Just back from the first part of a three city, four day, six gig extravaganza – sampling the delights of the Triptich festival. First on the card tonight were locals Prinzhorn Dance School whose stripped back rock was almost too minimalist – simple described it more aptly. They were followed by the act that we were there for Ratatat. Their powerful noisy electro – described by Triptych as “spleen-rupturing, tropical synth-pop” was much more intense in the flesh than on their records and kept us pinned to the floor with sheer revererations.
The crowd really came alive once CSS (Cansei der ser Sexy) came onto the stage. Brazil’s greatest techno-pop exports were who the jersey dress and footless tight clad kiddies were really there to see. They were actually quite good and even us old folks up the back were tapping our toes along to the Karen O-esque antics up on stage.
Next stop Aberdeen and the somewhat different minimalist composer Terry Riley.
With my new place last weekend limited to a quick visit to our friend Neil’s exhibition opening at the Southside Studios I made up for it by getting the furthest away from Glasgow that I have been so far this weekend. A three day hill walking trip called, and after sneaking out of the office early on Thursday and a 5 1/2 hour bus ride I was in Torridon in Wester Ross – one of the more remote parts of Scotland.
On Friday I woke my legs up with a climb up Liathach – bagging my first Munro – Spidean a’ Choire Leith and was rewarded with spectacular views of wild mountains, lochs and not a tree or sign of habitation in sight. The mountain has two Munros so we headed for the second peak – via a series of rocky outcrops (the ridge on the image below) that required some tricky scrambling skills and a bit of rope work to traverse. Of course there is a bypass track that would have made life much easier, but we had some hard-core walkers in this ‘high-tops’ group so over the ridges we went. The decent was a bone jarring ride straight off the second Munro – Mullach an Rathain leaving my quads like jelly – in fact I am still recovering.
Day 2 dawned more to the Scottish weatherman’s liking with cloud at 300 m and driving rain. We ascended directly up a scree slope which meant for every two steps forward we slid one back making it painfully slow going. As minor near death experience for enlivened proceeding for me, a climber above me dislodged a couple of rucksack sized stones on a ledge above me – with powers of jujitsu I never knew I had I deflected one of them over and away while I brought the Jedi mind trick into play to stop the other inches before it reached me!
I made it to the first of the Munros on Ben Eighe – Ruadh-stac Mor, but had had enough of the cloud, driving rain and freezing conditions, so rather than make a quick dash for the remaining Munro for more views of the inside of a cloud I joined a group that descended into the prehistoric feeling Coire Mhic Fhearchair with a beautiful loch, amazing rock buttresses and small burns cascading over steps in the rock. The two hour walk back out to the bus absolutely soaked was somewhat less joyous as you could imagine.
On our final day of walking the cloud remained but the wind had eased which made for an ethereal climb up Ben Alligin through the mist and focused our attention on more immediate aspects like the crazy purple lichen and small burns that appeared suddenly out of the gloom. Not quite the spectacular views that are apparently on offer on a good day but I figured that 1 out of 3 is pretty good going for Scotland. There was a couple of straightforward scampers to the top of the two Munros – Sgurr Mhor and Tom na Gruagaich before we returned to the bus for the journey home – somewhat footsore after 20 hours of walking in three days.
With our aim of getting to the islands for Easter seemingly scuppered by a lack of accommodation (or should that be a lack of planning) Chhay and I snuck a quick visit to the closest and most accessible island on Saturday: the Isle of Bute. On arrival in Rothesay the main town that encircles a harbour with a series of Victorian ‘beach’ houses (above) we decided to stay for the night and soon discovered a room available at a little B&B on the harbour – a foruitous decision as we belatedly remmebered it was our 7th anniversary (or close enough to in any case)!
On Saturday afternoon we wandered around the town absorbing the Victoriana, with our favourite piece being the 1938 (and therefore very un-Victorian) Bauhaus â€˜The Pavilionâ€™ building pictured below.
Next we hopped on a random local bus for the beautiful ride down the eastern coast, overlooked by a series of wind farms on the mainland. Alighting halfway down where the bus stopped, with promises of collection and a free ride from the friendly bus driver we walked for a couple of hours through the farms and hedgerows before catching the same bus right down to the very southern tip of the island to Kilchattan Bay
With a few hours to kill before our ride home we explored the start of the West ‘Island’ Way
– a much abridged cousin of the West Highland Way, and had a feed sitting outside a delightful seaside pub watching the world go past.On Sunday we visited the main attraction of Bute, Mt Stuart House
a massive neo-gothic pile financed by years of plundering and good marriages by Scottish lairds. Being geeky architects most of our attention was spent on the visitors centre by Munkenbeck & Marshall
(below), but the house and gardens were impressive if a little over the top.
