Saturday, 24 April 2021

Drumlin Hunter. Remaining Fragments of the Garscube Estate.

                                                  ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.

Photo taken near Anne's house. The Campsie Fells and Bearsden from High Knightswood. Looking for someplace different to walk locally a couple of weeks ago at the start of what appears to be one of the sunniest, driest April months on record in Central Scotland I thought I would start near Westerton Train Station. This would allow me to climb several of the cities many drumlins ( small hills) at once and also visit a place I had never properly explored. Some of the remaining fragments of the once impressive but private Garscube Estate that used to run between the Campsie Fells seen above, through Bearsden, also seen above, to the Glasgow outskirts.

                                                     River  Kelvin Gorge. Garscube Estate.
  This takes in both banks of the River Kelvin, Dawsholm Park, The West of Scotland Science Park, The Vet School, The University of Glasgow ( Kelvin Campus) and several other areas.

As it's been very dry and sunny all this month since the start of April it was another perfect blue sky day. 24 of them so far in a row and no rain in sight. Unwatered gardens are now dying and thirsty. Lawns are turning brown in the heat. Popular car parks are usually packed out every day, unless you get up very early... which is why I ended up here. Peaceful and quiet. Just me and nature. As always.


Glasgow. Another perfect day in earthly heaven thanks to the UK's (4th or 5th depending which online stats you read) largest city which is situated in a bowl, mostly covered in concrete, and so burns off clouds better than the outlying countryside can. A micro climate effect I've seen in action many times over the decades with an often perfect circle of blue appearing over the built up districts doughnut- any clouds pushed back to the very edge of the ring of encircling hills. There the sky-scapes, (with an encircling landmass rising between 500 to almost 2000 feet)  gather and hold onto any clouds while the central city depression, at around sea level, disperses them. Another reason I love cities. Good thermals within them to punch a hole.

 Since the start of this blog thirteen years ago I've noticed many other blue sky titles appearing but they usually mean something entirely different from this one. For me it's still one pure unadulterated love affair. The rush I always get waking up to a perfect blue sky day- often completely unsullied in the morning or with a few fluffy clouds drifting across it by afternoon. To the extent where, in my free time, I'm reluctant to explore outdoors in anything else. Hence the name of the blog. Still does what it says on the tin/label.    If it's grey- no way.

A sea of golden daffodils for a creature made up entirely of honey and sunshine, on this particular morning anyway... i.e... me.

 The simple beauty of a small stream in Springtime.

The sparkling path through the woodland realm of Knights.

 The magical colours and scents of Spring.

Cherry Blossom.   A perfumed garden.

The old man of the woods.

A young bear. Garscube Estate.

Tree creature.

Putting the bears in Bears-den.

 Various drumlin views from districts ending in.... hill. Anniesland and the green spires of Jordan-hill College.

Blairdardie, Drumchapel Hi Rise Flats, ( white with blue stripe) and Clydebank Hi Rise clusters. Drumry and Radnor Park groups) Distance views somewhat hazy by this time. Afternoon now.

Climbing yet another drumlin. Small but still tough after a few completed already on a warm to hot day.

The Kilpatrick Hills view. Not a drumlin but an encircling city range.

Part of High Knightswood district. Yep! Another drumlin by the looks of it.

Heading for Drumlin no 3 . Gilshochill/Maryhill District.

The white towers. Lincoln, Kingsway, high rise clusters in a line. 

....and then back to Westerton Train Station on the Forth and Clyde Canal. Note the clouds over the Campsie Fells here, a long wall of cliffs close to 2000 feet high yet clear blue sky directly above, over the city. High ground creates its own weather system/ micro climate, along with rivers, woods and sea. At certain times of year it can be sunny inland yet misty/foggy at the coast or lingering mist pockets along river valleys, deep hollows, or woods that take ages to burn off- all due to temperature differences or upward/downward thermals of a few degrees. Something that glider pilots and large birds take full advantage of... soaring higher over certain fields that give off heat, sinking lower over woods, marsh, and river.

Chow down time. Chicken, turnip, potatoes, carrot, onion, tomatoes. Various spices. Lovely stuff.

Link to Garscube House and old estate photos. 1954 photo.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

My Birds of Paradise.

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A spring flower display, above. I've never had the time, money or inclination to see the real Birds of Paradise in New Guinea so I'm more than happy to view them via the TV screen, without the real life adventure of deep jungle, creepy crawlies, biting flies, native guides, or the uncertainty of catching a glimpse of them at all. I'll leave that to the most dedicated birders and the professionals but I have found over the decades that taking a basic interest in the wildlife, the insects, the flowers, plants, trees, mosses and fungi encountered outdoors only adds to any walk. It also occurred to me that our own UK bird population can be just as colourful as any exotic species so here's a selection.

