Welcome to the Thursday experiment post. Originally I was going to put out a post about a Railwalk I took through the north of Edinburgh a few weeks ago. Instead that will come out next week and I’m going with this instead.
This blog is mainly about the words for me with the photos just an added bonus. The photos came as a suggestion from an early reader and so it went. Recently I had a comment on one of the Streets of Glasgow posts about the beautiful street art in the city and I decided to put together this, a post compiling some of the best examples I’ve come across. The photos below were selected in pretty much chronological order from my phone’s camera roll, beginning with a few which haven’t appeared here yet, from the Streets of Glasgow walks on West Graham Street and Great Western Road. A few of the murals in the Merchant City were by Snug and they are brilliant. There are examples of architecture and sculpture in here too. Enjoy.
So, that’s a wee selection of some of the cool public art of Glasgow seen through this blog in the last couple of years. There is a lot more but the best way to find it isn’t through the Internet. It’s by exploring and getting out there. Street art can be found in every town up and down the land, from a graffiti can, paint or sculpture. Have a walk and see what you find.
I couldn’t think of what to put here today. Eventually I decided to turn the clock back to May when it was sunny and warm and the walk I took one scorchingly roasting day around the entire route of the Glasgow Subway. And it was roasting.
I started at Govan and arrived back there 4 hours and 8 minutes later, passing Partick, Kelvinhall, Hillhead, Kelvinbridge, St. George’s Cross, Cowcaddens, Buchanan Street, St. Enoch, Bridge Street, West Street, Shields Road, Kinning Park, Cessnock and Ibrox along the way. I stopped a couple of times and I detoured from Govan to Partick via Pacific Quay to avoid the Tunnel or else it would have been a bit faster.
The walk was part of my list of 30 things to do before I’m 30 next year. Psychogeography is a concept that underpins a lot of my rovings and this particular one certainly, trying to get a sense of the city, getting under its skin rather than keeping to the surface. The Subway is a mode of transport hundreds of thousands of people use every year, commuters, tourists and everyone else in between. It is a symbol of Glasgow, like the statue of the Duke of Wellington, City Chambers and, for good or ill, our city’s biggest football teams. Plus I thought it would be an interesting writing exercise, following in the footsteps of Iain Sinclair who did the same thing with the London Overground and M25. Being in Glasgow rather than down south made it a bit more civilised, naturally.
I did write it and the resulting posts appeared here on the blog, with the links below:
My abiding memories of the walk are of needing lots of fluids and sweating profusely. Naturally I picked a day well above twenty degrees. But I woke up that morning, it was a Bank Holiday, and I just had a notion so off I went. I got the bus down to Govan and started walking, not at all sure I would finish. The walk from Govan to Partick was the longest and it was also the most open part of the walk, with fewer buildings around to shelter from the sun. My feet held up until just before Cessnock when they seriously started to complain. Luckily turning onto Paisley Road West meant I was on familiar territory again and that spurred me on as did getting a proper look at the Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson designed tenements at Cessnock.
Some of the walk was decidedly urban and not all together lovely. The bit between St. George’s Cross and Cowcaddens, pictured below, comes to mind as does the bit between West Street and Kinning Park, which is very close to the M8 and in a very industrial area of the city. The Cowcaddens bit also had some interesting street art, which had disappeared by the time I was there again about a month ago. Kinning Park was also quite pleasant, especially as I plonked myself on a bench and hydrated. It was also the first place I was asked directions on the route. That happens to me fairly often, sometimes in cities and countries I don’t live in.
Anyway, here are some photos of the Subwalk. It was tough but had some great parts, much like this city itself.
As I walked past Kinning Park Subway, I was asked directions. Since I had passed where they were looking for only a few minutes before, I was able to oblige. I was now at Plantation Park and I stopped because my feet were lowpin’ and I needed a drink. Plus to make notes. Plantation Park was a pleasant green space, one of many in the city though much quieter than at the Botanics and in town.
I soon turned onto Paisley Road West and there was a feeling of being on familiar ground and of relief too. I knew where I was. The end was near. My feet may have been pounding but I still felt good, not flagging despite the distance covered.
The thirteenth station was Cessnock and I already knew I had to get a photo of the station gates, a relic of the old Subway prior to its modernisation in the 1970s. I did so though I hadn’t realised that the building above Cessnock is part of a very handsome crescent designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It was an unexpected joy and even better to see it lived in rather than as a museum piece. The Paisley Road West walk led me past lots of food shops with very nice smells, particularly kebabs. I desisted, however. Nearer Edmiston Drive there were quite a few new housing developments springing up, which was nice to see.
