Thursday, February 16.
Up up and away at crack of dawn to Glasgow, and my weekly tussle with the German language for the better part of three hours in Glasgow’s Goethe Institut. I parked for free on Cleveden Drive. It’s still about two miles from my destination, but I’m too mean to pay the exorbitant parking fees on Park Circus, and I enjoy the walk through Glasgow’s West End, via the Botanic Gardens. I paused as usual for a flat white at The Paper Cup on Great Western Road. I was able to read Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation speech, in full, in The National.
It’s a very good speech, frank, honest, and deeply personal. I don’t know why some of the First Minister’s critics were so mean-spirited about it. Even Donald Trump managed to be more gracious to Hilary Clinton when he won the Presidency in 2016. He’d said her crimes were “egregious”, and had his mass gatherings chanting “Lock her up!” Then when he defeated her, he thanked her for her years of public service. “And I mean that most sincerely.”
I left The Paper Cup, walked past Hillhead School and cut through the cloisters of Glasgow University and then up through Kelvingrove Park in the direction of the statue of Lord Roberts of Kandahar, on horseback, looking back towards the University Tower. Somebody has defaced the statue with the word “Murderer”.
German was great fun, but terribly difficult (for me, anyway). Viel Spaß, aber furchtbar schwierig.
Afterwards, to unwind, I headed down as usual to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in time for the daily 1.00 pm organ recital. You are more likely to hear a medley from The Sound of Music than J. S. Bach’s St Anne’s Prelude and Fugue. Don’t knock it; Climb Every Mountain is rather impressive on the organ.
Then I retraced my steps to the car, parked about 100 metres from my birthplace, Redlands Hospital, no longer there (the hospital, not the car). Having some time on my hands, I took a further walk down Amnesia Lane, passing the various houses where I stayed as a child. We continually flitted between grand mansions, because my mother and her three sisters ran care homes for the elderly in Glasgow’s West End. My earliest recollections are full of the decrepit, the incontinent, and the confused. My mum’s oldest sibling, Auntie Susie, had an extraordinary ability to acquire grand houses. I don’t know how she did it. She said she never had to take out a mortgage. She was a Gael and I think she cultivated Highland connections. She had started life downstairs “in service”, and she ended up looking after the aristocrat for whom she had worked. 50 Cleveden Drive had a rather grand bathroom on the first floor which had been installed to accommodate a visiting Prime Minister – I think it might have been Andrew Bonar Law.
One of my school chums lived virtually next door in another grand house at the corner of Cleveden Road and Cleveden Drive. This was a “home for unmarried mothers.” I would pass them on my way to school, smoking cigarettes at the corner, heavy with child, looking as if they were about to be run over by a truck.
I crossed Great Western Road and walked past Gartnavel General Hospital to Hyndland Station, over the footbridge and into Broomhill. For some reason the street names are all redolent of English history – Marlborough, Randolph, Churchill, Naseby, Edgehill… I used to get up at 0630 to deliver papers on Naseby and Beechwood Drive, and because I rarely went to bed before midnight I spent half my school career in a state of terminal exhaustion. I just remember the letter boxes were as tiny as the Sunday papers were bulky, and there were an inordinate number of homeowners in Beechwood named Colquhoun.
51 Rowallan Gardens. Our longest stay. I have fond memories of it, but you forget the bad times. We had a protracted war with our neighbours who couldn’t stand the sound of the piano or the viola, and would turn their radio up full blast. I remember my father later voicing a regret. We should have moved.
Hyndland School. The alma mater. A penitentiary in red sandstone. Spero meliora, said the school motto. Were meliora achieved? Goodness only knows. I popped into Hyndland Bookshop, a wonderful independent bookshop full of enticing titles. I bought Stephen Hough’s Enough, Scenes from Childhood (Faber, 2023). I had already read the concert pianist’s Rough Ideas (Rough, Enough, rhymes with Hough). I suppose this was Hough’s own version of a walk through the environs of his childhood, in his case the Wirral. He doesn’t have a good word for Chethams, the music school, at least as it was in the 1970s. It sounds bleak, tatty, and even sordid. I was reminded of George Orwell’s memoir of a miserable childhood, Such, Such Were the Joys.
17 Dowanside Road. I remember a “speaking tube” between the ground floor and the basement, presumably whereby you could in a former age demand of the help a cup of afternoon tea. At the top of Dowanside Road and just round the corner, 4 Crown Road North. Auntie Susie also acquired No 6 and knocked a hole in the wall between them, while her sister Effie had the tall and stately number 15. I stayed in 15 when I started school aged 5. It was a walk of about half a mile. I remember on day 2 I decided that school wasn’t for me, and walked home about mid-morning. I was promptly turned around and sent back.
1 Queens Gardens, opposite Notre Dame School. Auntie Mhairi’s business, after 30 Marlborough Avenue.
And finally, 2 Lorraine Road, the first of the nursing homes, acquired I think just before, or perhaps during the war. My mum being a midwife delivered all my cousins there. I took it all for granted. Four highland women running a network of care homes across Glasgow’s West End – well, it was just de rigueur. Quite extraordinary.