02 – 06 JULY 2019
TRIP TO GLASGOW
FOR RICHARD’S GRADUATION!
AN 800-MILE ROUND TRIP AND TWO SELFIES ... NOT TO MENTION
THE OVERWHELMING JOY OF SEEING RICHARD LOOKING SO HAPPY
AT HIS GRADUATION J
On 29 or 30 April 2019 it was announced, via a press release which I saw on the internet, that Richard would be awarded an honorary doctorate by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) in recognition of his contribution to drama. The ceremony would take place on Thursday 04 July 2019 in Glasgow. His original graduation date was 2007, but he was unable to attend having already become a working actor.
Probably within an hour of reading this news, I had decided that I would make my first ever visit to Glasgow, in the hope of seeing Richard. With this in mind, I booked a 4-night stay at the Premier Inn in West Nile Street, just two blocks from the Conservatoire; I’d travel to Glasgow on Tuesday 02 July and return home on Saturday 06 July.
During the intervening weeks I attended the blue carpet at the UK Premiere of the Elton John biopic Rocketman, taking place at the Odeon in Leicester Square in London. Everything had gone to plan that evening … apart from being unable to obtain a selfie with the beautiful Richard. If it had been a horse race, I’d have been leading until falling at the final flight!
I’d been bitterly disappointed, fate not having smiled upon me on 20 May, and it took a few days for me to recover from this. However, by the time early July arrived, I was hopeful that my luck might change in Scotland ... although I definitely wasn’t counting my chickens following my previous experience!
I don’t fly … or at least have never flown, and to take a train to Glasgow would prove very expensive. So, this left me with the option of driving almost 400 miles to the City. To enable me to do this, I needed to take my car to the garage, because there had been intense vibration on the steering wheel at speeds over 65 mph since the front tyres were replaced during its MOT in February.
It transpired that there had been an issue with the tracking/wheel alignment equipment at the time these tyres were fitted, with a number of vehicles having to be returned to have this problem rectified, including the garage owner’s own car! The issue had driven me almost mad during my trip to Aintree in April … so it needed to be sorted, but luckily it cost me nothing because it wasn’t my fault. Phew!
The next task was to purchase a satnav; my first ever! I knew my way to Liverpool, and it wouldn’t be a problem to continue on to Glasgow but, I had no idea how I’d find my way to the car park once within the City. I chose a Garmin satnav, which I purchased on the Saturday prior to my trip.
I endeavoured to keep my packing to a minimum although, of course, I wasn’t particularly good at that. I took less with me than to both the Cheltenham Festival and to Aintree, but it was still quite a lot for just a five day trip and despite it being summer! It included four pairs of shoes and a pair of ankle boots, plus a raincoat, a pac-a-mac, also two anorak type jackets; I actually wore all four coats, at some point! However, I wore only my Hotter Aura casual shoes and Livvy flat pumps, plus my ankle boots to drive in.
Packing was a last-minute thing, on this occasion, with me starting on the Sunday before my trip and still packing the last odds and ends on the day I departed.
I set off on my journey at 09:37, according to the clock in my car. My route took me via Harpenden and onto the M1 northbound carriageway at Junction 9. I continued on the M1 until Junction 23A, just like I do when heading to Aintree, before driving along the A50 to Stoke-on-Trent. I joined the M6 at this point, junction 15. I continued in a northerly direction, crossing the River Mersey bridge, before transferring onto the M62 in order to visit the Burtonwood Service Station. It was slightly out of my way, but it’s where I always stop for petrol ahead of Aintree!
I arrived there at around 13:00 and set off again at 14:00; before departing, I set up my satnav too ... and ate the four small cheese rolls I’d brought with me. I re-joined the M6 and travelled for two more junctions with familiarity before heading off into the great unknown.
I decided to stop for a second break at the Southwaite services, south of Carlisle, because my concentration was waning by this point. I stayed for around 30 minutes before returning to the motorway, soon crossing into Scotland. I made a third stop, this time at the Annan Water services, solely to purchase petrol; I was on the A74(M) by this point. This part of the route was picturesque, with rugged hills covered in conifers and frequent wind-turbines too.
