Maps and memorials

I don’t normally post on Thursdays but decided to make an exception for today since it’s International Women’s Day. Rather than write an earnest diatribe about how women are great (which they are), I would like to share something I saw earlier on Twitter. It also fits in with something I wrote about in the Streets Govan Road post recently about the lack of statues of women in Glasgow, though today there is one more with the unveiling of the Mary Barbour statue in Govan, which seems to have been well-attended. Sadly I couldn’t make it though will get down to see it ASAP. The Glasgow Women’s Library, Women’s History Scotland and Girlguiding Scotland have joined forces and produced a website called Mapping Memorials to Women in Scotland featuring a map of memorials to women all across this land. It combines at least three of my favourite things: history, maps and facts.

Elder Park

I had a quick scout around it earlier and there are loads of different spots around. Nearest to my house is Elder Park, which I wrote about recently here, donated by Isabella Elder to the folk of Govan. Around where I grew up is the Witches’ Stone in the village of Spott near Dunbar which I have read about but not yet seen. Witches seem to recur a lot around the country, including the marker on Maxwellton Street in Paisley where witches were once burned. There is also a statue in Civic Square, Tranent, by where the Library used to be, which commemorates the Tranent Massacre in 1797, a protest against conscription.

Marjory Bruce cairn, Gallowhill, Paisley

I only had a few minutes so kept to those places I have a connection with, mostly East Lothian, the east of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Near where I went to primary school in Edinburgh is St. Triduana’s Chapel, part of St. Margaret’s Parish Church, Restalrig. I’ve still not been, though at some point I’ll manage it when in the capital. I used to work in Haddington and across the road from its library is the house where Jane Welsh Carlyle was born, the wife of Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle and a fine letter writer in her own right. In Renfrew, there is the monument to the air ambulance, which is by Tesco in Broadloan, and not far away in Gallowhill is the cairn with a plaque marking where Marjory Bruce died after falling from her horse. The plaque to Jane Rae, who was involved in the Singer rent strikes, which sits in the garden at Clydebank Town Hall, is also on the map.

I could easily spend hours looking at this. Now I’ve reached home, I’ve looked a bit more. I just wanted to share it. It was created in 2011 but I only saw it today. I’m glad I did. Go have a look.



It was reported in The Herald recently that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) are considering stopping handwritten exams in secondary schools over the next decade. SQA chief executive, Dr Janet Brown, was quoted as saying that some subjects will ‘always need’ paper exams but electronic examinations would simply reflect societal change. The teaching union, the EIS, said handwriting is still important while the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said much the same. The article, which appeared on the front page of The Herald on 8th December 2017, mentioned a SQA report from 2014, where many Higher English exam scripts were ‘near-illegible’. Making people write at speed for three hours at a time tends to do that, leaving aside anything else. For OU courses, I write exam scripts in block capitals, to give the examiners a chance.

I don’t like exams anyway, either doing them or as a part of the education system, but I think this would be progress. The fact is that very few people handwrite anything any more. Typing is faster for many people, either on a screen or a keyboard. Our thoughts go at typing speed rather than writing speed now. A comment that the Scottish Parent Teacher Council made in the article was interesting, though, about how touch typing used to be taught and ‘would be invaluable to many’. I have to differ with that. When I was at high school, I was taught touch typing and I couldn’t do it. I had to leave the class as I was getting so frustrated. To this day, I still can’t do it. I am not well-coordinated and even though I can type very fast with multiple fingers and without looking at the screen, it is hardly the way that Mavis Beacon intended me to type.

While I am typing this post, I am referring to handwritten notes I made. I write a lot and it tends to be split between stories and notes on paper and articles, essays and blog posts on my computer. With some pieces, I handwrite the first draft then type it and redraft from there, variously scribbling on a printed copy and then working from there. My handwriting isn’t brilliant. It can be spidery and illegible to some but that’s not always a bad thing. I sometimes refer to it as encryption. It remains remarkably consistent wherever I write, from buses to trains to actually sitting at a table. I’ve spent years writing leaning on a clipboard or a folder so it’s fine.

