UK Travelogue Day 10: Let Glasgow Flourish

Monday, June 7, 2010

When Bethany woke me up, I’d been dreaming that someone had been throwing balled-up napkins at me, and that these napkins had important quotes written artistically on them. I was in the midst of the seemingly important task of opening these balled-up napkins up and reading the quotes (difficult, since I generally cannot read while in dreams, not that it ever stops me from trying) when Bethany tapped me on the shoulder to wake me up. Actually, she claims that she was flicking my foot, but I know that can’t be the case: after all, I felt it on my shoulder!

Thereafter ensued a bit of confusion between us as to the time we were actually leaving the hostel. Actually, I was the only one who was confused. As a result of my mental lapse, we arrived at the bus station just in time to miss the 7:45 to Glasgow. I mean, we just missed it. But fortunately, we were in just enough time to watch it pull away up Queen Street, thereby highlighting not only our bitterness, but also giving us a chance to savor the futility of having hurried in the first place. All that brisk walking for nothing! In the interim of fifteen minutes before the next bus left, I had just enough time to get a water and catch my breath, having actually broken into something just shy of a mild trot in order to avoid missing the bus.

Not that it actually worked.

Then since we were already running late, we of course hit road works, landing us in Glasgow more than half an hour after we had told Colin to meet us at the bus station. As we stumbled off of the bus, my eyes immediately began scanning the vicinity for the (never once spotted and possibly nonexistent) “bronze statue” where we were supposed to meet up. Suddenly there came Colin skipping out from behind a set of pay phones, arms flung wide for a welcoming hug.

I, as you know, am well-trained in not offending my hosts in foreign cultures, so this is where Colin will claim that I gave what would pass in some cultures as a hug, with Bethany following suit. You know. If you believe wild, improbable rumors of that sort.

We then trotted the bags down to Colin’s car, which he had conveniently parked on the other side of the city. This slight detour necessitated a walk past the flat where Colin had lived briefly at one time, although as the town has yet to erect a brass plate and/or other historical marker commemorating this, we have only his word to go on.

A tour of the Glasgow city chambers (very grand indeed) seemed to be the first order of business, only when we arrived, a pretty but stern-face blonde receptionist told us to come back in the afternoon for a better tour. We had no choice but to obey her. (The bossy thing.)

Colin had a bit of a panic at his best-laid plans going awry (gang aft agley) so soon; however we soothed him with a handy paper bag and a lie-down in a quiet room. In no time at all, we were back tripping along down Buchanan Street, stopping in notable shops and galleries.

Further mental deliberations upon Colin's part (we could practically hear the mental clogs clicking and whirring) led to our trotting back down to the car and taking it across town to the Glasgow Cathedral, fortunately losing no spare car parts along the way.

Glasgow Cathedral

We spent our time inside the cathedral running around in circles while trying to read an epic inscription on what appeared to be an uncracked Liberty Bell; our time outside - a wander through the scenic and plesantly creepy Glasgow Necropolis cemetery - found us fully absorbed in discussing my various past bone-breaking injuries, Bethany's falls from horses, and (to some extent) her decision to purchase a health care policy for herself, lest she at some point need to get her "brain reattached." Or something.

Glasgow Cathedral

Colin then announced that we were to enjoy lunch in the Willow Tea Rooms. What a fancy idea! We were thrilled with the plan. As we walked down Buchanan Street toward this treat, Colin took an emergency iMovie call from one of his sisters, eventually gesturing us vaguely into a finely-appointed tea room where we got in line to be seated.

Suddenly, he looked up, oriented himself along the space-time continuum, hissed, “ NOT THIS ONE,” and bolted for the door.

While he continued his conversation with his sister, Bethany was able to receive confirmation from a complete (but helpful) stranger that the tea rooms we were in fact searching for were just ahead and to the right.

Inside we found some of the delightful design of one of Colin’s favorite Glasgow artists, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Actually, Colin claimed, in rather bitter tones, that the work of CRM can be seen quite everywhere in Glasgow, and that he’s rather over-valued. (This is what he claimed, mind you. More on this point to come.) It would seem, at any rate, that Charles Rennie Mackintosh was known for his for his use of elongated lines, which may be some explanation for the Alice-in-Wonderland chairs.

