Clouds, stars and daffodils

Good morning,

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. I presume you are now sufficiently aware. Good. Acceptance is the thing, not just awareness. I’ve been thinking for days about what I can write about this year but the words haven’t come. Instead I just want to write and see where it goes.

Cemetery: a path leading between trees, daffodils and gravestones

It’s Thursday and as I write there are moving white fluffy clouds in an otherwise blue sky. I am listening to Tide Lines. For the first time in weeks I’ve felt up to listening to music. I’m about to have breakfast and later I’ll go out for my daily exercise. I’m thinking of a walk through the cemetery. My local cemetery is ten minutes walk from here and it’s particularly overgrown and atmospheric. I’ve been there a couple of times since this started. There have been others and social distancing has been the order of the day, even in that place. The cemetery sustains the historian in me as much as it does anything else. There are war graves and big families, Russian Orthodox, Jewish and many others besides. Plus it’s spring and there are plenty of daffodils, my favourite flowers. It’s quite near the motorway and the railway so traffic still passes. There’s still a world going on outside its confines.

The last patch of blue sky is being shielded by bigger clouds. Since this has started, I’ve not read a lot. I started to re-read The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd last night. Robert Macfarlane has started a book group on Twitter with The Living Mountain as its subject so a whole new cadre of people are getting into Nan Shepherd, which is never a bad thing. To be fair I already recruited someone to the cause a few weeks ago. I’ve also read a Scottish football history book which really annoyed me. It was too-Old Firm centric, too many mentions of the national team, with only token acknowledgement of the other clubs who play in Scotland. On a nicer note, and appropriately for today, I read Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic: A Comedian’s Guide to Life on the Spectrum by Michael McCreary, which is a memoir by an autistic stand up comedian. It was very relatable, variously a guide to autistic adulthood and stories of his life.

Since travelling is not essential, I have watched a whole lot of train videos on YouTube, virtually exhausting the works of Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe (who do All The Stations) as well as the iPlayer’s stock of Michael Portillo programmes. Some of the Portillo programmes have audio description as well as being signed. They actually describe whatever lurid abominations he’s wearing. One said his clothes were ‘uncharacteristically restrained’ when he wore a grey suit. Excellent.

There’s now a blue sky above the clouds. Hurrah. I’ve been reading about one of the inadvertently positive aspects of the current time, which is that there’s less pollution. We can smell the earth and goats can apparently roam a Welsh seaside town, according to the news the other day. Last night was too cloudy but one night soon I’m going to step out after dark and see if I can see stars. That’s normally not possible in my part of suburban Glasgow, only on very cold, clear nights. There was one a few months ago when I stood on the railway bridge and saw stars. I’ll report back if I manage to see anything.

Before I go, I wanted to mention The Late Late Show in Ireland which featured the beautiful song, ‘The Parting Glass’, sung by Hozier. Watch it if you can.

That just leaves me to say stay safe, heed the government advice and look after yourselves. Take care.

Saturday Saunter: Normality, podcasts, women’s football and boys in high heels

Good morning,

Saturday Saunter time again. This post is being written on Friday morning, about 8, with trains full of commuters passing my window. Life is going on. Skipinnish is playing in the background as I start this. I’ve just gulped down some chocolate milk. White chocolate milk. It’s tidy.

This morning I’m not going to dwell on the election in any great way. There is enough coverage out there. You can find views reflecting your own in your echo chamber of choice. All I will say, once more, is that hate will never win.

In that spirit, then, I’m going to write about Greta Thunberg. She is this year’s Time Person of the Year, deservedly so. I read a selection of her speeches on the way to Edinburgh last week and her message that the world is on fire and that we have a very short time to do something, anything, is all the more relevant this particular morning. Her giving shade to Donald Trump, who was his usual, was particularly pleasing. We need to listen, all of us.

Also contained in one of her speeches was a wonderful line I’ve been thinking about for days, spoken in Parliament Square, London, as part of an Extinction Rebellion rally in October 2018.

‘I think in many ways that we autistic are the normal ones and the rest of the people are pretty strange’.

Hear, hear. There are some good strange people, I should point out, and a right few bampots. Some of that last group just got elected to Parliament. As a society we dwell too much on what is normal, ordinary. In truth I am very often perplexed and bemused at the world and many of the people in it. My normality is by no means perfect. But it is normal to me. Sitting with a 3D-printed Minecraft doodah in my hand at the cinema is normal. Trying to walk around people who crowd doorways and bus stops is normal. Wanting to ban fluorescent lights is normal. Reading a book rather than going out on the piss on a Saturday night is normal. Treating people as I would like to be treated is normal. Giving a flying fuck about people who are less fortunate is normal. My normal might not be your normal. Whatever.

