image An Intrepid Explorer and the Discovery of the Kelvin River, Glasgow

Spring, 2015. We have moved lodgings once more and now camp in an area known to the natives as “Mary Hill”. In order to arrive at the research site each day, I have been forced to discover a hitherto unexplored wilderness known in the local tongue as ‘Kelvin Walkway’ in parts, preceded by some kind of strange waterway they call ‘Mary Hill Locks’. Be warned pioneering explorer, these are not the ‘lochs’ which previous voyagers to this new land have made familiar in our homeland, and are identical, as far as we can make out, with what we know as ‘lakes’. These ‘locks’ are a more mysterious breed, and appear to have been designed by the natives for the purpose of moving their rudimentary crafts they term ‘canal boats’. These appear to be some kind of primitive waka.

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In setting out each day my first hazard comes in the form of the mighty Swan. Being spring, these magnificent beasts  – thought before now to be mere mythical creatures – are nesting, and more than usually aggressive. Lock 23 is home to one couple who have successfully mated and now engage in frequent turf wars with Ducks and Sea Gulls. The male keeps a constant vigil as the female incubates her egg, and I barely escaped with my life after taking this photograph:

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Though treacherous, the Locks are also beautiful, particularly during this welcome spell of calm and clear weather which eases the dangers of my daily journey.

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Once the Locks are traversed, the intrepid traveler must enter the infamous Kelvin Walkway. Here the path grows momentarily steeper, and so the pioneer must be sure to be well-shod. A colleague of mine was foolish enough to risk the journey in the manner of our homeland, in Jandals. He has not been seen these many months. After a short time however, the path becomes more even. Do not let this fool you, brave colonial. There are many hazards lurking in the trees unfamiliar to us. The small but fearsome Squirrel is perhaps the most frequent, and not to be underestimated. In order to appease this murderous creature, the natives have turned to worshiping it. We came across this shrine on one of our journeys:

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Despite the danger, local children can often be seen by the banks of the Kelvin River. While their purpose is usually to fish, providing essential nutrients for the native family unit, during lighter moments they allow themselves to play as our children do, on rudimentary playground equipment such as this river swing:

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The society that lives alongside this great river has found various ingenious ways of traversing its fast-flowing currents. On my daily journey through this environment I am forced to submit myself beneath these crude structures, and can only hope that their darkness holds no foreign terror.

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Some of these once-great Brigs, as the natives call them, now stand unused, only a melancholy reminder that once they too performed the role of Bridge.

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Some of these Brigs however, are adorned with mysterious indigenous symbols. Perhaps the most frequent, is the crest depicted below, incorporating the phrase “Let Glasgow Flourish”. On this crest are symbols I believe to be a fish, a tree, a bird and a bell. Although language makes communication with natives challenging, in conversation with one local chieftain I was told that these symbols refer to an ancient god of the local tribe, “Saint Mungo”.

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From atop these structures however, it is possible to glimpse a view few non-natives have had the ability to witness; the rocky and rapid waters of the River Kelvin, which glint in the spring sunlight. Such a sight justifies even the harshest of these journeys alongside its shores.

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As one leaves behind the dangers of Kelvin Walkway, the road becomes wider and more passable. But do not be so naive as to let down your guard. For it is here that multiform avian threats abound. In spring, the blue tit, the chaffinch, the coot, the goldfinch and the hawfinch all return in great numbers to these woods, and join the crows (“Corbie” in the native tongue), robins, pigeons and ducks that haunt the grounds all through the year, doubling, nay, trebling, the danger to the pioneer.

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Today I saw for the first time an immense bird, seemingly petrified upon a rock. This fearsome beast was intent upon its pray, or else it would surely have attacked.

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Further down the path emerges a bizarre structure, the likes of which are completely unknown in our homeland. In the image below you can just make it out in the distance beyond the green field, shining like the alien craft it resembles. It is known here as the “Kibble Palace” though it does not, as its name might suggest, store food for cats. It is a large greenhouse with many intriguing sculptures among the plants from far away lands, including our own.

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From this point in our journey we are entering the very heart of the ancient civilisation known as the ‘West End’ of Glasgow. I confess a sense of relief, now that I am better acquainted with native customs and language, when I begin to see the end of the woodland path.

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As you leave the woods, a magnificent gateway greets you, announcing your arrival in the domain of mankind. Again we see the signs of the ancient god Saint Mungo, still worshiped by natives today. But do not linger too long in admiring this artifact, because this gateway is often crowded with locals going about their daily business, and I have learned, to my cost, of native impatience with those who linger near thoroughfares.

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Although natives are alarming at first with their primitive ways and foreign tongue, I have not yet had cause to fear for my life, as I have with the primitives in other lands on my other treks. If other pioneers brave this journey, they may perhaps be justly frightened by the native’s loud and outgoing bearing, such manners as would appear strange and rude to us. However, once one becomes accustomed to these ways, one learns that these natives express their friendliness as well as their rancor in this fashion. Beware, however, lest you misunderstand their meaning, and always approach natives with caution. I am happy to report that one particular street vendor has come to learn the ways of our own people, and has even learned to brew our most exquisite beverage, which eluded me for so long here in this undiscovered place, adding to the trials of my hazardous morning journey I have just described. Yes, the natives have begun to master the Flat White, and I have hope that they may become civilized in the future. Shortly before my journey ends, this street vendor you see below provides me with a delectable cup of our own drink, easing the burdens of the dangerous trek by the merciless Kelvin.

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From this vendor I am only a few feet from relative safety, at the research centre where I have been conducting my work these last 16 months. The natives have begun to accept me as one of their own, though I retain, of course, the manners, tongue and appearance of our own kind. This ancient and fascinating culture continues to astound, and with my work nearing its halfway point, the natives have so far shown little resistance to my study of their society. Long may it continue, as long may I survive the dangerous and intrepid daily voyage along the Kelvin River.

The destination, safe at last
The destination, safe at last

Doctor Paternostra Hamlinstone, Marquis of Dunedin.

Epilogue: Translation

So I really like my walk to Uni in the morning from Maryhill through Kelvin Walkway and the Glasgow Botanic Gardens and thought I’d share it with you all, and the hazard of studying post-colonial fiction is that the above happened. Hope you can forgive me and enjoyed the pictures. :p

Sarah

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