Loose Ends: Arden Street

I passed through Marchmont on the way back from the Hermitage and Blackford Hill and realised that I was near Arden Street. I could link it into Loose Ends through books. I had been reading about geology and Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus lived in Arden Street. There’s been more tenuous connections. Anyway, Arden Street is a non-descript Marchmont street and it was sunny with a few residents dotted around, cars and vans parked. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and all was calm. It probably wasn’t under the surface, mind.

To the connections and I could have gone to anywhere linked to Ian Rankin, like Edinburgh University or Cardenden which has a street named after him. Not the Oxford Bar, though: we don’t do pubs. Any place connected to any Scottish literary character would have done, maybe back to Glasgow or somewhere in our capital, which is after all an UNESCO City of Literature. Arden, albeit with a different spelling, is also a part of Glasgow. Thinking laterally would lead me to the next destination.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows in two weeks’ time. The Loose Ends page features the other parts of this series.

Loose Ends: Blackford Hill Rocks

A layered rockface with a tree overhanging

As I was walking around the other side of Blackford Hill, I came to a sign pointing towards an old quarry. I climbed the steps and came to a sign pointing out the various layers of mostly igneous rock in front of me. The sign was gloriously nerdy, not at all dumbed down for scientific dunces like me. I had been reading about geology so some of it made sense. I knew enough to see that it was interesting, took some pictures and moved on. We don’t pay enough attention to how places have come to be. I know I don’t.

The Blackford Hill Rocks connect to the Agassiz Rock by geography, being at either side of Blackford Hill itself. As I walked on, I wasn’t at all sure what the next connection would be.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows next week. The Loose Ends page features more links from the series.

Here’s some bonus content since this post is a wee bit short. I am writing this a good couple of months after this particular adventure. I remember merely how unapologetically nerdy the interpretation board was and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. I know very little about geology but layers are important. In those layers can be found a past beyond the human. I don’t always understand science but I get enough that I am impressed by how we have got here, as much as acknowledging how precarious our existence is.

This was a really cool day. I covered a lot of ground. I left Waverley Station, walked down through Morningside to the Hermitage of Braid then around the other side of Blackford Hill, where these rocks are. I walked through the Grange and Marchmont to the National Museum of Scotland before eventually getting back on the train back to Glasgow. The National Museum had an excellent exhibition, now finished, called Body Beautiful about diversity in fashion, featuring style for LGBTQIA+, disabled and ethnically diverse people.

I also undertook the next instalment of Loose Ends that day, in fact about a mile from Blackford Hill. Tune in next week for that.



Loose Ends: Agassiz Rock

The last Loose Ends post was in Charlotte Square Gardens, in the heart of Edinburgh during the Festival. My next trip to the capital brought another few Loose Ends adventures, made much easier by the Festival being over and done with. I was walking through the Hermitage of Braid, a green place I dearly love (and which featured in my alternative Edinburgh post recently), and it occurred to me that the nearby Agassiz Rock might be a good Loose Ends place, being suitably obscure and linked to Charlotte Square Gardens by books. At the time I was reading a book about geology so it worked. Louis Agassiz was a 19th century Swiss scientist who did a lot of work into glaciation, some of it in Edinburgh at the back of Blackford Hill. I came to a big bit of rock that I thought was it but judging by a quick Google search, I wasn’t so sure. After a wee bit of rock climbing, I came to a clearing where a group of folk were gathered, just minding their own, gathered and talking together. A much bigger bit of rock sat behind them and a couple of folk started to climb it as I walked up. Some graffiti was on its left side. It was an ‘other’ kind of place, the kind which you wouldn’t find by accident. I wonder how the folk gathered there would describe it, the stories they could tell. It is a common climbing place so there will be a few stories, some names for spots which wouldn’t appear on a map. I like places like that.

To the connections and I could have gone across the city to the Forth where Charles Darwin did some of his early research while studying at Edinburgh University. Agassiz inspired John Muir so I could have gone somewhere connected to him. Siccar Point was another contender, one of Hutton’s Uncomformities, or Dunsapie Loch, another hidden place around one of Edinburgh’s seven hills. This time I really wasn’t sure.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows next week. Other Loose Ends posts can be found on the Loose Ends page.

