Thursday 22 March 2012

Doors Open Day.Churches,Tunnels and Mad Actresses.

This was meant to go with the other two Glasgow posts but I got distracted by other topics.I also had so many pictures I wanted to post I gave up several times trying to narrow it down to just twelve.
Doors open day was on Sat and Sun last September.Various events are on and buildings that you normally don't get to see are open to the public once a year for a day.
I set off from my house to be bang on time for  the start.I had a big list of buildings I wanted to see Inside between 10am and 4pm. First up were the three churches around St Vincent street.St Columba Gaelic Church of Scotland,The St Vincent Street Free Church and up on Bath Street Renfield St Stephen,s Parish Church. This is inside the Free Church with Alexander Thomson,s typical shells and sea frond details.Not showy but  very powerful."You are King Neptune" it declares".Go out there and kick me some ass boy."
If you had to stand in front of this backdrop every Sunday you,d think the sermon  given would have to be a roaring affair indeed .Its the  Iconic film set of its day. That was certainly Thomson's intention as he was a religious man and  no doubt liked to see habitual sinners squirm under the blow torch of a good preachers ire and hatred towards  the evil  lurking in our midst.All three of these churches visited are worth a look,each has a different style, and  they have a statement effect on entry even for a dark soul like mine to feel but No room for more pictures alas.
Just round the corner(and completely by accident) from the church I bumped into Halle Berry, or someone very like her, on the set of Cloud Atlas,a  complicated sounding film adapted from a best selling book about six interlinked stories set in different time zones all over the world. No doubt crafty film veterans Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant cherry picked the best locations leaving poor Halle with Douglas Street  in Glasgow on an overcast weekend.(Climb that starry ladder girl! Close your eyes, hug your hot water bottle, and yes, you just might be in San Francisco bay....well..... in the winter fog.) Although it was fairly warm and I was just wandering around in a tee shirt she was dressed in a bulky thermal jacket ,hugging a hot water bottle for extra heat so I popped across to say hello.

I already know most film work consists of long hours of setting up a day's shoot to capture a five minute scene in a movie. And that,s on a good day.She got a bit of lighthearted banter from our media for being so wrapped up in what for us were two lovely hot days but she,s a typical golden coast girl used to 80 degrees and a few lengths of her pool before breakfast. Also the actors are the cream on the cake or the bride and groom.They sit about a lot...waiting, and are usually the last to show up once everything else is ready underneath and they have a platform to stand on.
Most of the real unsung talent in films are the dedicated people who do the behind the scenes graft, like the directors who work 16 hour plus days for months on end, the set designers, the lighting engineers,artists ,equipment handlers and security guards who all get the cake ready for the stars to stand on.
Certain people sparkle onscreen.They just do. It's not really something you can learn.Certain folk just have it from an early age like having  a head for numbers.If they go to film land and stand in endless lines of humiliation, rejection, contempt and temptation to take the express route to where they want to go they might eventually get to stand in front of a camera.Sometimes it's more of a shock to them than it is to us and they can,t handle it and go off the rails.A million dollars hanging on one five minute scene brings its own pressures I suppose. We like to watch  people that can,t hide their feelings. Most of us wear several masks through life and have learned from an early age to control or smother any giveaway expressions and  true feelings. Film stars are the opposite.They burst open with emotion, vulnerability and expression, perhaps from a childhood background fostering a desire to be liked and loved at all costs.We all have a  particular cross to bear in life.No photos therefore of a woman tenderly breastfeeding a hot water bottle.No...I didn't have the heart to take a photo then or to tell her that she was not in San Fransisco.....or that a stranger had just crashed her large American car, albeit very slowly, into another one nearby while we watched.
The star appeal was working as I just wanted to take her home......... .care for her and make sure she was happy and fulfilled in life. Besides... I'd just lost my mummy and wanted a new one to feed me my meals.
Unfortunately the hard working security guards discovered me at that point and escorted me back over the perimeter fence set up to stop entry. Damn these skillful feet and paws, but good to know that the old parkour talents are still available if required.

