Friday 27 September 2019

Queen's Park. Winter Gardens.... but late summer fun.

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The last post on here featured Queen's Park on the South Side of Glasgow in the winter time, hills covered in snow, but little did I realise I'd be back again six months later with Anne as part of a walk across the city. Over the summer months I've been bagging Glasgow's Parks with her and we've both enjoyed the experience but Queen's Park had not been on the list as she'd been in it before.
It was only after seeing the photos of the city from the flagpole viewpoint however that she mentioned she'd never been up to the summit of the park or visited the Winter Gardens there. Turned out all she'd done was walk through it at low level past the boating pond on a day out with friends, basically using the park as a green shortcut to get somewhere else.
" How can you visit a park and not be tempted to go to the summit? " I wondered out loud, amazed. An unthinkable notion to me, who has to climb any hill, especially city ones, drawn like a magnet to the top. No free choice in the matter at all.
" I've got a social life pal, not a sad loser like you. We had young children with us who were happy with a pond and we had to be somewhere else at a certain time. Don't be so judgemental about everything.."
That was me told off. Many hard miles and hours had passed by this point in each others company:)
Anyway, turned out, when I mentioned to her that Queen's Park was Glasgow's equivalent of Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat - in that it offered excellent panoramic views of the surrounding city she was keen to see it herself. However, as I'd already been there dozens of times over the years I had the bright idea that we could do a short river walk first before the park... just to give me something new to see and blog about as well. To which she readily agreed... (but I'll leave that for a later post...) this one is just Queen's Park, which we reached, eventually, on a magnificent late summer evening as the final highlight of a very interesting city walk. Well.... I thought so... All the photos here are from the Winter Gardens or taken from the park itself.
The monument to the Battle of Langside where Mary, Queen of Scots army was defeated in 1568, at that time in open countryside and farmland, not deep within a city as it is now. A small village did exist here at that time but the City of Glasgow itself, consisting of around a dozens streets on the north bank of the River Clyde centered around the 12th century Glasgow Cathedral and the High Street could only be seen in the distance, twinkling on a far off slope.
It's grown a bit since then. Over a million residents, at it's peak in the early 1900's making it the 4th largest city in Europe after London, Paris and Berlin, now down to just over 600,000 in 2019 but growing slightly after decades of decline, population wise. (For me this is the classic city centre view and I like to think I'm not only the most prolific photographer capturing images of Glasgow (and the Central Belt) online over the last ten years but also someone who goes the extra mile to get new and unique images of the city from unusual angles. Every time I go out however I always think I'll do better or capture something different- which is motivation enough. Like many citizens, wherever they live on the planet I've also enjoyed a lifelong love affair with the place I grew up in that's rarely wavered.
Link here.

The ebb and flow of cities has always been of interest to me with the post industrial cities like Glasgow, Liverpool or Newcastle declining in modern times while London, the financial capital, has grown by over 2 million in that period and sucks in/generates a large chunk of the UK's economy, not necessarily a healthy set up for the rest of the UK trying to compete and make a living in a post industrial era. I have read that the overall plan to increase populations in post industrial cities is to attract overseas residents to live in them and that is apparent in both Glasgow and Edinburgh at the moment. Just from a visual and listening point of view wandering across the city Glasgow is much more cosmopolitan than it used to be, even ten years ago, with over a dozen different languages spoken on local buses regularly- more in keeping with the English cities now than it once was. No surprise mind you with 7.6 billion people on the planet currently and 8 billion predicted by 2025.
A planet population jumping and humping from 1 billion to 7 billion in the last 100 plus years alone  It took all of human history to reach 1 billion by the 1800s. By the swinging 1960s it was 3 billion. Yet we are still arguing endlessly over nationality and side issues like Brexit. As if that's going to solve anything major or be a miracle cure all.

