NEWS, RAMBLINGS AND AWARDS                                      AUGUST 2010
                                                NOW A DYING BREED
I have recently had cause to wonder about tradesmen. My dad was a tradesman. He was an electrician, and could turn his hand to anything. He could, if given the opportunity, have built a house from scratch. Fred Dibnah was also a tradesman. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure this country has many tradesmen left. I imagine the whole of Scotland is possibly held together by sticky-back plastic, white sealant, and the combined groans of householders who have been on the receiving end of so-called tradesman's efforts.
In my opinion, a tradesman is a skilled workman, one who always does a first-rate job, and who employs his brain as well as his arm.
I have just moved into a local authority flat. Two workmen turned up to fix the shower-unit. One was apparently the tradesmen, the other was his apprentice. Both looked about twelve years of age. Long ago, the apprentice would have been paired up with someone who not only carried the 'tradesman' tag, but had been a tradesman for many a year. That made sense, and why we don't do it anymore is beyond me. They were called out because some other 'tradesman' hadn't bothered to seal the large hole under the shower-unit and his manager clearly hadn't even bothered to check that the job had been done properly.
In my kitchen I have a water-heating boiler in a corner. A 'tradesman' built a wooden cupboard around it. When he built it he must have been under the mistaken belief that he was constructing a shed for a double-decker bus. The result was that I could not stand upright at the kitchen sink because the boiler cupboard was in the way. I've had a look at it. There is no need for it to be as big as it is. Someone was told to erect a cupboard, and this they did, with no thought whatsoever about anything else. Can't use the sink? Not my problem, mate. I'm just doing what I'm told.
In that same kitchen there is a small wall unit. You wouldn't think there was anything unusual about it until you come to clean the outside of the window and find you can't revolve the window to properly clean it because the cupboard is in the way. I just do what I'm telt, mate. Another robotic 'tradesman' with air for brains.
I'm sure there are real tradesmen out there, somewhere, but there are unfortunately also far too many idiots wielding screwdrivers and hammers.
BEST SOUP IN SCOTLAND AWARD goes to Brian's Cafe in Bo'ness.

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.

I have come across such sloppiness in customer service centres that I feel that many so-called 'workers' should be sacked on the spot.
I recently took possession of a local authority flat. As Shawn Colvin once said, a few small repairs were required. No problem, I thought, as my tenancy manual and the walls of the local housing office bristled with reminders of tenants rights and charting in no small amount of detail exactly what would happen when my repair was logged.
The email I sent was, one presumes, deleted. There was no record of it whatsoever. The scenario was without doubt that in some customer service centre, somewhere, some person opened the email, looked at it and decided it was too complex to deal with, and so deleted it. In my view such an attitude should be, at the very least, a sackable offence. No warnings. No ifs or buts. There's the door. And yet it is an attitude that we have come to accept as the norm in these so-called customer service centres where a great pretence is made about targets and efficiency and customer care and yet invariably when you get through to someone after waiting some 20 minutes on the phone you only just manage to open your mouth to speak and you are cut off. It's time to get tough.
Wallpaper is... don't start me on wallpaper!
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MARCH 2010
APRIL 2010

MAY 2010
JUNE 2010
JULY 2010

The Boat

I am watching people on the boat,
People on the boat are  watching me,
Watching them
on the boat,
There is great excitement
on the boat,
For soon the boat will leave,
Ropes will be wound,
A bell will ring,
And off it will go,
Slowly and with great majesty,
Down the river
Towards the sea,
And the people
on the boat,
Will still be watching
Me watching them
As I get smaller
And they become wee
and grey and
Enveloped in the mist
That hugs the river.

Goodbye boat.
Throughout time, it has been the role of children and small adults to annoy grown-ups. You hear tales of string being tied between two opposite doors in a close landing, and both bells rung, so that great confusion and annoyance occurs when folk try to open the doors.
As a child I got up to stuff, especially around Guy Fawkes, and how I managed to survive without losing a limb or two is truly amazing. But in all my naughty frolics I was never one for annoying old folks. The only person at risk from my explosive endeavours was me.
But something has changed in the past decade or so.  And it's bad. Something is causing our children and teenagers to be really nasty to others, whether to other teenagers or to adults, and the only explanation seems to be one of utter badness. I am not a religious person, but the word, 'evil' does seem to be the right one when you describe some of the antics these young people get up to.
In Paisley a schoolboy threw a raw egg into the cloisters of Paisley Abbey. It broke and deposited a yolky mess for someone to clean up. Was there something funny about that? Did he have a right good giggle with his chums back at school? Or did he have the numbers, '666' tattooed into his hairline? Children as young as ten have been roaming unsupervised through cemeteries toppling gravestones.
I once watched a small boy of around eight years work his way down a row of garages, stopping in front of each one to spit once on the door. By the time he reached the end of the row he had to work hard to get enough spit up to actually spit, but he managed it. He was on his own, so there was no bravado in front of the chums going on. It was a fascinating thing to witness. What can possibly make such a young child hate the world so much that this is how he gets his revenge? Does the answer lie in the 'food' he shovels down his throat?
There are times when I despair for the future.
Rating System details for The Good Soup Guide, Scotland's online tourist guide
Glasgow's Tall Ship - The Glenlee

