My favourite beach: Belhaven

Recently, the Guardian published an article featuring various writers spouting off on their favourite beach, including Irvine Welsh who wrote about Silverknowes beach in the north of Edinburgh. Irvine lives in Miami so perhaps might be writing with a wee tinge of nostalgia and relief that he doesn’t have to be there in November. I was there recently – read the Edinburgh’s promenade post for more on that walk – and it is fine, I have to say. The comments section of the article surprisingly didn’t descend into a whole lot of abuse as these things tend to do with readers instead talking about their favourite beaches, including a few I know well, Yellowcraig in East Lothian, Bamburgh in Northumberland and Prestwick down the watter in Ayrshire.

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My favourite beach is Belhaven, not far from Dunbar where I grew up. I haven’t been for a wee while but it is a place where I feel most myself, letting the winds wash my spirit clean, as John Muir might have put it. Belhaven is to the west of Dunbar and when approaching from the town, the bay just opens up with views to Fife, the Bass Rock, North Berwick Law and the Isle of May, not to mention further inland to Traprain Law and the Hopetoun Monument near Haddington. The bridge to the beach is cut off twice a day by the tide and it is popularly known as the ‘bridge to nowhere’. Indeed I remember when shelving CDs when I worked at Langside Library in Glasgow discovering a CD, possibly by the Battlefield Band, with said bridge on the front. It is a popular place for photographers and those of us who are merely tickled by a bridge being rendered irrelevant twice a day.

I don’t get there so often any more, living at the other side of the country. Usually when I write about Dunbar, I tend to be there the next week so I’m sure that will be the case this time. I used to walk there fairly often, with family or a succession of dogs, or otherwise alone coming up with ideas for writing. One Saturday morning, I ended up on the beach and saw a seagull lying on the sand with its ribs exposed, sticking up like city cranes. The image stuck with me and I even saw something similar in a Salvador Dali painting in the Modern Art Gallery in Edinburgh.

Why do I love it? It is a place where I feel close to nature, close to home and to lost loved ones. It is a place of comfort, of stability and it has stayed consistent ever since I’ve known it. The view of the Bass Rock and the May is never the same twice, however. I’ve been there in all weathers, even in the fog where the Bass Rock was the only thing visible for miles. The waves make it all the more special, a calming, rhythmic spectacle, every few seconds a new one. Stormy days, or wintry ones, are the best, the gnarling cold compensated for by those waves and the ruffled sky above.

There are those places which are special to us and feel unique to us, even while many others may feel exactly the same about them. I am lucky enough to have quite a few special places, some urban, others much more wild. Belhaven falls into the latter category, though close to the town too. Even while I love Glasgow, it is to Belhaven that I go to take stock and catch up with myself. There are few places better on earth and if you haven’t been, I heartily encourage you to go.

 

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Membership

Like most of the population, I carry several cards in my wallet for a panoply of purposes. Some financial, others retail. Two are there just in case I happen to be in a place to use them: membership cards for Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland. I have just renewed my membership for Historic Scotland for the eighth time – it is probably the easiest money I spend all year. The NTS card hasn’t been renewed as often, partly for financial reasons, also because I prefer ruined castles to the kind the NTS tends to manage. I bought an NTS membership again last year after a few years’ absence. I had recently visited the Hill House, the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed hoose high up in Helensburgh, and I decided to take the plunge and buy an NTS card, even if I might not use it that often. I have used it a few times over the piece, most recently at Alloa Tower in July. I also used it to get back into Brodick Country Park after popping into the gift shop.

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Hill House
My nearest NTS property is Pollok House, sat in the very fine Pollok Country Park. I can be there in half an hour. I haven’t been in for a few years – country houses really don’t float my boat though Pollok does have a very fine collection of Spanish art, as well as its magnificent grounds. Glasgow also has the Tenement House, a strange wee time capsule in Garnethill, a flat once belonging to a Miss Agnes Toward who kept the flat just as it was in the early part of the 20th century, and Holmwood House, which I went to last year some time. Holmwood is a pleasant house, in its own grounds in the south side not far from Cathcart Station. It was owned by the Couper brothers, local mill owners who donated the funds to build the Couper Institute, still the public library and community hub for the area, and designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson with all the characteristic stylistic touches that are his hallmark.

