(oups... This became a rather long post. And it’s a translated one, so there might be some linguistical oddities in here...)
I took a trip away from myself. My thoughts were running around in my head like a hamster in a wheel and I couldn’t get out, so I thought a few days somewhere else might be a good idea.
It was a good idea. I went to Glasgow, or rather to Gourock [’gu:rrug] where my friends E and J live.
Finding my way to the home of E and J was its own adventure. I had a paper scribbled full with blank ink where directions such as: -end of terminal-escalator-corridor (smells funny)- last platform- train to Paisley Gilmour St (but buy ticket all the way)... could be read. I found it.
This station I just mentioned, Paisley Gilmour Street, was the first place that truly made me realize that I finally was Somewhere Else. This station could be the scene to almost any movie. It consists of two stonewalls, that from the outside look like a complete building, but instead of a salon it houses four railroad tracks that rush by. The commuters huddle around these tracks on three platforms. On the platforms there are little houses built up for station staff, ticket sales and public bathrooms. These are painted in pale yellow, with deep red details, many decorations and with frosted windows with flower decorations. It is very 1920s. I could just imagine people chasing each other in the stairs in between the platforms. I saw in my head how lovers said goodbye, and how white handkerchiefs were waved from train windows. I could have sworn I saw a man in a trench coat hand a mystical briefcase to a man in a bowler hat...
Eventually I found my way to an apartment with a fantastic view towards the highlands, lamps that occasionally worked, the world’s most comfortable bed and two of the most fabulous people there are as my hosts. They had asked me to pack for cold and clear weather, but as I arrived, so did the oh, so British lilac, gray, wet fog. Then E kindly explained how the view is even more fabulous in clear weather. However, the British grayish, foggy and wet winter with stone houses, railroad tracks, naked trees and green hills feels like a saga to walk around in. A saga where my raspberry red shawl plays the leading part rather than myself. The usual rainy weather at home doesn’t feel magical like that at all.
So, it’s my first night in Glasgow, and it’s already time for what I came this particular weekend to see: Antony and the Johnsons in concert. The ticket said 7pm, but the British go by another time schedule than the rest of us. The opening act went on stage at quarter past eight. At first we thought it was a girl just adjusting her guitar, ”she” suddenly spoke into the microphone with a very deep voice. We quickly named him by his obvious indian name: Little Braid.
Little Braid played his guitar skillfully and proved to all of us how much he must love Nick Drake. It didn’t do anything for me, since it just felt like a long wait for what we came to see.
Very much later he finally came on stage: Antony and his Johnsons. And it was worth the wait. E was tired and kept apologizing for yawning, but I think he thought it was good all the same. I didn’t think it was good. I thought it was magical.
You see, during the last few months, my thoughts have been running wild inside my head. Antony has tried to calm me by singing to me through my mp3-player. Now here he was. For real. And played the soundtrack of my mind. For real. And somehow he made my thoughts and feelings feel real too, and I cried quietly and shivered as it felt as if he sang just for me at times.
He plays himself like he’s an instrument. Only he knows how to give the strongest of notes the most fragile vibrato. Sometimes you fear he’s lost in the scales, but then he just strikes the next chord and he’s back home. I am a bird now.
Day two – Thursday. I took a train to Glasgow Central to go shopping for clothes. It didn’t go too well. All I found were DVDs at bargain prices and book offers. And I had my nose pointing towards the sky most of the time, since there’s so much to see. So many beautiful houses. I walked and walked and walked until my foot didn’t want to walk anymore. Then it was time to head home to Gourock anyway, so I did. And I became a regular attraction on the train since I sat there knitting a shawl, and this lady across the isle just couldn’t hide her interest...
That night was a quiet night in front of the television with E and J and Chinese take-out. We watched snippets of their large DVD-collection since they have a lot that they thought that I should see before I die, including among others Dylan Moran, Billy Connolly and the series Black Books. We laughed hysterically through it all.
