Saturday Saunter: Books, walls and roads blocking sculptures

Good morning,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written on a dismal Thursday. I have not a scooby what I’ll be doing when this is posted though I imagine I might be out for a walk somewhere. As I start this, I have a Robson Green documentary on in the background. He’s walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall, from east to west, and it’s been all right. I’ve been to a few parts of Hadrian’s Wall and it is showing the rugged landscape particularly well.

Model of the Angel of the North in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge - a silhouetted model of a figure with two large wings protruding from either side. The model is in front of a big window and is also reflected on the walls on either side of it.​
Model of the Angel of the North in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge – a silhouetted model of a figure with two large wings protruding from either side. The model is in front of a big window and is also reflected on the walls on either side of it.

Staying in the north of England, the sculptor Antony Gormley isn’t happy that proposed upgrades to the A1 just south of Newcastle will stop people from properly seeing his best known work, the Angel of the North. I’m not a big fan of Gormley’s work but I do like the Angel of the North, which can be seen from the A1 as well as the East Coast railway line. It’s striking and brings people to the area, as well as being a landmark when travelling north reassuring the weary passenger that home is relatively near. Highways England has said that they will seek to ‘minimise the effect on the landscape’ so who knows what will happen? Hopefully some decent views will still be had.

I read a fair bit though lately I haven’t had much of a plan for what I wanted to read. The last book I finished was a profile of the last ten Prime Ministers by Steve Richards, which was half decent. I don’t have anything in particular lined up. I read a fair few book blogs and I know they have been going into the most exciting books that will come out this year. To be honest, the only book coming out this year which I’m looking forward to reading is the memoir of Pat Nevin, a former footballer. I have a significantly sized pile from last year and probably previous years too, so new books might not feature too much for a while. Near the top is The Unremembered Places: Exploring Scotland’s Wild Histories by Patrick Baker, which I got for Christmas, as is an anthology of Scottish nature writing edited by Kathleen Jamie, Antlers of Water. Also near my bed at the moment are Hibs Through and Through: The Eric Stevenson Story, about a Hibs player who played in the 1960s, and The Little Book of Humanism by Andrew Copson and Alice Roberts, which seems more for delving into than reading from end to end. I usually go with whatever I am in the mood for so I might continue with Snapshot by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie for the next few days.

Our different perspective today is from the historian Christine Whyte who shared some resources to help folk read more about Scotland’s imperial history. Knowing where to start definitely helps.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 30th January 2021. Thanks for reading. There will hopefully be something here on Wednesday. Until then, cheers for now.

Best of 2020

Happy Boxing Day,

Every year, I write a post like this one with the best places I’ve been to during the year. Some years it’s easier than others. This year, despite the pandemic and resulting restrictions, I’ve managed to have some very cool experiences, some life changing, even. We have the usual eight categories this year, which are:

  • Best museum
  • Best gallery
  • Best historic place
  • Best library
  • Best place to watch football
  • Best fish supper
  • Best park
  • Best beach

This year we have two defending champions winning again and four new entries romping home with their categories. There’s even an unlikely winner coming up. Let us begin.

Best museum – London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum - looking down into a museum hall with a tram and a bus amidst museum display cases.​
London Transport Museum – looking down into a museum hall with a tram and a bus amidst museum display cases.

A new entry and the London Transport Museum was excellent. The Hidden London temporary exhibition was tremendous and very well designed. The London Transport Museum is very thorough, with particularly excellent displays about design.

Runner-up – V and A Dundee –

The V and A in Dundee, 2018’s winner, is good and I enjoyed visiting a couple of months ago to wander about the Mary Quant exhibition and being able to wander a very quiet Scottish Design gallery.

Honourable mention – Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow –

Astonishingly, Kelvingrove has never featured in any Best Of. My first visit post-pandemic was excellent, well laid-out and it felt very safe.

Best gallery – Trongate 103, Glasgow

Last year’s winner in this category because of the same exhibition, Oscar Marzaroli. I’ve been at least four times, once post-lockdown, and it’s a superb exhibition.

Runner-up – Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow –

Another post-lockdown visit for a place that’s never featured in a Best Of. The thematic approach to their collection was well-done, including a cool black and white photograph of the old Yankee Stadium in New York.

Honourable mention – Kirkcaldy Galleries –

Kirkcaldy has won this category twice. I was there in February and it did the job. Hopefully I’ll get back there again next year.

Best historic place – Dunblane Cathedral

Dunblane Cathedral - a church surrounded by a graveyard, a bell tower to the left.​
Dunblane Cathedral – a church surrounded by a graveyard, a bell tower to the left.

Dunblane Cathedral is a new entry. It’s a beautiful, interesting church. Go, if you can.

Runner-up – Scone Palace, near Perth –

Another new entry. A guided tour post-lockdown and it was excellent, a good tour and beautiful grounds.

Honourable mention – Dunure Castle, Ayrshire –

New entry again. Dunure Castle is a cool ruin on a cliff in Ayrshire. The setting makes it.