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Holmwood
Many of the NTS properties are in Ayrshire or Aberdeenshire. Ayrshire is fairly close to me though a fair few of the NTS properties there are only open seasonally. Even those tend to be Robert Burns-themed. I like our national poet, don’t get me wrong, I just need to be in the right mood for the Burns overkill that can sometimes ensue. My favourite NTS property in Ayrshire is Culzean Castle. I visited the castle about three years ago, getting the train down from Glasgow and then a bus from Ayr. The castle is in a stunning setting and as much as it is a fine house, the views are really more up my street. I walked in the country park one baltic day in February this year, thankfully sheltered a bit by the trees until we got back to Maidens and the wind hit.

Culzean Castle
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Barry Mill
My membership is up in October. I’m not sure to renew it yet. One reason that might sway me is that it might subsidise some of the smaller NTS properties, such as Preston Mill in East Linton and the wonderful Barry Mill in Angus. I am known to Tweet in praise of places I visit and in special circumstances to write to the organisation concerned to pass on my complements more directly. I went to Barry Mill about two years ago and the miller was doing an amazing job of showing folk around and passing on the skills and history of the place. It is in a very nice setting, between Carnoustie and Dundee, with trees and a burn passing nearby. The afternoon we had there stayed with me for a while. I wrote to the NTS in praise of Barry Mill, because if the management in Edinburgh don’t know the value of their outlying places then they might be lost. It’s why I will probably renew my membership, even while I might not necessarily get to all the places I want to see. It’s an investment to ensure other people can do so and enjoy them just as much if not more so than I ever would.

 

Cardonald

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Cardonald’s in the distance. Taken from Crookston Castle
I live in a part of Glasgow called Cardonald. If you don’t know it, you’ve probably passed by on the M8. It’s a suburb and it’s fine, I like living here. I’ve lived here four years now, which is amazing to me given I never thought I would leave Dunbar. Despite being here for four years, there are still places in the locality I have never been to. Just across the railway and the M8 from here is Cardonald Park. It is what was left after they built the motorway across the Fifty Pitches where once there were fifty football pitches. I pass Cardonald Park every day on the way to work but until the other day I had never been in it. It’s fine. I was walking across it on the way for a bus at the hospital. It seems pleasant enough to be in, with dog walkers and folks just passing by.

Five minutes walk away is Craigton Cemetery. I don’t really do cemeteries normally; not because they creep me out but because they generally have little interest to me. The social historian in me tends to come out, though, as with my visit to the Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh (as written about in Hibstory) or when I’ve been in the Necropolis just behind Glasgow Cathedral. Despite being in both of these places in the last few months, I still haven’t been to my local cemetery. Since at some point I will probably be a customer of the crematorium on site, I maybe should go while I’m alive. Like an increasing number of cemeteries, Craigton has a Heritage Trail, produced by Glasgow City Council. One of the more prominent people buried there is Bill Struth, one of the more successful managers of Rangers, who play just over the hill at Ibrox. Apparently it is possible to see the ground from Struth’s grave, which has an agreeable sort of symmetry, I suppose.

Not so far away is Crookston Castle, which I have been to, as written about here, but in that post I wrote about Rosshall Gardens, which I still haven’t been to.

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In writing this post I feel embarrassed that I have seen many fine places all across this land but places minutes away are still to be seen. To be fair, when I worked in museums, one of the things I heard most of all was ‘I’ve walked by for years and never been in’. You visit those places far away because of the journey. Even the streets I have written about so far in the city centre and the West End are far enough away to feel exotic. Even turning a different way, as I did in the park the other day, yields some insight, a sense of belonging, of being on my own turf even when where I step is unfamiliar. It might wait until the winter to do some more exploring of my area, perhaps when light is short and I just feel like going a short way rather than further afield. It will wait, though, since it’s all around me and I can just set out whenever it appeals.

