Scotland has a vibrant young music scene. My husband and I go to gigs regularly to support up and coming new musicians and bands such as Crystal, Lizzie Reid, Fauna, Zoe Graham, Russell Stewart, Walt Disco, Lucia, The Ninth Wave, Eleanor Kane, Weatherston, Bobby Kakouris, Quish, and Awkward Family Portraits, to name but a few. Different styles and genres, brimming with talent and enthusiasm these young Scots are a joy to watch from the vantage point of middle age. Undoubtedly, I'm the oldest member of the audience more times than not; but apart from one occasion when I inadvertently got caught up in a mosh pit, I haven't felt out of place.
For a change, I took my husband and musician daughter to something entirely different: two up and coming middle-aged-man rock bands called the Fat Cops and Best Picture. I was curious to hear what a bunch of seasoned, male political commentators (Chris Deerin and Euan McColm), authors (Ian Rankin) and comedians sound like in Glasgow's Admiral Bar on a Wednesday night.
'This will be great fun,' I told my bemused family. It was
great fun. The Fat Cops is a band that doesn't take itself too seriously, but at the same time, is 'deadly serious', according to comedian Al Murray, their drummer. I've been to plenty of young, all-male bands where their confident, male brazenness can sometimes feel slightly intimidating. With the Fat Cops, there's none of that and there was something rather touching about the performance (see photo below).
Despite smiling throughout the set, the songs, about men and masculinity in this confusing era of identity politics, were tinged with wit, humour and pathos. Maybe I'm too old, but I found them endearing and they are in fact, a bloody good band. My daughter loved Best Picture too, the support. 'That lead singer is really cool,' she said.
Gerry and Linda
On Sunday, I had another treat. My pal, neighbour and colleague, Gerry Hassan, knowing I wasn't feeling too well, picked me up in a taxi for a surprise day out. As the taxi pulled into the forecourt of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, I guessed: the Linda McCartney retrospective photographic exhibition. I had said so many times that I wanted to go, and Gerry being Gerry, made it happen.
Curated by Paul, Mary and Stella, the retrospective is a stunning display of Linda's talent. What moved me most, however, were her self-portraits and photographs taken of Linda. She was a beautiful, intelligent woman with a steadfast gaze. And as I gazed back at her, I was reminded of the vicious press she endured when she married an international rock treasure and unforgivably had the audacity to join her husband's band. It was a shameful period of downright brutal sexism and misogyny. Anyhow, if you haven't managed to see the retrospective, you should.
Afterwards, we had lunch in The Finnieston, a delightful bar restaurant specialising in seafood and gin on busy Argyle Street (see photo below). But as soon as you go through the door of this tiny, blue cottage-like building dwarfed on either side by huge tenements, you're transported to a cosy, wooden interior replete with log fire on the shores of a Scottish loch. I wasn't surprised to read that the place began as a Drover's tavern around 1800 and is said to have been frequented by Rob Roy MacGregor. I shall certainly be frequenting it more.
As usual, Gerry and I chatted for hours on a range of topics from imagining what life would be like if Twitter went bankrupt, to how marvellous it would be to find life elsewhere in the universe and land on Mars. We indulged in logically possible thought experiments, for example, my grandma's intriguing idea that it's possible that the universe might be a tiny ecosystem on the back of a giant dog so humongous, it is difficult to conceive. And that was after only one gin and tonic.
Nothing puzzles me more than time and space
In my experience, thinking cosmologically is therapy: mindfulness with deliberate thought content, which I suppose isn't really mindfulness at all. In fact, it's better. Thinking on a cosmological scale makes us feel small, and utterly insignificant. We are but tiny seedpods twinkling in and out of existence faster than the blink of an eye. And this is good. It is good not to take our existence seriously, no matter how awesome it is to exist and be conscious of it.
In this relaxed and detached frame of mind, I was reminded of Charles Lamb, the English essayist and poet, who said: 'Nothing puzzles me more than time and space; and yet, nothing troubles me less, as I never think about them'. That quote has always amused me. Of course, it tells us more about Lamb's imaginative limitations and sense of humour, rather than space or time, but whatever, it's the cognitive easing that matters. What I don't know is this: is the human brain, intelligent as it is, cognitively constrained by experiencing not much more than observation of, and from, a tiny planet?
For example, the brain cannot cope with non-existence. Is that because we can't have an experience or observation of sheer non-existence? Try to imagine absolutely nothing. There is no universe. No big bang. It's impossible. And imagining empty space won't do, for empty space is not nothing. At the very least it is the place where something can be; and if we go with Einstein, it's much more than that, indeed, space becomes a thing in itself.
It was this sort of reflection that lead Aristotle to say the universe has always existed. Sheer non-existence is inconceivable, and from the inconceivable nothing can come; ergo there is no beginning to the universe. It has always been here, and always will be. That, too, is not only puzzling, but strangely therapeutic rather than troubling.