Saturday Saunter: 24th November 2018

Good morning peeps,

This Saturday morning finds me leaving a bit earlier than normal to head for Easter Road to watch the Hibs since there is also rugby on at Murrayfield and the trains will be mobbed. Hence I’m writing this on Friday night. Anyway, depending on the weather, I will hopefully have a decent wander around the capital prior to going over to the ground. Today’s Saturday travelling book, which I started last week, I think, is Going To The Match by Duncan Hamilton, a selection of stories about the beautiful game in its splendour as much as its not so bonny moments. It isn’t quite in the Daniel Gray mould since it is more journalistic than lyrical but that’s not a bad thing.

I haven’t been reading as much this week. It’s been busy at work so I’m a bit knackered going into this weekend. I have been writing a bit more though, mainly stories. Most of my media consumption this week has been through my ears and podcasts. A lot of the American talk shows have podcast versions and in recent days I’ve been listening to Michelle Obama’s interview on Ellen and snippets from The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, which has a decent perspective even if Trevor Noah isn’t quite up to Jon Stewart’s high standards. I also really enjoyed Hibs Talk‘s interview with Hibs player Paul Hanlon, who comes across as a really good, genuine guy. Plus he scored that goal at Tynecastle. Tonight’s listening is musical, with a mixed bag playlist ongoing with Eddi Reader’s Patience of Angels playing as I type these particular words.

The other day my notebook was rapidly reaching its conclusion. For a while I was using muckle big A5 ones from Paperchase but they were running out of them, or at least ones that weren’t covered in glitter. I had been in Tesco a couple of months ago and picked up Pukka Pads, which I used for years. A week or two ago I had been in Morrison’s and bought a couple of notebooks anticipating my current one running out. When that event was imminent, I discovered that the new ones were unlined, not great. I managed to find a spare one with only a few pages scribbled in that is doing the job and I have two new Pukka Pads I bought on Thursday in reserve too. My notebook is usually filled with jottings, some stories, blog post drafts, blog ideas and shopping lists, not always my best work but it’s mine. It’s always a purchase I like to make and it’s one to get right. The spare one I’m using just now isn’t great, a supermarket special with thin paper and I might need to scribble more to get shot of it.

It’s Dua Lipa on the dial now, incidentally. I have diverse tastes. Anyway, last night I came across an interesting article on Facebook from Stylist, the free magazine they often give out by Central Station. As part of a series about self-care, they had an article talking about books which various folk reach for in times of stress, the volumes best to re-read in those dark moments that come to us all. One choice was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. For a while I re-read Harry Potter near enough constantly and I did so only a few weeks ago. It was a good, familiar book and I liked being in that world a bit. I tend to delve into nature writing when times are tough, Nan Shepherd or Roger Deakin, usually, though sometimes football too. Daniel Gray’s essays about the game work well to soothe a furrowed brow, for example.

I am a fairly avid consumer of social media and that can be a good and a bad thing. It tends to make me mad or put me on edge so the mute button and I are good friends. On Twitter I follow the classicist and all round good person Mary Beard and she wrote an interesting article last week about the dangers of social media becoming too much of an echo chamber, only seeing messages from those you agree with. Civility is lacking online and Twitter in particular can be a very dark place at times. The way I navigate it, apart from muting, is by following accounts which interest me and jettisoning those that stress me out. I also follow some folk who sometimes annoy me, mainly journalists, some politicians, which keeps the echo chamber bit to a minimum. A political strategist I follow, Ross Colquhoun, is also a Hearts fan and occasionally I see Jambo shite on my feed, which I just scroll past, usually very, very quickly.

Also on social media last night I saw a report from Thursday’s One Show featuring my home town of Dunbar and some of what happens around the harbour (or herber as it is correctly pronounced), including rowing, fishing and the lifeboat. The rower featured used to work at my high school while I think I knew the fisherman’s face. It made Dunbar look very beautiful and idyllic, which is almost about right.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. There will be a post here tomorrow, probably about planning a day trip. Wednesday I’m not sure yet. Easter Road West also features a post this morning too since it is game day. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters, followers. Have a good weekend.