A Shelduck. The largest of the UK ducks and a colourful one. Found around the British coastal margins.


A goldfinch. The bright splash of gold on the wings is hidden here by the greenery. My father, as a boy, had a caged one, which was fairly common then, along with linnets and yellowhammers- similar to budgies during my own childhood, when many families had one stuck in a cage in the corner of a room. In fact when I saw budgies flying wild in Australia in large groups for the first time as a twenty something walker over there I was so conditioned to seeing them indoors and alone, static in a cage, it came as something of a shock to appreciate this was how they should be in the wild and how unnatural they must feel, closed in and single. Up until that point I hadn't properly realized how cruel captivity might be for this particular species as they appeared lightning fast in flight outdoors, capable of flying large distances across any semi desert region, and never alone, constantly chattering to their numerous companions. You wouldn't dream of keeping a swift or swallow in a small cage yet growing up with budgies all around me, in various friend's living rooms, as a child, that seemed perfectly normal in the 1960s and exactly where they should be residing. A good lesson in slavery.

A larger cousin to the budgie. Green parakeets in a park. Big and powerful enough to survive our own UK birds attacking them.

Same bird spotting a juicy nut on the ground I'd just placed there. "Who is a clever boy then?"

A red legged partridge. First one I'd seen close up in 45 years of hill-walking. Found on the much drier east coast hills- never seen in the soggy west.

Think this is a mallard duck but with a less common purple/blue head and wing stripe.

Eider ducks. The bobbing 'sea pigeons' of the Scottish coast where little rafts of them can be spotted along the shores, often heard first due to a soft cooing noise, floating over the water to reach ears on land.

 Canada Goose reflection shot. A bird I've often seen in my kayak in numerous lochs and slow moving rivers.

Great Crested Grebe with a fish.

Bullfinch. One of the largest UK finches.

Hunting Buzzard.

 Kestrel on tree top.

 Teal. Duck. Common as a paint colour in DIY stores but the very first one I've seen in Scotland. More widespread along the English coasts I believe.

Woodpecker. Another bird that's hard to capture close up unless you spend time on it deliberately, waiting patiently for hours or reached/stalked with a giant zoom. Lucky in this instance it was above me  just long enough to get the photo.

A large thrush.

 Two pigeons in love. Even these everyday birds have a neckband of green iridescence that sparkles in sunlight.

Wheatear. A small bird of heath, moorland, and mountain slopes. This is a personal selection of a few of my own efforts.

 Beautiful colours of a male Pheasant. 

 Another version walking along a wall.

 Grey Partridge. A field in Fife.

 Peacock displaying.


 Rather annoyed Grey Squirrel. " Hey, Get me in here as well !   Where's my ******** selfie!? Nae mair photos o' they parakeets. They buggers are invasive species in the UK. No like me. I'm pure 100% Scotch so I is. I belong here, born and bred. No like them buggers that belong back in a cage or on a plate. It's no natural so it's no, having them flying aboot, enjoying themselves ootside. It's no real!!!"  

 More parakeets.

                             " My favourite birds?   I'm not fussy. I'll eat them all. Yum Yum."


The other reason for this title was something I found out several years ago. Who is the most prolific songwriter of the last 30 years and sits third ( after Lennon and McCartney) with the most no 1 singles in the charts? (23 no 1s in total.)  He is Swedish- you might never have heard of him and his initials are M.M. Give Up?

Hence the alternative title I was considering for this post " I kissed/loved several girls... then found out it might have been a man!"

You will have heard of the long list of Birds of Paradise that have flocked though his studio doors however for his magic touch on their careers. Including Britney Spears, Pink, Katy Perry, Jessie J, Taylor Swift and many, many others. You could call him 'The Starmaker.' as he specializes in great catchy melodies and thumping pop tunes.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Speaking Truth to Power?

 Something a bit different this time.

It's often quoted "Everyone is born equal."  A more modern phrase keeps cropping up recently. "Speaking truth to power."

