The close season

It’s been quite a year so far. I haven’t been as far as I would have liked to have gone but a lot has happened personally and professionally. I work full time now and that has a lot of benefits as well as the flaw that I have less time to roam and wander. Some of this blog’s posts recently have been informed by chance glances and snatched moments for walks when I’ve been places for other reasons, like Around the Holy GroundStreets of Glasgow: Buchanan Street and The view from the McDermid Stand.

The football season finished yesterday and while that makes me sad in one sense, I am also excited by the prospect of a fair few free Saturdays in the near future when I am not constrained by the fixture list to head for Easter Road or a provincial football ground a decent bus hurl away. In fact since I started writing this post, I have just booked a day trip for this coming Saturday. It will take me to Aberdeen. Not to be there for long, rather I will go a wee bit further down the coast to Dunnottar Castle, just outside Stonehaven. I have just gathered from Traveline that I can get a bus straight from Guild Street Bus Station in Aberdeen right to the road end for Dunnottar, which is just dandy. Dunnottar is excellent, a real ruined castle sitting on a promontory jutting into the North Sea. Plus it has a great history too, used as a prison for Covenanters plus the church nearby was where the Crown Jewels were hidden when Cromwell was about.

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Aberdeen
At this current moment, Hibs will be back in the Premiership next season so trips to Aberdeen, Motherwell and Kilmarnock will replace those to Dunfermline (steak bridies no more), Kirkcaldy and Greenock. I will look forward to those, particularly to the more far-flung locales. I haven’t been to a fair few Premiership grounds, including Firhill here in Glasgow, Inverness, Dingwall or even Dens Park in Dundee as written about here. In the meantime, though, the close season is now upon us and I am looking forward to Dunnottar and all the other places I will get to along the way. I don’t think I will plan too far into the future so there’s a bit of serendipity involved, a case of just picking a bus or train and going. When there hasn’t been a lot of scope for that this year, the prospect cheers me greatly, almost as much as Premiership football, in fact.

 

Worth it: being an autistic football fan

Recently I read an excellent book, Saturday, 3pm by Daniel Gray, a series of essays covering the essence of the football experience. I read a staggering amount about football in a given week, some of it well considered, thoughtful and measured, most of it really not. Saturday, 3pm I read on a day when Hibs were playing and I was 70 miles away, relying on social media for updates, constant refreshing of the screen to make sure I didn’t miss a single moment of the action as I also tried to do what I’m actually paid for. I have never read a book that gives such a good insight into what many of us feel on away trips or when the fixture list for the new season comes out, little things that mean a lot to thousands of people all across this land.

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Easter Road
About twenty years ago, I was in primary school. I went to primary school in the east of Edinburgh, about thirty miles from where I grew up. I was in a special needs unit which catered for children on the autistic spectrum, some high-functioning like me, others less so. In those years, we went on some amazing trips, including to the Scotland Yard Adventure Playground in the New Town with its bikes, slopes and sand pits, and Gorgie City Farm with sheep, pigs and cows, naturally enough. One of the most special, though, was to Easter Road, a place I was already very familiar with as the home of my team then as now, Hibernian FC. We had a tour of the Holy Ground, then half-complete with the Famous Five and South in their present form but the West and East still more rustic. I suspect I was one of the few that really enjoyed the short journey to Easter Road but I do remember one of my classmates, who was brilliant at drawing, sketching out a huge likeness of the then Hibs badge when we got back to school.

I was reading an interesting post on one of the Hibs forums about a dad whose lad is on the spectrum and how he is trying to get a sensory room installed at Easter Road, which is an excellent idea. I am fortunate that the sensory experience of football for me is mostly comfortable. Most issues I have at the football are more practical and anxiety-related, like will I find my seat okay or will someone ask me to move to fit their pal on the row or whatever. Most of my life I try very hard to be calm and I have pretty much mastered walking up and through a row of stewards towards a turnstile looking quite unruffled while internally willing myself forward. I have a system when I go to Easter Road. I usually make sure I have change in my hand for my programme and my Happy Hibee tickets, often counted out having paused on Albion Road for a moment. My motor skills aren’t the finest and it tends to be awkward when I’m all awkward scrambling about for change. A lot of folk are very understanding about that, though, thinking my fumbling is because my hands are cold. Usually by the time I reach the turnstile I have a programme in one hand and some change and my season card in the other. By the time I get to my seat, high up in the East Stand, I can have added a couple of pies and a juice to the mix, all balanced with a minimum of fuss.

