Scotland has seven cities – our capital Edinburgh, Glasgow (where I live), Dundee, Aberdeen (above), Inverness, Perth and Stirling. The Queen makes new cities every so often so I imagine we’ll have an eighth one at some point – probably Paisley or Dunfermline (which already advertises itself as such on the road signs going into the place, despite not having a cathedral). I know all of them to varying degrees and I can generally find something to keep my attention in all seven.
Recently I was in Aberdeen. I have family there and it was indeed business involving that particular relative that led me to get up at an agriculturally early hour one Saturday to go for a bus up the A90 to the Granite City. Our lunch venue was a little way away from the city centre and Aberdeen isn’t like Perth or even Edinburgh where most things are concentrated in the one place or are near to it. Still I decided to walk, since I had been sitting on a bus for three hours and so I could clear my head before the social stuff later. I walked out of the bus station and towards Union Street. It being a Saturday lunchtime, the place was busy with folk milling about shopping or heading off some place else. As so often, I had a tune in my head but not one I could sing out loud. The week before, Hibs had played Aberdeen in a Scottish Cup semi final and Hibs got beat. One song sung from our end of the ground referred to the alleged tendency of folk from the north east to enjoy carnal relations with sheep. That cheery stereotype-laden ditty went through my head as I walked up to the crossing at Union Street, thankfully not with images attached.
My route was worked out early on Google Maps, up by His Majesty’s Theatre onto something called Rosemount Viaduct then onto Beechgrove Terrace and finally King’s Gate where the hotel was. A viaduct is a bridge so I wasn’t sure whether Google Maps was about to lead me onto a dual carriageway well out of my way but I decided to see where I got to anyway. On my right soon came Union Terrace Gardens. Aberdeen City Council is perennially skint and it decided to raise a few quid by selling off Union Terrace Gardens, a perfectly nice park with floral arrangements, to property developers. Morons. Thankfully, the gardens are still there though plenty of other building work was happening around me, including the refurbishment of the Aberdeen Art Gallery. Next to His Majesty’s Theatre is the city’s Central Library, which from the outside looks much the same as Edinburgh Central Library aside from being cast in granite. I like libraries with cupolas and turrets – like indeed my old work at Langside in Glasgow.
Rosemount Viaduct turned out to be a fairly busy normal street leading into a residential area. I passed some eejit with a broad Aberdonian accent but wearing a Celtic top. The Old Firm were just about to start their game back in Glasgow and this galoot was trying to locate his pals so they could hit the pub to watch the Gruesome Twosome fight it out or rather Celtic horse The Rangers 5-1. Aberdeen has a perfectly good football team, FFS, even if they win semi finals by flukey goals.
Not so far from the hotel was an opportunity for sightseeing. I take an interest in the media and when I realised I would be walking along Beechgrove Terrace, I knew immediately that it was the location of the BBC’s Aberdeen offices, where the Beechgrove Garden and Radio Scotland’s Out Of Doors are produced. The phone was duly wheeched out the pocket and a snap was taken for posterity.
As I walked through Aberdeen, it wasn’t like my normal city wanderings in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I realised just now that it was because my surroundings were much less familiar. Glasgow is where I live and despite the fact there are many parts of this city I don’t know, it is still sort-of my home turf. Same with Edinburgh. I know Aberdeen fairly well but it isn’t a city I like all that much. It’s grey and always bloody baltic. It has some charms, like the art gallery, Footdee and the University area, but not too much else besides the beautiful part of the country around it. Even Dundee raises my spirits more than Aberdeen but that’s probably because it has a statue of my style icon Desperate Dan right in the middle of it.
I spend a lot of my life travelling around so I have become familiar with a lot of towns and cities up and down the UK and Ireland too, come to think of it. There are towns it is hard to warm to. Glenrothes is one, Cumbernauld, Galashiels, Falkirk, Penicuik. But folk still live in them. There are many folk who don’t like Glasgow. They’re deeply mistaken and misguided (especially if they live in provincial cities with Desperate Dan statues) but they’re entitled to their view nevertheless. We can’t like everywhere. There’s good in everywhere, though, even if it’s just library cupolas and seeing where they film The Beechgrove Garden.