Forth

A few years ago, I walked across the Forth Road Bridge. I didn’t walk back – thankfully there’s a railway bridge quite nearby and a station in North Queensferry that’s on that line. I wrote a blog post about it, which appeared here around that time. The three bridges which span the Forth in that area, the Forth Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing, are well placed to give incredible views up and down the Firth to mountains, seabird colonies and many towns which line its banks. The other day I was on Twitter at the right time, a suitably rare occurrence, and watched a video on Scotrail’s feed showing the view from a train’s cab as it crossed the Forth Bridge, the mightiest railway structure in Scotland. Its struts and girders passed by in a whir of red saltires. The video didn’t share much of the view which can be seen from a train window but that is to be expected since the train driver is surely keeping his or her eyes front. The view is finest from the Forth Bridge since there is no other bridge between it and the Forth opening out. Having grown up in East Lothian I’m particularly biased in loving the view towards the Bass Rock, North Berwick Law and the northern coastline of my native county. The best view of the capital starts from just south of Inverkeithing, a view across a yard to Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh unfolding below. East Lothian and Edinburgh are on the right through much of Fife until just after Kirkcaldy when the line turns north. That was always the point I turned back to my book.

Forth Road Bridge looking towards Forth Bridge and North Queensferry - looking over a grey railing towards water, a village and a red cantilevered bridge.​
Forth Road Bridge looking towards Forth Bridge and North Queensferry – looking over a grey railing towards water, a village and a red cantilevered bridge.
Cellardyke Harbour - harbour scene with two piers on either side. There is a gap between them looking out to sea.​
Cellardyke Harbour – harbour scene with two piers on either side. There is a gap between them looking out to sea.

The Forth has long fascinated me, having lived near it for much of my life prior to moving west. It is a river then a Firth before unfolding into the North Sea between Fife Ness and Dunbar. It has transported goods and people for generations, millennia really, including pilgrims, traders and holiday makers. Whenever I get a view of it, be it from Edinburgh city centre, the coast or one of the many bridges which cross it, I can’t help but look out. I suspect I’m not alone. My favourite views come at Cellardyke, where the Isle of May actually looks like an island rather than a rocky cliff, Dunbar, of course, Aberlady Bay, where the Forth opens out, Morrison’s Haven and Portobello, where East Lothian is particularly prominent, including the Bass, North Berwick Law and Hopetoun Monument. A couple of years ago, on a particularly perishing day when I managed some Loose Ends for this blog, I took the scenic route from Portobello to Easter Road via Seafield and Leith Links, which was a bit more austere landside but gave a very decent view along the Forth as the land curved.

East Lothian from Portobello - a coastal scene looking over water to a coastline with some hills. In the foreground is a promenade and a grassy bank.​
East Lothian from Portobello – a coastal scene looking over water to a coastline with some hills. In the foreground is a promenade and a grassy bank.
Dysart Harbour - nine posts of varying colours with a grey sea and harbour wall in the background.​
Dysart Harbour – nine posts of varying colours with a grey sea and harbour wall in the background.

The fine set of sculptures at Dysart Harbour, Sea Beams, are painted different shades of blue and grey reflecting the colours of the Forth at different times of the year. I’ve had the pleasure of being at Dysart to see the sea in most of those colours. I’m writing this at the tail end of January, a time of year when I particularly like to be by the Forth as it is at its most dramatic. For the moment I’m settling for photographs, my own from past rovings and others who live near enough now, plus of course the videos from train cabs, which aren’t so bad either.

Saturday Saunter: Psychogeography, trains and Christmas

Good Saturday to you,

I’m writing this as the light is slowly draining from the sky on Friday afternoon. To be fair there hasn’t been a whole lot of light today – it’s been a bit wet, grey and dismal, though it’s been possible to get a walk and stay relatively dry. This is being posted earlier than normal because of work.

Hanover Street, Glasgow: a street view with older buildings to the left and more modern buildings to the right. A bus crosses at a junction in the middle of the street.
Hanover Street, Glasgow: a street view with older buildings to the left and more modern buildings to the right. A bus crosses at a junction in the middle of the street.

I haven’t managed very much psychogeography recently. The level 4 restrictions might have been a good time to try and find a new spin on familiar walks but it didn’t feel right. Hopefully I can try and get out for a meander soon. One thing that I saw that interested me was on Twitter. Students on the contemporary archaeology course at Durham University have been out doing psychogeography around Durham, an excellent city to drift in, looking at how the urban landscape and shops have changed due to the pandemic. I found when I did my first Streets of Glasgow walk for a while at the end of August that I behaved differently and perceived the environment differently too, noting the precautions and changes around the place and taking extra care to be distant.

