Loose Ends: Calton Hill

I had been to nineteen places since Aberdour Castle back in April and the twentieth was Calton Hill, one of Edinburgh’s seven hills stretching out like seven cats as Norman MacCaig wrote. It felt appropriate to conclude a series based on connections in a place with a synoptic view. As I walked up Hume Walk I looked across the Forth trying to pick out Aberdour, my eyes skirting like a pinball between the rocks and islands to make sure. As the view opened up, I could see right up from the Forth Bridges to the East Neuk of Fife, Inchkeith and Inchcolm, Easter Road and North Berwick Law, almost in one sweep of my head. I could see Gullane and all sorts of places that might have featured in Loose Ends at some point but for a whim taking me somewhere else.

It felt right to be on Calton Hill. I had been there many, many times before, chance glances leading me elsewhere on more than one occasion. The lines of verse that give this series its name, Scotland by Hugh MacDiarmid, are etched on a monument at the foot of the hill on Regent Road. I had just spent the day in and out of shops on a quest. Being out in the open, to have a big eastern sky above and a sweep of sea before me, made all the difference, calming and providing perspective, an escape from the busy city below as I could just stand and watch or just look beyond. Those loose ends of Scotland seen so far were a mix of the new and the dear and familiar, some clearly seen from this hill, others off over the horizon. I was led eventually from Aberdour to Calton Hill, its views leading me to buses or trains or off on foot. Sir David Gray lifting that Cup made me smile, North Berwick Law reminded me I was still to climb it, and I had words to write, tales of adventures had gathering those loose ends.

Thank you for reading. Something new follows next week.

Advertisements

Digest: September 2018

September digest time here on Walking Talking and it was one hell of a busy month. Thankfully October should be a bit calmer.

It started with going to Livingston to see Hibs get beat. I managed to leave my ticket for the game at home, necessitating heading back and missing the bus that would have got me to the Tony Macaroni Arena well ahead of time. I had to get a train instead to Livingston North, a good half hour from the ground, but got a taxi since I had done the trudge before and had no desire to repeat it. Livingston is horrible and the bus terminal is really badly laid out.

The following day I went to Northumberland with a very fine walk around the walls at Berwick followed by a saunter along the beach at Embleton. I made sure I got a Sea Window Craster-style shot when in Craster.

The next Thursday and Friday I was on a quest looking for a book. On the Friday I went to the West End, managing a couple of Streets of Glasgow walks, before I ended up in Edinburgh, going to many, many more bookshops as well as cramming in no less than three Loose Ends adventures. It was a great day, even if I ultimately had to order the book on Amazon.

Sunday that week saw me go for a walk in Edinburgh along the Restalrig Railway Path. I think a post about that should appear here soon. I also managed a Streets of Glasgow walk on John Street.

The following Friday I ended up at Tantallon Castle, a dear, familiar place, and it was brilliant. I wrote a bit about that in one of the Saturday morning posts.

Saturday 22nd September was Dundee day. I was there to see the Hibs play at Dens Park and also managed a wee look into the brand new V and A Museum of Design, a stunningly beautiful building shown off to best effect in the sunshine. (I appreciate that the V and A usually has an ampersand in its name but I don’t like ampersands.) Then I went to see the Hibees play, followed by dinner and another quick wander around the exterior of the V and A. More about that in the V and A post from a week or so ago.

The next day I had a Glasgow adventure including a wee spin to Govan for the Govan Stones and Mary Barbour statue as well as a turn around the Necropolis.

Saturday 29th September I went the three miles to see Hibs play at St. Mirren. They won 1-0.

That’s the digest for September. Easter Road West, my football blog, has featured a few interesting posts this month, including one about my little footballing superstitions and one of those gallimaufry football posts.

This blog has also expanded into a rambling discursive post on a Saturday morning. The first one was quite well-received (thanks for all comments and views for that) and I decided to make it a regular feature. It has tended to be about books so far though it might just be a massive blether. I hope to be able to write something live on Saturday morning, perhaps delving into psychogeography and an interesting looking programme on Radio 4 next week, but it might have to be written ahead of time. We’ll see what happens.

I sometimes like to share posts from other blogs that I’ve liked this month. Just now I’ve read a really good post from Alex Cochrane about his father, his ancestor and Pablo Neruda. I’ve saved it to read more later. I also liked Jessica’s post at Diverting Journeys about the American Sign Museum in Ohio – it strikes me as an incredible sensory experience. One of the rare pleasures of blogging, particularly in the last week as I haven’t had time to write much myself, has been looking through my WordPress Reader and reading what other people write. It is not inconsiderable.