Best library – Any library I work in

Obviously but I can’t think of any other libraries I’ve been in this year.

Best place to watch football – Easter Road Stadium, Edinburgh

Sigh. I particularly remember the atmosphere the night Hibs played Inverness in the Cup. Games are behind closed doors right now so no live football since March. Easter Road has won three times.

Runner-up – Rugby Park, Kilmarnock –

This one is included because of matchday catering, before and after the match. Dinner was in a French restaurant in Glasgow.

Honourable mention – Tannadice Park, Dundee –

My last visit to Tannadice was in January and the sunset was beautiful on the walk back into Dundee city centre.

Best fish supper – Giacopazzi’s, Eyemouth

Purely and simply, the best of this year. I like Eyemouth and the food was superb.

Runner-up – Merchant Chippie, Glasgow –

A new entry and a very decent fish supper, the produce sourced from Pittenweem.

Best park – Pollok Country Park, Glasgow

Pollok House - looking through a doorway to a three-storey country house with topiaries in front of it.​
Pollok House – looking through a doorway to a three-storey country house with topiaries in front of it.

Another new entry but one of the finest parks in Scotland and within walking distance of the house. A fairly regular haunt during lockdown and after. A visit to Pollok House was an autumnal highlight.

Runner-up – Bellahouston Park, Glasgow –

A new entry and another place I have come to know well this year, also within walking distance.

Honourable mention – Greenwich Park, London –

The views across London from Greenwich are incredible, one of the best views of the metropolis.

Best beach – West Bay, North Berwick

West Bay, North Berwick - a harbour with a bay in front of it, a beach curving to the right.​
West Bay, North Berwick – a harbour with a bay in front of it, a beach curving to the right.

I was last in North Berwick in March and it was a cold, bright day. The sand blew with the wind.

Runner-up – Belhaven Beach, Dunbar –

Belhaven is a frequent winner though North Berwick edged it because it was such a perfect day.

That’s the 2020 list, the sixth Best of list so far. Despite the pandemic, I’ve been very lucky to visit some incredible places and have amazing experiences this year. Who knows what 2021 will bring? It’s been fun assembling this list as ever. Until next time, cheers just now.

Saturday Saunter: Trams and museums

Good Saturday to you,

Welcome to another Saturday Saunter, in fact the last one of 2020. Next Saturday, Boxing Day, will be the Best of 2020. The one shockeroonie of this year’s Best Of is that North Berwick, of all places, won one of the categories. A shocking state of affairs. This is the last post I’m writing this year as I take a festive break until 2nd January.

This year has been life-changing in many ways. A lot of things I took for granted at the start of this year, like going to the football or going on a train at the spur of the moment, aren’t possible right now. I’m watching last weekend’s Hamilton Accies-Hibs match and in different circumstances I might have been there. The only fans are peering in through a gap in the stands. This year has seen many of us finding new ways to live and to be with people. A lot of people have suffered this year and when all is said and done, the pandemic will have a long impact. People are now being vaccinated and other vaccinations are being developed. This time next year, the world will be different again. Whether we will see scenes like in China or New Zealand, where life has reached a semblance of normality, we can only hope.

Riverside Museum, Glasgow, taken one summer when the Govan Ferry was in operation - looking across a river to a busy scene, in front of an angular museum building is a tall, galleon ship. To the left, sailing towards a pontoon, is a small blue and white boat.
Riverside Museum, Glasgow, taken one summer when the Govan Ferry was in operation – looking across a river to a busy scene, in front of an angular museum building is a tall, galleon ship. To the left, sailing towards a pontoon, is a small blue and white boat.

A few weeks ago, we were at the Riverside Museum, the fairly new transport museum which sits by the Clyde. It has its detractors but I have come to like it. My favourite part is the recreation of an early 20th century Glasgow street with a pub, shops and Subway station. One time I was there it had posters about the rent strikes in Govan led by Mary Barbour, apposite for the setting and the fact the Riverside is just across the river from Govan and the Mary Barbour statue. The Riverside’s predecessor, the Museum of Transport, which used to be in the Kelvin Hall, also had an old street and it was possibly even better with the Subway feeling just like the Subway used to be up until the 1970s with signs displaying the stops that could be reached from either side of the island platform. It is immortalised in an episode of Still Game called ‘Shooglies’, if you’re interested.

Glasgow had a fairly extensive tram network though it’s pretty much a memory, the remnants found on a few buildings and in the Riverside Museum. Modern trans are a bit space-age and when they’re done right, as in Manchester and Dublin, they’re incredibly useful. I haven’t been to Manchester for a couple of years but I like a turn on the tram, sometimes skating along city streets, others coursing just like a train on tracks behind a fence. I’m thinking about MoSI, the Museum of Science and Industry, which is a particular favourite in Manchester, its engines and displays not only about the past but the present and future. The city’s history gets a good airing and I’ve always liked that they combine more traditional museum displays of stuff and modern interpretation techniques. Their 3D printing exhibition a few years ago was excellent and made the complex seem relatively simple, a difficult art indeed.