Last week the Office of Rail and Road released statistics about railway station usage over the 2019-2020 period, finishing at the end of March this year. London Waterloo remained the most used railway station in the UK at 86.9 million entries and exits while the least used was Berney Arms in Norfolk which had just 42 people use it, this admittedly being hindered by being shut for most of the time. Glasgow Central was again top of the charts in Scotland at 32.4 million with, as far as I can tell, Lochluichart in the Highlands propping up the table at 198 people for the year. Obviously next year’s statistics will be very, very different due to the pandemic though these numbers are particularly interesting to illustrate how things were prior to March.

One unintended benefit of restrictions has been that, until this weekend, background music has been banned from pubs and restaurants here in Scotland. The Scottish Government has specified that music can be played at a low volume, which is better than nothing. I can’t really function in places with blaring music and part of the joy of eating out is to be with the person or persons you’re with, not necessarily to listen to the tunes. It will be interesting to see what the Government deems an acceptable volume.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas. The day itself, the time off, the time spent with loved ones, even if it might be on FaceTime: that’s all good. It’s the commercialisation of it that bothers me, plus the incessant cheesy tunes, though this year that has bothered me less, for some reason. We were in the car earlier and I heard Wizzard and I didn’t even grind my teeth. My home town, Dunbar, takes Christmas seriously. For many years there have been over-the-top, even garish lights strewn up and down the High Street but it works. This year, there’s a Christmas tree made of creels down at the harbour. I’m not going to be able to see it in person but it’s actually really nice. It’s imaginative and clever, plus it would probably be seen for miles out to sea, which is a particular advantage in that part of the world.

Since the start of the season, football teams in many parts of the world have taken the knee before games in the continuing efforts against racism. It’s been in the news about booing at Millwall and that has been widely and rightly deplored. There have been reports of racist and homophobic language at games this week too, which shows how far we need to go to make our game truly open to all. This is expressed very well in this video, which was on A View From The Terrace last week, featuring Kaela McDonald-Nguah who plays for Motherwell. She talks very well about racism in football and wider society.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 12th December 2020. Thanks for reading. The last Saunter of the year appears here next Saturday. The inbox clearing post will appear on Wednesday. Until then, keep safe, keep well. A very good morning to you all.

Loose Ends Redux: Caledonia Road Church-V and A Dundee

Good afternoon to you,

I started doing Loose Ends Redux back in March when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write, only that I needed something easy to put together. It’s been nice to revisit past adventures but as they are getting much more recent – and readers remember the original post – I’ve decided to curtail it here. This super post will contain thoughts on the most recent round of Loose Ends, just to get it done so I can post something else. Next week will be the start of Virtual Loose Ends, a virtual journey around Scotland with brand new connections. Starting at Aberdour Castle and ending at the V and A in Dundee like the series did, I’ve pieced together some places that didn’t feature in the original, finding connections between them. Some I’ve been to lots of times, others only once or in the passing. That comes next week.

This post will include:

Caledonia Road Church

Arandora Star Memorial Garden

Leith Links

Charlotte Square Gardens

Agassiz Rock

Blackford Hill Rocks

Arden Street

Espedair Street

Glasgow Central Station

Kibble Palace

George Square

Donald Dewar statue

La Pasionaria statue

Billy Connolly mural

Mitchell Street mural

Fisherrow Fishermen

Rottenrow

Creel Loaders statue

DunBear

Abandon Ship

V and A Dundee

Caledonia Road Church: looking up towards a ruined church with a tower to the left and a smart Grecian top with pillars. Weeds are growing from the middle of the level of the building.

The Caledonia Road Church is a ruined church designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It has been a ruin since the 1960s and it is one of Glasgow’s great curiosities. I went there straight from Queen’s Park and wandered, looked and took photos.

Arandora Star Memorial Garden: an urban garden with a tree to the left and mirrors arranged on a patio area to the right. Behind is a red apartment building and a breezeblock wall with some plaques on it. 

The Arandora Star Memorial Garden is in the grounds of St. Andrew’s RC Cathedral by the Clyde. It connected from Caledonia Road through religion. The garden is a memorial to those who perished when the Arandora Star was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland in 1940. Italian and German internees bound for Canada were on the ship. 805 people were killed. The garden is a beautiful memorial to this event and a reminder of how we should never judge people for their origins, only what they make of themselves.

