I’ve loved this building since before I knew who Margaret Macdonald (1864-1933) and Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) even were. Glasgow Boys and Whistler inside. Almost as great as heading to dinner with my brother and sister-in-law and on to the pub with the incredible Mitch Miller and getting my own copy of Nothing is Lost. To be discussed further, but the coolest thing I’ve seen in forever. You could own it too.
I loved this more than I can say, it is massive and labyrinthine and fantastic and grimly inventive, it is pure Glasgow plus so much more. It is cities and class politics and energy and the connections between physical and mental illness and art and obsession and stubbornness. And a dragon.
I confess that while reading I hate to find myself suddenly muttering to myself ‘you stupid cow,‘ and if the book is written by a man I hold it against him, but that couldn’t stop me here. I generally hate it when books escape into authorial ramblings and discussions of fate and power, yet that didn’t phase me either. Perhaps he had me when Sludden says ‘Tell me why you use the balcony,’ and Lanark answers:
‘I’m looking for sunlight.’
Perhaps that is all this book really is about.
I felt that way in my time in Glasgow, I loved it so much but always with that corner of yearning for the sun.
I don’t even know how I decided the following things were worth writing down as opposed to other things, but regardless I have shared what those pages contained with their dog-eared corners. in a way it felt all or nothing. I could have shared every footnote and snippet of history in the footnote section, I loved that conceit, as I did the references to so many authors, many of whom I caught and a number I was so happy to see, like James Kellman and Tom Leonard.
I could outline to you how much I loved the ways that cities and worlds and power intertwined. But maybe just the quotes, like this on what working class kids wish and how impossible it all seems, which is just magic.
I had a wish to be an artist. Was that not mad of me? I had this work of art I wanted to make, don’t ask me what it was, I don’t know; something epic, mibby, with the variety of facts and the clarity of fancies and all of it seen in pictures with a queer morbid intense colour of their own, mibby a gigantic mural or illustrated book or even a film. I didn’t know what it would have been, but I knew how to get ready to make it. I had to read poetry and hear music and study philosophy and write and draw and paint. I had to learn how things and people felt and were made and behaved and how the human body worked and its appearance and proportions in different situations. In fact, I had to eat the bloody moon!” (210)
A moment when the girl isn’t being a total cow. Because this is true too:
She pulled a face and went out, saying, “It’s hard to shine without encouragement.” (359)
And ah, Dennistoun public library. I bet that part is real:
The conjuror scratched his hair furiously with both hands and said querulously, “I understand you resentment. When I was sixteen or seventeen I wanted an ending like that. You see, I found Tillyard’s study of the epic in Dennistoun public library, and he said an epic was only written when a new society was giving men a greater chance of liberty. I decided that what the Aeneid had been to the Roman Empire my epic would be to the Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Republic… (492)
There is nothing I don’t love about this:
Perhaps my model world is too compressed and lacks the quiet moments of unconsidered ease which are the sustaining part of the most troubled world. (494)
And a return to my idea to always write down the last sentences of things — perhaps despite the last few disastrous last sentences of the last few books it was a good idea after all — because this made my little geographer’s heart go pitter pat:
He was a slightly worried, ordinary old man but glad to see the light in the sky.
I STARTED MAKING MAPS WHEN I WAS SMALL SHOWING PLACE, RESOURCES, WHERE THE ENEMY AND WHERE LOVE LAY. I DID NOT KNOW TIME ADDS TO LAND. EVENTS DRIFT CONTINUALLY
EFFACING LANDMARKS, RAISING THE LEVEL, LIKE
I HAVE GROWN UP. MY MAPS ARE OUT OF DATE.
THE LAND LIES OVER ME NOW.
I CANNOT MOVE. IT IS TIME TO GO.
Bridges.I love them.
