Saturday, 12 August 2017

Callendar Park and House. Hallglen Tunnel. Kelpies. Falkirk Day Out.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
A day out with Alan and his dog saw us take a trip to the central belt town of Falkirk. This wide surrounding area used to be famous for its iron-works, in particular, metal street furniture like storm drain covers, manholes, electricity and gas plates, or anything else sunk into the ground covering a utility service will usually have a makers stamp with Grangemouth, Bo-ness, Larbert, Denny or other areas around Falkirk printed on it. Next time you are out and about in Scotland's streets, cities and towns- have a look at the drain covers and manhole inspection plates under your footwear. Tells a story of a time in the UK, not that long ago, when every district, town or city manufactured some item or another and were well known for that product.
Callendar House, seen above, is a large French chateau style building set in its own extensive park and woodlands. The origins of a large house in this spot can be traced back to the 12th century when the Thanes of Falkirk lived here. You can find examples of many fine old trees still thriving within these grounds.
(Sir) William Forbes bought the estate and existing house then had it transformed into its current shape and style. At that time he was immensely wealthy having made lucrative contracts with the Royal Navy to copper-bottom hulls on ships. He was a billionaire by today's values and was one of Scotland's biggest landowners by the early 1800s. This is only one of several grand estates owned by the same family but they managed to hang on to this prize possession  right up until the 1960s when it was eventually sold to Falkirk council.
The house is usually open for visitors to explore with a Georgian kitchen giving you a feel and taste of past times, furnished rooms and some craft displays. As most of it is empty and no longer lived in it's not an expensive place to visit with a large free car park beside the high flats and miles of open parkland, forest trails, a boating pond and the remains of the Antonine Wall/ditch to explore/ walk along.

Not all of this grand mansion appears in the first photograph. A distant view of the house.
Buttercups were at their height in the meadow lands when we visited around a month ago.
A distant view of Callendar Park from the Helix. The Hi- Rise flats do not detract in any way from the beauty of this place which is well signposted when travelling through Falkirk. Follow signs to Falkirk itself, then the brown notice boards, seen in photo above, to get to Callendar House and Park.
The park and a small section of the boating pond. As this green space is a major asset to the surrounding town it is popular with tourists, dog walkers and locals with various attractions like golf, summer picnics, and a children's adventure hub/ play towers and slides. Not that popular that you can't get away from people though, who, as usual, stick to within a mile of the house leaving the rest of the grounds virtually empty and unexplored. If you made a chart of people's movements around tourists spots predictable patterns will soon emerge to form a common theme as many people do seem driven by invisible guides and settings. The few who drift away from these set limits are also predictable though- as  marginal variations to the norm.
They are governed by invisible factors as well, allowing them to travel further- like not requiring nearby toilets, or amusements for young children or elderly parents- no fear of woodlands, getting lost or of finding too empty and remote pathways etc....
Everything in nature it seems has a set of controls to guide it along, whether consciously decided or not, in advance.

Next place we found ourselfs at was the Glen Village tunnel. This was reached through the park itself via secluded woodland paths then through the pleasant modern housing estate of Hallglen to reach the canal tow path  just under the Glen Village roundabout.
As luck would have it a canal boat just happened to be passing up the Union Canal and entered the tunnel as we arrived.
Getting closer.
And out the other side.
There is a bridge over the canal a short distance before the tunnel entrance. This smiling face denotes the investor who made a tidy profit building his stretch of the route to the road bridge whereas on the other side is a sad crying face as that unlucky investor, (who got the tunnel section presumably) went bankrupt.
Surprising amount of flow-stone, stalactites and uneven surfaces in this tunnel midway through where it starts to resemble a cave and is full of dripping surfaces that make it very atmospheric. One of the longest canal tunnels in Scotland.
Alan and his dog emerging into the light again.
Wild foxgloves in the park. A sure sign of summer switching into autumn.
Next and last we visited the nearby Kelpies. Two huge equine heads that denote the canal entry point where it flows out into the River Carron then out to sea near Grangemouth. This is a distance shot from Falkirk.
Kelpies, in Scottish folklore, were water spirits in the shape of a horse that lurked in waterways and rivers waiting for a chance to drown unwary people- probably a superstition brought about by the very real danger in river crossing in an age when most folk could not swim.  Appropriately placed here, as the nearby River Carron is one of the muddiest, most hazard inducing rivers I've ever seen. Even today I don't fancy my chances crossing it at lowish tide in a small boat with both banks coated in deep, evil smelling black muck, preventing an easy passage to the opposite side.
The Kelpies on the canal. Meadowsweet flowers seen here. A very fragrant wild cream coloured plant that was once used to cover the floors and bedchambers of castles as an early plentiful attempt at basic perfume skills and show of elegance to impress visitors.
The scale of the Falkirk Kelpies. Andy Scott, the Maryhill based artist's, best known work internationally.
Another view. And another very varied walk. From Callendar Park we did a circular tour through the woods and estate then the tunnel before returning on foot beside the remains of the Antonine Wall/ ditch which runs through the park grounds and can still be seen. We then drove the short distance to see the Kelpies. All three local tourist attractions together make a great day out.
Grey Heron fishing on canal.
Moorhen.
Blue tipped damselfly.
Blue glory.
Horses feeding in the buttercup meadows.
Pink thistles.