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Digest: October 2018

The October digest of Walking Talking is here. I know the Saturday posts tend to have updates on my life and times but I like the digest format.

Paisley Abbey and Paisley Town Hall by night

I usually compile the digest from my photo library and the first photo I took in October was on the night of 4th October just after I had missed a train home from Paisley. It’s a rather nice picture looking across to Paisley Abbey and the Town Hall.

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John Muir Grove, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
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Foyer, Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

The following day I went to Edinburgh and spent a good while wandering about the Botanic Gardens, swishing through leaves and sitting under trees. I also went to the Portrait Gallery and had a look at the very fine Victoria Crowe and transport photography exhibitions. The Victoria Crowe portraits were great, with the one featuring Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell a particular favourite.

That Saturday the Hibs beat Hamilton Accies by six goals to nil.

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Indian Mutiny memorial, Park Circus, Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow

On Sunday 14th October I did a whole lot of stuff for the blog, including a trip up to Park Circus and Kelvingrove Park and then I walked all the way out to Parkhead, via Charing Cross and the Merchant City. A few Streets of Glasgow walks resulted, including North Frederick Street which appeared here this past Wednesday. I also had a moment looking at the new Irish and Highland Famine memorial by the People’s Palace, which is fairly subtle and unsentimental.

That Tuesday I went to watch Scotland Under-21s get beat by England Under-21s at Tynecastle. Being at Tynecastle was very strange – I wrote about the experience for Easter Road West here and here.

On Saturday 20th October Hibs got beat by Celtic at Celtic Park. I was there and got wet to and fro Central Station.

That week I was off and on the Monday I went through to Dunbar, enjoying a walk around the Prom to Belhaven then doubling back to the harbour in the cool autumn sunshine. It was nice to be there though it was incredibly windy, which is par for the course in Dunbar.

On the Tuesday, I went to Manchester, enjoying a look around the National Football Museum and its exhibitions Band FC and Homes of Football. I wrote a review of it for Easter Road West too.

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The roof and stairway, V and A Dundee

That Thursday I was in Dundee for an extended look around the very shiny and new V and A. It is a beautiful building with interesting and insightful exhibitions and I was glad to be there. Plus I had polony rolls for lunch before heading along to the museum. A review of the museum (not the rolls) appeared here a week or two ago.

The following day I went for a swim and on the way back did a Streets of Glasgow walk on Mosspark Boulevard.

On the Saturday I went to Edinburgh, had a wander through the Meadows in order to research a post about the history of a certain football team, then went out to Prestongrange for a wander in that dear, familiar place.

Colinton Dell
Sunset over Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

The next day I was back east for a very bracing walk along the Union Canal then the Water of Leith walkway all the way out to Balerno. Colinton Dell was particularly beautiful. I hadn’t been out that way in years and it was amazing how many houses had sprung up by the Water of Leith, particularly in Currie and Juniper Green. We also went for a wander around the Botanics, which were very fine as the sun set.

That Wednesday I went to watch Hibs play Hearts at Tynecastle. Less said the better.

So, that’s the October digest. Our next post here is Streets of Glasgow on Wednesday, this time Virginia Street. There will probably be a Saturday post and another travelling post next weekend. Stay tuned for that. As ever, thanks so much to all readers, commenters, followers and have a good month.

Posts this month –

Digest: September 2018

Saturday

Loose Ends: Calton Hill

Streets of Glasgow: Glasgow Street

Book blethers

Railwalk: Restalrig Railway Path

Streets of Glasgow: John Street

Saturday, Saturday

Park Circus

Streets of Glasgow: Woodlands Road

Saturday Saunter: 27th October 2018

Design in Dundee

Streets of Glasgow: North Frederick Street

Saturday Saunter: 27th October 2018

I am starting this post on Thursday night, live from a Citylink bus powering along the A90 somewhere between Dundee and Perth. I’ve had a rather good day in Dundee, including a couple of hours in the new V and A. That was wonderful but I’ll not be writing about that today. A post all about the V and A will appear tomorrow instead. After the V and A, we had a good walk along the side of the Tay, encountering a McGonagall poem on the pavement by the Tay Bridge and a graffiti wall featuring some incredible work. And Count von Count from Sesame Street. Ha ah ah. We ducked into the DCA where there were two decent exhibitions, one of photos of the North and South Pole, the other video art about Detroit.

