Friday, August 23, 2013

Reply from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport re Cessnock Subway signage

Dear Mr Morton

I refer to your enquiry below, dated 21 August 2013.

It has been over 30 years since the last upgrade of the Subway and we believe that the time is right to bring it into the modern age.  The upgrade of signage at Cessnock is part of that work and will enable us to establish a consistent and contemporary external design for the Subway in advance of the Commonwealth Games next year.

SPT’s refreshed external signage was given full planning permission last year and approved on the basis that SPT is delivering improved signs with higher quality materials and better lighting which will result in clearly visible entry points for the Subway and better accessibility for customers.

We believe it will help anyone wanting to travel underground, to identify the Subway quickly and easily and in turn, encourage more people to use it.  The distinct design also aligns perfectly with the overall plans for the modern refurbishment of each station.

That does not mean we will forget our heritage.  Many elements of the 70’s design – brought in during the last modernisation of the system – will be preserved and we are endeavouring to capture as much of that as possible during the upgrade.  Pieces of significance are being stored and we are in discussion with the Riverside Museum and others about how people might enjoy these again in future.

The Cessnock metal arches are part of that preservation strategy.  Despite the fact they may not be considered as architecturally significant (they are a pastiche rather than an original Greek Thomson or Rennie Macintosh design), we do appreciate that they have been a key part of the area since 1989 when they were installed.  One arch has already been safely dismantled and put into storage and we are currently considering the removal of the second.

We value all the feedback sent to us and will endeavour to keep you updated on any further decisions made.

Yours sincerely
Sent on behalf of
M Watt
Communications Manager

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tearing down the landmarks of letter to Strathclyde Partnership for Transport

When my mum and dad moved back to Glasgow from England in the 1950s, dad's first job was in a dental surgery in Walmer Crescent, just off Paisley Road West in Glasgow. I remember snippets from that cavernous, freezing cold, smelly flat. There was a cat. As a toddler, I tried to embrace what seemed like the cuddliest ball of fur in the world. The resulting agony remains with me as one of my earliest memories.

I don't like cats. I love Walmer Crescent, though, and covet a flat there, someday. A catless one with proper heating. And I'm a fan of the subway.

Walmer Crescent is in Cessnock, an area served by the Cessnock Subway station. The station is one I use a lot whenever I'm in the city, as it's the nearest to the BBC HQ at Pacific Quay. I always feel delighted by its location, by the listed 'Greek' Thomson terrace of which Walmer Crescent and the station is part (though the station entrance is on Cessnock Street, at the Crescent's end). I always thought the metal archway was part of the station's original livery. Though apparently it was erected in 1989 and is a Charles Rennie Mackintosh 'pastiche'. 

Better tear it down then.

As reported in The Daily Record, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, without consultation and probably illegally, has begun to remove the signage. 
They wish to, ahem, "establish a consistent and contemporary external design for the Subway in advance of the Commonwealth Games next year."

Still seems like brainless vandalism to me.

There is a Twitter campaign, hashtag #savecessnocksign and SPT are asking for 'public opinion' via the email address . I urge you to make your opinions known.

Here's my email:

I wish to object in the strongest possible terms to the removal of the classic signage at Cessnock station. 

The notion that overall 'branding' will be improved by such vandalism is gainsayed by the sensitive handling of historic signage in Paris, where the Metro's various station signs have become beloved works of art, and ones utterly identified with the network.

As someone with strong personal connections to Cessnock, I find this decision offensive and short sighted. If the Subway wishes to be identified with the best of Glasgow and its heritage, Cessnock station should, yes, be improved, but sensitively and with its lovely exterior left intact.

Tom Morton

Saturday, August 17, 2013

For Peat's sake: My Shetland Times Spaekalation column on burning local biomass...

