The last train

Where I grew up, the last train home was often ridiculously early. On a Saturday night, the last train from Edinburgh to Dunbar used to be at 7pm. It’s now around 11pm, I believe, but when I went on day trips on Saturdays, I usually had to make sure I was back at Waverley Station for 7 or else I would be sitting on the bus going home the long way, stretching a 20-minute journey out to an hour and a half. Since I moved west, though, the last bus to Dunbar has also gone a bit later and takes less time. Bastard. All those nights willing the bus to go faster through Musselburgh, Wallyford and Tranent, all in vain.

Dunbar, by day

Being a late bedder, I prefer the last train to the first one. I’ve done that too, though. From Dunbar, the first train in the morning was to London, arriving nearer 11am. From where I stay now, the first train into town is around 6, except on a Sunday when it is just after 9. The first train means getting out of the house on time, The last train is easier to catch, since I’m out already. But in defence of getting up early, it is possible to see the city waking up at that time of day. It has a lot of the same qualities in that it is so often quiet and with fairly limited transport options.

Now, I live in suburban Glasgow. The last train home, six nights a week, is at ten to midnight. I am on it fairly often, usually heading back from a football match in Edinburgh. Glasgow is never, ever quiet. I’ve seen buskers singing Taylor Swift songs on Buchanan Street at half eleven at night. The last time I got the last train was the night before the new iPhone X came out. There were people queuing outside the Apple shop even at that hour. And the last train that night had a few guys who had been out on the piss and were much louder than they really had to be. Usually it is quiet, barely half-full with people as tired as I tend to be but more than once my music has been turned up to drown out folk.

Buchanan Street, by night

The last train leaves from Glasgow Central. There’s a few trains going out even as the clock nears midnight. My favourite, and I’ve managed to be on it a couple of times, is the Caledonian Sleeper down to London, arriving at breakfast time in the morning. More than once I’ve been tempted on my way home to buy a ticket and climb aboard, never quite succumbing, probably because my bed is stationary and four miles away. Most of the other trains are heading down the coast, including mine which ends up in Gourock. Others are bound for Ardrossan and the very last to Ayr. You can also go to Motherwell, if you really want.


The last train

The station usually has a few staff scattered around, maybe a police officer, some fellow travellers and only one shop open, Boots. Central is the busiest station in the country and I like being there that time of night with the feeling that things are beginning to wind down all around me. I get on the train and after 7 minutes, I’m off. Getting off the last train is usually just a relief, the end of a long day, right around midnight when it really feels like the night is slowing down. The last train pulls out of the station and away down the coast. Soon it will be morning but in the meantime I’m bound for bed, not sleeping immediately, but just glad to be home.

Before I go, I’ve revised and updated the most popular post on the blog, It’s a grand thing to get leave to live, which is about the RBS £5 note featuring Nan Shepherd. People seem to Google that a lot and that post seems to get read as a consequence. Have a wee read.

Advertisements

2018

Happy New Year!

It’s New Year’s Day. I personally couldn’t give a hoop about that but hey ho, it’s a public holiday and they are fundamentally good things.

The New Year can be stressful for many people. There are some who find this time of year difficult purely because it can be a powerful reminder of how little we think we’ve achieved during the previous year. I’ve felt like that before though this year it seems to be less of an issue.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. They are made to be broken. Any aspirations I have aren’t just for January, they are for all year. I would rather go down the route that Claire Eastham, the blogger behind ‘We’re All Mad Here’, went down the other day and consider what makes me happy and what makes me sad, coming up with two lists. I’ll share some of my happy list.

Perversely, I can’t do one of the main things that makes me happy today since the buses and the trains are off. I can’t go on a day trip, as much as I would like to. Luckily I have one planned for tomorrow when more trains and buses will be on. And the Internet is still on so I can plan, which is often better than the journey being planned.

The football is currently on a winter shutdown and the Hibees aren’t playing for three weeks, eliminating another happy thing. There’s always Hibs TV highlights I can use.

I have lots of books so I can, thankfully, read after all the family stuff. Travelling to and from the football the other day, I read a wonderful biography of Nan Shepherd by Charlotte Peacock called Into The Mountain. I still have it to finish.