I was watching four TV programmes recently on very diverse subjects yet, to my mind at least, they appeared to be linked and had a common thread running through them. First was the Nez Perce tribe of native Americans which I didn't know much about with territory spread over Oregon, Idaho and Montana in scattered groups. As they didn't fight the early Europeans and actually helped those who crossed through their land, heading west,( always a bad move, historically.)  they were considered friendly and eventually, under pressure from more European invaders and the government, signed a treaty marking out and protecting their ancestral lands. Then gold was discovered on the land they owned and the treaty proved worthless. Most were moved to a much smaller reservation ( presumably land without any gold under it) but around 800 of them, men, women, and children together as a group decided to flee and fight rather than be corralled which they did with great courage and skill, making eventually for the Canadian border in a zig zag defensive retreat over 1000 miles away. It was 200 plus native American braves that fought each battle/ skirmish against around two thousand well armed army soldiers and recruits yet they won most of these encounters and disappeared again until they were trapped just 40 miles from the Canadian border. Many of the N.A. leaders, braves, women and children had been killed already or died on the journey north yet not one European family (i.e. women and children) had been attacked on the retreat by the tribe although they did encounter them occasionally. Promised, on surrendering, that they would be transported back to the reservation in Idaho to reconnect with their own people again they were force marched and shipped to Kansas instead then confined in various unhealthy places, to teach them a lesson, until most of them died. 1870s to 1890s era.

The second programme was one I had heard about. - the violent blood feud between the Hatfield's and McCoys in the Appalachian mountains. True, there was bad feeling between both groups and deaths on both sides had occurred, with one side, The McCoys, dirt poor farmers working the land with scant reward and the other, near neighbours, The Hatfield's, borrowing money to start a lumber business and doing quite well. As it was the mid to late 1880s the Industrial Revolution was kicking in and just starting to reach the remote valleys of Virginia and Kentucky. Railroads and big business moved in to extract even larger amounts of lumber and coal, buying up the land of poor farmers for peanuts, letting the residents stay on the farms/ shacks they lived in but stripping the ground of trees and coal all around them, leaving bare slopes and polluted ground with little or nothing left to farm. Local banks and investors decided they would make even more money going with these heavy hitters instead of small fry local guys made good, like the Hatfield's, with their much smaller but still profitable lumber business and called in the loans forcing The Hatfield's to sell their land as well to pay off the debt. National newspapers by this time eventually got wind of the story of the feud ( which had rumbled on in fits and starts since the civil war that may have started it all, but ended by now) and blew it up into a major headline across the entire USA ( it was the same era as the Jack The Ripper murders in London so the public had a fascination and appetite for anything different or scandalous ) but in the interests of a good story neglected to mention anything about the Industrial Revolution causing problems and sweeping away an entire culture and way of life in that area, the big investors, the land grab, etc and focused entirely on two sides of rural nutters killing each other down to the last man then expanded it to include the entire Appalachian lifestyle in general, which was put on trial and under the microscope to be lapped up in various publications. (Much like an entire range of modern reality TV poverty programmes that can be viewed today- none of which seem to ask- how can we fix this?) Not only was it stretching and slanting the truth somewhat it went a long way towards cementing that image of violent, ignorant hillbillies living in the mountains, killing each other off for no good reason, which is still with us today in so many books and films yet far worse violent events occur in cities every single day. People always like a lurid tale though. It sticks in the memory. The Hatfield's and McCoys apparently did have survivors and are still around today.

Number three was Channel 4 Dispatches. The High Street Cash Crisis. looking at how many of the recently collapsed  UK firms like  Debenhams, Poundworld etc had been bought over previously by international big hitters ( private equity funds supplied by billionaires) keen to make big bonus rewards by stepping in (yet the firms would remain in debt)  which, according to this programme, left them in very poor shape to incur further losses and unable to complete once Covid 19 hit. Although online shopping and dropping footfall didn't help they were still making profits. Billions in fact, over the entire UK portfolio, which went to the investors. The tax payer ultimately picks up the bill for all this and any job losses while the billionaires walk away. Probably why they are billionaires in the first place.  As a certain ex President allegedly said. "I don't pay tax- that makes me smart." Very true.

Which brings us to Darren McGarvey's four part programme Class Wars in which he found the rich do not really believe there is any such thing as a class system anymore in the UK and that anyone can travel freely upwards if they have sufficient ambition, drive and opportunity. Poor folk in the main felt it was very much still there... just not as obvious and blatant as before.  It was an unexpectedly enlightening programme but I'll just pick one point out of many. Apparently large companies, multinational or otherwise, and individual big hitters, have a long proud history of helping out the government by parachuting in people that work for them to give specialized advice sorting out these complex and often tiresome tax laws- which may explain why there are so many loopholes in them to jump through, clutching vast wads of money. It was also pointed out that while the Government always spends a huge chunk of cash and resources each year hunting down benefit cheats and fraudsters that amount is a single pea on a very large plate compared to the massively thick steak spilling out all over the edges called corporate tax evasion which rarely gets mentioned either by governments, or the poverty bashing media ( in an echo of the Hatfield -McCoys saga poor people on low incomes are always portrayed the same way by certain sections of  the media who seem to turn/slant it towards the most feckless, easily led, easily conned, not very savvy individuals - as if anyone who is poor and struggling ( usually a blatant crime and obviously caused by themselves in some way, even among the more adept at handling it ) can easily rectify this temporary situation by getting a better job and more money...simple... like most deserving people do. Another interesting thing highlighted in that programme was the power of accents at a subliminal level. A posh, obviously intelligent and educated voice will be far more likely to be believed by most classes ( even though they may be lying with every word) than an ordinary person in the street telling the truth but speaking with a distinct heavy local or regional accent. i. e. Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, etc even by a percentage of fellow locals listening to it with the same accent. 

