Union Canal

It feels particularly apposite to write about the Union in a week when very big Union flags have been in the news but this is about the far nicer prospect of the Union Canal, not the antics of certain clowns down at Westminster. It feels only right since I wrote about the Forth and Clyde Canal last week. The Union Canal runs from Fountainbridge in Edinburgh through the west of the capital and West Lothian out to Falkirk. I mostly know the Edinburgh section as far as Slateford, where it meets the Water of Leith, a waterway covered here a couple of weeks ago. The last time I was along there was a year past October when I walked along part of the Canal to Meggetland where the Hibs and Hearts development teams were playing. I think I walked part of the Water of Leith walkway first and remember going through Gorgie on the way. The aqueduct at Slateford is particularly fine – it runs adjacent to the railway and over the Water of Leith – and there’s a set of stairs leading down to the Water of Leith from the Canal. Fountainbridge has been poshed up in the last twenty years or so with offices and restaurants scattered around the side of the canal.

Union Canal and railway side by side at Slateford: a canal aqueduct to the left, railings above stone arches, with a similar looking railway bridge to the right. Trees and industrial premises are between them.​
Union Canal and railway side by side at Slateford: a canal aqueduct to the left, railings above stone arches, with a similar looking railway bridge to the right. Trees and industrial premises are between them.

I was just thinking about the Forth and Clyde and Port Dundas which is in Glasgow. Port Hamilton is the name of the area of Edinburgh at Fountainbridge and I wondered who Hamilton was. It was the Duke of Hamilton of the day, of course, and the Port there was built from 1818-1822, so Canmore tells me, to support Port Hopetoun, which was closer to Lothian Road. Canals were much more important then for industry and commerce at a time when railways were much more limited and roads were much less reliable. Port Hamilton was more for coal, while Port Hopetoun had a broader range of things going on. Port Hopetoun was filled in during the 1920s and its site is now a cinema.

As I said, I don’t really know the Union Canal outside of Edinburgh aside from its western terminus at the Falkirk Wheel. That even includes the section in Linlithgow, a town I know quite well. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to remedy that soon, especially since the John Muir Way runs by the side of the Canal in that part of the world. I realised just now, looking at a map of the John Muir Way, that I do know the Union Canal as it passes over the Muiravonside Country Park near Linlithgow – the same place where I learned what an aqueduct was. I always thought aqueducts were cool, a wonderful effort of engineering. Thankfully there’s quite a few along the Union Canal, making it of architectural interest, as much of history and natural beauty in many parts.

Thanks for reading. A piece about the North Sea will follow next week.

Saturday Saunter: Maps, bings and books

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Tuesday night. It’s been a beautiful day here in Glasgow, sunny and quite pleasantly warm. Very Spring-like. Whether it will still be like that on Saturday as this is posted, who knows. I imagine as this is posted that I will be easing my way into the day gently before watching the football. As well as the Livingston-Hibs game, this weekend sees the return of League 1 and League 2 in Scotland after a couple of months hiatus, undoubtedly a good thing and more relevant than a certain game taking place at Parkhead this weekend.

Rosshall Park: a still pond surrounded by trees.​
Rosshall Park: a still pond surrounded by trees.

Maps have helped many of us through the last year of not being able to travel as much as we might like. I have a few, including a decent wedge of Ordnance Survey maps covering most of Scotland. Hopefully I will be able to use some after 26th April. The Ordnance Survey seem to have had a similar thought, taking the opportunity to ask its mailing list’s subscribers where they want to walk to once lockdown has concluded. Plus sell them maps. As for me, I will be consulting the Urban Nature map of Glasgow that I acquired recently and seeing where I could go for a walk in the meantime. For example, I had a very cool walk in Rosshall Park the other day and it felt a lot further out of the city than it actually is. Over the last year I have got to know some incredible places here in the city and even when it is possible to travel, I hope to still be a regular in quite a few of Glasgow’s fine parks.

