Loose Ends: Abbotsford

My bright and sunny Borders day trip was originally going to consist of a trip to Melrose Abbey, a clear link to the last Loose Ends destination, Dunfermline, through Robert the Bruce. On the train down to Tweedbank, however, I got a suggestion to go to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, historical and not far from Tweedbank. I was soon off the train and setting off on foot for Abbotsford, passing through a housing scheme and by a pleasant pond with ducks, swans and a tree-filled island in the middle.

After paying in, my first stop was the visitor centre which was interesting in its way, a nice blend of text, pictures and objects. It didn’t shy away from talking about the financial difficulties Scott had later in his life or indeed that he was an arch-Tory, being virulently against the 1832 Reform Act. Being a Hibs fan myself, I was just glad reference wasn’t made to a certain football team named after one of Scott’s novels (or really a dance hall named after one of Scott’s novels), Heart of Midlothian.

The visitor centre would have been enough for me since I’m not really a fan of big hooses but it was good manners to go down to the house. I was handed a state-of-the-art audio guide which I ditched whenever possible since I’m a reader by instinct and inclination. What the audio guide did yield, and one of the battalion of volunteers elaborated on, was a link with Dunfermline, namely wood on the walls of the entrance hall that came from the Abbey when the newer church was built in 1818. The entrance hall was fine, a riot of suits of armour, heraldic crests and other yad Scott collected over his life, including a plaster cast of Robert the Bruce’s skull, another connection to Dunfermline where most of his remains are buried.

Next door was his study, a proper old-fashioned room lined with books on two levels. That would have been worth the admission money alone, if not for the library. I think I started drooling when I got in there. It was huge with bay windows looking out over the Tweed. I spent a good while in there, perusing the books, most with Scott’s cipher and portcullis motif on the spine, then peering out towards the river. The audio guide informed me it was the most substantial writer’s library in the world and I could believe it. It is the most glorious room and like when I went to Trinity College Dublin, I considered building a little fort and never, ever leaving.

Before I left there were diverting displays about Scott’s often fraught friendship with JMW Turner and his career as a lawyer and sheriff at Selkirk. I could easily have found connections between Abbotsford and other places through those but not this time. It’s through the library, the ultimate node of accumulated knowledge, and there are a few old libraries in Scotland, Innerpeffray and Leighton’s Library to name but two. But as I left Abbotsford, thoughts turned to a library I’ve meant to explore more for a while and it’s why the next Loose Ends trip will be to the Museum of the Year finalist Glasgow Women’s Library.


Thanks for reading. The next instalment of Loose Ends follows next week.

There was a post on my other blog Easter Road West last night, all about that sacred text, The Wee Red Book.

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Subway Surface: Kinning Park-Govan

As I walked past Kinning Park Subway, I was asked directions. Since I had passed where they were looking for only a few minutes before, I was able to oblige. I was now at Plantation Park and I stopped because my feet were lowpin’ and I needed a drink. Plus to make notes. Plantation Park was a pleasant green space, one of many in the city though much quieter than at the Botanics and in town.

I soon turned onto Paisley Road West and there was a feeling of being on familiar ground and of relief too. I knew where I was. The end was near. My feet may have been pounding but I still felt good, not flagging despite the distance covered.

The thirteenth station was Cessnock and I already knew I had to get a photo of the station gates, a relic of the old Subway prior to its modernisation in the 1970s. I did so though I hadn’t realised that the building above Cessnock is part of a very handsome crescent designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It was an unexpected joy and even better to see it lived in rather than as a museum piece. The Paisley Road West walk led me past lots of food shops with very nice smells, particularly kebabs. I desisted, however. Nearer Edmiston Drive there were quite a few new housing developments springing up, which was nice to see.

At Ibrox Subway I felt quite conspicuous. There was a view to Ibrox Stadium and the Rangers Megastore. The combined effect of this and the Louden Tavern was enough to bring out the deepest Hibs fan in me, particularly the Louden Tavern which proclaimed itself to be not just a pub, since it had a beer garden too.

Between Ibrox and Govan were quite a few factories, many of them still going, including Maritime House which looked particularly venerable. I came to Orkney Street, much more urban than the islands, but interesting with a view of the back of the old police station with bars still on the windows. It is now an enterprise centre. I soon turned by the TSB back onto Govan Road, crossing the road and finding myself back at Govan, the walk completed in four hours and eight minutes. Again I had the Mary Barbour statue to myself. From there, I decided to do the whole thing again, though this time on the Subway itself, doing a whole loop before getting off in the town.