                                                                Sun or Flower or both?
Although Alan Turing is best known for his code-breaking performance during the war what he was working on before he died is exceptional as well and is only now gaining ground to explain precise yet complex  patterns throughout nature and the universe as a whole. Religious folk will no doubt take comfort from the fact  that the hand of God, or Allah, seems to be everywhere in the world we live in and the more we learn about the hidden details of stars, swirling galaxies and individual planets the more everything around us seems to be not just random variations by chance but instead appears to have been carefully engineered like a vast organic machine of moving parts with tiny unseen cogs and secret wheels turning out billions of creations daily. Plants, animals, us... all by design. A.T's work is only now gaining acceptance partly because of progress made in other fields   such as open world graphics and the like where we are so close to imitating real life in microscopic fine detail that you can almost taste victory. In this other world/ reality we can now build entire lifelike landscapes, planets, star systems and lifeforms of a complex nature by using a series of codes and mathematical equations then pack it all on a handy CD. A universe on a thin slice of material you can place in one hand. Leading some folk to speculate ...  are we already living in some future world perhaps... a specially created one...with totally convincing graphics... for some as yet unknown purpose/outcome.
Too heavy for me that one but I am beginning to see details at a higher magnification level personally ( i.e close up examination of certain flowers and objects under a microscope is providing a new interest) that show precise complex patterns are everywhere down to a minute level and they do seem to be as a result of some design or celestial blueprint on a vast scale which fits remarkably well into the latest number crunching explanations and theories. And that's good enough for me for now.