I think handwriting is actually important. It is a skill thousands of years of evolution in the making and we shouldn’t simply dismiss it in favour of technology. Even though exams are fundamentally pointless, we have to stick with them and making people write their answers out at speed by hand seems unnecessarily cruel and excessive. For exams, technology is the answer. For a lot of things, though, for creative writing, even just for the pleasure of it, by hand will still be best.

Hamilton Mausoleum

Quite a few years ago, I used to work in a museum. One of my colleagues, now sadly gone, was once a countryside ranger in Chatelherault Country Park near Hamilton in Lanarkshire. We were talking one day about a feature on the news the previous night about a concert taking place in Hamilton Mausoleum, a building she knew well since it sits on the edge of Chatelherault Country Park. The Mausoleum, she told me, had the longest continuous echo of any building in the world and it was an incredible place to visit. I only got there a couple of years after she died, not long after I moved to Glasgow. I booked a ticket to go for the tour and got myself to Hamilton, a place I had never been to before. To be fair, a whole lot of the west of Scotland was still new to me at that point. The tour started from the nearby Low Parks Museum and lasted for roughly an hour and a half. It was brilliant with a very knowledgeable tour guide. The Mausoleum was the final resting place for the Dukes of Hamilton and sat in what was once the grounds of Hamilton Palace. The echo took 15 seconds to pass around the Mausoleum’s central chamber. I spent a fair bit of time not making a noise but looking up at the dome ceiling which somehow reminded me of both a church and a dovecot. What stuck with me was that due to mining nearby, the Mausoleum was no less than 18 feet lower than it was when it was built and I gather that it is also tilting as a consequence. I was glad I finally got there, after hearing about it years before and to visit such a fascinating, quirky place.

I was reminded of the Mausoleum recently when I read an article from The Skinny about Francis Macdonald, the drummer from Teenage Fanclub, who has composed ‘The Hamilton Mausoleum Suite’, an instrumental work inspired by the Mausoleum and featuring musicians from the Scottish Festival Orchestra. An album was released on 26th January and it will actually be performed in the Mausoleum on 19th February, a week tomorrow. I think that’s great. Every now and then, I think about the Mausoleum and the time I spent there. It is a weirdly fascinating place and it is inspiring, if downright creepy at times. I’ll have to give the album a listen.

400: How Ah talk, written doon

This is the 400th post here on Walking Talking. After much deliberation, I decided to go down the Dewey Decimal route. At some point soon, I will write a post based on a kind suggestion about 1618, also known as 400 years ago. For those uninitiated in all things Dewey, it is the system used to organise many libraries around the globe. Subjects have a number with many more past the decimal point to make it all very precise and specific. 400 is language. Recently I saw a Tweet encouraging more folk to write in Scots, the words of this country and the people who live here. In that spirit, and fitting with the 400 theme, here’s a post written entirely in Scots.

Ah dinnae write much in Scots. It’s the way Ah talk, ken, it’s the way Ah hink tae but when tryin’ tae be understood, Standard English wi’ an inflection an’ a smatterin’ o’ the right wurds is usually the way Ah roll. The other day, Ah saw a Tweet fi the poet Thomas Clark who said that writin’ in Scots ‘keeps ye honest. Staps ye fae gan aff on wan. An we coud aw dae wae a bittie mair honesty’. Ah dinnae disagree. A difficulty Ah huv writin’ in Scots is that there is nae standard version o’ Scots. Wurds ur different fi toon to toon, even bits o’ toons. The wurds Ah yaise ur maistly fi where Ah grew up in East Lothian, even wi’ the nearly five year Ah’ve spent livin’ in the Weege. Guid Scots wurds that appear in Scots editions o’ books tend tae need a glossary even fir folk like me since there ur many that didnae make it doon the A1 tae Dunbar. It wis like the Scots edition o’ Harry Potter an’ the Philosopher’s Stane wi’ characters, street names an’ even the names o’ the hooses in Hogwarts changed. There’s a case fir translatin’ but there’s also a point when it’s just no’ needit. Glad they did the book, like, but it wis still stupit. We should scrieve the way folk talk, the way folk hink, no’ workin’ a’ the time oot the dictionary. There’s no such hing as standard Scots an’ that’s fine wi’ me. Take the different versions eh The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. There’s The Gruffalo’s Wean but ‘wean’ is a Weegie word. Ah say ‘bairn’. Hence the many different editions, the Orkney or the Dundee Gruffalos. Thon Dundonians, though, they speak Martian, a’ the pehs, circles, clubbies and ingin yins an’ a’. Ma point is that there is a danger o’ makin’ these hings too standard. Language is ever-changin’, ever-evolvin’ an’ it should remain sae.

