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.

Water of Leith

Persevere: a slab on a pavement with the words ‘So With The Darkest Days Behind / Our Ship Of Hope Will Steer / And When In Doubt Just Keep In Mind / Our Motto Persevere’.​
Persevere: a slab on a pavement with the words ‘So With The Darkest Days Behind / Our Ship Of Hope Will Steer / And When In Doubt Just Keep In Mind / Our Motto Persevere’.

I think we can call this a series now. I’ve written about rivers the last few weeks so I might as well continue. I have a list of three that I could write about, and have photographs of, including today’s offering, the Water of Leith, which runs from the Pentland Hills right through Edinburgh to Leith where it flows into the Forth. The Water of Leith was once surrounded by mills and industries though today there are a few factories interspersed with flats, allotments, the Union Canal and Colinton Dell as the river wends its way out of the city. The Water of Leith Walkway runs for 13 miles from Leith to Balerno and I’ve walked all of it at one point or another, sometimes in sunshine, other times in rain or even with snow on the ground. The last time I was there was last summer, my only visit to Edinburgh in a year, and walked from Leith towards the city centre. It included stopping by the quotations inscribed on the pavement near Great Junction Street, including the ‘So with the darkest days behind / Our ship of hope will steer / And when in doubt just keep in mind / Our motto Persevere’. I’ve always rather liked that and it currently graces an advertising hoarding on the West Stand at Easter Road, even though it was actually to do with Leith Athletic rather than Hibs, I gather.

St Bernard’s Well: a classical statue of a man amidst curved pillars and a circular roof with trees behind.​
St Bernard’s Well: a classical statue of a man amidst curved pillars and a circular roof with trees behind.
Dean Village: buildings of various heights and colours at either side of a river. The building to the left is red with towers and windows protruding out.​
Dean Village: buildings of various heights and colours at either side of a river. The building to the left is red with towers and windows protruding out.

The Water of Leith also passes near some of Edinburgh’s foremost visitor attractions including the Royal Botanic Garden and the Modern Art Galleries. That section from Stockbridge to Roseburn is my favourite, going by St Bernard’s Well, under the Dean Bridge and through the Dean Village before winding past a weir on the way to Murrayfield. At the weir are benches in memory of those who have died from HIV and AIDS and it is one of the most beautiful spots in Edinburgh. I remember being able to go into St Bernard’s Well one Doors Open Day and it had information panels shedding more light on that particular stunning structure, designed by Alexander Nasmyth and based on the Temple of Vista in Italy. St Bernard’s was also a football team, incidentally, who played at the edge of the New Town near Scotland Street. They took their name from the Well, so Wikipedia tells me. Their name lives on in a couple of amateur teams in Edinburgh though they left the Scottish League around the Second World War. There’s a plaque to them in King George V Park, if I recall. The Dean Village, meanwhile, had many mills harnessing the Water of Leith though now it is pretty much residential and a pleasant part of town.

Colinton Dell: a weir with three streams of water falling. Around the river are autumnal trees.​
Colinton Dell: a weir with three streams of water falling. Around the river are autumnal trees.

Beyond Slateford is Colinton Dell, which is particularly stunning with a weir and woodland. Colinton Village comes next, which is a conservation village and every time I’m there I always marvel that this seemingly rural place is in the capital of Scotland and very near the City Bypass. In Colinton is the Colinton Tunnel which has been artistically decorated. Some day I’ll be able to go and have a look – it’s only happened in the last year or so. The walk leads out through Currie and Juniper Green to Balerno, which is a nice village in the lee of the Pentlands. Invariably the bus back into Edinburgh takes only a few minutes to cover what has been walked in a few hours. Thankfully the memories and the good vibes from the walk take longer to fade and they encourage me to plan a visit for when the time comes.

Tweed

Berwick Lighthouse: a red and white lighthouse at the end of a pier with a wall around its base and the sea to the right.​
Berwick Lighthouse: a red and white lighthouse at the end of a pier with a wall around its base and the sea to the right.

