Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Devil is in the Detail. Urban Artworks in a Different Dimension.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
An impressive war memorial/monument I've always liked is this one in Paisley's town centre. I thought at first, many years ago, it might represent William Wallace who was reputedly born in the nearby village/ hamlet/ estate of Elderslie but before the popularity of films like Braveheart that would have been far too controversial and populist in the 1920s when it was erected on its high granite platform, elevated enough to deter most intruders from attempting to touch it.
Instead it portrays a battle hardened crusader knight surrounded by four period foot soldiers from the First World War. As war memorials go this is one of the most impressive and instantly memorable I've seen.
William Wallace of course was a 'Scottish Freedom Fighter' to some but not all Scots and also a feared 'Terrorist' and 'Traitor' in most of England. Even in Scotland opinions were split. For major battles Lowland Scots didn't fight in kilts, or so I've read, anymore than modern Scots in cities today stride around wearing kilts in every day life (apart from weddings and football internationals that is, where you may see more) I'm sure many Lowland Scots hated WW and Robert The Bruce with a passion as starving out advancing armies by burning the land in front of them wherever it occurred, in England or Scotland, was a desperate but common practice then so many borderland Scots joined the English Army to protect their own interests and so forth.  History is often a murky confused place to visit so it's often simplified in an attempt to clear things up. After all, you can't have a film where both armies dress the same... and it's often not so clear cut as simply Scots against English... more every variation under the sun in-between those two separate poles apart. Similar in many ways to the recent Brexit Referendum vote and the in-fighting going on in the present Conservative Party with traditional opposition, the Labour Party, nowhere to be seen. If you made a film of that with such a tangled web of confusion going on and a shifting kaleidoscope of different views and alliances, both political and at street level, opinions often changing month by month, well... you would need to tidy things up a bit to have any chance of understanding it over a two hour slice of entertainment.
Art Deco former Rubber Factory near Renfrew- now a beautifully restored collective of small businesses inside.  Architect. Thomas Wallis. Built 1930s.
Impressive but obscure bridge spanning a small gorge in  Helensburgh.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House. Not too bad from the front elevation but side on I'm not that keen on this exterior view. Just as well he's 'a certified genius' as it reminds me more of growing up next to a notorious deck access estate and failed dreams of concrete utopian family living eight levels up in drafty open plan corridors - the  'Streets in the Sky' housing projects popular in the 1960/1970s. Divis Flats in Belfast being a famous example.
Hill House from the front. A better looking building from this angle but as I toured the interior some years ago I thought- would I really like to live here?... and the answer was... No. It just seemed a cold, austere place and I didn't like the surrounding garden layout much either. I'd be depressed coming home to this monstrosity every day :)
By contrast I did like William Leiper's magnificent Morar House which sits directly opposite Hill House, an easy stone's throw away.
 You couldn't have a greater contrast in two grand buildings and each architects differing fortunes over time sitting side by side than this. Perfectly illustrated in this link. Worth a read.

