Loose Ends: Makar’s Court

Makar’s Court was an easy choice for Loose Ends, a place right in the heart of Edinburgh but not on the tourist trail, or at least not as much as the well-trodden Royal Mile. It came about through a link with John Muir, whose writings from Bonaventure in Georgia during his Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf often come to mind whenever I’m in a cemetery. A quote from Muir appears on the ground in Makar’s Court, a selection of literary quotes outside the Writers’ Museum in Lady Stair’s Close, just off the High Street. The Muir quote is a nice one, from a selection of his writings called John of the Mountains:

‘I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness’.

Nearby were two other quotes that I liked, one from Perth poet William Soutar, and the other from Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross, who I had never heard of. I’m sure that’s my loss. A quick Google search has provided the very interesting distinction that Elizabeth Melville is the earliest known Scottish writer to be published. More research will follow into that, definitely.

I like wandering in Makar’s Court so know some of the quotes well. Possible links came thick and fast, John Galt and Burns to Ayrshire, Hugh MacDiarmid leading through the SNP which he helped to found to Charlotte Square where a First Minister of that party is resident. There were a few folk dotting around, some looking at the quotes, others marching towards the Royal Mile, one or two even wandering in to the Writers’ Museum. I haven’t been in years so will need to go soon. The words outside on the pavement usually do fine for me, an interesting mix of Scottish writers, some very famous ones not included while some others are highlighted and their best words out for all to read and hopefully seek out more.


Thank you for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week. As mentioned last week, Loose Ends goes on hiatus after the 21st post. Still a few more to go, though.

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Loose Ends: The Necropolis

I was in Glasgow for a course. As I left the mighty Mitchell Library, I had a spur of the moment thought to go to the Necropolis. It was a sunny afternoon and I fancied being outside in the city for a bit. Along the way I tried to think of a possible connection between Cathkin Park and the Necropolis but struggled, eventually coming up with the fact both are owned and managed by Glasgow City Council. I reached the Cathedral and dodged lots of phone cameras pointing in its direction to turn over the bridge into the Necropolis.

The Necropolis is a cemetery, the City of the Dead, sitting right behind Glasgow Cathedral on the eastern edge of the city centre. I’ve been there twice before, since I’m not normally a huge fan of cemeteries. I’m a firm believer that we can remember those we’ve lost anywhere and we don’t necessarily need to be morbid when we do it. As I walked into the Necropolis, I thought about the last cemetery I was in, Deer Park, near Dunbar, a place where I knew not a few folk buried there, some of them relatives of mine. Deer Park is a community cemetery and I shouldn’t think many tourists go there, as a general rule. The Necropolis was busy with people from all sorts of places, some wandering amidst the stones like I was, others enjoying the cityscape below. What I like about the Necropolis is not only its fine views across the city but also the diverse architecture and stories contained therein. One of the first graves I came to was that of William Miller, the writer of the Scots lullaby Wee Willie Winkie and ‘Laureate of the Nursery’, the second best turn of phrase I had encountered that day besides ‘supersonic austerity’, which was in quite a different context. Throughout the Necropolis there were graves talking of infant mortality, service in foreign wars, work as merchants, writers and tradespeople, quotations from scripture or poetry, some of which I read aloud. Cemeteries often provide valuable insights into social history and the Necropolis was certainly no exception.

After paying my respects at the graves of John and Isabella Elder, I walked a little further, thinking of one of my favourite passages from John Muir, the naturalist and explorer who also came from Dunbar. After being injured in an industrial accident in Indianapolis, Muir walked one thousand miles to the Gulf of Mexico in the earliest part of a lifelong effort to study and appreciate nature. At one point he stopped off in Georgia, camping in a cemetery for five days as he waited for money to be wired from his family. As I stood under a tree, I read from Muir:

‘On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. Instead of the sympathy, the friendly union, of life and death so apparent in Nature, we are taught that death is an accident, a deplorable punishment for the oldest sin, the arch-enemy of life, etc…But let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights.’

I was now in a quieter part of the Necropolis, with fewer graves and more trees. The view of the city was still impressive there and I felt a moment of affection for this city I called home, a Dear Green Place indeed. A few minutes before I looked across and a hill loomed above Celtic Park, almost fooling me that it was Arthur’s Seat, way across in Edinburgh. It wasn’t but it had me for a second.

