Tuesday 24 September 2013

Maryhill is Wonderful (Walking Through Maryhill With Some Old Photos as a Guide)

I grew up in Maryhill in the 1970s and still live nearby. Every second weekend I return to see Partick Thistle play at Firhill. A current chant from the crowd  there is "Oh Maryhill, is wonderful..." so I went out and about this weekend in Maryhill to try to look at it afresh.
As I go jogging in the westend of Glasgow often I usually end up going along by the canal a couple of times a week and it was the arrival of the canal in 1790 that made Maryhill. Before the canal was built the owner of the Garbraid estate, Mary Hill (1730-1809) and her husband, Robert Graham of Dawsholm, made their money from the land but the arrival of the canal brought a new source of income. 

Until then a few small industries had been set up along the River Kelvin, which has mills documented on its banks from the 15th century. Many of their weirs are still apparent in the river today. Dawsholm paper mill was founded in 1783 and only closed down in the 1970s. Further downstream the V-shaped weir of Kelvindale's snuff and paper-making mill is still visible and in North Woodside the flint mill is partially preserved. It was still producing chemicals for the pottery industry into the 1950s although suffered damage during bombing in WW2. When I was younger the canal was full of shopping trolleys, washing machines and dumped cars, and we were pretty much banned from playing anywhere near it. In recent years it has been cleaned up and herons and cormorants are found fishing in it. It has re-opened to boats and makes for a pleasant walk, run or cycle route.

North Woodside flint mill on the River Kelvin
Housing was required for the navvies who built the canal. Other industries followed with the access the canal gave them. Afterwards the railway line built through to Helensburgh and the pipeline from Loch Katrine kept the work coming to Maryhill. The landowners insisted that the new village, which was initially know as Kelvindock or Drydock, be named after Mary Hill and the name stuck. At this time the centre of Maryhill was at the top of the Butney (Cowal Road I see it is called on maps) and this junction was "Maryhill Cross", right beside the dry dock boatyard at Kelvin Dock. Here puffers and barges were built and repaired. The yard lasted until 1949.

Kelvin Dock, the dry dock
In the old picture above an elegant tenement stands at Maryhill Cross. These and the tenements on the other side of Maryhill Road were all swept away in the 1960s, a pattern which was unfortunately repeated across Maryhill at the time.

Kelvin Dock, the pub
Across Maryhill Road from this part of the canal the Kelvin Dock pub has stood for many years,. Although all the tenements on this side of the road were knocked down over 40 years ago, the pub is still open. These next photos are from further up Maryhill Road, at the junction with Celtic Street, looking back to town.

Maryhill Road, at Celtic Street
A lot less has changed up here, although the churchyard behind the trees on the left now lies empty (once home to a commemorative plaque to George Millar, the Maryhill Martyr). This is another area that was damaged by bombing during the war, the area just behind St Mary's School. This school's other claim to fame is as the venue for my first appearance as goalie for Maryhill Primary School football team. I think we lost about 21-0 that day.

Forth and Clyde Canal, the Kelvin aqueduct
Where the canal crosses the River Kelvin there is the impressive 70 feet high aqueduct built to carry it. The aqueduct was so expensive that work on the canal ground to halt for years here and almost bankrupted the contractors building it. When completed in 1790 it was the largest aqueduct in Europe. I think it is a beautiful feat of engineering, whether you are looking up from the Kelvin or peering down from above. If you are confused by the train on the left of the old photo, then this photo in 1955 towards Dawsholm Gasworks (from the Mitchell Library website) might make things clearer.

Me in groovy 1970s dungarees walking over the Kelvin aqueduct,
many of the houses in the background are now demolished
Before heading further down Maryhill Road I'll take you up to the top of Gilshochill, to Viewmount Drive. In 1884 a new school opened here, apparently known as the "Gilshie", but to me it was always Maryhill Primary School. I went there from 1976-1981. In the old photograph below there are children clambering over the spiked railings to play. When I was at school here we would clamber onto that wall and "jump the dykes", landing on the roofs of the bin sheds in the back of the tenement gardens behind the school. The school has shut down now and after lying derelict for a while has been refurbished as flats.

Maryhill Primary School
In 1865 Maryhill had become an independent Police Burgh and by the time the new Maryhill Burgh Halls and adjoining Police Station opened in 1878 the centre of Maryhill was moving south. As the 1884 Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland put it "Maryhill possesses in itself and its environs such strong attractions of scenery as draw many visitors from Glasgow, and exhibits for the most part a well-built, pleasant appearance".

It eventually became part of Glasgow in 1898.

