Saturday Saunter: Books and dear, familiar places

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, again being written on a Sunday morning. This might be the new time to scrieve right enough. On in the background is a Hidden London Hangout on YouTube and before that was the last day of the Paralympics. Channel 4 have done a superb job covering the Paralympics with insightful features and commentary which didn’t patronise or reduce everything to being inspirational. I’m going to miss having live sport on before I go to work in the morning, as was also the case with the Olympics. As this is being posted, I will be having a chill day, which should be good.

Our sermon today is about constancy. No, of course, it’s not. I just had a Simpsons line in my head and felt like it was a good way to begin. I read a story the other day about how doctors in Brussels are prescribing visits to museums to help with mental health. I think that’s a great idea. I found my first museum visit after the first lockdown, which might have been Kelvingrove, was excellent. Being able to be in a dear, familiar place just made things feel more normal, calmer. I was in the Hunterian Art Gallery the other weekend and it was good to just walk in the door, let alone to enjoy its current exhibitions about Whistler and Joan Eardley, which are well worth going to see. By and large I have felt safer and happier in museums than many other public spaces since the first lockdown finished but that was the case even before the pandemic. I hope this initiative helps people at Brugmann Hospital and beyond.

I also read an excellent book the other day, Mind Games by Neville Southall, which went well beyond a footballer’s memoir and talked about so many issues which affect footballers and wider society, from addiction to sexuality, abuse to self-confidence. It is an important book and one which could be so easily dismissed as being about football when it goes far beyond. I have a long to-read list but last night I just looked at some football pictures published in past issues of Nutmeg magazine as that was all my attention span could deal with. Next is a book I bought years ago but am only now getting round to, Connemara: Listening to the wind by Tim Robinson. I’m going between nature writing and sport at the moment, which is working quite well.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 11th September 2021. Thanks for reading as ever. Streets of Glasgow returns on Wednesday and it’s post 99 with mention of Love Island and the Reformation. Why not? Until next time, then, madainn mhath.

Saturday Saunter: Autumn, books and views

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Sunday morning, late enough that the sun is up and breakfast TV has been and gone, thankfully. On in the background is Match of the Day, an unusual choice for me because Hibernian FC, the top team in Scotland at time of writing, isn’t on, but it’s all right in the background. I’m writing this on a new computer and for some reason it isn’t using keyboard shortcuts when I want to italicise, which is a pain but never mind. Unusually I don’t have much of an idea what to write, only that writing this post now will save doing it during the week.

We’re getting towards autumn though as I write this in the last days of August, we are having something of a heatwave. I never used to like autumn and the shorter days I still despise but the autumn colours almost make up for it. It’s been good this summer to be able to roam that bit further here in Scotland though caution is still very much the order of the day, especially with the high Covid case numbers here in recent days. Look after yourselves, folks. Ca’ canny. September is often a good month weather-wise so hopefully some nice days lie ahead just to be out in the world.

But first some reading. Last weekend I started re-reading my favourite book, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, taking it with me on a trip to Dundee. I re-read it every year or so and it’s beside me even while my to-read pile is only growing. Next on the list will probably be one by Neville Southall, Mind Games, which delves into the broader issues around football.

Portobello Beach looking towards East Lothian: a beach with railings in the foreground and groynes separating the parts of the beach. In the distance is a coastline moving to the centre with some hills and fields.​
Portobello Beach looking towards East Lothian: a beach with railings in the foreground and groynes separating the parts of the beach. In the distance is a coastline moving to the centre with some hills and fields.

I posted the 32 areas Saturday Saunter post here last week and there will be more of those types of posts in the coming weeks and months, as I will probably have much less time and energy to write more often, unfortunately. One might have to focus on some of my favourite views. I was just looking through my recent photos and came across two from a fleeting visit to Portobello, one looking towards the East Lothian coast, the other towards Inchkeith and Fife. North Berwick Law was almost golden in the sunshine and the clouds were something out of a dramatic landscape painting.

Anyway, that is the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 4th September 2021. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow returns on Wednesday and it is Castle Street. But, which one? Until then, madainn mhath.

Streets of Glasgow: Renfrew Street

Renfrew Street: a street sign on a red wall.​
Renfrew Street: a street sign on a red wall.
Renfrew Street: city buildings on either side of the street, a cinema and coffee shop to the left, a bus to the right, a blue sky above.​
Renfrew Street: city buildings on either side of the street, a cinema and coffee shop to the left, a bus to the right, a blue sky above.

