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Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 20: Byres Road

There’s almost no Art Deco in Glasgow’s Byres Road.

There’s a new Nardini’s ocupying a street corner site – but that’s only within the last five years and is only a facade over the older building. I featured it here. (Compare with the Largs original.)

When I was there in October 2017 I did, though, spot the glass above these doors:-

Byres Road Deco

Skirving Street, Glasgow

I mentioned in my posts about the Battlefield Monument, Langside, Glasgow, and Langside Hill Church that one of the good lady’s collateral ancestors was the architect Alexander Skirving.

A mile or so away from those there is a street named after him. Whether he designed any of the tenement buildings here I don’t know but I suppose it is possible.

Skirving Street, Glasgow, Sign

Looking back from midway along Skirving Street:-

Skirving Street, Glasgow

The street links Tantallon Road and Kilmarnock Road and crosses Deanston Drive so there are lots of Skirving Street signs:-

Second Skirving Street Sign, Glasgow

Third Skirving Street Sign, Glasgow

Fourth Skirving Street Sign, Glasgow

Looking towards Kilmarnock Road from Deanston Drive:-

Skirving Street

Fifth Skirving Street Sign, Glasgow

street sign

Looking back from Kilmarnock Road:-

Skirving Street, Glasgow

I wonder if Alexander Skirving could have conceived of a Chinese Restaurant being named after him:-

Chinese cuisine

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 18: Langside

Not even a stone’s throw from the Battlefield Monument but just about that from Langside Hill Church lies this brick-built Art Deco building. I don’t know what it was when it was built but it’s now a supermarket.

There are many Deco hallmarks: horizontals, verticals, glass bricks, rule of three, canopy. I was delighted to see it and have the chance to photograph it:-

Art Deco, Langside

A different angle reveals the building is a Tesco Express. There’s even a curved wall this side:-

Art Deco Tesco Shop, Langside, Glasgow

Curved wall close-up:-

Curved Wall Deco Feature, Langside, Glasgow

Door surround:-

Deco Door Surround, Langside, Glasgow

Former Langside Hill Church

This former church lies very near to the Battlefield Monument, which I featured a few posts ago, and was designed by the same architect, Alexander Skirving, a collateral ancestor of the good lady. Many buildings in surrounding streets were also designed by him.

The church is now a restaurant, not Bar Buddha as in the link but the Church on the Hill.

Former Langside Hill Church

Church on the Hill, Langside

Langside Hill Church from west:-

Langside Hill Church from west.

From northeast:-

Langside Hill Church from northeast

Battlefield Monument, Langside, Glasgow

The monument, now in the middle of a roundabout, was designed by one of the good lady’s collateral ancestors, Alexander Skirving, and commemorates the Battle of Langside, site of the last defeat in Scotland of Mary Queen of Scots, and is somewhat at odds with its modern surroundings.

From east:-

Battlefield Monument from East

From south:-

Battlefield Monument from South

From west:-

Battlefield Monument From West

Battlefield Monument plaque:-

Battlefield Monument Plaque

Planter at monument’s foot:-

Battlefield Monument Planter

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

Harper, 2010, 569 p. First published in 2003.

 The Distant Echo cover

I probably wouldn’t have read this – I wasn’t particularly taken by the author’s The Wire in the Blood – but the good lady had just finished it and mentioned it was set partly in my old stamping ground of Kirkcaldy and partly in St Andrews (which I know well.) So I thought I’d give it a go. The locations in the book aren’t restricted to Fife, it does stray to Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow, and even Seattle but the main events take place in what the locals like to call “the Kingdom.”

The prologue lets us know of a Fife Police press announcement of a cold case review and a shadowy figure haunting a cemetery before Part One plunges us into the 1978 discovery of the dying body of Rosie Duff by four students at St Andrews University (schoolfriends calling themselves the Lads Fi’ Kirkcaldy) taking a short cut back to their flat after a party. One of them is a medical student and tries to save her life but fails. As discoverers of the body and covered in blood they naturally become suspects. The investigation cannot summon up evidence even to charge them and the case is unresolved but they are still subjected to suspicion, threats and violence – especially by the dead girl’s brothers. McDermid makes a lot of this finger of suspicion and the effect it has on the four and their relationship(s). Part Two sees the resurrection of the case and its reintrusion into the four’s lives. But in the intervening twenty-five years the main evidence from the victim’s clothing has been lost and there seems little hope of progress. But the review has stirred the old suspicions and someone has the four firmly in the frame.

