A Nautical Nomad ( landlubber version)

A walk through Dundee ( with a few wee stories) part one

Saturday 25 April 2020

This is us 5 weeks into the lockdown, setup to combat the Coronavirus epidemic. We are allowed out only for work in necessary industries, food shopping and limited exercise. These strictures were imposed rather late in the epidemic and travel from abroad has not yet been included which means that our airports are bringing in thousands of people every day without any testing or quarantine . This lack of proper policy has no doubt caused many unnecessary deaths and hopefully will be properly investigated in due course.

Hwever that is for another day and today I decided to walk into and around the center of Dundee. Leaving the house I started down Westgrove Avenue towards the Perth Rd , Westgrove Avenue is a nice Lane bounded by high sandstone walls , keeping the homes on either side very Private. There are some lovely buildings here. this being part of the West end of the city and many of the houses here were built during the hay days of the Jute industry in the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds, by the Jute barons. The West end was chosen, as the prevailing wind is from the west and kept the smell from the slums and tenements in the center of the city away from the abodes of the privileged class at that time . Most of the large houses and almost mini estates have been converted into smaller housing units and flats but still probably the most desirable part of the city.

Westgrove Avenue heading for the Perth Rd

After a brisk downhill walk I turned left at the Perth road, heading towards the City Centre. I passed the Harris School , recently completely rebuilt and indeed the school that three of my children attended.

Harris School


Not far from the school is the western cemetery. It was originally opened by a commercial company in 1845; it was purchased by the City of Dundee District Council in 1979. In 2007, a group of local residents, supported by the West End Community Council, founded the Western Cemetery Association, to maintain the character and appearance of the cemetery.

The Western cemetery

Continuing along the Perth Road past Windsor street on the right I came to the Sinderens which sits at the junction of the Perth Road Hawkhill and Blackness avenue overlooked by the impressive Blackness Library. The Sinderins in Dundee refers to a parting of the ways or sundering of the roads, one going east along the present Perth Road and the other up the Hawkhill.
Blackness library was one of the libraries built through the generosity of Andrew Carnegie , born in Dunfermline and made his fortune in the steel industry in America. He was a ruthless businessman and in later live made amends for his exploitation of his workforce by becoming a philanthropist . His philanthropy being expressed in his home country by donating libraries in most of the large cities. Carnegie hall in New York was another of his gifts

Blackness library , a gift of Andrew Carnegie

So leaving the Sinderins and continuing along the Perth Road I passed one of the most beautiful cobbled lanes in the country . Strawberry bank, which leads from the Perth Road to Magdalen Yard road.

Strawberry Bank

And so to the heart break of the walk . My local, Mennies, or to give it its Sunday name The Speedwell bar . Closed because of the lock down. It is given the name Mennies after one of the previous owners , a Mrs. Mennie, who ran a tight ship, so much so that she once threw the Rolling stones out of the pub for rowdiness after one of their concerts in the Caird hall.
Mennies, always a place where you will get a cheery welcome from mine host Jonathan Stewart together with the many costumers who pass through the doors of probably one of the most popular hostelries in Dundee. A hive of political intrigue and the place the Yes bus team would come to after a day in the city square during the independence campaign in 2014. Sad to see it with the shutters up during this lock down

Mennies, my local.

Onward towards the City center, passing Ryhill church , which like many churches these days, has been converted into flats. Ryehill church is situated on a very restricted site on the corner of Perth Road and Mid Wynd. It was designed by George Shaw Aitken in 1878 and completed in 1889.

Ryhill Church

Onward , passing Duncan of Jordonston Collage of Art & Design (DJCAD) which is part of the University of Dundee. It is ranked as one of the top schools of art and design in the United Kingdom and has an outstanding reputation in teaching, practice and research. A couple of hundred meters and I came to Seabraes garden, a beautiful Oasis. just off the normally busy Perth road with its confusion of palm trees and a mini band stand. Great views out over the river Tay and a great excuse to stop for a break and take in the views on this glorious day.

Sea Braes Garden

Almost directly across the road from the garden is the university of Dundee. The University of Dundee is a public research university. Founded in 1881 the institution was, for most of its early existence, a constituent college of the University of St Andrews alongside United College and St Mary’s College located in the town of St Andrews itself. Following significant expansion, the University of Dundee gained independent university status in 1967 while retaining much of its ancient heritage and governance structure.

