Glasgow Gallivanting: October 2018

Autumn is well and truly here – above is my favourite splash of colour in the Botanic Gardens, as it changed from September to October.

More autumn colour: on a dry, crisp Sunday we took a walk to the nearby town of Milngavie (pronounced Mulguy). The drive there would be completely urban – no gaps at all – but we can walk all the way from our house along the River Kelvin and Allander Water. This also doubles the distance from 4 miles to about 8! We got public transport back, needless to say.

Re the last two pictures above – what on earth is wrong with people, stealing memorial plaques? I despair.

October also means the end of the guided walk season, with my last one being in Garnethill, the first time the Women’s Library has run that walk since the Art School fire earlier in the year. We got as close as we could to the School, but had to change our route because there is still a cordon around it.

As one walker observed, even the scaffolding looks like a work of art, and the stop sign definitely is one.

The cultural highlight of the month was 306: Dusk, the final part in the National Theatre of Scotland’s trilogy of plays about the First World War. The title comes from the 306 soldiers who were shot for “cowardice”, or what would now be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder. Even at the time, officers such as the war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were diagnosed with shell shock and treated (though both later went back to the front line where Owen died in November 1918). The class system was rigidly in place.

In 2016 part 1, 306: Dawn, told the stories of some of the condemned men. Last year part 2, 306: Day, gave voice to the women and families at home, many of whom were shamed into changing their names and leaving their communities. This year’s play tells three stories in a series of overlapping monologues: a school teacher of the present day, a veteran of the Iraq War and a soldier who turns out to be the last of the 306 to be shot, just days before the armistice. Only in the final scene do the characters interact and the connections between them become explicit. The name and date of death of each man is projected onto the backdrop, accompanied by a choir singing out the names.

As we reach the centenary of the end of the Great War, it’s important to remember all its aspects, including these men who have been more or less erased from history. In 2006, then defence secretary Des Browne, announced pardons for the 306, for what that’s worth. The presence of the Iraq War veteran, clearly suffering from PTSD, questions how much better society has become at dealing with traumatised soldiers. He wasn’t shot, but his life fell apart and in some ways his was the saddest story. Overall, the trilogy was thought-provoking and intensely moving.

The last bit

Exactly a year ago I found a new piece of street art by Pink Bear Rebel (Free WiFi, above). That wall has since been scrubbed clean, but this month I found a new one – a blind-folded Theresa May being led by a blind-folded British bulldog. A neat piece of political commentary, and top marks for the facial expression which is spot-on. The body looks all wrong to me though, too short and stout. I can’t remember who said that Mrs May always looks as if she has been illustrated by Quentin Blake but I heartily agree. His characters tend to be long and gangly: she might be in this picture, for example.

Time for Scottish word of the month! Over coffee with a couple of friends I observed of an organisation with which we are all involved that they “couldn’t run a minodge”. Blank looks – well they are both from Edinburgh, and I admit the phrase puzzled me when I first came to Glasgow. The word is derived from ménage, French for household, but has acquired various spellings according to local pronunciation. In the days before widespread credit, minodge took on the meaning of a self-help savings scheme whereby everyone made regular payments and took turns at getting the whole amount. So if you say someone “couldnae run a minodge” you are calling into account their competence. I put my alternative, couldn’t run a piss-up in a brewery, to my friends but they considered that vulgar. I did say they were from Edinburgh …

So November has arrived and we are hurtling towards the end of the year. The next Gallivant will probably be quite wintry. Have a great month.

Glasgow Gallivanting: May 2018

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!

Inchmahome Priory

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.

Edinburgh

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.

Cairnhill Woods

If you go down to the woods today …

… 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.

River Kelvin

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).

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!

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.

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?

Gallus Glasgow K: The Kelvin

Kelvin Bridge
Kelvin Bridge

Glasgow’s most famous river is the Clyde, but its second most important is the Kelvin which flows through the north-west of the city to its confluence with the Clyde at Yorkhill. Many areas of the city are called after it – Kelvinbridge, Kelvindale, Kelvingrove, Kelvinhall and Kelvinside, so you see the name all over.

The scientific unit of temperature, the Kelvin scale, takes its name from physicist William Thomson (1824–1907) who was named Lord Kelvin after the river which flowed past his university. His statue sits in Kelvingrove park at the foot of Glasgow University.