At Ibrox Subway I felt quite conspicuous. There was a view to Ibrox Stadium and the Rangers Megastore. The combined effect of this and the Louden Tavern was enough to bring out the deepest Hibs fan in me, particularly the Louden Tavern which proclaimed itself to be not just a pub, since it had a beer garden too.
Between Ibrox and Govan were quite a few factories, many of them still going, including Maritime House which looked particularly venerable. I came to Orkney Street, much more urban than the islands, but interesting with a view of the back of the old police station with bars still on the windows. It is now an enterprise centre. I soon turned by the TSB back onto Govan Road, crossing the road and finding myself back at Govan, the walk completed in four hours and eight minutes. Again I had the Mary Barbour statue to myself. From there, I decided to do the whole thing again, though this time on the Subway itself, doing a whole loop before getting off in the town.
As the Subway train looped, I thought about the walk just concluded. I had seen many parts of Glasgow, the city centre, industrial and the chic, some areas which have seen better days and others flourishing. I had seen architecture from Rennie Mackintosh and ‘Greek’ Thomson, both south of the river, the best side, as well as 1960s concrete jungle sprawl near Cowcaddens and Kinning Park. I crossed the Clyde twice and the Kelvin twice too, once each on the longest leg of the journey, Govan to Partick. I passed three of the city’s 33 public libraries – Partick, Hillhead and Ibrox – and at least four branches of Subway. I passed four statues, including two featuring women – Mary Barbour and the one commemorating the Spanish Civil War by the river. Plus of course fifteen Subway stations, the guiding posts that kept me right throughout this walk around the many parts of Glasgow. My favourite stretches were less familiar, from Hillhead to St. George’s Cross with the pigeon-dwelling statue and diversity, plus Kinning Park to Ibrox, the Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson crescent and being on familiar ground once more yet still seeing something new at almost every turn. That’s the object of the exercise, after all, and it’s why it’s worth following your feet some times. What can be seen will make life more interesting, for good or bad, plus your other senses will be satisfied, guaranteed.
I like the modern canopy at St. Enoch and I never miss an opportunity to stop and stare at the fine glass construction. Nearby there was another bar by the mural of Billy Connolly, also full, and there were lots of sunbathers down by the river. I soon crossed the Clyde for the second time and looked up and down, not quite seeing Pacific Quay where I had crossed earlier, but seeing much of the city skyline and discovering that the trains were disrupted courtesy of the Central Station PA system carried by the wind.On the pavement as I crossed the road was a chalked drawing, looking very new, featuring an unicorn and the legend ‘From Canada With Love’. This Weegie liked it a lot.Bridge Street was once a railway station too and the surface buildings are still there, now shops and offices. Station number ten and they were fair mounting up now. The walk to West Street featured the second Google Maps check of the walk and I walked through Tradeston with polite curiosity and empty streets. SAS wear was one, causing a slight frisson of anxiety of what I had come into.From West Street to Kinning Park involved keeping close to Scotland Street, even when it was divided by the motorway and Google Maps came into play again. This was a walk into streets and by buildings I mainly see from the train and it was interesting, a foray into parts of Glasgow pedestrians don’t often get to and certainly not the tour buses. There were lots of gaps between buildings and particularly along Scotland Street. A football centre in an old factory had lots of flags in the windows but the only club crest and mural featured FCB Barcelona, carefully neglecting the Gruesome Twosome who play in this city.Nearer Shields Road is the very fine Scotland Street School Museum, open since it was a bank holiday, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Even the school gates, painted in bottle green, bore Mackintosh’s touches.The third map check came as I navigated the junction with a deep chasm underneath the M8 flyover that looked like it had seen a few drag races in its time in true American B-movie style. Towards Kinning Park I came near to those big warehouses that now host soft play and children’s entertainment. I also saw from the ground the big adverts that you can see from the M8 on the approach to the Kingston Bridge, one for Slaters menswear and the other usually bears the legend ‘People Make Glasgow’. Kinning Park was time for another break, luckily there’s a park nearby and I could rest my feet and pause before the final part of this Subway Surface walk.–
Thanks for reading. The final instalment of the series follows next week.
Heat. Exam. Buses. Shorts. Sunshine. Castles. The first six words I can think of to describe my June. It has been very warm here in Glasgow for the vast majority of June. I am writing this on Saturday night and it is sweltering. I don’t handle the heat well anyway but this week has been beyond belief. This whole month has, really. We tend to get summer for about a week then it gets all horrible again. This year it’s been summer with a few days of dreich. I could do with some dreich soon, though.