As I walked alone in the lower part of the Necropolis, I thought about the book I was reading, Silverland by Dervla Murphy. Dervla Murphy was travelling across Russia through the winter and as ever her writing was as varied and interesting as the many people she met along the way. At one point she talked about the environmental impact of death, the polluting effects of embalming fluid as well as fumes from crematoria. All round, she said being allowed to gradually decompose in the earth would probably be best for the planet. The walk in the Necropolis brought up lots of thoughts, from books to a story I heard recently about someone who made a point every day they were in Paris to go to the grave of Jim Morrison. Even as I walked up to the John Knox monument, I had a line from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, that he was an embittered man, that ‘he could never be at ease with the gay French Queen’. John Knox also gave his name to the street below the Necropolis, which I covered for Streets of Glasgow not long after.

To the connections and of course John Knox could take me to many places across this country, Haddington where he was born or St. Giles Cathedral where Knox was minister. His grave sits under the car park just across Parliament Square. John Muir was born in Dunbar and I did think briefly about going to the Broomielaw from where Muir’s ship the Warren left for New York in 1849. The graves of John and Isabella Elder could lead to a visit to Elder Park in Govan. Since I thought I saw Arthur’s Seat in the distance, it might be worth going up that hill, though not until after the Edinburgh Festival finished. The Celtic crosses with traces of Pictish style might lead to somewhere in Dalriada, like Kilmartin, or indeed somewhere related to the Picts. A stone marking the remains of University of Glasgow professors formerly interred in Blackfriars Cemetery may be the link to a trip to Gilmorehill.

The clouds had darkened. I had circled the cemetery a couple of times and seen a lot more of it than ever before. For most of the time I had been alone, only at its summit coming across other living mortals. It had been a good walk, to think, to look across the city and get a little more perspective on it, even if Arthur’s Seat wasn’t really in sight.

Thank you for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Just a wee heads-up that Loose Ends will pause after the 21st link post, scheduled to appear in about four weeks’ time. I thought it would be the 20th but I managed to miscount. As ever I hope to have something interesting to replace it though at the moment I’m not sure what that will be. Fear not, though, there are four of the current batch left to go, beginning next week not so far from the Necropolis.

Digest: August 2018

Another month and another digest. I started this month on holiday and managed a fair few adventures along the way.

Wednesday 1st August I bopped around Glasgow. I had a few bits of business to do in the town before heading out to Cathkin Park for a Loose Ends post. It was good to be at Cathkin again, to stand, ponder and wander. I noticed a major difference on the terracing as a lot of overgrown flora and debris had been cleared. Later on I went to the Gallery of Modern Art, first doing a Streets of Glasgow walk on Royal Bank Place. GoMA had an interesting blend of exhibitions going on – have a look at their website for updates.

Painting of Plug from the Bash Street Kids, McManus Galleries, Dundee

The following day was my birthday and I went to Dundee for the day, having lunch and then going around the fabulous McManus Galleries with its exhibition on the Bash Street Kids. The parodies of famous paintings featuring Beano characters, most memorably Plug in the style of Vincent van Gogh, was utterly genius.

Sunday 5th August was the first game of the league season so I went through to Edinburgh for that, doing the same the next Thursday for Molde in the Europa League.

That Friday I had a training course in Glasgow and after that was done I walked through the town and ended up in the Necropolis, which I have also written about for Loose Ends. I had a bit of a reverie there, thinking of history and the present in waves. Thereafter I covered John Knox Street and George Street for Streets of Glasgow, the latter in heavy rain.

A penguin sculpture in a Formula 1 fire suit, Perth

Perth was the destination the following Sunday for yet more soccerball. Before going to McDiarmid Park, I ended up being led around some of the penguins that have plodded off from the larger trail currently gracing Dundee and surrounding districts.

Yet another Sunday with football came the following week, this time back in the capital with yet more rain.

Anstruther, looking towards East Lothian

Friday 24th was the start of a long weekend. That morning I achieved a longtime ambition and walked the length of Paisley Road West. It was to celebrate the 500th post and third anniversary of this blog. The walk was fine, not the most exciting but it was in nice weather and it was diverting enough. That afternoon I went on a world tour of Fife, lunching in Dunfermline and eating a lemon sole supper along the coast in Anstruther. Sitting looking out the window along the way, including from the top deck of a 95 bus from Leven to Anstruther, was glorious.

That Saturday I went to the capital to watch the Hibees once more.

Ramshorn Cemetery, Glasgow

The next Friday I went on a wee jaunt after work, walking through the city on a glorious sunny afternoon and bagging two more Streets of Glasgow plus another Loose Ends adventure in the Ramshorn Graveyard.