Leith Links: a path underneath some trees in a park. A red curved building is to the right.

Leith Links came about because I had a Proclaimers song called ‘Scotland’s Story’ in my head. It mentions internees and Leith. I was in the capital for football and to go to an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I sat there, ate my lunch then went to the game. It’s amazing, writing this in June 2020 as movements are restricted, how remote that feels.

Charlotte Square Gardens: the back end of a statue of a man on a horse. Statue figures are gathered at the base. On ground level are trees and tents, one advertising the New York Times.

Charlotte Square Gardens lies empty most of the year. Only in August – in normal circumstances – is it opened, housing the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I was there in August and so I sat, read, wrote, bought books and went to an event. It linked to Leith Links because of geography.

Agassiz Rock: a rocky outcrop with a tree atop a rock in the foreground. To the left is an area of rock with graffiti on it. 

Blackford Hill Rocks: layers of geological rock with trees above.

At the time I was reading a book about geology. That was how I linked Charlotte Square to the Agassiz Rock, in the shadow of Blackford Hill in the south of Edinburgh, named after Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz who did some fieldwork there. On the way back into the city I came to other rocks, which linked to the Agassiz Rock by geography.

Arden Street: an urban street with identical grey and yellow tenement buildings on either side and at the end. A blue sky with some white clouds above.

On the very same Sunday I walked back into Edinburgh city centre and came down Arden Street, the street where Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus lives. I linked it to Blackford Hill through books. Arden Street was bright and sunny and no sign of Rebus’s beaten-up Saab.

Espedair Street: an urban street with buildings on either side. The building to the left is yellow with satellite dishes on it. To the right are buildings of various sizes, some yellow, brown or white.

Espedair Street is in Paisley, a little south of the town centre. It’s residential, with a ghost sign and a park behind. I know it a bit better since I did Loose Ends as someone I know stays near there. It linked to Arden Street since Espedair Street is the title of a book by Iain Banks.

Glasgow Central Station: looking up towards a glass roof of a railway station with buildings curving to the left, including a Costa Coffee shop. 

Glasgow Central Station is the busiest railway station in Scotland. I haven’t been there since March at time of writing. It is a grand station, fronted by a hotel, with trains going to England and across western Scotland. I had to look up the link I found from Espedair Street:

‘Central had a tenuous link to Espedair Street through the works of Iain Banks. As well as Espedair Street, he also wrote The Bridge. Bridge, railway, station, Central Station.’

Kibble Palace: inside a bright glasshouse with ferns amidst the pillars and a sculpture of a woman in side profile with her hand on her chin in the centre.

The Kibble Palace is in Glasgow Botanic Gardens. There used to be a railway station in the Glasgow Botanics and that was the link from Central. I was there in October just as there was about to be a light show in the Botanics. The Kibble Palace is a greenhouse with temperate plants, sculptures and benches. I like to sit there and read from time to time.

George Square: looking up at a grand building with a tall tower in the centre and two smaller towers to the left and right. A lit-up stencil of a Christmas tree is at the left of the image.

George Square was the next link late one afternoon. George Square houses the headquarters of Glasgow City Council, who manage the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. It is a city square with statues, restaurants, traffic and pigeons. I like to sit there and peoplewatch, sometimes to eat lunch on a nice day.

Donald Dewar statue: the statue of a tall man wearing a suit. The man is balding with glasses. Behind is a building with a city crest and the words ‘The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’. On the glass frontage of the building is the reflection of part of a shop sign for John Lewis.

Donald Dewar was the first First Minister of Scotland, a Labour politician who represented Glasgow and did a lot of work to establish the Scottish Parliament. He died suddenly in 2000 and his statue sits at the top of Buchanan Street in Glasgow. The statue linked to George Square by geography.

La Pasionaria statue: a statue of a woman with her arms aloft. Below is a quote ‘Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live For Ever On Your Knees’. Below that is information paying tribute to volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

Billy Connolly mural: a mural on the gable end of a city building depicting a man with tousled hair with one arm pointing up and one pointing down. Behind him is the sea.

Mitchell Street mural: a mural on the end of a city building featuring a woman looking through a magnifying glass towards people between her fingers.

La Pasionaria is a statue by the Clyde put there by various groups including the Labour Party to commemorate those Glaswegians who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. At time of writing, it is one of four statues of women in Glasgow. It links to Donald Dewar by being a statue in Glasgow as well as through Labour. I did this while on the way into town one December Sunday.