I don’t really plan these posts and I certainly didn’t plan to blether about trams and old Glasgow streets! I’m going to draw this to a close with thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers, new and old. The blog will be back next Saturday with the Best of 2020. Until then, have a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate; if you don’t, have a very nice week. To all, keep well, keep safe. A very good morning.

Inbox stuff

It’s Wednesday so here’s a post of stuff that’s been clogging up my inbox in the vain hope it might appear here at some point.

When I was a kid, one trip took me to the Grampian Transport Museum in Alford. Transport museums are usually good value as places of social history, not just big sheds full of buses and trains. Not that big sheds full of buses and trains are bad either, mind. In the days before mobile phones, the AA and the RAC had call boxes across the country for the use of their members to call for assistance. The museum in Alford has one, already a museum piece in the late-1990s. Only 21 AA boxes remain across the UK and indeed three in Wales are listed buildings, including one near Crickhowell, which is cool.

Dunnottar Castle: a castle with a ruined keep to the top right, a roofed building below and a stone wall to the left, all surrounded by cliffs.​
Dunnottar Castle: a castle with a ruined keep to the top right, a roofed building below and a stone wall to the left, all surrounded by cliffs.

Another thing Aberdeenshire has in abundance is castles. Fergus Mutch, an SNP candidate, is part of a group which is floating the notion of turning some castles and historic places into hotels, like the paradores which they have in Spain. The theory is that they would bring jobs and tourism while preserving historic buildings. I’m in two minds about it. I like castles. I like ruined castles particular. Pastiches of buildings can be awful and more like a theme park than something that fits into the landscape and works with the fabric of the building. It’s an interesting idea and we’ll see what comes of it.

I haven’t used a train in a good few weeks. I live near the railway so I know that trains still exist at least. The charity Leonard Cheshire has said that 46% of Scotland’s 361 railway stations are not accessible for disabled people. That doesn’t surprise me at all – there are quite a few stations in Scotland which require stairs to access at least one of the platforms. One of my local stations is one of them, despite being in suburban Glasgow and near a hospital. Transport Scotland has said that it is working to remedy this at six stations around Scotland though it will seemingly take until 2070 at current levels to make every station in the country fully accessible. That is nowhere near good enough. Public transport is supposed to be for all the public and so it should be. There will hopefully come a point, after the pandemic has passed, when people use trains and buses and everything again, and making them more accessible will only bring in more people.

In recent months, I have been doing my best to use independent bookshops and suppliers rather than a certain big company. You know the one I mean. Wonderfully, in the midst of lockdown, bookshops have reinvented themselves in order to deliver books to the masses, including one here in Glasgow by skateboard and, as the Guardian wrote a week or two ago, a bookseller traversing the streets of Milan by bike. Luca Santini has done this since 2013, which in itself is remarkable, making a mobile shop work better than a physical presence in an actual building. My favourite quote features Luca Santini’s thoughts on Amazon: ‘I practically do what they do, and often I’m faster than them’. Quality. Less carbon emissions too. Better for the environment.

That’s my inbox a bit less cluttered, at least for a wee while. The last Saturday Saunter of 2020 appears here on Saturday so stay tuned for that. Until then, cheers just now. Peace.

A picture triptych

A picture triptych for us tonight, three pictures from the blog archive of past adventures and hopefully inspiring future ones too. We begin in Perth, possibly the night Ofir Marciano got sent off…

McDiarmid Park: a floodlight tower shining light on an otherwise black sky with two football stands on either side.
McDiarmid Park: a floodlight tower shining light on an otherwise black sky with two football stands on either side.

There are times I miss going to the football. I was going to cut back anyway, even before the pandemic, but watching a game on the telly just isn’t the same. It’s so easy to glance at a phone and miss a moment, plus the sensory experience, the sights, sounds and all else, cannot come through the TV screen. Plus when your team has drawn when they should have won, or they’ve just gotten gubbed, the journey home helps to soothe and bring perspective, a lot harder when you’re in the house already and it’s time to make the tea.

One of my favourite away trips is McDiarmid Park, Perth, home of St. Johnstone. The long trudge to McDiarmid is usually preceded by a decent dinner, thankfully, especially before a night game. Even in the cold, high floodlights shining down are an incredible sight. Saturday at 3 is when football should be but a game under the lights can be special too.

Statue facing Bass Rock: a statue of a man holding a pair of binoculars facing out to sea with a white island in the centre of the image.
Statue facing Bass Rock: a statue of a man holding a pair of binoculars facing out to sea with a white island in the centre of the image.

The Bass Rock looks different from every angle. From Fife, the Bass is a rotting molar; Dunbar, curved cliffs with a lighthouse. It’s closest to North Berwick, where the lighthouse can be seen but the rock faces the other way, out to sea. By the Seabird Centre in North Berwick is a statue of a man with binoculars looking out. It’s only been there for a few years and I like it. Some people find being by the sea oppressive and limiting but I really don’t. The sea is what’s beyond the horizon, not just the horizon itself. It’s birds, fish, all manner of wildlife, boats and what passes by, trade or folk on cruises, maybe. I grew up by the sea but I now live in a city and I miss it. It’s pictures like these that make me smile and plan a trip, even if it can’t materialise quite yet.

