Archive for February, 2010

Walking with Eloise Godolphin on 21 February 2010

February 21, 2010

To Kelvingrove Museum

I am walking with my god daughter (or fairy daughter) Eloise. Elo is my youngest walking friend (3 and a bit). I didn’t know she was taking me on our walk today, so was delightedly surprised when she met me at the door of her home with her compass safely in its box. (There’s an uncanny, pleasing symmetry at work too: Elspeth was my first – and oldest – walking partner; Elo is my second – and youngest. Elo has chosen to walk with me on the 21 February; I walked with Elspeth on the 21 December.)

Today offered a beautiful, sunny, frosty, blue-sky morning. Perfect for our walk. Elo had long ago decided that she would take me to the Kelvingrove Museum. A particularly great choice for a Sunday. We walked with the compass in its box in the pocket of Elo’s red winter coat but stopped a lot to take it out and check our direction.

Up Great George Street, where we looked for my cat, Oko, but couldn’t find her. Onto Hillhead Street, and past Florentine House, where Elo’s mum and I used to study Theatre Studies together. Then past the bike shelter, where I pointed out my bike – locked there to keep it out of the rain. Then past the library – where me and her mum used to read our books on the top floor. And down the hill past the round reading room. The number 15 curiously sprayed onto the tarmac – captured in a photo taken by Elo. Another check of the compass, but Elo’s sure of the way and points across the road. And she’s right. A brown and white sign just ahead has an arrow pointing right too. At the bottom of the hill, a church, which Elo also rightly remembers is where I work.

Along Kelvin walk way, and Elo spots the shoots of some early spring flowers. The purple hint of a crocus. Another good photo opportunity. Then a scooter ride (wow – watch her go!) over the humps in the tar pushed up by the old roots of the avenue of trees that line the way like stately gentlemen from another time. Elo shows me a statue: a man in a seated position, looking very studious. It’s the King, she tells me. (I think it might be Lord Kelvin, but who am I to argue?)

Ahead, the red standstone of the museum, built in 1901 as part of the Glasgow International Exhibition. It glows orange in the bright sunlight. We scooter towards it – or rather, Elo scooters and I run, trying to keep pace. Then up the impressive stairs and through the huge, heavy doors and into – a world unto itself. It’s no wonder this is one of Elo’s favourite places. It’s bustling, but still has a sense of grandeur, of new marvels to be found with every visit, of unexpected corridors and sights suddenly coming in to view (brightly lit heads hanging in mid air, laughing; a spitfire flying over a herd of stuffed animals, all from different continents…) The best thing about Elo’s choice of walk is that it it doesn’t end outside; it continues in here.

She knows this place well and leads me, first, down to the ground  floor (stairs with two sets of banisters to accommodate the different heights of its visitors). We get the lift back up to the first floor, then take another set of stairs back down to the ground floor. Then the lift to the second floor, where we can peer through the marble banisters to look down onto a giraffe (Elo’s favourite), two elephants (one a baby), an ostrich, a kangaroo, a moose, an albatross, a seagull flying above us…  We need to get closer, Elo says, and she knows exactly how to get us down there. We turn into a long corridor, walk right to the end, turn left, and there the grand stairs are. We’re just in time for an RSPB-led wild walk too (all these walks!) – and I am stunned by the kids’ alertness to the fate of our planet. This awareness is surely a good sign? The oldest must be about 8 and her knowledge easily surpasses mine. But even the younger ones (4?) are able to give reasoned answers as to the benefit of the leather-backed turtle’s shell (‘it’s a home’). I learn from a  young boy (6?) that you can tell a monkey from an ape because monkeys have tails. He’s studying the rain forest in school, he tells us. “What should we do with plastic bags?”, the RSPB man asks: reuse, recycle, the kids say, with confidence. (I also learn that these bags are the cause of strangulation in the leather-back turtle population; they mistake them for jelly fish.)

The wild walking tour ends, and Elo leads me to the cafe for a well-earned, but fairly short rest. Then it’s off again (via a short detour to the gift shop to see what we can find for baby brother Hector for £1 – we find a snail whose tongue extends when you squeeze him. Perfect.) At the exit, we consult our compass again, determine that we need to head North East, and set off – on scooter – at a canter. Along Dumbarton Road, then right, past the hospital, and on to Byres Road. Elo is a Space Rocket. We stop to refuel a few times (both of us). We each have a key in our back which can be turned clockwise to replenish our energy sources. It’s very convenient as by now we’ve been walking for some hours. Whilst Elo fires off into space, I’m trying to fly like the Eagle we saw in the museum – though am informed that I’m not an Eagle but a Vampire. Then Elo becomes a dog – Ti Ti, and I become Scooby Doo. Luckily, I have a bouncy ball in my pocket, which I throw for Ti Ti. Ti Ti is a good dog and always brings the ball back to me and drops it into my hands. I throw and Ti Ti chases the yellow bouncy ball all the way home, barking loudly sometimes. We return hot, sweaty, thirsty and tired.

What a fantastic walk. And what a fantastic walking partner. It’s a very long time since I’ve been a Space Rocket, or an Eagle, or a Vampire, or Scooby Doo. I’d thoroughly recommend it.

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