Canal bridge on Maryhill Road just south of Sandbank Street
Just south of this bridge we would regularly come to Maryhill Library, where the day's newspapers would be available to read with a big wooden rod holding them in place. The elegant library building opened in 1905. It was one of sixteen built across the city with a donation of £100,000 from Andrew Carnegie at the turn of the century (another is the nearby Woodside Library on St George's Rd). I don't believe that they were all built with a separate "boys and girls" entrance like this one.

Maryhill Library
Across the road from here are the recently refurbished Maryhill Burgh Halls, with their 20 fantastic stained glass windows from 1870, documenting the differing local industries of Maryhill at that time. Worth sticking your head into, as there is loads of local historical information available here and a decent cafe. These photos below are from Maryhill Road, just south of the Burgh Halls (which can be seen poking out on the left), looking back up towards the library on the right.

Just down Maryhill Road from here is Maryhill Barracks, now the Wynford housing estate. It opened in 1872 and closed in the 1960s. It was home to the HLI (including, briefly, my grandfather during WW2) and after Rudolf Hess crash-landed in Scotland in 1941 he was briefly imprisoned here. From the original photograph here, looking up from the corner outside Tesco, really the only thing still standing is the barrack walls on the left. The Politician pub on the right hand side is about the only surviving building there. The building just after the tenement on the right was McLachlin's Castle Brewery, where the modern Police station sits now (the McLachlin brothers also owned the Castle Vaults pub which still sits down at St George's Cross.)

On Shakespeare Street here, behind the McDonald's and across from the Viking Bar, hides Ruchill Parish Church. Whilst the church itself is unremarkable, the church hall building beside it was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It is less obvious than the church he designed down the road at Queen's Cross, but once you know it is by him, you can see his style stamped all over it.

The canal is right beside the church here and was lined with assorted industries for almost 200 years after the canal opened. At this spot between the church and the canal was a cooperage. Across the canal were the MacLellan's Rubber Works and nearby was the Bryant and May factory (where Bluebell matches were made until 1981). To the left and right were iron foundries - Ruchill Iron Works, the Maryhill Iron Works and closer to Firhill Stadium, the Shaw & McInnes works which operated until 2001. Adding to the smog were the factory making lead based paints and Cassel's potassium cyanide and gold extracting works.

Ruchill Parish Church pokes up through the trees. On
the right of the canal McLellan's Rubber Works now gone
Forth and Clyde Canal today
If you follow the canal from here towards Firhill Stadium you will pass the site on the opposite bank of two glass factories, whose furnaces running 24 hours a day produced bottles, jars and plate glass. This earned the road behind them the name Murano Street after the famous Venetian glass-making island.

Bridge at the top of Firhill Road
Just before you get to the Firhill Basin on the canal, where saw mills, chemical works and iron foundries used to load their wares, you pass under a bridge, which used to be a 'bascule bridge' over to Shaw and McInnes's Firhill Iron Works. These iron works, seen in the old photograph, were founded in 1846. Partick Thistle are a later addition to the area, arriving in their current stadium beside the Firhill Basin in 1908. In the picture below you can still see the rows of tenements opposite the stadium, all cleared away in the late 60s/ early 70s.

Looking down Firhill Road to Firhill Stadium
From Firhill it is only 50 yards to get to Queen's Cross, home of Jaconelli's Cafe and Queen's Cross Church. This is the only church built to Charles Rennie Mackintosh's designs and is now home to the Mackintosh Society. Built in 1897, inside and out it is stunningly modern and imaginative.
Stained glass window in Queen's Cross church

Looking up Maryhill Road at Queen's Cross
Looking up Maryhill Road only the buildings on the right hand side of the road have survived, but if you turn around and look to the gushet at Queens Cross itself then none of the fabulous buildings in the picture below have survived. The long curving tenement in this picture was the work of another famed Glasgow architect, Alexander 'Greek' Thomson. Built in 1875 the building comprised the two storey shop at the corner and the four storey tenement buildings down both streets. His nearest work to here still in existence are the "Sixty Steps" at Garriochmill Road.

Queen's Cross
The photo below is from further down Maryhill Road looking back up towards the cross when the road was lined by tenements, now long gone. Queens Cross church can be seen poking up at the top. 

Further down Maryhill Road looking into Raeberry Street below you can see that the tenements down the side streets have all been demolished too. Even the church halfway down on the right was knocked down and replaced by flats a few years ago.. The shop at the left hand corner here on Maryhill Road is DM Hoey, for all your menswear needs.

At the bottom of Maryhill Road is St George's Cross, where a statue of St George and the dragon now stands. This statue used to be atop the Co-op building here and was preserved when the building was flattened in 1985. Nearby the flyover at the end of Great Western Road heads into town. It is all but impossible to picture the way this junction used to be. The old photo below has Great Western Road off to the left, Maryhill Road going off up the middle and St George's Road off to the right. Maryhill Road no longer goes up in a straight line from the cross but emerges now behind the building advertising Waddells Sausages in the old photo, which is hidden behind the tree on the right of the lower picture.