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My seat
I go to the football partly because I like the crowd. I like being part of a common cause. It would be nice to know more people at the ground but I am used to being alone. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me. I tend to be at the ground early so I spend a fair bit of time watching the ground fill up around me, peering down to the warm-ups and across the city through gaps in the stands. The East Stand where I sit is blessed/cursed with a rubbish sound system. The music played over the tannoy is often muffled and quiet so I don’t always pick it up. I can still hear it but it’s more like a radio in the background. That is an unintended advantage, a reasonable adjustment on the part of the club that I greatly appreciate. When I was at Hampden the other day for the semi against Aberdeen, the PA was loud and boomed. The Hibs one doesn’t boom. I must be one of the few people in the stadium who is happy with our crap tannoy.

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Hampden. A good view of the clouds moving across the sky, if nothing else. Football isn’t meant to be played in bowls.
Until the end of this current season, the Easter Road singing section will be in the East Stand, a couple of sections along from where I sit. I quite like that – I like being near where the action is and that extends to being near where the songs start – and the drum doesn’t frighten me as much as it used to. It has the pleasing sound of a train going over tracks and that can be more soothing, especially when there’s a bit of distance. Next season, the singing section is moving to the Famous Five Stand, to the right of where I sit, about half the length of the pitch away, and I am sure it will be better acoustically. I am desensitised to the drum now and loud singing rarely bothers me either. In fact the only time recently I remember getting even vaguely overloaded was the game at Tannadice, which was also a night game and loud generally.

For me going to the football is about focus. On a good day I can have a hyper-focus. I am there to watch a football game. I might be taking in the other details, the ad hoardings, the songs, the folk around me, but what I am really focusing on is the game itself. I am fortunate that my spot at Easter Road is in the centre of the stand about three-quarters of the way up, affording possibly the best view in the stadium of the action, high enough to see the whole pitch without any issue whatsoever. My preference where possible is to be side-on as opposed to behind the goals. I don’t mind being behind the goals – as in recent trips to Stark’s Park, East End Park and Cappielow – but I like to see the action, not squint into the distance. I think it’s about difficulties with filtering information. The National Autistic Society’s strapline of ‘Too Much Information’ is spot on. It’s about focus and if I can see properly, there’s less to filter and figure out. I remember being at games as a kid and on the way home checking the news to see who actually scored in the game I was at.

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Stark’s Park. For more Raith-related views, see The view from the McDermid Stand
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East End Park
I don’t tend to think about the business of actually going to the football as much as I do the being there. Being a Hibs fan is a key part of who I am. It helps me talk to people, particularly men, as football is common ground for many of us, even if our teams differ. Hibs have also given me some very good times, foremost among them Saturday 21st May 2016 when the Hibs went up to lift the Scottish Cup and the three times I have so far seen Hearts beaten and beaten thoroughly. As I write this, the season is about to end. I am excited about the next one – the other blog post today is called ‘The close season’ about the trips next season to Premiership grounds – though what has become a key part of my routine will be lost for a couple of months. Luckily there are museums to be visited and shorelines to be walked and soon it will be July, the season 2017-2018, back in the Premiership and maybe to win our Cup back too. It’ll be worth it.