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Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Barras. Calton. Trongate. Saltmarket. Murals. The Future Age.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
I had no idea the Merchant City festival was on in Glasgow until a chance conversation with Alex revealed it had been going on for a week and the coming weekend was a last chance to catch it. As the weather over the last month and a half (i.e. the Scottish summer) has been woeful and unpredictable- as usual-with heavy showers almost every day, coupled with a winning blend of either sticky humidity or cold un-seasonal temperatures I had been looking for something sheltered and low level close at hand.
Alex was going with family so I phoned up Alan to see if he fancied it and he was keen.
Above is a mural in the Barras District by popular street artist Rogue One. Alan and I both agreed that we had never seen a bad street painting around Glasgow by this talented individual who has a growing collection of art murals scattered around the city.
It was supposed to be a wander around the Merchant City Festival, seen above, but when we got there, around mid-afternooon, we couldn't really see much in the way of entertainment. To our eyes not much was happening here although it was busy with visitors. A few free bands were playing in various venues but the main theme seemed to be geared around eating and drinking. Dozens of market stalls selling bespoke takeaways, upmarket burgers, assorted beverages,and the like with little in the way of actual street entertainment going on. This could be because of frequent heavy showers and everything had been moved undercover so maybe I am doing it a dis-service but we didn't see that much here to suit our tastes.
So we ended up in the nearby Barras District instead, a short walk away to the east. Since the early 1900s world famous covered markets have existed here. Warrens of narrow passageways await inside with more than a hint of Dickensian gloom and poverty lurking under the various roofs. It used to be the place to go in Glasgow for a cheap bargain but nowadays with increasing competition from pound shops, discount supermarkets, etc the place looks even more downmarket than I remembered it.
Having said that I did pick up a mobile phone here with camera and internet connection at a knock down price I'm really happy with so there are still bargains around.
It's also a good place for murals and just general interest in a Fagin like way. Although the covered markets have seen better days since their glory years the surrounding district of the Calton is slowly changing. Run down shops rub shoulders with more upmarket eateries and old abandoned buildings sit side by side with unusual new projects.
New apartment blocks. Gallowgate/ Calton district. The Calton is one of Glasgow's oldest and poorest districts, originally a heavily industrialized area of small factories, workers houses, cottage weaving sheds and places producing noxious smells that were best kept to the east of the old town where prevailing winds would carry them away: animal rendering and tanning works, slaughter houses etc....
It also has a heritage trail as many fine old buildings exist in the Calton. It's a bit of a schizophrenic place at the moment with some still rough streets tourists would feel really uncomfortable in yet it also has many elements of a past era and way of life fast disappearing elsewhere.
Interesting link here to its darker side.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calton,_Glasgow
We popped into The Saracen's Head bar for a pint and a look around this traditional pub. Seemingly, tourists do come into this bar to take photos as it is one of the oldest pubs left in the city but then many leave without buying anything which doesn't do much to increase the income or pay the bills. Probably because gentrification and poverty side by side always make uneasy partners with each trying to change the other to its ways.
Stylish buildings in the Calton as many of the early Glasgow Tobacco Lords had grand mansions here.
Personally, I really enjoyed my tour of this district as Alan knows this area much better than me so it was a pleasant change to be guided around my own city by a non Glaswegian and it was also a nostalgia splurge as some of the places hereabouts I last visited with my Mum as a nipper getting dragged around by the hand.
Down a short lane off the Saltmarket was this memory booster. Not visited this fresh fish shop since my teenage years but it is still here. If my parents were in town they always visited this little lane to buy their fresh fish along with thousands of other Glasgow folk as this was the place to come before local district supermarkets took hold in other areas. With no fridge freezers in working class homes, just a cool larder and marble shelf, obtaining the freshest fish possible was essential in those days. Also folk had no option other than to come into the city to buy most items as outlying suburbs and estates had only small rows of local shops then and no large supermarkets or retail parks. Also woman had to shop almost every day as meat, fish etc didn't keep long so it was only with the introduction of fridge freezers to households that they could work full time. Advances in technology changed lifestyles profoundly overnight.
On a similar theme 30 years ago who would have thought everyone would be connected to a worldwide information source a click away or that everyone would be glued/ addicted to handheld gadgets that would take up most of their daily attention on pavements, buses and trains 24/7.
This is one of the older murals hand painted decades ago inside the Barras indoor lanes complex detailing the history of the place starting with the first stall holders who rented 'barrows' or carts- hence The Barrowlands, or Barras for short. Some of the stall holders here still sell goods outside but that is a chancy undertaking given Scotland's notoriously soggy climate. The reason why the blog is called Blueskyscotland in the first place is that it is a major achievement here to go eight years outdoors every weekend without getting soaked.
