Southampton and me

One of the questions I posed in my post about why we went to Hampshire was, could we replicate the picture of me standing outside the Central Library in 1978? Answer: yes we could! A few things have changed about the building – the stonework has certainly had a clean – and more has changed about me, but I’m recognisably the same woman standing in the same place.

This was taken on the Sunday when I was exploring with John – the library was closed, but I was able to get inside the next day. More on that later: after the photo opportunity above, we set off to walk round the medieval walls of the old town, seen below.

Southampton Old Town

In the 18th century, Southampton was a fashionable spa and seaside resort whose visitors included Jane Austen – there were several information boards commemorating this, of which I’ve included a couple of examples in the gallery above. The walls would originally have been right on the shore – in the picture with me, you can just see the Forty Steps in the background, which were constructed 150 years ago to take visitors down to the beach. The building with the arched doorway and stars in the window, the old Wool House, is now a brewery and restaurant called The Dancing Man – I can report it does a very good Sunday roast lunch (meat and vegetarian).

Tudor House

Within the walls, we visited the Tudor House and Garden, originally built in 1492 by John Dawtry. It’s an impressive little museum which tells you about the house and some of its previous residents such as a Tudor lawyer, an artist and a Victorian bonnet maker.

Monuments, murals and memorials

In the gallery above are two of a series of wall plaques on the site of an old Franciscan Friary, a 1970s mural in ceramic and concrete celebrating Southampton’s maritime history, and a 2013 mural just round the corner which has a similar theme.

In the gallery below is another selection, including two memorials related to the Titanic which set sail from Southampton, and the ruins of Holyrood, known as the Sailor’s Church. This dated from 1320, was bombed in 1940, and is now preserved as a memorial garden to those who served in the Merchant Navy and lost their lives at sea.

The Cultural Quarter

Guildhall at night

My clearest memory of Southampton, because I worked there, is the Civic Centre, a grade II* listed building (1939) which in my day housed the City Council, Art Gallery, and Library, as well as the Courts. The first three are still there, but the Courts have been replaced by the SeaCity Museum and the former Guildhall is an O2 venue. The whole complex stands at the centre of what is known as the Cultural Quarter.

On the Monday of our long weekend, John went off to his meetings at Southampton University and I was left to explore on my own. This was my big moment – I could look at the library where I began my career 40 years ago. It has been transformed. Although the exterior is the same, the dark interior and enclosed rooms I remember are now light and open, including the staircase up to the excellent Art Gallery which has been yarn-bombed by residents of a local Care Home. I loved it.

I also visited SeaCity which had a very moving Titanic exhibition with lots of personal stories. On our walk the previous day, we passed The Grapes Public House where some members of the Titanic crew had stayed too long on the day of departure and missed the boat. The story was in the museum too.

There were some light moments amongst the sadness: for example, the replica of a 2nd Class cabin with a quote from a stewardess who said “It was impossibly for myself or the steward to enter the cabin to wait upon the occupants unless both of then climbed into the berth”, and the toilets. I mentioned before that the museum was in the old Courts (with a modern extension which, externally, looked like a series of ships’ prows). The Ladies and Gents were housed in the old cells’ corridor, complete with original doors.

And finally …

A couple of amusing tales to finish. How’s this for a vegetarian meal? We arrived at our hotel in Southampton just before they stopped serving food on the Friday evening. The only vegetarian option was Carrot and Avocado, described as cumin-roasted carrots and smashed avocado with coriander and lemon. I expected a dainty sort of salad-plate with baby carrots maybe, but I have never seen such enormous carrots as these! The flavours were as described and, I admit, delicious, but that’s a lot of carrot. I’m afraid I balked at the side of mashed carrot which John took to accompany his almost-vegetation-free burger.

Just before I left for the airport, I decided to track down one last memory. When I arrived to start work in Southampton I had never been there at all – my interview had been in Winchester. I lived for the first couple of weeks in the YWCA, en route to which the taxi from the station took me past the Civic Centre with its distinctive clock tower, as seen in one of the photos above. Some time later, we arrived at the YWCA. It seemed like quite a journey. The next day, I left the hostel to find out how to get a bus back into town. I walked to the corner and what did I see? That clock tower, just a few minutes’ walk down the road! I remember the feeling of shock that the taxi driver had cheated me, but was that memory real?

