Glasgow Gallivanting: September 2017

Forth Bridge View

Let’s start with the highlight! That has to be our trip to the top of the Forth Bridge, part of a charity event in aid of Barnardo’s. Here we are 361 feet above the Firth of Forth. In case of doubt, we are holding hands romantically, not clinging on to the rail for safety ūüėČ

We had booked the sunset slot, hoping for colourful skies, but it had been a cloudy day so they didn’t materialise. However, we still got great views both on the ground and from the top. There are now three bridges crossing the Forth from South Queensferry to North Queensferry (where the event took place), each from a different century – full history on the Forth Bridges website, but here’s the potted version. Until the Forth Bridge opened to trains in 1890, the only crossing was by ferry. In 1964, a road bridge was added, but by the 21st century it was proving inadequate for the volume of traffic passing over it. This year, the new Queensferry Crossing has opened with the original road bridge now reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and, eventually, public transport. Unlike many public infrastructure projects, the new bridge actually came in under budget (by ¬£245m). Well done Scottish Government!

We arrived early to look round the village of North Queensferry and admire all the bridges.

Then it was time to don our hard-hats before riding the shoogly hoist to the top of the North Cantilever. The hoist was a tight squeeze, but the viewing platform was surprisingly large and we had about 20 minutes to wander about and take photographs. Several trains passed underneath us, each producing another little shoogle.

Then it was back down to earth, and dinner in one of the local hotels before getting the train back to Glasgow – across the Forth Bridge of course!

Doors Open Days

For the week of 11th-17th September, many institutions in Glasgow which would not normally be open to the public threw wide their doors for tours and events. I took part at two venues myself – on Wednesday, I was part of a Glasgow Women’s Library event on the hidden histories of women and how we can uncover them through, for example, heritage walks and a databases of monuments and memorials. On Saturday, I led a canal walk at Maryhill (and totally forgot to take any photographs).

Sunday was our day for exploring, so I booked a back-stage tour of the Citizen’s Theatre for the morning. Our guide, Martin, was fabulous and gave us a bit of history before taking us behind the scenes. Originally opened in 1878, what became “The Citz” is the second oldest operational theatre in the UK (Leeds Grand opened 6 weeks earlier). Once we got out of the 1990 foyer this certainly showed, and I can understand why the theatre is closing next summer for two years of much-needed redevelopment. It’s what I would call a bit of a¬†guddle.

However, the Citz will not dispose of its historical artefacts. It has the most complete working Victorian theatre machinery in the UK, and is the only theatre in Scotland still to have its original machinery under the stage. We got to visit that – and also stand on stage looking out to the auditorium.

Another piece of history is the original Victorian paint frame which is still used today to paint backcloths.

The Christmas production of Cinderella is coming up, and we saw a huge clock in preparation, which presumably will chime midnight at the appropriate time.

Designs for Cinderella were also in evidence in the costume department. I somehow don’t think any of these shoes will be suitable to play the glass slipper!

After lunch, we visited St Columba’s Gaelic Church, and Scottish Opera’s HQ. This was of interest less for its current role than for its origins (1907) as the home of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, as illustrated in the splendid stained glass by Stephen Adam.

I really appreciate the work of the hundreds of volunteers across the city who make these days such a success every year.

Blogging news

A new badge has appeared in my sidebar! I was very pleased to be included in a list of Top 30 International Retirement Blogs 2017 by Maxwell Salo of WeLoveCostaRica.com –¬†thank you so much! I haven’t had time to explore the other 27 yet, but I did spot two friends, Donna of Retirement_Reflections and Debbie of Deb’s World. If you don’t know them too, why not visit?

I also joined in with Ishita of Italophilia and her #ItalophiliaPostcards project. Exchange a postcard with her and share the results on social media. Ishita’s card of Vienna has arrived here, but my card of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens seems to have got lost somewhere on its way. Maybe it will have arrived by next month’s roundup….

