A stroll round Lanark

Wellgate, Lanark

After our recent visit to the textiles exhibition at New Lanark, we walked up to the original town of Lanark and onwards to Lanark Loch.

Below are the clock tower of St Nicholas Church (1774) and the Provost’s Lamp (1890s). At one time, this ceremonial lamp-post would have stood outside the house of the current Provost (Mayor), but these days it is a permanent fixture outside the Tollbooth. The dog sits on the roof of a house in Castlegate. Sometime in the 1800s, a Miss Inglis lived opposite. She complained so much about her neighbour’s dog that it had to be put down, and in revenge its owner erected this statue so that she would see it every time she looked out her window! It’s called the “Girnin’ Dug” (the “Crying Dog”).

Lanark is one of the few Scottish towns with direct links to William Wallace, whom you possibly know from the film Braveheart in which he was played by Mel Gibson. St Kentigern’s Church (pre-1140s) at the entrance to the cemetery is where Wallace married Marion Braidfute – unfortunately, it’s fenced off so you can’t get inside. I loved the little skull and crossbones on this gravestone next to it – sweet rather than scary.

Nearby is the Murray Chapel, bequeathed to the community in 1912 by Helen Martin Murray in memory of her parents and siblings. It’s not possible to go in here either. The doorway is finely carved – if you can’t read it, the inscription says Thou wilt not leave us in the dust : Thou hast made us, thou art just.

Finally, we had a walk round Lanark Loch. The sculpture at the entrance, Spirit of Flight, commemorates the Lanark Airshow of 1910.

We made our way back to New Lanark along a lovely path called The Beeches – all downhill. What goes down, of course, must come up so we climbed the very steep steps to the carpark and headed for home.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – this week, she’s camellia hunting. As for me, next week I’ll be back to writing about Amsterdam – there’s still more to tell!

Artist Textiles at New Lanark

Horrockses Fashions c1949

Horrockses Fashions epitomised the traditional cotton summer frock in the 1940s and 50s. They were considered affordable, but were also worn by celebrities including the Queen, Princess Margaret and Margot Fonteyn, and the fabric was often designed by well-known artists. The dress on the left uses fabric by Alastair Morton and the other two are by Graham Sutherland.

Aztec by Patrick Heron 1946

The dresses and fabrics in this post are part of the exhibition Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol which began life at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London in 2014. Since then, it has been to the Netherlands, the USA and Canada, and now it has arrived in Scotland where you can see it at New Lanark until 29th April. Follow the link for details – I highly recommend it. Three things amazed me – how many of the artists I had never associated with textiles, how different their designs were to their other work, and how many of the garments could be worn today without looking out of place. See what you think!

Henry Moore

Salvador Dalí

Pablo Picasso

Joan Miró

Andy Warhol

A final selection

As with all the images, clicking to enlarge will reveal artist, title and date.

Do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments. I would love to have that very first dress by Alastair Morton – and the waistline to carry it off!

Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2018

Celtic Connections

Glasgow’s traditional music festival, Celtic Connections, runs from late January into February. As usual, we booked several gigs – Friday 1st February saw us at Òran Mór to see Kathryn Williams, a singer from the North of England. I first came across her many years ago in a documentary about Leonard Cohen in which she covered Hallelujah, and I’ve been a fan ever since. She didn’t sing that, but she closed with Bird on the Wire which brought a tear to my eye and sent me home happy (if that’s not contradictory).

Equally enjoyable was the support – not often I say that! The Brother Brothers, from Brooklyn via Illinois, had such delightful folk / bluegrass harmonies that I bought their CD on the spot. Charming young men too – real brothers, twins in fact, whose surname is Moss. I didn’t bother asking why they hadn’t called themselves Moss Bros, they’ve probably heard it before (might be a British only joke though).

What about the women?