Anyway, that’s us. Have a nice October, y’all.

Posts this month –

George Street mural

Digest: August 2018

Streets of Glasgow: Cochrane Street

Loose Ends: The Necropolis

Streets of Glasgow: Albion Street

Saturday morning thoughts

Loose Ends: Ramshorn

Streets of Glasgow: Otago Street

Weekend update

Loose Ends: Makar’s Court

New museum

Saturday morning thoughts, again

Loose Ends: Wild West

Loose Ends: Wild West

The last Loose Ends adventure took me to Makar’s Court by the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh. A very loose link from John Muir, who settled in the west of the United States, led to a little piece of the Wild West tucked behind the prim and proper streets of Morningside. It was built in the mid 1990s to complement a furniture showroom that operated out of there, though it is a wee bit sorry for itself now. I had known about it for years though it was only when I had business in the area that I finally managed to get there. The street featured a Cantina, jail and assortment of suitably Western-looking businesses, though up the road was a very much 21st century Edinburgh garage with cars instead of horses and John Wayne cutting about. I hung around for a few minutes, looking in slight disbelief at the quirky signs, my favourite being the Western font used to ask folk not to block Morningside Library’s fire door. It felt like being on a film set and I could imagine cameras, actors and directors around instead of the blare of a radio and the very familiar local accents. It was a bit otherworldly but I was glad to get there, very much a hidden gem and much more worthy of a visit than the obvious tourist places uptown.

The next connection was set by this point though I may have considered a wee look at the Buffalo Bill statue that graces a quiet bit of Dennistoun or indeed the Bud Neill cartoon characters with monuments at Partick railway station and Woodlands Road back in Glasgow, all a testament to the lingering impact of the Wild West on these shores far off.

Thank you for reading. The final (for now) instalment of Loose Ends follows next week.

Loose Ends: Makar’s Court

Makar’s Court was an easy choice for Loose Ends, a place right in the heart of Edinburgh but not on the tourist trail, or at least not as much as the well-trodden Royal Mile. It came about through a link with John Muir, whose writings from Bonaventure in Georgia during his Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf often come to mind whenever I’m in a cemetery. A quote from Muir appears on the ground in Makar’s Court, a selection of literary quotes outside the Writers’ Museum in Lady Stair’s Close, just off the High Street. The Muir quote is a nice one, from a selection of his writings called John of the Mountains:

‘I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness’.

Nearby were two other quotes that I liked, one from Perth poet William Soutar, and the other from Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross, who I had never heard of. I’m sure that’s my loss. A quick Google search has provided the very interesting distinction that Elizabeth Melville is the earliest known Scottish writer to be published. More research will follow into that, definitely.

I like wandering in Makar’s Court so know some of the quotes well. Possible links came thick and fast, John Galt and Burns to Ayrshire, Hugh MacDiarmid leading through the SNP which he helped to found to Charlotte Square where a First Minister of that party is resident. There were a few folk dotting around, some looking at the quotes, others marching towards the Royal Mile, one or two even wandering in to the Writers’ Museum. I haven’t been in years so will need to go soon. The words outside on the pavement usually do fine for me, an interesting mix of Scottish writers, some very famous ones not included while some others are highlighted and their best words out for all to read and hopefully seek out more.


Thank you for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week. As mentioned last week, Loose Ends goes on hiatus after the 21st post. Still a few more to go, though.

Loose Ends: Ramshorn

The last Loose Ends took me to the Necropolis, Glasgow’s city of the dead. I had been thinking about various next steps in the intervening fortnight, all restricted by time and geography. I was in the Merchant City on other blog business and decided that the next strand of the series, on account of also being a cemetery in Glasgow, would be the Ramshorn Cemetery, which I had never been in before. The Ramshorn Theatre used to be a church and is now a theatre owned by Strathclyde University. It was firmly locked up when I passed late one Friday afternoon though thankfully the graveyard wasn’t.