St Georges Cross
Going back up Maryhill Road to where the fire station now is, it is surprising to look back at how well proportioned and handsome the road looked before it was decided to flatten most of this area. The block opposite in the old photo is all gone, except for the furthest away corner, another case of a pub surviving after everything else around has gone, on this occasion The Strathmore.

The next junction off to the right  is Bilsland Drive, which now goes straight across into Queen Margaret Drive but at the time of the photo below you can see that the tram had to snake left to go right before the junction was re-configured. 

Canal bridge on Bilsland Drive
So finally back up to one of the oldest buildings in Maryhill, The White House pub. This opened for business in the days of the canal's construction before 1790. When I stayed across the road from here it was still open as a pub, but after lying empty for years it has recently been refurbished. Funny how it is largely the pub buildings which have survived the wrecking ball.

The White House pub at Lock 21 of the Forth and Clyde Canal
There is no longer the same range of industries and employers in Maryhill that there was in the past. Like other areas of Glasgow it has been hamstrung by the mis-guided efforts of city planners in the 1960s and 70s. However there are new facilities being developed, such as the excellent Burgh Halls and housing improvements are clear to anyone walking along the canal today. Now all that Maryhill needs to be "wonderful" is the continued success of Partick Thistle Football Club, who remember Mary Hill in another song,

"I know a lassie, a bonnie, bonnie lassie...
...Mary fae Maryhill."

NB. I can heartily recommend that you have a rummage about in one of my favourite websites if you are still feeling nostalgic "OldGlasgowPubs.co.uk"

(These old pictures were largely found on the internet or the MItchell LIbrary. Please let me know if you feel that you hold copyright of any of these pictures as none was mentioned where I found them)

Friday 13 September 2013

Dostoyevsky at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Review

I need to start this by admitting that I'm a bit of a Dostoyevsky groupie. I first read Crime and Punishment as a teenager and was completely hooked from the start. I turned my back on your Bronte sisters and Jane Austens. For a few years I could see no further than Russian literature and worked my way through Lermontov, Goncharov, Gogol, Turgenev, Gorky and the rest, but mainly the works of Dostoyevsky. Emile Zola and Victor Hugo I allowed myself, treating them as honorary Russians as they also featured sufficient misery and gloom for my tastes.

Ever since then I keep returning to it again and again. Recently I've read Norwegian author Knut Hamsun purely because Gide called him a "Norwegian Dostoyevsky" (wrongly) and read Russian author Vyacheslav Pyetsukh's "The New Moscow Philosophy" because it was supposed to be a "reprise of Crime and Punishment". Again I ended up disappointed. So when I found out that the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow were putting on adaptions of two of Dostoyevsky's books I was delighted, if a little anxious about how that would work out.

When we were on holiday about 9 years ago in Moscow and St Petersburg I ended up, without planning to, turning it into a bit of a Fyodor Dostoyevsky tribute tour. I've got photographs of myself and my children standing in front of Dostoyevsky's statue outside the Lenin Library in Moscow. However it is when you are in St Petersburg that you realise that city is an ever present character in many of his books, none moreso than in Crime and Punishment. Having read the book a couple of times before arriving in the city I was surprised at how grand, clean and open the city was. 
The streets and taverns Raskolnikov inhabited in my mind should have been more like the narrow streets of the Victorian Gorbals, yet here we found wide canals and streets, solid, dignified looking buildings and there was light. Obviously I was visiting a modern city, tidied up for our times but it was hard to put the Raskolnikov of my imagination into these grand streets. His attic flat in the book is described as "under the very roof of a tall five storey building, more like a cupboard than a living room". The descriptions are so real that the flat has been identified at a street called Stolyarny per, a street I had to visit. The spot is now marked by a plaque of Dostoyevsky, climbing the aforementioned stairs. Again this looked like a bright, healthy, solid building more akin to a romantic garret than a claustrophobic hovel. In Dostoyevsky's day there were apparently 22 bars in this street, so maybe that, the tuberculosis and the more crowded living accommodation of his day needs borne in mind. He takes 730 steps from here to get to the pawnbroker's house where he commits his crime. Beside this block a wide canal looks delightful, but apparently at the time stank from the sewage tipped into it and in the book there is reference to suicides throwing themselves into these same canals. 
Again look at this picture I took of the block thought to be where the murder took place, just not what I'd imagined. He runs out of the pawnbrokers house and through a tunnel onto the street beside the canal, so the tunnel in the centre of this block is where I picture it happening now.
Pawnbroker premises in St Petersburg?
We retreated to a bar called "The Idiot", named after another of his novels, and I began to feel more the atmosphere of his times. Although the walls inside were white and clean and bookshelves lined them, the arched roof and pillars of this basement bar felt like the kind of tavern in which Raskolnikov might have met Marmeladov. Here we looked up some other Dostoyevsky themed things to see. In 1849 whilst a prisoner of the Tsar for taking part in revolutionary activities, Dostoyevsky was taken to Semyonovsky platz and faced a mock execution.
Pionerskaya Ploschad
Now called Pionerskaya Ploschad the square has no feel of an execution site and has all the detritus of a bustling city, but that is as it should be. Glasgow Green in my own city is a place we go to run about and play rather than go to see people being hanged nowadays. He was then taken to a Siberian labour camp where he lived alongside murderers and criminals who inspired his ideas for Crime and Punishment.
Dostoyevsky Museum on the first floor
The flat where he lived his later years, and died, is now a museum to the author. Here he wrote The Brothers Karamazov and when we visited the market outside gave a better idea of the bustling streets of the 1860s and 1870s St Petersburg. Nearby, facing Vladimir Cathedral stands a statue to the author and this was the last site I visited on my pilgrimage to Fyodor.

