Saturday 26 October 2013

Glasgow Parks. Autumn At The World's End.

                                                               And follow them
                                            For mortal hair and falsehood shall adorn

                                      Favour and sparkling glintlet shall hold them master
                              When all our national industries are sold off to overseas affairs.
                                   Will the owners, when it comes to the crunch, even care?
                                     Or linger around to behold the fate of  human leaves?
                                         Never mind.      Take heart.          All is good.
                                                           I just wonder though
                The end of the world may come someday we are told - due to climate change
                                    All that sentence really means is the end of Humanity.

                                    With us out of the picture the world will carry on just fine
                                      More than that. It's fair to say it will thrive again without us.
                      If you could take an opinion poll of all the worlds nature- give it a voice.
                            Be honest. How much of it would vote for us- given our past record?
                 Yet working together we can create great things. True beauty of form. Parklands
                 In short, we are told we need to get out of our 'comfort zone' way of thinking
                                                        Or the 'World will End!'
                                                   It will not of course. Just us.
                      The world will get by, as it always has, free at last from our plundering ways.
                                           And I personally find that a 'comforting' thought.
                                            So welcome to my colourful, uplifting Autumn at the worlds end.
                                               As I have arrived at the logical conclusion
                                                  that the only way we are really going to 'save the world'
                                                    is by removing our presence from it  :0)

No animals or children were hurt during the making of this production. All rights not reserved. Photos go wide screen when clicked individually.

I'll finish with a short video highlighting a subject very few of us ever think about, including me, until I watched this recently. Maybe we don't want to think about it and would rather save domestic animals like cats, dogs and mistreated donkeys because it's often easier. Accepted practice in Britain many years ago it still takes place in more isolated parts of the world today with children as young as eight. Thought provoking stuff. I give you the human race. God bless them, for they most certainly do know what they do.

Monday 21 October 2013

Lake District 2. Cockermouth. Whitehaven. Ukrainian POW Chapel.

As you can see from Graeme here Sunday in Ennerdale dawned damp and dismal with low cloud over the hills and a persistent heavy drizzle. The thing I like about the Lake District (and Wales) is that there is always plenty to do in these areas when the weathers bad. After a tough day on Saturday followed by the usual evening entertainment, telling jokes and various party games in the hut with copious amounts of alcohol being guzzled few folk the next day felt like doing anything on the mountains where the rain, no doubt, would be even heavier. I don't mind walking in the rain but I like to see something while I'm doing it.
 Evening in the hut. Don't even ask! Alex had been such a bad boy on the Friday night that he'd gurgled all his beverage and had to go into Whitehaven straight after Saturday's strenuous hill walk for more drink and cigarettes. I don't smoke and I had plenty of drink left but this suited me fine as I love exploring new towns and a bit of urban exploration of an evening.
We arrived just as it was getting dark with a fantastic yellow sunset. This is the harbour area in Whitehaven. Although tired I was up for a walk round here then a prowl round the main town centre which looked nice and lively with loads of mad locals entering from the outskirts into the main clubbing district to let their hair down on a Saturday night. Being a former industrial town like Greenock or Paisley the place was jumping and I fancied some of that so I did. I like a good prowl me in new urban areas. New sights to see all around.