Count Von Count graffiti in Dundee
Count Von Count graffiti in Dundee
View from the Prom to North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock, Dunbar
View from the Prom to North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock, Dunbar

This week I’ve covered quite a lot of ground. On Monday I was in Dunbar and had a windy walk along the Prom to Belhaven. Tuesday I was in Manchester including a couple of cracking exhibitions at the National Football Museum, a photography exhibition by Stuart Roy Clarke called ‘The Game’ and the rather fabulous Bands FC. An exhibition review is over at Easter Road West where there is also a digressive sort of post this morning.

As this is posted I may well be off somewhere. Current contenders include Kirkcaldy to go to my favourite art gallery or Edinburgh, just because. To be fair I am also in Edinburgh tomorrow but that’s going to be a walk along the Water of Leith so there’s plenty else to do.

To the books and I’ve managed to get through a wheen of books this week:

  • Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova
  • For Every One by Jason Reynolds
  • Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves
  • In A House Of Lies by Ian Rankin

I started the Nan Shepherd compilation Wild Geese earlier and I am near the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it in the thirteen years since it was published but it was one of the bits the film messed up.

As for the books I finished this week, the Jason Reynolds poetry one resonated quite a bit as it dealt with existential angst and the dying of dreams and all the stuff that afflicts people staring down the barrel of 30 like me. It was published by the wonderful 404 Ink, who put out good books including Hings by Chris McQueer and Nasty Women. Ann Cleeves is excellent though I must be one of the few people who have only encountered the Shetland series in book form not on the tellybox. I like Jimmy Perez as a character. In contrast to hard-drinking male detectives like Rebus, Jimmy Perez and Lorimer from Alex Gray’s books are more sensitive and often better characters. I like Rebus too but I’ve found lately I’ve enjoyed Ann Cleeves and Alex Gray more. Rebus is supposed to be retired and it just didn’t seem right in the latest one that he got shoehorned into another police investigation. Surely Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox could carry a book on their own?

For what it’s worth, my favourite detective is undoubtedly DS Roberta Steel from Stuart MacBride’s Logan MacRae novels. As an aside, I spent one very enjoyable lunchtime at work recently listening to the podcast version of Stuart MacBride’s event at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. He is one sarcastic son-of-a-gun.

Other recent podcast highlights include the Scotland Outdoors special featuring a tour round the Hebridean places that feature in Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy novels and – guilty pleasure time – the podcast version of the Ellen DeGeneres show. Yes, seriously. It’s presented by Ellen’s executive producers and features clips of interviews from the show. I can confirm I skipped the recent edition featuring Simon Cowell. Marina Hyde of the Guardian had it right when she called Cowell the Karaoke Sauron.

Anyway, gang, I’m just about home, quite near Cumbernauld to be precise, so I’ll wrap this up. More about the V and A appears tomorrow and Easter Road West has some football blethers this morning. Next Sunday here will be the October digest, I think. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a good Saturday whatever you get up to.

Railwalk: Restalrig Railway Path

I had seen signs for the Restalrig Railway Path a few times on the way to Easter Road but it was only when I was on a roundabout walk of Edinburgh that I finally ended up on it. From Salamander Street I saw a bridge over the road with people cycling across it and that swayed my decision. I turned onto Leith Links then onto the path. Walking above the street was great, feeling removed but not detached from the city around me. There were a few cyclists and walkers, even a family foraging for berries. To the left was Seafield Road, industrial premises and the sludge works, the right the crematorium and cemetery, trees lent greater beauty by a coy sunshine. I hadn’t been in the area since a funeral a few years back and thoughts turned definitely on. Behind the crematorium is the site of the old Eastern General Hospital, now a care home but once the place where babies from the east of the capital and East Lothian were born, including me. I didn’t check to see if they had put the plaque up yet.

