Playing for the love of the game: Queen’s Park vs Arbroath

A few months ago, I wrote a post about Hampden Park, Scotland’s national football stadium, in which I expressed the hope I would actually get there to watch Queen’s Park play at their home ground. The thought of a lower league match being played out in a 52,000 seater stadium appealed to me greatly and I hoped I could make it happen:

But I would like to see Queen’s Park most of all. The Spiders are 150 years old this year and make a virtue of being the last amateurs in the senior leagues in Scotland. They also play at Hampden to an average crowd of 645, some 51,000 fewer people than the ground’s capacity. It’s that which makes me want to go, as well as Hampden being a mere 4 miles from here. Plus it would back up that I’ve often said that Queen’s Park is my Glasgow team, owing to my deep dislike of Celtic and Rangers. I’ve checked and there are a grand total of two Saturdays this season when Hibs aren’t playing but Queen’s Park are at home, on 11th November against Arbroath and 6th January against Stranraer. Hopefully I’ll get there. I don’t imagine 645 people can roar that hard but I hope to be proven wrong.

Well, Saturday 11th November was yesterday and I was indeed to be found among the 764-strong crowd who braved a cold November afternoon in Mount Florida to see Queen’s Park beaten by Arbroath by two goals to nil. I had been to Hampden only a month or so before to see Hibs play Celtic in the League Cup and I was in the same part of the ground. They only bother opening two sections of the William Hill South Stand for Queen’s Park games with the two sets of supporters segregated. That and the numbers of stewards were probably unnecessary. Apart from that and of course the huge screens and even bigger food prices, it was quite a small operation with lots of families and a souvenir stand with strips on a rail. Plus you could sit where you liked.


I turned up about half two and after getting some pies, I grabbed a seat, half-way down the stand with a good view of the action. I am used to Easter Road where the teams are usually out warming up. By this point at Hampden, however, there was nothing doing. I was one of a handful of folk actually in the stand, even a half-hour before the game started. Queen’s Park don’t do a paper programme, instead they do a digital one, downloadable from the club’s website. I had looked earlier in the day to see if it was there but it was only when I reached Hampden that it was available. It was a decent effort, almost like a fanzine, with the usual column from the manager and a decent page about Arbroath as well as a couple of good articles about old football grounds and even older Queen’s Park games. One’s iPhone also furnished the team lines and I saw that Arbroath had Scott Martin playing, who is on loan there from Hibs. At least I recognised someone.

It being Armistice Day, the game was preceded by a minute’s silence, immaculately kept. The game began and for the first bit, the teams were quite evenly matched, though Arbroath edged it. They scored in the 17th minute, the goal from close range by Gavin Swankie, and never really looked like losing after that, especially after their second from Colin Hamilton after 55 minutes. Queen’s Park weren’t great, not really getting going except for a few half-decent runs from midfield. The home support were vocal, with a few loud cries from men and boys of ”Mon the Spiders’ or ”Mon the Queen’s’, though most of it was out of frustration at their team’s efforts. To be fair, they were mince, with the possession statistics of 48% to Arbroath’s 52% not taking account of how little they made their possession count. Their two best players were their top scorer, Anton Brady, and their number 3, Scott Gibson, who won Man of the Match. Gibson wasn’t bad at all and deserved the bottle of Irn-Bru or whatever he got from the sponsors, AG Barr.

As a neutral I greatly enjoyed my afternoon. If I was a Queen’s Park fan, I wouldn’t have been so pleased. They are now four points adrift of Forfar at the bottom of League 1, with no immediate prospect of moving from the bottom spot, especially since they haven’t won very often lately. That might not change with the visit of Dunfermline of the Championship next Saturday in the Scottish Cup. Arbroath, who climbed above East Fife into fourth, were good value for their win, working quite well tactically with Scott Martin mainly on the wing, changing sides halfway through the first 45. Their fans were quite vocal too, even branching into that perennial favourite, the Weegie song, heard from many fans whenever they visit a ground in this fine city, about how those resident here are only happy on Giro day.

Next Saturday I will be back to Easter Road to watch Hibs play St Johnstone, back in my season ticket seat and back being partisan. Being a neutral yesterday lowered my blood pressure considerably, focusing only on watching the match rather than bothering about every decision that goes against my team. When I’m in my seat next weekend, I will be checking the Queen’s Park score, though, commiserating with those poor souls who will be back at Hampden, all for the love of the game.

Advertisements

Digest: October 2017

The Battery, Dunbar
I started October on annual leave so plenty of rovings to report this month, beginning with a Sunday sojourn down the coast. I had a notion to go somewhere and decided on a wee spin on the train. From my bit of Glasgow, there are direct trains to Wemyss Bay on a Sunday and I soon stepped out of a train in the beautiful glass station, taking in the Victorian architecture. I was tempted to walk down the boardwalk to the ferry to Rothesay but the weather was wild and windy and the decision was made easier just to keep on dry land. I was going to have a wander but with the wind I just took a few photos and scurried across for the bus to Largs. The road from Wemyss Bay to Largs is one of the best in the country, suitably dramatic with views to Cumbrae, Bute and Cowal, only better with the white-topped waves. As I walked in Largs, the wind and the rain nearly blew me off my feet so I only went a little way before retreating to a coffee shop then the train home.

