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.

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’s 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?

Glasgow Gallivanting: May 17

Arran Ferry from Brodick Castle Gardens
In the UK, May is bookended by Bank Holiday Weekends and we took full advantage of both. May 1st saw us on a ferry returning from Arran after spending time there with friends, and at the end of the month we had a couple of nights in Oban.

Oban at dusk: view from our room
Full posts to follow! So what else has been happening?

Cousins

My cousin Tracy and her husband have just bought a new boat. We were able to inspect it before a family lunch at Kip Marina. Doesn’t she look delighted?

We also had dinner with another of my cousins, Ian, and his wife Lynn. No photos were taken at that event, but here we are as kids on the back green of our grandparents’ tenement flat. That’s their kitchen window behind us. I think this is 1971, so I would be 14 and Ian 4. His wee brother and my younger sister are also there, and a small girl at the end who, I think, must have lived in the same building. I have no recollection of her at all.

 

Voice from the past

Redby Infant School, Sunderland, 1963
While I’m on a nostalgia theme, how about this? As some of you know, I administer a blog, It was always sunny, for my Mum who is writing the story of her life. When she came to the section about me starting school I included the picture above and was surprised recently to receive a comment from one of the other children, the boy fourth from the left in the front row. He’d Googled the name of the school and up this popped! We’ve been exchanging memories and trying to complete a list of all the names. Can’t find me? I’m fourth from the right in the back row.

Talking of things popping up, and in the blowing-my-own-trumpet department, I was touched and delighted to find my name in Update, the professional journal for librarians in the UK (third paragraph). One of the most satisfying aspects of my career was mentoring and encouraging younger librarians so it’s great to know it was appreciated. Thank you so much to Jennifer for mentioning me.

The Elephant Park

Glasgow has many fine parks, and I’ve written about the major ones, such as the Botanic Gardens, many times. All over the city, however, you can find pocket-sized parks amidst the urban sprawl. Last year, these two concrete elephants near my home were sending out an SOS signal because redevelopment of an adjacent building put them under threat. When I passed by the other day they had obviously just been made-over (one still has its Wet Paint sign) so I’m hoping this means they have been reprieved.

The last bit

Four theatre / concert hall visits, three guided walks, a visit from my sister – I’m running out of time to write about everything this month, so I’ll quickly finish by returning to my programme of expanding your vocabulary with Scottish words! The Women’s Library guided walks that I’ve co-led have not been blessed with good weather – an understatement to say the least. Both guides and partcipants were drookit. If you can’t guess what that means from the pictures, click on the link! I have more walks coming up in June, so I’m hoping for better luck.

So that was my May – how was yours?

Glasgow Gallivanting: April 2017

Mothers’ Day

But Mothers’ Day (UK) is in March! I know, but my incompetence at getting something booked in time meant that I took my Mum out for her “treat” the following Sunday, April 2nd. We had a lovely afternoon tea in Mad Hatter’s in Paisley.

Rita McGurn

One of my volunteer roles is guiding walks for three different organisations. Now that Spring is here, the season has well and truly started – I’ve already done three in April, including two Women of the Gorbals walks for Glasgow Women’s Library.

The former mill above is one of the stops. We talk about the lives of the women weavers, and also about the sculpture billowing from the chimney. Smokestack was designed by Rita McGurn who died in 2015. Rita also worked with wool and crocheted fabulous giant figures, some of which you can see in a recent article in the local press about her daughter who has yarn-bombed a bench in the Botanic Gardens in her mother’s honour. As the Botanics are very near our house, we set off to find it the other day, and there it is in the gallery above

Soutra Hill and Fala Moor

Soutra Aisle

This outing was also prompted by a cultural event. One of the concerts we attended at Celtic Connections back in January was Wind Resistance by Karine Polwart, a combination of spoken word and music inspired by Fala Moor and Soutra Hill close to her home in Midlothian. We wanted to go! And now we have.

Soutra Hill was once the site of an extensive medieval monastery and hospital. All that remains is the Soutra Aisle, not, as once thought, part of the monastery, but a burial vault constructed from its rubble. John Pringle, who died in 1777 aged 77 years, his wife and sons lie here.