Family news

I’m sad to say that one of my uncles, Ian McKay, died in September, just short of his 89th birthday. Ian was married to Elspeth, one of my Dad’s three younger sisters, and although they settled in Brisbane before I was born I still had opportunities to get to know them on their visits back to Scotland. It was Elspeth who looked after Dad and me when Mum was in hospital having my baby sister and it was Ian who taught me to swim. The last time I saw them in person was on our only visit (so far) to Australia, in 2004 when this picture was taken. Ian will be missed.

On a much happier note, John has been presented with the prestigious Chengdu Jinsha Friendship Award for “foreign experts” in recognition of his role in the development of the relationship between the University of Glasgow and the University of Electronic Science and Technology China in the city of Chengdu. As you usually see him wearing walking gear (and now a hard-hat) you might not recognise him in this smartly turned out gentleman. Doesn’t he scrub up well? More info on the University of Glasgow news page if you are interested.

The last bit

And finally, on to Scottish words of the month! I’ve used three that might not be totally familiar. If you’re puzzling over Firth of Forth, it means the mouth of the River Forth. (Firth is pronounced the same but spelled differently from furth meaning outside, e.g. outside Scotland would be “furth of Scotland”.)

The shoogly lift and bridge were shaking, but I think shoogle is a much more evocative word than shake. The Glasgow Subway makes extensive use of it in its advertising. It is also used in the phrase “yer jaiket’s on a shoogly nail” meaning “your jacket is hanging on a loose peg”, i.e. you could be out on your ear at any time.

Earlier, I described backstage at The Citz as a bit of a guddle, which is my favourite word to describe a mess of impressive proportions. It’s also possible to guddle about, which I quite enjoy doing, or to find yourself in a bit of a guddle, or a confusing situation where you don’t quite know what to do. I enjoy that less.

Of course, guddle rhymes with puddle – plenty of those here at the moment, where¬†the weather is getting colder and wetter and the nights are fair drawing in, as my Grandad used to say. Who can believe we’re into the last quarter of the year already?

Let’s see what October brings.

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Glasgow Gallivanting: August 2017

Union Canal, Falkirk

With just coming back from Canada at the end of July, John having two business trips during the month (to Singapore and China) and replacing all the windows in our house, August has not seen us travel very far – at least, not together. Perhaps the most unusual thing we did was going to a play, The Resurrection, which took place on the banks of the Union Canal, including inside the Falkirk Tunnel. Based on the infamous Burke and Hare murders in 1827/8 it was quite scary in parts!

In the 1820s, there was a lucrative trade in selling cadavers to Edinburgh University (for use in the study of anatomy) which produced a spate of grave-robbing leading to the term “resurrection men”. Strictly speaking, the title of the play is a misnomer as Burke and Hare cut out the necessity for “resurrection” by murdering the victims themselves. Four actors met us in turn as we walked along the canal and through the tunnel on which Burke and Hare had been labourers. Below, you can see Margaret Logue, landlady of the lodgings in which the murders took place, and William Burke himself.

It was impossible to take photographs inside the tunnel, but if you are interested, this very short video shows how spooky it was. It was very different to any other event we have been too, and really enjoyable. I’m just glad I wasn’t the person right at the front when Mr Burke suddenly appeared as we exited the tunnel. The first woman out screamed blue murder!

Dinosaurs in the park

Jurassic Kingdom has come to Glasgow! This collection of animated dinosaurs has been touring the country and is currently in our Botanic Gardens. Over a week or so, we watched the models develop from a collection of body parts into rather impressive life-sized models. Once the event opened they were screened off for paying customers only, but we could still hear them ROARRR!

Blogging friendships

Donna at Retirement_Reflections has been hosting guest posts over the summer through which I’ve met some interesting new friends. On August 20th it was my turn. Thanks, Donna, for hosting me. Everyone else – I definitely recommend a visit to Donna’s blog. She and her husband have just finished hiking the Camino Trail which makes my walks look like mere ambles.

Another recommendation is Sarah at The Old Shelter who recently tagged me for the #MyFirstPostRevisited Blog Hop. Thank you Sarah but, honestly, my first post is really not worth the effort! Three lines saying little more than that I’d started a travel blog (though it does have quite a cool picture of me at the Grand Canyon). Nobody visited. Nobody cared. If anyone cares to visit now (here), they’d probably double the page views. Just saying…..