Around the corner is one of the murals of comedian Billy Connolly, this one painted by Jack Vettriano, depicting the Big Yin being blown about on the Caithness coast. It is public art in Glasgow, as with the next link, the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids mural of a woman with a magnifying glass. It sits on the end of a building on Mitchell Street, a back street not far away from the Clyde.

Fisherrow Fishermen: two sculptures of two men on a rock. 

The next link was a sculpture by Gardner Molloy of two fishermen by Fisherrow Harbour in East Lothian. I was there early in the New Year on a dismal, dreich day. It is public art and I like it. The walk from Portobello to Prestongrange blew cobwebs away, I have to say.

Rottenrow: sculpture of a nappy pin with city buildings behind.

Rottenrow used to house Glasgow’s maternity hospital and is now a park with only part of the hospital’s exterior remaining. It also has a sculpture of a nappy pin. It links to Fisherrow through the word ‘row’, pure and simple. I remember this day for other reasons. It was an early January Saturday and I had been in Paisley for business before going to Kelvingrove to see the Linda McCartney photography exhibition before it closed.

Creel Loaders: a sculpture of three people, two men and one woman. The woman is carrying a basket on her head. To the left and right are residential streets.

‘Row’ also provided the connection to the Creel Loaders statue on Victoria Street in Dunbar, Victoria Street formerly housing a row of houses called the Cat’s Row. The Creel Loaders statue, sculpted again by Gardner Molloy, marks the fishing industry of the burgh, creels of fish and shellfish often taken long distaes over the hills.

DunBear sculpture: a metal sculpture of a brown bear stood atop a plinth with a dramatic sky behind. 

The new DunBear sculpture of a bear sits in a field under Doon Hill on the outskirts of Dunbar. It links to the Creel Loaders by geography. I was there that same January Sunday and it took a few minutes for it to be free of people enough for me to get some photos. I quite like it though of Andy Scott’s sculptures, I prefer the Kelpies.

Abandon Ship: some street art on the doorway of a building featuring a ship and some lavishly illustrated plants with the words ‘Abandon Ship’ in the top left.

V and A Dundee: looking through an archway with water either side of the path towards a river with a bridge stretching to land on the other side.

The DunBear is dedicated to John Muir, who sailed across to America on a ship. The Abandon Ship art is on the wall outside a pub in Dundee and I noticed it on the bus into the city. I liked it and realised it connected just dandily with the bear and with the last connection of the current round, which was across the road. The V and A is fairly new, a ship-shaped museum jutting into the Tay. From the museum it is possible to get a great panorama up and down the Tay, to Broughty Ferry, Fife and up into Perthshire. It seemed the right place to pause.

That is the end of the Loose Ends Redux. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Next week will come a brand-new virtual adventure, beginning in Aberdour. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.

 

 

 

 

 

Odds and ends

Hello there,

Another selection of random stuff from my inbox since I didn’t get it cleared properly last week.

img_2476
Lyceum – the edifice of an old cinema with a billboard on the right and a covering over the curved frontage.

For the last few years, I’ve been writing a series here called Streets of Glasgow. It involves walking along a Glasgow street and writing about what I encounter there. So far I’ve done seventy of them. The last one was Buccleuch Street, over in Garnethill, which I did around a year ago. Some of the streets have changed significantly since I wrote about them. Sauchiehall Street has been ravaged by fire twice. Cathedral Street has buildings where cranes stood. University Avenue is still a construction site. Anyway, planning permission has been granted for the old Lyceum cinema on Govan Road (Streets post here) for a cinema and conference facilities. Glasgow once had more cinemas per head of population than anywhere else though like everywhere else, it has its share of multiplexes, even if we can’t visit any picture house at the moment. Cinema in the community is definitely a good thing, particularly in that part of Govan and hopefully, once all this is finished, the Lyceum will be open again.

There have been quite a few exhibitions moving online, including the Hunterian Art Gallery’s fine exhibition about Edwin Morgan and Joan Eardley, the Museum of London’s Clash display and the BP Portrait Award from the National Portrait Gallery. I spent a wee while looking around the BP Portrait Award exhibition the other day and can confirm that some of the artworks looked better in context, looking generally rather than zooming in, which is often the case in physical spaces, to be fair. I would also urge looking on a bigger screen rather than a phone, just for the best effect.

