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.

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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.

Screenshot 2017-08-29 at 21.02.55

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

 

Streets of Glasgow: Cathedral Street


I’ve written here before about Edwin Morgan, a poet who wrote about many things, most notably about Glasgow, the city which he called home. As I started onto Cathedral Street, I thought about Morgan’s poem ‘The Second Life’, which is a meditation of a man in his forties about the city changing about him, regenerating and growing anew.

‘Many things are unspoken

in the life of a man, and with a place

there is an unspoken love also

in undercurrents, drifting, waiting its time.

A great place and its people are not renewed lightly.’

Glasgow is awash with development right now. It cannot be denied, however, that there are still problems and places and people in this city which are not being renewed. Cathedral Street changes every time I see it, seeing new buildings springing up regularly as part of the City of Glasgow College and Strathclyde University. It is a part of the city which has waited its time, though, with old 60s concrete replaced by swish glass and colourful designs. At the moment it is a work in progress with cranes, boards and construction happening all around.


I started from the Cathedral Precinct, stopping to scribble notes from the previous Alexandra Parade walk and get my breath back. I paused by the statue of David Livingstone, a much far-flung sort of adventurer, which I hadn’t really paid much attention to before. I also noticed for the first time a plaque dedicated to those who perished in the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988. I remembered the beautiful Piper Alpha memorial which sits in the Kirk of St. Nicholas in Aberdeen and I was glad that my city had a small but thought-provoking memorial to those 167 people who died in the middle of the North Sea.

As I neared the junction with Stirling Road, where the Strathclyde University Library is, I distinctly heard skirling pipes. Not a single piper but a full band. As I looked to my left, into the student accommodation, I could see there was indeed a full pipe band, not all in Highland dress but in T-shirts and kilts, playing in the quadrangle. Whatever gets them through the shift. The World Pipe Band Championships take place in the city in the coming weeks so they may have been here for that.


There were also pipes in the street, with much of the section between Montrose Street and North Hanover Street being dug up. This was genuinely interesting, seeing the layers of the street and what lies underneath. Archaeologists getting in there would have a rare old time.


At that point, new buildings came thick and fast, the new City of Glasgow College building sandwiched between two in progress, one for the College and the other for Strathclyde University. The City of Glasgow College building is massive, with a huge frontage with stairs leading up the side of the building and lots of glass facing onto Cathedral Street.


Cathedral Street ends at the junction of Buchanan Street and Bath Street. Bath Street, which continues heading west, will be for another time. This time I stopped to look at the vast glass arch of Queen Street Station. Where at the start I heard pipes, now all I could hear was the booming PA of the railway station announcing the latest service to Edinburgh. I was heading for a train, not for the capital this time, but first to finish the walk, under Buchanan Galleries, another modern development in a street full of them, a couple of generations worth anyway and changing with every day that passes.

Sources and further reading –

Morgan, Edwin – ‘The Second Life’, published in New Selected Poems, 2000, Manchester: Carcanet

Streets of Glasgow: Alexandra Parade


Of all the streets in this city, there aren’t very many Parades. There can be parades on them, certainly, but not many bear the name ‘Parade’. Alexandra Parade was chosen for this walk because I happened to be going to Dennistoun anyway and it was a quick and simple route back into the city centre. It starts by Cumbernauld Road in Dennistoun and ends about a mile later by the Royal Infirmary at Castle Street. Unlike some of the streets in this series, Alexandra Parade was entirely new to me, only a name I had heard others speak about or that I had seen on the map. It was also the first street where I had the sweet smell of beer wafting through my nostrils, blowing up from the Tennents Brewery. Not altogether unpleasant, as it happens, despite that I don’t like beer that much.