Anyway, I’m just getting angry again. This weekend I am off. I’m not sure yet what I’ll be doing when this is posted. I will be off but it is a rare Saturday when I have nothing planned and there’s no football. The mighty Hibees are in action tomorrow against Celtic at Parkhead. Despite the Disco Lights Arena being a horrible place to watch football, I have a ticket so I’ll be there, with a pillar blocking much of the view. I will be hightailing it back along the Gallowgate to get home, change and get back out to a Christmas night out. It’s in an Italian restaurant in Paisley and I love pasta and pizza so the night will end well, at least.

I’ve been listening to a few podcasts this week, mainly The West Wing Weekly, where this week’s episode has featured discussion of the death of John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry, the White House Chief of Staff in The West Wing. John Spencer died aged 58 just before the series finished in 2006 and his passing was marked by his character dying on election night. The episode was particularly poignant because of all the kind words his fellow actors gave in his honour. Leo was a superb character, a person of substance and depth, definitely my favourite in The West Wing. I have also had a few sport podcasts going down, including the BBC’s LGBT Sport podcast, which features interviews with various sporting figures who also happen to be LGBTQIA+. I first came across it when Jack Murley interviewed Laura Montgomery, one of the founders of Glasgow City FC, the side which has dominated Scottish women’s football for over a decade, and also works in her day job for Hibs. I’ve also been listening to The Terrace and Longbangers, a Hibs podcast. Longbangers has transformed since it started and now has regular discussions on mental health, which is brilliant. I’m a bit behind with my podcasts, downloading with good intentions but little time.

I’m going to stay on women’s football a moment as on Thursday night Hibs announced that Jamie-Lee Napier has left the club. That’s a great shame as she is an excellent attacking player with incredible pace. In women’s football, as in the men’s game, the money is in England and America and she has been snapped up by Chelsea. Good luck to her. She is a talented footballer and she will do well wherever she goes.

Nevis Ensemble in action at Kelvingrove – an orchestra playing in a grand hall, with a small audience in the foreground

794 words down and I’ve still got a few things I want to write about this morning. Last Sunday I had a Glasgow day. I was with my dad and we went to Kelvingrove then to Trongate 103. Kelvingrove was excellent. We got there just after it opened, which was particularly joyous. An orchestra started playing in the main hall, which was amazing, particularly as Christmas songs weren’t part of their repertoire. It was the Nevis Ensemble, a group which can apparently pop up in museums, shopping centres and other places, getting themselves out of a van and set up within minutes. Trongate 103 was new to me. We went to the Oscar Marzaroli exhibition at Street Level Photoworks, which was tremendous, a selection of black-and-white photographs of Glasgow in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, capturing large swathes of the city which have been caught up in redevelopment. I left spiritually enriched but with a pack of postcards. My favourite, three boys trying on high heels out on the street, has been immortalised in Cumberland Street in the Gorbals, as written about in my Streets of Glasgow post there a couple of years ago.

Anyway, that’s us for this Saturday, 14th December 2019. Thank you for reading. Tomorrow’s post is a series of photographs of statues. Wednesday will be Loose Ends, which will be in Glasgow’s West End. To all readers, commenters, followers, a very good morning. Peace.


Ruling passions

David Hume statue – a statue of a man sat on a plinth. He is wearing robes and holding a book. His toes are golden, while the rest of him is a pale grey.

I tend to avoid Edinburgh’s Old Town. It is incredibly touristy and while beautiful, the sound of tinned bagpipes and the sight of tinned tartan tends to grate after a few short minutes. One thing which always amuses me as I pass is the statue of philosopher David Hume, which sits right outside the High Court. For such a rational person, it seems incongruous that by him usually stands a phalanx of Jehovah’s Witnesses and his toe is golden from all the rubs for luck from passers-by. Anyway, David Hume is mentioned in an exhibition just down the way in the National Library at the moment, which is about the Scottish Enlightenment. He’s mentioned a lot, being a key figure in that particular part of our nation’s past, but Hume’s words feature pride of place on the National Library’s steps. ‘Literature has been the ruling passion of my life’. Apposite for a mighty repository of words like NLS.

My life has been guided by books. I give them out for a living right now. My words have been in one or two as well. I was brought up to read and I am to this day a fierce reader. I go through fits and starts but in the last week I have got through a couple of books and hopefully the coming Christmas break will afford a lot more time just to curl up and ignore the festivities. I have a pile of four sitting by my bed now and that’s without considering the two currently in my library eBook app and several more in the Kindle app on my iPad. My time is precious but the joy of just sitting and reading, be it in bed or on a train, cannot be underestimated.