Digest: October 2019

It’s the October digest and another busy month full of life, of football, studying, art, walking and sitting on buses and trains. Let us begin.

The first adventure of the month was on Sunday 5th October and I went on the bus to Kirkcaldy. I often like art galleries on quiet Sunday afternoons and Kirkcaldy is a particular favourite. Some different contemporary art pieces had been put up since the last time, including one from a boat looking towards St. Kilda and another painting, more colourful and possibly Cubist, showing two St. Kilda lads falling from cliffs. I don’t have notes so can’t remember who painted the latter. Frances Walker painted the beautiful one looking back over the sea to St. Kilda with seagulls flying and waves lapping.

That Tuesday I went to the Glasgow Film Theatre for the monthly Access Film Club autism-friendly screening. This month was The Farewell, which featured a Chinese-American woman whose grandmother was dying of cancer in China. Her family decided not to tell the grandmother about her terminal illness. That makes it sound much more miserable than it was, with some wonderful darkly comic moments.

On Saturday 12th October, there wasn’t any football so I went first to Summerlee, the industrial museum in Coatbridge, where I had a wander around the site then took in its temporary exhibition about Albion Rovers FC. The exhibition featured some fine photography and a documentary on a loop. Thereafter I headed to Cathkin Park where I stood, wandered and pondered for a bit. On the way back to town, I went to the Tramway for the Nick Cave exhibition, which I liked a lot more than I thought I would. I thought it would be a bit of a sensory overload but it was really fine.

Saturday 19th October saw a visit to Hamilton to see Hibs draw.

Monday 21st October I was off and went to the Riverside Museum with my favourite little people.

The following day I was in Edinburgh. I went to see the Hibs Development Squad play Hearts Reserves at Meggetland. Rock ‘n’ roll. Before the game started, I sat and did some OU reading. Exotic. On the way to Meggetland, I walked along the Water of Leith walkway for a bit and then through deepest, darkest Gorgie and by the Union Canal. I sat and ate lunch by the Water of Leith near the Dean Village and it was quite lovely. A heron sat on a weir. It looked like something out of a painting.

Wednesday 23rd October saw me in Dundee in a blur of street art, exhibitions and walking.

Thursday 24th October I went out for a couple of hours and had a wander in the West End, sitting for a wee while in the Botanic Gardens, reading some more of that week’s OU chapter in the Kibble Palace.

Friday 25th October was Arran. It was an excellent day, with a little while in both Lamlash and Brodick. Going on a ferry always makes a good day.

On Saturday 26th October I went to Edinburgh to see Hibs.

Monday 28th October saw me in Dunbar. I walked by the waves. I thought and pondered and it was absolutely ideal.

Wednesday 30th October was another trip to Edinburgh to see Hibs.

In blog news, post 700 will probably come in November. Any thoughts on what I should do or questions, send them my way. The blog is on Twitter at @walkin_talkin1. Our next post will be Loose Ends and it will be at Agassiz Rock in the shadow of Blackford Hill. Until then, thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Cheers just now.

Posts this month –

Digest: September 2019

Saturday Saunter: Stars


Loose Ends: Arandora Star Memorial Garden

Saturday Saunter: Persevere and autumn colours

Skye and coos

Loose Ends: Leith Links

Saturday Saunter: The Unexpected Return

Loose Ends: Charlotte Square Gardens

Saturday Saunter: Waves, autism and Arran


It’s Saturday again and it’s time for another Saturday Saunter. This one isn’t being written live: we’re back to Tuesday night. The clocks have gone back and it’s well dark now, about half eight at night. I’ve just had a chocolate milk, one of my current vices. I’m not sure what I’m going to write tonight so we’ll play it by ear.

On Monday I was in Dunbar. I managed to get there for a walk. The day was cold and sunny plus there were big waves. My kind of day. It was the last day of a good few days off and I managed to be in some very fine places. Dunbar was fine but Arran on Friday was magnificent. I got such a lot from the time there. I’m going to try and get back to Lamlash next summer, just to be and possibly to get across to the Holy Isle too. It was an incredible day. I like Arran more every time I’m there.

