A Million Miles from Toowoomba

What a glorious day of sunshine and blue skies. Well, until 4pm when the black clouds returned and the rain started falling. Mind you, I was back in the apartment by the time the rain returned. Poor Mirinda wasn’t and she’d forgotten to take the umbrella she bought yesterday when it happened then as well.

My day started at the National Gallery (after a brief latte at Starbucks) somewhere I haven’t been for years. There are presently some renovations going on which will mean they will be able to display a lot more of their works. A Schumanian assured a gentleman that by mid 2020 the works will be complete.

Actually I had an odd day full of various nationalities. Almost everyone who served me today was not Scottish. Well, except for the three most important ones: two bartenders and a very knowledgeable fellow in a whisky shop.

As I said, I started at the National Gallery where I was reacquainted with the beautiful Campbell sisters who I haven’t seen since bumping into them at the V&A back in 2015.

That’s them on the left

I had a lovely wander around the ground floor before heading upstairs. Mind you, I almost didn’t venture upstairs given the only sign indicating there WAS an upstairs proclaimed it for the Impressionists. As it turned out, there was some Impressionist stuff but there was also more interesting styles as well.

Possibly my favourite painting in the whole gallery was upstairs. It is a depiction of the argument between Titania and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is huge and is full of a multitude of fairies of all manner and size. In fact, Lewis Carroll stood and counted the fairies in the painting and came to a total of 165.

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania 1849-50 by Sir Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901)

As I walked around the gallery I noticed that some of the labels had a small black dog on them. Some also had a camera with a line through it but that was more obvious. It wasn’t until I’d almost left that I discovered the significance of the dog.

In 1919 an engineer named James Cowan Smith bequeathed the equivalent of £2,000,000 to fund the purchase of artworks for the Gallery. There was, however, a proviso. The money would be theirs as long as the Gallery promised to permanently display a painting of his dog, Callum.

I’m amazed they had to discuss the offer but they did. Eventually they came down on the side of sense and accepted the deal. The painting of Callum has hung in the Gallery ever since and, hopefully, will hang there ever more.

Wee Callum

After a suitable sigh of delight, I ventured forth to the building in front of the National Gallery which is the Royal Academy. The art here couldn’t be more different.

There are currently two exhibitions on. They are both concerned with the world as it is today. It’s clear that most artists create works that reflect their own time and these pieces really do.

One exhibition is by young African artist, Ade Adesina. His large printed works depict a world of man-made horror where the planet is being laid waste. They are very powerful and challenging.

Two works by Ade Adesina. I particularly like the hourglass.

The other exhibition featured works from various students. They were under the heading of ‘NeoNeanderthal’ and were very interesting. One was a video which I watched. It was quite intriguing. I’m still trying to process it. I’m not sure I’ll ever really understand what the artist was trying to say. Not that that matters. It made me feel great sadness at times and joy at others. That’s what art should do.

I’m sure a lot of people I know wouldn’t think any of it should be considered art but I liked it all and feel it shows that young artists are thinking and seeing the world through many different eyes and minds.

I left the gallery somewhat uplifted and headed off to the old town (via Waverley Bridge in order to pick up a brochure for a bus/boat trip we might make tomorrow). It was beer o’clock and almost lunch so popped into the Malthouse Shovel for a pint of Punk IPA. Unfortunately the kitchen was not working so there was no food.

Malthouse without food

The chap in the glasses in the photo above was the barman and every time groups of people came in, which they frequently did, he’d ask them if they were there to drink or eat. He didn’t bother waiting for an answer and explained that the kitchen wasn’t serving food so there was only drinking to be had.

I understood him because the pub has a lot of signs proclaiming that food is available in all sorts of languages. Lots of groups must enter and fill themselves with their ‘traditional pub food’ every day of the year. But not today.

Having finished my pint I headed up the Royal Mile to the Jolly Judge where I had a delicious bowl of tomato and basil soup.

The two behind the bar are watching the rugby

Having filled my tummy with their delicious soup I headed across the road to St Giles Cathedral where I discovered the previously unknown (to me) Elsie Maud Inglis (1864-1917) who was a surgeon and philanthropist and did a lot for the soldiers of the First World War. I might write about her in another post.

I’ve visited the cathedral before but it was back in 2009 and I don’t remember it very well. It was just like a new cathedral. I had a lovely wander and a bit of a sit before leaving to head down to the museum of the everyday people of Edinburgh called The People’s Story.

The museum is housed in the old Canongate tollbooth and presents the working class of the city throughout the ages. There’s a massive collection of actual objects which were gathered from many attics in many houses throughout the city.

The story is quite miserable in places. For instance there’s the story of Jessie Thomson, the poor woman who is in the eaves with a babe in her arms and three young children asleep at her feet. Her husband died of cholera in the epidemic of 1848 and her only recourse was to apply for poor relief. There was a problem with her receiving this because her youngest child was illegitimate.

Jessie is malnourished and can’t afford to feed her children. The baby is given a crust of bread moistened with water. Her life was utter shit.

If you’re feeling that your life is difficult and work is hard just think about poor Jessie Thomson because her life was a hell of a lot worse than that of most people alive in the West today. I have no idea how she did it.

After wandering the not always depressing rooms of the People’s Story, I headed to a close by cafe where I was served a lovely latte and very naughty piece of carrot cake by a young chap from Toowoomba. I told him he was a long way from home. He explained that he was one of the rare people to escape the clutches of his home town. He seemed to accept the fact that I didn’t have that problem having come from Sydney.

And that was pretty much my day. I slowly strolled back to the apartment and, as soon as I sat down by the window, the rain started pouring down and I checked to see if Mirinda was in it (she was) before settling down to writing this post.

After she returned and phoned Sarah we headed out for a pre-dinner walk followed by a pre-dinner drink in the wonderful Kenilworth pub.

And dinner was an absolute delight. I found a Japanese restaurant last night and vowed we would return for dinner tonight. Boy was it worth it. Fantastic food, excellent waiting staff, very hot saki. I felt like I was back in Japan…if I ignored the rather poncy accented English girl sitting behind me.

I had a marvellous ramen while Mirinda decided to try the tempura bananas which she said were delicious.

It was a perfect evening which we ended with a slow stroll back to the apartment and an episode of Disenchantment before bed.

This entry was posted in Edinburgh 2019, Gary's Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Million Miles from Toowoomba

  1. Mirinda says:

    Bizarrely that pik looks like I’m stabbing my own hand with a fork.I’m not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.