Day three – Friday. Time for architecture and art tourism. I took an underground train to the university to find the Huntarian Gallery and the Mackintosh House. The underground was a curious experience. The trains are tiny. The whole system looks as if it was built by hobbits in the 1970s. Every person over 6 feet without a seat stretched out and sighed in relief every time the doors opened, only to fold themselves back in again as the doors closed. Funny.
Arriving at Hillhead near the university the air was heavy with the smell of a beer brewery. When the air is as thick and sweet as that you can have a few breaths for lunch... Glasgow University was another venue perfect for a movie set. I could hardly put my camera down. It was truly wonderful. Eventually I found my destination and that’s where I lost track of time. I guess some explanation is needed here: Rennie Mackintosh is a designer and architect from Glasgow. He has his very own style, but is considered an art noveau man. Art noveau is magical to me, and Mackintosh is one of the best. So give me a house where the home interior of Rennie Mackintosh and his wife has been reconstructed. Mix this up with a few Rembrandts and Whistlers in the gallery next to it, place a guide in there that loves to discuss both art, architecture, Sweden, Canada, Scotland and language with me – in a Scottish accent - and I’ll stay for a long time. There were signs in every room telling me not to use my camera, so I took out my sketchbook to be able to remember the fabulous fireplace. The friendly guide came up to me and said quietly in his Scottish accent that ”...if I’m in the corridor I won’t notice it. If you don’t use the flash...”, so I thanked him a million times and then took a few well chosen photos to cover as much as possible of this little piece of heaven.
Eventually I went back into town and had lunch at The Willow Tea Rooms, where Mackintosh did the interior. I enjoyed a smokie with a baked potato followed by a cup of honey almond tea that still makes my mouth water thinking of it. All of this sitting in a beautiful chair with a very high back. Friday was a good day.
Saturday was a fun day. All three of us went to town, bringing a bonus D, a lovely friend of E and J. This was the day I was going shopping for something I’ve wanted for a long time: a corset. My shopping for clothes hadn’t been too successful so far, but buying a corset was something I had planned all the way from Sweden. We went to the lady that once fitted J into her miracle, and my miracle was waiting to happen. See, this lady called Carol is a corset expert galore. She asked me a bunch of questions. Why did I want a corset? How and when was I going to use it? You see, Carol is very particular about who gets to buy her corsets. You must be at least 16 years old. You can’t buy one for a boyfriend’s sake, and as she puts it herself: ”If you don’t feel fabulous, don’t buy it”. She looked at me. She took one measurement. She smiled and called me ”voluptuous lady” and then went and fetched The Corset. It didn’t fit me well. It fit me perfectly. I felt fabulous so I bought it. It’s the second most expensive piece of clothing I’ve ever owned and I love it.
With my new love in a bag and a smile stretching from ear to ear I left Carol’s shop and J and me went back to the boys who were waiting in a café nearby. Café by the way... Mono is more than that. Café, vegetarian restaurant, record store, concert venue, health food store... and a must-see if you ever go to Glasgow.
D was going to show us a part of town filled with flea markets and antique stores. Too bad we got there just around closing time, but on the other hand I would probably have gone completely amok in there had it all been opened, so maybe it was all for the best. Anyway we found one big antique store that was still opened and I managed to buy only one pair of earrings in a store where I easily could’ve bought a lorry full of things. The earrings were and are truly beautiful though.
Saturday night was yet another night in the living room in Gourock, but with bonus D too since he tagged along. We laughed, drank a few cocktails and talked until after midnight. Eventually I packed my bags and looked forward to about three hours of sleep before a taxi came to take me to the airport.
The taxi driver was a funny man. I think we both laughed all the way to Prestwick Airport.
By the way, I don’t think I got more than about one hour of sleep in that comfortable bed in Gourock, but I slept through the whole flight. And Sunday afternoon I managed to fall asleep in the middle of the Godfather II... Yes, I was still a tad sleepy so to speak.
Anyway, I’ve had a few wonderful days in Glasgow. E and J are more fabulous than most people. Glasgow is beautiful. The views are breathtaking, the food is sweet, the accent is incomprehensible but lovely, the weather is gray and wet and my memories of it all are warm.
I’m definitely going back there one day. If not for all the other reasons, then just to see the view in clear weather...