When this is posted, I will probably be having a lie-in. Hibs are playing tonight against Celtic at Hampden. I’ll be there and it might just be grim. Tomorrow should be nicer. I’m off to Stirlingshire and in particular Doune Castle. I like that part of the world a lot and with the autumn colours, it should be particularly beautiful. I think I’ve written about Doune here before and how it combines my historian side and the deeply rooted nerdish side of me which likes Monty Python. It is also in Outlander but I’ve never seen or read it so can’t comment on that. To get to Doune involves going to Stirling, which is a place I like. I was last there in the summer, there for the football with an added visit to the Engine Shed. I went past Stirling last week on the way to and from Dundee and made sure I turned my head the right way to see the castle.

I pay a fair bit of attention to autism and diversity issues and one thing I really liked recently was a sensory map the Scottish National Portrait Gallery have produced. It not only shows the layout of that magnificent building but also but how loud or quiet areas are as well as whether they have strong smells and indeed whether the toilets have hand dryers or not. I’ve been to the Portrait Gallery many times and it is generally fine for my own particular blend of sensory sensitivities. I don’t like that they’ve plonked a shop in the ambulatory, the balcony area with the historical friezes, as that always was a calm place where I could get my breath back. The hand dryer issue is one I have mixed feelings about. I prefer paper towels because they dry my hands better plus the noise can be overpowering of dryers. Plus dryers don’t tend to dry properly, except the Dyson ones, which thankfully the Portrait Gallery has, even if they’re too loud.

I read an interesting phrase just now in an article from the Washington Post about how listening to the perspective of autistic adults helped a mother with an autistic son. The phrase was about ‘how autistic happiness manifests’. I don’t really think about how my autism and my happiness are linked, to be honest. Sometimes they are wildly conflicting. In the last week the things which have really made me happy are:

  • Big waves at Dunbar
  • Inspired Halloween costumes
  • The Hibs team running out at 3pm on Saturday
  • Reading a good book
  • Looking at train departure boards

I suppose the phrase could mean when my autistic brain is in sync with the rest of the world. Sometimes it happens. I prefer cool and calm days and places. The best moment I had recently was last Friday standing at the bus stop at Lamlash. In front of me was a road then a patch of grass then the bay and then the Holy Isle. It was quite calm, an occasional car, some words in my ears. In the city I’m happiest under trees or slightly above the bustle. Or looking up. I seem to need a decent balance and thankfully the few days I had off recently managed to bring a good range of experiences, city, sea, gardens.

One last thing. I share these posts on Twitter and it’s quite pernickity to customise Tweets on WordPress. Usually, it’s just the title, sometimes a comment on the post. What I’m going to start to do is to add an image description to describe the featured image that accompanies the Tweet. I’m aware of the growing movement to make social media more accessible, which Glasgow Women’s Library highlighted the other day, so that’s my small contribution to that. Today’s, incidentally, is ‘a coastal scene, with a hill and a rock in the background, with foamy, crashing waves in the foreground’.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 2nd November 2019. Tomorrow will be the October digest, another Loose Ends post on Wednesday. Post 700 comes soon. Any thoughts about what I could write about or indeed questions that only I could answer, send them my way. Have a very nice weekend, whatever you end up doing. Cheery bye.


Loose Ends: Charlotte Square Gardens


Leith gave way to the New Town and the Festival bustle, if the more civilised Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens. I was there anyway to see Kathleen Jamie and had got there a bit early to buy books and sit. It was busy, being a sunny and warm August Saturday evening and I plonked myself down on the grass. The connection with Leith Links came through me being a voracious reader but also through Charlotte, the square named after the Queen and confusingly also first daughter of George III or so Wikipedia tells me. Queen Charlotte Street is just off Leith Links. The Gardens are closed for most of the year, opened only if you know the right person or for everyone in August during the Book Festival. The rest of the time Charlotte Square is quiet, one of the nicest parts of the New Town. August it is busy, not as bad as the High Street but enough to be doing with.