In August I managed to read a fair bit. By screen I read Notes On A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig and My Life, Our Times by Gordon Brown. In print I worked through some more of Dervla Murphy’s oeuvre. Her words are measured and refreshing. Informed curiosity is the only way I can think of to describe it. We need more people like Dervla Murphy in our world.

This was the first year in a decade that I haven’t managed to be at the Edinburgh Book Festival at all. The only day I had tickets I ended up giving them back because Hibs were playing. I avoid the Fringe and my visits to the capital involved going out of Waverley Station the back way and heading east. September is the month of Edinburgh for me and I look forward to getting back to the capital for some proper wanders without fear of being handed a hundred leaflets.

This month I also managed to go swimming for the first time in at least five years. I don’t write much about my fitness regime, which consists of occasional visits to the gym and a whole lot of walking, but learning to swim properly is on my 30 Before 30 list as is being comfortable enough to wild swim.

My football blog Easter Road West has had a few posts this month. A lot of it has been about the varying fortunes of the Hibees, though I have also written about the identity of Hibs as an Edinburgh and Leith team and also a walk around the outside of St. James Park in Newcastle.

That’s the tale of August. September should be interesting too. It might involve an island trip, it will definitely involve football away days. There will be a few manoeuvres in the name of this blog too. It’ll be fun.

I didn’t want to be all schmaltzy with the 500th post but I want to thank all readers, commenters and followers for their support over the last three years. I know some readers in real life, others only through a screen. Regardless it’s nice to know there are folk reading and maybe even benefiting from what I write in some small way. Thanks again for reading, commenting and following. Have a good day and a nice September.

Posts in August –

Digest: July 2018

Coming soon…

Streets of Glasgow: London Road

Loose Ends: Coldstream

Streets of Glasgow: Royal Bank Place

Loose Ends: The Meadows

Streets of Glasgow: John Knox Street

Loose Ends: Cathkin Park

Streets of Glasgow: Paisley Road West

Streets of Glasgow: George Street

Loose Ends: The Meadows

The Meadows, a large public park to the south of Edinburgh city centre, is a place I know well, having walked around it many times over the years. It became a part of Loose Ends through Hibs. The last connection, Coldstream, was reached because I was there to see the Cabbage while the Meadows saw the very first game of the fledgling Hibernian Football Club on Christmas Day 1875 against Heart of Midlothian. In the interests of fairness I have to advise that Hearts won by a goal to nil. I was in the Meadows on a beautiful summer’s afternoon and not much football was happening, more people reading, sunbathing, barbecuing, even, in the warm July sunshine. Jazz musicians even made the chilled out feeling audible amidst the mass of humanity. Lots of people being around made taking photos a little difficult since I try to avoid getting people on camera if I can avoid it.

I walked across the Meadows on Jawbone Walk, thinking up possible connections as I went. A nearby mural made me think of Muriel Spark and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, set nearby. Jawbone Walk used to lead to a whale’s jawbone, removed within the last decade, and that could connect to North Berwick Law where a fibreglass replica sits on the top. Essayist and poet Kathleen Jamie wrote about jawbones in one of her essay volumes and that could take me to some other places Jamie has written about like Surgeon’s Hall, Charlotte Square or Orkney, to name but three. That Hibs and Hearts played their first game in the Meadows might lead to Tynecastle. I could see David Hume Tower, part of the University, across the Meadows, also visible from my seat at Easter Road, which might take me back to the Borders and Chirnside which is near where Hume was born. Going up Arthur’s Seat, like an elephant high above, was a possibility. I remembered my own early experiences in the Meadows at the fun fair and a picnic. I went to primary school across the city at Craigentinny, another possibility for an adventure.

A little later I sat nearby in Holyrood Park, writing notes and thinking of my brisk walk through the Meadows. On other days I had lingered longer, thoughts, plans, ideas fuelling circuits around the park, perhaps across Bruntsfield Links and back. I thought about Norman MacCaig, who lived near the Meadows with several of his poems set there. Ideas come in the strangest of places and I often get mine while walking. This walk in a familiar place yielded one or two, more words and another adventure amidst the loose ends to come.

Thank you for reading.

Another Loose Ends adventure follows here next week.

Next post is a Streets of Glasgow post, which will be on Wednesday.

My football blog Easter Road West does have a post today, which is about today’s game against Ross County.

Digest: July 2018

July 2018’s Digest comes after another busy month with a few adventures, the return of the football and me now just finished a week’s leave.

