Friday 29 June 2018

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

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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 Anything else is obsolete.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.

Friday 22 June 2018

A Trip To Perth. Part One. City, Moncrieffe Island and Kinnoull Hill.

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Not the large city in Australia but the smaller original one in the Scottish Highlands half an hour's drive inland from the east coast city of Dundee. This is it above, looking north towards the mountains.
 South Inch Park boardwalk.
The Glasgow to Perth bus from Buchanan Street bus station dropped me off just short of the grid pattern square of streets that make up the central city district of Perth. Unusually, compared to others I've visited in the last year or so this bus station sits within the city itself but in an out of the way location you'd never find as a stranger just wandering around, tucked away in a nondescript hidden back street outside the town centre district as does the nearby railway station, next door.
This at least is on a main road and easier to find. Station hotel above. I mention this fact as its relevant later.
 Although I've passed through Perth many times in my prime hill-walking days, mainly for takeaway meals from a chip shop or for a curious half hour look around, Perth has never impressed me that much. The city itself that is. It's a bit like a well heeled, well dressed, but slightly dull very conservative aunt living in genteel suburbia. Think Margo in the Good Life. Or that's my take on it anyway as I prefer spectacular up and down towns and cities with plenty of hills inside the city limits- or social inequality and boom and bust surroundings. I'm a contrary bugger as I've said before. Not good times to live through of course but it does make for interesting social history over long periods. Steady but moderate prosperity overall may be a desirable economic model but it doesn't usually make for a varied or diverse timeline, widely different communities and differing architectural styles. Mrs Thatcher seemed to enjoy Perth though as it was one place in Scotland she could go to in the 1980s for party conferences without getting booed for closing things down.

Despite having had a large Dyeworks factory/industry in the past, a major employer but now long gone, Perth doesn't seem to have the gritty industrial heritage of Dundee, the broken and disused environments and abandoned factories with that certain edge on the outskirts that can be exciting to visit or abandoned docklands that always pull me in like a magnet,.... or the grand period buildings of Glasgow or Edinburgh, or the warren of narrow ancient streets around a high castle and graveyard that makes similar sized Stirling so appealing.... or any real points of genuine unusual interest for that matter, apart from its river and islands. No  'wow' factor for my tastes in the architecture. Not that I've noticed anyway. It's just nice but nothing really outstanding- building wise. I'm not being cruel just hopefully factual. This photo sort of sums it up. Pick a stand out feature here to visit as a tourist.

What it does have going for it is the River Tay flowing past the city centre, the South and North Inch, the various bridges, grassy open meadows and park lands all along the riverside on both banks, Friarton Island..... and Kinnoull Hill. All these are good points of interest so I had already devised a walk taking in these highlights and anything else city wise was a bonus. It would be an action packed full day so straight off the bus I had a tasty big roll and sausage from a transport cafĂ© takeaway within the bus station itself then headed for the South Inch park lands which was the nearest large green open space five minutes walk from the drop off point. This is a small slice of it here. And again below.

 As you can see here it was an icy day in late December as this was a post I did in the wintertime and I'm only getting around to it now. South Inch park is a pleasant flat open meadow popular with dog walkers with a nice wooden boardwalk across a large pond that led me down to the river.

A male goosander, a slim, fish eating, diving duck on the River Tay. Many years ago, decades ago in fact, I'd walked across the elevated pedestrian walkway over this wide substantial river, sometimes prone to winter floods, from one bank to the other, carrying the main railway line from Perth to Dundee. It was an exciting walk on a scorching hot summers day with a close friend that I had very fond memories of so was looking forward to a return visit as on that occasion we hadn't explored the substantial Friarton or Moncrieffe Island, which has a golf course and a large strip of garden allotments adorning it with the extra allure of being stranded out in the middle of the river, only reached by this period structure. Scotland has hundreds of offshore islands but not that many inhabited river ones as they are usually too small and hard to reach. This makes it rather special.

