Thursday 10 June 2010


Glasgow looks like a nice city, but like most northern cities, it's a bit wet and grim in the drizzle. It's also a bit dead before 10.00 am, which is when things start opening. I was really keen to visit some of the places described in Rob Roy, since I was reading it obsessively just a couple of weeks ago. However, of my two 'colleagues', one was sick and the other was tired, so things were a bit tricky for me. I managed to find the cathedral and necropolis, but they backed and filled at the idea of being out in the rain amongst tombs. I was a bit disappointed because I haven't seen anything quite like the Necropolis since I was at Pompeii. The Romans were known for building real cities of the dead outside the cities of the living, and this is a similar type of place. I later managed to get a drawing of its skyline at a museum and learned that it was opened in 1833, and specially designed to limit the risk of infection from cholera and typhoid. Since our recent visit to the catacombs of Paris, I'm starting to build up a picture of a crisis in management of dead people in the early 19th century, involving overcrowding and infection from existing resources. It's a little remembered story now, and I think there is also a religious aspect: cremation would not have appeared acceptable to most Christians two centuries ago, but it has come to solve what would otherwise be a worse problem in our times.

We visited the cathedral which out to be my favourite type of church - all mixture of styles from medieval to modern and lots of hidden spaces. I found the crypt where Rob Roy arranged his meeting secretly with Frank. It looks far too small and brightly lit for the purpose now, but as Antonia pointed out, churches used to be lit by candles. After that we went to the museum of religious life and art which was surprisingly good. For non-British readers, I should explain that religious education is compulsory in British schools, but it often takes the form of an education in world religions. This museum appeared to be designed to fulfill that role for the local schools with art and artefacts from many religions of the world, arranged by theme and culture. School groups studied a contemporary painting and Antonia analysed the contents of the Seder plate and drew a Sikh symbol. Meanwhile, I got my sketch of the Necropolis.

Next, we went to the museum of modern art. It's a very nice building, but we weren't much taken by any of the current exhibits. We went and had lunch in a pseudo-French brasserie opposite and studied its architecture instead. That is to say, Antonia and I had lunch while poor Mike just watched us. There were a whole bunch of other museums and sites it would have been fun to see, but it seemed wise to head for our hotel and get some rest before starting the WHW the next day.

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