The graveyard was beautiful. It was a little strange, as all graveyards should be, empty feeling but slightly claustrophobic too, tall city buildings surrounding on all four sides. As I walked the graves I passed were scattered with leaves, some of the stones with lettering faded and stories untold. Most held the remains of merchants, others fleshers, pocket book manufacturers and writers. It didn’t seem to have had a new interment in a couple of centuries, though this may have been why the Necropolis was built since the graveyard was pretty full, stones and lairs arranged close together throughout. I walked around, up the middle then the sides, looking at the graves and doing so entirely alone, not at all bothered by that.

To the connections and once more I thought of John Muir, even more acutely as this very urban cemetery was being reclaimed by nature. Dunbar might be my next trip or to the Broomielaw where the Warren left for the New World. A family many of whose members died in Leith might take me east too. Provands might take me up the road to Provand’s Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow. Overlooking the graveyard is the former home of the Glasgow Herald and that might lead to the Lighthouse, housed in another old office for that venerable institution.

When I went to the Necropolis a few weeks ago, there were loads of folk dotting about, exploring and taking photographs. Don’t get me wrong, the Necropolis is a fine place with incredible views over the city and some remarkable people buried there. The Ramshorn being lovely but also deserted seems a little unfair, a corner of the city yet to hit the tourist trail. That might not be a bad thing, our secret for a little while longer.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends post follows next week.

The series takes a pause in a few weeks, in three weeks time, to be precise. Watch this space for what comes next.

Loose Ends: The Necropolis

I was in Glasgow for a course. As I left the mighty Mitchell Library, I had a spur of the moment thought to go to the Necropolis. It was a sunny afternoon and I fancied being outside in the city for a bit. Along the way I tried to think of a possible connection between Cathkin Park and the Necropolis but struggled, eventually coming up with the fact both are owned and managed by Glasgow City Council. I reached the Cathedral and dodged lots of phone cameras pointing in its direction to turn over the bridge into the Necropolis.

The Necropolis is a cemetery, the City of the Dead, sitting right behind Glasgow Cathedral on the eastern edge of the city centre. I’ve been there twice before, since I’m not normally a huge fan of cemeteries. I’m a firm believer that we can remember those we’ve lost anywhere and we don’t necessarily need to be morbid when we do it. As I walked into the Necropolis, I thought about the last cemetery I was in, Deer Park, near Dunbar, a place where I knew not a few folk buried there, some of them relatives of mine. Deer Park is a community cemetery and I shouldn’t think many tourists go there, as a general rule. The Necropolis was busy with people from all sorts of places, some wandering amidst the stones like I was, others enjoying the cityscape below. What I like about the Necropolis is not only its fine views across the city but also the diverse architecture and stories contained therein. One of the first graves I came to was that of William Miller, the writer of the Scots lullaby Wee Willie Winkie and ‘Laureate of the Nursery’, the second best turn of phrase I had encountered that day besides ‘supersonic austerity’, which was in quite a different context. Throughout the Necropolis there were graves talking of infant mortality, service in foreign wars, work as merchants, writers and tradespeople, quotations from scripture or poetry, some of which I read aloud. Cemeteries often provide valuable insights into social history and the Necropolis was certainly no exception.

After paying my respects at the graves of John and Isabella Elder, I walked a little further, thinking of one of my favourite passages from John Muir, the naturalist and explorer who also came from Dunbar. After being injured in an industrial accident in Indianapolis, Muir walked one thousand miles to the Gulf of Mexico in the earliest part of a lifelong effort to study and appreciate nature. At one point he stopped off in Georgia, camping in a cemetery for five days as he waited for money to be wired from his family. As I stood under a tree, I read from Muir:

‘On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. Instead of the sympathy, the friendly union, of life and death so apparent in Nature, we are taught that death is an accident, a deplorable punishment for the oldest sin, the arch-enemy of life, etc…But let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights.’

I was now in a quieter part of the Necropolis, with fewer graves and more trees. The view of the city was still impressive there and I felt a moment of affection for this city I called home, a Dear Green Place indeed. A few minutes before I looked across and a hill loomed above Celtic Park, almost fooling me that it was Arthur’s Seat, way across in Edinburgh. It wasn’t but it had me for a second.