Halfway across, a thin zig zag staircase takes you down vertically to explore the island but on that particular occasion I was young and hasty and other more enticing allures were promised in quieter woodlands on Kinnoull Hill so soft whispers, summer heat, and intoxicating teenage perfume and laughter led me badly astray. This was worthwhile in every way but, as ever, a tiny part of me fancied Moncrieffe Island as well. Appetizer and main meal but no pudding thereafter.  I'd never had the chance to come back again until now. Sadly alone this time. The normal history of getting older and losing friends due to age related progressive isolation that everyone has to fight against or become an island themselves. It's usually men that are more likely to be affected by this, especially stoic, less gregarious types.
Even with dry weather and zero snow melt there was a powerful current going past this island, which at times must experience high water levels and serious flooding although the golf course club house and allotment huts manage to survive somehow.
Perth seen from Moncrieffe Island. A path leads past the allotments to the golf course then back in the opposite direction to the upstream end but a bit like Perth itself it was fairly pleasant without being spectacular in any way and I was very glad I'd taken that different option many moons ago. A wise move for both of us it turned out. Or maybe it's just I'd built it up over decades in my mind to be this mystery illusive island on maps I still hadn't visited before and the reality was............not bad just pretty mundane.
The allotments on Moncrieffe Island. On the plus side I still had Kinnoull Hill Park to look forward too and I already knew what to expect there.
A large expanse of mixed woodlands rising to upper slopes still draped in morning mists which I was hoping would burn off....
Plenty of wildlife- winter plumage goldfinches here so not much gold on show. Might be juveniles.
A dramatic clifftop view from the escarpment high-point where the hillside plunges abruptly down towards the River Tay below.
A cracking view of the river snaking away into the distance in the direction of Dundee. In the time of sailing craft and busy river traffic as a main highway two rich land owners built a couple of romantic ruins to adorn their neighbouring hillsides (to be viewed from the river) and they still stand to this day- inspired by similar Germanic castles seen on river cruises popular in former times during grand European tours and that concept transported to Scotland. Scotland has plenty of genuine ruined castles of its own of course, just annoyingly for the land owners, not on their property. A minor irritation soon fixed with a folly version.  And very nice it is too. At one time Perth had a viable if small port and docklands when goods always travelled by sea and river instead of land.
Nightfall comes early to Scotland in winter and by the time I'd struggled up to the summit viewpoint dusk was only a couple of hours away.
You do get some spectacular sunsets at this time of year though.
A view of the main transport links between Perth and Dundee.
The vertical cliffs plunging down from the summit tower.
Another part of the City of Perth viewed from Kinnoull Hill.
My best ever attempt at photographing a jay- a very illusive and wary forest bird but vividly coloured- related to magpies and crows and a similar size. Heard often in forests but rarely seen except as a high canopy glimpse of wings disappearing at speed between tall trees, never to be seen again. I was so close to getting good on the ground photographs of them this time I lingered far too long, time wise, in the forest. Over an hour and loads of furtive creeping for this not bad but not great effort.A very smart wary bird unless you're in a hide, professionally patient and static camouflaged in stake out mode, or just extremely lucky.

Autumn last year I went to see this band 'Cloudbusting' at the Oran Mor in Glasgow's West End. £17 a ticket for an almost two hour show. Really enjoyed it and a great night. Standing only in the Oran Mor so not a seated gig at this event. It was much more of a rock concert as a result than this video suggests, a less sedate affair, with more lively audience participation throughout and occasional stage banter from the charismatic young singer and band but I like this gentler version as well as you have to vary it depending on the audience. A standing active crowd are generally noisier overall, especially a Glasgow one, but offer more feedback if an act really delivers and they did.   An outstanding tribute band and at £100 plus for the original rarely seen artist a fantastic alternative well worth catching. Every bit as good as well without having to travel to London for shows as it was a nationwide tour they were on and Kate is not known for that these days when she does perform live. I had a great time with some memorable highlights.