Dostoyevsky statue opposite Vladimir Cathedral, St Petersburg
The point I want to make is that you create a very clear picture in your head when reading a good book, particularly one that you love, of the characters and their environment. This isn't a bad thing, but it needn't necessarily be what the author imagined or any other reader pictures. For this reason when I saw that the Citizens Theatre were doing a production of Crime and Punishment I was delighted but approached it with some trepidation, fearing certain disappointment in seeing a version different from my own. However on re-reading it recently I try to imagine how you could stage it and I find new things in it again. When I first read it I remember his mother being old. Caring but a bit clueless. When I read it again I find that "although Mrs Raskolnikov was forty-three her face still preserved traces of its former beauty". Forty-three! Steady on, Fyodor, that's not exactly ancient! But this is important, Raskolnikov is a young man for whom forty-three is past it. He is full of confidence and ideas and fight. Full of anger. The long passages in the book where he debates with himself seem ideal for a theatrical staging. The detective, Porfiry, is a prototype Columbo who knows despite a lack of evidence who the murderer is, but badgers him into confessing. Some adaptions or re-imaginings work. Then again have you ever seen the 1958 film of The Brothers Karamazov with a young William Shatner playing the monk Alexei Karamazov? Every time he is on screen you expect him to raise an eyebrow and flip open his communicator. I am more hopeful for Richard Ayoade's imminent film adaption of The Double. Not all of his books I can imagine well on stage but the two on show at The Citzens I could certainly see working well. 

Dostoyevsky's actual desk in his actual apartment
As the Citizens were staging adaptions of two books I decided to see them in the order in which they were written. First up was Notes From The Underground, the inaugural production by The Visiting Company starring Samuel Keefe (who I recently saw in The Changeling at Oran Mor, playing a similar angular, nippy sweetie role) and Millie Turner. This is on in one of the Studio Theatre spaces and the dark, small room worked well for the story, even if my back still aches from the blooming seats they have in there. Immediately before writing Crime and Punishment Dostoyevsky penned Notes From The Underground, a short novel in which the author through the monologues of the anonymous narrator berates society. It starts "I am a sick man....I am an angry man. I am an unattractive man. I think there is something wrong with my liver." This bitter character also vents his spleen against the aged - "To go on living after forty is unseemly, disgusting, immoral!" He tells the story of his bleak meeting with former colleagues from school, and later a prostitute, "that 'damned' Liza". He wonders "which is better, a cheap happiness or lofty suffering?"

The character in the book is spiteful, isolated, vengeful, ashamed and weak. Not an easy role to play and expect sympathy from the audience, but Keefe does it with aplomb and shows the vulnerability and insecurities of this man. He may be making his "notes" with an iPad or mobile phone rather than pen and paper but, using much text from the original book, little updating is required to maintain his existential angst in our modern times. Feeling humiliated from above and powerless against his superiors, he turns around and takes his anger out on someone weaker than himself. The book was conceived by Dostoyevsky whilst imprisoned and the "grief and disintegration" he felt there is surely just as resonant in today's society. It is clear that the "Underground Man" wallows in lofty suffering rather than trying to enjoy cheap happiness. That is to be what Raskolnikov has in store for himself too. Notes From The Underground was written as a bitter rebuttal of Utopian Socialist Chernyshevsky's novel What Is To Be Done? Dostoyevsky disagreed with these ideas that mankind would achieve happiness by acting with enlightened self interest. This book (the title of which was later borrowed by Lenin as the title of a more practical "How to do revolutions" pamphlet) is prominent again in the production of Crime and Punishment.