This is the Tiger Mural on the Clydeside. Hope they keep this when they renovate the rest of the walkway. I passed this heading for St Andrew,s Cathedral on Clyde Street.
Another one I like is the Swimmer mural under the Kingston bridge.
Though if you swam in the Clyde here the next  triple story board might have a hospital, a stomach pump and a large vomit bucket underneath it as the water is not exactly of drinking quality.
Two weeks earlier,in the fairyland  make believe of Philadelhpia (Actually George Square) I,d spotted Brad Pitt and his Zombies filming World War Z.Brad,as Hollywood royalty, had a proper working trailer though, no hot water bottle in an unheated car for him. Hope the films good. Mind you every Friday/Saturday night in Glasgow you join the cast of the walking wounded and dead for a few blocks so that's nothing new. Famous for its deep fried Mars Bars, Mental Nutters and Urban zombies of its own so it is.
The famous bridge underneath Central Station on Argyll Street.Also known as the Hielanman,s Umbrella due to it being a common meeting place years ago for  uprooted Gaelic speakers just off the train from the slowly emptying Scottish highlands and Islands.Being in a  large,strange and to them foreign speaking city going here on a Saturday and maybe meeting some of your own folk was a weekly ritual.It only died out when the influx of people looking for work stopped and Introduced  highlanders gradually grew content with their new surroundings.
My next stop on the journey to see as many places as possible in one day was to visit The Arches,A place I,d heard about but never been in as it tends to run clubs and arts venues I consider I,m too old for like techno,dub,retro nights and what they would simply call in the old days "hip experiences".It sits right under the Central Station Bridge.
The reason for the Arches originally was as a weight bearing buttress to help spread not only the load of Central Station  and its massive steam  trains above but also this monolith....The Grand Central hotel.
One of the Jewels in old Glasgow,s Crown.In its heyday it was The place to stay when stars were in Glasgow.Its stuffed with history.Roy Rodger,s horse once slept in a straw covered bridal suite here as it was the only room deemed big enough for his trusty breadwinner.Frank Sinatra threw parties,Heads of state and rock groups practiced waving out windows and everyone who was anyone booked in here.The Edinburgh equivalent of this is the North British Hotel above Waverley Station.The Grand Central is  now getting a multi million pound restoration inside to polish up its treasures to suit modern tastes.
Down in the bowels of the arches however its impossible to ignore the thought of this colossus rising so high above you.
The first stop past the entrance hallway is the Upper and lower restaurant bar.This was where the tour started.

You could easily fit thousands of folk down here in these tunnels without a squeeze.This is a woman building a sweat lodge for a performance that evening.Note the distinctive lights above yet another bar which are a real feature of The Arches.
They also ran Alien Wars Down Here which would be pretty creepy stuff. Small cinemas and halls complete the picture.It was the highlight of the trip this bit.
Next up was the Clyde Port Authority Building on Clydeside.This has superb sculptures all over it  with Britannia,Mother Empire,Father Neptune and a cast of dozens of lesser worthies adorning its heights.
Inside it was just as interesting.with stained glass portholes,Squares and dark marble throughout.This was where the sailing ships received instructions from and the rules of the river maintained..
I also manged to visit the  old fish market where years ago salt from fish boxes piled up did indeed make it Saltmarket Street in look,smell and white pavement splendour.Then I visited the Britainnia Panopticon Music hall in The Trongate which I was unaware of despite living in the city since birth......... then four more.The Trades hall in Glassford Street, The Royal Faculty of Procurators  in Nelson Mandela Place,The  Tobacco Merchants house in Miller Street and Sloans Bar/Restaurant with its period details and grand ballroom.                   .
Eventually on the stroke of 4 pm a very weary and footsore me got the bus back home.
As full on as any hill day.

Film School.
Finally a word must be said about the sheer number of Actors/actresses filming in Glasgow and surroundings this past year.I could hardly go out the front door without tripping over one.That young upstart Scarlett Johansson was the worst culprit.
You see I like to get up  very early in the morning and go running through Kelvingrove park and the Botanic Gardens. She, when she was over here,did also.Who,d a thought that then? Go Figure. I was forever bumping into her down there with her personal trainer.Got on my nerves after a while.
Also she and the Brad/ Angelina extended family and entourage must have ordered deep fried Mars Bars every night  from chip shops in the west end as they think that,s what Glasgow Punters eat every day.That,s 200+ bars away right there.
Speak it softly so the American,s and others don't hear but I,m the only Glasgow man I know that has a hankering for a triple deep fried mars bar supper for my tea most nights as it's not a popular item. As a result of them hovering up my small  supply of deep fried treats  however I was left without and had to settle for deep fried Jamaican ginger and syrup muffins instead.Bloody disgraceful.  Made a hell of a mess of the pan.