Train signs in National Museum of Scotland: curved signs for railway stations. From top to bottom are Dalmally, Garve, Carstairs, Barassie (which is obscured), Stonehaven, Addiewell and North Berwick.
Train signs in National Museum of Scotland: curved signs for railway stations. From top to bottom are Dalmally, Garve, Carstairs, Barassie (which is obscured), Stonehaven, Addiewell and North Berwick.

North Berwick also features in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, in the form of a train station up the stairs on the object wall. It’s the only one of the stations I’ve actually stopped at – life hasn’t taken me to Dalmally, Garve, Carstairs, Barassie, Stonehaven or Addiewell, at least not to get off a train in these places. The urge to go on a train somewhere far has receded over the last few months. My last big trip was London in February. Train videos on YouTube suffice for now. Hopefully there will soon come a time when we can travel once more without restriction, even without a face mask. Until then, it’s YouTube for me.

That’s our triptych. An inbox clearing post will be here next Wednesday and the Saturday Saunter returns this coming Saturday. Until then, cheers just now. Peace.

Saturday Saunter: Cemeteries, books and history

Good Saturday to you all,

Welcome back to another Saturday Saunter, this time being written not too long in advance on Tuesday. As I start this, I only have a vague inkling of what to write beyond the first paragraph so this could be interesting!

I’ve written here before about the journalist Peter Ross who chronicles the lives of interesting people across Scotland. He’s brought out a new book, A Tomb With A View, which is about cemeteries. It features a few familiar graveyards, including the Necropolis in Glasgow and Warriston and Greyfriars in Edinburgh, as well as others further afield in London, Dublin and Belfast, delving with sensitivity into their stories and the lives of their denizens both living and dead. The bit about ossuaries I would rather have missed, frankly, but that’s because I don’t particularly like skulls. The preface about walking in cemeteries during the early days of the pandemic particularly resonated as I sometimes did the same thing. The Easter Rising keyrings and the Eamon de Valera mugs on sale at Glasnevin in Dublin sound spectacularly tacky.

Over the weekend I was away so didn’t read that much. What I did read were the September entries from Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin. I haven’t delved into that particular favourite for a while and Roger’s jottings were particularly soothing, about fields, trees and much else besides. I did buy books over the weekend, though – Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty, and the Grampian Quartet by Nan Shepherd, the latter bought in a second hand bookshop in St. Andrews. Dara McAnulty is a young autistic man from the north of Ireland who writes compellingly about his local area and conservation more widely. I hope to read his book more properly soon.

A white wall featuring illustrations of various people wearing face masks hugging each other.
A white wall featuring illustrations of various people wearing face masks hugging each other.

The Dundee V and A is a very fine museum and I had the pleasure to be there this past weekend. The Mary Quant exhibition was on and that was fine, featuring many dresses and the stories of those who wore them. One thing that caught my attention elsewhere was on a corridor wall, drawings by Eleni Kalorkuti called ‘Reimagining the hug’, featuring face mask-wearing people hugging; the illustrations sought to ‘adjust behaviour to connect safely’. A hug from a special someone can’t be beat, it really can’t, but in these socially-distanced times, we are continuing to find new ways to connect with our loved ones.

Historic Environment Scotland are running a new campaign to get Scots talking about heritage, asking about childhood favourite stories and places. The picture which accompanies the HES Facebook post is of Hailes Castle not far from where I grew up in East Lothian and a place I went to as a kid. A place I went to as a kid, and hope to see again soon, is Linlithgow Palace, which is just a great place to roam, complete enough but still ruined with fine views over hills, the Peel and the loch.

Our interesting perspective is about a movement in the Shawlands and Battlefield areas of Glasgow to put up murals in support of Black Lives Matter. One, by a cafe called Jodandy’s in Pollokshaws Road, depicts Andrew Wilson, the first black international footballer. I’m going to have to see it soon.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 3rd October 2020. Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow will be here on Wednesday. After that the blog will be on hiatus until Wednesday 21st October. There might be a book recommendation or two on the blog Twitter feed too. Until then, have a nice weekend. Keep well, keep safe. Bye for now.

Virtual Loose Ends IX: Statues, graffiti and Victoria

Welcome to this final instalment of Virtual Loose Ends, a connections adventure around Scotland but done on a screen. By the time this is posted (I am writing this in late June 2020), it might be possible to visit some or more of these places once more.

Oscar Marzaroli statue: statues of three boys on a city street, one stood upright in the centre, two on either side, all three wearing high heels.
Oscar Marzaroli statue: statues of three boys on a city street, one stood upright in the centre, two on either side, all three wearing high heels.

We left off last time at the Girl With A Backpack statue on Cumberland Street in the Gorbals in Glasgow. Along the street is a set of sculptures by Liz Peden of three boys wearing high heel shoes out in the street, based on a famous Oscar Marzaroli photograph taken nearby. I rather like the photograph and have a postcard of it beside me as I write.