This production of Crime and Punishment is co-produced by The Citizens, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and Royal Lyceum Theatre companies and written by Chris Hannan. The ten strong cast are always on stage, milling around or playing the accompanying music, giving a good atmosphere of the bustling city within the book. Adam Best plays Raskolnikov with all the hunger, anger and poverty required. His friend Razumikhin is played by the fabulous Obioma Ugoala in a way that would make anyone gratefully take him as their best friend. George Costigan plays Porfiry's Colombo role whilst avoiding the tics of Peter Falk as much as possible. A lot of detail from the first half of the book is crammed in, as Raskolnikov puts forward his case that the extraordinary human is above the law if he acts for the common good. The second half slows a little, and his eventual confession, shouted out in the street, is maybe more dramatic, but in the end less powerful than the chain of events which bring him to confess in the book. He heads to a place the author knew only too well, the Siberian prison camps. I really loved getting an excuse to dust off my old Dostoyevsky books. Reading them a decade on from last time I see new things in the books again, and they are as relevant to our times as any other. That was something that both plays managed to convey.

Raskolnikov/ Dostoyevsky may not always have been right, but he had an idea and set out to prove its worth. “To go wrong in one's own way is better then to go right in someone else's.”

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Haxan Cloak and Fuck Buttons, SWG3, Glasgow

Just a quickie to say totally loved the gig at SWG3 tonight, although it will be a while before I can hear again.

Support act The Haxan Cloak (London based producer Bobby Krlic) showed what way things were going as his deep droning bass was loud enough to make my trouser legs vibrate. His latest album "Excavations" is apparently an instrumental contemplation on the journey you take after death. It is dense and dark, but the volume I play it at in my house didn't prepare me for the reverb on that bass inside the concrete box that is the warehouse at SWG3.

Fuck Buttons at SWG3
Next up was an hour and a half of the Fuck Buttons. I'd seen them do a great show at Stereo previously in Glasgow, where they seemed to guddle about in a suitcase full of electronic toys. Now they've got bigger and better toys and light shows to play with. As well as plenty from their new album Slow Focus, there were some oldies too, including a jazzed up version of Surf Solar, the tune which opened the Olympic opening ceremony in 2013 bizarrely enough. I was glad that they found room for Prince's Prize as it is my kids' favourite one from the album when I play it at home. They think it sounds like "an underground level of Mario" - no idea what that means.

It was a great show, played at a great volume, with my scalp and chest wall thrumming along in time to the music at times. I'm guessing it's too late for me to buy some of those ear plug things all the kids seem to wear.

Monday 9 September 2013

Running Route Around Glasgow Commonwealth Games Venues: Part 1

(Sept 2013 Part 2 here)
(June 2014 - venue update here)

The Commonwealth Games kick off in Glasgow in July 2014 and the deadline for the first batch of ticket applications is the 16th of September. Like many people I've put in a clutch of applications for me and my family and am waiting to see how many I've got before deciding whether to apply for some of the other sports on offer. It is an eccentric collection of sports that are in the Commonwealth Games, I guess the clue for that being the fact that these were originally the British Empire Games, but with countries participating including Jamaica, Australia, Canada, Kenya and Vanuatu there will be a host of top athletes on show.

Whatever tickets I get there will still be the marathon and the road cycling to be watched on the streets of Glasgow. The recent National Road Race Championships through the city streets showed what an entertaining spectacle these will be. Work is ongoing to get all the venues ready. As I'm running the Great Scottish Run half marathon in Glasgow in 4 weeks time the distances for my training runs of a Sunday morning are having to increase, and as I get easily bored, I devised a couple of wee 13 mile/ 20km routes around the Commonwealth Games venues to see what progress is being made on them. So if you want to run, cycle or walk around these places let me tell you what route I chose and what I saw.

Route 1. Glasgow Venues North of the River. A 20km Loop

Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre
I started at Kelvingrove Park, where the bowling greens present one of the most photogenic venues with Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Glasgow University in the background. The greens have all been re-laid and temporary seating will be in place for spectators during the games. As someone who goes out jogging through the streets of Glasgow regularly I am forever amazed at the number of bowling clubs that I stumble across hidden up various side streets in all parts of the city. I have messed about on these particular greens before, as like all of the city council run greens they are free to play on, so make a fine way to distract the kids for a wee half hour. They used to also let you play croquet on these greens. When I was younger I had to explain to the man in the booth that in my enthusiasm for this game, the rather violent rules we were making up ourselves, I had managed to snap their mallet.