James Miller designed some very fine buildings in his day, not least the Grand Central Hotel in town and Clydebank Town Hall. St. Andrews East Church isn’t one of them, looking very austere and just like a fortress. Apparently, according to my Pevsner guide, it is ‘an Arts and Crafts interpretation of the late Perp style, with a prominent Westwerk facing Alexandra Parade’. As a connoisseur of castles myself, it looks like it should have gunholes, archers and a portcullis about the place. It may have been the greyness of the day but it just looked grim. The church hall next door, which is now the proper church, looks a bit more appealing, thankfully.


Alexandra Park faces onto the Parade and I admired the flowerbeds around the gates as well as the cherubic figure sitting under a canopy at the park entrance. Glasgow seems to have a few of these kicking around; there’s another at Govan Cross, for example, and this one was painted in red, gold and black.

Much of the walk took me past fine tenement blocks, most in red but some in more yellow sandstone, some with very handsome roof features, domes and finials. As I walked further towards the city centre, I began to imagine this street bustling with people and lined on both sides by staunch, old-fashioned tenements. Not far along was Alexandra Parade Primary School, another handsome Victorian schoolhouse, this one with prominent Art Nouveau style lettering denoting the school’s name and that it was operated by the School Board of Glasgow. At the end of the playground was a decent sized house that may well have housed the school headie or the jannie at one point.


Closer to the city centre the landscape became a bit more modern with office blocks and industrial premises at either side. One of the office blocks, City Park, was previously a tobacco factory, one of quite a few in and around Alexandra Parade at one time. City Park is a colossal building, housing quite a few different companies. It also has some intriguing statues outside it, a male figure on one side and a female figure on the other. I also liked how an old cinema had been turned into a tyre garage. The only clue of its past use was the bold colours and curves on the front of the building, with the garage operating from the side.

Towards the end the M8 was beside me for much of the way, with constantly bustling midday traffic making their way through the city. I soon came to the Royal Infirmary, realising swiftly just how vast a complex it is, with boxy buildings at the eastern side to augment the grander edifice facing onto Castle Street. The hospital was busy too, with folk shuffling in and out and ambulances with their loud caterwauling wails never far away.

Soon I came to Castle Street, the point where Alexandra Parade ended. And, naturally, the rain started, as if just waiting for the walk to be finished. I sheltered for a wee while under a tree in the Cathedral Precinct, scribbling thoughts and reflecting on the walk just undertaken. It was good to be in an unfamiliar part of the city, discovering new architecture and making connections between names and places at last. The contrast between swish Dennistoun and Townhead with the constant whir of traffic made it all the more interesting but in all Alexandra Parade was a good choice, leading me back into the city and another wander about to begin.

Source and further reading –

Williamson, Elizabeth, Riches, Anne and Higgs, Malcolm, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, 2005, New Haven, CT/London, Yale University Press

Digest: July 2017

July has been busier with work than most months though I am now on leave so can slow down and travel more. I am starting this post on day one of my time off and in the diary I have football in Alloa and a day trip to Durham and Newcastle before the month officially finishes. The blog is even on hiatus until mid-August – this is the first post back – but I will probably be writing a fair bit while I’m off. Not too much, though.

Benmore
Loch Awe
Kilchurn Castle

So, to the month that was, and July began with a day trip with my dad to Argyll, taking in Benmore Botanic Garden near Dunoon and Kilchurn Castle that bit further north by Loch Awe. It was wet and grey at Benmore but we didn’t care, wandering amidst the trees and up to the shelter at the very top. The sequoias that form the entrance at Benmore are utterly gorgeous and the trip I’ve wanted for many years to Yosemite and Muir Woods in California was being mused about all the more under those fine trees in Argyll. We drove past Inveraray to Kilchurn and managed to park in a lay by just up the road. Kilchurn has long been on my list and it is in a stunning setting at the head of Loch Awe. It was well worth it. Read about this visit here – Kilchurn Castle

I spent an hour or two that week wandering about Glasgow’s West End in the rain, going to Kelvingrove and then to the Botanics, not for the first time pausing by the old railway and wondering what else lies under these city streets. Last week I was watching a documentary about the new Crossrail project in London and it was interesting to hear about what had been found about life in that great metropolis in centuries past.

