View from the Lighthouse

The other Sunday, I visited the Lighthouse for the very first time. It sits in Mitchell Lane in the city centre featuring a diverse selection of exhibitions. It also has a tower from which you can see right across Glasgow. Today this view’s probably much more snowy. Below are some photos from that experience at the top of the shoogly staircase. They were taken as normal with my phone so nothing special. Enjoy.


Digest: February 2018

So, that’s February then. We are nearly into the spring, the nights are drawing out all the time and that’s always a good thing. I wrote most of this post, including the first couple of sentences, as the month went on rather than in a burst, as I normally do. Today, Wednesday 28th February 2018, sees a red weather warning across the Central Belt for snow and ice, which extends into tomorrow too. Presently it is extremely cold outside, well below freezing, and not much adventuring is happening at the moment. Or much of anything else really. Heed the warnings, keep warm, keep safe. So, it’s a good time to run through where I got to in February.

Saturday 3rd February saw me visit London. It nearly didn’t happen because I slept in but a new ticket later and I was on the way to Euston. I walked across to the British Museum and had a very decent couple of hours working my way around the crowds to see that place’s many fine artefacts. The rest of my day was spent walking, from Kensington to Marble Arch through Hyde Park and then along the Thames from St. Paul’s to Westminster. The journey home was complicated by trains not running out of Euston, necessitating a train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh then changing, which worked out well in the end when I eventually got home about midnight. I left London at 5.30. Despite that it was a very good day, free-form and nice just to rove. I wrote about it here.

The following Friday I headed into town to do a bit of shopping. I then undertook three Streets of Glasgow walks in the cold February sunshine, on Duke Street, Gallowgate and Trongate. I wore shorts for the whole affair too, which was part of the 30 Before 30 list. It wasn’t as cold as it is today, around four degrees, which was greatly beneficial for my legs and other nearby parts of my anatomy. I am relatively self-conscious about how I look though in the end I came to not care at all as I marched up Argyle Street in my shorts, the only one in sight. I liked these Streets walks particularly because they were in largely unfamiliar terrain, though my favourite was Duke Street due to the considerable variety in architecture, modern, Victorian and Greek classical.

Saturday 17th February Hibs played Aberdeen. I got to Edinburgh a bit early and took the scenic route to Easter Road, via Leith Walk and Easter Road. Hibs won comfortably.

The next day I spent around Glasgow with my dad. Being out before anywhere was open, we headed first for a walk by the Clyde through Glasgow Green. The Green was playing host to a running race organised by an LGBT charity. When it opened, we went to the People’s Palace, which had a good display about Mary Barbour and the rent strikes. Thereafter we headed to the Lighthouse, which I had never been to before and enjoyed immensely, except the shoogly staircase up to the tower. There was also an exhibition about timber buildings, which I liked. We also went to Kelvingrove and the Botanic Gardens.

Beyond that, the rest of the month I spent living quietly, working mostly, reading, writing and keeping warm. Wednesday 28th February I was due to go watch Hibs play Hamilton at Easter Road but the bad weather happened and the game got postponed. That’s why I had time to tidy up this post and get it out tonight rather than the planned post of views from the top of the Lighthouse. That appears on Friday.

This month I also launched a new blog, Easter Road West, which is about Hibs, going to the game and the general experience. I like having the variety. The ERW posts this month were Welcome!Eastern CemeteryAway daysThe tellyGetting beatWhen the game is mince and Thoughts on the weather and the national team. The one I particularly recommend to the Walking Talking readership is the one about the Eastern Cemetery, which sits behind Easter Road.

One of the posts here this month, 30 Before 30, was about a list I’ve come up with of 30 things I would like to do prior to my thirtieth birthday, in about 18 months time. In each digest, I will update on how many I’ve achieved. In February, I achieved 4, three of them on the same day.

I also have an article coming out next month in the next issue of Nutmeg, about being an autistic football fan. It’s out in the middle of next month.

That’s the February digest. In March, I will be on some more adventures, definitely for Hibs games. Thanks to all readers, commenters, followers, particularly for everyone who responded to the 400th post, the one in Scots. Have a nice month.

