July 21st, 2010

Fishy Circumstances


How could I not like a city whose wide medians are full of energetically-blooming roses! My favorite guidebook note said that, for some number of years, Aberdeen was disqualified from competing in the annual Cities in Bloom competition, because it always won.

My intial impression of grey buildings, grey sky, and grey sea wasn't wrong - but neither was it nuanced. The grey isn't all one shade. The grey is a source of pride, all the granite dug up from what the taxi driver said was the world's largest man-made hole, just a few miles west. A hotel was going to be built in its depths, with cable-cars to ferry residents up and down to it, but it never happened and gradually filled in with water. Now, a waterpark is envisioned for it. The grey is not drab uniformity, it's civic pride in the city of Bon Accord.

It also claims "Europe's Capitol of Energy", which, if singular, means oil trumps windmills and solar power. Unless Europe has multiple capitols of energy? Capitols of Culture move around on a regular basis, so it's entirely possible. For all my taxi driver's worrying over global recession, British job losses, and local institutions being taken over by multi-nationals, Aberdeen has benefited hugely from North Sea oil since the '70s.

Tonight I went down to see the Dee, emptying its wide expanse into the North Sea. Steady traffic passed by, in and out, support ships carrying out the supply and maintenance business of oil rigs along the shore. Once, it was a medieval powerhouse, the largest fishing town in Europe (according to my taxi driver). It's been a hotbed of papermaking along the way. Now oil carries it along. So far, so good.