Impulses

I’m not very impulsive. I usually think on things then never act on them. Occasionally I do but there’s usually a day trip involved somewhere along the line. A few weeks ago, I was in East Lothian for the day, a fine visit to my home county on a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon. We had just been to Tantallon Castle, possibly one of the finest castles on this great planet of ours, and were driving to Pressmennan Wood when on impulse I asked my dad to stop the car at a place called Pitcox, not far from Dunbar. The reason I did was because of an old signpost that stood at the road junction there, produced by East Lothian County Council at least before 1974. The signpost marked four directions, towards Stenton, Garvald, Gifford, Pathhead Farm, Halls Farm, Bourhouse, Spott and Dunbar. I can’t quite explain the attraction of the signpost beyond I just like the link to the old-fashioned way of doing things. East Lothian is still a very old-fashioned sort of place and there are a few of these signposts dotted around the county, including one in the very heart of Haddington on the junction of Station Road and West Road. In this age of sat-nav and Google Maps, navigation by instinct, knowledge and simple guiding seems to have gone by the wayside. The world is deeply complex and all we can do as people is find something to relate to, even if it might not be totally obvious. It’s the psychogeographer in me that made me stop. There are wonders to be found in the unlikeliest of places. The Impressionist Camille Pissarro said it best:

‘Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing’.

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I realise I haven’t written so much here about psychogeography. I became interested in it a few years ago after reading some articles on the subject by the novelist Will Self who walked from his house in west London to New York, or at least from his house to Heathrow then from JFK into Manhattan. I think Will Self is up his own arse – he tends to throw spanners into the dictionary and use a polysyllabic word when a decent, shorter one might do – but psychogeography struck a chord with me. It is a French Situationist concept come up with by a philosopher called Guy Debord, who sought to make sense of the anonymous big city by getting lost in it on what he called a derive or aimless drift. His big city was Paris. Mine was Edinburgh.

The capital of Scotland is a city I know very well. I was born there, I went to primary school there. I’m even going there tomorrow to see Hibs. One of the reasons I know it so well is because when I used to go on day trips, all I could often afford was to go to Edinburgh and explore. I often went on derives around the New Town, often starting on Dublin Street by the Portrait Gallery and seeing where I ended up. Waverley Station was inevitably my final destination but it was the getting there that made it interesting, following psychogeographical concepts and taking random left and right turns. I haven’t been on such a walk for a while but I still turn off on a tangent from time to time even when I supposedly have a fixed route in mind to follow. The other week I was heading to Easter Road and walked up Leith Walk since I was running early. I ended up taking a diversion through the New Kirkgate shopping centre (less said the better) and found Trinity House museum then ducked through the very fine and springlike South Leith kirkyard.

The project I started a few weeks ago, Streets of Glasgow, has a psychogeographical dimension to it. I’ve lived in Glasgow for nearly four years but I still haven’t scratched the surface of it yet. Far from it. The walk on Buchanan Street was brilliant, a few snatched minutes in a lunchbreak from a training course, and I hope to get out some more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, there are always new things to spot when looking the right way, like the ghost sign I spotted on Nelson Mandela Place walking back from the bus station the other week.

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Just shy of a year ago, I went to York, one of my favourite cities. One of the highlights was the National Railway Museum, which I always refer to affectionately as the most autistic place on Earth. In the Station Hall was a signpost which tickled me when I saw it then and sums up much of my outlook on life. One direction points ‘To the glorious and unknown’. It might be just a little bit impulsive but that’s all good with me.

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Before I forget, very soon, probably some time in June, will be the 300th post on this here blog. I like to mark these things, as with The things I love are not at home and Post 101: Talking, so for the first time, I am going to crowdsource what I write about for the 300th post. So, if there are any suggestions, based around what tends to appear here, please do let me know, either through the comments section or by other means if you know them.

 

What the…?

First, a disclaimer. This post is mildly sweary. It is part of the story to be sweary this time and I have a policy of not using asterisks as the world doesn’t need to be bowdlerised.

That being out of the way. Last weekend Hibs won the Championship. We will be promoted to the Scottish Premiership next season, which is brilliant. We won the league with a 3-0 win against Queen of the South, after Falkirk drew with St Mirren. When we won the Scottish Cup last year, there was an epic pitch invasion which is still being investigated by Police Scotland. Near the end of the Queen of the South game, the stewards started putting up barriers separated by flimsy red and white tape right in front of the East Stand, which is where the rowdier elements of the Hibs support sit and also where I sit. The absurdity of this made me laugh but what made me howl was the response of the singing section, which was the chant ‘What the fucking hell is that?’ to the tune of ‘You’re Not Singing Anymore’. Class.

