The sun is out, belatedly, and in its weakly warm, barely there, almost autumnal pall I feel a small sense of relief that summer has not passed us by in its entirety out here in our little wind swept corner of the world. Not since the back end of May have we had weather remotely resembling summer; and with this tiny sliver of sunshine comes the urge to go out and do something. Thankfully Union Square with all its delights – and sun bathed open spaces – is only a brisk ten minute walk away from work, so I make a few phone calls and get my two friends from across town to agree to a meetup to catchup over lunch. We end up – and there must be no prizes for guessing here – at Nandos and we order our now standard fare, a platter of peri-peri chicken and a variety of sides to share. I go for a mixed leaf salad – between Sister #1 and the Irish drinkard, calorie counting has become my new obsession. My buddies, not shackled by the need to rein in bulging waistlines – both go for other less healthy options; OOO going for two sides of rice and Og going for a large serving of peri-peri salted chips. Between placing my initial order, and getting my loyalty card swiped, it turns out my last but one visit has entitled me to an extra half serving of chicken, which I add to my current order. All told we end up binging on a chicken and a half in the hour we spend there. Fully fed, with sagging guts and brains groaning at the small matter of another four hours of work, we down our coffees and leave to start heading back up to work. Having safely dispatched them to their cars, I settle in on one of the benches in front of the Union Square building to catch another half hour of sunshine before heading back to work.
This weekend the main objective is to make a pit stop at the Peacock Visual Arts Centre for Contemporary art. Nestled in the inauspicious surroundings that are the dark alleys, grey facades and, quite honestly, intimidating faces that define Castle Street in my mind’s eye (thanks to the bits I see on my daily walk to work), I have never given the sign at its entrance anything more than a cursory glance. It has taken an unlikely sequence of events – being hounded to find a hobby that involves more than reading a book in my room by my unofficial strategy consultant, then taking to twitter to search for accounts related to Aberdeen and then stumbling on the @TheKiosque account – I find out there is more to the Peacock Centre, and that Alina & Jeff Bliumis’ Language barrier and other obstacles exhibition opens there this weekend. I have to ask the young woman at the till at Barnados next door before I locate the entrance after I have dragged myself out of bed and into jeans and a crumpled shirt with a jacket on Saturday morning, but it is well worth the effort in the end. I find the exhibition small but intriguing. The collection appeared to be in three parts – one themed along the lines of having thoroughfares obstructed by books on language and identity, a second titled ‘Cultural Tips for new Americans providing witty, if over stated explanations for peculiar Americanisms like male to male hugs (they have a book too) and a final section of postcards with words and images seemingly from various immigration brochures. There was a Nigerian card too.
Exhibition viewing done and dusted I decide I need to grab some groceries and begin to head back out to Union Street to my usual Co-op shop. I find the road closed off and a man in a Tartan entertaining a rapidly swelling crowd, alongside his partner dressed in a dog’s costume. There is also the distant sound of drums and bagpipes. It turns out that Saturday the 28th is this year’s Tartan Day, and I have fortuitously stumbled on the Tartan Parade. In short order, the marching band comes through, up Union Street to where I am positioned close to the Sheriff Court where at a bellowed command they turn left to salute the Mayor (I think), who is dressed in his own tartan of course. My groceries are promptly forgotten as I take the chance to revel in the gaiety of it all – funny happy people, music and being literally lost in the crowd – a glimpse into Scottish culture I suppose.
All told, rain or not – and it did rain in fits and starts – I had what was arguably my most enjoyable weekend in a long time. The only downer being the nagging thought at the back of my mind that I may have discovered the joys of this city a little too late, in what -if I had my way – just might be, my last year here.