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.

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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.

Saturday Saunter: 3rd November 2018

Happy Saturday,

Looking through the galleries, Kirkcaldy Galleries, Kirkcaldy, Fife

Yesterday I spent an hour in my favourite art gallery, Kirkcaldy. It was a good chance to see the very fine Edinburgh School exhibition again before it shuts tomorrow. That exhibition featured works by – amongst others – Anne Redpath, John Houston, William Gillies and Elizabeth Blackadder, with a mixture of still lifes, landscapes and portraits including by a few by Gillies and Houston of the landscapes of the Lothians and Fife. My favourite of those was the dell in Temple, where Gillies lived in Midlothian, though overall I liked the Anne Redpath of a French town in the murky yet strangely ethereal twilight.

Beyond that I had my usual wander around the permanent collections, spending the most time in the room at the far end amidst the works of William McTaggart, a blend of scenes of children playing, landscapes and seascapes, including watching an emigrant ship leave forever as it turned past the Mull of Kintyre. There was a newly acquired painting with two children playing on the beach at Carnoustie, the sky suitably atmospheric, possibly wintry.

In what probably won’t be a huge surprise to regular readers, a lot of my thoughts this week have been about the Edinburgh derby on Wednesday. My team has been in the news due to the scenes at Tynecastle the other night. I was at the game but my thoughts are too jumbled to make much sense of at this stage. I have managed to cobble something together for Easter Road West, which appears there this morning.

On a brighter note, I have managed a bit of reading this week. I’m still working my way through the new Nan Shepherd collection, Wild Geese, and I’ve finished my Harry Potter re-read, finishing with the play script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on the way to Kirkcaldy yesterday. What I have as my travelling book for today is Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey by Madeleine Bunting, a journalist I liked when I used to read The Guardian. It was a library choice, chosen solely because the title appealed. I’ll let you know what I think of it.

On my pile to re-read is Findings by Kathleen Jamie, a splendid book of essays that I have read many times. Kathleen Jamie has an excellent appreciation of the world, keen but inquisitive, and a new book – like those of Robert Macfarlane – is a moment to cherish. Her last volume of essays, Sightlines, was spotted in the now defunct Waterstone’s in George Street in Edinburgh and I was incredibly close to cheering as I scooped up my copy.

Monday is of course Bonfire Night, the end of the festival of shite around this time of year encompassing the clocks going back, Halloween and of course fireworks. The fireworks I can mostly avoid and there seems to have been a lot less let off around my way in the lead-up this year, which has been appreciated. They put me on-edge, the combination of whizzes and bangs really freaking me out. The best fireworks are seen, not heard, preferably on a telly showing a far distant display. Like Halloween the reasons why the whole thing happens have been lost in the wider onslaught of consumerism; like Halloween and the dreaded C-word, however, it is one massive sensory overload and to be tholed until it’s all over.

Anyway, that’s the Saturday Saunter for this week. Tomorrow’s post here will be the October digest. On Wednesday Streets of Glasgow will return with another street in the Merchant City. Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. Have a very nice weekend.

My favourite bench

I didn’t like high school much. Sometimes at lunchtime I would sit in a classroom and eat or in most weathers I would go out for a walk. If I was really going for it, I would end up nearly at the Castle, sitting by where the old pool was, watching waves. I wrote poems then and a lot of them seemed to involve waves, usually free verse even though Robert Frost likened it to playing tennis with the net down.Very often I would end up at the Prom, ten minutes or so from school, and I would sit on my favourite bench. It’s just around from the second gate with views across the bay to Traprain, North Berwick Law, the Bass and the May. In all weather it is a beautiful, lovely spot and even when I go to Dunbar today, I like to spend a few minutes there. I was up there just now. I’m now sitting writing this on the beach, looking back up towards the Prom. Bird calls chattering back and forth, waves, not much man made noise at all on this warm July evening.I’ve been on the Prom too many times to count. Sometimes I’ve run on it, other times walked, sometimes with the wind at my back, actually a lot of times with the wind at my back, with some visits thoughtful and others joyful. I’ve been there on bright sunny days like this and cold, clear, dark winter nights too, the way shown by a torch. I never feel lonely there, however I feel elsewhere. There I feel connected to the wider world, not so much cities but passing ships, birds and places on the horizon, to memories, hopes and dreams. A lot of what I write about is connections and it all comes from here, this place, and wherever I live, that won’t ever change.