 I've walked and cycled around the Clyde Estuary for decades- Paisley, Dumbarton, Helensburgh, Rhu, Garelochhead etc and in this area most of the buildings that really captured my attention with the 'wow' factor had very different names attached, none ending in Mackintosh. Nothing against CRM except for the way vast sums of money get continually thrown at his modest output whereas other notable past architects have a less certain outcome if their buildings lie empty for any length of time. The front view of arts and crafts style Morar House is even more impressive but it had some stuff dumped in front of it on my last visit so no photograph. Hopefully, this empty property may be turned into luxury flats so it might be safe from demolition. It is an A listed building... which doesn't really mean much. Meanwhile a giant transparent cage is being proposed to go over Hill House next door to fix major structural defects to the exterior as money is never an issue there seemingly.
Not so lucky perhaps for this other William Leiper designed property- Red Towers-  situated in Helensburgh a few streets away. You can easily imagine Morticia and Gomez Addams happily living here. This may well be demolished however at some point as few folk want to live in such a large building anymore with modern maintenance costs and heating bills. Pity it's not a Mackintosh- then it might be saved for future generations. It always fills me with both wonder and regret when I see a photo or read of a fantastic building that is no longer there- like an exotic, recently extinct species just out of reach or a long ago glimpse of a roaring dinosaur- only one set in stone. Wonder doesn't come often in hectic modern life but great buildings can evoke it.( Helensburgh residents may well think differently as this building has been used for various purposes over the years.)
 Any time on past cycle rides however when I've stopped suddenly - captured by a truly magnificent building appearing round a corner, or one viewed from a distance... CRM has had nothing to do with it...
Dunselma at Strone Point. The Coats family sailing lodge. Architects Rennison and Scott.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. One of the world's great buildings. Architects J W Simpson and E J Milner Allen. Never heard of them? Neither have I ... and that's exactly my point. In Scottish architecture there is but one god at the moment.  CRM exhibition inside here as you can see. I wash my face with CRM soap and sleep under a CRM duvet with CRM pillows to match. And like any true patriot I wear CRM shoes on my feet without really questioning it. Bet you wish you had a pair too.  If he hadn't been quoted as an influence on prolific American architect Frank Lloyd Wright would he be as well known and respected worldwide as he is now? I doubt it. Before the 1950s he was just another semi unknown architect- largely forgotten and invisible outside Glasgow except in professional informed circles. Like writer Muriel Spark he left Glasgow to live elsewhere later in life so was not around to protect or develop any legacy left here as he aged or acknowledge any city father plaudits.
William Leiper. Architect. A name that arguably should be just as well known to ordinary punters in the street in Scotland as CRM as he designed famous buildings as well.. and numerous grand mansions.
Including this one. The former Templeton's Carpet Factory on Glasgow Green...and the lavish golden interior of the Banqueting Hall in Glasgow's City Chambers... also the arresting and mysterious Auchenbothie House that I've passed countless times on Renfrewshire cycle rides.
 Incidentally, 29 girls killed in a weaving shed here when an early version of this vast outer wall collapsed on top of them. W.L. managed to skillfully sidestep responsibility for the accident on that occasion. A high stakes profession.Maybe WL should have had a middle initial for lasting gravitas?

Kelvingrove rooftops again. 7 letters in total. JWS EJMA. Not as catchy. Was Bonnie Prince Charlie as bonnie as Bonnybridge? I sincerely hope not.

Coats Memorial Church in Paisley. A glorious structure. Architect Hippolyte Blanc. Never heard of him? With a name like that you would certainly remember it.
St Vincent Street Free Church. Architect -Alexander 'Greek' Thomson. Like CRM another Glasgow based architect working at a slightly earlier period in the city. ( CRM received a travel scholarship set up after AT's death to study classical buildings and designs abroad.) A sideways view this time as I couldn't get much detail in otherwise. Despite being religious and heavenward looking AT often specialized in underwater scenes for some reason- all waving fronds, ferns, giant clams, deep oceans, shorelines and shell motifs but other styles as well.
The right way up this time next to the old habitat building. Like Mackintosh, until recent decades, Thomson's work was largely ignored, knocked down if in the way of anything progressive or left standing empty.. a bare shell inside. It's only in recent times he's enjoying something of a revival with what remains of his legacy getting some publicity and attention if not actual money thrown at it. 
Seemingly forever doomed to live in CRM's shadow  a 1990s retrospective of his work summed him up as 'The Unknown Genius.' Only in the last 40 years is he gaining belated recognition, again through being a supposed influence on Frank Lloyd Wright. Fashionable thing Art and Architecture- who is currently 'in' or 'out' changes frequently. Sometimes, very little to do with... 'is it any good?'
Everyone has different opinions on any given subject of course. All I can say with truth is that most of the objects, art, or details I've really enjoyed had an unknown name behind them, like here, above, until I looked it up. No famous name necessary- still a great work. Most of the grand houses, castles, and villas I've liked around the Clyde Coastal resorts- the ones that really stood out, usually had Leiper or Thomson credits when I looked them up later. That is really how I got to know them both decades ago- no advance hype at all just a growing personal recognition.
CRM, for all his current fame, has never been an 'OMG! Would you look at that!' architect for me from the outside, looking at his buildings for the first time. The interiors I do like but they were a joint venture with his wife usually who is also normally underrated as an artist of equal merit. From the outside I've never thought of CRM's buildings as being particularly beautiful or elegant- especially the concrete ones.
Pavilion Theatre. Another well known Glasgow building that comes alive with light. Architect- Bertie Crewe, built in 1904, who specialized in theaters and music hall design across the UK. Elaborate interiors. Ever heard of him? No.  A prolific dynamo though. Responsible or in partnership for dozens of theatres and cinemas in every corner of Britain. He didn't have time for long windows or uncomfortable high back chairs. He just got stuck in and got on with it. As a result most UK cities have had a BC building at some time in their history.
Beautiful artwork in stone on a Greenock building. Honorable additional extras. Architects James Thomson for Dumbarton's Municipal Buildings- the red sandstone confection rising in splendour at the town roundabout. James Smith for Overtoun House above the same town and visible from Dumbarton Castle, its gothic towers just poking above its surrounding woodland estate.
The new look square in Helensburgh. A modern design layout.
The landscaped grounds of Maxim Office Park situated on bare open moorland near Chapelhall and Airdrie in the Scottish upland 'desert' between Glasgow and Edinburgh. As much a lush mirage in the otherwise barren surroundings as Las Vegas.
The former Beresford Hotel building often cited as Glasgow's first skyscraper- built in 1938. Architect and original owner. William Beresford Inglis. ( being the owner you get your name in the title- a rare bonus for any architect) So this post is for all the other Scottish architects, craftspeople, artists and designers who are not Charles Rennie ********** Mackintosh. :o)

