Saturday, 11 February 2012
Tower Hill.Gourock.Firth Of Clyde.
One.Folk shout a lot when they have a dog or dogs.If you want to raise your voice in public a lot and get away with it then a dog will do the trick ,preferably one that does not pay any attention to you when its off the lead.After a week I got to know them all by name...the dogs that is....but the owners seemed to take great exception when you give them a hand ,shouting out at the dogs as well. Hey! Get your own hound if you want to shout like me! the usual dark look imparted in my direction seemed to suggest..
By day ten I was well bored and dotted with muddy paw marks (I was a pounced upon new best friend by this stage) but kept at it determined to get the mobility back into my body
Two.I,ve discovered I,m not one of these people that can go to the same place every day and still enjoy it.A time share apartment in one town,no matter how nice would have me pining for fresh views after a while.
Incidentally,Henry "Birdie" Bowers (one of Captain Scott's Ill fated Antarctic Expedition team) was a Scot growing up in Greenock and Bute.I remember reading an article that he did used to swim in the sea here in all seasons of the year......even over to Helensburgh and back.In the depths of winter.They were bloody tough then though. Mind you I had a German freind who did the same thing in Loch lomond A few years back.Both ways,also in winter and not at the narrow part either.I prefer a boat myself.
My objective was slightly less adventurous alas but I was still doubtful of full completion.If I didn,t make it to the top I could always cut it short without a problem getting back,one of the reasons I,d picked here.
Tower hill is the far away green area behind the white Hi Rise in the first picture above.I don,t throw these photos in just for the hell of it you know:) Oh No. Every picture tells a story as Rod Stewart use to say.
Anyway, from the car park, walk up to the main road and turn right in the direction of the Western ferries (red in colour) slipway.You soon pass a row of tenements on the right.On the other side of the road here,watch out for a steep narrow path leading straight up between the buildings.This takes you past gardens,some of which need a ladder and rope to maintain them which brings you out onto a higher street.Already the settings are stunning,the Firth of Clyde opening up with views across to the mountains,more often than not at this time of year,early February,covered in snow.
I was delighted to see this,just struck it lucky with the timing I guess.As If on cue the sun came out and the air temperature increased a couple of degrees to just above freezing.
Once on this upper but level road a broad street lies straight in front of you, also level,heading inland.follow this til you come shortly to the big blue sign for Tower hill on the right.Follow this spiral path through park like surroundings up and up til you reach the top.This is a fantastic viewpoint.A small tower on the summit gives the hill its name.(If you want to find The GKS then turn left on this initial first street past the bowling club and the church spire til you see the sign)
Just a few days after seeing this sail by I watched a recent TV programme "The cost of going green" which made some very interesting points.Seems its yet another way for the rich of this country to make even more money at the expense of people who have less ( What,s new about that then I hear you ask.) Lucky Landowners and householders who can afford to splash out £15,000 to £20 thousand pounds to get solar panels installed on their roofs or wind turbines erected on their land not only get cheap power and subsidies for the next 20 odd years but we (the average taxpayer) then have to pay them money every time they generate too much that the grid cannot use because its at full capacity.
Some of the time they don,t turn at all.... then when they******** do******** turn and its too much the rest of us ******** pay them! You couldn't make It up! The future of Scotland.Clearly as usual its only a recession for some. But Hey we are all born equal and its a level playing field and all that other guff we used to get taught at school.
I remember as a street postman during the Thatcher era delivering big share envelopes to large houses during the great sell off with the names of household cats and dogs on them,even a budgie once.If you had money to invest in shares then it was also a golden time to print your fortune while a large chunk of Scotland,s infrastructure crumbled around you.
Obviously happy days are back again.( I don,t normally have a rant on here but some things deserve real ******** anger) Maybe limping for miles over hills makes me less easy going.
Where was I ? Ah yes. Gourock and indeed Greenock can be surprisingly leafy,peaceful and tranquil places.From Tower Hill I limped down past a couple of streets lined with 1960,s style tenements to reach the top end of Gourock Park.This is not large but wonderful as it used to be the grounds of a large posh mansion, Gourock House,.Before that stood the imposing Gourock Castle in the 1700,s.both long since demolished. Some of the lesser features from that time can still be found however hiding in the woods nearby.From the flat red pitches of sport and tennis courts the park descends gently through ornamental shrubs and monkey puzzle trees.A damp lush glen on the left is a tumbling delight.At the bottom it levels out again to a back wall lined with small bird and animal enclosures.
