Morrison’s Haven

Morrison’s Haven
I’ve written a few times here about Prestongrange, a mining museum in East Lothian where I worked for a few years and for which I have a deep and lasting affection. Some of them are My somewhere, Pans, Being autistic in a museum (again) and Books. I get there every few months, usually spending about an hour just wandering around the grounds, by the Beam Engine and the Powerhouse before circling around the Hoffman Kiln. Before I go onto the site, I usually spend a while walking around Morrison’s Haven, once one of the busiest ports in Scotland, the rival to Leith just up the Forth that once had vessels carrying coal, bricks and much else besides from Prestongrange to all parts of the British Isles and even abroad. It was filled in as part of a land reclamation project in the 1950s with rubbish and rubble from the mines and surrounding communities. Today there are some traces of the harbour, including banking and the harbour mouths, and there are some boards put up by the Prestongrange Community Archaeology Project showing boys swimming in the harbour in times gone by. Due to the mine being nearby, the harbour water was very often warm, apparently.

Looking towards Edinburgh
I was there just the other day, as normal getting off the bus just into Prestonpans and walking back towards Prestongrange along the coast. It was a gorgeous afternoon, in the midst of a heatwave, and I relished being right by the Forth and looking across to Fife, the sea quite calm and just enough clouds across the sky to make it not absolutely roasting. I ended up sitting on a rock for about half an hour, doing some sunbathing and practising mindfulness. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on each element of the sounds around me in turn, from the waves to the wind to the cars on the coast road nearby. I tend to have a lot of mental chatter and just being able to focus on one thing and let my brain quieten down was utterly brilliant, even just for a bit.


After I walked around Prestongrange, I headed for the bus stop. I’ve stood at that bus stop many times, often for a fair bit of time when ostensibly there should be a bus every ten minutes heading into Edinburgh. There are many worse places to stand, though, with a view across Morrison’s Haven to the Fife coast and towards Seafield, Leith and the Pentland Hills. Similarly there’s a broad view with the top of the bus usually visible over the trees nearer Sammy Burns’s yard. Every time I’m there, I always think back to those days when I stood there on the way home, in the rain and the sunshine, after days of seeing noone as much as event days when hundreds of people passed through.

As I crossed the railway tracks towards the old glassworks, I thought about living in the west of Scotland. I have a deep familiarity and love for Prestongrange. I know a lot about the place, as I do about Dunbar, even Edinburgh. I’ve lived in Glasgow for four years. I have been writing about it for a while now and it is home geographically and in many other senses. But I don’t feel it in my bones and my soul as much as I do the east. It is happening, though. I love the west. There are places here I have come to deeply love – Cathkin Park, Pollok Park, Prestwick Beach, Culzean – but the deep knowledge comes from spending a lot of time in a place. Time is on my side, though, as I don’t plan to leave here any time soon. Being a visitor to Prestongrange, as I now am to Dunbar, means a trip through there is now a treat, something to be savoured and the feeling of being back on solid ground stays with me for a good few days. It starts when I get off the bus at Morrison’s Haven and doesn’t go even when I step back on it and head back into Edinburgh and then for home. The best places you leave behind physically never actually leave you. Even with distance, they stay deep inside, memories returning once we return or when far away and we smile and look in that direction. It was good to be back.

Site of the glassworks at Prestongrange
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Railway signs

There are some day trips when I take loads of photographs, others not so many. Only a fraction get used on this blog while others only exist to make me smile, to ignite a memory or as a reminder of an idea for later. One day trip last year when I took far more photographs than ever appeared here was the day I went to York. Being a details guy, I love signage and the National Railway Museum has absolutely loads dotted about the place, some more obvious than others. I have been there maybe seven or eight times and every time I see many new things. That particular day was great. I remember unsuccessfully trying to take a selfie beside the sign for the NRM’s library, which is wonderfully named Search Engine. (Serves me right for trying to take a selfie.) Anyway, here are some photographs of some of the very fine signs around the National Railway Museum in York. Hopefully I’ll be back there soon.

