NEWS, RAMBLINGS AND AWARDS                                           JUNE 2010
I have previously said that I think the practise of having to ask for a railway station toilet key is utterly ridiculous. It happens at Lenzie and Milngavie, and other stations I'm sure. Well, an employee at Milngavie railway station has spilled the beans.
'Do you want to know why we keep the door locked and the key here?' said the employee.
'You bet,' I replied, as I settled down to a good long tale.
'Long long ago,' he began, 'a woman came and asked for the toilet key. She was a bit of a walker, she was... all boots and dangly bits.' I could sense great feelings of resentment towards the hoiking fraternity, feelings that were usually dormant but all too often bubbled and fizzed to the surface. His hair crackled and smoked.
'Yeh,' I said. 'Tell me more.'
'Well, within the space of an hour she'd handed that key to about forty other people.' As he said this he looked at me as if expecting, at the very least, some sort of round of applause.
'We don't have the staff or the time to clean that toilet when so many people use it,' he said. He then folded his arms and regarded me as if some sort of coup de grâce had been delivered. 'And that's why we keep it locked.'
I regarded him for a moment in the way that you do when you suddenly realise you're trying to hold a conversation with a tomato. On the other side of that thick sheet of Perspex I was wondering how long he had before him and those like him, those so set in their prehistoric ways that they are unable to adapt to any sort of change, would become extinct. The dinosaurs of our railway system.
The rather peculiar thing is that he genuinely thought this a valid reason, when in fact his tale only served to reinforce the need for the toilet to be open at all times. The fact that you have to ask for a key and then be subjected to interrogation as to whether you are a legitimate traveller or not is downright disgraceful.
Meanwhile, I emerged from the toilet to find a desperate looking man asking if there were any toilets. I gave him the key. I imagine, like me, he probably passed it on to someone else, who passed it on to someone else, and at the end of the day maybe a full 40 people used it and some poor First-Scotrail employee had to clean it. What a bloody shame.
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 recently noticed a large banner fixed to railings outside a primary school. It read, 'WE'RE WALKING ONCE A WEEK.'  It made me think. I could imagine the children parading around with banners flying and loud exuberant chants of, 'WE'RE WALKING! WE'RE WALKING!', perhaps with a brass band in front and a big drum rhythmically vibrating the very air. I mean, it's all rather worrying. Have levels of fitness amongst children become so low that they need the incentive of some sort of walking programme to get them up off their backsides and away from the computer and TV? When I was a child I walked quite a lot. I walked once many miles from Milngavie to Killearn with my mum, and I also walked from Glasgow to Milngavie with my sister. On neither occasion did we feel the need to announce the activity to the world with a few banners. If children grow up to believe that walking is something special that can only be done with a great hullabaloo, then it will become an activity that you only do on special occasions, when in actual fact walking is as natural an act as eating and is something that should be done every day. I reckon it's the parents we should be targeting, perhaps with banners saying, 'I LEFT MY FOUR-BY-FOUR AT HOME THIS WEEK.'
                 ELECTRICITY SAVINGS
The new Liberal-Conservative Coalition has passed its first and second statute. It comes from a necessity to sort out this country's financial mess, and to save power, if not  the planet.
As from August 1st, all street-lights will be dimmed to half their current wattage. As this measure presents a very real risk to life and limb, the second statute states that, 'All persons walking in the street after 6pm will be required by law to wear a fluorescent day-glo vest. Anyone not complying will be given one warning, then exterminated.'
While this may at first glance seem a quite drastic measure, The Good Soup Guide understands that the impact will be minimal as a lot of folk wear bright orange vests already.
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MARCH 2010
APRIL 2010

MAY 2010


Ah needed a pee
Ah had tae go
The train arrived
Don't you know
The door wus locked
Ma bladder full
Ah needed a key
It wusny cool
Ur you a traveller?
said the man
So ah replied
Ah'm Desperate Dan
Trials are expected to begin soon in Glasgow of the Taser stun gun. This addition to the beat policeman's belt, which already bristles with dangly bits and bobs, has been greeted by a mixed reaction. The outcome of the trial will be eagerly anticipated.
The Good Soup Guide understands that Glasgow police have been instructed to give the following warning when about to use the Taser:
'Hey you, Jimmy, stoap right there or ah'll stick the taser oan ye.'