Nearing Glasgow, I was directed onto the M73 by my satnav, followed by the M8, westbound. I followed this motorway, which runs through the northern suburbs, until leaving it at Junction 16. At the bottom of the slip-road I turned left, heading down Dobbie’s Loan and taking a right-turn into North Hanover Street. At the second set of traffic lights I turned right into Killermont Street, with the car park entrance a short distance along on the left.
I entered the multi-storey car park and drove up to the 3rd floor, before parking; it was 17:57. My hotel was situated just to the other side of the adjacent shopping centre so, having loaded up with my suitcase and other baggage items, I set off along the walkway overlooking Glasgow Queen Street station before entering the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre, travelling down an escalator and out onto the western end of Sauchiehall Street.
West Nile Street is the first road crossing encountered, with the entrance to the Premier Inn a very short distance along, to the left-hand side of the road. Reception was on the second floor, so I carried my luggage upstairs rather than take the lift, in order to check in. My hotel room number was 1010, on the 10th floor; I had to get in the lift for that! Anyway, I headed up to my room to drop off the first set of bags. I was on the eastern side of the building; I would have preferred to be on the west, facing towards the Conservatoire, but one can’t have everything!
I then set off back to the car park to collect the remainder of my luggage; loaded up like a Sherpa, I headed back to the hotel.
Later that evening I decided to take a walk, along Renfrew Street which took me past the Conservatoire, just to get my bearings for later in the week. I returned via Sauchiehall Street, which is very run-down at the present time. Most of the thriving shops seem to be within the Buchanan Street Galleries, or along Buchanan Street itself.
As I didn’t fancy eating out or in the hotel’s restaurant alone, I decided to consume one of the Batchelors Pasta and Sauce ‘pots’ (chicken and mushroom flavour) which I’d brought with me. I’d hoped to buy a couple of Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodles to bring with me but, the local supermarket had sold out of that particular flavour. What was very annoying was the fact that the woman in front of me in the queue at the Supermarket check-outl had four Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodles in her trolley … damn, she’d beaten me to them!
I didn’t set the alarm for the following morning, having decided I needed as much rest as possible following the almost 400 miles drive from Hertfordshire.
I think I woke up quite early, initially, before going back to sleep again, finally rising at 07:45. I had a shower, washed and dried my hair, before applying a full face of make-up … you just never know who you might bump into during the day! I wore my charcoal grey jeggings, and blue ‘star’ M & S sweater (which I refer to as my Rocketman sweater because it reminds me of the ‘stars’ in the ‘O’ and the ‘A’ in the Rocketman logo), plus my cobalt blue M & S jacket, and truffle-coloured Aura shoes by Hotter, with bee-design socks!
I didn’t eat breakfast, deciding instead to rely on just a cup of tea for the present. I went out shopping, for a while – visiting the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre and walking along Sauchiehall Street too.
I bought two L’Oreal High Contour Brown Artist eyebrow pencils with highlighter; I’d been unable to find my favourite Revlon Brow Fantasy recently and this was the one I’d chosen as a substitute. In fact I’d used the L’Oreal one, in Warm Brunette shade, for the first time that morning and loved it.
Also two Maybelline Color Tattoo 24 hour cream eye-shadow tubs … I can vouch for the 24 hour claim, as I use it as a base coat, applying my favourite powder eye-shadow on top … and the powder doesn’t budge or even crease! I also bought an NYX Professional Makeup Cream Eye-shadow Primer to try as well.
I then headed along to one of the souvenir shops, purchasing a pretty lambswool scarf. There is a Wilson tartan, but it’s green and orange so doesn’t suit my colouring or my colour preferences. I also popped into The Works; I love that shop, for reasonably priced gifts. I bought two Glasgow t-shirts, for me, just in case I need to ‘draw the eye’ at a future date. Plus a Scots to English dictionary, just for the crack. Also a book about creating one’s own knitting patterns, plus three postcards!
I took my loot back to my hotel room, before heading out again, to sit on the wall outside the Conservatoire. I had been thinking that, maybe, Richard would pay a visit to the building at some point today, ahead of the following day’s Graduation Ceremony. I also popped into the reception, at one point, to ask about ‘loitering’ outside the next day – I was told it was a public thoroughfare so available to anyone … although neither of the security guys knew who Richard was!
