April 2011
This month we feature Daffy Dill. Clearly, this is not a building or a manmade structure, but it is a structure, and a man probably placed a bulb in the ground so that nature would construct it. So there. Happy Easter.

I recently visited St Andrews. As I don't have a car, I had to use public transport, and as there is no railway station at St Andrews I had to catch a bus. Two-hours-twenty-five-minutes in a bus with no toilet. No toilet and an incumbent crazy person who cackled with alarming regularity.
But it got worse. Ten minutes out of Glasgow and the bus broke down. It broke down many times, sometimes at road-works where we blocked all traffic and had to suffer mean looks from drivers. They changed the bus at Glenrothes, by which time we were late, my bladder was singing songs, and the crazy person was worryingly quiet, presumably carefully plotting the best method of wiping us all out. To somehow make matters worse, if that is at all possible, when we arrived in St Andrews we passed through the stone abutments of what had once been a bridge - Pether Bridge - a sign that once upon a time St Andrews was part of this country's rail network. That would be in the old days, I expect, when we as a nation were known for our good sense, a trait that we have somehow left behind.
Okay, you can get a train to Leuchars and then catch a bus to St Andrews, but when you're laden with stuff the last thing you need is to change transport. ST ANDREWS NEEDS A RAILWAY STATION. To extend the rail line from somewhere between Cupar and Leuchars to St Andrews would surely not cost too much? A mere five miles of additional track, and not necessarily following the old route. It could be done.
Some parts of Scotland are worse than others. The East Neuk of Fife, for example, is probably one of the most beautiful bits of the country and an essential visit for tourists, and yet it has no railway. We are constantly reminded of the fact that these places did indeed once have a rail line close by: the magnificent railway viaduct at Lower Largo, for example.
The Scottish Borders is another area that desperately needs the railway reintroduced. Like Fife's East Neuk, it is a stunningly good-looking part of Scotland, but oh so hard to reach. I for one am not entirely sure that I can cope with more long bus journeys and changes and all-out hassle.
Apart from anything else, how on earth can we ever hope to persuade people to ditch their cars in favour of public transport when we've got buses with no toilets and crazy folk. Not that I am suggesting, you understand, that people with mental health issues should be banned from buses. Perhaps we could get away with legislation banning maniacal cackling. Then, once that's done, we could rebuild the railway.
It really is time for some firm investment to bring the railway back to those remote areas of Scotland that shouldn't be remote at all.

April 2011 cartoon
Back in March, the revelation that the MOD had been paying £22 for regular light-bulbs that might normally cost around 65p was met with outrage. It wasn't so much that money was tight and cuts were having to be made across the board, but more that someone somewhere was charging £22 for a light-bulb and someone in the MOD was quite happily paying £22 for a light-bulb. Of course the UK Government kind of poo-pooed the whole thing, writing it off as an inefficiency that would be sorted during the big recessionary clean-up. Ha!
It is very hard to imagine a scenario where such a thing could be allowed to happen. Well, here at The Good Soup Guide we've done a bit of rooting around. Turns out the light-bulbs were gold-plated, and part of a grand scheme.
'We felt,' said an MOD spokesperson, 'that the time was right to splash out a little, to show to the world that money is no longer an issue. It's what you might term our 'glitz and glare' tactics. We are currently looking to expand the scheme, and are in the process of considering diamond-encrusted machine-guns, silver-plated tanks, and fighter aircraft decked out with nice red rubies.'
If we were to give any advice to the MOD with regard to control of its finances, it would be to get rid of their accountants and take on a wee old woman with a purse from Partick. That'd sort things out!
Many supermarkets have hand-baskets in addition to trolleys available for their customers. Some use metal wire style baskets, and some use plastic baskets. The plastic baskets used by my local Sainsbury supermarket are the dirtiest, most revolting things I have ever seen. I don't expect they have ever been cleaned. And yet these baskets are in use day in and day out, catching all manner of spillages, from fruit juice to milk and bloody juices that have dripped from meat containers. Never have I seen such a serious public health risk in my life. Because whatever bugs are happily growing on the surface of these plastic baskets are being spread to households and undoubtedly ingested now and then by unsuspecting and far-too-trusting members of the public. There are some supermarket baskets that look okay. ASDA, for example, seem to favour the metal wire basket and those I have seen look clean. But it is the very idea that such a large organisation as Sainsbury, whose sole raison d'etre is to supply us with food and drink, does not have managers who might think to clean the baskets now and then. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how you would clean them, but expect some sort of steam blasting might do the job. So, in short, be very very careful out there, and if you have the misfortune to use a Sainsbury's plastic hand-basket, then make sure and clean everything when you get home. Better still, ask to see the store manager and then clip him or her around the ear.
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The Question

How is it possible that such large bus shelters offer so little protection from the elements?
There have been some strange job titles over the years, more so in these recent and quite ridiculous times. 'TEAM PLAYER' is one. It is a job title that gives no information whatsoever about what the job entails. You've just got to be a team player. Which team, I always wonder, and which sport?
But back at the beginning of March a new one emerged. In the online jobs website S1 Jobs there was a vacancy for a 'PERSON'. But, of course, not just any old person, you had to be an 'EXPERIENCED PERSON'. Well, you know, as a person I feel I meet all the requirements. I've had many years experience as a person, and indeed was a person the very moment I was thrust into this world. I think I'll alter my CV to include more of the 'Person' word, and apply.
Real Ale Festivals
Real Ale Festivals in April
1st & 2nd - LARBERT - Dobbie Hall, Main Street. Fri 5pm - 11pm, Sat 12pm - 11pm.

