Wednesday, 28 July 2010

In Search of Bon Accord

There's a lot of work going on in my wee corner of the offshore world at the moment which requires a lot of people, not necessarily me. So on Saturday, the optimum point was reached where my bed became more valuable than me, so I was dispatched back to Aberdeen to await the call to return.

It's a mighty slab of a city is Aberdeen. Before the 19th century it was just a normal sandstone Scottish town like any other but then the Georgian city planners then the Victorians laid their hands on it and built umpteen square miles of granite buildings on top of it all. It sparkles a bit in the sunshine but in normal Scottish weather (a bit cloudy and damp) it grey nature comes to the fore. The buildings are for the better part rather plain and it is only really public buildings and banks and the likes that have any real decoration - although this decoration is as a general rule as sharp as the day it was carved as the stone is as hard as...well.....granite. On the whole, I find that Aberdeen can be a bit depressing, not helped by the fact that the local council seems to have a terrible poor grasp of the local homelessness situation. Union Street (the main street, pictured here) always (really always) has several down and outs planted by the side of the pavement and normally I find myself accosted by beggars when I pass through.

For all this Aberdeen has much going for it. it has a fine art gallery, maritime museum and several other museums of variable quality and it is well worth the abandoned chemist's time to spend it wandering around the city trying to look through the gloominess for something a little bit unusual. I was I'm afraid limited to the odd snap from my mobile phone as I don't take my camera offshore.

This curious object (pictured left) left me somewhat puzzled. You'd have thought that the local council might have put a little information near it to give a clue. If the makers (Walter Macfarlane and co of the Saracen Foundry) hadn't put their name on it then I would have had absolutely nothing to go on. Fortunately for the information seeker the internet has a nerd for every occasion and there is a site solely dedicated to Scottish ironwork which tells me that this is a ventilation shaft above an access tunnel - for what, it doesn't say or if it's current location on Holburn street is it's original.

One of Aberdeen's most famous sons is James Scott Skinner, who started out life as plain old James Skinner but adopted the Scott after one of his dancing teachers. Actually, he was born in Banchory and moved to Aberdeen as a boy and again chose to live in Aberdeen in his later years and bought the only house he ever owned there. Almost anyone who has ever played fiddle in a Scottish tradition style will probably be well acquainted with the man, or at least his music. He managed to live just long enough to have some of his music recorded - you can still get it but it's mighty crackly even after it's been cleaned up by technology - he doesn't half nip along when he's playing. I managed to find his house - it's completely anonymous, being completely devoid of the blue plaques that Aberdeen don't seem too shy about putting up for people I've never heard of. Skinner's grave is an impressive affair, sporting a bronze bust of the man himself and the first few bars of one of his best known tunes, the rather lovely slow air, "The Bonnie Lass of Bon Accord"
Just across the road from the graveyard is Duthie Park with the rather excellent David Welch Winter Gardens. I've been before many years ago, when my children were amused by the talking cactus (it's now gone) and we picked up a stray stick insect by accident - it appeared in the hall some days later and we guessed it must have come from there as they don't normally fly in on the wind in Scotland. Here's a few pictures -

As you can see by these pictures, the plants got more and more savage as I progressed round the greenhouses, from the things that looked like fancy nettles to the spiky and quite large cactus to the distinctly carnivorous types, so I though it must be time to heaf back to the B&B for a cup of tea. It's was a generally fine day rounded of by a couple of pints in O'Neil's - There was music provided by Fergal and Duncan - Fergal's a reasonable singer and guitarist but his mate Duncan was a mighty fiddler playing and Irish merging into bluegrass style - I would have enjoyed it far more if the mob had let them play what they wanted and not heckled until the played the old bog standard tunes you hear everywhere, but a fine night all in all.

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