These days, Google keeps me on track. It seemed to think the YWCA still existed, and the general direction seemed right. When I got there, I didn’t recognise the hostel which had been completely rebuilt, but I walked to the corner and saw –

The clock tower! The taxi driver had, indeed, taken me a very long way round. What a mean way to treat an obvious stranger to the town. However, I didn’t let it colour my impressions, either then or now, and I left for home happy to have reacquainted myself with a pivotal time in my past.

Winchester and me

Winchester from St Giles Hill

A couple of weekends ago, as described in my last post, John and I stepped off the train at Winchester to meet Becky of The Life of B. Forty years ago I arrived at the same station on a Sunday afternoon, on my way to an interview the next day which resulted in my first library job as a Trainee Librarian with Hampshire County Council.

Winchester is an ancient settlement (in the 9th century King Alfred reconstructed it), so I wasn’t expecting much to have changed in the historic centre – but what about my own history? Both Becky and John were kind enough to indulge me in searching it out.

Library HQ was very close to the station, and for my interview I stayed in a hotel between the two – I think this is the building below, now converted to housing, but Becky will correct me if I’m wrong. I know I definitely went to this church on Jewry Street in the evening.

The first thing Becky did was take us for coffee in the library. I never worked in this building, which I believe was the Lending Library at the time, though I’m sure it didn’t have a colourful staircase like this back then. After coffee and a chat, Becky took us round the corner to the former Library HQ, now private residences. I remember the structure – the arches led to the Reference Library and the rest was HQ where I worked in one of the rooms with the big bay windows. My boss seemed to spend most of his time on the window seat, drinking coffee and chatting to his friends, while I did everything else! What I didn’t remember was the vibrant red brick – maybe it has been cleaned up in the interim.

I lived in Winchester’s YWCA (a misnomer, as most of the residents were men) for 8 of the 12 months of my traineeship. Later in the day, after Becky had left us, we went looking for it – I knew roughly where it was, but couldn’t remember what it looked like. However, as soon as I saw the building below the memory of entering through that covered passage-way came back very clearly. It’s now known as Milford House and still seems to be some sort of hostel.

But enough about me! Time for some pictures of the really interesting bits of Winchester. The Cathedral is not to be missed, of course. The two monuments are in honour of William Walker, a diver who worked in 14 feet of water to underpin the tottering foundations between 1905 and 1912. What an awful job! The ladies in pink you probably know.

Jane Austen, whose books I love, is buried in Winchester Cathedral, and nearby is the house in which she died – allegedly: Becky tells me this is no longer certain.

St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate Church is interesting – it’s set above an archway in the City Walls. Oh look, those ladies in pink again!

And – I could go on and on, but here are just a few of the other lovely buildings we encountered (all are captioned, please Becky – tell me of any mistakes!)

Many thanks once again to Becky for being our tour guide in the morning. We had a great day out in this wonderful city, and the only thing I really wanted to see and didn’t was the Great Hall and King Arthur’s Round Table, which was closed for a wedding. I’ll need to save that for the next time – although unless I live to be 100 I can’t afford to let another 40 years elapse before I revisit!

The call to place: Hampshire

Anabel and Becky, Winchester 2018

Last week, I left you with a bit of a riddle. I said I would soon be off for a short break to the south coast of England with John who was visiting a university in a city where I lived briefly as a young woman. I also told you that it was near the home of a blogging friend whom I was going to meet, and invited you to guess where and who. By the time my scheduled post was published, that meeting had already taken place. The university was Southampton and the blogger was Becky who lives in nearby Winchester, when she’s not in the Algarve, and writes at The life of B and It caught my eye in Portugal.

Becky and I had been discussing a meetup for some months, envisaging that we would both travel to somewhere in-between our homes, but John’s trip was too good an opportunity to miss. He’s a regular, if infrequent, visitor to Southampton and I’ve wanted to accompany him for years, long before I knew Becky. Somehow, it never worked out, but this visit was on a Monday allowing us to make a weekend of it. Why was I so keen?

Let me take you back 40 years to 1978. I was finishing my undergraduate degree in Sheffield and hoping to study Librarianship at postgraduate level. To do this, you had to have a year’s experience working in a library. At that time, many councils and universities had Graduate Trainee posts which allowed you to experience all aspects of library work. I applied for several and accepted the first one I was offered – Hampshire County Council. I thus spent four months each working in Southampton, Winchester and Farnborough. Apart from one short visit a couple of years later, I’ve never been back until now. What would be different? What had stayed the same?