I also have a laptop, notebooks and pens so I can write, again, family stuff permitting. I write something every single day, though this past Christmas Day I only wrote a grand total of 12 words, a neat close to a story I had been writing the day before.

The family stuff involves being with people I like, which is an undoubted bonus.

I had a lie in this morning, another thing which makes me very happy. Not being the best sleeper, a lie in is a small mercy.

Listening to good music is also high on the Zen score. The last good music I heard was a concert by Skipinnish broadcast on BBC Alba recently.

I have a bit of a Netflix habit and luckily I will find time to cuddle up with my iPad and watch some shows I’ve downloaded.

That’s just a few of the things which make me happy. No doubt you will have your own list. This year I hope to find time for each and every one of these, for Moments of Zen each and every day, even if I might have to be creative to find time for them.

This will be one of two posts today, since I am in the happy position of having loads of posts ready to go. Tonight, the December digest will appear here. We also have a suggestion for the 400th post. If anyone has any others, please send them my way, either by e-mail or commenting below.

Best of 2017


Yay, it’s Christmas time! In this time of repeats and newspapers full of filler material, here’s a blog post written a fair bit ahead of time with the highlights of my year travelling around this fine land. Like last year and the year before, this post sums up my 2017 with some awards for the best experiences I’ve had this year. There are eight categories:

Best museum

Best art gallery

Best historic place

Best library

Best place to watch football

Best fish supper

Best park

Best beach

2016 was a very busy year for me. I also covered more ground than this year. I went to England a lot more and also to Ireland. This year I haven’t been that far. Far enough but not enough to earn Airmiles, if such a thing still exists. I have been very busy with work. I now work full-time. I am also studying and writing a lot. In between all that, I go to the football and try to live a rich and full life, occasionally succeeding in that regard. This year has been a consolidation of those things I am and enjoying those places I love, occasionally getting to new ones along the way.

Best museum –

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh –


The National Museum of Scotland is a place I know very well, having visited regularly since I was a kid. I’ve been known to slag it off but my recent visits have brought me back in love with the place and its great and varied exhibits. I am always due a return visit but that’s always the case, even if I’ve only been there the previous day or week.

Runner-up –

McManus Galleries, Dundee –


A very fine place. It has art in it too but I think of it more as a museum. Very fine it is too, with a clear sense of Dundee and its place in the world as well as giving a broad appreciation of its local area, in its history, science and nature. The hall upstairs with artefacts from various societies is glorious, while the room downstairs about the modern history of Dundee is excellent, with the cases on local politics a particular highlight. Go to the McManus, if only for the cafe and of course the architecture.

Best art gallery –

Kirkcaldy Galleries, Kirkcaldy, Fife –


My favourite gallery on the planet. I have that in common with Jack Vettriano, the Leven-born artist who lists his two favourite art galleries as the Uffizi in Florence, and Kirkcaldy.  I went there on my birthday this year. I tend to get there at least three or four times a year, never getting sick of the 19th and 20th century art in its rooms, including the glorious McTaggart paintings and those by the Colourists and Glasgow Boys. McTaggart’s wave painting is endlessly soothing, while those of Iona take me back to that wonderful island. The Glasgow Boys exhibition at Kirkcaldy this year was excellent too, a selection of Fife’s own collection, creatively put together.

Runner-up –

Fergusson Gallery, Perth –

The Fergusson is always a favourite, even just for its building, an old water tower by the river Tay. It is like Kirkcaldy in that it is clear the curators are on the ball, putting together each exhibition with a great deal of thought and care. I was there a few weeks ago and enjoyed the exhibition about Fergusson and his friend, the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Best historic place –

The Battery, Victoria Harbour, Dunbar, East Lothian –


This was the hardest category this time. It could have been about three different castles or the walls at Berwick. In the end I picked the Battery because it is a place at the heart of my own history as well as being steeped in the history of where I grew up. The Dunbar Shore Neighbourhood Group has done an excellent job developing the Battery, putting in some apposite and beautiful art installations as well as interpretation boards about the surrounding harbour, sea and history. It was truly brilliant to be there and I long to be back again.