Sunday 1st July saw me in Kirkcaldy, a notion just to get on a bus taking me to my favourite art gallery, which had a very fine exhibition of paintings from the Edinburgh School, Anne Redpath, William Gillies and others.

That Saturday took me across an Orange walk onto a train to Dunbar. It was a warm day in my home town and I proceeded to walk for miles and miles, going out across the golf course to Barns Ness lighthouse, a place I had seen frequently on social media photographs recently and from my window in times past. Masochism led me up Doon Hill, written about here, stopping every few yards to wipe sweat from my face, and I looked across Dunbar and the Forth on the way up. I sat at the top for a bit, avoiding a tour group, and looked down towards Torness and St. Abbs Head. My way back into Dunbar took me to Deer Park cemetery, a place of familiar names, relatives, friends and others I’ve known or known of. I sat for a bit under the Prom, looking towards the Bass and scribbling notes in the sunshine. I ended up at Belhaven standing on the beach with my thoughts awhile before I turned back, eventually dining on a chippy by the harbour.

The next day the Hibs were back. Engineering works meant I took the bus to and from the capital, reading along the way the mountaineer Cameron McNeish’s autobiography. From the bus station I undertook a Streets of Glasgow walk on Killermont Street.

That Thursday the Hibs were playing again. On the way to the stadium I walked down through the New Town, an old psychogeographic haunt.

The Friday was my day off and I went to the Glasgow Women’s Library. I had a couple of books to donate plus I had decided to write about the GWL for Loose Ends here on the blog. I ended up joining the library and came away with a book plus pleased to see a Muriel Spark exhibition in progress. I then walked all the way along London Road for Streets of Glasgow, a very long walk but a varied and interesting one. Earlier I took in St. Mary’s Church in the Calton for a future blog post.

A week or so later, I found myself on the bus to Ayr, heading for the Bachelors’ Club in Tarbolton. It was diverting and interesting. The view from the M77 coming back to Glasgow was a major highlight of the day.

The next day I went to Coldstream to watch a Hibs XI rout the locals. On the way I had a few minutes in Berwick – I need to get back there soon – and spent a while wandering around Coldstream between buses. Another Loose Ends post resulted from that walk.

That Thursday Hibs were playing and I went through to Edinburgh a little early on that beautiful sunny day for a walk through the Meadows then Holyrood Park. I ate my fast food watching the ducks and swans in Lochend Park.

The following day I went out on an adventure with my favourite little people around Glasgow on an open top bus.

Sunday 29th was wet and involved a day trip by car, including Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Kirkcaldy Galleries, as well as a walk along the Prom at Portobello and thereafter at Port Seton where we had an unbelievably good fish supper. The nicest weather came when I got back to Glasgow.

I was off the next week and on Tuesday 31st I went to Newcastle via Carlisle. In the hour I had to kill in Carlisle, I made sure I got to the underpass between Tullie House and Carlisle Castle which is a pleasant display of industrial objects and a stone bearing a curse made by the Bishop of Glasgow against the Border Reivers. Newcastle was in the midst of the Great Exhibition of the North and the Grey Monument bore some superb egalitarian slogans. When I discovered that this was part of the Great Exhibition of the North, I was very glad my taxes were going towards it. Better that than Trident. I went over to Gateshead to the Baltic which had two very good exhibitions, one of which was Our Kisses are Petals by Lubaina Himid which featured African-inspired banners with interesting phrases on them. My favourite was ‘Much Silence Has A Mighty Noise’. The other cracking exhibition was Idea Of North which included a mixture of stuff including a display of photographs of people in North Eastern England by various female photographers, a dome talking about sustainable building materials, a poem by Sean O’Brien and WN Herbert, and a display about TyneDeck, a 1960s modernist utopian proposal for the quayside outside the Baltic. Leaving aside my Scottishness bristling against Newcastle being considered ‘north’ (in England, yes, in these islands, goodness no), I liked it a lot. Make sure you get there, if you can.

Anyway, that’s July. August has started fine. I was off work until yesterday. I went on some adventures, did family stuff.

The next post here might be tomorrow, I’m not sure yet. There will definitely be one on Friday, a Streets of Glasgow post, to be precise, featuring London Road. Loose Ends: Coldstream is on Sunday.

Easter Road West has a post tonight about Super John McGinn and his departure to Aston Villa. Tomorrow there will also be a post there with some thoughts about the Motherwell game on Sunday as well as tomorrow night’s Europa League match. A couple of ERW highlights from July are a post about being a Hibs fan living in Glasgow and another about that mighty publication The Wee Red Book.