I have very few photographs of that time. Forgive the quality of this one, scanned from an old slide, which shows me standing outside Southampton Central Library in the autumn of 1978. My very first library job. Could I replicate this picture?

Anabel in Southampton, 1978

We had a wonderful weekend searching for the answers to these questions. On Saturday, we met Becky in Winchester. I can report that she is an excellent tour guide, and I’m very grateful to her for taking a few hours out of her busy schedule to show us around. On Sunday, John and I took a walk through Southampton’s Old Town and on Monday, while John was working, I did some more exploring myself and hunted down some old haunts. Full posts on Southampton and Winchester will appear in due course*.

As for my year in Hampshire, it passed very quickly and in October 1979 I returned to Sheffield to study for my MA. While there, I met John as I’ve already described in a previous post. He had another year to go on his PhD in Sheffield, but I was going back to Hampshire. Part of the traineeship arrangement was that I (and 5 other trainees) would work for the council for at least two years after university. The library would save up librarian vacancies during our year out and slot us in when we returned. However, in May 1979 a Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher had been elected and all the talk was of cuts, cuts, cuts. Much like now.

In the early summer of 1980, Hampshire wrote to say they had no librarian vacancies but would appoint returning trainees to library assistant posts and we would all have to compete for anything better that came up. This was a blow. When I told John, he said “You could write and tell them you’re getting married and don’t want to come back.” What! This was the first time the M word had been mentioned between us, so I took it as a proposal and, well, here we still are.

I didn’t actually say that to Hampshire, but I suggested that, as they were obviously having difficulty finding jobs for us all, it was in everyone’s interests if I applied elsewhere. Luckily, I got a job in Nottinghamshire – much nearer Sheffield! But I did wonder as I toured Winchester last week what our lives would have been like if I had gone back.

Many of you will know Cathy who has created several blogs over the years but is now settling down as ~wander.essence~. She’s revamping her approach to travel writing and is encouraging us to do so too. One of her challenges is Call to PlaceI invite you to write a 700-900 word (or less) post on your own blog about what enticed you to choose a recently visited or a future particular destination. I’m linking this post to that invitation – Cathy’s own most recent call to place is to the Four Corners area of the USA. Follow the link to find out more.

*See:

Glasgow Gallivanting: April 2018

Provan Hall, Auchinlea Park

Well, April was certainly a better month weather-wise than March – we even had some sunshine, as proven by the picture above! But not every day, and the sweltering 29°C experienced in London did not make its way this far north. I think there has only been one day that could truly be described as taps aff.

Happy birthday, John!

April is John’s birthday month. You might remember that last month he celebrated our wedding anniversary by flying off to China. Well, he almost missed his birthday celebrations too. He came home for 9 days, went back to China for less than a week, and returned to Glasgow two days before his birthday. Phew! My gift to him was a visit to a local distillery where he chose a bottle of label-your-own Islay.

Places we’ve been

As well as the distillery, we’ve visited the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel – all to feature in later posts. We’ve had quite an arty month with concerts, galleries and a ballet. Seen in the second collage below: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum with added dragons for Glasgow International (contemporary art festival) which is taking place at the moment; looking up through the spiral staircase in the Theatre Royal; a yarn-bombed bench in the Botanic Gardens; and a screening of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

I’ve recently been very engaged with Miss Brodie, the 1930s Edinburgh school teacher from Muriel Spark’s 1961 novel. I attend a group called Drama Queens at the Women’s Library, where we spent a few meetings reading the play aloud, and then watched the film starring Maggie Smith. It was wonderful to see the reaction of a younger Drama Queen, who only knows her as the elderly Dowager in Downton, to Smith’s electrifying performance as a woman in her prime. She steals every scene.

The play and the film are both written by Jay Presson Allen, in 1966 and 1969 respectively, and differ considerably from the book, which I have since re-read. I was amazed how my memory had played tricks on me in confusing them! Normally, I prefer the book to the film, but this time? Not sure. Anyone else got any opinions?

Little things that made me smile

Spring flowers at last! But someone has subverted the city’s marketing slogan (People Make Glasgow, seen here above the unlovely Clyde Tunnel) on the current crop of hire-bikes. Puddles Make Glasgow indeed! That’s still true, despite the more Spring-like weather.

The Women’s Library has a new flag and banner, and the Suffrage Oak has a new ribbon to celebrate 100 years since it was planted in April 1918. I had hoped to spot some new growth since the beating it took in Storm Ophelia last year, but no luck yet.