McDermid’s prose is certainly efficient but rarely rises above the workmanlike. The book’s structure, too, made it slightly odd. Part One was more or less scene setting, involved a lot of information dumping and therefore dragged somewhat. McDermid makes passing reference to the fascistic fringe and government encroachments on citizens’ rights in the late 1970s. (That sort of thing has become even worse of late with intolerance having been adopted into the political mainstream and governments eager to seize any excuse to restrict citizen’s rights.)

I would have said that it was cleverly executed except that the resolution was disappointing. It has more holes in it than Stoke City’s defence and depends too much on the prior withholding of information from the reader. In the last (tie-up) chapter it is revealed that one of the four Lads had a piece of information that would potentially have pointed to the murderer but never told the other three – nor the Police – during all those twenty-five years of suspicion. We can only suppose this was to create an artificial sense of suspense and it kind of obviates the point of the book (no matter what reason he might have had for his reticence.) Moreover the murderer seems to have been able to carry the body up a hill to where the Lads stumbled upon it without seemingly getting any blood on himself, even though the victim had a gaping wound.

McDermid has a wide readership. I assume they don’t like taxing their brains overmuch.

Pedant’s corner:- the main drag (St Andrews has a main drag?) Roger Waters’ (Waters’s. And I know he wrote Shine On You Crazy Diamond but did he sing on it? Wasn’t that David Gilmour?) “[Kirkcaldy’s] Town House looked like one of those less alluring products of Soviet architecture” (is more than a bit harsh. It’s a fine buiding.) Raith Rovers’ (Raith Rovers’s,) Brahms’ (Brahms’s,) “had strode” (stridden,) “‘Gonnae no dae that’” (is referred to as if it were a catchphrase from the early to mid 1970s. It wasn’t. Chewin’ the Fat, where it originated, was first aired in 1999.) “‘We lay low’” (we lie low – but it was in dialogue and the character had lived in the US for years and they can’t seem to get the lay/lie thing correct over there,) Soanes’ (Soanes’s.) “The sky was clear, a gibbous moon hanging low in the sky between the bridges.” (sky….sky,.) Sainsburys (Sainsbury’s.) Plus several instances of “time interval later”.

Garnethill by Denise Mina

Orion, 2014, 427 p.

One of the 100 best Scottish Books. One of Scotland’s favourite books.

 Garnethill cover

Maureen O’Donnell is an abuse survivor in a relationship with a psychiatrist at the same hospital where she is receiving treatment for her continuing trauma. After a night out with a friend she tumbles straight into bed and wakes up in the morning to find her (married) boyfriend tied up in her living room with his throat slit. The police, the man’s wife and politician mother all believe Maureen, or her drug dealing brother, did it. In an attempt to make sure her name is cleared Maureen begins to investigate the crime herself.

The proximal subject matter, sexual abuse in institutions, is an important issue but I am astonished that this book could appear on anyone’s list of best or favourites as Mina’s writing leaves a lot to be desired. There is a profusion of telling not showing plus acres of unconvincing dialogue. Chapter titles tend to be people’s names but quite often those people barely appear within them. Every time there is a police interview we are told about the tape recording protocol. It is as if Mina believes the reader must be shown every little detail of her hero’s experience. We really don’t. In what must surely be a breach of police good practice one of the investigating officers conveniently gives her privileged information.

The novel is set in Glasgow but the city itself seems absent. None of its vibrancy or character comes across. Also there are constant references to the Byres Road, the Great Western Road, the Maryhill Road. No Glaswegian I have met has ever mentioned a street by name and used the definite article. It’s always just Byres Road, Great Western Road, Maryhill Road. No “the”.