In the moment

I half expected someone to bellow “Clean cup! Move down!”

Lunch was delightful: the food, the tea, the company, the view of road works just outside the window. And if some people could not be bothered to pay attention to the delights of the meal, that's not my fault:

Inverted Matching

From lunch, we wandered back up Buchanan Road, stopping for our first official Jump Shot together, having for once someone else along to do the photographing. And I must say it was helpful having Colin along, because he got us both in the air perfectly the first time. Whether or not this can be attributed to our mad jumping skills or his supposed genius behind the lens is a doubtful argument, and a silly one to make in any case. (But just for the record, it was us.)

Buchanan Street Jump!

Back to the square next, for the scintillating afternoon activity of sitting on a bench chatting and waiting for our tour. Topics of conversation included geocaching, the continued popularity of Mr. T within the UK, Glasgow’s motto, and the probable personal histories of other people sitting in the square.

We also saw the sun at that point, which proved to be a rare enough occurrence that I find it worth mentioning.

Travel Bug

The tour of the city chambers proved entertaining enough, but not exactly for the reasons one might suppose.

Glasgow City Chambers

First, our tour guide spoke some rare, hitherto unknown dialect of English of which we could only catch snippets. “Okeeeey, so…” being the most obvious words to catch, since they prefaced nearly every single sentence. Although she was quite pretty, in a blonde and shiny sort of way, she seemed incapable of smiling. Her hair also seemed to have been blown all to one side of her head by a stiff breeze before being pinned in place. I found her entertaining enough that I barely glanced at the imported Italian marble, the intricate mosaics, or the portraits of former Lord Provosts.

Next on the itinerary was the Kelvingrove Gallery, an odd mixture of art, history, naturalism, and random leftover objects donated from estate sales. Especially notable was the dog sculpted entirely of discarded rubber boots ("Wellies"). Here I learned of the existence of The Glasgow Boys, of the Glasgowians' collective obsession with the American Wild West, and that this is one place I could never, EVER bring my small nieces and nephews if I ever wanted them to sleep again:


Just before moral support arrived in the form of Seoras, Colin began claiming he felt “done in,” and having been denied a restorative Coke by the café, (which was shutting just as we arrived) he actually began weaving and staggering about in a most alarming manner. With Seoras having arrived to back him up, he led us out behind the museum to a little outdoor refreshment stand, where he was able to revive himself with a juice pouch. Literally, that’s all it took.

Attributing his weakness to his “early start” of 6:30am, - which by the way was earlier than Bethany and I got up to travel all the way over from Edinburgh - Colin soon seemed himself again. Just as Nma was about to join us, having just gotten off work, the skies unloaded some rain, which we trotted through back to the car, again conveniently parked as far away from us as possible. While stuck waiting to cross the street, I did attempt to take shelter under a vertical metal pole, which worked about as well as you may imagine.

Then, just as the rain let up… (pause for fanfare) Nma arrived! She and Colin immediately launched into a dizzying ten-minute debate about what to do next, every other sentence ending with “…and then we’ll all go back to mine,” or else “…and then we’ll go to yours.” Eventually things seemed sorted out, possibly because Seoras finally announced a random decision and we all shut the car doors and drove Colin and Nma away from one another before either one could fully process their rebuttals.

Having transferred our goods over to Nma’s car, we took off for her end. The drive went quickly despite a bit of traffic, mostly because there seemed to be so much to say. Before settling us in her flat, she took us up to see the view from the top of the hill near her place, where we became so engrossed talking that we forgot the guys (now plus Mark) were waiting to meet us down at her place.

Dramatic skyline

Waiting to get a word in edgewise

A lovely dinner of Chinese take-out by the waterside rounded out the day nicely. Mark regaled us with tales from his recent adventures along the Highland way, I dropped dinner onto my jeans, Seoras sat communing with his own deep thoughts, Nma practiced her Stink Eye, and we all comfortably passed the time in eating and mocking one another. The food was good, the scenery beautiful, the company entertaining, and it was as enjoyable a meal as I’ve spent on a vacation.

