“Here, take that son” said an auld dear, as she handed me a card on Christmas Eve. I’m not meant to accept gifts but if someone hands you a Christmas card you cannae exactly say no. Kinda defeats the purpose ae Christmas.
When I got home I opened the card and there was a fiver inside and a wee note saying Merry Christmas. I put the money in a wee box on the shelf, alongside the other notes. A decision would be required soon.
Christmas came and went in a blur of presents and turkey and cold walks and chocolate. I went back to work for two days, glad to have a purpose and wee bit chat wi some auld yins. Then it was Hogmanay, a surreal experience where we went out on the street and shouted happy new year to our neighbours.
There were several different bagpipers playing and I could see the fireworks from the huge display at the Wallace Monument. I didn’t venture any further, I didn’t trust people fu’ of the keg not to hug me or worse so I went back in. I even left my Irn Bru on the wee garden wall and only discovered it two days later, frozen solid.
On Sunday 3 January I dropped our Amy off at her work as a carer and headed to Upper Craigs, Stirling. I’d decided to give the money to Stirling Community Food. There was a queue outside, folk standing in freezing temperatures, needing a bit help. That done, I was driving along Dumbarton Road when I saw the Albert Halls looking braw in the morning sun.
Five minutes later, me and the Shitzu are striding up the back walk in the sunshine, looking down on the Albert Halls and across to the Kings Park. Its baltic but clear as a bell. I’ll say one thing for the pandemic, its cleared up our air and the sunsets have been incredible.
I cut through the courtyard at Stirling Highland Hotel. We used to go the gym there when we lived in Cowane Street in the 90s. Elaines graduation ball was there in the summer of 1991. Today its deid. I step carefully across the frozen car park and head up Spittal Street (as in hospital, which is where I’ll be if I don’t watch my footing).
I head up past the Youth Hostel, Old Town Jail, the Tolbooth, Stirling Boys Club, the gothic Holy Rude Church (built in the 1400s) and Mars Wark(1572). Some history here: its ancient no wonder the Americans and Chinese come here in their thousands. Well, they used to come here in their thousands. Today, its deid. A woman walks past me, face covering on. Silence.
Looking across Broad Street, theres Hermanns restaurant (very poash) and then up past the Portcullis. I’m sure we had a big family meal there years ago. I picture faces that are no longer with us: Faither saying no, we’re paying for this!… whilst Uncle Ian tries to get the bill.
Onwards… up the steps and onto the completely deserted esplanade, the Castle ahead. On the right, the visitors centre where Elaine worked for two summers in the 90s. We watched Runrig here, a filmed gig on the esplanade in 1997, pints in a packed Settle Inn beforehand ( 3 years earlier we had watched the Runrig gig from the graveyard wi a cairry oot before the polis chased us- I preferred that gig).
There were many concerts on the castle esplanade in the 90s (a strange mix: Chris de Burgh, Ocean Colour Scene, Wet Wet Wet, Dylan and REM) and we could hear them all from our tenement flat. Living in Cowane Street, we also got free entry to the castle and when Sean was born in 1997 we would visit the Queen Anne gardens alot.
After looking across to the Wallace Monument, we dropped back down to the Back Walk and past the graveyard (lots of celtic crosses) where they used to do the Ghost Walk. It was excellent, spooky as, especially on a misty night.
And so carefully we walked downhill to the Corn Exchange and back to the car at the Albert Halls. Its a nice wee walk especially wi no tourists and I heartily commend it when youse are allowed back oot to play.
PS In writing this, I had a weird flashback of walking hungover into Stirling Tesco one Sunday morning. The newspapers were all “Princess Di is Deid” or similar headlines. No social media back then. Sure enough, I checked it and Runrig played Stirling Castle on Saturday 30th August 1997 and just hours after they left the stage, Princess Di was killed in a car crash in Paris. Weird eh.