Smart phones are also a great facilitator and incentive... giving people living in very poor conditions or war zones a daily enticing window into a better standard of life elsewhere and I also notice, with some rueful amusement, that bushmen living in mud huts or families in bombed out buildings invariably and always have a better hand held phone than I have. It doesn't matter that we are eternally separated into tribes by customs and strong cultural differences in society when we live together in groups and probably always will be... smart phones are the new ubiquitous common factor uniting us all at the present time- like cigarettes used to be- striding across any cultural divide with ease. Which probably proves, apart from being useful, it's an addictive drug. Although originally envisioned as technology to make life easier they also have the very real potential to bring down governments, start wars, change generations long held traditions overnight and sway mass public opinion- not always in the right or most beneficial direction. Just depends on whatever propaganda you believe at any given time in history.
When we arrived at the winter gardens we got a surprise, thinking they were shut at first as the main glass dome was shattered. On my last visit here, just over a year ago they looked fine, same as always, but the front entrance was now boarded up and the trees and exotic plants inside the main glasshouse, open to the wind and rain for months apparently, had all died. Fortunately the back door was still open, allowing entry, as we were here to use the toilets inside...very few public toilets in Glasgow nowadays... as well as exploring new ground on Anne's first visit here. One of the reasons I've been concentrating on the city parks this summer, Glasgow's leafy Crown Jewels, as well as Anne's preference for walking alternatives, is a feeling that they are all under threat, due to ten years of ongoing austerity and seemingly endless government cutbacks, and this just highlights the severity of the problem. Tollcross Winter Gardens have already shut- exotic plants lying dead inside, as have the larger equivalent version situated on Glasgow Green. Yet Queen's Park -Shawlands- Langside District is a well heeled prosperous area, full of large mansions, posh tenements and trendy restaurants- so if it happens here it can happen anywhere. Not buying a daily newspaper for the last few years means I miss out on important local things like this- inundated by more substantial online issues like what Kim Kardashian had for lunch or what Donald Trump tweeted at five in the morning.

Which also highlights why we need newspapers and real investigative journalists- we will miss them when they are all gone... and by that time it will be too late. As an afterthought even during the worst years of the bleak 1980s when Glasgow had mass unemployment, closing shipyards and redundant factories everywhere with many council estates run down and half abandoned, the parks and Winter Gardens were not under as much a threat as they are today. Yet according to statistics we have record employment levels now which should make the UK's 4th largest city a wealthy place- should it not? Which is why I rarely believe the hype, political or otherwise, that is an integral part of everyday life  now. For Example.... Killing Eve first series- Brilliant. Killing Eve Second series- woeful pish and a dire waste of talent. Peaky Blinders first series- Very Good- went downhill from that point on-wards though, straight into caricature. The potential pitfall of anything that gets to a certain degree of media endorsement or public popularity... and hype creeps into the house through an open window. Stamp on hype wherever you find it I say- sweep and hoover bullsh*t out of every room!

