Passing through Aberdeen

I went through Aberdeen on the way out to Shetland, and on the way back.

On the way out I drew St Machar’s Cathedral then proceeded south to find the excellent coffee shop Kilau Coffee recommended by the church guardian, who knew her coffee shops. By then I was in the University. It was still raining. So I sketched Kings College Chapel, from a convenient cloister.

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Kings College Chapel, Aberdeen, from the cloister. 9th August 2019 15:21

Then I walked back to the ferry terminal, still in the rain. Here’s a sketch of a building on the main square.

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Aberdeen Market Square, 26 Castle St, 9th August 2019

I was taken by the multiple levels of bartizan, which are the towers fastened to the side of the building. These are also called courbelled tourelles. I was sketching from the doorway of a charity shop, in biro, which was the only medium that worked in the sluicing dampness. I tried to find out what this magnificent building was. It seemed only to have a number: “26 Castle Street A-H”, so I guess it is residential.

From the window of my cabin on the ferry I saw the same building from a distance.

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On the way back, two weeks later, I took a walk round what I termed the “Starbucks side of town”. This is the part south of the railway station. There is indeed a Starbucks, on Union Street. The houses are grand here, and in orderly terraces. Here’s a glimpse of an end house, a quick sketch as I was on my way to the bus station.

More posts about these visits to Aberdeen:

St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen

Station Hotel, Aberdeen

 

 

St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen

St Machar’s is in Old Aberdeen, North of the University.

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I went to look for a medieval carving, a “Green Man”. According to my instructions it was in the “North East Crossing” on the “west side”. I had a good look around. This is a very plain church, solid granite columns, no carving. I could see no “North East Crossing”. The church is rectangular, not cross-shaped like most churches. The enthusiastic guardians welcomed me, and told me about the church. It is very ancient, and many different peoples have worshipped there, including the Celts, whose 7th century stone cross stands at the west end.

After I had listened and chatted, I showed them my instructions: “North East Crossing, west side”. Ah, they said, but there is no longer any “North East Crossing”, it’s been demolished, for centuries, since the Reformation.

I felt a shiver as though someone was telling me a ghost story. My instructions came from a printed book, much later than the Reformation, clearly. But the guardian was still talking. “You can see the ruins,” she was telling me, “Outside”.

Outside it was raining, a heavy wet Aberdeen rain. I stomped about in wet grass, between gravestones. I was looking up, which made me more wet. And there he was, the Green Man, staring down. I risked taking my iPhone out of my pocket for an instant, to get a photo.

I couldn’t draw outside, so I went back inside. The picture I drew shows the position of the Green Man, but the inside wall. He is on the outside.

9th August 2019, St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, now Church of Scotland, formerly Celtic, Roman Catholic, Episcopal.

Station Hotel, Aberdeen

The ferry from Shetland arrives in to Aberdeen at 7am. The air feels cool and chemical, like water from a cold tap. I carry my luggage on my back, and it’s heavy.

No, they won’t take my bag at the ferry Left Luggage. Only if I’m travelling on the evening ferry will they take in my luggage.  I am not travelling on the evening ferry. I have just arrived on the morning ferry. And I am going to the airport. But that is later. For now I have a heavy bag, and the whole of Aberdeen to explore.

Let’s try the train station.

It is Sunday.  Aberdeen is closed. The Union Square shopping centre is closed. So the route to the station is three sides of a rectangle, a circumnavigation of the Union Square, Jury’s Hotel and the Bus Station. Outside the Jury’s Hotel, a cluster of men with beer cans  part to let me through. My grim determination is reflected in their faces. Or perhaps it’s something else I’m seeing: their effort to stay vertical.

I spot the “Left Luggage” symbol at the Train station. The door has a dim window which frames a seated man. “I see the Left Luggage operative,” says my optimistic brain. The straps of my luggage are now making permanent furrows in the muscles of my shoulders. The door is locked. I rattle it. “It opens at nine,” comes a voice. It’s the seated man, who is behind me, reflected in the dirty glass. He is sitting on the sunlit steps, waiting.

From the table at “Patisserie Valerie” I can see that he is still there. He hasn’t moved at all. Those steps must be cold, granite. He must be fed up. But he didn’t seem fed up when I spoke to him. Perhaps he is sitting there for some other reason. Perhaps he does not require the services of the Aberdeen Station Left Luggage.

I do, though. I order breakfast at Patisserie Valerie. The glass and steel of the modern shopping centre cuts the view into bits. I can’t draw it all, so I draw a segment.

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A bit of the Station Hotel, Aberdeen, from the Union Square Shopping Centre, Patisserie Valerie.

That odd curl in the top right is the “e” of “Union Square” written on the outside in modern 3D lettering.

Here is work in progress.

Exactly one hour to draw, including eating breakfast. Patisserie Valerie opens at eight. The Aberdeen Station Left Luggage opened at nine.

When I went there, the seated man had gone.