Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Article on derelict buildings hijacks Mackintosh fire publicity

It was disappointing to see a Scotsman article use the Mackintosh Building fire as little more than ‘clickbait’ to attract readers.

It begins:

The Mackintosh building is an exceptional example of Glasgow’s architecture, but the city has many other listed landmarks in need of repair, writes Chris McCall.

Glasgow School of Art not the city’s only architectural masterpiece under threat

Sorry, but the Mackintosh building is in need of repair following a fire (two fires to be exact), and was a working building in daily use prior to that, and not lying derelict, or devoid of money, or maybe even a living or solvent owner.

There’s no relation between raising funds and restoring the Mackintosh building (if that is what is to happen), and building which have fallen out of use, been abandoned and become derelict, or belong to owners who cannot, or will not, pour money into them for no other reason than to retain the building because it is listed.

Equating the two scenarios is not only wrong, but potentially damaging to any plans that may be made to raise funds to tackle them.

Those who may be willing to contribute to such plans for either scenario would, I suggest, come from quite different backgrounds, and have diverse reasons for becoming involved.

Setting aside considerations such as insurance, contributing to any fund-raising regarding a building such as the Mackintosh (formerly working and productive) would be motivated by the will to restore a historic structure, with the justification of also restoring a working building. Fund raising, grants, donations etc etc are important to this task as it has to be completed as quickly as possible, and return the building to service.

But the same is not true of the abandoned derelicts, no matter how high the grade of their listing, they have no purpose other than to be historic relics, and money-pits if they do not have, or cannot be found a purpose, or reason for being.

I would love to see them all being worked on and restored to their original condition, rather than being left to decay.

But I know from studying the past of a few I have spotted around Glasgow, and having watched some merely being made wind and watertight, the cost of just maintaining them can run to six-figures.

Who pays?


There may be NO owner. The owner may have died, and it is part of their estate, but not passed on to anyone.

There may be an owner, but the chances are they are old, or lost everything in a business failure that once supported the cost of the building.

The owner may have money, but why should they pour it into a building that provides no return, and would ruin them?

The public, by appeal? Why, if they get no return or benefit?

The council? Do you want your Council Tax raised to fund the restoration and preservation of listed derelicts?

The Government? Same question as previous – do you want to pay more tax to fund the restoration and preservation of listed derelicts?

Save some?

Saving some is possible – we have two obvious models that work.

I mention these not to promote them, only to show they exist.

First is The National Trust and National Trust for Scotland. These are notably charities that take on and care for properties (and other features), and depend on contributions, donations, and volunteers.

But they are not a bottomless resource, and if you follow the Trust’s efforts then it’s not uncommon for them to give up on some cases if they can’t raise the funds or resources to maintain them.

Second is the wealthy, or to be fair, not so wealthy, who have inherited such properties from their wealthier forebears. If they are still in the family business (whatever that was), then they’ve probably got the spare cash to maintain their property. But many such owners inherit properties and titles, and little else if the business that made their predecessors wealthy has evaporated. They may be lucky if the property is historic and can be opened to the public and charge visitor fees, run restaurants and cafes, but may not be, so they are left with huge bills for maintenance. It’s no wonder some simply leave.

This is NOT new

This problem has been more apparent since the Internet made it easier to share this knowledge amongst interested parties.

And, I don’t mean today’s Internet – I’ve been following this issue since the Internet allowed groups to come to together and share locations of such places, so that means this issue began to become a more widely publicised issue anything from twenty to thirty years ago.

Little has changed.

Other the loss of a number of building that were at risk from this problem.

One improvement (if it can be described as such) is the appearance of the Buildings at Risk Register. No longer is the existence of such places a secret shared between an informed few, the Register has details of these buildings, and tries to make them known to potential buyers.

The Buildings at Risk Register has been in operation in Scotland since 1990 (when few probably even knew of its existence).

But where do we go from here?

I opened being (negatively) critical of the article cited, and I don’t apologise for doing so.

But this was only with regard to its opportunist references to the Mackintosh Building and its fate.

The core subject of that article is one that needs to be addressed, and addressed as a matter of urgency – few of the building referred to are getting better as time passed. In reality, they are all decaying, and are also slowly being lost as a consequence.

