Sunday 31 October 2021

A Glasgow Autumn. Botanics. Kelvingrove. Magic, Alchemy, and Ophelia.

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Another year, another autumn. As I've not been in Kelvingrove Park for a while I decided to take a bus to Glasgow's Botanic Gardens then walk from there down the River Kelvin gorge into Kelvingrove Park then Partick. Heavy rain was forecast as it has been very wet throughout most of October but I knew not many days were left until the deciduous leaves vanished for another year so I had a late October splurge catching up. Also a wet dull day would bring out the colours more.

There was a surprise awaiting me in the Botanic Gardens however- not only a fine range of autumnal trees but preparations for Halloween, only a few days away, were in full swing.

A basking shark model. Apparently they are endangered... isn't everything these days!? I've had the privilege of being very close to basking sharks several times on the Scottish west coast and they are truly amazing creatures,  reaching between 20 to 35 feet in length as an adult or 10 metres long. I remember one time we were on a small passenger boat going to Eigg and a 30 plus footer glided under the boat in mid journey miles from land. I pointed it out, entranced, to my fellow passengers by commenting 'shark'  not intending to scare them but just to draw their attention to it in case they missed it swimming silently underneath us, 15 foot down in clear water and several went white as a sheet and started to pray, realizing the unexpected size of it. Completely harmless of course. All the exhibits here are in day-glow colours so they shine out at night.

Board painting.

 Entrance globe. Reading the signs it would be a ticketed affair after dark wandering around to celebrate Halloween but also with a climate change/ pollution theme..

 This part inspired by the Little Shop of Horrors presumably.....?

 or 1950s Sci Fi films. Radioactive family.

 Glasgow twinned with New York here apparently. Both skyscraper cities, both filled with tell it like it is citizens, a similar grid layout of city streets, and an equally exotic cocktail of sophistication, elegance, beauty and wealth  but also pockets of grime, danger and lifelong multi generational poverty living side by side so not that different a match in some ways.

Static Hearts.

A lot of 'save the planet' signage which is a bit disingenuous as the planet is doing fine. It's humanity and wildlife that is in danger. Thanks to Jupiter's immense gravity and earth's volcanoes, twin lifetime protectors of atmosphere,  the planet is in good hands until its final demise a billion years from now. Plenty of time for new life forms to evolve and flourish. I have to admit once something becomes a 'Cause Celebre' I tend to lose interest in it. I'll jump ship and steer for the overpopulation camp instead  as that's a far harder sell. 'Save the planet- let's cull humanity drastically before 2030!'  'People are the problem- not the solution'. and other catchy slogans... :o)

 It was at this point, looking at this sign, that a little old woman sidled up to me.

' Got you thinking eh? Are you evil?.' she inquired politely.. I have to confess no-one has ever asked me that question before. Certainly not a stranger in a public park. My first thought was to fleetingly think I must be as I was thinking at that precise moment  ' thank God I'm seeing all this for free instead of buying a ticket for it, lucky me!'  but I guessed she was somehow attached to the organization side of things and was looking for some early positive feed back along the lines of ' do I consume too much for my needs, am I intrinsically greedy, sustainability, personal lifestyle vs recycling etc... but cynical me decided play dumb instead and throw the question right back at her.

 'If I was evil do you think I would tell you that or comprehend my own true nature... or more probably... would I still believe I was one of the good guys?  

' That's too hard for children to understand.' She complained. ' We have to get the message across in simple terms.'

' Best of luck with that then.'  I replied, moving on.

 Come to think of it now, writing this, she was probably around my own age yet I, and no doubt she, still retain a strong impression of being a lively 20 to 40 something, mentally, eternally in our prime..... a peculiar state of  mind default setting only damaged when hard reality or a mirror places a spanner in the works... like a tricky barbed wire fence to climb over, a less than speedy sprint along a pavement for a bus, or a sizable jump across a streambed as a true reminder of advancing years and diminishing physical abilities.

