The desecration of Elgin
The fact is that the husband has been up in Scotland this weekend, and we decided to spend a couple of nights even further north, and chose Elgin as a good base for all kinds of things we thought we wanted to see.
Elgin had once been a wonderful town. Not to mention the famous ruined cathedral, it still has an elegant Greek revival church (complete with a replica "Monument of Lysicrates", as you can see in the photo, on its top). This was just part of what had once been an elegantly proportioned town centre of the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century.
The High Street is now a complete disgrace (and I am afraid the pictures don't quite capture the horrors of it). All local efforts seem to have gone into a 1980s/90s shopping mall, leaving the beautiful street to crumble -- some of it boarded up, some of it taken over by rock-bottom rent charity shops, all of it scarred by modern shop-fronts that pay no attention to what had been a beautiful street-scape.
What on earth as caused this?
Partly, it is the disdain shown by the architects of chain stores for the local street architecture. Marks and Spencers or Claire's Accessories will put up the same gaudy plastic fascia, no matter what the underlying architectural style of the building is.
But it must also be the philistinism of generations of local and national planning that has a lot to answer for. There is something particularly offensive about this area of Scotland -- where every mock baronial pile, wildlife sanctuary or traditional distillery gets its "heritage" brown sign, but the real jewel of a town centre like Elgin's is systematically destroyed.
You cant actually get in the Greek revival church. And its porticoes have been taken over by some of the more disaffected sections of Elgin's youth, as well as by an array of "No skate-boarding" notices.
And if the High Street is not bad enough, then just try the dreadful Tesco development that has been plonked between the ruined city centre and the eighteenth/nineteenth-century parkland (complete with a Nelson-style column, which you see below on the right) on its borders.
Not that Elgin is without its pleasures. There is a great independent bookshop in Yeadon's (stocking an impressive book by Jenny Main, documenting what has happened to the town), a wonderful shoe-shop in Beggs (where, I confess, I bought more than one pair of shoes) -- and a lovely hotel (just underneath the afore-mentioned column), whose super staff gave us a great weekend, and great hints of what else to see!