Attitudes need to change.

For example, this quote from the end of the article shows that a major change in approach is needed. I’ve already suggested that the council can’t be expected to hand out cash (unless Council Tax is raised), but it surely has to come up with better answers than this:

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council told The Scotsman that owners of listed buildings had a responsibility to maintain them.

They added: “The bottom line is we will support our built heritage and offer advice where appropriate.”

It’s nice to find a survivor, even if it is bolted shut – a necessary evil, since an unoccupied building will be targetted by thieves, who will happily destroy if for the sake of a few pounds as they strip anything they can steal and sell.

I think this was last one I found, when I ventured along some streets off my usual path.

I found an old bank

A fairly significant historic building, it lies abandoned, but at least enough money was found to make it wind and watertight, and secure it.

But it highlights the problem – if no occupants or use, and significant costs just to maintain it, who pays?

And don’t just run your mouth off and shout ‘Council’ or ‘Government’ – I remind you that ‘their’ money is your money, and comes from taxes.

British Linen Bank Gorbals Street

British Linen Bank Gorbals Street

Something new?

I asked for something new, after quoting the dismal contribution from Glasgow City Council in the previous section.

Maybe they asked the WRONG spokesman (Eh? Should that not have been ‘spokesperson’?).

This was published just after that.

The Scottish government has published guidance on communities’ right to buy neglected and abandoned buildings.

It includes advice on how community groups should apply to purchase a property, and explains the decision-making process.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Land Commission suggested that local authorities could take over abandoned buildings and land.

Councils could then put the property back into “productive use”.

The Scottish Land Commission estimates there are 30,641 acres (12,400ha) of vacant land.

The government guidance also covers land and foreshores.

Guidance on community buyouts of neglected buildings

Note TWO things.

The suggestion is that “local authorities could take over abandoned buildings and land.

And that ‘Councils could then put the property back into “productive use”.’

Was somebody reading my mind while I was writing this post?

Note ONE more thing – no mention of funding.


30/06/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, Lost | , , | Leave a comment

Five-minute job (Aye right!)

How many things can go wrong with a simple five-minute job?

Let’s see.

I have system that lets me use an old computer audio system to provide sound from a TV (with no inbuilt amps) and a laptop.

The way I’ve connected them, I don’t need a selector switch. The TV takes priority automatically. There’s also an RF link which means I can have the same audio playing in another room, also automatic with no switching needed.

The system has needed a small fix for years, after some kind person hooked one of the cable around their foot, and yanked one of the connectors from the laptop – destroying the laptop’s audio system (but I fixed that), and bending the 3.5 mm stereo jack plug. I never bothered trying to fix that since it worked fine if the plug was jiggled until it made a solid connection, and then left alone. It was also moulded into a complex loom (the audio system was a multi-channel gaming system) with a remote volume control, and moulded wiring looms can be a pain.

However, that plug had been becoming problematic, and this week it finally (apparently) refused to make ANY connections.

Resisted for years – it was time to replace that plug – and that was the start of the ‘FUN’!


The game started with a rummage in the junk box for a 3.5 mm stereo jack (no option to run along to Maplin these days).

Thought I found one, so time to dig out the tools, cut off the offending moulded plug, and solder on the replacement.

Of course – that was TOO EASY.

I found the new 3.5 mm plug wouldn’t fit any of the sockets. Seriously, it was 3.6 mm and I have no idea where it came from.

And no more plugs… until I spotted a splitter (one plug, two sockets) that had a soldered plug, rather than moulded.


Removed that plug, de-soldered the 3.6 mm aberration, and solder on the proper 3.5 mm plug.

It looked great – but there was only sound from the Left Channel.

Long story short – the tip of the plug wasn’t connection to the solder terminal just behind it. And when I tried to solder directly to it, it would not take solder. I can only guess this riveted/stamped terminal was not making contact, or had oxidised. Either way, this plug was useless with its open circuit tip connection.


Since I didn’t need (or even use) the rear channels of the sound system, I decided to open the wiring to the volume control. I was assuming the rear channels were just a duplicate of the front pair. Sure enough, the front and rear channel wiring was identical. Better still, the connection to the volume control PCB were made using a plug and socket, and the connection on the cable were just clipped into the housing. I was able to swap the connectors for the front and rear channels – so the front channels were then being carried by the wires that originally served the rear channels, and they had an undamaged 3.5 mm plug!