The Guardian published an article about the bings of West Lothian, heaps of spoil from industrial workings that dominate the landscape, visible from the motorway and the railway. West Lothian is quite a fascinating part of the world, encompassing both the old Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, born in the Palace by the Peel and Loch, and the New Town of Livingston, with its many roundabouts and football team who play at a stadium named after an Italian restaurant. The bings symbolise the depth of industrial history of the area, of shale and coal mining, and the Shale Trail looks like it will be a good addition to the area, using modern technology to tell the tales of the local area as people walk or cycle along the 16-mile route.

I’ve read quite a bit in the last few days. I’ve finished Nick Hewer’s autobiography and Antlers of Water, the anthology of Scottish nature writing I started last week. Antlers of Water is immense, very varied with poetry and all parts of Scotland covered by its various writers. Nick Hewer I enjoyed more as I got going as he talked about his journeys to farflung parts of the globe including Mongolia and Sierra Leone. I’ve been working between two books this week, the Eric Stevenson book I started a couple of weeks ago and Hidden London, about the abandoned and disused parts of the London Underground. My to-read shelf has two football books and a nature book so we’ll see I’m in the mood for next.

Before I go today, I’ve been thinking about how to write about the news of the weekend. I came to the conclusion that my voice is much less relevant than those of others. One is the mother of Moira Jones, who made a thoughtful statement on Tuesday.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 20th March 2021. Thanks for reading. A post will follow on Wednesday but I’m not sure what that’ll be just yet. Until then, cheers just now.

Trails

I was going through books recently and came across a bunch of Heritage Trail leaflets for different parts of Glasgow. The ones I’ve found are Pollokshaws, Crookston and Langside, all south of the river, though the Council have trails for quite a few parks and parts of the city on their website. There is also the St. Mungo Trail but that encompasses Traprain Law, Culross and various other places most definitely not in the City of Glasgow local authority area as well as Glasgow Cathedral, which is, thankfully. The Urban Nature map of Glasgow which I acquired recently shows parks, playing fields and public transport links though historical places is a wee bit beyond it. The Ordnance Survey Explorer Map for Glasgow (342) covers a lot of those though covering every historical place in Glasgow would need either a rather big map or teeny tiny writing. Glasgow has a very varied history and a lot of it is covered by themed trails and tours, such as those for football and the many from the Glasgow Women’s Library. There will probably be quite a lot of folk who have been doing the same walk throughout the various lockdowns over the last year and they will no doubt be experts on their particular patch and could do tours. ‘On your left is a kitchen showroom with a display showing the time, date and temperature. I was here when it was 27 degrees and when it was below freezing.’ ‘Ahead of you is a railway bridge conveying trains between Glasgow and Inverclyde and Ayrshire. The railway was opened in the 1840s.’ The mind boggles.

Glasgow Cathedral from the Necropolis on a sunny day: a large grey church with a green ​roof and a tower in the middle. To the left are trees and a graveyard. To the right are trees and a large, old hospital.
Glasgow Cathedral from the Necropolis on a sunny day: a large grey church with a green roof and a tower in the middle. To the left are trees and a graveyard. To the right are trees and a large, old hospital.

I might follow one of the ones nearest me one day soon and see where I end up, maybe Bellahouston Park’s one which talks a lot about the sculptures around the park.

A lot of cities and towns have a trail to follow so see if there’s one near you. If possible, follow it and see what you come up with. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday Saunter: Tree roots, maps and old football grounds

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Wednesday with The Chase on in the background for that’s how I roll. Not sure what I’m going to write this time but you can be assured that there will be no mention of the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton, a certain ex-morning TV presenter or of the scenes around Glasgow after a certain football team won the Scottish Premiership. As this is posted, I will probably be easing my way gently into the morning before watching the Hibs play Ross County later.