As I walked alone in the lower part of the Necropolis, I thought about the book I was reading, Silverland by Dervla Murphy. Dervla Murphy was travelling across Russia through the winter and as ever her writing was as varied and interesting as the many people she met along the way. At one point she talked about the environmental impact of death, the polluting effects of embalming fluid as well as fumes from crematoria. All round, she said being allowed to gradually decompose in the earth would probably be best for the planet. The walk in the Necropolis brought up lots of thoughts, from books to a story I heard recently about someone who made a point every day they were in Paris to go to the grave of Jim Morrison. Even as I walked up to the John Knox monument, I had a line from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, that he was an embittered man, that ‘he could never be at ease with the gay French Queen’. John Knox also gave his name to the street below the Necropolis, which I covered for Streets of Glasgow not long after.

To the connections and of course John Knox could take me to many places across this country, Haddington where he was born or St. Giles Cathedral where Knox was minister. His grave sits under the car park just across Parliament Square. John Muir was born in Dunbar and I did think briefly about going to the Broomielaw from where Muir’s ship the Warren left for New York in 1849. The graves of John and Isabella Elder could lead to a visit to Elder Park in Govan. Since I thought I saw Arthur’s Seat in the distance, it might be worth going up that hill, though not until after the Edinburgh Festival finished. The Celtic crosses with traces of Pictish style might lead to somewhere in Dalriada, like Kilmartin, or indeed somewhere related to the Picts. A stone marking the remains of University of Glasgow professors formerly interred in Blackfriars Cemetery may be the link to a trip to Gilmorehill.

The clouds had darkened. I had circled the cemetery a couple of times and seen a lot more of it than ever before. For most of the time I had been alone, only at its summit coming across other living mortals. It had been a good walk, to think, to look across the city and get a little more perspective on it, even if Arthur’s Seat wasn’t really in sight.

Thank you for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.

Just a wee heads-up that Loose Ends will pause after the 21st link post, scheduled to appear in about four weeks’ time. I thought it would be the 20th but I managed to miscount. As ever I hope to have something interesting to replace it though at the moment I’m not sure what that will be. Fear not, though, there are four of the current batch left to go, beginning next week not so far from the Necropolis.

Digest: August 2018

Another month and another digest. I started this month on holiday and managed a fair few adventures along the way.

Wednesday 1st August I bopped around Glasgow. I had a few bits of business to do in the town before heading out to Cathkin Park for a Loose Ends post. It was good to be at Cathkin again, to stand, ponder and wander. I noticed a major difference on the terracing as a lot of overgrown flora and debris had been cleared. Later on I went to the Gallery of Modern Art, first doing a Streets of Glasgow walk on Royal Bank Place. GoMA had an interesting blend of exhibitions going on – have a look at their website for updates.

Painting of Plug from the Bash Street Kids, McManus Galleries, Dundee

The following day was my birthday and I went to Dundee for the day, having lunch and then going around the fabulous McManus Galleries with its exhibition on the Bash Street Kids. The parodies of famous paintings featuring Beano characters, most memorably Plug in the style of Vincent van Gogh, was utterly genius.

Sunday 5th August was the first game of the league season so I went through to Edinburgh for that, doing the same the next Thursday for Molde in the Europa League.

That Friday I had a training course in Glasgow and after that was done I walked through the town and ended up in the Necropolis, which I have also written about for Loose Ends. I had a bit of a reverie there, thinking of history and the present in waves. Thereafter I covered John Knox Street and George Street for Streets of Glasgow, the latter in heavy rain.

A penguin sculpture in a Formula 1 fire suit, Perth

Perth was the destination the following Sunday for yet more soccerball. Before going to McDiarmid Park, I ended up being led around some of the penguins that have plodded off from the larger trail currently gracing Dundee and surrounding districts.

Yet another Sunday with football came the following week, this time back in the capital with yet more rain.

Anstruther, looking towards East Lothian

Friday 24th was the start of a long weekend. That morning I achieved a longtime ambition and walked the length of Paisley Road West. It was to celebrate the 500th post and third anniversary of this blog. The walk was fine, not the most exciting but it was in nice weather and it was diverting enough. That afternoon I went on a world tour of Fife, lunching in Dunfermline and eating a lemon sole supper along the coast in Anstruther. Sitting looking out the window along the way, including from the top deck of a 95 bus from Leven to Anstruther, was glorious.

That Saturday I went to the capital to watch the Hibees once more.

Ramshorn Cemetery, Glasgow

The next Friday I went on a wee jaunt after work, walking through the city on a glorious sunny afternoon and bagging two more Streets of Glasgow plus another Loose Ends adventure in the Ramshorn Graveyard.

