NEWS, RAMBLINGS AND
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
'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.'
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.
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,
took photographs of the thing. In Japan, Mary Queen of Scots is probably
now known as a Scottish drunk...
'MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS SPENT THE NIGHT HERE - SHE HAD TO AS SHE'D SUPPED
SO MUCH ALCOHOL SHE COULDN'T WALK ANOTHER STEP.'
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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PICKLES ARE ACIDIC
Next Month -
The truth about
A Day in Dunbar
I wandered lonely
under a cloud
That always dumped
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
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.
BUILDING/STRUCTURE OF THE MONTH
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.
CAFFEINE - THE MONSTER IN OUR MIDST
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,
AND NOW FOR THE NEWS
8th & 9th May
[12.30 to 3.30pm]
15th & 16th May
[11am to 4pm]
[12.30 to 3.30pm]
29th & 30th May
[12am to 4pm]
[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
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!)
REMEMBER - IF YOU MENTION 'THE GOOD SOUP GUIDE' YOU WILL BE
GIVEN A FREE ROUND OF APPLAUSE AT ALL EVENTS
SNATCHES OF CONVERSATION OVERHEARD IN THE STREET
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'.'
THE DISGRACE AND THE MYSTERY OF TRAVELLING BY TRAIN
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
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
EVEN MORE NEWS - STEAM DAYS AT DUNASKIN
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.
AND EVEN MORE NEWS - OH GOODNESS, WE'RE IN DANGER OF BEING
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.