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Rather lovely mural on Paisley Road West

Walk this way

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Where it began: Buchanan Street
For the last couple of months, I have been writing a series called Streets of Glasgow, basically essays about walks along the full length of Glasgow streets, part-psychogeography, part-stream of consciousness. The last one I wrote (early summer), Ingram Street, was the one I enjoyed most and I feel I am getting into the stride, so to speak, of this project. Hopefully you find them interesting. Anyway, I wanted to write about the process of them, how I come up with the street and then what I do on the actual walk.

The street usually comes down to where I happen to be that day. Buchanan Street and Ingram Street were both near places I was on training courses that day, Byres Road is by a bus stop and High Street was a chance glance out a bus. I have a few contenders for the next few – Queen Margaret Drive, Wellington Street, Waterloo Street, St. Vincent Street and George Street – though as ever when I get down to them will come down to when I can fit one in. The walks so far have been brief, 15-20 minutes in length, and that’s not stopped the writing flowing, I have to say.

Very often I have to walk up part of the street to get to an end of it, as with Ingram Street and High Street in particular. On that part, I am not thinking so much about what I’ll see, though I might spot something and file it away to look properly later. When I get to the start, I switch into full-on psychogeographic mode, looking all around and keeping alert for the sights and sounds of the street. So far I have relied on my memory and also iPhone photos. It has sort-of become a tradition that all SofG photos are phone photos since they are more spontaneous, a reaction to a moment in time. All of these walks so far have involved good weather, impressively, and there have been some interesting overheard conversations – Byres Road being particularly good for that. As I walk, thoughts might come about how the blog post will form, though usually that all comes later, usually at the end of the walk when I sit down and scribble a page or so of notes of thoughts and observations. This is a bit I particularly like as it tends to involve sitting on a bench somewhere pleasant – Byres Road led me to the Botanic Gardens, Ingram Street I sat outside the Gallery of Modern Art.

Later that day or the following day I sit here and the words appear on the screen. I liken writing to crossstitching, in that lots of patches and bits are brought together to create a greater thing than the words itself. Hopefully.

Streets of Glasgow has been enjoyable because it is on-the-spot and instant, the impressions I get would never be the same on another day. It is portable and also quite a bit educational, as with Ingram Street and the research I did to make sure I could write something worth reading about it. I never know when the next one will come but I am averaging one or two a month at the moment. Hopefully it will be soon, even while I am not sure where it will be. It has helped me understand Glasgow better and that is no bad thing, even while some people go their whole lives and never understand a place. I am getting there, though.

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

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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Digest: August 2017

It doesn’t feel so long since I wrote the last one of these. I seem to have been here, there and everywhere in August. I spent the first part of it on annual leave then much of the rest of it in transit. August seems to have been spent either at work or in the east of Scotland, mainly Edinburgh, with not so much time spent actually writing here. As ever, I have my iPad in front of me with photos to help me remember what I’ve done this month so here we go.


1st August I went to Dumbarton Castle. I had been away to East Lothian the day before and a lie in was required after a busy day. I was in the house around lunchtime and decided on the trip across the Clyde. I’ve been to Dumbarton Castle quite a few times but not since I stopped working in the town in late 2015. The train journey up from Glasgow was surreal, familiar terrain but not covered for a while, remembering past commutes and people I knew when I worked up there. It was a pleasant day, well, mostly, since it started raining while I was there, but I enjoyed the walk around the Rock, looking up the Clyde to hills and sea lochs and across the landscape to city streets and the Vale of Leven.

The following day was my birthday and I went to my favourite art gallery, Kirkcaldy Galleries, and spent a wee while amidst the Colourists, MacTaggarts and Glasgow Boys paintings.


