Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

I’ll never understand the selfie or selfie stick

I finally achieved and ambition recently – and I don’t have many of those these days.

I managed to catch somebody in the act of using a selfie stick!

Every time I try to catch this I’m usually too late, and they’re gone by the time I’ve stopped and grabbed my own camera.

I have to confess I’m one of those who largely doesn’t get the appeal of this thing, and if you look at most of my pics you’ll find that other than where it’s practically impossible to avoid them, I avoid having any people in them. And the idea of planting myself in them… just doesn’t even occur to me.

I do have a collection of selfie sticks, but not for selfie’s – armed with a small camera, these telescopic hand-held mini-monopods are ideal for getting pics of, and from, places that can’t otherwise be reached.

This catch in George Square didn’t do much to help explain their logic either.

Without the full context (which has been cropped from this images), this selfie looks fairly logical, and is being taken by someone on their own, a tourist who wants a memento of having made it all the way to Scotland, and to be pictured in Glasgow’s world-famous square:

George Square Selfie Stick

George Square Selfie Stick


The subject was one of a group, probably a family holiday, and there would have no problem in having someone take a better shot, as they were all carrying, and using, phones with cameras:

George Square Selfie Stick Why

George Square Selfie Stick Why

So I, at least, am not really any the wiser (but I did get a live selfie stick pic).


August 9, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

George Square has become a little greener

It’s nice to think of the insane schemes that were proposed for George Square in recent years, and have become nothing more than memories. A reminder that a delusional city council can be held to account when it oversteps its authority and the people stamp their feet.

I’m not even going to dig up the articles, suffice to say we still don’t have any unwanted ‘water features’, or venues only suitable for warm and dry resorts, as opposed to Scotland’s ‘glorious’ climate!

We’re even seeing the back of the ‘Red Tarmac’ (or whatever it was) and the return of grass to the square.

Surprisingly sensibly restored flush to the ground, so (I’m guessing) it can be boarded over to allow events to be held there.

Last time I was there, I think it was still a building site and the work was in progress with the now grassy areas blocked off by fencing, but now all the works seem to be clear, and the grass is ‘open for business’.

I caught this quiet evening view while passing through recently.

While you can’t tell in this small crop, the original has one spooky feature spotted when I was processing the image – the fellow to the left of the bench is staring STRAIGHT into my camera, with a very piercing grumpy or disapproving look. He’s holding a camera too – I wonder if I somehow unwittingly ruined his shot?


George Square grassed

George Square regrassed

February 7, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , | 1 Comment

Christmas fair arrives in George Square

Another slight oddity I had forgotten about – and one I usually don’t get lucky and catch.

I don’t think I’ve even seen such a fairground ride being assembled, or arriving, so it was interesting to see the way this carousel was unpacked and assembled, together with the way the horses were all lined up neatly for transport.

The ride itself is an ingenious piece of engineering, both looking attractive and hiding the functional mechanics out of sight when complete, but become even more interesting when you see how it all folds up for transport. With oversimplifying, it’s easy enough to engineer something that works, but to make that same item as something which can be taken apart and re-assembled easily takes a lot more thought.

This reminded me of a fairground ride builder/maintainer I came across somewhere in Polmadie some years ago.

I only had the chance to visit formally once, then forgot about it for years – and now I see the area has been razed, so no chance of another look.

Fairground arrival

Fairground arrival

A few days later, and all is working well:

Carousel complete

Carousel complete

December 22, 2016 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Revenge on the reindeer

In the nicest possible way, I found myself heading back to get revenge on the reindeer standing below the Christmas tree in George Square.

I’d taken a few pics when they first appeared, but deleted what I’d taken as they just looked like a mass of white lights with no definition to show what they were meant to model. Although I could SEE the difference when looking by eye, catching them in a pic just saw what was really there – a single large group of white lights.

Although I looked for alternatives, I just couldn’t see a view or option that gave at least SOME indication that these were supposed to be a group of reindeer pulling a sleigh – then, I happened to see a view in Flickr that seemed to work, and at least hinted at the presence of a group.

I memorised the view and headed back to get revenge… or just a recognisable pic that suggested reindeer.

Things were a lot busier and I couldn’t quite pick the right spot or moment, but at least I did learn that a little perseverance WOULD eventually find a view that looked more like reindeer in front of a sleigh, rather than just a bag of white lights dumped in front of it.