I’ve written here before about my love of maps. Thankfully there are a whole lot of maps online, as well as physical maps we can devour and savour. I have seen a few virtual adventures happening, including in this excellent Guardian article about travelling by map through Wales. I have the OS Maps app on my iPad and spent a nice morning a couple of weeks ago traversing my part of the world. I used to have the OS Landranger map for Duns, Dunbar and Eyemouth on my bedroom wall and lost quite a lot of time looking across its folds.

Anyway, that’s my inbox a bit emptier now. I should be back on Saturday with another Saturday Saunter and Loose Ends Redux on Wednesday, which is in Edinburgh. Hope everyone is okay. Cheers just now.

 

 

Saturday Saunter: Light Towers, Berwickshire and books

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, being written on another sunny Friday afternoon. I hope everyone has been doing okay.

img_3227
View from the Forth Road Bridge towards the Forth Bridge and North Queensferry: a view looking over a bridge’s railing to the sea, a town and a cantilevered railway bridge.

Many bloggers will know that a lot of online traffic comes from search engines. Two posts which have had a fair bit of readership recently posts from a couple of years ago about walking across the Forth Road Bridge, and the Restalrig Railway Path in Edinburgh. The Restalrig Railway Path walk was in September 2018 and I’ve managed exactly one more Railwalk since, from the New Town to Newhaven in Edinburgh. The Forth Road Bridge walk was on a sunny, spring day though I can only remember it nicely as time has passed. The height over the Forth didn’t help. We walked down into North Queensferry and stopped by the Light Tower at the harbour. I’ve written here before about my love for lighthouses and the Light Tower was built by Robert Stevenson, of the Lighthouse Stevensons, in 1817. It was restored fairly recently and it is very fine. The Tower sits in the shadow of the Forth Bridge, the real one, the rail one, indeed, and was probably more useful before the Bridge was built.

img_3039
Lochranza Castle: looking across a burn to a ruined castle with a hill behind. A person in a kayak is on the water to the left.

I was thinking about where I want to visit once the lockdown is finished – after I see some loved ones, obviously – and I’m settled on Arran. Rightly, visiting Arran isn’t possible right now but on a sunny day like this, I can’t think of anywhere I would rather be. Sitting on a ferry, the blue Clyde below, Goatfell on the right. A spin around the island towards Lochranza would be excellent. Hopefully soon.

In reading news, I am into Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, book six of the series, though I think I’m going to take a break for a bit so I can read something different. On the library eBook app are The Way Of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry, I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman and Keeping On Keeping On by Alan Bennett, though I’m not sure what one to read first. This week I have been working through Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix and the memoir of Tam Dalyell, who was a particularly unique Labour MP for West Lothian then Linlithgow from 1962 to 2005. Both are re-reads but both interesting in their way.

img_8511
Eyemouth sculpture: a block with sculpted figures all along its length. Behind is a harbour wall and the sea.

This week Anabel Marsh has been writing about the East Coast fishing disaster in 1881. It had a horrific effect on Berwickshire, particularly Eyemouth, and having grown up in Dunbar, a few miles up the coast, I was aware of it too. It made me think about the history of that coast, fishing, smuggling and geology. Siccar Point is one of Hutton’s Uncomformities. There’s another one on Arran, I think. Fast Castle, high on a cliff, is the subject of one of my favourite paintings in the National Gallery of Scotland. Coldingham and St Abbs are both gorgeous places and I like to go to St Abbs once a year. St Abbs features one of the sculptures which commemorates the fishing disaster, showing people looking out to sea for the men who never came back. Eyemouth has more, on the front between the arcade and the harbour. History is all around us.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 9th May 2020. Thanks for reading. Loose Ends Redux returns on Wednesday and it’s entirely in Glasgow this time. There’s another odds and ends post of stuff from my inbox on Thursday. Until then, keep safe. Bye just now.

 

Loose Ends Redux: Crookston-Tranter’s Bridge

Good afternoon,

I hope everyone’s okay. This is the second week of Loose Ends Redux, some stories and reflections on the 63 Loose Ends adventures I’ve had so far. Right now, thinking back to past adventures is soothing and it brings a bit of hope that soon we can once more wander free, or relatively free. Last week’s post featured Aberdour Castle, Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle. This week’s trio are:

Crookston Castle

Lamer Island

Tranter’s Bridge

Crookston Castle: castle with a tower house rising amidst the ruins. Railings are at the top.

A sign pointing towards the ancient monument Crookston Castle

View across an urban landscape towards hills. This view encompasses Crookston, Cardonald, Renfrew, Govan and Clydebank, looking towards the Vale of Leven and Loch Lomond.