A to Z Challenge

I’ve taken part in two A to Z Challenges myself, so I know how difficult it can be. Congratulations to all the bloggers I follow, listed below, who have completed the challenge this year. See a name you don’t recognise? Click on the link – they are all awesome!

I hope I haven’t missed anyone – and, as I’m writing and scheduling this a few days in advance, I hope that none of you fell at the last hurdle!

Sunshine Blogger

Last month, I started working my way through the Sunshine Blogger Award questions as set by Kim of Glover Gardens. Here’s another couple!

If you’ve experienced a time when everything stood still for a moment, and you realized in that split second that you would remember this event for your whole life, what was that time? I don’t think I have any split-second moments like that, but there are obviously important days that I know I will always remember: happy ones, such as the day we got married, and sad ones, such as the day my dad died. And like everyone else, I have those “I’ll always remember where I was when I heard …” moments. You can date a person that way: I can’t remember JFK being assassinated, though John, who is a year older, remembers his mother sending him out into the garden to tell his father. The first news story I remember clearly is the Aberfan Disaster in 1966, when a colliery spoil heap slid down a mountain in South Wales and engulfed the village school. It probably made a big impression because I could relate to it: the children who died were of a similar age to me and I was old enough to imagine myself in their place.

Where do you want to travel next, and why? This is an easy one! I look into my crystal ball and I see three trips in my near future. The first is to the south coast of England. Why? John is visiting a university and I’m going along for a short break. I lived in this area very briefly when I was young, and it’s also near the home of a blogging friend who I’m going to meet. Gold star to anyone who can guess where and who – though obviously if you are the blogger in question you will NOT get a gold star for answering.

The last bit

Lots of Scottish Words for you this month! Did you spot the expression taps aff in my opening paragraph? It’s said that a Glasgow weather gauge has two settings: taps aff when all and sundry (well, not me) take off their tops and expose their peely-wally (pale) bodies to the sun, and taps oan when everything (thankfully) gets covered up again. Here is a handy guide – and if you live elsewhere in the U.K. you can try it for your own town.

In February, my Scottish Word of the Month was oxter and I said:

It means armpit. It’s also possible to be oxtered up the road by your pals, maybe when a little the worse for wear. That has never happened to me, I can assure you, but it does make me think that some day I should run through all the Scottish words I can think of for drunk. That would certainly add colour to your vocabulary!

So, given I’ve been talking about whisky, now seems an appropriate time and here they are – all the Scottish words for drunk that I can find, having assiduously checked a variety of Scottish vocabulary sites on your behalf. I admit to being not 100% convinced about some of them, and Scottish readers might wish to take issue with me in the comments – or make some more suggestions. Feel free!

aff his/her heid, bevvied, blootered, buckled, fleein’, foo/fou/fu’, guttered, iled up, jaked, malkied, maroculous, mortal, paralytic, pished, puggled, rat-arsed, scuppered, steamin’, stoatin’, stocious/stoshious.

So I hope you’ve all enjoyed April, and here’s to a good May. Just watch you don’t get maroculous …

A walk round Utrecht

The second day trip we took from Amsterdam last year was to Utrecht. Again, it was an easy train journey to a lovely historic city, by far the oldest we’ve seen in the Netherlands – it dates back to a Roman Fort built around 50 AD.

Instead of a walking map as in Haarlem, this time we had a little booklet with photographs of the main sights, so I might do a better job at identifying the buildings we saw. To start with, here are the medieval city castles of Oudaen (c. 1276) and Drakenburg (11th C) which face each other across the Oudegracht. It was much later in the day when we got round to Drakenburg, probably the oldest brick house in Utrecht, but I’ve included all the pictures here.

The first Dutch department store, with the unlikely name of Winkel van Sinkel, dates from 1837 and has four huge classical Greek statues as pillars. Again, I’ve included a picture as we passed it in the morning and a shot from later in the day.

We were heading for the Dom, or cathedral, which wasn’t very difficult as you can see. Just look for the tower! Although, at this time it was trying to hide in the mist.

We were surprised when we got there to find a large open square, the Domplein, between the tower and the rest of the cathedral – it has been this way since the nave was destroyed by a tornado in 1674! We spent sometime looking around inside what was left of the church: this was December 1st, hence the nativity scene (by Dick Bruna – more of him later).