The colours were at their best so I concentrated on them instead.

 Bush/tree taken over by rampant foliage. 

I left the Botanic Gardens via this pedestrian bridge for the delights of the River Kelvin gorge walk.

The Kelvin is a river I've often thought about kayaking down in the past as it's slow moving and placid most of the way with only a few mild rapids and a couple of weirs to get past. Even in spate conditions it retains a mostly tranquil pace, although dangerous under currents, potential sewage contamination if you fall in, and submerged trees/ hazards along the route have to be factored in.  Never seen anyone kayaking it although there are a few online mentions of it occurring infrequently.

It is beautiful though and very wild looking in places despite flowing into the heart of a major urban area through Glasgow's West End.

 You would need to be completely aware of the exact position of  several rapids, weirs, and drops however unless you have loads of previous white water experience and skill. These are sometimes too dry to negotiate safety due to a lack of water in summer, or in spate conditions dangerous looking, as you would not want to go under or attempt it without scoping it out first for potential problems. 

Although it doesn't look it here this last section traveling through Partick is probably the worst with several abrupt rock shelf drops one after another that in spate may be easier if riskier to negotiate to reach the larger River Clyde. Also, with high walls on either side, if anything does happen it's hard to escape from this concrete trench to safety.

Kelvingrove Park now and the rain was hammering down. One thing I noticed throughout was the number of people without umbrellas or even decent waterproofs. It was raining so hard here, and had been all month that you would think folk would be prepared ... but no. Younger guys I can half understand, that macho thing of wanting to appear tough and impervious to conditions but an equal number of girls/ older women I passed were without one yet after ten minutes in this deluge throwing full buckets of water over them would not soak them any further. Drowned rats would look drier. My own black umbrella was £5 so money was not the problem. One good reason why every winter the cold and flu season starts- this time increased by the thought- might I have covid instead? 

It was a puzzle. Are umbrellas unfashionable now?. In urban areas I've always carried one in my rucksack for decades, a cheap fold away model, but there if needed. No use up hills due to wind strength but ok for city and town walking. Better in many ways than entombing yourself in gortex jacket, waterproof overtrousers, hat or hood which all tend to muffle you away from the full experience and pleasure of your surroundings. 

 An umbrella is also a vital piece of kit for keeping my camera lens dry as that's a pet hate of mine in heavy rain- drops on the lens every two seconds or steamed up visuals that take time to clear. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and museum here.

 The highest point in the park which rises on a slope around then above the University of Glasgow.

This gives you a better idea of how hard it was raining... and it went on for several hours non stop.

Made the autumn colours stand out though.

 University of Glasgow spire.

The walk down to Partick.

 Kelvin Hall and bridge over the River Kelvin. When I caught a bus here it rained hard all the way back. Getting off the bus was a further adventure as several of the streets between bus and house were flooded completely so I had no choice but to wade knee deep up the pavements to get back to dry land. Luckily I've always lived on a hill, well clear of rivers, as conditions like these do seem to be increasing. Hotter and drier for warm countries, wet and increasingly flooded for damp prone countries like ours.

Wednesday 13 October 2021

The Changing Face of Glasgow 2021. New Buildings Part Two.

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The biggest visible change in Glasgow City Centre is the redevelopment of the old run down Tradeston District, replaced in part by this impressive monolithic construction project on the River Clyde waterfront. The Barclays Bank Complex. They had just started it when the Covid 19 pandemic took hold but it's almost finished now... this part of it at least.

Side on view here. It's a massive structure which, according to reports, will bring up to 2,500 new jobs to the city.  What got me excited though was the artists impression of what the surroundings will look like with sculpted pathways, green spaces, cycle tracks and seating along the river frontage. Hopefully I'll be walking or cycling there soon. 