Fala Moor is bisected by a track which, until the mid 20th century, was part of the road network. To the east lies Fala Flow Loch, and to the west the ruins of Fala Luggie Tower. We met not a soul along here, though we spied a party of workers in the distance burning off the heather. This accounts for the rather hazy quality of the photos below.

The track ends after 3.5 miles at Brothershiels Farm, where we were objects of curiosity for some of the residents. That was one lippy lamb – and I really don’t like the look of those mushrooms, or what they’re growing in!

Happy birthday, John!

It was John’s birthday in April and, as it coincided with the long Easter weekend, I booked a cottage in Dumfries and Galloway for three nights. The weather didn’t really cooperate, but we had a lovely time anyway and there will be lots of pictures shared in due course, both of this and another weekend away in Arran. In the meantime, here is John enjoying his birthday fish and chips in Wigtown.

Kilarden

Scotland’s Gardens Open for Charity is underway again for the summer and, on a free Sunday afternoon, we checked the programme and decided to heard for Rosneath to view Kilarden. The Rosneath Peninsula is bounded by two sea lochs, Gare Loch and Loch Long, each of which has a naval base so if you can avoid those the views are pretty. It’s also worth avoiding the thought that this is where all the UK’s nukes are stored. Scary.

This is the 25th year the owners of Kilarden have opened their garden as part of this scheme. It has lawns around the house, on one of which the Shandon Ukulele Band were providing entertainment, and ten acres of hilly woodland with a huge collection of rhododendrons.

The ruined St Modan’s Church in the village was picturesque, the current church was open for viewing and the church hall was selling very good teas. Not a bad afternoon out!

So that was my April – how was yours?

Glasgow Gallivanting: March 2017

In March, we gallivanted as far away as Budapest! More, much more, to come on that in due course.

So what else has been going on?

Aye Write!

Aye Write! is Glasgow’s book festival. For a couple of years I volunteered at it, but last year and this year we missed most of it by being on holiday. However, we attended a couple of sessions on the last weekend of this year’s festival.

Elaine C Smith is a Scottish actress, comedian and activist. Outside Scotland – and I’m not even sure how far this travels – she’s probably best known as Mary Doll from Rab C Nesbitt. In discussion with novelist Alan Bissett, Elaine considered The books that made me – six titles that had a defining effect on her life. She’s maybe a year younger than I am so it was intriguing to match experiences: for example, we were both entranced by The lion, the witch and the wardrobe when a teacher read it aloud to our class of seven-year olds (and we both checked our Mum’s wardrobe in case Narnia was lurking there). I’m not sure if there was meant to be time for questions – there usually is – but the conversation flowed on and on. It was great!

The other session was more formal, an excellent talk by Anne Galastro based on the current exhibition in Edinburgh Joan Eardley: a sense of place, which we saw at the end of last year, and her book of the same title. I’m not sure how many of you will have heard of Eardley (1921-1963) because she died tragically young just as she was becoming well-known outside Scotland. She had two main subjects – the area around her studio in Townhead, Glasgow, where she befriended and painted the local children, and the fishing village of Catterline in North East Scotland where she had a (very primitive) cottage. If you’re anywhere near Edinburgh I recommend going to the exhibition before it closes on May 21st. Follow the link above for details and some highlights.

Women’s History Month

Maryhill WHM Editathon

March was Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we had a Wikipedia Editathon at Maryhill where we looked for articles to update with information about women’s history and wrote some new ones.

International Women’s Day (8th March) fell while we were in Budapest, as did the European Day of the Righteous on the 6th which honours those who have resisted crimes against humanity and totalitarianism. Jane Haining brings both these commemorations and Budapest together: She was a Church of Scotland missionary working in the city when she was arrested by the Nazis in 1944. She died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz later that year, and is the only Scot to be officially honoured for giving her life to help Jews in the Holocaust. We found her name on a memorial in the synagogue that we visited, and on a road called after her.