Unfortunately Alex was only interested in getting to the big supermarket, buying more drink then heading back to the hut which was a pity as Whitehaven looked a decent sized place with an interesting history and geography. And it was Jumping!!! It's also on the Cumbria Coastal Way and it was an eye-opener  driving down into the town as we seemed to drop forever into a big deep bowl with houses climbing all around us high up on the surrounding ridges overlooking the town. Just like ants entering a wash hand basin or Christians entering a Roman Coliseum. My kind of town. AND IT WAS JUMPING!!!! Did I mention it was JUMPING!!!!!! It has large 300 foot cliffs on its southern outskirts running around to St Bees head which appears to be a good circular walk in itself. So much to do so little time left to party. Wah! I'm still just a puppy! A good link here with photos and Whitehaven history. The father of the US navy, John Paul Jones, learned his skills in Whitehaven. Stan Laurel, silent comedian, began his life in Ulverston, a seaside town further down the Cumbria coastal way. Parked with history this place.
Although we got our cheap carry out it was not without incident as we made the mistake of going through the automatic express tills which did not accept Scottish notes. We had to swap them for English notes which caused a delay and a queue behind us. Foreigner Alert!
A place which looks worth a visit though, in daylight or evening.
I had to settle for this instead. A prowl around Cockermouth. When we arrived in the Lakes we made straight for here as it's the nearest town on the way to Ennerdale. In the main street there's a cracking traditional English chip shop and I have to say the chips down here are always amazing. They taste fantastic. Unfortunately, not knowing we were coming here I'd stuffed myself on six mini pork and pickle pies in the car so could only manage a small bag of chips which was a tragedy! Those of you who have never seen a Cockermouth Cumberland sausage in the raw will not understand my pain. It is the Sistine Chapel of Sausages. The Big Ben of Bangers. The Godzilla of Grub. Five of them lay gleaming and calling to me in the chip shop hot food shelf behind glass. The biggest sausages I had seen in my life. They made the conventional  jumbo sausages beside them look like puny breadsticks by comparison.
It's been years since I've tasted one of these oversized subtly spiced monster bangers and I was too full to do it justice. Boo Hoo! My Bad! They were the size and shape of a substation underground power cable, as thick as my clenched fist and I'd be lucky to munch my way through a quarter of its bulk unless I was really hungry. It was with a sad heart therefore that I waved them goodbye and departed with my small bag of chips, nice though they were. Bye bye mighty Cumberland's. Some countries in Europe are smaller than you.
This is Alex studying the history board while eating a tasty fish supper. We were surprised to learn just how much history Cockermouth has and the impressive list of famous people who came from this one small Cumbrian town and surrounding district.
Cockermouth of course is not only famous for being the home of Poet William Wordsworth and Fletcher Christian but made the news a few years ago when the Rivers Derwent and the Cocker burst their banks flooding a large slice of the town to a depth of 8 feet or so, including the main shopping street.
By some miracle I persuaded Alex to do the town trail as he's usually apathetic about urban wanderings. Very interesting it was too. Graeme who was with us declined, choosing a kip in the car instead as you never get much sleep in busy huts. There's always a few snorers in every club, hence the strong drink and cotton wool. The board above shows rescue workers using boats to navigate through the main shopping district. A bad flood indeed with one unlucky policeman swept to his death off a bridge when it suddenly collapsed underneath him.
This is the town trail map showing the extent of the flooding and the affected bridges. It's a pleasant route, much of it beside the rivers that flow through the town, and a part of it runs through the high arch that denotes Jennings Bros Brewery famous for its range of traditional ales. I thought the band Iron Maiden were playing pub gigs down here until I twigged it was a real ale they were promoting on chalk boards outside
Strange rituals and customs they have down here. There used to be a pub called Oily Johnnies on the way to Workington named after an old paraffin seller which seemed to be a colourful bikers pub judging by the number of motorbikes parked outside any time we passed. It had a sign advertising its presence with the immortal line  'Why don't you come into Oily Johnnies!'  Classy eh?.  Not surprisingly it's now an upmarket pub/ restaurant called Oily's after being closed down and lying empty for a couple of years. That's another strange thing about crossing the border. I suppose it's not too far from Blackpool as the mecca of cheeky seaside postcard humour and carry on type suggestive double entendre but it's something that doesn't really exist in Scotland. I suppose it's un PC now, even here.
At the other end of the scale you have this. The Ukrainian POW Chapel just outside Lockerbie. A large POW camp used to stand here and this small hut became a Chapel and shrine to the Ukrainian
prisoners of war. Inside it's a visual feast for the eyes so thanks to Alex for leading us here as he's been down this way before and stumbled across this gem.
A real labour of love. Full fascinating history here. which will save me typing it all out. Wouldn't be as good as this link though. Well worth a read.
Places like this are real hidden gems but how long can they survive I wonder? It is looked after by relatives of the original POWs but when they get too old to keep it going will it be taken on by a structured organisation like the national trust? It cant get much in the way of funding and seems to survive on small donations by visitors but it's a costly business nowadays even heating a place like this with ever increasing energy bills. Most of the creations here have been made out of anything that the prisoners could find lying around the camp, empty tins, old shells, cardboard, glass. Most of it worthless and abandoned but recycled into icons and treasured symbols of hope. They could never go back to their homeland having backed the wrong side in a quest for Independence so they created a small part of it here. It's amazing it's survived in such fine condition to this day. Still used as a place of worship so very much a living Church/Chapel.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Lake District 1. Ennerdale. Steeple. Pillar. New West Climb.