If I remember rightly, there was a link from Stirling to Crookston via Mary, Queen of Scots but I’m not sure. In fact, having consulted the post, it was through Robert the Bruce to Bannockburn through the National Trust for Scotland. Crookston Castle is a ruined tower house about a mile from here. It has excellent views across south western Glasgow towards Renfrewshire and the hills. I’ve been a fair few times and this particular visit began one Sunday afternoon stepping out my front door and walking towards Paisley Road West and then across by a burn to the castle. It was a nice, warm day and according to the post there were a few folk dotting around the castle. The views brought me there and I remember spending a wee while looking across familiar vistas. Afterwards I went around Rosshall Gardens, which I hadn’t been to before. It was lovely in there too. I’m not sure if Rosshall Gardens are open at the moment or else I might take a wander across.

Lamer Island: looking through an archway up a slope. The pathway is in bright pink.

View to rocks and across a bay. This view looks towards the Cement Works, Torness Power Station, Barns Ness lighthouse and St. Abbs Head which is just visible in the haze.

Looking through a hole in the wall towards rocks and through the haze to the Bass Rock. A seagull is flying in the middle of the photograph, its wings at full span.

Lamer Island could link to Crookston in several ways. Lamer Island, otherwise known as the Battery, is at the Victoria Harbour in Dunbar. It could link through war, Mary, Queen of Scots or me since I grew up near the Battery and live near Crookston now. The Dunbar Shore Neighbourhood Group have redeveloped the Battery and put up interpretation boards and art installations. It was a sea defence then a hospital, eventually becoming derelict which is how I remember it growing up. I don’t remember this visit that clearly though I gather it was a May Bank Holiday. I think this might have been the day some trains were cancelled and I had about 40 minutes to go to the Battery then head back for Glasgow. There is a fine and varied panorama from the Battery, to the Isle of May, Bass Rock, Dunbar Castle, the New and Old Harbour, the East Beach, the Lammermuirs, the Cement Works, Torness and St. Abbs Head. Plus the North Sea. Every time I go I make sure I spend a few minutes at each side, getting a top up.

Tranter’s Bridge: a wooden bridge proceeding across a burn. The sea is visible across the land with a tanker moored out in the Forth.

Looking down into a burn with seaweed and rocks. The sunlight is casting a shadow on the burn, showing railings, the slats of the bridge and me taking the photograph.

Tranter’s Bridge crosses into Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve, a few miles around the coast from Dunbar. It is on the John Muir Way, which ends in Dunbar, plus I read a Nigel Tranter book when I was in high school, in Dunbar. I remember this day very well. Hibs had been playing that day and it finished 5-5 against The Rangers. It was a gloriously sunny day, warm, and I had no particular rush to go home. I decided to head for the coast and ended up on a bus out to Aberlady, where I had walked when I was a kid. I ended up on the beach and sunbathed for a bit, an act most unlike me. I had bought a book, juice and sun cream en route though was still a bit overdressed, which was soon remedied. I then went to North Berwick, ate a fish supper by the harbour and reluctantly headed home to Glasgow as I was working the next day. Tranter’s Bridge is a splendid place. For a while it was my screensaver. It is just a wooden bridge across a burn but it’s very fine all the same. It is dedicated to the writer Nigel Tranter who lived nearby and walked across each and every day.

That’s our three for this week. I’ve enjoyed writing this a lot. Tune in next week for another three Loose Ends adventures, beginning by the Forth once more and finishing in the heart of the city. I’m sure there will be another post from me this week. Until then stay safe. Ta ta for now.

Loose Ends: DunBear

DunBear: a sculpture of a brown bear stood on a plinth against a dramatic sky of swirling clouds

Our last connection was the Creel Loaders statue, a fitting reminder of the fishing history of Dunbar. I was really in Dunbar that day to go see its newest resident, a muckle sculpture of a brown bear. The bear sits by the A1, the main road between Edinburgh and London, right by the road, McDonald’s and Asda. At least it won’t get hungry. It is the work of Andy Scott, the sculptor of the Kelpies over in Falkirk, and since its unveiling in November it’s been popular. I wasn’t sure what I thought of it at first. The bear was chosen in honour of John Muir, who went to found national parks in America, though it seemed a bit tenuous. I decided to go east to see it anyway, and when I first saw it, as I rounded the path behind Asda, I thought it was braw. It blended fairly well with the landscape, Doon Hill rising in the background. There was a steady line of people wanting to see it and get photos taken. I did my best to do the same while not getting anyone else in shot. I was at the Kelpies the following week and I noticed a few similarities in how both were basically metal plates stuck together, though done to splendid effect in both cases. The bear had claws and a tail, which I rather liked, though certain other parts of its anatomy weren’t immediately noticeable. I didn’t look too closely, mind. After a few minutes I left, content and soon to get lost in yet another new housing scheme.