After wishing I had thought of this years ago, I reassembled the system, plugged in the reconfigured loom, and listened to  – perfect SILENCE!

I took it all apart, and checked that the circuit/wiring was as I had assumed (sometimes manufacturers wire stuff in crazy way to save a penny) but everything checked out as I thought it should. It was just all apparently dead.

I sat down and started to check the individual wires – and found the ‘new’ plug wasn’t connected to the other end of the cable. Impossible, since I had the whole thing working in the past.

Then I realised what was really wrong, and confirmed it by applying some audio manually, and fiddling with the cable.

YUP! A number of the cables were broken internally, and bending/twisting the cable would connect the breaks intermittently.

That’s the end of that fix, since the loom is moulded, not made of separate cables tied together.

And with broken wires inside the cables, there’s no point in replacing the plug.

GAME OVER! Morning and afternoon wasted since I had no earlier hints of these broken wires.


There was no quick ‘Plan B’ to get the system working. The amplifier the loom plugs into has no controls (remember, the volume control is part of the front/rear channel loom), so it’s not possible to use it alone without some sort of attenuator. In simple terms, the amp is at full volume – plug anything in and it would be like jamming the volume control to full, and leaving it there.


Still had to solve the problem of no audio from TV or laptop.

Dug out an old Pioneer receiver (bought at a sale years ago, but never really used).

Back to the junk box:

Dig out separate audio leads to connect TV and laptop separately to this receiver.

Also, dig out a ‘spare’ pair of speakers to go with it – the computer audio system couldn’t be (easily) repurposed for this, as they (of course) were fitted with plugs to suit the loom. To use them, I’d have to cut the moulded plugs off, and since intended to get this system working, I can’t do that, or have to make up adapters to break the speaker wires out, and be able to wire them to the amp.


The Pioneer receiver only has ONE auxiliary input (but I have a TV and a laptop to connect).

Dig out an old AV switching box, and MORE cables.

Connect that lot up – prove it works.

Looks as if I CAN put stuff together and have it work first time.

But… that Pioneer amplifier in the receiver sounds as bad as I thought it did, and the balance control seems to have developed a fault. It seems to be intermittent, and the Left and Right channels seem to be bleeding through into one another.

I don’t have time for this!


Swap the Pioneer for a JVC DVD player I picked up for scrap, but was surprised to find was a complete surround system with six-channel sound amps built in.

This also has the same problem as the Pioneer – only one ‘AUX’ input, so at least I don’t have to do the AV switching thing again. It’s already wired up and ready to be transferred over to the JVC.

First time I turned it on – and it actually works. Sadly, it also confirms how bad the Pioneer sounds.

But… some fool at JVC has fitted it with a cooling fan (seriously?), and it runs CONTINUOUSLY!

This is no good for this application – I need this amp on at all times, and trying to sleep with whining fan running all night is not an option.


It’s overkill, but I dig out my old hi-fi amplifier, always a handy standby item.

Transfer all the wiring AGAIN – but can leave out the AV switch and extra cables this time. The hi-fi amp has multiple inputs.

‘Old Faithful’ just work, first time, every time.


Sit down in front of the laptop and telly and wonder…

Where the hell did the day go?

It was just supposed to be “I’ll have a coffee, and spend five minutes replacing that damned plug”.

3.5 mm Stereo Jack Plug

3.5 mm Stereo Jack Plug


I haven’t even thought about looking at restoring the RF link I mentioned at the beginning.

The way it was connected just meant using a simple Y-splitter – but I was using ‘Pound Shop’ splitters, and I found them to be unreliable at times, or maybe just fussy about the other connectors they were plugged into.

I had these almost reliable, after selecting the best from a few I had collected, but after the above changes, the connectors they were being used with were removed, so the ‘good’ ones have been moved.

I’ll wait until my blood pressure and temper have settled before getting this restored.

Oh… No, I can’t use Bluetooth. The link distance is much further than that can manage, and through walls too.