The Hydro, Clyde Auditorium and SECC
Heading along Argyle Street and then south down Finnieston Street you pass the Hydro with the Clyde Auditorium (or Armadillo) and Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) hidden in behind it. Despite the recent fire damage the Hydro seems to be on course to open soon and like a Vegas casino on the Clyde, I believe they plan to have Rod Stewart as the resident entertainer 6 nights a week until the games start. Once the games do start it will host the Artistic and Rhythmic Gymnastics and the finals for the Boxing. The Armadillo will be home to the Weight-Lifting and Para-Sport Powerlifting and the SECC will play host to the Netball, Boxing, Judo and Wrestling. On at the SECC later today was Scotland Comic Con and even though it was only 8am when I was running past here, the costumed Pokemon and Japanese anime attendees to this were already queueing.

From here I headed over the Squinty Bridge (I think Clyde Arc is the official name) and headed east along the river, crossing back to the north bank at the suspension bridge before Glasgow Green. Running through Glasgow Green I stumbled upon the cyclists heading off across to Edinburgh for the annual "Pedal for Scotland" event. As they passed the MacLennan Arch they were piped on their way. This arch was once the entrance to the Assembly Rooms on Ingram Street, built in 1796 and designed by Robert and John Adam. When the building was knocked down in 1892 to make way for the Post Office building the archway was moved initially to Greendyke Street near to here, and then in 1922 it shuffled into Glasgow Green.

Pedal for Scotland at Glasgow Green
Carrying on through Glasgow Green eastwards you arrive (after about 5.5km) at the football pitches where the newly built Glasgow National Hockey Centre is found. It looks a lovely facility and I suppose it must be getting used at present since they turned the sprinkler on just as I took my snap on my phone.
Glasgow National Hockey Centre
Carrying on eastwards I was keen to seek out the new Athletes' Village which is being built here and then will be housing for the local community once the Games have left town. This is being built in a piece of land between Dalmarnock Road, Springfield Road and the River Clyde and lies just east of the Emirates Arena. It is a major development and one can only hope that they have learnt from Glasgow's poor record over the last 50 years with housing developments. Maybe this time they will invest some money maintaining the properties and plan facilities for the residents (shops, health care services, decent schools and potential employers). You can only hope.
Sun shines down on the Athletes Village construction site in Glasgow

Athletes Village, Dalmarnock, Glasgow
Across the road from here is the impressive structure that houses the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the Emirates Arena. That corporate naming thing I find grim. Are there many of the Dalmarnock locals that are going to wander past and think, "Oh, I fancy a 5 star trip to Dubai"? It just makes it suddenly seem something out of reach for those living in the neighbourhood, when it really is important it is a resource that the local people enjoy having and use. What would have been wrong with calling it the Dalmarnock Sports Arena? It is run by the council's arms-length "Glasgow Life" organisation so has a council run gym in it. Therefore you can go in for a nosey around the velodrome and the Arena, which can be used as an indoor running track. During the Commonwealth Games the Track Cycling will be held here and in the Arena, the Badminton competition.

The Chris Hoy Velodrome and "Emirates" Arena
Around the corner on London Road sits Celtic Park, where Partick Thistle will play the Glasgow Derby game this season on January 1st. Even at this early hour the place was a hive of activity as the stadium was hosting a sell out charity match later in the day, raising funds for Stiliyan Petrov's cancer charity.
Celtic Park, with the catering facilities for the Commonwealth Games being put in place
Celtic park will host the Opening Ceremony for the Commonwealth Games. Already some people are complaining that this may harm their chances of qualifying for next year's Champions League if they win the SPFL this year, as the early qualifying stages will have to be played elsewhere due to this. I presume that they could have said "no" to being paid for the use of their ground next July, but as Ibrox is hosting the Rugby 7's maybe they were wanting to get in on the act too. There is a precedent in the city for this venue-shifting not helping the "home" team . The first ever European Cup game played in Glasgow was at Partick Thistle's Firhill Stadium; Djurgardens IF vs Hibernian in November 1955. The Swedes used it as their home fixture as their own ground was frozen, but lost 3-1, and then lost the "away" leg five days later in Edinburgh 1-0.
Tollcross Baths, or Tollcross International Swimming Centre

