A long and tiresome journey
The journey from Leicester to the fair city of Glasgow was suitably arduous, six hours in length, on a remarkable contraption known as a ‘train’ (although it did not resemble any train that I recognised). I was therefore extremely pleased when my companion, Ceri, pointed out that we had arrived in Glasgow’s Queen Street station. After meeting the rest of our party, the marvellous Viv, Pippa, Heather and Jennifer (who incidentally hails from the New World) we went immediately into town for an exploration of the public drinking establishments. I was very humbled by the reception given to me by this group of excellent ladies, although I should expect it to some degree considering the wealth of thought I have contributed to the academic world. However I digress, where was I? Oh yes, I was about to tell you that the first evening we went for a refreshing beer in the Merchant’s City area of the city (the first of many).
Tasting the best of the city's beers
Then on to eat what I was reliably informed to be one of the finest ‘curries’ in Glasgow, as recommended by Kiran who joined us from Glasgow Museums, and ending the night with a dabble in salsa, although I left this latter activity to my more energetic female companions, being very tired from the train journey.
The remains of a sumptuous meal
Friday morning dawned and our intrepid group convened in the West End, where our hotels were situated, to travel to St Mungos, the only religious museum to exist in the United Kingdom. It was a substantial walk, the streets taking us into the city lined with the most attractive buildings in mellow hues of stone.
Typical buildings found in the West End
Despite the attractions of the architecture, I can say with honesty that we were very much ready for a civilised cup of tea once we arrived at the Museum. We were very pleased to meet Margaret and Tony who took us on a tour of the galleries; my views on religion are well known however I was interested to see how the museum had tackled such a thorny issue without shying away from the less salubrious consequences of belief. My favourite object was the statue of Shiva engaged in an energetic dance; I am very fond of a dance it must be said.
Admiring the exhibits in St Mungos Museum
Another healthy constitution after luncheon (good for the mind as well as the physical being!) took us to the People’s Palace Museum in the East End, an area which has yet to undergo quite the same amount of gentrification as the West End it must be said. However I was very intrigued to see a gaudy replica of the Doge's Palace in Venice masquerading as a carpet factory; what a sight it is!
Above - the carpet factory. Below - The People's Palace Museum
It was not a surprise for someone as intelligent as myself to learn that the People’s Palace Museum is concerned with the social history of Glasgow. Guided around by Rachel who works at the Museum, we were introduced to many of the exhibits which shed light on this most fascinating of cities. I was particularly pleased to see the the strong sense of identity exhibited by the Glaswegians, they are no slaves to their masters!
Paintings in the People's Palace Museum - two sides to life in the city
By now I was feeling somewhat fatigued however I was forced to endure another walk to the third (and fortunately) final museum of the day, the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art or GOMA if you insist in calling it something vulgar. The highlight of this museum was the exhibition in the palatial splendour of the ground floor where the floor was arranged so that it was apt to induce queasiness upon those walking upon it! I was not immune to this effect and was very pleased to ascend to the upper galleries, whereupon we gazed upon the art known as ‘contemporary’ which meant very little to my companion Ceri despite her best attempts to engage with it. I tried to explain its depth but I’m afraid my comments were rather wasted as Ceri seemed only too happy to abandon the Museum to venture into the bookshop opposite; certainly she is a slave to consumerism!
A head in a basket and other compelling artworks in GOMA
A happy night was spent at the Greek Taverna just down the road from our lodgings, although I must admit I indulged a little too much on the fine wines offered there. Sorrowfully it was to be the last night in Jennifer’s company since she would be returning to the New World via the city of London and we bade her a fond farewell that evening.
Someone has had too much to drink!
Saturday brought with it murky weather and pleasant visits to the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and Transport Museum, only ten minutes stroll from our hotels. I was enormously pleased to see that the Kelvingrove was a proper Museum with grand steps to the entrance and inside such a profusion of decoration and riot of colour as to be overwhelming for those less used to the 19th century exuberance as I am. We were introduced to the work of Glasgow Museums by the very knowledgable William before he left us to explore the Museum at our own discretion. I greatly admired the artworks by Charles Rennie Macintosh and other great artists of the 19th century, although most striking of all were the strange heads seen suspended from the ceiling into the gallery. I only wish the Museums of my own time had been quite so daring in their approach.
Top - Nietzsche pretends to read the guidebook. The rest are images from Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery
More strange contraptions were revealed to me at the Museum of Transport. How it has progressed from the carriages of my own time! I saw what are called ‘cars’, carriages that move under their own propulsion, trams which are fashioned to carry many people to their various destinations and, happily, some familiar steam trains. Ceri was keen to show me the exhibition known as ‘Lives in Motion’ which her department helped to secure, and I indulged her enthusiasm. Fortunately the exhibition turned out to be interesting, telling the stories of disabled people and their experiences of transport. However the museum overall is showing its age, and it is to be rejuvenated with a newly designed complex called ‘Riverside.' I made a mental note to return one day and see how fruitful these changes will be for the museum service.
Fun at the Museum of Transport
No visit to Glasgow I feel could be made without some interaction with the design of Charles Rennie Macintosh, in our case the Glasgow School of Art and the Willow Tea Rooms, where we partook of proper leaf tea and incredibly delicious cakes.
Top - the Glasgow School of Art and Below - the Willow Tea Rooms, both designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh
Our final meal took place at a small Korean restaurant where, to my chagrin, I made the mistake of eating an extremely hot red chilli! I do not think my palate will ever function the same way again; despite this error of judgement the food was remarkably tasty, particularly some lightly battered prawn and vegetables which I shall certainly insist my landlady cooks for me once I return home.
On Sunday we said farewell to the rest of the group, and Ceri and I made our way to the Glasgow Necropolis, a hilltop cemetery overlooking the city and thus affording some magnificent views. Until then the weather had been overcast and dull but upon reaching the top of the hill, the sun flooded us with its welcome heat.
Overlooking the city from the Necropolis
Whilst Ceri took a myriad photographs with her ‘camera’ (again I was impressed with the way in which technology has advanced in this age) I took the time to ponder at the way in which some men are obsessed with leaving a legacy of some sort, evident in the proliferation of elaborate tombs cluttering this hillside. I made a note that I would like for myself a grand statue as that allocated to John Knox, who dominates the rest.
A view of the family crypts inspired by Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris
There, you have it. I could have gone on to explain in far greater detail, however Ceri assures me that you, dear virtual reader, have only the stomach for a brief sketch of our adventures and, although I argued that this would not be the case as I expect you have the intellect and capacity to endure far more, she insisted that if people wished to know more they could enquire quite happily in that instance. So I am forced to conclude with the observation that Glasgow Museums are a very interesting breed of museum, evidently alluring to the ordinary person of this unique city. And so this was, for me, a most absorbing visit and one which I would heartily recommend if you happen upon the opportunity.