Gorbals Vampire mural: a mural on an arch depicting a vampire stood in a graveyard with red eyes and hand outstretched. Above are the words 'The Gorbals Vampire' and below some historical details.
Gorbals Vampire mural: a mural on an arch depicting a vampire stood in a graveyard with red eyes and hand outstretched. Above are the words ‘The Gorbals Vampire’ and below some historical details.

Also close by is a mural of the Gorbals Vampire. The Gorbals Vampire was an urban legend of a creature who would come from the Southern Necropolis and come after children. The mural is of a more recent vintage and adorns an arch under a railway.

Dundee Pasteurised Milk Park: a park with a wall in the middle with elaborate graffiti, mostly in red and black.
Dundee Pasteurised Milk Park: a park with a wall in the middle with elaborate graffiti, mostly in red and black.

The DPM park is in Dundee, near the Hilltown and the football grounds. It is a legal graffiti spot, adorned with some amazing and creative art. I believe art can be found everywhere and can be created by virtually any means, be it a paintbrush or a spray can. DPM stands for Dundee Pasteurised Milk, which used to be made on the site. Nearby, incidentally, is a great mural of Oor Wullie talking about mental health, which is well worth a visit too.

Firhill Stadium is the home of Partick Thistle FC, the only team in Glasgow as they often proclaim. The only one in League 1 at the time of writing, certainly. They have a cool mural on the wall which leads up to the Jackie Husband Stand at Firhill, which features fans, a ball and general football scenes. It links with the DPM Park not only because of the art but also because the DPM is near Tannadice and Dens Park.

St Mirren Scottish Cup mural: a mural featuring a trophy in the centre with 19 and 87 and either side of the base. Around either side are male figures, one with arms outstretched.
St Mirren Scottish Cup mural: a mural featuring a trophy in the centre with 19 and 87 and either side of the base. Around either side are male figures, one with arms outstretched.

Brown’s Lane in Paisley also features street art and indeed art relating to football. St Mirren won the Scottish Cup in 1987 and this feat is depicted on the wall in Brown’s Lane as well as musicians, since the Bungalow music venue is nearby, and much else besides. It’s worth exploring the street art in Paisley but particularly the lane.

Famous Five Stand, Easter Road Stadium: looking across a football pitch towards a two-tiered stand curving to the centre at the left. The stand, as do the two stands to its left and right, has mostly green seats.
Famous Five Stand, Easter Road Stadium: looking across a football pitch towards a two-tiered stand curving to the centre at the left. The stand, as do the two stands to its left and right, has mostly green seats.

Another place which depicts the Scottish Cup is the Famous Five Stand at Easter Road Stadium, home of Hibernian Football Club who won the 2016 Scottish Cup. I don’t think I mention that here enough. A panel featuring club captain Sir David Gray and Lewis Stevenson lifting the cup hangs on the side of the stand. The Famous Five Stand is at the northern end of the stadium, built in 1995. The Famous Five were a notably successful forward line for Hibs during the 1940s and 1950s, comprising Gordon Smith, Eddie Turnbull, Willie Ormond, Lawrie Reilly and Bobby Johnstone. The Hibernian Historical Trust has done a lot of work showcasing the history of the club around the ground and the lower concourse of the Famous Five has a plaque about James Main, a Hibs player in the 1900s who died of a ruptured bowel the day after being kicked in the stomach during a game.

Queen Victoria statue, Leith Walk: near the bottom of the image is a statue of a regal woman on a plinth on a city street. Around are a shopping precinct, lampposts and traffic lights.
Queen Victoria statue, Leith Walk: near the bottom of the image is a statue of a regal woman on a plinth on a city street. Around are a shopping precinct, lampposts and traffic lights.

On the open-top bus route when Hibs win a trophy is the statue of Queen Victoria, which stands at the bottom of Leith Walk outside what used to be Woolworths. The statue is one of very few of women in the capital. Indeed there are more statues of dogs than women in Edinburgh, which surely, surely should be remedied.

V and A Dundee: a museum on the left, smart with grey panels, shaped like a ship. To the left a ship. The sky is mostly grey, dramatic with a hint of orange on the horizon.
V and A Dundee: a museum on the left, smart with grey panels, shaped like a ship. To the left a ship. The sky is mostly grey, dramatic with a hint of orange on the horizon.

Victoria and her husband Albert gave their name to a museum in Kensington in London, which in 2018 opened a branch dedicated to design…in Dundee.

That’s Virtual Loose Ends. Thanks so much for reading. I’m not sure what will be here next week but something there will hopefully be. Until then, keep safe. A very good afternoon.

Virtual Loose Ends VII: Bridges and memorials

Welcome to another instalment of Virtual Loose Ends. This whistle-stop tour is a virtual connections adventure around Scotland. We left off last time at Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow. We will continue, by dint of geography, at the Hunterian Museum, part of the University of Glasgow. The nearby cloisters featured in the post last week but I was clever enough to be specific about the place. The Hunterian Museum is one of the oldest museums in Scotland, the collection of William Hunter featuring art, anatomy and geology amongst other things. The Hunterian is particularly old-fashioned in its design with a balcony and I’m fond of its old-school anatomy charts. There is also the Art Gallery across the road, which has an excellent collection of Scottish Colourists.

