Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 32 - We catch the train and Scotland Wrap

There’s no time for mucking about this morning we’re on an early train to London. We drop the car back to Enterprise and then it is a short walk from the Enterprise Office around the corner to Glasgow Central. We’re here with time to burn and so we’re obliged to sit out in the open covered square and await the announcement of which platform our train will depart from.
Platform 1. As I expected. It looks like we’re the only people this morning that have such a lot of luggage. Lucky. We can fit it in the luggage racks on the train. Our load needs rebalancing. For the moment we’ve just got our belongings into the amount of luggage we have. The bag of books and guide books is ridiculously weighty.
The train pulls out of the station and we’re on our way. By twenty minutes out we’re in the countryside, seeing snatches of grazing and cropping land as the train bursts out of the railway embankments.
9.15 the green lowlands are bounded by gentle mountains the first with flowering heather, the next bald, the following one the darker spikey green of forestry. The peaks recede and the proportion of embankment swaps. The Rosebay Willowherb is vibrant here again. Closer to Glasgow the flowers are ending and just the pink stems and seed pods remain, more evidence of the changing season.
Our ride is smooth and relaxing. I sit at our table seat, facing backwards, typing. I’m journaling what I’m seeing after catching up on getting the pictures off the cameras and having a bite of brekky. A cold, annoying apple Danish and the last few dregs of our delicious lightly salted Tyrell’s crisps. I wouldn’t mind the shocking lack of warmth in the pastry except I’d asked for an apricot Danish at the patisserie at Glasga Central. Hubby watches the scenery taking the odd photo here and there.  
As we cross over into England our trip to Scotland officially ends.  Anyone who has been with us for the ride knows well enough how fantastic it’s been and how much we’ve learned and enjoyed along the way. We have had a neat month on the ground arriving 17 August and departing 17 September. And yet there is so much more we didn’t see and places we really want to return to.

So, what were our favourite experiences and “Wow” moments in Scotland? Oh, there’s so so many.

The Edinburgh Tattoo was better than I could have imagined. Just a brilliant experience. Looking back on it and seeing in my mind the massed pipes and drums on the ground at the castle it just felt like the call of the pipes summoning the descendants of the Scottish diaspora home. An unforgettable and emotional experience. I never expected to feel that way about it but it was powerful.
Along the way there have been many moments that had a real impact:
First entry to Edinburgh Castle.
Starting the descent down Bealach na ba
Arriving at Glenfinnan and standing on the monument breathing deeply of the scent of the Caledonian pine forest.
Getting out of the car at Fraserburgh to the delicious smell of smoking fish in the air
The scent of the flowering heather in a sheltered pocket in the dunes at Forvie.
First mouthful of the scallops in vermouth at Kitchin.
The first bites into the fish and chips in Anstruther.
Tasting the malted barley and the wort at Balvenie.
Watching the light shift over the Cairngorms marbled with flowering heather as we drove through Royal Deeside
Watching the peregrine on its kill on Mull
Emerging from the 249th step out onto the viewing platform at the Wallace Monument
Hearing the ladies from Kansas singing in harmony in Fingals Cave.
Everything about Wanlockhead. The little village sitting among the flowering heather. Seeing the touch seam of ore worn smooth by the twice daily caresses of the miners over hundreds of years. Sitting in the miner’s library reading.
Standing on the highest battlements of Urquhart Castle looking up and down Loch Ness
The light hitting the wings of the cloud of midges dancing outside my car window near the wildlife hide at Kylerhea.
Watching the otter on Mull 
Seeing a red squirrel at Carrbridge.
Having a go on the pedal power loom at Skye Weavers.
Dumfries House from start to finish. Add a few extra wows for the vision and achievements of the project as a whole.
First sit on the sofa, or for that matter the toilet seat, in our room in Dumfries House Lodge. Yeah, I know, toilet seat? Seriously? Yeah. Seriously. Toilet seat!
Our first dulse truffles at Sebastian Kobelt’s Fine Chocolates in Linlithgow.
The apple pie and coronation chicken sandwich at Glencoe Café.
Rounding the corner and coming upon Eilean Donan Castle…haha partly because of the huge car park we weren’t expecting. … but it really is a beautifully situated castle. Must see.
Trying to think of one little thing not quite right about Mo Dhachaidh B&B and not being able to think of a single thing.
Finding teddy dabbing his eyes with a tissue when we got home on our last night at Brockville in Tobermory.
Throwing ourselves down on the comfortable bed at the Ibis Royal Mile and the relief at being out of that awful B&B.
The satisfaction of fulfilling my promise that one day I would visit Lachlan Macquarie's grave to pay my respects. 
Oh look I could just go on and on and have I suppose.. but it’s been fun to run through the trip on fast forward before calling it a day on this visit to my dead Scottish rellies.
We’ll be back. We never exchange our pounds sterling when we come home. It’s our promise to ourselves that there’ll be a next time so we’ll need them.

Thanks Scotland and thank you all who’ve enjoyed our trip with us. We had an absolute ball. 

We're off to live it up at the theatre in London, visit the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace and the War Cabinet Rooms and then head out into the country for a few days to get myself into position for a visit to Prince Charles's garden at Highgrove before heading to Heathrow. We see the Historic Dockyard Portsmouth, the Hawke Conservancy at Andover, Chedworth Roman Villa, Newark Park and Bourton-on-the-water and a have a quick run through Burford along the way. 

Day 31 - Luss and Loch Lomond, The Burrell Collection, Pollok Country Park and the Riverside Museum

Today is our last day in Scotland and the weather is simply gorgeous. The manifesto has left today reasonably open and I’m really keen to end our time in Scotland with something fabulous. I engage with the helpful folk on TripAdvisor and we firm up a sketch plan for the day. We skip brekky and are on the road just after 8:30. Even on a motorway it’s great fun to be on the road in the crisp early morning. There’s some great effects as clouds hang low below the brows of gentle hills but there’s excitement in the car at a wondrous sight we come to as we’re about to cross the Erskine Bridge.
Have a look at that!! Don’t overtake it!  Got it! Fantastic, that is so cool. Haha. Is there any end to the things we tourists get excited about? OK now just move up so we can see if they have a logo on the side. Nah. How awesome is that! A Chivas Regal Tanker. That’s not something we’ll see at home.
Brown attraction signs remind us of all the many wonderful places and experiences we’ve not had time for.  Hubby reminds me to get ready to photograph the interesting bird feature in the round-about that was impossible to get coming the other way. There’s some advantages to retracing your steps sometimes.
We arrive at Luss at about 9:40. We’re not the first here but it’s fairly quiet as yet. Linda has recommended we have brekky at the hotel and given us the SatNav reference for it but as we all know there are few people who could find navigating as difficult as us and we seem to just be heading to the general car park. I’m prepared for this next sight too and have the camera at the ready. I just love this sign.
That’s telling them! Got to love a country where calling someone selfish like that is still considered such a strong message and where there’s clearly a belief that naming and shaming the behaviour will have a positive effect. Appeal to people’s better natures. Love it.
We consider the range of possible boat trips on the Loch promoted to visitors as they arrive at the edge of the car park. We rule those out today. Most are timed wrong or would probably be better as part of a day of walking or something. That’s something I hope we can come back for when Hubby’s feet are better.
Hubby has been proof reading my blog entries and reminding me of some things to record when I miss something. He’s obviously been paying attention and draws my attention to the nice street furniture. Distracted by a little holiday let cottage with bright red shutters Hubby lags behind.  
We also checked out the map. There’s a number of short walks illustrated. Given our feet issues we’ve opted for the shortest one in red dashes that will take us around the village and along the shore.
It’s not long before we’re ambling along a shady lane admiring the reflection of the trees in the shallow, pebble based water.  The sharp tang of paint in the air as a workman wields a glossy brown paintbrush on the lytchgate of a pretty little church. Deep shade and bright sunlight underline the stillness of the morning.  We burst out into the light serenaded by the soft vintage chugging of a little boat moored up a long a private peer.
The water of the loch is still as a mill pond. I am overtaken by a compelling urge to take that boat.  I lunge forward to enquire of the skipper approaching. It’s just a short half hour trip around the islands. Tariff is modest. I wave to hurry Hubby along and head out onto the pier.  This is a “magic” day. It’s theme tune would be Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens, doubly fitting because the hymn is the marriage of a modern lyric with a traditional Scottish Gaelic tune (with some embellishment by Rick Wakeman on piano).
We clamber on board and grab ourselves a comfortable possy. Another group of three come after us and we cast off and head into the rising sun.
The wake of the boat dresses the glassy water of the loch with lace as we cruise at a gentle pace through the cluster of islets. We pass a kayaker propelled by an older man with slow lingering single strokes of a paddle. What a superb way experience this place on a day like this. The heilan coos have their own approach. Sitting in shaggy brown by the white sand beach. A long lensed photographer’s dream. 
Horned sheep drift among the trunks of the forest trees as their kinsman sips at the water’s edge.  I hold my breath as between the islands, protected pockets create God’s mirror.  I’m not a religious person but who, on a morning like this, surrounded by natural beauty, could not feel a sense of one’s place in a spiritual world.
Shags drape their wings out to dry as we travel the return leg. The clouds are building and reminding mankind to revel in the sunshine while it lasts. Off in the distance the nether reaches of the loch are a misty blue. The open water ruffled by a caressing breeze. We say our thanks and rumble back along the pier to walk along the firm packed pale beach front. A busload of Asian tourists are congregated on the sand. Capturing images of themselves and a flock of hopeful gulls and ducks against the water. There’s no sense of rush here. Everyone, like Hubby and me, taking time to just soak up the atmosphere.  Black-headed gulls dressed for the off-season mill around as I aim my camera lens at them in hypnotic determination.  The sun shines brightly metallic on a Mallard's head. A westie comes past sniffing his way to his next opportunity for territory demarcation.
Eventually we move along. We’re at the edge of the car park now and not far from the information centre. I’m led astray by a flock of Long -tailed Tits harbouring the odd tiny Gold Crest. We pop into the visitor centre and pick up a map leaflet and consider our options. I’m determined to complete the walk loop and make sure we’ve seen the village fully.