There ur loads o’ guid books in Scots that folk should read. Yin o’ the best books Ah read last year wis Hings by Chris McQueer, written largely in pure undiluted Weegie. One o’ the maist famous Scottish books o’ the last thirty year wid be Trainspottin’ by Irvine Welsh, which has nae shortage o’ Edinburgh wurds, sayins an’ mannerisms in it, plus a fair few mentions o’ the Hibees tae. While the crime writer Stuart MacBride writes mainly in English, his books are aye fu’ o’ the Doric tae, even decipherable for those o’ us whae live south o’ Perth. Harder tae figure oot is The Tartan Special One by Barry Phillips, a wonderfully funny novel written in Dundonian and publishit by Teckle Books, a wee publisher whaise Dundonian pride is right there in their name. Writers like Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Nan Shepherd, Jessie Kesson, James Kelman, Liz Lochhead an’ loads o’ others bring Scots intae whit they write an’ their work is much better fer it. An’ us tae, like.

When Ah write like this, Ah usually end up wi’ a muckle grin on ma puss fi the pure pleasure o’ it. Ah write stories much mair than Ah write blog posts. Mair dialogues than anyhin’ else. They help me work through life an’ hink a bit tae. Yin character Ah love writin’ talks like Ah dae, ken, usually wi’ much swearin’ as again Ah often dae an’ like a hairy-arsed engineer fi the Pans wid. He speaks a hail load o’ sense an’ while Ah dinnae write him very often, Ah’m always gled Ah dae, fir the way ma pen rattles across the page. Like Thomas Clark said, it keeps me honest, plus it’s braw to write intae the bargain.

Ah wrote a bit here aboot Muriel Spark recently. She spent her latter years livin’ in Tuscany (as yeh dae, ken) but she wid huv tae come back tae Edinburgh every noo and again tae git the voices back in her heid, the inflections, wurds an’ everyhin else fi’ the folk o’ the capital so they could make her books mair authentic. Ah live in Glasgow an’ some Weegieisms huv crept intae how Ah talk, maybe even how Ah write, but Ah’m aye gled tae go tae the fitba an’ hear the right kind o’ voices a’ aroond me as we a’ watch the Hibs. When Ah git through tae Dunbar, that bit further east o’ Edinburgh an’ that bit broader tae, it’s a relief tae hear folk speak proper, even fir a wee bit. As Ah travel back hame, the wurds change wi’ each passin’ mile, goin’ fi braw an’ muckle tae ra champion, pure dead brilliant an’ wan insteid o’ yin. The wurds ur important an’ it’s guid noo an’ then tae hear yir ain an’ even read it on the page rather than it bein’ lost, tae me an’ everyone else.

Digest: January 2018

January’s over and done with already. Mostly I’m relieved. There was a whole lot of snow and ice in January and getting about got a bit difficult as I slipped and slid around the place. Still I managed a few adventures and a fair few of those were around Glasgow.

The first business day of the year, Wednesday 3rd January, I was still off and I decided to head for Buchanan Bus Station and get on the first bus that tempted me. I had been thinking Dumfries but the St. Andrews bus pulled in first and a few minutes later I was on the way to Fife. Somewhere between Glenrothes and Cupar, I decided to have a quick wander in St. Andrews and head for Dundee and go home from there. It was cold and windy in St. Andrews and I took a turn around the streets then went to Dundee. I walked up to the McManus (above), which was quite busy with an event though I managed to dodge most of it by judicious choices of which galleries to visit.