Runner-up –

Dryburgh Abbey, near St. Boswells, Scottish Borders –


I tend to get to Dryburgh once a year and usually it is on a beautiful summer’s day. This year’s certainly was and I loved just wandering around the stunning ruins and sitting awhile by the Tweed, reading and pondering. Scottish and British history intertwine at Dryburgh with the Abbey being the burial place of both Sir Walter Scott and Earl Haig. Even without the history, it is one of the great places of Scotland. Thank goodness it is a wee bit hidden away and it isn’t more crowded. Plus it sells ice cream.

Honourable mention –

Seton Collegiate Church, near Longniddry, East Lothian –


A return visit to Seton, which I had only been to once previously. Worth it for the peace, architecture, book-stuffed cludgie and little, apposite quotes dotted around the site.

Best library –

Glasgow Women’s Library –


Libraries are sacred places and the GWL particularly so. It nestles in a fine Carnegie library building in Bridgeton, recently restored, and houses a considerable archive and museum collection, in addition to a fair few books into the bargain. A truly amazing place, plus they offer you a cup of tea when you walk in.

Runner-up –

The National Library of Scotland –

Purely for the exhibitions. NLS do good exhibitions, most recently the one about the Antarctic. It’s always worth going to the Treasures gallery, usually housing manuscripts and books about authors, including Hugh MacDiarmid recently.

Honourable mention –

Any library I work in –

Well, obviously. The people make the place, ken.

Best place to watch football –

Easter Road Stadium, Edinburgh –


No Scottish Cup Finals this year. I just have to settle for the two derby victories I had the pleasure of witnessing from my very lovely seat high up in the East Stand.

Runner-up –

East End Park, Dunfermline –

Purely for the steak bridies. Never mind the football.

Best fish supper –

Tailend, St. Andrews or Edinburgh –

The Tailend is one of the finest chip shops in the nation and they have two branches, one in St. Andrews, the other on Leith Walk in the capital. A very decent fish supper can be had there, best consumed on a bench nearby.

Runner-up –

Giacopazzi’s, Eyemouth, Scottish Borders –

One from my youth. I’ve been there a couple of times this year and they do a very decent fish supper, best consumed looking over the harbour.

Best park –

John Muir Country Park, near Dunbar, East Lothian –


I had a particularly good walk in this dear, familiar place in April, ending up at Hedderwick before turning back towards Dunbar. The walk was varied, with views across the Tyne towards Tyninghame, the Bass and the May, as well as old WWII-era bunkers and of course loads of trees. It washed my spirit clean, in the best possible sense.

Runner-up –

Benmore Botanic Garden, near Dunoon, Argyll –


I was there in the rain but it was still amazing. The walk amidst the sequoias is braw.

Honourable mention –

Lochend Park, Edinburgh –

I often sit in Lochend Park before Hibs matches, most recently a few weeks ago working through a book with a fly often thwarting my progress. It is an urban park but one with a view to Arthur’s Seat and of course the Holy Ground.

Best beach –

Embleton Beach, near Embleton, Northumberland –


I was there in January. The beach is in a beautiful setting, overlooked by Dunstanburgh Castle. The path goes on for a fair few miles, running along the beach from Low Newton eventually to Craster. It is hard to successfully encapsulate how wonderful a place Embleton is. Go. Look at a photograph if you can’t go. It is one of those places.

Runner-up –

Bamburgh Beach, near Bamburgh, Northumberland –


Again, there in January, overlooked by a castle, though with incredible views to Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands. Cold, very bright day, blessed in that baltic afternoon to be alive.

Honourable mention –

Belhaven Beach, near Dunbar, East Lothian –


Where else? My favourite place on the planet. I couldn’t not mention it here.