“With” Jessie Stephen

I mentioned last month that I had two women’s history talks coming up in February – I’m pleased to report that they both went really well. The first one took place the day after the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, through which the first women in Britain got the vote, hence I’m proudly wearing my Suffragette rosette. Jessie Stephen, on the screen, is one of the women I feature – she’s one of the few working-class Scottish Suffragettes whose history we know. I recently nominated her for a scheme called Suffrage Pioneers and was delighted that she was accepted – now I just have to think of ways to celebrate her all year! As a start, I’ve guest-posted on The History Girls Frae Scotland where you can read more about Jessie if interested.

Another Suffrage Pioneer is Helen Crawfurd, and Glasgow Women’s Library currently has an exhibition, Our Red Aunt, by New Zealand artist Fiona Jack, Helen’s Great-grand-niece.

Some of the banners on the table read The world is ours, let us go in and possess it and What a debt we owe these women. Very true!

Mystical Gardens

Oo-err – strange goings on in the park! It’s part of an evening light show, Mystical Gardens, which we didn’t go to. These figures are scary enough for me …

A few days later (yesterday) the figures had gone and the slope they stood on was a winter wonderland.

A wintry Glasgow Botanic Gardens

And today, these are the views from my window.

Going nowhere!

Artist Textiles

Who do you think designed these silk squares? The first one is by Henry Moore, whom I usually associate with large sculptures, and the other is by Salvador Dali. They are from a wonderful exhibition we attended called Artist Textiles, so good that I think I’ll give it its own post later. I had no idea that at one time you could buy Picasso, for example, by the yard. Not only were the fabrics on display, but also dresses made from some of them. I loved it!

The last bit

It’s been a busy month, but not a very exciting one in terms of things to write about. As well as my talks, I’ve been up to my oxters in revisions and rewrites before the guided walk season begins.

What is an oxter, I hear you ask? It’s my Scottish word of the month, of course! 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!

I hope you’ve all had a good February too. Onwards to Spring at last!

Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2018

Mine Woods Walk

Hello, and welcome to Year 2 of my monthly Glasgow Gallivanting posts! January has been busy for various reasons, most of them not particularly photogenic, but we did get one lovely walk on a Sunday afternoon – even if it wasn’t the one we set out for. We wanted to climb a little hill called Dumyat in Stirlingshire (Doo-my-at and not, as I used to think, Dum-yat), but all roads leading there were closed. Instead, we walked through Mine Woods above the pretty little spa town of Bridge of Allan. Even though we weren’t as high up, the views were still great as you can see above.

25 years ago.

We had an anniversary this month: in January 1993 we moved into our current house. I’ve worked out that in my 60 years I’ve had 18 addresses in 10 different towns or cities, so this is quite a big deal. Once we’d unpacked, we took a lot of photos in our new house, and here are a couple with 2018 recreations.

So, I’m older, heavier, greyer and I can’t see without my glasses now, but there’s one thing that’s the same about me in these pictures. Enlarge, and you might spot what it is. Answer at the end!

The Suffragette Oak

I’ve posted several times about Glasgow’s Suffragette Oak, the last time in November (first picture) when I reported the sad news that it had been damaged by Storm Ophelia. The second picture shows what it looks like now. As well as the tear on the trunk, around 30% of the canopy was lost and to make the tree safe the council had to reduce its height and rebalance it. Its health will be closely monitored and some of the offcuts have been given to Glasgow Women’s Library to make commemorative items. We still hope it will survive in this, its centenary year. (The first women in the UK got the vote in February 1918.)

What about the women?

Maryhill Burgh Halls, where I volunteer as a Heritage Tour Guide, currently has an exhibition of old photographs of Glasgow accompanied by a series of events, one of which is me talking about women’s history in Glasgow. I’ve been busy this month working out what I want to say – then cutting it down drastically – and creating a slide-show. The tickets sold out a couple of weeks ago (only 40, but still) and so I’m repeating it two weeks later. Eep! No pressure, no pressure at all. I’ll let you know next month how it goes.

The last bit

Did you spot the common factor in the 1993 and 2018 pictures of me? It’s the ear-rings! This was entirely unintentional. Just after we moved into the house, John went to a conference in Freiburg and brought them back as a gift (I have a fine collection of ear-rings from all over the world as a result of his travels). On the day we took the new photos I chose them because they reflected the diamond shapes on my top, and I only realised when I looked at the old photos again that I was wearing the same pair!

