This month we feature yours truly in the snug of the Globe Inn in Dumfries. It's a lovely little wooden room much frequented by Robert Burns. A place to rest awhile and wonder where you've put your pint.
Edward Burns in the Snug of the Globe Inn in Dumfries
September 2013 news cartoon - the overuse of promotional banners and A-framed pavement signs on ancient buildings
Promotional Banners and A-framed Pavement Signs
These days it seems businesses cannot function without A-framed pavement signs, a banner slung across their frontage, a plethora of balloons, and at least one member of staff dressed as a Womble.
I've seen charming Scottish hamlets with nowt but a castle and a hotel where you only need to raise your eyes to see the hotel yet there is a quite unnecessary pavement sign and a banner above the entrance, both of which say things like, 'WE ARE OPEN' or 'HOTEL THIS WAY'. I've even seen some grand old buildings whose facade and external fabric have been debased by banners and what have you, again saying nothing more informative than 'OPEN TODAY' or 'OLD BUILDING THIS WAY'. We are becoming so used to such things and so lost without them that in order to find our way home each and every house in the country will soon need an A-framed pavement sign saying something like, 'MISTER SMITH - YOUR HOUSE IS THIS WAY.'
But surely old buildings deserve more respect? They do, and to be perfectly frank with you the first sight of a promotional banner and some balloons is more than likely to send me scurrying in the opposite direction. I like to find things for myself. It's what being a tourist or visitor or traveller is all about, exploring and discovering and sneaking around corners to determine what untold delights might await your eager examination. You shouldn't need an A-framed sign to show you the way.
I was in Culross a few months ago, and found that for some business owners A-framed pavement signs do in fact work, and are quite necessary. It seems they actually bring in business. But do they work at the aesthetic expense of the old building they promote, reducing it to a tawdry fairground attraction?
It is surely a reflection of the type of tourist that visits Scotland. They get off their big bus, and expect to be led by the hand, maybe have drool tenderly wiped from their chins, and taken to places we expect them to visit. Clearly they are unable to root around and discover stuff for themselves, and any business that doesn't have this promotional nonsense is, in their eyes, not worth visiting. They want their tourist experience on a plate. Not for them the thrill of exploration or the challenge and excitement of the unknown.
And thus we find ourselves caught up in an irrational frenzy where businesses see others using A-framed pavement signs and banners and don't want to miss out, so they avail themselves of the same. Personally, I think our architectural heritage deserves better. And if tourists can't find stuff for themselves, then tough cookies. Maybe it's time we attracted a better class of tourist.
Scotland's Online Tourist Guide
September 2013
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'What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can,
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.'

A verse
William Henry Davies.
THERE APPEARS TO be a rather peculiar emphasis on hopping these  days, especially where tour buses are concerned. 'Hop on and off,' their leaflets will say, as if tourists are all lithe dudes prone to placing all their weight on one foot and launching themselves hither and thither in a repetitive Zebedee-like manner. I mean, what's wrong with just getting on the bus, or getting off the bus? Is hopping really necessary? Personally I'm inclined to think buses would be far more interesting if passengers could pole-vault on!
I POPPED (AS opposed to hopped) into a housing office a while back to enquire about a nearby community centre.
'When's it open?' I said to the young woman behind the counter.
'What do you mean?' she replied through big flickering eyelashes.
I hate conversations like this. I mean, how many different versions of 'open' are there?
'The opposite of shut,' I felt like saying, but didn't. Turns out it opened at different times for different groups, so she was kinda right to seek clarification. So off I hopped.
TECHNOLOGY IS STARTING to get the better of me. It is so hard to keep abreast of all that is new. I'm already about a decade behind everyone else, and can still spend quite a long time looking with an infinite amount of admiration at the colour screen of my new mobile phone thinking, 'How wonderful is that?' But it's all getting too much for my ageing brain. There's a strong chance I may well get up one morning, say 'Sod it!', and chuck the computer and everything else that bleeps in the bin. Then I'll be free.
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It is, at times, difficult to determine if things lying in the street have been discarded or if they are merely lying at rest while their owner roots around for house keys in a close. It wouldn't be the first time I have merrily made off with a huge bit of furniture to hear cries of 'Hoy! Where are you going with that?'
Not having a great deal of money, I have in fact furnished my flat with such stuff. Most of what you see in these two photos comes from charity shops or off the pavements of Partick. From charity shops I've got lampshades, curtains, rugs and a desk; and from the pavements I've picked up a free armchair, bookcase, decorative work of art, framed prints, rug, shelf, lighting-stand, door, cabinets and a fireplace. If you're in Partick and you happen to see a wardrobe being manhandled through the streets by a tall sweaty guy, that'll be me.
But the thing is, if only folk thought for a moment before discarding things. It's not a crime to chuck stuff out, but you may be discarding things that other folk could use. Why assign your old wardrobe to landfill when it could have a new lease of life in someone else's home?
And so, the lesson here is this: if you've stuff to throw out, give the Salvation Army or some other charity a call. Maybe they could take it off your hands. End of lecture. And if you're wondering what all this has to do with tourism, then unless we erect rope barriers manned by men in peaked caps to keep tourists away from residential areas, then it matters quite a lot!
Furnish your home inexpensively with furniture and fittings picked up on the street and in charity shops
Furnish your home with stuff from charity shops and the street
Every time I set foot outside my front door and wander the streets of Partick I am amazed at how much stuff folk throw out. Our controlling authority - Glasgow City Council - has a refuse collection system for large items that basically says just chuck it on the pavement. It doesn't seem to matter that most houses in Partick are Victorian and Edwardian tenements with huge unseen back courts that were built to house stuff like rubbish. No, to use such ready-made facilities would be far too sensible, so just chuck it onto the streets. Honestly, it's like walking through a coup at times.
Anyway, in wandering through the piles of discarded rubbish that litters the streets of Partick, everything from soiled mattresses to carpets, sofas, wardrobes, fridges, baths, sinks and toilets, I often see good stuff, stuff I am inclined to drag back home to use myself. Indeed, I feel I may have become something of a street scavenger, picking my way through society's disposables in the hope of uncovering rich pickings.
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