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Why I’m telling you this is I had a similar response to this when I was in Dunbar the other day. In fact, twice. When I was at high school, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I often went out for a walk at lunchtime and ended up in one of two places, on the Prom or if I felt like walking further, to the bottom of a park called the Glebe, on a point jutting out into the sea. I walked along there to find a fence a good ten feet from where the cliff dropped and right in front of where I used to sit. My response was ‘What the fucking hell is that?’ Seriously, East Lothian Council! Without sounding like the Daily Mail, health and safety gone mad. Indeed whenever I am in Dunbar I make a point of sitting there for a while. I did this time too, by climbing through the fence and plonking myself on the grass and eating my pieces, on the wrong side closest to the sea. It was brilliant as the sun came out and I sat in my T-shirt as I ate and looked over to the harbour and to the folk climbing on the rocks nearby.

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Time number two was when I walked on the Prom. As long as I have been alive, the Prom path has always been cracked. Indeed when I was a kid I used to walk along the cracks for much of the route. But a small part, as it passes the Pin, has been tarred. No idea why. No other part of the path, which runs to about half a mile, has been tarred. It was very recent, not recent enough to draw your name in it or anything but only a week or two old. Even newer was a John Muir quote chalked onto the tarmac, namely:

‘These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.’ (The Yosemite by John Muir, Chapter 15, http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/the_yosemite/chapter_15.aspx)

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I spend a lot of my life thinking thoughts along the lines of ‘What the fucking hell is that?’ One of the ways I keep sane is marvelling at how absurd the world is, in how people think and what people think is a good idea. I don’t normally sing it, though, but I might just have to start, even just to be absurd myself for a bit.

Conrad Logan

Tomorrow, Hibs will play in the Scottish Cup semi finals for the third season on the bounce, this time against Aberdeen. I will be there in the South Stand at Hampden, just as I was on Saturday 21st May 2016. I wanted to repost this from a month or so ago, all about last year’s semi final and the Polar Bear himself, Mr Conrad Logan.

I try not to write too much of the trials and tribulations of Hibernian Football Club on this blog, honest – there are enough other people who write on the various messageboards and some other blogs about our team without my input. I wanted to write a little something, though, about Conrad Logan. Conrad Logan played for Hibs at the end of last season. He now plays for Rochdale in England’s lower leagues. Now, that’s the boring summary. He came to play for Hibs after our first-choice goalkeeper got himself booked and thus suspended for losing his contact lens. After no competitive football for 16 months due to injury, Conrad Logan was between the sticks for our Scottish Cup semi final last year against Dundee United. Quite honestly, watching him warm up didn’t fill me with much confidence. He was, to put it charitably, not looking in the best shape. Then the game started. The game was not the finest Hampden has ever seen. After 90 minutes, and extra time, it was still goalless, due in no small part to the role of Conrad Logan. Then the penalty shootout came. We left the National Stadium with a spot in the Final. Logan saved again and again, not by a fluke but great motions across the goal to deny United. Unaccountably, Alan Stubbs dropped Logan for the next game in the league, which was the following Wednesday against The Rangers (score: 3-2 in the glorious Leith sunshine, just as a few weeks later down Mount Florida way), though he featured in most of the rest of the games last season, including on 21st May.

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Conrad Logan retains an affection amongst many Hibs fans, myself included. There is even something called the Conrad Logan Hibs Supporters Club, which I believe is based in West Lothian. Their flag has appeared prominently at our recent away games against Dundee United and Raith Rovers. Members of that august group went down to see Rochdale play a few weeks ago but sadly Conrad was on the bench. The previous Saturday, unfortunately, Rochdale had got gubbed in the FA Cup and our hero was in goal.

