Saturday Saunter: 16th February 2019

Happy Saturday,

Before I start, thanks for all the kind comments after my impromptu post on Thursday night about the places I love. It was a nice post to write and it cured my Valentine’s Day grumpiness.

Our Saunter today comes as I’m about to head to Edinburgh to see the Hibs for the umpteenth Saturday in a row. Thankfully there’s no rugby on today so the trains will be considerably quieter on the way to the capital and I can leave later. This is actually the last Saturday for a while that Hibs will be playing at 3pm with a few fixtures on midweek evenings at 7.45pm on the horizon. It is also the first game with Paul Heckingbottom in the dugout so interesting times.

Last Saturday I had a bit of an interesting day. I was of course in Edinburgh to see Hibs and the trains were busy with the rugby. They were also delayed because of a broken-down train at Haymarket. Happy days. I had a decent walk as far as Ocean Terminal then went to the ground. I managed to be back in Glasgow earlier than I expected before going to the Theatre Royal with my work colleagues to see Abigail’s Party. It was all right with a lot of references going over my head. It was the kind of thing best enjoyed with a drink in me. Thereafter we went out on the town and a few new experiences were had. Good ones.

Book reading this week was fair to middling. I managed to get through Night Falls On Ardnamurchan by Alasdair Maclean which was interesting in talking about his family crofting but less so when it went into his own stream of consciousness. On a better note, I also read another of the Denzil Meyrick Kinloch crime novel series. I’m taking Fingers In The Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham with me today. I’ve been meaning to read that one for years, the autobiography of the naturalist and all round good guy. His speech in support of Alan Turing on BBC Icons recently was amazing and inspiring and I urge everyone to seek it out.

My soundtrack was Grace and Frankie on Netflix, incidentally, then the episode finished so now I’ve shifted to The Chase on catch-up. Only on the first person so not sure who it is today. The first contestant is a floppy-haired English guy who looks like he could have been in David Cameron’s cabinet. The Chaser is Anne. Happy days. A good ambassador for autistic people too.

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Dysart, sculpture by Donald Urquhart

Tomorrow is a rescheduled trip to Fife and I’m looking forward to it immensely. I would imagine Dysart will be on the cards, possibly Cellardyke too, definitely fish and chips for tea, served with salt and sauce. There might be a castle involved, more than likely Kirkcaldy art gallery.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Intercity returns tomorrow and it will be Inverness. Loose Ends will be back on Wednesday and that will be down in Porty. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a very nice weekend. Peace.

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Digest: January 2019

January Digest time and it’s been a busy month. I’m not a fan of New Year and I was impatient, after not feeling right over the festives, to get out and about as early as I could relying on public transport. On Wednesday 2nd January, I got a train into town and then a bus to St. Andrews, the day cold but bright, enjoying a walk around by the Castle and Cathedral before going home as the sun came down.

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The following day I went to Edinburgh. I only have two photos, featuring the Portrait Gallery, which has the BP Portrait Award on just now. As ever, the ones I liked the most didn’t win.

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Saturday 5th January saw me in Dundee, with a wee interlude in Cellardyke. It was cool and cloudy but I had a good day, managing a whole host of adventures which have featured on the blog by now. The walk by the Forth in Cellardyke was just ideal, the grey light pensive but open to the East Lothian coast beyond. It was good to explore Dundee a bit more, with Dundee Law a particular highlight.

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After work on Friday 18th January, I went into town to do a wee bit of shopping. Before doing that, I managed a Streets of Glasgow walk for the first time in ages, along West George Street. I also took a turn along the Clyde in the half-light, which was incredibly worth it.

That Saturday the Hibs were playing Elgin City. It was baltic. The trains weren’t right so I didn’t get as much of an Edinburgh wander as I hoped.

The following Wednesday Hibs played Motherwell at Fir Park. The game was awful, the pies weren’t. I hadn’t realised how high up Fir Park was with many distant streetlights twinkling in the distance.

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On Friday 25th January I went to Perth, really to do Intercity but I ended up having a great wander, particularly loving Greyfriars Burial Ground, which I stumbled over on a bit of a derive.

That Sunday the still-mighty Hibees went to Paisley and won. After the game I took my auntie on a tour of the street art and architecture of Paisley. It was absolutely baltic but nice in the pale, wintry sunshine.