Wemyss Bay
The next day, for want of any better ideas, I went to Edinburgh. I hadn’t planned anything so just walked up Leith Walk with the hope that I would have a brainwave en route. Luckily I did and ended up on the bus to Portobello to walk along the prom there, the weather being sunnier and much nicer than the previous day. A few weeks previously, I had written a piece on old power stations (to appear here in due course) and mentioned the old power station in Portobello, now replaced by houses and five-a-side pitches. A photo I came across with the station’s demolition came to mind with King’s Road in the background and a massive crater where the station used to be.

Portobello with East Lothian in the background
That Wednesday I went to Perth, where I took in the ever braw Perth Museum and Fergusson Gallery. The Fergusson had a particularly intriguing exhibition of paintings and documents about Fergusson’s friendship with Charles Rennie Mackintosh. For those who will insist on asking me rather than utilising Google, it’s on until 29th January 2018. Perth Museum’s excellent exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Perthshire Society of Natural Science with very well-arranged stuffed huge animals is on until tomorrow, 4th November.

Perth Museum
Before I went to Perth, I had time to kill so undertook a Streets of Glasgow walk along Renfield Street.

The following day I took a train to Berwick, loving walking the walls in the sunshine. I particularly relished being able to look in the distance to Lindisfarne and Bamburgh. As I walked, I tried to decide where I would head for next, down south or up north, eventually settling on Dunbar. I bought an Ordnance Survey map since unaccountably I had left the relevant sheets in the house and because I had notions to go to Dunglass Collegiate Church and the waterfall at Bilsdean, both close by each other up the coast nearer Dunbar. Sadly bus times were against me so I headed straight for Dunbar instead, soon avoiding high waves as I walked along the prom to the East Links. I hadn’t been in my home town for about six months and being on familiar turf was really what I needed. I hadn’t been to the Battery on Lamer Island for a while and was glad to be there to see the new art installations and interpretative boards around it. Looking out to the North Sea, St. Abbs Head, the Isle of May and the Bass was particularly good on that bright sunny day. My visit also included a walk along the Prom, where my spirit was washed a little cleaner.

Berwick
Berwick
It is mandatory when visiting Dunfermline (or Kirkcaldy) that I do my utmost to sample some of those lovely steak bridies from Stephens the bakers, regardless of the result. Thus it was that Friday that I was sat in Pittencrieff Park in Dunfermline with two bridies, ensuring they were swiftly polished off. Dunfermline is a very easy place to reach from Glasgow and my plan was to take in the new Carnegie Library and Galleries, one of those all-purpose cultural buildings that spring up all over the place. It’s excellent, with a branch library and archives as well as museum and gallery space. Since I was on leave and I thus didn’t want to linger amidst the books, most of my visit concentrated on the stunning views to the Abbey as well as the art and museum objects. There was an exhibition of some of Fife’s considerable art collection, including a few Colourists and Glasgow Boys (and Girls) works familiar from trips to Kirkcaldy. Another highlight was the video of archive footage of gala days and the like soundtracked by Dunfermline musicians, namely the Skids, Big Country and Barbara Dickson, quite an eclectic mix. Honestly, it’s better than it sounds.

Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries
On the way back, I did a Streets of Glasgow walk on West Nile Street in the city centre.

Over that weekend, I went to watch Hibs lose to Aberdeen then on the Sunday I went to Cathkin Park, particularly liking being in that fine place in the midst of autumn leaves. Another Streets of Glasgow walk resulted, this time on Union Street in the town.

The following Saturday, Hibs played Celtic in the League Cup semi at Hampden. The unexpected pleasure of a comfortable leather seat only slightly mitigated the horror of losing to the lesser greens. I have a sort-of tradition of walking home from Hampden after semi finals and that was what I did, covering nearly five miles from Mount Florida to Cardonald. Luckily the sun had come out by that point and the autumn colours again made it a nice walk, soothing a brow furrowed by the football just witnessed at the National Stadium.

That Tuesday I was in the capital for the derby. Beforehand, I got there a bit early so had a psychogeographic wander around the New Town.

Last Friday, I was in Partick. After doing my business over there, I went to Kelvingrove, paying particular attention to my favourite painting, the Paps of Jura by William MacTaggart.

On Sunday, I went to Dundee with my dad. We headed first to Broughty Ferry where we lunched on a bench watching the local sailing club in action on the Tay. Broughty Castle with its art and natural history was very fine, though of course I proceeded to slip on the stairs, right in front of the bemused museum assistant who proceeded to ask if I was all right. It happens enough that I don’t even get that embarrassed any more. After Broughty Ferry, we headed into Dundee city centre to visit the mighty McManus Galleries. The Diam slices in the cafe are outstanding. We had a walk by the Tay quickly before it got dark.

Broughty Castle Museum
McManus Galleries
V and A under construction next to the RRS Discovery in Dundee
So, that’s October. The clocks have gone back and the nights are fair drawing in. I never used to like autumn though we have been lucky that it has been quite mild here in the west. Lots of good adventures this month. Plus I’m back studying too and even still ahead of the course calendar. Hopefully there will be more adventures (and ticks off the course calendar) to come in November.

Thanks as ever to all readers and followers. I am particularly proud of October’s posts, particularly ‘Scotland by museums’ and ‘Muriel Spark’, and I hoped you enjoyed reading them. The next post here will be on Sunday. It was going to be about Platform 9 3/4, delving slightly into Harry Potter, but instead it will be about studying. Often even more magical.