Renfrew Street comes with a back story. I had planned to do this street about two years ago. I walked its length on the way home from an exam and decided that I would go back and tick it off the list for Streets of Glasgow. One week later there was a big fire which decimated the Glasgow School of Art and spread to the ABC on Sauchiehall Street. The stretch between Scott Street and Hill Street, which houses the GSA, is still closed off with scaffolding and construction workers everywhere. On a sunny summer’s day I decided to see how it was going. I came across the M8 and saw a cool bit of street art all about love. It is all we need, after all. There were some ghost signs including one for FW Woolworth and Co. Ltd. Some other art stated ‘Lest We Forget’ with a silhouette of a soldier. Renfrew Street was closed off near the GSA, as I mentioned, so I diverted and soon returned as it left Garnethill and became much more of a city centre back street. The Pavilion Theatre had posters about how laughter and pantomime will return soon and it may have done by the time this is posted as restrictions change. The big Cineworld was open, a Test and Protect poster at the door in a sign of the times, and I looked back up the familiar, long, straight street, in the midst of the busy city centre but shaded by the high buildings. Long city streets are my favourite kind.

Thanks for reading. Nearby streets featured here previously include Buccleuch Street, Killermont Street, West Nile Street, Hope Street, Renfield Street, Sauchiehall Street and Buchanan Street. The Streets of Glasgow page features a list of all the posts in the series so far.

Streets of Glasgow: Ross Street

Ross Street: a street sign stating that it is Ross Street with the words The Barras and an archway above ​in red.
Ross Street: a street sign stating that it is Ross Street with the words The Barras and an archway above in red.
Ross Street: murals, with a bee, a Tunnocks Teacake kind of strongman declaring himself to be King of the Barras and a person with lots of eyes and a crystal ball. Plus a snake next to that.
Ross Street: murals, with a bee, a Tunnocks Teacake kind of strongman declaring himself to be King of the Barras and a person with lots of eyes and a crystal ball. Plus a snake next to that.

Ross Street was a bonus as I was heading towards the Gallowgate anyway and a shop window with Singer sewing machines caught my eye. It was a fabric and clothing shop. Next to it was a poster advertising an exhibition in honour of the Barras to mark its centenary. I’ll need to get to that. The pub across the street had two plaques, the bottom one in honour of Matt McGinn, folk singer-songwriter, and the top to Freddy Anderson, who I hadn’t heard of but the plaque declared him to be a ‘Poet Irish and Scottish Republican Socialist’. Quite a combination. Initially I had forgotten that Ross Street is also home to some cool murals, with a bee, a Tunnocks Teacake kind of strongman declaring himself to be King of the Barras and a person with lots of eyes and a crystal ball. Plus a snake next to that. On another wall was a girl wearing a pirate hat looking into a telescope and holding a teddy bear. These are crackers and well worth looking for if in the area. Across the road was a very generic car park though more interesting was an advert for Engineering Coffee, which is around the corner on the Gallowgate, and part of a ghost clothes shop sign, probably once part of the Barras, which I now know is celebrating its centenary. Always worth paying attention on the way somewhere else.

Thanks for reading. This is the ninety-first Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured here previously include Gallowgate, Greendyke Street, London Road and Bain Street.

Streets of Glasgow: Washington Street

Washington Street: the words Washington Street carved into a red brick building with two windows above and below.​
Washington Street: the words Washington Street carved into a red brick building with two windows above and below.
Washington Street: tall buildings on either side of a street with lower buildings further along on the left.​
Washington Street: tall buildings on either side of a street with lower buildings further along on the left.

It was hot and sunny in the big city and I was there for lunch and to see a brand new mural. I had already seen it from the train but wanted to see it up close so off I went through the business district, quiet a lot of the time right now but particularly on a public holiday, to Washington Street. I recognised the hotel but hadn’t noticed the old school house nor the business units next door. The latter had the look of the main stand at Ibrox, all imposing in red brick, and I could hear folk talking and generic bass-heavy noise from somewhere. I could see the river and I knew walking along that what I was looking for was on the right. Once I noticed it, I walked to the end of the street anyway before turning back to see what I had come to see, a mural put there by Adidas in honour of the Scotland men’s team qualifying for the Euros. It’s coming hame, all right. Since I don’t do well with the heat, hame felt like a great place to be heading rather than further into the city. I settled for the Broomielaw, making the most of high buildings and the shade they offered.

Thanks for reading. This is the eighty ninth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured here include Argyle Street and Waterloo Street. The Broomielaw featured in Intercity as well. All parts of the Streets series can be found on its very own page.

Streets of Glasgow: Parnie Street

Parnie Street: a street sign with Parnie Street on it on a red and brown building.​
Parnie Street: a street sign with Parnie Street on it on a red and brown building.
Parnie Street: a city street taken from a low angle. To the left is a camera shop and scaffolding beyond.​
Parnie Street: a city street taken from a low angle. To the left is a camera shop and scaffolding beyond.