The path soon curved and there were more trees. I soon realised from a sign that I was now in Restalrig, at the other side of a golf course from where I went to primary school. The path now sat in a dip with houses at either side. Nearer Lochend allotments came to my right and smart flats to the left. Bridges came at regular intervals with signs telling the casual visitor where they were, which was appreciated as while I was on very familiar terrain, I had never been on this path before. I knew I would soon come to Hawkhill Avenue, round the back of Easter Road. The cantilever atop the Famous Five Stand peeked above the wall, the modern Lochend Butterfly flats dominating the landscape. A kid cycled around and around the path, waiting for his mum and dad to catch up. I turned left onto Hawkhill Avenue and I was back in urban Edinburgh once more. Some time I’ll finish the walk, finishing near the top of Easter Road the street, but it felt right to finish near my spiritual home, even on a quiet Sunday.

Thank you for reading. This is the first of a new series here on Walking Talking, probably occasional rather than weekly. Something entirely different will be here next week.

Loose Ends: Makar’s Court

Makar’s Court was an easy choice for Loose Ends, a place right in the heart of Edinburgh but not on the tourist trail, or at least not as much as the well-trodden Royal Mile. It came about through a link with John Muir, whose writings from Bonaventure in Georgia during his Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf often come to mind whenever I’m in a cemetery. A quote from Muir appears on the ground in Makar’s Court, a selection of literary quotes outside the Writers’ Museum in Lady Stair’s Close, just off the High Street. The Muir quote is a nice one, from a selection of his writings called John of the Mountains:

‘I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness’.

Nearby were two other quotes that I liked, one from Perth poet William Soutar, and the other from Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross, who I had never heard of. I’m sure that’s my loss. A quick Google search has provided the very interesting distinction that Elizabeth Melville is the earliest known Scottish writer to be published. More research will follow into that, definitely.

I like wandering in Makar’s Court so know some of the quotes well. Possible links came thick and fast, John Galt and Burns to Ayrshire, Hugh MacDiarmid leading through the SNP which he helped to found to Charlotte Square where a First Minister of that party is resident. There were a few folk dotting around, some looking at the quotes, others marching towards the Royal Mile, one or two even wandering in to the Writers’ Museum. I haven’t been in years so will need to go soon. The words outside on the pavement usually do fine for me, an interesting mix of Scottish writers, some very famous ones not included while some others are highlighted and their best words out for all to read and hopefully seek out more.


Thank you for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week. As mentioned last week, Loose Ends goes on hiatus after the 21st post. Still a few more to go, though.

Loose Ends: The Necropolis

I was in Glasgow for a course. As I left the mighty Mitchell Library, I had a spur of the moment thought to go to the Necropolis. It was a sunny afternoon and I fancied being outside in the city for a bit. Along the way I tried to think of a possible connection between Cathkin Park and the Necropolis but struggled, eventually coming up with the fact both are owned and managed by Glasgow City Council. I reached the Cathedral and dodged lots of phone cameras pointing in its direction to turn over the bridge into the Necropolis.

The Necropolis is a cemetery, the City of the Dead, sitting right behind Glasgow Cathedral on the eastern edge of the city centre. I’ve been there twice before, since I’m not normally a huge fan of cemeteries. I’m a firm believer that we can remember those we’ve lost anywhere and we don’t necessarily need to be morbid when we do it. As I walked into the Necropolis, I thought about the last cemetery I was in, Deer Park, near Dunbar, a place where I knew not a few folk buried there, some of them relatives of mine. Deer Park is a community cemetery and I shouldn’t think many tourists go there, as a general rule. The Necropolis was busy with people from all sorts of places, some wandering amidst the stones like I was, others enjoying the cityscape below. What I like about the Necropolis is not only its fine views across the city but also the diverse architecture and stories contained therein. One of the first graves I came to was that of William Miller, the writer of the Scots lullaby Wee Willie Winkie and ‘Laureate of the Nursery’, the second best turn of phrase I had encountered that day besides ‘supersonic austerity’, which was in quite a different context. Throughout the Necropolis there were graves talking of infant mortality, service in foreign wars, work as merchants, writers and tradespeople, quotations from scripture or poetry, some of which I read aloud. Cemeteries often provide valuable insights into social history and the Necropolis was certainly no exception.

