NEW WRITING: REVERIES OF A RELUCTANT RAMBLER II

Continued from yesterday …

Interesting Interiors #4

A missed opportunity for me. The Szechenyi Thermal Baths in Buda Pest. March 2019 (barely two years ago but it seems more like ten; a lockdown effect). Just beyond the Heroes Square, in City Park, stand the Baths. A was determined to spend time in the thermal waters of the spa. The entrance hall was wonderful, like a temple, with beautiful tiles and mosaics in the dome. It was a civilisation or two distant from the chlorine-scented baths in Paisley’s Storrie Street. I left A there and walked back to the Museum of Fine Arts. Very splendid. I was delighted to see for the first (perhaps only) time Breugel’s ‘The Preaching of John the Baptist’, another of his magnificent captures of the human comedy. (John is a small figure somewhere at the back of the scene, while some citizens are listening, some not, some wondering what’s going on, some eating picnics, and others picking pockets.) For all that I enjoyed the painting, I had a pang of regret to miss out on the experience of the baths. A was glowing with enthusiasm. I shall have to return. Later we walked to the Danube to see the Castle and Bridge all lit up, under a crescent moon.

Radiance

“This is the kind of day” said the Man at Dumbarton Central “when you wake up, you say ‘Fuck the Virus’”. I took the train to Balloch and trudged up the Stonymollan Road.

The greens were greener than ever and the blues more intense than ever. Ben and Loch shimmered in the sun. Saw Cruach Ardrain and Stobinian. I turned south at the crest of the hill and walked along over the top of Carman Hill.

Saw again the Arran Hills, almost the same blue/grey as the sky beyond them. And the Clyde where river becomes firth, gleaming.

Someone had attached (with a cement base) a Saltire to the trig point. Politics or football?

Both, perhaps. I wandered on, through the day’s serenade. Accompanied by a buzzard, dragonfly, two cuckoos, a flock of greylag geese, birdsong spiralling upwards.

Meantime C was on the West Highland Way, complete with Midgie Hat and blister tapes. And what pictures do you think he posted on what’s app?

The River Falloch tumbling down the Glen? Sunlit glades in the woods by Crianlarich? Mighty Ben Dorain’s magical cone? No. A pint of lager, its beaded bubbles winking at the brim and catching the sun.

It was a day that cried out for a beer in the garden. Ah but the Main Event was yet to come.

Interesting Interiors #5

Given the amount of time and money I have invested (or if you prefer, wasted) therein, I wished to include a Public House in this pantheon of interesting interiors. Alas, I cannot think of ONE which stands above the thousand others. A gothic gantry, carved from mahogany. A row of pumps which includes Guinness and real ales. Ranks of malt whisky standing to attention. A snug, or a back room. No TV, no music, no slot machines. No carpets to which shoes stick.

Murphy’s Bar in Galway City.

Well, I might mention The Three Judges at Partick Cross, or the Bull Inn in Paisley. Clark’s Bar in Edinburgh or the Marquis of Granby at Cambridge Circus. The Old Town Bar on East 18th Street in NYC. Inshuti Best Place in Gitarama or Murphy’s Bar in Galway City or the Cerveceria de Santa Ana in Madrid.

The Crown Bar in Belfast, owned by the National Trust, is also splendid. But none of them tick ALL the boxes. The Search for the Perfect Pub goes on.

(The phrase ‘I might mention’ echoes a favourite poem by T.S. Eliot – ‘Macavity the Mystery Cat’. “And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known / (I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone) /Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time / Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime.”

The Big Sleepover.

This was the Main Event. For the first time since lockdown, Grand-daughters on an overnight. No ceremony of the bottle opener.

A McDonald’s cheeseburger for dinner. And at eight o’clock I was reading bedtime stories. (I asked if they would like me to read one of the  stories which I had written for them. “No thank you, Grandpa” was the polite answer.) We had Doodle Dog and the Fish who could Wish and one about Tyrone the T-Rex.