Crowds are building as the morning progresses. We browse in the gift shop but resist, all too conscious of our limited luggage space. The cute tartan dressed teddy bears tempt us as always. We could wander down to the pub and get something to eat. Opportunity cost drives us to resist and head back to town for our next stop.
We’ve been encouraged to get out to the Burrell Collection and Pollok Country Park where the mix of elements make the most of the weather. Again we have no difficulty parking and I enjoy the sight of school kids out on the green as I wait for Hubby to complete the pay and display.  We’ve not coordinated our visit to the various theme tours available so we’ll have to wing it. The collection holds an extraordinary array of precious items from different time periods and disciplines. It makes you wonder how Burrell found the time to run his business empire and also get his head around the many disciplines his collection covers.  I can understand why they had to design a gallery for the display, there’s everything from stone doorways to stained glass, medieval waist coats in seemingly perfect condition, or even the tomb of a knight. A tiny knight. Knights loom large in the imagination through their moral stature and physical prowess. In their day even though they were larger than typical physical specimens would have been they are quite small by modern standards and this is brought home as I stand by the sarcophagus amazed at its diminutive proportions.
Hubby’s pushing for a decision about lunch. I’m not looking for it and he can’t make up his mind. We continue to browse the displays, me on my own for periods as he sits in a comfortable chair enjoying the view of the woodland through the glass wall. In the end though, I just can’t bear being inside. It’s a bright bright sunshiney day.
We stand at the map and consider our options for exploring the park. We take a gamble and drive down to the car park near the gardens and Pollok House. We walk through dim shadows over gravel alongside a watercourse with periodic low weirs creating horizontal cascades.  Picnickers sprawl languidly on the grass and a beautiful stone bridge provides a useful focal point drawing the eye to tantalising glimpses of stone buildings beyond.  Over by the stone wall gardeners are clipping a hedge while a carpet of winged seeds under the trees reminds us that during our month in Scotland summer has ebbed away and Autumn is on the ascendancy.
Hubby relaxes on a bench seat while I head off to explore hoping to get a better look at the buildings by the water but dreaming of spotting a Kingfisher.
At the nether reaches of my exploration I come across a small paddock where the heavy horses are grazing. Wander back along the cobbles via the amenities. What is it about stable blocks that makes them have such a warm and romantic atmosphere?
Eventually I find my way by the vegetable garden into the manicured garden spaces where an older lady is really very impressed by the floral boat that is the central feature. I of course am claimed by the flurry of birds at the bird feeders hanging in the shade of a tree.  I stand there watching and pointing my camera for probably a lot longer than it felt like before a lady walking through stands next to me and sparks up a conversation about the birds. 
Hearing my Australian accent she enquires whether I know we have a new Prime Minister. Yes. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. I say with a twinkle in my eye. What do you think of the new one? She asks me. “Well, he seems to believe in democracy which is a nice change. He’s an excellent communicator and a big improvement on Abbott that’s for sure. We’ve been led by a pack of fascists for the past couple of years. We’ve actually had our judiciary coming out in Australia expressing their concern about the impact of government statements and decisions on democracy.” Sorry to introduce the political but hey, she did ask.  I can only hope my tone adequately conveys my contempt for the deposed PM.  My companion expresses her sympathy. Obviously (from her accent) she was born in England she says and she’s looking on with concern from another country now as the conservatives in Westminster set about their own conservative agenda. Social justice is very important to all Scots, she tells me proudly. Eventually she’s in need of being on her way and I start to mosey up the path, feeling a bit guilty for having taken so long. I’m busily admiring some autumn crocus that are pushing naked pink flowers and a burst of yellow stamens out for our appreciation when Hubby stalks up behind me. Oh, I’ve just been looking at the birds and got talking to a nice lady I explain. As if he couldn’t have guessed.
We take a turn up the garden path and into the more formal area closer to the house then back down and out towards the water. We look back at the house. 18th century I reckon I say. Look at the symmetry. I wonder if you can look inside. Hubby confirms yes, he noticed it’s National Trust for Scotland. Oh good. Free for us then. We hobble the long way round to the entrance. Answer the inevitable question about whether we’ve been there before and get a quick run down on what there is to see and a wish that we should enjoy or visit. Did I say it was free? Haha. Yeah. Well. Not quite. Naturally there’s the moment of upselling opportunity. Would we like to buy the guide book? How can we say no when we’ve just flashed our foreign National Trust Membership and not paid entry. Of course we’ll buy the guide book. We’ve assembled quite a collection.
We wander through the house, up stairs and down. This estate was the home of the Maxwell family for 700 years. I guess this means that this was family to Gavin Maxwell of the Ring of Bright Water. The Park and House was gifted to the Glasgow Corporation on condition that it remain a public park.  There’s a lot I don’t like about the class system but it does seem to have protected open spaces pretty well. Now that the public has greater access to enjoy the great estates it’s hard not to be pleased with the legacy.
The artwork seems to be the most prominently promoted attraction. It’s an attractive house but nothing especially grabs me. Well, that’s not actually true. My favourite part of this house is the servant’s quarters. Those that are open are brilliant and there seems to be plenty of potential for the expansion of the “downstairs” experience here. The kitchen is still operating as a restaurant and it’s tempting to relax here, but all too conscious of our time slipping away we figure it’s time to make a dash for objective three. Oh the demands of international travel. So much opportunity cost all the time. Objective three is to take a look at the Riverside Museum. We won’t have long there but few things impressed my friend so much in her recent trip so let’s get over there and take a look.
Outside the riverside is a large paved area and a bank of family pedal vehicles that look like fun. People are hanging around with skateboards. We haven’t seen any skate park facilities in our travels. This would be a great place for one surely.
Inside there’s a large range of immaculately restored vehicles of all eras. In many cases the history of the particular item is explained. There’s a street with shopfronts and it’s very good of course. It underlines once more the links between New Zealand and Scotland. New Zealand museums invariably include this feature and they do them extremely well. As they do here in Scotland too. It’s an extremely effective way to display some sorts of collections. I can understand why it’s not allowed, but throughout my visit I wished I could climb aboard the buses and trams and things but Perspex barriers or ropes tell me to keep out. Our time flies past of course, we had a bit less than an hour to spend. It was enough for me today. We reunite and head home.
Not much relaxing for us tonight. In the time before dinner we make a start of repacking ready to return our car tomorrow morning when we go to catch the train. Holy crap. We’ve or I should say I have been buying things and tossing them in the back of the car. I had heaps of kilos of free luggage allowance coming over but this seems to have expanded in my estimation along the way. How on EARTH are we going to get this stuff home. Hubby is laughing. Watching me freak out is really tickling his funny bone. He’s been asking me at every point…. How are we going to get that home? It’ll be fine I routinely say. Chickens are coming home to roost. Nothing could be funnier. He’s watching the time. Come on, we need to go get dinner. We’ll finish this later.
We’re determined to try some Indian cuisine before leaving Glasgow. Linda’s recommended her local - Shezan -  which is just opposite Sapori d'Italia Cafe Bar on the corner of Bolton Drive and Cathcart Road. No trouble getting a table but our waiter seems a bit at sea dealing with people who are so new to the cuisine and don’t want to much heat in the spices. His recommendations are consistent with what Linda has suggested. We start with chicken pakora. This is marinated chicken in a light batter. The batter isn’t spicy. The chicken flesh is though and that’s a trend that continues. Pretty hard to provide heat options when the meat is all prepared well ahead like that. I can see this is good quality food. It’s beautifully cooked.
Mains we’re sharing. Now, I’ve been tardy on the note-taking today. Don’t quite know how we’ve managed to not have either a photograph of the menu or handwritten notes, but there we are. I believe the food in front of us is Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Korma. Hubby questions getting all chicken. He’s probably right but we stick with the chicken. The flavours are beautiful and the sauces creamy and mild. My problem is the heat in the chicken flesh. I couldn’t take too much more of that but we’ve enjoyed our meal and I love naan. Our meal is served with the most enormous slab of naan bread. It’s nice dipped or plain. Can’t have too much naan.
Hubby’s keen for dessert but the restaurant’s delivery didn’t arrive today and dessert’s off. Hubby is not to be diverted however and he leads me across the road to get some ice cream. His is a double cone that involved chocolate chips and mint, and chocolate and I have a two scoop tub of coconut and rhubarb. The ice cream is good but the woman serving us maybe even better. She’s friendly and chatty and open. Makes us feel like old friends. We stroll as we eat our ice creams.