Anyway, I'm off topic as we really did enjoy our visit on what was a beautiful late summer evening, the colours of the trees just starting to change and at that point we thought the Winter Gardens boarded up and broken glass in the central dome just a temporary setback that would be repaired quickly, given its upmarket location.
A zoom of Celtic Park Football Stadium in Glasgow's East End.
and a closer view for anyone interested. ( Couldn't see Rangers Ibrox Stadium or Partick Thistle's Firhill from Queen's Park in case you are wondering or I would have included them as well to remain completely neutral, as ever  :o)
A Cockatoo. The Winter Gardens also have a small heated zoo- the animals still cared for and alive at this point in time.
A tortoise. Like most folk of a certain vintage I had a budgie, a tortoise, a dog, and a red eared terrapin as pets growing up. Not all at the same time though. The dog lasted the longest. 12 years. It was a tough area to survive in and even now Glasgow has the lowest life expectancy in Western Europe... but mostly in the poorer districts you'll be glad to it's not contagious for tourists in any way. The tortoise only lasted a brief summer in the garden before it was either stolen or ran away. I tried running away as well a few times but I was not as skillful at escape planning as my tortoise and was always captured and brought back again. Damn it!
A trio of tortoise.
The pleasures of captivity. Heat... shelter...
... and food.
A Skink. Australian lizard. They have to be well armoured to survive in Oz- the land of toothy dragons.... where even the desert kingfishers dine out on squirming monsters straight from hell instead of little fish from streams.
Twa pandas. They did not move much while we were there but the young children and mummy types liked them. Made the tortoise look positively speedy by comparison. Mummy types were more interesting to observe in their natural habitat than the pandas I found so I soon switched my attention there until I got a neglected huffy nudge from my companion.
This bench moved around as much as the pandas did but it was interesting- a memorial to the late Alex Harvey with two of his song lyrics carved into the wood. Fronted a popular band during the 1970s and different from most due to his love and experience of musical theatre, rock, pop, cartoons, comics, American culture, and jazz. So unlike most younger artists he could fully embrace many different genres in his singing and stage act convincingly through many years of experience. Far more than just a rock band. An encyclopaedia of musical styles. It's just my wild guess/opinion but they may well have influenced Kiss (the band) to some degree. Sensational Alex Harvey Band formed 1972 wearing different outfits centered around comic book style characters. Kiss formed 1973 wearing different but more elaborate outfits. Obviously others like David Bowie and Peter Gabriel brought theatre into rock music earlier on or around the same time but looked less like a quartet of Marvel comic creations playing on stage.
Construction cranes over the city as new buildings go up, mainly university related (student flats) or financial district offices and flats. ( more on that in another post.)
The first days of Autumn in Queen's Park. Minor road running through it. Not sure if it's still open to  public traffic now.
As I mentioned in the last post Queen's Park was the third to be constructed in the city but when you look at old photos of the Victorian public parks they seem rather empty and open due to many of the trees just having been planted. Now they are fully mature and of impressive size and girth- improving towards their peak. The Great Urban Forest. Glasgow City does not have Edinburgh's ancient cobbled street network or volcanoes or castles within it but what it does have is a rich variety of hilltop situated parks- and it would be a shame to lose them after 100 plus years of faithful service- swept aside like paper bank notes, daily newspapers, old style pubs, and high street banks.
Woodland Trail. Hill 60. Queen's Park. Nature in the city- open to all. Apparently, getting out into green, open areas like this, away from the stress and complexity of technology and modern life is very good for mental health and well being according to the latest research. Who knew that could happen!!? Money well spent finding that out. I'm glad I know at last.
And the view from Hill 60 over Shawlands Cross. Which must mean there's another 59 or more hills to climb within Glasgow city limits.... obviously- my drumlin adorned pretty kingdom. Yippee!
A wild tree panda encountered on the walk. Nature is wonderful. Perfect camouflage as long as it stays still. You rarely see it eat anything... it's that fast. Just a quick flick of its ten foot tongue and your last remaining blueberry muffin has vanished from its box. That's what I'm blaming anyway as Anne said she never noticed anything untoward in the vicinity. One minute it was there, the next.....gone!
A view East of Eden...or in this case east of George Square. City of Glasgow College buildings prominent  in grey.
In the other direction from the flagpole summit Langside College (old building) and Cathkin Braes Country Park.
Cathcart. Linn Park and Netherton Braes. Glasgow. It certainly is 'a dear green place.'
The central staircase running down through the middle. I remember as a teenager fresh from school my first boss drove me in his car to a job in Govanhill up over the minor road running through the park on a really foggy morning and we broke out of the mist into dazzling sunlight and distant clear views of the surrounding mountains. It was my best day ever at work in five years- all downhill from there to retirement :o) You don't usually go to work for enjoyment purposes- just the money.
Autumn splurge of colour.
Sometimes I pick a theme for posts- like a film, book or event to match in with it.
The lyrics to Lou Reed's Perfect Day sums this blog post up. Thank you A. It was truly surreal.... and memorable.

Thursday 12 September 2019

Hillpark. New-Lands.Cathcart. Govanhill. Ch- Ch- Changes Part Two.