Wedding anniversary

On 21st March John and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. We do have some more formal photographs in the loft somewhere, but finding them would involve climbing a ladder. This one comes from some old slides of Mum’s that I’ve been scanning, and shows the less than picturesque car park at the back of the church. As you can see, we didn’t go for the big white wedding – we were keen on being married, but not so keen on parties, so we kept it very small. We look so young!

Glen Finglas and Loch Ardinning

I thought I was going to have to report zero country walks, but the last weekend in March was absolutely glorious. Luckily, for the first time in weeks, we had nothing else planned so out we went.

Glen Finglas

Thanks to Elaine at I used to be indecisive whose post Glen Finglas Reservoir inspired us to take this walk on the Saturday. Our circular route climbed above the reservoir then dropped to the dam, and the site of Ruskin’s painting by Millais, before taking in the Byre Inn (excellent late lunch / early dinner) on our way back to the car.

Loch Ardinning

On Sunday, we went back to a walk that I’ve written about before – Loch Ardinning – so I’m just including a couple of shots here.

The last bit

Instead of offering you a Scottish word to enrich your vocabulary this month, I’m offering you a phrase. You might have wondered about the title of Glasgow’s book festival, as mentioned above, Aye Write! I’m not sure exactly what the organisers intend, but I see several levels of pun. Yes, write! and I write! are probably obvious, but non-Scots might not know that Aye, right! is a Glaswegian expression of some scepticism, a double positive resulting in a negative meaning, i.e. I don’t believe it! or Not likely! (Anabel: I don’t eat out much, I prefer to watch my waistline. You: Aye, right! Your observation would be quite correct.)

So that was my March. How was yours?

Glasgow Gallivanting: February 2017

 The Citizen’s Theatre

Citizen's Theatre

After Celtic Connections finished I had withdrawal symptoms and got on the internet straightaway to book tickets for something else to go to! As a result, we had a lovely evening at “The Citz” which first opened as a theatre in 1878 when it was known as the Royal Princess’s Theatre. The Citizens company was founded in 1943, and moved to this site in 1945. Since then it has been extended, as you can see in the photograph above, but the foyer retains reminders of the old days with a stained glass window from the Royal Princess and a collection of statues which used to adorn the façade.

The play we saw was Cuttin’ a Rug by John Byrne, set at the staff dance of a 1950s carpet factory – hence the punning title (to cut a rug is to dance really well). It was funny and had a great 50s soundtrack.

Of course, going to the theatre requires a pre-theatre meal and that, added to various dinners and lunches with friends, means that February has been almost as unkind to the waistline as January. Did we get a chance to walk it off? Not really…

Finlaystone

Clyde view from Finlaystone
Clyde view from Finlaystone

A combination of weather, socialising, both being struck down by horrible colds, and John having a trip to China meant we only had time for one country excursion. We went to Finlaystone Estate, about half an hour down the Clyde from home. The view from the highest point of the forest walk was magnificent – but you would never know from the photo above that both the busy A8 and the railway run between the estate and the river, so you never quite get away from the noise of traffic. However, the snowdrops were blooming and John got to play on the children’s boat when no-one was looking. Some people never grow up!

Woman on the Shelf

Woman on the Shelf
Woman on the Shelf

I’ve written before about my connection with Glasgow Women’s Library where I’ve been volunteering since I retired over four years ago. As a charity, it has a constant need to raise money and one way is the Women on the Shelf scheme. A single book, a shelf, or a whole section can be sponsored in honour of your chosen woman. I’m so grateful to my lovely Mum who sponsored a shelf in my name because she wanted to support the organisation where I am so happy working. Sponsored shelves are marked with a wooden block and I was excited to find mine had been delivered last week with the latest batch.

The inscription says –

To my book-worm daughter Anabel, a dedicated librarian who loves libraries and has found a niche in GWL

Thanks Mum!

I’ll be taking Mum into the library to see the block in place very soon, so watch this space.