As the Subway train looped, I thought about the walk just concluded. I had seen many parts of Glasgow, the city centre, industrial and the chic, some areas which have seen better days and others flourishing. I had seen architecture from Rennie Mackintosh and ‘Greek’ Thomson, both south of the river, the best side, as well as 1960s concrete jungle sprawl near Cowcaddens and Kinning Park. I crossed the Clyde twice and the Kelvin twice too, once each on the longest leg of the journey, Govan to Partick. I passed three of the city’s 33 public libraries – Partick, Hillhead and Ibrox – and at least four branches of Subway. I passed four statues, including two featuring women – Mary Barbour and the one commemorating the Spanish Civil War by the river. Plus of course fifteen Subway stations, the guiding posts that kept me right throughout this walk around the many parts of Glasgow. My favourite stretches were less familiar, from Hillhead to St. George’s Cross with the pigeon-dwelling statue and diversity, plus Kinning Park to Ibrox, the Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson crescent and being on familiar ground once more yet still seeing something new at almost every turn. That’s the object of the exercise, after all, and it’s why it’s worth following your feet some times. What can be seen will make life more interesting, for good or bad, plus your other senses will be satisfied, guaranteed.

The beach at the back of the bay

Not many places in central Scotland are inaccessible by road. That tends to be the case more in the Highlands – for instance Corrour on the West Highland rail line, which is only reachable by train or on foot. There is at least one place I know which is over a mile from the nearest road and I was there recently.

After the last game of the football season, I decided to head for the seaside. I ended up in Aberlady with plans to walk around Aberlady Bay and go onwards to North Berwick. I crossed Tranter’s Bridge (which features in the Loose Ends series here) and walked on through the nature reserve. The views at various points were spectacular, over the Forth to Edinburgh and Fife and across the fields to the Garleton Monument and Traprain Law. I soon came to a dune, a big tall sand dune which bore heavy foot imprints. To misquote We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, I couldn’t go under it and I couldn’t go through it. I had to go over it and I ascended then was carried down the steep slope at the other side onto the beach. Despite it being a beautiful May day, there were barely 10 people to be seen and they were scattered along the long sands. I sat down, scribbled notes and sunbathed for a bit. If I could have stayed longer, I gladly would have but time was against me. It was a mile and a half from the nearest car park and that probably accounted for the lack of people. It’s their loss. It was a glorious place to be and I felt the effects for days afterwards.

I headed to Gullane and walked right across a golf course, of which there is no shortage in the area. I hadn’t seen a sign prohibiting me from walking there but I kept half an eye out for golf club officials approaching to tell me to get orf their land. Pursuant to the Scottish Country Access Code I also watched out for golf balls and gave golfers right of way. I loathe golf and I’m firmly of the Mark Twain school but walking there I could be tempted to take it up. Just looking across the fairway to the Forth was glorious. The sunshine and the heat made it all the better but I think I would have felt the same on a brisk January afternoon.

The beach at the back of the bay isn’t a secret but it feels like one. Being there was especially special that day, the whole world before me and precious few others around to appreciate it too.

The where and the how

Today is something called Autistic Pride Day. There is a marketing campaign just now by the National Trust for Scotland asking what folk would do on their longest day. I was hoping I could write a little something combining both of these strands but I can’t be bothered. The longest day this year will see me working until 8pm. Instead I want to write and see what happens, beginning with Saturday. With it being the close season, I actually have a clear Saturday and I am not quite sure how to spend it. Do I want to go to Oban on the bus? I like Argyll and the run by Loch Lomond, the Rest and Be Thankful and Loch Awe. It’s a maybe as other places also appeal. Anstruther and Cellardyke are perennial favourites, the sea and the East Neuk usually just what I need but I never get out of bed early enough. Dundee’s McManus Museum is a place I like but the Beano exhibition may be too close to work just now. Dawyck Botanic Garden could be a good walk or maybe Dryburgh Abbey near St. Boswells where I seem to be once a year and always like a seat by the Tweed. Some places I still haven’t seen in East Lothian might be worth a look, Hopetoun Monument and the Chesters Hill Fort. It’s a whole blend of ideas that will maybe shape into something more definite nearer the time.

I did a Streets of Glasgow walk yesterday. I haven’t done one in a couple of months though I have been psychogeographical a lot lately, particularly the Subway walk. In the last year or more, Glasgow has crept under my skin. I always liked the city but with all the walks, all the words, I have come to love it deeply. I still turn corners and see new things. Drury Street, the walk I did yesterday and which appears here sometime in July, was very brief but still interesting. Last weekend I went to the Fossil Grove just over the river in Victoria Park and while the geology went over my head, I still got a sense of deep age in a city that gets newer every day. On my walk through Partick, I also got a good look at the very fine Partick Burgh Halls and took a turn around the perimeter of the West of Scotland Cricket Club, the scene of the very first international football match. Glasgow never ceases to surprise me. Even in this dark time, with fire still engulfing the city centre, this is home, even if I’m still realising just how I feel about it.