Yes, the purpose of this sort of thing is the unfolding of the plot and the unravelling of “whodunit” and in this respect it just about meets the need. Yet even here there was a hiccup. Quite near the novel’s end Maureen is told the name of the murderer by one of her interviewees but Mina does not let the reader know it at that point. I don’t read much crime fiction but I would submit such an attempt to prolong suspense artificially is unfair on the reader. (That the murderer’s identity could be worked out fairly easily vitiated that attempt in any case.)

The more the book progressed the harder my suspension of disbelief became. Towards the end I wasn’t believing any of it.

Moreover the book is riddled with punctuation errors (see Pedant’s corner.) The edition I read was a reprint; the latest of numerous editions. (Goodreads lists well over ten.) How can these errors not have been spotted and rooted out long before this? Does no-one care about quality control? Some might say these are niggling concerns but when they stop a reader in his/her tracks and force a line, sentence or paragraph to be re-read to decipher the sense it becomes non-trivial.

This one is for die-hard crime fans only.

Pedant’s corner:- cagoul (cagoule,) no start quote mark for a piece of dialogue (x 9,) a missing full stop (x 7,) for badness’ sake (badness’s, x 2,) butt naked (I believe the phrase is buck naked,) a missing comma before a speech quote (x 3,) snuck (please use sneaked instead of snuck,) smokey (smoky,) “really don’t want to tell you” (I really don’t want to tell you,) “for implicately slagging her mammy” (implicitly,) the team are known (is known,) teathings (tea things,) Germoline (Germolene.)

Divided City by Theresa Breslin

Corgi, 2006, 236 p. One of the Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read.

Divided City cover

One night Graham (surname never specified) is taking a short cut – against which his parents have repeatedly warned him – on his way home from football training when he witnesses a gang chasing and stabbing a young lad whom they call “asylum scum”. Graham comforts the wounded boy, Kyoul, uses the mobile phone Kyoul has dropped to call an ambulance and accompanies him to the hospital then slips away but not before Kyoul asks him to take a message, and the phone, to his girlfriend Leanne. This leads to Graham almost by accident involving another boy from training, Joe Flaherty (who is of course from across the sectarian divide to which the book’s title mainly refers) in finding Leanne’s house. She is grateful but has kept her relationship with Kyoul from her own parents and so asks them to visit Kyoul for her. This strand of the book where they find common purpose off the training pitch is intertwined with the background of both footballers.

Graham’s Granda Reid is a proud Orangeman who wants Graham to march in the big Orange Walk which is coming up. Graham’s parents have always resisted pressure to make him take part when he was younger saying he should make his own mind up when he is old enough. However, this is the year he must do so. Joe’s family members are equally committed to upholding their Catholic traditions.

But this is where Divided City is too diagrammatic. Nearly every domestic conversation in the book centres on sectarianism and how the “others” mistreat “our” side.

There were other infelicities. The football training is for a youth team to be known as Glasgow City which is about to take part in an inter-cities youth competition. Here credulity becomes strained. If both boys were as good at football as the novel tells us they’d most likely already be attached to a club and probably not allowed to play for anyone else. Another unconvincing aspect is that Leanne is said to be “not yet sixteen” but she met Kyoul who had wandered in off the street at one of Glasgow University’s school open days and both ended up looking at a stand where they were each wondering what courses they would choose and struck up a conversation. Fifteen is rather young for such a trip. Also, the first time home ground of Rangers is mentioned it’s by a supporter, who calls it “Ibrox Park.” A fan would just say “Ibrox”. Similarly we get “the Celtic Parkhead stadium”. Then there is the description of an Old Firm game where the phrase “unleashed a stinging right kick” is used. It’s called a shot, not a kick. Later one fan is enjoined to ‘Watch the play’. It would be ‘Watch the game’.