I was thinking of writing about the river Tyne as part of what seems to be becoming a series about rivers but I’ve done it before. In 2016, as a matter of fact. The Tyne, of course, runs from the foothills of the Lammermuirs to the sea at Belhaven. It’s not to be confused with the one in England which runs along Hadrian’s Wall through Newcastle. Instead I was thinking about the Tweed, the river which for much of its length covers the border between Scotland and England before reaching the North Sea at Berwick. I am advised that there are two Tweeds in the UK, the other in Leicestershire, but I’ve never been to that one. What I didn’t know until just now is that the Tweed rises very close to where the Clyde starts, which is quite a nice fact. When I think of the Tweed I think of the bridges at Berwick, plus Dryburgh Abbey, Melrose and Peebles. By far my favourite bridge is the Royal Border Bridge, the one with the trains, which leads from Berwick station towards Tweedmouth. Berwick Castle was largely pulled down to make way for the railway and the Great Hall is where the platforms are. If going south, it’s worth looking left to the other bridges and out to sea. Eventually the breakwater and the lighthouse comes into view, which is probably one of my favourite places on the earth. I like a walk around the walls in Berwick, the Elizabethan ramparts which give the best view of the town and of course out to sea and back to Scotland. Northumbrian castles at Bamburgh and Lindisfarne are also visible on a good day. The scenery inspired LS Lowry and I always contend that his seascapes are better than the matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs he’s more famous for.

Coldstream: a winding river with a four-arched bridge in the distance. Trees line either side of the river.​
Coldstream: a winding river with a four-arched bridge in the distance. Trees line either side of the river.

The Tweed is still the border at Coldstream. I was there a couple of summers ago to watch the Hibs on a lovely summer’s day. There’s a plaque on the bridge in the middle of the river about Robert Burns, who it is hard to escape in Scotland, even when on the border.

Dryburgh Abbey: a ruined abbey with a large end with a window. Arches and doorways line the bottom wall. In the foreground is grass.​
Dryburgh Abbey: a ruined abbey with a large end with a window. Arches and doorways line the bottom wall. In the foreground is grass.

Further west, the border is further south than the Tweed. Dryburgh Abbey is by the Tweed and I would love a visit there right about now, just to watch the river, read and cherish my surroundings. Melrose is near the Tweed too and when I was at Abbotsford a few years ago, I walked to Melrose by the Tweed, which was braw on another summer’s day.

The Tweed from Dryburgh: a river with trees in the background, grass and weeds in the foreground.​
The Tweed from Dryburgh: a river with trees in the background, grass and weeds in the foreground.

My last visit to Peebles was to go to Dawyck Botanic Garden, which is near the Tweed too. Dawyck is a glorious garden in most weathers, very alpine and usually rather wet since it’s on a hill in the Borders. The Tweed is particularly nice round there, windy and surrounded by fields and trees. In fact the Tweed is beautiful for nearly all of its length, regardless of when it’s just a river or a fiercely fought for frontier, surrounded by castles, abbeys and so much history.

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.

A picture triptych

A picture triptych for us tonight, three pictures from the blog archive of past adventures and hopefully inspiring future ones too. We begin in Perth, possibly the night Ofir Marciano got sent off…

McDiarmid Park: a floodlight tower shining light on an otherwise black sky with two football stands on either side.
McDiarmid Park: a floodlight tower shining light on an otherwise black sky with two football stands on either side.

There are times I miss going to the football. I was going to cut back anyway, even before the pandemic, but watching a game on the telly just isn’t the same. It’s so easy to glance at a phone and miss a moment, plus the sensory experience, the sights, sounds and all else, cannot come through the TV screen. Plus when your team has drawn when they should have won, or they’ve just gotten gubbed, the journey home helps to soothe and bring perspective, a lot harder when you’re in the house already and it’s time to make the tea.

One of my favourite away trips is McDiarmid Park, Perth, home of St. Johnstone. The long trudge to McDiarmid is usually preceded by a decent dinner, thankfully, especially before a night game. Even in the cold, high floodlights shining down are an incredible sight. Saturday at 3 is when football should be but a game under the lights can be special too.

Statue facing Bass Rock: a statue of a man holding a pair of binoculars facing out to sea with a white island in the centre of the image.
Statue facing Bass Rock: a statue of a man holding a pair of binoculars facing out to sea with a white island in the centre of the image.