Yesterday I went to Edinburgh for the Hibs Historical Trust Open Day. There’s a post about it on Easter Road West tonight. The next few Sundays see engineering work on the train line between Edinburgh and Glasgow so the slow train via Airdrie and Bathgate is the way to get between the capital and Weegieland. I didn’t realise this before I got to Queen Street. I hate the slow train. I’ve done it a few times, a few times by choice, others by necessity owing to engineering works, and I hate it particularly because there are few seats that don’t face other seats. I like to read and write on trains. Facing other people makes me uncomfortable and my forehead hits the floor on those trains. On the way back, though, I was a little heartened because the three people in my immediate eyeline had books. The guy across from me had the Robert Webb book I abandoned because it annoyed me, How Not To Be A Boy, while the woman next to me had the latest Paula Hawkins thriller. The woman who had been standing with her luggage in the doorway since Edinburgh despite there being spare seats had a book too but I couldn’t see what. I’ve noticed this on buses too. People stand in the aisle when they don’t have to. I spend my life navigating gaps between people. This makes it harder. Anyway, positivity. In this age where folk spend hours gazing into their phones and scrolling, actual real life books in folk’s hands are great to see. For what it’s worth, I read on my tablet and wrote in my notebook for a bit. I might take a book off my to-read pile just now when I finish this. Wherever I go on Saturday, a good book will come with me.

On my longest day, if I wasn’t working, I would go for a long bus ride and sit with a good book, maybe Muriel Spark. I would walk somewhere by the sea and eat fish and chips with a good view. The fish and chips would be served with salt and sauce and a can of Irn Bru. Original 38% sugar, naturally. It would be on the east coast or maybe Culzean. I would come back to Glasgow and the big city would be a culture shock after wherever I had been but it was still home. I would get the train home and I would fall asleep wondering just where I had found myself that day. Had I really gone that far? Luckily I’ve got Saturday for a day like that. I just need to figure out the wheres and the hows.

Loose Ends: Tranter’s Bridge

After the last game of the season at Easter Road, I had no set plans of what to do after. It was a beautiful sunny day in the capital and as I walked with the crowd down Hawkhill Avenue, I decided on a trip to the seaside. Further on, I decided that while I would ultimately end up in North Berwick for fish and chips, I would head first to Aberlady Bay with its secluded beach just perfect on this warm May Sunday. I realised, though, that the place I had in mind, Tranter’s Bridge, wasn’t on Google Maps. I could picture it, the wooden bridge curving over a burn, though Google wasn’t playing. Eventually I realised it was between Aberlady and Gullane so headed to buy some provisions then for the bus to Aberlady, soon entering my home county and following through Musselburgh, Prestonpans and Longniddry before hitting the coast road, probably the finest road in Scotland with its views to Edinburgh, the Pentlands and Fife.

I alighted in Aberlady, a pleasant village with an old kirk, and followed the road to Tranter’s Bridge, where a newlywed couple were getting their photos taken on the bridge. I waited by looking at a nearby plaque which affirmed that was indeed Tranter’s Bridge, named for the late historian and author Nigel Tranter who lived nearby and was often inspired by his walks in the East Lothian countryside. There was a quote etched on it which talked Tranter never failing to relish the ‘unending sigh of the waves…the calling of the sea-birds, the quacking of mallard and the honking of the wavering wild geese’. I stood a moment and as I sometimes do read the words aloud, savouring the cadences and imagining this figure wandering through the nearby nature reserve. I could see hints of Arthur’s Seat back in Edinburgh, more of Fife with tankers sitting tight in the Forth, while I could hear seabirds right enough with some geese in a pond nearby that I saw a few minutes later.

Eventually I crossed and took my time, looking left towards the Forth and right up the burn as it curved towards Gullane. As I walked I realised that it could be another Loose End since it connects with Lamer Island in Dunbar in at least two ways. The bridge is on the John Muir Way, the long distance footpath that leads from Dunbar through Aberlady eventually to Helensburgh on the Clyde. Also, I grew up in Dunbar and I did a Nigel Tranter book, The Story of Scotland, for a school essay once. If you want to go more substantial, I not only grew up in Dunbar but there’s a clearer link between me, John Muir’s Birthplace and one of its volunteers who was a big Tranter fan and often talked about him to me.

Towards the dunes I thought more about how no two walks in this place would ever be the same. I’m sure Tranter would have found that too and it would have coloured his writing as this beautiful day stilled me in ways I cannot begin to put into words. There it was possible to experience Scotland’s past, present and future in one sweeping vista, the Edinburgh skyline steeped in history and raising it skywards, Fife and the wind turbines at Burntisland as well as the moment I was currently living, seeing it all but just being there, setting one foot before another, thoughts slow as my steps up the dune to the beach.