I’m now continuing this on Friday night with Dr Janina Ramirez on in the background talking about Turkey. I’ve been listening to a few virtual talks in the last couple of days as well as audio books and a radio documentary. The other night I listened to a documentary on Radio 3 about Fanny Dickens, Charles Dickens’s older sister, who was a particularly accomplished musician and, unusually for the mid-19th century, her parents paid for her to get an education. Coincidentally I was listening to an art lecture earlier about 1920s Scottish art and David Young Cameron was mentioned, as was his sister, Katharine Cameron, who was also a painter though again much less recognised. I also listened to a talk put on by the Bodleian Library in Oxford featuring Jim Akerman of the Newberry Library in Chicago and he talked about maps and how they relate to American identity, discussing travel by various groups for various purposes, including safe places for African American people to stay and travel to in the 1930s as well as the Underground Railroad.

 East Stand, Highbury: looking up at a building with an art deco tower with a glass frontage to the right.
East Stand, Highbury: looking up at a building with an art deco tower with a glass frontage to the right.
Cathkin Park: terracing with green and white barriers. Wintry, leafless trees stand behind the terracing.​
Cathkin Park: terracing with green and white barriers. Wintry, leafless trees stand behind the terracing.

While I have books on the go, I have been reading more magazines and audio books recently. I think both have their merits – in short, when it comes to reading, it all counts. I got my copy of the latest edition of When Saturday Comes the other day and read most of it in a single sitting, particularly interested in articles about commentators’ notes, the abuse that James McClean receives for choosing not to wear a poppy, and football stadiums which are no longer used for football. That last article suggests preserving parts of stadiums in whatever developments spring up on their site, for remembrance or just to preserve the heritage of the place. It shows Highbury, the former Arsenal ground which is now flats, and I can confirm that the development there is sympathetically done. It’s more unusual for traces of grounds to remain in any other way than a token memorial or street names. The Morrisons supermarket that sits on the site of Brockville, Falkirk’s old ground, is cool and has an old turnstile in the car park and Falkirk-themed photos around the walls of the shop. The only ones I know in Scotland that are still in situ are Cathkin Park, the second Hampden and former home of Third Lanark, and Firs Park, once East Stirling’s ground which is now derelict. I watched a YouTube video about Firs Park recently.

Despite growing up in East Lothian, I cannot claim to have explored every corner of my home county and of course I can’t go there at the moment. One place I haven’t visited is Inveresk Lodge Garden, a garden in Inveresk, just outside Musselburgh. The new edition of the National Trust for Scotland’s members magazine features an article about it written by Chitra Ramaswamy, for my money one of the finest journalists in Scotland, and there’s a line about lockdown walks that I really like. ‘Familiarity can breed obliviousness as well as contempt’. We don’t always see what’s happening around us, even if we often tread those paths.

Scottish readers will know that we’ve had a lot of rain in the last few days, often heavy showers. That’s okay as we haven’t had a lot of rain recently though of course I have successfully managed not to be caught in it. A couple of times this week I’ve nipped down to Rosshall Park, which is small but has a lot of interest. A few of the trees have deep, sprawling roots spreading down a slope towards the path I was walking on. I spent my last walk with my head up appreciating the varied tree skyline.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 13th March 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. I’ve had a few kind comments about the Rivers post from Wednesday so thanks for those too. Next Wednesday’s post will be about Glasgow and maps. A very good morning to you all. Peace.

Rivers

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about rivers. That’s been fun but I’m going to draw it to a close this week by talking about a range of other rivers that I might not know as well. Some are in England, others closer to home.

Kelvingrove Park: a river with autumn trees on either side ​and Glasgow University tower on the left.
Kelvingrove Park: a river with autumn trees on either side and Glasgow University tower on the left.

Glasgow, of course, has several rivers, including the Clyde, Kelvin and White Cart Water. The Kelvin runs through the west of the city, joining the Clyde by the Riverside Museum. What I didn’t know until just now as the Kelvin went off my map is that it starts near Kilsyth in East Dunbartonshire, stretching for about 22 miles. I know the Kelvin best as it wends through Kelvingrove Park, the University of Glasgow towering above. There it is an elegant river, surrounded by trees and elegant buildings. A riverside walkway does exist, going as far as Milngavie where it links with the West Highland Way, and one day I will try and walk some or all of it.

