Sunday, 22 July 2018

Micro Worlds. The Hidden Kingdoms All Around Us.

 When you are a child you notice things far more than as an adult. New wonders exist all around you- everyday. Because you are small- the world around you is also small. You notice the small things....and if you are outdoors you often find the 'hidden kingdoms.' Most adults do not see them. Most adults do not believe in 'fairies.' I do. I always have. They are visible but so tiny as to be irrelevant. Children can see them, or used to before smart phones came along, but then they grow up and they completely forget the tiny wonders all around them.
The British landscape is a vibrant, teeming jungle filled with life- you just have to look for it.
                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Fairy life is everywhere in the summer months. You just have to see it. Damsels dancing along the canal, most folk not even aware of their existence. For those that do know they take some tracking down. Twenty minutes to get this single photo but fairies 'are so worth it.' Origin from 'damoisele' meaning a young lady (of noble birth) = so...fairy princess in my book. Keep your unicorns- this will do me.

Dragonflies are far easier to see in any landscape. They are larger and skim along at adult eye level so grown ups notice them more.
Same with butterflies. Highly visible. Very apparent when they are around. Painted Lady Butterfly. It's other name, Vanessa Cardui, sounds like a female character from Dynasty. A rival for Joan Collins to fight with perhaps. Cynthia family, appropriately.
Young Green Hawker Dragonfly at rest.

Fairies fly mostly at knee height however... slim, fast, and largely unnoticed by the majority of passers-by- but crucially just at young child eye level- in the water reeds, over ponds, or out in the grasslands. In the summer months many hundreds can fly about in one single field alone yet only a tiny percentage of adults will ever know they are there.. or care. Instead they send Valentine Cards to each other with human heart shapes on them- except the human heart looks nothing like that in reality. The human heart exposed is an ugly mess.
So I wonder where humans got the heart shape idea from in the first place... signifying love, companionship and togetherness. Couldn't be from fairies could it....  as they do not exist. If they did exist - let's just say for argument, these little creatures are sometimes found dangling from reeds or stems upside down, not like here standing upright together, thus forming a perfect, more open, heart symbol, dangling off a plant. A light bulb moment I've seen myself many times outdoors along the canal when you really look at things in detail, in static admiration. Just a thought. Nature has provided so much inspiration we just take for granted- as our own ideas.
Romance is everywhere in the hidden kingdoms of the waist high summer jungle. Solider beetles here I think.
Warrior class. An armoured ground beetle.
Common Lizard. A real life dragon in this mini world.
An Adder. As large as they get. Not dangerous unless you sit on one by accident. Snakes and lizards may do well during this heat wave... other species less so.
A young stoat guarding its den, probably fur lined with rabbit pelts and other soft discarded animal parts for a bed. Cosy inside.
A baby newt- smaller than a two pence coin. As very little rain has fallen over the UK since early May amphibians could be hit hard. Puddles, mountain streams and ponds have disappeared over large parts of the country so not easy to find life giving water when you are finger sized.
Newts may suffer long lasting damage this year as they are already scarce.
Frogs too without the normal ponds or wet hollows to soak in. Pitfalls also exist in the shape of large open cracks where the ground has split open in the heat to trap the unwary. At this time of year thousands of tiny newly formed frogs, the size of a pinkie nail, are setting out to explore the land for the first time. Many will die down cracks or just roasted crispy in this unusual prolonged heat wave. One of the warmest spring/summers on record over large areas of the planet, not just the UK.
Flies meanwhile are doing very well with reports of vast quantities of bloodsucking Scottish midges, ticks, and clegs flourishing on the mountains and in the glens.
So it's not all bad news :o) Dung flies on a turd here. Mating, fighting and guarding going on, in little protective hidden kingdoms everywhere.
Micro Worlds. Jungle life all around us. Battles, sex, fights to the death- fairy realms. You just have to see them on a different level. Close up, dung flies are almost cute- like furry tiny monkeys or cuddly teddy bears. I did say... almost. They are also brave, guarding the spoils against all comers, even skyscraper sized human monsters approaching their treasure.
It took a while for them to settle back on the dung but eventually they did. I lay still beside them. Patient. Waiting.
" Hey. That guy's photographing a shit! " A fellow path walker observed to his very attractive wife. ( I notice these details. I observe these things, even at a casual glance. Trained eyes )
As I was lying down I was at a distinct disadvantage compared to these vertical unwanted interlopers but I was very focused now and in the zone- well, I had to be... in case I was accused of being an upskirter pervert. Heaven forbid. I kept my camera carefully positioned on the turd.
" Are you collecting animal droppings?" His wife asked, vaguely interested. ( she'd probably watched Chris Packham on TV munching animal pellets or some such, the thinking women's nature prog crumpet. A green, smart, tech savvy, Chippendale, albeit with Asperger's and quite happy living alone.
" Photographing dung flies." says I , keeping the camera steady on the turd action and pointed nowhere near her exquisitely matched summer attire, reflecting ruefully this was maybe one reason I didn't have an attractive wife... or even an ugly one. My mind always focused on the wrong priorities in life.
" They look far better close up. Surprisingly clean wee beasties considering." I offered as a partial explanation.
" I'll take your word for that."
They passed by overhead, like alien spaceships. A different universe away from mine.

Six spotted Burnet moth. A dazzling little flier- with iridescent glamour as bright as any flashing kingfisher. They flash as well... dancing past- in a blur of vivid scarlet.
Drinker moth caterpillar. A cow for the mini grasslands.
Emperor moth caterpillar. A tasty snack for someone.
Safety in numbers here.
Fox moth caterpillar.
Wood boring Long horn Beetle.
Red Eared Terrapin. As summers get warmer we may find other species, more suited to heat, adapting to our new climate. Some good- some bad. This one was spotted in a local park pond in Glasgow's west end. In London they are already breeding in numbers, wiping out local wildlife. The heatwave may aid them more.
Mating flies. This weather suits them.
Peacock butterfly.
Red Admiral Butterfly.
Rudder Darter maybe? A Four Spotted Chaser?
Meadow brown Butterfly.
Sexton Beetle on the prowl. A rare sight this one as it homes in on small dead animals, injects them with anti-decaying fluid then buries its young with the corpse, also hidden underground. It looks like its own young being carried or parasites on its head here. Badgers, burying beetles, moles, anything that moves soil will be finding it very tough right now I would imagine with the ground like concrete and any worms left alive deep down so spare a thought for them. Micro Worlds. A tribute....      And pray for some much needed rain.

Has to be this one. Summer in all its glory. Perfect visuals and song for the occasion.


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.