The Duke of Wellington in Glasgow

More often than not the statue of the Duke of Wellington at Royal Exchange Square in Glasgow has a traffic cone on his head. Apparently it was way back in the 1980s when someone decided that the addition of a cone would be an improvement and it’s the sort of irreverence which goes down well in Glasgow.

Wellington

But the powers that be feel the need to remove the cone, feeling that somehow it gives Glasgow a ‘bad name’. How out of touch can you be?! Everyone goes there especially to see the cone topped statue. Anyway, it’s never gone for long as some daredevil usually takes their life in their hands to replace the cone within 24 hours.

Just before Christmas Santa climbed up there and the police arrested him, much to the chagrin of the bystanders. You can see some photos of the incident here.

And following the horrific accident which occurred on December, 22nd a lovely Glaswegian changed the normal traffic cone for a black one. It was only fitting that Old Ironsides should be in mourning with the rest of us.

I took the above photo of the statue on Saturday when we were in Glasgow, amongst other things we visited GOMA which has an Alasdair Gray exhibition on at the moment.

Wellington

Jericho Sleep Alone by Chaim Bermant

Jericho Sleep Alone cover

I was almost at the end of January when it dawned on me that although I’d been getting a lot of reading done, due to being stuck in the house trying to avoid the worst of our weather – but I hadn’t read anything by a Scottish author. So I quickly remedied that by reading Jericho Sleep Alone by Chaim Bermant. Chaim Bermant was a Jewish author who wrote about what he knew, what it was like growing up in a Jewish family in Glasgow.

I read a lot of this author’s books way back in the 1970s but I don’t think I read this one then. Jericho Sleep Alone was first published in 1964. The setting is mainly Glasgow although Jericho does go to Israel for a while. The story begins just before Jericho’s Bar-Mitvah and continues through his school and university days, and on to his attempts to get a suitable job and then his experiences on a kibbutz. Poor Jericho is a disappointment to his parents, he’s a failure at everything he tries out and he doesn’t even have any luck with the girls either.

That makes it sound like a depressing read but there are some funny characters which lift the whole thing and Jericho himself always had my sympathy. Of course Bermant was writing about family life in a Glaswegian/Jewish household and I remember being engrossed in the books, loving the settings and mentions of the Glasgow streets and people going off for their summer holiday to places like Helensburgh, all of 20 miles or so from Glasgow, but a different world from the city.

Jewish/Glaswegian families didn’t seem to be much different from any other Glaswegian families and from my very small experience of the matter it seems to me that Jewish sons just enjoy complaining more about their mothers than anyone else, the mothers themselves seem like many others to me.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to pick up this old copy of the book in a charity shop in Aberdeen, in very good condition with its dust jacket which was designed by Hugh Marshall. I mention this because Jack and I were at an antiques fair a few months ago and we stopped at a book stall. Jack got into conversation with the stall holder about one of his books and the guy said proudly that he had bever read any of the books which he sold because he was only interested in the covers and their artists. Each to their own I suppose!

This novel appears in a list of 100 best Scottish Books.

Although I enjoyed it, I think from my memory his later books are even better.

This is the first book I’ve read for the Read Scotland 2015 Challenge.

The Glasgow School of Art

On our pre-Christmas visit to Glasgow we ended up way up at the top of Sauchiehall Street, we hadn’t meant to walk that far but it was a nice bright day and we just kept finding more and more good buildings for Jack to photgraph, he’s a bit of an art deco fan.

The Art School

Anyway as you can see from these photos we decided to hike up to the Art Nouveau Glasgow School of Art as it was so close to where we were, and I mean hike, I had forgotten how steep that hill is! As you can see from the photos a large part of the building is swathed in scaffolding and I think some sort of covering has been put over the top, to keep the rain out.

The Art School

There was a chap on the TV recently saying that they should NOT rebuild the library and the rest of the damaged building as it was, but should add on a modern design instead. I really hope that that was just some hopeful architect in wishful thinking mode because although a newly built Mackintosh building is obviously not going to have the same history as the original, it’ll be an awful lot better than some random structure being tacked on to Mackintosh’s masterpiece.