That Friday, I had a turn around Glasgow, deciding to take in some of the lesser-spotted interesting bits of this great city I call home. First was the Buffalo Bill statue in Dennistoun, put up by a housing company to celebrate the East End Exhibition Centre that once stood nearby, hosting shows by Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley in 1891-1892. This statue stands in a square in the middle of a housing scheme, a wee bit of the Wild West in the East End. It’s a nice touch, paying homage to a past glory and also to the side of every Glaswegian, even us adopted ones, who aspire to be Americans. I hadn’t been to Dennistoun before and it was fine, particularly the stunning library building. I walked back into town along Alexandra Parade, one of those Streets of Glasgow walks, and it was nicer at the eastern end, I have to say, even with the church that looked like a fortress. I also did a Streets walk along Cathedral Street, which I know fairly well, but thought more en route about the ever-changing city landscape, sort of channelling Edwin Morgan. When I reached Queen Street, I ended up doing another of those things I had been meaning on doing for a while, on the train to Anniesland, via Maryhill and Kelvindale. It is one of the city’s branch lines, only opened about ten years ago and I wanted to do it because I had head it announced on the PA at Queen Street so many times as I was en route somewhere else. It was a brief journey, only about 20 minutes, and I mainly just looked out the window at the city passing by. I ended up on a bus from Anniesland to the Botanic Gardens, which spawned another post about the old railway there.

That Saturday I went to see Hibs at Easter Road. We won against Partick Thistle 3-1.


The next day I was away with my dad to Aberdour Castle in Fife and Elcho Castle in Perthshire. Aberdour is a castle I know well and I was glad to wander around the gardens and to get a gander at the painted ceilings, a lesser interest of mine. Thereafter we walked down to the harbour, looking across the Forth to Edinburgh. As we walked down the road, we passed two laddies who had peeled off most of their clothes and were headed for the water. Brave boys. As we walked back, they were out and clad in a towel to warm up. It was a full day and we headed to Dysart for lunch and then to Kirkcaldy for my second visit to Kirkcaldy Galleries in four days. Never object to it, mind. Elcho Castle was a new one to both of us and I liked it, particularly the little design touches characteristic of later Scottish castles.

The following Tuesday night, I was at Easter Road to see Hibs horse Ayr United in the League Cup. Beforehand I dined at an Italian restaurant in Ocean Terminal and sat on the veranda in the gorgeous Leith sunshine reading my book.


My next trip out of the west was Edinburgh again and Easter Road again. Prior to the game, I decided to go a slightly different route to the ground, going round the back of Meadowbank Shopping Park to the old Dunbar’s lemonade factory just behind the stadium.

Guess where I was the following day? Yep, Edinburgh again, Easter Road again, this time though for a play about the early years of Hibs, from its formation in the Cowgate to good days and bad, ‘A Field Of Our Own’, produced by the Strange Town theatre company and staged actually in the stadium, more precisely the East Stand concourse. It was excellent, thought-provoking and emotional at times. I left with my faith in Hibs very much restored after the dire performance against Hamilton the day before. I love my club. I walked to spend a few minutes with my favourite trees, the sequoias in the Botanic Gardens, sitting scribbling, reading and thinking. The evening was to be cultural again, this time an event at the Edinburgh Book Festival about the new book Who Built Scotland, featuring essays on 25 of the most interesting and important Scottish buildings written by Alexander McCall Smith, Alistair Moffat, James Robertson, Kathleen Jamie and James Crawford. I am a big Kathleen Jamie fan but sadly she wasn’t at the event. Instead the other four authors were interviewed by the splendidly acerbic Ruth Wishart, who is an excellent chair of these sorts of events, with the various authors talking about some of their chosen buildings, with the four authors expounding forth on pre-fabs in Kelso, Cairnpapple Hill, Bell Rock Lighthouse, Innerpeffray Library and Abbotsford.


My next trip to the capital came on Wednesday night. I was supposed to be going to a poetry reading at the Book Festival but couldn’t be arsed. I left work early and decided to head straight out of Edinburgh towards Musselburgh, having a chippy at Fisherrow and wandering around the harbour in the warm sunshine. I walked as far as Joppa and as I sauntered, I realised I wasn’t in the right mood for poetry. I headed back into the city, spent a few quid in the Book Festival Bookshop then came home, feeling the benefit of the quieter train home and being in my bed a few minutes earlier.

The Saturday saw yet another trip to Edinburgh, again for the Book Festival, this time for Ian Rankin. I had never seen Rankin live before but wasn’t disappointed. I’ve fallen in and out of love with Rebus but Ian Rankin is on a good run of form. He’s also a very captivating and compelling speaker and held court talking about Rebus in various media, writing and Police Scotland. I had once more left work early and got to Edinburgh earlier than I perhaps had to. I ended up walking up Easter Road and sitting by the Water of Leith for a bit in the sunshine before I walked along the side of the river back into the city to get a chippy before seeing Ian Rankin.