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Part two of my marathon all day walk across districts of south west Glasgow that I used to be very familiar with but haven't visited on foot for 20 or more years. As you can see from the above photo taken in Queen's Park it was back in the winter time, temperature around minus 5 degrees early on in the morning but dry and sunny.
Looking down Victoria Road towards the snow draped wall of the Campsie Fells. Apparently, the Cine-World building was the world's tallest multi screen cinema when it was built- maybe still is... a city, and a country, with a surprising number of firsts. ( Apparently also, New York's famous grid, straight line, street network may have been inspired by the earlier Glasgow layout- its city centre being much the same in its construction design. Makes for good photography in this instance.
What attracted my attention this time though was not the familiar view of the city centre district, above, but rather the views across in the other direction from Queen's Park, the landscape not drastically altered from when Mary, Queen of Scots surveyed her 6000 strong forces in battle in the spring of 1568 from a nearby hilltop lookout then realized her downfall when they failed tactically to capitalize on their superior numbers by being outsmarted. It was not a large battle or a particularly vicious one, lasting less than a hour with 100 to 400 men killed, (some account sources vary), but its conclusion as a win sealed her fate. I mention this only because so many districts here are named after her or linked to her army in some way, even though it was fought in mostly open countryside then. ( Success hinged at a Langside village bottle neck and a crossing of the nearby White Cart Water, both armies opposed on the banks of the river to start with.)
Battlefield Rest, Originally built as a shelter/ waiting room for tram travellers in the early 1900s at this busy Langside street junction it's now a small but popular award winning Italian restaurant/ bistro. The nearby Langside College, which I attended decades ago, was where I first got to know this area well and was close to the site of the Battle of Langside. Behind this building is the new Victoria Hospital with the old one still standing but partly demolished.
Old Victoria Hospital.
New Victoria Hospital. Both named after a different Queen.  Queen Vicky.
I however was more taken with this view, a misty one over the tenement rooftops of Langside to the aptly named Hill- Park. This was another district I immediately gravitated towards in my youth, always a sucker for any tower blocks or interesting buildings.
I found out very early in my childhood wanderings that flat areas of urban development could be pretty boring to explore but towers on a hillside never were. The Rapunzel element always kicked in.
So after my wander through a much changed Shawbridge Street, captured in the previous blog post, I set off once more up several sets of stairs to this new summit, a somewhat dubious intentioned lone knight on my eternal grail quest.
Hillpark, building wise, has not changed much since its construction. It was always a strange interloper to my mind... a walled hill top castle of ordinary serfs surrounded by well heeled suburbia below (Knights) with an invisible moat between them.
Perfectly illustrated in this view. 1930s suburban living design (Art Deco-ish) co-existing uneasily with 1960s Le Corbusier inspired doctrine, responsible for many a long gone deck access estate and brutalist tower blocks throughout the UK. I know what my money is on for being demolished first in this photo :o)
Having said that Hillpark does have outstanding views over Glasgow and the mountains to the north. University of Glasgow here. I did meet a free spirited Rapunzel in this lattice work tower once, long, long ago, in a different age and era of chivalry but we were as mis- matched as Hillpark and surrounding Merrylee districts- a gulf in class and future aspirations/ambitions... so it soon fizzled out. The hunt or quest is often better than the capture and aftermath- but maybe that's just me. I like a good quest.
Even got a distant view of what might be Ben Lomond over the new super-hospital at Govan, scene of recent sectarian disturbance in the streets (The West of Scotland has more Sectarian marches per year than Belfast apparently- never knew that.) Brexit and the Irish backstop question has opened up all sorts of largely subdued divisions in UK society. Like poking a sleeping dragon. Referendums only seem to highlight the vast range of different opinions folk have... about anything... and shine a spotlight on them.
The remaining hi rise towers in Pollokshaws seen from Hillpark. The main reason I climbed up here of course was for the views. 20 years at least since the last time.
This brought back some painful memories. In my hasty elastic youth I remember attempting to jump these railings, trying to impress a friend with my gymnastic skills by leaping casually from the top set and landing both feet on the bottom set. I was far too casual about it though, trying to look cool like Nadia Comaneci with little visible effort but maximum grace and missed completely, hitting the bottom rail with my bum instead then face planting down ten feet away on the grass slope. "if you can't impress them at least make them laugh." I countered, pride and bum severely dented.
Hillpark sits on the edge of the great wood of Pollok,seen here, only a mile from my old secondary school, so easily within walking and exploration distance back then.
It was while I was walking in this area that I was approached by several locals as I'd climbed the slope on the right to reach a large secondary school, hoping for better views higher up as the trees here were obscuring the city for good camera work and distance shots. Luckily, it was a weekend so no pupils around or I would not have bothered.
"What are you doing?" I was asked by three twenty something guys, spotting a new unknown face in their district and zooming in like heat seeking missiles out of boredom/curiosity. Having working class roots however I know how to handle myself in these tricky situations.
" I'm lurking around in a suspicious manner in a school playground." I informed them, smiling slightly at my predicament. " What's it got to do with you?"
Telling the truth often works I usually find.
Escorted out of Hillpark at gunshot I found myself hanging out with Jesus instead, attended by two adoring companions who only had eyes for the man on the cross. Mary J, Big J and Mary Magdalene presumably? Another unlikely threesome I encountered on my marathon walk across the city. It was turning out to be an eventful trip. Who says city walks are boring!
The church of St Mary Immaculate in Pollokshaws and yet another hill climb for the views.
Pollokshaws East Station and the railways that transformed open countryside into early 1900s city districts.
A view over towards Mount Florida district, Hampden Park, and the red brick cube of Cathcart House, the old Scottish Power building, on the right. I had noticed on another city visit that it was getting restored into luxury apartments, a current trend with any old property.

