NEWS, RAMBLINGS AND AWARDS                                             MAY 2010
Pony Express
The UK Government is keen to boost broadband quality in Scotland. At present we are lagging behind other countries, like Norway and Sweden. Further to much research, a new broadband scheme will be rolled out in 2011. It will work like this...
All computers manufactured from December 2010 will be fitted with a special button. Whenever any internet activity takes place, the user will press the button.
Within one hour (the Government has promised that the timing here will be rigidly adhered to), a man on a fast horse will arrive at the door of the computer user. The bits, kilo-bits and meg-bits of information will then be placed into a special leather satchel and transported across the land at high speed to wherever the information is to be sent. It is expected that delivery will be
possible within three days.
'We shall give employment to tens of thousands of
men and women,' said a Government spokesperson,
'not to mention an equal number of ponies.
Employment shall be banished forever from these
islands. And ponies can quite happily leap over
potholes, so another of this land's problems will
vanish overnight.'
'There will be special Pony Stations erected
every ten miles where the animals can feed,
and the manure they produce will be used to
fertilise another new programme where all
householders will grow their own vegetables.
This country's problems are over.
All Hail the new Broadband.'
Pony Express
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.

You may by now be aware of my inane prattlings. The truth and facts are, in my book, things to be fiddled with, twisted and squeezed until they bristle with white lies and porkies. Life would be so boring if everything was just as it seemed.
As such, it will not surprise you to learn that I may have inadvertently changed the course of history. Many years ago, while working in an old old house that had been turned into something of a museum, I pointed to a huge glass Victorian pharmacy bottle and said to two Japanese tourists, 'Mary Queen of Scots whisky bottle.'
'Ah,' they said, nodding. 'Mary Queen of Scots wheesky bottle.' They nodded some more, clearly grateful that I had shared such a secret, then took photographs of the thing. In Japan, Mary Queen of Scots is probably now known as a Scottish drunk...
Strangely enough, she did like a drink now and then. Seemingly she tried to take her mind off the fact that her head was about to be cut off by downing a 'generous consumption' of brown beer from Burton-on-Trent.  Might have given her a bit of a headache, mind you, but that was the least of her worries.
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MARCH 2010
APRIL 2010

A Day in Dunbar

I wandered lonely
under a cloud
That always dumped
its rain
But then I visited
John Muir's house
And the sun
came out again.
Don't Gat All Lippy With Me
It's not easy being a woman these days. Not that I know anything about it, as I'm a hobbit. But I imagine there are lots of pressures out there to do this and that, to either conform or not conform and remain one step ahead of the conformists. Thin or plump? Red or Green? Long skirt or short? Hair tinted or not? Botox or not? It goes on and on and on.
There was a report published last month from the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery detailing new advances in lip surgery. Apparently women reckon pouting lips is a desirable asset. Or maybe men reckon women with pouting lips is a desirable asset and women have been forced down this sorry path. Whatever, seemingly better results can be achieved by using muscle taken from the neck. And so the story might end.
But here in The Soupsayer's fantastical world of porkies we have discovered that experiments have taken place involving muscle and fat tissue taken from the buttocks. Unfortunately this little experiment went horribly wrong. The surgeon was a tad too enthusiastic with regard to the amount of tissue taken from the woman's rump, the end result of which is that he made, how shall we say, an arse of it, as can be seen below.
lip surgery gone wrong
Rating System details for The Good Soup Guide, Scotland's online tourist guide
Am I alone in finding shopping particularly difficult these days? It seems that every time I venture out with a list I end up with nowt but high blood pressure and a peculiar desire to throttle someone.
Take, for example, stationers. We used to have such shops, selling pens and staplers and paper and stuff like that. But all these individual little shops are closing down. Now if you want to buy a pen or, in my case a highlighter pen, you've got to purchase a packet containing a sufficient quantity to last you for the rest of your life. I don't want six highlighter pens. I just want one. Is that so hard?
The other week my ordinary pen (yes, some of us still do make squiggly designs on paper - it's called 'writing') ran dry and I frantically dashed to and fro trying to figure out where I might buy another. In the end I came away from a pound shop with a packet containing something like twenty pens, each of which had enough ink for a full-stop. It is so frustrating. And it's not just pens. Try buying six sheets of toilet paper ('How to noise-up supermarket staff, Lesson 4B') - it's impossible. You generally need to hire a fleet of vans and build an extension to your house to accommodate the packet sizes available.
This month we feature the doorway of what looks like an old butcher's shop in Dunbar's High Street. It amply portrays the emphasis the Victorians and Edwardians placed on every small detail of their lives, from the beautifully decorated wall tiles to the stunning mosaic floor.  Nowadays we favour money and practicality over visual splendour, and as a result life has lost some of its previous richness. [See June 2011 News page for more on shop tiles.]
Old butcher's shop tiles in Dunbar's High Street
I was in a supermarket the other day. They're not generally places I like to go, but they've forced that many wee shops to close down that sometimes I am forced to do so. When in such places I like to look at other people's shopping. It often looks much more interesting than your own. But not in this case. In front of me was a woman with about half-a-dozen huge plastic bottles of cola and other caffeine-containing drinks. Behind me, another woman was engaged in the act of desperately trying to get her monstrous multi-pack of crisps from her trolley to the conveyor. This was proving difficult as the multi-pack was the size of two skyscrapers and close to engulfing everyone within a ten metre radius. Where oh where are we as a society going? We are shoving so much crap down our children's mouths that the future can only be bleak. Consider this: go to George Square in Glasgow, and stand for a while looking at the pigeons. You will not see a healthy pigeon. Most are thin scrawny things with bits missing, like legs and claws. That is the result of a long-term diet of fast food - discarded chips and pizza. That is how your children will eventually look if you continue to poison them with so much junk. Then, of course, there's caffeine. You might not give your kids cups of coffee, but they will possibly spend every waking moment clutching a caffeine-rich can of juice. And there will many waking moments, for they will be unable to properly sleep, their proper development will be curtailed in some way that we probably do not yet fully understand, and future generations will be like the George Square pigeons with bits missing. Please, can we start teaching kids something useful in school, like financial budgeting and healthy eating and the perils of consuming too much of the drug, caffeine?

