(59) Edinburgh, and (60) Forth Bridge

GB 59-60 sm And so on to another spread that I really enjoyed drawing; I really like the spreads that have a big bridge spanning across the pages. I won’t try to do a Scottish accent, though if I am around Scots for a little while I find myself picking up little bits here and there in a way that has never happened while living in America. I can’t do an American accent to save my life, no matter how hard I try I always sound like John Wayne, or one of those 1930s gangsters (“maaaaaah, he’s a wise guy, seeee”). But I remember hanging around with my Glaswegian friend when I was a kid and my vowels would start changing without me noticing, I would say “Scaw’land”, and put “see me” at the start of sentences. I’ve never spent any real time in Scotland to see if I would pick up an accent but if my wife had been Caledonia rather than Californian, born in Rutherglen rather than Riverside, I might have ended up owning more raincoats and rolling my “r”s by now. Who knows. My London friends probably do think I sound American now and I just don’t realize it, just because I’ll say “sidewalk” occasionally, or “yeehaw” or “quit the lollygaggin, sheee, shtick em up, you doity rat, sheeee”. 

And so to Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. I have been to Edinburgh in 1999 for the Festival, with my university’s theatre company. I wasn’t acting, no I was doing technical stuff, lighting (trying to figure out the complicated lighting deck which occasionally didn’t work for me) and sound (pressing play and pause on a minidisk player, significantly easier). It was a very drinky-stay-out-late time, as is not unusual during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but I found the event a bit too overpopulated for my liking. My favourite bits were just going up that big hill and looking over the city in peace, as the sun went down. I remember going to see one comedian who was from South London or somewhere, who told a joke I still remember, he said that they have gangs in Edinburgh, but up here they have drive-by headbuttings. A few people laughed. Best show I saw was a crazy version of Ubu Roi (in English) at the theatre we were based in, I recall going on a pub crawl with most of the cast afterwards. Acting and performing friends love Edinburgh, it’s a big time for them, especially if trying out new shows. I would like to go back and see my friend Simon perform there some day when he gets back there, but I really don’t like being somewhere like that when it’s so crowded; this year of course coronavirus did for it, but I hope that the theatre industry can bounce back from all this. Edinburgh is an attractive place, lots of dramatic scenery, quite a diverse city, and one i’d like to go to at a more normal time. I think I applied there for university when I was doing A-Levels, but ended up going to Queen Mary in London. I didn’t get into Edinburgh, the only place I didn’t get an offer, but looking at my UCAS form afterwards it looks like I applied for the MA rather than the BA; the Scottish universities were a bit confusing. Scotland’s education system is a bit different from England and Wales – a little ahead, if the Scottish kids in our school were to be believed – and the legal system is also different. The money is different too – it’s pound sterling but the banknotes are issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland, not the Bank of England, and don’t have the Queen on them. I’d love to come and draw Edinburgh, but honestly, I’d be coming for this bridge.

The Forth Bridge, going over the massive Firth of Forth, is one of my favourite bridges. Even looking at the picture in Google Street View, I really had to study all the metal girders (pronounced “gar’dahs”, or however it was pronounced in the Irn Bru adverts) (similar to the way Taggart would pronounce ‘murder’, “Sir, there’s been anuthah mur’dah”). It’s a beauty of a bridge. You can’t really tell here but it’s red. It’s a railway bridge; there is aq different one for cars, which is more boring. I mean it’s ok, looks a bit like the older stretch of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, but next to the rail bridge it’s very much the bass player nobody cares about, or Simon Le Bon. Or the less funny member of a comedy double act. I bet many comedy double acts came to Edinburgh over the years and came out here, and one of them knew they were the rail bridge, and the other knew they’d always be the road bridge. So, the Firth of Forth goes over to Fife. I’m not making that up. If you speak with a London accent as I do, switching your ‘th’ sounds to ‘f’ sounds, that’s a lot of ‘f’s all in one place, faffing about. “Fifty-five thieves in the Firth of Forth near Fife”. I need a glass of water. Speaking of girders though, I used to really like Irn Bru when I was a kid. You don’t see it over here, except on rare occasions like at the Scottish Games (they used to hold that in Woodland, all bagpipes and caber tossing), though I last had some at a Scottish food cart in Portland. It’s quite a sugary fizzy drink, some people call it Scotland’s national drink (after Whisky) (and Buckfast).