And a quick look at modern skyscrapers around the world as of 2017. Most of these will be unfamiliar as well. But fascinating. Some have already been overtaken. With modern methods, materials and computer technology London's 95 floor, 300metre, 1000 foot high, Shard will soon be eclipsed as latest projects developing around the world top 1000 metres, 3300 feet, for the first time- an almost unbelievable distance into the air. Skyscraper gardens and high level parks linking multiple towers together are also on the drawing board so it's exciting times we live in. Greater London alone has proposals for another 200 plus skyscrapers yet Glasgow already tried that for family living with the highest residential flats in Europe in the 1960s at 31 floors high and they are all gone now so maybe the new social divide will be upwards, leaving the crime ridden city streets to the ordinary masses with children stuck below. Time will tell.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

City of Perth. A Night Gallery. Last Part.

                                                ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
It was always my intention taking the bus to Perth for a day trip to stay around longer and photograph the Christmas lights as I'd been impressed by them in the past but was normally a passenger in a hill-waking group car so any city passed was always a quick mirage through splashes of lights, assorted people, and colour before a return to darkness all around, headlight beams straight ahead, unseen hills, forests, and eventually, hopefully, a remote mountain hut as our destination. The City of Perth above from the River Tay. This time it would be different.
Perth can be a busy place if you are driving through it at rush hour---- as seen here.
Or quiet and slightly eerie down by the river at night with no-one else around. Icy pavements here. Slippy underfoot.
I had timed it just right however to get good shots of the necklace of parks and gardens strung out along the eastern bank of the River Tay. I'd never explored these before and dusk seemed the perfect time from a photography point of view.
With good lighting and reflections to capture.
Also managed to see a dedicated kayaker on the river at night. As night-time temperatures were close to freezing if not below, even in the city with ice on every pond, that's commitment to the cause. I would not like to Eskimo roll in these conditions.
I messed around and lingered a fair bit at the riverside trying to get the best angles and shots with the few folk still in the parks scurrying away in haste whenever they saw me lurking.
"I'm just here to capture some of Perth's finest treasures." I cheerfully informed two women walking their dogs together as the light disappeared and they came round a corner to find me waiting, rather suspiciously inert.
 " No need to worry. Come ahead. Nothing to fear here. Tis only I. An internet photographer! "
 I held up my camera helpfully to show I was not lingering in the bushes for any sinister purpose- apart from artistic merit. They scurried off anyway, with the odd glance back.
It was at this point I noticed an otter hunting in the reeds but it was too dark by this time to really see it properly or get a good photo.
It was around this time I noticed a heavy set man with a large wooden club approaching me at speed with a purposeful stride and a gleam in his eye. An angry husband perhaps? For once here was someone who wasn't running away from me.
"Hey, have a look at this beauty!" he proclaimed, brandishing his find.
I always like to treat random strangers politely and fairly if they show the same courtesy to me. A stranger is just a friend you haven,t met yet... is my attitude.
"Now you're talking." I enthused back. "Bring that big thumper closer so I can get a good look at it."