Back to the grim reality of finishing packing up, eventually we have things organised enough to be able to go in the morning. It’s taken a while though and we need to buy extra luggage allowance. It’s 10 o’clock or so before we’re dreaming. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Day 30 - Glasgow Cathedral, The People's Palace and the East End, West Brewery

We’re tardy this morning after the great night last night. This morning we’re heading over to Glasgow Cathedral, scene of some momentous historical events over a very long period. The reccie yesterday gives us a bit of a head start on finding our way and in deciding where to park. Even so, it’s 11.30 before we’re really getting into the sightseeing.
We walk past an impressive red sandstone church that's now not a church judging by the signage and then we cross the road. Head past statues of William III on horseback and a couple of men whose accomplishments are not explicit.
One is Norman Macleod who was minister to the Barony parish from 1851 to 1872. The statue was erected after his death and paid for by public subscription. The other is one James Arthur a successful businessman who was popular enough with his employees that they erected the statue in his honour.
I’m a bit confused about the tours from the information on the website. We spend some time just wandering about on our own reading information panels that are placed here and there. We’ve just about done what we can unescorted when I approach the desk to buy a souvenir and a guide book. I ask the elderly man serving us when the tours run. He can take us around now if we like, how much time do we have? We like. We've got about 45 or 50 mins we can spend. Righto. No worries. Our guide is named Alistair and he started doing the tours aged 81 when his wife complained about having him underfoot all the time. He’s now 85. He’s not a church goer either, he just saw request for volunteers and thought he’d give it a whirl. Where would we be without volunteers.
The Cathedral is now managed and maintained by Historic Scotland at an annual cost of £350,000. There’s no mandatory charge to come in for a look and there seems to be some reticence about requesting a donation. The donation box is virtually hidden in a quiet spot out of the way.
Now, I think probably the most interesting aspect of the tour may come as a surprise but it turns out that Alistair knows a thing or two about cleaning the local stone buildings. Much of the city was cleaned as part of a big push to remove the grime but it’s a bit of a lottery. Cleaning doesn’t always give a good result. This is why the cathedral has not been cleaned. It remains an elegant dark slatey grey and black. This is because they just don’t know what’s underneath the grime. He tells us a story about a small church that was in a spot where things around it were being cleaned and coming up looking pretty good. The contrast made the church look pretty grubby and the minister called to see if the authorities of the moment could help them also cleaning the church. He was most insistent. So, the workers turned up and as agreed they cleaned the little church. It wasn’t long before the minister was on the blower outraged at the result. “Have you seen it?” he demanded. The grime had been covering a multitude of sins. Where repairs had been needed over the centuries they didn’t trouble to find a matching piece of stone, no doubt figuring no-one would notice the difference under the grime, so once the grey black stain was gone the unfortunate house of worship was left looking like a patchwork quilt.  Lesson learned future structures were tested in an inconspicuous area before cleaning.
The cathedral is built on the side of a hill. There’s a more than usually obvious series of separate spaces and perhaps this is due to the progressive construction. For a long time the Cathedral housed three separate congregations who used the different spaces. Over time as the population grew the groups established separate places of worship. Of interest to me is that conditions in the crypt area of the Cathedral or the “lower church” where the parish of Barony worshipped deteriorated. The crypt still floods from time to time.  The Parish of Barony (which serviced the Calton area) initially built a church adjacent to the Cathedral and as the population of the area swelled enormously during the industrial revolution again decided they needed an even bigger church and commissioned the impressive red sandstone church, that we passed on our way from the car. That only lasted as a church for about 100 years before it was repurposed as Barony Hall operated by the University of Strathclyde from the late 1980s.
The stained glass in the Cathedral is all fairly modern and has been progressively installed from the latter part of the 19th century and is still being added to. There’s a lovely modern window installed for the millennium in pretty blues. Although the fabric of the cathedral is well over 800 years old most of the interior furnishings and fittings are modern. There’s a couple of exceptions. The eagle lecturn dates to the 17th century and is French. The pulpit was originally used in the lower church by the Barony congregation from 1595. Over its life it has seen some notable sermons include a brave effort by one fellow in front of Oliver Cromwell and others do to with the covenanters movement.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the upper level of the church is the 15th Century quire screen. It is the only screen of its kind left in any non-monastic church from the pre-reformation period in Scotland. Services in the upper church take place beyond it in the quire.
Most of the memorials around the church are to do with various military units for conflicts from the Crimean war and more recently. Two ladybirds are pointed out to us. One on a memorial chair commemorating a decision not to flick a ladybird off a naval chart because it would be back luck and then the ship had some good luck. Go ladybird! The other a tradesman’s mark in the stained glass which is not actually visible from this distance with the naked eye.
We head back downstairs into the lower church which was constructed in the 13th Century. This is the location of the site of pilgrimage, allegedly the tomb of St Kentigern which was decreed by the Pope in 1451 as equivalent to a pilgrimage to Rome. People are still free to pray or sit by the tomb as they wish. In other areas of the lower church there is a series of small spaces used for services, worship or contemplation and dedicated to particular groups or saints. The church, being the property of Historic Scotland does not impose rules on people’s private use of the spaces. They’re fairly easy going.
We’ve enjoyed hanging out in the Cathedral with Alistair but we really have to get away. Before we abandon our parking space we figure we’d better have a look at Provands Lordship, the oldest building in Glasgow having been built for the Bishop of Glasgow in 1471. This is across just across the road from the Cathedral adjacent to the parking area. Hubby ducks back to the car and I slip into the front door after reading a panel that tells me that Sir William Burrell gave money that funded the purchase of many of the items on display in the early 20th century.  As the door hesitantly creaks open, I attract the attention of the attendant, who is on the phone. She gives me a hurried greeting and we each go about our business. The house is wonderfully authentic with furnishings appropriate to the medieval period.  I’ve not got far before a large group of school children about 8 or 9 years old arrives. This rather kills the atmosphere as the kids excitedly chatter away and their supervisors direct them this way or that. I figure I’ll quickly go ahead of them for a look and try to get a few photos before they catch up with me but it’s rather like trying to swim ahead of a raging torrent. Pretty soon I decide to just cut my losses and join Hubby who, finding the house brimming with school kids, decided to wait in the peace of the garden.  We sit and chat briefly under the awning that has been built to protect some old carvings or “heads”. Then we slowly hobble away to the car intent on getting to the People’s Palace where we plan to get a bite to eat and a quick look at the museum displays before meeting our walking tour guide at 3 pm.
We lose a little time as we try to decide where is best to park. In the end we park in a free area that is a couple of hundred metres from the People’s Palace. Hubby insists that’s close enough. I’d rather be closer to our dinner venue at West. I am perennially more concerned about Hubby’s feet that he is. … until he starts limping and, I’m thinking, until he buggers up the other foot or his knees or something because he’s favouring them too much. I give up.
Our entry is delayed as we take a good look at the terra cotta fountain which has a sign proclaiming it as the largest and best example of its kind in the world. It appears to have had quite a lot of restoration done to it and it is quite a sight. We stalk around it deciphering the various displays for the empire colonies depicted. Australia of course has sheep, wheat and mining depicted, the great sources of wealth in colonial times.
We’ve heard enthusiastic reports of the lovely conservatory at the People’s Palace and it is indeed a beautiful space to sit, all white and green and protected from wind and rain. There’s a small café outlet. It’s pretty late by now, after 2 o’clock, and we’ve started to dither foodwise. We decide that Hubby will just get a bacon breakfast roll to try. While he rests his feet and waits at our selected table I nick inside the museum for a look. I’m not really doing it justice, just quickly skimming looking for stuff that I think might be relevant for my family history in the Calton / Bridgeton areas back in the 18th to mid 19th centuries.  I’m diverted by a display about a couple and their involvement in the Great War, he in the fighting and she working in a factory where she writes she would soon be a qualified engineer. I note in one of her letters she reports that the women are many times more productive than the men and that the men are angry at them because of it. Of course. The game is up! Haha, Reading about the husband’s narrow escape from a bullet which was stopped by a small souvenir book he’d lifted from a German and his metal shaving mirror is one thing. Seeing the display they have set up with a gun pointing at the pocket book and shaving mirror that stopped the bullet, which obviously still display the damage they received is quite another. No wonder he treasured those items all his life.  I’ve seen some items that have stopped bullets over the years, but this one is the most heart stopping. The bullet went straight through the book and damn near through the metal as well. No kidding that would give you pause for thought.
Moving along, of particular interest is the role of the steamie where the ladies of the East End would take their washing and then hang it out on the green to dry. Even today, drying your clothes on the green is officially allowed though people don’t do it anymore. The river runs along the edge of the green. Apparently the weavers also used to dry their linen on the green back in the day.
I have a quick look around displays about the Barrowland but most of the content, although interesting, is oral history that’s been assembled from people in fairly recent history. I can see that I could easily spend quite a while in here even though he displays are fairly concise. I check my map and decide to head upstairs. To get to the next level I head out to the lift and along the way look down at Hubby in conservatory below. He messages me that the food has arrived. I need to be quick.
I have a quick look at the displays about the fight by local Glaswegians for the right to vote and better working conditions and move on to the displays on housing. These have quite a lot of text so I photograph the panels to read at my leisure and head downstairs. Our bacon roll is very nice and I suggest we get another because one is not much between us but Hubby’s not keen to spend the time. We chat for a bit and head outside to meet our guide.
Patricia is waiting near the fountain. We introduce ourselves and she says she always looks for people coming out of the People’s Palace! The weather is looking decidedly iffy. It’s pretty cool and there’s a cold breeze. The clouds are reasonably high but look like they could close in pretty quickly. We fervently hope the rain holds off while we’re walking around.
I supplied Patricia with some information about my dead rellies from the Bridgton/ Calton areas back in the 18th and 19th centuries. She is enthusiastic as she tells me that usually everyone she meets looking at their roots in this area are of an immigrant background. I’m special. I’m really really rare. My forebears are true Glaswegian weavers, here before the influx of others from rural areas, Ireland and other places in Europe. Really, this is particularly amazing. I have to say I’m pretty chuffed about it myself! 