February posts –

Digest: January 2018

Streets of Glasgow: George Square

400: How Ah talk, written doon

30 Before 30

The London caper

Streets of Glasgow: Govan Road

Hamilton Mausoleum

Going underground

A day trip experience


Streets of Glasgow: Miller Street

Gazing across a map

Coming soon…

Robert Louis Stevenson

Streets of Glasgow: Queen Margaret Drive

Hamilton Mausoleum

Quite a few years ago, I used to work in a museum. One of my colleagues, now sadly gone, was once a countryside ranger in Chatelherault Country Park near Hamilton in Lanarkshire. We were talking one day about a feature on the news the previous night about a concert taking place in Hamilton Mausoleum, a building she knew well since it sits on the edge of Chatelherault Country Park. The Mausoleum, she told me, had the longest continuous echo of any building in the world and it was an incredible place to visit. I only got there a couple of years after she died, not long after I moved to Glasgow. I booked a ticket to go for the tour and got myself to Hamilton, a place I had never been to before. To be fair, a whole lot of the west of Scotland was still new to me at that point. The tour started from the nearby Low Parks Museum and lasted for roughly an hour and a half. It was brilliant with a very knowledgeable tour guide. The Mausoleum was the final resting place for the Dukes of Hamilton and sat in what was once the grounds of Hamilton Palace. The echo took 15 seconds to pass around the Mausoleum’s central chamber. I spent a fair bit of time not making a noise but looking up at the dome ceiling which somehow reminded me of both a church and a dovecot. What stuck with me was that due to mining nearby, the Mausoleum was no less than 18 feet lower than it was when it was built and I gather that it is also tilting as a consequence. I was glad I finally got there, after hearing about it years before and to visit such a fascinating, quirky place.

I was reminded of the Mausoleum recently when I read an article from The Skinny about Francis Macdonald, the drummer from Teenage Fanclub, who has composed ‘The Hamilton Mausoleum Suite’, an instrumental work inspired by the Mausoleum and featuring musicians from the Scottish Festival Orchestra. An album was released on 26th January and it will actually be performed in the Mausoleum on 19th February, a week tomorrow. I think that’s great. Every now and then, I think about the Mausoleum and the time I spent there. It is a weirdly fascinating place and it is inspiring, if downright creepy at times. I’ll have to give the album a listen.

The London caper

Oh, and it was a caper. I was in London the other day and if anything could go wrong, it generally did. I managed to sleep in, missing my train and necessitating buying another ticket, thankfully still at the cheaper price. Getting back to Euston, intending on going for something to eat before the train home, I discovered that there were no trains running due to a fatality. Within fifteen minutes, I was on a Virgin East Coast train out of King’s Cross to Edinburgh, which ended up into Edinburgh late. I went for the train to Glasgow and it was 25 minutes late due to some folk fighting on an earlier service, meaning I had to run (and I mean sprint) for the last train home from Glasgow Central. I left London at 5.30 and arrived back at my house in Glasgow just after midnight. Fun and games.

Rather than focus on the negatives, let’s go for the positives.

  1. I went to the British Museum and it was busy but manageable.
  2. I had two good long walks, exploring more of London at my own pace and in my own way
  3. Hibs won against Rangers while I was in London
  4. I managed to travel on both sides of the country on the same day
  5. A London Underground ticket machine took my Scottish tenner
  6. The Elizabeth Tower of the Palace of Westminster (the bit that houses Big Ben) looks like something out of a futuristic movie all daubed in scaffolding.
  7. I learned about Dreamland
  8. The Virgin East Coast train was excellent, quiet and with very friendly staff
  9. Durham Cathedral lit up at night is glorious
  10. The Thames was choppy and actually had waves
  11. Wading merrily through a puddle in a tunnel somewhere in Southwark as the southerners queued and walked gingerly through
  12. Walking by the Thames is good
  13. The very cheery busker with his guitar by the Thames
  14. Westminster is vastly improved by Big Ben not chiming

Thirteen is not bad. I arrived at Euston just after 12. My game plan was to go to the British Museum and see where I got to after that. There were protesters outside Euston gathering for the big demonstration to protect the NHS and some of them offered passers-by placards and leaflets. They shouted about privatisation and Richard Branson, which I broadly agree with, though since I live in Scotland where the NHS has thankfully evaded most of the privatisation and bad stuff that the English NHS has, I decided against joining them, despite joining a protest being one of the 30 things I should do before I’m 30. There was a significant police presence cutting about too. I walked through Bloomsbury and into the British Museum through the back way.

The British Museum is one of my favourite places on the planet. It is also incredibly busy and I had to work around the hordes to see anything. I spent a good two hours going around some of my favourite bits of the museum, not even seeing the Elgin Marbles or any of the Assyrian stuff. I got to see all the stuff I really like, including the Lewis Chessmen, which I still refrained from taking home to Scotland where they belong, as well as the life and death bit with its artefacts from the Pacific islands and Australia, including an amazing abstract painting created by Australian aborigines which tells the story of seven sisters making their way across the desert only to be followed by an unwanted, lascivious man. The women jumped from a hill into the sky, forming the Seven Sisters constellation. I was particularly interested this visit by the stories and artefacts of native peoples in North America and Australia, also by getting a few minutes to look at the Codex Zouche-Nuttall in the Mesoamerica gallery, a beautifully illustrated pictorial book depicting the life of a Mixtec ruler, Eight Deer Jaguar-Claw. I always think it looks like a Where’s Wally? book.

