Loose Ends: Democracy cairn

It only felt right in following on from the Marjory Bruce cairn in Gallowhill to choose another cairn. I did think about finding another Bruce or even a Stewart connection but one afternoon when roving elsewhere, it occurred to me that there was another cairn in the Central Belt that might work. On Calton Hill in the centre of Edinburgh are quite a few monuments but perhaps the least known is a cairn erected to commemorate efforts to establish a Scottish Parliament. In 1992, after the Conservatives won the general election, a vigil was established at the bottom of the hill to campaign for a Scottish Parliament. The Conservatives were against a Scottish Parliament and this was against the prevailing public view in Scotland, as proven by a referendum held by the Labour government in 1997 which eventually brought the Scottish Parliament into being. The Parliament now sits just below Calton Hill at Holyrood and it can be seen from the cairn.

It was a nice spring day and I walked around the cairn before plonking myself on the grass. The cairn was topped by a firepit, though unlit. Stones had been placed around the cairn for various reasons – linking to Lochmaben and Robert the Bruce, the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, Robert Burns and also Jane Haining, a missionary who did a lot of work to protect Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust, eventually dying at Auschwitz. On the bottom of the cairn was a quote from Hugh MacDiarmid (him, again), which read:

‘For we ha’e faith

In Scotland’s hidden poo’ers.

The present’s theirs,

but a’ the past and future’s oors’


The Scottish Parliament came into being in 1999. I was at school the day it opened and heard Concorde fly overhead. For a lot of people, it was the culmination of a lifetime’s ambitions. Donald Dewar, the First Minister, made a speech which described the Parliament as ‘not an end, but a means to better ends’. It’s twenty years later and the Scottish Parliament is still around, very much a fixture in Scottish life. Whether it should have more powers or indeed whether it should be the legislature of an independent country is for other folk to discuss. The efforts to establish the institution over generations succeeded and it led to the cairn, another Loose End.

From the cairn, I could see right down London Road with the Forth and East Lothian behind. Arthur’s Seat was busy with a steady line of folk heading up Salisbury Crags. I could see right into East Lothian, to Traprain Law, the Hopetoun Monument, even the Lammermuirs. Behind me Calton Hill had quite a few folk on it too, mainly sticking around the National Monument. I sat there for a bit, thinking of connections then went round to stand and look across the city, to Leith, Easter Road, the New Town and the Forth Bridges.

This wasn’t a hard one for connections. The Scottish Parliament was just downhill or I also thought of the Donald Dewar statue on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. Really, I could have chosen anywhere I could see or a place linked to any of the people mentioned on the cairn. In the meantime, I sat by the cairn, enjoying the sunshine. The present was mine.

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

Also, following on from yesterday’s Saturday Saunter post, I have since acquired a copy of Emma by Jane Austen, which I will be re-reading in the coming weeks. I last started it about ten years ago so hopefully I’ll get beyond page five this time.

This post is part of a series. Links to all of the Loose Ends adventures can be found on the Loose Ends page.


Digest: April 2019

So, it’s the April digest. It’s been a busy month, dominated by work and life. I have been able to rove a bit, mostly in the east but a wee bit to the west of the country too.

On Thursday 3rd April, Hibs were playing Kilmarnock. The game was dismal. I had a good walk in Edinburgh beforehand, including up East Claremont Street, a long street leading through the New Town from near enough Broughton Street towards Pilrig.

That Sunday I went to Dirleton Castle. The bus took me to Dirleton and I had a good wander around the castle, despite the haar. As much as I love the castle, the bus journey was just brilliant.

The following Tuesday saw me walk into Paisley on the way home. I stopped off at the Marjory Bruce cairn, which I wrote about for Loose Ends.

On Saturday 13th April, I scaled back my day trip plans, spending much of the time in transit. I stopped in Dunfermline for lunch then headed to Edinburgh for a walk up Calton Hill, enjoying the views in the sunshine.

That Wednesday I had the opportunity to have a walk in Paisley and stopped off to look at the demolition of the old Half-Time School on Maxwellton Street, once housing a school for mill workers. In front of the rubble were remnants of the fine structure that once stood there, ruined by fire about 20 years ago.