As an Australian of 19th century immigrant stock, your first instinct is to assume that the family must have been poor. Especially when they've come from somewhere like the Calton or Bridgeton. The East End of Glasgow became very overcrowded during the 19th century as people flooded in. The income that could be derived from weaving dropped sharply due to advances in technology and a flooded labour market. In that period many people fled to the Americas and Australia looking for opportunity, or often just looking for a way to survive. Thinking about it though my 2nd great grandfather and his brother clearly had choices. They weren’t trapped, they had established careers before coming out to the colonies. As I became more experienced in researching I went back and revisited my Glaswegian family looking at my 3rd great grandfather and his brothers, the last generation to work in the weaving industry. It turns out that they weren’t your average weavers.  A couple of them owned property. None of them seem to be crammed into their residence with other families. Back before the Industrial revolution weavers were well paid and well off. I can only assume that my Warks were doing pretty well at one point then as that industry just wasn’t giving the same level of return, the next generation decided to get out of it and get into a line of work that paid better. They adapted to the conditions. 
Today there’s another simply incredible coincidence. Some of my lot lived for many years at 26 Savoy Street, Bridgton. Patricia is beside herself because believe it or not, her grandfather and grandmother lived at 26 Savoy Street. What are the odds of that! Her grandmother was caught at that address "in the act" with her 2nd husband whom she had married bigamously. She went to jail. It’s a crazy story and Patricia has written a book. This woman just had two husbands living with both at the same address!!
We walk down along the Green hearing about its history and its place in the lives of the people. We stop to see the drying green. Across the way we can see Tennents Brewery and its tall stack releasing steam continuously. The whole area smells like brewing beer. It reminds me of the brewing room at Balvenie. It smells like the wort tasted. Apparently the Gorbals has a whisky distillery and it smells like whisky over there. Must be tough for anyone to kick a drinking problem living with that smell in the air all the time.
So, we’re stalking around Bridgton, hearing about the housing and redevelopment of the tenements. We pass the Tullis Street Memorial Gardens noting this was formerly known as the Bridgton Burial Ground. I call a brief halt. I’m sure this is where at least some of my dead rellies must be. Patricia doesn’t seem keen to hang around here though. I take a few quick snaps and we head on.
I can’t believe how deceptive the stone facades on the remaining 19th Century tenements are. They look nice. It often belies reality and certainly did in times past. Patricia cautions us that the Tenement House that is open as an historic property is not at all the same sort of thing people would have lived in around here. It was much better quality and bigger. There was a huge disparity in different tenement blocks. Some were built well and some were a disgrace. Shared facilities, overcrowding. It’s all well documented at the People’s Palace. Apparently the examples that have been saved would have had a pub in them. Pubs were leased on 100 year leases so they couldn’t just knock them down. Thank God. Some that have been renovated necessitated multiple dwellings being joined to form one so that there’s space to add a toilet and make them liveable. However several waves of redevelopment aimed at improving living conditions have occurred. All the addresses where my lot lived have been knocked down so we don’t track down every specific dwelling today. We just walk the main routes and hear about the history of the area and life here in general.
A surviving tenement building. It must have had a pub in it.
As noted the East End had a huge influx of Irish immigrants. Bridgeton was “Northern Ireland” ie protestant Orangemen. We note the current premises of the Order of Orangemen. Calton was “Southern Ireland” ie Catholic. I’m feeling very uncomfortable. This is not a connection I’d really considered. It’s not great news. Patricia assures me that if my family lived in this area they were in the order. No question. I’m not immediately convinced. If they lived here way before the influx of Irish couldn’t they just have been around it but not actually in it? Then the penny drops. When he got to Australia, my 2nd great grandfather, James Wark the engineer married one Margaret Anderson whose family had left Northern Ireland around the time of the famines and lived in Liverpool for a while before emigrating to join their, now well established, family in the Hunter Region of NSW. They came from Rathfryland, a plantation town. Ah. Orangemen. Marrying a Scot from the Orangemen area in Glasgow. I see.
Apparently the Order of Orangemen in Bridgeton is known to be struggling. In crisis. They bring people in from Northern Ireland for the annual parade because there’s now not enough locals. They do this march here? Still? Yep. Oh. It’s not on a sustainable trajectory apparently. I ask about conflict between protestant and catholic here. Patricia says it wasn’t violent here like it was in Northern Ireland but it was definitely tribal.
We’ve wandered down along Main Street, noted number 60 which is new. 150 odd years ago my 2nd great grandfather’s sister Isabella and her husband Alexander Ballantyne lived here. Alexander was a joiner who employed a number of workers. We look at other nearby tenements that are still standing and move along.
At Bridgton Cross there are flowers taped to the central pole of the “Umbrella”. Probably someone died there in a fight or something.
We turn and walk along London Road. Just looking up in the direction of another residence on my list. It’s been redeveloped. Then we turn into Abercrombie Street and spend a little time at the Weaver’s Graveyard. We wait outside for a few minutes while a lady who is letting her bull terriors have some off-leash time with the gates shut, gets them back under control.
I’ve read a bit about the weaver’s and their industrial action. It’s an important milestone in the history of industrial Britain. Up until not so long ago this cemetery was neglected and a venue for people sitting about drinking and leaving litter. It’s been cleaned up and there’s memorial plaques telling the history of the weavers and their strike in 1787 in protest against a 25% wage cut. They were eventually fired upon and three were killed and buried here in this cemetery. I don’t think I have anyone in this cemetery but I’m glad to be here anyhow. The martyred weavers deserve to be remembered. We loiter around here for a little while. We prowl around reading the plaques. Then we move along.
Away in the distance we can see the old jail. Patricia tells us stories that give us a sense of the social context of the place. The antipathy towards the police and the authorities. An arrest and the consequences. An attempt to break someone out of a police van and riots. The reasons why jail cells, police station and courts were co-located. I had no idea things were like that anywhere in Scotland. It’s all very interesting indeed. I hope the old buildings are preserved and repurposed.  The derelict buildings are awesome and part of an important facet of social history here.
Now Patricia has a surprise for us. We’re further along Abercrombie Street and we’re going to hear about the beginnings of Celtic Football Club. This the Church of St Mary of the Assumption. It’s a Catholic Church and has recently been spruced up. The work was done by volunteers with appropriate trade qualifications. We open the door and go through another door into the church. We gasp. It is stunning. We just stand and enjoy it for a moment.
We wander down to the front and Patricia points out the Hebrew text in one of the windows. This is apparently extremely rare in a Christian church and a bit of a party piece when showing Jewish visitors this place.  This parish was important in the history of the Calton and the many Irish Catholics who lived here. It was the parish priest who was instrumental in introducing football.
We head back outside. What a treat that was. We stop by a piece of waste ground inundated with weeds that are restrained by mesh fencing. Patricia has another photo to show us. She’s got quite a collection of historically significant photographs taken by her unmarried uncle who was an amateur photographer at a time when the people of the Calton typically didn’t have the means to record their lives. The photo we’re looking at has people assembled in front of the church and there’s a building visible in the background. It’s the only photo of that building. The meeting to establish Celtic FC was held in it. It’s a highly prized item for supporters of the football team apparently.  The two teams in Glasgow are Celtic and the Rangers.
We reach the end of Abercrombie Street and turn down Gallowgate as Patricia tells us about the history of the cattle market and abattoir that used to be on that spot. She tells us what it was like to walk down here with the screaming of the cattle and points out examples of local redevelopments. The area has changed a lot in recent times. Down through a little lane we can see a lovely derelict building (near the intersection of Chalmers Street and Millroad Drive) crying out for rescue. We move on and note the redevelopment of St Luke’s which has recently been converted into a music and arts venue. There’s so much potential here.
It’s time for a break and we head into the Heilan Jessie Pub, a traditional “Glesga Pub”. No TV, no pool table, no gaming machines, no loud music. Just somewhere to sit and have a quiet drink and a chat.  Hubby gets a pint of Tennents and the bar staff get me a lime cordial adjusted for strength to my taste. They seem nice and keen to get me something I like. This is a nice quiet pub and we’re really glad to have had the introduction to it. We sit in the corner and Patricia tells us about the portraits by Oscar Mazaroli that are hanging on the wall. They are all of “Heilan Jessies” a loaded term but it seems to be intended as a compliment to the women so beautifully depicted. We chat about Patricia’s book and pay for our tour, which costs only half what I had assumed. I thought she meant per person! We buy a copy of her book, which tells the story of her family and lots of photos of people living life in the Calton. It’s more recent times but I’m sure will be interesting. Time is slipping away and we have a dinner reservation so we make a move when we finish our drinks and bid farewell to the bar staff.
Our route now takes us down to Bain Street and we note the Barrowland Ballroom just down from where we are on the corner of Gallowgate before moving on. We choose not to walk right down, we can see it OK from here as the road curves around a little and we’ve enough walking yet to do. The Barrowland Ballroom is still a significant live music venue today and some famous bands playing in Glasgow sometimes still do a gig in the smaller iconic space, sometimes as an impromptu thing. We turn down Bain Street and come past The Barras. This is a market which still operates and provides an economical opportunity for people to sell stuff on an ad hoc basis or more regularly. Artists can come here and sell their work. You can sell anything basically. Unfortunately it’s not open today. It would have been an interesting thing to see.
With our leisurely drink and unusual bespoke route, we have over-run our expected time. Patricia walks with us back towards West. She needs to go that way to get home anyway. It’s been an interesting afternoon. Very worthwhile and we’ve seen a different side to Glasgow. It’s been great wandering around and talking to Patricia.
West is in the Templeton Building, a beautiful old repurposed carpet factory where many of the displaced weavers later found work. It’s such an ornate building. The architectural design was inspired by the Doge’s Palace in Venice and the colourful decoration by an ornate carpet pattern. It’s such a prominent position in the city and nearby (apparently influential) residents said they didn’t want their houses to overlook a factory so the architect was briefed to make it look good so it wouldn’t get knocked back. The construction in 1889 involved tragedy when a wall collapse killed 29 women working in adjacent weaving sheds.
Anyhow, we head on in. I briskly catch up having lingered to take a better photograph than I managed earlier when were walking past. We’re shown to a table over by the window. We’re keen to get our dinner over with and waste no time making our choices.
To Start - Hubby: Soup of the day. Moi: Reibekuchen, Crispy potato pancakes with apple sauce and house salad. £4.95. Hubby’s really on a soup kick and again goes for the soup of the day which this time is leek and potato. I win this one. Can’t go wrong with potato pancakes. The soup has a nice flavour but needs a bit more body to it.
Mains - Hubby: Wiener Schnitzel, breaded pork escalope with house salad and fries £10.95. I love spatzel so I try the Bavarian Cheese Spatzle, home made Bavarian pasta topped with melted Emmental cheese and house salad. £9.95. We tie because we share both between us and it’s nice to have the mix of things.
Dessert - No surprises really what we each choose. Hubby wants to try the Hefeweizen Baked Alaska: Light sponge topped with WEST Hefeweizen ice cream, covered in caramelised meringue. I order Viennese Apple strudel, served warm with ice cream. Both £5.95. Easy decision on this one. I win. The Alaska just wasn’t very nice. Victory overall is mine.
Back home we chat with Linda who is familiar with the ground we've covered today as well as the Gorbals which is where her deceased first husband was from. She's thinking she'll get in on the gentrification of the Calton just near the Heilan Jessie and she confirms that it is a quiet pub that doesn't cause any problem. We hope it goes well for her.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day 29 - Glasgow City, The Willow Tea Rooms, House For An Art Lover, Florence and the Machine at the Hydro