The last bit

In which I occasionally teach you some Scottish words and phrases. Today: reek, meaning smell or smoke. Burke and Hare lived in Edinburgh, the old town of which was so dirty that it was nicknamed Auld Reekie (Old Smoky / Smelly) – but reek can also be used in a phrase wishing someone a long and healthy life. Literally meaning “long may your chimney smoke”, I finish by saying to all my readers:

Lang may yer lum reek!

I hope your August was great too. See you in September!

Arran – the walks

Machrie Moor

Moss Farm Road Cairn

The trail to Machrie Moor Stone Circles is an out-and-back walk of 4km. Before we got to the main event, we passed Moss Farm (above), the burial cairn of a powerful person who lived about 4,000 years ago, and Fingal’s Cauldron Seat (below), named after the legendary warrior Fhionn / Fingal.

Fingal’s Cauldron Seat

We stepped through a gate just beyond this onto open moorland and the sight of five separate stone circles – the tallest standing stone is over 5m high.

Kilpatrick Preaching Cave

A coastal walk took us to the well-hidden Kilpatrick Preaching Cave. After the Highland Clearances in the 19th century, when the Earl of Arran evicted many of his tenants to make room for more sheep, local people showed their disapproval in the only way they could by rejecting the Earl’s choice of minister. The Preaching Cave provided a suitable meeting place for the congregation. A sad story, but a beautiful setting.

String Road Viewpoint

Returning to Brodick on our last afternoon in Arran, we crossed the island via the String Road (B880) from which a short trail led to a beautiful viewpoint. Ayrshire was just visible on the horizon.

And behind us were beautiful mountain panoramas.

The next morning, we took the ferry back to the mainland while hoping to return to Arran soon.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – today she’s taking us to Bolton Abbey, and her cyber-companions are walking all over the world.

Arran – the castles

Brodick Castle

With a couple of friends we rented an apartment in Arran over the May Day Bank Holiday. It was a long time since we’d been and it was their first visit – it was definitely a success, but, as with our earlier weekend in Galloway, the weather was a bit iffy. Still, we got out and about and there was plenty to see.

It was a disappointment to find that Brodick Castle is closed this year, presumably for maintenance. However, the gardens were open and we spent a whole morning wandering about.

Later that day, we went to Lochranza Castle, a 13th century ruin which can be visited free of charge. What a beautiful setting!

The following day, we had lunch at the Kildonan Hotel and took a short walk afterwards to see Kildonan Castle. This is also 13th century, though there’s much less of it left and it’s not accessible – it’s actually in someone’s garden! The modern standing stones at the hotel were interesting too.

Next time: the walks.

Glasgow Gallivanting: July 2017

Over the last few months, I’ve been taking part in a project at Glasgow Women’s Library to research the women associated with the Belvidere Fever Hospital in the East End of Glasgow around the time of the First World War. There isn’t much detail in the records, so the idea was to use our imaginations to create a series of dramatic monologues around our chosen women. On the 4th of July, this came to fruition with a performance and a book, both called Voices from the Belvidere, bringing to life fascinating stories of laundry maids who ran away, nurses who caught fever after fever, and the rare women doctors who followed their calling against all odds. My contribution was called The Zombie Ward: some day, with more time, I might tell you its story. In the meantime, here’s my protagonist, Nurse Watt, who caught my eye smiling in the centre of the picture above.

Happy birthday to me!

60th birthday in Jasper

My birthday is in July, and 2017 was a big one. 60! I can’t quite believe it. I celebrated on vacation in Canada, and here I am with some of my cards – from the three people who managed to send one in advance, and John who made me stand outside a shop in Canmore, Alberta, while he selected his.

Lake Louise

As I spent most of July in the Canadian Rockies, including Lake Louise as seen above, and I intend to blog much more about that later, it doesn’t leave a great deal of Glasgow Gallivanting to write about. So that’s it for this month – except to say that I hope you’ve had a great July too.