I stayed until lunchtime, before heading back to my hotel room via the M & S food-hall, in order to consume what was now my lunch, rather than breakfast. I returned to the Conservatoire once more, after lunch, sitting on the wall again. Fortunately it was a nice day, with warm sunshine for much of the time.
After a little confusion, I got a message from my friend and fellow Richard-admirer Em, who had now arrived at the hotel, so I headed back to the Premier Inn once more. Although having corresponded for a number of months, it was the first time we had met. Following a chat, Em decided to have some rest and relaxation following her trip, so I headed back to the Conservatoire for a further stint!
I stayed there until 4.40pm, before going for a walk down Buchanan Street, and into Argyle Street. I returned via Ingram Street; the only Armani shop in Scotland is located there! I popped into a gift shop, where I purchased a fridge magnet, a tiny book about the Wilson clan, plus a Wilson key-ring. I also visited the car park to check that my car was okay; it was.
I went back to my hotel room, changing into a charcoal-coloured fleece gilet instead of my cobalt blue jacket. I went down to reception to wait for Em, before we went out for an evening meal. I was sitting in a chair, flicking through social media on my mobile, when an Instagram message arrived from my friend, and fellow-fan, Ruth. She’d seen from twitter that Richard was now at the RCS and undertaking a “Creative Conversation with Richard Madden” with the undergraduates.
OMG … I texted Em to let her know what was occurring and set off to the Conservatoire at a rate of knots. My pelvis had been giving me pain again, the osteitis pubis problems having returned now that a cortisone painkilling injection had worn off after 8 months, but I had no time to waste!
It was quiet outside the Conservatoire, so I sat on the garden wall nearby, hoping to catch Richard as he left. Not long afterwards, Em arrived, by taxi. We continued to sit on the wall, hoping to see him. I noticed a number of paparazzi photos on twitter, taken when he arrived with his mum and another lady.
Eventually there was movement; Richard appeared and moved swiftly down the steps and onto the pavement. He was wearing one of his natural-coloured suede jackets, black jeans, black boots and a black t-shirt, plus sunglasses. A group of students accosted him for selfie photos, including a group selfie one.
This enabled me to sweep around them and ask Richard for a selfie too. He agreed and came over to me. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking the selfie, so he took my mobile phone while I put my right arm around him and, evident from the resulting photos of which there are two, I rested my left hand on his left upper arm!
I have to mention that he was amused to see a photo of himself as my screensaver (my favourite Time 100 Gala photo in fact). I said “Oh sorry … it’s you”. And he said “It is.” I’m sure he took two photos because he realised I was a genuine fan, rather than just a ‘trophy hunter’.
Anyway, selfies taken, I thanked him and, as he moved away, said “We (meaning his fans) think you are wonderful.” He said thank you.
I returned to Em, who was still sitting on the wall, to share my joy. Meanwhile, Richard was accosted by more admirers, so I headed back across to where he was. He had now taken off his sunglasses, so I took the opportunity to take three further pictures of him, using my mobile phone, standing almost in his direct eye line, standing behind the lady taking the photographs.
I’m not sure what my facial expression would have been … probably one of pure adoration … and hopefully he may have noticed that!!! It was then time for Richard to depart, chivvied along by his mum. The triumvirate headed up Hope Street and disappeared from view, presumably to be picked up by a member of Richard’s family.
It’s quite strange, because I feel very calm in Richard’s presence, not a nervous wreck …
Anyway, Em and I headed back to the hotel, deciding to have an evening meal in the restaurant within the Premier Inn. I had problems concentrating after my adventure, apart from upon my mobile phone which, of course, Richard had touched too!!! However there were widespread issues with both Instagram and facebook on this particular evening, which didn’t help the cause.
We each had a glass of Prosecco to celebrate, and I ordered fish and chips as my main course. Despite not having eaten much all day, I did leave some, and I didn’t even want a dessert … which is not like me at all. Em had a dessert and finished off the unconsumed wine too.
Eventually we turned in for the night, returning to our rooms, Em’s on the 5th floor, mine on the 10th; Em’s room was west-facing but I don’t think one could quite see the Conservatoire from the window ... if she’d been on a higher floor, perhaps.
I think it was quite late when I went to sleep; I stay up far too late these days … especially as I’ve always previously been an early bird rather than a night owl.