Cramond Island is an island in the Firth of Forth, accessible depending on the tide over a causeway. It has some World War II-vintage defences including triangular defences across the causeway. I’ve been there a couple of times though always make sure I look up the tide times lest I be cut off. It happens a lot.

Considerable views can be had from Cramond Island towards the north of Edinburgh, Fife and along the Firth of Forth, including to the Forth Bridge. There are three bridges at Queensferry, the new Queensferry Crossing, the Forth Road Bridge and the real thing, the Forth Bridge. It is one of my favourite structures in the entire world, metal and overdesigned but gorgeous. Sadly I don’t cross it very often any more but I always feel my spirits rise when I see it or indeed cross it.

On the same railway line is the Tay Bridge, opened in 1887. It was the second railway bridge to cross the Tay, of course, with the first washed away in a storm in 1879, which, as William McGonagall noted, ‘will be remembered for a very long time’. From the Dundee end it is possible to see stumps from the old bridge, running almost parallel to the 1887 bridge. It winds across the Tay from Wormit right to the centre of Dundee. On a particularly long train it is possible to see the other end of the train out the window as the train turns into Dundee.

The Clyde Arc is rarely called that in Glasgow, instead being called ‘the squinty bridge’ because it looks like an eye. It passes from Cessnock to Finnieston, near the BBC and STV on the southern side, the SEC on the north. It was built in 2006 as part of a continuing redevelopment of the riverside area in the city. The Arc is a handsome structure and adds considerably to the cityscape.

Along the Clyde is the People’s Palace, the museum of the people of Glasgow. Its displays about how people lived and thought are excellent and the video of Glaswegian comedy is always worth a look, particularly for Parliamo Glasgow.

Outside the People’s Palace is a more recent addition to Glasgow Green. Our city and country was changed utterly by migration, particularly because of famine in Ireland and the Highlands. An upturned boat and plants stand amidst some interpretation boards and the names of families and places on the path.

That’s another instalment of Virtual Loose Ends done. Next week we will continue a little way away and continue towards some castles. Until then, keep safe. Bye just now.

 

Virtual Loose Ends VI: Winching statues, harbours and museums

Welcome to another Virtual Loose Ends, the sixth instalment which will once more criss-cross the country in an entirely virtual and socially distant way.

Riverside Museum: looking across a grey river towards a tall ship and a museum with a spiked roof.

We left off two weeks ago at the Mary Barbour statue in Govan. It connects geographically to the Riverside Museum, Glasgow’s transport museum, which features cars, trains, buses and social history of many kinds. My favourite part, as with the old museum in the Kelvin Hall, is the recreated street, which last time I was there had posters about rent strikes, another connection with Mary Barbour. The street has a pub, cafe, shops and a Subway station.

Summerlee: looking through a gate with Summerlee written in capital letters towards industrial buildings and tram lines.

Another transport museum, and place with recreated streets, is Summerlee, in Coatbridge. Summerlee is excellent with exhibitions about the local area and its industries as well as local life, sport, religion, leisure and much else besides. The last time I was there they had an exhibition about Albion Rovers, the local football team, with some cracking black-and-white photographs chronicling life at Cliftonhill.

Morrison’s Haven: looking through weeds towards the outline of a harbour filled-in and now covered in grass.

The Summerlee company also owned Prestongrange, a mine, brickworks and many other things in East Lothian. The nearby harbour, Morrison’s Haven, has since been filled in though boats took coal, bricks and other products out to the world, once busier than the port of Leith a wee bit further up the Forth. Morrison’s Haven was filled in when Cockenzie Power Station was built in the 1960s and it is a particularly fine place to walk, as I like to do when in the area.

Kirkcaldy Galleries: an elaborate sculpture of a tower with doors and fish sticking out of them. Behind are paintings of pastoral and seaside scenes.

From Morrison’s Haven it is possible to get great views across the Forth, to Edinburgh and Fife. Kirkcaldy can be seen and a must whenever I’m there is Kirkcaldy Galleries, the museum, art gallery and library, which has an excellent art collection particularly, with Glasgow Boys, Colourists and William McTaggart represented. It also has locally made Wemyss Ware on display, linking to the industries on the other side of the Forth, made at Prestongrange, Macmerry and Portobello particularly.

Wincher’s Stance: a statue of a man and a woman in a romantic embrace, set amidst a bus station.

To get to Kirkcaldy from Glasgow requires a bus, passing through Buchanan bus station in the heart of the city. In the bus station, apart from buses, is a statue by John Clinch of a couple embracing after a long separation. It is called the Wincher’s Stance, winching being Glaswegian for kissing. I suspect lots of similar gatherings have taken place there at one time or another.

Glasgow University cloisters: pillars with a curved roof above.

