Towering over Restalrig

Not too long ago, I thought this blog was getting too east coast, with more of Edinburgh, Fife and East Lothian than anywhere else. Then Streets of Glasgow happened and it got all Weegie. To get a bit of balance in this here establishment, let’s go east.

Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh, the arena used for much of the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games, is in the process of redevelopment. The other day I saw a couple of photos online which had been taken from London Road, about fifty years apart. The one taken recently featured the velodrome while the other showed the old Meadowbank, once the home of Leith Athletic, which used to stand on the same site. The one common feature of the photographs was in the background, a tall, red tower which stands to this very day in Restalrig Drive. I went to primary school around the corner from it and the tower was a familiar part of my childhood landscape. Indeed it is prominent over much of eastern Edinburgh, visible from the East Coast main line too as it passes nearby. I took myself down there recently and from the street, right by the building (now flats), it is not possible to actually see the tower. From up the street, though, I could see the remnants of the letters ‘MUNRO’ on the centre of the tower. When I was at school, the factory was occupied by the tartan peddlars Kinloch Anderson. According to Canmore, Historic Environment Scotland’s very fine database of historic places, the factory was built in 1910 for Munro and Co. Ltd., makers of hosiery and waistcoats. The tower was in fact a water tower owing to the factory being higher than sea level. It shut in the 1990s, about the time I was in primary school, funnily enough.

When you’re a child, your reality is what’s normal, even if others would dispute it. I was lucky to grow up by the sea and have a good primary school experience. I didn’t realise until recently how the area I went to school in was actually really interesting. own the way is St. Triduana’s Chapel, which I wrote about recently and still haven’t been to, and over the hill is the Craigentinny Mausoleum, a little bit of Greece in a perjink suburb of the capital. It is always worth looking over that next horizon and keeping your eyes open. What you see in your neighbourhood might be familiar but it shouldn’t stop you from being curious or from just stopping to look up.

Thanks for reading. My other blog, Easter Road West, also has a post tonight, about reading on the way to the game. Walking Talking‘s next post is a Streets of Glasgow post, this time Duke Street.


Digest: February 2018

So, that’s February then. We are nearly into the spring, the nights are drawing out all the time and that’s always a good thing. I wrote most of this post, including the first couple of sentences, as the month went on rather than in a burst, as I normally do. Today, Wednesday 28th February 2018, sees a red weather warning across the Central Belt for snow and ice, which extends into tomorrow too. Presently it is extremely cold outside, well below freezing, and not much adventuring is happening at the moment. Or much of anything else really. Heed the warnings, keep warm, keep safe. So, it’s a good time to run through where I got to in February.

Saturday 3rd February saw me visit London. It nearly didn’t happen because I slept in but a new ticket later and I was on the way to Euston. I walked across to the British Museum and had a very decent couple of hours working my way around the crowds to see that place’s many fine artefacts. The rest of my day was spent walking, from Kensington to Marble Arch through Hyde Park and then along the Thames from St. Paul’s to Westminster. The journey home was complicated by trains not running out of Euston, necessitating a train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh then changing, which worked out well in the end when I eventually got home about midnight. I left London at 5.30. Despite that it was a very good day, free-form and nice just to rove. I wrote about it here.

The following Friday I headed into town to do a bit of shopping. I then undertook three Streets of Glasgow walks in the cold February sunshine, on Duke Street, Gallowgate and Trongate. I wore shorts for the whole affair too, which was part of the 30 Before 30 list. It wasn’t as cold as it is today, around four degrees, which was greatly beneficial for my legs and other nearby parts of my anatomy. I am relatively self-conscious about how I look though in the end I came to not care at all as I marched up Argyle Street in my shorts, the only one in sight. I liked these Streets walks particularly because they were in largely unfamiliar terrain, though my favourite was Duke Street due to the considerable variety in architecture, modern, Victorian and Greek classical.

Saturday 17th February Hibs played Aberdeen. I got to Edinburgh a bit early and took the scenic route to Easter Road, via Leith Walk and Easter Road. Hibs won comfortably.