Posts this month –

Fidget

Thinking about a wander

Murals in Paisley

Digest: September 2017

Down the harbour 

Wemyss Bay/Largs

Streets of Glasgow: Renfield Street

Scotland by museums

Cathkin Park

Road from Hampden

Stations

Muriel Spark

Photographs

 

 

Programmes

There are arguably too many ways we can find out about football. Club websites, apps, 24 hour breaking news, message boards, podcasts, club TV channels, regular TV channels and of course the good old public prints. A lot of this is digital, accessible from the swipe of a smartphone. I myself often check the scores from other grounds when watching Hibs. Sometimes, though, this backfires such as recently when we played Celtic and I had to wait for the PA announcer to tell me the scores since everybody and their granny was using their mobile data and I couldn’t. Analogue is very often best and it’s why I’m writing in defence of another form of print media: the match day programme. I went back to football after a bit of an absence in 2014 and I have a programme from each and every game since, well, except the recent match at Ross County where I had to make do with a printed teamsheet. Some of them are battered, others have been in the rain, even some fairly pristine, placed under my seat and conveyed home after the day’s proceedings have concluded.


Programmes are probably irrelevant now. As I said, pretty much anything can be found online. But still I buy one and I read it, usually before the game and over half-time. Most of interest are usually the away programmes. In the pile from this current season I have examples from Celtic, Dundee and Alloa, plus the aforementioned Ross County teamsheet. They vary considerably in quality, in every sense of that word, though from each is usually a clear sense of dedication to the club, of love even. The Alloa programme from the 3-0 drubbing Hibs administered on a drookit July afternoon has real, genuine opinions, a far cry from the normal corporate PR stuff. One article begins:

‘It doesn’t seem so long since we were all staggering out of the Indodrill Stadium punch drunk after the play-off epic, yet here we are back for the start of the new season.’

Love it.


They are also a reminder of days past, some half-forgotten, others very clear. One of my most prized possessions is the programme for the 2016 Scottish Cup Final, which gets kept with the rest of my souvenirs from that wonderful day, a haul that also includes newspapers, books and DVDs. The Alloa game I mentioned earlier saw me sitting in a gazebo and still getting absolutely soaking. Going through my programme pile last night brought back other memories. A Hearts programme from 2014-15 reminded me that our captain Sir David Gray once had a full head of hair. The Rangers programme from 13th February 2015 had me back in the away end at Ibrox with all of us Hibees going absolutely berserk as Lewis Stevenson scored our second that night. Also memorable that night was the cry from the Hibs end when we were kept in to let the Rangers hordes out. Not long before The Rangers had put their manager Ally McCoist on gardening leave. As the ground emptied, a groundsman came out on a tractor, prompting ‘Ally, Ally, gies a wave’.

I’m not a collector. I’m a reader and genuinely I like to read the programme to get the lie of the land. Or to be enlightened. The Hibs programmes invariably feature on games and players past, usually penned by Tom Wright of the Hibs Historical Trust. Last season’s were about Hibs playing in America in 1967. Most programmes usually feature something historical, usually a link to both clubs, like Dundee recently, which was very polished, professional and actually accomplished in that respect. Yes, very often a programme is a PR tool of the club that prints them. They are often expensive, such as at a semi or a final when they are usually a fiver at least. More at a concert. But they are a reminder of the game that transpired, a historical document to supplement hazy memories, often bearing the marks of the event itself, the rain or the tears or even the pie grease. I imagine my pile will continue to grow, at least until it fills more than the cupboard it currently inhabits, at which point I’ll probably have to reconsider. Not the football, I hasten to add. I’m too far gone for that.

Further reading –

The Scottish Supporters Network, Programmes In The Digital Age, accessible via http://www.scottishsupporters.net/programmes-in-the-digital-age/

Photographs

Back in this blog’s early days, I was told that one thing that would improve it was photos. They would break up the text. Ever since I’ve kept to that and indeed I often take photos specifically for the blog, sometimes on spec for a potential future post. I would like to share some of my favourite photos from the blog over the last couple of years, giving some of the context behind them.

This first one was taken at the Science Museum in London, with what might be the Rocket in the centre of the shot and a lighthouse lamp from the Western Isles to the right of it. The Science Museum is excellent and it is stunningly arranged.

This was taken in the old Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow during a tour just before the current works to turn it into flats. You can almost see the nurses, doctors and patients moving along.

This is the old Winterfield Pavilion in Dunbar, now demolished. It stood abandoned for most of my lifetime though previously it was used variously as a performance space and public toilets. I suspect my interest in abandoned structures may have started there.

This is Kev’s Beach, not far from St. Abbs Head in Berwickshire. It is a little cove with a pebbly beach just off the path. It does have a name on the OS map but it felt like my own discovery, hence its unofficial moniker.

Dryburgh Abbey is a stunning place just by the Tweed in the Borders. I’ve only ever been there on gloriously sunny days, including this summer when I sat a while by the river and read. Blessed in that dawn to be alive.

This is the back of the old James Dunbar lemonade works, behind Easter Road Stadium in Edinburgh. The South Stand at Easter Road is still referred to as the Dunbar End, not because it is in the general direction of Dunbar, which it isn’t, but for the works.