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Clipboards

I feel bad. This post was written absolutely yonks ago, well back in January, and it has been pushed back and pushed back as other things have been written and jumped the queue. So, I am publishing this tonight and another post I wrote ages ago tomorrow night. I have a great backlog of stuff to go up and at this rate I could publish it all and not write anything until September, which isn’t going to happen. Without further ado, here’s a post about a museum visit.

The other day I was reading a post on a museum blog entitled ‘I Really Hate Clipboards’, which brought back a powerful childhood memory. I went to primary school in Edinburgh, in a special needs unit, and we were taken one day to the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street, particularly to the bit that had just recently opened on the corner of Chambers Street and George IV Bridge. (I still think of this part, which used to be called the Museum of Scotland, as the ‘new’ bit despite the fact the bit formerly known as the Royal Museum, the ‘old’ museum, has now been redone and is now very much newer.) We were issued with clipboards with questions and prompts of things to look out for. I remember being in the Beginnings section in the basement, the bit with lots of dioramas and taxidermy just before it gets interesting with Pictish stones and torcs, and being bored out of my skull clutching this clipboard and a pencil. Afterwards my teacher asked me what I thought of the day and I said I hated it because of this wretched clipboard, to which she replied that she thought I would like it and it had been done partly for my benefit.

Even back then (I was 9), I was bright and curious, happy just to wander and take in what was there. A clipboard completely changed how I saw the museum. I am of the view that a learning experience, such as it is, can happen anywhere. I can think of more history I learned stomping about castles and museums than I did in a classroom. I know that schools have experiences and outcomes to meet, bits to tick off forms for the benefit of school inspectors, councils and the government, but the world is beyond the wit of the Curriculum for Excellence or 5-14 as it was when I was a boy. I have worked in museums and I know that museum education is an artform. Many people do it very well, including National Museums Scotland. They know how to engage people and clipboards aren’t the answer, for kids like I was or anyone else.

Glasgow Women’s Library

I’ve never met a library I haven’t liked. I’ve been in many of them, worked in more than a few too, and in each one I ever visit, I always feel the same sense of contentment in the presence of collected knowledge. I never feel anxious in a library but that might be because of my background working in them as well as the still sense of order in each one.

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Recently I went to the Glasgow Women’s Library, which sits in Bridgeton in the East End. The GWL has been on my radar for a while – what I heard of its work, from colleagues and library users, impressed me immensely. Libraries open up worlds for people that they didn’t know existed and the GWL has a very broad collection of works by female writers as well as museum and archive collections on politics, lesbian issues and the National Museum of Roller Derby. They also provide outreach sessions and workshops for women from all sorts of backgrounds on all sorts of things. All this I was broadly aware of before I walked into the place but what I was struck by was its friendliness. Within moments, my friend and I were welcomed, offered a cup of tea and whisked away for a tour. Many people have an image of libraries as rather forbidding, unapproachable sorts of places and those who work in them as much the same, a perception many of us are trying our hardest to change. The GWL lives up to its credo as expressed on the A-frame at the door: ‘We Are Open To Everyone’. Even me, the only guy in the place, a fact I only noticed well into the time we were there.

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The tour included the museum store, all climate-controlled as befits a collection which is recognised as a nationally significant collection by the Scottish Government. JA and I are both museum geeks so getting into a store with its boxes all carefully accessioned and labelled is a rare treat. The mezzanine level houses some of the older and rarer books, including one I spotted about Jane Welsh Carlyle, wife of the Victorian intellectual Thomas Carlyle and a writer and thinker in her own right. Jane hailed from Haddington in East Lothian, in fact the house where she was born is across a narrow close from the town’s library.

The main lending library was naturally where I had to be next, to look at their collection, which wasn’t organised by Dewey, rather by subject with Drama, Poetry and Politics rather than a series of numbers with a decimal point attached for good measure. The books were kept in place with blocks marked with the names of writers, though most poignantly the Politics section had a block bearing the name of Jo Cox, the MP who was assassinated last year. I saw lots of books I would have loved to just sit and read, including a biography of the very versatile and prolific Scottish writer Naomi Mitchison. Time, alas, precludes such pleasures.

