Glasgow Gallivanting: May 2018

Yes, we’ve been to Amsterdam again! I wrote extensively about the city after we were there in November, so when I get round to posting about this visit I’ll try to be briefer. It’s the first time we’ve been in warm sunshine and, wow, it looks good that way!

Inchmahome Priory

We actually had sunshine at home too – though not all the time. A visit to Inchmahome Priory at the beginning of the month was a bit grey. The priory (c. 1238) is on a small island on the Lake of Menteith, so you arrive by boat which is exciting. The island’s main claim to fame is as a haven for Mary Queen of Scots – she spent a few weeks here, aged 4, after Scotland lost a battle with the English in 1547.

Edinburgh

We had a sunnier day in Edinburgh. I wanted to visit the exhibition at the National Library to celebrate the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth, and we caught it just before it closed. It was excellent. No photography was allowed inside for copyright reasons, but we took a few pictures in the entrance hall. I loved what they had done to their staircase.

We also managed to fit in two more exhibitions, and a wander through some of Edinburgh’s pretty streets.

Cairnhill Woods

If you go down to the woods today …

… you’re sure of a big surprise!

Surprise one was that I didn’t know about Cairnhill Woods, despite having lived within half an hour’s walk for thirty years, until a friend posted pictures on Facebook of his kids playing near some of the chainsaw carvings. Surprise two was that as I left the woods after my first visit, who should I run into but that same friend and his son? The carvings are the work of Iain Chalmers of Chainsaw Creations and have only been there since 2014, but even without them the woods are a lovely Sunday afternoon stroll, especially at this time of year when the bluebells and primroses are in full bloom.

River Kelvin

On a walk through Kelvingrove Park, two of the West End’s most iconic buildings can be seen peeking at each other from opposite sides of the river (Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and University of Glasgow).

I was pleased that George Wylie’s sculpture was in a complimentary mood, and even more pleased to discover small signs of growth on the storm-damaged Suffrage Oak. It’s hard to see against surrounding trees, but some of those leaves are definitely attached to the oak. There is hope!

Another day, I walked in the opposite direction along the Kelvin to the Garscube Estate, formerly the site of a country mansion and now home to parts of Glasgow University including the Vet School. Coming home via the canal I felt very lucky to have these two waterways almost on my doorstep.

John in China

For the third month in a row, John has spent time in China. This time, to make the travelling even more difficult for himself, he went to a conference in California first! It was a long journey from San Francisco to Chengdu, but at least he had a day to sight-see before starting work again. On my only visit to Chengdu, many years ago, I remember visiting this museum to Du Fu (Tang dynasty poet) with its replica of the thatched cottage he built in 759.

The last bit

Just because I liked them – two windows with a similar theme: the one on the left spotted in Southampton, and the one on the right in Amsterdam.

You might remember I’ve been answering Kim’s Sunshine Blogger nomination questions two at a time each month. Questions five and six are Who inspires you? and Why do you blog? For inspiration I could give many answers, but I’m sticking with my current project, promoting Suffrage Pioneer Jessie Stephen. The more I read about this woman, the more awe-struck I am. Next month’s roundup might well have more news about her. As for why I blog – it started as a personal record for myself, but now it keeps me in touch with all you lovely people who are reading it!

On that very subject, are you an (ahem) older blogger like me? If so, perhaps you could help Rachel at Write into Life by completing her short survey on why you blog and the benefits (if any) you get from it.

Finally, my Scottish words of the month which I’ve chosen to put together because they rhyme. If I said to you “A wee girl chapped on my door and asked if she could clap the dog” you might be puzzled – not least because I don’t have a dog, but please imagine I do. Why is this child applauding it? Well, she isn’t – chap and clap are words which confused me when I arrived in Glasgow as they had extra meanings I hadn’t encountered before. To chap is to knock and to clap is to pat or stroke. So now you know! If you have a real dog, please pass on a few imaginary claps from me.

So those were some of my happiest moments in May – how was your month?

Edinburgh: a Canongate walk

White Horse Close

After our recent visit to the Scottish Parliament, we walked slowly up Canongate exploring the closes, or courtyards, to either side. Canongate itself is over 800 years old, and was a separate burgh from Edinburgh until 1856. Its name comes from the Augustinian Canons of Holyrood Abbey who, in the 12th century, were given permission by the king to build on either side of the path, or “gait”, between the Abbey and the Old Town of Edinburgh.