August involves this blog’s third anniversary. This is the blog’s 492nd post, remarkably. I haven’t quite managed to put my idea for the 500th post into practice, yet. I don’t have long. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for future posts, please feel free to share them.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. It’s been quite a ride so far. Cheers just now. Enjoy the rest of your August.

Posts this month –

Loose Ends: National Museum of Scotland

Digest: June 2018

Daisies

Subway Surface: St. Enoch-Kinning Park

Loose Ends: Dunfermline

My favourite bench

Doon Hill

Subway Surface: Kinning Park-Govan

Loose Ends: Abbotsford

Gallimaufry

Subway journey

Streets of Glasgow: Drury Street

Loose Ends: Glasgow Women’s Library

The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues

Travelling books

Streets of Glasgow: Killermont Street

Loose Ends: Bachelors’ Club

Loose Ends: Dunfermline

It might astonish you to learn that these posts actually have a bit of preparation behind them. I usually write notes and then work from those and the photos to get a post together. This one’s notes were actually written sitting on a step in the Abbey Nave in Dunfermline, under those pillars architecturally interesting as ever and reminding me in style of Durham Cathedral. The last Loose Ends post was the National Museum of Scotland and that could lead virtually anywhere. In the end the link between NMS and Dunfermline was that Edinburgh is the current capital of Scotland and Dunfermline was once our capital. Plus Edinburgh was the birthplace of King James VI (I of England) while Dunfermline was where his son Charles I was born, as I was reminded at the gate of the Abbey. Usually I just go to the Abbey Nave though this time I also went to the Palace, once the Abbey’s guesthouse until it was taken over by James VI’s wife, Anne of Denmark, and became an expansive palace even if it was only used for a brief time. There were connections galore as I walked around, indeed in the gatehouse is a display of gargoyles and other features with photos of other places with similar things, including Linlithgow and Aberdour visited in this series already. All sorts of links were coming to mind, Charles I leading to Oliver Cromwell and the Cromwell Harbour in Dunbar. Anne of Denmark would lead to North Berwick and its witch trials. Mason’s marks would lead to Rosslyn Chapel with the Mason’s and Apprentice’s Pillars. Graffiti in the Palace reminded me of the fine graffiti on the walls of Crichton Castle in Midlothian. Indeed the only place that I hadn’t been to before was Brechin Cathedral, mentioned in the gatehouse display.I had forgotten how good the Palace is in Dunfermline, a secret staircase leading down to the range and vaulted cellars. As I took my leave, the same guy was still bending the stewards’ ears about the Picts as when I had gone in.The Abbey Nave just makes me smile, sprays of coloured light just like Durham Cathedral with chevron pillars and the rest. It is braw. There are also examples of pre-Reformation decoration and fine carvings. My hay fever was particularly bad that day and my sneezes echoed high into the ceilings. The cellars of the Palace and the Abbey Nave itself were perfect for such a warm day and I sat there for a bit, scribbling notes and just looking around. Behind me in the Abbey Church was the grave of Robert the Bruce, making me think of trips to Melrose where his heart is buried or Dumfries where he killed a rival in a church. In the meantime I just sat and looked, feeling momentarily at peace amidst the ancient stones, at the centre of Scotland and its past revelling in where I was and where I might be another day.


Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows next week. Elsewhere in the blogosphere today is a post from my other blog, Easter Road West, all about Paul Hanlon’s testimonial.

Digest: June 2018

Heat. Exam. Buses. Shorts. Sunshine. Castles. The first six words I can think of to describe my June. It has been very warm here in Glasgow for the vast majority of June. I am writing this on Saturday night and it is sweltering. I don’t handle the heat well anyway but this week has been beyond belief. This whole month has, really. We tend to get summer for about a week then it gets all horrible again. This year it’s been summer with a few days of dreich. I could do with some dreich soon, though.

Lighthouse lamp at National Museum of Scotland

Friday 1st June saw me going to the capital for some shopping. I walked up the Royal Mile, had a look at the quotes lining the wall outside the Scottish Parliament then ducked into St. Giles, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends here on the blog. It didn’t happen as I was scunnered by the £2 to take photos. I spent far longer in the very lovely National Museum of Scotland, which did feature in Loose Ends this past Sunday. I had forgotten how good NMS is and I only went to a few select bits, much of the Scottish and some of the old museum. Brilliant place.

