Saturday Saunter: Sunshine out my window

Hey, hey, it’s Saturday Saunter time,

I am starting this on Thursday morning. I work late on a Thursday and I couldn’t think of anything to write about last night plus I was tired. It is set to be very warm today, perhaps a bit cooler than in France, and already at c. 9am, it is sunny and everything has a light tinge. I don’t do well in the heat so I may need to tread carefully outside to avoid becoming even more of a hot, sticky mess than usual.

On Saturday night, after going to a wedding in East Lothian, I stayed in Portobello, which is a seaside suburb of Edinburgh. We got back fairly late and I went along to the shop for a bottle of juice. I looked down a street and the last light over the beach and the Forth was glorious.

It was cloudier on the Sunday morning. I woke up fairly early and took advantage of my surroundings to go for a walk. Armed with a notebook and some apples, I walked down along the Prom at Porty and along as far as Fisherrow Harbour. I wasn’t alone. There were a right few runners, rowers out in the Forth, walkers, families and lone folk just sauntering like me. It was joyful just to turn out of bed, get dressed and just be by the sea. The sea was calm and it wasn’t cold as I walked. The views were familiar since I know Porty and East Lothian well but they were reassuring, part of the wallpaper as I just tried to be in the moment. I had a great day trip later in the day with my friend to North Berwick where it was sunny and warm, though the cloudy morning walk did me a fair bit of good too.

On Thursday, in an hour or two’s time as I write this, I posted about Smailholm Tower, which is in the Borders, a part of Scotland I don’t know so far. I read a Facebook post recently by someone I know who had been in another part of the country I don’t know so well. Angus is the bit of Scotland between Dundee and Aberdeen. It was the centre of Pictland and has a fair few diverse, independent towns. I know it a little bit and I’ve been to Barry Mill and Arbroath Abbey. Two of the places that have long been on my to-do list are in Angus, Edzell Castle and the House of Dun. Edzell is a ruined castle with quite nice gardens, while the House of Dun is a big hoose near Montrose which I’m interested about mainly for its setting at the far end of Montrose Basin. Passing through Montrose is always nice because of the view across the Basin and over to the hills. Randomly I will be in Angus briefly on Wednesday but won’t have time to sightsee as I’ll be at the football. Maybe later in the year, maybe when I’m off at the end of July/beginning with August, I can take a trip up there and tick one or two places off the list.

Anyway, it’s the weekend. I’m working today and tomorrow I might end up on a bus or a train somewhere. On the blog tomorrow is an Intercity post from Glasgow while the June digest is on Wednesday. Have a very nice weekend. Peace.

 

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Saturday Saunter: Fruit, podcasts and walking

Good Saturday,

Unusually, this post is being started on Wednesday night. Normally it gets written on a Tuesday but I couldn’t be arsed last night. It’s about 8.30 at night as I start this and it’s quite cloudy tonight. I have my lamp on even though it’s nearly 2 hours until it’s supposed to be dark. In my ears is a new podcast I was told about earlier tonight. It is called ‘These Are The Days’, presented by Ronny Costello. His guest is Paul McNicoll and they are talking about music at the moment though I believe it will go on to talk about raising his son who has a disability. The first couple of minutes are interesting, going into the early days of The View, a Dundee rock band. This came as a suggestion so any podcast or telly suggestions, please send them my way.

This Saturday I am going to a wedding reception tonight in East Lothian. The bride is an old friend of mine and I know a fair few folk who’ll be in attendance. Unusually for me I’m not too nervous about it. I normally get a bit uptight before social things but I think being busy in the last couple of weeks has helped take my mind off it. There is a vintage theme and I will be dressed as a rocker. I don’t particularly mind dressing up – it’s all decent craic. There won’t be photos here. You will have to take my word for it.

I haven’t been reading much lately. My brain has been elsewhere, to be honest. My travelling book for the weekend, even though I won’t get much chance to read it, will be another recommendation, The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong, a South Korean thriller. Most of what I’ve been reading has been online articles or my own notebooks. Occasionally I sit and read through my stories and scribbles. I need to get myself into gear with my reading.

I’m on a bit of a health kick at the moment. Most readers won’t know what I look like. I’m a fairly tall, fairly slim kind of dude. I also have acne. I came to realise recently that I eat too much chocolate, which may be affecting my skin and probably my general health. I’ve replaced the chocolate (well, pretty much all of it) with fruit and I’m on the apples and oranges. A lot of the folk who know me have been amazed by the transformation, the fruit appearing instead of chocolate and crisps. I’m trying to resist a lot of the sugary treats that are around me (libraries tend to run on sugar) and I’m mostly, mostly succeeding.