Last one is Cathkin Park, taken a couple of weeks ago, a beautiful autumn day just to ponder and wander.

Some of these were taken with my camera, which is a Nikon Coolpix L340, though most of the more recent ones were taken with an iPhone 7. The last two definitely were. I haven’t taken my camera out all that often recently but since it has been a gorgeous autumn, I may just have to change that.

Road from Hampden

Hampden Park

I have relatively few traditions. Most of them pertain to football in some way. When I go to Easter Road, for example, I always use the same turnstile and exit. I invariably walk the same way to the ground as well, though not always. Since Hibs have been promoted, I have different grounds to go to so new traditions to build and maintain. Other than Easter Road and possibly Stark’s Park, the ground I’ve seen Hibs in the most over the last few seasons is Hampden Park. I am actually writing this the night after an unsuccessful visit to the National Stadium, this time against Celtic. (Don’t panic – this is actually a psychogeographical post. I’m not going to go all self-pitying about the Hibs. Football posts don’t tend to be popular here, for some reason.) Whenever I see Hibs play in a semi final at Hampden, I usually walk home. From Mount Florida to where I live in Cardonald is 4.8 miles, or about an hour and a half. The first time I walked it was after the Scottish Cup semi against Dundee United or the Conrad Logan game – more about the Polar Bear here. Hibs had the eastern or Celtic end of the stadium and even without that, there was a lot of traffic getting out of Hampden then Battlefield and Shawlands. As I got towards Battlefield Road and the old Victoria Infirmary, I realised I might be quicker walking as no bus would get through the cars and coaches all heading out of the area at the same time. I got home and collapsed in a heap. One year later, after the Scottish Cup semi against Aberdeen, same scenario. This time I just decided to walk it, since it had become sort of a ritual whenever Hibs played at Hampden that I would just hoof it home. In fact, since I had prepared myself for Hibs getting gubbed by Celtic anyway (we got beat but not that decisively), the walk home was actually something to look forward to.

My route from Hampden mostly follows that of the 34 (or 34A) bus, operated by First Glasgow, which runs from Castlemilk to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital or Govan. Usually, I am one of a great crowd streaming out of Hampden and crossing the road at Mount Florida Primary School onto Battlefield Road. After the Aberdeen semi last year, I was surrounded by Doric-accented folk with red scarves, definitely marking myself out by my green scarf and mostly east coast accent. Past the coaches, the mass of people thins out by the shops on Battlefield Road, definitely by Shawlands, only a few or none beyond there. By the time I get to the northern gate of Pollok Park, the supporters coaches tend to start passing, as proved yesterday when coaches, pretty much all with Edinburgh numbers on the side and green-clad folk aboard, started streaming along towards the motorway. After the Dundee United semi, I was actually over the motorway when the United coaches started passing. Invariably by Mosspark and Paisley Road West, I am the only indicator that a football match had been happening somewhere as people just dot around doing shopping and whatever.

Mosspark Boulevard and Bellahouston Park

The walk yesterday was brilliant, on a nice, cloudy-bright autumn afternoon. Battlefield was its usual, leafy elegance, with the exception that someone had just smashed the window of the Domino’s Pizza shop. I always like being in that part of the world and know it well from working there for two years. As I walked and thought over the game, my main impression was of the autumn leaves on the trees. Glasgow is a beautiful city at the best of times but very often it is best in the autumn. The trees are all yellow and orange at the moment and the route home from Hampden skirts the side of Queen’s Park as well as Pollok Park and Bellahouston for good measure. I had been along Mosspark Boulevard last Sunday en route to Cathkin Park and the trees were still turning and leaves falling. The game had finished around 2 and I got home around 3.30, having stopped only for a juice and a sandwich on Battlefield Road. I hadn’t been hurrying, just letting my feet guide me home, processing the game and thinking on future adventures. Pollok Park foremost amongst my priorities, given the wonderful autumn colours. It won’t be today, however, since I would rather be far away from the Motherwell-Rangers semi final at Hampden this afternoon.

Glasgow is an eminently walkable city. It can seem vast but it isn’t really. It is possible to cross the south side within an hour or two on foot, even a half-hour by bus. From Cardonald, it is possible to walk in any direction and end up somewhere. I can walk to Renfrew (and I have) or Braehead or Paisley (I’ve only done from Ralston home so far). Within Glasgow, I can walk to Govan or Crookston, Bellahouston or Pollok. Some of the Streets of Glasgow walks I have in mind are local ones, the long roads that pass through this part of the city – Paisley Road West and Govan Road are definitely ideas for the winter to come.

The walk from Hampden is a rare treat, like a visit to the National Stadium itself. I am lucky as a Hibs fan that I get to visit fairly regularly and even luckier that I can walk home in even less time than it takes some of my fellow Hibees to drive back to the capital, even if it might take longer to get over the game than just the walk home.