George Square reindeer and sleigh

George Square reindeer and sleigh

It’s not perfect (or as good as the example I spotted) but it shows the principle, and could be refined with better positioning and a little more time (and less crowd).

You CAN always learn.

December 19, 2016 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

George Square Winter Fair

Just grabbed one quick pic here before heading home.

I didn’t realise this Winter Fair in George Square  had just opened last night, but that bit of news explained why the place was mobbed, and the bodies were packed in like sardines. I just wandered in for a look since I was passing, but it was really no fun as you could hardly move (at least if you fainted, you wouldn’t end up on the ground).

I’m never sure whether to be impressed or irritated at those who push into such places with prams, after I was assaulted by one who decided to keep ramming with theirs because I wasn’t moving fast enough for them (with a solid wall of people in front of me) then hurled abuse at me when I just turned around to look and see if something was wrong.

I’d been watching the place being built for a week or more, and had been wondering what sort of ‘ride’ was marked by the tall lit structure, which was lit and rotating long before the fair opened.

I needn’t have bothered – it (and another that appeared later) was nothing more than a decorative structure above what appeared to be a German sausage fryer, and intended only to be the tallest and most noticeable stall to draw in customers.

Amazing prices, like the similar fair already taking place along the road in St Enoch Square, something like a single Danish pastry was on sale for £5 (or £2.50 for a tiny one on the ‘cheap’ stall), and being lapped up by the punters who seemed to be entranced by the bright lights and taken leave of their senses.

Sausage stall

Sausage stall


November 27, 2016 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Reindeer pics in Glasgow

In retrospect, the pics I took here are not as bad as I recall, but at the time I found it was tough trying to take this shot and have the reindeer look like anything more than a collection of lights dumped in some random shape. Fair enough to note the heads can be discerned, but the rest is just ‘mush’.

George Square reindeer

George Square reindeer

I’m not too sure of the order of events, but I think this was the day (night?) after they switched on the lights.

By chance I had been there the day before, shortly before the lights were due to be turned on, but had not hung around as the square, and surrounding streets, were swarming with security staff since the switch-on was a ticket only event, and no ordinary scruff was to be allowed near, or even to see this, as the place was surround by fencing.

Not complaining, there would be too many crowding into a limited space nowadays, just lamenting the passing of what was something that was fun, but is now just an excuse for some publicity whores.

I’d had better luck earlier in the day, wandering around St Enoch, and doing better while catching their giant reindeer.

St Enoch reindeer thinking:

St Enoch reindeer thinking

St Enoch reindeer thinking “Who can I poop on today?”

The other one was supplied with a tree for its ‘business’:

St Enoch reindeer and tree

St Enoch reindeer and tree

From the other side, it looks ready to be naughty (I hope it understands Scottish trespass law):

St Enoch reindeer on a mission

St Enoch reindeer on a mission

The last pic is interesting…

I hadn’t noticed this before, but it looks as if the bases of the giant mirrored obelisks that used to be located over the centre are still in place (the three mirrored lumps on the right), and used to rotate slowly.

I wonder why they dumped them?

They weren’t doing any harm, looked quite nice, and were eye-catching.

November 21, 2016 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Buildings around George Square due for revamp

George Square 2015

George Square 2015

I misread the title of an article related to George Square recently, and thought that some magic had been invoked to get £70 million allocated for revamp – after all, it’s only been about 3 years since some people had a fit over a mere £15 million being spent on a facelift. Well, to be more accurate, the problem was really caused by some fool who thought it would be a good idea to completely redesign the landmark. Fortunately, the resultant outcry of public opinion (the crazy plan had been made without any proper public consultation) meant the council had to drop it, and settle for tidying up the existing layout.

While the square has seen some radical changes to its layout, that plan was “a step too far” as it would have completely repurposed the area.

New George Square design unveiled ahead of vote by Glasgow City Council

George Square facelift approved

But this was not the Square, and instead referred to some of the building around it.

And that’s no bad thing. While it’s a while since I looked at them, and most are looking good, one or two are a little tired, and I barely notice them as they are not even in use. Anything that can be done to save them from dereliction or abandonment has to be a good idea.

The business is gone now, but I do remember getting a surprise when despatched to look at a faulty printing machine some years ago, and found myself descending into the bowels of one of those buildings. When it closed a few years ago, I think it featured in the news, as it was quite an operation to remove all the machinery.


Planning proposals have been submitted for a £70m refurbishment of historic buildings at Glasgow’s George Square which have lain empty for decades.