Friday 19th April was Good Friday and I was off. Also, it was sunny and hot. I took myself off to Milngavie, a place I had never been before, and walked around its very fine reservoirs, doing a bit of blogging along the way which will appear here in the next few weeks. The Craigmaddie Gauge Basin is wonderful. After Milngavie, I headed next to Bearsden to its Roman bathhouse, part of the Antonine Wall and a place I had wanted to visit for ages. I wandered along its walls and sat under a tree to scribble. From there I went to Govanhill for a visit to Category Is Books, which I had never been to before, and then to Queen’s Park and for a psychogeographic meander around the south side. I was knackered after.

Sunday 21st April saw Hibs play Celtic. Ofir Marciano, what a man. It was hot and after the match I walked around Edinburgh a bit, eventually sitting down with a book in Lochend Park.

On Saturday 27th April, I went on a bus to Kirkcaldy and spent a wee while wandering around my favourite art gallery.

The following day Hibs were playing Hearts in the Edinburgh derby. Before the game, I stood on Calton Hill for a bit with my thoughts. After, I went to the Botanics and sat under my favourite trees, the sequoias.

Anyway, that’s the April digest. Thanks very much to all readers, commenters and followers. The Saturday Saunter is up next on Saturday and on Sunday is due to be Loose Ends. Have a very nice May. Peace.

Posts this month –

Loose Ends: ‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart

Saturday Saunter: 6th April 2019

Streets of Glasgow: Wilson Street

Streets of Glasgow: Fifty Pitches Road

Saturday Saunter: 13th April 2019

Loose Ends: Bilsdean

End of the line: Gourock

Saturday Saunter: 20th April 2019

Loose Ends: Bridge to Nowhere

Streets of Glasgow: St. Vincent Street

Saturday Saunter: 27th April 2019

Loose Ends: Dirleton Castle


Digest: March 2019

Digest time and I covered less ground than in February but that isn’t always a bad thing.

My first adventure of the month was Saturday 2nd March when Hibs were playing Celtic in Edinburgh. Before the game I went for a rain-soaked walk to Newhaven.

The following Friday I was again in Edinburgh to see the Hibs.

The next Thursday I was in town for an event. Beforehand I went to the Glasgow Women’s Library to see the Artemisia Gentileschi painting on display there. On the way back I sat in Glasgow Green to eat my sandwiches then had a good wander around the Merchant City, managing two walks as part of this blog’s Streets of Glasgow series.

That Saturday I was once more in Edinburgh to see Hibs. It had been cold and snowy and it became cold and wet so it was brief. It got nicer as I got closer to Glasgow. It was ever thus.

The following day I went out around Glasgow. I visited the new Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue, Kelvingrove and Cathkin Park as part of a wider Glaswegian ramble. I had felt that I had neglected my adopted home and this went a great way to redressing the balance and satisfying the deep love I have for this city.

That Monday I was off for a very nice day trip with a friend around Glasgow. We were at the Women’s Library to see that Artemsia painting again then we went to the House for an Art Lover (which was all right, with very good scones) and finally GoMA which had a fantastic exhibition about filmmaker Margaret Tait.

The following Sunday I spent the day bopping around southern Scotland and Northumberland, taking in Dawyck Botanic Garden, the walls at Berwick and Eyemouth where we went for a perfectly serviceable chippy. It was good to be in familiar climes for a while, with the walk around Dawyck particularly soothing and good for the soul.

On Friday I went to Livingston to watch the Hibs.

Yesterday I went out for lunch then went on the train to Gourock, the end of the train line that runs beside my house. Gourock was nice in the breezy spring sunshine.

Today I am planning on going to Dunbar or at least somewhere in the east.

So, that’s the March digest. Thank you to all readers, commenters and followers. Post 600 will appear next month. It’ll be a good one. Streets of Glasgow returns next Sunday while Loose Ends appears on Wednesday. Cheers just now.

