Friday day trips are strange creatures. I am usually working until 8 the night before and as a consequence my timings are all over the place. I invariably like a lie in and thus don’t end up going terribly far. Sometimes I wake up about 8 and think about going far and wide but four hours later I am still in bed and not moving any time soon. There are other times when I just want to go somewhere and I can pull my carcass out of bed early enough to get somewhere a wee bit further from Glasgow. A few Fridays ago, I was up early and thought about St. Andrews or somewhere like that but of course I wasn’t out of bed until about 10. I had a good idea for somewhere to go, however.
My favourite art gallery in Scotland is not Kelvingrove or the National or even Portrait, fine places though they are. Rather it’s the one in Kirkcaldy, recently refurbished to include an expanded museum, cafe and central library but with the art gallery bit delightfully unchanged in style and contents. Kirkcaldy has a fine collection of 19th and 20th century Scottish art, from William McTaggart through the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists, all favourites of mine and all in the one place. I visit at least three or four times a year, usually as a result of a notion like I had a couple of weeks ago just to be there. This particular visit, though, was different as just before I went in, I received some happy news which meant that I was looking at the art through a haze of tears and general heightened emotion.
Like in many things, I have a routine when I visit Kirkcaldy. I start in the first room, currently containing a John Bellany amongst others, then work through each room in turn, finishing at the far end where the McTaggarts are then work my way back through each one again, invariably stopping for a seat and a ponder once or twice along the way. Usually I am entirely alone but there were a couple of folk dotting around plus the normal loud-footed attendants clomping through at regular intervals to make sure we weren’t nicking anything. Particular favourites in the second room were two of Kellie Castle, near Pittenweem, by John Henry Lorimer, showing the castle and its surrounds with spring flowers and shadowy light. They must have been pulled from the museum stores recently as I only became aware of them recently and every time I go, I think I must get to Kellie Castle, even while it is a bastard to get to by public transport. Of the Scottish Colourists, I was drawn as usual to the Iona paintings by Peploe and Cadell, the best looking towards Ben More and Mull. Again, another enticement to visit a place far-off. And the McTaggart has a few crackers, not least the one of a glen near Roslin and the just plain braw painting of a wave crashing to shore on a grey day. I also paid particular attention to two quite esoteric sculptures by Martin Rayner, whose brother I used to work with, strangely enough. I thought a little about him and tried to work out the symbolism of these richly allegorical works.
My brain was all over the place this time, looking at the art with heightened affection while trying not to dance about the place with happiness. I must have looked a right mess.
Before I left, I made sure I got to the temporary exhibition about the Forth Bridges, showing art and objects relating to the best bridge on the planet and the road one next to it. The new Queensferry Crossing will open in September so there was a bit about that. The art was by Kate Downie and was rather fine with drawings, etchings and paintings depicting the bridges, my favourites charcoal drawings of the crosses and angles of the Rail Bridge. For the person that will invariably ask me when it’s on rather than looking it up on Google or the Kirkcaldy Galleries website, the exhibition finishes on 25th February.
Before I left, I walked down to the waterfront. Kirkcaldy has a big road right next to the Forth but I crossed over it all the same and looked across in the twilight to Edinburgh and East Lothian, sorting my fix of the sea and waves for a bit. Quite a few places in Scotland ruin their rivers by having big, nasty roads right next to them (I’m looking at you, Dundee, for starters) but sometimes you just need to shut out what’s around you and just look out. I did the same when I was in Dundee, strangely enough, a couple of weeks before and it was strangely quite joyful. This time, I stood a while then headed back to the bus, plugging in some music and reading my way back to Glasgow, another Friday well spent.