I heard a fascinating lecture by David Gilbert (London Holloway University of London) the other day, on London’s Hungerford Bridge. Also known as the Charing Cross bridge…it was a look at the symbolic significance of the prosaic, not the splashy and fanciful architectural feat. In fact, Hungerford was long considered the eyesore of London, there’s an amazing little illustration from Punch magazine showing a devil staring at the bridge titled ‘The Spirit of Ugliness’. The name of the talk in fact, but I don’t want to steal the thunder. Here is an image of it as it is today, the prosaic and ugly metal railway bridge now hidden by the pedestrian walkways:
It is beautiful. And even its ugliness was painted many times, its metal disappearing into the mist of the Thames…
What I loved most about the lecture was how it made me think. Bridges are fundamental elements to the city, but often unsung (with the exception of those towering examples of technical steel and beauty, or history). They are spaces of connections, flows, and movement, as opposed to walls which contain. They are a kind of unique public space, a meeting place of difference, they have constantly changing rhythms depending on the time of day, and they open up vistas of the city in ways nothing else does. And I’ve always loved bridges, so I went to my flickr page to pull photos and meditate on this love.
Apparently I primarily love what is found under bridges. How extraordinary.
Perhaps it’s the years in LA where bridges are somehow none of these things, but have been distorted and twisted into something entirely different. Here many of them are built so that you can never cross them on foot. It is true that you can cross one or two of the bridges that span the river, but that is the division between East and West, one of the hardest LA divisions to step across in every sense. For most bridges, their function is to move as many cars as possible as quickly as possible through a landscape controlled and despised by its occupants.
Here poverty and resistance send people under the bridges. Into spaces that fill you with rage at what can be done to a city, spaces that give you that undeniably pleasant feeling of mixed tragedy, beauty and danger, that thrill of the photographer that I always try to keep a close watch on…
These bridges built over the pulverized skeletons of a destroyed community, and supporting freeways that divide L.A. into its terrifying sections of racial segregation and despair, it is underneath them that new communities grow, communities that break your heart
And the beauty?
Where everyday resistance has taken them back, reclaimed them, like Chicano Park in San Diego
And so even when I lived in Glasgow I seemed to keep my eyes down, though the view was untouched by pain
Maybe I shall think about trying to photograph what is on top of bridges, and what can be seen looking outwards…without ceasing to spend time underneath.
So I know Andy Murray lost the U.S. Open yesterday, Federer was playing brilliantly and there wasn’t much hope…
But I watched the match in a Glasgow pub, and it was extraordinary. The great working class, yelling unrepeatable phrases at the screen, as much into a tennis match as they were into the Scotland v. Macedonia qualifier for the world cup. To be sure, there were less of them, but they were no less emotional, no less committed, no less gutted in defeat. It was extraordinary. And I suppose it is nationalism, and nationalism is bad bad bad. But there was also something lovely about hoity tennis players being fluently cursed in broad and colloquial glaswegian, and I enjoyed myself immensely.
And no one else seems to remember the Monty Python sketch where evil alien blancmanges come to earth and turn everyone in the world into scotsmen so they (the blancmanges) can win Wimbledon. It is one of the most absurd ridiculous sketches of all time, and one of my favourites. I think it adds a bit more depth to Andy Murray’s presence at the US Open. But I could be wrong.
Today I wandered lonely as a cloud…no wait, that was yesterday, I didn’t work yesterday and luxuriated in blue skies and sunshine, it was fucking beautiful. I went for a run in the Maryhill Woods. Now when I say run, I mean something closer to a short run slowing to a short jog punctuated by long intervals of walking. I remember running back in the day before I ruined my shins, remember running in the dusk and the earth sped beneath my feet and it was effortless and I was motion and nothing more, the wind blew right through me. That was long ago though, now I’m finding running to be a bit more of a sado-masochistic activity, the best thing about it is returning home exhausted and virtuous and sleeping soundly through the night, I am missing my bike ride to work.
But yesterday, ahh, I stripped down to my tank top yesterday and found a new trail up along the hill looking out over Semple Loch and the second loch just to the south and the sun beat down and the wind smelled of spring and the birds were singing and I saw lambs gambolling about and they were so beautiful and I thought holy shit, I live in Scotland. I still can’t quite believe it. Every now and then walking down a Glaswegian street I shake myself and smile just at the thought of it. Especially when someone’s playing the bagpipes, I love the buskers here. You have the bagpipes of course, but there is an amazing reggae player, an old guy who plays old electric guitar surfer music, a 3 man band playing rock’n’roll, and a duo on guitar and accordeon. Last time I passed them they played the theme music to Amelie and gave me 5 minutes of magic on my way to work.