Near to the bus station is Glasgow Caledonian University. Another higher education institution, Glasgow University, used to be based in the city centre before moving to the West End. Its buildings are Gothic and grand, the cloisters like being in a cathedral. I particularly like to stand in them for a wee while whenever I’m in the area.

Kelvingrove Park: a view across a park with brightly coloured, autumn trees towards a tall tower.

The University of Glasgow overlooks Kelvingrove Park. Kelvingrove Park stretches through the West End of Glasgow and has high and low parts. The views from Park Circus, high towards Charing Cross and the city centre, are particularly outstanding, a perspective right across the city and beyond.

Well, that’s another Virtual Loose Ends done. Thanks so much for reading. Next week we will continue in the West End before venturing forth once more. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.

Loose Ends Redux: Caledonia Road Church-V and A Dundee

Good afternoon to you,

I started doing Loose Ends Redux back in March when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write, only that I needed something easy to put together. It’s been nice to revisit past adventures but as they are getting much more recent – and readers remember the original post – I’ve decided to curtail it here. This super post will contain thoughts on the most recent round of Loose Ends, just to get it done so I can post something else. Next week will be the start of Virtual Loose Ends, a virtual journey around Scotland with brand new connections. Starting at Aberdour Castle and ending at the V and A in Dundee like the series did, I’ve pieced together some places that didn’t feature in the original, finding connections between them. Some I’ve been to lots of times, others only once or in the passing. That comes next week.

This post will include:

Caledonia Road Church

Arandora Star Memorial Garden

Leith Links

Charlotte Square Gardens

Agassiz Rock

Blackford Hill Rocks

Arden Street

Espedair Street

Glasgow Central Station

Kibble Palace

George Square

Donald Dewar statue

La Pasionaria statue

Billy Connolly mural

Mitchell Street mural

Fisherrow Fishermen

Rottenrow

Creel Loaders statue

DunBear

Abandon Ship

V and A Dundee

Caledonia Road Church: looking up towards a ruined church with a tower to the left and a smart Grecian top with pillars. Weeds are growing from the middle of the level of the building.

The Caledonia Road Church is a ruined church designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It has been a ruin since the 1960s and it is one of Glasgow’s great curiosities. I went there straight from Queen’s Park and wandered, looked and took photos.

Arandora Star Memorial Garden: an urban garden with a tree to the left and mirrors arranged on a patio area to the right. Behind is a red apartment building and a breezeblock wall with some plaques on it. 

The Arandora Star Memorial Garden is in the grounds of St. Andrew’s RC Cathedral by the Clyde. It connected from Caledonia Road through religion. The garden is a memorial to those who perished when the Arandora Star was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland in 1940. Italian and German internees bound for Canada were on the ship. 805 people were killed. The garden is a beautiful memorial to this event and a reminder of how we should never judge people for their origins, only what they make of themselves.

Leith Links: a path underneath some trees in a park. A red curved building is to the right.

Leith Links came about because I had a Proclaimers song called ‘Scotland’s Story’ in my head. It mentions internees and Leith. I was in the capital for football and to go to an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I sat there, ate my lunch then went to the game. It’s amazing, writing this in June 2020 as movements are restricted, how remote that feels.

Charlotte Square Gardens: the back end of a statue of a man on a horse. Statue figures are gathered at the base. On ground level are trees and tents, one advertising the New York Times.

Charlotte Square Gardens lies empty most of the year. Only in August – in normal circumstances – is it opened, housing the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I was there in August and so I sat, read, wrote, bought books and went to an event. It linked to Leith Links because of geography.

Agassiz Rock: a rocky outcrop with a tree atop a rock in the foreground. To the left is an area of rock with graffiti on it. 

Blackford Hill Rocks: layers of geological rock with trees above.

At the time I was reading a book about geology. That was how I linked Charlotte Square to the Agassiz Rock, in the shadow of Blackford Hill in the south of Edinburgh, named after Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz who did some fieldwork there. On the way back into the city I came to other rocks, which linked to the Agassiz Rock by geography.

Arden Street: an urban street with identical grey and yellow tenement buildings on either side and at the end. A blue sky with some white clouds above.

On the very same Sunday I walked back into Edinburgh city centre and came down Arden Street, the street where Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus lives. I linked it to Blackford Hill through books. Arden Street was bright and sunny and no sign of Rebus’s beaten-up Saab.

Espedair Street: an urban street with buildings on either side. The building to the left is yellow with satellite dishes on it. To the right are buildings of various sizes, some yellow, brown or white.

Espedair Street is in Paisley, a little south of the town centre. It’s residential, with a ghost sign and a park behind. I know it a bit better since I did Loose Ends as someone I know stays near there. It linked to Arden Street since Espedair Street is the title of a book by Iain Banks.

Glasgow Central Station: looking up towards a glass roof of a railway station with buildings curving to the left, including a Costa Coffee shop. 