Okay, so on to the last Commonwealth venue of this route. Go east along London Road for almost a kilometre and once you've passed 10km turn left up Maukinfauld Road, past the McVities biscuit factory and into Tollcross Park at the top. If you zig-zag north through the park you'll come out at the "Tollcross International Swimming Centre" as it is now named. Here Glasgow's 50m pool has been upgraded and is re-opened with the extra seating still being added along the rear end of the building today. Alternatively you can go instead to the excellent wee Children's Farm in the park, but the glasshouses are out of action.
Steam Hammer at Beardmore Park
From here you can go a wee bit further north and you'll emerge onto Shettleston Road near to the ground of the mighty Shettleston Juniors, where Tommy Docherty started his footballing career. Heading back west to get back to the start you'll soon come to a giant steel hammer at a junction, which marks the industry which turned the small weaving village into the Parkhead which exploited the local coal deposits and became home of the Beardmore's famous Parkhead Forge. Like somebody mocking this heritage a rather depressing shopping centre carries this name now. It sits like a spaceship which has thrown up a crater of wasteground around it on landing.  Forking left at the steel hammer you'll head down Westmuir Street and pass the beautiful Victorian buildings which stand at Parkhead Cross. Continuing east along the Gallowgate past the Eastern Necropolis (where the remains of Alexander Cruikshanks lie, a goalkeeper for Strathclyde FC, who died during a match in 1932), you will arrive at the Barrowland Ballroom. It always looks a bit sad during the day when its big glitzy light isn't on, but at this time on a Sunday the Barras market was on. A veritable League of Nations of eager customers was rushing past me to inspect the roll ends of linoleum and fluorescent shell suits that I spotted for sale along the streets.
Barrowlands Ballroom and the Barras market
Heading into the city centre I passed George Square after 18km which is presumably now getting its Commonwealth Games makeover. After Gordon Matheson got his controversial plans rejected to re-jig the square and make it a bit more corporate friendly, the council agreed to do what everyone wanted in the first place. Tidy it up a bit, remove the tatty red tarmac and put some of the grass beds back in place. Anyway I guess this is what is happening behind the barriers, to at least give visitors to the city centre a more handsome square to remember us by.

George Square and the Commonwealth Games hoardings
So head up St Vincent Street and that's you back at the bowling greens of Kelvingrove Park. It was heartening to see so much going on in town with the ComicCon, hockey players heading out to their pitch, cyclists off to Edinburgh, a full house at Celtic Park and the Barras market in full swing. The George Square hoardings remind me that I haven't found the table tennis and squash venues yet. So that is where I'm headed next.

(June 2014 - update on venues here)

Running Around the Commonwealth Games Venues: Part 2

The Commonwealth Games kick off in Glasgow in July 2014 and the deadline for the first batch of ticket applications is the 16th of September. Like many people I've put in a clutch of applications for me and my family and am waiting to see how many I've got before deciding whether to apply for some of the other sports on offer. It is an eccentric collection of sports that are in the Commonwealth Games, I guess the clue for that being the fact that these were originally the British Empire Games, but with countries participating including Jamaica, Australia, Canada, Kenya and Vanuatu there will be a host of top athletes on show.

Whatever tickets I get there will still be the marathon and the road cycling to be watched on the streets of Glasgow. The recent National Road Race Championships through the city streets showed what an entertaining spectacle these will be. Work is ongoing to get all the venues ready. As I'm running the Great Scottish Run half marathon in Glasgow in 4 weeks time the distances for my training runs of a Sunday morning are having to increase, and as I get easily bored, I devised a couple of wee 13 mile/ 20km routes around the Commonwealth Games venues to see what progress is being made on them. So if you want to run, cycle or walk around these places let me tell you what route I chose and what I saw.

Route 2. Scotstoun, Hampden and Ibrox, a 22km loop

Clyde Auditorium (Armadillo) and The Hydro
Yesterday I ran around some of the Commonwealth Games venues in Glasgow, and today I had a quick scout around the other Glasgow venues as I want to do another 13 mile training run next weekend as I get ready for the Great Scottish Run. I had decided to leave off the diving venue (Royal Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh), the Mountain Bike Course on Cathkin Braes (although that appealed as it was where Benny Lynch went on his training runs) and also the Barry Buddon Shooting venue in Carnoustie.

SECC with BBC studios across the Clyde
So I started at the SECC where the Hydro, SECC and Armadillo will be hosting the Boxing, Netball, Judo, Wrestling, Weightlifting and Gymnastics during the Commonwealth Games. I then headed west along the Cydeside.

Glasgow Museum of Transport (and a big crane?)
Passing the new Transport Museum you only get a hint of the industry that used to fill the banks of the River Clyde with the cranes of Govan shipyards downstream from here. Heading down by the river along South Street, you'll soon pass the site of Partick Thistle Football Club's Meadowside ground from 1897-1908, on the opposite bank from Govan shipyards, now blocks of modern flats.

Govan Shipyards on the south bank of the Clyde, the Meadowside flats on the north
Other shadows of the shipbuilding days are soon seen in the "Harland Cottages" on South Street, bearing the name of the Harland& Wolff yard that used to run seven building berths in their yard in Govan. Turning right into Harland Street at about the 5km mark and going straight up through the side streets you'll soon come to what I knew as Scotstoun Showgrounds when I was younger. Although initially used for agricultural shows, by 1915 it already had an athletics track and grandstand here. Since those days it has had a modern running track laid and Scotstoun Stadium is used now by Glasgow Warriors Rugby team. Alongside that there are 5-aside football pitches, a swimming pool, a gym, squash and badminton courts.