We bail on our planned morning activity today. We had planned to do the Macintosh tour at the Glasgow School of Arts. Since the fire we can’t tour the actual building only the exhibition. We are tardy getting away and in the end we decide we’ll just do something else and head into the city for our lunch at the Willow Tea Room, we do a reccie over to the Cathedral but run out of time to make it worth stopping there today so we just decide to wander about in the city until lunch - which isn't long now.
Parking is simple in the Mitchell Street Car Park and this puts us right at the Lighthouse with its entrance off a funky arcade of neon signs highlighting in simple terms aspects of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's work. While Hubby indulges his obsession of checking that he’s locked everything several times, I wander out into Buchanan Street. Imagine those movie scenes when the heroine finds herself in some cosmopolitan centre gazing skyward and spinning around in her dress with fitted bodice and extravagantly flared and feminine skirt a beaming smile across her beautiful face revelling in the moment of joy. It’s not what you would see had you been a fly on the wall, far from it, but it’s how I felt just the same.
Those of you who know Glasgow must surely be smiling in satisfaction because you knew didn’t you. You’ve been waiting patiently for me to arrive and discover it for myself. Glasgow is wonderful. Of course. I can’t understand why I had no expectations. It was the 2nd city of the British Empire at its peak. Of course it is fantastic! Better still, Glasgow has not had a subsequent major boom to inspire people to demolish and replace the old stone glories. Glasgow seems to be intact and mostly unadulterated.
The weather can’t make up its mind if it wants to rain or not, settling on just enough precipitation to keep our rain hoods up most of the time. Some people have brollies, others have appropriate jackets or coats, most just brave the light drizzle, confident of drying off quickly in the warm centrally heated offices and shops.
Hubby and I find each other and we start making our way to the Willow Tea Rooms. We have created another accidental stroke of genius. The navigation assistance we’ve used has brought us to the Buchanan Street Willow Tea Rooms. Ah. We will need to walk over to Sauchiehall Street but we’re not sorry. Of course we must wander through Glasgow city! It’s a pleasure. …but who approved that there? There’s a jarringly modern building plonked in amongst the older styles. Hubby likes it. I’ve got nothing against the style or the building, I just don’t like it where it is. It pays no respect at all to its context. It would be better over in the new precinct along the river. Go to town on innovative modern styling over there. Then again, this one isn’t obviously that fantastically innovative.
As we walk along, we are obliged to pass modest little Nelson Mandela Place. It’s a little thoroughfare with a big name. I can't help but smile. It is kind of like the city beaurocracy is paying a half-hearted compliment. “We like you Nelson Mandela, but not all that much. There are limits. ”
Someone has since explained that in fact Nelson Mandela Place is one of the great things in Glasgow. Apparently in the 1980s, when Nelson Mandela was still in jail in South Africa, the South African High Commission was located here in what was then known as St George's Place. In 1981, the City of Glasgow had led the charge lobbying for the release of Mandela, giving him the Freedom of the City. Five years later they doubled down on their campaign and in a stroke of sheer genius, changed the address of the South African High Commission in Glasgow to Nelson Mandela Place. Who wouldn't be proud to be Glaswegian.
I need some sinus meds and with a few minutes to spare before our reservation we wander into Boots. It’s bedlam in there. I don’t need it that much. I’ll live. We leave quick smart.
To get to the Willow Tea Rooms we have to go in through the shop and up some stairs to the café reception which we find on a mezzanine level. Not at all what I was expecting. Relief as we are led through the diners on this level and up some more stairs into the tea room proper. It’s cramped. I don’t immediately realise why. They appear to have added a couple of tables into the middle of the café. The style of chair for the additions is reasonably consistent with the Mackintosh originals but they are not as high backed. Perhaps just as well or the room would look even more cramped. 
We settle in and set about deciding what to have. It’s a long list but we both decide to go with the afternoon tea. Served on a traditional 3 tiered cake stand, enjoy our delicious selection of homemade sandwiches, scone with clotted cream & strawberry jam, buttered shortbread and your choice of cake which you can choose from today’s selection. Select your pot of loose leaf tea or freshly ground coffee from the selection on the back of the menu. Hubby has a cappuccino and I opt for apple juice rather than a hot beverage. For cakes Hubby’s decided to go for the Victoria Sponge and I choose the Lemon Meringue Tart. 
We chat and read the news to each other as we await delivery. The media is reporting that we’ve had a change of Prime Minister in Australia depriving the electorate from the sheer unadulterated pleasure of booting Tony Abbott from the office of Prime Minister come the election next year. My how we and so many others were looking forward to giving the LNP a savage kicking. The change has made things rather more interesting than the otherwise foregone conclusion.
Our three tiered stand arrives stacked with goodies. We each have three finger sandwiches. There's cucumber sandwich, smoked salmon and beef. All very nice. There’s some little shortbread rounds that are a bit sweeter than Walker’s shortbread and make a nice change. The scones for the cream tea are enormous and too big for the amount of cream and jam provided. They’re typically short and fairly dense but slightly warm and tasty. Hubby takes the crown without me having a remote chance. His Victoria Sponge is beautifully light and fresh. Easily the best we’ve had. Good choice. My Lemon Meringue Tart is the victim of my expectations. Pastry is light and delicate but firm enough not to fall apart, the meringue is OK, not quite as stiff as it should be but acceptable. Unfortunately I kept wishing the filling was home-made lemon curd rather than the pedestrian affair it is and that reminds me of commercial “lemon spread” you buy in the supermarket. Disappointing really but not enough to spoil a very nice meal.  We’re more worried about the time than the staff is when it comes to paying. I’m keen to be away so I have a look in the shop downstairs while Hubby takes care of the bill. Really I’d rather pay a little more and have more space around the tables.
Hubby’s delayed by checking out the exhibition that is up near the toilets and enjoys seeing photos of some unusual Mackintosh pieces, especially the billiard table and some glass panels. I’m a bit over it and couldn’t be bothered walking back up the two floors.
We take a different route back to the car, exploring and enjoying some elaborate stone work along the way and noticing the mural on the car park wall which seems to be making a reference to sustainability.
This afternoon we’re supposed to be having a rest before we go out tonight but we think we’ll just take a quick look at the House For An Art Lover which is more or less on the way home. Well, everything is on the way home really. Just depends on what route you take. ;-)
The car park is almost empty when we arrive and it’s still lightly raining. Hubby moves directly to the house and I wander off on my own. I can’t resist a look at the walled garden before we go in and we had tantalising glimpses of it when we were driving in. 
I step through the doorway and find a nostalgic dream garden. I smile. There’s beds of Dahlias and chrysanthemums and sweet peas on trellises. Curly topiary sits glossy among beds of pelargoniums and small flowered begonias. A pink fuchsia makes a pretty feature.Variegated abutilon small and gangly in unexpected positions. Left to grow where they are they would be far too big if they survived the winter. I guess they must be grown as annuals.  