Digest: May 2018

That’s the end of May then. Another busy month and a whole lot of adventures. In May I’ve been to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, East Lothian twice and all the way to Crookston. A lot of travels have been football-related though some haven’t, not least the first adventure I had in May neatly packed into a lunchtime. I was in Glenburn, a suburb of Paisley, and over lunch I ended up going for a walk a little way into the Gleniffer Braes, sitting down on a bench with a considerable view across Paisley to the hills beyond. It was a new perspective on a place I am becoming increasingly familiar with.

On Saturday 5th May I went to Aberdeen to watch Hibs. I left fairly early in the day and read and listened to music on the way up. I went to the football then took myself out to dinner before going home. I was thinking about the Bank Holiday Monday which was coming and ended up buying Ordnance Survey maps for two very disparate bits of Scotland, the area around Hawick in the Borders and Elgin in Moray, before I boarded that bus to civilisation. As it turns out I didn’t get to either one.

The following day was lovely and warm and I had a lie in. After all I had been all the way to Aberdeen the previous day. Mid-afternoon I went out to Crookston Castle, intending on writing about it for Loose Ends, a series featured on this blog on Sundays at the moment. The place was fairly busy with people though that didn’t stop me enjoying the views across this bit of the world. Crookston Castle is within half an hour’s walk so I did just that. On the way back I finally made it to Rosshall Gardens where I wrote up notes and pondered a ruined boiler house in the grounds. I still need to write that bit of the adventure up.

The next day was Bank Holiday Monday and after much deliberation I ended up on the way to Edinburgh. I wanted to do a dry run for visiting Tynecastle that Wednesday so I proceeded in lovely sunshine into deepest darkest Gorgie, found where the away end is then swiftly came away again with no fixed agenda. I found myself at the bus station thinking about where to go and I just missed a bus to St. Andrews. There was a bus sitting bound for East Lothian and I thought briefly about Hailes Castle before eventually concluding I quite fancied a trip to Dunbar. On the way down I felt like going to Lamer Island, the Battery, which has featured here before and that was where I ended up after a turn around the harbour. I managed to find a connection to Crookston Castle and thus my visit also became part of the Loose Ends series. Alas time and train timetables meant I didn’t have long before I needed to head back to Glasgow.

No wonder I’m tired. The following night I went out for dinner. On the way we looked at some of the very fine street art which is scattered around the Merchant City.

Next night was the derby at Tynecastle, another item off my 30 Before 30 list.

That Sunday was the last game of the season and it was at Easter Road. I don’t have any end of the season traditions and when I left the ground, leaving through exit number 7 as always, I decided to go get fish and chips by the sea. That became North Berwick and after walking to a shop to get provisions, it became a walk around Aberlady Bay first. Aberlady Bay, for those who don’t know it, is a nature reserve with a long, deserted beach at the end of it. But first I had to cross Tranter’s Bridge, a wooden bridge across a burn named after the author Nigel Tranter who often walked there trying to think up ideas. The bridge, which I knew about but Google Maps didnae, features in Loose Ends soon too. The walk was beautiful but very warm. I ended up on the beach and to my slight surprise I ended up sunbathing for a bit. I don’t sunbathe. I think the sand that was still stuck to my body hours later when I got home is probably why. After that interlude I walked to Gullane then got myself to North Berwick for fish and chips, which were no’ bad, eaten by the harbour.

That Tuesday I was doing a work thing in Renfrew Town Hall, recently refurbished, and it is a fabulous building.

The next Friday I ended up in Edinburgh and went for a long walk along the Water of Leith from Leith to Murrayfield, ending up there on the bus home. Particular highlights of this walk were St. Bernard’s Well which was gorgeous in that light and the grounds of the two Modern Art Galleries in the Dean Village.

That Sunday I went to watch Partick Thistle play Livingston. Thistle got relegated.

I walked home from work the next Friday and walking over by Arkleston, there was a brief moment by the motorway when I could be fooled into thinking I was in the proper countryside.

The next day was Saturday and I was off. I went to Culross, via Dunfermline where I partook in some steak bridies for lunch. I was a bit too late for the Palace but I wasn’t heartbroken since I was able to wander in the sunshine, sitting and reading for a bit and looking at the many fine buildings. I went to Culross Abbey all too briefly and the Abbey ruins were great to explore on that beautiful day.

