Thursday 4 September 2003

Under the weather

Glasgow skies

Glaswegian weather is a capricious beast. Although UK weather is notoriously changeable, Glasgow takes meteorological indecisiveness to a higher level, flip-flopping between low grey clouds and soaring blue skies on an almost hourly basis. Opening the heavy hotel room curtains at 8am is a voyage of discovery - the previous night's light drizzle could have been replaced by glorious clear skies, or may just as easily have attained downpour proportions.

Bright and clear days are much more common than Scotland's damp, precipitative reputation might ascribe, but the sunlight frightens the pale-faced locals who are used to carrying umbrellas but not sunglasses. Photophobes, they scurry across the broad streets, squinting at the reflections from the white paving stones and glass clad buildings, speeding between dingy offices, dark shops and shady basement bars.

To Glasgow's discredit, the town's facilities mirror the locals' vampiric dislike of sunlight and the city centre holds no pavement cafes or roof terrace bars. This architectural oversight would be possible to ignore in an ugly new town or a city centre overwhelmed by skyscrapers, but Glasgow's streets are broad and spacious enough to afford a view of the sky in all directions. And what a magnificent sky it is, much has already been written praising the infinite subtleties of Scottish light and cloud and those words hold just as true wandering along Sauchiehall Street as they do in the Highlands.

The light is best along the riverside, recently reclaimed from heavy industries and now studded with low flats and long straight pavements. The evening sky paints the steep glass wall of the Science Centre and silhouettes the tower but the paved banks contain nowhere for people other than marathon training management consultants and drunken derelicts to enjoy the show.

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