 At the moment it's boarded off but by the looks of it trees and shrubs have already been planted out. New buildings in my home city excite me as any city or town has to balance what old buildings to keep and which ones to replace in a constant juggling act of progress and regeneration. The higher towers might be residential as online reports indicate a mix of business and social and even sky gardens in some designs. For anyone interested you can see further images by typing in Barclays Bank Building. Kingston. Glasgow.

The cycletrack/walkway I was following however was on the other side of the river and a km further on took me to here where an attractive period suspension bridge straddles the river frontage.  This side has not changed since the 1970s  and as it's the city centre equivalent of waste ground (with seating) it can be where people sometimes congregate as it's away from the hubbub and surveillance watchfulness of the nearby busy shopping streets yet within easy walking distance from them. 

 I have to confess I was a bit surprised at how graffiti strewn it has become since my last visit a couple of years ago but probably, due to the pandemic, many city centre districts have resembled ghost towns over the last year- much quieter than normal. Although there's artistic skill in some of the better work here the overall mish mash makes it a bit of an eyesore for the image of a modern city and visitors arriving here.

 What it used to look a decade ago. Just one main mural- and a good one at that. Also note the two buildings and the spaces either side....

 New buildings underway on both sides of the original pair.

 The other side of the waterfront suspension bridge. Apparently this side will undergo a radical transformation as well to match the Barclays Bank side sometime in the near future. At the moment it resembles a building site in places with several new buildings going up here.

Although this one... Virgin Hotels... seems to have stalled somewhat as it's not much more advanced since the last time I observed it. Obviously hospitality was a hard hit industry due to the pandemic so maybe funds have dried up temporarily. Being the afternoon it was quite busy along here with several groups of youngsters hanging around. I didn't therefore and made my way up to the financial district. It was not an area I wanted to be lingering around in as it wasn't hostile as such but I got the feeling it could easily turn that way and not a place I wanted to be visiting when darkness fell. Visually and in reality a city of the have and have nots discovered on this journey, often coexisting side by side though not mixing - like the rest of the UK in general. Mind you, from my own experience, the carbon footprint of the genuine have nots is usually tiny as lacking funds to do anything they do not buy or throw away much. My own paw print is minuscule without even thinking about it or making any effort at all. Make everyone very poor again and save the we need to level down people. Build back to the 1950s when it was make do or mend, food was rationed, everything was recycled, repaired or kept, anything bought was definitely needed and any limited luxuries came at Christmas. That's my solution for COP 26 Glasgow....  :o)

The rain cloud that had been with me since Partick finally moved on upriver and the sun came out again.

 Up on Argyle Street another new building appears to have stalled....

I seem to recall this concrete support pillar looked much the same two years ago...

Banks and offices meanwhile have bigger budgets to play with. Morgan Stanley building here  which was just completed in the last year or so and a brand new building behind still in progress with cranes up.

 It's quite hard to see the roof of this building from street level but this partial view intrigued me with it's oval summit terrace so I looked it up. Apparently it's the largest new office building in Scotland, predicted to generate £2.8 billion for the Scottish economy with a private viewing terrace and running track on the roof for employees as a perk. I won't link to it but for those interested type in WWW. Home 177 Bothwell Street. Glasgow. to get a short virtual tour, including the roof. A different world! Love to see that rooftop view but no chance of that in reality.

 Other buildings that caught my eye in this district... some are new... others have been refurbished recently like this one. In a fast changing and highly competitive world offices and computers are lucky to last 10 years before they are deemed obsolete so facelifts for buildings, in and out, are common.

Luckily, the City Centre itself doesn't change much. Spires in George Square here...

 Old red sandstone period buildings that give Glasgow it's distinctive look from it's Victorian past.

The Beresford. A Glasgow period icon.

 Whereas, with new glass and steel buildings, nice though this is, sometimes it's hard to tell if it's new, refurbished... or not?

For example... 310 St Vincent Street... Recently refurbished... I'm sure it used to have a blacker look/ black glass effect, last time I noticed it. More like the Eagle Building a couple of blocks away.