The university is at the cutting edge of medical research being linked to Ninewells hospital which is one of the largest teaching hospitals in the UK. At present they are working on a cure for Covid 19 and are expecting trials to start this week.

University of Dundee

So, after a well deserved rest I continued towards the City center, shortly passing by the Queens hotel. An imposing building with a sandstone façade. Opened in 1878 by Dundee wine merchant Col Smith as a “Station Hotel” in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the railway station in Dundee it was famously described as the “swankiest, poshest hotel in Bonnie Dundee”. It once had Winston Churchill as a guest when he was a Member of Parliament for the city. A career that was short lived as he was defeated by Nedy Scrimgeour who believe it or not stood on an abolitionist ticket. Churchill never quite got over that, and he once said that he would” see the weeds grow in the streets of Dundee”, not realizing that the people of Dundee looked upon his removal as being well rid of one of the weeds.
Coincidently the Queens is in fact the scene of a couple of my political interventions in recent years., The first being in 2016 the week before the Scottish parliamentary elections when I walked out on a meeting that Nicola Sturgeon was speaking at. The reason being that I had been deliberately prevented from posing the question as to why she had not included in the manifesto for the forthcoming election, the intention to wrest control of the ability to hold a Scottish referendum from Westminster ( section 30). A question that will forever haunt her as she has been refused a section 30 now on several occasions.
The second occasion, was relatively recently, in fact just before the most recent UK General Election when the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbin came to town. He had recently announced that he would not countenance granting permission for Scotland to hold a referendum on independence . The same section 30 that I wished to ask Nicola Sturgeon about. This time I had decided not to be quite so polite as I had been with Nicola Sturgeon and had opted for a more direct approach.
Several problems had to be overcome one was entry to the room where the meeting was to take place, which by coincidence was the same room that Nicola Sturgeon had used. The other problem was that I knew there was no question and answer session planned. As far as entry was concerned, it is well known in Dundee that I am not a supporter of the labor party and in fact came up against them on numerous occasions during the independence campaign in 2014. Therefore signing in to the meeting was not an option.
There are two entrances to that room one direct from the car park at the rear and one from a staircase which leads from the hotel reception. I decided on the staircase option as it has a bend in it and lent itself more aptly to a discreet entry.

I simply walked into the reception , milled with some of the people standing about and edged my way to the top of the staircase and made my way down, stopping at the bend to surreptitiously peer around to see what lay ahead. Problem! there was a table at the entrance to the room manned by one of the officials, however as I looked he picked up some papers and made his way into the room. I quickly followed him and it must have looked as though I had entered the room with him. Once in the door he turned right and I turned left, walking around the back of the people who by this time were all seated. I found a row with spare seats and managed to get myself about the center of the room with people on both sides of me, the idea being that if the worst came to the worst they would have a job getting to me.
When I came in I had noticed a few eyebrows going up amongst the audience but no reaction from the officials. I heard later from someone close to Labour that I had been noticed but they had been of the opinion that they could “contain any problem”
I started up a conversation with the lady next to me and it turned out that she was in fact a supporter of independence. Eventually Jeremy came in and started his speech, much of which I agreed with. It looked like he was not going to address the independence issue so I decided to take the bull by the horns and stood up . “Jeremy” , I said, “I would like to ask why to think fit to deprive the Scottish people of the democracy they deserve by refusing a section 30. Are you not a believer in democracy” Jeremy decided that he would continue with his speech and I had decided that he wouldn’t, so I raised my voice to counter the fact that he had a mike. meanwhile panic ensued among the officials. I had considered, that because Jeremy was the leader of the opposition at Westminster he could in all possibility have had the services of MI5 officers who would be armed therefore I had to be very careful not to go over the score or in any way allow them to think I might pose a danger to their charge. This was one of the reasons I had deliberately positioned myself deep into the audience.
Three officials including Jim Mc Govern ( previous MP for Dundee West) tried to get past the people sitting to my left and did not make a very good job of it. They were shouting at me to get out and getting in one another’s way.One of them took hold of my shoulder. Now I realized that this was in fact assault, and because this was a licensed premises the only people who could ask me to leave was the management or employees of the license holder. I told the guy to take his hands off me and made it very plain that if they touched me again they would be responsible for the consequences .
Meanwhile the audience had turned into a baying mob and once I had pushed off the three ineffectual and self appointed bouncers I turned and said to Jeremy( who had actually stopped talking at this point) at the same time pointing to the mob , “so this is what you call democracy”. I had made my point and decided to leave, heading for the door which led to the car park.
If anyone is interested I covered this incident in more detail including the aftermath in a blog I did the following day titled “The dark heart of New Labour”.
As I walked past the Queens all of this came back to me, I afforded myself a wry smile.
As a foot note, that day, after the meeting when Jeremy was interviewed, he had changed his mind about granting the section 30 and his position was now that he could grant it within a couple of years of taking power

Queens Hotel

At this point in the walk, the Perth road stops and the street becomes the Nethergate before crossing West Marketgate.