Parnie Street had been on the Streets of Glasgow possible list for a while but it became a definite when I was on King Street and had business in the area. I liked the name but all I knew about it was that it was once the home of the Glasgow Women’s Library, which is now in Bridgeton. It goes around the back of quite a few cultural institutions, including Streetlevel Photoworks and the Tron Theatre with a skull carved into the side of that building. I averted my eyes and moved on. By the sign which still denotes the Glasgow Women’s Library was another for a company selling school uniforms. It was a bit old-fashioned. A camera shop sold lens and proper apparatus for proper cameras as well as badges. Sadly Esca is now defunct, an Italian restaurant where I have good memories of a pre-COVID age. Two office chairs were plonked at a suitable social distance outside another shop, which was a suitably bonkers Glaswegian touch. Parnie Street had the air of a back street which has known better days and that sense only became more acute with the amount of bars and restaurants still closed due to restrictions. We have to believe that there will be better days ahead.

Thanks for reading. This is the eighty-sixth Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets featured here include King Street, Trongate, Argyle Street and St. Andrews Street, which follows here next week. The Streets of Glasgow page has a complete list.

Streets of Glasgow: Parson Street

Streets of Glasgow: Parson Street, from the blog.  Image description: a street sign with Parson Street written on it. The sign is on a lamp post with blue sky behind.
Parson Street: a street sign with Parson Street written on it. The sign is on a lamp post with blue sky behind.
Parson Street: a church and three-storey building to the right, a red three-storey building to the left, a tower block and trees ahead.​
Parson Street: a church and three-storey building to the right, a red three-storey building to the left, a tower block and trees ahead.

Between the two parts of Glebe Street, I turned the corner and walked the equally short Parson Street, home to St. Mungo’s RC Church, the church house and the Martyr’s School, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Aye, him. He got around. He was actually born on Parson Street in 1868, the street looking much different then as much as Townhead would have, not divided by a motorway or with tenements all levelled, as it is today. There is a plinth that notes Mackintosh’s origins in the area, which thoughtfully shows a map of what the area would have looked like at the time. On the day I was there, two books had been left on the plinth, both new, both quite appropriate for these times and for Mackintosh himself. I’m not sure why they were there but I hope someone benefits from them. The Martyr’s School, a tall, imposing Mackintosh school, is a decent looking building and now houses Council offices so it isn’t normally open all that often. The church across the street was to be open for private prayer later, as the regulations then allowed, and I looked at it for a moment, a crucifix tall and high across the front, its elegant golden sandstone glistening in the cold spring sunshine. It is home to a Passionist congregation, their mark also on the neighbouring church house, high up, and it is one of few surviving buildings in Townhead which survived the 1960s. The three on Parson Street are all imposing buildings, pillars of society in a quiet, secluded street right at the heart of the city.

Thanks for reading. This is the eighty third Streets of Glasgow post here on Walking Talking. Nearby streets featured here previously include Glebe Street, Cathedral Street and Alexandra Parade. The other posts in the series appear on the Streets of Glasgow page.

Streets of Glasgow: Glebe Street

Glebe Street sign: a street sign saying Glebe St. above a sign pointing right towards St. Mungo’s Church.​
Glebe Street sign: a street sign saying Glebe St. above a sign pointing right towards St. Mungo’s Church.
Glebe Street: looking up a street towards trees with the side of a church to the left. The sky is blue with several white clouds.​
Glebe Street: looking up a street towards trees with the side of a church to the left. The sky is blue with several white clouds.

For many Scots, I suspect their first thought when they hear ‘Glebe Street’ is the Broons. The Broons, stalwarts of The Sunday Post, live on Glebe Street and it is quite a common Scottish street name. A glebe is a park linked to a church – there’s a Glebe in my home town, for example – and it’s only natural that the Glaswegian Glebe Street runs right by a church and is very close to another. Much of Glebe Street runs by the side of St. Mungo’s RC Church, a church dating back to 1841, designed by George Goldie. What I didn’t realise until I walked towards the Necropolis later is that Glebe Street continues at the other side of Stirling Road, a spur of a traffic junction leading to the Royal Infirmary. There is a defunct shop on a traffic island and daffodils on the verges. The church has cool decorative touches on the Glebe Street side and I admired those for the few moments it took to walk by it. On the other side of the road is St. Mungo’s Primary School with coloured-in Easter eggs hung on the railings when I was there. A guy was walking his dug on the other side of the street. Since Townhead has changed very drastically since the 1960s, it is hardly a surprise that the street is dissected by another main road and the noise of the nearby M8 is ever present. Materially, it isn’t much, two bits of street with a path in between them but architecturally there’s a church, a Rennie Mackintosh building across the way (the Martyr’s School, which I’ll cover in Parson Street next week), the Royal Infirmary and Glasgow Cathedral peeking out, so as the Broons might say, it’s fair braw.

Thanks for reading. This is the eighty second Streets of Glasgow walk here on Walking Talking. Other nearby streets covered here include Cathedral Street, Alexandra Parade and Parson Street, which follows here next week. All of the posts in the series can be found on the Streets of Glasgow page.

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.