Having visitors (from Australia) means awaydays to see things I haven’t made the effort to see yet. First was Linlithgow Palace, which I regularly see from the train and frequently resolved to visit. It’s one of those places that you can just about imagine being habitable, even though it’s ruined. There’s a sense of intimacy – and a glimpse of the romantic: in a little closet off the king’s bedchamber, looking out over the loch, there are mottos on the ceiling bosses: “belle a vous seul” – beautiful to you alone, and “jamais ailleurs” – never elsewhere. (Tell that to Queen Margaret as she waited in vain for James IV to return from Flodden. Walter Scott has it in Marmion: “his own Queen Margaret who, in Lithgow’s home / All lonely sat, and wept the weary hour”; within a year she had had to flee Scotland.)
Then to Culross and the Merchant’s House (‘Palace’) built by George Bruce at the end of the sixteenth century – an entrepreneur worthy of The Apprentice. He wanted coal for producing salt by desalination, and found that mining was just as profitable, so did both. Some of the wood is painted ‘Georgian green’ – partly because the copper sulphate was good against bugs, but also apparently because it marked the household as royalist and not Jacobite … (You never quite know whether to believe guides. And is it really true that ‘cabinet ministers’ got their name from attending Louis XIV of France as he sat on the commode (‘Cabinet’) in the mornings?)
And so to Glasgow Art School, for a feast of Rennie Mackintosh (including lunch at the Willow Tea Rooms). It’s lovely to see a historic building still so very much in use by its contemporary students. Amazing light and dark; nature and structure; austerity and decoration. The library (above) is apparently like a clearing in the forest, with dappled light percolating through the trees. The very modern electric clocks in the Art School were synchronised from the Director’s Office, so there was no excuse for being late for class.
Better get back to work.