The buildings sit at the north east corner of the square, between George Street and Martha Street.

Developer Chris Stewart Group wants to create apartments, a hotel and student accommodation, offices, and a pedestrian lane with cafes and bars.

It is now seeking planning permission from Glasgow City Council.

Mr Stewart’s firm wants to create a “George Street Complex” which would see two listed buildings renovated for five-star serviced apartments and commercial offices as well as the construction of a new hotel and student accommodation.

The plan includes a pedestrian lane with restaurants, bars and cafes and a central plaza.

It is thought that the development could eventually support about 320 jobs in the city centre.

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick is backing the scheme.

“These development plans offer an opportunity to regenerate a prominent city centre site, part of which has been left derelict for more than 80 years,” he said.

“From a series of run-down buildings and an empty patch of land, the plans will create an area that thrives with people and businesses.

Via BBC News:

George Square site in Glasgow earmarked for £70m revamp

October 10, 2016 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | 1 Comment

Low light Christmas in the city

I had intended to start playing around with low-light photography earlier in the year, but other diversions arrived around April and May, so the idea had to be shelved (flitting about at odd late hours is not the option it used to be.) Although I started, I discovered that this needs the right camera/sensor, and surprisingly, techniques that worked fine for film cameras don’t transfer simply to digital. In fact, I think my past mastery of low-light pics using film led to more problems than would have  been encountered had I been starting with digital. I used to be able to produce pics in the dark with just about anything (main problem was colour, due to the poison of yellow sodium street lighting pouring all over everything, unless I shot B&W. But when I tried digital… Well, let’s say things did not go well. And since I was working with preconceived ideas, it took a while before I worked out all the things I was doing wrong.

Still finding odd things that work contrary to old intuition, but as I ‘unlearn’ old ideas and the tricks that can be played with digital cameras start to show themselves in results, I can at least produce results. And more importantly, can do most of them hand-held, without a tripod or similar making my presence obvious. That said, I’ve also learned when a tripod is needed, and the vast difference it can make to the result.

While I can look at the originals of the shots below, and kick myself for the  mistakes I can see in them, what I’m getting now is no longer an embarrassment that I’m ashamed to let be seen in public.

Started off with the mausoleum on George Square, and the former Post Office (now flats) building behind:

Mausoleum and PO

Next, caught the Christmas tree and some of the rides belonging to the fair installed on the square:

George Square Christmas Rides

Last was the biggest ride on the square, which provided a variety of shots. This turned out to be the hardest to get what I wanted, as I was still aiming for hand-held shots and wanted trails from the moving lights. The problem was with some earlier setting I had made, which meant that the camera wanted to over-ride my demands for a slow shutter, because it wanted faster settings, to avoid shake. Bigger problem was me – forgetting which daft menu this particular option was buried in. However, I managed to get what I wanted, even if I had to argue with the programming.

Technically, this turned out to be the most interesting when I eventually saw the pics, as it shows that the builders of fairground ride have discovered LEDs. I wasn’t sure looking from a distance, but the strobe effect that can be seen on the lights below means that they are multiplexed, rather than being on continuously, as they were in the days of incandescent lamps. I was fairly sure they were LEDs, due to the colours and how they changed, but couldn’t get close enough to confirm this just by looking.

George Square Christmas Ride


George Square Christmas Ride Stop

December 25, 2013 Posted by | photography | , , , | Leave a comment

George Square facelift approved

George Square lion

The things I have seen
George Square lion by Myrrien

The £15 million facelift (or revamp if you prefer), has been approved by Glasgow City Council, hopefully putting the nail in the 6 coffins holding the daft proposals that were presented for makeovers, and silencing the whining noise in the corner (the architects that won the contest to have one of those 6 proposals chosen, but was then jilted when Glasgow City Council saw sense, and dropped the lot in light of comments made by Glasgow’s citizens).

While the 6 designs proposals may – or may not – have been very nice, all of them suffered from lacking any grasp of reality regarding Scotland’s weather, and the heritage of the square. Within a few years, I am pretty sure they would have looked very tired, and been an endless source of maintenance costs.

That process is said to have a cost to taxpayers of £100 k, and of £200 k to the applicants. Apparently the applicants are not happy, but nobody forced them to take part, and whatever happened, 5 of them would not have been happy, so in reality, all that has happened is that one more is not happy, making 6 rather than 5… big deal (not) – and that extra one threw his toys out of his pram.