Walking to work is probably helping the health kick, even unintentionally. I’m not good in the mornings and I often run late. To get to work on time, due to the vagaries of public transport, it is often faster to walk and I’ve been doing that a lot in the last few weeks. It isn’t the most scenic walk, taking me through an industrial estate and across the motorway, but it’s all right. The view from the bridge to the hills and the cityscape could be a lot worse.

I’m starting this post again on Friday. A campaign was launched this week by the Jo Cox Foundation to try and solve loneliness. Let’s Talk Loneliness happens this weekend and that’s good. Being lonely is one of the worst things in the world. I’ve felt it and it isnae nice. It is possible to be lonely and be surrounded by people all day, every day. People of all ages, all backgrounds, feel lonely sometimes. There is no shame in feeling lonely. I don’t know how to solve it. For myself, this helps. I have a busy life and while it isn’t perfect, and it can be more solitary at times than I might like, I’m better off than a lot of people. Just talking about it makes a difference.

Today has also been a busy day in the football world. The fixtures came out for the Scottish football season this morning and within ten minutes, I had my annual leave sorted out. Hibs have launched their new kits, sponsored by the club’s charitable arm, the Hibernian Community Foundation, which is good and a bit more socially conscious than being sponsored by a bookies or a drinks company. I also sat and watched an interview with Hibs’ new signing, Scott Allan, who talked about using yoga as part of his regimen. I had lapsed but I think after finishing this, I may need to get my shorts on, my mat rolled out and get into a pose.

Anyway, that’s us for today. Intercity returns tomorrow and it’s Linlithgow, one of my very favourite places. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday and there might be something on Thursday. Have a very decent weekend, whatever you end up doing.

 

Saturday Saunter: Poetry, statues and lighthouses

Hello,

Now and then, I like to clear my inbox and share some ideas which I might have written about but haven’t bothered with. One line that tickled me was in an interview with Simon Armitage, the new UK poet laureate (the equally wonderful Jackie Kay is the Makar here in Scotland, incidentally). On the morning of the interview, Armitage had been able to walk over London ‘”utterly incognito”. There’s something about poetry “which is about leading from the back”, he says’. The leading from the back is an amazing notion. I think that’s a pretty good summary of what a writer does, to be fair. Certainly it would be how I would try and lead anything.

The complete opposite of leading from the back is being very forward. Antony Gormley is an artist who has his fans and detractors. The Angel of the North is a cracking piece of sculpture. He created six human figures which were installed in the Water of Leith in Edinburgh in 2010. They were put there by the National Galleries of Scotland at various points along the Water of Leith heading out to sea. Apparently the intention was for them to be gauges of the river level. They were howked out in 2012 due to issues with their tilting mechanism, according to the Herald, and have just been put back. Personally, I don’t like them. I like sculpture but I don’t think they should be in rivers. The Water of Leith is beautiful enough and it is a living habitat. We impose too much on the landscape as it is. It’s also my argument against padlocks on bridges, cairns on mountains and just generally adding to the landscape as you go. Bringing art into the wider community is the National Galleries’ argument, maybe, but not in the bloody river.

Eilean Glas lighthouse lamp, from the Science Museum, London

In a nicer vein, BBC News featured some incredible photographs from Scott Tacchi of lighthouses captured in his work as a lighthouse technician. My favourite is an image from the Lizard lighthouse of the inside of an optic. It looks incredible. A few years ago, I went to the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh, which includes a trip into the old Kinnaird Head lighthouse. Being in the light room is slightly disorientating but wonderful. This picture reminded me of that. Lighthouses are great, feeling very far away from the city suburb I live in but very close to where I grew up and vital to mariners and seafarers everywhere.

The train company GWR, which runs from London to south western England, has done a lot of work recently developing autism awareness training for its staff, I read recently. I am very fortunate that I have fairly few issues travelling, beyond sometimes getting a bit flustered and an occasional overload. Anything helps and I personally like that some of the intercity train companies, like Virgin, LNER and CrossCountry provide maps of their trains, which is useful for planning a journey.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 15th June 2019. Tomorrow will be a post about my recent trip to Milngavie. Wednesday will be Streets of Glasgow. Thursday, who knows? Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a nice weekend.