After paying my respects at the graves of John and Isabella Elder, I walked a little further, thinking of one of my favourite passages from John Muir, the naturalist and explorer who also came from Dunbar. After being injured in an industrial accident in Indianapolis, Muir walked one thousand miles to the Gulf of Mexico in the earliest part of a lifelong effort to study and appreciate nature. At one point he stopped off in Georgia, camping in a cemetery for five days as he waited for money to be wired from his family. As I stood under a tree, I read from Muir:

‘On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. Instead of the sympathy, the friendly union, of life and death so apparent in Nature, we are taught that death is an accident, a deplorable punishment for the oldest sin, the arch-enemy of life, etc…But let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights.’

I was now in a quieter part of the Necropolis, with fewer graves and more trees. The view of the city was still impressive there and I felt a moment of affection for this city I called home, a Dear Green Place indeed. A few minutes before I looked across and a hill loomed above Celtic Park, almost fooling me that it was Arthur’s Seat, way across in Edinburgh. It wasn’t but it had me for a second.

As I walked alone in the lower part of the Necropolis, I thought about the book I was reading, Silverland by Dervla Murphy. Dervla Murphy was travelling across Russia through the winter and as ever her writing was as varied and interesting as the many people she met along the way. At one point she talked about the environmental impact of death, the polluting effects of embalming fluid as well as fumes from crematoria. All round, she said being allowed to gradually decompose in the earth would probably be best for the planet. The walk in the Necropolis brought up lots of thoughts, from books to a story I heard recently about someone who made a point every day they were in Paris to go to the grave of Jim Morrison. Even as I walked up to the John Knox monument, I had a line from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, that he was an embittered man, that ‘he could never be at ease with the gay French Queen’. John Knox also gave his name to the street below the Necropolis, which I covered for Streets of Glasgow not long after.

To the connections and of course John Knox could take me to many places across this country, Haddington where he was born or St. Giles Cathedral where Knox was minister. His grave sits under the car park just across Parliament Square. John Muir was born in Dunbar and I did think briefly about going to the Broomielaw from where Muir’s ship the Warren left for New York in 1849. The graves of John and Isabella Elder could lead to a visit to Elder Park in Govan. Since I thought I saw Arthur’s Seat in the distance, it might be worth going up that hill, though not until after the Edinburgh Festival finished. The Celtic crosses with traces of Pictish style might lead to somewhere in Dalriada, like Kilmartin, or indeed somewhere related to the Picts. A stone marking the remains of University of Glasgow professors formerly interred in Blackfriars Cemetery may be the link to a trip to Gilmorehill.

The clouds had darkened. I had circled the cemetery a couple of times and seen a lot more of it than ever before. For most of the time I had been alone, only at its summit coming across other living mortals. It had been a good walk, to think, to look across the city and get a little more perspective on it, even if Arthur’s Seat wasn’t really in sight.

Thank you for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Just a wee heads-up that Loose Ends will pause after the 21st link post, scheduled to appear in about four weeks’ time. I thought it would be the 20th but I managed to miscount. As ever I hope to have something interesting to replace it though at the moment I’m not sure what that will be. Fear not, though, there are four of the current batch left to go, beginning next week not so far from the Necropolis.

Digest: July 2018

July 2018’s Digest comes after another busy month with a few adventures, the return of the football and me now just finished a week’s leave.

Sunday 1st July saw me in Kirkcaldy, a notion just to get on a bus taking me to my favourite art gallery, which had a very fine exhibition of paintings from the Edinburgh School, Anne Redpath, William Gillies and others.