Well, that’s the January digest. Loose Ends features here again on Wednesday, staying in Perth. There will be a wee bit of a shuffle after that, with Streets of Glasgow returning too. Saturday Saunter continues, purely because I like writing them. Thanks as ever to all readers and followers. There’s been a few new ones in January, which is nice. Anyway, have a good February.

Posts this month –

Digest: December 2018

Saturday Saunter: 5th January 2019

Intercity: Glasgow

Loose Ends: Calton Hill, again

Saturday Saunter: 12th January 2019

Intercity: Stirling

Loose Ends: Dundee Law

Saturday Saunter: 19th January 2019

Intercity: Edinburgh

Loose Ends: Martyrs’ Monument

Saturday Saunter: 26th January 2019

Intercity: Dundee

Loose Ends: Perth Bridge

Saturday Saunter: 2nd February 2019

It’s Saturday Saunter time again and once more I’m writing this in advance. Away to the football this Saturday morning, leaving early since there is also rugby on in the capital and a train full of rugby people is more than I can possibly stand. I hope to use this extra time in Edinburgh to maybe do a Loose Ends adventure, possibly just wander aimlessly before going to watch the first game of the post Neil Lennon-era.

A little earlier I finally managed to finish the book that’s been in my backpack for over a week and which I took to Motherwell last week, Dark Suits and Sad Songs by Denzil Meyrick. It is a bit more fantastical than a normal police procedural novel but it was all right. I have the next volume downloaded through the library eBook app, ready to go for whenever I feel like reading it. In physical book form, I also have the new Hania Allen crime novel, Clearing the Dark, the follow-up to The Polish Detective, and some of the books I picked out before Christmas. Unfortunately, though, those are all fiction and I feel like reading something with a Dewey Decimal number. I was going to take Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie. Apparently Surfacing will be out in 2019 and I am looking forward to it already. We need more of Kathleen Jamie’s words in our world. I might sit down and read it tomorrow. Instead today I’m going to read a biography of legendary Real Madrid player Alfredo di Stefano, which I came across yesterday. I need something different in my head.

 

A CalMac ferry at Brodick

The other night I saw a Tweet from CalMac Ferries, suggesting that instead of chocolates and cliches, loved-up folk should celebrate Valentine’s Day by going to a west coast island somewhere. The Tweet was illustrated by a well wrapped-up couple snogging with a snow-capped mountain in the background. It’s bad enough that Valentine’s Day has conquered whole supermarket aisles and a load of library displays, it has to take over day trip planning too. Don’t get me wrong, love is fine. I would rather people be happy and in love than the opposite. It is just this nauseating shite promoting the mushy, romantic ideal which rarely exists in actuality. It is also rude to those of us who don’t have a significant other for a myriad of different reasons, by choice, circumstance or some other factor. I suppose the Tweet I just saw from Sesame Street‘s Oscar the Grouch makes it feel a bit better. It states: ‘“What are you getting for Valentine’s Day?” Me: Trash.’ I suspect a lot of people would share that sentiment. Anyway, if any Valentines go on a CalMac ferry on 14th February, all power to them. Our islands are very fine indeed. Thankfully they are often best experienced alone too.

In other thoughts, the Oxford comma is a wonderful piece of punctuation, often maligned but sometimes necessary. I didn’t use it in a Tweet promoting a post here a couple of weeks ago and I noticed and it bothered me. Some people don’t like the Oxford comma. I aim for clarity and don’t often succeed so I use whatever tool I have to hand. Except the ampersand, of course.

I was very sad to hear yesterday that the comedian Jeremy Hardy died, of cancer at the age of 57. At one time I listened to a lot of Radio 4 and he spoke softly but with passion, verve and no little political conviction. His ‘singing’ on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue was truly woeful but unforgettable.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Thanks for reading this muddle of thoughts. Tomorrow the January digest will appear here. Wednesday will see the latest instalment of Loose Ends, staying in Perth. As ever, cheers indeed to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a very nice weekend.

 

 

Intercity: Edinburgh

The third instalment of Intercity involves our nation’s capital, Edinburgh, the city of my birth and my primary school years, a place I still spend a lot of time in despite living in Glasgow. In thinking about an Edinburgh street for this series, I went through a few contenders but in the end I chose the street I associate most with Edinburgh, for good or ill. Most people know it as the Royal Mile but I refer to it the same way as the Royal Mail does: the High Street. The High Street, as most Scots could probably tell you, leads from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, a distance of roughly 1,600 yards, funnily enough. I was in Edinburgh one bright and cold Sunday morning in December and decided to take advantage of the nice weather and the time I had to kill by getting this over and done with. I avoid the High Street as much as possible. It is invariably crowded and saturated in tartan. The best time to give it a bodyswerve is normally August, at the height of the Festival circus, but in recent years, it hasn’t dissipated much across the year, even on a baltic Sunday in December.