Saturday 16 June 2018

Hothouse Musings. A Deeper Understanding. Morphogenesis in Nature and Society.

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On a recent wander around the Glasgow park-lands, some of which may at some stage be sold off to private developers for luxury housing projects as is already happening in many other parts of the UK at the moment under an increasing " it used to be a treasured public facility but it costs far too much to maintain so lets get rid of it and make some money " ongoing current popular agenda. A Common Blue Butterfly here which got me thinking about Alan Turing's Morphogenesis theory of Reaction:Diffusion to explain how animals, including us, have fingers and toes, how tigers and zebras end up with various stripes yet others have spots, flora and fauna patterns, and how all this can be explained as a form of natural engineering through chemicals and other factors interacting. Basically, the more we learn about the natural world the more it does seem to have been 'designed' or fits into mathematical profiling at any rate.
I don't pretend to understand all of this link but the general themes I can appreciate. Maybe at some future date using this theory in practice we can build not just 3D printed organs and structures but actually grow them organically- almost like a flower or an embryo grows using the same basic principles... Or buildings. Science Fiction has long imagined structures/ spaceships/ humans that combined both natural and synthetically grown materials into one cohesive unit.
A classic give and take system in action with a busy bee. All directions covered.

After all, it's only eleven short years since the Ray Winstone film Beowulf came out in 2007 as an animated version of the classic tale. It was a good enough film but also memorable for the lifeless eyes of many of the characters in close up. Jump forwards eleven years and you get this-..... a complete world of realistic looking plants, animals and humans with eyes full of expressive intent.

 In another 50 years will we know this world from the 'real' one? In 200 years will we know if we are still human and not just a regenerated version living in a simulated universe. What if we are there already and just don't realise it yet? Could we be created and designed? These fleeting thoughts and mental brush strokes of imagination certainly passed the time on a warm Sunday afternoon around the Kelvingrove district. Decades ago in the 1960s these ideas and concepts were certainly around in some of the books I read then but to be honest they seemed about as plausible and certain to come true as a flat earth with the oceans pouring over the edges... now though I'm not so sure given the leaps in technology over the last 30 years.

A self contained world under glass at the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow. Is this plant aware that it is growing up in an artificial environment or does it have its core needs satisfied to the extent that it doesn't really care. Obviously it couldn't survive outdoors at these latitudes anyway even if it was aware to some extent that it's living life in a sheltered dome.
This dome in fact.
One of the tree info signs in the Botaniic Gardens. I never thought I be getting such an interesting lesson in American history wandering in a west end park on the other side of the Atlantic but there you go.
I've found myself looking at things differently and in great detail on recent walks over the past few years and the more you look deeper into design features the more complex they become.
Is it just me or does this orchid resemble a walnut whip interior? ( well, an old style one anyway before they shrunk the interior and reduced the chocolate and nut content.)
Another orchid. The mouth of a hungry bird or just some weird coincidence?
An orchid or a hunting insect looking for a victim? Very mantis like. Or a tiny bird of prey in flower form.
Soon I was starting to see things that weren't there. Like a wood elf and a small velociraptor behind the middle part of this fence. Maybe need a decent sized screen though for that to happen.
Or a line of chatty women getting their hair styled in the local salon. Incidentally, I agreed wholeheartedly with Germaine Greer's comments last night about the # MeToo and Time's Up movements in that if it's taken so long since the 1960s to get to this feeble stage and still so little forward progress in general thinking and workplace attitudes/practices then there's not much hope unless suffragette style action is taken. The rise of the internet, with body shaming, surgically enhanced celebrities as desirable role models to aspire towards, overall casual degradation of women online everyday (but not men) and in social media comments everywhere ( from men and women.. who should know better) and the easy, always tempting option of shedding clothes and values as a tried and tested career path in certain influential industries to get ahead/ get noticed.... i.e in films, television, fashion, music, other entertainments etc means that women's lib is an uphill battle with a giant marble that's always gravity defined to roll back down again the instant you stop shoving. And it's been that way for millions of years. (Just wipe us out altogether and leave the marble alone.) The fact that many women in 2018 in Glasgow are getting three pounds an hour less than men for doing the exact same job says everything about progress on that front. I've had a few female bosses in the past so I presumed they were paying themselves the going rate but you never know until it's out in the open.
As unfair a set of scales as a recent programme about affordable social housing/ social cleansing/deliberate political tilted table engineering over decades highlighted in this link.