Crawick Multiverse

On Easter Monday we set off for home after a lovely weekend in Galloway. We planned to stop at Crawick Multiverse, but were first distracted by the Red Deer Range in Galloway Forest Park. I admit I wasn’t too keen, as I thought the deer would just be a few specks in the distance, but they came right up to the hide.

Onwards to Crawick. What is it, I hear you ask? A former open-cast coal mine, it lay abandoned for 30 years until the landowner, the Duke of Bucclech, commissioned landscape artist Charles Jencks to transform it into the artland it has been since 2015.¬†The site’s themes are space, astronomy and cosmology, with features and landforms representing the sun, universes, galaxies, black holes and comets. Having seen Jencks’ work at the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and at Jupiter Artland I was very keen to visit Crawick. It didn’t disappoint.

I’m not sure I can explain much more – you really have to see it. All the features have names, but I haven’t included captions because a) I can’t remember which is which in some cases and b) it would be very time-consuming to label them all. The two mounds with spiral paths which appear a lot represent the Milky Way and Andromeda, but other than that I’ll let the slide-show do the talking.

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There is absolutely nothing else at Crawick Multiverse – maybe this will change in the future, but for the moment the ticket office is a Portakabin and there’s also a portable toilet. If you want to eat, the nearest town is¬†Sanquhar – although you might find, as seems common in this area, that kitchens keep very restricted hours. However, we had a good lunch in the Oasis Restaurant, part of the Nithsdale Hotel.

So ends our short stay in Galloway, a beautiful part of the country to which I can’t wait to return.

Two Galloway gardens

Glenwhan Gardens

We arrived at Glenwhan Gardens just in time for morning coffee in the friendly tea room. This was Easter Sunday so I had expected it to be busy, but the weather was dull and damp and we seemed to be the first people there. Not so – apparently a woman had arrived earlier with a small girl in tow and enquired about their Easter Egg Hunt. When told she would have to pay the garden fee to participate, she stormed off saying it would be cheaper to go to Tesco to buy an egg. I would say 0/10 for parenting skills there! We spotted bags of mini-eggs hanging throughout the garden but, although it got a bit busier, we didn’t see many children. What a shame.

Anyway, after coffee we admired the peacock in the car park before heading through the entrance with its lovely stained glass panel.

Started in 1979, the 12 acre site was created from a hillside of bracken and gorse, with two lakes created by damming up bogs. The paths wander upwards to various viewpoints – it’s just beautiful.

There are many sculptures dotted around.

My favourite is the Peace Pinnacle, seen here from both sides.

The garden is surrounded by 17 more acres of wild land – it was even wetter under foot than the rest of the garden, but we enjoyed the moorland walk all the same.

As luck would have it, we passed the tea room again just in time for lunch (delicious) before returning to the car and setting off for our second garden of the day. However, we decided on another stop in between.

Glenluce Abbey

Glenluce Abbey was founded in 1191/2 by Roland, Lord of Galloway. The ruins are now in the care of Historic Scotland.

Finally, it was on to Castle Kennedy Gardens.

Castle Kennedy

The castle ruins date to the 16th century, but the gardens are more recent being the inspiration of the second Earl of Stair in the early 19th century. I was struck by the terraces and landforms, very reminiscent of contemporary work by Charles Jencks (and we’d be visiting one of his creations the next day). However, they have been there since the beginning, created by men with carts and horse-drawn equipment. Amazing work!

Lastly, at the top end of the gardens we found Lochinch Castle, which was rather more comfortable looking than Castle Kennedy!

We got wet several times throughout the day and it was cold (spot that I’m wearing gloves, even though it was April) so it was good to head back to our cosy cottage to dry out and warm up. We were leaving the next morning and planned to go home via Crawick Multiverse. Coming next!

Isle of Whithorn and Wigtown

Harbour at Isle of Whithorn

A tale of three walks

Easter Saturday (and also John’s birthday) was the first full day of our stay in Galloway.

Isle of Whithorn

Our first stop was Isle of Whithorn for morning coffee in the recently built Village Hall. From there, we set off for a walk round the “Isle” which is actually a peninsula – although Isle Head has a very narrow connection.