Saturday Saunter: Haircuts, day trips and Underland

Well, hello,

It’s Saturday Saunter time again. It is being posted a wee bit early because as this post appears, I will be on my way to work. As ever, though, it is being written on Tuesday night. It is about ten past nine and there is quite a bit of sun in the sky. It has been a beautiful, sunny evening here in Glasgow, warm even. On in the background is a certain football match which took place three years ago today (Tuesday). Anthony Stokes has just scored the first.

On the way home tonight I got a haircut. I hate getting my haircut. I don’t like people being near my head and I usually close my eyes. Same at the dentist, incidentally. I tried a new place and it was efficient, back out the door within ten minutes. My hair is fairly short anyway and now it is even shorter. Unusually, though, I left feeling absolutely great. I’m not so confident about my appearance so any positive feelings like that are to be cherished. The chair span, which was cool and suited the little boy in me. I resisted the urge to say ‘Whee’.

This is also a bank holiday weekend and I am off tomorrow and Monday. I have no immediate plans for the weekend and might go out on a bus somewhere on Monday. It might be Dumfries though I have a feeling it could be East Lothian. If it is to be my home county, I haven’t been to Prestongrange for ages or I might finally get to the Hopetoun Monument or Chesters Hill Fort, which will require an OS map and walking across some fields. Then again I might feel like sitting on a bus and end up in St. Andrews. All options would suit me fine.

I’ve been going on regular day trips for eleven years. Eleven years this weekend, actually. The first real solo day trip I took was Durham, a place I had never been to before. I had only read about it in a Bill Bryson book and decided to book train tickets for the following day. It was a balmy May Saturday and I walked from the train station up to the Cathedral, walking about that magnificent building for a couple of hours, also spending some time sitting in the pews. Afterwards I walked by the river and sat for a bit there too. At the time life was a bit interesting but that day I felt that everything was going to be all right. I’ve been back many times since and that sense doesn’t change. This weekend, wherever I go, I’ll be celebrating that day and the many benefits it has brought to my life, to give me things to talk about and write about, to open my world to new possibilities I might not have considered before.

Last weekend I started reading Underland by Robert Macfarlane, getting about 55 pages in. I plan to read it in stages, savouring Macfarlane’s prose rather than bolting it down as I do with so many books. He wrote about going caving, which made feel claustrophobic even reading it. Macfarlane is an excellent writer and he managed to scale back his words to reflect his limited physical space and broaden them out to fill all the dimensions resumed when he hit the surface again. The closest experience I’ve had to that was going to St. Andrews Castle, which has a mine and countermine dug during a siege in 1546-1547. The countermine is much more narrow and you have to stoop down into it then the mine is much more comfortable, reflecting the lack of urgency in trying to dig into the castle.

A lot of my news comes through social media. Not politics, normally, since I’ve heavily culled political accounts from my Twitter timeline. I suspect I am better off. A happy bit of news was that a book has been written about Walnut Tree Farm, home of Roger Deakin, a place of wildness and wonder in the heart of Suffolk. Roger Deakin was an incredible writer about nature and I try to read a bit of Notes From Walnut Tree Farm, a posthumously-published volume of jottings, every month. Waterlog and Wildwood are also class. Anyway, Roger’s son Rufus and the farm’s owner, Titus Rowlandson, have published a book about Life at Walnut Tree Farm and I will procure myself a copy on pay day.

Before I go, a bit of blog business. The other day I was tagged into a blogging challenge. Please, oh please, don’t do that. That is especially pertinent when it’s not about what I tend to write about. Right now I’m keeping to this format of Saturday blethers, Sunday Loose Ends and Wednesday Streets of Glasgow. Occasionally Thursday something else. I write around my life which can be quite busy so please don’t make this harder than it needs to be.

Anyway, rant over. On a more positive note, it’s Saturday and it’s the weekend. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Loose Ends is back tomorrow and it’s back in Milngavie. Streets of Glasgow is on Wednesday and it is down south again. Another north Edinburgh Railwalk will be here on Thursday. Next Saturday is the May digest. Have a very good weekend. Peace.

Saturday Saunter: Writing, walking and special interests

Hey, hey, it’s Saturday Saunter time,

This is being posted as I’m about to head off to Kilmarnock to watch Hibs. This afternoon’s match is quite meaningless in the great scheme of things. Hibs can’t now qualify for Europe or anything like that. There are two games left and Hibs can only finish fifth or sixth. I’ve had the pleasure of going to Kilmarnock a few times and going by experience, I actually asked the Hibs ticket office to give me a seat on an aisle due to the crap leg room on offer. On the plus side, the pies are excellent and they also do hot Vimto, a niche drink but rather fine. The last time I was at Killie, I managed to make an absolute mess of sitting down and cowped a fair bit of my hot Vimto on my hand. I don’t do hot drinks as a general rule – it’s a sensory thing – but it was a cool night. Hence the seat on the stairs. I’m not that tall – about five foot eight, five foot nine – but every little helps.