Berwick
Temple of Muses
Dryburgh Abbey
Introverted road
Dublin Street

The following Saturday I ended up in Berwick. Wandering the walls and looking into the distance was utterly ideal. I went to Dryburgh Abbey, read by the river then hoofed it the five miles to Melrose. The Borders Railway took me to Edinburgh where I had a psychogeographical meander before finally heading home. It was a brilliant, brilliant day. Posts – Walls, rivers and abandoned roads: a day in the Borders and Introverted roads

That Sunday saw me at Easter Road for Lewis Stevenson’s testimonial. On the way back, I managed an impromptu Streets of Glasgow walk along Gordon Street, probably the finest and underrated thoroughfare in the city.

Bridgeton Burns monument

Saturday 15th July I was at a conference for radical library folk. It was held at the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library in Bridgeton, and I walked from Central to Bridgeton and back, the return leg catching up with a friend who was at the conference too. Bridgeton has a memorial to Robert Burns, which I hadn’t seen before and liked immensely.

Newhaven
Wardie Bay
Granton
Cramond

Edinburgh is my go-to place when I can’t think of anywhere else to go. I didn’t have a plan that Sunday and on the way out of Waverley I decided on a walk up Leith Walk towards Newhaven. My feet finally stopped at the Barnton Roundabout, having walked all the way along the Forth via Granton, Wardie and Cramond, the last bit due to the buses not being that regular. My feet are sore just remembering that one but it was great just to look and see another side to our beautiful capital. Post – Edinburgh’s promenade

Tynecastle

My next trip out was to Edinburgh again one Tuesday after work. Hibs were playing but I got through to Edinburgh early. On the spur of the moment, I got off at Haymarket and walked along Dalry Road, all the way in fact to Tynecastle where I wanted a nosy at the new Main Stand currently being built by the Hearts. The big office bit at the back didn’t inspire me, to be honest, quite reminiscent of an out-of-town office block or something to be found in Cumbernauld or Livingston. I walked back into town via Murrayfield, where I paused by the war memorial (shown below), which is surprisingly subtle and elegant. I don’t normally pay much heed to war memorials, not out of any disrespect, but it gave me pause. As I reached Haymarket not long afterwards and the clock that stands there (shown below) as a memorial to those Hearts players who died in the two World Wars, I was thinking about how there are always things more important and before we consider rivalries, sporting or otherwise, there must always be empathy and respect for our fellow people who have gone out and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Hibs won in Alloa, as it turns out. I also managed to find time to get to Alloa Tower, a National Trust property which sits in the town centre. I liked it more the longer I spent there. I’ve been to a lot of castles in my time and too many of them have been built-up ones that were home to various entitled folk. But I liked it immensely, particularly the grand hall on the middle level, which had a gallery. The views from the top were fine, mainly across urban central Scotland towards Falkirk, Grangemouth and Stirling though also across to the nearby Ochil Hills, which were mostly shrouded in low cloud when I was there due to the often driving rain.

The day trip to Durham and Newcastle became a day trip to East Lothian instead. I slept in and missed the train to Durham, necessitating a change of plan. I had the idea to go east and ended up doing the whole thing by bus. I reached Edinburgh and got the bus to Dirleton Castle, one of the nicest castles in the country. The rain wasn’t too bad and indeed I sat for a while under a tree looking at the gardens, while it rained. It got nicer for a bit as I headed back down the coast to Seton Collegiate Church, one of the nicest, most peaceful places around. It was wet there too but dried up as I had a walk the few miles through Port Seton, Cockenzie and Prestonpans to Prestongrange. It was a great day, entirely unplanned at each stage, the best kind.