Immediately opposite the parliament is White Horse Close (above) which takes its name from an inn which once stood there. The buildings have been restored, but still give a good impression of how the courtyard must have looked hundreds of years ago. Zoom in on the window above the stairs and you will see that it is dated 1623.

Further up Canongate is 17th century Panmure House, once home to the economist and philosopher Adam Smith. It’s currently undergoing renovation so it was hard to get a photograph to do it justice.

Panmure House

Not all the closes hide new buildings – tucked away in Crichton Close is the Scottish Poetry Library (1999).

Scottish Poetry Library

Next we explored Canongate Kirkyard – like all these places, apart from the Poetry Library, somewhere I’ve walked past many times without investigating. I was surprised how extensive the Kirkyard is.

The next close was my absolute favourite – Bakehouse Close is home to Acheson House, built in 1633 for Sir Archibald Acheson and now the home of Edinburgh World Heritage. The Acheson family crest, a cock and trumpet, is above the door.

Why do I love it so much? The information panels on the wall about Rangers Impartial List, a 1775 guide to 66 of Edinburgh’s prostitutes. Many of the closes in the Old Town housed brothels, and Acheson House was one of them, then known as the Cock and Trumpet after the crest. The list pulls no punches in assessing the women’s appearance and skills – I hope you can enlarge the panels sufficiently to read some of it. I particularly like Mrs Agnew, a “drunken bundle of iniquity” who would think nothing of a company of Grenadiers at one time. At 50!

A couple of shots as we made our way to our next stop – the Tolbooth Tavern on Canongate peeking through an archway, and a further example of modern buildings behind old ones. These are student flats, with a lovely view of Salisbury Crags.

Another 17th century mansion is Moray House, now owned by the University of Edinburgh. The buildings round about comprise the University’s School of Education.

Next up is Chessel’s Court with this traditional 18th century Edinburgh ‘mansion style’ tenement, originally built to provide better accommodation for relatively wealthy residents of the Old Town. Back on Canongate, we were observed by a strange statue which is said to represent the Emperor of Morocco.

Finally, we turned the corner into St Mary’s Street, the site of Boyd’s Inn where Dr Johnson stayed in 1773 on his way to meet James Boswell for the start of their journey to the Hebrides. I liked the shop opposite with its rather cross looking bull!

From here, we headed across to the New Town and our visit to the ice sculptures which I’ve written about previously. I was soon to find out that it was possible to shiver even more on this bitterly cold December day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour through part of old Edinburgh. I’m linking to Jo’s Monday walks – the blue skies of Portugal should warm you up after this chilly post!

Edinburgh at Christmas

George Street, Edinburgh

Christmas takes over Edinburgh in a big way. George Street, in the New Town, is particularly pretty and this year hosted Ice Adventure: a journey through frozen Scotland. See if you can guess what any of these ice sculptures are! (they’re all captioned, so click to view). I do have reservations about how festive Mary, Queen of Scots having her head chopped off is…..

We had tickets for the ice sculptures, but were pleased to happen upon another event.

Joy to the World, the Edinburgh Christmas Tree Festival, takes place at St Andrew’s and St George’s West. Forty trees are each decorated by a local charity, business or voluntary group. All the trees come from social enterprise Caring Christmas Trees, supporting homeless  people in Edinburgh throughout the winter, and donations to the event benefit another three charities. What a lovely idea!

A couple more Christmassy shots of George Street. Can you see the feet sticking out from that fairground attraction? It plummeted from the top VERY quickly. No way would I ever get on that!

All that remains is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas! I hope you have a lovely time however, or whatever, you are celebrating.

A tour of the Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament

A couple of Saturdays ago I fulfilled an ambition to tour the Scottish Parliament building – it’s been open since 2004, so I’m not really slow, am I? The building has always been controversial – it was late, over-budget and not everyone likes the design – but I felt I understood it much better after listening to our excellent tour guide, Adrienne. The Parliament is at Holyrood at the bottom of Canongate, the lower part of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile which is the medieval heart of the city. According to its website:

Drawing inspiration from the surrounding landscape, the flower paintings by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the upturned boats on the seashore, Enric Miralles, one of the world’s premier architects, developed a design that he said was a building “growing out of the land”.

Miralles also alludes to themes of openness and democracy and includes symbols of Scotland. The Main Hall, for example, is modelled on medieval vaults and features the Saltire cross from Scotland’s flag. Here, there is a Visitor Information Centre, exhibition, shop, café and crèche for visitors’ children.