Art School

As you can see from the photo above the undamaged part of the building has some lovely details but apparently his designs were always practical as well as pretty. The metal brackets at the windows were for the window cleaners to put their ladders against. I still wouldn’t fancy that job though. If you’re interested you should have a look at the lovely images of The School of Art here.

I think it’ll be scandalous if a decision is taken not to rebuild the damaged parts of the building as they were originally, apart from anything else a new extension to the Art School was just opened across the road from the original – and it is in a modern architecture style, and I bet it doesn’t last anything like as long as the old building has, I give it 30 years!

Argyle Street in Glasgow

Looking back again on our few days away in Glasgow recently, we walked from our hotel along Argyle Street, part of which you can see below. It was quite early in the morning but still busy.

Argyle Street 1

The other end of Argyle Street in the photo below is looking along to what is nicknamed ‘The Hielanman’s Umbrella’. What looks like a building across the bottom of the road is in fact a railway bridge and as it is situated near the Highland Institute it apparently always had a lot of ‘teuchters’ (Highlanders) sheltering from the rain there, waiting to meet up with their dance date before going into the dances at the institute.

Argyle Street 2

I must have walked past this doorway below thousands of times but it obviously was always just there and it never made much of an impression on me as I couldn’t remember ever seeing it before. It certainly made me look this time, those Victorians liked to do things on a massive scale. It’s a side entrance to what is part of the Frasers building. Remnant King’s fabric shop is up the stairs from there and that is where I was heading anyway.

figures Frasers

So through that doorway you enter a ‘close’ or an internal stairway. And here it is below, it is what is called in Glasgow a ‘wally’ close. Wally (pronounced to rhyme with sally) means china or pottery and it refers to the fact that the walls are tiled. You might have heard of those china spaniels which were popular in Victorian times and on many a mantlepiece being referred to as ‘wally dugs’ If you lived in a block of flats which had a wally close then it was always seen as being a bit posh, better than just painted walls anyway.

a close + lift 1

Going up the stairs to the shop I wanted to visit, there’s quite a grand window, but just up a few steps from that was the door to the shop which had a sign on in saying – CLOSED – SEWING CLASS IN PROGRESS.

So I never did get into that fabric shop this time around which I ended up being quite glad about because Manders is a better one I think.

a close + lift 2

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Willow Tearooms, Glasgow

Willow Tearooms  in Glasgow

On our recent stopover in Glasgow I had thought that we might have our lunch at one of The Willow Tearooms in the city. But we were too busy photographing the loads of gorgeous buildings nearby, so we ended up just having Cornish pasties – on the go. Next time we’ll be more organised.

Willow tea rooms

These tearooms were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh – as I’m sure you will have realised. The photos above are of the tearoom at the bottom of Buchanan Street. You can read about them here. The actual tearoom is upstairs I believe.

The photos below are of the tearooms at the top of Sauchiehall Street. These have only fairly recently been opened as a tearoom again as the building had been taken over by a jewellers for some years.

Willow Tearooms

I think the windows of this one are wonderful. You can see images of the tearooms here.

Willow Tearooms

It was Miss Cranston who commissioned C.R. Mackintosh to design her tearooms for her and you can see the original interior in the Kelvingrove Art Galleries in the west end of Glasgow. There are more images of The Miss Cranston interior in the gallery here.

Nowadays of course there are gift shops alongside the tearooms. There’s so much Mackintosh inspired ‘stuff’ around that we have taken to calling it Mockintosh.

In fact I couldn’t resist buying some Mackintosh inspired fabric from the nearby Manders shop. I got a couple of yards in their sale, at a seventh of the original price! I have no idea what I’m going to use it for though.

Mackintosh fabric

Glasgow’s George Square at Christmas

It was a dark and dampish night when we decided to walk into the city centre to have a look at Glasgow’s Christmas lights. Below is George Square which has played a part in Glasgow’s more recent history as it was the location of mass protests in 1919. It is the only time that tanks were deployed in Britain. You can read about it here.

George Square

It has probably been about 15 years since I had seen George Square all lit up at Christmas, so I must admit that it was a wee bit of a shock to see a big wheel and those flying swing things actually in the square, but I don’t suppose there is anywhere else they could go.

George Square

I’m pretty sure that they used to have a mini ice rink set up in George Square years ago but thinking back to my childhood memories of the place at Christmas it’s really only the nativity scene which sticks out in my mind. I don’t know why that should be as I know that I always found it to be a bit tacky looking. Anyway the fairground attractions seem to have taken over.