After a couple of hours, I was beginning to lose concentration. I decided to get the Underground over town to the Science Museum. I walked down to Holborn and got on the Piccadilly line to South Kensington. South Ken was mobbed with lots of young people dressed for some reason in animal costumes or other elaborate fancy dress. Not sure why. There were more around Westminster later too. I walked along towards the museums though there were long queues outside the Natural History Museum and the V and A. Though the Science Museum didn’t have a queue, I decided against another busy museum experience and since the rain was a drizzle, barely registering on the Glasgow rain scale, I decided to walk instead. I walked up past Imperial College and by the Jamaican High Commission towards the Royal Albert Hall, a building I’ve always liked. I decided to head up towards Hyde Park, maybe towards the city centre that way, though I ended up crossing into the Park. I had never been in it and admired the fine wrought gates. I walked up towards the Serpentine, a place I knew because of the Christmas swims that happen there, and then I had a whole path to myself as I got towards Bayswater Road. Having been amongst thousands at the BM not so long before, being on my own in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world was weird, though a nice weird.

I reached Marble Arch, which is fine and quite like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I had to turn to the map to find Speaker’s Corner, a place in the Park where people can stand up to make speeches, though it was disappointingly empty. I had a notion to walk by the Thames on the south bank and I boarded the Tube at Marble Arch, onto the Central line to St. Paul’s. I had been resisting the urge to check the Hibs score but succumbed in the lee of St. Paul’s Cathedral. They were 1 up at Ibrox and thus I wandered around the side of the stunning Sir Christopher Wren designed Cathedral absolutely overjoyed and singing ‘It’s A Grand Old Team To Play For’. St. Paul’s is a stunning looking church and at some point I’ll have to go in. I walked down towards the Millennium Bridge and across the Thames, stopping at regular intervals to get photos up and down the river. It was busy and a big tour group had stopped right in the middle of the bridge, blocking anyone from getting past. I always feel comfortable by water and even by a great big dirty river like the Thames. As I walked I also imagined the not-in-the-book bit of one of the Harry Potter films where the Death Eaters flew through London and knocked the bridge down as they went.

I walked along the south bank from Tate Modern to Westminster. It was busy though I was comfortable, stopping at regular intervals to check the football score and look up and down the river at the skyline. I got to Westminster and got on the Tube, bound for Euston, taking the Circle line one stop to Embankment and then the Northern line to Euston. On one of those Tube trains I was sitting in the carriage and enjoying just being where I was, in the moment. I was on the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line and I was tickled to hear the announcements that the next stop was Mornington Crescent. As a fan of old radio comedy and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue in particular, Mornington Crescent has a particular resonance. I was interrupted by my reverie by some quick-thinking to get me home.

I tend to visit London on weekdays so it shouldn’t have been a big surprise that it would be busier in the museums on a Saturday. Everywhere is busier on a Saturday. It was good to be in the British Museum, though, to wander and graze around the place and I also really enjoyed just walking in London, seeing places I had only heard about or just looking up. I was walking along High Holborn towards Holborn tube and I could have been sidetracked on a derive, just looking up at the buildings, their architecture and ghost signs. The freewheeling side of this day trip made it work, as did some swift thinking to get round the train issues. Still I got home, I had a good time and the Hibs won. It was quite a day.

Digest: December 2017

December gets forgotten as a month in the whole whirl of Christmas. I myself was focused on getting done with work. Still I managed to be out in the world a wee bit over the time, even with the ice, with a few rovings shoehorned into an otherwise busy existence.

Friday 1st December I went to see a friend who was over in Edinburgh for the weekend. We’ve had many good adventures over the years, usually involving loads of good chat too, and this time was no exception. We went to the Portrait Gallery, a good favourite place of both of ours, and there was a nice exhibition of portraits of modern Scots, including a fair few writers, poets and folks of all backgrounds. The Portrait Gallery cafe also does good cake. We also headed out to Portobello where we had lunch, went to a few shops and wandered along the Prom. After we parted, I went on a long urban ramble from the Botanics to Waverley Station via Leith.

The following day Hibs were playing at Partick Thistle, only a few miles across the river from the house. I didn’t have to leave until 1, getting the bus to Dumbarton Road then walking up Byres Road from there. It was a nice sunny afternoon so I dawdled the mile or so to Firhill, stopping on Queen Margaret Drive to look up and down the Kelvin. I also paused not far from the ground to look at one of the Stalled Spaces that have emerged to try and make artworks or gardens out of forgotten corners of our cities and towns.