And of course the week’s excitement wasn’t yet over, with Richard’s Graduation Ceremony taking place the following day; it would be one of three ceremonies.
I woke up for a spell during the night … and then I remembered that my dearest wish had been granted … I’d got a selfie with the most beautiful man in the world … it had taken careful planning, determination, and help from friends ... plus of course a sprinkling of stardust too!!!
When morning came, I showered and washed and dried my hair, applying full make-up and, today, I also wore contact lenses. Yesterday I’d worn full make-up, but had worn my glasses instead.
I decided to wear a pretty M & S skirt today, in mainly purple and turquoise, plus a purple top, a mauve cardigan, with purple tights and a pair of bright pink Hotter Livvy pumps; I’d normally wear heels but, in the presence of Richard, I don’t wish to feel too tall! I wore my cobalt blue M & S raincoat, with a grape-coloured fleece underneath.
I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry, so set off to the Conservatoire at around 09:00; meanwhile Em had decided to take a leisurely breakfast and would join me later.
We had an inkling that Richard’s graduation ceremony would be the 14:00 one, as this was when the drama undergraduates would attend. However I didn’t wish to miss anything, just in case. I discovered that ropes and a red carpet had been laid out in front of the main steps at the front of the Conservatoire. I decided to sit upon the wall which enclosed a narrow landscaped garden and watch the world go by.
At one point, I returned to the hotel briefly, in order to swap my raincoat for my warm teal-coloured jacket, the one I’d worn when attending the Film Baftas red carpet back in February. I also wore a fleece gilet, as the day was turning out to be breezy and cold.
Em joined me later, having walked up from the hotel. Eventually we found ourselves sitting very close to the reception entrance. The morning ceremony over, students and parents began to drift away.
I decided not to use my camera for Richard’s arrival as, earlier in the day when I returned to the hotel, I’d noticed what appeared to be a paparazzi photographer loitering on the corner of Renfrew Street and Hope Street. I’d never wish Richard to think I’m taking photos for money ... they are memories to remind me of my favourite things.
Anyway, Richard and his party arrived at around 13:15, from the direction of Hope Street. They briefly congregated in front of the red carpet, before his mum decided to climb the steps. Richard followed, hesitantly at first, beckoning for the remainder of his party to follow him. However I gather it was meant for him to climb the steps alone, to the accompaniment of a piper (it was a lady piper). The group then followed him, at a distance. I took a number of photos, but solely using my mobile phone.
With the excitement over for the present, Mary set off to buy lunch, while I headed into the nearby M & S store to visit the ladies! The loos were on the second floor, and I was briefly lost within the racks of clothes, trying to find the escalator in order to exit the shop!!!
Anyway, I got back just before 14:00 and was able to log onto the Conservatoire website in order to watch the ceremony live as it happened! Technically speaking, Richard was but a stone’s throw away, the wall of the theatre being just behind one when sitting on the ‘garden wall’ outside! Unfortunately it was difficult to hear the introductions and speeches via my phone, due to the noise of the traffic outside. However, he’d been joined inside by both his mum and dad, his younger sister Lauren and a group of his closest friends.
Anyway ceremony over, Em who had returned from lunch and I decided to move location across to the area beside the bicycle racks on the corner, hoping for some new action to take place. The drama graduates subsequently came out onto the steps to have their photos taken by the photographers and media who had gathered outside.
Then it was Richard’s turn to be escorted down the vacant steps, before climbing up between said graduates to take his place for the photo-call. I was now armed with my Lumix camera and was delighted when he took off his sunglasses to pose for everyone!
It was an emotional experience, seeing him looking so happy; especially when the graduates sang “The Bonnie Banks ‘o Loch Lomond”. He put his sunglasses back on briefly, whilst exiting the group, before being requested to pose alone within the adjacent area, for which he removed them again.
Photo-call over, he climbed back up the steps once more in order to re-enter the Conservatoire. We waited outside for a while, hoping that he might leave via the front entrance … but I guess too many people were loitering about, including those involved in the third and final graduation ceremony later in the afternoon.