Speaking of Bluetooth…

I spent another hour using that to confirm the TV and laptop audio was actually present (remember the wires in that loom were broken, although I was yet to discover that), so I had to verify the audio was actually present, using an alternative method of connection.


In future, allocate ten minutes for the next five-minute job that turns up.

30/06/2018 Posted by | photography | , | Leave a comment

In a ‘Pound Shop’ far far away

Before anyone makes any assumptions, this is a fun/observation post, NOT a complaint or shaming.

I quite like the various ‘Pound Shops’, although some seem to have strange organisational thought and plans, and I see some are getting into difficulty (that may, or may not, refer to the same company, I’m not dropping any actual names), and I see one has stuff on sale all the way up to £10 last time I was in. I suspect they want to be careful, or someone like Trading Standards may visit them and spot the disparity between the name and claim, and what is on the shelves.

Anyway, back to the fun.

Looking at this shelf, the saving on the left is obvious (this all assumes pre-printed RRPs mean anything).

Pound Shop Bargains

Pound Shop Bargains

In detail.

Pound Shop Bargain

Pound Shop Bargain

But wait!

A look to the right reveal massive profiteering!!!

Pound Shop Oopsie

Pound Shop Oopsie

I’m saying nothing.

Mainly because nice as it is, Heinz canned soup has climbed to ridiculous prices, and I get lovely canned soup for 35 p per tin by ignoring the brand.


30/06/2018 Posted by | photography | | Leave a comment

Duke Street bike racks

Did I ever mention how much I hate activists and lobbyists?

They really are the most abhorrent people, happy to lie straight to face if it suits them, and to twist and distort the truth in any way that suits their agenda.

To listen to those who have hijacked cycling, one could be forgiven for thinking there was NO accommodation for cyclists in Glasgow (or anywhere else for that matter), yet nothing could be further from the truth.

If you ignore the horrible whining noise coming from their corner, you’ll find not only the National Cycling Network, but a number of segregated cycle lanes (not just marked with paint, but separated by dividers), lanes defined by road markings, traffic lights for cyclists only, and even pedestrian crossings which have had cycle control lights added. Shared recreational spaces now also have paths and lanes defined for cyclists and pedestrians to make things easier. I’ve also noted how some vast, wide, and/or deserted areas of footpath and pavement have also gained signs showing they are shared routes, allowing cyclist to get off the road and stay away from traffic.

I’m sure there’s more to find, but that’s just what I’ve noticed after getting fed up with the activist’s nonsense.

It’s a shame they have to overstate the case for cyclists, presumably using logic that goes along the lines of “Ask for a budget of £100 k for your £20 k project, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get £10 k”. Great idea – if it didn’t screw up all the reasonable requests.

I was reminded of this when I spotted some new (but not recent) bike racks at the start of (the busy part of) Duke Street (across from the train station).

It’s actually a handy place for them, and better than parking a bike on railings or signposts in Duke St itself, and avoid cycling into the busy part of the street. It actually matches a similar rack at the other end (of the busy part), at the corner of Bellgrove Street, where the meat market used to be.

I wonder if I’m right in thinking that actual cyclists (people who actually just use their cycles to get around) agree with my thoughts, while the activists are now jumping up and down and shouting about how wrong I am about this.

Did I ever mention how much I hate activists and lobbyists?

Duke Street Bike Racks

Duke Street Bike Racks

30/06/2018 Posted by | council, photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Today is Meteor Watch Day

30 June is Meteor Watch Day.

Probably no explanation needed.

I really only mention it since I’ve never been in the right place to see any meteors when I try – and so far, have only seen the grand total of ONE by sheer chance.

Ah well, maybe one day…

Maybe worth adding the difference between a ‘meteor’ and a ‘meteorite’.

It’s pretty simple – what you might get lucky and see flashing across the night sky is a meteor.

If it doesn’t burn up in the atmosphere, and makes it to the ground – then it becomes a meteorite.

The pic I selected for this one looks real, so many look fake.

Bear in mind that a meteor moves fast, very fast, so the chance to see one is over in a flash. You probably want to be somewhere dark, and well away from city, or even street, light.




30/06/2018 Posted by | Civilian | | Leave a comment


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