A to Z reflections

A-to-Z+Reflection+[2015]+-+LgThis time last year I was celebrating completing my first A to Z Challenge. This year, I’m celebrating my second – and third: I’ve also fulfilled the 2015 challenge on my library blog. So my first reflection is that I’m not sure I’d do two at once again! Alternate years, maybe.

Thinking about this blog specifically, I’m really pleased with how it went. Somewhere around T, I surpassed last April’s total page views, so I did better than last year in statistical terms. But it’s the people who make the challenge – both the blogging friends I met last year and the new ones I’ve made this month. I’ve learned a lot from all your posts – and I’ve also laughed, cried, been terrified or repulsed! Sometimes all at once.

I've awarded myself a medal. Ok, fridge magnet.
I’ve awarded myself a medal. Ok, fridge magnet.

I’m very grateful to everyone who read and commented in return, and gave such warm and positive responses to Gallus Glasgow. I hope that those who don’t know the city will now be tempted to visit, and that those who do will have found at least one or two things they didn’t know about.

Potential blog posts have been piling up since the end of March, so it’s time for a little rest, then back into action. I hope some of you will still be with me. Au revoir!

Gallus Glasgow Z: World War Z

There can’t be a corner of Glasgow which hasn’t featured in home-grown films and TV shows such as the long-running detective series, Taggart. But Hollywood has also come to call on several occasions. For example, there was great excitement in 2011 when the centre of Glasgow “played” Philadelphia in World War Z – especially as the star was none other than Brad Pitt. Here’s the City Chambers in George Square with the green signs and yellow traffic lights of a US city.

Glasgow as Philadelphia

In my own picture of the same building, you can just about make out the normal UK lights at the bottom left.

Glasgow City Chambers

Zombie attacks aren’t my thing, so I haven’t seen World War Z. However, shortly after Brad Pitt’s visit, Halle Berry was here filming the San Francisco sequences of Cloud Atlas. That I did go to – and very strange it was, thanks to CGI, to see streets which were totally recognisable on one side and completely imaginary on the other. Glasgow has also doubled as 1890s New York in House of Mirth (with Gillian Anderson) and, as far as I know, the most recent Hollywood A-lister to film here was Scarlett Johannson (Under The Skin).

We’re famous! Come and see us! I hope my roundup of Gallus Glasgow has tempted some of you.

Gallus Glasgow Y: Yorkhill

Yorkhill Hospitals

Yorkhill is a mainly residential area on the north bank of the Clyde, but say its name to most Glaswegians and the instant association is “Sick Kids”. The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, usually just known as “Yorkhill” treats thousands of patients each year – approximately 90,000 out-patients, 15,000 in-patients, 7,300 day-cases and 35,000 Accident and Emergency cases.

This wasn’t the hospital’s original home, however. After 20 years of arguing about a suitable site, the first children’s hospital in Glasgow was founded (by charitable donations) in Garnethill in 1882. It quickly became too small, and today is an annexe to a local school: that’s it below with a close-up of the relief over the door showing Charity comforting a child.

In 1914, a public appeal raised £140,000 for the new site at Yorkhill – approximately £7m in today’s money. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow recently held a symposium to celebrate a century of paediatric care at Yorkhill – the College Library blogpost about it has some lovely images, including one of dolls wearing the 1964 uniform of the Queen Mother’s Hospital (the maternity hospital on the same site).

Now the hospital is on the move again. The redeveloped Southern General campus in Govan, on the other side of the river, is almost complete and will serve both adults and children from later this year. This time, of course, it’s funded by the National Health Service (although the admirable Yorkhill Children’s Charity raises money for additional resources). Let’s be grateful that we no longer have to rely on charity for our healthcare.

I can’t believe it’s the last letter tomorrow! Let’s go to the movies for Z.

Gallus Glasgow X: Glasgow Cross

Glasgow Cross
Glasgow Cross

I couldn’t think of anything beginning with X so here’s a plausible “cheat”, if you like to call it that (though I bet a lot of other bloggers are having to do the same thing). X, in this case, does not represent a kiss – a Glasgow kiss is something you definitely want to avoid! It’s a headbutt. No, I’m going to talk about Glasgow Cross.

This was the heart of the medieval city, the meeting place of five roads: High Street, Gallowgate, London Road, the Saltmarket and the Trongate. Those roads are all still there, but Glasgow’s centre has moved west over the centuries and the only true remnant of the Cross’s former glory is the Tolbooth Steeple. Today, this sits alone on a traffic island, but when it was built in the 1620s it was part of a more extensive building. The Tolbooth had several uses, including as the seat of the Council until 1814 and, less pleasantly, as a place of public execution (hence Gallowgate. And gallus – remember that third definition I didn’t really want to talk about?) The rest of the Tolbooth was demolished in 1921.

Across the road, the Mercat (Market) Cross with its heraldic unicorn looks just as ancient but was only constructed in 1929/30.

Nearing the end! Tomorrow, in Y, we visit a place that generations of Glasgow weans and their parents have had cause to be grateful to.

Gallus Glasgow W: Wellington

Duke of Wellington and cone
Duke of Wellington and cone

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, hero of Waterloo and twice Prime Minister, has sat on his horse outside what is now the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) since 1844. For the first 140 years or so he was unmolested, but sometime around the 1980s the tradition of capping him with a traffic cone emerged. The council and the police don’t like this, but as fast as they take one down, another goes up in its place, costing, allegedly, £10,000 per year to remove.