Cathkin Park


Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that certain places recur in posts here. Dunbar, where I come from, and Glasgow, where I live, foremost among them. Others include Edinburgh, Fife, Durham and Prestongrange. I’ve written quite a lot about locales located within these at one point or another. Cathkin Park is a place I’ve only been to in the last few years, since I moved to Glasgow and it has fast become one of my favourite places. It is like Prestongrange in the sense that it is a bit overgrown and sorry for itself, not quite doing what it has done before, even though there is a sense that it could be great again. Cathkin is an old football ground, still is, really, retaining the crucial components of grass, white painted lines and the occasional people to roll a ball across it. I make sure I get there a few times a year, though less so since I stopped working in that part of the city. I make a few circuits of the park then walk up onto one of the terraces to stand, stare and ponder awhile. Usually the same thoughts ensue. I try to imagine this place with thousands of people, thousands of bunnets, all around the terraces with a grandstand on the near touchline. I shiver slightly as I imagine my team going under, just as Third Lanark did in 1967. Apparently I am not the only one. Peter Ross wrote in his recent article collection, The Passion of Harry Bingo, of a Queen’s Park fan who thinks of the place like a church, a place to think. I do too, though usually I turn to happier images, like when Cathkin was the second Hampden Park and Hibs won the Scottish Cup for the first time, back in 1887 against Dumbarton. Sometimes there are other people around, like the other day when there was a mum and a boy walking their dog and a woman taking photos, who might have been an art student. It means different things to different people, a place to drink illicitly, maybe to reminiscence or to just to walk, with a dog, with family, friends or just alone. I’m just glad it isn’t so far away from my house, that I can be there in half an hour. One day, I think, I hope that Third Lanark play a league game there again, that these terraces are cut back and decent crowds stand or sit there, Bovril and pies in hand, watching the game and cheering just occasionally, because it’s Saturday and it’s Cathkin Park and that’s just what happens there.


Source and further reading –

Ross, Peter, The Passion of Harry Bingo, 2017, Dingwall, Sandstone Press

Digest: September 2017

View from Portobello to East Lothian
September was a fairly quiet month, travel-wise, with most of my forays out for football. My first trip out of the west in September didn’t come until Saturday 16th September, when Hibs played Motherwell at Easter Road. I took a diversion on the way to the ground to the Eastern Cemetery, to visit the grave of Dan McMichael, the manager of Hibs when they won the Cup in 1902. McMichael’s grave wasn’t marked until 2013, made right by the efforts of the St Patrick’s Hibs supporters club. He had died during an epidemic of Spanish flu in 1919 and due to the numbers of folk succumbing, graves weren’t being marked. It’s an interesting story and I’ve written a post which will appear in the coming month about that walk.

Dan McMichael’s grave in the Eastern Cemetery, Edinburgh
The following day was Doors Open Day in Glasgow and my dad and I went to various places across this great city. The first was an unexpected surprise, a curious step into a memorial garden dedicated to the victims of the Arandora Star sinking in 1940. Scotland is a very multicultural country and particularly over the last 200 years, we have seen people come here from all across the world. Many of them were Italians. During the Second World War, however, Italy and the UK were at war and many Italians living in Scotland were interned or sent off to Australia or Canada. Some of them were on the Arandora Star, which was sunk by a German vessel off the coast of Donegal. The garden featured tall mirrored glass pieces around a water feature. This was to symbolise the elegance of the liner and the torpedo coming in to sink it. The glass featured various apposite Biblical and poetic quotations. Around the walls of the garden were plaques about Catholicism in Scotland as well as about the Arandora Star. On Doors Open Day, there was a mannie there talking about the Arandora Star and he was excellent. The garden is open every day and I urge people to go have a look. We walked along the river to the Riverside Museum, a fine place but absolutely mobbed since it was a nice Sunday in September. As we came past the SECC, we could see and hear lots of sirens from the Riverside. Given that the Parsons Green bomb had been left on the London Underground only a couple of days previously, we could be forgiven for being on edge but it turned out that the emergency services were at the Riverside as part of Doors Open Day. After lunch, we went across town to Provan Hall, in Easterhouse, a couple of manor houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, now managed by Glasgow City Council. Stevie, the tour guide, was amazing, giving an incredible tour which brought the place alive and it was a true Horrible Histories-style tour, probably the best I’ve had in a long while. Back across town to the Botanics and we had a wander there before dinner.

Arandora Star garden, Glasgow

Provan Hall
The following Tuesday night I was back in Edinburgh for football. I travelled through a bit sharper and had a meander around the New Town. I stopped for a few minutes to admire the sphinxes on top of the Royal Scottish Academy on the Mound, which I hadn’t really looked at before. I took a turn around Charlotte Square, now recovering from the Book Festival, and towards Northumberland Street, Broughton Street and Forth Street. On a whim I decided to go along Annandale Street to see where the Lothian Buses depot is, which is a series of big sheds with the logo of the various Lothian companies on the front of one of them. On the way was an Islamic centre with various interesting quotes etched on the side.

Royal Scottish Academy
That Saturday Hibs were playing Ross County in Dingwall, a place I had never been to before. I got a bus to Inverness and had a walk along the river before getting the train to Dingwall. I’ve been watching a YouTube series called All The Stations recently (more about that in the upcoming posts about Wemyss Bay and also the one called Stations) and that stretch of line, including Beauly which has a very short platform, was quite familiar to me from that with the Cromarty Firth to the right as the train moved to Dingwall. Dingwall itself is a nice market town though the football seemed to be the main event in the place. The bus ride back to Glasgow was very long but pleasant just to read and write.