The women who started the Barras in 1921 hiring out carts to traders and some of the early raconteurs as folk used to come here for the clever patter as well with rival traders putting on a real show to attract customers- juggling numerous plates, banging pans together, demonstrating a variety of the latest products etc... Anyone of a certain age will remember the really busy times here but it is still entertaining now, mainly as so few of these traditional places are left.
Still in the same area is this small local park reclaimed from an unsightly patch of waste ground which was built for the Commonwealth Games to tart the place up a little presumably. This is a major improvement in what was an ugly corner so I was surprised to find this park is only temporary and could be used for housing in the future. Of all the areas in Glasgow the East End feels as if it has the least parks, mainly due to its low income population. Which makes this a real local asset I would think- a quiet space to sit and relax right in the heart of the city. I have no idea what it cost to transform it to this green oasis but £100,000 to £200,000 might be a fair guess. Maybe more.
As far as I can tell the idea of the park really exists to showcase this art installation pavement running through it highlighting all the bands who have played at the nearby Barrowlands Ballroom and Music Venue over the years.
Although I like the concept and idea of this pavement which must have looked stunningly vibrant when new, being a pavement many of the names have faded to the point of not being able to see them suggesting this was only ever meant as a temporary feature as the Commonwealth Games took place in 2014, just three years ago. Waste of public money or not? Only my opinion but I think if they keep it here it would really improve the entire district.... it makes it feel a whole new area with this sylvan rectangle when coupled with Glasgow Green. Encourages more tourists into the area I'd imagine as it looks a safe enticing place to invite people to explore who might not otherwise venture this far off the main shopping streets. Safe in daylight hours anyway :o)
We then visited the Trongate district, also nearby, and took in the various art galleries and shops here. This is a set of back streets below the trendy Merchant City area that I rarely visit but Alan has a background in art and sculpture going back decades so he knew this section really well.
An independent art gallery off the Trongate was our first stop. Luckily modern art was not featured on our visit but a black and white exhibition of photos of the remoter Scottish islands. Many professional photographers like black and white shots but I prefer colour myself. The pictures themselves were fine but I found myself thinking I could take just as good images myself for free rather than the prices asked- which were steep to my way of thinking. That's the problem with art photography nowadays when everyone has a camera on their phone, tablet or can access millions of great photos for free online.
What we were more keen on was the children's gallery. The art world can be very pretentious and clique ridden at times. It's often not how talented you are to get noticed but who you know, your background, if you fit a certain profile, and various other factors. The BBC and media are like that as well.  The recent scandal about how much presenters are paid at the BBC with men earning more than women is something of a sideshow compared to the real issue that it is a closed shop in many ways, similar to a whole range of well paying industries. It is a fact that working class people, no matter how capable, well spoken or highly educated will rarely find a position at the BBC or other entertainment media. There are a few exceptions but in the main it's the old adage
" One class to rule them all and in the darkness bind them."
http://news.sky.com/story/the-bbc-pay-gap-is-bad-its-class-gap-is-worse-10957166
 The same often goes for the arts, politics and the entertainments industry. There is an old series on You Tube called 'Survivors,' that's worth a watch to illustrate this point. For it's time its a good show, script, and worth a watch. After a virus is released in the UK most of the population have been wiped out. Funny thing is its only wiped out the lower classes by the looks of it and everyone on the show has a really posh accent and often a large mansion in the countryside to fall back into. Presumably because the BBC at that time only had posh actors available on their books to make it. The only person who isn't turns out to be a shifty murderer from the lower classes in the end... the same casual stereotyping they used to use routinely in TV dramas. in the 1970s 1980s 1990s...i.e. any time you see a Scot on TV then he's always a drunk, in a kilt, or angry. Not much has changed in 50 years since then and the table is still heavily slanted with all the money, power, any goodies and food sliding down into the arms of the elite.Maybe that's the norm though and the way it should be.
I'm not someone that has any axe to grind against rich people in general but it is so obvious in society at the moment that inequality hasn't changed a jot and probably never will despite attempts to alter the status quo. If anything it's got worse in the 2000s.
Smart meters and renewable energy are other examples of this tilted table effect. Smart meters have loads of faults from what I've read, spy on you, are not any better than the old type and in many cases are worse. The big companies make even bigger profits by getting rid of meter readers while we pay higher bills for the installation roll out to take place. Folk with big money to spare can save hundreds on their own energy bills by installing renewable energy devices but also get the poor to pay for their subsidy and solar panels in the form of higher charges for the rest of the population. That's smart alright.
Anyway, we both agreed we liked the children's gallery the most. Children are more honest in the main and paint or make things they see around them without any artifice or intellectual
pretensions. Although crude that's part of the charm and you don't usually need an art expert on hand to tell you what you are looking at or how you should feel about it. They were for sale. Average price £5. If I had any spare room in my house or tables without junk on them I would buy this type of art.