So, that’s 2017. After I wrote the historic place section, I realised I didn’t mention two of the best places I’ve been to this year, namely Kilchurn Castle in Argyll and Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven. Both in very dramatic settings and with fascinating histories. Of those places I hoped to get to in 2015 and 2016, I managed to get to Dunnottar and Tantallon this year, still not to Oxford, Bristol and Stornoway. In 2018, I hope just to be able to travel anywhere. In an ideal world, I would love to get back to Northumberland but also finally to make it to Shetland. This year has been a rollercoaster ride, busy but worth it for the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met.

As ever, many thanks to all readers and followers for reading, commenting and everything else. It has been a privilege. If you celebrate, a very Merry Christmas, the best of wishes if you don’t, and a very peaceful and prosperous New Year when it comes. See you in January.

Books of 2017

A place where I read this year. Sitting by the river Tweed at Dryburgh Abbey

I like books. I give them to people for a living. Some words I wrote even appeared in a book this year. I have too many books. I still seem to acquire more. I have instructed relatives not to buy me books (or anything) and they don’t listen. Books are a very good thing, whether digital or in print, and now and then I actually get to read some. Usually that’s when I’m travelling. Since it’s near the end of the year, I’ve decided to share some books I’ve liked this year, no less than seven, which is of course the most magical number according to the Harry Potter universe. Plus it was a famous Hibs scoreline against Hearts. Doubly magical.

Some words I wrote in a book. Download your copy today!

These are in no particular order and reflect simply the order in which I remembered them. Two were by female authors, two by the same publisher. Four were by Scottish authors. One I bought a decade ago. Four of them actually came out this year. Unlike the Book of the Year lists that appear in the papers, I have no stake in any of these books. I don’t know their authors personally. Since I don’t have a literary agent, I can hardly share them with one of these people. Some of them, shockingly, have been out for a while. In short, I just like these books. So, let’s begin.

Nasty Women, by various authors, edited by Heather McDaid and Laura Jones, 2017, Edinburgh: 404 Ink – 

Nasty Women is a collection of essays about what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, covering a panoply of subjects including class, race, politics, religion, sexuality, and foraging, amongst others. I read it and there were times I felt uncomfortable and aware of my privilege as a white cisgender man, times when I felt angry and even times when I felt inspired. This year I have bought three copies of this book. I donated one and I own two, one on eBook and the other in print since I don’t take a tablet when I go to the football. It was deservedly the bestselling book at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year. Read it. It’s a good start for making any sort of sense of the world right now.

Hings by Chris McQueer, 2017, Edinburgh: 404 Ink – 

404 Ink also published probably my favourite book I’ve read this year, or for a long while. I first became aware of Chris McQueer on Twitter. His book of short stories, Hings, came out in July and I bought a copy. I took it to the football and had to stop reading it on the train as I was laughing so hard and I got looks. It is incredibly warped and inspired. Another one I own two copies of. Plus I bought one for my dad. And I have a copy of the recently released zine of stories that were cut from Hings. I love Glasgow and Chris McQueer’s Weegie stories just make me love it more.

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

The title article of The Passion of Harry Bingo originally appeared in issue four of Nutmeg, a Scottish football periodical I am partial to. It is a rather cheering look at why quite a few of us go to football each week, slightly affectionate but not mocking. The star, Harry Bingo, sadly died just after the book was published – he supported Partick Thistle and had been going for at least six decades. Peter Ross writes feature articles for much of the Scottish press and this is the second collection of them, including drag artistes, Herring Queens (not the same thing), Common Ridings, the Bass Rock, Ramadan and the business of a sex shop. It is a good cross-section of our great country, gathering, as Hugh MacDiarmid wrote, ‘all the loose ends of Scotland…attempting to express the whole’.

Now We Are Dead by Stuart MacBride, 2017, London: HarperCollins – 

Stuart MacBride writes crime novels set in and around Aberdeen. That shouldn’t put anyone off. Aberdeen might not be Las Vegas, it might not even be that nice, but Stuart MacBride writes cracking books. Now We Are Dead features one of his main characters, the recently demoted but still utterly great DS Roberta Tiberius Steel. MacBride even used his recent experience on ‘Celebrity Mastermind’ to title the various chapters of this one in the style of AA Milne. (I hope they repeat it. His wide, sarcastic humour was a great antidote to John Humphrys.) The world seems a bit more twisted, but utterly better, when DS Steel is on the go, even if Logan didn’t appear until the end and even if she still can’t get the right type of bra.