Digest: May 2018

That’s the end of May then. Another busy month and a whole lot of adventures. In May I’ve been to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, East Lothian twice and all the way to Crookston. A lot of travels have been football-related though some haven’t, not least the first adventure I had in May neatly packed into a lunchtime. I was in Glenburn, a suburb of Paisley, and over lunch I ended up going for a walk a little way into the Gleniffer Braes, sitting down on a bench with a considerable view across Paisley to the hills beyond. It was a new perspective on a place I am becoming increasingly familiar with.

On Saturday 5th May I went to Aberdeen to watch Hibs. I left fairly early in the day and read and listened to music on the way up. I went to the football then took myself out to dinner before going home. I was thinking about the Bank Holiday Monday which was coming and ended up buying Ordnance Survey maps for two very disparate bits of Scotland, the area around Hawick in the Borders and Elgin in Moray, before I boarded that bus to civilisation. As it turns out I didn’t get to either one.

The following day was lovely and warm and I had a lie in. After all I had been all the way to Aberdeen the previous day. Mid-afternoon I went out to Crookston Castle, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends, a series featured on this blog on Sundays at the moment. The place was fairly busy with people though that didn’t stop me enjoying the views across this bit of the world. Crookston Castle is within half an hour’s walk so I did just that. On the way back I finally made it to Rosshall Gardens where I wrote up notes and pondered a ruined boiler house in the grounds. I still need to write that bit of the adventure up.

The next day was Bank Holiday Monday and after much deliberation I ended up on the way to Edinburgh. I wanted to do a dry run for visiting Tynecastle that Wednesday so I proceeded in lovely sunshine into deepest darkest Gorgie, found where the away end is then swiftly came away again with no fixed agenda. I found myself at the bus station thinking about where to go and I just missed a bus to St. Andrews. There was a bus sitting bound for East Lothian and I thought briefly about Hailes Castle before eventually concluding I quite fancied a trip to Dunbar. On the way down I felt like going to Lamer Island, the Battery, which has featured here before and that was where I ended up after a turn around the harbour. I managed to find a connection to Crookston Castle and thus my visit also became part of the Loose Ends series. Alas time and train timetables meant I didn’t have long before I needed to head back to Glasgow.

No wonder I’m tired. The following night I went out for dinner. On the way we looked at some of the very fine street art which is scattered around the Merchant City.

Next night was the derby at Tynecastle, another item off my 30 Before 30 list.

That Sunday was the last game of the season and it was at Easter Road. I don’t have any end of the season traditions and when I left the ground, leaving through exit number 7 as always, I decided to go get fish and chips by the sea. That became North Berwick and after walking to a shop to get provisions, it became a walk around Aberlady Bay first. Aberlady Bay, for those who don’t know it, is a nature reserve with a long, deserted beach at the end of it. But first I had to cross Tranter’s Bridge, a wooden bridge across a burn named after the author Nigel Tranter who often walked there trying to think up ideas. The bridge, which I knew about but Google Maps didnae, features in Loose Ends soon too. The walk was beautiful but very warm. I ended up on the beach and to my slight surprise I ended up sunbathing for a bit. I don’t sunbathe. I think the sand that was still stuck to my body hours later when I got home is probably why. After that interlude I walked to Gullane then got myself to North Berwick for fish and chips, which were no’ bad, eaten by the harbour.

That Tuesday I was doing a work thing in Renfrew Town Hall, recently refurbished, and it is a fabulous building.

The next Friday I ended up in Edinburgh and went for a long walk along the Water of Leith from Leith to Murrayfield, ending up there on the bus home. Particular highlights of this walk were St. Bernard’s Well which was gorgeous in that light and the grounds of the two Modern Art Galleries in the Dean Village.

That Sunday I went to watch Partick Thistle play Livingston. Thistle got relegated.

I walked home from work the next Friday and walking over by Arkleston, there was a brief moment by the motorway when I could be fooled into thinking I was in the proper countryside.

The next day was Saturday and I was off. I went to Culross, via Dunfermline where I partook in some steak bridies for lunch. I was a bit too late for the Palace but I wasn’t heartbroken since I was able to wander in the sunshine, sitting and reading for a bit and looking at the many fine buildings. I went to Culross Abbey all too briefly and the Abbey ruins were great to explore on that beautiful day.