A pub mural in the Gallowgate.
Billy Connolly mural in the Barras. A recent three mural gable end tribute to one of Glasgow's famous sons.
By chance rather than design we also found this one near St Enoch's Square. In a pub near here (soft drinks for me, and I don't wear a kilt, eat much haggis, or play bagpipes either, thank you) we found two of the new breed of  jobs created in the city. One was a guy paid to open the pub door for us (sadly, we have arms so it seemed very unnecessary as I've always managed to get into pubs unaided before... though coming out again is an entirely different matter :o) and yet another lurked down in the toilets to hand out paper towels. This seemed to be his main, maybe only, task and folk were meant to tip him something for the service presumably. Never encountered this before so I've no idea how common this is in city centre pubs these days. Weird!

As is this. I watched three fascinating programmes recently. Codebreaker about Alan Turing. Mechanical Marvels about the mid 1700s early 1800s craze for elaborate lifelike toys and lastly Hyper Evolution: the rise of the robots.
All three opened my eyes to a brand new model of the universe and the future. The latest robots are very sophisticated and have advanced at an astonishing rate recently.
Here's two examples.


One of the reasons I'm inspired by modern open world computer games is not to play the games themselves but to try and understand the technology behind the graphic artwork which is getting ever closer to reality year on year. As you can see here robots are also getting far more advanced. They now have robot animals in every size; robot ants, robots that can run, jump, swim and fly. Are robots a new species altogether? Will they have rights to protect them? All sorts of ethical questions will arise in the future as people adapt to a world with them in it. Rather than the Terminator scenario of being a threat to humans they are already being used/exploited in the sex trade and I can also predict a time, not that far away, when many people will fall deeply in love with robots and even choose them as lifelong companions over humans, if they can afford them. Maybe that will solve the human population problem:o) Just as we can now create an artificial  landscape or entire universe using equations and numbers to built imaginary but realist looking worlds we may also have a simple recipe/equation for making people fall in love with machines. That would give them and us real problems perhaps. Just a thought. Interesting times we live in. Lets face it, humans have so many irritating character traits, flaws and faults: people in general are moving further apart from each other as a society yet still desire friendship and company. Imagine a companion that can have a wide range of different bespoke personalities to suit any taste, programmable interests and shared goals, no flaws, no bad habits,unless required, great in bed, and low maintenance, regarding nights out, food and time. People will fall in love with them.. (or hate and fear them with equal passion) and may even choose to save their cherished robot over a human life if pushed. Guaranteed. One of many ethical dilemmas we may face :)










  



Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Glasgow City. Glasgow Tower. Going up or going down?

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
As I'd never been up Glasgow Tower before I thought I'd treat myself and see the view from the observation deck on top of this slim white needle. I've been close to getting up a couple of times in the past but as it only seems to operate in summer and only in light winds below a certain wind strength I've always missed out for one reason or another. This is Glasgow Tower from the Castlemilk/ Croftfoot area.
For once I was lucky and although there was a slight heat haze/smog I could get good photographs. What surprised me the most from this elevated platform was a tightly packed hi rise city centre district as most buildings here are between 10 to 20 levels high but a few modern additions around Charing Cross have made an impact to the overall shape. The Scottish Power building being the most obvious newcomer.
You do get a fine panoramic view and at 127 metres is the tallest freestanding building in Scotland. It is surprisingly exposed up there due to the design and although you feel perfectly safe, or I did anyway, it also feels like a living room sized glass bubble suspended in space exactly 416.666 feet :o) above the city below as you can't see anything of the supporting tower underneath. Just a carpet, a 3 sided curved window of glass and open views all around except under your toes. At £6:50 entry fee for an adult I did think it was worth the money for a 15 minute tour and just enough time up top to take everything in. I still think however it should be open all year round and not subject to such low wind strengths. For instance- I see it is shut today and it's not particularly windy. A ridiculous state of affairs for what should be a major tourist attraction all year round.
A view of the River Clyde passing through the city centre.
The M8 motorway and the Anderston Centre and District.
Kinning Park, The Gorbals and part of Glasgow's South Side.
Riverside Museum, The Tall Ship Glenlee and the Govan ferry which only seems to run sporadically in summer. It started for the Commonwealth Games to take folk from Partick across to Govan to see the famous church and hogback stones there but was only funded for three years I believe. A fast rib and a rowing club also use the Partick/River Kelvin pier here as a base.
Ibrox Stadium on the South Side of Glasgow. Home of Glasgow Rangers.
A view of the nearby Hydro, The Armadildo, The Big Shed, and the Obsidian Sandwich. Some alternative local names for this collection of modern buildings at Finnieston.
More building projects in the same area completed within the last 20 years.
The Waverley Paddle Steamer passing Renfrew on the River Clyde. The last ocean going paddle steamer left in the world which is berthed under Glasgow Tower in spring/summer then around the English south coast in the winter months.
A few months ago we had two new visitors to the area. One was here to stay (hopefully) and a fine addition to our maritime heritage. The Queen Mary.
A closer view of the ship.
Official link and full info with vintage photos here. Not open to the public yet as it awaits full restoration back to its former glory.When you read the history in here it is really amazing this ship is still afloat.
http://www.paddlesteamers.info/Turbine%20Steamers/QueenMary.htm