That Sunday, instead of staying in bed like a sensible person, I was to be found on my way to Kirkcaldy to my favourite art gallery. It felt like an art gallery sort of day and I wandered around my favourite rooms and sat by my favourite paintings. I also took a few minutes to walk down to the sea and felt refreshed after being witness to the stunning sunset over the Forth, particularly looking towards Edinburgh. That day I also undertook two Streets of Glasgow walks, which will appear here later in January, I think, Hope Street and Nelson Mandela Place, the latter in the dark.

The following Sunday Hibs were playing Celtic at Easter Road. It was cold, very cold. After the game, which was at lunchtime for the benefit of those watching in the pub or their hoose, I walked along the Water of Leith as far as Canonmills. The Water was frozen over at several points, including by the Shore in Leith. It was a beautiful walk all the same, all the better, due to the cold. I took a bus across town from Canonmills to George IV Bridge, managing to get a sneaky peek at the new Muriel Spark exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, which was marvellous, arranged chronologically telling the story of Spark’s life through manuscripts, images and text. NLS also had a cracking display of documents out relating to the Reformation.

That Wednesday Hibs were playing The Rangers, again at Easter Road. I took the scenic route to the capital, travelling from Central via Shotts and Livingston rather than the usual Queen Street via Falkirk and Linlithgow route. I like a change of scenery. This one was notable for a delay getting into the East Stand at Easter Road due to ice. Apparently Hibs, Edinburgh City Cooncil and the polis had forgotten that the slope that leads from Hawkhill Avenue to the stand would be very icy. So, those of us who get to the football early were treated to a formation of Edinburgh’s finest with shovels and salt bags in their hands gritting the slope. It was a formation, something that wouldn’t have gone amiss on a battlefield. Better than the football, as it turns out.

That Friday I was in Edinburgh again. On my way back from my shopping, I walked up Regent Road and in the low winter sun the view across Edinburgh city centre was gorgeous.

The following day, Hibs were playing at lunchtime in Aberdeen. Aberdeen. ABERDEEN. Yep. I was there. I left Glasgow at an agriculturally early hour and made it to the frozen north in time to slide across the ice to Pittodrie in time to see Hibs get absolutely gubbed. The pies were decent, though. Rather than hang about, owing to the cold, ice and foulness of my mood, I went to buy a bus ticket straight home. I have never been happier to see Glasgow. I have nothing particular against Aberdeen as a place. It was just baltic, beautifully so as you will see below, and my faith in my fellow humanity had been shaken just a bit too.

I wasn’t well for much of the end of December. My first trip out, besides work and Christmas family stuff, was a spur-of-the-moment trip for a wander at Fisherrow Harbour. On the way back through, I went the long way, via the Forth Road Bridge and Dunfermline, bopping around on buses, just watching the world go by.

On Saturday 30th, Hibs played Kilmarnock. I was there. Before going to the game, I walked via the New Town, down Dublin Street and along East London Street to Gayfield Square, a nice saunter through the lesser-spotted bit of the New Town.

In blog business, I had three spurts in numbers in December. The Streets of Glasgow posts about Ingram Street and Edmiston Drive were particularly popular in December, as was the Books of 2017 post, which ignited a fair bit of interest. Nearer Christmas, the Best of 2017 post got shared a bit owing to its mention of the Glasgow Women’s Library.

So, that’s the December digest. I have a post backlog again so Wednesday will be a two-post day too. The morning one will be about natural light this time of year, the evening one about the trains stopping but one day a year. It’s nice to be back.

Posts this month –

Digest: November 2017

Streets of Glasgow: Edmiston Drive


Why the south side is the best side

Clearing out my inbox

Books of 2017

The turn of the year

The places you end up caring about


Ice, ice baby

The Living Mountain

The Harbour

Best of 2017

Best of 2017

Yay, it’s Christmas time! In this time of repeats and newspapers full of filler material, here’s a blog post written a fair bit ahead of time with the highlights of my year travelling around this fine land. Like last year and the year before, this post sums up my 2017 with some awards for the best experiences I’ve had this year. There are eight categories:

Best museum

Best art gallery

Best historic place

Best library

Best place to watch football

Best fish supper

Best park

Best beach

2016 was a very busy year for me. I also covered more ground than this year. I went to England a lot more and also to Ireland. This year I haven’t been that far. Far enough but not enough to earn Airmiles, if such a thing still exists. I have been very busy with work. I now work full-time. I am also studying and writing a lot. In between all that, I go to the football and try to live a rich and full life, occasionally succeeding in that regard. This year has been a consolidation of those things I am and enjoying those places I love, occasionally getting to new ones along the way.