There is a film out just now called Logan. I have absolutely no clue what it’s about, only I know it isn’t about Conrad Logan. The Hollywood movie hucksters have undoubtedly missed a trick. A few weeks ago, Manchester United Tweeted an advert for the film and wonderfully Hibs replied, in a vaguely trolling kind of way, with a picture of Conrad with the movie’s strapline. Every time I see the adverts on the sides of buses, I think ‘no, his time came last year at Hampden’.

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Tweet from Hibernian FC. Conrad Logan is wearing the lurid green top.

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It certainly has.
As this post is published, I will be watching Hibs play, this time in beautiful downtown Paisley. We have an excellent goalie just now by the name of Ofir Marciano, who was our best player against Dunfermline the other night. Our goalkeepers tend to have random stories. Mark Oxley, the goalie who lost his contact lens, once scored in a game against Livingston, his goal kick assisted by the wind as it found its way from one end of our ground to another. Marciano is married to a supermodel and now lives in Musselburgh, a very unsupermodel type of place, as fine though it is. But undoubtedly my favourite of recent times has to be Conrad Logan, Mr Incredible himself, for his time, unlikely as it was, became one of heroes.

Ten days off

In about ten days time, I am off for about ten days. This is the longest period of time off I’ve had in ages at a time of year that doesn’t have Christmas involved. I am looking forward to it more than I can possibly say. I have exactly two things in my diary over the time, both Hibs fixtures, but beyond that I am a free man. I spent some time this morning thinking about a few ideas for day trip destinations since I haven’t really been on a big day trip in months, coming up with a few good contenders. Since working to a schedule is all part of working, I don’t intend to be too rigid about how I spend my time. If I want to have a lie in one day, I will. If I wake up and think ‘I want to go some place’ then that can happen too.

One idea was to visit one of my favourite parts of the world, Lochaber. The bus trip to Fort William alone will be worth the trip, passing Loch Lomond on the way out of Glasgow then up by Arrochar to Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Rannoch Moor and Glencoe. I am an atheist but even I would consider Glencoe an argument for a divine being. From Fort William, I intend to head west a bit to Glenfinnan at the mouth of Loch Shiel. Glenfinnan is where the Jacobite standard was raised by Charles Edward Stuart’s forces after he landed in Scotland in 1745. There’s a muckle monument dedicated to that so I’ll go there, not out of any great sympathy but because it is beautiful, sat right on the shore by the loch. Not so far is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, as seen in the Harry Potter films, and also a contender for best loch in Scotland, Loch Eilt. I’ll spend a couple of hours and then make my way back to Fort William, eat then go home, hopefully contented. That’s a long day but hopefully I will get the weather right. Then again Fort William is one of the wettest places in the country so I will be taking a big kagoule, just in case.

Another contender I was thinking about this morning was Manchester. I’ve been there a few times but the motivation was put in my head by one of my friends who I saw on Friday night. We’re both library geeks and there’s a brilliant one called Chetham’s, which is brilliant and worth seeing, I’m informed.

Similarly I have been thinking about London, heading down overnight on the Sleeper then back up the following evening on a Virgin Pendolino. I am not the hugest fan of London but a wee trip to the British Museum and maybe out to Greenwich wouldn’t be bad.

Apart from that, there are some other ideas kicking around. I haven’t been to Dunbar in ages (save for a toilet break when in the area a fortnight ago) so my home town probably needs a visit. I looked up the exhibitions in Inverness Museum and the Maritime Museum in Aberdeen but they don’t strike my fancy. Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven, is one I have wanted to get back to for ages, only intensified after being at the similarly beautiful Tantallon a couple of weeks ago. I wrote in a post last week about the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride and I might just have to head out there. It is on a bus route from Glasgow, I think, so you never know.

I am off the week after the school holidays finish, which is a great advantage in visiting any of these places. In my experience, when the schools go back is also when the weather gets better, which is another undoubted bonus. I know with absolute certainty that I won’t get to all of these places when I’m off. But it’s fun planning anyway, almost as much as the actual travelling in my experience. I will write up where I get to here. Any suggestions in Scotland or northern England will be gratefully received.