Granted the dilemma of an asylum seeker from a ‘White List’ country, deemed to be safe but which isn’t, may need elucidating to a wider audience, yet while the novel is even-handed enough as between Protestant and Catholic viewpoints I struggled to see for what audience this could have been written, whom it was intended to educate. The book’s cover is emblazoned with the phrase “Carnegie Medal winning author” implying it’s for young adults. But young adults in Glasgow will know about sectarianism, those elsewhere likely not care (Northern Ireland excepted.) The incidental illustration of the usual parental restrictions on adolescent comings and goings do not expand the scope. Divided City’s earlier chapters reminded me of a certain kind of not very good Science Fiction which doesn’t trust its reader to make the connections, so too much is spelled out. And there is an overuse of exclamation marks. I would submit that YA readers deserve better.

There is a good novel about sectarianism – and/or football – in Glasgow out there. This isn’t it.

Pedant’s corner:- “the dark openings of the tenement building mawed at him” (the openings stomached at him?) the local senior boy’s club” (boys’ club, I think,) refers to winning the League Championship (it’s just “winning the League” not League Championship,) Rangers’ (Rangers’s,) ‘How are we going to do that without getting caught.’ (Needs a question mark, not a full stop.)

Willow Tea Rooms, Buchanan Street, Glasgow

I thought I’d posted this photo (taken in December 2014) of the exterior of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed Willow Tea Rooms in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, but searching the blog gave no results so perhaps I didn’t.

Willow tea rooms

The tea rooms were I believe defunct for a while but have been refurbished. In April this year the good lady and I partook of the facilities within. Lovely lunch, reasonably priced.

Rennie Mackintosh style chairs:-

Willow Tea Rooms Interior 1

A banquette:-

Willow Tea Rooms 2

Interior panelling. Typical Mackintosh motifs:-

Willow Tea Rooms 3

More panelling:-

Willow Tea Rooms 4

Window blind. Signature Mackintosh lettering:-

Willow Tea Rooms 5

Table accoutrements (sadly not quite in focus):-

Willow Tea Rooms 6

Lampshade:-

Willow Tea Rooms 7

Blue and purple lampshades (again sadly not focused):-

Willow Tea Rooms 8

There are two tearooms inside. This is on the stair up to the Chinese Room:-

Willow Tea Rooms 9

The Chinese Room itself. Note the chairbacks:-

Willow Tea Rooms 10

Lower stairwell. Again thoroughly Mackintosh lampshades and banisters:-

Willow Tea Rooms 11

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 17: Templeton’s Carpet Factory

This should really have been much earlier in this series as it is one of the most striking buildings in Glasgow – and Scotland as a whole.

The former Templeton’s Carpet Factory is by Glasgow Green near the People’s Palace and occupies a sort of square formed by Binnie Place, Templeton Street, Tobago Street and London Road.

This view from the People’s Palace shows the unique combination of eastern and Scottish influences. The West Brewery at extreme left side here:-

Templeton Carpet Factory, Glasgow, from West

This is from a bit further along Templeton Street:-

Templeton Carpet Factory, Glasgow, from Southwest

Strong horizontals and verticals in the moderne style in this Templeton Street view:-

Templeton Carpet Factory, Glasgow East Section

There is fantastic detailing in the upper brickwork:-

Templeton Carpet Factory, Glasgow, Detail

Junction of the “eastern” and “moderne” parts with Scots baronial thrown in to the mix:-

Templeton Carpet Factory, Glasgow

The eastern side of the building, off Tobago Street, has now been converted into flats:-

Templeton Carpet Factory, Glasgow, from East

Further up Tobago Street:-

Templeton Carpet Factory, Glasgow, Northeast section

I had to stitch two photos to get the Tobago Street entrance doorway in. (It appears bent in this; it’s not really.)

Templeton Carpet Factory, Glasgow, East Doorway

The clocktower segment on the corner of Tobago Street and London Road has classic Art Deco lines:-

Templeton Carpet Factory, Glasgow, Clocktower Angle

North side of building – converted into flats. Off London Road:-

Templeton Carpet Factory,Glasgow, North Aspect

Stitch of two photos of west end of London Road aspect. (Again the building isn’t Curved.) The West Brewery occupies this portion:-

Templeton Carpet Factory,Glasgow, North Aspect

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