Sunday, 24 August 2014

Glasgow City Bike Ride. The Nature of Obsession.

Forth and Clyde Canal near Maryhill. The single remaining Hi Rise flat here was one of three and they were used as the fictional location for Jack and Victors flat in Still Game which is why there were numerous shots along the canal and overhead views of the nearby Maryhill Basins.
For years I've been asking Alex during hot spells in summer if he fancied a town or country bike ride sometime instead of always hill-walking every weekend as this is a way of generating your own breeze, on a day when there is none available, and they are usually free of summer flies, midges, clegs, ticks, etc. but he's just not that interested in cycling for its own sake although, ironically, he's far keener than I am to watch any televised bike races, Tour de France etc. from the comfort of an armchair. I prefer experiencing the real thing and get bored watching other cyclists on television after a short while. I've never watched more than two stages of the Tour de France though I always sit down with good intentions. They usually just inspire me to get out on my own bike instead, albeit at a lesser level. Alex, from my own painful observations, only uses his bike as a convenient way to reach remote mountains to satisfy his need to bag hills on a list and rarely cycles for pleasure as a separate pursuit in its own right. This is not a criticism, merely an observation, as everyone is different but it got me thinking in this post about the nature of obsession. Everyone is obsessive to some degree as it's a fundamental part of human nature. It's what makes us tick and function and I recognise that trait is within me as well to a strong level in other ways. More so when I was younger and didn't fully understand the forces involved.
                                             Canal boat Near Ruchill/ Firhill Basin
I finally got him out on a bike when he was particularly bored and I suggested a run near my house, from Anniesland to the city centre along the Forth and Clyde canal. A favourite of mine but new to him. This is mainly flat and easy but with the potential for great variety and interest throughout. A canal barge and new housing photographed here near Ruchill.
Alex seemed impressed by this route and was surprised how green and rural it was despite running through the heart of north Glasgow. Another interest was not knowing where he was some of the time as he emerged from long leafy green sections to appear above a road or set of buildings then gradually try to work out where this was. Getting lost, if only temporarily, in a familiar city is always good fun.
 One of the things I love about cities is that they are constantly changing and have the ability to surprise you. This is a recent mural that has appeared on a gable end of a building in Maryhill. It is obviously carried out with consent as it's a professional job and covers a large area of a tenement near the canal. Glasgow, at the moment, seems to have embraced murals as they are appearing all over the place within the city. Cheaper than a sculpture (and of no interest to metal thieves) they can have a big effect if well done. This link below has images of the other Maryhill Murals we missed.

The pillars of an old bridge over the River Kelvin and the Wyndford Flats in the distance. The Kelvin Walkway is another green corridor that is available for walkers and cyclists to use, running between Bearsden and the city centre.
Partick Thistle Football Stadium. Firhill canal basin and timber pond is close by from the days when it was a vibrant working canal and Alex enjoyed this section as it was also green and rural with plenty of past history. New information boards about the various areas we cycled through have suddenly sprung up all along the canal since the previous time I cycled here last year, which may be due to the Commonwealth Games 2014 effect.I've noticed on my travels around Glasgow that fountains that have not worked for decades are suddenly up and running again spouting water, historic park gates dulled with time and neglect are freshly painted and new services, like a free Govan ferry have been introduced.( summer until 21st September only) Whether this will continue after the Commonwealth Games end is anyone's guess. There is also a new fitness track, monkey bars, and trim trail at Port Dundas, an area of the canal bank I never used to associate with healthy activities,  unless walking your pit bull counts :o)
Alex, observant tech geek that he is, noticed that little squares were attached to all these new attractions that can be used by smart phones for additional information so no doubt some enterprising young person is filming pull ups here and posting the video online as I type.
Park Circus Towers from Port Dundas.
From here the canal runs into a dead end so we cycled down through the back streets of the city centre to Rottenrow Gardens where we had lunch. These have been created in the space formally occupied by Rottenrow Maternity Hospital, where many Glaswegians, myself included, first saw the light of day. 

