This year is the 150th Birthday of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Glasgow should be celebrating – we were celebrating. There is a wonderful exhibition at Kelvingrove which I’ve seen and enjoyed (and intend to go back to) and just yesterday a new mural was unveiled which I’m hoping to see in person soon. But today I woke up to the news that Mackintosh’s iconic Glasgow School of Art has been hit by fire for the second time in four years. It’s devastating – restoration was going well and the building was due to reopen next year. There are no reports of casualties – thank goodness – but Glasgow mourns all the same.
The picture at the top of the post was taken the day before the first fire – I was one of the last people to visit the Mackintosh Library. I wrote about that experience at the time and was proud to be contacted by the restoration architects because “You have posted a beautiful photograph of the Library Windsor Chair that is really useful as it’s showing the reinforcements done to the original design.” My picture was to be part of their documentation!
The account of my Mackintosh visit is on my long defunct blog Adventures of a Retired Librarian where there are more pictures of what was lost. Last time, a restoration fund was quickly opened up. Today is too early for that, but I’ll keep you posted.
We spent last week in the Lake District and it proved fertile ground for attractive roofs. We rented a cottage in Ambleside which was up 30+ steps from the street: a long way to climb with your luggage or after a hard day’s walking! From our patio we looked out almost at roof level to the Churchill Inn across the road. The picture above was taken the afternoon we arrived – but don’t worry about the grey skies. By the next morning, they had disappeared and we had glorious weather for the entire week.
The view above was taken from one of the cottage’s skylights, so that’s our roof and chimney in the foreground. To the right is the Churchill Inn again, and the whole scene is backed by Black Fell. I can’t get enough of these grey slate roofs! One more view from this perspective:
This time, we were across the road in a top floor café. The spire is St Mary’s Parish Church and it’s unusual amongst the grey slate roofs – it’s sandstone. Not sure I approve!
A few more Ambleside roofs – this house has very unusual chimneys.
The old Market Hall has a distinctive pointy roof and is now a popular Thai restaurant (very good, we tried it).
Coming back down into Ambleside one afternoon, I couldn’t work out what the round structure below us was, then as we got nearer I realised it was the roof of the local garden centre.
Finally, walking out of Ambleside on the other side of town you come to Rydal Park and Rydal Hall. I like this shot of the Hall’s roof peeking out behind the garden wall (which has another little roof on the summer-house built into the staircase).
I’ll have more lovely Cumbrian roofs for you next week. In the meantime, pop over to Becky’s Roof Squares challenge for all the fun of the fair and to see what everyone else has found.
The recent Bank Holiday Monday was, as we say, scorchio. This is unusual for Scotland – more often than not, a holiday is greeted by a downpour. We took advantage of the weather to head down to Ayrshire to do a couple of easy walks near the small towns of Darvel and Galston. There were meadows and forests aplenty, but I’d already decided to take part in Becky’s #RoofSquares challenge for June (though posting weekly rather than daily) so that’s what I was looking out for. (The roofs don’t have to be square, but the images must be!)
At the top of the post is John’s shot of the roofs of Darvel as we climbed up and out of the Irvine Valley. Below are a couple of houses we passed on the way. From a distance, I thought the first was a barn but on closer inspection it’s a newly-built house with a barn-style roof.
Not roofs, I know, but on this part of the walk we met some very cute pigs and cows! Can’t resist sharing.
After lunch, we did another walk from Galston which took us to a viewpoint where we could see as far as Arran (hazily). However, the roofs which caught my eye were in town: Barr Castle (flat but decorative underneath) and the local Catholic Church (amazing round turret, and I like the row of dormer windows too). These shots are both from my iPhone. I do contribute pictures occasionally, it’s not all John!
Roof Squares 7-8: Small Animal Hospital
I didn’t have quite enough photos from Ayrshire for a full week of square roofs, so to finish here are a couple of an unusual roof structure nearer home. The Small Animal Hospital is part of Glasgow University’s Vet School at Garscube Estate, and has a turf roof which you can walk right over.
