Monday 28 January 2008

Visiting Old Glasgow

On a Saturday of rain, the area around Glasgow Green comes into its own. From the depressing sight of an alcoholic sitting in a puddle outside the second-hand jumble of Paddy's Market - who wants to buy a single trainer? - to the robust patter and sweet doughnutty smell of the Barras, the visitor wanders about hooded and hunched at his peril, for much will be missed. Go shopping for records in Mono and old books on Parnie St; admire the Tolbooth, Tron and mercat cross; ask yourself what the strange old tower by the Argyle St Car park is (it's the remains of Merchant's Hall); seek out St Andrews by the Green, tucked away in a corner; throw down the hood, and walk over the damp, deserted, muddy grass of the Green, thrilling to the thought of James Watt walking these same acres, inventing the seperate condenser and kick-starting the industrial revolution.

And there's always the bar of the 13th Note, the West Brewing Company, or cafe in the People's Palace's Winter Gardens, in which to dry yourself off.

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Poem: Loch Tulla Bivvy

In the trough of night,
in lonely darkness of walking,
the world plants no new questions.

Just a torchlit circle,
a mean weak circle,
And an unmetalled road.

And always a rythmn,
an easy, rythmn
- I cut the torch.

The pines stretch
to snoring mountain
white capped
his foot in streams.

The crowding pines
a bed of heather
the sleeping pit
a well of stars.

A wild country
wild universe above
and light enough
to see Loch Tulla:

Small, frozen planet!
Jewel of the universe!
Silent motion through the wastes.

Small mind without bounds!
Marvel of life!
In the sleeping night.

In its waters a jewel
a pearl reflected
and darkly stir
the forest creatures.

the owl is watching
the deer avoids me
the crackling forest
the sap-strong pines.

On frozen heather
my presence noted:
my bed is made.
Tufts graze my cheek.
A grey wheel galaxy.

In the trough of night,
in lonely darkness of watching,
the world grows large as heaven.

Visiting Loch Tulla

To Achallader recently, bleak in winter. Acres of wild, untamed tussocks, full of streams and standing water: no paradise this, but the neighbourless hardship of Rannoch. I would not choose to live here. But outside, a glimpse of Loch Tulla in the distance under a wind-tousled sky, moonlit clouds scudding past with soft rain, the snow-capped Blackmount behind: and I remember why this is the beginning of one of my favourite areas to visit in Scotland.

Monday 14 January 2008

Poem: Helensburgh in Winter

Flags flapping raw
and a low shaft of sun
splits the weak, watery skies
with its rays on Ben Bouie.
The weather's not threatening - yet.

From deserted golf course
we leave tangled weeds dead
and dark woody skeltons
to wander wet streets by
the soggy grass verges
- past stony grey houses -
to mouldering pier in the Clyde.

the sea breeze,
I come here to think.

This is a town made of elements:
some earth, much water,
and a small, vital spark.

Monday 7 January 2008

Two festive walks

To Loch Earn and a Boxing Day hill with old friends. Still, reflective lochs, dark ground, moss-covered stones, rushing streams everywhere. Mince pies, lentil soup. Home-made tablet and whisky. Too many conversations, too many things to say to keep up with them all. Irrepressible laughter over tiny reminisces. Stupid jokes. Running in circles just for the hell of it. Just a little slippery, slushy, rubbishy snow on top, and straight back down. Dinner in the Kingshouse at Balqhuidder. "Thanks for the photos," said one companion back home. "But who's the fat man wearing my clothes?" Cobwebs cleared. Bonhomine.

To Loch Tay and a New Year hill. Terrible weather, loads of snow - knee deep and very hard work. Maybe not the fastest of ascents, but a real calorie burner. White-furred mountain hares everywhere. Deer tracks in the trees. Spoke to a few folks: the shepherd said there were ptarmigan on the hill in the past. Not any more though. Friendly locals. Quiet time of year. Crazy to be up on the tops. Whiteout and spindrift. Cup of tea in Dunkeld and glad to get aching legs home for a hot bath. Knackered.