Monday, September 12, 2016

Conference in Edinburgh and Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Friday, September 9, 2016

     Today seemed like a whirlwind—so much happened. But to begin at the beginning: I awoke at 6. 30 am with enough time to go over my paper once more and make sure I edited some bits of it in the interest of time. I showered, got dressed, packed up my backpack and took it down with me as I went down for breakfast to the Dining Room by 7. 30 am. I gave myself an hour to order and eat breakfast as I intended to leave at 8. 30 am for the conference venue. The breakfast buffet was fantastic with all sorts of ‘cold’ foods available from fruit to cereal to pastries. I decided to equip myself well for the day with a Full Scottish Breakfast—scrambled eggs with bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast. It was all beautifully presented and having started with muesli with yogurt and ending with decaff coffee, I was really well taken care of for the rest of the day!

Off to the Conference for my Presentation:

     This time since I had a backpack to cart along, I was not going to walk to the University of Edinburgh. Instead I took a bus and reached there in ten minutes with a good ten minute walk to get from the bus stop to the conference venue. I was the first one to get there but in a short time I was joined by the other presenters. Our session was at 9. 30 but people were clearly having a lie-in and strolled in by about 9.45 when it began. There were two other presenters on my panel—both from South Africa and both doing work on indentured laborers from India taken to South Africa during the late 19th century. The papers were excellent. I presented second and had a Powerpoint presentation that showed slides of venues in London that I had found in the British Library. The work of our entire panel was very well received indeed. During the question session that followed, we were all asked to elucidate more of the points we had made. The session was very fulfilling and I felt gratified that I had the chance to showcase some of my very recent research on early Anglo-Indian female presence in Britain.

     Right after the session ended, however, I had time for only a quick coffee and exchange of a few comments with some of the attendees before I was thanking the conference organizers for including me and leaving. I had a coach to take to Glasgow and I did not want to be late for it.

On the Coach to Glasgow:

     My coach to Glasgow left two hours later. Since it was only ninety minutes away, I thought that I would take the opportunity to re-visit the city for a very specific reason. About nine years ago, when Llew and I had undertaken a driving tour of Scotland, there was a Council strike on the one day that we had planned to spend in the city. It had been my aim to see the Burrel Collection at Pollock Park; but when we arrived there, we found that every museum in the city was closed. Dreadfully disappointed, we had cloistered ourselves in one of the Willow Tea Rooms of Charles Rennie Mackintosh to enjoy hot tea and warm scones. I had promised myself then that I would return to Glasgow to see the museum. Finally, my chance had come!

     The journey was very pleasant indeed and very quick. In no time at all, we seem to have reached. Luckily, it was not pouring—just drizzling as I alighted from the coach and found the bus that would take me to the Youth Hostel where I had made a booking for one night. Glasgow’s Youth Hostel is one of the finest in the world. It is located in one of the poshest parts of the city—on Park Terrace overlooking Kelvingrove Park. It is an old mansion that has been converted into a youth hostel. Inside, there are arresting wooden carved staircases, wide corridors and an old world graciousness that is unmistakable. It is hard to believe you are in a youth hostel. That said, it is a very difficult place to get to by public transport as you have to climb a hill once you alight from the bus—not very pleasant when you are lugging a bag, when it is raining and you are cold and uncomfortable.

Exploring the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum:

     I checked in, picked up my key and found myself in a four-bedded female dorm with three other women. Three of us were my age! It seems that mature female professionals have discovered, as I have done, the wisdom of staying in youth hostels. They are safe, always located in the centre of town, are staffed by English speakers, clean and friendly places. I simply stashed my bag in the locker room downstairs and went off to make the most of the evening.

     I discovered that one of the UK’s most-visited museums after those in London--the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum—was at the foot of a hill and could easily be reached on foot in about 15 minutes. So using a map, I found myself there by 3.00 pm and had about two hours to see the highlights. It is a wonderful place indeed and as I feasted my eyes on the incredible works of art to be found there, I was glad I braved the rain and the walk to see it. The most important piece of all is the Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvador Dali which cannot even be described in words. It is a portrayal of the crucified Christ from a most interesting angle—He is seen hanging from the neck down in a flood of light and darkness that is mesmerizing. Known for his Surrealist paintings, Dali’s talent is often mistaken for mere quirkiness. But in this painting, he truly proves himself to be a master of form and color. It was simply stunning. I could have sat before it forever, but I had to press on. There was a lot to see and I was pleased to say that I managed to see the Highlights as recommended by Lonely Planet and by the Museum’s brochure itself by the time it turned 5.00 pm and the place closed down.

     Indeed, life comes to a standstill at 5 pm and on a cold and rainy evening, I could not face the thought of climbing the hill to get back to the youth hostel and then setting out again to pick up dinner. I decided to eat a very early dinner (as I had barely eaten any lunch but for a few cookies) and ended up at a pizzeria where I had a marguerite pizza as the rain steadily drummed on outside. It was a truly lousy day and before it turned dark, I wanted to get back to the safety and comfort of my dorm room.

     Accordingly, I began my walk back with the knowledge that not a lot of people were about in the rain. Climbing the hill from the park was a real challenge and I had to pause often to get my breath back. But by 7.30, I was back at the hostel, safe and sound and ready to collapse into my bed—which was exactly what I did. My roomies returned but I used my eye mask and dropped straight into bed and was dead btoto the world as I felt wiped out by the exertions of the day.

     Until tomorrow, cheerio…    

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