Dirleton Castle
Seton Collegiate Church
Prestongrange

Well, that’s the July digest. This is the first post back after the break and I have a few new posts ready to go. This week there will be posts on Thursday and Sunday. Thursday’s will be about the day trip to East Lothian while Sunday will be a brand new Streets of Glasgow post about Alexandra Parade. Thanks so much for reading as ever.

Posts published this month –

Proclaimers Live

Streets of Glasgow: Battlefield Road

Bothwell Castle

Kilchurn Castle

Walls, rivers and abandoned roads: a day in the Borders

Introverted roads

Streets of Glasgow: Gordon Street

New Town psychogeography

Hampden Park

Edinburgh’s promenade

The Bass Rock’s doppelganger

Following

Streets of Glasgow: Gordon Street


Gordon Street is probably the street in Glasgow I use most often, invariably darting along it at considerable speed to catch a train at either Central or Queen Street. It is the street that helped to inspire this Streets of Glasgow series since it is despite being a busy, thriving city thoroughfare also architecturally stunning. I finally got round to it one wet Sunday evening with half an hour to kill before my train home. I started from the Buchanan Street end and reached the Hope Street in barely 10 minutes, having spent much of the time looking up and noticing many more details and stunning architectural features than I had previously appreciated. The Royal Bank of Scotland was the first building to give me pause – with its various heads and finer touches. I wonder if the folk dining in the heated tent below ever look up. It’s worth it at every turn on Gordon Street for most of the buildings will reward a closer glance, layered and diverse with each bound along the way. A particular highlight was the building above the Co-op, which houses offices for the legal firm Harper Macleod, which is all glass and reflects the tops of its surrounding buildings.


I had to stop outside Central Station and look back along at what I had missed. Even the building on the corner that houses Greggs is gorgeous, with a cupola on the top. Quite a few Greggs branches in Glasgow city centre are in nice buildings, like the one on Queen Street and the new one on Argyle Street next to Waterstone’s. The red sandstone building above the new Sainsbury’s, Standard Buildings, is also very handsome and detail-laden. I also stopped by the Citizen Firefighter sculpture outside the Grand Central Hotel. I didn’t know until I looked it up just now that the sculpture was designed to pay tribute to the firefighters of Glasgow, past and present. With the fire at Grenfell Tower in London still fresh in our minds, I can’t help but admire those who brave these conditions every day to protect us all. It is fitting and works with its surroundings too.


Of course the walk finished at Central Station, quite handily since it was where I had to get my train home. Central Station is the biggest and busiest station in Scotland and it is certainly the most architecturally interesting, with the possible exception of St. Enoch Subway nearby. As I walked up for my train, a CrossCountry express pulled up, bound for Newcastle. For a few moments, I was tempted to jump on it but that would have been too far for one weekend. Gordon Street manages to combine a lot in not a lot, roughly 300 yards to be precise, and it’s always worth looking up to find yet more, just like on a departure board when impulse wants to take you further. Another time, certainly, but I was happy where I was, awestruck once more by the beauty of this city, hidden in plain sight.

Streets of Glasgow: Battlefield Road

Battlefield Road

If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure whether a walk along Battlefield Road would work. I worked in the area for two years and it’s very familiar. There was a very real likelihood I would run into someone I knew en route. (I didn’t.) But I decided to give it a go anyway, since I knew I could spin this post into something a lot longer if I had to. I started from the Mount Florida end, passing the churches on the corner then a flooring showroom that was all glass on the outside, which seems to defeat the purpose. Under the railway bridge and up to the junction with Holmlea Road was all tenements, grey and red, non-descript Glasgow. I could be anywhere in the city. Then I turned the corner and the familiar skyline came into view, the chimney pots and the cupolas and spires of the old Victoria Infirmary, added to by the more recent angular outline of the Glasgow Clyde College. To the left was a line of food shops, separated by the Job Centre, currently up for sale as part of a Government cost-saving plan that has seen a local campaign start to save it, alas without success.