The Bass Rock looks different from every angle. From Fife, the Bass is a rotting molar; Dunbar, curved cliffs with a lighthouse. It’s closest to North Berwick, where the lighthouse can be seen but the rock faces the other way, out to sea. By the Seabird Centre in North Berwick is a statue of a man with binoculars looking out. It’s only been there for a few years and I like it. Some people find being by the sea oppressive and limiting but I really don’t. The sea is what’s beyond the horizon, not just the horizon itself. It’s birds, fish, all manner of wildlife, boats and what passes by, trade or folk on cruises, maybe. I grew up by the sea but I now live in a city and I miss it. It’s pictures like these that make me smile and plan a trip, even if it can’t materialise quite yet.

Train signs in National Museum of Scotland: curved signs for railway stations. From top to bottom are Dalmally, Garve, Carstairs, Barassie (which is obscured), Stonehaven, Addiewell and North Berwick.
Train signs in National Museum of Scotland: curved signs for railway stations. From top to bottom are Dalmally, Garve, Carstairs, Barassie (which is obscured), Stonehaven, Addiewell and North Berwick.

North Berwick also features in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, in the form of a train station up the stairs on the object wall. It’s the only one of the stations I’ve actually stopped at – life hasn’t taken me to Dalmally, Garve, Carstairs, Barassie, Stonehaven or Addiewell, at least not to get off a train in these places. The urge to go on a train somewhere far has receded over the last few months. My last big trip was London in February. Train videos on YouTube suffice for now. Hopefully there will soon come a time when we can travel once more without restriction, even without a face mask. Until then, it’s YouTube for me.

That’s our triptych. An inbox clearing post will be here next Wednesday and the Saturday Saunter returns this coming Saturday. Until then, cheers just now. Peace.

Saturday Saunter: Hibs, telly, lighthouses and the sea

It’s Saturday Saunter time again, again being written on Thursday. As this is posted, I might be out for a walk before settling in to watch the Hibs later on. It’s been announced in the last hour or so that Hibs’ Chief Executive Leeann Dempster is leaving the club after six years, relegation, promotion and of course the Scottish Cup. Leeann Dempster has done an incredible job to turn Hibs around and the club is unrecognisable from what it was when she started as the club descended into the Championship. It’s not for nothing that she is widely regarded as one of the best people running our game and I’m sure she’ll make a success of whatever she does next. I can only hope Ron Gordon gets someone good to take her place at the helm at Easter Road.

I’ve been watching a bit more telly in the last few weeks, usually on catch-up. I watch quiz shows, documentaries and football, the occasional sitcom. I’m currently watching The Chase, my particular favourite quiz show, and it’s my favourite Chaser Anne tonight. The team got 19 and managed to hold Anne off to win the money. The Chase, including the new Chaser, Darragh, got a good write up in The Guardian this week and it’s uncomplicated and decent watching. The last instalment of Susan Calman’s Secret Scotland was on last week, which was a particularly good way to see our country at a time when it isn’t possible. I also watched the documentary about the mob from Gorgie, which didn’t yield much insight into this summer’s disputes around Hearts being relegated to the Championship. Apart from that I’ve watched a few too many train videos on YouTube.

A lot of the lighthouses around our coastline are a century or two old at least, many designed by a Stevenson, maybe John Rennie. Wonderfully, a new lighthouse is being built at Rubha Cuil-Cheanna, at the Corran Narrows on Loch Linnhe, to aid the navigation of cruise ships into Fort William. It’s an aluminium box, basically, 18 feet high, solar powered, and will work in concert with the current newest lighthouse at Corran North East and the older, Stevenson light at Corran Point. I think it’s reassuring that even in these technological times, lighthouses are necessary and I’m sure when cruise ships operate once more, they’ll benefit from this new lighthouse in Loch Linnhe.

Isle of May, from John Muir Country Park, near Dunbar: looking over sands and dunes towards a sliver of sea and an island with white cliffs and a point in the middle.​
Isle of May, from John Muir Country Park, near Dunbar: looking over sands and dunes towards a sliver of sea and an island with white cliffs and a point in the middle.