Next to the Dom is the Academiegebouw, richly decorated home of Utrecht University:

And next to that, is the entrance to the peaceful Pandhof:

We now had a choice before moving away from the Dom. We could either climb the tower or go underground, but we didn’t have time to do both. We decided we’d been up many cathedral towers so exploring underground was the better bet. Just time to have lunch and a warm up, before setting off on the tour!

DOMunder takes you underneath the Domplein through the huge pillar foundations of the cathedral where archaeological finds dating back to the Romans are displayed. An interactive flashlight brings history to life, including “experiencing” the destructive tornado of 1674. No photography was allowed, so do follow the link at the beginning of the paragraph if you want to know more. It’s very good, especially as an English-speaking guide was provided for us as the only non-Dutch people on the tour. This guide was the only person in the whole week we were in the Netherlands who mentioned Brexit to us – in disapproving tones: “So. You are still doing Brexit?”  I was quick to point out that we were from Scotland where over 60% of those who voted chose Remain, but it seemed to cut little ice.

After our tour, we resumed our walk. The house with the turret was built around 1400 for a canon of the Dom chapter but is now used by the university. The red and white house was built by order of Pope Adrian VI (1459-1529) who was born in Utrecht, but he never lived there. The statue is of him. The French Baroque black door is a former Mayor’s house, and the other two images in the gallery below are just pretty street scenes that I like.

Next stop, the park at Lepelenburg where Dick Bruna strikes again – John was rather taken with this urinal, but I wouldn’t let him use it!

Onwards! So many more lovely buildings – hover over the gallery for captions, or click on any picture for a slide show. I’m running out of words!

We’ve already come across Dick Bruna a couple of times. This well-loved children’s writer and illustrator was born in Utrecht in 1927, and died there in 2017. Outside the Conservatoire, the last building in the gallery above, we came face to face with Bruna and Miffy, his best known character. We’d already passed the Miffy Museum – I wish I’d taken my hat off for that photo, but it was COLD! I think the tributes are all rather sweet.

Home stretch now! The light was fading as we came back round to the Dom (where the tower had now emerged from the mist) and made our way to the station.

This was our last night in Amsterdam, but we’ll soon be back. Our friends that we travel with each May have only made one brief visit to Amsterdam. They saw some of our photos and suggested we went there together, and John and I could act as tour guides! I can’t wait – not least because in May I shouldn’t need my woolly hat …

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – today she’s in South Shields, somewhere I knew well in childhood, where she discovers a Roman Fort.

Historic Haarlem

During our visit to Amsterdam last November, we took two trips outside the city. The first was to Haarlem, just 15 minutes away by train. As we left the station and walked towards the main square, we were already noticing lots of interesting historic and decorative buildings.

The square, Grote Markt, is the heart of the city  where we admired St Bavokerk, the 14th century Town Hall, and a statue to Laurens Coster who is believed by Haarlemmers to have a claim, along with Gutenberg, to be the inventor of moveable type.

There is a small Tourist Information Office in the Town Hall, so we headed there to pick up a walking map of the old town which we followed for the rest of the day. At first we passed mostly shops, some of which retained traditional signs such as this chemist (1849) and baker (1900).

Then we turned into residential areas, a higgledy-piggledy mix of narrow streets, small squares, churches and alms-houses.

Our steps then led us to 62 Groot Heiligland, formerly a poorhouse where the artist Frans Hals (1582-1666) spent his final years, and now a museum dedicated to him. We saw two interesting exhibitions, The Art of Laughter and A Global Table – both very good, but long over now so no point in me recommending them! Do you recognise Frans Hals’s friend in the bottom picture?

It seems our walk took us down to the canal after the museum. I really should write these trips up nearer the time – even with my map, I’m struggling to remember what all the buildings are, so much of the gallery below is not captioned.

A last hurrah for some more decorative features:

Then, in the faded light of late afternoon, we arrived back at Grote Markt from where we headed for the train.

With a few minutes to wait, we admired the art deco station, a national monument.

My Fitbit recorded 20,355 steps on this day, the second highest for our week in Amsterdam. The highest (almost 26,000) was the other day trip we did, to Utrecht. A post on that is coming soon – if I can remember it! In the meantime, this post is linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – today she’s in the beautiful North Yorkshire town of Knaresborough.

A walk on Great Cumbrae

Magnus the Viking

On Easter Saturday we decided to take a trip to Great Cumbrae, an island just off the coast of Ayrshire. Don’t be fooled by the name – the island’s circumference is only about 10 miles, but there’s also a Little Cumbrae so this one has to be Great!