( I had noticed him earlier climbing over the walkway railings to retrieve a hunk of carved driftwood stuck in the sand at the rivers edge so he was not a complete unknown stranger.)
It turned out to be a nicely made sculpture carved from driftwood that had somehow fallen into the water upstream and ended up here. It was a nice find- smoothly shaped and polished with obvious care and attention- made by someone with skillful hands and eyes then somehow washed up here. I congratulated him on his good fortune then went back to my own interests.
One of the main road bridges over the River Tay with a bus on it.
A slightly earlier shot from further away.
'Augmented Reality'. Apparently the next big thing to hit the smartphone generation in the coming decade, applied in this instance to Perth's main Christmas Tree. The next stage in the ongoing human into cyborg evolution which is taking place year by year. Those who know the tree well will understand this comment/concept.
Why does Pandora's box matter? Well you could argue the smart phone greatly facilitated mass migration in the last ten years enabling displaced people to view a better life elsewhere with a will and a means to now reach it. Also a useful tool for certain organizations to manipulate mass opinions, sell more merchandise, brainwash, control and create addiction dependant populations, collect detailed personal information about every person alive, and spread untruths... or an alternative version of truth more easily.  It's changing society rapidly, year on year, not always for the better, as we simultaneously archive then burn our recent past as if it has no relevance. Bricks and mortar shops, bank outlets, pubs, post offices, cash money etc etc...all going or gone.  'A bonfire of previous generations core values and vanities so hard won and fought for over several centuries of strife and protest.'      
Change is inevitable of course but is it ultimately desirable in this instance? Will we still have 'a society' left on the other side?  Or just a nation of zombies carefully trained since early childhood to constantly pigeon peck a flashing screen to earn small dopamine rewards?

(Note to gloomily reflective self:- keep posts upbeat. Try to ignore changes happening around you and logical progression of thought outcomes. Happy happy happy!)

The Christmas Lights of Perth.
Not a bad variety.
A colourful bar/restaurant
Lost under a sign. By this time I was worried about catching the last bus back to Glasgow as being the winter timetable it was surprisingly early- around 6:00 pm ish if I remember right.
After a long eventful day and a hill ascent a sprint was called for but I could only manage a fast walk, cursing a bus station that seemed to be miles away from the city centre and not easy to find in the dark, being tucked away in a minor side street.
Eventually I stumbled into it only to find it completely empty- not only of buses but of any passengers or staff. Everyone appeared to have left. After an anxious half hour wait and a growing certainty I'd missed the last bus home it finally arrived, at a different later time to the timetable I had, saving me a costly hotel night and wallet trepidation. Only myself, the bus driver and one other passenger took this ghostly intercity bus service out of Perth but I was very grateful anything on wheels had turned up at all.
Once we left Perth, travelling through the countryside, the darkness was almost oppressive. Not only was I glad I'd caught the last bus I was also very glad I was getting off in a city, travelling in a well lit bubble between pools of light and colour as some of the stops we passed on the way seemed to be a lone ice cream shaped cone of downward pointing light almost completely swallowed up by a surrounding black void that seemed both alien and sinister. An isolated bus stop but no houses anywhere in sight. No lights visible at all except for the bus stop one. Even pavements, if built, were invisible. No signs up for directions either. Where did anyone getting off here go I wondered? You would need to know the place very well as any stranger to the area at night would be immediately lost in horror film territory, even with a torch. Well beyond the twilight zone. Very creepy, surreal, and a totally different feeling to the safe, more mundane, day time ride on the city to city bus ten hours ago travelling up--- with an absence of sky above apart from stars for long periods and no idea most of the journey as to location or even direction travelled. Both exciting but also strange and faintly unsettling to imagine yourself, suddenly cast adrift, alone in it all. Mind you, it doesn't take long to get used to anything in life although a city to city bus driver or long distance haulage driver at night must find it lonely at times, even free of day time traffic jams. Away from city light pollution and with no moon out it was very dark indeed. An empty, half life world yet a different feeling from being in a bothy where although  ensconced deep in the mountains you have a ready made safety bubble nearby to escape back into and the knowledge of deserted surroundings, apart from animals. Different feeling entirely to pass through or enter on foot a remote but sparsely populated rural district or semi urban post industrial unlit zones between areas of settlements you have little night time knowledge or understanding of. And that observation coming from a passenger (me) who has done his fair share of night time wandering.
It was with something approaching relief and definite fondness I greeted my home city of Glasgow a few hours later and the biggest bubble of nighttime illumination created in Scotland welcomed me home.
It did feel like a lover's reunion. Just my city and me- reunited again. I was too tired to kiss the ground though... or make an evening meal when I eventually got in an hour later as I had yet another bus to catch - from city centre to the outskirts.
Great to go away but in the depths of winter and a full day of low temperatures I was happy to be back. A long tough outing- a fair chunk of it spent in the dark..

