NEWS, RAMBLINGS AND
AWARDS APRIL 2010
Shhh... tickets please...
It was once the case - and I know you'll find this hard to believe -
that ticket inspectors would announce themselves with a big booming
voice when they entered a train carriage.
'Have your tickets ready for inspection, ladies and gentlemen,' they
This was to allow us travellers to delve into the deep recesses of our
pockets and handbags to locate the said ticket. It meant there was no
delay while the wee old woman with the small but ferocious dog went
through every compartment of her tartan trolley to find her ticket.
We were all a lot happier with this system, both travellers and
inspectors alike. It was a system that ran smoothly and made us all feel
pretty good. The inspector felt good because he commanded an air of
authority that made him feel that his life was worthwhile, and
passengers would obediently proffer the said ticket when asked. Us travellers
also felt good because we felt there was someone with a big manly voice
watching over us, ready at a moment's notice to step in at the merest
hint of an emergency. (I was once on train where someone got stuck in
the loo. The door jammed, and his cries for assistance made the journey
much more exciting than normal, but that's another story.)
But all that's changed. Now the ticket inspectors sneak up on you,
deftly creeping along corridors so as to catch you unawares. I mean, it
is not practical to sit for a whole journey clutching your ticket. Most
of us like to keep it somewhere. Somewhere safe. And so, when a ticket
inspector suddenly appears, as if by magic, at your side, with no
warning whatsoever, occasionally drumming their fingers with impatience,
well... it's just not cricket. In fact, it's damned annoying.
And not just that. For instead of popping a nicely shaped hole in your
ticket with a special punch, they now run their pen over it in a manner
that suggests they are not so much checking your ticket as making sure
their pen still works.
Sigh. Changed days indeed.
BEST SOUP IN SCOTLAND AWARD goes to Brian's Cafe in
BEST ALE BREWED IN SCOTLAND AWARD goes to 'Seven
Giraffes', a superb ale brewed by the Williams Brothers in Alloa.
BEST PUB AWARD goes to
Greyfriars Bar in Perth. Go there now to find out why.
BEST THING TO SEE AWARD goes
to the panoramic view from Edinburgh's Calton Hill.
BEST LITTLE WALK AWARD goes to the forest track through
Mugdock Wood in Milngavie.
There is an alarming trend amongst those faceless people on the other
end of the telephone to ask complicated questions. The other day, by way
of one final security question, I was asked to confirm the last four
digits of my mobile phone number. It would have been easier manually
blowing up a life-sized inflatable hippo. Our brain does not store such
data in segments. It stores it in a oney, and as such most of us can
happily reel off the whole number, not bits.
Security questions are really starting to annoy me. You can, for
example, be asked to confirm the third and seventh letter of your
password, or the second and ninth or fourth and sixth or whatever. There
are times when asked such a thing that I'm sure I can hear chortling on
the other end of the line while I hum and haw and dither like an old
yin. It's similar to the trick question asked by the interrogator to
make you unwittingly spill the beans.
I'm beginning to think that the whole thing has been thought up by bored
call centre staff, each trying to outdo the other by coming up with the
most complex question...
'What is the letter after the fifth letter from the end of your
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PUDDLES ARE WET
Next Month -
The truth about
Duncan was a dinosaur
Of the Diplodocus kind,
Who was often very dithery
With a very leaky mind,
So he plugged his ears with hippos
To stop his thoughts going far,
But all the other dinosaurs
Just thought he was bizarre.
The Lost Word
If you are an old person, then I should warn you that now is
probably a good time to take to the hills. Not for recreational
purposes, but to escape the madness that pervades our lives. Further to
concerns about the increasing numbers of old people in our society, top
government officials have ended a lengthy debate and enquiry into the
problem by coming up with a startling conclusion. Although you may not
know it, in the past week or two emergency legislation has been drafted
and passed in parliament, and the Prime Minister is expected to make a
speech to the nation very very soon. (Stand by your beds.)
A government insider has spilled some of the beans. We understand that
all old people will be required to report to their local council
headquarters on the first day of May this year. Those who fail to do so
will be rounded up and forced to report. There, they will be enrolled in
the NRPFS (National Road Pothole Filling Scheme).