The White Cart Water runs not far from me; indeed, I caught sight of it earlier today while walking in Rosshall Park. The White Cart Water goes from the Clyde at Renfrew, through Paisley to Crookston and Pollok Country Park, ending at Eaglesham. What comes to mind when I think of the White Cart is the section by Pollok House with a weir and a small waterfall, as well as a pleasant stone bridge linking the park and the nearby golf course. I also think of it passing through Paisley, by the Town Hall, Abbey and Anchor Mill.

Durham: Two towers of Durham Cathedral ​on the left above trees. Trees line both sides of the river below the Cathedral.
Durham: Two towers of Durham Cathedral on the left above trees. Trees line both sides of the river below the Cathedral.

Down south, the Wear brings up Durham, the Cathedral and Castle high above, and Sunderland with an elegant green bridge joining the parts of that city together. The Thames has had a lot of words written about it and I know it right at the heart of London, crossed by many bridges, a dirty big river running through the metropolis. I also think of Mudlarking, the interesting book I read last year about the objects to be found by and in the river.

As a seaside person who now lives in a city, rivers have become ever more important as a way to be beside water as well as appreciate their own merits, whether beside wells, bridges or Magdalen Green. I’m lucky to be near three of them and they bring inspiration and interest in so many ways.

Saturday Saunter: Books and Glasgow views

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Tuesday night. It’s been much milder the last couple of days and the snow has melted, which even for me is a good thing. As this is being written I will probably be having a lie in before watching the football later. It’s been a long two weeks since Hibs were last in action, too long.

I’m in one of those modes where I’ve started a whole bunch of books but haven’t finished any of them yet. At current count, I have Nick Hewer’s autobiography, Snapshot by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie, Rob Roy And All That by Allan Burnett and an audiobook of Alice in Wonderland read by Alan Bennett. I think Alice in Wonderland will be finished first – it was a decent soundtrack for cleaning earlier – and it’s got about 45 minutes left. Nick Hewer is the outgoing host of Countdown, soon to be succeeded by Anne Robinson, and his memoir is arranged by letters rather than chronology. Snapshot I’ve written about before and Rob Roy And All That is a Horrible Histories-type book about one of Scottish history’s foremost figures and one I don’t know much about.

Aberlady Bay: a beach with sand dunes to the left. The sky has low cloud. The sea and land are out to the left in the distance.
Aberlady Bay: a beach with sand dunes to the left. The sky has low cloud. The sea and land are out to the left in the distance.
Hermitage House: a two level house with crenellated battlements. In front is a picnic area and sundial. All around are trees.
Hermitage House: a two level house with crenellated battlements. In front is a picnic area and sundial. All around are trees.
View from Dundee Law to Tannadice and Dens Park: looking from a hill and a trig point over a cityscape including two football grounds towards hills.
View from Dundee Law to Tannadice and Dens Park: looking from a hill and a trig point over a cityscape including two football grounds towards hills.
Falkirk Wheel: looking side-on to a hydraulic boat lift, with cogs and circular motions. There is a low sun to the bottom left.
Falkirk Wheel: looking side-on to a hydraulic boat lift, with cogs and circular motions. There is a low sun to the bottom left.
Bellahouston Park: looking down from a raised white wall over parkland towards trees and a block of flats.
Bellahouston Park: looking down from a raised white wall over parkland towards trees and a block of flats.

The other night I was catching up with The Sunday Times from the weekend, which featured 32 Scottish walks, one from every local authority. East Lothian’s was Aberlady Bay and Gullane Point – one of the finest walks in Scotland – and Edinburgh had the Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill, also very fine. Dundee has the Law from Discovery Point and I’m also familiar with Falkirk’s, involving the Falkirk Wheel and the Antonine Wall, and Castle Campbell and Dollar Glen in Clackmannanshire. All of these are historically interesting, picturesque in many cases. Glasgow featured the street art in the city centre. Don’t get me wrong. We have some incredible murals and street art in Glasgow but we also have many, many fine parks, some of which are lesser-known than others. There are fine views right across the city from Bellahouston, the Necropolis, Tollcross and the Forth and Clyde Canal, amongst others. We have rivers and burns, castles and much else besides, all within the boundaries of the largest city in the nation.