We arrived at the ferry terminal in Largs and left our car under the watchful eye of Magnus the Viking. He appeared in 2013 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs in 1263, an indecisive engagement between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland.

The ferry ride from Largs to Cumbrae Slip only takes about 10 minutes, but the skies changed dramatically during the short journey. When the ferry arrived in Largs, all was blue. When it dropped us off at Cumbrae, the skies were grey and a strong wind was blowing. That set the tone for the rest of the day.

A bus meets every ferry and takes passengers into the main settlement of Millport. After a quick coffee and scone as fuel, we set off on our walk. As we climbed out of the town, first stop was the old cemetery, used from 1703 to the 1930s. John spotted the 15th century “jougs” on the gatepost for manacling prisoners.

The road we were following ended at a golf course, so we struck off along farm tracks and onto open hillside. The Gowk Stane is one of several in Scotland – it means Stone of the Cuckoo (or fool) in Scots.

The path then dropped steeply down to the far side of the island where we made a small detour to the Fintry Bay tearoom for a hot drink – at least, we expected a tearoom, but it turned out to be outdoor seating only, so it didn’t warm us up much!

The toilet facilities were basic, but charming. We had read in town that due to council cuts, public toilets are now community-run. It seems that Suki is doing a great job in Fintry Bay. (Apologies, Scottish readers, for the scatological pun.) Cludgie is probably self-explanatory from the context.

From here, we followed the perimeter road and coastal paths round the headland back to Millport. Next stop, the War Memorial.

The views across to the islands of Bute and the more mountainous Arran behind it were amazingly beautiful, despite the clouds.

The road back into Millport took us past some splendid Victorian villas and then more humble terraced housing.

What next? Well, it was either a very late lunch or a very early dinner. We headed for the George Hotel where we met a friendly band of pirates and were entertained by a band as we ate.

We could have got the bus back to the ferry from outside the George, but decided to walk a bit further. We spotted a conference bike for hire and The Wedge which purports to be Britain’s narrowest house – that’s it to the left of the café, barely wider than its front door. Garrison House, built in 1745 to house the captain and officers of the Revenue Cutter Royal George stationed in Millport, is now the town’s library and museum.

Turning left, we went back uphill to the walled, wooded grounds of The Cathedral of the Isles, the smallest cathedral in Britain. It dates from 1851 when it was built as a theological college for the Scottish Episcopal Church – it’s still possible to stay in the old college buildings and the cloisters house a pleasant do-it-yourself coffee shop.

Finally, we made our way back down to the seafront to see Millport’s famous Crocodile Rock – the Clyde’s fiercest stone since c. 1900!

From here, it was a short bus ride back to the ferry and home. Who would have thought we’d meet Vikings, pirates and crocodiles on a tiny Scottish island?

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk – join her and her band of fellow cyber-strollers.

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2018

In like a lion, out like a lamb? March certainly lived up to the first part of that proverb: in fact snow has been a feature of most of it. There were plenty of snowmen/women about, but this year igloos seemed to be in fashion too. This one is in the Botanic Gardens.

Neptune’s Steps

When it wasn’t snowing, it was often raining. Neptune’s Steps is an annual swimming and climbing event which takes place on the flight of locks on the Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill. This year, I was determined to see some of it despite the cold, wet weather. The races went on all day but we only caught two, the last women’s heat and the first men’s semi-final, before retreating somewhere that served hot coffee.

I was quite pleased to capture the belly flop above on my phone – I didn’t realise till I looked at my photos later that I had pictured the same woman attempting the climbing wall towards the end. For her, it was the end: a few seconds later she dropped back into the water and admitted defeat.

The gallery below includes some of John’s pictures. When I looked at the results later, I realised he had a portrait of the eventual men’s winner. I bet that hot tub at the end was welcome!

Women’s history

Two follow ups to things I have written about before. Glasgow’s fourth statue to a named woman was unveiled on International Women’s Day (8th March). Mary Barbour organised rent strikes in World War One when rapacious landlords thought they could charge anything they liked while the men were away fighting. Her campaign resulted in a law being passed fixing rents at pre-war levels. My pals Beverly, Mary Alice and Louisina were well prepared for the event!

(I haven’t yet been back to take pictures of the statue without hundreds of people thronging around, but Kev over at Walking Talking has a few good ones.)