Best museum –

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh –

The National Museum of Scotland is a place I know very well, having visited regularly since I was a kid. I’ve been known to slag it off but my recent visits have brought me back in love with the place and its great and varied exhibits. I am always due a return visit but that’s always the case, even if I’ve only been there the previous day or week.

Runner-up –

McManus Galleries, Dundee –

A very fine place. It has art in it too but I think of it more as a museum. Very fine it is too, with a clear sense of Dundee and its place in the world as well as giving a broad appreciation of its local area, in its history, science and nature. The hall upstairs with artefacts from various societies is glorious, while the room downstairs about the modern history of Dundee is excellent, with the cases on local politics a particular highlight. Go to the McManus, if only for the cafe and of course the architecture.

Best art gallery –

Kirkcaldy Galleries, Kirkcaldy, Fife –

My favourite gallery on the planet. I have that in common with Jack Vettriano, the Leven-born artist who lists his two favourite art galleries as the Uffizi in Florence, and Kirkcaldy.  I went there on my birthday this year. I tend to get there at least three or four times a year, never getting sick of the 19th and 20th century art in its rooms, including the glorious McTaggart paintings and those by the Colourists and Glasgow Boys. McTaggart’s wave painting is endlessly soothing, while those of Iona take me back to that wonderful island. The Glasgow Boys exhibition at Kirkcaldy this year was excellent too, a selection of Fife’s own collection, creatively put together.

Runner-up –

Fergusson Gallery, Perth –

The Fergusson is always a favourite, even just for its building, an old water tower by the river Tay. It is like Kirkcaldy in that it is clear the curators are on the ball, putting together each exhibition with a great deal of thought and care. I was there a few weeks ago and enjoyed the exhibition about Fergusson and his friend, the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Best historic place –

The Battery, Victoria Harbour, Dunbar, East Lothian –

This was the hardest category this time. It could have been about three different castles or the walls at Berwick. In the end I picked the Battery because it is a place at the heart of my own history as well as being steeped in the history of where I grew up. The Dunbar Shore Neighbourhood Group has done an excellent job developing the Battery, putting in some apposite and beautiful art installations as well as interpretation boards about the surrounding harbour, sea and history. It was truly brilliant to be there and I long to be back again.

Runner-up –

Dryburgh Abbey, near St. Boswells, Scottish Borders –

I tend to get to Dryburgh once a year and usually it is on a beautiful summer’s day. This year’s certainly was and I loved just wandering around the stunning ruins and sitting awhile by the Tweed, reading and pondering. Scottish and British history intertwine at Dryburgh with the Abbey being the burial place of both Sir Walter Scott and Earl Haig. Even without the history, it is one of the great places of Scotland. Thank goodness it is a wee bit hidden away and it isn’t more crowded. Plus it sells ice cream.

Honourable mention –

Seton Collegiate Church, near Longniddry, East Lothian –

A return visit to Seton, which I had only been to once previously. Worth it for the peace, architecture, book-stuffed cludgie and little, apposite quotes dotted around the site.

Best library –

Glasgow Women’s Library –

Libraries are sacred places and the GWL particularly so. It nestles in a fine Carnegie library building in Bridgeton, recently restored, and houses a considerable archive and museum collection, in addition to a fair few books into the bargain. A truly amazing place, plus they offer you a cup of tea when you walk in.

Runner-up –

The National Library of Scotland –

Purely for the exhibitions. NLS do good exhibitions, most recently the one about the Antarctic. It’s always worth going to the Treasures gallery, usually housing manuscripts and books about authors, including Hugh MacDiarmid recently.

Honourable mention –

Any library I work in –

Well, obviously. The people make the place, ken.

Best place to watch football –

Easter Road Stadium, Edinburgh –

No Scottish Cup Finals this year. I just have to settle for the two derby victories I had the pleasure of witnessing from my very lovely seat high up in the East Stand.

Runner-up –

East End Park, Dunfermline –

Purely for the steak bridies. Never mind the football.

Best fish supper –

Tailend, St. Andrews or Edinburgh –

The Tailend is one of the finest chip shops in the nation and they have two branches, one in St. Andrews, the other on Leith Walk in the capital. A very decent fish supper can be had there, best consumed on a bench nearby.

Runner-up –

Giacopazzi’s, Eyemouth, Scottish Borders –

One from my youth. I’ve been there a couple of times this year and they do a very decent fish supper, best consumed looking over the harbour.

Best park –

John Muir Country Park, near Dunbar, East Lothian –

I had a particularly good walk in this dear, familiar place in April, ending up at Hedderwick before turning back towards Dunbar. The walk was varied, with views across the Tyne towards Tyninghame, the Bass and the May, as well as old WWII-era bunkers and of course loads of trees. It washed my spirit clean, in the best possible sense.