To the connections, then, and I could go anywhere related to any of the authors speaking at this year’s Book Festival or indeed anywhere in Scotland which has a book festival, like Wigtown, Dumfries House or Lennoxlove, to pick three off the top of my head. Gin trollies could take me to just as many places which make gin, a burgeoning industry in these islands. I don’t know nor particularly care if our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, drinks gin – she’s a big reader, though – and the fact her official residence is on Charlotte Square could take me somewhere linked to her, the SNP or the nationalist cause. Or just to a square someplace. The possibilities are endless, just as many as could be found in the books across the way in the bookshop or the heads of those writers talking away at the Festival. As long as we read, we’ll be all right. That’s what I think.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post will follow next week. Other Loose Ends posts can be found on the Loose Ends page.

Incidentally, soon will come the 700th post here. I’m opening it up to suggestions. Any ideas of what I should write about will be gratefully received. Or questions for a question and answer. Any thoughts, put them below or in a message another way.

Saturday Saunter: The Unexpected Return

Good Saturday to you,

It is actually Saturday too, as I write this. Just about half eight. The sun has come up and there is a cold, pale blue light out my window. The trees aren’t moving so much so there can’t be much wind. I am currently in the midst of time off and that usually means I don’t post anything here either but I woke up this morning with an almost overwhelming urge to write. So, here I am, laptop on my knee, ready to write something.

It’s been a good week or so off so far. I’ve been on ferries, buses and trains and I’ve even managed to read a fair bit. Yesterday was excellent with a trip to Arran and Lamlash, a part of the island I hadn’t been to before. Despite the cloud and the cold, Lamlash was lovely with views across to the Holy Isle and the mainland in the distance. I’m always a believer that going on a ferry is like being on your holidays and I definitely got that sense yesterday. I still have it lingering now though I have the feeling it will be expunged at Easter Road later. One of the best parts of being by the sea, particularly in the west coast, is the big skies and the sky was particularly special on the way back to Ardrossan, one side towards the mainland sunny, the starboard side dark and stormy looking. As we sat on the train in Ardrossan, waiting for it to leave, a nice sunset broke over Arran, some pinks and purples at the edge of that piercing blue.

On Wednesday I was in Dundee and that was great too, with a whole bunch of street art. I was thinking yesterday about one of the paintings I saw in the McManus, a John Houston one of a western sunset, all yellows and oranges. I like Dundee more every time I’m there and the street art was immense. My favourites related to mental health, a subject particularly close to my heart. There was a black dog sculpture at Dundee University and a mural by the Hilltown Clock of Oor Wullie with his bucket over his head. Around him were words ‘Don’t Push Me I’m Close To The Edge’ and ‘I’m Trying Not To Lose My Head’. In a close by the bus station there were a few graffiti creations which weren’t particularly kind to our current Prime Minister, sentiments with which I heartily concur.

This week I’ve managed to spend time with some of my favourite people as well as time myself too. Edinburgh on Tuesday was particularly good. I went to see the Hibs Development Squad play the Hearts Reserves (surprisingly well attended for a Tuesday afternoon with a few laddies there who probably should have been at the school). Before the game I walked along the Water of Leith and sat and ate my lunch at a weir at the edge of the Dean Village. A heron sat on the weir, tall with a curved neck or preening. It was a far nicer spectacle than the Antony Gormley sculpture just along the way, which just ruins the whole scene. I know I’ve ranted about that before but it’s enough to appreciate a beautiful place without bringing more human intervention and interpretation to it.

My reading has been mixed this week. My OU chapter has been read in some unlikely places, including in the stand before the wee derby and in the Kibble Palace at the Glasgow Botanics on Thursday. I’ve read a couple of memoirs, by Jonathan Van Ness, who stars in the reboot of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and footballer Mark Walters. Both were difficult for different reasons. Van Ness wrote about his troubles with addiction while Mark Walters discussed some of the despicable racism he experienced playing here in Scotland. The discussions of racism in football are particularly pertinent at the moment after the England-Bulgaria game last week and it isn’t enough merely to condemn; as a society we need to change these attitudes for they are deeply rooted for many.