I walked up the Esplanade, dodging every second person who had a phone in their hand and every third one of those in selfie mode. Edinburgh Castle isn’t my favourite castle in Scotland, it isn’t even my favourite castle in Edinburgh but to be fair it does look the part. I focused my attention on looking left and right, into the sun towards Arthur’s Seat and the other way across to Fife. As I processed down Castlehill, nearly taking to the road to dodge the phone cameras, I went into psychogeographic mode, appreciating the architecture and quietly observing the masses as they passed. It being December, the kilt count was impressively low, the owner a young blonde guy with a beard. He looked like a tour guide so it was probably work attire. There were a lot of people with tartan somewhere on their person. For once I was one of them, since I was on the way to the football and my Hibs scarf is a tartan one. By the Assembly Hall an older gent was singing, the Skye Boat Song, as it happens, not unpleasantly with an accent which reflected more diverse origins, possibly Cornwall.

A few selfies were happening by the David Hume statue. What he would have said about this whole spectacle, I wonder. A quick Google uncovered this quote: “Reading and sauntering and lounging and dosing, which I call thinking, is my supreme Happiness.” Meanwhile I was struck by the sight of a huge Saltire flying over Parliament House. It might even have been bigger than the monstrosity that flies outside Trump Turnberry and that’s saying something, an unusually ostentatious gesture from Edinburgh’s legal establishment. I looked fleetingly at the Adam Smith statue further down and longer at the City Chambers and the buildings around it which house City Council offices with their fine carvings and features. As I walked further down I paused frequently to look at the many informative plaques, including one marking part of the Elsie Inglis heritage trail, and the many showy older buildings on that stretch of the High Street, stopping longest by John Knox House.

I find the part of the High Street furth of the World’s End pub most interesting, mostly because it is lived in and not as touristy. Mostly, for since my last trip down there, offices belonging to the homelessness charity Streetwork had turned into a hotel. (Streetwork does also have premises on South Bridge and near Holyrood, incidentally, but the irony was not missed.) The High Street is what a lot of people associate Scotland with and it leaves me slightly nauseous. It is one facet, one very commercialised part of a much more nuanced picture that also includes Govanhill, Ferguslie, Raploch, Lochee and many other places. This might have occurred to the architects of the Scottish Parliament, an institution which makes much of being closer to its electorate than many other legislatures. I often like to read the quotes on the Canongate Wall by the Parliament and on this occasion one from Mary Brooksbank felt most apposite:

‘Oh, dear me, the warld’s ill-divided,
Them that work the hardest are aye wi’ least provided,
But I maun bide contented, dark days or fine,
But there’s no much pleasure livin’ affen ten and nine.’

 

I think I was also grumpy because I had clocked a Celtic scarf being sold outside a tartan shop but gratifyingly a Hibs one was also there. My walk down the Canongate had included encountering a man with his arm around the Robert Fergusson statue, deep in selfie mode, and passing the traditional Royal Mile Primary School, a sense of a community in these surroundings, a day-to-day beyond the hype.

Psychogeography interests me because it involves looking at the urban in greater depth, looking beyond the obvious. Edinburgh is a city of hidden depths, a mad God’s dream, to quote Hugh MacDiarmid, a place which combines wealth and poverty, substance and lots of stories and legends barely skating the surface of what actually happened. The High Street is the Royal Mile, some bits the Lawnmarket, others the Canongate. In one street it conveys a lot of how people see our country, tartan, historic, romantic. Scotland is all of these things but many more besides, to be experienced by walking on and beyond this street, this city, this coast sometimes. Life is beyond.

Thanks for reading. This is the third instalment of the Intercity series here on Walking Talking. The first two involved Glasgow and Stirling. Another will follow next week.

