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.

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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.

Loose Ends: Tranter’s Bridge

After the last game of the season at Easter Road, I had no set plans of what to do after. It was a beautiful sunny day in the capital and as I walked with the crowd down Hawkhill Avenue, I decided on a trip to the seaside. Further on, I decided that while I would ultimately end up in North Berwick for fish and chips, I would head first to Aberlady Bay with its secluded beach just perfect on this warm May Sunday. I realised, though, that the place I had in mind, Tranter’s Bridge, wasn’t on Google Maps. I could picture it, the wooden bridge curving over a burn, though Google wasn’t playing. Eventually I realised it was between Aberlady and Gullane so headed to buy some provisions then for the bus to Aberlady, soon entering my home county and following through Musselburgh, Prestonpans and Longniddry before hitting the coast road, probably the finest road in Scotland with its views to Edinburgh, the Pentlands and Fife.

I alighted in Aberlady, a pleasant village with an old kirk, and followed the road to Tranter’s Bridge, where a newlywed couple were getting their photos taken on the bridge. I waited by looking at a nearby plaque which affirmed that was indeed Tranter’s Bridge, named for the late historian and author Nigel Tranter who lived nearby and was often inspired by his walks in the East Lothian countryside. There was a quote etched on it which talked Tranter never failing to relish the ‘unending sigh of the waves…the calling of the sea-birds, the quacking of mallard and the honking of the wavering wild geese’. I stood a moment and as I sometimes do read the words aloud, savouring the cadences and imagining this figure wandering through the nearby nature reserve. I could see hints of Arthur’s Seat back in Edinburgh, more of Fife with tankers sitting tight in the Forth, while I could hear seabirds right enough with some geese in a pond nearby that I saw a few minutes later.

Eventually I crossed and took my time, looking left towards the Forth and right up the burn as it curved towards Gullane. As I walked I realised that it could be another Loose End since it connects with Lamer Island in Dunbar in at least two ways. The bridge is on the John Muir Way, the long distance footpath that leads from Dunbar through Aberlady eventually to Helensburgh on the Clyde. Also, I grew up in Dunbar and I did a Nigel Tranter book, The Story of Scotland, for a school essay once. If you want to go more substantial, I not only grew up in Dunbar but there’s a clearer link between me, John Muir’s Birthplace and one of its volunteers who was a big Tranter fan and often talked about him to me.

Towards the dunes I thought more about how no two walks in this place would ever be the same. I’m sure Tranter would have found that too and it would have coloured his writing as this beautiful day stilled me in ways I cannot begin to put into words. There it was possible to experience Scotland’s past, present and future in one sweeping vista, the Edinburgh skyline steeped in history and raising it skywards, Fife and the wind turbines at Burntisland as well as the moment I was currently living, seeing it all but just being there, setting one foot before another, thoughts slow as my steps up the dune to the beach.

Loose Ends: Lamer Island

The last Loose Ends post took me to Crookston Castle, not far from where I live in Glasgow. This time I ended up in Dunbar, where I grew up. I was going there anyway when I realised that Lamer Island, what I know as the Battery, would work as another strand of the Loose Ends series. Crookston Castle was used a lookout during the Second World War while Lamer Island was used as a war hospital during the First World War. Plus with Dunbar Castle being across the harbour it is possible to get another link with Mary, Queen of Scots, this time through her husbands, Crookston being held by the Darnley Stewarts, the Earl of Bothwell once the Captain of Dunbar Castle.

The Battery was originally built in the late 18th century to defend against a potential French invasion. It now forms part of the Victoria Harbour, built in 1842 to support a growing fishing fleet. Lamer Island was a sea defence then a hospital before eventually becoming derelict, which is as it was when I was a kid growing up nearby. The Dunbar Shore Neighbourhood Group have done a good job revitalising the Battery, putting up some interesting interpretation boards and art installations. When I got there on a hot Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, the place was busy with families. There was a wee bit of haar out to sea, the Isle of May not visible while the sea was a wee bit choppy. I was happy just to wander and look out for a while, the Battery’s raised position affording incredible views across the new and old harbours towards Barns Ness, St. Abbs Head, North Berwick Law, the Bass Rock and Fife. There were boards with apposite quotes about North Berwick Law, the Bass, May and St. Abbs Head, including my personal favourite about the old proverb of boys coming from the Bass Rock and girls from the Isle of May. I also liked the Marion Corbett quote:

‘When haddocks leave the Firth o’ Forth,

An’ mussels leave the shore,

When oysters climb up Berwick Law,

We’ll go to sea no more’

In short, persevere, as they say in Leith.