 Before Grenfell: A Hidden History. BBC 2. A snapshot of what's happening across the rest of the UK as well but focused on this one estate where a normal poor/ordinary working class family can all be working industriously over decades yet never afford to buy into London's booming property market but just a few streets away in Notting Hill and other affluent districts folk can earn more just from house value increases alone in one decade as that entire family gainfully employed over a lifetime of toil, scrimping and saving can. Unfair enough in itself but of course due to the UK system at present many have used that extra cash to buy ex- council properties, snapping them up elsewhere then renting them out to poorer folks who actually live in that area but are way down the ladder, cash wise, for a further profit. Well, you would, wouldn't you? Now I understand how people can afford to buy all the luxury properties they seem to be building everywhere I've noticed on cycle rides over the last decade. Not since the mid 1800s has this level of inequality existed in the UK and it has been engineered deliberately in many instances. This programme raised interesting points going back 50 years into the birth and transformation of that estate and London as a city. It got me thinking at one point...   'are the so called 'UK working class' turning into a redundant extra we no longer require ...with traditional jobs disappearing fast over the horizon? Not at present but in the near future. Or are they just changing into a Piranha feeding station instead with various outlets springing up every year to grab an extra mouthful of the action, capitalizing on desperation or stupidity. Legitimate short term loans, credit card industry, University loans...etc...(I get a new credit card offer in the post at least once a month. I could have dozens by now if I was that way inclined)
After all in the 1980s we switched from manufacturing and heavy industry into mass unemployment and a business and service society. Maybe another big change is on the way now and not in an obvious direction either.
  Anyway, back to colourful images again.
Flowers sprouting from a bare branch. Who needs leaves? In 50 years time will we actually need the numbers of ordinary workers around at present or will they become an increasingly unnecessary commodity. Same thing happened with the weavers when machines replaced their efforts... and society moved on from strength to strength without them, rarely looking back.
A sunny day outside Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Bowls match in progress. My thoughts rolling along in tandem.
But maybe it doesn't always pay to look too closely at how the world around you works...
as you may not like what you find... ignorance is sometimes bliss.
A twice restored Glasgow School of Art perhaps if the city can afford it?... or luxury apartments instead utilizing the gutted shell facade of the recently burnt building and a few remaining fragments of period art thrown into the mix. Good views from that hilltop so a prime location. Our very own version of Edinburgh's Quartermile. Out with the old I say and in with gleaming glass and steel towers rising phoenix like from the ashes to soar above the city. Luxury penthouse apartments for speculators who might well choose to live elsewhere, even in another country,rather than occupy them but who would snap them up as a 'sure fire investment'. Not only will it save loads of money for Glasgow but 'Mackintosh Heights' would be a fine updated symbol of modern age Britain. Always a silver lining. (After all, he might well fall out of favour again in another 20 to 30 years time as he struggled to make a living at it when he was alive and was largely forgotten by his home city after his death until fairly recently.  This is the age of austerity after all and everyone must tighten their belts accordingly as we keep being reminded. We are all in this together. United by common adversity. No money now available in a permanently cash strapped UK, even for day to day living. Food banks are the way forwards from now on. Our new reality. Side by side, all born equal, pulling as one unit in our struggle upwards towards the light. Blah, blah blah, etc etc....

Robots and the desire to create artificial life is nothing new, of course. Here's a very lifelike attempt at it from the late 1800s. " for 100 dollars extra we can build you a soul."  The ancient Clockwork Guild............or a future bio- engineering project.