I was off that Monday so I decided to go off to Edinburgh. On the way, I decided to take a diversion via ferry. Over the summer, the Govan Workspace was running a free ferry shuttle from Govan to the Riverside Museum just across the Clyde and to my discredit, I had not been on it despite bunging them some money. I decided to put that to rights and I enjoyed my 30-second journey immensely, despite the grey and the gloom. I got a train from Partick to Queen Street then another to Edinburgh, where I had decided to go for a walk in Holyrood Park. I am not a climber so Arthur’s Seat was not on the agenda. I decided instead to walk up to Dunsapie, up the back of Arthur’s Seat, familiar to me from walks from my primary school, which is about a mile away. I sat there on a rock for a while before heading back down. I got a bus from Meadowbank back into town and spent a very enjoyable hour in the National Museum of Scotland, lightly grazing and wandering rather than getting bogged down in one display in particular. NMS is one of those places where I can only concentrate for so long since it has a lot of stuff. I had forgotten how good NMS is in its breadth and depth.

Govan ferry

Dunsapie

National Museum of Scotland

Millennium Clock, National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland
On Saturday, Hibs were playing at Celtic Park. I walked there from Central Station, particularly liking being around Glasgow Cross with its tolbooth spire and high buildings.

Glasgow Cross
So, that’s September. I was off for the start of October so a few posts have resulted from those adventures which will appear in the coming days. Thanks again to all readers for their comments, likes and follows. Toodle pip.

Posts published –

Morrison’s Haven

Walk this way

Cardonald

Membership

When you’ve written better before

Names

My favourite beach: Belhaven

Reading more often

Brougham Castle

Glasgow vs. Edinburgh

Make it rain

Signposts

Reading more often

When I go to the football, I tend to travel light, usually preferring to carry a book or a notebook along with my iPod. My normal mode is to pick a book off my considerable to-read pile, though I don’t always get it read. I’ve been trying to finish a book review for months but I have carried the book to at least three games and it’s still not done. Sometimes, though, I have managed to read a book in its entirety on the journey to and from Edinburgh or wherever the game is. It helps that I am a quick reader, even if I don’t read enough.

I suspect I am not the only one. I spend too much time looking at my phone. Twitter musings and Facebook updates aren’t conducive to good concentration, sadly. Just being able to read and not bother to scroll every few minutes would improve my life considerably. I probably still read more than most – I give out books for a living, after all – but most of my reading happens on a screen rather than in print. I don’t think I read the same on a tablet. I flick between pages faster and my eyes dance over the screen rather than lingering on each printed word. The other day I re-read the latest Quintin Jardine novel because the first time I didn’t get a whole lot out of the experience. It’s still reading and still a better way to spend my time than spear fishing or watching Hearts or whatever but it is still a lesser pleasure than actually sitting somewhere nice reading a book.

IMG_3984
Leith Links
Recently I took a book with me and read it in full well before I headed home. I read most of it on the train – it was called #girlboss by Sophia Amoruso, incidentally – and was going to go up to Calton Hill to finish it until I remembered that I was in Edinburgh and sitting on a hill to read wasn’t happening with the wind. I still went up to Calton Hill, though, but sat for half an hour in Leith Links instead to finish reading it. I think the best reading moments happen when outside and I don’t do it often enough. I of course live in Scotland, though, so the climate doesn’t always suit al fresco reading even at the height of summer. A few years ago, I went on a day trip to Dumbarton Castle and sat at the bottom of the Rock finishing reading what is now one of my favourite books, Findings by Kathleen Jamie. It felt appropriate to have a sweeping vista of the Clyde before me as I read such a far-reaching book.

So far this current season, I’ve read three books travelling to and from the football. The trip to Alloa saw me reading the wonderfully warped Hings by Chris McQueer, or at least for part of the journey as I was laughing too hard to read any more of the book on the train. Game one of the season, against Partick Thistle at Easter Road, was a re-read of My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir, a reminder of past work and hopefully a prompt to future travels too. The League Cup game the following Tuesday saw me take the memoir of the music journalist Sylvia Patterson, I’m Not With The Band: A Writer’s Life Lost In Music. I even sat and read some of it while sitting on the veranda of a pasta restaurant in Leith, perhaps looking a tiny bit cosmopolitan along the way. Probably not, though.

I’ve read various stories lately about the sales of eBooks going down and conversely people reading less generally due to how busy life is. Planning just how to take time out takes up more time than the time out itself. Reading is a powerful insight into someone else’s world, whether it be biography or a novel. It is in essence a conversation between writer and reader and there are times, like in real life, when the conversation is loaded on one side or another. From the writer’s side, it can be because it isn’t sufficiently clear to make sense to someone else. The reader might be hindered by whatever they are feeling or thinking at the time, as much as how they read it especially if they are like me and in front of a tablet computer screen.

Having time to read is precious. I spend a lot of my life in transit and my life is enriched by being able to read even for a little part of it. Reading makes me a better person and certainly a better writer. Carrying a book is a natural part of my life though mainly they are books to put on a shelf. Being able to get a book for me and really sit down and read it is an ever rarer treat these days. Then again I also have a deep urge to write so a balance might have to come down somewhere in the middle. I might just have to wait for every second Saturday and use the travelling as my weekly or fortnightly reading time, hopefully not during the game itself.