About a year ago I was in London for a few days. It feels like much more than twelve months have passed since I was there. I’ve been binging Hidden London Hangouts produced by the London Transport Museum, featuring discussion of old and disused Underground stations and other transport locales in the metropolis. It’s a really innovative way to fulfil their remit and it includes those of us who don’t get to London very often but remain interested in its hidden places.

Another interesting article I read was by the mighty Mary Beard, talking about witchcraft and abuse on social media. There’s been too many stories lately about folk getting abuse and even death threats on social media, including footballers and football managers, academics, politicians and people trying to share interesting things and thoughts. It honestly eludes me why people would prefer to vent and cause harm rather than just switching off their devices or scrolling on when things annoy them.

Our different perspective for today comes from Glasgow University. The Hunterian Museum has appointed Zandra Yeaman as its Curator of Discomfort. She has the specific remit to change institutional attitudes about its collections and their links to slavery and colonialism.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 20th February 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. It’s appreciated. A post about the Tweed will be here on Wednesday though I’m running out of rivers I have enough to blether about. Any suggestions will be gratefully received. Until then, a very good morning to you all.

Since this was written, I can confirm that Rob Roy and All That was finished first. Alice as read by Alan Bennett has been dispatched too.

Saturday Saunter: Snow and viewpoints

Good morning,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Thursday night with ‘Britain’s Lost Masterpieces’ on in the background from the iPlayer. Much of Scotland has had snow this week. We in Glasgow had a few inches and it is beginning to thaw as I write this. Pavements and roads are slippy as the snow has compacted or iced over. It has been perishingly cold as well, the kind of cold which tingles the ears. I haven’t had a haircut since November and unfortunately that means beanie hats rise up and fail to cover my ears for long. I bought two new ones last week which fit my quite large head but still rise up to avoid covering my ears. There was proper snow here, the kind which is deep, fluffy and falls in great quantities, and it wasn’t even the first snow of the winter. I didn’t see a lot of snow growing up by the seaside so I still get a bit of excitement when there’s snow, even if the aftermath of ice and slush isn’t so great.

There have been a few cool photographs of football grounds covered in snow this week. The third best football team in the land, Hibernian FC, shared a picture with the hallowed Easter Road turf covered in the white stuff, while there was a very cool drone photograph showing Dumbarton’s ground, whose current sponsored name I forget, with the Castle Rock and the Clyde in the background. The C and G Systems Stadium is the name of Dumbarton’s ground, incidentally. I also watched a Footy Adventures YouTube video featuring Cathkin Park in the snow too. I’ve not been to Cathkin for a few months and I don’t think I’ve ever been in the snow either. Next time, maybe.

Looking across from the centre spot of a football pitch across to terracing surrounded by trees. Houses sit high above the terracing.
Cathkin Park, not in the snow. Looking across from the centre spot of a football pitch across to terracing surrounded by trees. Houses sit high above the terracing.

Dumbarton Castle is a fine place. It has incredible views across Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, the Clyde and much of western Scotland. I should have mentioned it in my post Clyde the other day. Dumbarton has a trig point at the top as well as a panel showing the distance from the castle to other major landmarks, like Ben Lomond, Glasgow University and the since demolished Singer factory in Clydebank, if memory serves. Those panels often appear in high places, like at the Robertson car park in the Gleniffer Braes Country Park above Paisley, with directions across Scotland towards Berwick and Carlisle as well as more locally to Lochwinnoch, Glasgow Cross and Dumbarton Castle, naturally enough. I only went to the Braes for the first (and second) time last year and the views from up there are incredible, 600 feet up, a great place to watch planes if you’re of a mind or spot landmarks if you’re happier on the ground, like me.