The next day I spent around Glasgow with my dad. Being out before anywhere was open, we headed first for a walk by the Clyde through Glasgow Green. The Green was playing host to a running race organised by an LGBT charity. When it opened, we went to the People’s Palace, which had a good display about Mary Barbour and the rent strikes. Thereafter we headed to the Lighthouse, which I had never been to before and enjoyed immensely, except the shoogly staircase up to the tower. There was also an exhibition about timber buildings, which I liked. We also went to Kelvingrove and the Botanic Gardens.

Beyond that, the rest of the month I spent living quietly, working mostly, reading, writing and keeping warm. Wednesday 28th February I was due to go watch Hibs play Hamilton at Easter Road but the bad weather happened and the game got postponed. That’s why I had time to tidy up this post and get it out tonight rather than the planned post of views from the top of the Lighthouse. That appears on Friday.

This month I also launched a new blog, Easter Road West, which is about Hibs, going to the game and the general experience. I like having the variety. The ERW posts this month were Welcome!Eastern CemeteryAway daysThe tellyGetting beatWhen the game is mince and Thoughts on the weather and the national team. The one I particularly recommend to the Walking Talking readership is the one about the Eastern Cemetery, which sits behind Easter Road.

One of the posts here this month, 30 Before 30, was about a list I’ve come up with of 30 things I would like to do prior to my thirtieth birthday, in about 18 months time. In each digest, I will update on how many I’ve achieved. In February, I achieved 4, three of them on the same day.

I also have an article coming out next month in the next issue of Nutmeg, about being an autistic football fan. It’s out in the middle of next month.

That’s the February digest. In March, I will be on some more adventures, definitely for Hibs games. Thanks to all readers, commenters, followers, particularly for everyone who responded to the 400th post, the one in Scots. Have a nice month.

February posts –

Digest: January 2018

Streets of Glasgow: George Square

400: How Ah talk, written doon

30 Before 30

The London caper

Streets of Glasgow: Govan Road

Hamilton Mausoleum

Going underground

A day trip experience


Streets of Glasgow: Miller Street

Gazing across a map

Coming soon…

Robert Louis Stevenson

Streets of Glasgow: Queen Margaret Drive

Digest: January 2018

January’s over and done with already. Mostly I’m relieved. There was a whole lot of snow and ice in January and getting about got a bit difficult as I slipped and slid around the place. Still I managed a few adventures and a fair few of those were around Glasgow.

The first business day of the year, Wednesday 3rd January, I was still off and I decided to head for Buchanan Bus Station and get on the first bus that tempted me. I had been thinking Dumfries but the St. Andrews bus pulled in first and a few minutes later I was on the way to Fife. Somewhere between Glenrothes and Cupar, I decided to have a quick wander in St. Andrews and head for Dundee and go home from there. It was cold and windy in St. Andrews and I took a turn around the streets then went to Dundee. I walked up to the McManus (above), which was quite busy with an event though I managed to dodge most of it by judicious choices of which galleries to visit.

That Saturday Hibs weren’t playing and I decided to head for Dunbar, which I had planned to visit during the Christmas holidays. It was cold and windy but I had a good, long walk, on Belhaven beach, through Winterfield Park and around the two harbours. The waves were incredible, at various points falling high over the harbour walls.

The following Friday, I rose late and decided to go to Kelvingrove before doing a Streets of Glasgow walk. Kelvingrove was fine as ever as I walked around the French art room and spent a few minutes with my favourite painting, ‘Paps of Jura’ by William McTaggart. In the end, I did three Streets of Glasgow walks that day, Sauchiehall Street, Cumberland Street and George Square. The first two had been planned for a while, the third was spur-of-the-moment. Of the three, Cumberland Street was my favourite, due to the public art and architecture of the St. Francis Centre.

Durham is one of my favourite places and I was there that Sunday, spending a while in the Cathedral before wandering by the river. It was a deep pleasure to be there, good for the soul.

I am off two Fridays a month and both of them this month have been Glasgow-based. Friday 26th it was a bright, cold day and I decided to do another Streets of Glasgow walk up Govan Road, which I enjoyed immensely. I walked into the town, intending to do another walk in the East End though got diverted up Miller Street. I decided to head on the bus to the West End and had the bright idea to do another walk, this time on Queen Margaret Drive. I went after that to the Hunterian Museum, which was being set up for an evening event so I didn’t linger. Yet another Streets walk followed back in the town, this time West Regent Street, complete with the smell of fish. I went home after that, this time by train as my feet were throbbing.

