NEWS, RAMBLINGS AND AWARDS                               NOVEMBER 2009
                                        FREE ELEPHANT
Paying attention? It's not an elephant, it's a soup recipe, and if you want one, just send in your email address to The recipes will be sent out by email every Wednesday to cheer you up mid week. We're going to call it SOUP WEDNESDAY.
In mid October Mark O'Neill, Head of Glasgow Museums, essentially said that museums are good for you. As reported in Glasgow's Evening Times, he said that there was 'overwhelming evidence that visiting museums has a powerful impact on people's sense of well-being and can help them live longer.' That may be the case, just so long as there's not a school group visiting when you're there.
I like wandering around museums. As well as being informative, they are often housed in old grand buildings that are cool in summer and warm in winter. Often (although not often enough) they are so quiet and calm that you may hear the silken echo of your footsteps before they are caught in a whispering sigh of wind and whisked away.
Many of today's museums are themselves exhibits. They display old glass cases containing stuffed animals that look like long-loved teddy bears with bald patches of skin and bits of their stuffing trying to escape from areas where the stitching is coming away. Then there's the collection of spears and clubs and bits and bobs brought back from some foreign land in Victorian times, along with the huge horns of some great beast. Often you could remove all the displays to leave a vacant building that would still be a joy to behold; you only have to think of the museums in Perth or Paisley to see this.
But there are times (far too many) when I dislike being in museums. It is the times when schoolchildren have descended en masse. Often those in charge of them are not so much in control as having a rest and leaving the children pretty much to do what they want. I mean, I'm not against children. Indeed, I'm sure they have their place in society, but at times their exuberance breaks the spell of museum calm in the same way that a juggernaut would on a little winding road. It's their running and shouting and screaming and general disregard for anyone in their way.
I recall a few years ago standing at the door to a bar in Winchester. The sign read, 'CHILDREN AND BABIES – THE LAW NOW DEMANDS THAT A SPECIAL LICENSE IS REQUIRED TO ALLOW THE ADMISSION OF CHILDREN INTO A PUBLIC HOUSE. WE HAVE NO SUCH LICENSE AND, ACCORDINGLY, CHILDREN AND BABIES CAN NO LONGER BE ADMITTED INTO THE WYKEHAM ARMS'. It was one of few moments in my life when I fell to my knees, raised my arms aloft, and shouted 'Hallelujah' for all the world to hear.
My suggestion for museums is that there should be at least two days each week when school groups are not permitted. Thus the rest of us can be assured that on those days we may indulge in a dignified peace and quiet.
BEST SOUP IN SCOTLAND AWARD goes to the Darnley Coffee House in Stirling.

BEST ALE BREWED IN SCOTLAND AWARD goes to 'Blackfriar', a delicious bottled ale brewed by the Inveralmond Brewery up in Perth. It was made for the American market, but if you know where to look you can find the odd bottle here.

BEST PUB AWARD goes to the Ben Nevis in Glasgow, because it's just a great pub.

BEST THING TO SEE AWARD goes to the walled garden in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow.

BEST LITTLE WALK AWARD goes to the Pendreich walk above Bridge of Allan.

I hate lots of things. It's part and parcel of getting older. There may indeed come a day when moaning is the only pleasure I have left. I look forward to those days when I can stand at the side of a road and wave my walking stick at crazy motorists. At the moment the list of my pet hates includes extending leashes for dogs, the behaviour of supermarkets towards farmers with regard to the supplies of milk, cheap tinned and frozen food for the masses that contains almost a whole day's worth of salt, and scientists tinkering with our food.
I don't think our food should be messed with. A loaf of bread should be just that, and there should be absolutely nothing added to boost its shelf-life, make it so springy you can bounce it off the ground, or whatever.
You'll have heard of scientists managing to grow a human ear on the back of a mouse? I understand the next step is to genetically alter chicken so that all chicken breasts on display on supermarket shelves will have their own human mouth. It will give you all the information you require, as in...
[Human]: 'How Fresh are you?'
[Chicken Breast]: 'No' bad.'
HERE at The Good Soup Guide our technicians have come up with a rating system. It involves stars (original, huh?). Basically, one star [*] means the place has been visited by us and deemed to be of a good standard (and that applies equally to pubs or cafes or views). Two stars [**] means we reckon it's very good, and three stars [***] means it was so magnificent that we nearly wet our pants with excitement.
This is nothing to do with soup or ale or castles or tourism, but... what the heck. The government has introduced new legislation for the Department of Work and Pensions, to be adopted by all Job Centres by the end of April 2010. The core of the changes are focussed on the current practise used by Job Centre security guards whereby unemployed persons are transferred between floors to another department for, say, an appointment.
'The current system is quite ridiculous,' said a DWP spokesperson. 'At present our security guards use radios to advise security personnel that an unemployed person is on the stairs and moving towards another floor. While I can see that this might serve a purpose to prevent persons wandering around the building unsupervised, it has been brought to our attention that the practise is not only Draconian, but plain stupid, and a waste of our security personnel's time. I think members of the public are quite capable of dealing with stairs and finding seating by themselves.'
The Soupsayer understands that as from April next year all security guards posted by stairways will be given slender three-foot long trumpets - of the type you see at Royal occasions - so that the presence of unemployed persons on a new floor can be properly announced with a small fanfare.
Next Month...

[Just click a month to access previous monthly News pages]

The Words

I'm trying to write
a little verse,
But words are far away,
So I'm thinking
I could leave it,
And try another day,
I'll try again on Tuesday,
When my brain will be
quite sharp,
And words will flow
like music,
From a silver elfin harp
The Last Word
Interesting story in BBC Television's Ceefax at the end of October. Apparently emergency services were called to Heathrow Airport after six people fainted on a British Airways flight from the United States. As it was not initially clear what had caused it, emergency services wore protective suits, clearly fearful of some sort of terrorist thing or a serious dose of Swine Flu. Everyone soon recovered. Although not mentioned in the Ceefax report, it seems likely that the reason for the incident was a lack of air on the plane. It allegedly costs a lot of money to pump air into the cabin, and to keep costs down this is kept to an absolute minimum, just enough to ensure that you are maintained in a suitably alive condition to allow you to alight from the aircraft without the need of a stretcher. Looks like they might have cut it a bit too fine on this occasion. Next time you travel, it might be best to make sure there will be ample supplies of air. It's probably only a matter of time before we see the introduction of an Air Tax surcharge specifically targeted towards those travellers who like to indulge in the luxury of breathing.