The next day I spent the day with my dad, bopping around central Scotland, starting in Linlithgow with a turn around the loch. We then drove the few miles to Cairnpapple Hill. From the cool but pleasant weather in Linlithgow, Cairnpapple was shrouded in haar. This made the experience all the more beguiling, other-worldly as we made our way round the henge with visibility only a few feet in front of our faces. Barely five minutes away in Torphichen, it was much clearer and sunny. We had lunch in Callander Park in Falkirk, looking over a duck pond. It was good to see the museum and park busy with people. Thereafter we drove across the Forth to Castle Campbell, one of the more atmospheric Scottish castles, with a walk through Dollar Glen an added bonus. Dollar Glen feels like something out of a fairy tale, or where trolls, goblins and nymphs should live. Castle Campbell is great, a blend of ruins and a fairly intact though restored tower house. Before dining in Linlithgow, we headed back to Cairnpapple Hill where it was now sunny and decent views could be had despite the haze. We first had to contend with some cows. A family were already there, reluctant to venture across the field. To slightly misquote We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, we couldn’t go over them, we couldn’t go under them: we had to go through them. We succeeded and the perspective was well worth the close encounters of the bovine kind.

Monday was a bank holiday and I decided to satisfy an ambition and another thing on my 30 Before 30 list to boot. I decided to walk the route of the Glasgow Subway. On the hottest day of the year. I succeeded in 4 hours and 8 minutes from leaving Govan to getting back there. Tales of that adventure will appear here shortly. Afterwards I had a fleeting visit to Glasgow Cathedral, which will be part of the Loose Ends series after Culross.

That’s us for May then. On Friday it is Streets of Glasgow time and it is the final post of that series before hiatus, Addison Road. Loose Ends returns on Sunday and it is Lamer Island this time.

Before I forget, the Wednesday’s Child blog featured an interesting post recently about what constitutes being well-read. I said I would share a list of some books that have been important to me and these appear below. At some point I will go into greater depth as to why I like these particular books:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark

The collected works of Roald Dahl

The collected works of Douglas Adams

The Harry Potter series

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

Candide by Voltaire

The collected works of Kurt Vonnegut

The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins

Nasty Women, the feminist anthology compiled by 404 Ink

Godless Morality and Looking in the Distance by Richard Holloway

Findings by Kathleen Jamie

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

Waterlog by Roger Deakin

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

Tony Benn’s diaries

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Walking Talking takes a week off next week. That’s for practical reasons. As some of you might know, I’m doing an Open University degree and the exam for my current module is next week. I’ll have to revise. Exams aren’t good. I don’t see the point in them but that’s easy to say when I’m staring down the face of one.

The Easter Road West blog, my football outpost, goes to one post a week over the summer. The football’s finished! I know there’s the World Cup but I couldn’t care less about that. Anyway, May posts might have a limited shelf-life as I was writing about then-current events. The best post over there was the season review.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. It is one of the nicest bits of blogging that sometimes lengthy digressions can occur because of comments or seeing just which random has liked a post today. Cheers, folks.

Posts in May –

Digest: April 2018

Causeway cliffs

Loose Ends: Linlithgow Palace

Sunshine

Walking talking

Streets of Glasgow: Waterloo Street

The beginning

Flotsam and jetsam

Streets of Glasgow: Cadogan Street

Loose Ends: Stirling Castle

Shoelaces

Streets of Glasgow: Firhill Road

Loose Ends: Crookston Castle

Streets of Glasgow: Firhill Road

I realised recently that during this Streets of Glasgow series, I had walked streets near the grounds of Celtic, The Rangers, Queen’s Park and even Third Lanark but not anywhere near Firhill, the home of Partick Thistle. That needed to be remedied, especially after I discovered on Google Maps that there is a rather cool mural at the side of Firhill. What I didn’t realise is that Firhill is right next to the Forth and Clyde Canal, proving that Google Street View has considerable limitations and there’s no substitute for actually going somewhere and seeing it with your own eyes. The view from the top of Firhill Road wasn’t too bad, towards the Cathkin Braes and the city, though I was tickled by the row of shops that soon came up on my right, including an off-licence with the unbeatable name of Bammy Beverages. I didn’t go to see what the bam’s beverage of choice is, though I’m sure it will have a rich and varied selection.

There were a few walkers by the canal, even on an overcast afternoon. A sign by the tow path pointed towards such exotic destinations as Maryhill Locks (1.5 miles), Clydebank (6 miles), Kirkintilloch (8 miles) and the Falkirk Wheel some 22 miles away at the eastern extremity of the canal. It was quite busy generally this walk, with a few folk up and down on their phones and a guy shouting for his pal Billy at the top of his lungs. Billy probably lived in Oban or somewhere.

