Voltaire & Rousseau by Wil Freeborn

Glasgow's Otago Lane, home of Voltaire and Rousseau and Tchai Ovna, is under threat from proposed development. If the application is granted four blocks of flats and six commercial units will be added at the end of the lane. I can't picture how they'd fit them on, but if permission is granted Tchai Ovna would have to close and the character of the lane would change completely.

There was a great feature about Voltaire & Rousseau in the Sunday Herald last week, showing how much it means to some people. It's only a small part of Glasgow in the great scheme of things but if it matters to you check out the Save Otago Lane website and get involved.

Picture by Wil at Ghost School.

Pennan phone box

We went to Pennan the other week, to pay homage to Local Hero. It was shot here (although not literally) and in various locations around Scotland. A steady stream of pilgrims make their way down the short and winding road to find a very famous phone box, a closed pub (to reopen at last) and not much else. But the little that's there is very sweet. Even the beach has a cinematic feel to it. That driftwood is so perfectly imperfect that it might be a prop, carefully placed to impress visitors. I thought calling this 'the most famous phone box in Britain' was uncontroversial but as Steviet points out, there is another contender.

Ash Road phone box, Cumbernauld

This one from Ash Road in Cumbernauld, used as a changing room in Gregory's Girl. This photo is from a great set by Route9autos showing Gregory's Girl locations then and now. Boy, Bill Forsyth really loved those phone boxes. And while the first one is more photogenic, I will always be Gregory's girl.

I live here

I Live Here is a new service from We Live Here (Sheffield-based artist Jonathan Wilkinson) that lets anyone have their house or favourite building reproduced in inimitable We Live Here style. I've bought a few of his ready-made prints already (Get Carter Car Park, Billy Liar House, Tinsley Cooling Towers) and they're really great. Worth keeping in mind for Christmas...


I went for a walk at lunchtime today and fell over this - the word 'Taurus', in one of the kerbstones on Robertson St near the river Clyde. I kept going onto the Broomielaw, looking for other random words but couldn't see any.

Anyone know what it's all about? I hope it's not something dead boring like the name of the company that made it. The dot at the end is just chewing gum, by the way. It made me look twice.

The Musgrave Collection, Eastbourne

I've had a go at describing the indescribable - The Musgrave Collection in Eastbourne is unique and marvelous in a strange, compelling way. It's a museum created and curated by 94 year-old George Musgrave, which ranks amongst the oddest I've ever visited. The whole story is on Nothing To See Here.

Northern Fish Restaurant, Elgin

So, we got to Elgin and to be fair there isn't much to report. It's a nice enough place. Unexpectedly grand with a big wide main street, classical architecture etc. The funny thing was it hadn't changed in five years. But the important point to note is not one but two classic caffs thriving in its main street.

Happily The Northern Fish Restaurant was still intact with its pristine booths so we stopped in for dinner. The macaroni cheese was nothing to write home about but surroundings were very pleasant and the boys enjoyed picking songs from the jukebox which played everything a little too fast.

Northern Fish Restaurant, Elgin

I can't place this time-wise - any ideas? There's a nod to rounded corners but all the angles are straight. What does that mean? The proportion of the tables and seats is a bit stingy. You have to perch on the bench to reach the table. But the formica has a jolly 1950s aspect to it. Sometimes I ask the owner but we were stuck at the back in this case.

Ca Dora

A cafe of this calibre would lighten any high street but Elgin is graced with two. Further up the high street, towards the town centre sits the Ca'Dora which has lost its shopfront (the horror) but retained its fabulous low rounded booths (very similar to Glasgow's magnificent Val D'Oro). It was a curvy antidote to the Northern Fish Restaurant, and was busier, suggesting the chips were of a higher order. Experience shows that the quality of the chips is much more important than the quality of the surroundings. Can't say fairer than that.

Beaver and squirrel in Grant Park, Forres

Our north-east trip, going along the coast from Elgin to Fraserburgh was a great success (thanks for the tips). I'd forgotten what a big deal Britain in Bloom is up here. Granite is the local stone, so the towns and villages can be grey wee places, but they're full of civic pride and there are baskets of brightly coloured flowers everywhere.

