We're just back from Aberdeen, where we went (for two days) because we can get cheap train tickets throughout Scotland this month. Aberdeen is the Granite City, and granite has an austere beauty, though T. Middy felt the city's architecture was "sort of like concrete" and "a bit too matchy-matchy". Between the granite and the November gloom, most of our photos look as though they're in black-and-white, with a spot of hand-colouring.
The following represent some of our rambles on Saturday around the City Centre - Union Terrace; Golden Square (not golden at all); Union Street (ready for the Christmas light switch-on); cobbled Castlegate with the old Mercat Cross and requisite anti-British sentiment; the lane we ducked down to visit the excellent Peacock Visual Arts Centre; and parts of Old Aberdeen - the fifteenth-century King's College, and St Machar's Cathedral. A wedding was going on in the cathedral when we arrived - hence the flowers up on the altar. Almost all the men at the wedding were wearing kilts.
We also walked down to the busy working harbour. Aberdeen is a huge oil industry base, servicing more than a hundred rigs perched in the North Sea. And we went to see the great Lewis Chessmen exhibition at the City Art Gallery. The chess pieces originated (probably) in twelfth-century Norway, carved from walrus tusks and whale teeth. It was particularly interesting to learn so much about the Kingdom of the Isles, which included Lewis, because its Norse kings ruled from the Isle of Man, possibly T. Middy's ancestral home. ("So now I'm a Viking," he announced, secretly pleased.)
One thing also not pictured: we caught a bus from the city centre up to Old Aberdeen. En route, a woman sitting behind us walked up the aisle to talk to the bus driver, and then returned to her seat. "He's not going the right way," she told us. She was right: we were on the wrong road. The bus then seemed to be taking a right, but no - it was actually making a U-turn. This was quite a feat in a double-decker bus, and it involved the bus a) mounting the pavement and b) narrowly missing hitting the traffic lights. I don't think I've ever been in a bus that performed a U-turn before. It drove back to a major roundabout and, this time, took the correct road.
It was chilly up there, unsurprisingly: the latitude of Aberdeen is north of Moscow. Snow was expected, a taxi driver told us, though this piece of information seems to be a requisite piece of taxi-driver banter all over Scotland. We first heard that line in Glasgow in early October. Snow is always expected, and we could see it on not-so-distant mountains when we caught the train home on Sunday.
When we emerged from Kelvinbridge subway station that afternoon, Glasgow seemed incredibly colourful by comparison with Aberdeen - trees along the Kelvin still autumnal, the sandstones of the tenements a rusty gold. We dropped off our bags and walked back into the city to wander about with the c. two million people who throng Buchanan Street every Sunday. I was excited because yesterday was the turn-on-the-Christmas-lights day in Glasgow, but watching the dramatic turning-on in George Square was a forbidden pleasure. Ticket-holders only! The streets leading to the square were barricaded, in case any non-ticketed citizen tried sneaking in and seeing the Krankies for free. This is what it looked like, apparently. An outside ice rink will open in George Square soon, for the season.
The lights on Buchanan Street were on, at least. This photo was taken c 4:30 in the afternoon, so you can see that my claims of Glasgow looking colourful rather than gloomy are greatly exaggerated.
Snow really IS coming, according to the weather man on Radio Four just now - mainly in the east, which is exactly where we're headed on Friday. We'll be visiting friends and family, going to York for the Christmas market and Newcastle for football. It's TM's birthday this week. Our celebrations begin on Wednesday, when we go to see Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art. It may be dark in Scotland, but there's plenty to do.