Glasgow Central Station is the busiest railway station in Scotland. I haven’t been there since March at time of writing. It is a grand station, fronted by a hotel, with trains going to England and across western Scotland. I had to look up the link I found from Espedair Street:

‘Central had a tenuous link to Espedair Street through the works of Iain Banks. As well as Espedair Street, he also wrote The Bridge. Bridge, railway, station, Central Station.’

Kibble Palace: inside a bright glasshouse with ferns amidst the pillars and a sculpture of a woman in side profile with her hand on her chin in the centre.

The Kibble Palace is in Glasgow Botanic Gardens. There used to be a railway station in the Glasgow Botanics and that was the link from Central. I was there in October just as there was about to be a light show in the Botanics. The Kibble Palace is a greenhouse with temperate plants, sculptures and benches. I like to sit there and read from time to time.

George Square: looking up at a grand building with a tall tower in the centre and two smaller towers to the left and right. A lit-up stencil of a Christmas tree is at the left of the image.

George Square was the next link late one afternoon. George Square houses the headquarters of Glasgow City Council, who manage the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. It is a city square with statues, restaurants, traffic and pigeons. I like to sit there and peoplewatch, sometimes to eat lunch on a nice day.

Donald Dewar statue: the statue of a tall man wearing a suit. The man is balding with glasses. Behind is a building with a city crest and the words ‘The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’. On the glass frontage of the building is the reflection of part of a shop sign for John Lewis.

Donald Dewar was the first First Minister of Scotland, a Labour politician who represented Glasgow and did a lot of work to establish the Scottish Parliament. He died suddenly in 2000 and his statue sits at the top of Buchanan Street in Glasgow. The statue linked to George Square by geography.

La Pasionaria statue: a statue of a woman with her arms aloft. Below is a quote ‘Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live For Ever On Your Knees’. Below that is information paying tribute to volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

Billy Connolly mural: a mural on the gable end of a city building depicting a man with tousled hair with one arm pointing up and one pointing down. Behind him is the sea.

Mitchell Street mural: a mural on the end of a city building featuring a woman looking through a magnifying glass towards people between her fingers.

La Pasionaria is a statue by the Clyde put there by various groups including the Labour Party to commemorate those Glaswegians who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. At time of writing, it is one of four statues of women in Glasgow. It links to Donald Dewar by being a statue in Glasgow as well as through Labour. I did this while on the way into town one December Sunday.

Around the corner is one of the murals of comedian Billy Connolly, this one painted by Jack Vettriano, depicting the Big Yin being blown about on the Caithness coast. It is public art in Glasgow, as with the next link, the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids mural of a woman with a magnifying glass. It sits on the end of a building on Mitchell Street, a back street not far away from the Clyde.

Fisherrow Fishermen: two sculptures of two men on a rock. 

The next link was a sculpture by Gardner Molloy of two fishermen by Fisherrow Harbour in East Lothian. I was there early in the New Year on a dismal, dreich day. It is public art and I like it. The walk from Portobello to Prestongrange blew cobwebs away, I have to say.

Rottenrow: sculpture of a nappy pin with city buildings behind.

Rottenrow used to house Glasgow’s maternity hospital and is now a park with only part of the hospital’s exterior remaining. It also has a sculpture of a nappy pin. It links to Fisherrow through the word ‘row’, pure and simple. I remember this day for other reasons. It was an early January Saturday and I had been in Paisley for business before going to Kelvingrove to see the Linda McCartney photography exhibition before it closed.

Creel Loaders: a sculpture of three people, two men and one woman. The woman is carrying a basket on her head. To the left and right are residential streets.

‘Row’ also provided the connection to the Creel Loaders statue on Victoria Street in Dunbar, Victoria Street formerly housing a row of houses called the Cat’s Row. The Creel Loaders statue, sculpted again by Gardner Molloy, marks the fishing industry of the burgh, creels of fish and shellfish often taken long distaes over the hills.

DunBear sculpture: a metal sculpture of a brown bear stood atop a plinth with a dramatic sky behind. 

The new DunBear sculpture of a bear sits in a field under Doon Hill on the outskirts of Dunbar. It links to the Creel Loaders by geography. I was there that same January Sunday and it took a few minutes for it to be free of people enough for me to get some photos. I quite like it though of Andy Scott’s sculptures, I prefer the Kelpies.

Abandon Ship: some street art on the doorway of a building featuring a ship and some lavishly illustrated plants with the words ‘Abandon Ship’ in the top left.

V and A Dundee: looking through an archway with water either side of the path towards a river with a bridge stretching to land on the other side.

The DunBear is dedicated to John Muir, who sailed across to America on a ship. The Abandon Ship art is on the wall outside a pub in Dundee and I noticed it on the bus into the city. I liked it and realised it connected just dandily with the bear and with the last connection of the current round, which was across the road. The V and A is fairly new, a ship-shaped museum jutting into the Tay. From the museum it is possible to get a great panorama up and down the Tay, to Broughty Ferry, Fife and up into Perthshire. It seemed the right place to pause.

That is the end of the Loose Ends Redux. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Next week will come a brand-new virtual adventure, beginning in Aberdour. Until then, keep safe. Cheers just now.