That Saturday Hibs weren’t playing and I decided to head for Dunbar, which I had planned to visit during the Christmas holidays. It was cold and windy but I had a good, long walk, on Belhaven beach, through Winterfield Park and around the two harbours. The waves were incredible, at various points falling high over the harbour walls.

The following Friday, I rose late and decided to go to Kelvingrove before doing a Streets of Glasgow walk. Kelvingrove was fine as ever as I walked around the French art room and spent a few minutes with my favourite painting, ‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart. In the end, I did three Streets of Glasgow walks that day, Sauchiehall Street, Cumberland Street and George Square. The first two had been planned for a while, the third was spur-of-the-moment. Of the three, Cumberland Street was my favourite, due to the public art and architecture of the St. Francis Centre.

Durham is one of my favourite places and I was there that Sunday, spending a while in the Cathedral before wandering by the river. It was a deep pleasure to be there, good for the soul.

I am off two Fridays a month and both of them this month have been Glasgow-based. Friday 26th it was a bright, cold day and I decided to do another Streets of Glasgow walk up Govan Road, which I enjoyed immensely. I walked into the town, intending to do another walk in the East End though got diverted up Miller Street. I decided to head on the bus to the West End and had the bright idea to do another walk, this time on Queen Margaret Drive. I went after that to the Hunterian Museum, which was being set up for an evening event so I didn’t linger. Yet another Streets walk followed back in the town, this time West Regent Street, complete with the smell of fish. I went home after that, this time by train as my feet were throbbing.

That Sunday I went to Edinburgh and did some more walking, in Leith and then around the Meadows, Bruntsfield Links and back into the city centre.

Wednesday 31st, Hibs played Motherwell. I was there. It was good to be back at the football.

Well, that’s the condensed version of January. February I am due to go to London. I would imagine I will be other places too. No doubt some of those adventures will appear here in due course. As ever, thanks so much for reading, commenting, liking and sharing. Sunday’s post will be the Streets of Glasgow post about George Square. Have a good month.

Posts this month –


Digest: December 2017

Natural light

The day when the trains stop

Streets of Glasgow: Hope Street

Walking on the waves

The last train

Streets of Glasgow: Nelson Mandela Place

Not the best castles in Scotland

Durham Cathedral

Streets of Glasgow: Sauchiehall Street

London notions

Role models

The May

On the way to the dentist

Walking, talking, blogging

Streets of Glasgow: Cumberland Street

The Bridge to Nowhere

Not far from Dunbar is Belhaven Beach, a stretch of sand that curves around the coast from the end of a golf course to the mouth of the River Tyne. It is a fine place, attracting surfers, kite flyers, walkers, their dugs and assorted bairns all year round, even when it’s baltic, which is often. The way most folk access the beach is from the car park at Belhaven by the chalets. There is a metal bridge which crosses the burn here and it is popularly known as ‘the bridge to nowhere’ since it is cut off twice a day by the tide. It is strange to see the bridge at high tide, stranded with water lapping at either side, a seemingly pointless structure plonked in the middle of a burn with absolutely no use whatsoever. At low tide, however, it can be crossed, though the faint of heart might not want to look down since only a metal grille separates one’s feet with the burn below.

Here are some photos of the bridge, some from the bridge itself, others from a distance, at high tide and below:

The May

I wrote here recently about the development of the Battery, which sits on the eastern edge of the Victoria Harbour in Dunbar. From the Battery, it is possible to see for miles, to St. Abbs Head and Barns Ness to the south, Fife, the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law to the north. The Isle of May, a long horizontal white cliff face with a point in the middle, is also visible, usually with a tanker or two nearby idling waiting for prices to change or whatever. There was apparently a traditional rhyme that boys came from the Bass Rock, girls from the Isle of May. I believe that is still to be confirmed, though it is certainly more feasible than folks coming from Mars or Venus.