Digest: August 2017

It doesn’t feel so long since I wrote the last one of these. I seem to have been here, there and everywhere in August. I spent the first part of it on annual leave then much of the rest of it in transit. August seems to have been spent either at work or in the east of Scotland, mainly Edinburgh, with not so much time spent actually writing here. As ever, I have my iPad in front of me with photos to help me remember what I’ve done this month so here we go.


1st August I went to Dumbarton Castle. I had been away to East Lothian the day before and a lie in was required after a busy day. I was in the house around lunchtime and decided on the trip across the Clyde. I’ve been to Dumbarton Castle quite a few times but not since I stopped working in the town in late 2015. The train journey up from Glasgow was surreal, familiar terrain but not covered for a while, remembering past commutes and people I knew when I worked up there. It was a pleasant day, well, mostly, since it started raining while I was there, but I enjoyed the walk around the Rock, looking up the Clyde to hills and sea lochs and across the landscape to city streets and the Vale of Leven.

The following day was my birthday and I went to my favourite art gallery, Kirkcaldy Galleries, and spent a wee while amidst the Colourists, MacTaggarts and Glasgow Boys paintings.


That Friday, I had a turn around Glasgow, deciding to take in some of the lesser-spotted interesting bits of this great city I call home. First was the Buffalo Bill statue in Dennistoun, put up by a housing company to celebrate the East End Exhibition Centre that once stood nearby, hosting shows by Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley in 1891-1892. This statue stands in a square in the middle of a housing scheme, a wee bit of the Wild West in the East End. It’s a nice touch, paying homage to a past glory and also to the side of every Glaswegian, even us adopted ones, who aspire to be Americans. I hadn’t been to Dennistoun before and it was fine, particularly the stunning library building. I walked back into town along Alexandra Parade, one of those Streets of Glasgow walks, and it was nicer at the eastern end, I have to say, even with the church that looked like a fortress. I also did a Streets walk along Cathedral Street, which I know fairly well, but thought more en route about the ever-changing city landscape, sort of channelling Edwin Morgan. When I reached Queen Street, I ended up doing another of those things I had been meaning on doing for a while, on the train to Anniesland, via Maryhill and Kelvindale. It is one of the city’s branch lines, only opened about ten years ago and I wanted to do it because I had head it announced on the PA at Queen Street so many times as I was en route somewhere else. It was a brief journey, only about 20 minutes, and I mainly just looked out the window at the city passing by. I ended up on a bus from Anniesland to the Botanic Gardens, which spawned another post about the old railway there.

That Saturday I went to see Hibs at Easter Road. We won against Partick Thistle 3-1.


The next day I was away with my dad to Aberdour Castle in Fife and Elcho Castle in Perthshire. Aberdour is a castle I know well and I was glad to wander around the gardens and to get a gander at the painted ceilings, a lesser interest of mine. Thereafter we walked down to the harbour, looking across the Forth to Edinburgh. As we walked down the road, we passed two laddies who had peeled off most of their clothes and were headed for the water. Brave boys. As we walked back, they were out and clad in a towel to warm up. It was a full day and we headed to Dysart for lunch and then to Kirkcaldy for my second visit to Kirkcaldy Galleries in four days. Never object to it, mind. Elcho Castle was a new one to both of us and I liked it, particularly the little design touches characteristic of later Scottish castles.

The following Tuesday night, I was at Easter Road to see Hibs horse Ayr United in the League Cup. Beforehand I dined at an Italian restaurant in Ocean Terminal and sat on the veranda in the gorgeous Leith sunshine reading my book.


My next trip out of the west was Edinburgh again and Easter Road again. Prior to the game, I decided to go a slightly different route to the ground, going round the back of Meadowbank Shopping Park to the old Dunbar’s lemonade factory just behind the stadium.

Guess where I was the following day? Yep, Edinburgh again, Easter Road again, this time though for a play about the early years of Hibs, from its formation in the Cowgate to good days and bad, ‘A Field Of Our Own’, produced by the Strange Town theatre company and staged actually in the stadium, more precisely the East Stand concourse. It was excellent, thought-provoking and emotional at times. I left with my faith in Hibs very much restored after the dire performance against Hamilton the day before. I love my club. I walked to spend a few minutes with my favourite trees, the sequoias in the Botanic Gardens, sitting scribbling, reading and thinking. The evening was to be cultural again, this time an event at the Edinburgh Book Festival about the new book Who Built Scotland, featuring essays on 25 of the most interesting and important Scottish buildings written by Alexander McCall Smith, Alistair Moffat, James Robertson, Kathleen Jamie and James Crawford. I am a big Kathleen Jamie fan but sadly she wasn’t at the event. Instead the other four authors were interviewed by the splendidly acerbic Ruth Wishart, who is an excellent chair of these sorts of events, with the various authors talking about some of their chosen buildings, with the four authors expounding forth on pre-fabs in Kelso, Cairnpapple Hill, Bell Rock Lighthouse, Innerpeffray Library and Abbotsford.


My next trip to the capital came on Wednesday night. I was supposed to be going to a poetry reading at the Book Festival but couldn’t be arsed. I left work early and decided to head straight out of Edinburgh towards Musselburgh, having a chippy at Fisherrow and wandering around the harbour in the warm sunshine. I walked as far as Joppa and as I sauntered, I realised I wasn’t in the right mood for poetry. I headed back into the city, spent a few quid in the Book Festival Bookshop then came home, feeling the benefit of the quieter train home and being in my bed a few minutes earlier.