Skyline

I soon came to the junction and stopped to look at the Battlefield Rest, probably the most elegant tram shelter in the city and now an Italian restaurant. There were plans afoot at one point to put an old tram car outside it to add to the dining experience but I think that might be too much personally.

Junction
Battlefield Rest

Just behind the Battlefield Rest is the old Victoria Infirmary, now being redeveloped into luxury flats. I went on a tour last September, which I wrote about here. All the work seems to be internal just now so the building looks just the same as ever despite the boards on the outside advertising that they are now owned by Sanctuary Homes. The old Vicky still dominates the cityscape up and down Battlefield Road even while there is much less of a bustle now most of its operations have decamped to the new hospital in Govan.

Victoria Infirmary

On the left as I walked up the hill was Langside Library, where I worked for just over two years. Unfortunately by the rules of the Streets of Glasgow project, it is actually on Sinclair Drive as opposed to Battlefield Road so I couldn’t go in as I passed. Fortunately, though, the side of the building faces onto Battlefield Road so I can report that the garden was looking great and the building is now scaffolding-free after the issues with the cupola.

Beyond the library were quite a few Battlefield-named businesses, reflecting the wider area’s claim to fame as the scene of the Battle of Langside on 13th May 1568 between the forces of Mary, Queen of Scots and the Earl of Moray over who ruled Scotland. It certainly wasn’t for Queen Mary as her forces got decisively gubbed. A lot of the streets around Battlefield Road have names relating to Mary, Queen of Scots and her life, including Dundrennan Road named after the Abbey where the Queen spent her last night in Scotland and Lochleven Road after the Castle where Mary abdicated. I walked up to the monument at the top of the hill, passing a blockish electricity substation apparently an example of the ‘Wrenaissance style favoured by Glasgow Corporation’, according to my Pevsner’s guide. I spent a fair bit of time looking at the details and flourishes of the obelisk from all angles around the roundabout. The monument was dedicated in 1887 and it shows judging by the style of the sculpture and most certainly its scale. Standing by the monument gave a great view down Battlefield Road towards the College and the Battlefield Rest but also the other way to the Church on the Hill restaurant, once Langside Hill Church, a fine classical structure with pillars. It, like the monument, was designed by Alexander Skirving.

Monument
Church on the Hill

Thinking on it later, this walk was a closer look into the familiar rather than yielding much fresh insight. It was nice to be there as a person rather than for work though being there as a blogger with a purpose outweighed the emotional attachment I would otherwise have felt to a place I spent two happy years. I’m quite sure I’ll be back, though, in one way or another.

Battlefield Road

Sources and further reading:

Glasgow City Council, Langside Heritage Trail, 2012, second revised edition, available at https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=32316&p=0

Searle, Adrian and Barbour, David, Look Up Glasgow, 2013, Glasgow: Freight Books

Williamson, Elizabeth, Riches, Anne and Higgs, Malcolm, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, 2005, New Haven, CT/London, Yale University Press

 

Digest: June 2017

This month I haven’t been terribly far. Just working a lot, living life, all that jazz. I’ve had to look at the photos on my phone to see where I’ve been that’s worth noting. On 2nd June, I was at the dentist. Just before I went in for my scale and polish (no fillings required), I had a wee turn around Elder Park, donated to the people of Govan by Isabella Elder. I have written a post about Elder Park, which will be published on the blog in late July, I think. I don’t get down that way as often as I used to, even while it is barely a mile away.

Elder Park

The following night I went out to dinner in Glasgow city centre. I had time to kill before my train home so undertook one of the Streets of Glasgow walks down Queen Street. It wasn’t my favourite of the series but I particularly liked the building above Greggs.