Saturday Saunter: 19th January 2019

Well, it’s Saturday morning. I’m off to Edinburgh today to see the mighty Hibernian play Elgin City in the Scottish Cup. It’ll be a bit quieter down at Easter Road, due to the opposition, the extra cost of a ticket over the overall season ticket price plus it’s January and money is often tight in January. I couldn’t be anywhere else, though, even though it is bound to be absolutely baltic. While in Edinburgh I also hope to do a little something for Loose Ends, one of this blog’s series, possibly in Holyrood Park. I do intend to be wrapped up very warmly indeed. The wind cut right through me yesterday and that was in the wild west, a fair distance from the sea.

Today’s travelling book is How To Be A Footballer by Peter Crouch. Crouch is still gainfully employed playing for Stoke City down in Englandshire at the age of 37 and he has had a diverse playing career, also being known for robot dancing and marrying a model. Normally I don’t read football autobiographies. Some of them can be dire, dirges from the laptop of some ghostwriter. This one will hopefully be interesting, even if I spied that Crouch wrote this one with a ghostwriter too, one Tom Fordyce, this information buried on the title page.

Last night I managed to get into Glasgow to do some shopping. Before I shopped, I managed a Streets of Glasgow walk for the first time in ages. It was in the city centre as the sun went down. I’ve always liked these walks because I can just walk in the city, being extra aware of my surroundings as I look, listen and smell just that little bit more acutely. It should be on the blog in a couple of Wednesdays time. I’m looking forward to doing some more wandering around the city in the coming weeks. I hope to do a couple of walks in the West End and a couple in the south side, maybe towards Shawlands. Any suggestions, please do let me know.

I’ve been thinking about where I would like to go in Scotland this year. I also hope to get to London and maybe Cornwall as well but much of Scotland is close to hand so day trips will be what keeps me going. For the Intercity series I write here, I hope to get to Perth, Aberdeen and Inverness soon. Inverness will maybe involve a trip out to Fort George, not because I give a hoot about military history but for the views over the Moray Firth, and also to finally see Leakey’s bookshop, a secondhand bookshop that looks well-stocked but not to the Voltaire and Rousseau (Otago Street, Glasgow) level. I also hope to get a walk along part of the John Muir Way, particularly from Helensburgh to Balloch, which I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. Kellie Castle near Pittenweem and Hermitage Castle in the Borders are both on the list too. There are many places I have been to in Scotland, some many times, and some of them are destined for a revisit. But I feel hungry to see some new places too. The winter is often a great time to explore when places are quieter too, maybe not when the wind is cutting right through you but it’s part of life’s great tapestry.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 19th January 2019. I think I’m having a break from football writing so no ERW post today. What will appear here tomorrow will be the Intercity post for Edinburgh. That one gets a bit ranty. On Wednesday will be Loose Ends, this time by a monument. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend. Cheers just now.

Loose Ends: Dundee Law

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Loose Ends resumed last week with Calton Hill in the centre of Edinburgh. It connects neatly with Dundee Law, not only because both are hills in the middle of Scottish cities but because it is also possible to see football grounds from them. From Calton Hill Easter Road is visible while from Dundee Law both Dens Park and Tannadice are just over the prow of the hill. I had never been there before and I was a little out of breath, my walk up from the city centre more gradual than it could have been if I had gone via the Hilltown. As I walked up the slope, a woman was sitting on a bench brushing a dog. Next to me was a metal archway, possibly made to resemble a whale’s jawbone.

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As I walked up the stairs to the top of the Law, I saw a guy necking a wine bottle. Lovely. I proceeded past so I could get a better view across the north of the city, towards Dens,  Tannadice and the hills. There were quite a lot of chimneys from old mills, a relic of when jute was a major industry in Dundee, and I tried to get my bearings, finding the Kingsway and looking from there. I stood by a trig point, this one in all right condition with some writing over the top. They are a frequent sight on high points, no longer used but once designed to help the Ordnance Survey map the country.

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At the other side there were great views right across Dundee and up and down the Tay, to Broughty Ferry and its fine castle and to hills beyond. It was also possible to look over and see St. Andrews, which was a nice bonus. My eyes raced up and down city streets, finding the new V and A, the DC Thomson building, Alliance Trust and the DCA. The Tay Road Bridge was dead straight and I watched the traffic on it for a minute then followed the curves of the Rail Bridge towards Fife. It was high tide so the stubs that remain of the old one weren’t visible. Towards Newport and Broughty Ferry a white strip of water lapped up, clearly passed over recently. I could have sat there all day, looking down and over the landscape.