Once in operation, the scheme will see pensioners taken in busloads to
areas where the roads have a high incidence of potholes, and will be
required to lie down in the road, in the hole, between the hours of 8am
and 6pm, Monday to Friday. This will make it easier for those in our
society who have a purpose to get about the place, delivering food to
supermarkets and such like, and rush-hour traffic should move much
Any old person who refuses to take part in the scheme will be placed
instead in the FSFAS (Fresh Sausages For All Scheme), and may never be
seen or heard of again.
THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH
How come you often see women standing smoking at the entrance
to Hair, Nail and Beauty Salons? If there was but one thing certain to
be bad for your hair, your nails, and to make you wrinkly and quite
ugly, it would be smoking.
▪ How come householders usually take great
care when positioning their wheelie-bin at the edge of the pavement,
while bin-men often place the empty bin right in the middle of the
pavement so that it gets in everyone's way?
▪ How come practically every single pub in
the country assumes that customers enjoy watching football and have
flat-screen TVs positioned at every available angle?
▪ How come milk no longer tastes nice and
creamy when you put it on your breakfast cereal?
▪ How did we manage before we had plastic
bags and things that go, 'bleep'?
BUILDING/STRUCTURE OF THE MONTH
This month we feature the huge crane at Finnieston, on the
banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow. It is a hugely impressive bit of
kit, once used to move whole trains from low-loaders onto ships. As a
child I once climbed ladders to the top and found an old man living
there. Or maybe he worked there. Or maybe he was a wizard. Climbing to
the top is not advised and not permitted as it is too dangerous. The
crane stands today like a sentinel guarding the gateway to Glasgow's
great engineering and shipbuilding past, and to a past where Britain was
really Great. Changed days indeed.
THE COUNTRYSIDE IS BEING TAKEN OVER BY ALIENS
As you will no doubt be aware, in some visually sensitive parts of
the country, mobile phone companies have been disguising their masts
as trees. You can see a couple of examples at the large roundabout
between Bridge of Allan and Dunblane. Well, what you probably don't
know is that the mobile phone companies are extending this
philosophy to include other things that you might ordinarily see in
the countryside. The image on the right was taken near Maybole, and
is a mobile phone mast cunningly disguised as a cow. It is not too
obvious at first, but if you stand and watch it for a while it is an
absence of movement that gives it away. So realistic are some of
these masts that farmers have been known to drag them back to the
shed for milking.
New Call Centre Staff For BT's Glasgow HQ
Jobseekers were spotted queuing in their droves outside BT's Glasgow
headquarters recently. This comes after advertisements in
newspapers, which were not quite what they appear to be.
'We had become dissatisfied,' said a company spokesperson, 'with our
regular call-centre staff, and decided to take on Blobs. We didn't
think there would be just so many Blobs in Glasgow, and were
pleasantly surprised. At present we're thinking about extending the
scheme to other parts of the country. We think Blobs are the way
forward. They take less breaks, rarely complain, and although we
recognise a potential issue with excessive weight and its resultant
health problems, we are happy to put our full backing behind them.
We wouldn't be the company we are today without exhibiting some
sense where employment issues are concerned.'
The Good Soup Guide understands that 200 Blobs may be taken on.
[Photograph, showing some hopeful call centre workers queuing, is
brought to you courtesy of Blobs Are Us Inc.]
OVERHEARD SNATCHES OF CONVERSATION IN THE STREET
In Paisley - 'A number nine? A number nine? Ah said, what the
f**k dae ye mean.'
In Glasgow - 'Ah wonder whit thur sellin'
noo - them wi' thur kebabs an' thur pizzas.'
MOBILE PHONES - AN ADDICTION
I saw someone in the street the other day and they
were not using a mobile phone. Their head was not down, their finger was
not pushing buttons, and they were pretty much looking where they were
going. I thought it was suspicious.
'Hallo, police. There's someone in the street not using a mobile phone.
I think he's up to something...'
Mobile phones are becoming quite dangerous things. Dangerous and
addictive. I now take my phone into the toilet so as not to miss any
calls. Speaking on the phone with your trousers around your ankles and
your hand clutching loo-paper is not the most attractive image I wish to
convey when holding an important discussion.
If you want my advice - and I'm not really the man to give it, but -
switch the thing off for a whole day every week, and try to get some
semblance of normality back into your life. You know things have gone
too far when you're discussing the efficacies of lentil soup and there's a number
two on the
LOCKED WHEELIE BINS - A STEP TOWARDS MADNESS
How we ever got away with introducing wheelie-bins is beyond
me. They spend most of their time clogging up pavements and obstructing
people with prams and in wheelchairs. Now the government is extending a
scheme whereby electronic chips are placed in locked bins to allow them
to weigh and, ultimately, charge you for the amount of refuse discarded.