I’ve found that when I want to find out about something, I turn to a book first. The Internet is very useful for a lot of things but it tends to be a whole lot of noise and chatter. A book is between you and the writer. It’s their words channelled through your consciousness, your own thoughts and ideas. When I did yoga earlier in the year, I learned from a book. A lot of what I’ve read about gender and particularly when it isn’t binary has come between a set of covers. Plus a whole lot of what I know and understand about basic human interaction has been from books. I think that has partly been because I take things in better if I’m reading them. I can’t listen for long. Plus a book has some authority. The Internet has some very authoritative sources kicking around but you have to know how and where to look. Same with books, certainly, but they are easier to spot.

Often reading a book is far easier than actual human interaction. I remember taking a book to a school disco. (It was about The Simpsons, as I recall.) I read in my high school common room and got some strange looks when I burst out laughing reading Bill Bryson. To this day I try to get to the football early, partly to dodge the crowds but also to read the programme. In recent weeks I have read my OU textbook in two different football grounds before the game started. Having a book with me is a useful thing. I can retreat behind it if I need to. It’s a control valve, often a very valuable one.

My tastes have evolved in recent years. When I was a kid, I liked Roald Dahl and football books. As a teenager I read more broadly. Douglas Adams, JD Salinger, crime novels, Iain Banks. A lot of John Muir. Into my twenties more crime fiction but it was interspersed with football books again, more travel, nature, memoirs. Muriel Spark too. My favourite book is now The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd though for a long time it was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. My to-read pile fluctuates. When I want to read, I go into high gear and get a mix; at times when I just can’t, a football book or two will be the way to go.

Reading has helped me reach out to people. I’ve found common ground with many people based on books and as a fairly solitary person I appreciate it. Like David Hume, literature has been a ruling passion in my life and it has made it inextricably better, for the days with people and those without, when all I want to do is avoid the overload. A book in whatever form is always nearby and always waiting to be opened and savoured, with any luck.




Saturday Saunter: Fireworks and assignments

Good Saturday to you,

Our Saunter for today is being written on Tuesday night, Bonfire Night, as a train has just passed by my window. My part of Glasgow has quietened down now so my earphones are now off. I absolutely loathe fireworks, for their loudness and shrillness, and would ban them except in organised displays. They play havoc with my nerves, having the same effect as a very crowded bus crossed with a drill. Tonight’s music has been mixed, currently Skipinnish. I did hear earlier that it has been suggested that Bob Marley is particularly effective for soothing dogs on this night, so may try that on my human ears.

This post appears as I will be away to Perth to watch the currently managerless Hibees. My current plan is to head up a bit early, scoop up some lunch and eat it at Huntingtower Castle, a rather fine castle just outside Perth and about 15 minutes walk from McDiarmid Park. I like Huntingtower. If I remember rightly it has a painted ceiling somewhere as well as a small colony of bats. I like an away trip when I can combine some history with my football.

My laptop is still warm from working on an assignment for my current OU module, analysing a wallchart and saying how it might be relevant to historians of empire (a wee bit). I think I’ve done enough for tonight. My books and a print-out of said wallchart are scattered on the bed beside me. By the time you read this, the assignment will be submitted and my mind will be turned to next week’s work. It won’t be coming with me to Perth, though. I think I’m going to take Cameron with Egbert by Dervla Murphy, which I bought in Leakey’s Bookshop in Inverness at the start of the year. Regular blog readers will know that I went through a Dervla Murphy phase last summer and I think it suits my current mode and mood.

In my voracious intake of articles and popular culture, I came across a rather cracking thing on Twitter the other day, which showed two colours of shopping baskets. One was coloured to indicate that staff could approach and assist, the other not to make it clear that the shopper wanted left alone. I do most of my clothes shopping in person and particularly for shoes. I particularly like Schuh though get irritated by their very eager staff when I just want to look and make my decisions from careful observation. I suppose being able to shoe shop in under ten minutes might just be my superpower.

Or it could be autism, according to an article by Joanne Limburg on the Guardian website the other day. It is a very nuanced article, going into the perspectives of a fair few autistic adults. My perspective is summed up better by the writer Katherine May and it’s worth quoting here: ‘My autism brings some things I really value – the flood of words I experience, the ability to fixate on a subject and burrow deep into it, and an intense relationship with the natural world. But there are other bits I’d get rid of. I break things and hurt myself all the time; and I hate the way that I don’t remember faces and so come across as rude.’ She also talks about how it can often be easier to speak to a group of people than one person, something I relate to from years of working with the public.