Firhill, or the Energy Check Stadium at Firhill as it is officially known, is home to Partick Thistle. Or Partick Thistle nil as the old joke has it. The main stand faces onto Firhill Road and inside it is basic, wooden-floored and with a major lack of leg room. Cracking pies, though. Outside it is quite old-fashioned with old ticket prices lettered over the turnstiles at either end, which is quite endearing. On the side of the stand was a big ‘Welcome to Firhill’ sign, a product of the very adept Partick Thistle PR department. The mural on the lane up to the Jackie Husband Stand is superb, though, featuring the club crest, a player’s boot, a ball, a crowd and the city skyline. Even with the parked cars, I got a good look at it and I was really impressed. Partick Thistle may be mince – indeed they’ve just been relegated – but they are a real community club, the only team in Glasgow, some might say.

Further down towards Maryhill Road was a grassy bank, with trees and daffodils coming up nicely. Spring finally seems to be here though I suspect we haven’t seen the last of the snow yet, even if the rain continues unabated as it did just after I finished this walk. Firhill Road was quite short but a reminder of how so much of this city is unfamiliar to me. I knew the way to Firhill but a few hundred yards away was the canal and I didn’t have a clue it was there. In nearly five years, I’ve seen a fair bit of this city but every time I go out, I see something new. However long I live here, I hope that continues whichever corner I turn.

This is the thirty fourth Streets of Glasgow post from Walking Talking. I wrote here recently about Queen Margaret Drive, which is fairly nearby.

This post featured first on my football blog Easter Road West. It has been adapted very slightly to reflect that Partick Thistle have been relegated. A match report from when that happened is also on ERW.

Digest: April 2018

April’s over and it’s featured snow and sunshine, not always at the same time. I’ve worn a thick jacket and shorts, though definitely not at the same time. So, it’s Digest time, beginning on the tres, tres cold Easter Monday. I took a train into town and as it stopped waiting for a platform at Central, I took a photo of a warehouse in the process of demolition. I stopped off in Edinburgh and managed to source a Stephen’s steak bridie or two for lunch before getting the train down to Dunbar, where it was cold and windy. It often is there though it doesn’t snow very often. Despite it being baltic, I felt in the mood for a walk and ended up walking as far as Tyninghame, sheltered for much of the way by the woods and then heading inland up a muddy track. At Tyninghame I grabbed a bus up to North Berwick where it was even colder. I got a bus into Edinburgh and headed home. It snowed as the bus headed along the M8 towards Glasgow. At least two blog posts have resulted from the Dunbar walk, namely Dunbar in the snow and Defences.

The following day Hibs played at night and I was there. It was wet, I think.

That Friday I had a Glasgow day, with two Streets of Glasgow walks. I had the notion to do a Streets walk on Firhill Road, partly because of the cool mural I had heard about at one end of Partick Thistle’s ground and also because I had featured streets near the grounds of Rangers, Celtic and Queen’s Park but not the Sizzle. The Firhill mural is excellent and I’m glad I got there. On the way across town, I decided to put Streets on hiatus, not because I don’t enjoy writing it but because I felt it was time for it to take a break. The last Streets walk was deliberately chosen, Addison Road, which is near the Botanic Gardens. It started to rain as I came the other way and I hid out in the Kibble Palace until it dried off a bit. From there I wandered up Ashton Lane and Cresswell Lane before walking into town along Woodlands Road and then Renfrew Street, which may feature in Streets when it starts up again. Owing to John Lambie’s death a couple of weeks ago, the Firhill Road Streets of Glasgow post has appeared on my football blog, Easter Road West, already. It will also appear here in sequence in a few weeks, with Addison Road appearing a week later.

The following Sunday found me out and about again though not with a great masterplan of where to go. When I was on the train into town, my eye fell on a poster advertising a Lego exhibition at Aberdour Castle in Fife, a place I like. I found myself trudging up to the bus station and then on a bus to Dunfermline, changing there for another to Aberdour. The Lego exhibition didn’t excite me a great deal as I would rather go and see places then see them represented in brick form. Aberdour is a cracking castle though with a painted ceiling and interesting gardens. It was also where the new Castle connections series was conceived – it’s since been renamed Loose ends, inspired by reading the poem ‘Scotland’ by Hugh MacDiarmid. The next post in that series will appear on Sunday 6th May. That day in Aberdour, though, I also walked down to the Forth and looked out towards Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Back to Fife the next Saturday as once more I didn’t have a grand plan. I found myself on a bus to St. Andrews though as I got closer to that fine town, I had a notion to check out a football match even though Hibs weren’t playing. My two options within distance were East Fife vs. Arbroath or Raith Rovers vs. Queen’s Park. The fact that St. Andrews was mobbed made the decision easier and I ended up on a bus out of there after a polite walk around the town streets. The bus to Leven, where I would have to change, had great views across the hills and then the Forth too as the bus came into Lundin Links and Upper Largo. I was bound for the San Starko to see Raith Rovers play Queen’s Park and I got into the Penman Stand just before kick off and in time to see Roary Rover, Raith’s mascot, dancing to Taylor Swift. Game finished 2-0, I wrote about it on ERW here. After the game I got the bus to Edinburgh, had a wander then had a very fine chippy sitting in the gardens on London Road.

