Ah, Neil Young.
There was a time when I would have chosen Dylan in a Bob versus Neil fight.
I’ll always love Robert Zimmerman’s enigmatic wordplay and his transition from hip New York Village bohemian to toe-tapping blues grandpa with a gravelly voice and a pencil moustache. But I’ll always identify more with Neil; the corduroys, the checked shirts, lots of fuzzy feedback interspersed with strummy melancholy and references to the great outdoors.
What put me in mind of all of this? A trip to Aberdeen, that’s what. (Dylan wrote a song that mentions Aberdeen. I think it’s called Highlands and is on the Time Out of Mind album. Neil Young has never written about the Granite City, as far as I‘m aware. Although his album Sleeps With Angels was a tribute to Kurt Cobain, who was from Aberdeen, near Seattle in Washington state. Ahem. Shall I get my coat?)
The long journey along the A96 to Castle Greyskull aka Europe’s Oil Capital was actually OK.
In the main Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed was happy to listen to strummy melancholy on the stereo. A stop in Huntly to say hello to an auntie proved a welcome break. The auntie has stairs.
Why the excitement? Well, we live on the ground floor and as a result steps of any kind are hallowed in the eyes our Toddler. Up she must go with you holding on. And down she must come with you holding on. And then up. And then down. And so on and so on until you have a hernia and arms like an orangutan.
Wife-features even introduced the concept of bumping down the stairs on your bum. It reminded me of an ’incident’ a couple of summers ago when a bunch of us went for a Sunday drive and ended up at a ruined castle on a grassy hillside. It was a lovely sunny day and I couldn’t resist going for a roll down the hill on my side. We used to do this a lot at school. It turns out I am no longer eight years old. Within moments of my descent I could hear hips cracking and shins popping. Never again. Well, maybe just once. With a paramedic at the bottom.
We met up with friends in the Bon Accord shopping centre. Oh my. Acres and acres of Next, Thorntons and Boots. It is UK High Street plc all under one big grey roof. I did genuinely find myself looking up with mouth open, a true country bumpkin feeling tiny in the big smoke.
Mind you, it quickly wore off. It’s only Aberdeen.
One of the joys of city dwelling is the quiet bits. Art galleries, parks. A peek inside the Aberdeen gallery and you’re face to face with a bit of Tracy Emin neon and a Gilbert and George stained glass window. There was also some Andy Goldsworthy stuff - holes in the sand swept away by the tide. Hmm. I tend to think if I could do it, it’s not art.
TWMBO was enthralled by a plasma screen showing a loop of a cartoon drawing of a woman walking. Just that. Nothing else. If there’s a buyer for Cbeebies reading this - buy that plasma screen now and just make it your entire schedule and we can all have a rebate on our licence fees.
I read at the weekend - and this was news that had truly slipped past my radar - that a couple of years ago the proportion of the world’s urban dwellers exceeded rural dwellers for the first time. That’s right - city folks in their bowler hats outnumber the rustic types with their bad teeth and trousers held up by bits of string.
I was also intrigued to learn what the world’s five biggest and richest cities are. Tokyo is number one and then there’s New York, London, LA and …
It’s Chicago. Handy to know in case it ever comes up at a pub quiz.
I do wonder if TWMBO will thank me and Wife-features for raising her in the Sunniest Town in Scotland rather than a heaving metropolis. To date her experiences have included getting very close to ruminating beasts, £300k combines and prize-winning cakes at the Nairn Farmers’ Show, walking through town on my shoulders behind a very loud pipe band on Highland Games day, and being told on a Sunday evening there is no emergency custard because the nearest open shop is fifteen miles away.
A colleague who lives in a metropolis told me an interesting tale which perhaps says something about kids who grow up in busy, wealthy surroundings.
His wee girl had homework to do. Draw a picture of a Scottish landmark.
What’s a landmark, was her question.
It’s a building that makes you feel Scottish, came the reply. Like Edinburgh Castle. Why don’t you draw Edinburgh Castle?
No, I don’t want to.
OK, draw something else then.
The lass produces a wonderful piece of art, clearly a fancy building of some sort.
What is it, asks her dad.
House of Bruar.