From Fife, the May looks more like an island, in truth more like a whale venturing above the waves. It is about 45 minutes by boat from Anstruther and it is possible to visit in the summer months. It’s a seabird colony, also settled by seals later in the year, though it is also where the first Scottish lighthouse was built in 1636 by Alexander Cunningham of Barns, later replaced by Robert Stevenson’s Main Light in 1816. Apparently Stevenson and the Northern Lighthouse Board wanted to bring down the old light but no less than Sir Walter Scott (for it was he) campaigned successfully to keep it.

I’ve been there, maybe about five years ago, and it was fine, with great views the 11 miles across to East Lothian and back to Fife. My abiding memory is landing at the gap in the cliffs at the back of the island. It was a bright, sunny day and miraculously I avoided being shat on by one of the avian residents.

Even though I’ve been there, every time I see the May, I still get a sense of mystery. It’s irrational – I know there are puffins and other seabirds, seals and the token Scottish Natural Heritage employed human who records the wildlife and writes a blog. It’s probably something to do with the distance, with the island always on the edge of the horizon, tempting a trip. Maybe this year, I’ll need to make a return visit, just to solve any mystery that remains.

Sources and further reading –

Isle of May National Nature Reserve –

Northern Lighthouse Board –

Scotland’s National Nature Reserves –

Durham Cathedral

I know very few things. One of them is that good days should be cherished for who knows quite when you will need to remember them and hold them close. I am fortunate that I’ve had many good days in my life. About ten years ago, I was having a bit of a tough time. One Friday afternoon, with the next day free and no earthly idea of how to fill it, I was sitting just by the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, in fact in the close that looks onto the MSPs offices, the ones with the thinking pods in the windows. I was thinking of one of my favourite books, Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson, and in particular the section about Durham. Bryson raved about Durham and I hadn’t been before. I thought and I marched straight up to Waverley Station to book a ticket. The next day, I was on the train, just about to get off, and I got my first glimpse of that Cathedral on the hill. I walked right up to it and straight in. On that bright May morning, I walked around the Cathedral, looking up at its ceilings, down at its marble floor, and I realised that things were going to be okay. They were, as it turns out. Ever since, Durham has been very special to me. I don’t get there as often as I used to; geography mostly to blame. Nearly a decade on, I can’t help feeling the same peace as I did then.

I am not religious. If I am anything, I prefer to be like Norman MacCaig and be a Zen Calvinist. Durham Cathedral is one of the most significant churches in the Church of England, not natural Zen Calvinist territory by any measure. It is certainty when the world, the universe and everything else is everything but. Maybe that’s why I like to go there and think. I’ve sat there in wooden pews and come away with grand plans to sort out my life, even if they don’t actually pan out the way I intended. These days, I’m happy just to think and to look. If I come away with any clarity, I’ve got lucky. When I was there recently, my abiding thought was that my backside was square and I couldn’t sit there any longer. So, I moved.

The Cathedral is a place which needs to be appreciated in different ways. On foot, on the move, it needs a couple of circuits to see the familiar haunts, to look and down at the right moments, the right windows and plaques, the zig-zags and pillars. Then I sit. Often for a while. Then I walk around again. I make sure I see St. Cuthbert’s Shrine, thinking of how he preferred the waves and solitude of Lindisfarne to more refined cares. I usually stop by the tomb of the Venerable Bede and think of the line I read in a book by Alan Bennett once, sung by Dame Maggie Smith in revue about how the Venerable Bede could hardly spell and barely read. Sometimes, like when I was last there, I sit in the cloisters, the only bit I take a photo in deference to the big signs, and think of Harry Potter, scenes of which were filmed there. I’m not awaiting my Hogwarts letter, it would just be nice to visit.