A very good link here to exciting bird's eye views of Perth, the river, the islands, and landscaped surroundings giving you a much better idea of my destination/walk. A beautiful city from above and a professional looking video anyone should enjoy. Best watched full screen. Look out for the bleeding poppy display in the middle and the trains crossing the river island I was exploring in Perth. in post one.

 And a cracking short link to jays in close up. Very illusive but extremely handsome woodland birds I tried to photograph two posts ago but perfectly captured here along with several other wildlife gems.



Friday, 29 June 2018

Perth. Part Two. The City itself. Islands and Museum.

                                                  ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
After my climb up Kinnoull Hill I still had time for a quick wander around Perth city centre itself. As I said in the previous post I've only stopped here in the past for takeaway meals or a wander along the waterfront on Tay Street where you can park beside the river.
This is a view of Tay Street here, with parking beside the river.
Nearby is the tourist information centre, a gallery and this stone pillar, all located right beside the elevated railway bridge over the river and pedestrian walkway to Moncrieffe Island. As this adjoining building seemed to be mainly a gallery selling or exhibiting paintings ( I may be wrong here as I didn't go in) I headed for Perth's main Art Gallery and Museum instead to find out about the history of the area.
This is located at the other upstream end of Tay Street, where the stone road bridges are. Although smaller than large city museums like Glasgow or Edinburgh it nonetheless has an interesting layout. I was particularly taken by the longboat found on the  banks of the River Tay, a hollowed out tree, and dated from at least 3000 years ago. American Pioneer Daniel Boone's 60 foot Kentucky dugout that took him to St Louis was carved out in 1799 from a single tulip tree. (As mentioned two posts ago)
Here's the Perth version. Built 3000 years earlier. I always thought America was a forward looking, modern, technologically advanced society at the 'cutting edge' of innovation but come on! State of the art design way back in them days! What Kept Ya USA and Daniel Boone? Yee-haa, Go boat building Perth! Forward River Tay! A Bronze Age head start in the tree hollowing and river paddling industry.  :o)
They also had a fine display of stuffed animals of the type still found around the local area that I was impressed by as it was well laid out in realistic displays. A fish eagle, also known as an Osprey, here.
And an art gallery section. According to info gathered at the time they are hoping to move the museum into a more modern, purpose built building but I couldn't see anything particularly wrong with the old one- except possibly limited wheelchair access or WiFi signals. Everyone needs WiFi signals nowadays- 24/7 in every public building. Anything else is obsolete. Or so it sometimes seems.
The local cinema, now turned into an Imax 3D entertainment venue. Jumanji 2 showing around the time of my visit with local Scottish girl, (Inverness born and doing quite well across the pond,) Karen Gillan, strutting her stuff in an updated version of  the infamous Raquel Welch fur/hide bikini in time honoured female fashion at the movies. (Just as well it wasn't Game of Thrones she was appearing in or she'd be showing a lot more than a belly button and as yet mercifully tattoo free arms and legs.)
Good to see how far woman have advanced since that unenlightened 1960s overtly sexist age....:o). Actresses are called 'actors' now of course so it's a different time altogether compared to the bad old days. Incidentally, I still like the term 'actress'- nothing wrong with it at all and it's been a hard earned title since the days of Evelyn Nesbit, Mary Pickford, and Bette Davis.
Beales Department store. An old independent store chain founded in the 1800s of a type dying out or just clinging on in many high streets UK wide... yet.... this is not all it seems. A newly opened store and the first one in Perth and Scotland. An old independent store chain right enough, founded in Bournemouth in the late 1800s then spreading out across the rest of England progressing slowly northwards... then here- the first one opened in Scotland. I was surprised by this as it looks as if its been here for centuries and until I did a little research online I'd assumed it was an old, much loved Perth institution. Not so, despite appearances.