I don’t have time to linger long so I turn and quickly head to what I think must be the closest exhibition entrance. Hubby is nowhere to be found. We phone and meet up and bicker about which entrance is the right one. I let Hubby discover for himself. It’s no drama. We pay our entrance fee and are directed to the lift that will take us up to the accessible rooms of the house. The House For An Art Lover was built as a public building so some rooms are not part of the exhibition rooms. The exhibition rooms themselves are used for public functions also.  
We collect our audio guide and hear about how this design came to be built so many decades after CRM’s death. The original concept did not extend to detailed construction drawings so research and compromises were required to bring it to life due to some inconsistencies in the original illustrations.  What they have achieved is breath-taking. The contrast between the dark panelled dining room and the pale and light filled music room is emphasised. The darker room, our commentary points out, would highlight the formal wear of the men in its austere black and white and also the dresses and jewels of the ladies. The Music room is all near white with curved glass doors leading to the terrace through an avenue of stylised tree columns with little green leaf symbols at the top. I am among the great majority of visitors in loving the oval room which was originally intended for a ladies withdrawing room. The light fitting is an adaptation of a similar light in the home of Mackintosh’s patron. It casts entrancing shadows on the ceiling. The whole thing is magnificent and what a jewel for Glasgow’s crown it is. Bringing the design to life was a stroke of genius.
It’s getting distressingly late now. We need to get home and chill out for a while.
It’s action central when we get home. New arrivals and friends. Hustle and bustle that goes on for a while before it settles down. We sleep and I rouse at nearly 7pm. We'd better start making some moves. We’re off to see Florence and the Machine in concert at the SSE Hydro. We’re planning to drive but Linda counsels us that it isn’t a good plan. We should get the train. Seriously we should get the train. I’m leaving the call to Hubby. We’ll take the train but I sense he's not really convinced.
It’s delightfully simple to just walk around the corner and into the train station at Mount Florida. We’re puzzling on the platform but getting along OK. A nice Glaswegian man comes over and makes sure we know where we need to be and got our tickets OK. When we get to Glasgow Central he actually walks us around to where we need to go to make our change to the train for Exhibition Centre. I can hardly believe it. Linda had been saying to us that the city’s motto is People Make Glasgow and that it’s true and Glaswegians are the nicest friendliest people you’ll find anywhere. She specifically said that people will divert from where they are going to show you where you need to go and here we have a demonstration that she’s absolutely right. Full marks to Glaswegians!!
Hubby observes that lots have people have had the same idea as me.  Huh?? You know, going in for the start of the main gig rather than when the support act is on. Oh, yeah. Not exactly my invention though is it. There’s a steady stream of people walking down from Exhibition Centre along the long covered walkway into the precinct around the SSE Hydro. It’s getting pretty dark now and the lights are on. It looks amazing.  I head over playing tourist to try to get a good angle. There’s a tout singing out asking if anyone wants to buy tickets. Is that legal here? Groups of friends mill about, probably waiting for everyone to get here before they all go in together.
We’ve not had any dinner yet so we go in and sus out the food options. There’s an Asian take away and a burger joint as far as I can see. I come from a city where the basic rule is if you want good quality Asian food, don’t eat from an Asian place unless Asian people are eating there. I can see no Asian people in the crowd at all let alone eating from this take away. It’s a different context to Sydney so maybe that rule shouldn’t apply… still …we have already had experience of the weird and wonderful innovations that are possible for the familiarly named menu options when the dishes are adapted to meet the local palate. I decide to have the burger option. It’s on a brioche bun. Brioche buns are popular here for burgers. It’s pretty reasonable for stadium food. The onion rings are tasty. We don’t get those at home although they are starting to appear at some places. Mainly at American eateries.
They’re starting to announce that the show is starting. It’s a bluff but we make our way up the many flights of stairs to our seats in the rafters. We’re not that familiar with Florence and the Machine, though we did do some research and bought the latest album so we’re not completely unfamiliar seeing this show… I know she’s hugely popular at the moment. I was surprised it was so easy to get tickets.
The audience is assembled from all ages. Old dudes at least as old as us, young teenagers and everything in between. Our seats are pretty good. We’ve got a good view and I wasn’t prepared to spend more or to hang about watching for a price drop online. What a venue!  It is massive. Absolutely massive. I understand the Commonwealth Games gymnastics competition was held here and it is the second busiest venue in the world. My eyes narrow, so this is competition for the Sydney Opera House then... haha. With the beautiful Armadillo by Foster and Partners nearby, this whole area is like a cross between the Sydney Opera House and Olympic Park at Homebush. It's a wonderful asset for the city.  
We haven’t missed the pre-show entertainment completely. The people seated next to us seem to have been having a falling out with some people in the row in front of us. The guy next to us appears to have made a complaint and asked to be moved. The security people come over and sort it out. Basically they tell everyone to be grown ups and leave each other alone. Just don’t interact there’s no need to move anyone at this stage. Good. There’s no more trouble.
The stage begins to fill with musicians of broad array. There’s even a harpist. They are going all out. Florence comes on to rapturous applause as you expect and it’s away. There’s not been any sign about photography etc and the visibility of back screens on phones is consistent throughout the show as the audience members capture a precious memory. I figure what’s the fuss if I just post the odd photo while I tell you that the result of the large group of people on stage, and no doubt an even larger group backstage is outstanding. The music is so true to the album you wonder if she’s lip synching but I don’t think she is. She has an incredibly powerful voice yet her speaking voice is quietly refined. You would never expect that she has it in her. The lightshow is also brilliant. It’s just a really enjoyable fun night of great music. I don’t know what others paid, but our seats were great value for money. Top night.
People start to drift away pretty early once the first end comes. Clearly they don’t want to get caught in the crowds getting away. The encores are some of the best items as is often the case. The plan relies on going out with a bang, not some pathetic also ran tune.
As I’m chiefly here as an observer of Glasgow life we make no hurry for the exit. The lights come on and the groundlings down on the floor of the arena are drifting out looking for all the world like a mob of soldier crabs on the mud flats at low tide, drifting off to the protection of the shoreline. 
The crowd leaving is well behaved and sober. The atmosphere walking up to the train station is very upbeat. As they did when we were arriving, the crowd sings along with the buskers in the covered way as they pass this time it’s Daydream Believer. Everyone knows the words. Great song.