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Nan Shepherd wrote that ‘it is a grand thing to get leave to live’. Libraries give us leave to live. One of the greatest pleasures of being in a library is having your mind blown by something you read. Even better still is working in a library because of the people you find there, the kind that boil the blood as much as those who become more like friends. Libraries are open to everyone and I have never failed to feel comfortable in any of them I’ve ever encountered. Not everyone feels that way and that must change. The Glasgow Women’s Library is a truly special place and I am proud that this city, my city, is its home. Their work in sharing literature and stories makes people feel part of something, a movement, a collective where no one is alone. Theirs is an open door in an often closed world. It must be cherished and celebrated, now more than ever.

Thanks for reading. In the next couple of months, I will be publishing the 300th post here on Walking Talking. To celebrate that milestone, I would like to open it up to suggestions. If anyone has any suggestions for the 300th post, put them in the comments box or contact me in another way if you know how. We have one suggestion already but I am open to others.

Ten days off

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Some popular places

Last week I wrote about the latest visitor figures for the country’s leading attractions, with the National Museum of Scotland top of the pile north of the border, closely followed by Edinburgh Castle. In that post I wrote about the places on the list I hadn’t been to, all five of them. In this post, which could be a lot longer, I will write a wee bit about the ones pictured in the BBC News story and some of the others higher up the list, beginning with the National Museum.

National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh:

NMS is quite simply the best museum in Scotland and a place I’ve spent many happy hours over many years. I know people who go to spin the prayer wheels or to see particular objects but nothing else. For what it’s worth, I make a point of seeing the Millennium Clock, even though it’s now a bit more hidden away than it used to be. When I go, due to the sheer size of the place, I plan to see one floor or one section at a time. Any more and I get a sensory overload. My last visit was on a busy January Sunday and my best moments were in the quieter Scottish section, in the midst of steam engines, lighthouses and Pictish stones.

Posts here that have mentioned NMS include Capital wanderArthur’s SeatBeing autistic in a museum and Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh:

I have a love-hate relationship with Edinburgh Castle. It is always absolutely jumping and is also done to death by our tourism industry. There are nicer and more interesting castles in Scotland, even in Edinburgh. But it’s the location. It is home to the Crown Jewels, the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum. It also has a fine cafe where I used to sit and study, taking advantage of my Historic Scotland membership to get one of the best views in town.

Stirling Castle, Esplanade, Stirling:

I like Stirling Castle a lot. It is still quite touristy but it is far and away the best big castle in Scotland. It is, like Edinburgh, made by its setting. The view is stunning from every angle for on a good day you can see for miles to mountains, lowland towns and much else in between. It also has the Palace with its fine sculptures, a Great Hall with yellow harling and the Chapel Royal. Mostly it has the best perspective over central Scotland. Argyll’s Lodging, formerly a military hospital, is just down the hill and is worth a look too. You can get a tour from the Castle.

Another Stirling-related post from the blog archives is the handily-titled Stirling.

Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit:

Urquhart has a tower house and some ruins. Anywhere else in the country it wouldn’t be of much interest. But it is right by Loch Ness and so it is mobbed year round. It is beautiful, mind, and I love ruined castles so it would never be bad. The last time I was there a fighter jet flew low overhead and I instinctively ducked, owing to the massive sensory overload I was getting and also as it was extremely low. Some Germans laughed.

Skara Brae, Sandwick, Stromness:

I first heard about Skara Brae when I was in first year at high school. It is a prehistoric village with some houses built around 5000 years ago. It was lost for centuries until it was revealed by a particularly bad storm in the 1850s. Orkney is amazing but Skara Brae even more so, revealing how earlier societies lived and how they weren’t so dissimilar to us, even while some of the details remain obscure.

Orkney-related posts here include Museum of You and Hordes.