I can also relate to the actress Emma Watson, who is approaching the thirtieth birthday which is recently in my own rearview mirror. In an interview with Vogue, she talked about how she is ‘self-partnered’ rather than single, which is quite a good way to look at it. Self-respect, all the way.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 9th November 2019. Tomorrow’s post is about a statue in Fort William, Wednesday’s Loose Ends about a rock not in Fort William. Any ideas for the 700th post, please send them my way. Have a very nice weekend. Cheers the now.

Saturday Saunter: Waves, autism and Arran


It’s Saturday again and it’s time for another Saturday Saunter. This one isn’t being written live: we’re back to Tuesday night. The clocks have gone back and it’s well dark now, about half eight at night. I’ve just had a chocolate milk, one of my current vices. I’m not sure what I’m going to write tonight so we’ll play it by ear.

On Monday I was in Dunbar. I managed to get there for a walk. The day was cold and sunny plus there were big waves. My kind of day. It was the last day of a good few days off and I managed to be in some very fine places. Dunbar was fine but Arran on Friday was magnificent. I got such a lot from the time there. I’m going to try and get back to Lamlash next summer, just to be and possibly to get across to the Holy Isle too. It was an incredible day. I like Arran more every time I’m there.

When this is posted, I will probably be having a lie-in. Hibs are playing tonight against Celtic at Hampden. I’ll be there and it might just be grim. Tomorrow should be nicer. I’m off to Stirlingshire and in particular Doune Castle. I like that part of the world a lot and with the autumn colours, it should be particularly beautiful. I think I’ve written about Doune here before and how it combines my historian side and the deeply rooted nerdish side of me which likes Monty Python. It is also in Outlander but I’ve never seen or read it so can’t comment on that. To get to Doune involves going to Stirling, which is a place I like. I was last there in the summer, there for the football with an added visit to the Engine Shed. I went past Stirling last week on the way to and from Dundee and made sure I turned my head the right way to see the castle.

I pay a fair bit of attention to autism and diversity issues and one thing I really liked recently was a sensory map the Scottish National Portrait Gallery have produced. It not only shows the layout of that magnificent building but also but how loud or quiet areas are as well as whether they have strong smells and indeed whether the toilets have hand dryers or not. I’ve been to the Portrait Gallery many times and it is generally fine for my own particular blend of sensory sensitivities. I don’t like that they’ve plonked a shop in the ambulatory, the balcony area with the historical friezes, as that always was a calm place where I could get my breath back. The hand dryer issue is one I have mixed feelings about. I prefer paper towels because they dry my hands better plus the noise can be overpowering of dryers. Plus dryers don’t tend to dry properly, except the Dyson ones, which thankfully the Portrait Gallery has, even if they’re too loud.

I read an interesting phrase just now in an article from the Washington Post about how listening to the perspective of autistic adults helped a mother with an autistic son. The phrase was about ‘how autistic happiness manifests’. I don’t really think about how my autism and my happiness are linked, to be honest. Sometimes they are wildly conflicting. In the last week the things which have really made me happy are:

  • Big waves at Dunbar
  • Inspired Halloween costumes
  • The Hibs team running out at 3pm on Saturday
  • Reading a good book
  • Looking at train departure boards

I suppose the phrase could mean when my autistic brain is in sync with the rest of the world. Sometimes it happens. I prefer cool and calm days and places. The best moment I had recently was last Friday standing at the bus stop at Lamlash. In front of me was a road then a patch of grass then the bay and then the Holy Isle. It was quite calm, an occasional car, some words in my ears. In the city I’m happiest under trees or slightly above the bustle. Or looking up. I seem to need a decent balance and thankfully the few days I had off recently managed to bring a good range of experiences, city, sea, gardens.

One last thing. I share these posts on Twitter and it’s quite pernickity to customise Tweets on WordPress. Usually, it’s just the title, sometimes a comment on the post. What I’m going to start to do is to add an image description to describe the featured image that accompanies the Tweet. I’m aware of the growing movement to make social media more accessible, which Glasgow Women’s Library highlighted the other day, so that’s my small contribution to that. Today’s, incidentally, is ‘a coastal scene, with a hill and a rock in the background, with foamy, crashing waves in the foreground’.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 2nd November 2019. Tomorrow will be the October digest, another Loose Ends post on Wednesday. Post 700 comes soon. Any thoughts about what I could write about or indeed questions that only I could answer, send them my way. Have a very nice weekend, whatever you end up doing. Cheery bye.


