Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A Slice of Dundee (with a Topping of Edinburgh)

Tom, to his great credit, is presenting a paper at The Society for European Philosophy and the Forum for European Philosophy Annual Conference in Dundee. This leaves me with some freewheeling time to explore a city that’s famous for the three ‘js’; jam, jute and journalism. Keen to find out more, I head for The McManus, a neo-Gothic building designed by George Gilbert Scott which houses an art gallery and museum.

An exhibit in ‘The Making of Modern Dundee’ reminds me that Dundee’s also famous for the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879; there are pieces of the collapsed bridge, fragments of glass from the doomed passenger train, and poignant memorials to lost lives. It’s a bleak story in this dark, almost empty gallery so I move on only to find myself standing in front of a couple of enormous whale harpoons. Whale oil, I now know, was essential to jute processing, softening the material and making it flexible, but these relics from the whaling industry still make me uncomfortable, as does the story of the poor Tay Whale whose skeleton looms just above my head.


In search of something lighter, I flee to ‘Landscape and Lives’ but finding myself alone in a room of teeth, claws and beaks, I start to feel ridiculously freaked out and head upstairs to look at the paintings in The Victoria Gallery instead. Oh god!  Another vast empty space - except for all those faces caught in freeze frame!  I have a strange, unnerving sense that a conversation has suddenly halted because of my presence and actually have to force myself to walk round the room.  

Normally I love museums, but something’s bringing me out in goose bumps here,  Nerves shredded, I escape into bright sunshine and find myself passing the famous Howff cemetery. Might as well pop in whilst I’m passing, I think.  It’s a lovely day, a few people are sitting on benches eating their sandwiches, nothing to spook me here…that is until I reach the shadowy paths away from the sunlight. 

At this point there should have been a photo - but it won't load! Spooky!!

I give up and decide to cheer myself up with tea and cake, except that everyone in Dundee’s had the same idea so I end up instead with a takeaway coffee and a Sicilian lemon muffin and find myself a bench by the Tay where I finish reading Wiley Cash’s A Land More Kind than Home which, after the museum and cemetery, seems almost cheerful!

After Dundee, and a wonderful drive along the beautiful east coast, we end our visit to Scotland with a real treat, thanks to Lily and Russ who presented us with a Loch Fyne voucher. Thank you, both, for a wonderful evening and a superb meal!


5 comments:

Frances said...

Jeepers, Chris, your stops and steps in Dundee do sound just a bit spooky.

Isn't there something called Dundee Cake? I am going to focus on the image of some delicious cake to chase away my imagined images of what you saw. Bet it was in the daytime, too.

I have visited Edinburgh once and truly loved my time there...so I am glad that you topped up your Dundee time with Edinburgh. Of course, I am sure that Tom's presentation went very well...and offer him congratulations.

xo

Chanpreet BookAddict said...

It does sound like your trip to Dundee was eerier than it should've been. I don't know if you're a believer in spirits, but if so, perhaps you were paid a visit or two.

Glad to hear to got some reading done and enjoyed some local-ish treats. I hope the rest of your trip to Scotland and journey home was better!

Chris Stovell said...

Frances and Chanpreet - I really don't know what happened that day, but, my goodness, it was very eerie wandering round those huge empty spaces by myself. I'm not usually so easily spooked but my nerves failed me in Dundee!

Edinburgh's a wonderful city - so many stunning buildings and lots going on, so it was great to be there again.

Winnie said...

Loved it, spooky and all. I've had that conversation halted because I came into the room feeling in our National History Museum in Dublin; a sensation of the past being just ahead of your line of vision and missing out on something interesting...a look at life as it was lead back in the so-called good old days. Dundee cake...images spring to mind of 1967, Inverness, a tea room in, I think, Inverewe, and a slice of Dundee cake that could feed a rugby team all by itself. I remember not accepting defeat and valiantly eating on until the last crumb. As cakes go Dundee gets my #2 vote after my grandmother's cinnamon spiced apple pie.

Chris Stovell said...

Ah, Winnie, I only wish I'd been able to track down a slice of Dundee cake of any size, let alone the hefty chunk you've described - although your grandmother's cinnamon sliced apple pie sounds pretty amazing. And I'm glad I'm not the only one to have had that feeling! Thanks so much for stopping by.