From the bay opposite the Hall we continued down Main Street to the harbour.

Looking back from the harbour, we could see on one side the castellated-effect sea wall of¬† the Captain’s Garden, a 19th century private house, and the Kirk, and on the other side Harbour Row with the Steam Packet Inn, named for the days when the Isle of Whithorn was a key destination for Galloway’s steamship trade.

Onto Isle Head where we found the Solway Harvester Seat,¬†a tribute to the seven-strong local crew of the fishing boat Solway Harvester which sank in a storm off the Isle of Man in January 2000, and a witness cairn dedicated to St Ninian, an early Christian missionary. It’s¬†situated in what was once the Isle’s lifeboat station.

Close by are the ruins of the 13th century St Ninian’s Chapel. And here’s a lovely picture of the birthday boy standing next to it!

Climbing to the top of Isle Head, there were good views back to the chapel and the village.

At the top is the Isle’s most prominent landmark, a square, white tower known as the Cairn which has been a navigational aid for hundreds of years. Next to it is another memorial to the men of the Solway Harvester.

From here, we retraced our steps back to the car and headed a few miles round the coast to St Ninian’s Cave.

St Ninian’s Cave

St Ninian’s Cave is somewhere John remembers visiting as a child, so he was keen to go back. From the car park it’s about a mile down the wooded Physgill Glen to a stony beach.

Turning right, the approach to the cave is obvious (though hard on the ankles).

It’s surrounded by crosses and other tributes in every nook and cranny.

The views back along the beach are beautiful.

Once again, we retraced our steps to the car. This time we were in search of lunch, but were about to learn that this is almost impossible in Galloway after 2pm. We stopped in a few places on our way to Wigtown where, fortunately, we found a suitable caf√© – can’t have John starving on his birthday!

Wigtown

County Buildings

Wigtown used to be Galloway’s chief town, but declined over the 20th century until 1997 when it was designated Scotland’s national book town. The Wigtown Book Festival was inaugurated in 1998, and these two things have kick-started a regeneration as an attractive town for visitors. However, I resisted the siren call of bookshops and we set off on the town trail, starting at the magnificent County Buildings which seems to have pretensions as a French Ch√Ęteau.

A short distance away was the church to which we returned via a long loop, enjoying the views from Lovers’ Walk and Windyhill.

A boardwalk then took us to the Martyrs’ Stake. In 1685, five people were executed in Wigtown for refusing to accept Episcopalian services and, in particular, that the King had the right to call himself head of the church. Three men were hanged, but Margaret Wilson (aged only 18) and Margaret McLachlan were sentenced to be tied to a stake within the flood mark of the Blednoch stream until they drowned. Today, a granite memorial marks the spot.

The path continued through wetlands to the harbour (rather muddy looking) and a bird hide before returning to town via Station road – with an appropriate weather vane.

After that it was back to our comfortable Wren’s Nest for the night. The next day did not dawn so bright, but we braved the rain to visit two Galloway gardens.

Glasgow Gallivanting: June 2017

Another fabulously busy month! My summer programme of guided walks continues (I’ve led, or co-led, four in June) with a couple of twists. The Women’s Library is reprinting its walk leaflets, so John and I went on a reconnaissance mission to the Necropolis to check the route directions and take some new photographs. Not relevant to a women’s history walk, but something we hadn’t noticed before, was this monument to William Wallace (of Braveheart fame). And I couldn’t resist including my favourite angel as the post header.

 

I also went on someone else’s walk! The Royal College of Nursing guided a walk from the medieval cathedral to the Clyde looking at public health through the ages. I learned, amongst other things, that some of the tenements I pass often were built by Glasgow’s City Improvement Trust in the late 19th century – an early form of social housing to replace squalid slums. From now on I’ll be looking upwards even more than I do normally to spot their banner.

 

Happy 75th Billy Connolly

Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly (or Sir William Connolly, CBE, to give him his full title) turns 75 this year. To celebrate, his home city has commissioned a set of three murals by Rachel Maclean, Jack Vettriano and John Byrne. As a result of my guided walks in the city I’ve now spotted all three.