Very early on the Sunday, and I mean early, I left for Dundee. Hibs were playing on the live Sky game at Dens Park. I had a ticket for the posh seats, a very new experience, surreal but not altogether unpleasant, as it happens. Hibs should have won but it turned out 1-1. I also had my first taste of beef bourguignon, which was far better than the football. On the way back into town, my auntie showed me a trail of various murals in some of the city centre’s closes. I haven’t written a post about them yet but I like the idea of using hidden city spaces in that way.

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Right, that’s August. Today, Tuesday, is also the second anniversary of when I started this blog. In the last two years, my confidence as a writer and as a person has grown considerably. Let the words flow. Thanks to all readers and followers. It’s been fun so far. Tomorrow, there will be a post. It’s one I wrote absolutely yonks ago about the National Railway Museum in York. In conclusion, I would like to share a particular place and quotation etched upon it I’ve shared here before but means a lot.

August posts –

Digest: July 2017

Dirleton, Seton and a coastal walk

Streets of Glasgow: Alexandra Parade

Stairs

Places that can’t be reached by public transport

Streets of Glasgow: Cathedral Street

The Dunbar End

In praise of being alone

The Botanics

Castles as cardio

 

Castles as cardio

Historic Scotland are very active on social media advertising their great variety of sites up and down this great land. I scroll through my Facebook feed or Twitter timeline and invariably see the latest missive advertising five sites perfect for visiting in the rain or alternatively in the sunshine. I like that, though, since invariably I start to daydream about where I can plan a trip to in the near future. What they haven’t done yet, as far as I know, is compile a list of those of their properties that give the best workout while walking or clambering around them. I was at the wonderful Kilchurn Castle in Argyll recently and the walk from the car park and then up and down the castle was more than enough to top-up. There are some HS properties, though, which are far more intensive and could rival a gym in their cardio workout possibilities. Not just Holyrood Park, managed by HS, where folk run, do yoga and climb, but the likes of Linlithgow Palace, Tantallon Castle and Craigmillar Castle, to name but three I’ve been to this year. Not to mention the big three, Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart.


I often slag Edinburgh Castle off. The view is pretty decent but not necessarily worth £17. It is also, though, gey steep, built on an extinct volcano and there are a lot of stairs and slopes about the place. There will be some who will get their year’s exercise in a couple of hours at Edinburgh Castle. All Historic Scotland need to do is add a few stretches and squats to the guided tour and the job’s a good ‘un. I’m not unfit but even I am knackered after a visit there. So, it isn’t all bad.


Linlithgow Palace is one of the more complete HS properties and it is possible to make a complete circuit of the building above ground level. There are also a lot of staircases and little nooks and crannies. When I was last there in January, I spent well over an hour wandering and pondering and it’s fair to say I got a workout along the way. Craigmillar is very similar. I was there in May and I know the benefit I got from being there wasn’t just intellectual or emotional. There was a physical gain too. This year is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and HS are missing a trick in not plugging their properties as keep fit destinations. Leap While You Learn might be a half decent slogan. Or History For Health. (There’s a reason I don’t work in advertising. Or healthcare, come to think of it.)

The Botanics

Some people won’t know that the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow were once served by a railway. It existed for a mere 68 years, from 1896 to 1964. The station in the Botanics closed in February 1939, though generations of Glasgow children remember climbing down where the trains once steamed through. It is now firmly fenced off, industrial archaeology to be observed, not walked in. The ventilation shafts are still visible in the Botanics and I go for a look whenever I’m there. I stood there the other day, imagining trains of Glaswegians decamping for an afternoon amidst the trees, but not seeing them, the buses I could hear along Great Western Road conveying visitors there now.