Continuing past the Overgate Shopping Mall I stopped at the Old Steeple, my memory going back to my childhood and of climbing the steps to the top of the tower. Sometimes called St Marys tower , it has stood against fire and siege since the 15th century. It held out against Cromwell when his forces laid siege to the City in 1651 until the holding forces were smoked out.
I remember when the council were changing the road and gardens outside the Steeple, the workmen came across a large amount of skeletons, which ,it was thought. were buried there during and after the siege.

Auld Steeple with the old town cross

Sitting in front of the steeple is a memorial to Mary Slessor. A missionary who started as a worker in Baxter Brothers one of Dundee’s Jute mills . She went to Africa to spread the word of the Bible and as you can see on her memorial she persuaded the natives to abandon their ” superstitions” I think what it should say is that she “replaced” their superstitions.

Memorial to Mary Slessor

So that was me at the two mile mark with quite a bit to go but a perfect day for it. I will finish it there for the day and carry on with part two of the walk tomorow , to save anyone from falling asleep. Hopefully when all of this is over , people will get out and walk , it is great exercise and it costs nothing , especially when all the shops are closed.

A Nautical Nomad

Friday 10 April 2020

Third week of lock down and going through some of my facebook postings of previous cruises and came across this one which was a transatlantic crossing from Fort Lauderdale in 2017.

Oh to be back on the seas again but hopefully it will come again .

10 April 2017

Well day four of my wee sojourn to the US with a sail across the Atlantic Ocean and day two at sea.
These transatlantic voyages can be interesting with a selection of things to do to pass the time, like, flower arranging. needlework and quizzes all about America. The quizzes must be American orientated, because most Americans think they are sailing off the edge of the World if they go any further than their inshore waters and any new country they encounter on a trip must be a new world. American news outlets do not help the situation, because they seem to forget there are countries beyond American shores.


Now I realise that I will be getting stick from my many US friends for this but I am also sure that they realise that my attempts to assuage an element of boredom are conducted with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.
Oh, I have just realised that I have inadvertently encroached on the main event of the day, coffee with the captain. I wondered why I had been getting strange looks from a group of people who are waiting to get seats whist I was taking a whole table up with my accoutrements spread out all over the place.
Well I can’t be bothered moving so I will just have to put up with the Captains old jokes in order to piss off all the people who are still giving me strange looks and after all, it is vitally important that I get this report out and the Captain has just told us that the ship is 300 metres long. He is an English Captain so presumably he has been at sea for quite a while and not heard of Brexit because before long he will have to be telling people that the ship is 1000 YARDS long. This is getting exciting he is telling us about the incinerator on board. I think that is how they dispose of the old codgers who expire whilst cruising.

Cool day at sea


OK, I will have to contain my excitement and get on to more important things like what has been happening this last couple of days since I last posted , which to be honest is not a lot and simply been winding down after a pretty intense couple of months at work . Oh I temporarily digress as the Captain has just told everyone that he once had a 10 to 12 meter swell. I do not believe him.
The first night on board, was taken up with re-familiarising myself with the Crown princess, a lovely ship and now one of the older ships in the Princess fleet. I prefer the older ships as the newer ones are too open plan. Dinner was good with a table of interesting people. Later I ended the evening / early Morning in the compulsory ships disco.

Sky walkers disco


Yesterday was formal night on the ship where everyone dresses up, the ladies in their ball gowns and cocktail dresses and the gentlemen in their tuxedoes. I of course wore my Kilt and just to emphasise my earlier point about the insular nature of American society I had the usual stream of people asking where I was from!
I did bump into Ronnie, resplendent in his kilt, a fellow Scot who I had not seen for about 10 years a guy who regularly travels the World attending to his various business interests and when in the UK spends some time in his second home which is the house of Lords, I sometimes all him Barron Ronnie, as that is what he is. The last time I saw him was on board a princess ship sailing from Venice to the States. Ronnie, despite being a Lord, is a nice guy and the last time I sailed with him we had a great time. His only problem is that as he owns part of Budweiser, and when it is his round he refuses to buy anything other than Budweiser. As many of you will be aware Budweiser is on the same level as Gnats Piss.