The police are on crowd control at the station and an orderly queue snakes down past a donut stand. There’s one charming queue jumper. I let the locals deal with her but she’s persistent, says she has to get the next train or she won’t be able to get home. Oh yeah. General attitude is cynical and basically, everyone’s in the same boat suck it up princess, but very cordially expressed. I’m paraphrasing. She’s behind me so I don’t need to get involved. It’s a beautifully clear, mild night. The queue doesn’t take long but still, although we’ve enjoyed milling with the crowd, Hubby wishes he’d driven in. Standing still is more of a problem for him than walking about.  We’re home at a civilised hour people are still up and we talk about the show. We’re tired but pretty hyped up and in need of a wind down chat before retiring.  Another fun day in Glasgow. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Day 28 - The Hunterian Museum, Glasgow University, Botanic Gardens, Ashton Lane and the Ubiquitous Chip

Well I’m indulgent this morning. I wake early as usual and spend some time catching up on the journaling and blogging. As it often does, this is a case of just a few more minutes and then a few more and a few more until the morning is slipping away. Just as well we have a deadline! Today is slated for the West End. We’ve kept our car. The original plan was to lose the car when we got to Glasgow and stay above the train station then just get the train to London. We’ve chosen a more intimate form of accommodation recommended by a close friend and in the process get a bit more interaction with local people. In any case, some of the things we want to do we figure will be easiest with the car when one wants to limit the walking a bit. So, we’re driving over to Glasgow University and Linda agrees it shouldn’t be a problem on a Sunday and gives us some useful tips on where to look for parking. Excellent. We’re away. I’m tardy on the sad camera out the car window grabbing passing sites front. Perhaps just as well. It’s not that clever to go sticking your arms out of a moving car in the city anyway. Glasgow is wall to wall stone. There’s a range of colours, there’s the pretty and unusual red sandstone and there’s paler colours as well. Then there’s some that’s still dirty from the coal fires of times past. The dirty stuff is few and far between but it’s around. I try to imagine the city before the cleaning. It must have been a dark grimy city back in the day but what a wonderful legacy the stonework is. Even the simplest dwellings have facades that show a good deal of style and skill on the part of the stone masons.
Linda’s advice was that we would know University Avenue when we saw it because it’s wide and tree lined and lovely. We have no difficulty getting a pretty good parking spot and it is tree lined and lovely but it turns out this lovely road is called Kelvin Way. We climb out of the car all decked out in our rain gear and enquire of Dr Google how best to find the Hunterian Museum. As we round the corner there’s loud Paul Simon playing… I could be your bodyguard, I could be your long lost friend… and there’s a huge sign on the building from which the music is coming. It’s Fresher week and there’s clearly some orientation activities on today.
We have a little time to kill before our guided tour but first things first we had better make sure we know where we need to be. We do this. We ask dumb questions that are answered on obvious signage. Then we puzzle some more how to get into the Hunterian. The signage we can see is all about accessing the Hunterian via a lift that isn’t working. Eventually we figure it out and enter through the cloisters and up several flights of stylish staircase.
Our education begins with William Hunter himself, his wide ranging interests and expertise and his place in The Enlightenment. To understand this of course we must have a brief explanation of the Enlightenment complete with medallion portraits of some leading lights of that period all of whom taught at the University of Glasgow and were correspondents of William Hunter. Below a quote from Voltaire “We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.” Are displayed presumably rare medallion portraits of
Adam Smith (whose statue I admired in Edinburgh). He was Professor of Moral Philosophy 1752 -1763, an economist and the author of the landmark text the Wealth of Nations. He was followed by Thomas Reid, Professor of Moral Philosophy 1763 -1796, a founder of the “common sense” school of philosophy.  Below we see the profile of William Cullen, Professor of Medicine 1751-1756, the ‘father’ of Scottish Medicine, and that’s saying something because the Scots were the leaders in the medical field globally. Next to him Joseph Black, Professor of Practice of Medicine 1757-1766 listed simply as “One of the most prominent figures of the Scottish Enlightenment”. Not illustrated but acknowledged in Hunter’s own education at Glasgow University is one of his professors, Francis Hutcheson, “…an important leader of the Enlightenment, who taught students to think for themselves.
Hunter lived much of his life in London. He applied the Enlightenment principles of observation and analysis to the teaching of anatomy and was able to contribute significantly to the development of medicine.” This continued through his support and encouragement of others, his brother John who became the most eminent surgeon in England and his nephew Matthew Baillie who is now considered the father of modern pathology.
It is its connection to the Scottish Enlightenment that has brought me to the University today. This institution, its leaders and its graduates made a massive contribution to the advancements in western civilisation that underpin much of what we hold most precious today. Hunter did not restrict himself to writing on limited subjects, he was one of the greatest medics of his time but his thoughts and his writings ranged broadly and he owned one of the best private museums in London. He bequeathed his collection to Glasgow University on his death and it remains at the core of the Hunterian collection to this day.
Each major area of Hunter’s endeavour is illustrated with a representative object, for example a pair of wooden forceps used in obstetric practice. Hunter delivered all but one of Queen Charlotte’s children including George IV. To have the Queen come through so many confinements successfully was something of a landmark in royal history. It is the items associated with his medical practice which intrigue me most. Perhaps because I think Daughter2, herself a doctor, would be fascinated to see these items. Human specimens are always a bit confronting but I struggle to even label the feelings associated with looking at the gravid uterus at 5 months, in its specimen jar, an item so significant to the achievements of William Hunter that it is included in the posthumous portrait of him hanging here. The foetus is clearly visible through an incision in the wall of the uterus, tiny, perfect fingers curled delicately. It seems so small, even for 5 months, but then of course people were so much smaller then as we know. How Hunter came to be in possession of this item is explained and it’s all above board thankfully. Across the way is a rare copy of Hunter’s greatest achievement The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus which was published in 1774 and is still an essential reference on the subject.
Suitably awed by the context of the collection and the presence of the Blackstone Chair, we move into the sacred hall of knowledge. I wander through artefacts of the Roman Empire in Britain. Perhaps my greatest appreciation arises from the fact that they make such photogenic displays. We well know my struggles with Ancient civilisations. I’m trying to overcome my antipathy to the subject but so far with limited success.
I spark up at the displays about William Hunter’s library which contained 10,000 printed books and over 600 manuscripts. About a third are on medical subjects and the rest range broadly providing research sources that support his museum collections.
As we head into the natural history galleries, it seems so appropriate to have a plesiosaur skeleton hanging in pride of place as we enter. A juxtaposition perhaps between ongoing mystery and superstition and the practice of scientific enquiry exemplified by the Loch Ness Monster which is today most usually illustrated as this real, ancient creature that some people are persuaded still lives in the depths of the loch.
I laugh as I finally get a good, up-close look at a pair of Hen Harriers, stuffed in a glass case. I also very much enjoyed the displays of insects and especially the butterflies arranged as a beautiful monument to their usually short lived flash of colour and beauty.
I head upstairs to the sections on physics and some more technical displays. I studied physics at school somewhat but really this stuff is way more in Hubby’s line than mine and I’m more inclined to head down to the gift shop to sus that out properly while he takes his time. Time is limited, our tour starts fairly soon.
There’s a lot of people on the tour today and our guide makes several attempts to close up the payment paperwork and get going as more and more people indicate they’d like to pay. There’s a number of new students, accents betraying how far they’ve come to study here. Quite a few are from North America. Some parents are with some of them and there’s a strong sense of excitement and anticipation. Our guide kicks off our tour by encouraging us to ask him to repeat things we don’t understand because of his accent. He’s got a good strong Scottish brogue and he says with a laugh, not even his friends understand him, so don’t be embarrassed about it. Really, his accent is fine, he’s exaggerating, but as we have given ample demonstration on this trip to date, tourists are stupid and fairly deaf when it comes to making sense of even slight accents.
We crowd around the model of the university and a bit of a run down on the history which is impressive having been founded in 1451. Then we head out into the open air in front of the main building. How old do we reckon this building is? Why? The group makes the obvious suggestions based on various architectural features. Well, we’re wrong. The campus we’re touring is not of such venerable age. The major building is something of a fraud and was built in the 19th century in a style calculated to trick the uninitiated into feeling that the physical fabric of the university is as old as its academic history, even to the point of having vacant positions for statuary as a silent reference to the reformation and removal of perceived idolatry from buildings throughout the nation.  The area known as the “cloisters” has no actual religious connection, they are all about atmosphere and carrying off the architectural deception. At first this aspect is a bit of a bubble prick for me, but as we tour the grounds and I contemplate the intangibles of the institution, I appreciate the appropriateness of this nod to architectural history in the design of the updated and expanded campus in Victorian times, for truly this architecture gives a physical gravitas to one of the world’s greatest and most venerable institutions of learning.
How many times do the locals on TripAdvisor have to tell us! The weather in Scotland can spin on the tip of a unicorn's horn. The clear weather has given way to rain. Having barely had them off our backs since we arrived in the country, we have left our raincoats in the car. Luckily we’re a committed bunch on this tour today. Few people are wearing rain gear or carrying brollies but we withstand the passing rain showers to hear about Lord Kelvin, who first came from his birth city of Belfast to study at the university at the age of 10.  He then went down to study in England and was back as a teacher here by the age of 22, though he wasn’t a Lord in his early years, his Lordship was given on his obvious merit. Who knows what Lord Kelvin is famous for? We are quizzed here and as we go around the university, the fame of the achievements by Kelvin and others are global, great landmarks of human kind, usually someone in the group can answer. We prowl around noting everything from coal shute hatches and carriage steps, the locations of ground breaking discoveries, patronage over the years and on to the qualifications required to get married in the University Chapel. We see the traditional place for graduation photographs which are the steps through which all manner of intelligentsia have entered the hallowed halls.  Everyone from Einstein to Charles de Gaulle and of course Lord Kelvin. The photograph spot is flanked by a stone Unicorn (symbol of Scotland) and a stone Lion (symbol of England). The steps are of venerable age, one of a few structures relocated from the previous campus. We learn why the students never ever walk on the grass and no, don’t bother daring or enticing our guide to do so. There is nothing that would make him do it.
Yep, heritage listed.
As universities often are, this one has grown and built new facilities as needed over the years. Some are attractive some are well, just old and outdated looking and apparently in need of a spruce up. The vast majority, I think he said over 80 percent, of these buildings are heritage listed. I can’t help but think what a burden that must be to a research university. Any educational institution which seeks to provide equitable access and undertake ground breaking research has a task greater than its budget. How do they fund the maintenance and care of such an enormous burden of heritage structures as well?
The academic and heritage side of university life and achievement is not the only source of pride here. Our start to our day brought our attention to the student union. Our guide who, by the way, is a fourth year student, told us with pride that the Glasgow University Student Union is independent. Most student unions are affiliated with a national body. Not this one. He seems to feel that this enables them to be more effective and progress a more local agenda. As we’ve wandered around the aesthetics of the campus haven’t really been helped by lots of construction fencing and torn up pavements. The reason for this is because the Student Union successfully lobbied for the university to update its energy source to a more sustainable technology and this work is in underway.
At the conclusion of the tour we assemble in front of a memorial to St Mungo and I steal the punch line as we hear about one of St Mungo’s miracles. Sorry.

There’s only one thing about our tour that I’m really disappointed in – we didn’t get to see Bute Hall. I don’t remember now if that was because it’s Sunday or it’s being used for something today or whatever but it would have been good to see. .. and yep, it's called Bute hall, not because it's a beaut hall (groan) but because it was paid for by the Marquis of Bute, the same stonkingly wealthy bloke who owned Dumfries House among his huge and impressive real estate portfolio. 
We head back to the car the way we came in, through a gateway that was another of the relocated structures from the old campus, passing under the stone plaque that was added on the insistence of Charles II when he (allegedly) was unimpressed at the level of deference and enthusiasm for the monarch displayed during his visit. The gesture didn’t help because there developed a tradition at the University (no longer active!) that students passing under the sign threw stuff at it. That’s why it is so damaged! Just another little indicator of the traditional tensions that between England and Scotland and the whole Act of Union issue.  
This time as we round the corner of University Avenue, the music has changed to Carol King…. Winter, spring summer or fall, all you gotta do is call, and I’ll be there.. yes I will.… you’ve got a friend….I’m sensing a theme in their playlist.
We um and ah. We’ve got loads of time left on our pay and display here and we’re by no means certain of getting a spot closer to Ashton Lane but we figure we’ll give it a shot and we can always come back here and walk over if necessary. I've been trying to get some photos to do justice to the beautiful stone everywhere. The West End is full of beautiful opportunities... I keep trying but it's not easy.