Runner-up –

Benmore Botanic Garden, near Dunoon, Argyll –

I was there in the rain but it was still amazing. The walk amidst the sequoias is braw.

Honourable mention –

Lochend Park, Edinburgh –

I often sit in Lochend Park before Hibs matches, most recently a few weeks ago working through a book with a fly often thwarting my progress. It is an urban park but one with a view to Arthur’s Seat and of course the Holy Ground.

Best beach –

Embleton Beach, near Embleton, Northumberland –

I was there in January. The beach is in a beautiful setting, overlooked by Dunstanburgh Castle. The path goes on for a fair few miles, running along the beach from Low Newton eventually to Craster. It is hard to successfully encapsulate how wonderful a place Embleton is. Go. Look at a photograph if you can’t go. It is one of those places.

Runner-up –

Bamburgh Beach, near Bamburgh, Northumberland –

Again, there in January, overlooked by a castle, though with incredible views to Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands. Cold, very bright day, blessed in that baltic afternoon to be alive.

Honourable mention –

Belhaven Beach, near Dunbar, East Lothian –

Where else? My favourite place on the planet. I couldn’t not mention it here.

So, that’s 2017. After I wrote the historic place section, I realised I didn’t mention two of the best places I’ve been to this year, namely Kilchurn Castle in Argyll and Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven. Both in very dramatic settings and with fascinating histories. Of those places I hoped to get to in 2015 and 2016, I managed to get to Dunnottar and Tantallon this year, still not to Oxford, Bristol and Stornoway. In 2018, I hope just to be able to travel anywhere. In an ideal world, I would love to get back to Northumberland but also finally to make it to Shetland. This year has been a rollercoaster ride, busy but worth it for the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met.

As ever, many thanks to all readers and followers for reading, commenting and everything else. It has been a privilege. If you celebrate, a very Merry Christmas, the best of wishes if you don’t, and a very peaceful and prosperous New Year when it comes. See you in January.

Tea or coffee? Neither, thanks

I can count on one hand how often I have a hot drink in any given year. The British, certainly the Scottish, way is that everyone, but everyone, does either tea or coffee, sometimes both. I don’t. If I take a hot drink at all, I would take a hot chocolate. If absolutely pushed, I would choose tea but that happens on average once every two or three years. I’m autistic and one of my sensory sensitivities is food and drink that is too hot. Plus coffee is rank but that’s nothing to do with the complications of my noggin. It’s just rank. It smells nice but it tastes like metal filings, whatever is put in it.

Very often, whenever I go to training courses or cover somewhere new, I get told two things. Where the toilets are and where the tea and coffee are kept. I usually am grateful for the first but roll my eyes at the second, looking around for alternative liquid. I can think of two courses this year alone when I had to nip out and buy juice. In a place I don’t know, I have come to expect there will be minimal provision for the increasing number of folk who don’t bother with tea or coffee. I get told with considerable frequency after I say I don’t like tea or coffee that this one’s young relative or that one doesn’t take tea or coffee either. Yet people don’t cater for that. We live in a binary world, apparently. So, the rest of us have to bring our own.

Having said that, in the last few weeks, I’ve actually had more hot drinks than I have in years. It’s been cold plus I wasn’t feeling well last week. I indulged in rancid Lemsip substitutes and very much better hot Vimto, even if that’s less nice when accidentally spilled over one’s hand when trying to sit down at the football. At another football match, I had no fewer than two cups of hot chocolate in a futile attempt to keep warm. I can’t take hot drinks when they’re freshly made. Usually 10-15 minutes does me to get it into the Goldilocks zone. I understand that whisky needs to be savoured and drunk slowly in most cases. A hot drink is much the same for me. I like to taste it. With Lemsip or its imitators, however, there’s only a brief window when they’re sort-of hot and acceptable and then they go cold and absolutely honking. These have to be rushed, against my mouth and particularly my tongue’s better judgement.

Before you think I treat my body as a temple, in common with most denizens of the library world, and the museum world before that, I run on sugar. Chocolate, mainly. I don’t do much fizzy juice any more. I love Irn Bru but drinking it too late in the day keeps me up at night. Plus my IBS has been triggered by very fizzy juice in the past. I don’t do energy drinks either since they smell awful. If I need a hit of caffeine, I will go for a can of Coke but again that’s not so often.

At social functions, too, the choices can often be binary. I was at something recently and when I walked in, the choice was a glass of Prosecco or orange juice. I don’t like wine so orange juice was the default choice, even though I prefer apple myself as orange can be quite acidic. Later in the evening there was a bit more choice in the sense that there was red and white wine kicking about but still only the one non-alcoholic choice, good old OJ.