Lovely sunset


So, my evening last night once more ended up in the disco showing the youngsters how to dance, and now onward into Monday and new adventures among the Zimmer’s, wheel chairs and nice people and I attach ( hopefully) photos of the Captains coffee morning .


Right now, can’t make up my mind whether to find the flower arranging or have a beer with Ronnie.

A Nautical Nomad ( landlubber version)

Tuesday 7 April 2020.

OK, so this is us in the third week of the partial lockdown to combat the coronavirus epidemic. when I say a partial lockdown, what I mean is that we are to stay at home except for going out for necessary food shopping and once a day exercise.

For my exercise today I chose a walk around Balgay park which is sited not far from my house based around Balgay hill situated in the west end of the City. The parkland is actually made up of three parks and a cemetery. Lochee Park donated by the Cox brothers who owned Camperdown works which at that time was the largest jute mill in the World. You can see the large chimney in one of the photos which is Cox’s stack. Camperdown works are now apartments and a large shopping center.

Camperdown Mill and Cox’s stack , Sidlaws in the background

Victoria Park, named after Queen Victoria and Balgay park once part of Balgay estate which included Balgay house, now the Royal Victoria Hospital. Balgay park came into public ownership in 1871.
Then there is the Western necropolis situated on the west side of Balgay hill.

Tay bridge crossing the river Tay

The parks are a gem and although I moved back to Dundee over a year ago it is only this last three weeks that I have found my way to the park taking advantage of the many walks through the wooded areas and hills of the parkland.
Tonight was an exceptionally clear evening, all be it with a cool breeze blowing but never the less a perfect evening for a brisk walk.

I headed through the flat area of the park skirting the Royal victoria hospital passing by the area set up for a drive-through virus testing centre, then heading uphill leaving the roadway and getting on to one of the pathways through the woods.

Footbridge over the gully to the Western necropolis


After a brisk uphill walk, I was rewarded with the wonderful views you can see below. Now I am not sure what order they will be displayed in once I post this but from left to right, they are:-
The footbridge over the gully between Balgay Hill and the Western Necropolis.
The plaque at the Mills observatory.
Cox’s stack
Mills Observetory
A view of the Tay bridge
A view looking towards the Sidaw hills and indeed where I lived for over 50 years, first hill on the left
A view looking towards the mouth of the river Tay with the Moon out
Dundee Law with the war memorial atop.

Towards the mouth of the river Tay with the Moon looking on

Perfect evening for photos, and once taken I made my way past the Mills observatory and headed down hill. The mills observatory is owned by Dundee Council and is only one of two working public observatories in the UK which has a resident astronomer. Entry is free and in the autumn and winter evenings the telescope is pointed at one of the planets and anyone can take a look. Great place to take the kids on a Winters evening.

Mills Observitory

So, after an interesting and energetic walk through the woods of Balgay park I headed home, mission accomplished.

Dundee Law with the war memorial at the top

We are getting through this, slowly and in fact more slowly than necessary but for government incompetence. Let us hope that lessons are learned from this. One thing has become very clear and that is that when necessary , money can be found to do almost anything, Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a fraction of it could be found to alleviate poverty? If so then just perhaps something good could come out of this situation.

Stay safe my friends

Sidlaw hills where I lived for over 50 years

The World this week from Mennies

Saturday 4 April 2020

Corona Virus, Trump, Alex Salmond

Well here we are two weeks into the partial lockdown and instead of these musings coming from Mennies they are again coming from a bunker, somewhere in the West end of Dundee. I say two weeks into the lockdown, but I should be saying 6 weeks as that is what it should have been if Johnston and Sturgeon had simply looked at the massive amount of evidence available from all over the world.

This epidemic started in China in mid-December and from there, speedily spread to many countries. The Chinese and other Asian countries had a pretty quick learning curve and managed to get the epidemic under reasonable control by instituting pretty stringent protocols , such as mass testing, wearing masks and very importantly, population  isolation.