To the connections and originally I thought about Broughty Ferry since I could actually see it. The castle and the village looked almost rural, detached from the urban sprawl. Then St. Andrews came to mind, since I could see that too. In truth I could have gone anywhere from Dundee Law, even one of the many other laws, like Traprain or North Berwick. It felt that I could see all of Scotland, even more than on Calton Hill, and I was glad to have made the connection that led me there.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Loose Ends: Calton Hill, again

Calton Hill was the place where Loose Ends left off, back in September, a fitting culmination of a few months of connected adventures including old football grounds, the Wild West, castles, bridges and fever hospitals. I was in Edinburgh just before Christmas and decided to start it all off again, beginning once more on Calton Hill, walking up on a suitably bracing December Saturday. It was bright as I headed up from Waterloo Place, as ever moving around the crowds who generally took the stairs rather than the winding way up the hill. There was a gorgeous light cast across the city, the buildings a golden brown hue, particularly across the New Town. From the prow of the hill a shadow was cast across the nearest streets, particularly London Road, a Lothian bus one of the few spots to escape the darkness.

Many connections come from this hill. Quite a few adventures have been launched from this place. The connection that came to mind, though, I can link into a trip very early in the New Year and it’ll be another hill in another city, one I’ve never been up before.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

 

Digest: December 2018

It feels ages since I wrote the November digest, despite it only being a month since it came out. December has been an incredibly busy month and it is probably only natural that I’ve spent the last few days of it doing as little as possible. It might have helped that I wasn’t feeling well just after Christmas. I’m doing better now, though. This digest appears on Wednesday 2nd January so Happy New Year. Hope it was a good one and lang may your lum reek and all that stuff. Unlike many Scots I couldn’t give a toss about the turn of the year and I tend to pass it quietly with my family, watching a film, exchanging greetings on the stroke of midnight then to bed soon thereafter. We didn’t even have steak pie this year, a staple of many Scottish dinner tables on New Year’s Day, which I’m entirely fine with.

Sunday 2nd December was a Glasgow day. It was very busy at the Riverside Museum though pleasantly quieter at the People’s Palace, visited just as it was starting to get dark. I like the People’s Palace and particularly the Glasgow Comedy video at the top of the stairs. Parliamo Glasgow is something I can definitely relate to.

On Wednesday 5th December Hibs played St. Mirren. It was a draw.

The following day, on the way to work, I stopped off in Paisley and made sure I got a photo of the Snail in a Bottle sculpture on Wellmeadow Street, which appeared in that week’s Saturday Saunter. My shoes got a wee bit muddy but the photos were captured, which was of course the main thing.

Saturday 8th December was a bit mental. I ended up working in the morning, going to the football in the afternoon then to a night out in the evening. Hamilton Academical’s Hope CBD Stadium was the last Scottish Premiership ground I hadn’t visited before and it was all right, bitty with only two stands and an uninterrupted view into the back of a supermarket. Still, the Hibees won, again the main thing.

Sunday 16th December saw Hibs play Celtic. It was a lunchtime kick-off and since we were playing Glaswegian opponents, I made sure I was through in Edinburgh sharp before the trains got too busy. It was a bright if cold morning in the capital and I decided to do the third Intercity walk for this blog, starting outside a castle and continuing roughly a mile downhill to finish outside somebody’s holiday hoose. I may have appeared in quite a few tourists’ selfies as I ducked and weaved my way down that particular thoroughfare. Hibs won against the lesser greens.

Wednesday 19th December saw another visit to the capital to see Hibs play, this time against Rangers. That finished goalless. I enjoyed a walk around Edinburgh before the match, passing around Royal Terrace, under Calton Hill, with a great view across to Easter Road shimmering in the floodlights.

The following day, Thursday, I was off and I ended up back east, this time walking around the Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve, ending up on a beautiful, deserted beach last visited on a considerably sunny and warmer day in May. It was still excellent. I wrote about it here.

On Saturday 22nd December I was back in Edinburgh again, again to see the Hibees play. It was another sunny day and I walked up Calton Hill before going to the game, for spiritual benefit as well as for a future blog post.

My next adventure was Saturday 29th December and it was of course Edinburgh to see Hibs. Before the game, since I left early to avoid being caught up in the crowds heading to or from Ibrox and the Old Firm match, I had a decent walk around the capital, heading down through the New Town to the Botanic Gardens, sitting with my book under the sequoias for a bit, reading of exotic climes through Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, who was of course born a matter of yards away from the Botanics. Hibs got beat and it was a long train ride back to Glasgow. I at least managed to finish my book.