That Sunday I went to Edinburgh and did some more walking, in Leith and then around the Meadows, Bruntsfield Links and back into the city centre.

Wednesday 31st, Hibs played Motherwell. I was there. It was good to be back at the football.

Well, that’s the condensed version of January. February I am due to go to London. I would imagine I will be other places too. No doubt some of those adventures will appear here in due course. As ever, thanks so much for reading, commenting, liking and sharing. Sunday’s post will be the Streets of Glasgow post about George Square. Have a good month.

Posts this month –


Digest: December 2017

Natural light

The day when the trains stop

Streets of Glasgow: Hope Street

Walking on the waves

The last train

Streets of Glasgow: Nelson Mandela Place

Not the best castles in Scotland

Durham Cathedral

Streets of Glasgow: Sauchiehall Street

London notions

Role models

The May

On the way to the dentist

Walking, talking, blogging

Streets of Glasgow: Cumberland Street

Role models

I learned long ago that I’m not like most people. More recently, I made peace with that. All of the labels that can be attached to me, though, link me to other people. I’m a Hibs fan and a library assistant, a blogger and I like Chinese food and stovies. I like to walk and talk. I’m a member of both a gym and Amnesty International. I’m autistic and sometimes anxious. That’s off the top of my head.

I admire quite a few people. To take the first three labels, I admire Darren McGregor, who plays for Hibs, who has a good attitude towards life, fitness and of course the Hibs. I have been lucky to work with many good people in libraries, one or two of whom I look up to and aspire to being. There are lots of good bloggers too. Some of them even read this blog, remarkably.

Autistic people are more prominent in society than ever before. Two who are often in the media are Chris Packham, the naturalist and broadcaster, and Anne Hegerty, the Governess off The Chase. Chris Packham presented a BBC documentary at the end of last year called ‘Asperger’s And Me’, variously moving, funny and sweet, an insight into his life and autism more generally. What he wrote after the documentary came out is worth a read too. I’ve been meaning to read his memoir Fingers In The Sparkle Jar for ages and I have it sitting at work to read during breaks. I heard Anne Hegerty talk on a podcast recently and she came across very well. One bit that struck home was how she talked about needing time away from people now and then. I do a people-facing job and despite liking people, I also enjoy my own company too. It is necessary for survival too. Anne Hegerty is also on my favourite quiz show and the combination of quiz questions and smart people makes me happy. Knowing things should be celebrated and cherished, not dismissed as obsolete and unnecessary.

I’ve always believed that we should celebrate people when they’re alive. Funerals and obituaries are great but too late. Just tonight, I read the obituary of Jim Baikie, a comic artist from Hoy, Orkney who was involved in comic strips and worked for DC. He sounds like quite a guy. The Guardian publishes obits of people who maybe aren’t so well known. That’s great but I would like it if the papers published articles in praise of ordinary punters off the street. The New Year’s Honours list was published recently and while I disagree with the honours system for many reasons, I would rather read about those many deserving people garlanded for working in their communities than the latest Tory MP or arms dealer given a knighthood. To take but three examples from the most recent list, David Duke, the founder of Street Soccer Scotland, a charity which seeks to help homeless people gain skills and get involved in sport, got an MBE while Helen Morton was awarded the British Empire Medal for volunteering on Childline. The Church of Scotland minister Iain Torrance got a knighthood for services to higher education and theology, more specifically for chairing the Kirk’s Theological Forum investigating homophobia.

When I was a teenager, I read The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger. I suspect I’m not alone in that. One passage that I liked was one early on when Holden talked about wanting to be able to contact one’s favourite authors to talk about their books. I’ve met a few authors or been in the same airspace as a few more and I tend to get star struck. Despite believing that ‘rank is but the guinea’s stamp’ and that everyone is equal, people who write things and have books on actual shelves are on a pedestal for me, as are people who help homeless people get their lives on track, fight homophobia and help children in their darkest times, not to mention Chris Packham and Anne Hegerty. Plus Darren McGregor, since he’s a class defender and never gives the ball away. People are good, for the most part.

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.


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

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 –


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


Tea or coffee? Neither, thanks


Platform 9 3/4

Nourish is out!

Random photos