Saturday Saunter: Eight things you might not know about me

Happy Saturday,

As this is posted, I will be walking to work. Yep, it’s one of those Saturdays. I’m writing this on Monday night, around 9pm, and it’s been a busy day. I seem to have spent a lot of my day talking, which is a key part of my job, to be fair. Now I am really content not to talk but to write instead.

I’ve been thinking a fair bit today about Dunbar, where I grew up. Usually that’s a good indicator that I may soon be paying a visit. This weekend’s out – I’m even missing the football tomorrow for a prior engagement in Glasgow – and next weekend I’m away up north. Following weekend might work. I was last in Dunbar just before my birthday and had a good walk along the Prom and out to John Muir. It was quite cool despite being late July but I liked the walk. After I turned past the skittery burn and headed back towards Dunbar, I looked back and saw East Lothian unfold over the fields, to Pencraig, Tyninghame and Traprain. Usually when I’m in Dunbar I focus my energies on one place in the area. Maybe this time might be out towards the East Links, a walk I last did last summer when I went out as far as Barns Ness Lighthouse then up Doon Hill. That was a gorgeous day.

Why Dunbar came to mind was an article I read on the BBC News website about how the people of Rutland, England’s smallest county, have resisted McDonald’s opening a restaurant in their part of the world. Until recently East Lothian must have been the only part of Scotland that didn’t have a McDonald’s. There’s one now in Dunbar, right by the A1 and next to Asda. It makes me giggle every time I see it because I grew up in Dunbar where trips to Asda, cinemas, big clothes shops or any sort of fast food that wasn’t a chippy, Italian or Chinese required a trip to Edinburgh, not to mention hospitals and most other public services. We would sometimes bring popcorn chicken or McDonald’s the 20 minutes on the train or slightly longer in the car from Edinburgh. Where I live in Glasgow, I can get these delivered to my door through a touch of an app on my phone. I can reach cinemas and big clothes shops within half an hour. I still find that a bit space age.

The other week I was nominated for one of those blogging award things where you have to answer a whole bunch of questions than ask a lot of other bloggers some more questions. That’s nice but I don’t have time for that. I’m about to study again and I work full-time. I write in bursts around what adventures I can fit into my life. Plus I regularly mention and celebrate other bloggers. What I can offer instead is a list of eight things you might not know about me.

  • I don’t drink tea or coffee – tea is okay but it’s a sensory thing. I like the smell of coffee but it is rank. If I have a hot drink, which I do maybe once a year, it’s hot chocolate, preferably with whipped cream which cools it down. I drink diluting juice or water, sometimes fizzy juice. I despair of the many events I go to which don’t cater for non-tea and coffee people.
  • One of my prized childhood toys was Buzz Lightyear – that probably ages me a bit. I still have my Buzz somewhere.
  • I carry two pens in my pocket almost everywhere I go – partly in case of stress so I can twiddle them or click their tops, partly because I’m a writer. Usually it’s one stylish in blue, the other more functional black. Today’s came from Paperchase and Zebra (bought in Morrison’s).
  • I once wanted to design football stadiums and drew them a lot – this brought about my continuing interest in architecture.
  • I’ve never finished a Lord of the Rings book – they go on for about a fortnight.
  • I don’t like sudden movement around me – that includes, but is not limited to, people, animals, bangs, lights.
  • I have voted for three of the four major political parties in Scotland – the other I would never, ever, ever vote for in any circumstances. Luckily that particular shower don’t do so well around my part of Glasgow.
  • My favourite number is 7. It’s a Hibs thing, it’s also a Harry Potter thing.

One last thing I’ve been thinking of is a quote from Peter McDougall, ‘Glasgow is not a geographical site, it’s a state of mind’. I just Googled it and amusingly one of the top results was my own Streets of Glasgow post about Virginia Street. A post from the Cheers, Govanhill blog made me think of it, about the various villages and districts that form Glasgow. It’s one of the many things I love about this city. In a few minutes you can be in another area. Each has its own character, its own architecture, words, feeling. Those who haven’t spent time here don’t get it.

Anyway, that’s us for today. Tomorrow is Loose Ends and it’s still in Glasgow at one of my favourite ruined places south of the river. Wednesday is about some Glaswegian lanes. Next Sunday will see a pause as I’m away for the weekend. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a lovely weekend, whatever you end up doing. Cheers.