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Skara Brae

National Museum of Flight, East Fortune:

East Fortune is about 12 miles from Dunbar so I know it well. There was a market on the airfield each Sunday which I visited often as some of my relatives ran a snack van. The Museum of Flight is interesting. It isn’t a place I would visit every year but it has a lot of intriguing exhibits, including a Concorde. My one East Fortune story is when they brought the Concorde up from Heathrow. They brought it on a barge up the Thames then up the east coast of England, landing it at Torness. It was brought along the new A1 then across the fields to East Fortune. It made the national news, this exciting spectacle, though famously the never knowingly overfilled East Lothian Courier said it would only cover the Concorde ‘if it had space’.

At some other point, I will write up wee reviews of some of the other places lower down the list, the likes of St. Andrews Castle, Culzean, Fort George and Gladstone’s Land. We are blessed in Scotland by how many interesting places we have on our doorstep, or near enough our doorstep. I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with more than a few of them and getting to know some new ones along the way.

The five I’ve not been to

Once a year, a news story appears which says in slightly different words than the year before that Edinburgh Castle is a popular place to visit and so are the National Museum of Scotland and Kelvingrove. This year’s appeared the other day. NMS is the most visited attraction in Scotland, with 1.8 million visitors last year, only a few thousand above Edinburgh Castle. I’ve written about NMS before and I’m not really fussed about the figures – they merely confirm what most Scottish folk know to be true. Why I’m writing about them is because of what appears lower down the story on the BBC News website, namely a list of Scottish visitor attractions that appear lower down the list of the most popular visitor attractions in the UK, and of those 47, I have been to all but five of them over the years. They are:

171. National Museum of Rural Life

181. Inverewe Gardens

184. Provand’s Lordship

223. Brodick Castle and Country Park

238. Glasgow Museums Resource Centre

At some point, I will write a bit about those places I have visited but of those five, three of them are not far from where I live, indeed one is about 3 miles from here. I think GMRC even follows me on Twitter, randomly, and I still haven’t been.

The National Museum of Rural Life is just outside East Kilbride, not far from Glasgow. I haven’t felt any great urge to go – farming doesn’t interest me hugely and I’m never sure whether EK and all its concrete is the best place for such a museum. Randomly I saw an advert for the museum on the telly tonight when I was eating my tea. The last time I passed, though, I did think vaguely about going but since it was on this list, I will jolly well have to.

Of the five, by far and away the hardest to get to is Inverewe Gardens, which is in Wester Ross, well up north. It looks a stunning place. I spent about twenty minutes yesterday planning a trip up there, realising that without a car it could be very, very hard since I gather Poolewe only gets buses from Inverness on a Monday and a Wednesday, making a day trip even from Inverness, let alone Glasgow, absolutely impossible. It was nice to try, though. The 70-odd miles from Inverness to Inverewe Gardens covers a great swathe of the country I’ve never been to before, including Assynt and Gairloch, which would be great to see. As it is, it might not happen any time soon. It’s nice to dream, though.

The Provand’s Lordship is the oldest building in Glasgow. It is open to the public, managed by Glasgow Museums. It sits across the road from St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art, a building I haven’t been in for a while, come to think of it. It is also very near Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. I haven’t missed it out for any particular reason. Perhaps, like the National Museum of Rural Life, it is just that I’m not overly bothered but that isn’t true. I am fascinated by history and by this city’s past. It just hasn’t come high enough up my list. At the earliest opportunity, I will have to make it right, perhaps as part of a Streets of Glasgow walk down the High Street.

Brodick is on the island of Arran, in the middle of the Firth of Clyde. The castle sits a little way out of Brodick, which is also the island’s main ferry port from the Scottish mainland. I have only been to Arran once, a few years ago on a beautiful and sunny Easter Sunday when we walked along the coast a little way, sitting for a while on a harbour not so far from the castle. The castle still eludes me though I am a member of the National Trust of Scotland who own it so I have less excuse as I wouldn’t have to pay £12.50 to get in. I gather, however, that only external tours will operate at Brodick Castle this summer but I am overdue a trip across to Arran so I might just go anyway, if only to get a picture of a RBS £20 note (which bears a picture of Brodick Castle) with the real thing.