I tend not to notice people … unless they are of significance; I’m very focused I guess. So it came as no surprise that I did see Richard Madden senior leave the building, along with a female companion, and they were heading in the direction of the car park next door. A few minutes later we spotted him again, driving an SUV before he headed up Hope Street and into the side entrance of the Conservatoire, as did a second vehicle. Not long afterwards, the SUV car backed out and drove away … taking its very precious cargo home to Elderslie I presume.
Excitement over for the day, we headed back to our hotel and into the bar. There was no food available at this time of the day, apart from potato crisps, so I ate a packet thereof and drank a cup of tea!
The Cineworld Cinema at the top of West Nile Street was showing Rocketman on Screen 10, so we popped along to see the 16:30 showing; it was Em’s’ 3rd viewing and my 4th! We arrived whilst the adverts were on, and it finished at around 19:00.
Em had booked a table at The Atholl Arms, frequented by the Conservatoire Students and actors in the past if not present … and presumably Richard in his younger days too … for 19:00, so we arrived slightly late, but it was not an issue. The pub is situated in Renfrew Street too, a stone’s throw away from the cinema.
Then, having finished our meal, we headed back to our hotel once more. We were so happy, as it had been a wonderful two days, and we could not have asked for more from our trip to Glasgow.
With the excitement of both Day 2 and Day 3 over and done with, it was time to jump on the tourist bandwagon to explore a little bit of Scotland! The only part of Scotland I’d visited prior to this trip was to Dumfries and Galloway (south-west Scotland) way back in 1980 … in other words, before Richard was even born!
So having eaten a proper Full English breakfast today and armed with my satnav, Em and I set off into the Trossachs, travelling via the M8 to reach the Erskine Bridge. I guess I need to confess that we carried out a flying visit detour via Elderslie on the way; we didn’t stop, just drove through ... otherwise it might have been classed as stalking, and that’s not what we are about! Besides, who knows, it might be the only chance we ever get, to see the village where Richard grew up ...
Having passed Glasgow Airport on route, it also made us realise how close the airport is to Elderslie … it must be so easy for him to fly in and fly out, unlike myself, who drove almost 400 miles from Hertfordshire! I guess the easiest option would have been for me to fly from Luton and, you never know, I might have bumped into him at Glasgow airport too!!! The only problem is, I never travel light!
Anyway, our first stop in the Trossachs was the village of Luss, on the western banks of Loch Lomond. It was rather too touristy for us, although we did spend a penny and buy ice-creams too. We decided to double back on our tracks and head to Aberfoyle instead; a disappointment too, but the young man (Ryan) in the Tourist Information Centre was very helpful and suggested we take the A821 to Callander, in order to enjoy the scenery.
We stopped off at the café situated at the Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, quite close to Aberfoyle, to enjoy a light lunch … although it was now mid-afternoon! We had soup and a slice of green tea, jasmine and raspberry cake. The cake itself was bright green in colour, but it was really nice!
Having completed our journey to Callander, I reset the satnav in order to take Em most of the way home. This meant continuing along the A84, and circumnavigating Stirling via the M9; I saw the castle and the Wallace Monument perched high upon their rocky outcrops. This is ‘Wilson country’ evidently. I purchased petrol at the service station above Junction 9 before re-joining the motorway.
We left the M9 in order to head across the Kincardine Bridge over the River Forth. The satnav took me through Kincardine itself, rather than via the bypass, because I’d stipulated the town itself as my destination! Returning to the A985, we continued eastwards; I saw the new Queensbury Crossing road bridge in the distance (it’s very beautiful) and, through the trees, one of the spans of the railway bridge too. These photos were found on the internet ...
We continued along the A985 to Rosyth, where we pulled into a Sainsburys’ local supermarket car park. Em had arranged for a friend to pick her up, in order to take her home the remainder of the way.
Having said goodbye, I reset the satnav to take me back to Glasgow. Thus I retraced my route back to Kincardine and the Bridge although, this time, I headed around the town’s bypass. My route must have taken me along the M876, before joining the M80 which took me back to Glasgow.
The weather had been changeable today, after all it was Scotland, and there was a heavy downpour as I headed along the latter motorway. It had stopped raining by the time I reached Glasgow, and I continued along the M8 latterly to complete my journey, leaving at junction 16.
I parked in the Buchanan Galleries car park once again, on level 3 as previously. As it was now just before 19:30, the adjacent shopping centre was now closed. I therefore walked back to the hotel via Bath Street.