The last bit

Last month, I introduced you to the word bawbag. Not long afterwards, #presidentbawbag trended on Twitter – nothing to do with me of course, but thanks to West Wing actor Richard Schiff. He’s just a tad more influential than I am, but I hope you were suitably grateful that I had given you advance warning of what it meant 😉

I thought I’d offer you another Scottish word this month, wabbit – partly because I’ve been feeling a bit wabbit myself, but also because it too has turned up in the news. Scientists at Edinburgh University have produced a paper arguing that people who claim to be feeling tired all the time might be doing so because of their genes. It’s probably the only scientific paper ever published to start with a definition of wabbit:

The Scots word wabbit encompasses both peripheral fatigue, the muscle weakness after a long walk, and central fatigue, the reduced ability to initiate and/or sustain mental and physical activity, such as we might experience while having flu.

So there you have it! I hope none of you are feeling wabbit, but if you are you have a new word to describe it.

How has your February been?

Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2017

Celtic Connections

Celtic Connections logoIf you live in Glasgow, you have about two weeks to get over the hedonism of Christmas and New Year when – ooft! – it’s Celtic Connections! This bills itself as “the largest annual winter music festival of its kind and the UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music” and we throw ourselves into it with enthusiasm, usually attending half a dozen or so gigs over the 19 days.

This year, in six concerts we heard musicians from Scotland, England, Ireland and America (and that’s quite a conservative selection) in five different venues ranging from the formal concert hall, via the Old Fruitmarket, to the iconic Barrowland Ballroom. Highlights? So hard to choose but, if pushed, I’d go for Phil Cunningham’s Highlands and Islands Suite. Phil, his accordion, and a front-row of other professional musicians were supported by students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – its Traditional Musicians, Chorale and Symphony Orchestra. There must have been 150 people on the stage and the music soared. When I said to John at the interval that I had been moved almost to tears I half expected a scornful look, but he agreed. It wasn’t only the evocatively Scottish music, there was also something so heart-warming about a stage full of young people working hard to perfect their art – having chosen to do so in our city.

Gluttony

Celtic Connections is pretty hard on the waistline – all those pre-theatre meals – and it’s not helpful that Burns Night falls slap bang in the middle. This year, we ate our haggis, neeps and tatties with friends in the Curlers, a local pub-restaurant. We have also been tempted by two large boxes of Chinese rose pastries, a new year gift from one of John’s Chinese colleagues. Definitely yummy – ooh, I need to walk all this off, but…

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

…oh dear, we haven’t had much in the way of country walks: only one that I can remember, in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. This time last year, we spotted red squirrels from the wildlife hide. This time they were not to be seen, though there were plenty of birds about.

Exhibitions

We managed a couple of exhibitions in January. One Glasgow museum, the Burrell Collection, has recently closed for refurbishment and in the meantime some of its paintings are on show at another, Kelvingrove. The current exhibition is of work by Joseph Crawhall (1861-1913), one of a group of radical painters known as The Glasgow Boys. Girl on a bicycle has long been one of my favourites – just look at the little dachshund excitedly running alongside – but there was plenty more to see, and will be until 1st July if you are in the area.

We also saw an exhibition in the Lighthouse called A Life in Letterpress. Typographic artist Alan Kitching began his working life apprenticed to a printer, before becoming a technician at Watford College, then a teacher, designer and artist. In an age of computer design, he continues to create using wood and metal letterforms. The results are stunning! On till 5th March.

The last bit

New Year, new blogging resolution – to have a round-up post like this at the end of every month. How long will it continue? My last new series (People Make Glasgow) lasted for approximately (ahem, exactly) one post, and I’m already almost a week late with this one, so we’ll see.

I also wondered what would happen if I had nothing to round up, either because I’d written about it already or (and it does happen) I had done nothing worth blogging about. Step forward The last bit of random stuff and padding. This month – Scotland reacts to Trump, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Scotland is not impressed.

  • The sublime – Karine Polwart at Celtic Connections with I burn but I am not consumed, a poetic mixture of spoken word and song considering Donald’s Scottish roots. Favourite line: You who see nothing but your own face in the sheen of the Hudson River. (Sorry, I couldn’t get this BBC video to embed).
  • The ridiculous – Just 19 Incredibly Scottish Signs Telling Donald Trump He’s A Bawbag (Buzzfeed). Not for the easily offended. Translations available on request. (As a start, baw = ball. I’m sure you can work out the rest.)

So that was January in Glasgow. Normal service will be resumed shortly.