So, that’s the December digest. There will be a Saunter post here on Saturday and the first of the Intercity walks on Sunday. Hopefully I will have some Streets of Glasgow posts after that too. In the meantime, thanks as ever for reading, commenting and following. Have a good month.

Posts this month –

Saturday Saunter: 1st December 2018

Digest: November 2018

Streets of Glasgow: Oswald Street

Saturday Saunter: 8th December 2018

Caledonia Road Church

Streets of Glasgow: Glassford Street

Saturday Saunter: 15th December 2018

Glasgow stuff

Streets of Glasgow: Gorbals Street

Saturday Saunter: 22nd December 2018

Walking along the beach in December

Best of 2018

Books of 2018

Intercity

Intercity

Scotrail come in for quite a bit of stick. To be fair they do some things very well and other things very badly. Their marketing campaigns at the moment tend to focus on the new class 385 trains now running between Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as the Intercity services with refurbished High Speed Trains coming into service connecting Scotland’s seven cities. Those are quite cool. I haven’t been on one yet but I’ve seen some of the trains, complete with the silhouettes of prominent landmarks painted on the side.

The Intercity trains gave me an idea for a new series here on Walking Talking, one to get me out on the road across the country visiting each of Scotland’s seven cities. I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks now and at first I was going to find a street name that each of Scotland’s cities have in common and do a walk on all of them. High Street is too obvious, King Street was possible, as was Queen Street. On a walk the other night, I briefly considered Union Street, but there isn’t an Union Street in Perth. Eventually I decided to pick a street in each of Scotland’s cities and go for a walk, in true psychogeographical fashion. But to make it more interesting I decided that the chosen street should be the first one that came to mind when I thought of that city. The exception is Glasgow since I live here and I’ve written about fifty two streets in this city already for this blog.

Since this is my show and I can make the rules, I’ve decided to twist it slightly. I associate Dundee with two streets that join onto each other so I’m going to write about them. Same with Stirling, which will be part of the walk from the city centre up to the Castle.

I am not sponsored by Scotrail or any other transport company so I won’t necessarily be travelling by train to complete this particular quest. For Edinburgh, Stirling and Perth, most likely; Glasgow, probably.

Next week the series will start in Glasgow and then break out across the country every now and then, basically when I can fit a walk in. Inverness and Aberdeen are a bit harder to manage than Edinburgh, Stirling or Perth, for example, and require more planning. My last series Loose Ends often happened because I could find a connection wherever I happened to be but this can’t be like that. I can’t do Aberdeen after work, for example. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, for what it’s worth, so we’ll see how it goes, beginning next week down by the Clyde…

Thanks for reading. As of February 2019, I have managed six of the seven cities, Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth and Inverness.

Best of 2018

Hope you all had a nice Christmas.

Well, it’s Boxing Day so it must be time for the eagerly anticipated Walking Talking Best of 2018! I actually quite like writing this post every year as I get to look back on some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had over the year, sometimes having my memory jogged by looking through photos as much as going on my first answer. The usual categories apply. Don’t be alarmed, though. There will be a separate Best Books of 2018 post on Saturday. This is about the places I’ve been this year, with a few new entries from last year. Without further ado, let us start with the best museum of the year.

Best museum –

Winner – V and A Dundee

Runner-up – National Football Museum, Manchester

Honourable mention – National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Quite an obvious choice this one. The V and A is great. It is very new and shiny, architecturally amazing with diverse and stimulating exhibitions inside too. The Scottish Design galleries show off the best this country has to offer, done with the style and class of the V and A.

The National Football Museum was also great, the Homes of Football and Bands FC exhibitions both tremendous, particularly for the links to the mighty Hibernian, a nice sign this far from home.

The National Museum of Scotland is tremendous. It always is, of course, with exhibits about Scotland and the wider world. The Rip It Up exhibition about pop music was braw.

Best art gallery – 

Winner – Baltic, Gateshead

Runner-up – Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow

The Baltic is a good favourite of mine. I’ve seen many fine exhibitions there over the years, including the Turner Prize and Martin Parr. It can be hit and miss, like all art. I was there as part of the Great Exhibition of the North in the summer and I loved the Idea of North exhibition, which delved into what the north actually means, and the Lubaina Himid exhibition of banners, Our Kisses Are Petals, complete with my favourite ‘Much Silence Has A Mighty Noise’ which would be on any flag for the incredible introverts of the world.