Since I can’t travel to the seaside at the moment, I’m relying on social media for sight of water. The Isle of May, in the Firth of Forth, is occupied for most of the year by a crew from Scottish Natural Heritage and they regularly share pictures of the island, the views towards Fife and East Lothian, and the wildlife that calls the May home, most notably seabirds and seals. The crew’s finished for the year and it’s been particularly interesting reading their words this year given the pandemic. I went to the May about ten years ago and it has had two lighthouses, including the oldest in Scotland, dating from 1633, plus a whole lot of birds.

Craster: a grey sea with dramatic grey and blue clouds above.​
Craster: a grey sea with dramatic grey and blue clouds above.

I also check Sea Sky Craster, which features pictures of the sea at Craster in Northumberland each morning and sometimes at night. I’ve followed it for years and I’ve been to Craster since, always stopping to look at the view I usually see through my phone screen.

Before I go, I wanted to share a couple of things. This week the Scottish Parliament passed the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, which requires public agencies to provide period products free of charge to those who require them. Some do so already but this makes it a requirement. It was a cross-party effort to pass it – an all too rare occurrence in Scottish politics – with Monica Lennon of Labour and Aileen Campbell of the SNP particularly prominent. This is an excellent thing to do as a society and I’m proud of our Parliament for making it happen. Secondly, I’m no royalist but I can only sympathise with Meghan, Countess of Dumbarton (as she’s known in Scotland) after she wrote so movingly about her miscarriage over the summer.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 27th November 2020. Thanks for reading. A triptych post will be here on Wednesday. Until then, keep safe, keep well. A very good morning to you all.

Saturday Saunter: Cathedrals, books and podcasts

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on Thursday. I hope everyone reading this is safe and healthy. This Saturday will be spent watching football – Hibs versus the lesser greens – and probably reading. Earlier in the week I started Barack Obama’s new memoir A Promised Land and I am about 400 pages into it so far. He’s crammed a lot into it so far, preferring to go into his mindset during big events rather than going over them in endless detail. Given that it’s over a thousand pages long, and there’s a second volume planned, that could only be a good thing.

Dunblane Cathedral: a church with a tower and spire in the centre and an elaborate end nearest. Gravestones sit around the church. It is a sunny day.​
Dunblane Cathedral: a church with a tower and spire in the centre and an elaborate end nearest. Gravestones sit around the church. It is a sunny day.

By the time this is posted, Glasgow and much of Scotland will be under Level 4 restrictions. These mean the temporary closure of quite a few museums and visitor attractions. I had an email from Historic Scotland the other day with details of their sites which are in Level 4 areas, namely Glasgow Cathedral, Doune Castle, Dumbarton Castle, Dunblane Cathedral, Dundonald Castle, Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle. Over the years I’ve been to all of them, two since the summer, Glasgow Cathedral and Dunblane Cathedral. Glasgow is familiar and always interesting, though the one-way system meant I saw unfamiliar details on my way round. I hadn’t been to Dunblane before and it’s a beautiful church, historically interesting with great insights from the HES staff and my companion who knows far more about churches (and many other things) than I do. Looking back at my pictures there was some cool graffiti on one of the pillars in the Nave, which had been ruined from the Reformation until the 19th century, and more poignantly the grave of a young woman, Assistant Cook Grace A.S. Sharp, who had died in the First World War aged just 19. Dunblane has a particular resonance to those of us who grew up in Scotland in the 1990s and the Cathedral’s memorial to those children and their teacher is simple yet powerful.

One podcast I’ve enjoyed this week is the Nutmeg podcast, featuring interviews with notable folk from the world of Scottish football, including Ian Crocker of Sky Sports (‘And it’s Henderson to deliver!’), Jim Leighton, goalkeeper for my first Hibs team in the 1990s, and Terry Christie, former manager, headteacher and fellow alumnus of my primary school. Ian Crocker talked about how surreal it is to be commentating on closed-door games while Jim Leighton about his long and varied career as well as his more recent difficulties with prostate cancer. Terry Christie’s interview was wide-ranging too, including an encounter with a railway sleeper while being interviewed before a big game.

Before I go, Wednesday’s Streets of Glasgow post – Langside Avenue – was written before the current restrictions came into effect. It was the last one I had managed. The next few Wednesdays will feature some blethers based on photographs from the blog archive.