The next day I spent the day with my dad, bopping around central Scotland, starting in Linlithgow with a turn around the loch. We then drove the few miles to Cairnpapple Hill. From the cool but pleasant weather in Linlithgow, Cairnpapple was shrouded in haar. This made the experience all the more beguiling, other-worldly as we made our way round the henge with visibility only a few feet in front of our faces. Barely five minutes away in Torphichen, it was much clearer and sunny. We had lunch in Callander Park in Falkirk, looking over a duck pond. It was good to see the museum and park busy with people. Thereafter we drove across the Forth to Castle Campbell, one of the more atmospheric Scottish castles, with a walk through Dollar Glen an added bonus. Dollar Glen feels like something out of a fairy tale, or where trolls, goblins and nymphs should live. Castle Campbell is great, a blend of ruins and a fairly intact though restored tower house. Before dining in Linlithgow, we headed back to Cairnpapple Hill where it was now sunny and decent views could be had despite the haze. We first had to contend with some cows. A family were already there, reluctant to venture across the field. To slightly misquote We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, we couldn’t go over them, we couldn’t go under them: we had to go through them. We succeeded and the perspective was well worth the close encounters of the bovine kind.

Monday was a bank holiday and I decided to satisfy an ambition and another thing on my 30 Before 30 list to boot. I decided to walk the route of the Glasgow Subway. On the hottest day of the year. I succeeded in 4 hours and 8 minutes from leaving Govan to getting back there. Tales of that adventure will appear here shortly. Afterwards I had a fleeting visit to Glasgow Cathedral, which will be part of the Loose Ends series after Culross.

That’s us for May then. On Friday it is Streets of Glasgow time and it is the final post of that series before hiatus, Addison Road. Loose Ends returns on Sunday and it is Lamer Island this time.

Before I forget, the Wednesday’s Child blog featured an interesting post recently about what constitutes being well-read. I said I would share a list of some books that have been important to me and these appear below. At some point I will go into greater depth as to why I like these particular books:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark

The collected works of Roald Dahl

The collected works of Douglas Adams

The Harry Potter series

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

Candide by Voltaire

The collected works of Kurt Vonnegut

The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins

Nasty Women, the feminist anthology compiled by 404 Ink

Godless Morality and Looking in the Distance by Richard Holloway

Findings by Kathleen Jamie

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

Waterlog by Roger Deakin

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

Tony Benn’s diaries

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Walking Talking takes a week off next week. That’s for practical reasons. As some of you might know, I’m doing an Open University degree and the exam for my current module is next week. I’ll have to revise. Exams aren’t good. I don’t see the point in them but that’s easy to say when I’m staring down the face of one.

The Easter Road West blog, my football outpost, goes to one post a week over the summer. The football’s finished! I know there’s the World Cup but I couldn’t care less about that. Anyway, May posts might have a limited shelf-life as I was writing about then-current events. The best post over there was the season review.

Thanks as ever to all readers, commenters and followers. It is one of the nicest bits of blogging that sometimes lengthy digressions can occur because of comments or seeing just which random has liked a post today. Cheers, folks.

Posts in May –

Digest: April 2018

Causeway cliffs

Loose Ends: Linlithgow Palace

Sunshine

Walking talking

Streets of Glasgow: Waterloo Street

The beginning

Flotsam and jetsam

Streets of Glasgow: Cadogan Street

Loose Ends: Stirling Castle

Shoelaces

Streets of Glasgow: Firhill Road

Loose Ends: Crookston Castle

Shoelaces

The footballer James Milner has a reputation for being rather drab and dull. Indeed there is a spoof Twitter account called Boring James Milner which covers that ground. Milner has taken that in good spirits and often Tweets playing up to that image. One recent example featured Milner and a referee tying their shoelaces during a match with the legend ‘Double knot races are never boring! #roundthebunnyear #hooploopandswoop’. This interested me because that is just how I was taught to tie my shoelaces. I’m autistic and my motor skills aren’t brilliant. I learned to tie my shoelaces when I was fairly old, still at primary school, with the help of a book. The bunny loop method was how I learned and to this very day my shoelaces are uniformly loopy, much like myself.

