Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Chess, draughts and UTG.

The kids had a couple of occasional days off school on Monday and Tuesday this week.  I was able to leave the shop in Morag's capable hands yesterday and we headed off to Aberdeen to do a spot of Christmas and birthday shopping.

We always make a point of walking through the wonderful Union Terrace Gardens whenever we're in town.  Much has been made in the Aberdeen press recently about the need for greater connectivity in the city centre - what they actually mean is that you should be able to move seamlessly from one shopping centre to the next (covered, moving walkways have been mentioned). 

Well you already can move easily from one to another, and you can enjoy the oasis of calm that is UTG as you do so. 

To get from the Trinity Centre to the Bon Accord Centre you can either walk a short distance along Union Street (along with everyone else on the crowded pavements and all the cars, buses and lorries chugging by) and then walk through the St Nicholas Centre, OR you can walk through a lovely Victorian garden below street level where you escape from the mad city centre bustle for a few minutes.

Anyone who knows me personally will be aware of my horror at the proposals to fill this garden with a 4 storey concrete building with a 'garden' on the top.  It's beyond bonkers.  I could write pages and pages on this, but for now I just want to highlight the work of the Friends of UTG

I have a few of these stickers in the shop if anyone wants one.

Refusing to be daunted by the powerful businessmen and heavily biased local press that are pushing for this 'development', they are doing a great job of raising awareness of the threat to the gardens and tirelessly campaigning for them to be saved.

Recently Friends of UTG gathered volunteers to give the garden's old arches a coat of paint.  People donated paint, rollers, brushes and time to give a new lease of life to this major feature of the gardens. 

Yesterday was the first time I'd seen them in all their glory, and they looked great!  To find out more about Friends of UTG please click here.

Another advantage of taking this route through the city centre, is that you walk past the Art Gallery.  I don't usually get the chance to visit the gallery as it's closed on my day off (Monday) but as I'd managed to get a rare Tuesday off, we were able to visit the fascinating touring exhibition of the Lewis Chessmen 

These 78 beautiful pieces were discovered on a beach on the Isle of Lewis in 1831.  Dating from the 12th century, they are intricately carved from walrus tusks and shark teeth. 

I've only been to Lewis once - Ewan and I spent our very first holiday together there in 1994 and it rained ALL week!  We do plan to go back sometime, maybe on an island hopping holiday.

In Starfish Studio I don't have Lewis chessmen, but I do have a Lewis draughts set!  Mother and daughter team, Anna Macneil, make beautiful wall hangings and more on the Isle of Lewis (mother) and in Inverness (daughter).

The draughts board is made with embroidered Harris Tweed which is 100% pure new wool, handwoven in the Outer Hebrides.  The draughts pieces are a combination of embroidered Harris Tweed and wool fleece felted together.  A lot of work has gone into creating this!


  1. Can't wait to visit your shop next time we're in Johnshaven.... and I'm in total agreement about UTG, it aint broke, so don't fix it! Great blog :)


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