Finally, here’s a short (1 minute) promotional video about Glasgow which I think sums it up really well. You might even recognise some of the places from my blog!

Isn’t Glasgow braw? That’s my Scottish word for this month – it means beautiful. I hope you agree.

So those were some of the things that have kept me busy in January. How has your month been?

Hidden histories

Victoria, Dolores and Isabella

There’s a lot going on round here at the moment, and I don’t have a blog post prepared for today, so it’s lucky that a few weeks ago the lovely Donna at Retirement_Reflections asked me to write something for her series of guest posts and it was published yesterday! So now I can quickly point you in her direction and hope I get caught up for next week.

Donna and her husband retired in June 2015 from their jobs in Beijing, China, where they had lived for fourteen years. They moved back to Canada, and Donna’s blog is about the adventures, discoveries, and reflections she has made since then. Every Sunday, she has a guest blogger – usually, but not always, someone who is, like me, of a certain age. In our primes, in other words. I chose to write about the hidden histories of women in Glasgow, and challenged readers to tell me how women are commemorated in their home towns. Who are Victoria, Dolores and Isabella? Pop over to Hidden Histories to find out, and maybe stay to acquaint yourself with Donna’s blog if you don’t know it already.


The Birks of Aberfeldy (and other walks)

Breadalbane Stag

The Birks of Aberfeldy

Between Christmas and New Year we spent three nights in Aberfeldy in Highland Perthshire. The Birks (birch trees) of Aberfeldy is a famous walk, and also the subject of a Robert Burns song, a few words of which you can just about make out on the Breadalbane Stag above (Breadalbane being the name of the wider area).

The walk itself is a steep climb up one side of the Moness Burn and down the other. It’s the third time we’ve done it, the first being at a similar time of year in 2009, but with much more snow. Check out the two photos of Burns’ statue to see the difference! This year Rabbie, like the stag, has been decorated for Christmas.

I actually preferred walking on the deeper snow – it was more stable. In 2017, a thin covering of snow, followed by rain which froze over night, meant we slithered up and down to the Falls of Moness. Again, compare and contrast – in 2009 the Falls are frozen.

Black Spout

Another circular walk starts in Pitlochry, taking you past Black Spout waterfall and the Edradour Distillery (sadly, closed to visitors in the winter – a warming dram would have been nice).

Falls of Acharn

Yet another waterfall, this time above Loch Tay. Again, we slithered up one side of a gorge and down the other. The Falls are seen by walking through a so-called “Hermit’s Cave”, in reality an artificial structure built in the 1760s by the 3rd Earl of Breadalbane in order to conceal the view until the last minute. Some of these pictures look almost black and white but they are definitely in colour!

River Tay at Kenmore

Kenmore Hotel

No waterfalls in this walk! Kenmore is a model village built by the Lairds of Breadalbane. After lunch in the Kenmore Hotel, which dates from 1572, we walked downhill past Taymouth Castle gates.

Crossing the bridge over the Tay, we could see the back of the hotel, with its modern extension, on the other bank.

We walked along the river as far as a Gothic folly named Maxwell’s Temple, built by Lord Breadalbane in 1831 as a tribute to his wife Mary.

Returning through the village, we passed the church, white timbered cottages built by the 3rd Earl in 1760, and the Post Office which still advertises itself as a Telegraph Office (zoom in above door).


Should you ever need to visit Aberfeldy, we can recommend the Townhouse Hotel: comfortable rooms, a great breakfast and pleasant staff.

We ate in the hotel the first night and set out to explore on the other two – not that we got far: The Three Lemons was just across the road. We had a lovely dinner on night 2, but liked the look of the pizzas on the next table so much that we went back on night 3 to try them. Delicious!

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks, which this week comes from Lisbon and is a much sunnier prospect than Aberfeldy.