I am famously clumsy. It is, I’m told, genetic but I tend to take it to the nth degree. It takes me a few gos with elastic bands and I tend to drop books on a regular basis. That’s an occupational hazard. I pick them up again, though, just about every time. That’s before I go into the adventures I have with pastry. Going to the football can be fun too including the time at Ross County when I fell into the aisle when Hibs scored and when I sat down at Kilmarnock only to cowp hot Vimto over my hand. It’s all about the motor skills. Plus I bump into people with considerable frequency. As a person who doesn’t really like touching other people, trust me, it isn’t deliberate. I walk through busy places thinking a few steps ahead, finding gaps, actively trying to avoid other people. Sometimes that goes awry. Other people just go everywhere.

Some shoelaces can be better than others. I normally wear Skechers, currently one of three pairs – a tweedy colour, a brown pair and another which is blue – and Skechers’ laces tend to be quite thin and need re-tied quite frequently. Coupled with my fumbly fingers, that tends to make life interesting too. But I haven’t yet had to rely on slip-on shoes or worse going barefoot. Bunny ears still win. James Milner says so and he might win the Champions League on Saturday.

Loose Ends: Linlithgow Palace

From Aberdour there were a whole load of places I could have gone. I strongly considered Glasgow Cathedral, not only because I live in Glasgow and can reach the Cathedral in well under an hour from the house, though I decided I would try and get back there and decided on another place used as a setting in Outlander, Linlithgow Palace. It helped that I was overdue a visit and each time I passed on the train, I thought ‘I should go’. One Friday recently I did just that, rocking up there on a pleasant spring afternoon. As I walked up the hill, I gazed towards the gatehouse with the crests of four orders held by James V, the Order of the Thistle a possible connection with the High Kirk of St. Giles in Edinburgh. I walked around the side of the Palace. Every time I go, I always see something new. This time it was the buttresses on the eastern side of the Palace for I hadn’t ever walked under them before. That was swiftly remedied and I appreciated the new angle of the Palace from underneath. I also paid close attention to the angles and details of the exterior as I walked.

I headed on in and then downstairs first. I usually do each level of the Palace in turn, picking a corner and circling around. This time I fancied going down first, soon ending up in the kitchen downstairs, a possible link to the similarly big court kitchen at Dirleton Castle. I walked upstairs and around the Palace, stopping to eat my sandwich in the Great Hall, albeit in one of the big windows rather than at a banquet table set for the great and good. The bit of wind gave me an unusual sense of vertigo as I climbed the tallest tower, looking right out over West Lothian towards Falkirk on one side and the Forth Bridges on another.

Linlithgow and I have many personal connections too. I went there for camp when I was at primary school, once orienteering around the Peel in the snow and ice. I’ve been there with family and friends. I remember one time being there and my companion complaining of the many, many stairs. I wasn’t too sympathetic, as I recall. I’ve often said that Linlithgow is like Dunbar but with better train links. Linlithgow High Street has a few independent shops but less than Dunbar, the local bakers now shut too sadly.

Despite the connections to Dunbar, Dirleton, Edinburgh and the Forth Bridges, I decided to go next to Stirling, handily reachable in under an hour so I could do two that day. Mary, Queen of Scots was born in Linlithgow. I thought her father, James V, was born in Stirling, though I’ve since discovered he was born in Linlithgow Palace too. No matter, for Mary was crowned in Stirling, as was her father who also developed the Castle. It was Stirling for the next trip, which follows here in two weeks time.

This is the second post in the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The first was Aberdour Castle and the third Stirling Castle, which appears here in two weeks time.

Next Sunday there will be a Streets of Glasgow post which is Waterloo Street.

Some blethers

Barns Ness lighthouse

I sometimes go through fits and starts when I don’t write a lot. Also, there can be times when there’s a lot of things that I should post about but I can’t be bothered posting a whole bunch. Both of these are happening at the moment. So, our agenda tonight consists of three items: Rebel, World Autism Awareness Week and some thoughts about stars. I’ll start with Rebel. Rebel is a Scottish Book Trust writing initiative for this year’s Book Week Scotland, which will take place in November. As regular readers of this blog may remember, I had a piece published in last year’s Book Week Scotland anthology, on the subject of ‘Nourish’ featuring a steak bridie and a seagull. Rebel is this year’s competition. It opened on Wednesday and closes at midnight on 6th June. Pieces can be in pretty much any form you like and in any of Scotland’s languages, as long as they are 1,000 words or less and it is also true. Entrants have to be Scottish residents, though, and unpublished. For more details, please see the Scottish Book Trust website. SBT are nice people and so please do support them. A piece I’ve written, which is called ‘Rebel’ and is about not having seen any popular TV programme or film you care to name, is on the SBT website too. I wrote it in January and I still haven’t seen Game of Thrones.