Ahh work, I knew there was a reason to go for that masters…I was not cut out for retail. I like people well enough, but to be all smiley and bubbly and friendly and repeat the same phrase a hundred times to a hundred different faces, well, it makes me want to spit. I am learning an immense amount about breasts however, principally that I am quite happy with mine. Oh, and that in spite of that they will actually get bigger. I do have to get pregnant first, that’s a bit of a downer, but apparently they don’t really look back after the first one. I am also now able to sing along to all of the pop hits, my repertoire of chatter on girly subjects has grown by leaps and bounds, and I am making friends, so on the whole as a life experience this is has been right up there. Still, I am more afraid of being questioned about nursing bras then I ever was to sneak into the Morrison hotel in the dead of night…a small character flaw when your fears involve underwear and not your physical safety. A wonder these genes ever made it as far as they did.
So I’m trying to figure out if I’ll be earning enough to move out and rent a small room somewhere…it’ll be tight but probably worth it. In the meantime I’ve been amusing myself, I’ve embarked on one mad adventure and I’d tell you all about it but am hoping that everything I write on the subject will be one day copyrighted and sold in newsagents everywhere so you’ll just have to wait for it to be published. I’ve started work on the novel as well, I knew moving was a fucking brilliant idea.
And I’m having so many adventures that some can be shared…yesterday I went into town and walked around with Bob, started at the Gallery of Modern Art which is kind of a cool place and I discovered there’s a library and a cafe in the basement, who knew? I’m going to have to go back and see about getting a card. On the second floor there’s a crazy art piece about the weapons invented by schoolchildren, I quite like it. So after a coffee and some discussion of the common good games, we went off on our walk and Bob’s brilliant to walk with, he knows everything about everything. We passed my new place of work, walked past the old sherrif’s courts and I learned that the building in front used to be an old sweatshop with artist studios on top and Bob had a studio up there and they used to sit out smoking weed while staring down at the sherrif’s bldg, and when the sweatshop workers went on strike in mid winter, they’d come warm up with a quick coffee or tea in the studio before heading back out to the picket line. Passed the Trongate which has a brilliant history: http://www.tron.co.uk/about.asp?page=History, and the Panopticon theatre where Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy made his stage debut http://www.monklands.co.uk/panopticon/index.htm… I love Laurel and Hardy, and I love Glasgow, this town is full of treasures and no one even knows that they’re there. Hope the fucking council doesn’t decide argyll street needs another mall and that it has to knock more cool old buildings down.
Then we headed down to the print shop, I love print shops, met Tom who prints all kinds of radical literature for groups for free, prints the variant paper, and whose door is covered with stickers I assume he printed as well, anti-war, anarchist, punk rock groups, anti poll tax…very cool. Walked past the old anarchist centre which is now a trendy shop selling very expensive industrial looking jewelry. Walked on down to an art centre right next to the 13th note…will have to go back to that pub, plastered with indie rock posters and have bands playing live in the basement, but the art spot was cool as well and I got to go into my first darkroom which was brilliant, made me want to go buy a proper film camera and play with chemicals, I think I’m going to take a class. Heard stories about art under Maggie Thatcher and the beauty of a tube of vermillion paint…fucking beautiful man. I don’t think Bob paints anymore, but I really want to see his canvases which apparently are all huge and piled up in his basement…I’m dead curious to see what kind of things he was painting. After leaving there we met up with someone named Jo who makes documentaries, and the first question out of her mouth was, “well, how was your equinox?” Who knew it was the equinox? Fuck me, can’t believe I let another equinox slide past without proper celebration, which I’d hope involves alcohol, my celebration certainly would at any rate. Found another great pub, cafe, vegie fare place, could end up one of my favourite places here I think…big, relaxed, good music, lighting that’s brilliant cause it has this dome sort of thing…and definitely lefty, bet its one of those places you’re always running into people you know if you’re involved in anything here. Called Mono anyways. So it was a brilliant day, it even snowed! And the wind was calm so the snow just floated down to kiss your face just the way I like it to do, it was beautiful even if it melted as it hit the ground…the hills were all covered in snow and shining white…too bad I started coming down with something yesterday and spent most of today in bed. Reading the Kite Runner, it’s a bit shattering.
