Monday, 18 August 2008

We will rock you

During my walk round Edinburgh yesterday, I visited the new (ish) National Museum of Scotland. I didn't have long to look round and I will certainly come back. Susan Harvey had recommended it to me and the early collection is really fantastic and beautifully displayed. I love objects - like the flint arrowheads here - where the beauty comes from the perfection of the design. They are functional objects but have an aesthetic integrity - a truth - a rightness - about them. The beauty isn't necessary (the maker wasn't making them for their beauty) but neither is it accidental.

I had a cup of coffee in the rather dull cafe and watched a troupe of girls doing Scottish dancing. They were a rather amusing range of shapes and sizes, dressed in tartan skirts, black tops and tights, all of which made them look remarkably like Ronald Searle's St Trinian's girls as they bounced about to the bray of bagpipes. And speaking of bagpipes, I hope I never again - as I did walking down Edinburgh's High Street - hear Queen's 'We Will Rock You' played on bagpipes.

I also walked around one of my favourite cemeteries (it suddenly strikes me as a little odd that I should have any favourite cemeteries). Greyfriars is wonderfully grim. The urge to clean the soot off buildings does not seem to have taken hold in Edinburgh the way it has in other British cities and some places benefit from grime. The Scott Monument is a jet black and all the more striking for it.

Greyfriars Cemetery always seems edgier than your average cemetery or graveyard. Drunks and addicts do seem to be strangely attracted to graveyards, and on my last visit here I was growled at by a particularly aggressive wino. This time there were a couple of youths with a dog, yelling and up for trouble.

Rather than the euphemistic or sentimental creations you often see in graveyards, Greyfriars, croaks 'Death!' at you at every turn. There are hundreds of skulls and skeletons; often crudely carved and eroded and encrusted with grime to add a layer of Gothic gloom. I drew a few of the skulls:

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