That Saturday took me across an Orange walk onto a train to Dunbar. It was a warm day in my home town and I proceeded to walk for miles and miles, going out across the golf course to Barns Ness lighthouse, a place I had seen frequently on social media photographs recently and from my window in times past. Masochism led me up Doon Hill, written about here, stopping every few yards to wipe sweat from my face, and I looked across Dunbar and the Forth on the way up. I sat at the top for a bit, avoiding a tour group, and looked down towards Torness and St. Abbs Head. My way back into Dunbar took me to Deer Park cemetery, a place of familiar names, relatives, friends and others I’ve known or known of. I sat for a bit under the Prom, looking towards the Bass and scribbling notes in the sunshine. I ended up at Belhaven standing on the beach with my thoughts awhile before I turned back, eventually dining on a chippy by the harbour.

The next day the Hibs were back. Engineering works meant I took the bus to and from the capital, reading along the way the mountaineer Cameron McNeish’s autobiography. From the bus station I undertook a Streets of Glasgow walk on Killermont Street.

That Thursday the Hibs were playing again. On the way to the stadium I walked down through the New Town, an old psychogeographic haunt.

The Friday was my day off and I went to the Glasgow Women’s Library. I had a couple of books to donate plus I had decided to write about the GWL for Loose Ends here on the blog. I ended up joining the library and came away with a book plus pleased to see a Muriel Spark exhibition in progress. I then walked all the way along London Road for Streets of Glasgow, a very long walk but a varied and interesting one. Earlier I took in St. Mary’s Church in the Calton for a future blog post.

A week or so later, I found myself on the bus to Ayr, heading for the Bachelors’ Club in Tarbolton. It was diverting and interesting. The view from the M77 coming back to Glasgow was a major highlight of the day.

The next day I went to Coldstream to watch a Hibs XI rout the locals. On the way I had a few minutes in Berwick – I need to get back there soon – and spent a while wandering around Coldstream between buses. Another Loose Ends post resulted from that walk.

That Thursday Hibs were playing and I went through to Edinburgh a little early on that beautiful sunny day for a walk through the Meadows then Holyrood Park. I ate my fast food watching the ducks and swans in Lochend Park.

The following day I went out on an adventure with my favourite little people around Glasgow on an open top bus.

Sunday 29th was wet and involved a day trip by car, including Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Kirkcaldy Galleries, as well as a walk along the Prom at Portobello and thereafter at Port Seton where we had an unbelievably good fish supper. The nicest weather came when I got back to Glasgow.

I was off the next week and on Tuesday 31st I went to Newcastle via Carlisle. In the hour I had to kill in Carlisle, I made sure I got to the underpass between Tullie House and Carlisle Castle which is a pleasant display of industrial objects and a stone bearing a curse made by the Bishop of Glasgow against the Border Reivers. Newcastle was in the midst of the Great Exhibition of the North and the Grey Monument bore some superb egalitarian slogans. When I discovered that this was part of the Great Exhibition of the North, I was very glad my taxes were going towards it. Better that than Trident. I went over to Gateshead to the Baltic which had two very good exhibitions, one of which was Our Kisses are Petals by Lubaina Himid which featured African-inspired banners with interesting phrases on them. My favourite was ‘Much Silence Has A Mighty Noise’. The other cracking exhibition was Idea Of North which included a mixture of stuff including a display of photographs of people in North Eastern England by various female photographers, a dome talking about sustainable building materials, a poem by Sean O’Brien and WN Herbert, and a display about TyneDeck, a 1960s modernist utopian proposal for the quayside outside the Baltic. Leaving aside my Scottishness bristling against Newcastle being considered ‘north’ (in England, yes, in these islands, goodness no), I liked it a lot. Make sure you get there, if you can.

Anyway, that’s July. August has started fine. I was off work until yesterday. I went on some adventures, did family stuff.