Lammermuir Hills

Second thing is World Autism Awareness Week, which is this week. World Autism Awareness Day is this coming Monday, Easter Monday. I don’t have anything new to post about autism this week, though many, many others will have written about autism and Asperger’s this week and you should check them out. If you are a fellow WordPress blogger, just search ‘autism’ in your WordPress reader or Feedly. Wherever you read online, you should find something good. Autism is a blessing and a curse at times. World Autism Awareness Week will make more people aware of autism and that certainly isn’t a bad thing.

Trongate, Glasgow

Normal service will be resumed on Sunday with a Streets of Glasgow post, this time Trongate. The March digest will follow next week. Easter Road West will have a new post tomorrow morning, which is about sticker books and The Pink. Last week’s was about goalkeepers. I will leave you with a few words about stars.

One of the things that I miss about living in Dunbar is the fact I don’t see stars. I live in Glasgow and there’s too many street lights most of the time to be able to see much of anything in the night sky beyond the moon and plane tail lights. The other night I was coming home from a day in the east. I was walking from the station along the street to my house when I happened to look up. It had been a mostly bright, only marginally cloudy day and the sky was clear and dark. Except I could really, genuinely see stars. Only one or two, not whole constellations, but I could see stars in the big city. I couldn’t help smiling, reminded as ever of those things bigger than ourselves and the world humanity has built, atoms, molecules, protons, worlds beyond our ken. Even in the big city, there’s always a world beyond.

Gazing across a map

If I am running a little late in the morning on the way to work, I usually have to walk a wee bit further to get a bus, to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, to be precise, about a mile from the house. The QEUH is served by a lot of buses, with no fewer than four bus stops outside the main entrance of the hospital where it is possible to get a bus across most of the west of Scotland. On each of the bus stops is a map, produced by SPT and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which shows where the buses all go. It is sort-of like a circuit diagram, vaguely paying attention to geography but more focused on clarity and concision, much like the London Underground map. Now and then I look at it and trace out bus routes I have covered in the city, usually realising I’ve been to most of them over the last few years. I still harbour the notion of going on the 90 or the 3 around the city but I would probably have to pack enough provisions for an assault on Everest.

I like maps, particularly schematics like the bus or Tube maps. I get lost in them for a while, planning future adventures and reliving old ones. Very often working out ideas is as good as the actual experience itself.

I was looking at the Edinburgh bus map earlier and it has become significantly more complicated in recent years with Lothian taking over lots of new routes plus the addition of the trams. It is an absolute mess. Strangely it is actually easier to navigate the capital’s public transport network in person than figuring it out with the map, even with Leith Street being shut and the roadworks at Haymarket. Edinburgh is a wonderful city but it is an absolute nightmare if you desire a simple life.

The London Underground map is rightly a design classic and Transport for London have capitalised on that, putting it on duvets, wrapping paper and notebooks, amongst many other things. I sincerely hope there isn’t London Underground map underwear or condoms or something. (Having just looked up the London Transport Museum shop online, they actually do sell London Underground map-themed boxer shorts, for the mildly reasonable sum of £8.99. They don’t sell condoms, yet.) Anyway, I don’t visit London that often but when I do, I usually use the Tube to get around, not least because it is supremely logical and the stations often have a lot of character architecturally. Looking at the map just now, I seem to have been on quite a few of the Underground’s various lines, including the Northern line when I made a special pilgrimage to Mornington Crescent. I wrote about that a wee while ago here. I don’t think I’ll ever get round them all but it’s nice thinking about it all the same.

Mornington Crescent

A schematic map doesn’t need to be strictly accurate, as long as it makes sense. The whole process of planning an adventure, particularly the best adventure, involves a bit of order but a whole lot of not being exact and just plain winging it. When I want to plan an adventure, I invariably have to be somewhere else but the planning is always worth it, even if I won’t actually get to set sail in the other direction that day, that month or even that year. One day it will happen, even if it is just in my mind as I gaze across the map.