I must have taken this journey hundreds of times. The railway crossing over the Firth of Forth, rumbling through the three red diamonds of the Rail Bridge.
The train window frames a changing canvas of sea and sky as weather formations dance in constant flux. Bright, clear days offer sunlight stained, glassy blues which stretch to the horizon, punctuated by the islands of Inchcolm, Inchmickery and Inchkeith. The abandoned World War II fortifications of Inchgarvie, lie directly underneath the bridge. Hollowed out shells, windows like mouths of gaping teeth, now colonised by seabirds. The gulls ascend to hover on the updraughts, peering into the train window, before coasting off and plummeting seaward – racing gravity. On certain days, a tang of salt air permeates the hermetically sealed train carriage.
There is an excitement in looking out and observing the great diagonal smears of rain advancing up the estuary. Slabs of smudged grey – coming this way. Tumultuous skies billowing with angry clouds blown in by sea winds. The theatre of watching the weather arrive.
However, I have never experienced conditions such as observed this week. (Thursday 26th July c. 2.30 pm). A spectacular form of haar (coastal sea fog) appeared to manifest from nowhere on an otherwise relatively ‘sunny day’. Not so much the haar rolling in but an almost supernatural manifestation.
From the railway bridge over the Forth
a blue-tinged wash of elemental greys.
Sea and sky bleed
into a Rothko memory
Taken just a few moments later, you can see some of the river tugs off to the right. The oil terminal at Hound Point is just emerging from the glaur, as the blue starts to break through again.
I posted the above photographs on twitter and a couple of days later Bob Reid sent me this one. Same place, different time.
The Forth: always different, always the same.
Now playing: James Yorkston – When the Haar Rolls In.
Watch a street and you become it. You construct, if so inclined, a narrative: but you are also part of the witnessed event. You shape what you see.
Iain Sinclair, Edge of the Orison
In Glasgow. Uncharacteristic, sweltering heat and a half hour to spare before the gig. Just enough time for a quick wander, to stretch the legs without expectation. A phone camera will have to suffice if anything should reveal itself.
Out of the Arches, underneath Central Station, and into air larded with deep-fried food aromas and traffic fumes. I’m scanning for a sign to get started. Pastel shades shout out for attention and it seems that even the graffiti is responding to the sunshine:
Can’t help noticing the little green archipelago thriving around the base. The resilience of nature to establish existence, in the most barren of conditions, at a busy city centre intersection.
Head down towards the river and pick up the trail:
More dancing colour to puncture the grey. A Bernard Edwards bass line bounces around in the head.
Walk straight on for a bit and over to the right there is a figure, facing towards the river, which looks interesting. From the rear I’m assuming it’s some form of religious icon, arms stretched out to heaven? St Mungo perhaps? Cross the road and down a shallow incline of steps to view the figure face on.
A bunch of flowers. wilting in the heat is tucked into the base of the statue. Obviously, still an active site of memory and remembrance. The plaque directly underneath the figure reads:
The statue is of Dolores Ibárruri (1895-1989), “La Pasionaria” (“The Passion Flower”), a heroine and leader in the Spanish Republican and Communist movements. An inspiration to the volunteers of the International Brigade who fought in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939.
I subsequently find out the sculpture is by Liverpool artist Arthur Dooley, who created the famous Beatles statue,Four Lads Who Shook the World. I was even more shocked to learn that Dooley never saw La Pasionaria installed, unable to afford the bus fare to come to Glasgow.
Continuing along the riverside walkway, a few people are taking full advantage of the heat wave. “Taps aff”. Sitting, lying down, starfished, enjoying being out-of-doors, heads raised, eyes closed, embracing the setting sun. A sense of the more usual activities of the area are perhaps revealed as a young man is pulled up by two patrolling police officers and asked to empty his pockets.
Underneath another bridge to come face-to-face with a psychedelic tiger. A fiery flux of shifting colours, crouched and ready to pounce on the indolent walker:
Ascending from the river up a miniature Odessa Steps, I half expect a pram to come toppling over the top.
…and I’m facing Morrison’s Bar which looks like it may never have opened since Jim checked out:
…. Around the corner, The Riverside Club doesn’t look to be doing much business either. Perhaps these are ‘badger’ venues – they only come out in the dark?
I head into what I find is Fox Street. Looking back towards the east, the setting sun fracturing into shards hitting the ecclesiastical windows of a distant church:
Continuing west will take me back towards the City Centre:
Along with the heat and the sunshine, two cheerful lovehearts brighten up the street:
And a message a few feet away. No addressee. No object of affection. No initials. Just a statement addressed to whom?
I walk up towards Renfield Lane, thinking about how even the shortest of walks through a city can surprise, enchant and provoke reflection. I’m thinking about La Pasionaria, The International Brigades and psychedelic tigers as I descend into the Stygian depths of Stereo. Moving between worlds. From light into darkness and a prelude to shortly having all body molecules rearranged by the shamanic noise rituals of Nazoranai: Keiji Haino, Stephen O’Malley and Oren Ambarchi. Sound as alchemy, carried within, back through the city, as, after the show, I head for the train in the warm, dark night.