Some more views of Perth's Shopping District laid out in a grid pattern.
Mostly pedestrian friendly, except for the occasional service or allowed vehicle entry. Police van here but not for me or anyone else that I noticed acting up... just maintaining law and order and a visible presence at Christmas in these times of social divide, terrorist threats, and potential unrest.
"Which one of you is my Mama?" The baby Jesus with a valid question. Clue. It's not me although I have managed to provide a 'holy ghost' presence at this Christmas tribute with a rare window reflection selfie. An 'extra' wise man in the stable brings a modern camera as a gift. Come to think of it, being a 4th wise man,  I'm the only 'white', northern climate, proudly native, person here so this particular set up is full of untrustworthy foreigners from overseas to my way of thinking.... should that baby even be that colour ?....I suspect a Cleopatra style pale skinned western makeover at some point in history :)
Perth City Hall. I liked the 'Big Babies' here. Apart from being presumably oversized classically inspired Putto/putti ( child statue stone artwork popular in old buildings worldwide) it's also a recognized psychological condition in some people who throw real or mock rage tantrums until they get their own way. Usually connected with power assertion--- as in old time film moguls who were notorious for it... certain football managers... Diva actors/ actresses throwing a strop, or just ordinary people who still use it as a device into adulthood. Often it is still very effective as a weapon/device to achieve an aim which is why it is still so common, presumably. Often it is a natural part of that individuals deeply embedded core personality reacting to various situations that they can automatically speed dial up when called for, unlike the rest of us who stay calm under normal conditions, so it's not really 'faked' in that regard as most normal folk would find it an effort to produce a similar effect of instant rage without serious provocation.
I was also bagging River Tay islands on this trip. The upstream view at the tip of Moncrieffe Island here.
The info map showing my intended route and some of the islands in the river.
Bridgend on the other bank of Perth (Road) Bridge.
I found a very faint waste ground path here under this community and was in my element, as usual, exploring an urban little used route, well away from the well beaten tourist trails and tarmac boundaries.
It led to here and a fairly tricky hi level pipe walk under the bridge to the far side. Higher and narrower than it looks once on it. Scary but fun. I'm a big kid too when it comes to things like this. Not worth serious injury though I thought once I'd returned and came close to slipping off, second time around, on the way back.
Another island and a view of the North Inch- a pleasant park land open meadow area beside the river leading to the Peter Pan sounding 'Woody islands' disappointing reality just scrubby half submerged jungles like this one... Moncrieffe is the only inhabited, cultivated island with foot paths hereabouts. Despite a strong current at times it is a popular venue for local kayak clubs as there's interesting features to paddle round and a mix of different habitats and views on the River Tay.
Another closer view of the start of the North Inch park lands. Good for walking or cycling but as I'd explored it before by bike some years ago I gave it a miss this time around.
Past Moncrieffe you come to The Stanners, a small half submerged huddle of scrubby islands near Bridgend, or one island- depending on river levels. A wet thigh job to wade over and bag them so I didn't bother with that.
Half a Tanner public house. Perth city centre.

This is a link to Kinnoull Hill- Excellent You tube drone footage of this dramatic public park situated high above Perth and at three minutes long it's well worth seeing. Gives you a good overview of the area and the 200 metre, 700 foot high cliffs and woodlands falling down to meet the river below. I spent a memorable night up here with a long ago girlfriend/ companion/ muse watching the sun set in the evening then rise again in the morning when both the world and our half imagined dreams of future adventures together seemed limitless. Sadly they were not when reality finally intruded/dawned.
                                          'Le chat qui chasse seul.'  I guess.   Sniff Sniff....

Cracking footage here. Never had the nerve this visit to stand beyond the folly wall like these folk are doing. It's a long way down and people have died at this spot. I like life too much to risk it.