Billy Connolly mural by Jack Vettriano in Dixon Street, Glasgow

Friday 16th June I went on the trail of the Billy Connolly murals. I went on the bus into the town, along Paisley Road West as I sometimes like to do, just observing the city going about its business. I liked the Billy Connolly murals immensely, particularly the Vettriano one. I walked from the third mural, the Rachel McLean one on the Gallowgate, and down through the Gorbals to start another Streets of Glasgow walk, this time down Cathcart Road. I just felt like walking and I enjoyed watching the world change past my feet. I sat in Cathkin Park a while and noticed that it was looking very overgrown, though some of the posts have been painted green and white for some unknown reason. Third Lanark played in red so goodness knows. After that, I did the second Streets of Glasgow walk of the afternoon, this time along Battlefield Road, which despite being familiar was enjoyable and yielded a lot of interest – post appears sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Cathcart Road

That Sunday was the day of the Open Day at Easter Road and it got considerably warmer and sunnier as I travelled eastwards. Easter Road was mobbed but it was good to be back. I wrote about it the other day. Afterwards I walked up to Ocean Terminal, changing into my new Hibs top as my T-shirt was drenched in sweat. It was really too warm. I got a bus to Elm Row and then another out to Prestongrange, my old work, where I wandered about Morrison’s Haven before sunbathing for a bit. I then headed over the way for a walk around the site, reliving old times and trying to imagine what had once happened there. A real Carlsberg sort of day.

 

Easter Road
Prestongrange

Most of the rest of my photos for June reflect that I worked nearly all of the rest of the month. When I was walking home one night, I stopped on the flyover at Cardonald and noticed how I could see for miles across the city, to the University, Park Circus and the riverside at the Science Centre. I like a view like that, not quite synoptic but good enough.

View across Glasgow to Science Centre

Today I was in Dunfermline, really just for lunch, then went home via Edinburgh. It was nice to be out of the routine, even for a little while.

View from Dunfermline to Forth Bridges

July looks set to be interesting. I am away for the day tomorrow and football starts again so I will be out and about across the country. I have a few days up for grabs and I have annual leave at the end of the month too. Maybe a Streets of Glasgow walk or something else. We’ll see what happens. Until then, thanks again to all readers. Post on Sunday is about the greatest band in the world, The Proclaimers. Stay tuned.

Posts published this month –

Digest: May 2017

Walking in cities you don’t live in

Seaweed

Streets of Glasgow: Queen Street

Clipboards

Edinburgh Waverley

Sir Billy

Real men

Suggestion box

Streets of Glasgow: Cathcart Road

20 years on from the Philosopher’s Stone

Wallace and Gromit

Easter Road

 

Streets of Glasgow: Cathcart Road


For a few minutes, I wasn’t sure if I was actually on Cathcart Road. I had walked from the city centre through the Gorbals to where I thought Cathcart Road started, by the Brazen Head pub, but it was only when I checked Google Maps and a nearby bus stop that I was certain I was in the right place. The first Cathcart Road sign didn’t appear until I had crossed the motorway, well into the walk. This walk was the first of the Streets of Glasgow series to brave the south side of the city, a grievous oversight since I actually live south of the Clyde, and Cathcart Road was picked owing to its proximity to the city centre but also because it crosses a fair bit of the south side in its 2-mile stretch. I hoped it would be interesting and so it proved pretty much immediately as I came up to the ruined Caledonia Road Church, which had been part of a project called Stalled Spaces during the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and still had signs of development behind a fence. The frontage is stunning, an Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson design with Greek and Italian touches. In all the time I’ve lived in Glasgow, I never stop being surprised by the beautiful buildings I encounter in all parts of the city. The Gorbals and Govanhill, where I would be in a few minutes, are both places with more than their fair share of problems though they also have a fair few cracking buildings.

Caledonia Road Church
Caledonia Road Church

Across the road was the head office of First Glasgow, the city’s main bus operator. First aren’t the best though they are better in Glasgow than they used to be in the east coast. It says it all, though, that the two cars nearest the entrance were both Jaguars. Perhaps they are washed just along the road in a car wash dubbed World’s No. 1, which made me wonder how these things can possibly be measured objectively.