Scotstoun Sports Centre
However Scotstoun is neither hosting the Badminton nor the Rugby 7s. The Squash will be played here during the Commonwealth Games, but not without some controversy. As well as using the 6 permanent squash courts, a temporary glass walled show court will be built for the games but afterwards will be dismantled and will not be available for Glasgow to host prestige squash tournaments in the future. The Table Tennis is also going to be on here, presumably being held in the area where the Badminton courts are.

Fossilised Crazy Golf in Victoria Park which will bamboozle the archaeologists of tomorrow
So from here it was time to head through neighbouring Victoria Park and get south of the river Clyde. As a teenager I was often in Victoria Park but the rowing boats and Crazy Golf that I used to play on are long gone. The fantastic Fossil Grove is still here and I think that it is mental that we don't, as a city make more noise about the fact that you can come and see 325 million year old fossilised tree stumps in the place that they once grew.

Clyde Tunnel Cyclepath
Once you've gone through the underpass at the expressway you can get into the Clyde Tunnel cyclepath from Dumbarton Road. Where the entrance of the Clyde Tunnel now sits was once home to Partick Thistle Football Club from 1885-1897, Inchview. If you are running or walking it doesn't matter which of the two pedestrian tunnels you go down, but if cycling you need to go with the flow of traffic. The cycle tunnel is about 1km long and isn't as scary as it used to be, with the controlled entry at each end, a fresh lick of paint inside recently added to brighten it up and it no longer even smells like a urinal.
Mrs Elder in Elder Park
Coming out in Govan you can head towards the shipyards and then veer south through Elder Park if you want to see one of only three women immortalised in statue in Glasgow. Here can be found Mrs Isabella Elder, who created the park to remember her shipbuilding husband. She was of a philanthropic bent and particularly supportive of the education of women. She bought North Park House on Queen Margaret Drive (which later became home of the BBC) and presented it to Queen Margaret's College to use for female medical education. Her statue is of its time and, despite her efforts, women knew their place in those days so the plaque at the base of the statue records her name as "Mrs John Elder". The other two statues of women in the city are Queen Victoria astride her horse in George Square and Dolores Ibarruri, 'La Passionara', with fists clenched in the air down by the Clydeside.

Ibrox Stadium, 11 km into this route
If you've found your way through the streets and industrial units around here you'll emerge at what I suspect will be one of the easiest venues to get tickets for during the Commonwealth Games, Ibrox Stadium, which will host a weekend of Rugby Sevens. With a capacity of 50,000 you would expect there will be tickets available for this although the world's major rugby nations will all be here for the tournament. It is a wee bit tricky to find your way through the side streets of Pollokshields to get from Ibrox to the last Commonwealth Games venue today, Hampden Stadium.

Hampden Bowling Club
If you cross Paisley Road West, there is a path that goes over the M8 then under the M77. You should then come out onto leafy Nithsdale Road and head left for a couple of kilometres, crossing Pollokshaws Road and heading up to "Scotland's National Stadium" as it now seems to be branded. I was always under the impression that it was primarily "home to Queens Park Football Club". No matter how you've got here you will undoubtedly have passed a couple of Bowling Clubs on the way, surely confirming that we must be in with a chance of a few medals here.

Hampden Park
Football will be banned for most of a year in Hampden as it prepares to host 8 days of Track and Field events and the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony. For this to happen there is still a track to be laid in Hampden, which will involve raising the area at the edge of the pitch and slightly reducing the capacity by taking out the front rows. With Usain Bolt declaring that a Commonwealth Games title is still one which he wants to get, to complete his collection, it could be that all eyes will be on Hampden during these days.

Terracing at Cathkin Park, once home to Third Lanark FC
I find it impossible to go for a run out this way without sticking my head in to see the sad sight that is Cathkin Park, once home of Third Lanark Football Club before their demise in 1967. Today the weed covered terracing waved in the wind like a ghostly crowd, oblivious to the man from the council in his wee lawnmower doing handbrake turns on the pitch whilst cutting the grass. From here it is a wee run down Aitkenhead Road then turn right and down Cathcart Road. You will pass the shell of the Alexander "Greek" Thomson designed Caledonia Road Church which stands empty and purposeless in a traffic island here, a remnant of the once mighty Gorbals. From here, cross over the Clyde and head back along the north bank of the river to get back to the start at the SECC.

22km or 13.5 miles, another wee route to vary my training for the Great Scottish Run in October.

Caledonia Road Church, by Alexander "Greek" Thomson