Friday 1st June saw me going to the capital for some shopping. I walked up the Royal Mile, had a look at the quotes lining the wall outside the Scottish Parliament then ducked into St. Giles, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends here on the blog. It didn’t happen as I was scunnered by the £2 to take photos. I spent far longer in the very lovely National Museum of Scotland, which did feature in Loose Ends this past Sunday. I had forgotten how good NMS is and I only went to a few select bits, much of the Scottish and some of the old museum. Brilliant place.
The following week I was off for my OU exam. I revise better with less distractions and amazingly well on buses. I ended up on a bus to St. Andrews, reading my books on the way and having a good wander around the town and along the beach when I got there. The following day I ended up in Dunfermline, again revising on the bus and taking in the Palace and the Abbey Nave, the latter the work of the same stonemasons who did Durham Cathedral. That was another Loose End, featuring here this coming Sunday. The Friday was exam day and I sat in the Botanics before sitting my exam. I think it went okay. To chill out my head I walked into town to get the train home, going via Renfrew Street. It was a week before the fire and that night with the sunshine it felt good to be there, lots of folks around for the degree show.
Sunday 10th I went to the Fossil Grove, just over the river from here in Scotstoun. I had never been but it was fine, a wee bit neglected but interesting all the same. I walked to Kelvingrove via Partick, turning off Dumbarton Road past the West of Scotland Cricket Ground and Partick Burgh Halls, both fine looking places. I went into Kelvingrove and made sure I saw my favourite painting, The Paps of Jura by William McTaggart.
That Monday I had a day trip with a good friend and it was great. We started at the Kelvin Hall, looking at the museum displays, before going across to Kelvingrove to sit in the atrium cafe for a bit. In Edinburgh we walked up to Leith and just generally blethered. It was great.
The following Saturday I had been thinking about for ages. Eventually I decided on the Borders and it was the right move. A social media recommendation took me to Abbotsford, a country hoose once home to Sir Walter Scott but with a braw library. I walked to Melrose by the river through the hay fever and took a turn around the Abbey, a place I had been to before but I had never fully appreciated before. On the train back to Edinburgh I decided on a chippy over in North Berwick, which I ate at the harbour. Post on this adventure appeared here the other day.
The next day I was with my dad and we went to Cardross and Dumbarton Castle. Cardross featured a wee glimpse of the St. Peter’s Seminary. Dumbarton was the right place to be on a gloriously sunny day. The ice cream just made it so.
On Wednesday I went shopping after work. I soon realised that the trains were off because of the heat. I got the Subway to Govan then had a few minutes before the bus. I walked down to the river and had a good look at the Mary Barbour statue. The bus had difficulties again because of the weather but eventually it got moving and I got home.
Friday I was off and went out for dinner in Paisley at night. I went up Browns Lane to see some street art and ticked off another item on my 30 Before 30 list, a drink of Belhaven beer. I wasn’t keen.
That’s June. This month I have read We Shall Fight Until We Win, the graphic anthology produced by 404 Ink and BHP Comics to mark the centenary of some women getting the vote, as well as The Marches by Rory Stewart and What Goes On Tour by the Secret Footballer. Plus too bloody much about Huguenots and Martin Luther. I am currently reading the memoir by mountaineer Cameron McNeish and re-reading Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin.
Thanks as ever to all readers, followers and commenters. Have a nice month.
St. George’s Cross was an interesting part of the walk. Outside the Subway was an interesting chalked drawing of a loch scene with a mountain and what looked like Jupiter or Saturn high up in the sky. I came to a square with a statue of St. George and the dragon in the centre, liberally bedecked with pigeons, and I was glad to see it, a reminder of why it’s just fine to detour in the city. I wasn’t 100% sure how to get from there to the next stop, Cowcaddens, and it was there that I turned to Google Maps for the first time. On the way I came across some intriguing desert island-style graffiti and an art installation encouraging touch in an underpass. As a person with touch sensitivities, I declined, instead moving on and I soon discovered I was in Chinatown, coming to a cash-and-carry and lots of businesses catering to the Chinese community. On the corner facing these was an intriguing, generously decorated block as well as a water fountain dedicated to James Torrens, a town councillor in the latter part of the 19th century.