Tomorrow I’m off to Cumbrae for a walk around the island. A lot of people cycle the 10 miles but that’s not an option for me so the walk it will be. The forecast is to be about 11 degrees and cloudy which is fairly decent walking weather. I’ve been to Cumbrae once before, about a year ago, and it is a very pleasant island, calm and not completely removed from the world. It should be good.

One of my special interests over the years was American talk shows. I still watch clips on YouTube. I just read the new memoir by Craig Ferguson, who hosted the Late Late Show before James Corden, and as well as talking quite candidly about his life, issues with drink and whatever else, it included a chapter on one of his favourite places, Millport. I don’t really believe in coincidences but they happen rather a lot. Reading about a place I’m about to go to in a book about something else is mental. Craig Ferguson’s book was interesting. It went in a lot of different directions, quite tangential, which is the kind of book I like since it’s how I think.

Autism is one of those things that people tend to know dribs and drabs about. One aspect that’s perhaps most familiar to neurotypical folk is special interests. I’ve had a right few. They include American talk shows, The Simpsons, football, the media, the Scottish Parliament, castles, maps and any number of other things that aren’t coming to mind right now. Luckily this makes me quite an interesting person and I can talk about a lot of things, or more often write about them. At the moment I don’t really have a special interest. My life is busy and I have a lot of things going on. That’s okay, though. It means that each day is different, which is quite nice.

I managed to get my to-read pile down quite a bit over the Bank Holiday weekend. Underland by Robert Macfarlane is still there but I’m saving that. I’ve added a few library books to the mix. I ended up going along the shelves and taking some titles that tempted me. They were Proud by Gareth Thomas, the Welsh rugby player, The Hills Is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Jane Austen has been recommended to me several times and I managed a few pages into Emma before giving up. Gareth Thomas I’ve heard about and I think his book should be good, giving some perspective into his life and particularly in coming out as gay in that world. The Lillian Beckwith book about the Hebrides was picked based on reading the blurb. I think I’m taking Proud to Kilmarnock with me today then I’ll read the others as I go.

Every time I write this post it turns out differently. Last week it was a bookish post, the one before went on a bit of a rant. This one’s turned into 700 words without knowing quite how. I treat this a bit like psychogeography: starting without a clear goal in mind then finding that goal somewhere along the way. It’s usually a lot of fun to write. Loose Ends follows a format, which is tougher for me. Paragraph one is the story of wherever I’ve been then the connections in paragraph two and bringing it all together in the last one. I usually work with notes and photos. With this, I’m just working with my head, which is strangely easier. I’m not sure why but that might be the point.

Anyway, enough of this. Let’s get on with Saturday. Loose Ends follows tomorrow and it’s back in Edinburgh. Streets of Glasgow is back on Wednesday and it’s a street I know well down south. There will also be a post on Thursday about the end of the football season and the beginning of the day trip season. Thanks to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a nice weekend, wherever it takes you.

Saturday Saunter: 6th April 2019

Good Saturday to you,

Today’s Saturday Saunter is being written a few nights ahead of time. It’s Tuesday and the weather has been strange today. I walked home from work – about three miles – and it was pleasantly sunny, cool but not freezing, though only a few hours before that there was hail. Very odd. This post is being written with YouTube playing on my telly. All The Stations, which went to all of the railway stations in Great Britain in 2017, is now doing Ireland and they are on the way to Tralee at the moment. As with the British version, I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar stations. I’ve only been to some of the stations around Belfast though I don’t think they’ll be there for a few days.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing when this is posted yet. Hibs are playing today, against Hearts at Tynecastle, but I now boycott Tynecastle so I won’t be there. I’m off so I’ll be away somewhere but keeping a very beady eye on the score from Gorgie.

Dunglass Collegiate Church

Last weekend I went on a few adventures. Some of them will appear here on the blog in the coming weeks but one that won’t is a trip I took to Dunglass Collegiate Church. I’ve been there a couple of times before but this time I was there on foot. Dunglass is about eight miles south of Dunbar and it is fairly awkward by public transport. On a Sunday a grand total of two buses go to Cockburnspath from Dunbar and I had to be on one and then on the last one back, 2 and a half hours later. I wasn’t really going to Dunglass but it was rude not to when I was passing. The church sits in an estate. Right next to it was a marquee from which emanated music. Actual live jazz singing, perhaps a soundcheck for a function later. That was slightly surreal. I wasn’t even alone in the church with a few likeminded souls. Dunglass was a burial chapel for the Home family and it might be small but it has some character, the light reflecting the right way whenever I’m there.