Lake District Weekend and the first winter meet for our club saw a team of us heading down to the English Lakes for two days of hill walking and climbing, weather permitting of course. It didn't look promising on the way down as we ran into several showers of rain only to find our destination of Ennerdale buried under cloud with none of the higher peaks showing. This is Gillerthwaite Barn next to the youth hostel which was our accommodation. Electric Lights, wood burning stove, bring own pots, gas stoves and carry mats. £10:50 a night. Sleeps 14.
It was the first time many of us had visited Ennerdale which lies on the western edge of the Lake District and was noticeably quieter than the tourist honeypots of the central and eastern lakes around Keswick and Ambleside. Mind you there is not much in Ennerdale except forest and hills so it's mainly for the dedicated outdoor lover.
In the morning we couldn't believe our luck as it turned out fine so we set off for the long ridge of Caw Fell, Haycock, Steeple, Red Pike, then Pillar and Pillar Rock. Six Wainwrights bagged in a day according to Alex, who seems to know all about these things.
Getting a bit higher. View back towards Great Borne and Starling Dodd. We did have three girls in our group but they had marched ahead by this point while the old duffers brought up the rear.
Caw Fell and Haycock kept a blanket of cloud around their summits but the sun came out and the mists parted for the rest of the peaks. A few of us made the extra effort to go out onto the rocky top on Steeple. The team split up at this point with only Alex and I bagging the outlier Red Pike which had amazing spirals of mist churning around the summit.
Cant really get an impression with a static picture but it was a boiling caldron effect.
On the clagged in summit a large raven soared straight towards us out the mist, tempted in by the smell of my blueberry muffins.
Heavy tail brake manoeuvring going on here to come to a halt a few metres away. I gave it some leftovers.
Everyone was surprised by how much exposed rock lay on the spine of this ridge calling for mild scrambling off  the summit of Pillar itself. At this point folk compared it to the easier parts of the Skye ridge and the rock in places did look like gabbro. Rough and sandpaper like on the fingers but maybe it was just badly eroded andesite. Been a long time since I've been on the Skye ridge to compare it, finger wise.
Pillar Rock is the only summit in the Lakes where rock climbing or at least serious scrambling is involved to reach it. We made it just in time to see two of our younger members, Neil and Dave, fight their way up New West Climb, a 100 metre ( 330 feet) 4 pitch Diff+ which starts high on the face of Pillar rock itself.  Not bad going rock climbing in October on a high mountain route as it was damp cold and windy up here. You never climb at your best in these conditions, wrapped up in several layers of clothing like the Michelin Man with frozen fingers, so well done to them for even attempting it. They were the only rock climbers to be seen at this height on that day.
I think this is Neil leading one of the middle pitches high above the forest. Below, showing the scale of the route.
Another from the same angle as we veteran club photographers had a good seat watching the progress from a ledge above the route having scrambled down to view them. Once upon a time Alex and I thought nothing of doing this sort of nonsense and I even remember us rock climbing during an early Easter break with various mountaineering clubs in unexpected snow falls, (Arran. Twice!), heavy drizzle, (Grooved arête on Tryfan. Better grip than expected considering the water running down it.) and blinding hail (A route next to Spiral Stairs. Grim!) Maybe that's why I packed in rock climbing in 1997 and haven't been back on vertical walls since. Long may that continue as I don't have the bottle, enthusiasm or strength now for big wall adventures of that kind.                                                                  
Alex still has a decent head for heights though and was happy sitting on the edge of the abyss for lunch dangling his boots over the edge. You can just see the climbers nearing the top of the route in this photo.
And one of the infamous Jordan Gap between High Man and Pisgah.
You can just make out Black Sail Hut Below. Bit of a granny stopper this notorious deep cleft.
A long day out and a long walk back to the hut. Epic mountains though.

Monday 7 October 2013

Sunny Govan. Fairfield Shipyards.Govan Old Church and River Clyde.

