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Travelogue I38

January 8, 2017

G. and I had reached the end of our self-guided tour through the City Chambers and, in due time, found our way back to the entry hall. Again outside, we decided to backtrack across George Square to step inside a high-end whisky purveyor’s, mostly out of curiosity, for even those bottles not housed in glass-fronted cabinets quickly surpassed our budgets. Still, we made the rounds and affected aristocratic airs despite our modest dress and inwardly resolved to save our meagre means for elsewhere.

We exited onto Queen Street. Though we were slowly progressing towards a given point in the city, we had decided to leave the path to chance and ourselves free to pursue anything of interest. A long look up and down Queen Street’s length revealed just such a thing of interest, an apt description given our initial inability to make sense of the sight. Naturally, we decided to approach in the hope that greater proximity would allow for greater understanding. What so puzzled us was an equestrian statue before a Neoclassical building, neither of which presented much puzzlement in themselves. After all, the building sported the motifs typical of its style, rectilinear lines, triangular fronton and Corinthian columns, while the bronze statue depicted uniformed man and horse, albeit with the latter planted firmly on four hooves and looking unusually alert.

No, our puzzlement owed to the placement of an orange traffic cone atop the statue’s head, which slipped to one side and so presented a jaunty angle to onlookers. As no passers-by seemed particularly put-off by the sight and no police presence was visible either in the form of officers or barriers, we could only conclude that the cone then occupied its usual place. The picture only became clearer for us upon circling to the statue’s front where the name WELLINGTON stood out from the plinth, a name which explained much of the phenomenon even without our knowing the details. As we crossed to the east pavement on Queen Street and continued in that direction, G. and I had a good laugh over the Glaswegian’s good-natured way of thumbing their nose at English hegemony. However often authorities removed the cone, one could rest assured that another would appear in its place.

If, to this point, I have said little of my travel companion, it is more through neglect than lack of interest. Though we were somewhat separated in age, we had begun seeing more of one another outside of the university where I worked and he studied, be it in pubs, the streets or, somewhat later, our homes, and had come to bond over whisky. Out of that bond, a real human contact had grown, strange though it might seem. To outside eyes, this might prove all the stranger in that I had met him on the ascendant as he came out an alcoholic phase, as he termed it. Wellington now forgotten, our talk could resume its ranging from absurdity to imaginings, from pleasantries to discussion of very real relationships. Indeed, our walks that day broadened the range beyond anything which we had theretofore broached when we happened upon the topic of religion and belief, later in our wanderings. Regardless, it was safe to say that I sensed in him a manner of growing into his humanity and that fragility which comes with it in a way different from though not unlike that which I underwent myself.

If I take stock of these facts now, it follows from the relative lack of stops between the gallery and our midmorning destination. The street’s slope increased as we drew nearer the hill at the city’s historic center. To the left rose several university buildings from which students emerged at first in a trickle and then in an ever-growing flood of coats, limbs and voices. On our right, we found a series of office buildings, of which the lowermost windows stood either at eye-level with us or just below that, such that we could look in on individual and shared offices alike, their inhabitants pecking at keyboards or shuffling papers or hefting empty mugs, each employee as doleful as the last.

Street and slope evened out, and we knew ourselves at our destination: Cathedral Square and St. Mungo’s.


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