I appreciate that times are tough. There isn’t money to fund options for every taste. But something beyond the two choices, be that tea or coffee or alcohol and fruit juice, wouldn’t be hard. There’s only so many bottles of Oasis that can be smuggled into training courses without folk getting offended, or thinking I’m an alkie. Plus there must be tea and coffee sufferers who might want a change. Make it happen, folks.

Non-obvious photographs of places

I like photographs. Taking them and looking at them. There are places that are photographed a lot. Of the two thirds of a billion photos taken each year that aren’t selfies, a fair few of them must be of Edinburgh Castle or Stirling or the British Museum or even Dunbar. I was just choosing a photo to illustrate a post which will appear in December about my East Lothian accent and I chose one of the Victoria Harbour in Dunbar, a scene that appears on many a postcard of my home town. It seemed right for the post but it got me to thinking of how many places suffer from having the same photographs taken of them again and again. As a public service, here are a few photos I’ve taken of fairly well-known places. Hopefully they have only been taken a few hundred times, as opposed to a few million or whatever.

British Museum
Marischal College, Aberdeen
Tantallon Castle
Bamburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
General Post Office, Dublin
Linlithgow Palace

Digest: October 2017

The Battery, Dunbar
I started October on annual leave so plenty of rovings to report this month, beginning with a Sunday sojourn down the coast. I had a notion to go somewhere and decided on a wee spin on the train. From my bit of Glasgow, there are direct trains to Wemyss Bay on a Sunday and I soon stepped out of a train in the beautiful glass station, taking in the Victorian architecture. I was tempted to walk down the boardwalk to the ferry to Rothesay but the weather was wild and windy and the decision was made easier just to keep on dry land. I was going to have a wander but with the wind I just took a few photos and scurried across for the bus to Largs. The road from Wemyss Bay to Largs is one of the best in the country, suitably dramatic with views to Cumbrae, Bute and Cowal, only better with the white-topped waves. As I walked in Largs, the wind and the rain nearly blew me off my feet so I only went a little way before retreating to a coffee shop then the train home.

Wemyss Bay
The next day, for want of any better ideas, I went to Edinburgh. I hadn’t planned anything so just walked up Leith Walk with the hope that I would have a brainwave en route. Luckily I did and ended up on the bus to Portobello to walk along the prom there, the weather being sunnier and much nicer than the previous day. A few weeks previously, I had written a piece on old power stations (to appear here in due course) and mentioned the old power station in Portobello, now replaced by houses and five-a-side pitches. A photo I came across with the station’s demolition came to mind with King’s Road in the background and a massive crater where the station used to be.

Portobello with East Lothian in the background
That Wednesday I went to Perth, where I took in the ever braw Perth Museum and Fergusson Gallery. The Fergusson had a particularly intriguing exhibition of paintings and documents about Fergusson’s friendship with Charles Rennie Mackintosh. For those who will insist on asking me rather than utilising Google, it’s on until 29th January 2018. Perth Museum’s excellent exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Perthshire Society of Natural Science with very well-arranged stuffed huge animals is on until tomorrow, 4th November.

Perth Museum
Before I went to Perth, I had time to kill so undertook a Streets of Glasgow walk along Renfield Street.

The following day I took a train to Berwick, loving walking the walls in the sunshine. I particularly relished being able to look in the distance to Lindisfarne and Bamburgh. As I walked, I tried to decide where I would head for next, down south or up north, eventually settling on Dunbar. I bought an Ordnance Survey map since unaccountably I had left the relevant sheets in the house and because I had notions to go to Dunglass Collegiate Church and the waterfall at Bilsdean, both close by each other up the coast nearer Dunbar. Sadly bus times were against me so I headed straight for Dunbar instead, soon avoiding high waves as I walked along the prom to the East Links. I hadn’t been in my home town for about six months and being on familiar turf was really what I needed. I hadn’t been to the Battery on Lamer Island for a while and was glad to be there to see the new art installations and interpretative boards around it. Looking out to the North Sea, St. Abbs Head, the Isle of May and the Bass was particularly good on that bright sunny day. My visit also included a walk along the Prom, where my spirit was washed a little cleaner.

It is mandatory when visiting Dunfermline (or Kirkcaldy) that I do my utmost to sample some of those lovely steak bridies from Stephens the bakers, regardless of the result. Thus it was that Friday that I was sat in Pittencrieff Park in Dunfermline with two bridies, ensuring they were swiftly polished off. Dunfermline is a very easy place to reach from Glasgow and my plan was to take in the new Carnegie Library and Galleries, one of those all-purpose cultural buildings that spring up all over the place. It’s excellent, with a branch library and archives as well as museum and gallery space. Since I was on leave and I thus didn’t want to linger amidst the books, most of my visit concentrated on the stunning views to the Abbey as well as the art and museum objects. There was an exhibition of some of Fife’s considerable art collection, including a few Colourists and Glasgow Boys (and Girls) works familiar from trips to Kirkcaldy. Another highlight was the video of archive footage of gala days and the like soundtracked by Dunfermline musicians, namely the Skids, Big Country and Barbara Dickson, quite an eclectic mix. Honestly, it’s better than it sounds.

Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries
On the way back, I did a Streets of Glasgow walk on West Nile Street in the city centre.

Over that weekend, I went to watch Hibs lose to Aberdeen then on the Sunday I went to Cathkin Park, particularly liking being in that fine place in the midst of autumn leaves. Another Streets of Glasgow walk resulted, this time on Union Street in the town.

The following Saturday, Hibs played Celtic in the League Cup semi at Hampden. The unexpected pleasure of a comfortable leather seat only slightly mitigated the horror of losing to the lesser greens. I have a sort-of tradition of walking home from Hampden after semi finals and that was what I did, covering nearly five miles from Mount Florida to Cardonald. Luckily the sun had come out by that point and the autumn colours again made it a nice walk, soothing a brow furrowed by the football just witnessed at the National Stadium.

That Tuesday I was in the capital for the derby. Beforehand, I got there a bit early so had a psychogeographic wander around the New Town.

Last Friday, I was in Partick. After doing my business over there, I went to Kelvingrove, paying particular attention to my favourite painting, the Paps of Jura by William MacTaggart.

On Sunday, I went to Dundee with my dad. We headed first to Broughty Ferry where we lunched on a bench watching the local sailing club in action on the Tay. Broughty Castle with its art and natural history was very fine, though of course I proceeded to slip on the stairs, right in front of the bemused museum assistant who proceeded to ask if I was all right. It happens enough that I don’t even get that embarrassed any more. After Broughty Ferry, we headed into Dundee city centre to visit the mighty McManus Galleries. The Diam slices in the cafe are outstanding. We had a walk by the Tay quickly before it got dark.

Broughty Castle Museum
McManus Galleries
V and A under construction next to the RRS Discovery in Dundee
So, that’s October. The clocks have gone back and the nights are fair drawing in. I never used to like autumn though we have been lucky that it has been quite mild here in the west. Lots of good adventures this month. Plus I’m back studying too and even still ahead of the course calendar. Hopefully there will be more adventures (and ticks off the course calendar) to come in November.

Thanks as ever to all readers and followers. I am particularly proud of October’s posts, particularly ‘Scotland by museums’ and ‘Muriel Spark’, and I hoped you enjoyed reading them. The next post here will be on Sunday. It was going to be about Platform 9 3/4, delving slightly into Harry Potter, but instead it will be about studying. Often even more magical.

Posts this month –


Thinking about a wander

Murals in Paisley

Digest: September 2017

Down the harbour 

Wemyss Bay/Largs

Streets of Glasgow: Renfield Street

Scotland by museums

Cathkin Park

Road from Hampden


Muriel Spark





Back in this blog’s early days, I was told that one thing that would improve it was photos. They would break up the text. Ever since I’ve kept to that and indeed I often take photos specifically for the blog, sometimes on spec for a potential future post. I would like to share some of my favourite photos from the blog over the last couple of years, giving some of the context behind them.

This first one was taken at the Science Museum in London, with what might be the Rocket in the centre of the shot and a lighthouse lamp from the Western Isles to the right of it. The Science Museum is excellent and it is stunningly arranged.

This was taken in the old Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow during a tour just before the current works to turn it into flats. You can almost see the nurses, doctors and patients moving along.

This is the old Winterfield Pavilion in Dunbar, now demolished. It stood abandoned for most of my lifetime though previously it was used variously as a performance space and public toilets. I suspect my interest in abandoned structures may have started there.

This is Kev’s Beach, not far from St. Abbs Head in Berwickshire. It is a little cove with a pebbly beach just off the path. It does have a name on the OS map but it felt like my own discovery, hence its unofficial moniker.

Dryburgh Abbey is a stunning place just by the Tweed in the Borders. I’ve only ever been there on gloriously sunny days, including this summer when I sat a while by the river and read. Blessed in that dawn to be alive.

This is the back of the old James Dunbar lemonade works, behind Easter Road Stadium in Edinburgh. The South Stand at Easter Road is still referred to as the Dunbar End, not because it is in the general direction of Dunbar, which it isn’t, but for the works.

Last one is Cathkin Park, taken a couple of weeks ago, a beautiful autumn day just to ponder and wander.

Some of these were taken with my camera, which is a Nikon Coolpix L340, though most of the more recent ones were taken with an iPhone 7. The last two definitely were. I haven’t taken my camera out all that often recently but since it has been a gorgeous autumn, I may just have to change that.