Glad they have retained the decorative interior features of this fine old building. See slideshow gallery in this link above. I would not swap my edge of the city childhood however for one nearer the centre, however affluent, as I just had to fall out the front door every weekend or summer evening to find myself within the glorious rolling landscapes of 'Wonderland'... the Renfrewshire, drumlin infested, countryside of my youth.
I could easily have ended up here though. Govanhill. It's near Queen's Park as a green outlet but a bus ride from any real countryside. I suspect growing up here would have made me very different- in interests, expectations, and in attitude.
Or here. Cathcart.... Quieter, not much traffic noise in this area, but still deep within the city. It would take a determined child and very relaxed parents to reach the outdoors by themselves before the age of sixteen growing up here... and by that time your interests might well be fixed/focused in other directions.
This was also an inner city district walked through that I thought 'Thank **** I  didn't grow up here!' mainly because of the incredible freedom I enjoyed... away from traffic, people, civilization in general... and a chance to grow my imagination in any direction without barriers imposed on it. Even as a visiting adult it felt slightly claustrophobic here and a bugger to park outside your door by the looks of it. Partick in the West End is the same, both districts designed and built before widespread car use occurred.
This view of the White Cart Water had me thinking of escape back into nature. It looked deep enough to kayak down so I started scoping it out even though you would need a plastic or fiberglass model rather than my inflatable, easily punctured, type.
It did look possible though and a cool idea to float right through the city on this partly submerged, below street level, ribbon. Escape routes back out are few and far between though and I think at one point it may even go underground... and not in a good way. (pretty sure it does not go underground now after further visits. Some weirs, mild rapids and waterfalls though- which can be lifted round- the rest looks fine from Clarkston to Paisley... a good long run.)

 Needs further inspection but definitely a cool idea.
This is also 'thinking out the box' in a big way. Worth a watch on You Tube. Aldous Harding. The Barrel. (Official Video.) 
Now and then, searching through the banal dross of modern light entertainment like an old time miner panning in a stream-bed,  a genuine gold nugget will appear. Very different- like a moving art display and cleverly thought out in detail. My gold nugget of the month award.