This area is surrounded by the buildings of Strathclyde University and I've been here before but it wasn't to Alex's taste. He was bored... I was in my element. Usual story with our conflicting interests.
I was inspired by this view. He didn't think much of it. Although I enjoy hill-walking, on several past occasions, usually during an ascent of an unrelenting grassy mound of a hill that seems to go on forever with dull regularity into the distance, our situations are reversed. I.m bored and unhappy to even be there yet he is enjoying it as there is a trig point to claim at the end of it and he obviously likes the wide open, empty spaces, aspect. I do as well but from my point of view if there is nothing remotely interesting to photograph or look at on certain hills  I usually switch off inside. I'm being honest. Variety and photography on a day out are two of my obsessions nowadays. Physical  exercise is the only real plus point for me on this type of  hill. An endurance to plod up zombie like until it ends. After 40 years of plodding up slopes I enjoy ascending hills of character these days. It makes no difference if I've climbed them before as long as they are interesting. Life's too short for wasted days without variety. The steeper and more rugged the better yet I have a limited head for heights. I like frightening myself. It makes the old heart beat faster.
Everyone is different. How often in real life, books or films does the phrase "you don't understand me" crop up"?
New buildings and murals are springing up all around this area from Cathedral Street to the Gorbals as part of the massive Collegelands project.
Managed to actually photograph a mural getting painted in this one. Unless they are window cleaners.
An ornate old tenement on the edge of Collegelands. Hope they keep this building.
Not cycled past the Tennent's lager brewery for years but even here murals are everywhere.
Alex suggested heading uphill to visit the Necropolis so we did.
Glasgow Cathedral and the David Livingstone statue.  An iconic figure who grew up on the banks of the River Clyde and in later life was driven by his own obsessions to explore Africa and find the source of another great river, The Nile, far from his homeland. An obsession that eventually killed him before he succeeded. Famous quote after criticism and dissent in the ranks moving up river in a small boat.
 " I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward."                    I love that line.  Unsurprisingly, his companions didn't see the funny side.

Any necropolis or major graveyard in any city has its share of monuments to people driven by one obsession or another. Many of civilizations greatest leaders, dictators, madmen, artists, poets, writers or thinkers had a vision that they followed relentlessly, often throughout their adult life's to its inevitable end. One side of that coin can lead to terrible extremes in rare cases ....Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Jack the Ripper, yet its the exact same coin that produces more benign results usually... someone that dedicates their life to finding a cure for a disease, or to end repression, or to make a stand that lifts them above the norm. The same impulse that moves someone to spend decades in a foreign country for little reward providing an essential aid service is only a more understandable and productive version of the same force that makes an individual spend every free minute planning hill routes then climbing mountains... or buying far more goods on E-Bay than they will ever use until every room and cupboard is full... or being obsessed with another person in rare cases to the point of being a danger to the object of that affection.

Most obsessions are harmless but they usually evolve somewhere in childhood. Many folk never understand the root cause of their own obsession but it can dominate their thinking and alter or inspire their judgement, to good or ill effect.

For once both Alex and I were happy wandering around here as he found things that interested him and I did also. Here too crypts had been given a new coat of paint and selected statues returned to pristine white condition.
It's the best I've seen it looking in a long time. A popular tourist attraction now after several decades of neglect in the past. Views from here are extensive over most of the city.
I particularly like this one. No name or any other information given on the gravestone except this poignant carving and two words. A mystery.
After a hunt on the internet I found this. Mystery no more.

On the way back we cycled from the city centre along the River Clyde past Glasgow Harbour. This is Andy Scott's Rise Sculpture on the cycle-track. Although the much larger "Kelpies" are getting most of the attention these days I still prefer his smaller, more intimate works. If you stand under them for long enough they will come alive.
The Riverside Museum came next and here too signs of the Commonwealth Games effect were observed in the form of a large tennis court sized sand pit for young children to play in. A great idea and a variation on the "city beach" approach which is currently popular in major urban areas around the world. Unmanned hire bike racks are also available now along the cycle track in the city centre which is a smashing concept but both these new additions could be subject to abuse so may be just a temporary summer attraction or a test to see if folk can behave themselves. Credit cards seem to be required to hire the bikes. £ 10 pounds a day/ 24 hours. Smart phone friendly here too by the looks of it. I hope they are a permanent addition.
                                             Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship. Glenlee.

Although Alex enjoyed this bike ride more than the last one a couple of summers ago I'm not holding my breath that this will be a regular occurrence as collecting hills will always be his main preference.
As obsessions go it could be far worse :o)

The video this week is very apt. Like everyone else I've sat through big budget blockbusters in the past and been less than impressed when special effects are used in place of a decent original storyline. Having both together is great but it doesn't always happen.
Darren Aronofsky's 1998 film was shot in black and white on a restricted budget yet I was riveted from start to finish. The tale of a talented but highly obsessive young mathematician who turns his apartment into a supercomputer to predict the patterns and fluctuations in the stock market. It's not a film that everyone will like but its full of unusual ideas, great invention and compelling acting throughout. The musical score is brilliant. I have little interest in math so anyone that can make that discipline seem exiting in any way gets my vote. It never seemed exciting in school and was my least favourite subject. Maybe if I'd seen this film then I might have tried harder... but I doubt it.