I didn’t fancy going to the restaurant for dinner, so I consumed the second Batchelors’ Pasta and Sauce before turning in for the night.
It was time to leave Glasgow and make my journey back to Hertfordshire; it is a long drive! This being the case, I decided to have a full-English breakfast in the hotel restaurant, just after opening time of 07:00.
After breakfast, having packed up my things, I realised I’d need to make three journeys to the car with my luggage – presumably a result of ‘collecting’ a number of items of shopping during my trip! The route through the Buchanan Galleries didn’t open until 08:30, so my route took me up West Nile Street, along Killermont Street and into the car park via the main vehicle entrance.
I also used the lift to get to the third floor, as my bags were heavy; on the second occasion I returned via Bath Street, just for a change of scenery. On the final occasion I reported to reception to hand in my room key cards and also to get my parking docket stamped; the customer services office within the car park wasn’t open until 08:30, so I couldn’t have left Glasgow any earlier … if I wanted to take advantage of the concessionary parking tariff that is! Even so, it had cost me a total of £60 to park my car during my 4-day stay (as opposed to £100!).
With parking fee paid, I returned to my car and exited via Killermont Street. My satnav took a few minutes to pick up a satellite signal, but I was going to turn right at the junction with West Nile Street regardless. It is possible to see the closed pedestrian bridge over Renfrew Street, whilst waiting at the traffic lights; it’s located just outside the Conservatoire.
Anyway, I subsequently headed in a northerly direction, up Port Dundas Road, to reach Dobbie’s Loan, where I turned right. A left at the next junction took me under the M8, and I then took a right in order to head up the slip-road and onto the motorway. I continued on said motorway for a few miles, before taking the M73 for a brief period, followed by the M74; the latter would take me back to England.
There had been an accident at junction 15; it appeared a car had hit the central barrier and then ended up on its roof in the southbound outside lane. Police and emergency vehicles were in attendance, but there was little disruption for traffic by the time I passed through.
My journey continued through the Southern Uplands, with its picturesque landscape, conifers and wind-turbines. Even from a south-facing hotel window, I’d seen wind-turbines perched high upon the hills around Glasgow! The landscape levelled out as I approached the border … but I didn’t even notice a ‘Welcome to England’ sign! I was already feeling tired, so I stopped for a short-break at the Southwaite services; this included topping up my petrol tank.
Because I’d chosen a ‘non-toll’ route home, the satnav wanted me to leave the motorway at Penrith, in order to head along the A66 to join the A1. I don’t think so!!! Besides there was a tailback of traffic on the slip-road to leave the M6.
I continued on, through the pretty scenery at the edge of the Lake District, with tiredness always to the fore. My next stop was at the Charnock Richard services … where else? Having rested for a while, I continued southwards, eventually finding myself upon familiar territory, south of the Haydock turning, junction 23; I stay at nearby Golborne when visiting Aintree.
The motorway headed across the Mersey, and I continued on the southbound carriageway until taking a third rest break, this time at Stafford. I’d eaten only biscuits thus far so, on this occasion, I spent a penny in the ladies’ loo, before buying a packet of sandwiches (chicken and salad I recall) plus a bottle of ‘fat’ Coca Cola and a milkshake.
I filled the petrol tank for a second time today, before joining the motorway again for my journey through the heart of Birmingham; not upon the toll road I hasten to add. My journey time was increasing by the minute, so to speak, originally it had been 15:30 and counting! Tiredness was definitely a hazard during my trip home, so I stopped for a fourth and final time at the Corley Services, just east of Birmingham.
I think I rested for around an hour on this occasion, before re-joining the M6, and transferring onto the M1 southbound carriageway. I continued to junction 9, before leaving the motorway, and heading back via Harpenden to my home.
I arrived back at 18:05.
All in all, my first trip to Glasgow has been a wonderful experience, made so special by being able to share a few minutes close to Richard, and even being able to touch him when he took the selfies! I was also very pleased to note that he was looking so happy with life, after a few trials and tribulations in recent months caused by the paparazzi, the gutter press and unpleasant people on social media.
Richard is a very beautiful man, both inside and out, and an extremely talented actor. I am so proud to be an admirer and we must treasure Richard, or should I say, Dr Madden, deep within our hearts.