Also she kept turning up in the most outlandish places. Naturally,I just happened to be there as well..For instance- a petrol Station in Newmains Wishaw, A Debenham,s store in Port Glasgow and even outside Celtic Park one day.She was certainly taking in the best high quality scenery that Scotland had to offer.A bit like Britney Spears falling in love with the Coatbridge superbowl and multi screen cinema when she was here.Low maintenance movie stars.God bless em.
Under the Skin is about an alien roaming around Scotland harvesting body parts from hitch hikers and random strangers.Its by the same Dutch writer,living on the Black isle that penned The Crimson Petal and the White,a recent TV production.
When I bumped into her in Glencoe, or someone very like her, still hurting over missed melted Mars bars and the lingering taste of ginger in my mouth it was the last straw.It looked as if she was harvesting animal pelts as well as human parts..She had fur lined boots and a mega furry jacket on and looked as if she was just about to say something when I walked across her set to get to my hill of choice on the A 82 just short of that village.She,d closed the entire road as well. Bloody cheek of it!
I got in first.
"Sexual predator my arse! "I told her."You look like a cut price doughnut standing there with that dead yak on your shoulders..And I hope those are not Scottish beaver furs covering your own.Those poor wee animals have just been re-introduced recently,they,re not here  to cover your pampered pelt.
By the way, get rid of the black hair for the next film as its doing nothing for your star appeal.You look like a tired old drag queen in that get up."
Several police officers  got involved at this point but I soon showed them a clean pair of heels over rough ground.The old legs have still got it up the mountains over a distance.I swear to God she,s actually stalking me.She,s a worry.
Anyway, what with Emma T and sweet Dakota going period in Perth with "Effie"...The new school drama "Waterloo Road" series relocating from Rochdale to the former Greenock Academy....Timothy Spall filming in High Blantyre... well .....its all  been happening.
Mind you I,ll be glad when they all  bugger off and get back in the screens again where they belong. Except for Emma  of course,bless her, as she,s  clearly doon the watter sometimes.
Anyway, seems getting the right streets in a city location then getting someone else willing to shut them  all to traffic over several days is not that easy which is why the films were shot here.In the past decade Film and TV work in Scotland has brought in an estimated £150 million to the economy.This last year alone these three films have brought in more than 5 million between them and should raise the profile of Scotland as a result.
We may yet see tourist pilgrimages  to visit Wishaw High Street. People......I have a dream....

Monday 19 March 2012

Geal Charn Mor and The Burma Road.