The next post here might be tomorrow, I’m not sure yet. There will definitely be one on Friday, a Streets of Glasgow post, to be precise, featuring London Road. Loose Ends: Coldstream is on Sunday.

Easter Road West has a post tonight about Super John McGinn and his departure to Aston Villa. Tomorrow there will also be a post there with some thoughts about the Motherwell game on Sunday as well as tomorrow night’s Europa League match. A couple of ERW highlights from July are a post about being a Hibs fan living in Glasgow and another about that mighty publication The Wee Red Book.

August involves this blog’s third anniversary. This is the blog’s 492nd post, remarkably. I haven’t quite managed to put my idea for the 500th post into practice, yet. I don’t have long. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for future posts, please feel free to share them.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. It’s been quite a ride so far. Cheers just now. Enjoy the rest of your August.

Posts this month –

Loose Ends: National Museum of Scotland

Digest: June 2018

Daisies

Subway Surface: St. Enoch-Kinning Park

Loose Ends: Dunfermline

My favourite bench

Doon Hill

Subway Surface: Kinning Park-Govan

Loose Ends: Abbotsford

Gallimaufry

Subway journey

Streets of Glasgow: Drury Street

Loose Ends: Glasgow Women’s Library

The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues

Travelling books

Streets of Glasgow: Killermont Street

Loose Ends: Bachelors’ Club

Doon Hill

After walking to Barns Ness lighthouse, I somehow had the mental notion to climb up Doon Hill. I hadn’t been up there in years, usually doing so as a result of a hare-brained scheme. I remember being up there as the Queen Mary 2 sailed past, the massive cruise ship looming large as it motored up the Forth from Rosyth. From Barns Ness I had to walk a while past Portlands then when I reached the A1 I had to run across the road as cars come up and down there with some lick. I was soon rewarded, though, on the way up the road by a fine view back across Dunbar to the Bass Rock and the Isle of May beyond. That vista was to my right all the way up to Doon Hill or at least as long as I kept sweat out of my eyes. I’m not built for heat.

Doon Hill overlooks Dunbar. It is also notable for the fields below which were the scene of the second Battle of Dunbar, the one on 3rd September 1650 when Cromwell won and 3,000 were taken to Durham Cathedral to be executed, transported or imprisoned. I passed a stone on the way up which bore a quote about the battle from Thomas Carlyle. The hill was the site of an Anglian hall but also, archaeologists have discovered fairly recently, a Neolithic settlement too. When I got to the top, I found I was not alone for there was a tour group getting a talk by the big information board. The guide was freely admitting he knew hee haw about medieval architecture so might have to defer to his pal Chris who was also there. I glanced at the board then set off around the traced out edges of the homestead, getting far enough away to completely tune out the group.

I sat for a few minutes looking down the hill towards Torness. Blocking out that and the cement works, it was possible to readily imagine the value of Doon Hill not only as a domestic structure but for defence, giving views right to St. Abbs Head and over the surrounding lands to Brunt Hill and beyond towards North Berwick. The thing that amazed me was that Doon Hill’s significance only came to light due to aerial photography in the 1950s, then as now a vital resource in finding hitherto hidden traces of our past. Looking across the site it was easy to bring to life its past, as a place for communal living, entertaining, and venerating their dead.

Back down the hill I looked again across Dunbar. Even with the new houses I could pick out landmarks, my high school, where I lived growing up, the Castle, Town House, churches and Knockenhair House, to name but a few. Despite the climb and the heat, I was glad I diverted that way to get a wider appreciation of the history, plus just to stand and stare for a while.

