All too often recently I’ve had a purpose when going about Glasgow. I’ve had streets to walk or hills to climb. I’ve been crossing town to go somewhere else rather than stopping. Even my recent trip to make sure the Gorbals Vampire was still in situ (it is) was on the way to Haddington, which is at the other side of the country. Last Friday I decided to change that and to spend the afternoon just dotting around Glasgow. I got a bus to streets that I could walk down, to quote the Proclaimers, and ended up at the Mitchell Library. Given my line of work, spending my day off in a library seems a bit like a busman’s holiday. The Mitchell, however, is one of the finest buildings on the planet and I never fail to feel inspired there. I did a little research and just wandered for a bit. Whenever I’m there, I tend to have big thoughts and I came away with one or two creative ideas.
I walked in the rain to Kelvingrove, spending some time around its very fine art collections, particularly in the French room. Each room I visited had a favourite for the day, colourful sails in Venice from the Scottish Colourists, a portrait from Bessie MacNicol – a Glasgow girl – and the pointillist painting by Paul Signac in the French. I forgot to go into the Glasgow Boys collection, which is another favourite. The anthropology gallery is another highlight and I took my usual keek at the displays about St. Kilda, also reminding myself of past OU studies as I looked at the Benin bronzes on show. I made sure I got a look at the early Scottish history gallery too, which is probably the best displayed selection of such artefacts in the land. Even though it’s about ten years old (the gallery, not the stuff in it), it is still fresh and current in style.
My next journey was up the hill to the Hunterian Art Gallery. I hadn’t been to the Hunterian Art Gallery in ages, making vague notions to go on various Sunday afternoons but never getting round to it. It was getting refurbed with staff working even late on a Friday and the displays were thematic, portraits joined by Scottish Colourists and Glasgow Boys, which was quite a beguiling mix. The German Expressionist exhibition, featuring work from between the First and Second World Wars, was dark in almost every sense, interesting, though, and I would recommend it. Sometimes we need darkness to make sense of the light.
I stopped off across the road at the University. The University is known for looking quite like Hogwarts and it’s a fine place, sitting atop Gilmorehill. I stood in the cloisters for a few minutes, thinking and soaking up the architecture, before I headed down to Dumbarton Road for a bus home. One soon came and as it headed under the Clyde, I thought about the afternoon just gone, feeling happier and not a little inspired by where I had been, familiar places all. Glasgow is my adopted home but an afternoon is never wasted here, between the shelves and amidst the art.