One contender for today might be Linlithgow Palace. I’ve been to Linlithgow many, many, many times and I’ve written about it here a right few times too, most recently as part of Loose Ends, I think, but I’ve been past it a lot on the train and I’m overdue one of my twice-a-year visits. Linlithgow has lots of Royal connections and those are interesting but I just like going there, wandering about and looking out.

I was really tired on Tuesday night so ran out of steam. It’s now Friday and still no further forward on what to do tomorrow. Thoughts I’ve had include Dumfries, Doune Castle or the East Neuk of Fife. I also thought about Arran but it might be too cold and windy. I fancy a long bus or train ride so hopefully I can figure out something.

This week has been World Autism Awareness Week. My line is always that it’s not just about awareness, it’s about acceptance too. I’ve had a lot on this week and I couldn’t think of anything to write here, as I did last year. One thing that gave me cheer this week was reading about Watford Football Club installing a sensory room at their ground. Other clubs have sensory rooms and plans in place to support autistic supporters though Watford seems to have done a lot, which is encouraging. My club, Hibernian, haven’t done so much yet though I can only hope they will at some point. I seem to remember a small-scale effort to try and get something happening. Going to the football is very important to me as therapy, really, a source of enjoyment, pleasure and sometimes deep frustration, as on Wednesday night. It can be an overload but I’ve found a way to try and make it work.

Talking about overloads, I wrote here recently about cutting down the number of Twitter accounts I follow. Mainly I culled all the political stuff and anything that didn’t give me joy, in true Marie Kondo stylee. That is helping during this time of political uncertainty. At time of writing, it is uncertain whether the UK will still be in the European Union by next Saturday. It’s much nicer to read about football (mostly), nature or ghost signs than the latest fuddery from Westminster. I avoid watching the news and I only really glance at the headlines otherwise. That’s probably best.

I’ve been re-reading Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, which has been a very good antidote to all the shite in the news. I haven’t been reading a lot apart from that, apart from my Harry Potter re-read, which is just about done. I’m not sure what I’m in the mood to read at the moment. Over the last few years I’ve read more than in the last decade so maybe a barren period is natural.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Tomorrow will be Streets of Glasgow, as will Wednesday. Next Sunday will be the 600th post, Loose Ends-style. Have a very nice weekend. Toodle pip.

Postscript: Staying in to watch the football today. Possible day trip tomorrow.

Saturday Saunter: 9th February 2019

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Inverness

Today’s Saturday Saunter is being written on Friday night live from a Citylink bus just leaving Inverness on the long road home to Glasgow. My earphones are in and I am ready to read and write my way down the road. It’s been a good day. I managed to get the Intercity walk for Inverness done and also do a bit of walking, book buying (more on that story later) and museum visiting. These kinds of day trips happen less and less these days now I work full time and spend so much time watching the still-managerless Hibees. I must manage ten or twelve a year and that’s okay. Most adventures are on a smaller scale now. I left for Perth at lunchtime a couple of weeks ago so I could fit in some life stuff and a lie-in. Today I left the house around 8am and will get in around 9.15 tonight, traffic and weather permitting.

When you read this I will be on the move again, this time to the capital to see the Hibs. For the second week on the bounce, there is also rugby on at Murrayfield so I’ll be heading through early to avoid the hordes. Scotland are playing Ireland so things could be fun. I have to get back quick from Edinburgh because I have a work night out at the theatre. We’re going to see something called Abigail’s Party, about which I know next to nothing except that Alison Steadman was in the original. Then I fully intend doing as little as humanly possible on Sunday.

Today’s travelling book is one from the pile I bought from Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness, Night Falls On Ardnamurchan by Alasdair Maclean. It’s about his family’s history on a croft in Ardnamurchan, according to the blurb, which tempted me to buy the thing in the first place. I’ll see how it goes.

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Leakey’s Bookshop, Inverness

I’ve managed to finish two books this week, Di Stefano by Ian Hawkey, about the Real Madrid talisman of the 1950s, and Moonwalker by Alan Rowan, tales of climbing Munros at night time. That last one I finished on the way up to Inverness hence I justified the book purchases at Leakey’s. It is a glorious shop, incidentally, built inside an old church and containing a real fire as well as books kept at a safe distance away from the flames. I’m going to write about it for Loose Ends because it’s an interesting place. It will appear in a few weeks time, after I write the thing and after the next three instalments after Greyfriars Burial Ground appear.