Last month, I mentioned Jessie Stephen, the Scottish Suffragette whose life and work I am celebrating throughout this anniversary year of the first women in the UK getting the vote. This month, I travelled to Edinburgh to meet Ann Henderson, who had also nominated Jessie for the Suffrage Pioneers project, and she introduced me to Sheana and Kirsteen, great-nieces of Jessie. Over lunch at Sheana’s house plans started to be made – watch this space, you have not heard the last of Jessie.

For US friends, here’s a great list I found in Forbes: A state-by-state guide to the top women’s history landmarks in America. Anyone been to any?

A wedding!

After 23 years together, our friends Jayne and Mark decided to get married. We were very honoured to be asked to be their witnesses and enjoyed the intimate ceremony at the City Chambers with just the four of us.

Afterwards, we all went to Port Appin for the weekend. Although familiar to Jayne and Mark, John and I had never been before. What a treat! Airds Hotel was perfect and the walks straight from the door were beautiful, particularly the one to Castle Stalker. We were blessed with beautiful blue skies, but don’t let that fool you – it was freezing, and it did snow the day we drove home.

Although I joked that this was the first time I’d ever been invited to the honeymoon as well as the wedding, in reality the happy couple flew off to Athens for the real honeymoon a few days later! What a great way to get married.

Aye Write!

Glasgow’s book festival, Aye, Write!, has been running this month. I went to four sessions and, well, I might have bought a few books. Oops!

Sunshine Blogger

Do you know Kim from Glover Gardens (“A multifaceted blog for multifaceted people”)? If not, pop over and have a look at her mixture of food, gardens and travel. Kim has nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award, for bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community. Many thanks, Kim! I don’t advertise myself as an award-free blog, but I don’t always have time to follow awards and challenges up and when I do I usually break the rules. This time, I hit upon the wheeze of answering Kim’s 11 questions one or two at a time over several monthly gallivants. Here’s the first two!

What advice would you give to your younger self? Assuming I could talk to the angst-ridden teenager (that’s everyone, right, not just me?) I would simply say “Don’t worry! Everything’s going to be great!”

What’s your favourite food memory, a meaningful meal that you will never forget, and why? What was so special about it? Well, at the moment Airds Hotel, mentioned above, is uppermost in my memory. Unlike many fancy hotels and restaurants, which usually only offer one vegetarian choice, often bland, I had a whole menu to choose from and everything I ate was delicious. In fact, everything everybody ate was declared  delicious and dinner was a real event on both nights. As you can see, Mark and John were most definitely relaxed afterwards.

The last bit

So if March came in like a lion, did it go out like a lamb? Well, not exactly. There was no snow, but it was certainly blowing a hoolie. On Good Friday (30th) we went for one of our favourite canal walks before climbing to a viewpoint above the old claypits at Hamiltonhill which now form a nature reserve. The whole West End was spread out before us. As we shivered, we agreed it was beautiful, and that we were thankful to be dry at least.

Easter Saturday was a little better – we took a ferry to the island of Great Cumbrae and had a lovely walk there, but that merits its own post later on.

Finally, for my Scottish Word of the Month I’ve chosen one I used in the comments on a previous post – remember the story of Miss Inglis and the dog? I suggested that Miss Inglis was a bit crabbit, i.e. grumpy or bad-tempered. I’ve been feeling a bit crabbit myself at all this March weather! Let’s hope April does better. Snow is forecast but has not yet appeared …

How we met

21st March 1981. The minister is my Dad.

It was our wedding anniversary last week. I celebrated in Glasgow, and John celebrated by flying to China on business. Oh well, we’ve celebrated a few anniversaries already (36 of them, mostly together) and hopefully have quite a few more to come, so I’m not complaining. Too much.

Last year I mentioned our anniversary in my March Gallivanting post, and had originally included a section on how we met. As the post grew longer and longer, I had to cut it out. I think this year’s March post might be a long one too and, as I have nothing else written for this week, here’s that section now.

How we met

Anabel and John, March 81

In autumn 1979 I went to Sheffield to do my Masters in Librarianship. I moved into a student flat in Victoria House which I shared with four other young women: two more postgraduates and two first-year undergraduates. We felt quite sorry for the first-years, who seemed to have nothing in common, and decided they needed more friends. We were thinking female and their own age (18 – we were looking down at them from the lofty height of 22). Between us, we leafleted all the flats in the block inviting people to meet in our kitchen to set up some social events.

What we didn’t know was that our flat was not typical and, apart from us and two women downstairs, the occupants were all men. Postgraduate men. As our kitchen filled up with them I answered the door to the last arrival. Readers, I would have been astonished to know it, but this was my future husband. However, I can report that my very first thought was “Oh no, not another old man!” Not a promising start.