Last but not least Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, also run by Glasgow Museums. Clue is in the title. They operate tours of the museum stores every day of the week, usually themed around a particular topic. GMRC is in a warehouse in Nitshill, an unglamorous part of the city about 3 miles from here, It really isn’t difficult to get to, a bus then a wee bit of a walk, but as ever other places have taken precedence. I will keep an eye on the tours and see if there’s one that strikes my fancy. I have been in a few museum stores in my time and I have not met one I haven’t liked or wanted to spend my life exploring. This being Glasgow, GMRC will no doubt be bigger and better than any other.

Writing posts like these makes me want to get out and explore, even if I am writing them (as tonight) after hours. I am off in a couple of weeks for about 10 days so I will hopefully see one of them, at the very least. Stay tuned.

 

Cambridge tumbling

For a while, this blog had a spinoff on Tumblr, which I used quite like Twitter, as a place to share but more often to read what others have put on. I deleted it because keeping up with this blog was hard enough. Anyway, recently I was scrolling through Tumblr posts and encountered a few that featured particularly flattering photographs of Cambridge, a place I have now been to twice, in October 2015 and February 2016 – the posts about Cambridge are Bus stop sighting, RememberingSightsBooks and thatMore holiday thoughts – museums and Lighter side. The photographs, which featured Silver Street, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the area around King’s College and the River Cam, made me pine and want to go back again. It’s not the first time that has ever happened – I see photographs of many places and think ‘I need to be there as a matter of urgency’. Usually, it is a fleeting moment of thought. The place is either visited very promptly or about two years later. Cambridge probably won’t be visited too soon. It’s nothing personal against the place – it is beautiful and ancient and I would be back there in a heartbeat. It is a matter of practicality, Cambridge is 355 miles from here, reachable by air and train, certainly, but I can’t do trips down there every week or even every month, as I can with Edinburgh or wherever. Oxford is higher-up on the list despite being harder to reach because I have never been there before.

So, in the meantime, here are some photographs of Cambridge just to make me more keen to go back and to remind us of why it is such a cool place.

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Near the Cam

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Fitzwilliam Museum

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Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

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Fitzwilliam Museum

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Fitzwilliam Museum

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Cambridge
 

The view from the McDermid Stand

Yesterday I went to watch Hibs play Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy. Hibs were mince but hopefully they will raise their game in a significant way for Hearts on Wednesday and more importantly for the league beginning with Dunfermline at home on Saturday. I was in Kirkcaldy for the football, really, but combined it with a few minutes in the art gallery too. The last time I was there was the day I got offered my job so emotionally I was over the place and didn’t really pay much attention to the art. Yesterday I managed to actually see the pictures. I particularly enjoyed the McTaggart paintings. They really cheered me up. Not that I was particularly unhappy, the experience of being myself in an art gallery elsewhere hasn’t been one I have had lately, if I’m honest, and it was good to be out in the world outside the west in a place I like doing something I like.

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I walked to Stark’s Park after that. On previous visits, I had sat lower down the stand though this time I was right at the back. I prefer to be higher up anyway when I watch football but the McDermid Stand has the added bonus of a smashing view across the Forth to East Lothian. I was there early so immediately after eating my pies I spent a while looking across the Forth trying to place what I was seeing. Without a pair of binoculars, I couldn’t be sure and it wasn’t the clearest day but I think I was seeing the Hopetoun Monument, Aberlady Bay, Port Seton and the Lammermuir Hills. I have written here before about the fine views the Fife coastline has towards East Lothian, particularly at Dysart and along the East Neuk, and when the game was boring I chanced a look across the Forth and it made a frustrating game all the better.