Posts this month –

Saturday Saunter: 2nd March 2019

Digest: February 2019

Loose Ends: Portobello Potteries

Saturday Saunter: 9th March 2019

Streets of Glasgow: West George Street

Loose Ends: Leakey’s Bookshop

Saturday Saunter: 16th March 2019

Streets of Glasgow: Jamaica Street

Loose Ends: Desperate Dan

Saturday Saunter: 23rd March 2019

Streets of Glasgow: Bell Street

Loose Ends: Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue

Saturday Saunter: 30th March 2019

Loose Ends: Portobello Potteries


Loose Ends continues about half a mile from the last destination, in a housing estate in Portobello, Edinburgh’s seaside village. Porty was a Victorian seaside resort and it retains a certain elan today. It is also known for its pottery production and the power station that once stood by King’s Road. Two pottery kilns remain, though they are no longer used for that purpose, still standing and the last two bottle kilns in Scotland, used until 1972. The kilns, one from 1906 and the other 1909, were used for firing ceramics, piled high in the kiln and heated until properly glazed. They stand high on the landscape in red or golden brick, some on the 1909 kiln originating from a brickworks in Armadale, judging by the stamp on the top of a few of them. Ceramic production in Porty began in the 1770s, lasting over two centuries and involving all sorts of ceramic ware, the most recent more decorative. The 1909 kiln had been restored and it showed with the black iron rings around its base and middle to keep the thing up. The brickwork was more modern with the doorway bearing a mural showing what the inside would have looked like in use. I wandered around a couple of times, read the board and moved on, appreciating the reminder of this place’s history in a modern housing scheme.


To the connections, then, and I was thinking about Summerlee, an industrial museum in Coatbridge I am overdue a trip back to, or possibly a wander around the site at Prestongrange, which also had kilns. Maybe a trip to one of the Museums of Edinburgh on the High Street, which have a decent pottery collection. We’ll see what transpires.

Digest: February 2019

The February digest feels quite a long while from the last one, even though I only wrote it a month ago. The first adventure of the month came when I went through early to Edinburgh to see the Hibs. It was a bright, baltic Saturday and I was dodging the hordes off to watch the egg-chasing at Murrayfield. I ended up walking out as far as Portobello, stopping first at Meadowbank Stadium, then heading to the ground via Seafield and Leith Links. Some of this epic wander has featured in Loose Ends in recent weeks and again this coming Wednesday.



The following Wednesday saw me at Celtic Park to see the Hibs again and also the light show, which was absolutely dreadful on many, many levels. My phone’s camera roll shows I also stopped for a look at Rachel Maclean’s Billy Connolly mural which is on a gable end in the Gallowgate.

That Friday was Inverness, there for Intercity. I had lunch, did the walk, spent time and money in Leakey’s Bookshop then had a good wander around the museum with its Pictish stanes. It was a cracking day.

The next day was Saturday and I was at Easter Road to see Hibs again. That evening, though, was a work night out and we went to the Theatre Royal to see Abigail’s Party, which was all right, a show best enjoyed with a drink in me as some of the references went over my head. The night concluded with going out on the town. A good time was had by all.

Guess where I was the following Saturday? That’s right, Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, to see Hibs play, this time with Paul Heckingbottom in charge. Hecky’s at the wheel…

That Sunday I was in Fife, going for a bracing walk along the coast from Dysart to Ravenscraig Castle then for a drive to Cellardyke, which was great in the late afternoon light. Tea was had, after a fashion, in St. Andrews.

Last weekend I was up in Dundee to see Hibs play at Dens then on the Saturday I went up to Aberdeen for the concluding chapter of Intercity plus to see relatives. In Dundee I went to the V and A then to the McManus, which actually did more for me that particular afternoon. Before I went to Aberdeen on the Saturday, I wandered around Dundee city centre and stopped by the statue of Desperate Dan. In Aberdonia, motorbikes heralded the close of Intercity and later we went out for ice cream in the shadow of a metal cat.

On Wednesday I was in Perth to see the Hibs. The journey up was nice, the setting sun casting a nice light on the Perthshire hills.

Anyway, that’s the February digest. March has no great plans as yet. As I wrote in the Saunter post yesterday, I hope to do a bit more exploring around Glasgow this month. We’ll see. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Loose Ends is back on Wednesday and Streets of Glasgow next Sunday. Cheers the now.