A while ago,eyeing the noisy squawking parrots I asked a guy whose job it was to clean these out."Do you have any problems with the inhabitants then? Is it messy when you finish.? "
"I always get space on the bus" He replied dryly. I noticed then that several of his fingers and one ear had plasters on them. Nothing,s ever the easy stress free job you think it is.
All I know is that I like the three towns..Love them even. As I knew a few folk I used to come here as a teenager at weekends,escaping from the always in your face encounters of Glasgow.Before the age of computer games and multi media information overload, vivid and esoteric shocks to the senses were simple and few and far between. For that reason bold new ideas,sounds and images meant a lot more then. I was a huge fan of the Velvet Underground.A new york experimental band powered by a raging wall of sound and Lou reed,s dark poetic lyrics of lurid street life in Central Park and Manhattan and John Cale,s Avant Garde musical Innovation. Even today no band has matched that combination of insightful intelligent writing and ferocious driving power. Now generally acknowledged as the second most influential band in rock music history after the Beatles according to the music press. Whatever .At that time though the only people I knew that liked them all lived in Greenock Compared to what was going on in the schemes of Glasgow it seemed a preferable, suitably exotic location to capture a young boys imagination. Hi Linda and Susan.
I had just engaged on a five year apprenticeship however and could not fly off to New York ,as I didn,t have the necessary green stuff to obtain a ticket.I was on the then princely sum of £8 pounds a week. Besides...that would be to follow someone else,s dreams and experiences of growing up..and that's always going to be a disappointment.I,d be a fish out of water.Lost and Jobless wandering down the Avenue of the Americas or living rough in the South Bronx.
Anyway it was a lucky choice and I had many happy times and adventures in these vertical canyons when exploring new areas,climbing everything in sight and jumping between buildings was just called having a laugh instead of "Parkour".With my bold and gymnastic sweet sisters I explored this new and thrilling kingdom.More Importantly,when I was with them I didn,t get my head kicked in by rival gangs :)
.Whatever, I was hooked and more importantly it removed me from South Glasgow at a difficult time when teenagers get most peer pressure heaped upon them and decisions are made that can change the rest of your life.
For an insight into this world I can recommend Peter Mullan,s excellent recent film Neds,an accurate and fairly graphic account of growing up in one of the large Glasgow estates in the 1970,s.In this case Pollok,the largest and oldest of the big four city schemes with an original population of 50,000 souls living on top of each other in cottage type houses and three and four story tenements that looked in some cases as though they had been built by the Romans on an off day.(Most have now gone which is why it was shot elsewhere)
Instead of paint or tiles some of these entrance closes had plain, unadorned bare brick walls At night it was pitch black going up them apart from a few dim bulbs placed far apart and,most of these had been removed.It was like entering caves.An unnerving experience even if you knew the area and the tribe that may be lurking within.
.No expense spared.I remember just entering these closes as a young apprentice at night made a big impression on me,like my first sight of family homes within with no real furniture or carpets.Just pallets or a battered sofa to sit on ,a couple of tea chests for tables ,beds, one small electric fire, light bulbs in only three rooms and bare boards ten years after they moved in.And folk today think they have it hard.That was fairly normal back then.( I,ve been in houses like this recently come to think of it .)
Peter Mullan also directed the equally intense but heartfelt The Magdalene Sisters in 2002.
There,s been many films and plays set in Greenock as well over the years. My favourite film set in Greenock however is the wonderful,quirky and gentle Dear Frankie starring Emily Mortimer and Jack Mc Elhone.Its a delightful mum and young son story that deserves far greater acclaim.In my opinion its right up there with Gregory,s girl and Local Hero for its charm and use of its backdrop location and streets ahead of the overrated and dull in places The Full Monty.
Greenock Cemetery Is worth a visit if In the area.You can park in the street by the entrance then walk up into an unexpected land of riches.More Monkey puzzle trees grow here than anywhere else I,ve visited in Scotland.A range of interesting and rewarding paths lead up through yet another of the areas wooded hillsides, a cornucopia of historical tombs ,family crypts and headstones catching the eye in all directions.
Greenock was once a very wealthy area,with its shipbuilding ,Tate and Lyle sugar refineries and busy port.You can see that by the number of large Gothic mansions that still line the streets to this day.
James Watt,a local man whose inspired modification of the then puny steam engine into a thing of reliable power and efficiency kick started the Industrial Revolution which went on to sweep the world... and Robert Burns Highland Mary (Mary Campbell) A girl from Dunoon he might have spent his life with had she lived.They both rest here a short distance from each other ,the king and queen of this oldest and prettiest part of the cemetery.It covers a surprisingly large area and has good views.