Traditionally I make mention of the fact that tomorrow, 14th February, is Valentine’s Day and write about how that day should celebrate love in all its forms, including for landscapes and treasured places, rather than alienating people who may not have romance in their lives or indeed may not want it and bombarding the rest of us with saccharine bollocks. All that’s true so I won’t repeat it. Whether you spend tomorrow alone, with a loved one, or whatever, have a good one.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 13th February 2021. Thanks for reading, commenting and following. I’m not sure what I’ll be posting on Wednesday but it might be about the Tay, since I’ve written about rivers the last two weeks. Until then, cheers just now.

Clyde

Falls of Clyde: a river with waterfall surrounded by trees.​
Falls of Clyde: a river with waterfall surrounded by trees.

Last week, I wrote here about the Forth, the river that becomes a firth. I live pretty near another river, in fact three technically. The White Cart Water and the Levern Water, not to mention the Kelvin a wee bit further away. (Some time I need to walk by all of the various rivers in Glasgow, not to mention more of the Forth and Clyde Canal.) Our city is defined in many ways by its main river, the Clyde. Here in Glasgow, it is a river. It becomes a Firth and eventually joins the Atlantic Ocean but that’s not my domain. My favourite crossing of the Clyde comes just south of Glasgow Central Station, very often just heading home but sometimes on an adventure. Those invariably cross the Clyde again near Uddingston and I like to look up and down river at this point, chancing a glimpse of Bothwell Castle to the right. Bothwell is one of the finest castles in Scotland, a mighty keep with a curtain wall and tower. I’ve not been in a few years. It was a beautiful sunny May bank holiday the last time I was there and it was glorious. I usually like to take a walk through the woods after, again close to the Clyde. Hopefully I’ll get a trip down there this year. The first time I tried to get there by public transport led to me getting lost and ending up walking almost to Hamilton. That most definitely wasn’t the right way.

Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship: a grey museum with a jagged roof with a tall ship in front. A small blue ferry boat is crossing the river towards the museum.​
Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship: a grey museum with a jagged roof with a tall ship in front. A small blue ferry boat is crossing the river towards the museum.

I particularly like the view of the Clyde at Govan. A ferry still crosses the Clyde there in the summer, going the few yards to the Riverside Museum on the northern side. There’s the city skyline, particularly the SEC complex of the Hydro, Armadillo and the SEC itself currently housing the NHS Louisa Jordan. There’s trains and a hint of a view of arches which have cool street art I want to see up close some time soon. It’s always a particular treat to get a few minutes to just look along the river at Govan. The last time I was nearby was in October or November last year and got the even better view from the Riverside which gets the town as well as the southern side of the city, which as many of us know is the best side.

The picture which graces the top of this post is upriver, at New Lanark at the Falls of Clyde. I’ve only ever been there once, two years ago at the height of the summer when the pollen was rampant too. There the Clyde is beautiful, harnessed once for mills, hydroelectricity generated now from the Falls. I was barely an hour from the city but it felt many, many miles away, even though linked by the river I stood by.

The Clyde and Greenock from Helensburgh: looking down a hill surrounded by trees towards a river and a town and hills at the other side.​
The Clyde and Greenock from Helensburgh: looking down a hill surrounded by trees towards a river and a town and hills at the other side.

The Clyde stops being a river, or begins depending on your philosophical hue, roughly between Greenock and Dumbarton. That’s a particularly fine bit too – Dumbarton Castle stands on its rock dominating the landscape, the Kilpatrick Hills in the background. Proper mountains stand high in the distance and there’s towns and houses. Towards Glasgow there are parks and places to sit and look, though the landscape has changed much even in the last couple of decades, let alone the last couple of centuries. That’s for another time. I just fancied a blether about the Clyde, mainly castles and waterfalls but also the very urban, trying to encompass a bit of the river’s variety.

Saturday Saunter: Music, Scots and Sunny Woodlands

Good Saturday to you,

What a week it’s been. I’m writing this on Thursday night and unusually I have a load of ideas for this post today. Whether I’ll get through them all, I’m not sure. I didn’t want to tempt fate by writing this post earlier than Wednesday in case I used expressions like ‘President Biden’ or anything like that. Amanda Gorman, the inaugural poet, was particularly brilliant.