The original plan was to go next to the Kelpies then end the third Loose Ends run at the Wallace Monument, though that didn’t work out as planned. Instead the last two came about a bit further north, by the banks of the silvery Tay.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows next week. The Loose Ends page features all of the instalments of the series so far.

Saturday Saunter: Lighthouses and other stray thoughts

Good Saturday to you,

I am starting this fairly late in the week for me, on Wednesday scribbling into my notebook. It is actually sunny right now though earlier there was sleet and all sorts. A calm day would be excellent. This appears on Saturday when up until now I have nothing planned. Hibs played Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Friday night (💚) so no football. I am away on Sunday so a duvet day might be a wise move.

There are times when I write this post when I have all sorts of ideas, other times not so many. This is one of the barren times but I’m sure I’ll get there. Since the news is its usual cheeriness, there’s plenty of scope but too much gets me enraged and that’s not what I need. Nor particularly good to read. As part of good self-care, the other day I went on a radical cleanse of my Twitter feed, taking out whatever would cause me rage or tension. It’s basically now Hibs, books, history and the odd transport company. The news is quite enough right now.

I recently read a good book called Seashaken Houses by Tom Nancollas, which featured the stories of various rock lighthouses, including the mighty Bell Rock. I’m going to see Tom Nancollas talk at Aye Write in March which should be excellent, as should the dinner I’ll be having at one of the excellent curry houses in the area afterwards. What should be interesting is his tales of camping in a disused lighthouse in February and his trip out to Fastnet as part of a maintenance crew. The Mitchell Library is nowhere near the sea so might be a strange place to go hear a talk about lighthouses but for a seaside person who now lives in the city, I’m sure I can use my imagination.

img_5209
Barns Ness lighthouse: a white lighthouse tower against a blue sky with three windows up its left side, buildings below.

What is very real is a lighthouse being demolished. Robert Macfarlane Tweeted the other day about the Orford Ness lighthouse in Suffolk which will soon be demolished because of very drastic coastal erosion. A lighthouse always seems such a constant, permanent thing that one being demolished is a bit of a shock. I grew up near the Barns Ness lighthouse, which was decommissioned in 2005, and it still stands high on the landscape despite essentially being obsolete. I wonder what will happen with the remains of Orford Ness.

Yesterday’s travelling book was Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall, an excellent book about geopolitics that could maybe do with an update due to the UK’s exit from the European Union. (We don’t use the ‘B’ word here. Nor ampersands.) A lot of conflicts happen or are even avoided because of geography. I got into the China chapter the other day. One of those books that brings new thoughts and dimensions to them too.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for this leap day, Saturday 29th February 2020. Thanks for reading. A London post may well appear tomorrow. The March digest will appear on Wednesday. Until then, have an excellent weekend. Peace.

Loose Ends: Creel Loaders statue

The last Loose Ends adventure took me to the site of the old Glasgow maternity hospital, Rottenrow. I was going to Dunbar the next day and already decided that the next connections would be there. The Creel Loaders statue, sculpted by Gardner Molloy, sits on Victoria Street in Dunbar, across from a fabrication yard. Victoria Street used to be called Cat’s Row, the houses demolished and replaced by more modern houses designed by Sir Basil Spence. Rottenrow to Cat’s Row. The statue has been there a couple of years and I’m rather fond of it. It marks the proud fishing history of Dunbar, the creels of herring, shellfish and whatever else regularly humphed many miles in the days before motorised transport, even as far as Lauder on the other side of the Lammermuirs. Dunbar has two harbours and there are markers on the ground pointing to both, Victoria to the left, Cromwell the right. Before the sculpture was there, a telephone box stood and I remember using it when I was a kid, having grown up a couple of streets away.

The next connection neatly tied up with the real reason I came to Dunbar, for I was going on a bear hunt, going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day! I wasn’t scared!

Thank you for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows in two weeks time. Loose Ends is a wider series and other posts from the series can be found on the Loose Ends page. A previous post about the Creel Loaders can be found here.