We also learn that certain sections within the UK's police forces have expressed concern about the effectiveness of their current weapons arsenal. It is felt that perhaps the machine-pistol currently carried openly in big cities and airports would not be up to the job of properly protecting the public. Indeed, it is felt that, where combating terrorism is concerned, the police should be armed with more powerful weapons. A move towards a greater use of 'heavy ballistic weapons' has been called for, and talks are ongoing with regard to exactly what these should be. The Good Soup Guide understands from an insider that as from December this year, all officers who currently carry machine-pistols will instead be issued with bazookas. We also understand that the proper warning when about to discharge the bazooka will be, 'Hey you, ur ye gonny stoap or huv ah goat tae bounce a high explosive shell aff yer napper.'
We also understand that during training, police officers are given strict instructions not to fire the bazooka at shoplifters, except where circumstances deem it appropriate, like if the shoplifter scowls inappropriately. In order to allay any public fears, and to present a more human side to a public who are becoming increasingly worried about everything, all officers who carry the bazooka will also dangle a small teddy bear from their belt.
Rating System details for The Good Soup Guide, Scotland's online tourist guide
It's not hard to notice that a lot of pubs are going bust just now. A lot of factors are involved, the most dominant ones probably being the recession, the smoking ban, and supermarkets. The smoking ban has probably had a minimal effect. The supermarket thing is clearly linked with the recession, because people have less money to spend and are more keen to buy cheap booze in the supermarket. End of story.
While it is obviously not good to see people lose their jobs, is the closure of so many public houses a godsend? Is it nothing but a necessary evolutionary step that will see a lot of dead wood cleared away? I mean, let's not kid ourselves. There is a lot of dead wood out there, pubs that have seen better days and whose interior decor is at best grimy.
Surely men, and women, whose sole enjoyment in life is to frequent public houses for a drink and a chat deserve better? Whatever happened to the people's palaces of the Victorian period? Even back then, the licensing trade realised the importance of giving the working man some place quite grand to go to, somewhere where he might forget about his naff life and immerse himself in the richness of hope for a while. Maybe getting rid of the dead wood will be the best thing that has happened in a good long while.
This month we feature the recently-renovated Abbey Bridge in Paisley. A major engineering project saw chunks of the old bridge removed and replaced by modern ironwork. It is so encouraging to find that we are still capable of making big things, and of making them beautiful. Who'd have thought that something as simple and functional as a bridge could be so stunningly attractive. Well done to Paisley.
Abbey Bridge, Paisley

5th & 6th June
[12.00 to 4.00pm]

13th June
[12.00 to 4.00pm]

20th June
12.00 to 4.00pm

27th June
12.00 to 4.00pm



The Historic Saltire Society will have a medieval encampment in the castle. There, you may see how knights in armour were fed and watered and clothed, and how during moments of inactivity they would take to weaving their fingers. Aberdour is a fine castle. To get there you can catch a train from Edinburgh. Good ale is available at the Aberdour Hotel (The Soupsayer has not yet checked out the soup situation, but chances are you'll be able to get good soup there as well).

See knights in armour and swords and fighting, and pop into the battle camp. You can hear how Sir Andrew Murray arrived in 1337 to retake his castle from the English, and the part played by the medieval siege tower. Bothwell castle is a little ruinous, but retains an attractive castle shape. Bothwell is not far from Glasgow.

An event called, 'The Guardian & The Bishop'. The year is 1298, the castle is under siege, and word arrives about the defeat of William Wallace at the battle of Falkirk. The Historic Saltire Society set up camp and give you a taster of what it must have been like. While Dirleton Castle is a bit ruinous, it is still a nice castle with many nooks and crannies to peer into. The village itself is tiny and charming. Check out Dirleton page in The Good Soup Guide.

'Fraser's Dragoones portray the events of 1638-1640 in Scotland with a series of displays of the military and civilian aspects of the Covenanting rebellion.' The Soupsayer has not yet checked St Andrews out, but he understands that good ale may be had at the Central Bar and the Whey Pat Tavern. Contact me if you find any good soup places.
The Good Soup Guide reckons a review is long overdue with regard to the effectiveness of glass-cleaning equipment in public houses and hotel bars. How often have you been given a pint and noticed lots of small bubbles forming a pattern or lines on the inside of the glass? This is a dirty glass. It means the residue from a previous user of that glass has not been totally removed, and chances are you are drinking any number of things that escaped from the previous user's mouth, maybe some spittle, drool, and a few bacteria for good measure. Now, the thing is, either the current glass cleaning equipment is not up to the job, or bar staff are not properly trained on how to effectively use the equipment for glass cleaning purposes. Either way, something has to be done. If you have any inside information on glass cleaning equipment, please get in touch and spill the beans.
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. The one in June is on June 27th. 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.
The Riverlink ferry on the River Clyde, Glasgow
The city of Glasgow has a few new boats coasting up and down the River Clyde. There's a regular Riverlink ferry (shown on right) which is like a bus service on the water. It travels between the Broomielaw, the Glasgow Science Centre and Braehead, every day except Mondays and Tuesdays, up until 10th September. Right beside the new ferry terminal at Braehead there is an excellent museum (Clydebuilt Museum) which gives a good history of shipbuilding on the River Clyde. You'll see the times of this ferry at each of the three stops (first in the morning is 10.35am at the Science Centre).
In addition, there's a slightly larger vessel which offers sightseeing tours of about two-and-a-half hours, going as far down as the Titan Crane at Clydebank. This only operates once a day (except Mondays and Tuesdays, when there is no ferry), and leaves from the Glasgow Science Centre pontoon at 1pm.The Titan Crane is open to the public, and each sightseeing tour will allow you to disembark (get aff) at either Braehead or Clydebank, with a specified time slot to see things before getting back on. Your ferry ticket will entitle you to discounts on entry to certain attractions, so hang on to it. You can buy your ticket on the ferry, or phone 01475 721281 to check availability.

ABERDEEN - June 3rd to 5th at the Richard Donald Stand, Pittodrie Stadium. Opens at 4pm on the Thursday, 3pm on Friday, and noon on the Saturday.

EDINBURGH - June 24th to 26th at the Assembly Rooms, George Street. Opens at noon on all three days.