Oh, and I think you can tell I haven’t been able to curse freely since last Monday morning…
Ahh, beatles reference, nothing beats it! It is of course late afternoon and I am sitting in my uncle’s office with a torrent of water pouring down the little waterfall, it is quite incredible what some rain will do. Today on the train back from Glasgow I saw a rainbow between Paisley Gilmour Station and Johnstone and it made me extraordinarily happy. I do not believe that rainbows represent God’s promise to Abraham never again to destroy the world by flood…even if they are nothing but a refraction of light and water they are miraculous, but I like to believe they are promises of something, pure beauty flung across the sky, living colour against the darkness, a call to remember that life is fucking marvelous and to be lived as deeply as possible. My ipod was presenting a classic rock moment as I watched, a little Marshall Tucker band and led zepplin, it was perfect.
I have this ring I wear all the time, silver with amber set into it. I was sitting on the rapid bus down Wilshire in L.A.next to this guy who was tatted and pierced and covered with jewelry and scarily thin. He liked my amber earrings so we started talking and I was telling him about all of the wonder and magic of the Tucson gem and mineral show, and as we approached La Brea his friend sitting across from us pulled out a rubber tourniquet and wrapped it around his arm, then a little vial and shook some heroin into a spoon and held his lighter under it and then he pulled out a syringe and filled it up and I know my face changed. The pain of his addiction hit me like a hammer for some reason even as I pretended not to see not to know not to feel, I raged at the sadness of the human life before me because every human life is beautiful and I wished there was something inside of me strong enough to stop him, to make him choose life, to give him hope as a gift without judgement…I wished I were more like a rainbow than a girl. He sat there, hand with syringe in pocket, veins bulging beneath the rubber, leg nervously bouncing up and down from the balls of his feet, waiting for the bus to stop so he could shoot up. The guy I was talking to leaned over and said it’s alright, there’s nothing anyone can do but him, but us. And then he pulled this ring off of his pinky finger as he stood to go and gave it to me and it was so unexpected I took it without thinking and then protested but he was already on his way out the door…it’s a prized possession though I don’t know why looking at it makes me happy…
Last day in Scotland? Perhaps I’m staying here tomorrow as well and leaving Tuesday but who can tell? I have to call the relatives and match up plans, we shall see how that goes, i have been truly terrible at communicating with my relatives so hopefully we all stay relatives at the end of this trip…mm, its only friends you can lose through lack of communication isn’t it, i’m just being very silly, possibly the massive hangover has something to do with that, erm, anyways, thought i’d do a little pictorial tour of Glasgow, I love this city!
Cool museums, though I’m not a hige museum person, but this is Kelvinhall, recently opened and FREE! Also has Dali’s crucifiction on display…
And the People’s Palace, also FREE! Where you can wear the displays!
Mm, we have great streets and great buildings, especially since i was lucky enough to have generally great weather
Everyone knows I like grafitti and some of the work here is great, we have one piper piping:
And one rogue
Also dragged the little brother to McKenzie’s Willow Tea Room…not happy…
He was hating until he discovered the joys of scones with cream and jam, then he thought it was all right…I must admit, pink and grey and tea rooms full of old ladies don’t do it for me really, but the billiard room was brilliant…Finally, St George’s Square…lots of other streets I loved and good times had and pubs enjoyed but they might have to wait for another day…
Just a short update for those of my friends anxiously waiting to hear how my holiday is going…very well! Don’t have much time to write sadly cause i’ve been fiddling about with my photos but here are a few of the best…
Here is home base in Howwood where I’m staying with the uncle and aunt…
Went up to Loch Tay and saw Castle Menzies rather than the Crannog which was an excellent decision,
Tristram is in Hamilton, not scenic at all I’m afraid, but we took a little day trip to Chatlehraut – that is obviously a massacring of the spelling, but since i have already admitted i can’t spell…besides, it’s french
Climbed Ben Lomond as well, my first Munro! Here is one view…
And a little bitty picture of me at the top!
Also took a day trip out to New Lanark and the Clyde Falls, which were incredible, though those stairs after Ben Lomond caused me great sadness…
Lot’s more but have to run…these pictures all look very healthy and outdoorsy, but never fear, I have also been taking full advantage of the pubs and drinking heavily…