Friday, 17 February 2017

St Mary's Cathedral. Water of Leith Walkway. Dean Village. Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. Edinburgh.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN

Another trip through to Edinburgh to meet up with Belinda. For those wondering we are just friends  and it's purely platonic but it's always nice to meet new people you get along with and can exchange interests, passions and different influences you would never think of visiting yourself. Doesn't happen very often but when it does it's a delight. One of the reasons I've liked musical artists in the past like early period David Bowie, Cat Power, Kate Bush, Joseph Arthur etc is not only for their own music but also for the stuff that inspired them as very often it's artists or other musical tastes I've never experienced before but I'll find interesting myself. I have noticed over the years when people like a certain style of music or art it does tend to stay in the same ball park even though it might be across a wide spectrum. i.e. art rock groups, alternative indie, folk, blues, slightly cynical and edgy stuff in my case. For some others that might be Adele, power ballads, more mainstream artists in general. I've also noticed in interviews my own favourites tend to like each others work more often than not so generally that holds true. Even with Danny MacAskill bike videos (I put one on here last week) I've unintentionally found several new groups just through the music there on them and I've rarely heard a song used for his numerous videos I haven't liked in some way. The reason for this theme will become clear later in the post. Above is the William Gladstone Memorial in the West End of Edinburgh at Coates Crescent (Shandwick) just east of Haymarket where I jumped off the early morning bus to meet Belinda as arranged.
As well as being British Prime Minister a record four different times in the 1800s William Gladstone was also an MP for Midlothian for well over a decade which may explain this extraordinarily elaborate statue to him here. Most politicians are lucky to get a black marble bust in a corridor or a standing figure on a raised plinth but this is worthy of an emperor buried with his entire court of officials and admirers scattered around him. It is the only noteworthy statue on this length of road and really makes a dramatic statement due to its size and complexity. I have to admit I had no idea at the time why he was here in this seemingly out of the way place, although surrounded by a grand period crescent of the time. Edinburgh is full of unexpected stuff like this though which makes it such a delight to explore.
Above is the real reason why we were here. St Mary's Cathedral in the heart of the West End district.
Neither of us had visited this building before so we were keen to see inside.
I've seen quite a few churches and cathedrals on my travels but this one is definitely the best. Standing outside on the pavement  it's three spires really do seem to reach towards Heaven and as an example of bold statement architecture its hard to beat.

 Few other buildings I've seen in reality shoot upwards with such 'Jack and the Beanstalk' vigor  or effortless elegance yet strength. Just as Edinburgh's tenements are deliberately designed taller than average so too this cathedral looks like spires on high concentrations of steroids. You get dizzy just staring up at them.
Lovely building inside as well.
Unusual stained glass windows.
Beautiful carving inside and out.
A place that's well worth a visit and free for the public to enter unless there's a service or other event going on. I do always leave a small donation in free buildings but sometimes you go into places labelled 'free' then they have a prominent sign and 'suggested' expensive entry donation box just inside the door with an employee standing over you making sure you contribute before you continue inside. If it says free it should be. Thankfully, this was not like that increasingly commercial model. I know there's a huge upkeep but you should be able to put in what you can afford and some of these 'free' 'suggested prices' are for serious amounts of cash. We stuck in a pound coin each as we felt it was well worth that and were happy to pay it with no glaring employee staring at us as soon as we entered. Well worth a visit.
The other reason for coming here was this. Dean Village and the Water of Leith Walkway. I've done this before, both on foot and on a bike several times but for Belle it was all new ground and like every other person who discovers this place she was delighted and stunned in equal measure.
Some parts of the Water of Leith running through Edinburgh are quiet and sylvan with attractive wildlife like kingfishers and this dazzling male goosander, (a medium sized diving duck) while others are steep sided and urban. This reaches gorge- like proportions around Dean Village which was a former flour producing community using the Water of Leith to grind raw grain products in a scattering of different mills over centuries. The buildings that are left here are very picturesque but once housed workers, their children, and other self contained industries that flourished by being close enough to provide and supply but not a connected direct part of Edinburgh town.
Old carving on a building in Dean Village showing it's gradual merging into a district of Edinburgh as the growing city swallowed up its surroundings. Thanks to its unique location though this area still feels like a self contained island in the city due to its deep set nature.
The Dene, which means 'deep valley'.
Looking up from here Victorian and Edwardian Edinburgh seems as remote as Bioshock's 'city in the sky', the rooftops looming hundreds of feet above the floor of the gorge. The walkway itself is fairly flat though and easy going apart from connecting stairs leading to the city above. It's also popular so open to everyone and not as threatening in atmosphere as quieter parts of Glasgow's Kelvin walkway, which is similar in style and character....only without Dean Village.
Dean Village itself is extraordinary as it seems to hang over the small stream below it like a chunk of period European (German/ Dutch?) architecture transplanted into Scotland.
No matter how many times I come here it's still breathtaking and it does remind me, post Bioshock Infinite discovery, of that floating city in the air very strongly. Luckily, I also had a modern day  Elizabeth as my companion. It was Belinda that got me into games and 3d open world's in the first place but not to play them, as she intended, but for other possibilities and ideas contained within them. For example. There are 7.5 billion people on the planet right now and rising rapidly- 10,000,000 extra added since 2017 began. Tens of thousands born every single day. It took all of human history to reach one billion by the 1800s but 1.5 billion soon turned into 6 billion in one modern century alone. Current estimates plot 10 billion by 2056. The numbers are predicted to slow down but how can we possibly sustain that number of people at the current rate of consumer consumption, enticed to buy products we don't really need and will be deliberately obsolete every few years while we rip the planet apart searching for rare metals to build next year's smart phones or other unnecessary gadgets. It's not sustainable in any way when so many want a piece of the good life all around the planet yet our whole western economy is based around spending, buying more and more junk each year.
The Living Clock. Hypnotic in a way to watch those numbers climb so fast in real time... If you haven't seen this counter before.... Enjoy.... or maybe not...
The discovery of fractals and the astonishingly real looking world's in many modern 3d games where they have created entire planets and even entire galaxies to explore have inspired some of the more creative thinkers to speculate that if we were living inside a very elaborate game world right now or in the future, for purposes not revealed, playing out real time scenarios...  how would we know?
If this sounds ridiculous think of Disney cartoons in the 1930s then 3D computer generated world's now and project that advance in graphics into 2056 when 10 billion people might not have the resources, the space or lands available to satisfy their needs. What will we be eating then? Insects or Soylent Green for dinner anyone? Hop on any bus and people already spend all their free time looking at screens anyway. Our homes are already starting to be run by computers and getting digitally chipped, like your pet, to have a computer inside you is the next logical step in that advance. No doubt you will be persuaded it's for your own convenience. The best open game world's of 2017 are extremely detailed, lifelike and unbelievably vast in scale so think what they will be like 40 to 100 years down the line. Now you know why I'm interested in games and find them fascinating :o)