Saturday, 3pm by Daniel Gray, 2016, London: Bloomsbury – 

I read Saturday, 3pm on my lunch break one Saturday I was at work. As I finished it, I Tweeted in praise of the book, as I often do, and how it made me feel better that I wasn’t getting to Easter Road that afternoon to see Hibs play Falkirk. (I missed a cracker too. James Keatings scored a free kick to win the game in the 90th minute. Poor Peter Houston. What a shame.) Daniel Gray proceeded to Tweet me back, thank me and say he was going to that very game that afternoon with his daughter, which was incredibly random.

Saturday, 3pm is a collection of fifty short essays about the footballing experience, from the programme to away games and everything else in between. I could relate to a lot of it, especially those bits where Hibs got a mention. His newer book, Scribbles in the Margins, which is a collection of fifty essays about books and reading, is similarly joyful.

Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane, 2008, London: Granta – 

Robert Macfarlane first came onto my radar a long while ago when he wrote an article about John Muir in the Guardian. He writes brilliant books about nature, The Old WaysThe Wild PlacesLandmarks and Holloways, plus the introductions to some of John Muir’s books and The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, which is the book I would take to a desert island. This one was his first book and I’ve had the same copy for years. I remember buying it not long after it came out in a bookshop that doesn’t exist any more, Borders in Fort Kinnaird, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I started it and didn’t finish it. This happened more than once until a few months ago when I finally resolved to read it in full. Macfarlane is best when he’s writing about where he’s been but this one is more literary, not a bad thing with lots of references thrown in to reflect what it’s like on a mountain and how people have written about it over time. When one of Robert Macfarlane’s books comes out, like with Stuart MacBride, I stop everything. Landmarks came out and I had two copies on the go, eBook and print, until I finished it. His books broaden one’s appreciation of the world, simple as that.

My copy of The Finishing School by Muriel Spark

The Finishing School by Muriel Spark, 2016, Edinburgh: Canongate – 

I’ve been on a Muriel Spark kick lately. I’ve gone off to Edinburgh today with another of her novels for the train. Ian Rankin wrote recently that:

Her books are like a Tardis, they are much bigger on the inside than they are on the outside.

I was told once that reading Muriel Spark would help me learn how to write. Her novels are small but perfectly formed. Her essays are class too. The Finishing School I read and liked, despite not caring that much normally about the goings-on in a boarding school in Switzerland. I came for the writing, the one-liners, the characters and the fully enclosed world therein. There is a new exhibition just opened at the National Library about Muriel Spark and I can’t wait to get through to Edinburgh to see it. Here’s a blog post about Muriel Spark from a few months ago.

So, that’s our show. I’ve really enjoyed writing this post, not that I don’t usually but the words just flowed that bit easier. Before I go, an honourable mention must go to the two books I have by my bed that I’ve started but not finished yet: Turning: A Swimming Memoir by Jessica J. Lee and The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks. Our post today has been soundtracked, for what it’s worth, by Skipinnish, Dion, John Martyn, Kacey Musgraves, Foster The People, Runrig and the Monkees. Now you’ve read this, pick up a book or two!

Streets of Glasgow: Edmiston Drive

To get pretty much anywhere from where I stay involves transport of some kind. I don’t drive but thankfully there are enough buses and trains to get a lot of places in the city and beyond. However, two of the biggest shopping areas in the west of Scotland, Braehead and ASDA at Govan, are slightly awkward to get to without a car, despite being about a mile or so away. One bright day off, I decided I needed provisions and set off for ASDA on foot. It was a bright, crisp Friday afternoon and on the way I had the notion to do a Streets of Glasgow walk along part of the route, Edmiston Drive. It was only a slight detour since ASDA sits just off Edmiston Drive on Helen Street. Of course it started to rain, though only a wee bit but it was inevitable since it’s Glasgow.