I think I’m going to take Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie with me to Edinburgh today. It’s one of those books I don’t want to rush as it’ll be a while until the next one and Kathleen Jamie’s words need savoured.

It’s also been very cold this last couple of days and unseasonably so for October. Summer feels a long time away. The clocks of course go back tonight and I just hate it. I’m a fan of natural light and it becomes ever more precious this time of year. I’m looking forward to a good walk before the game today in Edinburgh and probably a trip east on Monday.

Anyway, that’s the unexpected Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 26th October 2019. The blog will return more properly with Loose Ends on Wednesday and that will be in Edinburgh back when it was warm. A Saturday Saunter will be here next Saturday and the October digest next Sunday. In the meantime I’m going to try and do some more writing, maybe some OU reading. Have a very nice weekend, whatever you do. Peace.

Loose Ends: Leith Links


The last link took me to the Arandora Star Memorial Garden in a quiet corner of Glasgow city centre. As I was there, I thought of a Proclaimers song, Scotland’s Story, about how our country was essentially built by immigrants. One settled in Leith so I decided that the next instalment of Loose Ends would take me to Leith, more specifically Leith Links, a park I know well. Leith Links is a place I often sit in before going to the football, reading and often eating lunch on a bench there. As the name suggests it has a golfing history – we don’t do golf on the Walking Talking blog, holding to Mark Twain’s credo that it ruins a good walk – and also proper history. Near where I sat and ate my lunch was the Giant’s Brae, the remains of the mound where the English artillery gathered during the siege of Leith in 1560. I know that particular place better as Hanlon Hill, where tens of thousands of Hibs fans gathered to greet the 2016 Scottish Cup winners the day after that wonderful day. This day was warm and sunny with a few sunbathers, families and dog walkers. A football pitch was marked out but no game was in progress. I was about to go to one not far away at Easter Road so I didn’t linger long after finishing my lunch.


Unusually the next connection was already decided since I was in Edinburgh anyway. I had two different connections ready with another place across the city only open once a year.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows in a fortnight’s time. The Loose Ends page features other parts of the adventure so far.

Saturday Saunter: Persevere and autumn colours

Good morning to you,

This Saturday Saunter is being posted as I’m probably easing into the world gently after a lie-in. No football today so I’m planning on going to a couple of exhibitions in and around the city.

My travelling book today might just be Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie, which I haven’t got round to reading yet. It did come with me to Lochaber a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t get round to it. What I did read last weekend was the superb Constitution Street by Jemma Neville. It’s quite hard to describe, various parts social history and political call to arms. Despite ostensibly being about Constitution Street in Leith, it goes far beyond the top of the Walk or the docks in its content, going deep into the lives of the people of the street, their successes and hardships. I finished it feeling a little inspired, a little more hopeful about the world and the people in it.

It’s now Wednesday night as I write this as I completely ran out of words on Monday. Runrig is on in the background.

I was thinking earlier about Halloween. It leaves me a bit cold. It always has done so I really don’t care about it. I don’t go in for the cod-spooky Twitter names and guising and everything else. Halloween and Bonfire Night can bolt for me. I saw a story in the news last week that quite a high percentage of Scots would like to ban the sale of fireworks and I wholeheartedly agree. My earphones go in and music or Netflix goes loud. In my part of suburban Glasgow, there are a fair few folk letting off fireworks in the weeks before and after 5th November and they put me on edge. I don’t have anything against Halloween, however; I just don’t like it. Plus the oncoming of Halloween and Bonfire Night means darker nights and I don’t welcome them.

What I do welcome are the autumn colours of the trees and I just saw a beautiful picture of a very yellow Katsura Tree on Facebook courtesy of Dawyck Botanic Garden, down near Peebles. I’m off soon for about ten days and I’m going to make sure there is some autumnal garden walking over that time, maybe not at Dawyck but probably in the Botanics in Edinburgh. It feels like I haven’t been there in ages. The Edinburgh Botanics (as shown above) are special, a place I’ve been to think and celebrate the wonder of trees and whatever I’ve been reading or studying at the time. I haven’t been able to linger much in Edinburgh lately so a day or two in the capital might do the trick when I’m off.