On Good Friday I climbed The Cobbler (above) with some work colleagues. It is a popular series of peaks an hour north of Glasgow. Still no Munros bagged as it was only 884 m high but there were beautiful views over Loch Long (below) and Loch Lomond to be had once we reached the summit.
A couple of us also ‘threaded the needle’ to reach the very highest point, which involves popping throgh a person sized hole in the rock to a ledge with a 20m drop before scaling the last few metres.
Another in a long line of visitors booked in for the next few months arrived in town on Saturday night in the form of Chhay’s form colleague, & my former club mate from Brisbrane: Jasper.
We started Saturday night with a gig at Rio’s – our local diner. Devon Sproule was playing – her voice was quite ethereal – sounding like a twenties record, or music playing in the next room in a movie. Unfortunately Rio’s is not really set up for gig’s and the acoustics weren’t fantastic. We moved to the Lios More for a more traditional approach and a few whiskeys to cap off the evening.
Sunday dawned clear again (and is still going 5 days later) so we dragged Jasper on a trek around the East End to capture some of Glasgowâ€™s more character filled areas.
Starting with a wander through the Merchant City we headed to the infamous Barras Markets to stock up on cheap towels, pirated DVDâ€™s and contraband cigarettes along with a fill of grease from any of the numerous chippies dotting the area.
Escaping to more rarefied surround we investigated the Homes of the Future development â€“ a product of Glasgowâ€™s year as European City of Architecture & Design in 1999. My office had produced part of the development so it was interesting to see some of their older built work up close (below). There was even a place for rent that would have liked to move into but it was taken by the time I contacted the agent on Monday morning.
Out on Glasgow Green we inspected the People’s Palace and the adjacent Templetonâ€™s Carpet Factory to keep the architectural theme running. To finish the afternoon we picked up some provisions from Tapa and climbed up to the top of the Necropolis (below) for sunset views over Glasgow.
For those in the Henderson circle who haven’t already heard: Claire started with BBC Scotland this week! It is cause for much excitement within the household – not only because it is her first real job: thus giving Claire honours in our “last to join the real world” race by a healthy 4 years but also for her new premises. She will be moving into the brand spankin’ new Chipperfield/Keppie BBC HQ on the river (pictured above) in the next couple of months, upon when the rest of are aiming to gain access to the rooftop bar for balmy summer evenings on the river.
As part of the high powered architecture collective that is Keppie Design, Chhay was flown down to London last week for a couple of days of eating, drinking and pretending to learn about hospitals. Not wanting to be left behind Claire and I jumped on the train on Thursday night and joined her. Lugging the laptop to keep us entertained on the 5 hour journey we stayed in West Hampstead the first evening.
Friday morning while Chhay inspected hospitals we took a turn through Hampstead Heath and neighbouring Hampstead Village, both of which were delightful despite persistent drizzle. I decided that Hampstead Village was the place I wanted to live if we ever move to London until I looked in a real estate window and saw the weekly rents matching our monthly contribution in Glasgow! West Hampstead while less gentile than Hamstead Village still provided a nice urban feel and is definitely an area that I will go back to.
Friday and Saturday nights were low-key affairs spent catching up with friends in various London locales (and realising how long it takes to navigate around the big smoke).
Saturday we had booked tickets for an Alvar Aalto exhibition curated by Shigeru Ban at the Barbican Centre. Having never been to the brutalist gem (pictured above & below) that is the Barbican we took some time to explore the whole complex (another place that I wouldn’t mind living but could never afford) as well as taking in the exhibition. Shigeru had spread his signature cardboard tubes throughout the exhibition space with a wave like ceiling particularly impressive. The exhibition items reminded me of how solid Aalto’s ideas were with many of the buildings still feeling contemporary today. It gave us further inspiration for our trip to Finland in May, which we have just booked.
On Sunday after a late lunch Claire & I raced Chhay back to Glasgow – but with a smooth check-in and flights from central airports rather than budget carrier specials she comfortably beat us home even giving us an hour’s head start, somewhat disproving my train = plane time comparisons that I have been bandying about!
I have a small backlog of recording to do as I haven’t posted for a while. Keeping our new place per week close to home two weeks ago we braved light snow to walk to the much vaunted Kelvingrove Museum. We took the longer more scenic route to show our visitor the highlights of the West End, dodging snow falls by ducking into strategically located cafes & bars.
The museum itself was, as expected not really our cup of tea – it was packed with kids who were obviously enjoying themselves. The highlights for me were the building itself, the hanging face sculpture pictured above and the playing of the organ which sits in the main hall.