 

The scenic route to Dundee

Regular readers may have noticed that posts lately have tended towards essays about life, the universe and everything rather than tales of my travels up and down the highways and byways of Scotland. So far this year the vast majority of the times I’ve been out of Glasgow have been to watch Hibs and while accounts of the trials and tribulations of the Scottish Cup holders (and still Ladbrokes Championship leaders) have their drama, I usually go to watch the game then go home. I haven’t been anywhere else, really, save my few days in Northumberland in January and a very pleasant if cold day along the Ayrshire coast about a month ago. I have itchy feet in a major way and it’s why I decided to take the scenic route to Dundee on Friday. I was going to watch Hibs but this time I would squeeze some roving into the day too.

I rocked up to the bus station around lunchtime. I had hoped to get a wee while in Anstruther and Cellardyke, possibly getting the bus to Kirkcaldy and then another along the East Neuk, but time got the better of me. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that. Instead I went with the old day trip backup, the mighty X24 to St. Andrews, crossing the country in a two-and-a-half-hour journey passing through Cumbernauld, Kincardine, Dunfermline, Glenrothes and Cupar. Disgracefully, I hadn’t been on it in yonks, for nearly a year, I think, though once it seemed I was in St. Andrews at least once a month. That journey is brilliant for catching up with yourself, watching the world go by or reading and drowning that world out with good music. Friday’s journey was busier than normal with a few students heading for the delights of St. Andrews. My earphones couldn’t quite block out their box-stacking techno shitey tunes or their chat but it wasn’t that bad, merely mildly irritating. It was cloudy and dull for most of the journey, though we had soon lost the rain that fell back in Glasgow.

When I go to St. Andrews, I tend to be there for about an hour so I have a fairly well-defined walk: along South Street and past the shops to the Younger Hall, up to the Castle and down to the pier. From there I double back along the Scores to the Martyr’s Monument then back up the road to the bus station then home. That’s normally what happens but I lingered a bit longer this time, gazing out to sea and pondering as I plonked myself on various benches and for a while at the end of the pier.

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The end of the pier
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A branch on the water

For a while I’ve wondered if I’m invisible. That’s not always a bad thing – fitting into the crowd makes life easier on occasion – but it was apparent as I sat on the harbour wall and two students, a guy and a girl, talked right by me, standing at the landing light just above where I sat, entirely oblivious as they gabbed on. I think they might be in the first throes of a relationship. Good luck to them. I’m clearly either invisible or just not a threat. Either way is fine. I wasn’t really listening – I was watching the horizon towards the Angus coast or gazing at a tree branch drifting out to sea or to the seagulls swooping low over the foreshore.

As I got on the bus to Dundee, I looked around me and had the sudden realisation that I was at least five years older than the majority of folk on the bus, mainly students on their way to Leuchars and the trains that would whisk them far and wide. I was inwardly thankful when an old guy came on and sat down but then again a white beard might be the latest hipster trend so he might not have been so venerable.

The bus was soon crossing the Tay Road Bridge, less dramatic and more functional than its counterparts across the Forth, with Dundee looming towards you with the bus’s every bound. Dundee is all hills and over one of them, I could see the evening’s destination, Tannadice, with United’s rivals’ home, Dens Park, only a few yards away. To get to the bus station, the 99 went around the city centre, giving a good view of progress of the new V and A museum plus the building up of the city’s commuter traffic. I’m not usually a fan of hulking monolithic architecture but the new V and A (I know it doesn’t look right but I can’t stand the ampersand or & symbol) makes it work as it looks like a ship setting off from the river and one in dock from the land. There is also an inspired comic strip all around the edge of the construction site alluding to Dundee and Scotland’s design traditions – if you’re ever in Dundee, go have a look. It was cloudy but with tinges of sunlight hitting the Tay as I walked by the river. The tide was out so I got a glimpse of the stumps that remain of the old Rail Bridge.