Day two of our weekend up at Milehouse cottage saw all groups getting ready to do battle with the peaks again.We have a small but growing Polish contingent in our club which adds an extra  conversational dimension culture and interest wise.
They were all off  on a mass ascent to climb Sgor Gaoith from  the wonderful Glen Feshie and struck it lucky with the weather.
Others in our club climbed Geal Charn the Munro in the Monadliath while Alex and Myself Picked  nearby Geal Charn Mor,a Corbett not far from Aviemore and  directly facing the Cairngorm Plateau.
I,d never heard of the Scottish Burma Road before this hill but it ran straight,steep and mighty from the valley floor to the heights above taking us up 2000 feet fairly quickly.Even the view from the bottom was stunning.
Looking across the valley at the Giants of the Cairngorms rising into the clouds,still wrapped in winter snows..By comparison we had our usual sunny day.It felt like spring in the heat and the Burma road seemed well named.
A couple of keen cyclists were a stones throw ahead of us.This is a tough road  to walk up as it is so unrelenting but on a bike it must be very hard indeed.Although we were going at an easy stroll they did not pull away from us,legs going round in lowest gears like the clappers for each foot of height gained.On this occasion walking looked far easier.
They stuck at it though and were rewarded by easier ground eventually.It must be a big tick on a bike if you can reach the brow of this road pass without getting off.
It was a well made road  and did the job for us.At the top of the pass it was a straightforward plod to the summit.An unremarkable mound it has to be said.At this point Alex mentioned as motivation It was down in the guide book as a summit with good views.
I wasn,t fooled by this though.If there is nothing remotely interesting about a summit, guidebooks always say it has good views. Oh yes I know all the ploys.
Happily Alex has only 40 Corbett,s left  to do now so the end is in sight for both of us.Him to complete his to dig a giant  deep suntrap in the garden as celebration with thermal heat retaining bricks and a glass roof  keep the rain away forever. Toasty!
It was seeing Ratho Quarry covered over that  first gave me the idea.Instead of energy sapping bouldering and climbing overhangs though I,d have mud baths, palm trees,fester chambers, flower filled basking bays,slumber sofas , daily pampering and oiling sessions and handy tips on perfecting good yet easy blubber maintenance.Food ,sweets and drink mega waist harnesses  would be clipped on at entry to save on  tiresome walks to the bar and kitchen  and I,d maybe  have a few naughty girls on the payroll too for those duller days.Now that,s something to get inspired about!
What would I call such a paradise on earth? Why" the tropical beach underground "of course.
We met a couple of big bouncy Siberian huskies running around  up here along with their owners.All that was missing  to be in  the far north was a glimpse of the herd of wild reindeer grazing across the valley,Santa , the cold and the snow.
I didn,t miss the last three though,more than happy with my heat and blue skies again.
Lower down we passed  some kind of large religious building and grounds.A modern one with newly built assault course,zip wire slides,jumps and zig zag runs.They seemed to have plenty of money and ambition. Might be wrong but it looked a  tad cultish to me as if they were all preparing for the rapture by getting really fit.I had a quick look to see what it was on the internet but nothing showed up.Wish I,d taken a picture of the name on the gate now to remind me what it was called.
Just get those students running up and down the Burma road before every meal.That,ll get them fit and save  shed loads of wood ,bridges, hoops and tyre swings.
While we marched in sunshine most of the 4000 footer Caringorm peaks hung on to the cloud til  the afternoon.By two o'clock though It  had burned off into a fine day up there too.
Even the drive back was a joy with sweeping roads catching the sun and reminding me,at least, of American highways.
Stirling Castle seen from the North.

Monday 5 March 2012

Creag Bheag And Loch Gynach.Kingussie.