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Celtic Park

I know this blog is a football-free zone but I wanted to write a little bit about my trip to see Hibs get beat by Celtic the other night. For those unfamiliar with the game in Scotland, Celtic Park is the largest football stadium in Scotland, holding just over 60,000 people. Celtic take the matchday experience seriously and over the summer they spent £2 million sorting their ground including installing a brand new PA system and spotlights. The spotlights have been widely derided but they were used on Wednesday night. MC Parkheid played the usual nauseating Celtic tunes pre-match then announced that there was to be a light show. The tannoy got cranked up to 11, the lights swirled around and AC/DC’s Thunderstruck played with bass level visuals on the advertising boards. This tableau was completed by Celtic’s mascot, Hoopy The Huddle Hound, dancing around in the centre circle. It was awful on many levels, so cringey that I laughed in disbelief. Then I realised how much of an overload it was, the whole combination of music, vibration and lights just far too much. I could thole them, just, but for many people, autistic or not, they would have been a major problem. It was only the surreal spectacle of some poor soul dancing about in a foam costume that kept me going.

There’s just one more city left in the Intercity series, Aberdeen. I hope to get there in a couple of weeks’ time. After a break I might expand it to include places with cathedrals. It’s an interesting series and I like doing it. I’ve enjoyed the last two – Perth and Inverness – particularly and those places are very similar, both by rivers and yet in the heart of the city. The Perth one appears here tomorrow.

Well, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a very nice weekend.

Before I go, a wee bit of blog admin. I’ve added a page where all the Saturday Saunter posts can be found in one place. It should be in the menu at the top of the screen.

Saturday Saunter: 15th December 2018

Good morning,

It’s Saturday Saunter time and I’m in the rare and unexpected position to do this live. As I start this, I’ve not long woken up. There is some light in the sky and frost on the ground. Here in Glasgow there is an amber weather warning out for snow, ice and something called frozen rain so I may not be going far this particular day. Tomorrow I’ll be out as Hibs are playing Celtic in an early kick-off at Easter Road so I’ll have my layers on even though the weather warning will have passed.

In terms of reading, I finished Michelle Obama’s book last Sunday. I rattled through it in a few hours, something I used to do quite often when I was younger but don’t really get round to now. When I was a teenager I used to read whole novels on Sunday afternoons, Small Island by Andrea Levy being one example. Working through a book in one go can have its good and bad points. There is the satisfaction of getting the book finished but in my experience there is not a lot of memory of it thereafter. When I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the first time, it was in one go but it was only through slower re-reading that I was able to fully comprehend the plot. Anyway, Michelle Obama’s book was good, particularly the parts prior to her husband winning the Presidency, which were more interesting and detailed. The Presidency bits have been widely trailed and made the subject of talk-show anecdotes, making them much less interesting to come across in a book. I’ve also re-read a couple of Quintin Jardine novels too this week.

The travelling book last week at Hamilton was Michelle Obama’s book. Tomorrow’s choice hasn’t been decided yet but it will either be Walking the Song by Hamish Brown or The Silver Darlings by Neil Gunn, which have both been sitting for a while. Walking the Song is a selection of mountaineering essays, which might be particularly apposite given the snow. It looks like it could snow out my window now, the sky that light grey way.

I was up a bit earlier this morning and did my usual reading, going from The Guardian to the sports interview in The Scotsman (this week John Hughes, incidentally), ending up on the BBC News website. There were a few stories which got me interested, the first being pictures of the brand new Charles Rennie Mackintosh statue in Anderston, unveiled on Monday. This year, 2018, is the 150th anniversary of CRM’s birth, though that has been overshadowed by the School of Art going up in flames in June. The statue, which features CRM sitting on a chair, is a handsome one and I’ll be going to have a look. There is a bit of me that would like to have seen Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh featured too, since she was a particularly fine artist herself, but alas no. I like the sculptor Andy Scott’s words, quoted in The Scotsman, about how he tries ‘to make things that communities can identify with and feel a sense of pride in’. He is also the creator of the Kelpies, the massive metallic sculptures over near Falkirk, which are also rather lovely. It is difficult to find art which appeals to a general audience and Andy Scott seems to be well up on that, as of course Charles Rennie Mackintosh was too.