Eventually the others drove the dinner remains (and themselves, I presume) back while Colin took us on a walking route back to his place. This did include some waterside jumping, which I’m sad to say took Colin more than one shot to capture. This may have had less to do with any deficiency on his part and more to do with the fact that I kept running across the beach and forgetting to jump.

In any case, we seemed incapable of escaping a game of Articulate. Choosing teams became much more complicated than necessary - involving broken toothpicks and such to sort itself out.

Round One passed smoothly enough, but during round two, when we split up into teams of two, the entertainment factor suddenly skyrocketed. Most amusing of all would be Bethany and Colin, who seemed incapable of keeping track of whose turn it was to give off clues. They eventually resorted to passing an object back and forth between themselves in an effort to keep it fair. (This being after Colin skipped Bethany’s turn and got her so fussed that she couldn’t even find herself capable of guessing. I believe this was around the same time he fell into his Disraili Diatribe, but I may be mistaken.)

Nma and I made the most of our partnership, bossing and condescending to one another as we took turns guessing. At times, she seemed to forget what the point of the game was, responding to my clues with, “Oh did he really?” and “Oh yes, I see.” Mark and Seoras communicated in a near-impenetrable jumble or rolling R’s, round vowels, and footballing terms. Toward the end, everyone was either half falling asleep or too loopy to make any sort of sense. It was wonderful.

Back at Nma’s, all my rosy daydreams of girl talk foiled by exhaustion, we fell into bed immediately and were nearly instantly asleep.

* * * * *

Side note: Found out the next day from Nma that June 7th, the day of our arrival in Glasgow, coincided with an iAnnouncement from iApple regarding their newest iProducts and iPrototypes.

As rumor has it, announcements such as these constitute High Holy Days for iFans, generally celebrated by iFans staying at home all day in their pajamas while participating in obsessive blogging, overdosing on Earl Gray Tea, and hitting the refresh button 80,000 times. Not only did Colin never even MENTION Apple - other than to point out casually the Apple store along Buchanan Street - he made light of the event the next day, claiming that due to some internet leak involving a phone left out some place (?), the bloom was off the rose regarding this particular iAnnouncement.

But I think we all know the truth.

In the moment

Chalk it up to iFriendship.


  1. Okay, now I really want to go to Scotland!

  2. Almost all of our "old world" family lives in Glasgow. I hope the surly receptionist was a cousin! =P Last time I was at the Cathedral was for a family wedding, looks the same. You are making me want to take another trip over!

  3. Julie, I would love SO MUCH to find out that you could be related to our tour guide, but sadly I don't think it's possible. She seemed to lack humor AND sarcasm. No way you two shared gene pools.

  4. OOookay.

    First of all it's Glaswegians NOT Glasgowians(??!) Ch!

    Secondly I did not say I was averse to CRM but that we were all a bit sick of the sight of it due to its over abundance in merchandise form in Glasgow (at least that was what I was trying to say in my head but you know what trouble I was having with long sentences that day)

    and thridly, LET IT BE KNOWN that just because you only CHOSE to take a picture of me when I HAPPENED to have my phone out gives a false impression to your readers of it's ubiquity on said day. My obvious indifference to the mentioned Apple event that day underlines what a gross exaggeration has been made of my engrossment in such punditry.

    How you remember all these things from then I have no idea. I can barely remember what I did yesterday. And WHO HAS NEVER HEARD OF BENJAMIN DISRAELI, I mean really!

  5. Your tone of voice (dripping with disdain) IMPLIED your aversion of CRM, but then again if I do indeed have Asperger's (DO I?!?!?! How am I to KNOW?!?!) then I'm the last person to judge.

    Disraeli! Wasn't that the clue when you tried to tell Bethany what it "sounds like," leading to a ten-minute argument about the rules?!

  6. Yes it probably was but where else am I to go with a person so cultural impaired I ASK YOU?

  7. I have no idea who he is, so your clue was not helpful in any case


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