George Square

The war memorial is just visible on the right hand side of the photo above. And there it is again in the photo below, it’s the massive light coloured stone monument. The building which is lit up behind it is the Glasgow City Chambers, a really beautiful building. At the time it was built there was consternation over the cost of it all as it is marble lined but as they said at the time – the marble meant that they would never have to pay out any money to have it re-decorated, it just needs a wash down every now and again.

George Square

You can see images of the Glasgow City Chambers here.

Below is the central portion of the City Chambers.

George Square

If you want to see some daylight photos of George Square have a look here.

A bit of the inside of the City Chambers was used in the film of Edith Wharton’s book House of Mirth and more recently Glasgow has been used as a stand in for San Francisco. You can read about some of the films which have been made in Glasgow here.

Buchanan Street, Glasgow

You might have noticed that I’ve had a wee bit of a blogging break over the last few days. In fact I/we have been in that place which I’m pining for. Not the ‘wild American west’ as some people have thought in the past but the west of Scotland where life is altogether more pleasant and civilised. More specifically I’ve been in Glasgow, I wanted to have a look at the Christmas lights as it’s years since I’ve visited the city centre, by the time we visit the bookshops in the west end it’s time to start thinking about the drive back to the east. Staying overnight in one of those hotel chains was great and we were just a short walk away from the city centre.

The two main streets in Glasgow are Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street and they are joined by Buchanan Street. The photos below are all of Buchanan Street which as you can see is pedestrianised.

Buchanan Street Glasgow

I took quite a lot of photos but I haven’t sorted through them all yet. Like most people I suppose I’ve taken photos of things all over the place but it’s only in Glasgow that the inhabitants stop and chat with you. In fact I’ve come to the conclusion that whereas people in most cities avoid eye contact with any strangers – in Glasgow the inhabitants are actively seeking to strike up a conversation. It makes everything so much more enjoyable.

I was listening to a Scottish football programme on the radio last week, not that I’m a football fan but we were in the car and Jack was listening to it. Anyway, one of the pundits happened to say that he hated the word wean as it is a west of Scotland word and he associates it with the nastiness of Glasgow!! or words to that effect. I can only think that he is so prejudiced that he has never actually visited the place, apart from football venues, what an eejit!

Buchanan Street

Below is a photo of Buchanan Street at night. The Christmas lights aren’t bad I suppose but I still don’t like those bright white LED lights, the old creamy coloured lights were much easier on the eyes and I wish they would have more colour in general. It was Thursday – late night shopping night, just before the shops closed at 8 o’clock so it wasn’t as busy as it had been. You can see images of House of Fraser department store here Glasgow used to have loads of wonderful department stores but the best ones have all closed down and we are left with House of Fraser and Debenhams.

Buchanan Street in Glasgow.

Keeping Glasgow in Stitches

Keeping Glasgow in Stitches was published in 1991 by Glasgow Museums, it was edited by Liz Arthur and there’s an introduction by Clare Higney. You can see the banners here.

The title is obviously a sort of pun on the fact that Glasgow had/has a ‘hard man’ reputation, supposedly a dark and violent place where you might be expected to need your face stitched up – in times gone past anyway! Come to Glasgow for a laugh, go away in stitches, supposedly a joke, possibly put around by those Edinbuggers!

The stitches referred to in the book are in the shape of a huge embroidery consisting of 12 banners, one representing each month of the year and they were stitched by all sorts of people from the communities of Glasgow. Hundreds of Glaswegians were involved in the project which charts the social and political history of the city. The designs were inspired by Malcolm Lochead’s work and stitched by all sorts of people , in fact anyone who wanted to contribute, including special needs schoolchildren.

The end result is a thing of beauty and I just wonder where it is now as I would love to go and see it, I hope it is displayed somewhere, and isn’t mouldering in a series of boxes in a basement.

Of course in 1990 Glasgow was the European City of Culture and the place was even more ‘jumping’ than usual. It’s incredible to think that that was nearly 25 years ago and this whole embroidery went completely past me unnoticed at the time. It must have been in the news but I was obviously too engulfed by small boys to notice much of what was happening in the outside world. I was in an Oxfam bookshop recently when the word ‘Glasgow’ caught my eye – and it was this book which turned out to be a really interesting read, not only about the making of the banners but it also has lots of old photographs of Glasgow from the 1900s on, lots of social history which is really my favourite sort.