Living statueIn 2013, Glasgow City Council considered a £65,000 plan to raise the statue’s plinth in an attempt to deter the ‘coning’ of the Duke. This led to #Conegate: a storm on Twitter and Facebook, an online petition and even a rally to Keep the Cone. The plans were quietly dropped and the cone remains. GoMA (owned by the council which so dislikes it) continues to sell greetings cards of the coned Duke and a new hotel is using his image in its interior decor because it represents the humour of Glasgow. I found the article about this quite hilarious. Apparently the Sculptor in Ordinary to the Queen in Scotland (me neither) thinks the cone is comparable to “acts of cultural destruction carried out by so-called Islamic State.” Get a grip!

The street artists are getting in on the act too. I came across the mini-Wellington above in Buchanan Street before Christmas. I’m not sure he’d want to ride into battle on that horse, but he looks pretty gallus all the same.

X is a bothersome letter – I bet lots of people have to cheat a bit, and I’m no exception. Come back tomorrow to find out what Glasgow X represents.

Gallus Glasgow V: Victoria

Twelve statues stand in George Square in the centre of Glasgow. Only one is of a woman – Queen Victoria. I imagine most British cities have a statue of her. At least ours is a youngish, lively Victoria, sitting side-saddle on her horse, and not the unamused elderly widow (although you can see a version of her on the façade of the Royal Infirmary).

But only one statue of a woman in George Square? Shocking! Not only that, there are only three in the whole city, and of those just one is a native Glaswegian. Isabella Elder sits in Elder Park, which she donated to the people of Govan, and Spanish Civil War heroine La Pasionaria (Dolores Ibárruri) raises her arms by the Clyde.

Perhaps this will change soon. There is a campaign to raise a statue to Mary Barbour, heroine of the 1915 rent strikes, which could take our total to four. It’s progress.

A Queen today – in W tomorrow, we meet a Duke.

Gallus Glasgow U: Umbrellas

This post is not about the Glasgow weather – though it’s true that if you visit you should always remember to bring an umbrella. However, this post is about two much bigger umbrellas.

Heilanman's Umbrella
Heilanman’s Umbrella

The Hielanman’s Umbrella (Highlandman’s Umbrella) is the local nickname for the glass walled railway bridge which carries the platforms of Glasgow Central Station across Argyle Street. During the Highland Clearances in the 19th century, thousands of Highlanders came to Glasgow looking for work. As they were dispersed throughout the city, this is the place they came to keep in touch with each other.

Bridgeton Umbrella
Bridgeton Umbrella

The second umbrella is in Bridgeton in the East End. Erected in 1874, it also sheltered the unemployed and, unlike the Hielanman’s Umbrella, was actually designed to do so. I’m disappointed to find its real name is the dull “Bridgeton Cross Shelter”.

For the next couple of days, we’ll be looking at equestrian statues. Anyone else remember the song by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band? No? Well, it’s nothing to do with that anyway. I just thought I’d throw it in.

Gallus Glasgow T: the Tardis

Hands up the Doctor Who fans! Ok, so you know about the Tardis then – an old, blue Police Box which is bigger inside than out. At one time there used to be over 300 in Glasgow, allowing officers to keep in touch with their stations and access first-aid boxes. At least one of the handful remaining is now in use as a coffee shop, though, sadly, when I looked inside the interior was just as tiny as the outside.

However, Glasgow does have a Doctor Who connection. Look at the box in the bottom right picture which, I’m sure you’ll have noticed, isn’t real. It’s part of a University of Strathclyde mural (see the previous post on Street Art for more) and is there because the University Archives hold the papers of Verity Lambert, founding producer of Doctor Who in 1963. I’m old enough to remember watching the first episode. I was six and we’d only recently got a television so I didn’t have much to compare it with, but I was entranced.

For more on the Police Boxes, see STV Glasgow’s article and the Facebook page Police Signal Box. Tardis.

U tomorrow, in which we take shelter from the rain.

Gallus Glasgow S: Street art

In some ways, Glasgow is like the geeky kid trying to be cool here. More and more street art is popping up, but much of it is officially sanctioned, some to brighten up the city for last year’s Commonwealth Games. There’s even a City Council trail you can follow to find the major sites. Here are some I found in the City Centre – my favourite is the girl with the magnifying glass. I was so lucky to catch a woman standing underneath in just the right place. I also like the picture of the elephant with its group of living statues sitting below.

Street art is not confined to the centre. Closer to home, there are several murals in the west of the city. This scary squirrel and some transport-related murals are at Kelvinbridge Subway Station.

I suppose not strictly street art, because this time it’s inside, the refurbished Hillhead Subway Station has an Alistair Gray mural. There’s also a mural behind Hillhead Library and the adjacent Hillhead Bookclub (which is actually a bar / restaurant despite the name.)

For the final part of my street art tour, how about these spectacular murals in Maryhill? A friend calls the one on the left “the depressed panther”.

Tomorrow in T we could travel beyond the galaxy. Well, not really, don’t get too excited….

Gallus Glasgow R: Religious buildings

St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art was the first in the world to cover all major world religions together. It sits next to Glasgow Cathedral (1197) and superficially looks almost as old, but it dates from the late 1980s. The Scottish baronial style was deliberately chosen to emulate the Bishop’s Palace which used to sit on the same site. In the images below, the third building you can see is the Royal Infirmary.

Some details from the museum:

The Cathedral is Church of Scotland and there are, of course, many more Christian denominations represented in Glasgow as well as buildings for other world religions. For example, Glasgow Central Mosque:

Glasgow Central Mosque

Garnethill Synagogue:

By RonAlmog, (Flickr page) (Flickr) CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), via Wikimedia Commons
By RonAlmog, (Flickr page) (Flickr) CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), via Wikimedia Commons

And Gurdwara Guru Granth Sahib:

Gurdwara Guru Granth Sahib

Most religious buildings which have been mentioned in the Challenge so far have been converted to other uses. This is a small, and by no means comprehensive, selection of those which still fulfil their original purpose.

Tomorrow in S we’ll look at some art – but not in a gallery.