The Saturday saw yet another trip to Edinburgh, again for the Book Festival, this time for Ian Rankin. I had never seen Rankin live before but wasn’t disappointed. I’ve fallen in and out of love with Rebus but Ian Rankin is on a good run of form. He’s also a very captivating and compelling speaker and held court talking about Rebus in various media, writing and Police Scotland. I had once more left work early and got to Edinburgh earlier than I perhaps had to. I ended up walking up Easter Road and sitting by the Water of Leith for a bit in the sunshine before I walked along the side of the river back into the city to get a chippy before seeing Ian Rankin.


Very early on the Sunday, and I mean early, I left for Dundee. Hibs were playing on the live Sky game at Dens Park. I had a ticket for the posh seats, a very new experience, surreal but not altogether unpleasant, as it happens. Hibs should have won but it turned out 1-1. I also had my first taste of beef bourguignon, which was far better than the football. On the way back into town, my auntie showed me a trail of various murals in some of the city centre’s closes. I haven’t written a post about them yet but I like the idea of using hidden city spaces in that way.

Screenshot 2017-08-29 at 21.02.55

Right, that’s August. Today, Tuesday, is also the second anniversary of when I started this blog. In the last two years, my confidence as a writer and as a person has grown considerably. Let the words flow. Thanks to all readers and followers. It’s been fun so far. Tomorrow, there will be a post. It’s one I wrote absolutely yonks ago about the National Railway Museum in York. In conclusion, I would like to share a particular place and quotation etched upon it I’ve shared here before but means a lot.

August posts –

Digest: July 2017

Dirleton, Seton and a coastal walk

Streets of Glasgow: Alexandra Parade

Stairs

Places that can’t be reached by public transport

Streets of Glasgow: Cathedral Street

The Dunbar End

In praise of being alone

The Botanics

Castles as cardio

 

The Dunbar End

In going to the football every other Saturday, or whenever the TV people decide the game should be, I am generally consistent. I get a train to Edinburgh then walk to the ground, usually up London Road then Easter Road to Albion Road and round by the Famous Five Stand and in the East Stand. Sometimes, though, I like to mix things up and go a slightly different route. It keeps me from getting bored plus it satisfies the bit of me that just needs to walk as these diversions invariably take a wee bit longer. I was aware of a footpath at the back of the Meadowbank Shopping Park, to the south of the stadium, that led to the back of the ground through a fairly recent housing development called the Lochend Butterfly. In the spirit of research, I decided to go that way just to see where it took me.

Lawrie Reilly Place

The Meadowbank Shopping Park is just like any other retail park anywhere. It has a smattering of shops, lots of parking spaces, a fast food place and footpaths that take the pedestrian around the edges rather than directly through it. That was what I did, cutting around the side of Sainsbury’s. There were a few others doing the same thing so I drifted back behind them as this was new territory for me. The path was narrow anyway, surrounded by big boards keeping us out of the construction site. It led into some houses on the splendidly named Lawrie Reilly Way. Lawrie Reilly, who died in 2013 at the age of 84, was the last surviving member of the Famous Five, Hibs’ formidable forward line of the 1950s, formed, as any Hibee would surely know, of Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond. When housing developments tend to have generic street names, and generic houses to match, those names with local resonance make a small difference.

Dunbar lemonade factory

Over the railway, the road split. The right fork would take me to the back of the East Stand, which is where I sit, but I was running early so I followed it until I came to the back of a huge red-brick building bearing the words ‘JAMES DUNBAR’ in prominent white letters. This was the Dunbar’s lemonade factory, now artists’ workshops. I like ghost signs, or those advertising products and services that aren’t there any more. There are a few in Edinburgh, Leith Walk and George IV Bridge in particular, and the Dunbar factory is a cracking example.

South Stand with Norton Park to left

The Dunbar factory also gives its name to the South Stand at Easter Road, nicknamed the Dunbar End. I soon arrived at the back of the South, a part of the stadium I haven’t been in for a long time. A lot of my early Hibs games, back in the late 1990s, were seen from the top tier of the South Stand, where Hibs Kids were allotted seats for games a few times a season. I remember those games, handing over a ticket at the turnstile and getting a set of football stickers or a flyer for a show back. The view from the South was particularly good. This was the time before the West and East Stands were redeveloped so there was a brilliant view up to Leith and over the Forth, always useful if the game was dull.

Easter Road is surrounded by houses, some older than others, with a fair bit of history around too. I walked around by the Norton Park Conference Centre, an old schoolhouse that yesterday housed the Kids Zone, a place where bairns could be entertained before the game, complete with a visit from the Fire Brigade (planned, honest). Norton Park used to be a high school and it appeared in a film called The Singing Street, made in 1950, which recorded playground games and songs of the era. I always remember The Singing Street playing on a constant loop in the Museum of Childhood, a much-loved museum in the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

I’m a big advocate of going a different way occasionally. It helps to keep the familiar from becoming too familiar. I enjoyed this little diversion yesterday and I will probably take it again at some point. The little bit of me that is superstitious may question that since we got beat yesterday though my rational side doubts very much that Hibs being mince had anything to do with me taking a different route to the ground. There are connections between most things, for sure, but some things can be chalked down to Hibs being Hibs.