couldn’t begin to adequately list.

Yesterday’s travelling book was a re-read, Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, an excellent book of essays.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. The March digest follows tomorrow. Have a very nice weekend, whatever you end up doing.

Saturday Saunter: 16th March 2019

Good morning,

I haven’t actually written anything for the blog in a couple of weeks so it’s nice to be able to sit down and write something new now. The luxury of having lots of scheduled posts ready to go. What I like about the Saturday Saunter is usually it is current, written a couple of days before it is published, and it is spontaneous, invariably without a clear plan or focus as I start it. Today’s is no exception.

This Saturday I am off to Easter Road to watch the Hibees play Motherwell. My team has been in the news in recent days and for all the wrong reasons, a pitch invader during last Friday’s game against The Rangers and for a bottle of Buckfast chucked in the direction of a Celtic player when we played the lesser greens in the Scottish Cup the week before. Leeann Dempster, the Chief Executive of Hibs, has released a statement detailing just how the club will deal with unacceptable conduct and I agree with every single word of it. For the first time in a while, in fact since a similarly tumultuous fixture at Tynecastle in October, I sat at Easter Road last Friday and actually thought ‘what am I doing here?’ I felt unsafe and uncomfortable in one of the few places on earth where I feel I belong. The strong words from Leeann Dempster immediately after Friday’s game and again in the statement released on Wednesday have reassured me. The actions of these morons at Easter Road, St. Andrews and the Emirates over the weekend tarnish a game so many of us try to enjoy. Thankfully Hibs are back in action today and hopefully Paul Heckingbottom’s team go and get three points and keep us on the road to a top six finish.

I’ve not read terribly much this weather. I finished an history of grime music last Friday night before the Rangers game and apart from that I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on my iPad. Today’s travelling book is Why Are We Always On Last? by Paul Armstrong, a book by the former editor of Match of the Day about the trials and travails of scheduling football matches to try and please a large audience. Randomly my very favourite song, and of course favourite football song, ‘Sunshine on Leith’ is currently playing in the background. The finest song on this planet. I’ll pause as it comes up to the good bit.

Back now. The Paul Armstrong book comes with mixed reports. One of my colleagues had said it wasn’t very good so we’ll see. It’ll come with me to Easter Road anyway.

Ghost sign on Paisley Road West

This is the 587th post on Walking Talking. I publish three posts a week here so the number count just goes higher. I thought it was lower so I maybe should get round to thinking about the 600th post. The 500th was Streets of Glasgow along Paisley Road West and the 400th was in Scots. I loved writing that one. I’m not sure what I will do yet. Any thoughts will be gratefully received.

The above was written on Wednesday night. On Thursday evening I managed to cram in a trip to the Glasgow Women’s Library to see Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, which is on display at the GWL until Monday as part of a national tour. I’m not really a big fan of 16th century Italian art but I was interested by this one, particularly reading the information boards beside it. Anabel Marsh wrote a post about it, if you want to find out more and can’t get down to GWL. There was a pleasant bustle of people at the GWL, which was nice to see. Also beside the Artemisia was a display called Decoding Inequalities, which was insightful in quite a lot of ways, featuring objects and printed material from the GWL’s collections to try and understand inequality in our society.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Tomorrow’s post will be another Streets of Glasgow, this time Jamaica Street. On Wednesday will be Loose Ends. Beyond that, who knows? I think I need to get some adventures undertaken. Whatever you end up doing, have a good weekend.

Loose Ends: Leakey’s Bookshop


I hadn’t planned to do anything for Loose Ends while in Inverness but it occurred to me while browsing in Leakey’s Bookshop that it would be just dandy to link from the potteries in Portobello, a book on Leeds pottery catching my eye. I had seen pictures of Leakey’s on Facebook, of all things, and I decided that when I was in Inverness I would pay a visit. Not that I need more books but the fact I had finished my book on the bus up confirmed this particular notion.


