Some final photographs of Lerwick: “slightly old-fashioned” is meant to be a compliment.
Aberdeen is not certainly not old-fashioned; dour perhaps, but up-to-date. It has a massive harbour sealed off with high fences, so that you couldn’t fall into the water even if you wanted to. It has several shopping malls with overheated chain stores, where you can buy imported stuff identical to the stuff available everywhere else in the U.K. (except in Lerwick – probably). It has sushi bars and Costa Coffee. It has Big Issue sellers. It has hipsters.
But oh, the faded glories of Union Street, once the Knightsbridge of the North. Ah, Esslemont and Mackintosh, and the exclusive tailors and kiltmakers; and the gilded wooden signs hanging above the shops and banks. All gone. Actually, the kiltmakers have moved sideways onto the adjoining streets, but still…..
Wandering down Union Street, keeping your gaze at eye level, you could be anywhere in the UK. But you only have to pause and look properly to see something unexpected: an granite Art Deco building on a side street, Empire Gothic turrets on an ex-bank. Unexplained details on the faux-Arabian theatre by the docks (armchairs??? surely not). The granite setts are yellow or pink as well as grey. Some buildings are bright pink in the sun.
Everything changes, and not necessarily for the worse. Memories are not always reliable, particularly with regard to somewhere known only from childhood holidays and family folklore.
There were the Bon Accord Baths on Justice Mill Lane, where I learned to swim – now closed. The Art Gallery, where hung my favourite picture – closed for refurbishment. The Music Hall (never went there, but it’s a fine building) – closed for refurbishment. Marischal College and Tower, where there was a museum with real shrunken heads – now the seat of the City Council (no irony intended) and closed to the public, as far as I could tell.
But some remembered things are still there: the artillery shell collection box at the station, for one. There is even a surviving gilded boot on Union Street; and a jewellers’ gilded clock.
(The favourite painting? “Flood in the Highlands” by Landseer. It was the vivid quality of the details that I loved, particularly the broken egg, bottom right. http://www.aagm.co.uk/Play/Inspire-Us/InspireUs-Flood-in-the-Highlands.aspx )