27th to 30th - PAISLEY - Town Hall. Wed 3pm -11pm, Thur & Fri 12pm - midnight, Sat 12pm - 9pm.

28th to 30th - GLENROTHES - Rothes Halls. Thur 4pm - 11pm, Fri 12pm - midnight, Sat 12pm - 11pm.
Wandering through Glasgow's St Enoch Centre the other day I glanced into a shop window and was a little surprised to see folk sitting with their bare feet dooked in tanks of water. I wondered if I was perhaps witnessing some sort of mass suicide and that somewhere in the background might be the leader of the pack poised with an electric cable. But then I noticed that all those bare feet were not alone in the tanks. There was something else in there with them. In fact, whatever it was, there was lots of them, a mass of wriggling fishes chewing and nibbling away at folks' feet. I curbed an urge to rush in to save everyone, maybe beat a few fishes around the head, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and that kind of thing. But then I saw that folk were paying to dook their feet in the tanks; paying to let the fishes eat their feet. It was just the strangest thing I have ever seen. It is actually called Silverburn's Fish Therapy Concept Spa, and those little fish happily chew your feet (actually, they've got no teeth so they just suck) and remove dead skin to leave you revitalised. Struth, ah'm gonny huv tae try that! I am given to understand that if the fishes get a bit carried away and remove a toe you are entitled to £2 compensation, and if they eat a whole foot the staff give you a lift home.
Often, this world bewilders me. I can spend a good part of each day looking up at the sky, chewing over yet another bewildering experience. Our silliness ranks high in my Top Ten of bewildering moments. I mean, it used to be the case that lasers were dangerous things, safe when in the right hands, but liable to take out an eye - make you blind, even - if in the wrong hands. Whenever we used lasers - whether during surgery or some other medical procedure where parts of our body are zapped into nothingness - everyone in the vicinity had to wear special goggles in case some of that harmful laser light escaped and zapped bits of people's bodies that did not require zapping. All that, I'm sure, is still the case. And yet on a regular basis we are treated to news stories where some eejit thinks it's funny to shine a laser pen at pilots of helicopters or aircraft. Of course the thing about these stories is not that there are eejits who would do so - because, let's face it, the world is full of eejits who will  pretty much get up to everything and anything - but that lasers can, it seems, be bought like sweeties. Listen, you bunch of governmental high heid yins, if lasers are so dangerous that the light from a laser pen has the ability to distort the vision in a pilot's eyes and potentially bring down an aircraft, then don't you think it's about time we introduced some pretty serious controls to govern their distribution and use? They certainly shouldn't be on sale - anywhere.

1. Try wherever possible to move the left and right feet alternately, as trying to move them both together takes you to a new level of activity, often termed 'jumping'.

2. Always swing the arms alternately, as swinging them together so that both are either in front or behind at the same time makes you look rather daft.

3. When walking on busy long-distance paths like the West Highland Way, conserve energy by only saying 'Hi' to every tenth person.

4. When on the pavement in a big city, it is deemed considerate to warn others of dog-mess by stopping, pointing at the said mess while remaining motionless (no pun intended), and screaming, 'FEEEEEEET!'

5. Always carry a red flag on a stick so that you may walk on the pavement in front of folk walking their dog, waving said flag and warning others by shouting the phrase, 'WARNING - DOG MESS INEVITABLE! WARNING - DOG MESS INEVITABLE! WARNING - DOG MESS INEVITABLE!'

6. If you feel a bit left out when surrounded by other pavement walkers whose attention is taken up entirely by both mobile phones and music on headphones, simply place a brown paper bag over your head. Thus, you may be as aware of your surroundings as them.

7. Always wear bright red fluffy socks and tuck your trouser bottoms into them so that they are always visible. This advice is brought to you courtesy of the 'I'M A WALKER' handbook, page 342, paragraph 17, regulation 8c.

8. When purchasing a rucksack for use when walking, always go for the one with the most dangly bits. For when you are bored in the Great Outdoors (which can occasionally happen), great fun may be had by trying to guess which part of your face will be whipped at the next gust of wind.

9. When walking, always carry a whistle. In addition to being a safety item in the countryside, it may be used in the street to berate dog owners who allow their dog to poo on the pavement.

10. As it is often difficult folding your map, it is perhaps best to walk with it fully opened out. This has the added bonus of aiding movement in a high wind.