It turns out she is only being solicitous of my comfort, bless her (as we say hereabouts), reminding me of Dorothy, who had insisted on guiding me in buying my ticket from Dunblane, and two women, one seemingly older than I, who insist on "helping" me up onto the train with my bag. How feeble do I seem? I wonder, as I try to explain graciously that really I'm just fine, thanks. I'd like to add, but don't, being polite and in truth appreciative of care, that I have been doing this train and plane and street and stair business for two weeks now, not to mention the months of travel since May. But it's the Scottish temper to be concerned.
And then there I am in Ada and Clive's house in Cambuslang again, Ada fussing over a sherry for me, then tea with a jelly pancake, and the right chair for me to sit in and whether it's warm enough in the lounge; all I want to do is stretch my legs out and look out to the back garden, whose view, even in the throes of fall, is as charming as ever. It is good to be here. We begin to chat, and, as it turns out, we do not stop talking the whole 5 days, except to sleep at night. First catching up with family affairs, foremost Clive's being in hospital for the past week, grandchildren a close second, then on to the state of the world (a sorry state, both here and across the Atlantic).
Supper (if you can believe it, after all I ate that day, beginning with the fine breakfast at Munro House) is a marvelous goat cheese and beetroot salad with cucumber and tomato, so welcome. Thinking ahead, Ada promises for tomorrow a fish pie of her mother's recipe, after the fishmonger comes down the street in his van with his catch from the North Sea.
In the morning, I sit back down in the lounge, opening the curtains for that view of the garden again. So many impressions of the last days flood in; I can't put them all down. Unlike Edinburgh, which was mostly action, reaction, and sensory effects, Dunblane and now this Glasgow morning are images of a different sort--the sun, for example, this minute, opening the colors of the red flowers and nearby redbush and tinging the pittosporum and boxwoods with gold overlay. I think, too, of our walk yesterday, Dorothy's and mine, the soft grays and dark greens in the trees, the spiky lark, especially. Finding me in this spot, Ada gives me a tour of the paintings on her walls--all from friends, acquaintances and daughter Catriona, so significant because of those connections.
For something Scottish to read while I am here, Ada has lent me a book of poetry...Norman MacCaig's The Many Days, very Scots in form and sentiment, like a man talking in a pub, musing with whomever is near, or perhaps to no one at all. I've been trying to catch as much of the national writing as I can, while I am here, because especially its modern fiction is something I enjoy. In Edinburgh, I had a bit of a conversation about current young women authors with the attendant at Armchair Books, and came away with one she recommended...travel overseas, for better or worse, prevents one from loading up on an armful, when one insists on a small suitcase, the lighter the better (I haven't achieved my ideal yet, but I'm trying). Just now, surrounded with its origins and inspirations, I can hear the storytellers by ear, as well. I find I am edging more into the speech of the region...a cadence more than an accent...as I converse with people. It's a lovely, butter speech, uppity and downward as it goes. Ada says to me, "You seem to understand our Glasgow patter pretty well." Well, it's all that reading, too, the various Scottish "patters" coming through the page.
After a walk through a nature preserve with a wide view of the city, we stop in to a local tea place for soup and a scone, then go on to visit Clive, who is in better form than I expected, considering his frustration that no one can yet manage to manage his heart valve problem (and he an MD himself). He is obviously glad for company. I am sorry to leave him, but understand Ada's concern about late afternoon traffic, and the mess of parking in the new, larger hospital...clearly much less efficient and careful than the old, of whom Ada speaks fondly, pointing it out as we ride.
At home, tea and a wait for the fishmonger, whose absence has already precipitated several phone calls among neighbors awaiting supper ingredients. He has been, apparently, so busy that the smoked haddock, salmon, and perch for Ada's pie are late coming. Still talking, we set to work putting the pie together, and it is delicious (the picture above doesn't do it justice; I'm sorry), so I beg for the recipe, already thinking that I would probably leave out the potato and flour to lighten the sauce, though I wouldn't let Ada know that...she is a recipe person, so there is no changing things about in her kitchen. You will want the recipe, too, whether you keep to it or not, so here it is.
She and I begin at the Kelvingrove Galleries, built as a museum but palace-like in style and girth. It holds some treasures for me...the Scottish colorists, for one, several of which I wanted for my own, especially Leslie Hunter's still life. It includes a history of Scottish life and settlement, too.
Some impressionists, a minor Monet and the wonderful Fergussen were a treat to gaze at and talk over. The sculpture, especially (there I am again, as fascinated by them as at the Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh) beautiful and cleverly juxtaposed to inspire a smile or revelation...a formal portrait of a Scottish soldier (see above) tangent to a self-portrait by a fellow student of Catriona, head hung, shoulders rounded forward, but an attitude of pushing his strong thoughts (we an only guess what they were) forward toward us in angular white, black and cadmium yellow. (I don't have a picture, I'm sorry to say.) Or a lovely clear white marble of a woman resting quietly, contemplating, next to a bronze of awkward post, the skinny kind--I can't remember the artist it reminded me of.
We are talking about sketches, and I open my phone to show Catriona a recent one of Alexandra Bloch's, when I notice that Denise is proclaiming herself only 40 minutes away by train. We scuttle out toward the station, leaving much of the museum unexplored...that will have to wait for another visit another year.
So the visit goes...an afternoon going round the city to get our bearings (as much as we could...Glasgow is a complicated layout when all its annexes and suburbs are included), then bringing Denise back to the house. Catriona leaves to pick up her husband Peter to join us for dinner; meanwhile I, insisting that Ada need not be the hostess every minute...and it does take serious insistence, I assure you...make a lamb curry while Denise and Ada perch in the kitchen near me, commenting and cajoling and pointing to where things are. Although Clive's departure from hospital has once again been delayed, we are cheered by the family dinner and lively conversation.
The next day, rainy, we fall into Ada's itinerary, the Pollock House, its beautiful aspects, its kitchens and luncheon and lawns...and stories, on each floor a different story a different teller.
(Do you know what this is, below on the left? Our midday meal is peppered with questions about it, until someone tells us.)
It is, in fact a lovely way to see Glasgow, in raincoats and sturdy shoes, though admittedly rain isn't often the wish of tourists.
Finally, my long-awaited moment arrives, to visit what is left of the Charles Rennie and Mary Mackintosh house, now part of a gallery belonging to the University. I had been crushed to hear of the absurd fire which destroyed the Glasgow School of Art a few years ago; much of the Mackintoshes' superb work was kept there. Fortunately, I'd visited with Will and Jake years ago, but those famously Art Deco images have stayed permanently in mind, and I'd hoped for another chance at adoration. Now, the Mackintosh house and its three floors of elegantly designed family rooms, part of the University gallery, would have to do.
|This isn't my photograph, either...it's from the Glasgow University site...no pictures are allowed in the rooms themselves.|
And do, they do, though not quite the scale of the art, lost now, at the School of Art...oh, that dining room, gone! Here there are writing desks to cry over; side tables to envy; a bedroom so white it would be ghostly to sleep in, and guest quarters so boldly striped I can't imagine restfulness being a component of the design. It is difficult pulling me out of these marvelous rooms.
Back at Grenville Drive, we find Clive at home, exhausted but still determinedly social, and have a sherry with him, while he talks about a men's choral group we should find in Wales, our next venture into my uncle's family's visits, and listens to what we've been about.
Breakfast with Ada is our last treat...tea and coffee, oatcakes and good Scottish such...and we quietly leave our regards and thanks to Clive, who is sleeping at last peacefully after a not-so night.
Will we find the music Clive recommended for our Welsh trip? Stay tuned...