After a bit of discussion, our large group of men and a few women hit the nearest pub then dispersed in smaller groups to various other destinations, the local curry-house in my case. I didn’t see John again that evening and, apart from the odd hello when passing on the stairs, didn’t speak to him again all term. He admits to a flicker of interest but noticed that I had a boyfriend already.

By January that relationship was over. One evening, my flatmate and I returned from the cinema to find John and his friends had tied climbing ropes to their balcony and were abseiling down the building. (This photo of me on the balcony outside our kitchen gives you some idea of how it worked. There were three floors, we were on the middle one and John was immediately above.) Conversation ensued, and we were invited to a concert the following night for which John was doing the “on-stage visuals” (remember this was 1980, it meant he was operating the slide projector). We became friendly as a group,  John and I soon became a couple and we got married the following March.

Romantic? I think so! Let me know in the comments if you have a better story.

Amsterdam Museum and Festival of Light

Lauren Ewing: Light Wave

On one of our evening strolls around Amsterdam, we came across this light sculpture which we discovered was part of an annual Light Festival. Best visited by canal boat, we booked up for a couple of nights later. We knew we were likely to get cold and wet in the evening so looked for somewhere dry and warm during the day, and decided to visit the Amsterdam Museum.

Until 1960, the building housing the museum was an orphanage. In one of the courtyards, shown above, you can see the cupboards that the children used to store their possessions, now filled with art. I wasn’t too taken with the main body of the museum which had been revamped since our last visit to provide (according to Lonely Planet) a “multi-media DNA exhibit, which breaks down Amsterdam’s 1000-year history into seven whiz-bang time periods”. Whiz-bang is not really me, and I also found the red and white timeline wall difficult to focus on.

The Civic Guard Gallery in the arcade next door was more interesting – you could both look down on it from inside the museum and enter (free of charge) from street level. On view are original group portraits, made between 1530 and 2007 by artists such as Bartholomeus van der Helst and Erwin Olaf, as well as Goliath, a 350-year-old wooden giant. From what I remember about the colourful carpet, I think each square represented a different country and we were able to find Scotland from the key.

We did, indeed, get very cold and wet on the way to the (open) boat, but fortunately the rain went off so we were “only” freezing cold during the 75 minute tour of the 35 light sculptures. Here’s a selection of my favourites – this first one is a general view of how busy the canal was, but it also shows one of the installations. Ai Weiwei’s Thinline (the red lights) ran the whole length of the route.

Ai Weiwei: Thinline

You might recognise some of the buildings in the next two images from an earlier post – the funny little roof-creatures outside the library, and NEMO Science Museum. The pyramid is Infinita by Cecil Balmond. In A necessary darkness, Rona Lee chose to invert the norm by projecting a lighthouse beaming out darkness onto NEMO’s wall.

Claudia Reh created a large projection, It was once drifting on the water, on the façade of the Hermitage Museum in collaboration with local primary school children. Myth by Ben Zamora is a grid of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines which light up in different combinations at different speeds.

Eye to eye by Driton Selmani represents a giant nazar amulet that protects people, animals, and objects from the evil eye. If you’ve been to Turkey, you are probably familiar with it – we have one hanging in our bathroom. Whole hole, by Wendel & de Wolf, was probably my favourite installation: it was exciting to be drawn through it into the tunnel.

Lifeline by Claes Meijer was interesting: it showed the waves of sound which a boat engine makes underwater, so changed as we passed it. Lynne Leegte’s Windows are probably self-explanatory!

Floating on a thousand memories (Lighting Design Academy) achieved its effect by reflecting small lights in the water and in mirrors on the water’s edge. The next sculpture is prettier than its title – The life of a slime mold. it’s an enlargement of the mucus fungus by Nicole Banowetz. Nice!

The final pairing is Citygazing: Amsterdam (VOUW) and Be the change that you want to see in the world by Bagus Pandega. The former is a giant light map of the city. The latter scrolls one of Gandhi’s most famous quotes – I think you can just make out see in the passing by. A good motto to live by.

My goodness, were we shivering when we got to this point! We were happy to find a cosy pizza restaurant and then head back to the warmth of our apartment.

This is my last post about Amsterdam itself – for the moment: we’ll be back again later in the year. However, we took a couple of day trips out of the city, so stay tuned for tours of Haarlem and Utrecht.