Also out there this morning is an interesting article from the BBC News website with the headline ‘Do autistic people “get” jokes?’ The short answer is depends on the autistic person, depends on the joke. The article seems to be an advertisement for the BBC’s new podcast 1800 Seconds on Autism, which I haven’t got round to listening to yet. The hosts, Robyn Steward and Jamie Knight, I’ve heard on other things before and they’re good, thoughtful people, particularly adept at communicating the autistic experience. From my own experience, humour is subjective. What really makes me laugh is often the strangest thing. I sometimes have to decipher when to laugh at other people’s humour. Glaswegian humour is often blunt enough that I can get there the right way. Punchlines are harder to get. I don’t really laugh on command. I’ve got a bland smile ready to go for such occasions, which is part of my toolbox for working with people. The other day I caught a few minutes of a new Kevin Bridges DVD, which was observational and funny. I could watch stand-up all day and usually laugh along with it. I don’t get things like The Office nor the need for much humour to be cruel and cutting. Humour brings light to dark situations. This week, for example, I was tickled by the video of Andy Serkis, the actor who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, imitating Theresa May talking about Brexit. We need people like him in our world.

Next week’s Saturday Saunter is written already. It talks more about Christmas and how the season isn’t always jolly. Over the festives I’ve got the annual Best Of post coming on Boxing Day and a special Books post on Saturday 29th December. Next year I’ve got a new series coming and I might do a bit of work for that when I’m back in Edinburgh on Wednesday. It will involve my second least favourite street in the capital but it is one I and a lot of people associate with Edinburgh so it’s going to be written about.

The view from Edinburgh Castle towards the Old Town and Arthur’s Seat

Anyway, that’s us for today. I don’t have a scooby what will be here tomorrow yet but I’ll sort that out shortly. Wednesday will be the last Streets of Glasgow of the year and a trip to the Gorbals. Easter Road West‘s post appeared about an hour ago and it’s a wee bit about each of the 12 Scottish Premiership grounds, since I finally completed the set last weekend in Hamilton. There will also be a post there tomorrow leading up to the Celtic game.

Have a nice weekend, folks, whatever you end up doing.

Saturday Saunter: 10th November 2018

Good morning,

I am in the fairly nice position of being able to do this live. It is 07.36 as I start this, it is cloudy and mirky outside as the sun starts to come up. I have no fixed plans for today yet. Hibs played last night – less about that the better – so I don’t even have football to fall back on. I have a few contenders, including Edinburgh to catch the Rip It Up exhibition about pop music at the National Museum before it finishes, St. Andrews because I haven’t had a wander there in ages, Dawyck Botanic Garden for similar reasons or Arran ditto. Sometimes an idea bobs its way to the top when thinking about something else and maybe by the time I finish this I’ll have a definitive clue about where I’m going today.

Sign where the snail in a bottle sculpture would normally be, Wellmeadow Street, Paisley

The other day I was in Paisley changing buses and I had a few minutes so I went to look at the new Snail in a bottle sculpture on Wellmeadow Street. The snail in a bottle case happened in 1928 when May Donoghue met a friend at a cafe in Wellmeadow Street, Paisley, and had a ginger beer. Only a dead snail was in the bottle and May naturally enough fell ill. She took the manufacturer of the ginger beer to court and won, the judge Lord Atkin citing the parable of the Good Samaritan to establish just how manufacturers should have a duty of care to those who use their products. This became an established principle in law not just in Scotland but around the world and it all began in Paisley. The sculpture was unveiled a few weeks ago and I’ve seen it through bus windows but of course it wasn’t there, removed for maintenance after wind damage. At some point when it’s back I’ll get a photo and stick it up here.

Coca-Cola, News of the World and other billboards, Paisley Road West, Glasgow

In psychogeographic news, the Evening Times reported the other day that the old gable-end adverts on Paisley Road West are set to be revamped, possibly working with the original companies, maybe by producing a pro-Glasgow or pro-Cardonald design. I like them the way they are but I would approve of a Snug design like those in the town, maybe something involving Crookston Castle or the Battle of Langside or some other historical event that happened in the south side, which is of course the best side.

Deserted street, looking up Virginia Street to Virginia Place, Glasgow

Before I forget, Streets of Glasgow returns this coming Wednesday. I pulled last week’s instalment, on Virginia Street, for several reasons but mainly because between writing it and when it was supposed to appear, BBC Scotland put on a documentary about Scotland’s links to the slave trade and I haven’t seen it yet. Plus it was quite a hard post to write and try and be measured. Hopefully the Virginia Street post will appear on Wednesday.

