We had never been to Scotland and were itching to see some
new artists. The first stop, though, was at the Writers’ Museum
in Old Town. This tiny, tiny little house which was built in 1662
houses personal possessions of three Scottish giants: Sir Walter
Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Yes, it was tiny and cramped like this–narrow, scary spiral
stairs. But———-! I saw Sir Walter Scott’s childhood hobby
And I had a very interesting conversation with the curator of
the Robert Louis Stevenson rooms. You know, it’s a funny little
thing of mine that it seems everywhere you go—Robert Louis
Stevenson was there and lived there–and there’s a school or a
library or even a museum about him!
I grew up near Saranac Lake in New York state, and a few years
ago O’Half and I were visiting in the area and went to: lo! and
behold! a Robert Louis Stevenson museum! To be fair, RLS really
did live there for a while, and that little cottage is jam-packed with
a million souvenirs of his life and writings. His mother lived with
him, and later with him and his wife and daughter, and someone
was a hoarder I think! RL was ill for the greater part of his life and
moved frequently to warmer climates for his health.
Well, this curator in Edinburgh is a member of the RL Stevenson
Society or something and the group had recently flown to the US to
visit the museum in Saranac Lake! Small world.
Of course you and I know that RL spent his final years in Samoa, and
according to the Scottish curator, he died in his very own childhood bed
that I guess Mother had shepherded along from New York to California
and then on to Samoa!
Well! we must leave this and head along to an Art Museum and the
one we chose was the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. This
is a huge stone building, interesting grounds:
Inside the building are cavernous rooms sparsely furnished with
grand modern work of Scottish artists. Imagine having a whole room
to yourself and your little watercolors! Well, these were more
startling in most cases, than watercolors. Anyway–
O’Half—-or should I call him MacHalf while in Scotland?—he and I
moseyed into one semi-dark room where a video was playing. Not a
soul in the room but us, and we sat down on a bench to watch.
A woman with a pad and paper is writing something down, and there
is a man behind the counter—they’re in sort of a store–hardware? And
it’s in black and white—kind of earlyish—I could see cars from the 50s
outside their screened doorway. Volume turned off, read lips if you can.
Then a young woman comes into the store–looks kind of familiar in a
full puffy skirt, modified pageboy hairdo, very pretty. She begins to
talk to a handsome young man we hadn’t noticed before—he looks
VERY familiar—oh, who IS that old movie star?—not Rock Hudson–
but very similar.
We must have sat there for half an hour watching that old movie. And
you know what? Do you know why we were so fascinated? It was in
It was so intriguing watching it lurch along inch by inch. We couldn’t
figure out if it was a new movie looking like an old one–or what.
We finally got up to leave the room. On the way out, we saw the placard
describing the “art of moving image” and found out it was the old
movie “Psycho”. Yikes! Who would have guessed?
The girl in the scene we saw wasn’t Janet Leigh, but Vera Miles–and
the handsome young man was John Gavin. Remember him?
Well, I think the whole thing is so clever—-Douglas Gordon (born in
1966) is the artist. The movie, if you watch the whole thing takes 24
hours viewed this way. I don’t know if I’d want to see that shower
scene in slow-motion . . . But I’m telling you that the time we spent
watching it was so fascinating. I think I’ll remember it for a long time.