Over the summer months I have been criss-crossing Scotland, east-west, north-south so this might seem more of a photo-blog than usual. Places we are familiar with are hard to be objective about, but my love of this country grows the more I see of it. From the remote through to the rural and the suburban to the city. From the coasts and rivers to farms and forests. Hamlets, villages, towns and cities – seen it, done it but resisted buying any T-shirts.
Glasgow City Chambers
This is not a flash country – generally it is understated, not brashly promoting itself. Major tourist attractions apart, usually only signposted with standard brown signs, you tend to stumble upon areas of quiet beauty and simple charm. Of course, there are ugly parts – the plethora of boxy retail parks throughout the country probably top the list.
At best non-descript and at worst unpleasant they are however functional. Many ‘industrial’ areas too have an attraction of their own – the areas where the infrastructure is created and wealth created through employment.
Dundee from Newport-on-Tay
There is also the rich-poor divide – obvious in some areas, more hidden in others. There is a grain of truth in the phrase doing the rounds a few years ago; ‘Scotland, the best wee country in the world to be comfortably middle class’. But in itself that is too crude – wealth is always relative, many are rich in friendships and social connections with little materially, while others have plenty of money and lack happiness and contentment. And Scots from all backgrounds can be proud – or indifferent to – their country.
A few years ago I was visiting Las Vegas. Is there anywhere so far removed from Glenfinnan or Ardnamurchan? It is as glitzy and loud as Ardnamurchan is rugged and quiet. Yet many more human beings are attracted to that than even the Harry Potter Railway line! On the outskirts of the Las Vegas is Boneyard Park, site of the Neon Museum. The colour of the sky – Nevada Blue – is perhaps one of the main attractions.
The Museum has a unique collection of truly Las Vegas artefacts – neon signs from the dawn of the electric light age in the city of the desert. Walking through the collection of old signs, in the baking heat with the sun bouncing off the old metal, is a strange sensation. I could think of nowhere so different from my own country, yet it had a strange attraction. We are all drawn to the light and ‘Sin City’ has that to perfection.
‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ probably sums up the city well. It is the biggest convention centre in the USA – a bit different to how Glasgow is marketing itself as a conference venue. As I looked back on the Neon Museum photos it made me even more appreciative of Scotland. The ‘visual pollution’ of giant hoardings and bright lights is now integral to Las Vegas but it would be sad to see our country overwhelmed by gaudy signs. Perhaps the ugly box retail parks have their uses after all – reminding us how we should treasure our understated country.
O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent;
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content.