Anyway, back to Dean Village. Well worth a visit and a wander round here. Loads of period buildings to explore, although people do live in them so the houses are private, obviously.
A very interesting day out.
This sign down in the gorge reminded me I hadn't visited the Gallery of Modern Art and it wasn't far away. Belinda was up for that as well so we headed there.
A striking building on the outside but I have to admit neither of us were very impressed by the art work inside. Maybe it's just me but I've never felt that 'wow' factor of enlightenment, wonder, astonishment, pleasure or anything else for that matter, in years of exploring modern art in galleries.Some of it is alright but I can't think of a single work in a gallery I was completely bowled over with or stunned in any way so here's my modern art exhibits that have done just that. (not by me of course but fan made videos put together spontaneously with all the warmth, creativity, love and sheer devotion that seems to be missing in so many pretentious modern art pieces today. I would proudly hang either of these videos up on a wall in a gallery. For me, this is modern art at its finest.

or if you don't fancy that one how about this much quieter pastel delight. Forget that it's Kate Bush as its the amazing art work and short story that's the star in this one from Dutch film maker Micheal Dudok De Wit. Beautiful art work and a touching message about life and death that will make you think.

In the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art I'm afraid the best thing we found to really inspire us was the toilets. Although we can admire pastels we both love primary colours the best.
WOW!!!     imho, easily the best thing in the building.
Tile mania certainly works for me.


Anabel Marsh said...

I've posted about those toilets too! Amazing. I like Dean Village but if I've seen Gladstone's statue I must have walked past it without knowing what it was. As he featured largely in both my O and A level courses I'm ashamed.

Carol said...

I've never really seen any modern art which I like - I love the old, traditional stuff. We had an art gallery in Bradford which had superb old paintings and me and Richard used to go and stare at them regularly. Now, they've sold all those off and there's just tat there so we don't go any more. Also they have a lot of 'ethnic' exhibitions - not sure why as, anyone wanting to see 'ethnicity' just has to continue on into Bradford and see it for real!

Rosemary said...