As a still wavering undecided voter in the looming election, pissed off by the fact that not many relevant facts are forthcoming as to how the next few years will affect the ordinary householder given a yes vote. ( If I was richer and had young children I'd defiantly vote for an independent Scotland without a second thought as I could then ride out any inevitable bumps along the way but those on the bottom rungs always suffer the most during any upheaval. i.e... look at the example of the Scottish parliament building which went well over budget, partly due to our own elected Scottish politicians constantly changing their minds about what the interiors and fittings should look like, the Edinburgh trams fiasco, and a Glasgow (turning) Tower that is an embarrassing joke and should be included in Glasgow's coat of arms.(the tower that would not turn)
We handed over a perfectly good rotating tower to Rhyl in Wales after the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988 ( Although intended for new housing this site lay derelict for years afterwards due to yet another downturn in the economy) then decided years later we should have one ourselves on the same spot which has never worked properly since its arrival. The 240 foot Skytower in Rhyl has been an attraction down there for years although its now shut and its future is in doubt, awaiting £400,000 repairs due to weather damage and age as it's situated on the coast subject to storms and salt erosion. No doubt the transition to an independent Scotland, if it happens, will throw up similar unexpected costs and surprises, as Westminster, judging by its negative campaign portraying Scots as a nation that cant even be trusted to handle its own resources, will probably go in the huff and do everything to  try to make it fail in the early days ( Hopefully we have learned lessons from the Darian Project) although I do believe we should have the right to control our own country and get who we vote for as a nation. I'm not a particular fan of Alex Salmond but at least he is a clever and able politician and seems to be capable of making shrewd decisions then carrying them through.
Although I believe it will be good for Scotland in the long run and that we should control our own destiny( nothing to do with not liking England or the good folk of London) my main selfish concern is how it will impact on me personally over the next five years financially as no one really knows what's going to happen during that time period. I'm sure that standing upright unsupported after so long on a drip feed will be painful but I've decided I might be willing to take that chance.
An interesting article here from an American, now living in Scotland. She makes good points. I am now possibly, maybe, voting yes and hoping the transition, if it occurs, is not a hard affair. I cant see my own situation improving dramatically if a yes vote is forthcoming but maybe the next generation of young Scots can look forward to a brighter future than they have at present where the main growth industries seem to be educating students, most of whom will work elsewhere, care homes (low paid, long hours jobs) call centres, and zero hours contracts. According to the latest polls  however, the better together campaign are still ahead so many folk must be content with another 5 or more years of austerity cuts.


Kay G. said...

Those murals are amazing. That one of the black panther, I guess that is what it is, that one make me say "wow!"
In the graveyard, "Beloved Mother"...I wonder at the story behind that one too.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Yes, the black panther is a weird one, though impressive, as The murals usually depict some subject relevant to the local area. I'll need to have a look online.
Same with the children although the headstone suggests they would be looked after by whoever paid for it. Funny how it was nameless though.

blueskyscotland said...

I've now added two new links which explains the "beloved mother" gravestone and the murals in Maryhill.
Seek and ye shall find.

The Glebe Blog said...

I agree with Kay Bob, fantastic murals.
We learned a lot about Livingstone and all the eminent Scottish explorers at school.
I accompanied my dad on a short visit to the Glasgow necropolis as a fourteen year old, I must be due another visit now, what a fascinating place. Agnes Strang, as you say so poignant, the mason's poured his whole heart into the carving.
Great post sir.

Carol said...

I'm afraid I'm definitely like Alex in the hill-bagging respect - until I've finished my current list and then I'm hoping I'll swap to just doing interesting hills and long glen walks. But I thought I would after I compleated the Munros and found I didn't! Richard's hoping I settle down to something more normal too - he doesn't come on my bagging missions any more...

"I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward."

That's a superb saying from Livingstone - didn't know he'd said that but I love it.

That looks a truly great cycle ride - easy and full of interest - wish I'd been on it...

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim.
I read an article about Mungo Park recently, another Scottish African explorer who tried to find the source of the mighty Niger River but was stranded on rocks in mid-river and harassed by spear throwing locals
angry at this intrusion into their territory. The unlucky party had to abandon their boat and swim for it in the rapids but drowned even before the crocodiles or natives got to them.
Nae Luck on that occasion.

I've added a new closing segment to this post and a link, which you may or may not agree with :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Having read your entries on your blog I can easily understand Richard's reluctance to share your obsession for tops. I bet he thought all his efforts were over when the Munros were bagged :o)If anything tops seem harder. Given you are a list ticker like Alex,(who even has tables and charts of hills on his phone)I bet you go for Corbetts next as The Scottish Highland Economy will be lost without your contribution. I used to be as obsessed as anyone.

(To those who do not know it yet part of my book is all about collecting selected humans(in a good way of course) and has a nod towards multiple personality disorders though most folk will not pick that side of things up)
Sadly, unlike a normal tidy and labelled collection, gathered people, by their contrary nature, do not stay put on the shelf you place them on for long and find their own spot where they feel comfortable. They will always surprise you in that respect and are a pest to find and round up again. Far more awkward than hills, which at least don't move around :o)
The cycle ride was all about enjoyment, slow moving variety round every corner and relaxation. You would hate it :o)

Carol said...

I'd have been fine with the leisurely cycle ride and the constant stopping as I'm a really lousy cyclist! ;-)

I'm finding the Munro Tops are MUCH harder than the main peaks were - in distance, effort and many are much more technical (I still have those to come :-o )