Glasgow's one and only tall ship, The Glenlee, will be moved to the new transport museum some time before it opens. Before then, it will be sent away for a facelift which, one presumes, means a going over with a shammy, a hoover, and a sprinkling with that carpet stuff that leaves behind a nice smell. But even before that, you can visit it for FREE on August 7th and 8th, during what is termed the 'Sail Away Weekend.' A most pleasurable salty experience.
Goodbye boat. Come back soon.
This month we feature the National Wallace Monument in Stirling. It was built in the Victorian period to commemorate Scotland's hero, Sir William Wallace, and is one of the most visually stunning man-made structures in the world. See the 'Stirling - Other Stuff' page of The Good Soup Guide for details of the monument. I've even included a map which allows you a scenic walk to get there. [See 'Stirling - Other Stuff' page for more on the monument.]
The National Wallace Monument, Stirling

1st August
[12.30 to 4.00pm]

8th August
[12.00 to 4.00pm]

14th & 15th August
[12.00 to 4.00pm]

29th August
12.30 to 3.30pm



'The Power & The Glory' - If you've never been to Bothwell Castle then for goodness sake get up off your backside and go now. Although a little ruinous inside, it is nonetheless a visual feast that will have you galloping around, Monty Python-style, on a pretend horse whinnying and snorting with excitement. Today's event features demonstrations of the power of the warbow and someone called Archibald Grim. This castle is a little south of Dumfries, where good ale and soup places await your discerning taste buds.

A beautiful castle in a beautiful little village. This event is titled, 'Murder, Treason & Plot, and centres around the murder of David Rizzio, secretary of Mary Queen of Scots, in 1566. You get to hear about the plot from two of the culprits, and you can also learn about 16th-century fashion, make-up and grooming. There is also a military camp and live combat shows. You can get a train to North Berwick then a bus to Dirleton.

Fort George is near Inverness. The event is titled, 'Colossal Celebration of the Centuries,' which is quite a big title. It also looks like a big event, said to be 'Historic Scotland's largest event of 2010.' There will be hundreds of performers and all sorts of displays demonstrating fighting men from Roman times up to the present day. An event 'not to be missed.'

The Soupsayer has not yet visited St Andrews, but he understands it to be a mighty fine place. This event features the resurrected bodies of Robert the Bruce, John Knox and Cardinal Beaton, who all tell tales of Scotland's past. You can visit Bruce's 14th century camp, and listen to 16th century muskets being fired.
Free previews are available in Glasgow's George Square on 10th and 12th August at 5.30 - 7.30pm, and at lunchtime on 13th August, when half-a-dozen of the pipes and drums will Beat the Retreat. DO NOT MISS MAIN EVENT  ON 14TH - 9am to 6.30pm.
Dunaskin Steam Day in May
Fancy a hurl on an old steam train? The Ayrshire Railway Preservation group (a bunch of dedicated folk with black oily overalls) operate the Scottish Industrial Railway Centre in what used to be the Dunaskin Heritage Centre (on the A713, 10 miles south-east of Ayr, at Waterside, near Dalmellington). Various Steam Days have been organised. Those in August are on 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th of the month. Opening times are 11am to 4.30pm. There will be brake van rides, a shop and museum. Great day out guaranteed, as the surrounding countryside is beautiful.

CALLANDER - August 27th to September 5th at the Lade Inn, Kilmahog (pass Hamish, then turn left). The Lade Inn is a mighty fine place. Add on what they call The Trossachs Beer Festival and you've got a recipe for unbridled happiness. During the festival you can get to meet the brewer, sample some beer, and quaff good Scottish ale from the likes of the Williams Brothers, Harviestoun, Tryst, and the Lade Inn's own ales. There's good food most of the time, and on Friday and Saturday evening there's good music. I simply cannot wait.

Simply click the image on the right to be mysteriously transported to a page with two free music downloads from the Eddy Burns music archive (aka the box under the stairs).