In August I managed to read a fair bit. By screen I read Notes On A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig and My Life, Our Times by Gordon Brown. In print I worked through some more of Dervla Murphy’s oeuvre. Her words are measured and refreshing. Informed curiosity is the only way I can think of to describe it. We need more people like Dervla Murphy in our world.

This was the first year in a decade that I haven’t managed to be at the Edinburgh Book Festival at all. The only day I had tickets I ended up giving them back because Hibs were playing. I avoid the Fringe and my visits to the capital involved going out of Waverley Station the back way and heading east. September is the month of Edinburgh for me and I look forward to getting back to the capital for some proper wanders without fear of being handed a hundred leaflets.

This month I also managed to go swimming for the first time in at least five years. I don’t write much about my fitness regime, which consists of occasional visits to the gym and a whole lot of walking, but learning to swim properly is on my 30 Before 30 list as is being comfortable enough to wild swim.

My football blog Easter Road West has had a few posts this month. A lot of it has been about the varying fortunes of the Hibees, though I have also written about the identity of Hibs as an Edinburgh and Leith team and also a walk around the outside of St. James Park in Newcastle.

That’s the tale of August. September should be interesting too. It might involve an island trip, it will definitely involve football away days. There will be a few manoeuvres in the name of this blog too. It’ll be fun.

I didn’t want to be all schmaltzy with the 500th post but I want to thank all readers, commenters and followers for their support over the last three years. I know some readers in real life, others only through a screen. Regardless it’s nice to know there are folk reading and maybe even benefiting from what I write in some small way. Thanks again for reading, commenting and following. Have a good day and a nice September.

Posts in August –

Digest: July 2018

Coming soon…

Streets of Glasgow: London Road

Loose Ends: Coldstream

Streets of Glasgow: Royal Bank Place

Loose Ends: The Meadows

Streets of Glasgow: John Knox Street

Loose Ends: Cathkin Park

Streets of Glasgow: Paisley Road West

Streets of Glasgow: George Street

Loose Ends: Cathkin Park

The last Loose Ends adventure involved the Meadows in Edinburgh, a park in the heart of the city. Cathkin is a park in a city though it has similarities to the Meadows in that it’s been a football ground too. Hibs played their first game in the Meadows and won their first Scottish Cup in 1886 at Cathkin when it was known as Hampden Park, now of course just over the hill. Cathkin is a place I like plus I hadn’t been for ages so it was an easy choice for Loose Ends.

It was cloudy and overcast as I walked the short distance from Crosshill station. Small football goals were set up on the grass just inside the gate, a sign of games past or even still to come. I wasn’t alone – another guy was walking about the park taking photos and crouching down at regular intervals. Cathkin Park was the home of Third Lanark Football Club until it went out of business in dubious football circumstances in 1967. The terracing remains, much of it reclaimed by nature, much of the rest cleaned up recently as part of an ongoing restoration effort. It is now a public park owned by Glasgow City Council and still used occasionally for football. Pilgrimages from football fans happen, such as before the 2016 Scottish Cup Final when I was one of a few Hibees at Cathkin before heading over to Hampden.

In his article The Passion of Harry Bingo, Peter Ross quotes a Queen’s Park fan by the name of Higgy who considers Cathkin ‘kind of a church for me’. This came to mind as I stood on the terracing at the western end, my hands resting on a green and white post as I looked across the pitch. The corner leading to Hampden was now the most overgrown. When I first came, a few years ago, the place was far leafier and decorated with debris, broken glass and bottles, food and other wrappers. It was much cleaner and I liked that. As I stood there I thought about possible Loose Ends connections, to Lanark itself or other defunct football stadia like Shawfield. The thought occurred to me that Third Lanark and East of Scotland League outfit Haddington Athletic share a nickname – the Hi-His – and I might think of a trip to Haddington, though maybe not for football.

As I walked across the pitch and stood on the south terracing, I thought what I often think at Cathkin: what it would feel like for my club to die, to be there for the last time. It would be interesting to know just where the fans went, whether, for example, they crossed the hill to go watch Queen’s Park, Clyde or either of the Old Firm. Football’s an important part of my life and I think Higgy was right. Cathkin is like a church for me too.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows in two weeks time.

A special Streets of Glasgow post will appear here on Tuesday.