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Part of the comic strip
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The Tay Road Bridge
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Broughty Ferry through the Tay Road Bridge
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Tay Rail Bridge

As I walked back towards the city centre for some scran, I passed the train station – itself in the process of construction – where the first Hibees were streaming out and already in full flow, enlightening the City of Discovery’s commuters of the result of last year’s Scottish Cup Final, reminding any Hearts fans there present of its veracity and inviting them just where to put any discussions of 1902, all in one neat little ditty. (Look up ‘We Are Hibs’ on YouTube.)

After I ate, I took a slow walk up to Tannadice, detouring past the DC Thomson building on Albert Square, which I’ve always liked for its elegance and how it could fit in with the skylines of New York, Liverpool or even Glasgow. It looks even better without the scaffolding. Across the road is the McManus, which I’ve written about before so won’t repeat myself except to say it was looking good with its lights. Dundee was once known for the jute industry – indeed it is often referred to as the city of the three j’s, jute, jam and journalism – and many of the city’s buildings were once mills, some derelict and a few now converted into flats. As I walked up Dens Road, there are at least three old mill buildings, plus markers on some of the walls showing where mills once stood. If it wasnae for the weavers, where would we be, eh?

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Upper Dens Mill

Since I was still too early, I took a turn around the block. Tannadice is only a few yards from Dens Park where Dundee play. Dundee United, like Hibs for the moment, are in the Championship while Dundee are in the Premiership. I have never watched a game at Dens though hopefully I will next season. There’s a quirky little tradition that due to the distance, the players walk to their rivals’ ground and, I understand that they might even change into their kit before they go. Anyway, I decided to do a recce, past the Archibald Leitch-designed main stand that sits on an angle on Sandeman Street, then around the back of the Derry End, which I gather is where the more lively Dundee supporters sit. Two of the stands at Dens are modern, boxy things but the Derry End is a terracing with a roof on it, more traditional and more interesting. Through the gates I could see staircases leading up into the stand all eerie and empty in the dull twilight.

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Back of the Derry End, Dens Park

On the way back down from Tannadice, I spotted the Tayside Islamic Centre, which is on Victoria Road in what looks like an old church. I’ll have to look into that one – I like buildings getting reused in new and imaginative ways.

The bus back to Glasgow was uneventful, rolling through the night, the bus about half full. As it pulled off the M8 and through Cowcaddens, my iPod struck up with ‘Midnight’ by Ray Charles, probably one of my Desert Island Discs if I’m ever asked and entirely appropriate since it was indeed just after the midnight hour and all was quite still, chilled out, mellow after another win and a day like the old days, wandering along the shore and amidst history, recent and not so recent.

Mr Incredible

I try not to write too much of the trials and tribulations of Hibernian Football Club on this blog, honest – there are enough other people who write on the various messageboards and some other blogs about our team without my input. I wanted to write a little something, though, about Conrad Logan. Conrad Logan played for Hibs at the end of last season. He now plays for Rochdale in England’s lower leagues. Now, that’s the boring summary. He came to play for Hibs after our first-choice goalkeeper got himself booked and thus suspended for losing his contact lens. After no competitive football for 16 months due to injury, he was between the sticks for our Scottish Cup semi final last year against Dundee United. Quite honestly, watching him warm up didn’t fill me with much confidence. He was, to put it charitably, not looking in the best shape. Then the game started. The game was not the finest Hampden has ever seen. After 90 minutes, and extra time, it was still goalless, due in no small part to the role of Conrad Logan. Then the penalty shootout came. We left the National Stadium with a spot in the Final. Logan saved again and again, not by a fluke but great motions across the goal to deny United. Unaccountably, Alan Stubbs dropped Logan for the next game in the league, which was the following Wednesday against The Rangers (score: 3-2 in the glorious Leith sunshine, just as a few weeks later down Mount Florida way), though he featured in most of the rest of the games last season, including on 21st May.

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Conrad Logan retains an affection amongst many Hibs fans, myself included. There is even something called the Conrad Logan Hibs Supporters Club, which I believe is based in West Lothian. Their flag has appeared prominently at our recent away games against Dundee United and Raith Rovers. Members of that august group went down to see Rochdale play a few weeks ago but sadly Conrad was on the bench. The previous Saturday, unfortunately, Rochdale had got gubbed in the FA Cup and our hero was in goal.