We prowl about looking for parking. Ah yes. There’s an issue I’ve been noticing as we’ve travelled about. They’re not new, we noticed them in England in 2012 too. The “Polite Notice”. There’s this, we think, completely bizarre practice of labelling notices erected here and there in this way. This is an example I photographed later at Luss. These are not actually polite. They are just a notice like any other with some superfluous text. In this day and age of internet ettiquette, it just seams like someone shouting at you that they are polite and you aren't if you park in this area.
That's not polite.
Today in Glasgow we get a chance to photograph one of the notices that IS actually a polite notice. There’s another version that thanks people for not doing something or other.
This is polite.
Note to notice posters. Your notice isn’t polite because you say it is a polite notice. If you want credit for being polite, you would do well to adopt the practice of just asking politely. J
It’s happened again. We’ve got the wrong idea about Ashton Lane. I’ve read a bit about it online and Linda has been really enthusiastic about it. Totally a must see. I’ve been thinking that it’s somewhere you go and wander down and poke about in little stores etc and take a bit of time over. It’s actually quite small, short and pretty much entirely eating places. Quite cute and atmospheric probably even more so in the evening when there’s more people about… and the Ubiquitous Chip is quite the biggest actual presence in Ashton Lane, so I’m glad we’ve got a reservation there tonight. But Oh. Right. Tick.
That’s taken all of 5 or 10 minutes including the time taken just standing about wondering how we got such a different idea about what is here and wandering back and forth to make sure we’ve not just missed where we’re supposed to go or something.
“So, what now? We could hobble up to the Botanic Garden.” “Yeah” says Hubby. “Let’s do that or go to the place Linda was talking about.” “Oran Mor? That’s up near the Botanic Gardens too. Are you sure you want to walk all that way?” With a great demonstration of the potential of utility Hubby reassures me on that score by saying, “well we can go up there and if it’s too much we can come back”. Hmm. I give up. We set off slowly but purposefully. Mostly the rain holds off. The street is full of people it’s quite a bustling festive sort of vibe and it’s not really too far.
We cross the street to try to get a better angle on appreciating Oran Mor. “Do you want to go in and have a look, maybe get a drink and sit down for a while?” “No.” I shrug. It’s the interiors that Linda was raving about. Nah. He’s happy. Let’s cross over to the gardens.
They are beautiful. The glass houses are lovely against the grass. I’ll never stop being amazed by the velvety texture of the cold climate grass. I’m distracted by some Magpies stalking around. I so want a good photo of the blue on them. I know Mapgies aren’t popular because they’re a predator bird and a bit pesky, but they are definitely beautiful looking birds.  I’m defeated. They just won’t cooperate but meanwhile it’s started raining and the pigeons are providing the entertainment. They’re laying on the ground and raising their wings as though they’d be glad of a wash in the rain or something. I’ve never seen pigeons do that before.
The rain is getting heavier. I head into the first of the glass houses while Hubby makes a detour to check out the facilities. It’s white, and it’s beautiful. What a wonderful place for people to come in inclement weather. There’s seats and a long promenade within and around the plantings. I wander in to the path into the plantings and am stopped in my tracks by a fabulous display of tree ferns. I check their labels, yep, Australian tree ferns. What a glorious garden. You just don’t see displays like this in Australia. We take our tree ferns for granted. Here they are pride of place in a beautiful structure. Green and lush and celebrated. I just spend some time hanging out trying to capture a photo that will remind me of the impact it has in real life. It’s just magnificent.
Hubby catches up and I show him the ferns and we walk through together. There’s a wattle tree in here as well. It’s one of the really fine leaved varieties. Pretty, but it’s not as happy as the ferns. It is happier than the sad little Kauri that does nothing to communicate the stately grandeur of its kind in its native land and sadly never can in this restricted space.
Fuchsias of all kinds - another plant that the UK excels in cultivating
Quick, let’s have a look at the next green house. I can’t wait to see what they’ve got in there now. This building is more utilitarian and less decorative overall but it has a series of spaces with different conditions provided where they have stuffed an enormous quantity of plants.  We’ve seen some very impressive glass houses in the UK. We’ve had a quick look at the enormous examples there and they are amazing, but they are SO big you hardly notice the structure while you’re in them and I suppose that is the point of making them so large. They feel more like wandering in a tropical botanic garden somewhere. Here in Glasgow I’m just overwhelmed by the abundance of the collection. It’s a brilliant ambience in here. I duck carefully as I pass through the orchid house. Marvel at the huge bank of dendrobiums. Wonder at the space allocated to Impatiens. Context is everything. 
There’s a cactus room which includes a REALLY tall Australian Xanthorrhoea (grass tree) which must be hundreds of years old, a pond with waterlilies, a beautiful room full of carnivorous plants and a room of economic plants. It’s a wonderful collection and so interesting. We learn heaps we didn’t know, especially about the Australian plants and it’s not because we take no interest at home either. Did you know that the speaker's chair in the House of Commons in Westminster was a gift from the Australian Government as part of repairing the damage of WWII? It's made of Morton Bay Chestnut wood a beautiful and durable Australian Native timber. You’re not inundated with information everywhere, just here and there are little tags or signs jam packed with fascinating information about the particular plant. This is just a wonderful garden and they have really made a big effort. This has been a real highlight we are so glad we came in here. .. just one point of correction.. spell Aboriginal with a capital A please. It means a lot to Aboriginal people that we do that. It’s the same when using “Indigenous”.  
Time now to start heading back to the Ubiquitous Chip for our early dinner reservation. Rather than back track we take the path down behind some plantings where it's quieter. Stop as we spot a grey squirrel scurrying about under the trees. Instinctively framing up a photo I grab it while I can when I notice he's got an acorn in his mouth. Stockpiling for the winter I suppose. 
We walk in and are shown to our quiet corner table for two in an amazing space. The ambience is brilliant and just so perfect having come from the greenhouses. Indoor creepers dangle luxuriantly from their planter boxes, the room is filled with light.  To start Hubby goes for a San Miguel. I’m pushing the boat out and request a drink that is both non-alcoholic and not fizzy. A Cosmopolitan is recommended. This is made from pureed strawberries, cranberry and lime and depending on the sweetness of the strawberries some corn syrup may be added to get the right sweet note. Let me tell you that is a delicious drink! Very special.
Our next offering of note is a shot glass with beetroot, apple and horseradish. This is a beautiful blend of sweet piquancy and the texture too is a balance of silky and fluffy with an occasional bite of tiny perfect cubes. Very very special. Ah no, we forgot to photograph it before we've started. I spin it round to disguise the damage as much as I can. It's a visual feast.
We nibble on some very tasty slices of bread with soft butter while we wait for battle to be joined.
Round 1. Hubby claims the right to decide the winner by ordering The Chip’s own, since 1971, venison haggis, champit tatties, carrot crisp, neep cream £8.95. I’m sorry I just don’t do offal. So I choose the Mull of Kintyre crab and roast corn beignet and corn chowder, hold the chilli oil £6.45. We tie. Hubby does like haggis, he’s been having it everywhere with breakfast too.
Round 2: Hubby never can pass by an opportunity to have Guinea Fowl, this time served with Dorset snails, cep gnocchi, broadbeans, cevenne onion veloute. £23.95. In response I go simple but classic with the Chip’s fillet steak au poivre with dauphinoise potatoes with Bearnaise sauce, hold the mushroom duxelle. £28. As a side we simply must try the Nine hole beef stovies. £3.45. Still level pegging.

Round 3: Hubby, with some encouragement from me orders the Knockraich Farm crowdie mousse, with strawberry jelly, pistachio crisp, sherry vinegar ice cream £7.45. I’m sticking with the specialties of the house, The Chip’s famous Caledonian oatmeal ice cream, whisky macerated summer fruits with honeycomb £5.95.  And the winner is the Ubiquitous Chip. That’s as it should be. Every dish a winner, beautiful balance of flavours and textures, no dish too rich without something to balance and refresh the palate. Superb meal in every respect. Very memorable. .. and I must say both the oatmeal ice cream and the sherry vinegar ice cream were absolutely sensational.
We’re happy campers heading home nice and early. We figure it might be wise to find our way to the SSE Hydro where we need to be tomorrow. In particular we want to sus out the parking arrangements. This gives us an opportunity to see the multi-story parking station with its attractive silver cut out panel façade and I enjoy seeing an alien head hovering above the port.  
We haven't suffered too much slippage on the early night. Well, until we’re crossing the Clyde and I realise that the weather is clear. Let’s take the opportunity to go over and take some photos of the Convention Centre (The Armadillo) and the Hydro. We cheekily park up and Hubby waits while I wander down past the Premier Inn and get some photos, stopped dead in my tracks by the beautiful symmetry of Bell’s Bridge. 
It’s a lovely spot here. Quiet this evening. I linger enjoying the changing light as the sun sets and the breeze ebbs revealing a mirror effect in the water then freshens, wiping the face of the buildings from the surface of the water. Time for me to go.
Even the Clydeport hammer crane looks like a work of modern art in the uber modern convention precinct.
Satisfied, I tell Hubby what he’s been missing and we head home, chat with Linda then call it a night.