Apr. 9th, 2006 07:56 pm
leynos: (Default)
The weather being pleasant today, I went on a wee walk. In 2004, I worked for two months for RMJM, the practice that designed part of the Scottish Parliament building and oversaw its construction. This being the case, it struck me as a bit weird that I had yet to actually see said edifice in person, so I chose that as my destination.

I arrived too late to get inside, but I got a good view of the exterior. I've heard a lot said either way about the building, and now is the time to make my own mind up. Well, I wouldn't go as far as to call it ugly, but I couldn't in all honesty call it beautiful either. On the other hand, I would be happy to call it striking. My first impression, upon seeing the MSPs' offices from Holyrood Road was almost awe.

The liberal use of wooden canes in decorating windows is something that feels very individual, and the amount of disjoint curved surfaces used in the design make it very memorable whilst at the same time difficult to visualize in its entirety. On the other hand, I'm not convinced that this is the national symbol that Scotland needs. I could easily imagine it becoming a piece of iconic architecture in years to come, but it doesn't feel like something of the city it inhabits.

It's been said that the Parliament is to last a thousand years. I'm curious how well it will indeed stand up to this test, but it pleases me to hear of people thinking this far ahead. There is an atmosphere of short-termism in the modern buildings of glass and steel that leaves me wondering why people don't build for the ages in the way they did even just seventy years ago.

As a public space however, I feel that the Parliament gardens are a success. The roller bladers grinding on the sculptures outside probably agree with me. I was happy to sit for a good half hour at the foot of Arthurs Seat, admiring the view of the complex flanked by the Dynamic Earth Dome and Holyrood Palace, and overlooked by the Folly on Calton Hill.

On the way back home, I popped into the Bongo Club, where a Sunday social afternoon has been running for as long as I have been clubbing. This is also something I have strangely never quite got around to visiting. I guess I didn't quite know what to expect. Another opportunity to relax is what it presented. There's a nice little cafe upstairs in the Bongo Club, and this is where the music is in the afternoon. So I got to enjoy afternoon tea and cakes over a little light reading, whilst the DJ played some quality chilled reggae and hip hop. (Well, okay, rum and cakes, but who's counting.)

Later tonight, I'm going to head along to Neon. Staying 'til three will be daft, but I'll probably do it anyway.
leynos: (Default)
[ profile] brucec and I had planned to go snowboarding today on the artificial slope at Hillend. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us on without lessons, and the lessons were fully booked. Drat. So on a whim, I decided to visit the National Gallery instead.

It turns out that it hasn't changed much since I last visited with my Mum, ten-plus years ago. Still, my memory is far from perfect, and there was a lot for me to take in. Walking through the renaissance hall, I felt a deep appreciation for the level of detail evident in these paintings. It's humbling to think of the years the painters must have spent studying reflections and perspective in order to produce imagery like that. There was one pianting featuring an intricately detailed suit of armour glinting in the sun in photographic detail. What it must have taken to be the first person to realize the techniques needed to accurately reproduce that.

I'd always been one more for landscapes and still-lifes rather than portraits, but even watching the painters come to grips with recording the human form and then applying that experience to telling stories and conveying emotion or even humour filled me with awe.

In the impressionist hall, I was struck by the way so many of those paintings drew me in, and made me feel a part of the environment being captured. I know it's old news to anyone who has ever studied art, but seeing the evolution of the style and getting a chance to fully take in the magic of these works is something that filled me with joy in a way it didn't a decade ago. The paintings haven't changed, but I have. I still love the mathematically precise virtuoso perspective works, but I now understand the appeal of those vividly flowing silk robes and captivating sunlit glades. I spent a full five minutes entranced by Monet's Shipping at Midnight, taken away to those rough seas I'd envisaged listening to Radio 4, the beam of the lighthouse sweeping through the driving rain and masts straining audibly against the gale.

After that excitement, the Scottish hall in the basement seemed almost sedate, but I was none the less pleased to see how how well the work of my countrymen stood up against the best from Italy, Spain and Holland. Emotive, almost defiant portraits and still lives pulsing with meaning gave me much to think about. There were times when the artists borrowed from painters abroad and made the style their own, such as a portrayal of triumphantly returning trawlers in oil displaying shades of Japanese woodprints, and others where the work was undeniably and irrepressibly local.


Back home for dinner, and I headed out again to the Blazer for the Listening Room. Here Jason put on an amusing set of fresh compositions; Nobody Jones, whose voice is the stuff of heaven, teamed up with his mate to form the Jones Brothers; and Lisa Paton did a competent impersonation of Norah Jones with a guitar instead of a piano. I'm not entirely convinced of Ms Paton yet, but she is performing again at Out of the Bedroom on the 28th, so I will give her a second hearing then. Because I do like Norah Jones.

I also like alcoholic women. They're the only type I seem to be able to really identify with, or hold something resembling a real conversation with. Even if the conversation did involve a large onion and the difficulties of cooking for one. Unfortunately, the lady in question got turned away from the bar and asked to leave. I'd have offered to buy her a drink, but I already had half a Basil Heyden and a pint of Harvestoun Engine Oil to finish.

More tasting notes

W.L. Weller (bourbon) - Nose: Physilis, Cadbury's chocolate, and butter toffee. Pallete: Orange peel, blackcurrent, licorice, slight edge of Irn-Bru. Medium dry mouthfeel. Fades to strawberries and black pepper on the finish.


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