My copy of HWFG by Chris McQueer as soon as I took it out of the packet

Right, to the books, and last week’s travelling book was Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey by Madeleine Bunting. I got 81 pages in and I haven’t picked it up since, unfortunately, though it is a decent book, a mixture of memoir and travelogue. My to-read pile has grown a bit, including the addition of HWFG by Chris McQueer, the follow-up to Hings, an incredibly funnily twisted selection of short stories. I can’t recommend Chris McQueer’s books enough but maybe not to read on a train or bus as the last time I did I got some very funny looks as I nearly collapsed with laughter. It won’t be a travelling book, then, but I might get to it tomorrow. I’ve still got the Wild Geese Nan Shepherd book in my bag to finish so I might read that wherever I get to then Madeleine Bunting then Chris McQueer. What a combination that is.

Talking of trains, the replacement post on Wednesday was one I wrote in the summer about how distracted I can be by all the sensory stimuli about in the world and that particular day in a train carriage. I try my very best to avoid busy trains and buses whenever possible. As a matter of course, when going between Edinburgh and Glasgow, I make my way to the front of the train, which is logically the best place since that is closer to the exit but less people go there, probably because it is a longer walk. I have been known to let crowded buses pass rather than get on them. Getting to work involves a slightly longer walk to get a quieter bus rather than the next one which is usually mobbed with commuters and school children. Plus the quieter bus is also a double decker and that’s always a good thing, getting a broader perspective on the world.

Incidentally, the sun is up and there are hints of blue sky out the window. Also, my soundtrack is Kacey Musgraves this morning. It was the podcast The West Wing Weekly before that but it was an episode I had heard recently so it got changed. I think I’ve written before about how whenever Hibs get beat, I usually listen to country music, usually Johnny Cash and Kacey Musgraves, on the way home. If they win, it’s usually Hibs songs, a draw depends on the manner of it. I just felt in a Kacey Musgraves mood, cheery but pragmatic sort of music for a Saturday morning.

Before I go, I wanted to share a story from The New York Times about the love many autistic boys in New York have for its Subway. Photographer Travis Huggett went around taking photographs of these laddies having a rare time on the Subway. My favourite line from the article was from Travis Huggett: ‘“It’s not often that you get to photograph people doing their favorite thing in the world,” he said. “To have me along, taking pictures — they don’t care.”’ Go read it, it’s a good article.

I noticed typing the last paragraph that I used the very Glaswegian expression ‘rare’ and I am hearing it in that very Weegie way, pronounced ‘rerr’ rather than the way I would say it, rhyming it with ‘bare’ or ‘bear’. I am getting ever more Glaswegian all the time.

Anyway, that’s our Saturday Saunter for this week. Tomorrow a post will appear here. I haven’t written it yet so it’s a surprise. Wednesday will hopefully be Streets of Glasgow: Virginia Street. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a very nice weekend.

PS: No, I still haven’t decided where I’m going yet. I will let you know.

Layers of distraction

As I started to write this, someone’s phone music went off loudly. Goodness knows what the song was. I’m currently on a busy train heading south and I’m trying hard to focus on what I’m writing. I have earphones in and I’m working to keep my eyes on the page and words undulating out of my pen rather than my eyes skirting left to the person who has just sat down to my left or right to look out the window without accidentally gazing into someone else’s phone screen. There is a whole lot of sensory information going through the air, chatter, the click of the conductor’s punch, the zipping and unzipping of purses and wallets to fetch and deposit tickets, PA announcements proclaiming the breadth and depth of available meal deals. That’s just the audio. There’s a half-decent smell of some vaguely familiar scent nearby, all the better than body smells and the best stinky food Waverley Station had to offer.

My filter has varying degrees of effectiveness. I always try to get the window seat to minimise what I have to sift through but this time I was assigned the aisle seat and the window seat was taken. The function of my filter depends on a wheen of different factors – the weather, how tired I am, how early in the day it is plus of course how busy my conveyance is at the time. Today is particularly enhanced since it’s a busy train, there are people around me and CrossCountry specialise in the clusterfuck of non-consecutively lettered coaches and not running enough of them. Plus it’s a Sunday morning and in other circumstances at 11.30 I would still be in bed.

The smell is hand cream, I think, from the Body Shop. I’m off the train soon anyway. I’m keeping myself writing to avoid the freshly opened salt and vinegar crisp smell tempting me into opening my sandwich too early. Now, it’s cucumber. I’ve just seen the sea quicker than expected, and it’s time to pack up, bound for a now sunny outside, and another adventure.

Thanks for reading. Streets of Glasgow will return next week.