Saturday Saunter: The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues

Good Saturday to you,

This Saturday Saunter is being written on Monday night, which seems to have become a habit. Unusually it isn’t Skipinnish playing in the background. I seem to have a random shuffle happening and it’s Vampire Weekend in my lugs at the moment. Mansard Roof. Proper late-2000s arthouse indie. This will be posted on Saturday morning when I will be having a lie-in before going to Kilmarnock to watch Hibs. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to this trip to Rugby Park. Hibs haven’t been great recently plus the last trip down there wasn’t great. We got beat and someone spewed over my trainers. Plus drunk folk on the train. Joy.

Ayrshire’s finest, Biffy Clyro, are playing now. Many of Horror. Not the sanitised X Factor version. Incidentally, one of the finest epithets I have ever seen in print was Marina Hyde’s description of Simon Cowell as the Karaoke Sauron. Repellent individual. Anyway, an absolute tune has come on while I’ve been writing and culling a political rant: May You Never by John Martyn.

In book news, I’ve managed to read a few books in the last week or so, including a couple of Quintin Jardine re-reads, the new Stuart MacBride (decent but I think his editor might have been on holiday) and the first of the Marsali Taylor Shetland sailing mysteries, which was all right. I think I might read more of that series. My current book is Out of the Woods by Luke Turner, which I’ve had on my pile for ages and I need to get back to its library home at some point. My travelling book for Kilmarnock today, since it’s compact and the journey isn’t far, is a selection of Greta Thunberg’s speeches published in a handy pocket-sized volume by Penguin.

For the last few minutes I’ve been trying to remember something I was going to write here this week. I had a mental image of where I thought it as well, when I was on the bus earlier tonight, where the 9A turns past Decathlon at Braehead towards Hillington. If you are unfamiliar with this place, imagine rolling hills, countryside, haggis running around freely. No, of course not, Decathlon’s a big sports warehouse and across from it is a huge shopping centre and generic glass-fronted offices. Between these is a busy road. I remembered where I had the idea before the idea itself. Go figure. Anyway, the idea was about autism positivity. Last week I watched Amy Schumer’s latest stand-up special on Netflix. I’m not a huge fan but I watched it because I had seen a piece which mentioned that she has an autistic husband. The standout quote was simply that his autisticness, all those things that society often views negatively like bluntness and attention-to-detail, was why she loved him. It gave me hope.

I’m back on my modern trad rock playlist now, Runrig, Tide Lines and Skipinnish. On Saturday, I will just have my iPod (yes, they still exist) so my music will be more limited. Usually when travelling to the game, I listen to Hibs tunes, normally the Proclaimers. On the way back it depends on the outcome. If Hibs win, it’s usually the Proclaimers. If they draw or get beat, which can often feel like the same thing, it’s Kacey Musgraves or Johnny Cash. There’s actually a song for this away day, though, indeed my favourite Proclaimers song which isn’t ‘Sunshine on Leith’: ‘The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues’. I don’t sing to myself a lot but when I do, it’s usually ‘The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues’, the closing number from the Proclaimers’ first album, ‘This Is The Story’. The last visit to Killie was just like the song, ‘the day was bright and sunny but the game I won’t allay’. I also agree with its sentiment that ‘the best view of all is where the land meets the sky’. There’s not a lot of water or wildness on the way from Glasgow to deepest, darkest Ayrshire but I can imagine it over the horizon.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for today, Saturday 14th September 2019. Thanks for reading. Tomorrow’s post sees the welcome return of Loose Ends and it’s back to Queen’s Park. I am about eight Loose Ends posts ahead at the moment with enough written until December, which is a nice position to be in. Wednesday is as yet unwritten. Whatever you do, have a good weekend. Peace. And GGTTH.

Clean inbox time

Every so often I clear out my email inbox. Whenever I see an article that I might want to write about, I send an email to myself and before too long, I have too many to use. I write posts like this every few months and this is the latest in a long line. So, let us begin.

Self-care is ever more important in this age. The first two articles, both from The Guardian, deal with it in different ways, one about comfort TV and the other about the mental health of performers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Comfort TV is watching dear, familiar sitcoms on a loop on Netflix, Amazon Prime or whatever. I have been known to do that though at the moment I am dipping into my toe into unfamiliar waters a bit more. I have a couple of standup specials saved on my iPad from Netflix at the moment, which is a bit of a diversion for me.

I have written before about my personal dislike for the Fringe. As an act of personal self-care, I avoid it. That being said, I admire people who have the nerve to perform in whatever form and going to Edinburgh takes a lot, be it drive and finance. The Guardian article was thought-provoking and more should be done to protect performers, especially from sexual harassment as was noted on the BBC News website recently.