Posts this month –

Saturday Saunter: 2nd February 2019

Digest: January 2019

Loose Ends: Greyfriars Burial Ground

Saturday Saunter: 9th February 2019

Intercity: Perth

Loose Ends: John Witherspoon statue

The places I love

Saturday Saunter: 16th February 2019

Intercity: Inverness

Loose Ends: Meadowbank Stadium

Saturday Saunter: 23rd February 2019

Intercity: Aberdeen

Words, salt and sauce

Loose Ends: Portobello Community Garden

Saturday Saunter: 2nd March 2019

Good morning,

I had actually written something for this morning but I’m up and I can do this live. As I start this, it is 08:31 on Saturday morning and there is blue sky interspersed with some scattered white clouds. Playing in the background is a special edition of the West Wing Weekly podcast featuring Martin Sheen. What a dude he is. I might change what I’m listening to as I go. We’ll see.

Today I’m off to Edinburgh to see Hibs play the lesser greens but kick-off isn’t until teatime so I’m not sure what time I’m going to head through to the capital. It was extraordinarily mild last weekend and earlier this week but cooler and more February/March-like now. It is forecast to be wet tonight but hopefully it will stay dry enough to have a wander either here in Glasgow, which I haven’t done in ages, or in Edinburgh. Tomorrow I might go for a jaunt around Glasgow or I might have a lie-in and not cross the threshold. The lie-in would be good though I only woke up about 8 this morning, which counts in my book.

My travelling book today is the history of grime music which I took with me to Dundee last weekend and actually managed to start on the way to Perth on Wednesday. It is actually quite interesting, giving an insight into the music and its creators as well as the broader context of its origins in London in the early part of the millennium. After that, I might read some crime fiction.

After this, I’ll do some yoga and weights then start to think about how I will proceed into the day. My regime isn’t that elaborate, taking around an hour, but it works at the moment. My yoga book has three stages and I’m still doing the first stage poses though I tried to do a full bow last night, which is more advanced, and it didn’t go well. There was a lot of swearing, let’s say.

I write something every day with the blog getting some attention every few days depending on what I’m doing. Last night I sat down and wrote the Saunter post I was going to post today (it will be here next week; it’s a tour of Glasgow) and also the February digest, which will appear here tomorrow. I tend to write in bursts and if I’m on a roll, I can go for a while. Then I woke up this morning and decided to write again too. When it’s going well, writing is wonderful, words appearing on the screen, flowing and ebbing like a mountain river. It is an outlet, a great one, and it’s nice to be doing.

Another train has passed my window. I live right by the railway and hundreds of trains pass every day. Yet they don’t really register any more, only picked up when I’m not focusing on anything else. Every few minutes, there is an electric train in a hurry, sounding like a speeded-up car horn with the wheels clattering on the tracks, speeding for the coast or the city. Sometimes I see a train and wish I was on it, maybe bound for Glasgow or a ferry somewhere. Today it’s Central and then to Edinburgh. It’s going to be great.


Central Station gates

Anyway, that’s our Saunter this morning, live and still with Martin Sheen in my ears. Love that man. Tomorrow will be the February digest, Loose Ends will be back on Wednesday. Have a very lovely weekend. Toodle pip.

Loose Ends: Portobello Community Garden


The last instalment of Loose Ends involved a look at Meadowbank Stadium in the process of demolition. This time began a mere 40 minutes later, along in Portobello, a seaside enclave of Edinburgh. I had just had a bite of lunch (small steak pies from the baker’s, since you ask) and thus refuelled I walked along the Esplanade until I came to some chimneys which I had seen before and felt might be a good addition to this series. I couldn’t remember anything about them except they had interesting carvings. The three pillars, I soon learned, came from a garden nearby, press-moulded blocks of Coade Stone. The chimneys at Dalmeny House at the other side of the city had a similar design to the smaller pillars. They always have a tinge of exoticism to them, maybe more likely to be found somewhere warm rather than by the beach in Porty. I got a few photos then turned round, getting a great view across the Forth towards North Berwick Law, Hopetoun Monument, the Pans and Musselburgh.