One of the other things I’ve watched this week, aside from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s inauguration, has been Celtic Connections, the folk music festival which normally happens in real life in Glasgow in January. This year it has been online, a wee bit on TV too, and it was one of the best investments of the year to buy the Festival Pass. I’ve watched a couple of the concerts so far, including the opening concert featuring Duncan Chisholm and the one the other night with Karine Polwart, Rab Noakes, Siobhan Miller, Findlay Napier and Eddi Reader. Karine Polwart’s opening song, Come Away In, inspired by a Burns poem, was particularly brilliant. Hopefully it’ll be possible to go to Celtic Connections in person next year.

The Scots language often features in Celtic Connections and this week there’s been a bit of a stooshie with people slagging off Len Pennie, otherwise known as Miss PunnyPennie on Twitter, for posting in and about Scots on social media. Many of us talk and think in Scots. It is a language and varies widely across the country with influences from all sorts of languages and media. Len Pennie is a talented person and she chooses to communicate in Scots. Braw.

End of the pier at Eyemouth - a wooden pier with a post at the end and waves lapping at either side. Cliffs extend to the left. The grey clouds are ​low, below a light blue sky.
End of the pier at Eyemouth – a wooden pier with a post at the end and waves lapping at either side. Cliffs extend to the left. The grey clouds are low, below a light blue sky.

Since travelling great distances isn’t possible at the moment, I’ve found a fair bit of inspiration from social media. One was from the wonderful chip shop Giacopazzi’s, in Eyemouth, which shared a view from their harbourside shop across to the old Maritime Museum which is in the process of demolition. Eyemouth is one of my favourite places and I was glad to visit last summer when restrictions were eased. Last February, meanwhile, was my last visit to Kirkcaldy Galleries, my favourite art gallery, and one of my favourite paintings there, which is ‘Sunny Woodlands’ by Thomas Corsan Morton, with a person sitting under some leafy trees. They posted it on social media the other day and it was a wee boost, I have to say.

An excellent and timely article I read the other day was by David Leask, of The Herald, about the importance of learning the truth about Scotland and its links to slavery unfettered or diluted by political narratives.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 23rd January 2021. Thanks as ever for reading. Not sure what’ll be here on Wednesday. Until then, keep safe. A very good morning to you all. Peace.

5 In 5: January

January isn’t usually considered a month for roving. It’s invariably cold, dark and miserable. This year, since we can’t rove anyway, it feels particularly grim. Being able to get exercise outside has been particularly beneficial, probably even more than in the summer as light is more precious this time of year. The last few weeks here have been cold, sometimes snowy, other times rainy.

January 2021 sees most of Scotland under lockdown restrictions. We are limited to our own local authority areas except for essential purposes. In summer 2020, the restrictions were 5 miles, even if that was over a local authority boundary. There's plenty of interesting things in my local authority area - I live in the City of Glasgow, the biggest city in Scotland, and we have plenty of parks and all sorts that can still be explored as part of essential exercise.
Picture from the summer, looking through trees at Bellahouston Park – densely packed trees with gaps looking into a park.

Rather than coming up with a list of five interesting places in my local area, which I was going to do, I’m just going to write a little about some of the best parts of walks this January. They’ve included being able to look out and see snow on the hills. From different places nearby, I can see hills to the north, south and west and there’s been lots of snow to change perspectives nicely. Even without snow, it’s been good to see hills over yonder – a reminder that there is indeed a world beyond and hopefully I can cross those hills before too long. I like a synoptic view and some of my local parks, like Bellahouston, have a rewarding vista over much of southern Glasgow.

I find that keeping in the moment helps. When I can, I like to stop and stand for a minute, in front of a view or just to look around. It’s useful to see a place in all its dimensions or even just to savour being outside, just for a moment, without any other considerations. Walking often clears our heads; stopping to look for a moment helps too, if there’s not a biting wind, that is.