Floral hedgehog in Grant Park, Forres

Nowhere more so than Forres, which has this amazing display in Grant Park, all documented on the Forres in Bloom website.


Even the little places, like Portknockie, get some flowers in somewhere. Yes, this sign does say "Welcome K'nockers". "Aye afloat" is the village's motto.


We were in and out of loads of these wee fishing villages. All similar but different. Most with their streets built at right angles to the sea to protect again the harsh north wind. Photos trickling onto Flickr. More to come throughout the week.

Jug of tea van, Morecambe

Regular readers will know that Morecambe's Jug of Tea stand has long turned to dust, but still it lives on in the nation's heart. So well done to Trevira for looking in detail at this busy postcard of Morecambe's Marineland and spotting a little tiny Jug of Tea van. From this a seaside icon was born. The Jug of Tea - R.I.P. Flickr pool catalogued the kiosk in its final resting place near the Arena Funfair before it was demolished in the name of progress. When we were in Morecambe in February it wasn't any clearer what would take its place. Any word on what's going to replace it?

Northern Fish Bar, Elgin

We're going up north again at the weekend. This time, going in a sort of triangle from Glasgow to Nairn, along the coast to Fraserburgh then down, through the interior and home again.

We've been to all of these places before and they're lovely, but I just wondered if any of you have any tips for things to do/see, particularly with a Nothing To See Here bent? I've got a few things on the list but am keeping them quiet after getting some stuff nicked from NTSH recently. It's made me a bit paranoid. Anyway, suggestions gratefully received. All will be revealed sometime soon.

No 39 to St Helens

We had the pleasure of visiting the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum at Lathalmond (near Dunfermline in Fife) on Sunday. It's not very well advertised - I only heard about it from Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust, which itself is a well-kept secret.

For a small charge you can come and wander about the sheds, seeing buses of all shapes and sizes. The old single deckers are beautiful things, all graceful and curvaceous. The signs and lettering are generally beautiful.

The luggage altar

You can worship at the altar of luggage, and work out which place in Scotland has the funniest name. Yetts of Muckhart? Auchtertool? Halfway?

Bus pin-up

And ogle the bus pin-ups. Phwoar.

It's quite a big place, set in an old RAF base and as part of the admission price you get a tour of the estate on an old double-decker. The opening hours are quite restricted but they're having an open weekend on 15-16 August (this Saturday and Sunday) and I would heartily recommend a visit.


On our big Scottish road trip we took a special detour to visit The Giant Angus MacAskill Museum in Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye. It was amazing. At 7'9" he was Scotland's tallest giant, and recorded in 1981 as the world's tallest true giant. You can't really mess with that, can you? By all account he was a lovely man and the museum was very sweet. The full story is on Nothing To See Here.

On the way out I got talking to the owner and got an insight into the tough world of idiosyncratic museums. It must be pretty hard at the best of times, but a tiny giant museum on the Isle of Skye? To cut a long story short, business is not good. The changes required to even qualify for funding from Historic Scotland or other funding bodies are nigh impossible to deliver on the pennies generated by visitors. I didn't know what to say.

So, anyway, I told the owner I had a website and wrote about unusual tourist attractions, hoping somehow this could bring hordes of pilgrims through the door. At mention of the word 'website' he said his son was on YouTube - Danny MacAskill. Danny MacAskill! I said. The cyclist? We had watched the videos of him performing his amazing bike tricks all over Edinburgh. He's a phenomenon and I asked him to pass on our general awe.

So, on Saturday we went to the Glasgow Show on Glasgow Green (which is very good) and it turned out Danny MacAskill was performing with The Clan, Scotland's Cycle Stunt Team. We took the opportunity to meet him, and Tommy got his autograph (he's still going on about it). He was a really nice bloke. Very level-headed for someone who rides his bike along the top of railings and up trees etc. We told him we'd met his dad at the museum. It was pretty funny, and lovely to complete the loop like that and make a connection between so many generations of a remarkable family.

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