Tour 2018 - Glasgow & the Lake District (Day 5) / by Mark Messerly


SotD: Sweet Chili and Sour Cream by Deluxe
Finally a winner! Deluxe appears to be the store brand for the Lidl supermarket chain. We were in Cardiff and they were quite inexpensive. Seriously, it’s about the perfect crisp. Tastes like real sour cream and is just a bit spicy. Chuck says it tastes like Play-D’oh but his palette leans more towards wagon train cuisine.

Britishism: tosser - jerk, idiot.
It just doesn’t work with the American accent. But to hear Shaun fling it at an incompetent driver is a thing of beauty. “You bloody tosser!”

The wonderful thing about bandmates who rouse themselves with the alacrity of a grizzly bear in January getting up to let the cat out, is the opportunity to explore. My disappointment at seeing so little of Glasgow disappeared when I realized I could squeeze in about 2.5 hours. We were staying practically under the highway across the River Clyde from the city proper. It feels anticlimactic to call such an important body of water Clyde. I read the history, I know why it’s named Clyde, but there is nothing that says it can’t be given a more noble designation. Would it be OK if the Mississippi was called Kevin? Or the Nile named Gary? No it would not. I will not presume to offer suggestions to such a deep and wonderful culture, but if one were to press me, I might think the River Gillan has a nice ring to it.

I crossed a footbridge on my way to Georges Square and picked up a greasy and gritty Glaswegian glazed gourmet doughnut and coffee. Coffee was good though. The square itself is typical of the form with statues scattered about, including an 80 ft high anatomically correct column erected in honor of Walter Scott, and a stubbier statue dedicated to Robert Burns. Proving there was a time when statues were being built for poets and authors. Fancy that. The City Chambers is gorgeous and the World War I monument appropriately large and touching. That said, there wasn’t much shaking and the people watching slow going, so I scampered off to the Gallery of Modern Art. The gallery resides in a neoclassical building built in 1778. Museums and libraries are my happy places and this one was a cracker. (to use the regional colloquialism) An aspect I would like to see all other museums adopt was a huge library open to the public for free, with 48,000 books on art and other less important things. I loved everything about it. The juxtaposition between the old architecture and the modern art did both a favor, the exhibits were top notch, and my mood was transformed. I was pleased to see the iconic statue called the Duke, (i.e. the Duke of Wellington) with his traffic cone hat. It’s a delightful bit of Glasgow pride that for over 30 years whenever the government removed the cone hat, within days a new one would appear. After an ill-advised plan to raise the plinth* in order to discourage the be-hatting, a worldwide movement rose up and finally forced the government to concede that it’s pretty fucking funny.

On the way out I saw a brochure for something called the Lighthouse that looked cool and was on the way. The Lighthouse is Scotland’s Center for Design and Architecture. And while I have an idea what that means for the average person I’m not quite interested enough to figure it out. However! The thing that was super cool was that the tower itself was Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s first public commision to be built, and one can climb a shit-ton of spiral stairs to end up at the top with a fresh air view of the city. Lovely.

I quite liked Glasgow although I really just dealt it a glancing blow. I love the massive, timeless architecture. I felt a humor and energy there that made me instantly feel like this was a place I could work and spend time. And of course the people of the north are God’s people.**

I got back to the hotel just in time for us to leave for Kendal in the Lake District. We were driving part of the way to Cardiff so this was a day off of sorts. Shaun and I were excited because of the sheepfolds. Sheepfolds were the pens shepherds used to minister to the sheep, trims hooves, etc. They harken back to an older time (or is it a younger time?) and have either disappeared or fallen into disrepair. In the Cumbria County they commissioned Andy Goldsworthy to celebrate “this perfect republic of shepherds.” Andy Goldsworthy is an artist I’ve loved for years but because of the natural nature of his art it’s not something you find in museums. (there is a really cool piece in the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art - proving that everything I say is a lie) Goldsworthy produces, to quote the internet, “site-specific sculptures in natural and urban setting using natural materials and the passage of time.” He’s brilliant. His creativity, skill and what would appear to be the patience of Sisyphus, creates art that sometimes lasts only minutes, or melts as the sun rises. Or these revived sheepfolds could last a hundred years. Here’s a link to the project if you’re interested.

These were the directions we had to follow to find just two of them.

near Kendal (SD 460 931 & SD 460 932)
DIRECTIONS: The site has two folds each containing a large boulder into which a mountain ash tree has been planted. At Underbarrow, between Kendal and Crossthwaite, take the road toward Crook for about 1 mile. The folds are south of Mountjoy Farm through a gate on the opposite side of the road. Walking up the slope, one fold is diagonally to the left, one to the right. The original tree growing in a rock is on the fell above.

This lead us deep into some of the prettiest farm country I’ve ever seen. Everything the cliche of British countryside evokes in you exists right here. The beautiful stone walls spider-webbed over rolling hills, dividing up emerald green fields dotted with fuzzy, white, bleating, shit machines and their deceptively innocent looking offspring.*** The roads were windy and narrow for a large band van and we had to drive a mile down the road before finding a narrow space to tuck it away. We walked under tunnels of trees, passed a cat sitting on an ancient stone wall, staring at us balefully while waiting in vain to hear the words that would prove our worth and admit us entrance to the magical realm currently under siege from the soulless clan know cryptically as “The Developers.” Once admitted we would be tasked to battle them in many small local committee meetings held at inconvenient times in airless city hall basements. Oh, and we saw a pheasant!

We walked through fields assailed by the angry baa-ing of spoiled lambies and stumbled upon the folds. They don’t look like a piece of art any more than the walls that surround them do. Which is to say they do. These two were reconstructed in such a way as to seamlessly integrate into the landscape. When you look closer you notice the details that turn them into something new. What a delightful few hours.

We got back, after barely squeezing through the increasingly narrow labyrinthian country lanes to pick up everyone else, get some dinner, and to decide that we would try to race the sunset to Windermere lake, lying about a half an hour away. Dinner did not agree with me so I held on as we wound through the darkening landscape with what I’d like to think was the grim stoicism of say, Percy Fawcett?

Windemere is obviously a major vacation spot. It was bright, full of lakeside shops and hotels. Very charming. Like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,” or a classy Myrtle Beach. It’s the largest natural lake in Britain and is home to the World of Beatrix Potter. I guess she lived or wrote around here. Did you know that when she died they found the bones of literally thousands of bunny rabbits in her basement? Apparently she dissected them in order to try to get to their essence and portray them more accurately. Benjamin Bouncer and Peter Piper became sadistic overlords and are still whispered about during story time at fuzzy baby bunny sleepovers. It’s true.

We enjoyed the sun setting over the mountains and called it a day. Tomorrow is Cardiff.

*”Raise the plinth” makes me giggle.
** I’m not religious. I spent ten minutes trying to come up with a better description and couldn’t. I love how no one seems to get overly fussed about anything, look as if they’re gauging exactly what level of idiot you are, but then everyone when you actually meet them is as open, kind, helpful, and inclined towards laughter as you could ever imagine.
*** Don’t turn your back - they’ll cut a bitch.