Two different perspectives this week. Footballer Marcus Rashford has been in the news in the last few weeks for being a decent person, basically, talking about food poverty and the power of reading. We need more like him in our world. Also, yesterday was Trans Day of Remembrance. Trans rights are human rights.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 21st November 2020. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow concludes, for the moment at least, on Wednesday. Another Saunter should be right here next week. Until then, keep safe, keep well. A very good morning to you all.

Saturday Saunter: Tournaments, podcasts and travel programmes

Good morning to you,

I’m writing this one on Friday night, unusually for me and even more unusually on my iPad rather than my laptop. It’s been a bright but chilly day in Glasgow and I spent it having lunch and wandering about the city centre. This post is appearing on the blog a little earlier this Saturday morning due to work.

Hampden Park: at the back of a football stadium, looking up stairs and rails towards blue turnstiles in a red brick building.​
Hampden Park: at the back of a football stadium, looking up stairs and rails towards blue turnstiles in a red brick building.

The main event in Scotland this week has been the men’s national football team qualifying for Euro 2020, beating Serbia on penalties. It’s the first time the men’s team has qualified for a major tournament since 1998 so a lot of people are very happy about it, even including our First Minister. I am a club before country person though Scotland qualifying still makes me happy. Good news is in short supply right now, in the wider world as much as in a footballing sense with the Hibs being mince in recent weeks. Our game is often maligned and qualifying for a tournament with games to be played at Hampden can only be a good thing, as is the inspiration for kids up and down the country. I was thinking earlier about the 1998 World Cup. Scotland played Brazil in the very first game. I got home from school just in time to watch the game, which finished 2-1 to Brazil. I can remember the 2002 World Cup more clearly, getting to watch England play sitting in a high school classroom. I’m sure the country will grind to a halt to watch Super John McGinn, David Marshall and company do their stuff at the Euros. I’ll certainly be watching.

I haven’t read much in the last week or two but I have been listening to a few podcasts, Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend, The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast, Scotland Outdoors and Podlitical from BBC Scotland, which featured an interview with the outgoing Political Editor of BBC Scotland, Brian Taylor. He’s seen a lot in his career, stretching from the late 1970s to last week, an eon in Scottish political history from the call for a Scottish Assembly, Margaret Thatcher and the Poll Tax through devolution, the SNP coming to power, and the coronavirus. Conan O’Brien recently interviewed Maya Rudolph, who comes across well. She plays the Vice President-Elect of the United States Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live at the moment, which will no doubt keep her in work for the next four years at least. I particularly enjoy The Terrace when they discuss lower league football and the discussions with Chris Iwelumo have been good.

In these times when once more we can’t travel as far as we might like, whether we are in Level 3 or a firebreak or just a lockdown, Channel 5 has had Secret Scotland on with Susan Calman travelling around the country, to some familiar places and not so familiar. It seems to have been filmed this year, with her visit to Glasgow Central Station with a backdrop of signs encouraging wearing face coverings. Susan Calman can be a wee bit twee but her good humour is just right for these times, inspiring new adventures in the future.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 14th November 2020. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow returns on Wednesday too. Until then, keep safe, keep well. A very good morning to you all.

Virtual Loose Ends IX: Statues, graffiti and Victoria

Welcome to this final instalment of Virtual Loose Ends, a connections adventure around Scotland but done on a screen. By the time this is posted (I am writing this in late June 2020), it might be possible to visit some or more of these places once more.

Oscar Marzaroli statue: statues of three boys on a city street, one stood upright in the centre, two on either side, all three wearing high heels.
Oscar Marzaroli statue: statues of three boys on a city street, one stood upright in the centre, two on either side, all three wearing high heels.

We left off last time at the Girl With A Backpack statue on Cumberland Street in the Gorbals in Glasgow. Along the street is a set of sculptures by Liz Peden of three boys wearing high heel shoes out in the street, based on a famous Oscar Marzaroli photograph taken nearby. I rather like the photograph and have a postcard of it beside me as I write.

Gorbals Vampire mural: a mural on an arch depicting a vampire stood in a graveyard with red eyes and hand outstretched. Above are the words 'The Gorbals Vampire' and below some historical details.
Gorbals Vampire mural: a mural on an arch depicting a vampire stood in a graveyard with red eyes and hand outstretched. Above are the words ‘The Gorbals Vampire’ and below some historical details.