That week I had an OU essay to write. It got written and I was even under the word count.

On the Friday I decided to go to Linlithgow as part of the Loose Ends series. Linlithgow Palace, like Aberdour, appeared in Outlander. It is also one of my favourite places on the planet and I was glad to wander about for an hour in the pleasant April sunshine. I had my piece sitting in the great hall. What I did which I had never done before was walk under the buttresses at the Peel side of the Palace, a new perspective on a familiar place. From Linlithgow there’s lots of connections though I decided to find another I could do that day and found myself on a train to Stirling. Stirling Castle is my favourite big castle in Scotland and it’s linked to Linlithgow by being where Mary, Queen of Scots, born in Linlithgow, was crowned. It’s also managed by Historic Environment Scotland, as is Aberdour. I was happy just to wander about Stirling, not bothering with the Stirling Heads and instead just looking out across central Scotland and beyond to some mountains.

The following day I went to watch Hibs decisively beat Celtic 2-1 on a warm sunny afternoon in Leith. After that I went for a swift walk around Morrison’s Haven, just outside Prestonpans. The sunshine was beautiful, the surroundings even finer. It was great to be there, even briefly.

The next Saturday, last Saturday, Hibs were playing Kilmarnock and I headed through a bit earlier to sit up Calton Hill to think, look and remember.

On Sunday I went to Cumbrae. We parked in Largs then got on the ferry. Millport is a very pleasant town and the sunshine just made it and the views to Ailsa Craig, Arran and Lesser Cumbrae all the more spectacular. The Cathedral of the Isles and its labyrinth were particularly interesting. I’ll write a longer post next week about it. I managed to get sunburnt, keeping up the fine tradition I have of getting burned in the most exotic places, like last year on the ferry to Arran or a few years ago at Lochleven Castle near Kinross.

So, that’s us for April. A digest for Easter Road West appeared last night over there. Easter Road West is my football blog, almost exclusively about Hibs. As well as the Firhill Streets of Glasgow post which I posted up there recently, I particularly liked writing the posts there about my first football game, after I found the programme in a shop, and also the one about autism published on World Autism Awareness Day. There’s a post there tonight about the fast approaching close season.

I try to keep up with other blogs and last night I was on the way home and read a post on FiveThirtyEight, an American politics blog, about posts they wish they had written. I think they in turn had nicked the idea from Bloomberg. In the Books post last week, I recommended Wednesday’s Child‘s post about bookmarks. Alex Cochrane’s post from the other night about Grangemouth is also worth a look. I like the way they write and their subject matter particularly, which is usually about lesser-spotted places and sights, always insightful and showing another side beyond the obvious. This Digest originated from Anabel Marsh’s monthly digest, the most recent instalment of which appeared the other day. She features a Scottish Word of the Month and included a fair few synonyms for being drunk, including my personal favourite jaked. I drop in a few Scots words here – indeed I wrote a post in Scots here not so long ago – though the only one I can share off the top of my head is ‘fleein’ which can also mean drunk.

The next post here on Walking Talking is about the Northern Irish coast and that will appear on Friday. Loose Ends appears this coming Sunday with a post about Linlithgow Palace.

As I was revising this post last night, news came that the Glasgow Women’s Library, which I visited and wrote about last year, has been nominated for the Art Fund Museum of the Year, alongside Brooklands Museum, Ferens Art Gallery, the Postal Museum and Tate St. Ives. It is brilliant that GWL are nominated for this award. GWL benefits the city and the wider world by its mere existence, let alone the fine work it does. Hope they win.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers.

Posts this month –

Streets of Glasgow: Trongate

Some thoughts…

Digest: March 2018

Manchester and Liverpool

Streets of Glasgow: University Avenue

Dunbar in the snow

Defences

Walking across the Forth Road Bridge

Streets of Glasgow: Kelvin Way

Castle connections

Some blethers

Leith Walk the other way

Streets of Glasgow: Bath Street

Crossing the road

Books

Streets of Glasgow: Dundas Street

Books

I go through phases with reading. Sometimes I read loads, other times not so much. Last week I had an OU essay to write so most of my reading was about greensickness, melancholy and charlatans. Thankfully that’s out the road. In the last week I’ve managed to finish a grand total of three books, two of them started and finished within a couple of days, and the other started ages ago and finally finished on a 26 bus on Musselburgh High Street. Glamour. Those were Only The Dead Can Tell by Alex Gray, A Brush With Death by Quintin Jardine and East Lothian Folk Tales by Tim Porteus. I also read The Head Teacher of Football by Terry Christie recently but that was a re-read.