First depot
Car wash

Govanhill is one of the most ethnically diverse places in Scotland and it very swiftly showed as I crossed the motorway in the great variety of people around me from all parts of the world. The shops also gave a clue, with considerable culinary choice, including at least two that served up both sweets and kebabs, an odd mix but one I could understand given that some Muslims have very sweet teeth. The displays in the clothes shops around Allison Street are incredibly vivid and colourful and I enjoyed just looking around me on this part of the walk. Having said that, Govanhill also is a place many people don’t feel comfortable lingering in. I walked at a steady pace, interested in my surroundings as ever but hastening on nevertheless.

Clothes shop on Allison Street
Diversity of shops in Govanhill

When I reached Albert Road, there was a noticeable difference, as if that was where Govanhill stopped and Crosshill began. The buildings even changed colour, the older red sandstone tenements giving way for a bit to more modern grey and white clad houses. The railway bridge above Crosshill Station was more traditional, though, the product of good old Victorian engineering in Motherwell. I soon came to Cathkin Park, a place I know well, once the home of Third Lanark, now a park with terracing being slowly taken into nature. I paused there only to take a photo – it is on Cathcart Road, after all – but returned a bit later to pause, ponder and scribble notes from this walk.

Cathkin Park

A few minutes later, I came to the junction with Prospecthill Road and thus into Mount Florida, the street red sandstone like Govanhill but a bit more affluent and posh Western, including the peculiar juxtaposition of a trendy chip shop with a cheesy name like Hooked. Also there was a gift shop which had window displays marking that Father’s Day was coming that Sunday, including the immortal legend, ‘My Paw Is Pure Braw’. Now, I don’t know if anyone in Scotland, let alone this city, outside of The Broons, refers to their faither as Paw but I know that referring to something as ‘pure’ is a Weegie expression while ‘braw’ is an east coast word, with most usages in Glasgow probably by me. It’s a linguistic and dialectical mishmash but it’s a nice one so we’ll let it slide this time.

I forgot about the cheesy pun on the other window

Before the walk finished, I had two more good buildings to look over. One was Mount Florida Primary School, an old fashioned Victorian schoolhouse in red sandstone like so many others in both Glasgow and Edinburgh, while the other was the Clockwork Beer Company, which I am told is a fine drinking establishment, with a cupola and elegant decoration on the gable in the centre. As I reached Holmlea Road, still short of Cathcart but the end of its Road, I thought on how I had enjoyed my walk a lot, the longest of these walks so far but also the most diverse in a lot of ways, taking me through at least four distinct parts of the city in just shy of an hour. There were a few ideas of places to read more about, like the Caledonia Road Church, but in the meantime I backtracked to Cathkin, leaving the city street behind for a few minutes for the eerie still of the park.

Streets of Glasgow: Queen Street

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Psychogeography is a funny thing. It is a concept about trying to understand cities better. Perhaps not at 8.30 on a Saturday night, though, especially when the only person sober within a five-mile radius. I had some time to kill before my train home and on the spur-of-the-moment I decided to do a quick Streets of Glasgow walk, this time Queen Street, which leads from George Square to Argyle Street. Very swiftly, though, I had a very powerful feeling of being ‘other’. I’ve experienced that a fair bit in my life. I am an autistic, library-assisting, Hibs-supporting, Glasgow-dwelling person after all so it’s hardly new but particularly when all these things come together and I’m trying to see a city street as if for the first time as merry folk shuffle and hustle past. It’s especially hard standing by the statue of the Duke of Wellington when two guys out their faces imitate my photo taking but a glare seemed to have done the trick. But we persevere and eventually I managed to forget it was Saturday night in the centre of the biggest and busiest city in the land and just get down to business.