Again, I had decided the next destination, but I could have gone to Dalmeny House, which I had been to a few years back, or to any one of the places I could see. Even though it was baltic, I was glad to have had a good look at these pillars. They connected well with Meadowbank Stadium, a place now getting demolished though with a distinct, though very different architectural style, and the thought occurred to me that while a couple of connections recently have been about death, this one was about renewal. Life, death and the resurrection, to go all Biblical. Those deep thoughts done with, I walked on, ready for the next.

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

Words, salt and sauce

In the Saturday Saunter post yesterday, I wrote that if I didn’t get the Intercity Aberdeen post written in time, something else would appear here instead. Well, this is it. I managed to do the Aberdeen post but also wrote this just in case. In a departure from routine, I thought I would post this anyway, some musings about being an east coast exile living in the west of Scotland.

I am writing this on International Mother Languages Day, 21st February, and the Scottish Book Trust have been sharing various examples of Scots and Gaelic on their social media pages. The SBT do these things very well and hopefully as the day goes on, their pages will be awash with contributions of the diversity and wonder of our nation’s languages. I love delving into the vernacular whenever possible. There are times when I can’t help it and mostly it is still east coast, East Lothian or Edinburgh type words that I use. Occasionally, only very occasionally the odd Glaswegian word will sneak out but generally I am a product of my upbringing on the right side of the country. That was further shown by a Dialect Quiz which appeared the other week on, of all things, the website of the mighty New York Times. The words I use put me as either being from Edinburgh, Dundee or Ayr, apparently, suggesting the geographic spread of where I’ve lived fairly accurately.

Edinburgh and Leith: the heart of salt and sauce country

Another indicator of my east coast-ness comes from my choice of condiments. I should explain to any non-Scottish readers that in central Scotland there is a dividing line between those who take salt and vinegar on their fish and chips and those sensible folk who choose salt and sauce. The salt and sauce part is generally east of Falkirk while vinegar prevails in the west, where I live. Ironically, as the Edinburgh Evening News pointed out the other day, chippy sauce (essentially watered down HP Sauce) is actually made here in Glasgow, even though it isn’t widely available here. One of my local chippies here in the Weeg sells bottles of it so usually I have a supply though I always mean to pop into a chippy in the east and buy a big bottle of madeup stuff and smuggle it back home. Nothing beats salt and sauce on a sausage supper, or a king rib or a chip steak. A fish supper deluged in the good stuff is what dreams are made of.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy what’s left of your weekend.

Loose Ends: Meadowbank Stadium


I was in Edinburgh a bit early and decided to have a wander in the very cold sunshine. My intended destination was the Craigentinny Mausoleum, linking it with death and the Greyfriars Burial Ground in Perth, forgetting I had been to the John Witherspoon statue in Paisley since. Witherspoon went to the University of Edinburgh, though, so anything in the capital would do. Then I came past Meadowbank Stadium, which is in the process of being demolished in order to build a brand new sports centre in its place. There has been a local campaign appealing to Edinburgh City Council not to cut down the trees that line the street outside the stadium. Some of the trees bear banners and knitted decorations in support of the campaign. The words ‘Don’t Kill Our Trees’ summed it up well. The stadium was built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and the stand was Brutalist in style. When I looked up from the trees, I realised that there was a big hole where most of the stand used to be, only two small sections left at either side. Since I love old football grounds and particularly their architecture, it was a particularly beguiling sight to see the stand in the process of demolition. In front of the stand, aside from those trees, were boards bearing graffiti as part of a wider art installation, including a drawing by local school children. It was good to get a look at all that street art but I was so glad to have caught the stand in mid-demolition.


The next connection came about 40 minutes after this unexpected joy though it could have connected with any semi-derelict structure, maybe even St. Peter’s Seminary in the woods outside Cardross, or Cathkin Park, featured in this series previously. Meadowbank is also a place I went on a school trip, being near where I went to primary school, so any place I went to with the school could have worked. This was a good few minutes just looking at imagining what will come next and enjoying Meadowbank in its current state of change.

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


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.

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.