I’ve read crime novels for years and I eagerly anticipate the latest works by Alex Gray, Quintin Jardine, Stuart MacBride and Ian Rankin in particular. I have the new Peter May waiting for me at work that I might read over the weekend too. Ann Cleeves I like but I’ve only read the Shetland series. Stuart MacBride is class and DCI Roberta Tiberius Steel is cracking. I like how Alex Gray writes. Glasgow is very much a character in her novels, the changing cityscape a constant feature behind the plot. Lorimer is unlike most male detective protagonists in that he doesn’t drink or smoke, like Rebus for example, and his fellow characters, including Rosie the pathologist, Kirsty Wilson and Maggie Lorimer, all play prominent parts in the latest one. Quintin Jardine I like because Bob Skinner lives in Gullane and I can imagine some of the places that feature in the books. This particular one was good, particularly with the inclusion of Lottie Mann and Danny Provan, the Weegie detective duo, though it was a bit implausible in how Skinner got involved despite not being in the polis any more.

The East Lothian Folk Tales book I had bought weeks ago and have taken to a couple of Hibs games to read on the train. Tim Porteus is a storyteller who lives in Prestonpans. He writes interesting tales which appear in the Courier every week. This book is a collection of tales featuring witches, ghosties and all sorts of creatures and folk from across the county, including the tale of Black Agnes and her granny from Dunbar Castle. As I said, I finally finished it on Saturday after the Hibs-Celtic game as I sat on a bus going out to Morrison’s Haven, appropriately enough in East Lothian.

My to-read pile is as big as ever. As well as the Peter May, I have a book about seabirds that I’ve had to read for months as well as a Hunter S. Thompson book that’s been in my backpack for ages. I also have a pile of Muriel Spark books that I bought one evening when my route home took me past Waterstone’s in Braehead. Near the top is How To Survive The End Of The World by Aaron Gillies, a book about anxiety and how to live in this world, a couple of books by Helen McClory published by the wonderful independent press 404 Ink, and I might also re-read Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit soon, a history of walking. Rebecca Solnit is a very good writer.

When I read some of these books, I will of course need to think about a bookmark. The Wednesday’s Child blog featured a very nice post the other day about bookmarks which you should check out. It seems a bit self-referential to reference a post which in turn mentions me but there you are. It was the kind of post that I wish I had written myself. Anyway, as for bookmarks, I tend to use whatever I have to hand, notelets, train or bus tickets, sometimes actual bookmarks. The Tim Porteus book I read recently had a bus ticket, incidentally.

While I have to know about new books for my job, I tend to ignore the bestseller lists for my own choices, going on recommendations or following my nose. The main time I get to read is when I’m travelling – like when I’m going to the football as I wrote about here –  and I would rather read something I’ll like rather than something which is popular. Popular books are often good ones though not always.

Tomorrow I will be off to Edinburgh to see Hibs play Kilmarnock. I haven’t decided what my travelling book will be though it’s between The Comforters by Muriel Spark and maybe one I have by Susan Calman. In the morning I’ll just lift it up and go and maybe it’ll be done by the time I return, maybe not. The book is part of the experience, enhancing it at the best of times.

Thanks for reading. Sunday’s post here will be part of the Streets of Glasgow series, this time Dundas Street. Easter Road West will feature a post from the archive tomorrow about listening to the football.

Crossing the road

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Edinburgh for the football. As usual, I was a bit early so I decided to take the scenic route to Easter Road. I walked up from Waverley across St. Andrew’s Square to Queen Street with not much of a plan beyond that except getting to the ground eventually. I waited at the traffic crossing planning to cross onto Dublin Street, looking down across the city. Beyond the bottom of Dublin Street, Edinburgh was a forest of trees until it hit the Forth, the next sign of humanity Burntisland Shipyard. It was a bright sunny February Saturday with a few clouds strewn across the sky. The whole vista suggested adventure, psychogeography even if I had more time, lefts, rights and everything else, even a trip across the Forth or at least to its shores.

I used to have a rule on day trips that I always waited for the green man at traffic crossings as I would invariably see more than I would if I rushed around. I tend to adopt it whenever possible now, particularly in Glasgow. As I stood at this one, I watched the traffic go past, even the Aberdeen team bus as it headed for Easter Road, regular service buses and folks heading for the New Town and wherever else. With the view, the cold sunshine and the city around me, it was a nice moment in time. Then the green man came on and I crossed the road, into the middle anyway, then soon onto Dublin Street and away.