People Make Mistakes

I started at the corner of Craigton Road and Edmiston Drive, stopping to take a photo of a mural which parodies the city’s marketing slogan, People Make Glasgow. It reads ‘People Make Mistakes’, which I think is a neat and positive point about all of us being fallible. I am not quite sure who put it there – I gather there are others dotted around the city – so if anyone does know, please do let me know, either by e-mail or in the comments below.

Edmiston Drive, looking towards Ibrox

Edmiston Drive is a mix of residential housing and industrial premises. Plus of course Ibrox Stadium. It also forms part of the A8 road, which crosses much of the Central Belt running pretty much parallel to the M8 motorway. It’s pretty much busy all the time, cris-crossing Ibrox, Drumoyne and Govan. I picked it due to its variety and points of interest, particularly nearer Paisley Road West. After the mural, the next thing I saw was a shopping trolley, abandoned, cowped in the grass, an archetypal urban spectacle. As I walked a bit further on, the views across the city, beyond the industrial estate, were great, with the spires and houses of Park Circus prominent on the horizon, as was the Finnieston Crane. The rain started as I reached Helen Street but I decided just to persevere, inhaling the fried chicken smell from KFC as I crossed the road.

It was strange being near Ibrox without a football match going on. I passed the car parks where on match days programme sellers and vendors hawk their wares to the fifty thousand-odd folk heading to the game, now deserted. Ibrox is of course where The Rangers play and I’ve been there to watch my own team, Hibs. It isn’t natural home territory for me and it was appropriate that a bright orange Mini passed me as I walked onto Edmiston Drive. The backs of the Broomloan Road and Copland Road stands have been daubed in red, white and blue expounding the history of its resident team. As I walked past the gates, a couple were taking a selfie in front of them. I refrained but stopped to get a photo of the sunlight reflecting on the gates.

Having been a football fan since I was a wee boy, the frontages of Ibrox and Parkhead were very familiar to me from countless sports bulletins on the evening news. Every time I walk along Edmiston Drive and see the red-brick frontage of the Bill Struth Main Stand, it always feels quite strange and it takes me back to being a wee boy. The edifice is the work of Archibald Leitch, architect of many grandstands in England and Scotland, though very few of them now exist. Ibrox has one of them, despite the modern interior, and the other is at Dens Park. Randomly this walk happened the weekend before Hearts played Partick Thistle before their new main stand, which replaced their Archibald Leitch creation. The Bill Struth Main Stand at Ibrox, whatever one’s thoughts on the club that play there, is a fine looking building, described in my Pevsner’s guide as marking ‘the pinnacle of Archibald Leitch’s career as leading designer of football grounds and at the time was the largest (with 10,000 seats) and most lavish stand ever built’.

At the other side of Ibrox was a statue to James Wilson, 1852-1906, a doctor and scholar who practised in the local area helping the ‘suffering and distressed’ in the area. It was put up in 1907 by a public subscription ‘as a tribute to his worth’, a very Scottish way of putting it. The houses towards Paisley Road West were classically Glaswegian red-brick tenements, with a lane between them. I always associate narrow lanes with the south side, particularly in Battlefield and nearer Hampden. Just before the junction was a tower block, though one under development with modern cladding and window boxes. All around it other houses are being built, making use of every spare bit of ground as seems to be the case across Glasgow and in Edinburgh too, come to think of it.

Edmiston Drive is one of those streets that conjures up an image. For me, like many people, it is football. For others, it might be industry or just a place to pick up fast food. It was nice just to set off from my house and end up on a psychogeographic ramble. You never need to wander far to find something of interest here.

Source and further reading –

Williamson, Elizabeth, Riches, Anne and Higgs, Malcolm, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, 2005, New Haven, CT/London, Yale University Press

Digest: November 2017

George Street, Edinburgh, in the sunset on 2nd November

So, it’s December. How on earth did that happen? This year has been so busy that I still think it’s some time in September and folk have their Christmas lights up too bloody early. Then again I think mid-December is too early for Christmas lights but I don’t think I’ll win that battle. The November digest will be a wee bit shorter than normal because I haven’t been roaming as much. Thankfully normal service should be resumed in December.