8th & 9th May
[12.30 to 3.30pm]

15th & 16th May
[11am to 4pm]

16th May
[12.30 to 3.30pm]

29th & 30th May
[12am to 4pm]

30th May
[1.30pm to 5pm]




The year is 1542. King James V and Queen Marie arrive at Stirling Castle after a fine bowl of soup at the Darnley Coffee House at the foot of Broad Street. There is much celebration and inspecting to be done, for the new palace is almost complete. See people in costume, weapons, and all kinds of things. A great day out, more so because of the Darnley Coffee House (2009 winner of The Good Soup Guide's 'Best Soup in Scotland Award').

Special event involving 17th century Scottish soldiers, Redcoats, muskets, skirmishes and all that stuff. Edzell is about 6 miles north of Brechin, which is to the left of Montrose on your map (and by this stage I very much hope you've got a map or there's going to be trouble!). Bear in mind that the village of Edzell is a very special place, where soup is concerned (see Tayside Region Recommendations page), so this is going to be a very good day out. Heck, I might even go myself.

Another event with folk dressed up in old costumes. King David I (dug up and resurrected from the dead) appoints Walter Fitzallan as High Steward of Scotland. Also a living history camp and a bit of fighting. Dundonald is a small Ayrshire village between Troon and Kilmarnock on your map.

This is a very fine castle south of Dumfries. If you correctly pronounce it you get in for nothing... ONLY KIDDING! Great event involving soldiers from throughout history, everything from Romans to Vikings and knights in armour. Good soup and ale places in Dumfries - check The Good Soup Guide page - so a tremendous weekend in store.

It was in this very castle that a cow was ejected from the premises in the Monty Python film about the Holy Grail. It's a good castle in a nice wee village. The event is termed a 'fling' which may mean you will be bombarded by bovine beasts from the battlements (I jest). I believe there will be music and dancing and all sorts of stuff. (If you bring your own cow you get a discount - oh no you don't - oh yes you do - oh no you don't!)
DUNBAR - Woman (clearly getting a little impatient as her companion dawdles along the pavement tucking into some warm greasy food): 'Are you comin'?'
Man - 'Naw, it's just the way ah'm standin'.'
I was in Lenzie recently, and found I needed to go to the toilet. Sometimes being human is such a pain. There was just the one toilet, and it was locked. I had to ask for a key to open it. Once inside I tried to lock the door, as I'm not generally one for sharing toiletry moments with strangers. However, the locking snib just turned and turned and didn't appear to be functional. As it turned out, the door was in fact locked as soon as I had closed it, but there was no reassuring little sign to tell me this, and I spent a most taut minute trying to empty my bladder while fully anticipating the arrival of a whole team of rugby players who would wish to swiftly empty their bladder in one manly torrent. In addition to all of this, it was a disabled toilet. This meant that you had to bend your back and stoop to use the sink and hand-dryer. Perhaps when they call these disabled toilets what they actually mean is that if you use them a lot you will actually become disabled. Of course the question, is why oh why do we have to ask for a key in so many railway station toilets? It is demeaning, and on far too many occasions the key is handed over with an expression that suggests that hardly anyone ever needs the toilet these days and you are being an absolute nuisance. I've said this before, and I'm going to say it again, we pay more attention to how we might prevent vandalism and other illegal activities in our toilets and shelters, and less attention to the needs of those travellers who would legitimately use them. In this area, First-Scotrail's facilities for passengers remain in the Dark Ages.
On a different note entirely, why is the Off-Peak system so complicated. It sounds simple. If you travel outside of the busy peak period, you pay a little less. But lurking beneath that simple exterior is a scheme thought up by someone who is either mad or emerged from a heavy drinking session. In many cases you have to travel after the busy morning period, and return either before or after the later busy period, for example, on the Glasgow-Edinburgh service. In other cases you can actually come back any time you like. And while the peak period for outward travel usually ends at 09.15, or thereabouts, if you're travelling from, say, Glasgow to stations in Perthshire then you can set out earlier. I mean, cripes. Is this a scheme that has been designed to be complex? Best not to answer that question.
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 first this year is on May 30th. 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.
There is an exhibition at Paisley Museum, running from Friday, May 14th. It's free. It is titled, 'Charters and Chamber Pots: Aspects of Mediaeval Paisley.' Now, if all that sounds a tad boring, or maybe you don't know what 'mediaeval' means or even how to properly spell it, then have no fear. The exhibition aims to 'explore the wide-ranging influence of Paisley Abbey,' and will feature carved woodwork and stones and manuscripts and stuff excavated from the Abbey's Great Drain. Paisley, in case you didn't know, is a lovely town with wonderful architecture and some good soup places (see the Paisley Soup page of The Good Soup Guide), so a good day out is sure to be on the cards.