St. Andrews Castle
Dunfermline Abbey Nave

The following week I was off for my OU exam. I revise better with less distractions and amazingly well on buses. I ended up on a bus to St. Andrews, reading my books on the way and having a good wander around the town and along the beach when I got there. The following day I ended up in Dunfermline, again revising on the bus and taking in the Palace and the Abbey Nave, the latter the work of the same stonemasons who did Durham Cathedral. That was another Loose End, featuring here this coming Sunday. The Friday was exam day and I sat in the Botanics before sitting my exam. I think it went okay. To chill out my head I walked into town to get the train home, going via Renfrew Street. It was a week before the fire and that night with the sunshine it felt good to be there, lots of folks around for the degree show.

Fossil Grove

Sunday 10th I went to the Fossil Grove, just over the river from here in Scotstoun. I had never been but it was fine, a wee bit neglected but interesting all the same. I walked to Kelvingrove via Partick, turning off Dumbarton Road past the West of Scotland Cricket Ground and Partick Burgh Halls, both fine looking places. I went into Kelvingrove and made sure I saw my favourite painting, The Paps of Jura by William McTaggart.

That Monday I had a day trip with a good friend and it was great. We started at the Kelvin Hall, looking at the museum displays, before going across to Kelvingrove to sit in the atrium cafe for a bit. In Edinburgh we walked up to Leith and just generally blethered. It was great.

Neil Lennon’s view from the dugout. They take the tape down for the games.

Next adventure was the next Sunday, the Hibs Historical Trust Open Day. For more on that, read the post on Easter Road West. Here’s Neil Lennon’s view from the dugout. Normally it doesn’t have red tape.

Library at Abbotsford. Je t’aime.

The following Saturday I had been thinking about for ages. Eventually I decided on the Borders and it was the right move. A social media recommendation took me to Abbotsford, a country hoose once home to Sir Walter Scott but with a braw library. I walked to Melrose by the river through the hay fever and took a turn around the Abbey, a place I had been to before but I had never fully appreciated before. On the train back to Edinburgh I decided on a chippy over in North Berwick, which I ate at the harbour. Post on this adventure appeared here the other day.

Dumbarton and mountains beyond

The next day I was with my dad and we went to Cardross and Dumbarton Castle. Cardross featured a wee glimpse of the St. Peter’s Seminary. Dumbarton was the right place to be on a gloriously sunny day. The ice cream just made it so.

On Wednesday I went shopping after work. I soon realised that the trains were off because of the heat. I got the Subway to Govan then had a few minutes before the bus. I walked down to the river and had a good look at the Mary Barbour statue. The bus had difficulties again because of the weather but eventually it got moving and I got home.

Gable end mural, Browns Lane, Paisley
Murals, Browns Lane, Paisley
Mural, Browns Lane, Paisley

Friday I was off and went out for dinner in Paisley at night. I went up Browns Lane to see some street art and ticked off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, a drink of Belhaven beer. I wasn’t keen.

That’s June. This month I have read We Shall Fight Until We Win, the graphic anthology produced by 404 Ink and BHP Comics to mark the centenary of some women getting the vote, as well as The Marches by Rory Stewart and What Goes On Tour by the Secret Footballer. Plus too bloody much about Huguenots and Martin Luther. I am currently reading the memoir by mountaineer Cameron McNeish and re-reading Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin.

Finally, there’s also a post on my football blog, Easter Road West, tonight. It’s about Dylan McGeouch.

Thanks as ever to all readers, followers and commenters. Have a nice month.

Posts this month –

Streets of Glasgow: Addison Road

Loose Ends: Lamer Island

Subway Surface: It starts

Loose Ends: Tranter’s Bridge

Different routes

Subway Surface: Govan-Hillhead

Worse

Loose Ends: Culross

The where and the how

The beach at the back of the bay

Subway Surface: Hillhead-St. George’s Cross

Loose Ends: Glasgow Cathedral

Abbotsford, Melrose and chips by the sea

Visiting Glasgow

Subway Surface: St. George’s Cross-St. Enoch

Loose Ends: National Museum of Scotland

Loose Ends: National Museum of Scotland

The original plan was for the next Loose Ends post to be St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. The last one was Glasgow Cathedral so it was a straight link between churches and patron saints. When I got to St. Giles, however, I had a quick turn around and that did me fine. I don’t know what it was, there were a few ideas percolating around but I think I was scunnered by being asked to pay £2 to take photos, which I grudged. I was planning on going to the National Museum of Scotland anyway, just up the road on Chambers Street, and just as I walked down George IV Bridge past the National Library, it started raining for the first time in what felt like weeks. I still had to find a connection between Glasgow Cathedral and NMS, though, coming up with their managing agencies both being part of the Scottish Government, that both are free to get into and they also have bits about the Reformation.

