No amount of obsessive weather app checking eased my packing anxiety before heading north. Last year’s Manchester trip had everything from snow to what felt like a mini heatwave, something Glasgow was apparently experiencing while Leeds, our first stop, looked distinctly chilly.
We were staying in the city’s legal district very close to the civic centre, impressive in its Victorian grandeur. Leeds grew rich on textiles and no doubt the city elders were keen to show that off. Our sweet little neighbourhood park was stuffed with students soaking up the afternoon sun the Monday we arrived.
Much of Tuesday was spent having a long chatty lunch with our lovely friend M although we did fit in a trip to the Leeds Art Gallery where I was taken by John Tunnard’s work, an artist I’d not heard of before, which reminded me a little of Ben Nicolson’s. We took ourselves off to Kirkstall on Wednesday morning, walking along the beautiful Leeds & Liverpool canal, lots of lush greenery along its banks, and explored the city’s arcades and market in the afternoon.
Thursday’s treat was the Leeds to Carlisle stretch of our journey to Glasgow along a spectacularly beautiful stretch of the countryside which took us over the Ribblehead Viaduct. The stations were all immaculately kept by the small community-owned company that runs the line, many with lovely herbaceous borders. You can even stay in a couple of them, H told me a little too enthusiastically.
Glasgow’s big draw was the Burrell Collection. Handed over to the city by Sir William Burrell in 1944, it was opened to the public in its current home in Pollok Country Park in 1988. It’s an eclectic collection with some stunning pieces but for me the fabulous Scandinavian style wood and glass building, bringing the outside in, was almost the star of the show, offering arresting vistas which framed artefacts beautifully. We spent all day there and loved it. Two of my favourites were Joseph Crawhall’s exhilarating celebration of freedom, Girl on a Bicycle – a simple picture of his sister with the family dachshund, ears flying in the wind – and a Song dynasty rhinoceros which looks more like a deranged puppy.
A lovely Saturday morning walk through Kelvingrove Park then along the riverside took us to the Botanic Gardens which were sporting some gorgeous wildflowers. The afternoon’s highlight was The Mackintosh House, meticulously disassembled from its original site and reassembled in its very own wing of the Hunterian’s Art Gallery. The house is exquisite, its light-filled living room and bedroom simply furnished with Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s beautifully designed furniture complemented by his wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s artwork.
The long-threatened heat and humidity kicked in on Sunday and Monday leaving us with little energy for much but we did drag ourselves over to the Necropolis from which John Knox towers over the city’s East End looking as if he’s giving everyone a good telling off from the grave. From there, we wandered over to the People’s Palace which impressed us both with its no holds barred, often poignant exhibition on Glasgow’s working-class history.
We headed home on Tuesday, steeling ourselves for travelling during the hottest day of the year so far. Even Mischief seemed too tired to put on much of a welcome despite our arrival around feeding time.
And the book? Beginning in 1978, Joe Thomas’ White Riot follows Patrick Noble, Hackney born and bred, attached to the Met Race Crime Initiative, who sets up two undercover operatives when several racist murders are committed. Two years later, he’s called in again when Colin Roach, a young black man, dies in odd circumstances in the foyer of Stoke Newington police station. Rich in period detail backed up by a lengthy bibliography, Thomas’ novel pulls no punches in its depiction of a racist police element, not averse to running protection, prostitution and drug rackets or putting the boot in when the opportunity arises. As I so often say, it would make an excellent TV series.
Unpacking proved to be less painful than packing despite the resulting laundry mountain. Back to books on Monday…