I am bored with windfarms. Tidal energy? Wave power? The Orcadians have stolen a march, or a tidal race, on Shetland even though our tides and waves are of course far, far better and racier than those belonging to the inorganic beef farmers of the southern isles.
Who needs salt water? For the last few weeks I have been consumed with thoughts of a far more immediate, less engineering-heavy source of energy. I speak, of course, of peat.
As I write, I have just returned from  the first of what will probably be nine visits to the hill, there to load the already raised and mostly dry peat onto the trailer of my Goldoni two-wheeled tractor (Mediterranean Merry Tiller, known as Lascivia and an evil, vicious machine from hell. Or to be precise, Italy). Our peat banks are a tortuous and boggy 100 metres or so from the nearest passing place, and easier access has been denied us by the SIC’s Ditch Department, back in the days (two years ago) when it was intent on digging enormous trenches beside every Shetland road and eradicating all forms of wild flower infestation. Fortunately, the council no longer has a ditch department. It has been ditched,  so that the money saved can be ploughed into the maintenance of consultative iPad trials and    the insertion of communications devices into the skulls of councillors. Putting a flea in The Flea’s ear, I believe this has been called.
Anyway, what I have to do is put the tiller/trailer on a  road trailer, tow it to the peat bank, unload it, trundle my way to the raised peats, fill it, wrestle my way back to the passing place, transfer the peats, and repeat six times in all until the big trailer is full. That’s about two and a half hours of work. Back to the house and, peat by peat, stack the brown horrors. 
Now, I know that something is missing from this scenario. And that something is bags. Plastic fertiliser or sheep or salmon feed bags, the classic method of transferring peats home. I hate them with a great hatred. I hate the way the grow brittle and break, but only once you’ve filled and are lifting them. I hate the way they fill with water, re-soggifying the dried peats. I hate the fact that they add several more processes to the already ludicrously human-heavy business of using peat as a domestic fuel (pleading with somebody for bags, fetching them,taking  them to the hill, unfolding and filling them, lifting the full bags onto a barrow, barrowing them to the road, stacking the bags, lifting them onto a trailer, lifting them off a trailer, emptying them). Admittedly we have a neighbour who has offered to quad-bike-and-trailer our peats to the road but that still involves hand-bagging. As opposed to handbagging which is totally inefficient. The leather  just won’t take the strain.
Two years ago, I crazily bought several hundred net sacks designed to carry logs; These proved even more susceptible to light than plastic feed bags. They had the tensile strength of toilet roll after a few days on the hill. I wept peaty tears of rage as they failed time and time again. Scraps of these horrendous items still blow up and down Ronas Voe, and may even have been swallowed by salmon and incorrectly identified as parasitic orange worm infestations.
Anyway. Six wee Goldoni trailerfuls of peat make one big road-trailerful. I estimate nine more Ifor-Williamsfuls to get the rest of the peat home. I am treating it as a penance. I am contemplating ponies and kishies. And of course, while engaged in this work, I have been thinking. And the future of Shetland is of course, not wind, not wave, not tidal, not the ridiculous notion of imported wood. It is peat.
Back in the 1970s, just pre-oil, it was suggested that Yell, 55 square miles of which is covered in peat to a depth of at least five feet in old money, could become the site for a peat-fired power station. This was in the end rejected in the face of black gold’s arrival. Now, peat power stations are nothing new, though it is generally argued these days that burning peat is a heinous environmental sin, second only to eating dolphin-poodle stew, as is common in Faroe, where the ceremony of the mass poodle slaughter is  a much loved annual event. And dolphin farming is common.
But Estonia has a modern peat-and-biomass fired power station, so does Finland, and there is a sneaky way in Scandinavia of planting your used peat bogs with Reed Canary Grass which can be harvested, turned into briquettes and used as fuel, or processed to produce the psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine, which is like LSD and makes you feel like you’re inhabiting an alien planet. Some would say that’s entirely unnecessary in Yell, but who am I to comment?
You must admit, this is a much more interesting prospect than awful oil, tedious tidal or woeful, bird-chopping windfarms. Hallucinogenic electricity, made from peat and plants! The aroma of peat reek, wafting across Yell Sound! And just think of the spin-off industries, like tushkar manufacture, kishie-making and pony breeding.

Because obviously Goldoni two-wheeled tractors wouldn’t be appropriate. Besides. They’re rubbish, and I hate them. Want to buy one?

First published in The Shetland Times