Edinburgh: a Canongate walk

White Horse Close

After our recent visit to the Scottish Parliament, we walked slowly up Canongate exploring the closes, or courtyards, to either side. Canongate itself is over 800 years old, and was a separate burgh from Edinburgh until 1856. Its name comes from the Augustinian Canons of Holyrood Abbey who, in the 12th century, were given permission by the king to build on either side of the path, or “gait”, between the Abbey and the Old Town of Edinburgh.

Immediately opposite the parliament is White Horse Close (above) which takes its name from an inn which once stood there. The buildings have been restored, but still give a good impression of how the courtyard must have looked hundreds of years ago. Zoom in on the window above the stairs and you will see that it is dated 1623.

Further up Canongate is 17th century Panmure House, once home to the economist and philosopher Adam Smith. It’s currently undergoing renovation so it was hard to get a photograph to do it justice.

Panmure House

Not all the closes hide new buildings – tucked away in Crichton Close is the Scottish Poetry Library (1999).

Scottish Poetry Library

Next we explored Canongate Kirkyard – like all these places, apart from the Poetry Library, somewhere I’ve walked past many times without investigating. I was surprised how extensive the Kirkyard is.

The next close was my absolute favourite – Bakehouse Close is home to Acheson House, built in 1633 for Sir Archibald Acheson and now the home of Edinburgh World Heritage. The Acheson family crest, a cock and trumpet, is above the door.

Why do I love it so much? The information panels on the wall about Rangers Impartial List, a 1775 guide to 66 of Edinburgh’s prostitutes. Many of the closes in the Old Town housed brothels, and Acheson House was one of them, then known as the Cock and Trumpet after the crest. The list pulls no punches in assessing the women’s appearance and skills – I hope you can enlarge the panels sufficiently to read some of it. I particularly like Mrs Agnew, a “drunken bundle of iniquity” who would think nothing of a company of Grenadiers at one time. At 50!

A couple of shots as we made our way to our next stop – the Tolbooth Tavern on Canongate peeking through an archway, and a further example of modern buildings behind old ones. These are student flats, with a lovely view of Salisbury Crags.

Another 17th century mansion is Moray House, now owned by the University of Edinburgh. The buildings round about comprise the University’s School of Education.

Next up is Chessel’s Court with this traditional 18th century Edinburgh ‘mansion style’ tenement, originally built to provide better accommodation for relatively wealthy residents of the Old Town. Back on Canongate, we were observed by a strange statue which is said to represent the Emperor of Morocco.

Finally, we turned the corner into St Mary’s Street, the site of Boyd’s Inn where Dr Johnson stayed in 1773 on his way to meet James Boswell for the start of their journey to the Hebrides. I liked the shop opposite with its rather cross looking bull!

From here, we headed across to the New Town and our visit to the ice sculptures which I’ve written about previously. I was soon to find out that it was possible to shiver even more on this bitterly cold December day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour through part of old Edinburgh. I’m linking to Jo’s Monday walks – the blue skies of Portugal should warm you up after this chilly post!

Glasgow Gallivanting: December 2017

Loch Lomond, Boxing Day 2017

Christmas and New Year

So here I am playing catch-up in January with my December round-up. I hope, like us, you’ve all had happy times with family and friends over the festive season. I hope also that you didn’t get too blootered (one of many Scottish synonyms for, ahem, over-refreshed).

Weather-wise, it wasn’t great here, the brightest and best of it being Boxing Day when John, Mum and I took a trip to Loch Lomond. When we arrived, Ben Lomond had its head in the clouds. By the time we left, it was clear and beautifully lit.

I had one totally unexpected gift that I want to share with you because it is so amazing. One of John’s PhD students presented him with this fabulous shawl which his mother (in China) had made for me. Apparently it took her 6 months, which I can well believe – I’m touched that she was so generous with her time for a complete stranger.

Shawl from China

In between Christmas and New Year, we had a few nights in Aberfeldy, a small town in Perthshire, which will probably make it onto the blog – eventually. In the meantime, here’s the pretty central square.

