So, there I was, sitting in warm sunshine, looking out over a lovely, sunny vista on a Sunday afternoon, eating Mackie’s ice cream and thinking to myself: “This is splendid.”
And this summer idyll was taking place in no less a spot than Union Terrace Gardens – you know, the place that all the Abermoaners said was going to be a disaster and desecration of a sacred place in the Granite City.
Perhaps they should tell that to all the folk who were sharing the space with me on Sunday, sitting in this new suntrap that has magically appeared in the heart of Aberdeen, with its flowered terraces, inviting benches, pleasant glades of trees and a rather lovely lawn at its centre, covered with people sitting on the grass in the sunshine.
This wasn’t a one-off, either. In the days after the temporary fence came down from around the lawn last week, the gardens have turned into a people magnet all through the day. There was even a pipe band having a practice there last Thursday.
It was almost as if access to the grass – the last piece of the UTG jigsaw – had sounded a “come and get it” gong across the city.
Yet, none of this might have come to pass if anyone had listened to the naysayers and critics. You know, the hardcore brigade who branded the project a monstrous waste of time and money.
To be fair, the revamp of Union Terrace Gardens only started after decades of debate, dithering and discord over what to do with the place. Even then, this iteration was beset by delays and setbacks and the odd outbreak of controversy, which helped fuel the bonfires of negativity.
It did feel like it would never open and, even when it did, would it be worth all that hassle?
But that’s just a timely reminder of an old Scottish adage: “Fools and bairns shouldn’t see things half done.” Because you can’t argue with the end result – a truly transformed and transformational Union Terrace Gardens in the heart of the city.
This is just the beginning for new and improved UTG
Just looking at the space, you can now imagine all sorts of cool and exciting things happening there to attract even more people.
Open air concerts? Why not, it looks like a natural amphitheatre to me.
Weekend markets and events? Perhaps it’s just the way my mind works, but I can see a beer festival going down a treat.
Even just folk flocking to the gardens to picnic, to take their kids to the brilliant play park with its awesome slide, or to amble through, enjoying the sculptures and artworks, or simply find a quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle.
Taking down the fence from the lawn wasn’t the end of the story for Union Terrace Gardens. It was just the start.
Now, it’s over to us to allow this lovely space to live up to its full potential as a people-place we will all grow to love, enjoy and use – because Union Terrace Gardens are blooming marvellous.
Scott Begbie is a journalist and editor, formerly for The Press and Journal and Evening Express