Those loos are brilliant - who would have thought such a multicoloured selection of tiles could work so well.
Modern Art Galleries are all very well if you can make sense and understand exactly what you are looking at, but I seldom can.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
Yes,they are really good and may well be a permanent art exhibition as they were the most impressive rooms we were allowed into to view. A paid entry gallery was upstairs but we never had time to see that as we had the rest of the walkway to complete. You may not have walked past the Gladstone Memorial as it sits well away from the normal tourist streets around the city centre and we only spotted it on the way to St Mary's Cathedral.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
same here as I always like the old style paintings although Street Art Utopia in my blogs list is great as well. Funniest thing I've seen this week is the Trump- Putin
man love painting posted in there :o)
One of the reasons I'm not that bothered about various ethnic groups is the population counter. 10,000 new people extra on the planet in the last hour alone so its like King Canute trying to stop the tide coming in. I personally don't think Brexit will do anything to solve that and many historians think a fractured Europe is a bad idea right now as 70 years of peace that we've had up until now is not a given but an aberration to the natural war like predictability of the human race.I've lost count of the number of comments on various news sites where people believe, some in positions of power, that a nuclear war is not only winnable but desirable.If you look at it another way Caucasians(in the main)have managed to dominate, control, exploit and kill most of the other races and gain their resources and land for hundreds if not thousands of years going back to the Roman Empire despite being a minority group in the world but that order is now changing.Similar to the inequality now where a tiny percentage own most of the world's wealth. I wouldn't be surprised if Muslims,Chinese or some other race does overthrow the way it has been up to now but some might say it's about time they had a shot of the dice :o)
Personally, I think people of all colours, religions, and creeds are the real problem as we are eating our planet alive. More on that subject next week.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
Yes, it was a real surprise. One of the problems I have with a lot of modern art is that you can't really see the years of expertise or any craft in some of it if it's just a few blocks of colour, squiggles and lines placed together or someone dribbling or throwing paint on a canvas. Then you need an 'art expert' to tell you what it is and what you are looking at plus a price tag of around £20 million when the average person on the street would happily toss it in a skip outside. Meanwhile you get someone like Vincent who couldn't sell a painting to save his life but when he's safety snuffed it all of a sudden he's this wayward 'genius' that the art world always knew would come good. You can see some of that today with Bowie and the Coen Brothers who have made both good and crap albums/films but once they attain proper 'genius' status even stuff that truly sucks has 'profound 'hidden meanings' embedded in it.
Best quote I read about that over the top approach was from a young fan. "God's great and all... but he ain't no Bowie!"

Kay G. said...

Love the church photos! We went to a church in London, The Temple Church, is where they filmed "The Davinci Code". (NOT a movie for me, by the way, but a friend of Richard's told us to visit the church, said it was worth a visit.)
We had to pay to get in and then, we were told to leave in 30 minutes as they were closing for the day! Still, that was enough for was more a monument to Law rather than to God and it showed in its coldness.

We try to make sure we give money into the boxes for the churches, I appreciate that it must take a lot for their upkeep.

Lovely videos here too, thank you.

The Greenockian said...

Haven't been in Edinburgh for ages! Cathedral looks wonderful.

Carol said...

Well I wouldn't like muslims to take over as then I won't be allowed to be a hillwalker any more (and that's just for starters - music will be out too)!

blueskyscotland said...

I wouldn't worry about it as you will be inactive long before that happens and probably deaf as well :o) 2056 is still a long way off and we will probably be eating each other before then, hence the Soylent Green reference.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
You would like Edinburgh- so much to see and do there. Glad you liked the videos.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Liz,
The number x7 McGills bus runs from Greenock via Kilmacolm to Buchanan bus station in Glasgow where you get the Edinburgh bus that runs every 15 mins throughout the day. Toilets 30p in all the bus stations and free travel with a National entitlement card so around a 2hour run each way in total. Edinburgh Bus station is right beside Princes Street so it is a great fairly easy day out to visit.

Linda W. said...

Amazing cathedral! Loved your photos of it. I always learn a little bit more aboutique your country thanks to all your wanderings. :)

Carol said...

Maybe, but I might be expected to cook and stuff - don't do any of that at present!

Anonymous said...

My interest in cities is being rekindled. We're off on a rail tour around Europe in the summer and an October visit to Barcelona. I should really make some effort to see my own cities. Only when you read up, do you realise how much wonderful "hidden" stuff there is (like the river walk here). I've managed to find some stunning corners of London when I lived there for a year or so but I think most of the UK cities have something to offer. I love that toilet as well!! :)

blueskyscotland said...

Evening Linda,
Cheers thanks.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Tut Tut. Not a fan of Bake Off then? In my mind all women should really learn to cook and stay at home bringing up at least six children as that would create twice as many jobs for men in the short term, save the NHS and make Britain Great Again. We would also compete better in the numbers population race tables in which the western world is losing badly at the moment, judging from the latest scores. White women must shoulder the burden and the blame for wanting careers and having too few children over the last 40 years. That's my take on it anyway but I'm willing to help as an enthusiastic population increase doner. A dedicated volunteer is worth ten paid men.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy,
Yes, cities can be enjoyable places of interest for a change.

Carson Coronado said...

It’s always amazing to see old churches and architechture. The pictures you posted are really delightful. I remember when I visited Israel, there is just so much to see in the Old City of Jerusalem. The churches there are really old. I justed wanted to say that, because your pictures reminded me of the ones over there. There is a certain special feel to it there.