Scotland’s Commonwealth Games Outfits

Tell me honestly – what do you think of this design? It’s the outfit which our poor athletes are going to have to wear at the parade at the beginning of the Commonwealth Games which kick off in Glasgow on the 23rd of July.

Commonwealth Games outfit

I think it’s truly horrible, from the turquoise shirt to the tan – yes TAN socks. I really feel sorry for anyone having to don this combination. What is the tan colour referencing I wonder – the inside of a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer?!

I often think that we in Scotland shoot ourselves in the foot a bit because so often we do everything to avoid any sort of tartan, distancing ourselves as far as possible from the old fashioned shortbread tin tartanry and tat. Tartan is hardly to be seen anywhere in Scotland- unless it’s a wedding when it seems almost to be obligatory for the men to wear kilts. In fact if you go to Northern Ireland or even France it’s really surprising how much tartan you see in their streets compared with Scotland.

Let’s face it some tartans are pretty garish but I’ve never seen one as ghastly as the mixture which has been thought up by the designer. I’m presuming that she canvassed opinions on the colours from various high heidyins involved in the planning of the games, so why was nobody brave enough to say – no that’s not a pleasing colour combination, in fact none of it ‘goes’ and the colours really are not what you think of when you think of Scotland.

You can’t go far wrong with a white shirt teamed with a kilt and when you think of Scotland’s landscape and the Saltire flag then it’s blues and purples which are the natural choices to go with. It looks like the designer has decided to use colours just to look different, but it’s a mistake to go with something just because it’s a shock to the senses. The colour choices make the kilts look cheap and nasty and it’s really difficult to make wool look cheap! I’m assuming they used Scottish wool in the making.

I signed a petition online complaining about the outfits, it’s obviously too late to change things now and knowing the price of one kilt I dread to think how much these monstrosities cost, but I felt I just had to register my feelings on the subject.

The designer Jilli Blackwood is apparently internationally renowned but she seems to have just gone for the shock horror value and forgotten that our athletes are representing Scotland, they look more like an advert for dolly mixtures or liquorice allsorts in that pink and blue tartan. The women’s outfits just look so old fashioned and not in a good way.

I’m all for zany fun but there’s a time and a place for it.

The powers that be should have had a competition between schoolchildren to design the outfits, the kids would have come up with something far more enhancing I’m sure, after all it was a kid who designed Clyde, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games mascot, obviously in the shape of a thistle, and that’s a beezer!

Clyde

The University Cafe, Glasgow

The University Cafe situated in Byres Road has an art deco exterior but internally it’s all very Edwardian, by the look of things nothing has changed since it was first opened. Look carefully and you’ll see that Jack took this photo of the front door, I’m standing next to him.

Uni Cafe ext

Cafe culture was a big thing in Glasgow, I think it started way back in the early 20th century when there was a large influx of Italians who came to Britain, escaping from a war or poverty. They stayed and most of them went into business often opening up cafes or fish and chip shops. In fact whenever you meet a person with an Italian surname in Scotland it’s a fair enough question to ask them – fish and chips or ice cream?

In fact my parents met each other in an Italian cafe, but not this one and there were still a lot of cafes around when I was growing up, sadly not many have survived into the 21st century. For some reason they nearly always had the walls lined with massive mirrors, which I’ve always found a bit disconcerting.

Uni Cafe interior

Anyway, it was at Easter when we were in Glasgow that we finally went into this cafe to have an ice cream, we’ve walked past it hundreds, possible thousands of times but never actually sat down in it. The seats are those old tip up wooden ones, like in old cinemas. I couldn’t resist asking the young girl who served us for a McCallum, but sadly she didn’t know what it was – one of the older staff did though. She’ll know the next time someone ancient asks for one! It’s just a vanilla ice with raspberry sauce, and if someone can tell me why they were always called a McCallum in Glasgow, I’d be much obliged!

A McCallum ice cream

The exterior of the cafe – and the chippy next door as well as two other Art Deco buildings nearby – can be seen here.