Leakey’s is housed in an old church, a Gaelic church, to be exact, built in 1649 and rebuilt in 1792-1793. Inside it featured a main floor with multiple mezzanine levels. I passed a fire burning and crackling away though it was cold the further I got from it. There was a sense of organised chaos with just a semblance of order, labels segregating sections. It wasn’t too cluttered. A fair few people were milling around, mostly younger folk. The Scottish, fiction, history and travel sections were biggest and I had to exercise severe self-restraint not to come out with more than I could carry. I ended up with four books – Cameroon with Egbert by Dervla Murphy, A Traveller’s Life by Eric Newby, Night Falls On Ardnamurchan by Alasdair Maclean and Seeds of Blood and Beauty: Scottish Plant Explorers by Ann Lindsay – and they came away with me back to Glasgow clad in a paper bag. It was a joyous place to while away an hour, realising not for the first time just how much I want to read and how little time I have to do it in.

To the connections and a bookshop, like a library, yields links to practically anything and everything. Some books could take me to familiar places, those in East Lothian linked with witches or just Haddington though not for any occult reasons; I just saw a book about it. One of my book choices was about Ardnamurchan on the west coast though there is absolutely nae chance that I’ll be going there, unfortunately. Dervla Murphy could lead me back to the Glasgow Women’s Library or to Maryhill, a place Anabel Marsh writes about from time to time. Anabel catalogued the GWL’s Dervla Murphy collection. The book about plant explorers could lead to the botanic gardens at Dawyck or Benmore. 1649, the year the Gaelic church opened, could lead back to Dunfermline, the birthplace of Charles I who met his end in that year. I could also go to a church which is now something else, the Mackintosh Centre in Maryhill or the Mansfield Traquair Centre over in Edinburgh. An interesting bookshop, like Category Is Books in Glasgow, might also be an option. This one was amazing and I’m glad I got to be there.

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

Saturday Saunter: 9th March 2019

Happy Saturday,

Anyway, rather than rambling on, today’s sermon will be about how I would spend a day in Glasgow. I was in George Square the other afternoon before getting the train to Perth for the football. I sat for a few minutes and peoplewatched and it was great. Not for the first time I thought about Edwin Morgan’s poem ‘Starlings in George Square’, hearing lines through my head, most notably ‘When’s the last boat to Milngavie?’ (I’ve written about Edwin Morgan here before as well as George Square for Streets of Glasgow.) It reminded me that I haven’t explored the city much this year so far at all. I haven’t been to Kelvingrove or anywhere like that. My adventures have taken me far beyond the city and that’s both good and bad. I feel mildly desperate just to explore the city a bit. Do a few Streets of Glasgow walks, go to some new corners and revisit some old ones.

View from Queen’s Park across the city

First on the list would be somewhere high up. Maybe Kelvingrove Park, the Necropolis or Queen’s Park, even the back of Castlemilk Shopping Centre, somewhere to see the city in all its variety, to follow cars along streets, count chimneys and spot landmarks. Getting a sense of the city would be a good shout before going down and out into it.

This might not be the most geographically organised of tours. I would continue in George Square next, a place of politics, protest and pigeons. And pastry if you get lunch out of Greggs. One of my favourite Glasgow facts is that street numbers emanate from George Square, stretching into the centre rather than the opposite.

St Enoch Subway

Billy Connolly mural

The Clyde would be next, making sure to pass St. Enoch Subway and Jack Vettriano’s Billy Connolly mural, my favourite of the three around the city centre. Also nearby is one of the four statues of women in Glasgow, the memorial to those who died in the Spanish Civil War. The river defines Glasgow, our past, present and future. The city changes either side of the river, I always think, wherever you happen to cross it. This hypothetical tour would detour via Glasgow Green, even if the People’s Palace is currently shut, stopping too by the recently unveiled memorial to those who perished in the Irish and Highland famines. An insight into our city’s social history could be gained at the Riverside Museum with its transport exhibits as well as the bits about life in past decades.

Subway train

Glasgow has one of the best public transport networks in Europe and we of course have the Subway as well as many, many trains and buses. The Subway would be the choice this time, actually on the train rather than walking the surface as I did last year, and for this tour the Clockwork Orange would take me to Shields Road and the Scotland Street School Museum, one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s buildings, possibly my favourite of them, in all truth. Keeping up the transport theme I always mean to visit the Tramway more often, over in Pollokshields, though the time the Turner Prize was on there, the show wasn’t great.