GoMA is of course in Glasgow and I like wandering around its halls. I have been there a couple of times this year. The Glasgow International exhibitions were good, particularly the street model that was on the second level.

Best historic place – 

Winner – Culross

Runner-up – Aberdour Castle

Culross was brilliant. I was there on a beautiful day over the summer. I sat and read (Leathered by Chris McQueer, since you ask) and wandered around its stunning 16th century buildings, the abbey and along the pier. The weather, its effect on the light, and reading in the sunshine made it the best of days.

Aberdour Castle appears here because it inspired the Loose Ends series that took up much of this year here on the blog. I love Aberdour anyway and particularly the painted ceiling which I spent several minutes admiring while lying on the floor.

Best library – 

Winner – Abbotsford

Runner-up – Glasgow Women’s Library

Honourable mention – any library I work in, of course

Abbotsford was the home of Sir Walter Scott and I was there over the summer, as the result of a Facebook recommendation, would you believe. The study then the library were glorious and I spent many minutes looking around their shelves before I looked out the big windows over the Tweed. An incredible place and when I’m a big boy, I want a library like that.

The Glasgow Women’s Library is a place of light in an ever darker world. I am proud that it exists, especially in this city. I need to get back to read more of their Dervla Murphy stock, which I started earlier in the year. Their Muriel Spark exhibition in the summer was tremendous. The ‘PISSEUR!’ print, inspired by A Far Cry From Kensington, was superb. They were robbed in not getting Museum of the Year too.

Any library I work in is very obvious. I have to be biased.

Best place to watch football – 

Winner – Easter Road Stadium, 9th March 2018

Runner-up – Coldstream, 22nd July 2018

9th March 2018 saw Hibs beat Hearts 2-0 at Easter Road. It was glorious, made even more so by the impeccably timed unveiling of a flag that read ‘Natural Order?’ taking the piss out of some poorly judged remarks by Hearts manager Craig Levein.

Coldstream involved watching the Hibs young team against Coldstream, standing by the pitch and having a good wander by the Tweed. It was a warm afternoon and the football was secondary to just being there in that fine place.

This category stays despite also writing a football blog.

Best fish supper – 

Winner – Anstruther Fish Bar

Runner-up – North Berwick Fry

The Anstruther Fish Bar is justly one of the most popular chip shops in the nation. It is in one of the nicest parts of the country too but even if it wasn’t, it would still be stowed out. Their lemon sole supper, sampled more than once this year but one Friday in August, on a bench drying after rain as I looked out to sea, it was truly, truly braw. Served with salt and sauce, as these things should always be.

The North Berwick Fry fish supper was also served by the sea and also with salt and sauce.

Best park – 

Winner – Kelvingrove Park

Runner-up – Dollar Glen

Kelvingrove Park is a very fine place. I’ve been there with my favourite little people, playing on the swings, or eating lunch during a training course. Or on a beautiful autumn day recently in order to get the right words for a blog post.

Dollar Glen technically isn’t a park. It is glorious, wild and dramatic, leading up to Castle Campbell. I was there on a gorgeous, warm day in the summer.

Best beach – 

Winner – Gullane Beach

Runner-up – Embleton

Gullane was visited one glorious day in May. It was very quiet but beautiful, warm and just a perfect place to be.

Embleton is another favourite, visited on a cooler day but another dear, familiar place.

So, that’s the 2018 Best Of. I had a look through the last three of these and there are quite a few new entries. Easter Road has appeared here before, so has Embleton, Glasgow Women’s Library, NMS and Culross and any library I work in. Writing this on a cold night in early December, the Gullane day, started with a wild game of football before heading out into East Lothian, was the best ever, warm, sunny and richly varied, like life at its best.

Next year there will be a few interesting things here. I turn 30 next year. Before then Intercity, walks in each of Scotland’s seven cities, will be happening. As this is published, I’ve managed three of those walks. I like to be thinking of the next thing though posts like this make me think of just how interesting this year’s jaunts have been.

I end each Saturday Saunter post with thanks to all readers, commenters and followers. It is a reflex but I truly mean it. I write this mainly for myself and it makes me happy to think other people get something from it too. Best of wishes to you all, thanks a lot again. Cheers just now.