Glasgow 21-23 May 2011

I am writing this on a train from Glasgow Central to Crewe, having spent a very enjoyable one and a half days in Glasgow. The original motivation for the trip was to go to a Foster & Allen concert, of which more later, but several other interesting things happened before then that are worth mentioning.

The first thing was the journey from Crewe to Glasgow. When I booked the tickets I noticed that the journey would take 6 hours, about twice as long as usual, but I wasn’t unduly concerned about that since we weren’t in a hurry. The reason for the extra time was (yes you’ve guessed) engineering work, but it turned into one of the best journeys to Glasgow I’ve ever taken. For a start, the train wasn’t crowded, and secondly, the route was very interesting. Between Preston and Carlisle the train went via Blackburn and along part of the Settle line, where, sure enough, we passed a steam train en route. Once we arrived in Carlisle, the route was via Dumfries and Kilmarnock, which was more scenically interesting than the usual route via Lockerbie and Motherwell. We arrived in Glasgow in the rain (a not unfamiliar situation), and had time to visit the Crystal Palace in Jamaica Street for drinks and dinner before it got too late. The Scottish Cup Final had taken place earlier, in which Celtic had beaten Motherwell, so there were a few Celtic supporters still celebrating, but not enough to be a problem. One final detail: our hotel in Argyle St is next to a Brazilian restaurant, and the smell of Brazilian churrascaria was oddly incongruous in the Glaswegian rain, transporting me to Aracaju for a brief few seconds!

On the next day we headed for the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, which is a wonderful museum, with an interesting range of exhibits from Scottish wildlife to French impressionist paintings. There is an also an organ in the main hall of the museum, and there are daily recitals. On Sunday the recital is at 3:00 pm, and is well worth waiting for. We discovered that a good location to hear the music is in the basement, below the organ loft. The sound carries down there with amazing clarity.

Having visited the museum we returned to the city centre to have dinner before the concert. I was impressed to see advertisements for the Glasgow Science Festival on the metro (‘clockwork orange’), and equally impressed to see that the festival runs from 1-18 June!

And so to the concert itself, in the Pavilion Theatre. I have wide tastes in music, from Abba to Wagner via Glenn Miller, and somewhere in that spectrum, Foster and Allen’s Irish country music sits comfortably. I love the accordion playing, and several of their songs would make it into my all time top 40. I’ve heard them play once before, in Hanley’s Victoria Hall, but the chance to hear them play in Glasgow was too good to miss! An Irish band playing to a predominantly West Scottish audience had to be interesting purely in terms of the atmosphere. I wasn’t wrong, and indeed felt strangely detached from the proceedings at times. But, as I posted on Twitter after the concert, although they gave their usual professional polished performance, they only played one song that I really knew. I had hoped to hear songs like The Gypsy Rover and Danny Boy, but sadly not this time. Instead, they played several covers in the second half, including a version of The Young Ones! I’ll have to get my fix from the mp3 player instead…

So now I’m being whisked back to Crewe in an advertised 3 hours*, which will give me time to call in the office this afternoon and prepare for the Science Communication Conference, which starts in London on Wednesday. One fortuitous result of this trip is that my brain is nicely defragmented from all the marking and administration I’ve been doing recently, and I’m ready to make the most of the conference, which I’ll be reporting on via Twitter and this blog over the coming days.

*In a footnote prior to posting, I should mention that I only just got back in time, before seriously bad weather affected trains from Scotland to England. So I won’t complain about the fact that the train was about 15 minutes late, and the fact that we missed our bus and had an hour’s wait!


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