NMS and I go way back. I grew up in East Lothian and a lot of visits to Edinburgh involved a trip to Chambers Street, either to the old museum with the fish ponds or the new one, which opened in 1998 and covers Scotland. To this day I still call the Scottish bit of NMS the ‘new’ bit despite it now being in its third decade and the ‘old’ bit being spruced up and new. I don’t get there as often any more, living in Glasgow and all that, and a trip is a bit of a treat now. A lot of it is very familiar and I headed to some favourite bits straight away, starting with the Kingdom of the Scots with the Monymusk reliquary once used, or so they say, to carry the relics of St. Columba into battle. After that I looked up to a painted ceiling once in a big hoose in Burntisland and then left to some Pictish stanes. I covered bits of the ground floor, going into the other bit for the Millennium Clock and a lighthouse lamp from Inchkeith Lighthouse that I can’t help loving to photograph. I like the object wall you can see from the Grand Gallery, each bit seemingly random but interlinked somehow. The wall features rockets, Buddhist sculptures, sewing machines and railway station signs.

Back in the ‘new’ museum I made sure I had a look at the Arthur’s Seat coffins, the section on lighthouses, trains and the big Beam Engine on the third floor. At the Reformation display, revision for me for an upcoming exam, an American woman was opining about Martin Luther, her man confessing he knew hee haw about Luther. I wandered, feeling happy to be in a familiar place, still learning but thinking all the time about connections for this series. A piece of petrified wood links to John Muir and Dunbar. The lighthouse lamp could take me almost anywhere on our coastline, though Barns Ness came to mind at that moment. The painted ceiling could even take me back to Aberdour, alternatively to Huntingtower Castle not far out of Perth. The beam engine might take me to Kilmarnock, where it worked, or Prestongrange where an engine still exists, albeit not in use. One of the locomotives on the fourth floor was built in Leith, quite an historical place in its own right. To be fair to NMS, it has connections and links to many parts of Scotland and the world, in many cases drawing attention to other places to visit, even other museums in the case of Skerryvore in Tiree and the Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh. I thought about the Riverside Museum here in Glasgow or even Summerlee in Coatbridge, good places both, good possible connections too.

There are many people who would argue that Scottish culture is skewed towards the central belt and Glasgow or Edinburgh in particular. I used to think NMS was but walking around it for this visit changed that view. It gives a good account of Scotland and how we see the world, a good starting point that inspires wonder and travelling once more.

Abbotsford, Melrose and chips by the sea

I didn’t know how I would spend Saturday, not even as I got ready. Ultimately I decided to head east. Edinburgh is well-connected from Glasgow and from the capital you can get to quite a lot of nice places. On the train from Queen Street, I decided on the Borders. I made a social media post to that effect and very soon after I got a suggestion of where to go. Abbotsford, Walter Scott’s house, was not far from Tweedbank station and ticked a lot of my boxes, history, architecture and books. My original plan was Melrose Abbey but that could wait for a bit. To my eternal discredit I had only been on the Borders Railway once since it had opened. I got on the train in Edinburgh and soon the train passed through gorgeous rolling countryside. One of my favourite bits of Berwickshire is the stretch of the A1 from Cockburnspath to Ayton with lots of trees, prim villages and rolling fields. The Borders Railway from Gorebridge south is much the same and I spent much of the journey just looking and relishing being in such a fine part of the world.

Tweedbank soon came and I found myself in a housing estate. The walking route to Abbotsford led along suburban pavements and by a nice pond with ducks, swans and an Innisfree-esque tree island in the middle. I ended up at a roundabout and naturally I walked the wrong way around it, though soon I came onto the right path towards the visitor centre. The Abbotsford Visitor Centre is a recent creation and I was soon relieved of a tenner for the house tour before being let loose on the exhibition. I half-expected to be irritated but I actually liked it greatly. It didn’t shy away from the rougher bits of Scott’s history, such as his nearly going bankrupt or indeed how he was to some extent a collector of stories and poems much like Burns, and it covered his life in a neat balance of text, images, interactive gadgets and actual, genuine objects and manuscripts.