There were a lot of birds on the surrounding rocks, I’ve never been sure of the names but maybe a puffin or two to go with the usual kittiwakes and gannets nesting on the Castle rock.

Another link came to me as I looked at another of the boards, which noted that cannons had been plonked on the Battery during the Napoleonic Wars, soon returned to Edinburgh Castle. As I took the train back towards Edinburgh I thought about others, the fact that girls come from the Isle of May might not take me to the May, as delightful as it is, but to the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library. That I could see two lighthouses might send me to George Street in Edinburgh, the headquarters of the Northern Lighthouse Board, or across town to the National Museum of Scotland, maybe even the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses up the coast in Fraserburgh. A couple of streets away from the Battery is Writer’s Court, perhaps a prompt to go to the Writer’s Museum in the capital. As ever, I will wait and see where the mood takes me, from a castle high over a city suburb to another bedecked in birds’ nests to somewhere as yet unknown.

This is the fifth post in the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The last instalment, last week, was Crookston Castle.

Lamer Island has appeared on the blog before, in DefencesDown the harbour  and The Battery.

Digest: May 2018

That’s the end of May then. Another busy month and a whole lot of adventures. In May I’ve been to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, East Lothian twice and all the way to Crookston. A lot of travels have been football-related though some haven’t, not least the first adventure I had in May neatly packed into a lunchtime. I was in Glenburn, a suburb of Paisley, and over lunch I ended up going for a walk a little way into the Gleniffer Braes, sitting down on a bench with a considerable view across Paisley to the hills beyond. It was a new perspective on a place I am becoming increasingly familiar with.

On Saturday 5th May I went to Aberdeen to watch Hibs. I left fairly early in the day and read and listened to music on the way up. I went to the football then took myself out to dinner before going home. I was thinking about the Bank Holiday Monday which was coming and ended up buying Ordnance Survey maps for two very disparate bits of Scotland, the area around Hawick in the Borders and Elgin in Moray, before I boarded that bus to civilisation. As it turns out I didn’t get to either one.

The following day was lovely and warm and I had a lie in. After all I had been all the way to Aberdeen the previous day. Mid-afternoon I went out to Crookston Castle, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends, a series featured on this blog on Sundays at the moment. The place was fairly busy with people though that didn’t stop me enjoying the views across this bit of the world. Crookston Castle is within half an hour’s walk so I did just that. On the way back I finally made it to Rosshall Gardens where I wrote up notes and pondered a ruined boiler house in the grounds. I still need to write that bit of the adventure up.

The next day was Bank Holiday Monday and after much deliberation I ended up on the way to Edinburgh. I wanted to do a dry run for visiting Tynecastle that Wednesday so I proceeded in lovely sunshine into deepest darkest Gorgie, found where the away end is then swiftly came away again with no fixed agenda. I found myself at the bus station thinking about where to go and I just missed a bus to St. Andrews. There was a bus sitting bound for East Lothian and I thought briefly about Hailes Castle before eventually concluding I quite fancied a trip to Dunbar. On the way down I felt like going to Lamer Island, the Battery, which has featured here before and that was where I ended up after a turn around the harbour. I managed to find a connection to Crookston Castle and thus my visit also became part of the Loose Ends series. Alas time and train timetables meant I didn’t have long before I needed to head back to Glasgow.

No wonder I’m tired. The following night I went out for dinner. On the way we looked at some of the very fine street art which is scattered around the Merchant City.

Next night was the derby at Tynecastle, another item off my 30 Before 30 list.