On the Sunday of the recent Open Doors Weekend I decided to go to Govan. It's a place I've cycled through many times in the past thirty years but only really touched the margins as it's part of a favourite cycle tour from my house taking in Bells Bridge over the Clyde, then the green and leafy Festival Park, then Bellahouston and Pollok Parks, returning via the White Cart Water beside Leverndale Hospital then Renfrew and the passenger/ bike ferry back to Anniesland. This is mainly a linking corridor of pleasant green spaces running through the heart of the inner city but I was aware of the changes happening in Govan as I cycled past. These new flats certainly caught my eye. You cant help but be cheered up by these. Brilliant example of  new architecture, from the outside at least.
Elder Park is also a favourite on the bike as it is a tree filled wide expanse of around 30 acres in an otherwise heavily built up, industrialised area. This large square park was donated to the surrounding community by Mrs Isabella Elder, the wife of Fairfield's Shipbuilding colossus and entrepreneur  John Elder. Like a lot of dedicated Victorian industrialists and technical innovators he probably worked himself to death as he died at a mere 45 years of age. His wife outlived him by many decades but sadly she died just before this sculpture above was unveiled. Although not an official title she was often referred to as 'Lady Elder' by the local community. The park was a monument to her husband and her vision in buying the land for the community created this green oasis for locals to enjoy and is a lasting legacy to this day along with the adjacent Elder Public Library which she also funded and insisted it be kept open on Sundays for the workers at the nearby shipyards to use on their day off. Education was seen as a desirable gift to bestow on every class in society to improve their abilities and thinking although not everyone wanted to read books and newspapers during these precious few hours of free time. After her husbands death she used her substantial wealth and influence to support a range of charitable causes and was well liked in the area.
Under her husband's guidance Fairfield's grew to be the largest and most successful shipbuilders on the River Clyde employing 9,000 workers by the early 1900's.
Well worth a look in here at the various sections and the list of ships they launched. Govan has so much history attached to it there is no way an outsider like myself can cover it properly so I'm going to use links to cut down on my own typing.
A view of the new Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship, The Glenlee, from Govan. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a large free car park and a riverfront walkway here not far from Govan underground station on the main street. After the decline of the shipyards and heavy industry this area suffered decades of  stagnation, crime and neglect with high levels of unemployment. It was not an obvious place to visit on the tourist radar. However, with the opposite bank containing museums, the newly opened Hydro concert venue, Glasgow Harbour, and a ferry link across the Clyde to Govan, a stones throw away, it is reinventing itself as a worthwhile addition to the tourist trail.
It's history is second to none as it was the religious capital of Strathclyde at a time when the neighbouring City of Glasgow was just a sea of grass and two cows wondering when St Mungo would arrive. Indeed, Govan is one of the oldest Christian settlements anywhere in Scotland and has many fine relics left behind by visiting kings, Viking warlords and the great and good of the ancient world for which it was an important centre, easily reached by sea. It has been argued that Glasgow's founder, St Mungo only settled in his 'dear green place'  because it was near Govan and he was a new kid on the block hoping to steal some of the action with his fancy stall set up on the margins of an already established religious powerhouse. Above is Govan Old Church which has some magnificent examples of stained glass in its windows.
Just one of many panels.
The Vikings left behind these Hogback Grave Markers which would only be used for people of high rank or importance in Viking society. The Vikings were not only raiders to these shores but settled and traded here as well if they found a place to there liking where they could make money and buy and sell commodities Europe wide due to their sailing skills and knowledge of foreign ports and harbours.
 The popular programme 'Time Team' carried out an archaeological 'dig' in this area surrounding the church and adjacent riverfront.
Clyde Hydro. First official' big name act' was a concert by Rod Stewart who opened it a week ago. The outside is transparent and lights up with a range of coloured displays at night. Doubt I'll be in it though except during a future Open Doors Day. £60 quid a ticket is way too much for me.
The old Lyceum cinema in the middle of Govan main street has been closed for years but it still retains these wonderful giant billboards either side of the entrance. I thought I'd capture them on here for posterity in case they don't make it if the building disappears in the future.
"Hey! Watch what yer doing wi that big pole Son! You nearly had ma bunnet aff there!"
What looks like an original promotion billboard for the wonders of 1960's 3D effects. 'The Lyceum' was of course the classical school run by Aristotle in Ancient Greece hence its modern pertinence for schools, cinemas, and places where they hope the public will be entertained and educated.
The only time I was in the Lyceum cinema myself was as a young teenager to see 'Carry on Camping.'with my mates from Nitshill. That was the nearest we got to porn when I was a fourteen year old. It was considered brave and risqué then I'll have you know. Changed days now with animal sex, gangbangs, celebrity fake porn, incest porn, simulated multiple rapes and anything else you can imagine at the click of a button on every twelve year olds smart phone world wide. No questions asked. It doesn't take a genius to work out what kind of problems that's going to store up for society in the future but as usual we start to bolt the door on it ten years after the horse has galloped away over the hill with Lady Godiva, or in my young case, Barbara Windsor.
Brave and risqué because most of Govan in the late 1960s /early 1970s was a rough place full of packed rows of red sandstone tenements three and four stories high. A land of heavy drinkers, hard people and grim deeds. It was also packed with rough notorious gangs and sure enough we were chased all the way back to Pollok by the Govan team. We were then chased by a notorious and violent Pollok gang called the Bundy who chased us all the way from the main Pollok roundabout to their border with Priesthill. The equally notorious Priesthill Run-a- Mock Squad then took charge of the last leg of the 'try to hit the outsiders with chains, axes, and sticks' relay. No wonder children today are becoming obese. We had to work really hard for the merest glimpse of a nipple or bare breast. Funnily enough I never returned to Govan for further cinematic treats of bras flying through the air. It just wasn't worth it. Not for Barbara Windsor anyway.
A photograph of a mural on the wall of a closed down public building in Govan.( I think it was an old 1960s style school but it didn't have a name on it) If this was taken from the fertile mind of a young child I'd be tempted to get the social workers in.  Unhappy Bunny- Bad old uncle perhaps? Each generation has to face its own particular set of demons growing up. Nothing new there.
 "Play with the funny sausage, there's a good wee boy."                                  "No."
Fairfield Shipyards. The office entrance.
Inside they have just refurbished the office space and are looking to let out these light airy offices to anyone interested in obtaining the use of one on a commercial basis. This was part of the Open Doors day Tour.
The Underground is a short five minute walk away and a large bus terminus to all parts of the city is even closer so it has good commuter links.
This was how I arrived, on the newly refurbished underground from Partick. Never seen it looking so clean, ready for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 no doubt. You could eat your dinner off the floor!