When I was last in the Cathedral, I was talking about the Battle of Dunbar, when the victorious Cromwellian forces marched 3,000 prisoners to Durham, some destined to die within its walls, others executed while some were transported to America as slaves. There’s a plaque in the Chapel of the Nine Altars. Nearby is my favourite window, the one dedicated to Archbishop Ramsey, the Transfiguration Window, brown with a shaft of light in the middle. I always like to find the sweet, self-reverential touch where the Cathedral appears in the window. The Millennium Window nearby, more modern with its images of northeastern life, reflects its colours on the stone on sunny days, like the ceiling above the nave where the light shines in on its curves.

As I said, I’ve been fortunate to have many bright days. Durham has factored in quite a few of them, like when I was there during the Lumiere Festival a few years back and images from the Lindisfarne Gospels were projected on the walls. Or when I was there during a heatwave at the end of March, walking by the river in shorts. I never fail to thrill at the sight of the Cathedral as I approach, even if lately I’ve come by road, which is almost as good. It’s the best building on Earth and I’m just glad I’ve been, on cold winter days and long summer ones, in all moods and hues, to sit under its ceiling and admire it, admire the world around, really, and live life just a wee bit brighter from having been there.

The last train

Where I grew up, the last train home was often ridiculously early. On a Saturday night, the last train from Edinburgh to Dunbar used to be at 7pm. It’s now around 11pm, I believe, but when I went on day trips on Saturdays, I usually had to make sure I was back at Waverley Station for 7 or else I would be sitting on the bus going home the long way, stretching a 20-minute journey out to an hour and a half. Since I moved west, though, the last bus to Dunbar has also gone a bit later and takes less time. Bastard. All those nights willing the bus to go faster through Musselburgh, Wallyford and Tranent, all in vain.

Dunbar, by day

Being a late bedder, I prefer the last train to the first one. I’ve done that too, though. From Dunbar, the first train in the morning was to London, arriving nearer 11am. From where I stay now, the first train into town is around 6, except on a Sunday when it is just after 9. The first train means getting out of the house on time, The last train is easier to catch, since I’m out already. But in defence of getting up early, it is possible to see the city waking up at that time of day. It has a lot of the same qualities in that it is so often quiet and with fairly limited transport options.

Now, I live in suburban Glasgow. The last train home, six nights a week, is at ten to midnight. I am on it fairly often, usually heading back from a football match in Edinburgh. Glasgow is never, ever quiet. I’ve seen buskers singing Taylor Swift songs on Buchanan Street at half eleven at night. The last time I got the last train was the night before the new iPhone X came out. There were people queuing outside the Apple shop even at that hour. And the last train that night had a few guys who had been out on the piss and were much louder than they really had to be. Usually it is quiet, barely half-full with people as tired as I tend to be but more than once my music has been turned up to drown out folk.

Buchanan Street, by night

The last train leaves from Glasgow Central. There’s a few trains going out even as the clock nears midnight. My favourite, and I’ve managed to be on it a couple of times, is the Caledonian Sleeper down to London, arriving at breakfast time in the morning. More than once I’ve been tempted on my way home to buy a ticket and climb aboard, never quite succumbing, probably because my bed is stationary and four miles away. Most of the other trains are heading down the coast, including mine which ends up in Gourock. Others are bound for Ardrossan and the very last to Ayr. You can also go to Motherwell, if you really want.

The last train

The station usually has a few staff scattered around, maybe a police officer, some fellow travellers and only one shop open, Boots. Central is the busiest station in the country and I like being there that time of night with the feeling that things are beginning to wind down all around me. I get on the train and after 7 minutes, I’m off. Getting off the last train is usually just a relief, the end of a long day, right around midnight when it really feels like the night is slowing down. The last train pulls out of the station and away down the coast. Soon it will be morning but in the meantime I’m bound for bed, not sleeping immediately, but just glad to be home.

Before I go, I’ve revised and updated the most popular post on the blog, It’s a grand thing to get leave to live, which is about the RBS £5 note featuring Nan Shepherd. People seem to Google that a lot and that post seems to get read as a consequence. Have a wee read.