Nourish. Get it read!

Thursday 2nd November was the day of the launch of the Nourish eBook, published by the Scottish Book Trust for Book Week Scotland. As regular readers may hopefully know, I was very lucky to have some words in that there publication and the launch was held in a bistro called Spoon in Edinburgh’s south side. Apparently JK Rowling used to write there sometimes. Social things very often make me nervous but this one was further complicated a week beforehand when the Scottish Book Trust asked me if I would care to read my piece out at the launch. I am fairly adept at speaking to people but I had never read my own work out to other people. I spent much of the week preparing and reciting. We rocked up at Spoon and found seats. I was reading second, after Ginny Clark’s Bramble Jam and before Elaine Loch’s story about porridge and Eleanor Fordyce’s wonderful onion rant. I walked up, all shaky, and was handed the microphone. I burbled out how much I had enjoyed reading the stories, made a suitably self-deprecatory joke, then read my bit. I know I’m okay when I can go off script and I did, making a couple of asides about sweary words and how the seagull had wrested the bridie out of my hand. It was a very nice night, with pleasant people and good words. Words about the steak bridie caper appear here or download the eBook or audiobook at http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/reading/book-week-scotland/nourish/ebook.

My next trip oot was to watch Hibs play Dundee at Easter Road. It was cold. I resolved to wear even more clothes next time.

Renfrew Ferry

The following Tuesday, I decided to go for a walk at lunchtime and ended up down by the Clyde. At Renfrew, the Clyde is quite industrial but much less so than it once was. I liked just being able to sit and eat my lunch and watch the ferry go back and forth. Looking back up river to Glasgow was pleasant too, a reminder of the scale of the west of Scotland that I could see Clydebank, the Kilpatrick Hills, Glasgow and the Cathkin Braes in one fell swoop.

That Saturday Hibs weren’t playing so I fulfilled an ambition to watch Queen’s Park play at Hampden, a lower league game in a 52,000 capacity ground. It was made more interesting because that week reports emerged that the SFA might ditch Hampden and hold big cup matches and internationals at Ibrox, Parkhead or Murrayfield. For what it’s worth, Hampden isn’t perfect but it’s ours. It could do with the stands being closer to the action but that’s about it. Anyway, I liked watching QP, even if they lost to Arbroath, and it was nice to watch a football match without my blood pressure rising. I wrote a post about it, which appears here.

St. Andrews

The following day, I ventured out for a rare Sunday bus trip to St. Andrews. I was thinking of Dunbar but time was marching on. I like sitting on the bus as it wends its way through Fife and this time I spent much longer on the bus than I did actually in St. Andrews. It was beautiful in the cold November sunshine and I returned to Glasgow refreshed. Blog post here.

James Wilson statue on Edmiston Drive

A week or so later, on a day off, I had the notion to go to Asda in Govan, which is about a mile or so away on foot. On the way I ended up doing a Streets of Glasgow walk along Edmiston Drive, which is part of the route. I hadn’t done a psychogeographic walk in a wee while but I liked this one. Hopefully you’ll like the result – it is published here this coming Sunday, if memory serves.

Hibs played St. Johnstone the following day. I wore more layers. My feet were clad in two layers of socks and were still cold. Hibs got beat. I listened to Johnny Cash on the train home. It made things better.

That is the extent of my November wanderings. I was due to go to Durham last weekend but I fell on the ice and hurt my wrist so it didn’t happen. My wrist is fine, it was just a bit sore for a day or two. As I say, I hope to be able to report more wanderings in December’s digest. Also appearing here in December will be the annual Best Of post, which in true blogging tradition I wrote about a month ago, which will be about the best places and experiences I’ve had this year.

Thanks as ever to all readers and followers.

Posts published –

Programmes

Digest: October 2017

Back to studying

Streets of Glasgow: West Nile Street

Reading and podcasts 

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

Non-obvious photographs of places

Streets of Glasgow: Union Street

St. Andrews

Bridies

Tea or coffee? Neither, thanks

Zines

Platform 9 3/4

Nourish is out!

Random photos

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.

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.