Scottish Parliament Main Hall

Throughout, there are various works of art. Shown below are Contemplace by George Wyllie, the artist’s idea for a Scottish Throne, including the Stone of Destiny and references to Mackintosh, and a head of Robert Burns made of match heads by David Mach.

Travelling the Distance by Shauna McMullan is a collection of 100 handwritten sentences made of porcelain. The sentences were collected by the artist on a journey around Scotland to meet 100 women. Each of the 100 women was asked to write something about a woman they felt had made a significant contribution to Scotland. The artist asked each woman to refer her to another woman until she reached 100. We saw the parliament’s mace when we were in the Debating Chamber, but no photographs were allowed – the picture from the Visitor Centre, below, replicates the head, though the original, crafted in silver and gold by Michael Lloyd, was much more splendid.

It was a great thrill to step into the Debating Chamber having seen it so many times on TV. As I said, no photographs were allowed while on the tour, but we were able to go back to the Visitors’ Gallery later and take pictures from there. The Chamber is built in a semi-circle so that everyone is facing the Presiding Officer (rather than opposing politicians) and has a modern electronic voting system. I feel the archaic UK parliament at Westminster should learn lessons from this!

Scottish Parliament Debating Chamber

Throughout the Chamber, on the light fittings and in the glass, were symbols which we guessed to be whisky bottles, but apparently are stylised people, presumably to remind Members to whom they are responsible – us.

The chairs in the Visitors’ Gallery were rather an odd shape, but surprisingly comfortable – and the view behind was terrific.

Visitor’s Gallery

After our tour, we had lunch in the café before heading back into the cold. On the way out, I picked up a leaflet about Canongate which I’ve walked up and down many times, but following this map took us into some of the closes on either side and we learned some interesting history. That’s for a later post: for now, I’ll finish with some exterior shots of the parliament from Canongate.

The Scottish Parliament website has information on how to book tours. I found this general tour fascinating and I hope to go back to take a more specialised tour soon – maybe literature or art.

Happy Christmas!

Edinburgh at Christmas
Edinburgh at Christmas

We’ve made a couple of trips over to Edinburgh in the last few weeks to visit art exhibitions, but also taking plenty of time to appreciate the sights and sounds of Christmas: the funfair, the market, the Street of Light.

This gallery is my Christmas card to you.

The last picture has nothing to do with Christmas at all: John snapped this tour bus coming up from Edinburgh’s New Town on one of our summer visits. I just love the composition and don’t want to waste it, so here it is!

Edinburgh tour bus
Edinburgh tour bus

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone! May 2017 bring us all hope and joy. See you then.

 

Edinburgh: Modern 2

Modern Scottish Women catalogueIn 1885 Sir William Fettes Douglas, President of the Royal Scottish Academy, declared that the work of a woman artist was “like a man’s only weaker and poorer”. Despite this view, between then and 1965 an unprecedented number of Scottish women trained and worked as artists. An exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art paid tribute to 45 of them, none, I can assure you, weak or poor!

Photography was not allowed in the exhibition (which is now closed – we caught it right at the end) so you will have to make do with this detail from the catalogue. It shows a stunning portrait of Anne Finlay (herself an artist featured in the exhibition) by Dorothy Johnstone. It was good to learn about names like these which were new to me, as well as to see work by old favourites such as Anne Redpath and Joan Eardley.

You would not, of course, expect us to take on an art exhibition without a good lunch inside us. The café at the gallery is excellent – look at that counter laden with cake and scones! I seem to have neglected to photograph my main course, but rest assured it was delicious – and followed by cake. The tiling is in the Ladies Room – not something I would normally take a picture of, but this one is particularly striking and, possibly, disorienting.

However, if you can’t take pictures of the art inside, you certainly can outside. The exhibition was in Modern 2, which originated as the Dean Orphan Hospital in 1833. A beautiful building, and beautiful grounds with sculptures by Nathan Coley, Richard Long and others.

The sculpture below (and, stupidly, I didn’t note its title or the artist’s name) looked like either scissors or knitting needles depending on which way I approached it, and John has cropped one of his pictures to make a Saltire. (I think some lying on the grass might have been involved there too.)

On our way back to the station, our glance was caught by St Mary’s Cathedral (Scottish Episcopal) which we’ve walked past many times but never entered. An orchestra was rehearsing inside so, once again, no interior shots as we could only tiptoe round the edges.

The cathedral dates from 1879 and was built thanks to Barbara and Mary Walker who left their estate in trust for its endowment. The 17th century Old Coates House next door was their home.