I am soon to resume an Open University degree in history and an article from the OU website about how to write the perfect assignment resonated with me. I’ve written a fair few in my time, some having achieved good marks, others not so much. Some were written with every ounce of what I had, others half-arsed, to say the least. More than once I’ve finished an assignment at 1am the night before it was due and one notable occasion saw me come home after seeing Hibs beaten at St. Mirren and writing the assignment in a couple of hours with a good head of steam. I do not claim to be an expert in anything and particularly in writing essays. My method is to fly by the seat of my boxers. I write essays by stitching stuff together, working from notes and thoughts to put it all into one semi-coherent piece of prose. Sometimes I can do it in good time before the deadline. Mostly not. I don’t see it changing in the coming months.

The last item I want to share is from Twitter. There is a growing and welcome wave of autism friendly hours and days in shops, museums and galleries and as an autistic person I welcome them. The rationale for the autism-friendly Wednesday at the Category Is Books shop in Govanhill was outlined recently and it is worth a read. Category Is specialises in books about LGBTQ life, issues and much else besides. I’ve been a couple of times and it is a wonderful, serene place. They welcome everyone, however and whoever they are.

Anyway, that’s my inbox a bit emptier now. Thanks so much for reading. The Saturday Saunter returns on Saturday, naturally enough, and the second Aberdeen Intercity post is on Sunday. Cheers for now.


Saturday Saunter: Earplugs, role models and books

Good Saturday,

Unusually this is being started on Sunday night as I’m busy on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights this week, when normally I might think to write this post. It’s just about 10pm and I’ve had a busy day, walking in the rain on Bute. It was much better than it sounds. We had driven the long way to get to Bute, taking the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ferry from Colintraive to Rhobodach and then down to Rothesay and Kilchattan Bay from there. Anyway, home now and in the background I have a Skipinnish playlist from YouTube.

The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ferry

This post appears on a Saturday morning when I’ll be off to Edinburgh to watch Hibs. It’s going to be a ‘go to the game and straight home’ sort of occasion as I can’t be doing with Edinburgh during the Festival circus. Last year I bought a packet of earplugs and I’ve put a set in my jacket pocket and my backpack. They worked a treat last year and they’ll probably work today especially as leafleters were gathered beyond the Playhouse when I was in Edinburgh two weeks ago, a zone I would normally consider safe.

The schools have just gone back here in Glasgow. I should explain for non-Scottish readers that school holidays in Scotland go from the end of June to mid-August. Our education system is generally different from England, as is our legal system, of course. It’s traditional that the weather gets nicer when the schools go back and it was sunny and warm on Thursday when the schools went back in Renfrewshire (where I work) though wet and windy on Friday as I write these words. The best part of the schools going back for me, a contentedly childless person, is the fact the museums and shops are quieter if I’m off on a weekday. Happy days. Another bonus is that I’m long past school age and I don’t have to brave school again myself.

Greta Thunberg is a remarkable person. As a society we need to do a lot more to deal with the effects of climate change and Greta Thunberg is spreading a valuable and essential message. Unfortunately she gets it tight on social media on account of her age, what she’s saying and because she’s autistic. I read a thread on Twitter the other day that mentioned that she’s a rare autistic role model since a lot of media portrayals of our condition tend to be negative and driven by stereotypes. They don’t reflect the diversity of neurodiverse folk, how many of us have empathy, how we can communicate and how we are not serial killing loners. Changing that will take time and any positive contributions that people can make must be embraced and cherished, especially if they might actually help move our society forward.

I haven’t been reading terribly much this weather. A fortnight ago, I took my favourite book, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd, when I was heading to the football. Today I have a book I got for my birthday, The Pebbles On The Beach by Clarence Ellis, which from the blurb and the cover looks like my kind of book. Also on my pile just now is a Marsali Taylor crime novel that’s been there for ages, the new Stuart MacBride and a book by Diego Maradona about the 1986 World Cup. A book I got recently was the rather cool Spirits of Glasgow featuring illustrations by Jo Whitby and a story by Chris McQueer. I got it as a pre-order (it’s not out properly until September). Don’t panic, I’ve not turned into a blagging, bragging book blogger – I heard about the pre-sale on Twitter and promptly bought a copy. The illustrations are beautiful, quite like Neil Slorance in style, and I’m looking forward to reading it properly.