Thursday was World Mental Health Day and I thought a little bit about what I could share to mark that event. Self-care is vital. Sometimes I’m crap at it. I find visual stimuli helps. My screensavers are useful for that. My work computer usually has a picture of Tranter’s Bridge at Aberlady Bay (above). I just changed my iPad tonight to the view from the campsite I stayed at the other weekend near Arisaig, looking towards Skye and the Small Isles. Before it was my favourite Glasgow view, from the flagpole at Queen’s Park. My phone screensaver was taken not far from there, the Time For Heroes banner displayed before the start of the 2016 Scottish Cup Final. I often look at pictures. I’m a very proud uncle so my favourite little people are often among them. It’s about conjuring up good memories, the best of those days to carry us forward.

Lately I’ve been walking to and from work, about three miles each way, and despite the heavy rain showers this morning and tonight, I get a lot of benefit from it, emotionally and physically. It gives me space to think plus it gives me exercise. My walk isn’t exciting – it involves crossing a railway and a motorway as well as another busy road – but my spirits usually lift on the way back when I look east and I see the Glasgow city skyline along the curve of the M8, towers, houses, hospitals and all life. I don’t linger long as the traffic is constant under my feet. But it helps me keep perspective and that can’t be underestimated.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 12th October 2019. The blog will take a pause after Wednesday’s Loose Ends post, which features Leith Links. I will be off and it has become traditional to take a blog break too. The Walking Talking blog will return on Wednesday 30th October with another Loose Ends post, which will again be in Edinburgh. Tomorrow sees another post from up north, featuring the Isle of Skye and some cows and sheep. In the meantime, be good to one another, have a good weekend, and remember these words, not far from Constitution Street by the Water of Leith:

‘So with the darkest days behind

Our ship of hope will steer

And when in doubt just keep in mind

Our motto ‘Persevere”



Book memories

I was rummaging through some boxes the other day, trying to find something, and came across some books. I have a lot of books, less than I used to due to various house moves, but enough to be going with. No fewer than three saw the light, Lost East Lothian by Craig Statham, Secret Edinburgh: An Unusual Guide by Hannah Robinson and The Bonniest Companie by Kathleen Jamie. One poetry, two more historical, the two east coast ones fairly close by in the Dewey Decimal System. I have a fairly good book memory and I remember looking for Lost East Lothian about a year ago when we were in our old house without success. Secret Edinburgh was a social media recommendation and I remember thumbing through it at the time going ‘been there, been there, not been there’, as I do with a lot of similar titles. The Bonniest Companie I had with me the first time I was in Cambridge and its bookmark is the receipt for its purchase in Heffers in Trinity Street, Cambridge. I was there on holiday about four years ago and I remember reading it sat in cafes and by the river Cam.

Book memories are often the best ones. Where we’ve read, who’s given books to us. The one that came to mind there was quite recently, sitting on a train somewhere in south west Glasgow heading through to Edinburgh to watch Hibs and deciding to ditch the book I had picked for the journey. The first time I read Thousand Mile Walk To The Gulf by John Muir was one sunny Saturday morning when I was a teenager. Around that time I read Small Island by Andrea Levy on a wintry Sunday as the light rapidly dimmed out the window. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark was gulped down right after an History prelim sat in my sixth year common room. The first time I read The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, now my favourite book, my copy bought at one of the National Trust castles in Aberdeenshire, came sat in my auntie’s conservatory in Aberdeen. So often now I read on buses and trains. I often read on my iPad, which detracts from the experience of closing a book with satisfaction but so often is a matter of necessity. I don’t often have good book memories now. I still do, though. I read a brilliant zine recently called Love Tove about Tove Jansson and was struck by a particularly poignant paragraph. Re-reading The Living Mountain on another train was glorious, as was starting Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie on a very busy train not heading out of Edinburgh very fast.

I just had another memory, of finishing The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane sat on Calton Hill one summer night about a decade ago. I was in my late teens, early twenties, and reading was just what I did. Books were a welcome companion, as they still are, but even more now they are an escape, solace and inspiration in darker times for the world. The memories I’ve had with a book in my hand. Even opening a box doesn’t stop them.