Digest: January 2020

At last the long month is over. It is now February and as I write this on the morning of Saturday 1st February, it’s grey and dismal. At least it’s not still January and we’re edging ever closer to longer days and slightly less changeable weather. January was of course another busy month in the world and in my own life too, with lots of changes and developments happening. Plus a lot of the same in other ways. Without further ado, let’s do the January digest.

Thursday 2nd January is a public holiday in Scotland and I was keen to get out after the country basically shut down on New Year’s Day. I decided to go to Edinburgh for a walk, eventually walking in gradually wetter conditions from Portobello to Prestongrange, keeping close to the coast throughout. The walk was bracing and good for the soul all the same.

Saturday 4th January was football-free since the Scottish Premiership has a winter shutdown. After doing some business in Paisley, I went into Glasgow to Rottenrow Gardens, part of Strathclyde University’s campus, for Loose Ends then to Kelvingrove to finally see the Linda McCartney photography exhibition. That was tremendous with my favourites the more arty ones, one of Twiggy looking pensive and thoughtful, another of old men in Campbeltown and probably the best a London street scene on a cold winter’s afternoon as it got dark.

The following day I went to Dunbar. This had multiple purposes but was mainly about going to see the new Dunbar Bear sculpture which sits by the A1. First I went to the Creel Loaders statue on Victoria Street, again for Loose Ends, then around the Prom to Belhaven. I walked through Lochend Woods, a place that inspired much writing when I was a teenager, to the Bear then back into the town via the East Links. I liked the Bear a lot more than I thought I would. It stood out well against the landscape, the gently rolling hills and fields.

Friday 10th January involved a trip to Falkirk to see its fine Wheel and the Kelpies. It was a brilliant day in lots of ways. One way was being able to compare the design of the Kelpies to the Dunbar Bear, also designed by Andy Scott.

Sunday 12th January was Newcastle, parking in Tynemouth then going to the Baltic over in Gateshead. The Baltic had a diverse range of exhibitions though my favourite included a sculpture of a hippo spread oot on the floor.

On Tuesday 14th January I went to the Glasgow Film Theatre for their monthly Access Film Club screening for neurodiverse folk. This month’s selection was the darkly funny Jojo Rabbit.

Saturday 18th January was another trip to the cinema, to see 1917, apparently partly filmed in the dry dock at Govan. It was decent though sad in various parts. The cinema was the big Cineworld in the town and looking down from the top after was particularly magical.

The following day, Sunday 19th January, saw Hibs play Dundee United in the Scottish Cup at Tannadice. It finished 2-2. The game was freezing. Before I did some business for Loose Ends, going to the V and A and then the McManus just for myself.

Wednesday 22nd January featured another trip to Edinburgh to see Hibs play Hamilton.

Saturday 25th January involved a trip out to an event at Celtic Connections, the folk music festival which hits Glasgow at the start of the year. This was my first and it was excellent, a selection of bothy ballads, war stories and playing beautiful traditional music.

Sunday 26th January was another trip to Edinburgh, this time not for football. It was a trip to the Writer’s Museum then the National Museum of Scotland, followed by a trip down the West Port for books. It concluded with a posh fish supper. It was braw.

Tuesday 28th January was the replay between Hibs and Dundee United at Easter Road. Beforehand I sat in Starbucks (other coffee shops are available) and did some work on an OU assignment due imminently. The game was also very cold but finished 3-2 to the good guys.

That’s the January digest then. It was nice to relive it as I wrote this all in one go. The walk between Porty and the Pans feels forever ago.

Our Scots word for this month is ‘weel’ or ‘well’. That’s not to be confused with ‘weal’, which is wealth or good. ‘Weel’ cropped up a few times when reading a certain Burns poem at work in January.

As for the blog, we’re back, I’m back, on Wednesday with Loose Ends and some more Glasgow street art. On Saturday is the Saturday Saunter, naturally. Two posts a week is suiting me fine this weather. Time to actually sit down and write is fairly scarce so the time this grey morning is precious. In February there will be the annual Valentine’s Day is a big pile of steaming shite post, which I’ve written already and is milder than most years.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a good month.

Posts this month –

New Year Natter

Saturday Saunter: VAR, rain and vivid light

Digest: December 2019

Loose Ends: George Square

Saturday Saunter: Photos, woods and getting lost

Loose Ends: Donald Dewar statue

Saturday Saunter: Kelpies, the weekend and the Doomsday Clock

Loose Ends: La Pasionaria statue

Saturday Saunter: Trains, Burns and by the silvery Tay

Loose Ends: Billy Connolly mural