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Kirkcaldy is a two-hour bus ride from Glasgow and on the way there and back I read and chilled out. On the bus ride back, I was sitting in front of two Raith Rovers fans who had just been at the game I was at and were rather happier with the result than I was. I couldn’t help hearing what they were blethering on about. One of them had been going to watch Raith for 52 years and had seen some great games in his time. He still went despite being elderly and needing care a lot of the time. It reminded me of an article I had read on the way over to Kirkcaldy by Peter Ross about the dedicated fans that lower-league teams in Scotland have, those who go week-in, week-out, very often with little reward. Even as I was discontented about my own team’s fortunes, there are always people worse off than me. Still, there have been worse trips and it was good to be away.

 

Kirkcaldy

Friday day trips are strange creatures. I am usually working until 8 the night before and as a consequence my timings are all over the place. I invariably like a lie in and thus don’t end up going terribly far. Sometimes I wake up about 8 and think about going far and wide but four hours later I am still in bed and not moving any time soon. There are other times when I just want to go somewhere and I can pull my carcass out of bed early enough to get somewhere a wee bit further from Glasgow. A few Fridays ago, I was up early and thought about St. Andrews or somewhere like that but of course I wasn’t out of bed until about 10. I had a good idea for somewhere to go, however.

My favourite art gallery in Scotland is not Kelvingrove or the National or even Portrait, fine places though they are. Rather it’s the one in Kirkcaldy, recently refurbished to include an expanded museum, cafe and central library but with the art gallery bit delightfully unchanged in style and contents. Kirkcaldy has a fine collection of 19th and 20th century Scottish art, from William McTaggart through the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists, all favourites of mine and all in the one place. I visit at least three or four times a year, usually as a result of a notion like I had a couple of weeks ago just to be there. This particular visit, though, was different as just before I went in, I received some happy news which meant that I was looking at the art through a haze of tears and general heightened emotion.

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Like in many things, I have a routine when I visit Kirkcaldy. I start in the first room, currently containing a John Bellany amongst others, then work through each room in turn, finishing at the far end where the McTaggarts are then work my way back through each one again, invariably stopping for a seat and a ponder once or twice along the way. Usually I am entirely alone but there were a couple of folk dotting around plus the normal loud-footed attendants clomping through at regular intervals to make sure we weren’t nicking anything. Particular favourites in the second room were two of Kellie Castle, near Pittenweem, by John Henry Lorimer, showing the castle and its surrounds with spring flowers and shadowy light. They must have been pulled from the museum stores recently as I only became aware of them recently and every time I go, I think I must get to Kellie Castle, even while it is a bastard to get to by public transport. Of the Scottish Colourists, I was drawn as usual to the Iona paintings by Peploe and Cadell, the best looking towards Ben More and Mull. Again, another enticement to visit a place far-off. And the McTaggart has a few crackers, not least the one of a glen near Roslin and the just plain braw painting of a wave crashing to shore on a grey day. I also paid particular attention to two quite esoteric sculptures by Martin Rayner, whose brother I used to work with, strangely enough. I thought a little about him and tried to work out the symbolism of these richly allegorical works.

My brain was all over the place this time, looking at the art with heightened affection while trying not to dance about the place with happiness. I must have looked a right mess.

Before I left, I made sure I got to the temporary exhibition about the Forth Bridges, showing art and objects relating to the best bridge on the planet and the road one next to it. The new Queensferry Crossing will open in September so there was a bit about that. The art was by Kate Downie and was rather fine with drawings, etchings and paintings depicting the bridges, my favourites charcoal drawings of the crosses and angles of the Rail Bridge. For the person that will invariably ask me when it’s on rather than looking it up on Google or the Kirkcaldy Galleries website, the exhibition finishes on 25th February.

Before I left, I walked down to the waterfront. Kirkcaldy has a big road right next to the Forth but I crossed over it all the same and looked across in the twilight to Edinburgh and East Lothian, sorting my fix of the sea and waves for a bit. Quite a few places in Scotland ruin their rivers by having big, nasty roads right next to them (I’m looking at you, Dundee, for starters) but sometimes you just need to shut out what’s around you and just look out. I did the same when I was in Dundee, strangely enough, a couple of weeks before and it was strangely quite joyful. This time, I stood a while then headed back to the bus, plugging in some music and reading my way back to Glasgow, another Friday well spent.

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