The Square, Aberfeldy

Annual Review

I took my annual look at my WordPress stats and discovered that, for the first time, page views are down on the previous year. Before I started to feel too unloved, I remembered that this was probably because in 2016 I was (mostly) posting twice a week, whereas in 2017 I was (mostly) only posting once. So I dried my tears and decided things weren’t so bad after all. The most read post in 2017 surprised me, because it isn’t particularly spectacular – Glasgow canal walks, which leads neatly into the “ones that nearly got away”. I have several posts that almost got written, and probably won’t now, one of which is a walk along the Forth and Clyde Canal in October, this time near Kirkintilloch. It was a bright, still day with wonderful reflections.

I also noticed that three of these monthly round-up posts made the top ten last year, so I shall take that as encouragement to keep on with them. In 2017, according to my Fitbit stats, my gallivanting led to me walking almost 1700 miles. I’m not sure I believe that, but it sounds impressive! If I keep it up I should have plenty to write about.

The Station Cat

Here’s a heart-warming little story. I use my local station a couple of times a week and often see the same black and white cat wandering around. Eventually, I discovered that he is so well-known that he has his own Twitter account, ScotRail has appointed him Cat Controller and the adjacent hospital, which he also patrols, has made him an Honorary Purrfessor! Apparently, his owners staff knew nothing about this alternative life until the local paper ran a feature about him. Then – cat-astrophe – the week before Christmas he went missing. Twitter went into overdrive, and eventually, almost three weeks later, he was found and returned home on January 2nd. I must say he looks rather sleek and well-fed, so I don’t think he’s been trapped in someone’s garden shed over the holidays. He maybe has another secret life – I remember a children’s book called Six Dinner Sid about a cat who conned six different families into feeding him. Hermes has probably read it.

The last bit

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has followed, read, commented on, or liked posts in 2017 – it’s been a pleasure to be part of such a friendly community. Special thanks this month to Karen of Profound Journey, who made me one of her Favourite Blogs and Channels of 2017. If you don’t already know her, please give her a visit now, especially if “you are a woman who has made everyone and everything else priority #1, and now, finally, you are going to put yourself on the map” – and even if that doesn’t apply to you, it’s still a good read!

So now the holidays are over, it’s back to auld claes and parritch (old clothes and porridge). All the best for 2018 everyone.

Happy Hogmanay!

  • Hogmanay: New Year’s Eve in Scotland
  • Auld Lang Syne: old long ago, i.e. days gone by
  • A guid new year to ane an’ a’: a good new year to one and all

As the bells ring in 2018 tonight, many of you will be singing Auld Lang Syne, the famous poem by Robert Burns. It must be one of Scotland’s most recognisable gifts to the world – but did you know it originally had a different tune? Listen to The Cast’s haunting recording above and I swear you will never think of the song in the same way again. I first heard this version in the Sex and the City movie (don’t judge me) and loved it, so I offer it as my New Year’s gift to you.

Here’s to a wonderful 2018 for all of us. A guid new year to ane an’ a’.

Edinburgh at Christmas

George Street, Edinburgh

Christmas takes over Edinburgh in a big way. George Street, in the New Town, is particularly pretty and this year hosted Ice Adventure: a journey through frozen Scotland. See if you can guess what any of these ice sculptures are! (they’re all captioned, so click to view). I do have reservations about how festive Mary, Queen of Scots having her head chopped off is…..

We had tickets for the ice sculptures, but were pleased to happen upon another event.

Joy to the World, the Edinburgh Christmas Tree Festival, takes place at St Andrew’s and St George’s West. Forty trees are each decorated by a local charity, business or voluntary group. All the trees come from social enterprise Caring Christmas Trees, supporting homeless  people in Edinburgh throughout the winter, and donations to the event benefit another three charities. What a lovely idea!

A couple more Christmassy shots of George Street. Can you see the feet sticking out from that fairground attraction? It plummeted from the top VERY quickly. No way would I ever get on that!

All that remains is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas! I hope you have a lovely time however, or whatever, you are celebrating.