That Sunday was the last game of the season and it was at Easter Road. I don’t have any end of the season traditions and when I left the ground, leaving through exit number 7 as always, I decided to go get fish and chips by the sea. That became North Berwick and after walking to a shop to get provisions, it became a walk around Aberlady Bay first. Aberlady Bay, for those who don’t know it, is a nature reserve with a long, deserted beach at the end of it. But first I had to cross Tranter’s Bridge, a wooden bridge across a burn named after the author Nigel Tranter who often walked there trying to think up ideas. The bridge, which I knew about but Google Maps didnae, features in Loose Ends soon too. The walk was beautiful but very warm. I ended up on the beach and to my slight surprise I ended up sunbathing for a bit. I don’t sunbathe. I think the sand that was still stuck to my body hours later when I got home is probably why. After that interlude I walked to Gullane then got myself to North Berwick for fish and chips, which were no’ bad, eaten by the harbour.

That Tuesday I was doing a work thing in Renfrew Town Hall, recently refurbished, and it is a fabulous building.

The next Friday I ended up in Edinburgh and went for a long walk along the Water of Leith from Leith to Murrayfield, ending up there on the bus home. Particular highlights of this walk were St. Bernard’s Well which was gorgeous in that light and the grounds of the two Modern Art Galleries in the Dean Village.

That Sunday I went to watch Partick Thistle play Livingston. Thistle got relegated.

I walked home from work the next Friday and walking over by Arkleston, there was a brief moment by the motorway when I could be fooled into thinking I was in the proper countryside.

The next day was Saturday and I was off. I went to Culross, via Dunfermline where I partook in some steak bridies for lunch. I was a bit too late for the Palace but I wasn’t heartbroken since I was able to wander in the sunshine, sitting and reading for a bit and looking at the many fine buildings. I went to Culross Abbey all too briefly and the Abbey ruins were great to explore on that beautiful day.

The next day I spent the day with my dad, bopping around central Scotland, starting in Linlithgow with a turn around the loch. We then drove the few miles to Cairnpapple Hill. From the cool but pleasant weather in Linlithgow, Cairnpapple was shrouded in haar. This made the experience all the more beguiling, other-worldly as we made our way round the henge with visibility only a few feet in front of our faces. Barely five minutes away in Torphichen, it was much clearer and sunny. We had lunch in Callander Park in Falkirk, looking over a duck pond. It was good to see the museum and park busy with people. Thereafter we drove across the Forth to Castle Campbell, one of the more atmospheric Scottish castles, with a walk through Dollar Glen an added bonus. Dollar Glen feels like something out of a fairy tale, or where trolls, goblins and nymphs should live. Castle Campbell is great, a blend of ruins and a fairly intact though restored tower house. Before dining in Linlithgow, we headed back to Cairnpapple Hill where it was now sunny and decent views could be had despite the haze. We first had to contend with some cows. A family were already there, reluctant to venture across the field. To slightly misquote We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, we couldn’t go over them, we couldn’t go under them: we had to go through them. We succeeded and the perspective was well worth the close encounters of the bovine kind.

Monday was a bank holiday and I decided to satisfy an ambition and another thing on my 30 Before 30 list to boot. I decided to walk the route of the Glasgow Subway. On the hottest day of the year. I succeeded in 4 hours and 8 minutes from leaving Govan to getting back there. Tales of that adventure will appear here shortly. Afterwards I had a fleeting visit to Glasgow Cathedral, which will be part of the Loose Ends series after Culross.

That’s us for May then. On Friday it is Streets of Glasgow time and it is the final post of that series before hiatus, Addison Road. Loose Ends returns on Sunday and it is Lamer Island this time.

Before I forget, the Wednesday’s Child blog featured an interesting post recently about what constitutes being well-read. I said I would share a list of some books that have been important to me and these appear below. At some point I will go into greater depth as to why I like these particular books:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark

The collected works of Roald Dahl

The collected works of Douglas Adams

The Harry Potter series

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

Candide by Voltaire

The collected works of Kurt Vonnegut

The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins

Nasty Women, the feminist anthology compiled by 404 Ink

Godless Morality and Looking in the Distance by Richard Holloway

Findings by Kathleen Jamie

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

Waterlog by Roger Deakin

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

Tony Benn’s diaries

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Walking Talking takes a week off next week. That’s for practical reasons. As some of you might know, I’m doing an Open University degree and the exam for my current module is next week. I’ll have to revise. Exams aren’t good. I don’t see the point in them but that’s easy to say when I’m staring down the face of one.