I missed the first half of the Scotland game, which made my smirk of self-sacrifice even smirkier than usual. The result reminded me of a H. McIlvanney report, headlined “How we slaughtered the Germans 1-1”. What a delight to have the girls, though.

Come the dawn. “Grannie! Grandpa! Is it morning yet?” Though she is but small, she is fierce. Later A and I had a late lunch in Mora, in Finnieston. Superb.

A Little Light Reading.

I have muddled my way through ‘Scabby Queen’ by Kirstin Innes, an attempt at a Great Scottish Novel, which shoehorns in everything from the Poll Tax protests to Brexit, and has a cast of caricatures instead of characters.

Recommended to me in response to my question; why are there no- or so few -great Scottish novelists? Scabby Queen, for all its merits, is not the answer.

In the most recent NYRB- that source of fleeting erudition – I read a distressing account of the heinous way in which children have been treated through the years. I thought of the phrase in the Irish Proclamation of Independence about cherishing the children.

In the USA there are still nearly 500 children taken from their parents at the border who have not been re-united with their families. (Trump should be in prison for that alone).

Another article about the Israeli – Palestine conflict offered the faintest glimmer of hope.

Also enjoying some Simon Armitage poems, especially those with a quirky nastiness.

AND I have been reading an NHS leaflet with great interest; ‘Bladder Retraining.’

Interesting Interiors #6

Staoineag Bothy, by the Allt Amrath, near Loch Treig. Although for years I was a member of the Mountain Bothy Association, I seldom stayed in a bothy.

A softy, I prefer the comfort of a bed. I did fancy the IDEA of the bothy; the long trek in, the distance from madding crowds, the beauty of wild places. And now and again I found myself rolling out a crushed, feather spilling sleeping bag on a concrete shelf.

Once upon a time a friend and I walked by haunted Ben Alder cottage over the mountains to the bothy at Culra – only to be joined by a troop of boy scouts.

But it is Staoineag that stays with me. In 1982, Mike and I had some days walking – a couple of Mamores and the Grey Corries, wonderful big hill days.

I struggled along in Mike’s slipstream, watching the shiny arse of his breeks disappear over horizons above me and the shiny bald pate of his head disappear downhill below me. At night we stayed in the Bothy.

Cooked on one of these wee gas stoves on the banks of the river. Drank whisky, with a wee side glass of water (as Mike insisted is the Right Way to drink whisky).

I don’t remember midges. Just an elated weariness – of the body not the invigorated soul. The bothy’s interior had been marred by vandals who broke up wooden panelling to make fires, and the wooden shelving on which we slept was made of ‘nessun dorma’.

“Days like these will see us through the winter.” I can still hear Mike ‘s words.

Grandfathers’ Day.

Fell this year on the sixth anniversary of Mike’s death. I took the train to Balloch and treated myself to the Big Breakfast in the Waterhouse Inn.

A Feast of Cholesterol. Great. I looked around at the other tables and realised I have been missing the pleasures of peoplewatching and eavesdropping. Inventing life stories out of scraps.

I meandered home by the River Leven, its loops and bends and woodland paths, mind-wandering.

Swans on the River Leven at Renton.

Met a Man whose tee-shirt said ‘All who wander are not lost’ with an image of Monument Valley on it, familiar from John Ford westerns. Smiled at the thought of the Frenchman who slapped the President (but was it worth four months in jail?).

I would like to slap the Oleaginous Creep in No. 10 – or punch his nose so that it bled. (I surprise myself with this – me so non-violent and all. I once made Robin M’s nose bleed – in Primary 7.

Gave myself a fright. Escaped Weary Willie Watson’s tawse. I have no idea of what brought this bout about.)

By the time I reached home The Girls had come to deliver cards and gifts (wine gums and wine) and so my day was made.

Almost midsummer’s day! Soon the reveries must come to an end. Let the summer roll on.

Head for the horizon – beyond even Bute. Arran? Moffat? Pitlochry? The Mull of Kintyre? The Hebrides? Mull of Kintyre? We must make the most of the time between Waves…

                                                              …. Good luck and good health!

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