Church Spire. St Vincent Street.  At least you know where you are with buildings that stay the same for several centuries.

 The Thomson Church with Scotland's largest new office building and presumably Scotland's highest running track? in the background. Glad to see the Pinnacle building still looks slightly higher from this angle, the higher floors hopefully retaining their stunning views.

Hilton Hotel. Anderston District. Fantastic views here I'd imagine. No other buildings in the way and panoramas up and down the River Clyde and surrounding suburbia to the far horizon. Well placed for maximum impact for guests.



Glasgow's up and down city centre streets. Fairly level running west to east... up and down like this one when running south to north. Made the mistake of cycling down here and it was still slick with rain water so my back wheel fish tailed alarmingly at the bottom and I thought I was an ex blogger. Very lucky not to have a serious fall. Always an adventure on a bike.  

 Marriott and Hilton Hotels from St Vincent's Plaza.

 Sentinel Building. Waterloo Street area. Very colourful window display at night if I recall.

 Scottish Power Building. Don't remember blue and red here last time.

 The trusty metal steed looking towards Charing Cross. Of all the sports I've tried- rock climbing, summer and winter mountaineering, kayaking, caving, etc, etc... cycling is by far the most dangerous as anything can occur without warning on a bike... traffic attacking you... people, dogs, kids, cows, horses, other bikes, suddenly diving straight in front of you without warning or any logical reason... grit, sand, gravel, mud, wet leaves, water. ice... potholes, tram tracks, stanks, raised or sunken objects....all equally determined to bring you down... and it always hurts! 

Marriott Hotel at Anderston. Good views here as well. Anyone counting overall number of hotel rooms so far in Glasgow within these two posts?.... and that's only a fraction of the total available.

 Moda Living development near Pitt Street. Another major new project of luxury apartments from a company with similar developments in most major UK cities. I often wonder where all the rich folk come from to buy these properties but I suppose you can sell a modest house in London and live like a king or queen up here. Also, if you have spare cash available you can become a private landlord, buy up two or more houses/flats/ apartments and rent them out either to tenants or online B and Bs. The great council house sell off of 40 years ago where everyone supposedly had the right to buy their own home, while it benefited many with the means to get a property has also meant a dire shortage of new affordable homes for younger generations without wealth plus some folk sitting with a large portfolio, including ex council houses, for rent to those less well off. Watched a programme a while ago now with several enterprising teenagers/20 somethings buying up houses in deprived council districts ( they lived elsewhere) to then rent to local people ( presumably said teens were bank rolled by wealthy parents with a million or two to spare.) Although it's perfectly legal that just felt a bit wrong somehow but then that's life. It never is fair, especially for the base of the pyramid.


Apparently this is what it's going to look like when completed.

A view of Glasgow's leafy suburbia from the business and financial district. The running track view will be even better as it's ten levels higher than this

.Santander building. Notable for it's green roof terraces.

 St Vincent's Plaza. The 310 building featured earlier, seen above.

The Eagle Building, an old favourite of the modern group of glass and steel towers but with more character and elegant lines than most. Now refurbished but still in black, hence the new name.

And a personal favourite of mine for many decades. Still the jewel in the crown. One of the first prominent towers in this area from the swinging 1960s and originally seen from many miles away on its hilltop prime position. I could see it from my house growing up. Standing unique and alone with its distinctive rooftop panels. The old habitat building now called The Pinnacle. Refurbished a while ago into residential flats, office, and retail space but it retains its certain style on Bothwell Street despite being squeezed on all sides by younger upstarts. A building that still commands attention.

The other tall city centre tower from that era. Livingstone Tower I presume, built mid 1960s and still part of the University of Strathclyde. At almost 200 feet another great view over the city and surroundings for those lucky enough to see it.

The Anderston Centre. Argyle Street.  The End.