The Easter Road West blog, my football outpost, goes to one post a week over the summer. The football’s finished! I know there’s the World Cup but I couldn’t care less about that. Anyway, May posts might have a limited shelf-life as I was writing about then-current events. The best post over there was the season review.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. It is one of the nicest bits of blogging that sometimes lengthy digressions can occur because of comments or seeing just which random has liked a post today. Cheers, folks.

Posts in May –

Digest: April 2018

Causeway cliffs

Loose Ends: Linlithgow Palace

Sunshine

Walking talking

Streets of Glasgow: Waterloo Street

The beginning

Flotsam and jetsam

Streets of Glasgow: Cadogan Street

Loose Ends: Stirling Castle

Shoelaces

Streets of Glasgow: Firhill Road

Loose Ends: Crookston Castle

Digest: April 2018

April’s over and it’s featured snow and sunshine, not always at the same time. I’ve worn a thick jacket and shorts, though definitely not at the same time. So, it’s Digest time, beginning on the tres, tres cold Easter Monday. I took a train into town and as it stopped waiting for a platform at Central, I took a photo of a warehouse in the process of demolition. I stopped off in Edinburgh and managed to source a Stephen’s steak bridie or two for lunch before getting the train down to Dunbar, where it was cold and windy. It often is there though it doesn’t snow very often. Despite it being baltic, I felt in the mood for a walk and ended up walking as far as Tyninghame, sheltered for much of the way by the woods and then heading inland up a muddy track. At Tyninghame I grabbed a bus up to North Berwick where it was even colder. I got a bus into Edinburgh and headed home. It snowed as the bus headed along the M8 towards Glasgow. At least two blog posts have resulted from the Dunbar walk, namely Dunbar in the snow and Defences.

The following day Hibs played at night and I was there. It was wet, I think.

That Friday I had a Glasgow day, with two Streets of Glasgow walks. I had the notion to do a Streets walk on Firhill Road, partly because of the cool mural I had heard about at one end of Partick Thistle’s ground and also because I had featured streets near the grounds of Rangers, Celtic and Queen’s Park but not the Sizzle. The Firhill mural is excellent and I’m glad I got there. On the way across town, I decided to put Streets on hiatus, not because I don’t enjoy writing it but because I felt it was time for it to take a break. The last Streets walk was deliberately chosen, Addison Road, which is near the Botanic Gardens. It started to rain as I came the other way and I hid out in the Kibble Palace until it dried off a bit. From there I wandered up Ashton Lane and Cresswell Lane before walking into town along Woodlands Road and then Renfrew Street, which may feature in Streets when it starts up again. Owing to John Lambie’s death a couple of weeks ago, the Firhill Road Streets of Glasgow post has appeared on my football blog, Easter Road West, already. It will also appear here in sequence in a few weeks, with Addison Road appearing a week later.

The following Sunday found me out and about again though not with a great masterplan of where to go. When I was on the train into town, my eye fell on a poster advertising a Lego exhibition at Aberdour Castle in Fife, a place I like. I found myself trudging up to the bus station and then on a bus to Dunfermline, changing there for another to Aberdour. The Lego exhibition didn’t excite me a great deal as I would rather go and see places then see them represented in brick form. Aberdour is a cracking castle though with a painted ceiling and interesting gardens. It was also where the new Castle connections series was conceived – it’s since been renamed Loose ends, inspired by reading the poem ‘Scotland’ by Hugh MacDiarmid. The next post in that series will appear on Sunday 6th May. That day in Aberdour, though, I also walked down to the Forth and looked out towards Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Back to Fife the next Saturday as once more I didn’t have a grand plan. I found myself on a bus to St. Andrews though as I got closer to that fine town, I had a notion to check out a football match even though Hibs weren’t playing. My two options within distance were East Fife vs. Arbroath or Raith Rovers vs. Queen’s Park. The fact that St. Andrews was mobbed made the decision easier and I ended up on a bus out of there after a polite walk around the town streets. The bus to Leven, where I would have to change, had great views across the hills and then the Forth too as the bus came into Lundin Links and Upper Largo. I was bound for the San Starko to see Raith Rovers play Queen’s Park and I got into the Penman Stand just before kick off and in time to see Roary Rover, Raith’s mascot, dancing to Taylor Swift. Game finished 2-0, I wrote about it on ERW here. After the game I got the bus to Edinburgh, had a wander then had a very fine chippy sitting in the gardens on London Road.

