05 Feb Glasgow
It’s cold, 4 below in fact, clear, sunny and still. The kind of day when Glasgow winks at you in a knowing way – knowing it’s looking its best. The sandstone of the West End, red and gold, just sparkles in the sunlight, its big, bonny buildings braced for admirers.
I’m sitting in the cafe of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – gets its name from the 1st Baron of Kelvin, Glasgow University physicist who got his hot and cold sorted out in some thermodynamic sort of way. St Mungo (why not Kelvin, I ask myself) sits at the entrance to this massive red sandstone building and looks across the tiny River Kelvin to Gilmorehill on top of which stands Kelvin’s alma mater in very spectacular style. In fact, Kelvingrove may be looking over its shoulder at its academic neighbour; the story goes it was built facing the wrong way causing the architect to jump from one of its windows in suicidal despair. Poor bloke. Had he only known how much this urban myth has added to the fame of the place – makes a good if dark story. The Scottish architectural profession was much more bothered about the fact that the architects were English. And the good burgers of Glasgow thought the building “far too much a casino…sadly wanting in sobriety”. Up the Partick end of Sauchiehall Street where this fantastic building stands, a lack of sobriety is probably fitting!
I’m here to see an exhibition of Alasdair Gray, artist and writer, maker of magical sketches of intricate, sometimes quirky detail of Glasgow in the 60s and 70s. My Glasgow where I completed childhood, tackled adolescence and finally decided to leave on the elusive brink of adulthood. The old tenements, industrial landscapes, portraits, intimate interiors of homes – all filled with tiny images of the past that ruffle the memories. Not so much a hit of nostalgia; more an abrupt reminder of how far away the past is and yet how immediate, recognisable and strangely familiar too. Difficult to put into words that sensation of being a visitor in one’s home, an inside-outsider.