I was told recently of the concept of the urban imaginary, the different meanings and contexts that the urban can assume. (With thanks to lullueblog. I like this blog for intriguing discussions of what constitutes authentic travel.) The urban imaginary is quite similar to psychogeography, I gather, a way to help people make sense of often obtuse and overwhelming cities. Glasgow is one of those cities where it helps to look up and down whenever possible, to be aware of what is around. There is simply a lot going on here, architecturally and in every other sense. In a city which thrives on being stylish and friendly, it is nice to peek behind that exterior and realise there are parts of this city which have just been abandoned to nature. The Botanics is in the heart of Glasgow’s West End, one of the more desirable parts of the city to live and love in. Yet there’s an old railway station there. There are times when I like places to be ruined, to have embarked on a different phase of their life cycle than first intended. Yet there are times when looking upon a place that a reimagining and reworking is what comes to mind. I hope that one day trains run again in the Botanics, just as I hope to stand on the terracing at Cathkin Park and see league football. In the meantime, we have memories slowly fading but urban imaginaries slowly emerging too.

The Dunbar End

In going to the football every other Saturday, or whenever the TV people decide the game should be, I am generally consistent. I get a train to Edinburgh then walk to the ground, usually up London Road then Easter Road to Albion Road and round by the Famous Five Stand and in the East Stand. Sometimes, though, I like to mix things up and go a slightly different route. It keeps me from getting bored plus it satisfies the bit of me that just needs to walk as these diversions invariably take a wee bit longer. I was aware of a footpath at the back of the Meadowbank Shopping Park, to the south of the stadium, that led to the back of the ground through a fairly recent housing development called the Lochend Butterfly. In the spirit of research, I decided to go that way just to see where it took me.

Lawrie Reilly Place

The Meadowbank Shopping Park is just like any other retail park anywhere. It has a smattering of shops, lots of parking spaces, a fast food place and footpaths that take the pedestrian around the edges rather than directly through it. That was what I did, cutting around the side of Sainsbury’s. There were a few others doing the same thing so I drifted back behind them as this was new territory for me. The path was narrow anyway, surrounded by big boards keeping us out of the construction site. It led into some houses on the splendidly named Lawrie Reilly Way. Lawrie Reilly, who died in 2013 at the age of 84, was the last surviving member of the Famous Five, Hibs’ formidable forward line of the 1950s, formed, as any Hibee would surely know, of Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond. When housing developments tend to have generic street names, and generic houses to match, those names with local resonance make a small difference.

Dunbar lemonade factory

Over the railway, the road split. The right fork would take me to the back of the East Stand, which is where I sit, but I was running early so I followed it until I came to the back of a huge red-brick building bearing the words ‘JAMES DUNBAR’ in prominent white letters. This was the Dunbar’s lemonade factory, now artists’ workshops. I like ghost signs, or those advertising products and services that aren’t there any more. There are a few in Edinburgh, Leith Walk and George IV Bridge in particular, and the Dunbar factory is a cracking example.

South Stand with Norton Park to left

The Dunbar factory also gives its name to the South Stand at Easter Road, nicknamed the Dunbar End. I soon arrived at the back of the South, a part of the stadium I haven’t been in for a long time. A lot of my early Hibs games, back in the late 1990s, were seen from the top tier of the South Stand, where Hibs Kids were allotted seats for games a few times a season. I remember those games, handing over a ticket at the turnstile and getting a set of football stickers or a flyer for a show back. The view from the South was particularly good. This was the time before the West and East Stands were redeveloped so there was a brilliant view up to Leith and over the Forth, always useful if the game was dull.

Easter Road is surrounded by houses, some older than others, with a fair bit of history around too. I walked around by the Norton Park Conference Centre, an old schoolhouse that yesterday housed the Kids Zone, a place where bairns could be entertained before the game, complete with a visit from the Fire Brigade (planned, honest). Norton Park used to be a high school and it appeared in a film called The Singing Street, made in 1950, which recorded playground games and songs of the era. I always remember The Singing Street playing on a constant loop in the Museum of Childhood, a much-loved museum in the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

I’m a big advocate of going a different way occasionally. It helps to keep the familiar from becoming too familiar. I enjoyed this little diversion yesterday and I will probably take it again at some point. The little bit of me that is superstitious may question that since we got beat yesterday though my rational side doubts very much that Hibs being mince had anything to do with me taking a different route to the ground. There are connections between most things, for sure, but some things can be chalked down to Hibs being Hibs.