That week I had an OU essay to write. It got written and I was even under the word count.

On the Friday I decided to go to Linlithgow as part of the Loose Ends series. Linlithgow Palace, like Aberdour, appeared in Outlander. It is also one of my favourite places on the planet and I was glad to wander about for an hour in the pleasant April sunshine. I had my piece sitting in the great hall. What I did which I had never done before was walk under the buttresses at the Peel side of the Palace, a new perspective on a familiar place. From Linlithgow there’s lots of connections though I decided to find another I could do that day and found myself on a train to Stirling. Stirling Castle is my favourite big castle in Scotland and it’s linked to Linlithgow by being where Mary, Queen of Scots, born in Linlithgow, was crowned. It’s also managed by Historic Environment Scotland, as is Aberdour. I was happy just to wander about Stirling, not bothering with the Stirling Heads and instead just looking out across central Scotland and beyond to some mountains.

The following day I went to watch Hibs decisively beat Celtic 2-1 on a warm sunny afternoon in Leith. After that I went for a swift walk around Morrison’s Haven, just outside Prestonpans. The sunshine was beautiful, the surroundings even finer. It was great to be there, even briefly.

The next Saturday, last Saturday, Hibs were playing Kilmarnock and I headed through a bit earlier to sit up Calton Hill to think, look and remember.

On Sunday I went to Cumbrae. We parked in Largs then got on the ferry. Millport is a very pleasant town and the sunshine just made it and the views to Ailsa Craig, Arran and Lesser Cumbrae all the more spectacular. The Cathedral of the Isles and its labyrinth were particularly interesting. I’ll write a longer post next week about it. I managed to get sunburnt, keeping up the fine tradition I have of getting burned in the most exotic places, like last year on the ferry to Arran or a few years ago at Lochleven Castle near Kinross.

So, that’s us for April. A digest for Easter Road West appeared last night over there. Easter Road West is my football blog, almost exclusively about Hibs. As well as the Firhill Streets of Glasgow post which I posted up there recently, I particularly liked writing the posts there about my first football game, after I found the programme in a shop, and also the one about autism published on World Autism Awareness Day. There’s a post there tonight about the fast approaching close season.

I try to keep up with other blogs and last night I was on the way home and read a post on FiveThirtyEight, an American politics blog, about posts they wish they had written. I think they in turn had nicked the idea from Bloomberg. In the Books post last week, I recommended Wednesday’s Child‘s post about bookmarks. Alex Cochrane’s post from the other night about Grangemouth is also worth a look. I like the way they write and their subject matter particularly, which is usually about lesser-spotted places and sights, always insightful and showing another side beyond the obvious. This Digest originated from Anabel Marsh’s monthly digest, the most recent instalment of which appeared the other day. She features a Scottish Word of the Month and included a fair few synonyms for being drunk, including my personal favourite jaked. I drop in a few Scots words here – indeed I wrote a post in Scots here not so long ago – though the only one I can share off the top of my head is ‘fleein’ which can also mean drunk.

The next post here on Walking Talking is about the Northern Irish coast and that will appear on Friday. Loose Ends appears this coming Sunday with a post about Linlithgow Palace.

As I was revising this post last night, news came that the Glasgow Women’s Library, which I visited and wrote about last year, has been nominated for the Art Fund Museum of the Year, alongside Brooklands Museum, Ferens Art Gallery, the Postal Museum and Tate St. Ives. It is brilliant that GWL are nominated for this award. GWL benefits the city and the wider world by its mere existence, let alone the fine work it does. Hope they win.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers.

Posts this month –

Streets of Glasgow: Trongate

Some thoughts…

Digest: March 2018

Manchester and Liverpool

Streets of Glasgow: University Avenue

Dunbar in the snow

Defences

Walking across the Forth Road Bridge

Streets of Glasgow: Kelvin Way

Castle connections

Some blethers

Leith Walk the other way

Streets of Glasgow: Bath Street

Crossing the road

Books

Streets of Glasgow: Dundas Street