We move northwards through Scotland for two more spreads, before we will finally finish our virtual journey around Great Britain. I don’t really like whisky so I’ll need to find some virtual Irn Bru, shortbread, and deep-fried Mars bars for the last legs as we head into Dundee, home of the Beano, St Andrews, birthplace of golf, and the granite city, Aberdeen. 

(57) Hadrian’s Wall, and (58) Glasgow

GB 57-58 sm And so, the final leg of the virtual journey, we are heading north to Scotland. By the way, WordPress, I hate the new editing tool for posting on the blog, too unnecessary, clunky. The old one was much better. Anyway, here are the final few posts on this journey, written as I’m stuck inside during a pandemic and a wildfire smoke emergency, wondering if I’ll start the next virtual sketch journey or not, and thinking maybe it’s not worth it, but I’ll tell you it’s good practice drawing buildings.

Before we reach Scotland, we must get to the end of England. Hadrian’s Wall isn’t the border between England and Scotland, a border that’s moved about a bit over the centuries, but it was a border once. It was the edge of the Roman Empire, ordered to be constructed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian around the year 122. It’s old. There was no England or Scotland back then, there was the Roman province of Britannia, and Caledonia, where the Picts lived. I think Hadrian was one of the better Roman emperors, I suppose, because he had a beard, not many of them did. His statues make him look a bit like Matthew Corbett, you expect him to be putting on a puppet show with a very naughty little bear, a grey dog that squeaks and a bossy miniature panda. Even his name, Hadrian – you get other emperors with names like Nero, Caligula, Severus, Voldemortus, Bastardus Maleficus, Anus Panus the Heinous – but Hadrian is basically ‘Adrian’, bespectacled and bookish (hey I’m both of those things), into Subbuteo and French films (me too, this is weird, maybe I’m really called Adrian?). I wonder if Hadrian kept a diary when he was thirteen and three quarters? He did write poems, well, one poem. He was one of Rome’s “Five Good Emperors”. Sure he loved a bit of excessive cruelty but that was the Romans, I guess. The wall itself runs from Newcastle all the way to the Solway Firth. There is Google Street View along the wall too, so I did a virtual walk along some of it, and found a spot I liked. I decided to add all the colour, it just seemed right. I really want to walk the Wall some day. explore the old Roman sites, learn about life along the edge of the Roman Empire.     

And so forth to Scotland, taking the high road (or the low road, they both get there, though I think the low road is quicker). I decided to go straight to Glasgow, the biggest city, though not the capital (that’s Edinburgh). I have only ever been to Glasgow very briefly, over twenty years ago, staying with my friend Simon’s uncle outside the city for a couple of days. Scotland is beautiful, like amazingly so, we drove around some of the most amazing countryside I’d ever seen (and in a classic Jaguar too, beautiful vehicle). I’ve had a few Glasgow connections. One of my best friends at school when I was 12 was Glaswegian, Ralph, when he first came I was the only one in our class who understood his accent. My mum was in Glasgow when she was younger, in fact she got married there to my older siblings’ father. I used to have other Glaswegian friends I met on holiday and we’d write to each other. I always felt a connection to Glasgow but I’ve never actually spent any time there at all myself, and wandering about the city virtually I really wish I had. Glasgow has my favourite UK accent. I loved that show Rab C Nesbitt when I was a kid. One of my all-time favourite bands, Belle and Sebastian, are Glaswegian. Glasgow’s an artist’s city – famous art school, plus Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s a very Irish city, a lot of Irish immigrants settled there over the years, which is why we have Celtic football club, I have a couple of Celtic shirts (one is from about 1988 which doesn’t really fit now obviously). Also, while not set in Glasgow, one of my favourite films is the 1981 Bill Forsyth film Gregory’s Girl. I kinda fancied Clare Grogan when I was a teenager, I even finally met her when I was in my 20s. I also liked Forsyth’s film from a few years later, Comfort and Joy, with Bill Paterson (Grogan was also in that one), about an ice cream war in Glasgow (though there really were ice cream wars in Glasgow in the 80s, but I think that was more of a turf war between drug gangs). My uncle used to sing “I Belong to Glasgow” when he’d had a drink. The drawing I did is of Glasgow City Chambers, in George Square. Signs everywhere in bright pink state “People Make Glasgow”.  

Right, next up on this trip we will head east to Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. May the Forth be with you.