The other craft was this one - The Lady M owned by a Russian billionaire, Mr Alexei Mordashov I believe, and one of the richest men in the world. At over £40 million, more a racing car of the high seas than the usual floating multi deck gin palace, it has very sleek lines and looks fast even standing still
The figurehead on the prow. The owner was not at home when I called and was probably visiting his Highland estates by helicopter as anyone with enough money can still buy huge chunks of Scotland and run it as a private kingdom. Someone informed me later he has land interests here but I couldn't find out any details. He made his money in steel. Wonder what he made of Glasgow?
The rear of this super yacht. I'm sure if he visited the city he would see a very different version of it than I am used to as a local. Still not sure, despite exploring every district over the past couple of years, if Glasgow is flourishing or not. Plenty of new buildings are springing up but at the moment they seem to be mainly upgrades to the three large city universities and attached student flat complexes or cash totems like The Scottish Power building. A large energy provider UK wide.
I did notice Glasgow is now placed 4th behind Leeds at 3rd. London and Birmingham still 1st and 2nd. Glasgow, since the 1930s, has lost almost half its one million plus population within its city boundaries limit. Another surprise was Manchester in 9th place which I thought would be far higher up the table but city populations do not take into account the surrounding urban outlying areas, which in Manchester's case is vast. London also has 10 million plus citizens on some charts depending on how you count up the numbers and districts. Glasgow still has a million plus folk in the greater urban sprawl but not so tightly packed into inner city districts as before so they don't count in the total. Newcastle fares even worse counting this way coming in at a lowly 18th- just above ever growing Brighton at 19th. I find all this social movement of people fascinating but I still haven't grasped the full picture yet as it's a lot easier going up and down the tower than understanding the complexities of modern Britain year by year on a grand interlinked scale. It's also always been easier to work out which cities and towns are growing fastest, like Edinburgh, Leeds? or London rather than static urban developments or gradual long term slow declines. Needless to say most of the post industrial cities and towns in the UK are the hardest hit and many have been in free fall numbers wise for decades. Also white native residents fleeing mass emigration of other ethnic cultures down south are in turn changing the culture, house prices, attitudes, voting habits and aspirations of desired/ increasingly fashionable areas they flock into, which I find slightly ironic :o)
How do we as natives here escape from them? :o)
We will soon all be living in Iceland or Greenland at this rate. Of course these places will just have to get used to speaking in English and serving up proper British grub. None of that festering rancid shark nonsense thank you in white race only New Albion.
http://www.ukcities.co.uk/populations/


A bit like this video really. A complicated picture. Nice video but cats and birds in the same vicinity do not mix well. I have six cats visiting my garden on and off and although I like to see them for their effortless grace and beauty they do contribute to the massive decline in bird life UK wide. They are  efficient little hunters and I've found various bits and pieces of assorted wildlife scattered around. Between the sparrow hawk and the cats my local population of wild birds is really just a handy smorgasbord for predators to enjoy. House cats used to serve an important purpose controlling vermin in towns, villages and cities but birds get hammered as well with the result that gardens as a vital nature reserve are not as productive as they could be for sustaining and helping garden birds thrive.
Just thought I'd put both sides across.