I often like to catchup with American late night comedy shows and my favourite is the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Stephen Colbert was interviewed the other day by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and amidst the discussions about Donald Trump, they talked very movingly about grief. I sat and watched it this morning and it was profound. We do not talk enough as a society about serious matters of life and death. We get too preoccupied by trivial nonsense.

On a brighter note, and not at all trivial, this very Saturday morning Natalie from Wednesday’s Child has published an ex-pat’s guide to Glasgow so have a read at that.

Anyway, that’s us for today. Intercity is back tomorrow and it’s Dundee for the second time. It features one of my favourite bizarre photographs I’ve ever taken. Wednesday will be a bonus walk from my recent trip to Aberdeen. Another Saturday Saunter will appear a week today. In the meantime, have a great weekend. Cheers for now.





Saturday Saunter: Warmth, light and overload

Welcome to this Saturday Saunter. This is being posted as I am on my way to work. Today is my last day before an incredibly welcome period of time off. I’m going to be off for about ten days which is the longest I have had off since Christmas. I don’t have all that much planned save a couple of football matches and a day trip or two. I plan to have a few lie-ins, read and take it as easy as I possibly can. One of those day trips will be next Friday, which is my 30th birthday. Not sure where we’ll be going yet but rest assured it will be a good one.

I am writing this on Wednesday night. It has been exceedingly warm today and even at twenty to ten at night it is still warm. The sky is a pale blue as the sun sets and white puffy clouds breathe on the tree line. It is to be even warmer tomorrow (Thursday) and maybe a bit cooler by the weekend. Even with the heat here, we are getting it better than down south. It was ever thus.

I did plan to write a post about turning thirty and my hopes for the world in ten years time but the draft got very ranty. We don’t do politics here and avoiding the news has been very cathartic this particular day with the confirmation of our new Prime Minister. The comedian Richard Osman put it best on Twitter the other day: ‘It’s so hot outside, it’s almost as if the yawning gates of Hell have chosen to open up on this particular day from some reason’. Even if Hell is really only a place in Norway, that’s probably about right.

High Street, Edinburgh, in December when it was relatively quiet

Another particular bad place is Edinburgh during the month of August. I tend to visit the capital only when necessary in August when the Festival circus is on. I’ll be there for the football and a couple of things at the Book Festival and that’s it. I read an interesting thread on Twitter the other day which asked autistic folk in Edinburgh what their top tips were for avoiding the Fringe. Noise cancelling headphones, disappearing into your mobile and wearing an official lanyard were good suggestions, as well as the Don’t Take A Flyer game, which I’m down for, involving pretending leaflets just don’t exist. Knowing alternative routes which avoid the Old Town is also useful. Last year I employed earplugs as well as my usual fast speed and looking down, plus of course heading as far away from the city centre as humanly possible. It is just a massive overload. The people, noise, posters, folk shoving leaflets in your hand, the whole drill. Unfortunately Edinburgh has gotten busier during the other 11 months of the year so what August used to be like 10 years ago is what it’s like all the time. Avoidance is the key.

Before I move off the subject, Wednesday’s Child published a post satirising the Fringe the other day so have a read at that.

Talking of reading, I wrote the other night about my to-read pile. The book I was reading earlier was Fitzy: The Story of My Life by Tony Fitzpatrick, player, manager and now Chief Executive of St. Mirren. Usually football memoirs tend to be much of a muchness but Tony Fitzpatrick’s is interesting. One passage which nearly brought me to tears was the bit about his young son dying of leukaemia. Tony Fitzpatrick’s book captured the feeling well of losing someone so close and so young. There are some feelings which never go, some wounds which never heal and some moments which knock you sideways, regardless how much time has passed.

Turning thirty has been difficult for me. Like most people I have regrets, things I haven’t done and things I would do differently. Recently, however, I adopted a strategy, which is ‘screw 30’. It is just a number. Life is what you make of it and it takes you in all sorts of directions. I mentioned earlier my hopes for ten years time. I would rather treat my impending oldness as an opportunity rather than something to be resented.

There is a bad moon rising right now and it might get worse. Hope is important and I hold to that today. It is cliched. It is crucial, today more than ever, to remember history. Light can often follow darkness. It’s important to hear, and listen to, a diverse range of voices, even if you don’t agree with them. So too is it crucial not to lose hope that there will be a brighter day, if not tomorrow or the next day but soon.

On that note, it’s time to end. With my time off comes a hiatus for this blog, starting in a few words time. We will resume on Wednesday 7th August with the July digest. Thank you for reading my drivel, whether you have come here by chance, or as a regular reader, commenter or follower. Have a very nice weekend and I will see you soon. Peace.