And these almost instinctive, largely unconscious judgements about class and any social advancements... or 'opportunities', often happen in an instant, depending on that initial impression and handshake. In other words having a posh or upwardly modified accent definitely improves your chances to open doors in certain circles. If you don't have one and you want to get ahead in life in particular areas it may help to cultivate one but then you risk falling into that in-between ground where you are not fully accepted by the class you find yourself in or want to associate with but have advanced too far along that path to still feel comfortably attached to the class group, and even the extended family, you left behind. A tricky dilemma not everyone can negotiate successfully although a few individuals manage it. I found it an articulate and interesting programme about subjects rarely tackled in that manner and coming from my background in the council estates most of it rang true. To me at least. Luckily, I've never been interested in 'getting ahead' and being 'upwardly mobile' as my main ambition in life, as I don't think in my own mind I was ever fully a complete part of the human district I grew up in anyway and any friends I had shared similar interests away from the norm. From a very early age it was all dairy cows, horses, fields, woods, dams, and nature surrounding the estate that attracted me, and them, the most .


So every time I stepped out the front door I had a choice... being a resident of two separate and very different  worlds. The urban and the rural... side by side.

 I might live in an estate and go to school there but never be totally immersed by it and any subsequent upward mobility I encountered was always part of a natural progression of life, drifting away at times, into other areas of interest, not deliberately engineered as a calculated and carefully planned ascent or improvement as I didn't need to ascend anywhere... I already had it all, close by. Believe it or not, for me personally, any future heaven or hell might well be a disappointment after a childhood spent here. Can't improve on that.

  Nitshill council estate back court. Greater Pollok. Early 1980s. Many parts of Glasgow looked like this back then. The Thatcher years of mass unemployment in heavy industry, hitting industrial and manufacturing dependent towns and cities throughout the UK the hardest. Children and dogs tour the rubbish bins looking for toys or anything else of interest. On the plus side far less pressure here to gain a good university place, have a 40 year career, a weighty mortgage, conventional marriage and family. So with 'the romance of the slums', comes a certain kind of freedom. Expectations are usually far lower here.... and I was happy with that... as a 50 year long millstone of continuous employment stretching ahead into the far distance didn't appeal much at 16 years of age, leaving school. Growing up in the heady optimism of the game changing 1960s a different path beckoned for me.

Class Wars?

One thing I do know is that the base of the pyramid ( the lower rungs) will always and continuously be subject to forces beyond their control. Get shafted, in other words, whenever it's favourable to do so, by the apex, the one percent, or numbers thereabouts- from the dawn of humanity until the last grain of rice falls from the heavens. Because they do not have a voice. Or voices, delivered in an accent people making up the rules ever listen to... or place any credence in. Speaking truth to power? I don't think so somehow. Not for our lot. And there's not much you can do about it. No doubt the trillions of debt we have racked up during this current pandemic will have to be paid back at some point. Better get my piggy bank out as a member of the base.

 Just need to look at three headlines today, 6.4.2021, to see it's still going on.  Apparently most billionaires and one percenters have done very well during the current pandemic, as they do out of most recessions, government contracts to 'old chums in the city'. or periods of human upheaval when others, in desperation, are selling things cheaper than normal. Also the furlough scheme, it seems, applies to very wealthy landowners as well as ordinary folk losing jobs and many of them, the elite, have claimed millions during the past year which the humble tax payer, no doubt, will end up paying for as well. In other news the NHS, in all probability, may still be underfunded and stealthily privatized, as it has been for ages now so it's back to business as usual. So I'll clap for that as I didn't before... cos I knew it was all a cynical con...and a PR stunt.... as usual....

On another topic entirely I always try to pick videos, if I put one on here, that are unusual, stunning, or exciting in some way and this is no exception. Norway has a one thousand mile long western coastline, frequently riven by deep fjords and high mountains for most of it making twisting roads, long travel times, and numerous ferry crossings inevitable. But this extraordinary plan to straighten out half of it may be the future. Definitely worth a watch. Not only a very scenic short travel guide but using open world 3D game technology in a stunning blend of visual art and cutting edge ideas it shows the new proposed high speed route to shorten journey times. Beautiful to look at.