If you have the time, it’s interesting to follow the links to other sites (given in the news stories referenced below) with active members commenting on the process.


Because it’s rather amusing to see that they initially contained many negative comments regarding the 6 proposals, and suggestions that things in the square should be restored with more grass, and the statues in place, with near universal condemnation of the red ‘tarmac’ and calls for something to cover it up so it no longer offended the eye.

Now, would you believe that the same sites now have comments which largely complain about “Not much being done” in response to this approval.

Has someone else already coined the phrase “You can’t win”.

No radical redesign

On Thursday, Glasgow City Council agreed that the makeover of the civic space should occur in two stages, before and after the Commonwealth Games is held in 2014.

Under the plan, the red tarmac that is currently in place at the square will be removed and “a grey, surface treatment, using Epoxy Resin” will replace it.

The council hopes the first phase of the revamp will be completed by September this year, while it will also involve cleaning the statues in the square, installing new lighting and introducing two new grass beds at the site.

Councillors heard this first stage will cost around £500,000, while the second phase that will include further landscaping works and lighting improvements, would cost around £14.5m and further details of it will be presented to councillors this autumn.

Council leader Gordon Matheson told the executive committee meeting on Thursday that there will be a “possible public consultation” on the second phase works after the 2014 Games, although a report before councillors stated it would not include a “radical redesign” of the space.

Via Glasgow’s George Square will undergo £15m facelift this year | News | Glasgow | STV

Also George Square to receive more modest revamp, councillors agree

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New George Square design unveiled ahead of vote by Glasgow City Council

George Square lion

The things I have seen
George Square lion by Myrrien

A plan for the promised facelift of George Square is due for review and approval by Glasgow Council this week.

There’s no mention of any involvement by the architects who were so upset after they won the competition (the STV story does not give any indication as to who is responsible for the new plans), but were dumped when it was clear the people didn’t want the radical changes any of the entries had proposed, despite the architect claiming to have support. The designs – all probably more appropriate for Continental Europe rather than soggy Scotland – were dumped in favour of a facelift, and a degree of restoration of George Square to the way it used to be, when the people were quite happy with it.

Following a botched design competition in January, it was announced the square would undergo a substantial facelift rather than a controversial redevelopment.

The first image of how the civic space could look was released on Saturday, ahead of a report on the first stage of the redesign going to the council’s Executive Committee on Thursday.

Leader of Glasgow City Council Councillor Gordon Matheson said: “The people of Glasgow were very vocal throughout the design competition that they did not want a radical redesign of the square.

“They wanted the statues to remain, the grass to stay and the red tarmac to go. We listened to their views and have responded.

“Work will begin on phase one of the redeveloped square in July and is scheduled to run until September.

“The two grass beds on the western side of the square will be returned, ensuring a greener square at the heart of our city.”

“We are introducing feature lighting to the statues, the Cenotaph and trees within the square.”

A grey surface treatment using epoxy resin, which will replace the current red tarmac, is said to be extremely hard-wearing in icy conditions and should achieve a notable improvement in the appearance of the square.

via New George Square design unveiled ahead of Glasgow City Council vote | News | Glasgow | STV.

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow City Council heads for cover behind George Square fiasco

George Square lion

The things I have seen
George Square lion by Myrrien

One of the things that can be found in the history of Glasgow City Council is a strange tendency for its members to pursue their own desires in the face of opposition from the people of Glasgow, often amidst claims by citizens that council plans have been put in place without any consultation, or ignoring them if they have been heard.

Although I don’t pay a great deal of attention to such things (since the truth gets lost by those who like to play politics), we have had such things in the past in the form of the Go Ape story in Pollock Park, the handing over of management of museum assets to private companies (which seemed to upset many), the extermination of Paddy’s Market (to suit some trendy idea about art, possibly because it lay so near re-reborn The Briggait) and most recently, an announcement almost out of nowhere that the Glasgow’s George Square was to be subject to one of six possible makeovers, of which the council would make the final choice of the award of £15 million to the design it preferred, a choice not offered anywhere to the people of the city:

With no apparent choice in the selection of the six final designs (just invitations to view the final selection, or of the final design itself, it looked as if the people of Glasgow were set for a fight, and were planning various protests and rallies against whichever of the six designs was chosen for them by Glasgow City Council.

