October 9, 2022
WHEN THE MET Office puts the chance of rain above 10 percent, then it’s 100 percent going to rain. The chance would be up to 50 percent by 10:30, rising to 80 percent later, so best to get up and ready for the morning walk.
I was keen to try out the boots I’d bought at the Salvation Army yesterday. For some reason on the receipt they were listed as “Xmas shoes £5.99.” True, Father Christmas could have worn them, at a pinch. I also bought two dress shirts, at £3.99 (“Mens T-Shirts”) and £4.99 (the only accurately described item, as “Men’s shirts”). The boots from Clarks (Made in India); the shirts from Marks & Spencer, both unworn, 100 percent cotton. The boots immediately felt right. Their slightly upturned toes had straightened out after being stretched with shoe trees overnight.
Long terraces of three-story Victorian houses under the grey sky, clad mostly in blond sandstone wet from last night’s rain. Canaletto would have loved these streets and crescents, the chimneypots shrinking in perspective as they recede towards the vanishing point.
At the bus stop a little granny addressed me. With the giant orange Warburton’s Family Bakery delivery lorry parked right in front, she complained, she’d have to stand in the road to be seen by the driver of her bus. I nodded genially, trying to convey sympathy about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and moved on.
Lake Nostrana—the frequently flooded portion of the road by the pizza restaurant— had drained overnight, leaving mud imprinted with tire treads and the golden yellow leaves of autumn on their journey back to loamhood. A young woman, girl really, easily overtook me in Highburgh Street, my pace must be slower than it used to be. The smoke from her cigarette, a surge of Proustian nostalgia Nine years now.
The umbrella, another thrift-shop find. Released and shaken out, it proclaimed “Bloomingdales” and “San Francisco” in a loud black woodcut kind of font reminiscent of an old copy of Punch, on a yellow and cream background.
Favourite coffee shops in the West End are, in order, Cottonrake (surely the city’s best bakery, with a neon sign advertising “Donut Repair”), Absolute Roasters, and Black Pine. Coffee shops are almost as common as barbers, pigeons, seagulls and magpies in this town.
Byres Road forever under sentence of rain and yet forever busy. A new cafe, among the many I’d never tried. The friendly twenty-something man behind the counter, small, unnaturally neat, head shaved clean, thought it too cold to sit outside but deferred graciously. Cappuccino with no chocolate (a dusting of cocoa being the default mode), extra hot, £3. But the taste of coffee was, sadly, absent; it was really just hot, foamy milk. Nevertheless, comforting.
A golden Labrador stopped to sniff at the little plastic hedge to the left of my chair, looking as if it might decide to pee. “Sorry,” said the woman in black tights accompanying the dog, but not in the deeply lip-pursing accent of a local. An apologetic smile, teeth perfectly even and white. Across the street, a panhandler sitting on the pavement, well prepared with a big sheet of plastic over his legs, and a paper cup for change. A lot of the shops here take only cards, must make it quite hard. Someone stopped to chat. Everyone talks to panhandlers here in just the same way they would talk to anyone else, a lovable characteristic of Glasgow.
There are dinosaurs on the great lawn in the Botanic Gardens. A T. rex, a stegosaurus and a couple of smaller, less-celebrated specimens. It doesn’t really work for me. There’s the Paxton-inspired crystal palace behind them, for one thing. Their plastic hides. The neat beds nearby, filled with whatever glorious riot of flowers they are stocked with, entirely spoil the prehistoric vibe. Also, why are dinosaurs always depicted with their mouths open?
One brave man walked his tiny toddler to the childrens’ playground at the top of the hillock. There is a monkey puzzle tree over to the right, perhaps the one suitable contemporary of the dinosaurs. Over the hill, in a sudden outburst of light, more shades of yellow and green than have ever existed on the palette of any painter.
A few moments later, I noted, the Met Office was lying once again. There was a pigeon as big as a chicken in the tree outside the kitchen skylight, against a sky as bright and blue as the one in the titles of The Simpsons.
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