They might argue that such Draconian steps are necessary as we're
running out of landfill sites and people are not properly separating
their rubbish into stuff that can be recycled and stuff that can be
Well, I'm sorry, but this is a load of bollocks. You cannot force people to
comply by introducing such nonsense. It is the start of a very slippery
slope that will see this society break down completely into lawlessness,
rioting on the streets, and such like. If you want to do this properly,
then we have to bring back that trusted Victorian rubbish-sorter, The
Scavenger, who would go through household refuse back in some depot and
sort it into various types for recycling and so on. Because if you roll
out this lockable lid/weighing scheme, then I can guarantee that we will
see more rubbish discarded surreptitiously on our streets, in lay-bys
and hedgerows in the countryside, and in generally every available
space. And, to be perfectly frank with you, any government person who
reckons such a scheme is a good idea wants his rear-end used as
INTERESTING WORD ALTERNATIVES USED IN THE PRESS LAST MONTH
He has a 'chemical dependence' = he's a drug addict.
He's being 'disingenuous' = he's a liar
BANKS HAVE NOT LEARNED LESSON
A recent report by the Scottish Affairs Committee expressed
concern that frontline staff were still 'under pressure to sell
potentially unsuitable products' in banks. Never a truer word was
written. At present we are seeing tens of thousands of ordinary people
in the UK going bankrupt because banks sold them unsuitable products
like loans or overdrafts or credit cards without carrying out proper
checks as to whether that person could properly afford to meet the
repayments. I thought banks had learned from this. And yet, go into
practically any bank today and just happen to mention in passing
conversation to the teller about these hard financial times, and chances
are they will offer to increase your overdraft. They can do this at the
push of a button, with no check on your current employment status. For
those struggling to make ends meet, pensioners, the unemployed, and
loads of others, being suddenly faced with an extra £100 or £200 is just
too good an opportunity to pass by. Because you suddenly see a short
spell where you will not be scrimping and scrabbling in the bottom of
the financial bucket, and you might even get to buy those new shoes that
you desperately need because your old one are old and worn and leaky.
The temptation is just too great. So you agree to an increase in your
overdraft. And then, over time, this overdraft creeps up and up and up,
and before you know what's happening you're paying a good portion of
your meagre monthly income on interest on the overdraft. So you think
about maybe a small short-term loan, then maybe a credit card, and
before you can say, 'Here we go again,' you're having to declare
yourself bankrupt because you cannot afford to live.
Unless banks drop their bonus-led targets for frontline staff, this
sorry financial mess is just going to keep coming around again and again
MAN ON HORSE RALLIES SUPPORT
Historic Scotland have enlisted the services of a man called
Hamish and a large and quite beautiful white horse to promote a special
offer. Their campaign runs from 26th March to 11th July, and anyone
signing up for a year's family membership will be given an extra three
months free. The 'Make Your Own History' campaign will be touted around
the country via leaflets and various electronic means, and you may even
spot Hamish on television. Bear in
mind that once you have your membership you can visit all of
Historic Scotland's historic sites, like castles and abbeys and what
have you, for free, even when
there's an event on, like the jousting at Linlithgow Palace in July.
[Remember, if you say you were sent by The Good Soup Guide, you will be
given a free round of applause.]
Picture on the right shows Hamish at Doune Castle.
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AND NOW FOR THE NEWS... EASTER EVENT AT STIRLING
CASTLE - 3rd, 4th and 5th of April
Stirling Castle is hosting an Eastery thing. As is to be
expected, there are eggs involved. There will be people in costume,
puppetry, magic, dancers, and a 'hilarious panto-style comedy show
featuring ‘Baron Hardegg’ and ‘Squire Softboiled’ - characters who were
a huge hit at our previous popular Easter events'. So, there you go. But
remember, once you've seen the castle and soaked up some Eastery stuff,
walk down the hill into the town. Because there's much more to Stirling
than just a castle. Might I recommend that you begin with a hearty bowl
of soup in the Darnley Coffee House (2009 Winner of The Good Soup
Guide's 'Best Soup In Scotland' Award), which is located near two shiny
black cannons at the foot of the aptly named Broad Street.