Wednesday, 28 July 2010
It's a mighty slab of a city is Aberdeen. Before the 19th century it was just a normal sandstone Scottish town like any other but then the Georgian city planners then the Victorians laid their hands on it and built umpteen square miles of granite buildings on top of it all. It sparkles a bit in the sunshine but in normal Scottish weather (a bit cloudy and damp) it grey nature comes to the fore. The buildings are for the better part rather plain and it is only really public buildings and banks and the likes that have any real decoration - although this decoration is as a general rule as sharp as the day it was carved as the stone is as hard as...well.....granite. On the whole, I find that Aberdeen can be a bit depressing, not helped by the fact that the local council seems to have a terrible poor grasp of the local homelessness situation. Union Street (the main street, pictured here) always (really always) has several down and outs planted by the side of the pavement and normally I find myself accosted by beggars when I pass through.
This curious object (pictured left) left me somewhat puzzled. You'd have thought that the local council might have put a little information near it to give a clue. If the makers (Walter Macfarlane and co of the Saracen Foundry) hadn't put their name on it then I would have had absolutely nothing to go on. Fortunately for the information seeker the internet has a nerd for every occasion and there is a site solely dedicated to Scottish ironwork which tells me that this is a ventilation shaft above an access tunnel - for what, it doesn't say or if it's current location on Holburn street is it's original.
One of Aberdeen's most famous sons is James Scott Skinner, who started out life as plain old James Skinner but adopted the Scott after one of his dancing teachers. Actually, he was born in Banchory and moved to Aberdeen as a boy and again chose to live in Aberdeen in his later years and bought the only house he ever owned there. Almost anyone who has ever played fiddle in a Scottish tradition style will probably be well acquainted with the man, or at least his music. He managed to live just long enough to have some of his music recorded - you can still get it but it's mighty crackly even after it's been cleaned up by technology - he doesn't half nip along when he's playing. I managed to find his house - it's completely anonymous, being completely devoid of the blue plaques that Aberdeen don't seem too shy about putting up for people I've never heard of. Skinner's grave is an impressive affair, sporting a bronze bust of the man himself and the first few bars of one of his best known tunes, the rather lovely slow air, "The Bonnie Lass of Bon Accord"
Just across the road from the graveyard is Duthie Park with the rather excellent David Welch Winter Gardens. I've been before many years ago, when my children were amused by the talking cactus (it's now gone) and we picked up a stray stick insect by accident - it appeared in the hall some days later and we guessed it must have come from there as they don't normally fly in on the wind in Scotland. Here's a few pictures -
As you can see by these pictures, the plants got more and more savage as I progressed round the greenhouses, from the things that looked like fancy nettles to the spiky and quite large cactus to the distinctly carnivorous types, so I though it must be time to heaf back to the B&B for a cup of tea. It's was a generally fine day rounded of by a couple of pints in O'Neil's - There was music provided by Fergal and Duncan - Fergal's a reasonable singer and guitarist but his mate Duncan was a mighty fiddler playing and Irish merging into bluegrass style - I would have enjoyed it far more if the mob had let them play what they wanted and not heckled until the played the old bog standard tunes you hear everywhere, but a fine night all in all.
Saturday, 17 July 2010
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
The bridge I was heading for was the Albert bridge and is currently under a fairly extensive renovation. For now it is closed to traffic and is largely a hoardings tunnel for the pedestrian but from the bits that you can see of the bridge it's going to be a rather attractive iron Victorian suspension bridge when it reappears from the building site in a couple of years time.
Monday, 5 July 2010
It's down in the basement and is an entire room flooded to about waist height with used sump oil (20:50 is the name of the grade of oil I'm told). It facinating to look at. You know it's a couple of feet deep but it just looks like a polished black floor which reflects the walls and windows (it can't be that much of a basement then) perfectly only in a slightly different shade. Smells a little too. It's viewed from a gallery but you're supposed to be able to go down a walkway into the middle of it - unfortunately this has been closed of - perhaps people have been unable to resist the temptation of dabbling a little bit in the edge to produce ripples when they're so close to it.
Of walking down the walkway, the catalogue says, "Though this altered perspective 20:50's phantasmical aura is enhanced, amplifying the disorientating and mesmerising experience of the space, and further confounding physical logic". It's a wonderful installation and the catalogue description....well....hmmm!
On top of an iron frame I found the figures 25 feet in the air - the main reason I had managed to see them earlier. They live on top of one of the worlds few steam clocks made buy Hunkin and Plant. At the time of building, in 1984, it was one of only 2 in the world - the other was in Vancouver (it still is as it happens). Alas, it's a difficult thing to maintain and in recent years it has fallen into disrepair and no longer works. The pet shop behind it has lovingly bolted their sign onto it though.
From the boiler at the bottom, from a christmas tree factory, to the 19th century US railway engine whistle at the top, satisfyingly complete with a bullet dent, there is a truely eclectic selection of parts. There's a boiler timer from the Midlands electricity board, bits from a lawn mower, a windscreen wiper motor, a firework firing tube, some ships rigging screws and bicycle gears amongst others. The figures on the top were made from copper from hot water cylinders, one of whom apparently used to stick his fingers in his ears when the whistle went off, and the whistle itself has been fitted with a saucepan as it used to spurt boiling water - perhaps not ideal when it was located above such a public place.
According to the small surf I've had in relation to this, there are now a few steam clocks around the world but it would seem that the rest are working. This may be the only broken down steam clock in existence - what a privilege to stumble on such a thing on my travels.
Friday, 2 July 2010
I wandered down the Kings Road where I found a baker who was unable to sell me a chelsea bun. So I had to make do with a pain au chocolat as I wandered down a side street having spotted a delightful Italianesque (excuse my rather basic and probably wrong architectural vocabulary) building covered in ivy at the far end of it. It was the home of the Chelsea Open Air Nursery School. A bloke coming out of the gate informed me that the older building attached to supposed to have been stabling for Henry VIII and that to get in I would probably need about £15 000 000, guv'ner (alright he didn't say "guv'ner" but it wouldn't have sounded out of place if he had)
The chap above looks like he's made of tin of fibreglass or something. He was shot through the bars of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea and was too far away to give a rattle to see exactly what he was made of. To my satisfaction there were quite a few real chelsea pensioners out and about in Chelsea with their little brown day to day caps and red stripes down their trousers but I left them in peace to wander about on their business. They must be fed up to the back teeth with people going, "Oh look! A chelsea pensioner", SNAP!. (In case anyone is passing from my last blog - the same rule does not apply to Boris Johnson)
Not content with inventing chocolate, he followed Issac Newton as president of the Royal Society and it is his collection of books,
flora, fauna and other odds and ends that went on to be the foundation of the British Museum after his death.
Anyone popping in from my old blog has probably noticed that I go absent for a few weeks and then there's a period of activity for a fortnight or so until I disappear again. I've simpley been unable to operate my last blog in certain locations, so hopefully that situation will be sorted here at Blogger.
It's going to require a bit of a change of style for me. I enjoy a big day out looking at everything and anything that takes my fancy, snapping a few photos here and there (I make no claims to be a photographer) then the next day soaking my weary feet in a bowl of hot water and typing up a great big ramble and posting an album of photos. My intention here is to type shorter blogs with the pictures within them, though I will try to link blogs from the same trip with a common title.
Enough wittering just now. Let's give it a birl and see how it goes.
By the way the old blog is still there at http://miceforlent.spaces.live.com