Saturday, 12 April 2014

Sleepless in Largs

I've never slept on a yacht before. I think I may have mentioned this previously, only it is three in the morning on my first night aboard Avacet, and I'm still yet to drop off. For once in my life I can guarantee that it isn't down to over sleeping. Indeed, having spent a little while in the sleeper train's lounge car drinking whisky on my way up here I was in my compartment's bed for fewer than five hours. I'm not sure it is down to excitement either, my anticipatory emotions having mellowed somewhat as some of the trip's uncertainties were resolved. Perhaps it is just that so much has happened in the past twenty four hours and there is so much still to come.

My morning in Glasgow was thoroughly enjoyable. I seemed to rediscover my adventurous streak,, a characteristic which, when at College over ten years ago, saw me regularly travelling to towns and cities across the West Midlands and Wales, broadening my mind and teaching me to stand on my own two feet. I think part of me forgets how challenging things can be and I am occasionally surprised and frustrated when I cannot find what I am looking for. But not so yesterday in Glasgow.

Wandering the city streets in persistent drizzle, conditions that Scots refer to as "drech", heading in the wrong direction more than once, and eventually walking double what I ought to have, felt like one big adventure. Once more I was reliant upon my own skills and experience, and it felt good. To top it all, when Cafe Gandolfo was finally reached I found myself in a place where customers are a prized comodity and well sourced food is king. In short, it was perfect.

But what to do with the remainder of my morning? @macolgan, who I mentioned in my previous post, had made a further suggestion, one which frankly couldn't be more firmly "up my avenue ".

In 2011 Glasgow's long established transport museum moved from its second home into purpose built facilities by the Clyde, acknowledging the city's indelible link with the sea. Almost immediately after the relocation it won European Museum of the Year.

Despite my success in finding breakfast without injuring myself or getting entirely lost, I thought it preferable to spend the remainder of my time in the museum, rather than potentially wasting it attempting to find the place. My taxi driver was kind and funny, attributes that seem to be a Glaswegian hallmark. He was also a brilliant source of intelligence on the city's perceptions of the Commonwealth Games and, almost certainly more prominent in Scottish minds, the forthcoming independence referendum. For the record, he was sure that the Yes campaign would be victorious, but that the subsequent process of withdrawing from the Union would take significantly longer than anticipated.

But, enough of the politics, we need to talk transport. The first thing that struck me on entering the Riverside Museum, as it is more properly known, is the immediacy of the exhibits. This isn't a venue where grand foyers and reception facilities form a psychological buffer between the man or woman on the Queen's Park omnibus and the stars of the attraction within. Rather, the trains and trams, taxis and trolleybuses seem to remain a part of the world they once served.

My other primary impression was of a place that is welcoming in its design and in the actions of its staff. Having been helped to find the cloakroom and toilet facilities I wandered the great space relying not only on deft cane technique, only seldomly tripping up a passing child, but also on the floor level lighting strips which highlighted each exhibit forming irregularly formed islands against a dark and extensive floor.

I won't pretend that I got everything out of my visit that I could have. A sighted guide would have been very helpful but I was at least able to explore independently, running my hands across the body work of steam locomotives, motorcycles and more, without challenge. What I lacked in background information I readily gained in artistic experience.

Arriving in Largs aboard a coach procured to transport fourteen or so visually impaired people who had arrived by train, it felt a world away from my morning's activities. Space was now to be shared and expertise pooled. Individual ambition would largely be replaced by teen effort and group learning.

Largs Sailing Club could hardly have been more welcoming as we bundled into their striking clubhouse with a multitude of bags and waterproofs. The main restaurant room, looking out westwards across the Firth of Clyde, later captured the setting sun perfectly as we ate dinner.

Later this morning we set sail northwards, heading for Loch Goil Head. The wind is due to be fairly strong and, as is traditional in these parts, there is rain in the air. It is going to be a testing week I know. But I am also sure that it will be fun. I only wish I could get some sleep in.

Location:Largs,United Kingdom

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