The foyer at Abbotsford was stuffed full of gear, suits of armour, curiosities and coats of arms. I was handed an audio tour and within seconds realised that some of the wood around the walls came from Dunfermline Abbey, making this a definite link for my Loose Ends series, in which Abbotsford will feature some time in July. I spent the most time in the library, which was beautiful, nicely decorated but not overdone, with views to the Tweed if one was bored with the books. I did think of building a fort and staying just a while but I think they might have noticed at some point. I’m not much fussed with audio tours so I abandoned it after a while, just looking and reading. There was a good exhibition about Scott and JMW Turner, including how Scott didnae trust Turner. They made up in the end. There was also an interesting board talking about when Scott was a sheriff in Selkirk and how he administered the law, contrasting that with his literary interest in outlaws.

A quick turn around the Chapel, which had links to Cardinal Newman (heavily involved in the resurgence of Catholicism in England in the 19th century), and I was back on the road, this time bound for Melrose. Being heavily laden with hay fever, the beautiful sunshine walking by the Tweed was seen through a cloud of snot and tired eyes. It was still lovely, though, even if I cursed the guy going along on his little tractor cutting the grass. I reached Melrose via Darnick and its pretty church. Over the way, by the rugby ground, was the shows and they were busy with folk enjoying the sunshine. It’s a bit weird looking at a grand church with a pop song about not being your homey nor your ho going on the background. Being a sports ground aficionado, I took a polite interest in the rugby ground, what I am advised is called the Greenyards, before walking on to the Abbey.

I’ve been to Melrose Abbey a few times. Dryburgh Abbey edges it for me but Melrose really got me this time. Every little detail as I looked up and round was drunk in, the beautiful day just perfect to take photos, stand and stare. I went up to the tower and looked out over miles, to the fields, hills and the Tweed stretching out both ways, though I couldn’t quite see all of it all the way to Berwick. As I stood there, I thought about where next. I thought about Kelso Abbey but time was against me. The train back to Edinburgh beckoned.

Closer to the capital I thought about where I wanted to eat. I wanted a chippy but wasn’t keen on being back in the city just yet. I ended up on the train to North Berwick and sat down the harbour with a chippy. NB will never be my favourite place in East Lothian – I’m still too much of a Dunbar boy for that – but sitting at the harbour looking over the calm Forth to those islands and the Bass, as I consumed my sausage supper liberally slathered in salt and sauce, I can concede there were many worse places to be. I walked a little way along the beach past the statue of the man with the binoculars. The Bass Rock was white with seabirds and even as the time neared 8pm, the beach still had a few folk on it. I had to think of heading home, a couple of hours still between me and my bed yet.

The trains were quiet thankfully, the perfect antidote to Saturday Night Glasgow, never the most appealing prospect at the best of times. My brain turned from freeform, working on the fly to timetables and concentric city streets, though not for long as I just got myself home, happy for where I had been and the ideas of just where to go next.

Thanks for reading. Walking Talking returns on Wednesday with a post about visiting Glasgow.

The beach at the back of the bay

Not many places in central Scotland are inaccessible by road. That tends to be the case more in the Highlands – for instance Corrour on the West Highland rail line, which is only reachable by train or on foot. There is at least one place I know which is over a mile from the nearest road and I was there recently.

After the last game of the football season, I decided to head for the seaside. I ended up in Aberlady with plans to walk around Aberlady Bay and go onwards to North Berwick. I crossed Tranter’s Bridge (which features in the Loose Ends series here) and walked on through the nature reserve. The views at various points were spectacular, over the Forth to Edinburgh and Fife and across the fields to the Garleton Monument and Traprain Law. I soon came to a dune, a big tall sand dune which bore heavy foot imprints. To misquote We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, I couldn’t go under it and I couldn’t go through it. I had to go over it and I ascended then was carried down the steep slope at the other side onto the beach. Despite it being a beautiful May day, there were barely 10 people to be seen and they were scattered along the long sands. I sat down, scribbled notes and sunbathed for a bit. If I could have stayed longer, I gladly would have but time was against me. It was a mile and a half from the nearest car park and that probably accounted for the lack of people. It’s their loss. It was a glorious place to be and I felt the effects for days afterwards.

I headed to Gullane and walked right across a golf course, of which there is no shortage in the area. I hadn’t seen a sign prohibiting me from walking there but I kept half an eye out for golf club officials approaching to tell me to get orf their land. Pursuant to the Scottish Country Access Code I also watched out for golf balls and gave golfers right of way. I loathe golf and I’m firmly of the Mark Twain school but walking there I could be tempted to take it up. Just looking across the fairway to the Forth was glorious. The sunshine and the heat made it all the better but I think I would have felt the same on a brisk January afternoon.

The beach at the back of the bay isn’t a secret but it feels like one. Being there was especially special that day, the whole world before me and precious few others around to appreciate it too.