Also close by is a mural of the Gorbals Vampire. The Gorbals Vampire was an urban legend of a creature who would come from the Southern Necropolis and come after children. The mural is of a more recent vintage and adorns an arch under a railway.

Dundee Pasteurised Milk Park: a park with a wall in the middle with elaborate graffiti, mostly in red and black.
Dundee Pasteurised Milk Park: a park with a wall in the middle with elaborate graffiti, mostly in red and black.

The DPM park is in Dundee, near the Hilltown and the football grounds. It is a legal graffiti spot, adorned with some amazing and creative art. I believe art can be found everywhere and can be created by virtually any means, be it a paintbrush or a spray can. DPM stands for Dundee Pasteurised Milk, which used to be made on the site. Nearby, incidentally, is a great mural of Oor Wullie talking about mental health, which is well worth a visit too.

Firhill Stadium is the home of Partick Thistle FC, the only team in Glasgow as they often proclaim. The only one in League 1 at the time of writing, certainly. They have a cool mural on the wall which leads up to the Jackie Husband Stand at Firhill, which features fans, a ball and general football scenes. It links with the DPM Park not only because of the art but also because the DPM is near Tannadice and Dens Park.

St Mirren Scottish Cup mural: a mural featuring a trophy in the centre with 19 and 87 and either side of the base. Around either side are male figures, one with arms outstretched.
St Mirren Scottish Cup mural: a mural featuring a trophy in the centre with 19 and 87 and either side of the base. Around either side are male figures, one with arms outstretched.

Brown’s Lane in Paisley also features street art and indeed art relating to football. St Mirren won the Scottish Cup in 1987 and this feat is depicted on the wall in Brown’s Lane as well as musicians, since the Bungalow music venue is nearby, and much else besides. It’s worth exploring the street art in Paisley but particularly the lane.

Famous Five Stand, Easter Road Stadium: looking across a football pitch towards a two-tiered stand curving to the centre at the left. The stand, as do the two stands to its left and right, has mostly green seats.
Famous Five Stand, Easter Road Stadium: looking across a football pitch towards a two-tiered stand curving to the centre at the left. The stand, as do the two stands to its left and right, has mostly green seats.

Another place which depicts the Scottish Cup is the Famous Five Stand at Easter Road Stadium, home of Hibernian Football Club who won the 2016 Scottish Cup. I don’t think I mention that here enough. A panel featuring club captain Sir David Gray and Lewis Stevenson lifting the cup hangs on the side of the stand. The Famous Five Stand is at the northern end of the stadium, built in 1995. The Famous Five were a notably successful forward line for Hibs during the 1940s and 1950s, comprising Gordon Smith, Eddie Turnbull, Willie Ormond, Lawrie Reilly and Bobby Johnstone. The Hibernian Historical Trust has done a lot of work showcasing the history of the club around the ground and the lower concourse of the Famous Five has a plaque about James Main, a Hibs player in the 1900s who died of a ruptured bowel the day after being kicked in the stomach during a game.

Queen Victoria statue, Leith Walk: near the bottom of the image is a statue of a regal woman on a plinth on a city street. Around are a shopping precinct, lampposts and traffic lights.
Queen Victoria statue, Leith Walk: near the bottom of the image is a statue of a regal woman on a plinth on a city street. Around are a shopping precinct, lampposts and traffic lights.

On the open-top bus route when Hibs win a trophy is the statue of Queen Victoria, which stands at the bottom of Leith Walk outside what used to be Woolworths. The statue is one of very few of women in the capital. Indeed there are more statues of dogs than women in Edinburgh, which surely, surely should be remedied.

V and A Dundee: a museum on the left, smart with grey panels, shaped like a ship. To the left a ship. The sky is mostly grey, dramatic with a hint of orange on the horizon.
V and A Dundee: a museum on the left, smart with grey panels, shaped like a ship. To the left a ship. The sky is mostly grey, dramatic with a hint of orange on the horizon.

Victoria and her husband Albert gave their name to a museum in Kensington in London, which in 2018 opened a branch dedicated to design…in Dundee.

That’s Virtual Loose Ends. Thanks so much for reading. I’m not sure what will be here next week but something there will hopefully be. Until then, keep safe. A very good afternoon.