Basically, none of the six was acceptable – with things probably not appropriate for the Scottish climate being included (such as extensive water features), and some even appearing to require the removal of the statues which have been installed in the square over the years, and one calling for the central column in the square to be moved.

There was another gem released by the council in the days running up to the final decision – any overrun in the allocated £15 million project cost would be met by the taxpayer, not the council. Which might as well be interpreted as a licence for the winner to print money, with  no incentive to stay within budget… their money was guaranteed, and the council had protected its own pot.

Then, at the last moment, and just as the final choice was made by the council (why did they bother)… it was announced that NONE of the proposals would be used, although the council members had actually made their choice (well, why waste a free round of tea/coffee and sandwiches at the taxpayer’s expense) :

The design competition for a new square was won by John McAslan and Partners but the council said it would not be proceeding with the £15m contract.

Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said: “The people of Glasgow have made it clear that they do not want a radical redesign of the square.

“They want the square to look better and be a place of which they can be proud – a place they can while away a sunny afternoon or get together and celebrate the big occasions in the life of the city.

“They also want us to keep the statues where they are, and they like the grass. However, they clearly want rid of the red tarmac. I am proud to say that I am listening to them.”

Cllr Matheson said the scaled-back refurbishment would be carried out in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

He added: “Only if there is public demand thereafter, will we consider a radical change.”

The design competition to completely overhaul the square was announced by the council last year.

Earlier this month, six shortlisted designs were selected from a total of 35 companies which had expressed interest in the project.

The four British firms on the shortlist were Burns and Nice, Gustafson Porter, JM Architects and John McAslan and Partners.

They were joined by American firm James Corner Field Operations and Agence Ter from France.

Their designs have been on display at The Lighthouse for the past few weeks, where members of the public have been able to register their comments.

The judging panel comprised of David Mackay, MBM Architects Barcelona and Professor Andy McMillan, former head of Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art.

They were joined by David Harding, former head of Environmental Art, Glasgow School of Art, Geoff Ellis, director of DF Concerts and Cllr Matheson.

The technical advisor of the panel was Neil Baxter, secretary and treasurer, The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

The panel’s decision had been due to be announced on Friday but was delayed after judges could not reach agreement.

Via: George Square redesign: Council drops radical revamp plan

George Square refurbishment announced

Instead, the £15 million will be spent on a facelift for George Square, including a fix for the so-called “Red Tarmac” that seems to have irritated so many Glaswegians by its continued presence on the square since the last time it was tampered with, and the place they knew and loved was generally ruined.

Speaking to STV News later, Councillor Gordon Matheson expanded on the initial news of the refurbishment:

“We’re also looking at ways to reduce traffic flow around George Square, too.

“We we still invest £15m but this is a major investment in George Square and, in the process, the grass will remain which is what the people have said that they wanted, the statues will remain — but we need to respect the history of George Square, too.

“We will introduce high-quality public realm and ensure that whenever there are major civic events taking place within the square, like the George Square Christmas light switch on, that all the requirements will be in place under the square so we don’t need to bring in any generators and all this sort of stuff.”

STV also included the following impression of the design that Glasgow City Council had chosen for the “New” George Square  redesign, produced by John McAslan & Partners which has offices in Edinburgh:

George Square redesign

George Square redesign produced by John McAslan & Partners which has offices in Edinburgh

I get the impression that rather a lot of Glasgow city councillors would have had to jump on their horses and get out of town if that had actually been created.

There’s no good reason the original green and pleasant city centre landmark could not have been retained much in its original format of many years ago, other than the need of a few councillors who probably went on one of those stupid ‘facilitating’ (by whatever name) courses, and came back brainwashed with some idea that they would be seen as failures, or weak and incapable if they made any sort of “no change” or “status quo” type of decision, and had been sold the line that “No decision is not an option”. The latter being a favourite of my Sales & Marketing director, who liked to fire anyone that did not keep making changes. His philosophy was that one had to make a decision, because “Even the wrong decision was better than no decision.”

One can only ponder on how much good Glasgow City Council could have done for itself had the lasting memory of this sham not been one of “How much money was squandered on meeting, proposals, dinners, refreshments, expenses, etc, etc, etc…” (not to mention hours that could have been better spent on council business), and not instead been the much sharper and welcome announcement weeks ago that the council had managed to amass £15 million from various saving initiatives, and was going to spend the money on restoring George Square as per the wishes expressed by many Glaswegian in recent years, and of taking the opportunity to improve the facilities available there.

Meh… Too simple.

January 21, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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