Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Burns and Grimes

I'm on holiday from work this week, and in a single-handed effort to relaunch the Scottish economy I'm doing what Visit Scotland has suggested and having a "staycation". The fact that the kids are still at school this week, so I can't go away anywhere is purely coincidental.

To start my week off I'd been looking forward to seeing Canadian "coffee table goth" Claire Boucher, who performs as Grimes, at the Berkeley Suite on Monday night. She was sat in Black Sparrow next door to the venue having a drink before the gig, a nice wee bar if you're in that neck of the woods. That turned out to be about the last time I managed to see her that night. Her album for 4AD, Visions, is fantastic. If you haven't yet had a listen to it, go check it out. Electronica with girly, falsetto vocals channelling Prince and Kraftwerk - its better than I'm making it sound.

Grimes as spotted in the Berkeley Suite
Partick train station
I haven't been to a gig here before, I'm sure it works well as a nightclub, but it was the wrong venue for this type of show. The low roof, and a fan base of men and woman who could play in basketball teams meant that only the from 4 or 5 people would have had a view of her. (What I could see is captured above on the photo). One person noodling over their keyboards and laptops can struggle to make a visual impact, but she decided not to struggle, moaned about her equipment all being new, and grumbled between every song to her sound engineer. At one point she said (I think to him as she was kind of ignoring us) "I was thinking I should try some new stuff because I need to make my set longer", giving me the feeling that I'd paid to watch a rehearsal. She was on stage for 45 minutes, no encore and after a quick pint in the Baby Grand I was still back at Partick train station in time to catch Newsnight, if I felt so inclined. Anyway as @AidanJohnMoffat put it
08/05/2012 01:04 I saw a gig tonight and it was pretty rubbish. Wrong venue + amateur approach = massive disappointment. Oh well, the album's still amazing.
Spooky skies over Fenwick Moor

Tuesday was to be a day spent holidaying in Ayrshire. As the kids were off school for an in-service day, we took them down to Heads of Ayr Farm Park, which has a curious collection of typical Ayrshire farm animals such as meerkats, lemurs, wallabies and Ralph the camel. Although it looked like a typical Scottish spring day as we passed the windfarm at Whitelee, it was actually a glorious sunny day in Ayrshire.
On the way to Heads of Ayr Farm Park, with beautiful views to Ailsa Craig we drove up (or down) the Electric Brae. I am not greatly convinced by this great Scottish optical illusion. Is it just me, or are we all afraid to say that it's a bit crap?
Anyway I can heartily recommend Heads of Ayr Farm Park if you wish to entertain children, with animals, indoor play areas, huge sandpits, climbing frames, a wee tubing slope, trampolines and those big bouncy cushion pillow things they never had when I was wee.

One of those big bouncy things. Look! Sunshine!

Brig O' Doon
We then headed about 3 miles up the road to see the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which I'd never managed to visit since it opened a couple of years ago. It's nice and has some interesting artefacts and interactive displays that were (unusually in my experience) all working, but I'm not convinced it brings an awful lot to what was there already. My kids summarised it as "a bit dark", but the gardens round about are nice if you like that kind of thing, and I guess there is somewhere for coach trips to be fed now.
Inside the Burns Monument

I like climbing up inside the old Burns Monument, walking across the Brig O' Doon trying to remember bits of Tam O' Shanter whilst re-enacting the horse bounding over the bridge as the witches grab her tail and "left poor Maggie scarce a stump". Then on via the Auld Alloway Kirk where the witches and auld Nick were dancing, to Burns Cottage, his childhood home.

The temporary exhibition in the museum of new paintings by Adrian Wiszniewski was good, but some of the other sculptures in the park are a bit more uneven in their quality. I quite liked the mouse, but he didn't seem very sleekit or timorous. Anyway, it was a nice day out down in Ayrshire. Last time I was there was to watch a midweek 0-0 draw for Partick Thistle at Somerset Park on a dreich November night. Today was a much more pleasant affair.

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