There’s a joke about the Kelvinside accent – that a crèche is a collision between two automobiles and sex is what the coal comes in. Want to hear an example? Head back to the 1980s with thespians Victor and Barry, the Kelvinside Men. And yes, that is a young Alan Cumming hamming it up. Pure gallus, wasn’t he?

Tomorrow, in L, I’ll tell you about Glasgow’s motto.

A Glasgow canal walk

Glasgow's canals guideThe Forth and Clyde Canal, which runs sea-to-sea between the two rivers, has passed through Glasgow since the eighteenth century, though it ceased to be navigable in 1963. However, the multi-million Millennium Link Project saw it reopen in 2000/2001. Inspired by the Maryhill Walking Trails and Glasgow’s Canals Unlocked booklets, we set off on Sunday to walk from home to the end of the spur leading into the city centre. There is still some dereliction alongside the banks, but there is also green space and some (for Glasgow) quite exotic-looking new housing. The booklets helped us imagine how the canal would have been in years gone by, with a multitude of industries using its waters: iron, lead, rubber, oil, glass and timber were all produced here.

Maryhill walks guide

We joined the canal at the nearest point to our house at Kelvindale. The photos will guide you along the same route that we took.

Soon after joining the canal, we reached our first aqueduct. The rest crossed roads, but this one straddled the Kelvin. The disused piers in the river once carried railway lines across it.

River Kelvin from the aqueduct
River Kelvin from the aqueduct

Next, we reached Maryhill Locks –

Maryhill Locks
Maryhill Locks

– and not long after that, we left the towpath temporarily to visit Maryhill Burgh Halls for a delicious lunch at the Clean Plates Café. When opened in 1878, the halls had 20 stained glass panels depicting the trades then carried out in Maryhill, and eleven of the panels are now back on display. The walks booklets point out where the scenes from the stained glass might have taken place. More modern is this panel showing the different trades’ badges.

Maryhill Trades
Maryhill Trades

Back on the canal, we soon reached Murano Street Student Village, site of a former glassworks. Apparently, Maryhill was once called the Venice of Glasgow on the grounds that it had a canal and a glassworks named after the famous Murano works. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but we’d already passed the Mondrian Flats which looked very European to me, so I was beginning to wonder if we really were still in Glasgow.

Mondrian Flats
Mondrian Flats

We took another detour at Firhill up a steep path to the flag pole atop Ruchill Park. From here, Glasgow University dominated the view. Nearby, the 165-foot high water tower (1892) is almost all that now remains of Ruchill Infectious Diseases Hospital.

Glasgow University from Ruchill Park
Glasgow University from Ruchill Park
Ruchill Watertower
Ruchill Water Tower

Continuing along the banks, the University remained prominent and we met several swans.

Glasgow University from the canal
Glasgow University from the canal
One swan!
One swan!
Two swans!
Two swans!

We passed Firhill, home of Glasgow’s other football club (i.e. the one that’s not Celtic or Rangers), Partick Thistle, commonly known as the Jags.

The Jags!
The Jags!

The picturesque Applecross Workshops are probably the oldest remaining buildings on any canal in Scotland.

Applecross Workshops
Applecross Workshops

Spiers Wharf, formerly mills and a sugar refinery, was converted into flats in the 1990s. The blue painted shop front is Ocho where we stopped for a coffee.

Spiers Wharf
Spiers Wharf
Spiers Wharf
Ocho at Spiers Wharf

Just after this, the canal spur ends in a huge construction site which will soon be Pinkston Paddlesports Centre. After having a look at that, we retraced our steps to Spiers Wharf and took the path down to Cowcaddens from where we could get the Subway home. The underpass here is decorated with 50 Phoenix Flowers, called after the former Phoenix Park which was destroyed to create the M8 motorway above.

Phoenix Flowers
Phoenix Flowers

Before leaving Cowcaddens, we took some photographs of Dundas Court, formerly Dundas Vale College and before that the Normal School for the Training of Teachers (1837), a precursor of Jordanhill College where I worked for over 20 years. It’s now offices.

Dundas Court
Dundas Court

An urban walk can be just as enjoyable as a country walk – I feel I learned a lot about my home city on this one.