In the underpass leading to Cowcaddens was another art piece, this time featuring hands in various gestures, none of them deliberately rude that I could see. With my disappointment I walked on and soon heard bagpipes. Remembering that nearby is the National Piping Centre, I wasn’t surprised to see a young guy in full Highland dress, sans jacket, standing outside the Centre doing his stuff. I soon came near to Cineworld where a taxi was broken down outside. This was proper city centre now and I stopped outside the Royal Concert Hall to write notes and just sit for a bit. A busker nearby, by the Donald Dewar statue, was playing some possibly modern indie tune then burst into ‘That’s Entertainment’. I resisted joining in with the Hibs version about Martin Boyle and Brandon Barker.
I was now halfway through. It was still roasting but I was still feeling fine, not exhausted, keeping going.
Buchanan Street was station number eight out of fifteen and I had paused on the steps to look down the street towards St. Enoch, the river and Cathkin Braes beyond. The street was very busy with street bars doing a roaring trade and buskers and drummers making a din as I walked spiritedly past, bound for St. Enoch and another pause in our story.
The walk paused at Hillhead. Byres Road was busy and I didn’t wish to linger long, with plans to lunch in the Botanic Gardens. I stopped outside Fopp to enjoy the quotes from Einstein and Plato on their board outside. Other signs of civilisation included the empty bottle of El Dorado on the windowsill outside the library.
The Botanics were full of people with every square inch of grass covered by someone sitting enjoying the sunshine and the searing heat. I sat inside in the Kibble Palace, keen to escape it for a moment, and ate lunch then made some notes and planned routes to the more awkward stations, some of which were fairly near.
I left the Botanics onto Queen Margaret Drive then Great Western Road, proceeding past the trendy shops and under the pink flowers that fell low over the pavement. One of the charity shops advertised that it sold fishing tackle while in quick succession I felt I must be in the east coast exile district, with a pub owned by Belhaven of Dunbar right next to a cafe selling ice cream from Giaccopazzi’s of Eyemouth. Fine companies both. It was around this point that I was walking in front of a group of young guys and I heard one of those lines you aren’t sure you heard right, something about ‘lipstick on his balls’. My own balls happily unpecked, I walked on and looked in the window of a nearby bookshop which had a book by John Muir and the wonderful Pevsner architectural guide to Glasgow alongside a suitably random title featuring the novelist AL Kennedy’s thoughts on bullfighting.
As I walked up to Kelvinbridge, and crossed the river, I remembered that prior to the Subway’s redevelopment in the late 1970s, the station was in a tenement rather than a stand-alone building as it is today. I stood on the bridge and looked over towards the University tower, last seen at the other side of the Clyde, and spied a plaque about the engineer Sir William Arrol involved in the building of many bridges and railways across the country.
The next bit of the walk along Great Western Road got interesting with colourful street bollards and interesting diverse shops and businesses, particularly at the end nearer the town. There was a row of cracking shop names from Serenity Now to the pub Crossing The Rubicon to Beaver In-Car Installations. As the road reached the motorway, I ducked underneath and into an underpass to St. George’s Cross, where this tale pauses again in the midst of a whole lot of pigeons.
Thanks for reading. The next instalment follows next week.
The walk started on a bright May morning and it was absolutely roasting. As I got off the bus at Govan, I wasn’t sure how far I would get. I hoped I would get the whole way but with the heat, I wasn’t so sure. I stopped by the Mary Barbour statue, admiring it with less folk around it now it’s less of a novelty. Govan Cross was still busy with folk heading between the Shopping Centre, buses and the Subway. I turned right past the Subway and onto Govan Road, ready for the long detour to Partick avoiding the Tunnel. The very first notable spot was a flattened McDonalds Happy Meal box on the pavement. I made sure I got a photo in case I had to pad anything out here later. I hadn’t noticed on my last walk along Govan Road that outside a block of flats was a sculpture of crafted tree stumps. That’s what they looked like anyway, the plaque covered by grass shavings. The community garden up the road has planters shaped to look like an ocean liner and I’ve always rather liked it. This at least was familiar territory, the great views to Pacific Quay, the University and Park Circus a fine start to my walk as was passing the municipal grandeur of Govan Town Hall.
Soon I came to Pacific Quay and crossed the river beside the BBC and the Science Centre. The river walkway was busy with families and runners that bright Monday. I stopped on the bridge to take photos and just look up and down river. I would be crossing it again in a couple of hours between St. Enoch and Bridge Street. I was still feeling fresh, feeling fine, even if still I was doubting the wisdom of walking 10 miles around the city in the searing heat. I soon came nearer to the Riverside Museum, a stray high heel tied to the fence, the big seats in storage at the back. At the museum were stages being dismantled after a music festival over the weekend. I checked the bill and couldn’t place any of the lineup, a sure sign of advancing age.