We’ve given up, in recent years, visiting Edinburgh at festival time – it’s just too exhausting – but it’s lovely to be able to pop over for the odd day here and there. There’s always something new (to us) to discover.

Edinburgh – everything is going to be alright

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art - Everything is Going to be Alright
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – Everything is Going to be Alright

We visit Edinburgh quite often – but usually outside the festival season. The crowds are just too much! Our last visit was on a cold day at the end of October. We started at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which is just as interesting outside as in.

From there, we walked part of the way back into town along the Water of Leith. At Dean Village, it seemed someone had been creating more modern art in the river.

We admired some of the building details and the view from Dean Bridge before continuing into the city centre.

Our next stop was at the National Portrait Gallery, where an art class was going on.

From there, we cut across Princes Street to the Royal Mile and continued down towards Holyrood, spotting more interesting details on the way.

We decided to climb Salisbury Crags – at least, as far as felt comfortable in city shoes.

We got great views of the Scottish Parliament, the Castle, Calton Hill and Holyrood Palace.

By this time, the light was fading and it was getting much colder so we walked back into the centre to meet a friend for beer and food.

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. This week she’s taking a sunset stroll in the Algarve so, if Edinburgh has made you feel chilly, head over there for a warm-up.

 

A day in the life

Some time ago (ahem, over two months) Celine at Down the Rabbit Hole nominated me for a “day in the life” challenge – taking a photo every so often throughout the day and blogging about it. Now, Celine’s post documented a day in the South of France so I’ve given up waiting for something to compete with that – however, yesterday was a little bit special so I’ve decided to go for it. Rest assured, although there is some fairly routine stuff in this post, I’ve omitted the dullest parts of my day (believe it or not) – you don’t want to read about me doing laundry, do you?

My kitchen

So this is where my day begins – the kitchen. First thing in the morning is the only time it’s tidy enough to photograph! As a retired lady, I try to avoid anything which starts before 10am so it falls to me to make the breakfast for the working half of the partnership.

Today, I’m off for a haircut so that I look smart for this evening’s event. My appointment is, guess when? 10am. I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for over 20 years – when we moved into the area, he worked in the nearest salon. I’ve followed him twice since, and for the last few years he’s been in Broomhill, an area of Glasgow about 30 minutes walk away. I don’t drive anywhere unless I absolutely have to – walking is the only exercise I get. This is my street:

It’s a late 20th-century mix of flats (which you can see) and terraced houses (which we live in). However, turning the corner, everything becomes more grand – although many of the houses are now multi-occupancy, they are still imposing. This is Kelvinside.

Broomhill has lots of trees and green space, and a nice little row of shops. I have my haircut and a coffee in a nearby café in which I am almost alone.

So here’s a before and after. Can you tell the difference? Not really, it’s just tidier. In the third picture, I’ve had my lunch, showered and dressed, all ready to go – where? Let’s find out!

I set off again on foot, this time through the Botanic Gardens. There’s some lovely autumn colouring there.

I travel by Subway to Queen Street Station, meet two friends from Glasgow Women’s Library and take the train to Edinburgh – destination Scottish Parliament! This photo is a cheat – one I prepared earlier. It’s dark when we get there and we’re certainly not going to climb Salisbury Crags to get this view.

Scottish Parliament from Salisbury Crags

So why are we here? Some might remember my earlier post about the Women’s Library nominating Glasgow’s Suffragette Oak to be Scotland’s Tree of the Year. We reached the final, and tonight we’ll find out if we’ve won. The evening starts with drinks and canapés, then a few speeches followed by the prizegiving. The six finalists are read out in reverse order – every time it’s not us, we glance at each other. When we get to second – it’s still not us! We’ve won!

We stagger back to the train with the trophy, certificate and rolled up banner. I make it home about 10pm eager to tell John all about it. Thanks to any blog readers who voted for our tree.

Once again, thanks to Celine for nominating me for this challenge. Please visit her at Down the Rabbit Hole if you haven’t already done so. As is my usual habit, I’m not going to pass the challenge on but if you think it’s a good idea, please consider yourself nominated.

Finally, this is the tree that all the fuss is about:

Suffragette Oak

I’d like to think that the Suffragettes who watched it being planted in 1918 would be delighted that it’s now Scotland’s Tree of the Year. Next stop, European Tree of the Year in February….