Walking on the waves

Every so often, maybe every three months or so, I have a hankering to go back to Dunbar. I can’t quite explain it, it’s just a deep, lingering emotional attachment to where I grew up that puts me on a train now and then. The Dunbar notion came up just before Christmas and it didn’t quite happen over the festive period, mainly because I wasn’t up early enough to get the right train and spend enough time there before it got dark. Finally, yesterday I managed to be up and out early enough to finally make it happen, on a Hibs-free Saturday due to the winter shutdown, and I was soon stood by the door as the train approached Dunbar, taking the traditional look across to the Bass Rock on approach, only with a different view with houses being built in the field between Belhaven Toll and West Barns, finally eroding any sort of boundary between Dunbar and the village. I would have kept a wall at least.

I got off the train and walked down to the new harbour, hoping I might get another look at the development on the Battery, which I saw on my last visit in October. Alas, the bridge was up but I had noticed coming into Dunbar that the sea was particularly intense, with a whole lot of waves. Ideal for a wave lover like myself. I ended up walking around to the side of the Castle and watched the waves there as they billowed and splashed through the arches. Standing there, I looked at the different bits of ruined castle scattered on the rocks, the more prominent bits on the rock facing the harbour, others with gun holes nearer the town. I imagined, not for the first time, the castle in its pomp as one of the most prominent fortifications in the country, at least until it was demolished in 1568 by order of the Scots Parliament of the day and its stone successively plundered to build the houses up the street.

Under the Glebe, the water was white with waves and foam, particularly closest to the shoreline but a fair bit out. I’ve often wondered on days like those just how wave power isn’t utilised more, given the sheer force of water crashing against the shore. Maybe the electricity companies, based in big city office blocks, need to go down to the coast now and then. Anyway, I walked around the Prom to Belhaven, and it was a proper, authentic biting wind, the kind that goes through you and it had only grown colder since I had stepped off the train.

As I came closer to Belhaven, based on a conversation I had a few days before, I decided to get a few photographs of the bridge, popularly known as the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, owing to its being cut off when the tide’s in. The tide was going out, luckily, as I walked across to the bridge, the steps just as steep as they seemed when I was a kid, the feeling still just as momentarily uneasy as I tried not to look through the grille between me and the burn below. I walked across the tightly-packed sand towards the waves, across the foam line on the sand a little way from where the water started. There were tiers of waves blotting out much of the Bass Rock and I got a few photos, at least until I had to hastily step back as the waves came closer. The sand looked like a Mediterranean taverna as the water slowly ebbed out of it.

The walk through Winterfield was eerie, with the Pavilion having been demolished a year or so ago. Winterfield Park is a place I know very well, having learned to ride a bike there, played touch rugby there, lost toys walking across it in the dark, amongst many other things. When I used to go out running, it was usually where I stopped and stretched half way through. It just seemed a bit empty, a little bereft.

I have a route when I go to Dunbar and I made sure that I beat the rapidly advancing darkness to get to the East Links and look back towards the town and across the still formidable waves. I had a fleeting notion to go south to Berwick to get a train home that way – it was still baltic – but it wouldn’t work. I ended up walking back along to the Old Harbour, somewhere I hadn’t been in absolutely ages, paying particular attention to the barometer recently restored. The harbour was full of yachts sheltering from the tide, having been moved from the new harbour into the more sheltered haven of the old. The waves were coming over the walls at this point, steadily stronger than they had been a few hours earlier. Through the low, blue twilight, I could still see the Barns Ness lighthouse tower and St. Abbs Head behind, the hulking mass of Torness never to be missed either. Over at the new harbour, the waves were making a waterfall across the three tiers of the harbour wall, from the top walkway to the middle and down into the harbour basin.

As I stepped onto the train home, I made sure I got a photo of the sunset, a low blue, dark grey clouds etched across, with a pastel orange nearer the horizon, the kind John Houston would have painted. The sky is always a reason to come to Dunbar, always wider than in much of the country. The waves yesterday were that bit higher and more dramatic. Sometimes we need space and time to reflect, to be in a place which doesn’t ask much but gives a lot in perspective and familiarity. Yesterday did the stuff good and proper. I’m good for a while.