It took the UK government and by default the Scottish government two and a half months to get it into their heads that there was a problem. Now we are at the 4th April and we have only had a partial lockdown for the last two weeks., This is monumental incompetence and only a few weeks ago the joint policy was this crazy heard immunity theory, which would have and indeed will mean that many thousands of people will unnecessarily die. Yes, that is an indisputable fact. Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon, by a combination of ineptitude and idiotic policy, are responsible for innumerable deaths. Once this is over there must be a reckoning.

I watch these government briefings every day and I never cease to be amazed at just how much dis-information is spewed out each and every day. The health secretary Mat Hancock’s delivery is more akin to Hancock’s half hour, which for the younger among you was a television comedy series in the sixties featuring Tony Hancock. The difference between Tony and Mat is that Tony was a good comedian.

There have been various initiatives to help businesses through this emergency however this “aid” has been somewhat unevenly distributed as only £90 million has been set aside for small businesses whereas more than 1.9 billion is going to large corporate entities. You know, the kind of companies who donate to the Tory party. Same as the two companies who the Tory government have “engaged with” to produce ventilators, Dyson (vacuum cleaners) and JCB (construction equipment) This instead of accepting the offers from companies who presently make the bloody things. Something else to be investigated when the time is right.     

This brings me to Donald Trump, who is another comedian, again a very back comedian. I do not think I have ever seen such an incompetent leader and figure of derision since the days of Idi Amin. Both have been responsible for the deaths of many thousands of their own populations. I have just watched Trump advising the country that the up to date medical advice, is to wear a mask then in the same breath emphasizing that is voluntary, and stating quite vociferously that he won’t be wearing one. People of the US, this is your leader.

Two weeks ago, Alex Salmond was found not guilty on trumped up charges of sexual assault and attempted rape. Now Alex Salmond represents a threat to the present situation of Scotland being trapped into a union which has been found to be grossly against Scotland’s interests. He was found not guilty on the basis that the 9 Women who have filed charges against him were mainly lying  and were part of a conspiracy, set up by some of the group who have very strong links to the leadership of the SNP. Now if it were not for the fact that these women had been given a court order of anonymity, it would have been patently obvious just how far up the line to the SNP leadership this conspiracy went. These Women (who were supposed to be anonymous to every one including one another ) somehow managed to get together to put a story in the National newspaper, basically making it plain that they did not believe the court decision., This was eagerly embraced by the mainly unionist press who piled on with their agreement that the court decision had been wrong. So, all week there has been the most ridiculous debate regarding a man who was obviously the victim of a huge SNP leadership led conspiracy.

This of course all took place within the unionist and SNP leadership (one and the other) bubble and ordinary Scots were bemused at this attempt to set aside a decision of the highest court in the land. ( as an aside, I put up a tweet the other day bringing into question the fact that as this anonymity court order included everyone in the country including the 9 women, then how did they manage to get together for the article in the National. The tweet received almost 77,000 impressions with virtually no adverse comments and a huge amount of support from women)

Now, the true story of this will only come out when these awful women are exposed and unfortunately, they are inexplicably protected by the contempt of court restriction which is in place. In this respect and taking into consideration the present pandemic situation and the fact that I know the names and positions of the main women involved in this. If by chance I fall fowl of this virus and it looks like it is not going well for me, then I intend exposing these awful women and let the courts take out a contempt of court action against a corpse.

Ok so back to the lockdown. It is strange that here I am at home when normally on a Saturday at this time I would in all probability be sitting somewhere having a nice coffee and contemplating what I might write in my wee blog. I still get all the correspondence and messages from friends all over the world and I appreciate it, I am sure the same applies to everyone else. The difference is of course that if I was sitting in the coffee shop and thinking of these friends, I could if I wish, go visit them. At this present time, I cannot do that. When this is all over, I intend rectifying this and it would be nice to think that perhaps everyone will take this opportunity to look at the important things in life, like friendship.

So, drop a wee message to that friend you met all those years ago or the friend you made a few weeks ago. Ask how they are and ask if there is anything you can do for them. We will get through this, lets hope that everyone keeps safe, and remember self-isolation is, at the moment, the best way of keeping well.

Take care all, and stay lucky

Slainte.

Any destination starts with a dream, then begins the journey, it is how you conduct the journey that determines the reward at the final destination. Treasure every day of the journey because it will never come again but join us on the road to independence.

For this is our children and their children’s road.

This is our journey.

Bob Costello

17 August 2014 Dundee