Edinburgh’s all dressed up for Christmas

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I’m a committed Glaswegian but, whisper it, at Christmas Edinburgh does it better. Both cities have funfairs and Christmas markets but Edinburgh’s are definitely more spectacular. We explored them when we went over last weekend to see a couple of exhibitions, both of which were excellent. You have until June to catch up with Peploe, the second in the Scottish Colourists series at Modern 2, but if you want to see the 70th birthday retrospective of John Bellany at the RSA you need to get there by 27th January. It’s well worth it – I found the earliest and latest sections most interesting, because they were the least familiar to me. These included works done at art school echoing paintings with religious themes by, for example, Piero della Francesca, but using imagery from the fishing port he grew up in, and some very recent, and unexpected, landscapes.

In the evening, we met a friend for dinner in the Jasmine Chinese Restaurant near the Usher Hall, but in between we did the Christmassy stuff. First the market, which was so crowded that I found it claustrophobic. John managed to fight his way in to get some fire punch, but I preferred to look in from outside.

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The castle looked rather splendid all lit up.

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Then it was on to the funfair.

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We went up on the big wheel which gave us great views over Princes Street, the Gardens and the National Galleries complex. Fabulous! I’m still glad I live in Glasgow, but I love to visit Edinburgh.

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Edinburgh – no miracles here?

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It’s ages since we had a proper day out in Edinburgh – we missed the Festival entirely this year – so, after arranging to meet our friend Jim there for dinner on Saturday, we decided to go over early and visit a couple of exhibitions. First of all, we walked through Princes Street Gardens, though we didn’t stop at the Christmas funfair, shown above in front of the Scott Monument. It looks even better lit up at night – one year we went up on that ferris wheel and enjoyed the views, but this time we ended up at the wrong end of town for that after dark. (In the day time, you can also get great views by climbing the monument itself.)

Before tackling the exhibitions, we decided to have lunch in the Scottish Cafe and Restaurant at the Princes Street Gardens entrance of the Scottish National Gallery. It was really busy, and rightly so, because the food was very tasty. From there, we went straight to the first exhibition we wanted to see, Elizabeth Blackadder. This is only on till 2nd January so I advise rushing along if you haven’t already seen it. I love her work and was most familiar with her flower paintings – we have a print of tulips at home which we bought one year as a joint birthday present to each other. I also like the still lives and cat pictures. There’s one which combines both by showing the cat stalking out of one side of the picture so that you only see its back end, which illustrates everything I know of cat-nature. However, I had never seen the ink drawings from the 50s and was particularly taken with those of views I recognised – Siena, from a travelling scholarship she won, and Hadrian’s Wall. Although not captioned as such, I think this showed Steel Rigg – a place I have walked many times – and I wish there had been a postcard or print of this in the shop. We also enjoyed the two short films at the end, showing Elizabeth Blackadder still at work today in her 80s. She came across as a delightful person.

Next, we set off for the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. The weather was foul, so we went the direct route rather than taking the very pleasant walk along the Water of Leith and through Dean Village. The exhibition on Scottish Colourist, FCB Cadell is on in Modern 2, formerly known as the Dean Gallery, until March. It’s one of a series over the next two years with Peploe to follow in 2012 and Fergusson in 2013. I don’t know if they just haven’t got round to planning one on Hunter yet or if they are missing him out entirely. As with Blackadder, I knew and liked this artist but had never seen many of the paintings – this is apparently the first public exhibition dedicated solely to him since 1942. For example, I have seen some of his Iona pictures individually, but it was much better seeing a whole room of them together. I hadn’t realised either quite how many ladies wearing black hats he had painted – but my favourite is still Glasgow’s own with the lady sitting in front of an orange blind. This might not be the intended purpose of art, but I have an orange blind in my kitchen mainly because of this picture! Finally, it was instructive to see how his style developed over the years, e.g. from the more impressionistic pre-first world war interiors to the later, brighter and flatter Art-Deco inspired ones. Throughout, his use of reflection remained equally masterful.

Accompanying this exhibition were two smaller ones showing work from contemporary artists, both the other Colourists and some of those working in completely different styles. We also liked the installation in the grounds, seen below when we went in around 3.30pm and when we emerged in darkness just before 5. I think there were plenty of miracles in the gallery myself!

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After a little light shopping and a couple of beers, we rounded off our day with our friend in Spirit of Thai, just beside the Usher Hall. It was great, and so, full of good cheer, we headed off for the train back to Glasgow. Next time we’ll have to visit the refurbishments at the Portrait Gallery and the National Museum. Can’t wait.