The not so little Cliffs of Creag Bheag.
After ten long weeks away from the mountains I was finally fit enough leg wise to get back into hillwalking again.Our club had booked a climbing hut near Kincraig under the 4000 foot wall of the Caringorm Plateau( This reaches 1309 metres in height on Ben Macdui ,the second highest mountain in the British Isles after Ben Nevis at 1344 metres and is  part of the largest single area of high ground above 4000 foot anywhere in Britain.) Seven of the 10 highest summits in the nation reside here on this tundra like expanse of windswept granite domes and cliffs .I,d missed the last two trips up north but I was determined to go on this one.Alex was also keen to bag two new Corbetts in the area so we motored up on Saturday morning and two and a half hours later found ourselves in  the small Victorian  resort town of Kingussie.This has some nice period main street buildings and some unusual modern style domestic housing with large porthole windows which always catch the eye. There is a necklace of small towns just off the main A 9 hereabouts but this one has the best portholes.Newtonmore and Aviemore Lie either side of Kingussie, each a few miles away.
Reminds me of hobbits.But maybe that,s just me.
We,d both seen the forecast before setting off. Dull raw morning.Snow and hail flurries.Minus 1 to 3 on the summits coupled with a 40 to 50 miles an hour wind from the north west.A chance in the afternoon of a brief hole appearing in the Aviemore region ,clearing to sun and blue skies,wind dying down slightly. Tropical for the Cairngorms in early March.We arrived at half ten am and went for munchies in the local food and booze emporium in no hurry to go up the hill just yet.
Hot snack for driver Alex,Big sticky bun for me.
Even though friend Satan is always at our side these days you,ve got to give him time to do his stuff.
Inside the shop two pretty young Saturday teenagers were serving us wrapped up in  big woolly jumpers, fleece jackets and scarfs.Due to the warming effects of the Gulf stream(Actually the North Atlantic Drift here)You tend to forget  Scotland  is at the same latitude as Kodiak in Alaska,Hudson Bay in Canada and Moscow in Russia.
Although they were smiling and cheerful I felt a wee bit sorry for them.When you,re young like that you should really enjoy a childhood  filled with loads of memories of T shirts,shorts and long summer days.Poor  wee girls.
Some of my best memories come from those times.Summer is such a brief affair up here though.(Its not too great in Glasgow either come to think of it outside of our Devil,s circle of eternal heat and golden glow.)Poor wee Glasgwegian,s as well..
Anyway,thanks to Alex we parked up near the Golf course and set out for our different objectives.As I didn,t know how I would be on my first real hill after my injury I thought I,d walk solo up the rocky summit above town.Creag Bheag. At 486 metres (1594 feet) it has a good path up it,looked full of interest and I,ve since learned that Glenmore Lodge use these outcrops for rock climbing training sessions when its too grim up on the walls of the plateau cliffs.There was ample evidencee of chalk marks on them on good looking crack line routes from Diff to HVS at a guess.About 20 metres high.
Alex meanwhile could go at his own pace up his Corbett of choice nearby without me holding him back.I didn,t fancy it much anyway as,being higher, it was buried under a thick blanket of dark cloud.
The route to the top was straightforward. Bang on time at 12 o'clock the sun came out and I sat on the grass with my lemonade and another big sticky bun (this one filled with jam) admiring the views.God bless you Satan!  Old forked tail comes to the rescue once again.
Looking across at the Cairngorm plateau  however the Almighty was putting on a different kind of show here for his followers.Yang and Yin. All dark sky,thunderclouds reaching towards heaven and murky clag.It was a hell of a fire and brimstone sermon he was delivering on the heads of his trembling troops.Where were the rest of  our club I wondered to myself as I put on the sun tan lotion and lay back on my  pillow rucksack.
Why they were right under it of course.Drawn like liitle multi layered magnets towards the pull of these mighty Munros.
Later in the hut they told us of skidding across this very plateau over ice covered slopes towards the waiting  cliffs,struggling to make any progress against the howling wind.
"Tell me about it" I said.
I knew all about howling winds myself.Sunbathing on the edge of the cliffs on nearby Creag Bheag I lost the best bit of my bun to a playful gust  right over the edge when I put it down to take my fleece off.Talk about howling!
There was a nice Loch below and a trail marked on the map that went right around it.Loch Gynach.As my leg still felt not bad I decided to take this path downhill then follow the trail towards Newtonmore round the loch. It was a good decision as it was a belter of a route,suitable for walkers or mountain bikers with interesting views throughout.Not long, about 10 klms on this one circuit, but with plenty of additional add on mileage available throughout if you desired.
Some of it was single track like here, other sections around the loch were on land rover track.I managed to spot woodpeckers,long tailed tits and Jays here.This path runs above Loch Gynach.
This was followed by a lovely grass meadow section on the run down towards Newtonmore. Great views of the surrounding mountains.I was just thinking that it was tailor made for mountain bikers and I hadn,t seen any yet when up popped a young local from Newtonmore on such a contraption.(Well ,younger than me anyway) We passed a few minutes chatting about this and that then he was off again in the opposite direction.I carried on heading for the gap in the woods that would eventually take me round the far side of Loch Gynach.

On the path looking up towards the MonadhLiath Mountains and the three Munro group of Carn Dearg,A Chailleach and Carn Sgulain above Newtonmore. (who,s  just found his long lost Munro book then)
I met the same guy on the way back down the loch while he was coming up and we had another short chat about bothies in the area.
Grey and cold over all the big hills,warm and sunny down here.Couldn't ask for better really.The Devil....does what he says on the tin.Manages to make it hot hot hot even in winter for his pals.Hug a horny
person tonight.You,ll never regret it.Souls are for suckers!

This is the fine path down the loch side.A walk or cycle I can thoroughly recommend.Those less confident  on a bike may have to walk very short sections of lumpy bumpy stuff but that's no hardship here with this scenery.
The track leads past the Big House and golf course then follows the minor tarmac road down the left hand side of this back to the car.A long enough day for me to start with.Just a slight limp developing after four plus hours but nothing major in the pain stakes.Alex was only 30 minutes behind me and had bagged his Corbett.
Happy we headed off to the hut  for our tea then a long meeting with our club mates and our good freind Major Swally who usually joined us on these occasions from his ship docked nearby.... the HMS Liquid Cargo.
The rocky tops of Creag Bheag.I ended up bagging all five of these steep little sub peaks scattered over the summit ridge as they all had different views from them..