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A Wee Visit to Scotland!

My trip to Glasgow was cancelled a few days before I was to go, and then miraculously came back to life thanks to a lovely posse of friends there. Denis, Tilly, Hannah, Jock, et al, are part of a community of friends occupying several flats in Glasgow. Their pal Katie saw my Talk in Bradford and after asking me about it, made some calls and Denis and friends found a venue for me in the Mono Cafe, and I made my way there on Monday April 13. I arrived around midday under graying skies, and after a shower and some serious coffee I was given a lovely tour around Glasgow by Jock and Hannah. Jock is a doctor who plans to “go feral” in a couple of years after he finishes his residency, meaning he’ll be heading away from Scotland and probably end up in the far reaches of the 3rd world somewhere. He’s spent some serious time already in Pakistan, which he spoke very highly of–he speaks Urdu, something he learned while living in Glasgow by taking a class and working at it–so he argued that Pakistan is a friendly place to visit (I was doubtful that I could have anything approaching his experience… which is also probably true!). Anyway, he was a gracious host and pedaled me all around the city, taking in as much as we could in a couple of hours.

View of Glasgow from hilltop in park.

View of Glasgow from hilltop in park.

Jock and Hannah in the hilltop wind!

Jock and Hannah in the hilltop wind!

The art museum catching the golden light of evening.

The art museum catching the golden light of evening.

Glasgow has a lot of gorgeous old buildings, but also a vast pedestrian L-shaped area in downtown, basically an outdoor mall, but heavily trafficked by pedestrians and some cyclists. In both Glasgow and Edinburgh the bike infrastructure was often pretty good in small spots, with median-protected green-paved bike lanes in parts, but nothing approaching a comprehensive grid that would facilitate safe cycling all over town. As usual, we had a chance to cycle along a gorgeous canal for part of our tour, and also made it to the top of a nearby park’s high point…

Ahhh, canals!

Ahhh, canals!

Elegant infrastructure, one of those European thangs!

Elegant infrastructure, one of those European thangs!

The People's Palace, with hothouse!

The People's Palace, with hothouse!

The seat of power in Glasgow, Town Hall, quite a building!

The seat of power in Glasgow, Town Hall, quite a building!

Lovely old clock tower in downtown.

Lovely old clock tower in downtown.

A crane along the River Clyde, no longer in use, now surrounded by hotels and gentrified condominiums.

A crane along the River Clyde, no longer in use, now surrounded by hotels and gentrified condominiums.

Same crane in contemporary context.

Same crane in contemporary context.

Later, I gave my Talk to about 14 people, all members of a local “tribe” of sorts. They’re big on “skipping” which is how they call dumpster diving in Scotland. Apparently they have it working so well that among several households they hardly buy any food at all. I think my Nowtopia Talk resonated well with several of them, especially Tilly. She took me on a nice stroll the next morning around a nearby park and we continued to talk about social movements, urban agriculture, food politics etc.

Me and Tilly on the bridge where one of the statues has googly eyes!

Me and Tilly on the bridge where one of the statues has googly eyes!

Can you see the eyes?

Can you see the eyes?

Now you can!

Now you can!

Some old stuff is just plain ugly!

Some old stuff is just plain ugly!

I headed off after my usual 24 hours of intense discussion and visiting to Edinburgh, where I had two days to meet the local AK folks, see my old friend Miguel very briefly before he disappeared into a sick bed, and have a nice bike ride with Alistair Mitchell (son of Adrian Mitchell,  a 60s-era famous poet, colleague of Allen Ginsberg and the beats) which got us up on the compelling landmark “Arthur’s Seat” a curious geologic formation, abruptly rising at the edge of town. It sits above the super modern Scottish Parliament building, so I got some photos above and below, as the gray skies crowded in.

Arthur's Seat, a quite tall upthrusting rock formation with a long path skirting below the top.

Arthur's Seat, a quite tall upthrusting rock formation with a long path skirting below the top. Scottish Parliament grounds in foreground.

View down from Arthur's Seat path towards Scottish Parliament.

View down from Arthur's Seat path towards Scottish Parliament.

Parliament building, partial view.

Parliament building, partial view.

Skirting around Arthur's Seat for an easier climb.

Skirting around Arthur's Seat for an easier climb.

Edinburgh Castle and cityscape from Arthur's Seat.

Edinburgh Castle and cityscape from Arthur's Seat.

Edinburgh castle in mists on 2nd day of my visit.

Edinburgh castle in mists on 2nd day of my visit.

By my second day in Edinburgh the weather had turned awful, and it was dark gray, claustrophobic, and cold and wet. I walked across the city, stopping off to visit a social history museum called The People’s Story, and to visit the AK warehouse in town, and then back again before doing my last two appearances, a Talk at the local bookshop Word Power at 6 (and where I found a hardback copy of Autonomia!), and then at the Forest Cafe at 9. Joining me at the latter were some women from a local Guerrilla Gardening Project and Mark from the Bike Station, a bike recycling project that began in 2001 or 02, and has grown so large that they received 2 tons of bicycles donated just this past Monday (!), and have so much traffic and recycle so many bikes that they’re the 3rd largest cycle shop in the UK, and have 15 fulltime employees! Hard to imagine!… I regret I didn’t get to visit the place, but will make it a point to see it next time.

Tollbooth and People's Way Museum.

Tollbooth and People's Story Museum.

Corn nymphs adorn the old Corn Exchange near the Leith port where the AK warehouse is.

Corn nymphs adorn the old Corn Exchange near the Leith port where the AK warehouse is.

The Forest Cafe where I spoke.

The Forest Cafe where I spoke.

I had to rise at 5 a.m. to leave on April 16, and made it smoothly to NYC yesterday…. All in all it was a spectacular trip through the UK, with a very satisfying conclusion, albeit all too brief, in Scotland. Definitely would like to make it back for a longer visit in the future, in case there’s any academics with budgets who would like to invite me!…

A mysteriously dark stencil in Edinburgh...

A mysteriously dark stencil in Edinburgh...

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