We did just that! From the top we could see back to the glass part of the roof shown above on the right. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Now to hunt out seven more roofs for next Friday …
Yes, we’ve been to Amsterdam again! I wrote extensively about the city after we were there in November, so when I get round to posting about this visit I’ll try to be briefer. It’s the first time we’ve been in warm sunshine and, wow, it looks good that way!
We actually had sunshine at home too – though not all the time. A visit to Inchmahome Priory at the beginning of the month was a bit grey. The priory (c. 1238) is on a small island on the Lake of Menteith, so you arrive by boat which is exciting. The island’s main claim to fame is as a haven for Mary Queen of Scots – she spent a few weeks here, aged 4, after Scotland lost a battle with the English in 1547.
Lake of Menteith
Muriel Spark Exhibition
We had a sunnier day in Edinburgh. I wanted to visit the exhibition at the National Library to celebrate the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth, and we caught it just before it closed. It was excellent. No photography was allowed inside for copyright reasons, but we took a few pictures in the entrance hall. I loved what they had done to their staircase.
We also managed to fit in two more exhibitions, and a wander through some of Edinburgh’s pretty streets.
… you’re sure of a big surprise!
Surprise one was that I didn’t know about Cairnhill Woods, despite having lived within half an hour’s walk for thirty years, until a friend posted pictures on Facebook of his kids playing near some of the chainsaw carvings. Surprise two was that as I left the woods after my first visit, who should I run into but that same friend and his son? The carvings are the work of Iain Chalmers of Chainsaw Creations and have only been there since 2014, but even without them the woods are a lovely Sunday afternoon stroll, especially at this time of year when the bluebells and primroses are in full bloom.
On a walk through Kelvingrove Park, two of the West End’s most iconic buildings can be seen peeking at each other from opposite sides of the river (Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and University of Glasgow).
Art gallery seen from university
Glasgow University and River Kelvin
I was pleased that George Wylie’s sculpture was in a complimentary mood, and even more pleased to discover small signs of growth on the storm-damaged Suffrage Oak. It’s hard to see against surrounding trees, but some of those leaves are definitely attached to the oak. There is hope!
Vital Spark by George Wylie
Suffrage Oak – growth!
Another day, I walked in the opposite direction along the Kelvin to the Garscube Estate, formerly the site of a country mansion and now home to parts of Glasgow University including the Vet School. Coming home via the canal I felt very lucky to have these two waterways almost on my doorstep.
John in China
For the third month in a row, John has spent time in China. This time, to make the travelling even more difficult for himself, he went to a conference in California first! It was a long journey from San Francisco to Chengdu, but at least he had a day to sight-see before starting work again. On my only visit to Chengdu, many years ago, I remember visiting this museum to Du Fu (Tang dynasty poet) with its replica of the thatched cottage he built in 759.
Du Fu’s Cottage
The last bit
Just because I liked them – two windows with a similar theme: the one on the left spotted in Southampton, and the one on the right in Amsterdam.
You might remember I’ve been answering Kim’s Sunshine Blogger nomination questions two at a time each month. Questions five and six are Who inspires you? and Why do you blog? For inspiration I could give many answers, but I’m sticking with my current project, promoting Suffrage Pioneer Jessie Stephen. The more I read about this woman, the more awe-struck I am. Next month’s roundup might well have more news about her. As for why I blog – it started as a personal record for myself, but now it keeps me in touch with all you lovely people who are reading it!
On that very subject, are you an (ahem) older blogger like me? If so, perhaps you could help Rachel at Write into Life by completing her short survey on why you blog and the benefits (if any) you get from it.
Finally, my Scottish words of the month which I’ve chosen to put together because they rhyme. If I said to you “A wee girl chapped on my door and asked if she could clap the dog” you might be puzzled – not least because I don’t have a dog, but please imagine I do. Why is this child applauding it? Well, she isn’t – chap and clap are words which confused me when I arrived in Glasgow as they had extra meanings I hadn’t encountered before. To chap is to knock and to clap is to pat or stroke. So now you know! If you have a real dog, please pass on a few imaginary claps from me.
So those were some of my happiest moments in May – how was your month?
