Though most people are, I think, aware of the Japanese tradition of hanami (literally “flower viewing” – the custom of admiring the cherry blossoms in spring), the corresponding period of kouyou is a little less documented. It refers to the leaves changing colour in autumn (a word, it occurs to me, for which English lacks an elegant equivalent) and it’s not uncommon for people to travel to the most scenic spots across the country on momijigari (autumn leaf hunts) in search of the most beautiful spots.

Autumn is, by no small coincidence, my favourite season, and loath to miss out on a much-beloved tradition through mere geography, I made a concerted this year to find a spot in Glasgow for a momijigari of my own. It might not have been Kyoto, but my inaugural visit to Kelvingrove Park proved a surprisingly pictureseque substitute.

What I did not expect to find on my leaf hunt was this.

In a case of curiously perfect timing, I posted the above pictures to Facebook on the 15th of November to express my bewilderment at having run across a bongo-playing giraffe in the middle of Kelvingrove Park. A few minutes later, a friend responded with a BBC article published the exact previous day, revealing him to be Baillie Armstrong, aka The Good Giraffe.

As it turns out, he’s a man on a self-imposed mission to travel across Scotland carrying out random acts of kindness towards complete strangers. His previous deeds include handing out free bananas and water to runners at the Edinburgh Half Marathon, cleaning up litter on Portobello Beach and giving away £10 vouchers to mothers in hospitals. On this particular day, he was busking with his djembe drum, and offering passers-by the chance to join in.

“Giraffes are like me,” he says, “My head is in the clouds but my heart is in the right place.”

I love the casual disinterest of the people walking by.

I also enjoy the sassy leg positioning of this statue.

The Stewart Memorial Fountain in the heart of the park.

Erected in 1879, it commemorates Lord Provost Stewart of Murdostoun who was instrumental in the delivery of Glasgow’s water supply system from Loch Katrine. The more you know.

Council info states that “unfortunately the fountain uses mains water, an extravagance that cannot be afforded today”…

…which explains, I guess, why there’s no running water and the words “skull fuck” written in the middle.

Good from afar, far from good.

Glasgow University, looking very storybook-picturesque from between the trees.

Kelvin Way Bridge has a group of bronze figures on the corner of each parapet, representing Peace & War (NE), Philosophy & Inspiration (NW), Navigation & Shipbuilding (SE), and Industry & Commerce (SW). This fellow is Philosophy.

I don’t know why, but the pair representing Industry & Commerce looked like smug fucks to me. Sadly, they escaped the landmine disaster of 1941 which took out two of the other corners.

Oh well, at least the leaves were pretty.

Since I was in the area, it seemed a waste not to visit the art museum.

By curious coincidence, there was an orchestra playing in the central hall that day so I had an appropriately grand soundtrack when I was exploring the galleries.

…one of which included an impressive range of statuary (pictured: Mary Pownall’s The Harpy Celaeno)…

…and, erm, this.

Contrary to reasonable expectation, the bongo-playing giraffe was actually the second oddest thing I saw this day, pipped to the post by a sea of floating heads within the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The installation represents “Expression”, chosen as the theme for one half of the museum after its recent refurbishment. It’s a playful homage to Victorian sculpture galleries, including the one in which it’s housed.

“Like a release of balloons, the heads bring lightness and humour to a grand building, lifting visitors heads and acting as a draw to the upstairs galleries.”

It was by far the most popular attraction among the crowds.

The installation in context. This gallery, by the way, is a dead ringer for the Natural History Museum in London, give or take some stained glass and a diplodocus.

If the events of Night at the Museum were to suddenly take place here, it would not end well for those birds.

Under the nose of the plane there is Sir Roger the (taxidermied) Asian Elephant, described as “one of Kelvingrove’s oldest and best-loved exhibits”. They also claim that “he lived [in Cowcaddens] quite happily until October 1900”, which seems at odds with the reality wherein he developed a condition called musth which made him aggressive to the point where he had to be “humanely” put to death by a firing squad.

Am I the only one that thinks this painting looks super gay? I’m onto you, Keith Henderson.

Statue of Hermes

I liked his little winged sandals (or I guess extensions of his feet in this case)?

Dat ass!

There’s a wonderful junk sale feel to the museum which is – it seems – what they were actually going for. In keeping with the popular Victorian hobby of owning grand collections of curiosities, in the late 19th century the building was a stately home in which the “Kelvingroves sought to cram as many natural and manmade oddities as they could find from around the globe.” Mission accomplished.

Dinosaur and giant Princess Mononoke-esque prehistoric deer.

Do you think the taxidermist just thought, “Fuck it, people will know it’s a tiger”?

For my friend, Naomi: who is, I think, as excited to see Highland Cows when she eventually visits Scotland as she is me.

Alas, my momijigari having taken place about a month ago, these leaves are likely dead and gone already. Farewell, autumn – until next year!

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