My favourite bench

I didn’t like high school much. Sometimes at lunchtime I would sit in a classroom and eat or in most weathers I would go out for a walk. If I was really going for it, I would end up nearly at the Castle, sitting by where the old pool was, watching waves. I wrote poems then and a lot of them seemed to involve waves, usually free verse even though Robert Frost likened it to playing tennis with the net down.Very often I would end up at the Prom, ten minutes or so from school, and I would sit on my favourite bench. It’s just around from the second gate with views across the bay to Traprain, North Berwick Law, the Bass and the May. In all weather it is a beautiful, lovely spot and even when I go to Dunbar today, I like to spend a few minutes there. I was up there just now. I’m now sitting writing this on the beach, looking back up towards the Prom. Bird calls chattering back and forth, waves, not much man made noise at all on this warm July evening.I’ve been on the Prom too many times to count. Sometimes I’ve run on it, other times walked, sometimes with the wind at my back, actually a lot of times with the wind at my back, with some visits thoughtful and others joyful. I’ve been there on bright sunny days like this and cold, clear, dark winter nights too, the way shown by a torch. I never feel lonely there, however I feel elsewhere. There I feel connected to the wider world, not so much cities but passing ships, birds and places on the horizon, to memories, hopes and dreams. A lot of what I write about is connections and it all comes from here, this place, and wherever I live, that won’t ever change.

Loose Ends: National Museum of Scotland

The original plan was for the next Loose Ends post to be St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. The last one was Glasgow Cathedral so it was a straight link between churches and patron saints. When I got to St. Giles, however, I had a quick turn around and that did me fine. I don’t know what it was, there were a few ideas percolating around but I think I was scunnered by being asked to pay £2 to take photos, which I grudged. I was planning on going to the National Museum of Scotland anyway, just up the road on Chambers Street, and just as I walked down George IV Bridge past the National Library, it started raining for the first time in what felt like weeks. I still had to find a connection between Glasgow Cathedral and NMS, though, coming up with their managing agencies both being part of the Scottish Government, that both are free to get into and they also have bits about the Reformation.

NMS and I go way back. I grew up in East Lothian and a lot of visits to Edinburgh involved a trip to Chambers Street, either to the old museum with the fish ponds or the new one, which opened in 1998 and covers Scotland. To this day I still call the Scottish bit of NMS the ‘new’ bit despite it now being in its third decade and the ‘old’ bit being spruced up and new. I don’t get there as often any more, living in Glasgow and all that, and a trip is a bit of a treat now. A lot of it is very familiar and I headed to some favourite bits straight away, starting with the Kingdom of the Scots with the Monymusk reliquary once used, or so they say, to carry the relics of St. Columba into battle. After that I looked up to a painted ceiling once in a big hoose in Burntisland and then left to some Pictish stanes. I covered bits of the ground floor, going into the other bit for the Millennium Clock and a lighthouse lamp from Inchkeith Lighthouse that I can’t help loving to photograph. I like the object wall you can see from the Grand Gallery, each bit seemingly random but interlinked somehow. The wall features rockets, Buddhist sculptures, sewing machines and railway station signs.

Back in the ‘new’ museum I made sure I had a look at the Arthur’s Seat coffins, the section on lighthouses, trains and the big Beam Engine on the third floor. At the Reformation display, revision for me for an upcoming exam, an American woman was opining about Martin Luther, her man confessing he knew hee haw about Luther. I wandered, feeling happy to be in a familiar place, still learning but thinking all the time about connections for this series. A piece of petrified wood links to John Muir and Dunbar. The lighthouse lamp could take me almost anywhere on our coastline, though Barns Ness came to mind at that moment. The painted ceiling could even take me back to Aberdour, alternatively to Huntingtower Castle not far out of Perth. The beam engine might take me to Kilmarnock, where it worked, or Prestongrange where an engine still exists, albeit not in use. One of the locomotives on the fourth floor was built in Leith, quite an historical place in its own right. To be fair to NMS, it has connections and links to many parts of Scotland and the world, in many cases drawing attention to other places to visit, even other museums in the case of Skerryvore in Tiree and the Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh. I thought about the Riverside Museum here in Glasgow or even Summerlee in Coatbridge, good places both, good possible connections too.

There are many people who would argue that Scottish culture is skewed towards the central belt and Glasgow or Edinburgh in particular. I used to think NMS was but walking around it for this visit changed that view. It gives a good account of Scotland and how we see the world, a good starting point that inspires wonder and travelling once more.