There is a film out just now called Logan. I have absolutely no clue what it’s about, only I know it isn’t about Conrad Logan. The Hollywood movie hucksters have undoubtedly missed a trick. A few weeks ago, Manchester United Tweeted an advert for the film and wonderfully Hibs replied, in a vaguely trolling kind of way, with a picture of Conrad with the movie’s strapline. Every time I see the adverts on the sides of buses, I think ‘no, his time came last year at Hampden’.

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Tweet from Hibernian FC. Conrad Logan is wearing the lurid green top.
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It certainly has.

As this post is published, I will be watching Hibs play, this time in beautiful downtown Paisley. We have an excellent goalie just now by the name of Ofir Marciano, who was our best player against Dunfermline the other night. Our goalkeepers tend to have random stories. Mark Oxley, the goalie who lost his contact lens, once scored in a game against Livingston, his goal kick assisted by the wind as it found its way from one end of our ground to another. Marciano is married to a supermodel and now lives in Musselburgh, a very unsupermodel type of place, as fine though it is. But undoubtedly my favourite of recent times has to be Conrad Logan, Mr Incredible himself, for his time, unlikely as it was, became one of heroes.

Two

The plan yesterday was to finish work a bit early in time to get through to Edinburgh and along to Easter Road to watch Hibs play Dunfermline. It was a late kick-off, since it was on BBC Alba (I’ve written about the Alba experience in the post Raw, published in November), and even though I could have watched it from the comfort of my own home, I also had a seat in the East Stand that would have been empty and that wouldn’t have done. In the end up, I arrived in Edinburgh just over two hours before kick-off but on the train through I had thought about going for a walk up Leith Walk. That was what I did but with an edge. Recently I wrote here about a project called Streets of Glasgow that I would like to work on, whereby I walk from one end of a notable city street to another and record what I find. I haven’t had the chance to do that yet, sadly, but I practised walking up Leith Walk, just being more aware of my surroundings and those around me. I looked into shop windows and paid attention to different accents and voices I heard. I heard one guy standing in a bookies’ doorway arguing with a woman who was walking speedily away from him. It was just generally excellent. Walking often has a nice meditative element, focusing on the steps one in front of another rather than anything else, and I felt better after just walking from one end of Leith Walk to another, thinking pretty much only about what was going on there where I was.

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Mural just off Leith Walk

As I reached the Foot of the Walk, I still had loads of time to get to the ground so I went up Constitution Street, looking across to the South Leith Church’s pillared kirkyard, then turned right at Leith polis station to Leith Links, where I decided to cut across its northern edge, which was entirely new to me. There were smart offices in grand, old buildings and a cricket club as well as a community orchard. I found the start of the Restalrig Railway Path that went up onto a ramp – some point I will follow it – just as the Links ended just shy of Seafield Crematorium. Seafield is an unglamorous bit of the capital – it’s where Edinburgh’s sewage goes, for starters – though the houses at the edge of the Links were rather fine. Seafield is also where the Eastern General Hospital was, just at the other side of the cemetery, and it was where I was born. I didn’t linger to see if there was a plaque.

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Looking up Easter Road to Arthur’s Seat
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Edinburgh City Centre

The game was frustrating, to put it mildly. Usually after a game, I walk down Easter Road and then along London Road towards the station. Since I had a little more time before the train home, I decided to cross London Road and head up Abbeyhill to Regent Road. I can’t remember if I’ve written about Regent Road before. It is one of the nicest throughfares in Edinburgh, with great views across Holyrood Park and much of the city, including to the city centre, which was certainly the case last night with the twinkly lights of Waverley and the city all in evidence. Regent Road also has the Burns Monument and the Royal High School, some of the city’s grandest architecture, and even in the eveningtime, there were tourists floating around. Our capital is a beautiful place and this is true even, and especially, of its more unsung parts. I never tire of being there even if I close my eyes and doze on the train home after another long day.