Loose Ends: The Meadows

The Meadows, a large public park to the south of Edinburgh city centre, is a place I know well, having walked around it many times over the years. It became a part of Loose Ends through Hibs. The last connection, Coldstream, was reached because I was there to see the Cabbage while the Meadows saw the very first game of the fledgling Hibernian Football Club on Christmas Day 1875 against Heart of Midlothian. In the interests of fairness I have to advise that Hearts won by a goal to nil. I was in the Meadows on a beautiful summer’s afternoon and not much football was happening, more people reading, sunbathing, barbecuing, even, in the warm July sunshine. Jazz musicians even made the chilled out feeling audible amidst the mass of humanity. Lots of people being around made taking photos a little difficult since I try to avoid getting people on camera if I can avoid it.

I walked across the Meadows on Jawbone Walk, thinking up possible connections as I went. A nearby mural made me think of Muriel Spark and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, set nearby. Jawbone Walk used to lead to a whale’s jawbone, removed within the last decade, and that could connect to North Berwick Law where a fibreglass replica sits on the top. Essayist and poet Kathleen Jamie wrote about jawbones in one of her essay volumes and that could take me to some other places Jamie has written about like Surgeon’s Hall, Charlotte Square or Orkney, to name but three. That Hibs and Hearts played their first game in the Meadows might lead to Tynecastle. I could see David Hume Tower, part of the University, across the Meadows, also visible from my seat at Easter Road, which might take me back to the Borders and Chirnside which is near where Hume was born. Going up Arthur’s Seat, like an elephant high above, was a possibility. I remembered my own early experiences in the Meadows at the fun fair and a picnic. I went to primary school across the city at Craigentinny, another possibility for an adventure.

A little later I sat nearby in Holyrood Park, writing notes and thinking of my brisk walk through the Meadows. On other days I had lingered longer, thoughts, plans, ideas fuelling circuits around the park, perhaps across Bruntsfield Links and back. I thought about Norman MacCaig, who lived near the Meadows with several of his poems set there. Ideas come in the strangest of places and I often get mine while walking. This walk in a familiar place yielded one or two, more words and another adventure amidst the loose ends to come.

Thank you for reading.

Another Loose Ends adventure follows here next week.

Next post is a Streets of Glasgow post, which will be on Wednesday.

My football blog Easter Road West does have a post today, which is about today’s game against Ross County.

Loose Ends: Coldstream

I love it how a plan comes together. I had come to Coldstream to see the Hibs, not even thinking about Loose Ends or any kind of blogging stuff. Naturally I found a link with the last place, the Bachelors’ Club, through Robert Burns. The poet visited a lot of places in Scotland but it was from Coldstream in May 1787 that Burns set foot in England for the first time, reportedly reciting a few lines for the occasion from ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’:

‘O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent,
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!’

Fair enough, like. I was walking along to the border anyway, or to the middle of the bridge, when I came across an information board about Burns’s visit to Coldstream. Link found, bish, bash, done. I walked to the middle of the bridge, looked up then down, admiring the sweep of the river in the warm July sunshine then headed to the football.

After the game I sat for a bit in Henderson Park, blessed with a braw viewpoint over the Tweed towards the Cheviots. I thought about possible connections with Coldstream. It sits on the Tweed as do quite a few other fine places like Dryburgh Abbey, Melrose and Peebles. The battle of Flodden happened nearby in 1513 and this could lead me to the Flodden Wall in Edinburgh or indeed back to Stirling Castle where the infant James V would soon be crowned King of Scots. The Hirsel, home of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, could take me to places linked to other Scottish Prime Ministers, Fettes where Tony Blair was educated or North Queensferry where Gordon Brown lives. The stone marking General Monck’s crossing of the Tweed on the way to restoring Charles II in 1660 might take me somewhere linked to Charles or indeed Cromwell, such as the Cromwell Harbour in Dunbar. The fact I was in Coldstream to see Hibs could lead to many Hibee-related places like St. Patrick’s Church in the Cowgate, the Meadows or Easter Road itself.

The Loose Ends series has so far led me to quite a few parts of Scotland, some deliberately planned, others – like Coldstream – not all intended. It has involved a lot of buses, trains and expended shoe leather so far. I’m excited for what happens next in this series for hopefully it will be as spontaneous as this adventure gathering the loose ends, perhaps as Hugh MacDiarmid – a Borderer himself – wrote:

‘By naming them and accepting them, 

Loving them and identifying myself with them, 

Attempt to express the whole’.

Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure follows next week.