A sculpture of G.I. Bride. A cartoon strip by Bud Neill, popular in the newspapers of Scotland years ago during the 1950s about the exploits of the fictional sheriff of Calton Creek and his faithful two legged horse. Slightly before my time this but still remembered with great affection by an older generation. It was largely inspired by the author watching American westerns as a child in the cinema then transporting this landscape to Scotland in his imagination. There is also a statue of another of his creations, his trusty two legged  galloper, complete with the sheriff and his arch enemy Rank Bajin sitting on top. Trying to rub the nose off the poor wee horse for luck seems a popular pastime these days as it's usually highly polished. This statue above can be found inside Partick Underground. The other is on Woodlands Road near Charing Cross just across from a well known pub.
Once inside this link click on 'cast' to see the various characters involved. Glasgow has always had a  fascination with westerns and all things American, be it music, culture, or cinema as many of its citizens either emigrated, returned or lived there at some point.
Govan cross. Sunday morning.
The new look Govan.

War Memorial on Main Street.
 The End.
 'Gone fishing.'
For the last two years I have been writing a book which is part autobiography, part novel, part travel guide and part unusual love story. It is set in Glasgow, Pollok, where I grew up, then expands to take in Arrochar, Loch Lomond, Glencoe and many other scenic parts of Scotland. It is written as a tongue in cheek comedy about a Glasgow hillwalking club and their relationships, love affairs (or lack of them) falling outs, and adventures on weekends away. Think Oor Wullie, the Broons, Para Handy with a dash of Gregory's Girl and that's what I was aiming for. Whether it's any good or not I'll leave that to the reader to decide. All the chapters are illustrated with colour photographs like the one above to give readers an idea of the places and situations I'm describing. (56 in total) 
The first few chapters can be viewed for free in this link to see if you like it and the entire book is only 98 pence to download. Cheaper than a scratch card and more chance of a laugh. Cheers everyone.
Update. I have just completed my second book on kindle which is a walking and cycling guide to the River Clyde and the Firth of Clyde, including most of the towns and major villages along its banks, the City of Glasgow and the holiday islands of Bute, Arran, and Great Cumbrae. Part brief history, part modern tour guide down the river from the city centre to Girvan and out past Ailsa Craig it is fully illustrated throughout with 146 original colour photographs and describes over 80 walks and cycle rides from a few easy flat hours in urban districts to day long adventures in remote countryside.
Suitable for both walking and cycling beginners or experienced veterans, many of the routes are little known and have not appeared in other guide far.
At £1:99 from kindle bookstore this may make an ideal Christmas present for anyone who has lived in the Glasgow, Paisley, Firth of Clyde District or is keen to explore Glasgow and the River Clyde's walking and cycling potential.
Link here to see the kindle sample.