Easter Monday: cold, breezy and threatening rain – but we needed to stretch our legs so I suggested walking the stretch of Forth and Clyde Canal between the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel, a return trip of about 8 miles. We’ve visited both before: I haven’t blogged about the wheel, but my previous post about the Kelpies explains what they are and has more pictures, including some taken on a tour inside the heads. I do sound a little grumpy in that post. The Kelpies had only just opened and parking and catering were a problem which new visitor facilities have now solved, so this time we enjoyed coffee and a scone before setting out on our walk.
I have to admit the walk was a little disappointing. We really enjoy tramping the canal banks round Glasgow and feel there is a lot to see. This stretch was largely through industrial estates and the like, and I wouldn’t bother with it again. However, there were a few interesting sights including a series of metal sculptures representing local personalities and trades.
First up was the vinegar bottle – in 1854, McAuley’s Vinegar works stood close by. Vinegar was used as a flavouring and preservative – and to mask bad smells at a time of poor sanitation. The smells at this point were good – the building behind John is an Italian restaurant. It was too soon after our scones for lunch, but we had high hopes of visiting on our return. Unfortunately, as we discovered about 4pm, it closed between 2 and 5 😦
The next sculpture is part of a national artwork project called Local Heroes. Not being from Falkirk, I didn’t recognise Dr Harold Lyon, founder of Strathcarron Hospice in 1981, Reginald Adams who trained numerous Scottish swimming champions, and Robert Barr – although I’ve certainly heard of the latter. Barr’s Soft Drinks are a big thing in Scotland, producing its other national drink, Irn-Bru (made from girders, according to one of its advertising campaigns, and originally called Iron Brew in 1904).
Whisky bottles adorn the banks opposite the old Rosebank Distillery which stopped production in 1993. However, new owners have bought the site and trademark and it seems that a new distillery, but with the same name, will soon be rising like a phoenix from the ashes.
At Lock 16 two pubs faced each other across a large basin where the Union Canal from Edinburgh used to join the Forth and Clyde. Still anticipating out Italian meal, we let them pass.
From here, there was quite a long stretch with nothing much to see until the colourful canal boats suggested we were getting close to the Wheel.
And here it is! The Falkirk Wheel opened in 2002 and links the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals replacing the old link of 11 individual locks, which was dismantled in the 1930s. A boat enters one of the wheel’s gondolas, each of which holds 500,000 litres of water, and the turning of the wheel then lifts it up or down to the level of the other canal. You remain in the correct position at all times, this is not a fairground ride! You can just see a boat emerging in the second picture below.
By this time, the threatening rain was a downpour and we set off back towards the Kelpies, discovering the closed restaurant on the way. There was nothing for it but to take our cold, wet selves home and cook our own dinner!
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
John le Fleming, 1295-1336, Mayor of Southampton
Arundel Tower and Forty Steps
Cloth Hall 1634
God’s House Tower
Southampton and Jane Austen
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 and Garden
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
Joyce and Henry Collins, 1970s
Joanna Dewfall 2013
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.
Last Titanic survivor
Outside Sailor’s Church
The Cultural Quarter
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.
Southampton Civic Centre
Southampton Civic Centre
Art Gallery stairs
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.
Missed the boat!
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.
2nd class cabin
Toilet corridor – old cells
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.
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.
Church on Jewry Street
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.
Former Library HQ
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.
Memorial to William Walker
Anabel and Becky, Winchester 2018
Statue of William Walker
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.
Jane Austen’s grave
Jane Austen’s House
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!)
St Swithun Street
St Thomas Street
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!
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 atThe 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?
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 Place – I 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.
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!
Happy birthday, John!
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.
Out and about in April
April is an arty month
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.
Puddles Make Glasgow
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.
New flag and new banner
100 years since planting
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!
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!
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.
Cumbrae ferry arriving
Cumbrae ferry departing
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!
Fintyr Bay Kiosk
Fintyr Bay Kiosk
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.
Fintry Bay facilities
Fintry Bay facilities
Fintry Bay facilities
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.
Views to Bute and Arran
View of Arran
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.
Ahoy, me hearties!
Band of pirates?
Shiver me timbers!
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.
Cathedral of the Isles
Cathedral of the Isles
Cathedral of the Isles
Cathedral of the Isles
Cathedral of the Isles
Cathedral of the Isles
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?