Cathkin Park

Next door to the Tramway is the Sikh Gurdwara, which is a stunning building, like its counterpart on Berkeley Street. I mean to visit both some time. Glasgow has lots of beautiful religious buildings, foremost among them Glasgow Cathedral with the Blackadder Aisle, white and still, where I like to sit and ponder a few minutes whenever I’m there. As a devout football fan myself, I consider Cathkin Park, the semi-derelict former home of Third Lanark, a bit of a cathedral (written about a few times including here as part of Loose Ends) and every time I’m in the area I make sure I stop in for a wander and a stand on the terraces.

I’ve not covered food but I don’t tend to eat in the city centre. In any case, I’m a man of simple taste. There are plenty of places to choose from, appealing to all tastes and bank balances.

Kelvingrove would be a natural choice, even if I’m not massively bothered about the big dinosaur skeleton currently gracing the place. Usually I like to wander by the art, making sure I sit on the step looking at my very favourite painting in the place, ‘Paps of Jura’ by William MacTaggart, which always takes me away to a beach with crashing waves and a biting wind.

That’s probably enough for one day, let alone all the other places I could suggest, like libraries, bookshops, parks and bus routes. When I was getting my laptop out, I was thinking of Pollok Park but I forgot about it until just now. This list may well get added to. I’m sure some readers will have their favourite places but this is just off the top of my head. When I finally get out around the city, I might just get to a few of these. As I say, I’m off to Edinburgh today but hopefully soon I’ll be about the Dear Green Place again, maybe coming up with some words along the way. To all readers, have a good weekend, wherever it takes you.


Digest: February 2019

The February digest feels quite a long while from the last one, even though I only wrote it a month ago. The first adventure of the month came when I went through early to Edinburgh to see the Hibs. It was a bright, baltic Saturday and I was dodging the hordes off to watch the egg-chasing at Murrayfield. I ended up walking out as far as Portobello, stopping first at Meadowbank Stadium, then heading to the ground via Seafield and Leith Links. Some of this epic wander has featured in Loose Ends in recent weeks and again this coming Wednesday.



The following Wednesday saw me at Celtic Park to see the Hibs again and also the light show, which was absolutely dreadful on many, many levels. My phone’s camera roll shows I also stopped for a look at Rachel Maclean’s Billy Connolly mural which is on a gable end in the Gallowgate.

That Friday was Inverness, there for Intercity. I had lunch, did the walk, spent time and money in Leakey’s Bookshop then had a good wander around the museum with its Pictish stanes. It was a cracking day.

The next day was Saturday and I was at Easter Road to see Hibs again. That evening, though, was a work night out and we went to the Theatre Royal to see Abigail’s Party, which was all right, a show best enjoyed with a drink in me as some of the references went over my head. The night concluded with going out on the town. A good time was had by all.

Guess where I was the following Saturday? That’s right, Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, to see Hibs play, this time with Paul Heckingbottom in charge. Hecky’s at the wheel…

That Sunday I was in Fife, going for a bracing walk along the coast from Dysart to Ravenscraig Castle then for a drive to Cellardyke, which was great in the late afternoon light. Tea was had, after a fashion, in St. Andrews.

Last weekend I was up in Dundee to see Hibs play at Dens then on the Saturday I went up to Aberdeen for the concluding chapter of Intercity plus to see relatives. In Dundee I went to the V and A then to the McManus, which actually did more for me that particular afternoon. Before I went to Aberdeen on the Saturday, I wandered around Dundee city centre and stopped by the statue of Desperate Dan. In Aberdonia, motorbikes heralded the close of Intercity and later we went out for ice cream in the shadow of a metal cat.

On Wednesday I was in Perth to see the Hibs. The journey up was nice, the setting sun casting a nice light on the Perthshire hills.

Anyway, that’s the February digest. March has no great plans as yet. As I wrote in the Saunter post yesterday, I hope to do a bit more exploring around Glasgow this month. We’ll see. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Loose Ends is back on Wednesday and Streets of Glasgow next Sunday. Cheers the now.

Posts this month –

Saturday Saunter: 2nd February 2019

Digest: January 2019

Loose Ends: Greyfriars Burial Ground

Saturday Saunter: 9th February 2019

Intercity: Perth

Loose Ends: John Witherspoon statue

The places I love

Saturday Saunter: 16th February 2019

Intercity: Inverness

Loose Ends: Meadowbank Stadium

Saturday Saunter: 23rd February 2019

Intercity: Aberdeen

Words, salt and sauce

Loose Ends: Portobello Community Garden