Partick is a building site right now. The bus station is getting redeveloped and hence it is a bourach of JCBs and hard hats. Still, one station down, another 14 to go. I took a break there to buy provisions. When I came out I made sure I admired the murals on the gable ends of some of the buildings there, put up to mark the Commonwealth Games in 2014, now a reminder of those times, of civic pride. Dumbarton Road soon came and while it was also not new to me, looking up and admiring the rooftops and gaps between the buildings was. I particularly liked the angles between Partick Library and an adjoining tenement. The nearby church advertised ‘Scones on the Lawn’ in a few Saturdays time, ticketed so I wasn’t sure if it was generally an afternoon tea ootside or a performance piece. Nearer Kelvinhall I came across two pieces of scrawled graffiti, one the words ‘I want to learn Gaelic’, appropriate for the part of Glasgow with the most Gaelic speakers, and the other a drawing of a face with possibly Arabic script above.
Kelvinhall came and went. I made sure I got my photo though, despite how crowded the Dumbarton Road pavement was. Byres Road was also pretty busy though I made sure I dawdled a bit to look in windows and ponder. In one of those many quirky shops that line Byres Road I spied a beany hat in the window bearing the legend ‘Shawlands’. Coupled with the map of Pollokshields on the wall of a shop near Kelvinbridge I saw a bit later, the south side is taking over. It’s not before time. Other Byres Road highlights included bollards with ships on them and the Oxfam music shop with the stellar legend in the window ‘Let’s Get The Band Back Together’. Hillhead was station number four and it’s where this tale pauses, to resume next week.
Thanks for reading. This is the second instalment of the Subway Surface series about my walk around the route of the Glasgow Subway. Hillhead to St. George’s Cross appears next week.
A few months ago, I had a notion. I had been reading one of Iain Sinclair’s books about walking the route of the London Overground and it got me to thinking about walking the route of the Glasgow Subway. It’s been percolating for months, even going through a practice run back in the spring from Buchanan Street to Bridge Street. It also made my 30 things I would like to do before I’m 30 list. I thought about making it the main part of a book then I decided just to make it a multiple-part series here. It might be a book one day, you never know.
The Glasgow Subway is an underground rail system that runs on a closed loop around the city. It has fifteen stations on two lines, the Inner and Outer circle. It opened in the late 19th century and is well-beloved in Glasgow, even spawning the concept of a Subcrawl whereby folks go around the system getting a drink at the nearest pub to each station or more recently the Subrun which involves protein shakes rather than pints or shots.
My very first visit to Glasgow involved a trip on the Subway, a straight loop from Kelvinhall right around and back. When I visited afterwards, very often I got to my destination on the Subway. It became part of my commute for a while after I moved here. Strangely, though, I still check the map each time to make sure I haven’t missed my stop and the whirring and grinding isn’t ideal for my particular blend of sensory sensitivities. But it’s the Subway and it’s convenient.
The Subway Surface adventure came about as part of my continuing quest to understand my adopted home better. Last year I started a project called Streets of Glasgow which involved walking down streets, looking up and down, writing about what I experienced and gained in the process. I’ve long been fascinated with psychogeography, the French Situationist concept which sought to help people become less alienated in urban settings, and Streets was my way to do that but in Glasgow. Subway Surface tried to replicate that but on a linear route, a longer walk but one in a very varied landscape.
The walk eventually happened on a Bank Holiday Monday and it was also absolutely roasting to boot. The night before I was coming home from the east and I thought about just doing it. I bought an A-Z sheet map of the city and marked down my route. The first thoughts were where to start and how to navigate the Clyde. Since Govan is my nearest station, I started there. In the summer there is a ferry which runs from Govan to the Riverside Museum, which would make the route from Govan to Partick more straight forward. The alternatives are either to detour through the Clyde Tunnel or to go up river to Pacific Quay and cross there. I chose the latter option, not least because the Tunnel slightly creeps me out.
Over the next few weeks the results of the walk will appear here on Fridays. I finished, in four hours and eight minutes, with three breaks for buying provisions, lunch and to rest my feet near the end. I hope you enjoy following along on this walk on the surface of the Glasgow Subway.
Thanks for reading. Loose Ends returns tomorrow with Tranter’s Bridge. My other blog, Easter Road West, returns today with a post about Alan Stubbs and why the Scottish Cup Final should always be on a Saturday at 3pm.