Sunday 22 June 2014

Hits and misses

The Telegraph reports that in the 20 years since I lived in the UK, the number of road signs has doubled to over 4 million. What a shame, then, that there's never one where you really need it. We did a lot of frustrating and time-wasting driving in circles today, beckoned initially by signposts that, once they'd got us off the main routes, then abandoned us, like Hansel and Gretel minus even the breadcrumbs. Even kindly Fran on the GPS was stumped. So no points for signage - but lots and lots for construction.

The Kelpies at Falkirk, for example, are towering sculptures by Andy Scott that are so striking that their presence is unaffected by the rush of traffic on the M9 right alongside, the nearby power pylons and sports ground spotlights, and even a crush of people and dogs.

I first saw them in 2007 as 10-metre models beside the Falkirk Wheel, and we went there today too, to watch two narrow boats being lifted up into the air from one canal to another, as another went in the opposite direction. It's a very clever piece of engineering that inspires admiration as well as some vague arguments about mass v. volume, and references to Archimedes.
Then there was Rosslyn Chapel, a stumpy little building exhaustingly decorated with carvings just everywhere, and exhaustively restored over a number of years, partly funded by all the visitors flocking to view the location for the climax of Dan Brown's dreadful book (which is on sale inside the flash new visitor centre). The chapel was packed - not the best conditions for studying all its minutiae.

There was almost no one at Wade's Bridge, apart from a couple on a tandem and some kids - astonishingly - swimming in the Tay, for all the world as though it's high summer. Well, it is the longest day today, and sunny - but very far from being tropical. Anyway, the bridge is elegant, sturdy, tastefully ornamented and a fine example of the general's work - built in 1733 and still in service.

Service: that's what all these engineers, architects, stonemasons, artists and so on have provided in spades here in the Scottish Borders. Shame the sign-makers aren't similarly dedicated.

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