 

As well as the murals and his knighthood, Billy recently received an honorary degree from Strathclyde University. I watched a clip of him in his robes, and he asked “I wonder if they know something I don’t? When you start getting the lifetime achievement awards……”, and his voice tailed off. I know his health isn’t good, but I hope he has many more years to come.

The Great Get Together

On 16th June 2016, during the EU Referendum campaign, Jo Cox MP was murdered by a fanatical white supremacist. One year later, thousands of events up and down the country took place under the banner of The Great Get Together to commemorate Jo and celebrate the phrase she used in her maiden speech to Parliament “We have more in common than that which divides us”. I attended an event at Glasgow Women’s Library at which the guest of honour was Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. I expected to encounter some extra security given recent terrorist attacks – but no. I walked into the library as usual, Nicola arrived, gave a moving speech, then moved round each table talking to everyone and posing for selfies as requested. Spot the fan girl!

 

I’m proud to live in a country where politicians can still do this, where we don’t react to terrorism by shutting them away from the people they were elected to represent, and I’m proud to have a First Minister who can speak so well on the platform and also come across as friendly and approachable in person.

South Rotunda

South Rotunda

Rotundas on either side of the River Clyde mark each end of the Harbour Tunnel, built in the 1890s and long since fallen into disuse. A year ago, I wrote a post about an urban walk along the river in which I lamented that, although the North Rotunda had been a restaurant for as long as I can remember, the South Rotunda was boarded up. I didn’t know that renovation was well under way and it is now home to the Malin Group which offers services to the marine industry. Recently, they held open days in aid of the Ethiopia Medical Project, a charity run by two Glasgow women to assist the Buccama Clinic in its work healing thousands of mothers suffering from uterine prolapse.

I was expecting a simple tour of the building. However, we were entertained by actors playing “Willie”, one of the workmen who built the tunnels, and the shell-suited “Steph” who worked at the South Rotunda during the 1988 Garden Festival when it served as Nardini‚Äôs Ice Cream Parlour. Great fun, tea and cakes at the end, and all in a very worthy cause.

 

Paisley buddies

 

Pride of Paisley was a public art trail of lion sculptures last year – one of them,¬†“Superbia”, has now returned permanently. Wasn’t my mum clever to wear such a perfectly matching cardigan?

The last bit

I could tell you about theatres, art exhibitions and gardens visited, but this post is getting too long so let’s skip to the last bit in which I teach you a new Scottish word. Some politicians have told us that we are¬†scunnered (annoyed) with voting. True, since 2014 in Scotland we have had two referendums, two general elections and elections for local councils – but am I scunnered? I am not. People fought and died for my right to vote and I always do so with a lump in my throat, especially at the latest election which was held on the anniversary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison (the suffragette who threw herself in front of the King’s horse at Epsom). But as for the result and events since – now¬†that’s what I call a scunner!

And finally, a bit of nostalgia. Who could this romantic young couple be? No prizes! I’ve been scanning old (and sadly faded) pictures again. This is us on holiday in Germany in 1985.

 

So that was my June. How was yours?

Wren’s Nest

View from Wren’s Nest

The Easter weekend coincided with John’s birthday this year, so as a gift I booked a short break in Dumfries and Galloway. Our accommodation, Wren’s Nest, was bijou (read tiny), a former farm building converted into a one-room cottage, but it was perfect for our needs. (There’s also a larger cottage, sleeping four, on site.) The owner, Janet, lived next door in the farmhouse and was an absolutely lovely person, so helpful. Not only that, she provided champagne for our first night!¬†Apparently, we were¬†the first people ever to stay in Wren’s Nest so this was a lovely way of marking that. (Both cottages can be booked via holidaycottages.co.uk).

The nearest town of any size was Newton Stewart and we stopped here for a look around on our way down to the cottage. Despite the dreich* weather we took a circular walk between two bridges over the River Cree.

Fortunately, the next day dawned brighter and we set off to celebrate John’s birthday on the Isle of Whithorn.

* Dreich (Urban Dictionary definition) РA combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather. At least 4 of the above adjectives must apply before the weather is truly dreich.