Strictly speaking, George Square isn’t on Queen Street but I like it anyway. The City Chambers is the nicest civic building in the country. Look for the statue of Liberty below the flagpole. That night the street was mildly busy but earlier in the day it had been jumping, according to the news, with folk marching in favour of Scottish independence. The remnants were still there of the recent vigil in remembrance of and solidarity with the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Manchester. I am writing this post the next morning having just been hearing about another attack in London. All I can say about that is that we cannot ever let the darkness win. George Square is where our city gathers in times of joy as much of sadness and sorrow. I cannot help but think that those times of sadness and sorrow are coming a wee bit too often.

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George Square

The traffic lights at the junction of Queen Street, George Square and St. Vincent Street seemed to take an age. That wasn’t a bad thing as I could start my walk properly and just look up. Queen Street is barely a half-mile from one end to another and so I could quite clearly see Debenhams on Argyle Street and most of the street’s buildings. At the time I wasn’t sure how much of an essay I could get from such a short walk but then I looked above Greggs and found that the building is rather handsome in yellow sandstone with railings half-way up it. My lovely new Pevsner’s guide to Glasgow tells me that it is called Olympic House and describes it as a ‘speculative office block of 1904-6 by James Miller, with the popular Edwardian formula of tower-like outer bays flanking colonnaded upper storeys’. James Miller designed quite a few prominent buildings in the city and beyond, including the Grand Central Hotel and Clydebank Town Hall, incidentally. Something being described as a ‘speculative office block’ is an absolute beauty and sums it up succinctly. It isn’t really trying to be an office block, especially with some of the others down the way not even bothering to be speculative about it.

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Olympic House
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Queen Street. The white building is Debenhams on Argyle Street
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Olympic House again

I wrote about the Gallery of Modern Art in the Ingram Street post so won’t duplicate that but will rather write about the statue outside it. Not so long ago, it came out that Glasgow City Council was spending a staggering sum of money trying to remove the traffic cones that are ever appearing on the statue of the Duke of Wellington, either on his head or that of his horse or both. Now said statue (complete with cone) appears on much of the city’s marketing, some of it funded by that same City Council and its agencies, as an example of how our great city is pure dead brilliant and a bit quirky. I approve of a lot of what the City Marketing Bureau does. They make a virtue of highlighting the lesser-spotted pleasures of our city, including street art. People Make Glasgow is a nice, neat slogan. I’m not bothered about applauding what is essentially vandalism but surely there are better bits of our city’s character to show in our promotional materials, like wit or rain, to name but two. Anyway, I digress. The statue didn’t have a cone on top this time, I think for the first time since I moved to Glasgow, rather an umbrella since it had been raining and hailing earlier in the day, indeed the pavements were still wet from the last downpour. A cone did sit underneath the horse, though, for later reinstallation.

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Gallery of Modern Art
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Duke of Wellington statue
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This is on the steps outside GOMA. Not sure what it’s about yet but I like it

The best architecture on Queen Street comes at either end, at George Square and GOMA or nearer Argyle Street. There’s a building just by Primark and Next which houses offices, a branch of Subway, a coat shop and a bookies. It was another of those buildings with railings but in red sandstone and bearing quite a few elegant lintels and features around each window of its seven levels. Queen Street here is a wee bit run-down with a few shops up for sale or otherwise vacant. It is one of those streets which is purely a thoroughfare, a street you use to go somewhere else. It isn’t the finest street in the city but shows another side, particularly on a Saturday night with the dark, decadent and downright debauched very much on show. It is just another facet to Glasgow. It is a very busy place at night. That isn’t a bad thing, as long as people are happy and safe. In these times, joy should be cherished all the more, whether that is found in a bar or a club or indeed walking a city street looking up and down and recording what is there.

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40 Queen Street, reminiscent of much of the Merchant City

Sources and further reading:

Searle, Adrian and Barbour, David, Look Up Glasgow, 2013, Glasgow: Freight Books

Williamson, Elizabeth, Riches, Anne and Higgs, Malcolm, The Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, 2005, New Haven, CT/London, Yale University Press