A BIT OF THIS AND A BIT OF THAT
BUILDING/STRUCTURE OF THE MONTH
This month we feature the Clyde Tunnel in Glasgow. Would you walk
through this? The pedestrian part of the tunnel is not for the
faint-hearted. As well as graffiti and sections that look as if they
have been on fire, there is often a small swamp of mud at the lowest
part where it looks as if the River Clyde is trying to get it.
THE INVERNESS THINGY
I was in Inverness recently. I went to check out the town for The
Good Soup Guide. When you think of Inverness as a tourist
destination, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the
battlefield at Culloden. But Culloden's about 5 miles outside
Inverness. What, I wondered, might there be to see and do in the
town of Inverness itself? I had high hopes, because the photo on the
front of the main tourist brochure for the Inverness area shows a
magnificent red sandstone structure with towers and turrets and
battlements on a hill overlooking a river. The caption reads,
'Looking across the River Ness to Inverness Castle in Spring.'
And so, I thought, Inverness has a castle, eh? On appearances alone
this was clearly a castle and a half, a defensive structure on a par
with those mighty fortresses at Windsor and Warwick. I rubbed my
hands with glee and set off.
When I reached the top of Castle Hill it was with no small amount of
dismay that I found council offices, a court, and a sign pointing
towards an old well. Indeed, all that remains of Inverness Castle is
this well and a bit of wall. There is nothing whatsoever up there
that is open to the public as a castle or indeed as any sort of
tourist attraction at all. I watched as other visitors reached the
top of the small hill and tried to hide their disappointment within
open-mouthed expressions of astonishment at the great Inverness
Council hoot that sat on a hill. 'We've been duped!' was very much
the cry. 'Retreeeeatt!'
And so, just what the heck is going on in Inverness? The town
actually has very little in the way of regular tourist attractions,
and my worry is that tourists head off in their droves to the likes
of Culloden, and either pay Inverness scant regard or bypass it
The solution, of course, is to get rid of the council offices and
court from Castle Hill, and turn that wonderful series of buildings
into a tourist attraction like no other. There is no reason why this
could not become the Warwick Castle of Scotland, with period rooms
and waxworks, knights in armour and battle preparations.
All it needs is the vision. It doesn't need money, because it would
probably pay for itself in no time at all.
The ball's in your court.
Below are a couple of examples of the graffiti in the Clyde
Tunnel. While it is clearly an alarming eyesore, there can be no doubt
that some of it is worth preserving. In years to come it will say a lot
about the social attitudes that exist today.
Copyright The Good Soup Guide. All rights reserved. CONTACT:
Why is the air-conditioning in Alloa Library and street lighting in
Fort William being turned off? How bad can this recession become?
COWAL HIGHLAND GATHERING
25th - 27th August 2011
DO NOT MISS
The Massed Pipes & Drums
(between 2,500 & 3,000)
at ~6pm on the 27th.
Real Ale Festivals in August
None that I can see.
DO YOU SPEAK SCOTS?
The question in the 2011 Census about speaking Scots would
undoubtedly have confused a lot of folk. I imagine the vast majority
would not have a clue whether they speak Scots or not. Most would
probably not even know what Scots is. The only word of Scots that they
might speak, for example, could be 'ken', as in 'I ken what you mean.'
Or they may add yet another Scots word and say 'I ken fit you mean.'
Some might even go quite a way towards speaking Scots and come out with
'Ah ken fit ye mean.' If they were Glaswegian, it would probably be,
ken fit ye mean, Jimmy.'
But does the use of an occasional Scots word, or even phrase, mean that
you actually speak Scots? How many words or phrases must we use in our
daily lives before we can actually turn around and say 'Yes, I speak
It is actually quite surprising the number of Scots words that we do
still use, whether we realise it or not. 'Ken' is quite a common one,
spoken in some parts of Scotland more by the working man than the owner
of a castle.
My dad used to use what sounded like 'doug'. If we were walking in the
country and he wanted to call over some cattle he would say, 'doug doug
doug.' Or, at least, that's what it sounded like. If I check my Chambers
Pocket Scots Dictionary I see the word 'tewk', which means 'a
call to hens to come for food.' 'Tewk' sounds very much like 'doug.'
Perhaps my father was saying 'tewk tewk tewk', or maybe he was saying
what he thought his father or grandfather were saying when farming many
years ago. My father was Irish, but his ancestors probably came from
Scotland hundreds of years ago.
My father also occasionally used a word that sounded like 'Skeeachie.'
It was a word associated with food. My memory of its use is in
connection with a description of a pot of lots of different types of
food, including leftovers, all mixed up. When I check my Scots
dictionary I see 'skaich' or 'skeich', which means 'to wander about in
search of food.' These are all probably words, or sounds, that have been
passed down the generations, whose meaning often eludes us, and whose
use continues to this day.
When you really start to look through a Scots dictionary it is a bit of
an eye-opener. There is, for example, the word 'Erse'. It means,
obviously, one's rear end. But when used with a capital letter it means
Irish, Highland or Gaelic, and was used by Lowlanders to describe
Highlanders, their language and customs. Seems to me like it might be a
derogatory term... 'Awa' ye go ya Erse!'
And so, in answer to the 2011 Census question: yes, I do speak Scots,
although maist o' the time ah dinna even ken ah'm daein it.
PET HATES AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM - TIPS
1. Some dog owners use extending leashes to exercise their dogs.
Unfortunately, some of these people have an obvious deficit of cranial
grey matter. This manifests itself in behaviour where the dog is allowed
to root around in the undergrowth on one side of a path while the owner
is positioned at the other side. Both are utterly oblivious to the
potential hazard the practically invisible cord presents to passers by.
Should this happen, it is deemed considerate to impart the following
fatherly advice to the dog owner: 'Eat more fish, mate. It might help.'
2. Certain pub toilets have air deodorizers fitted that are activated by
movement, i.e. when someone enters the toilet. To avoid activating the
sensor and obtaining an earful of perfume, it is deemed prudent to crawl
into the gents lavatory on your hands and knees.
3. When travelling, always carry an electronic device that mimics a
siren when pressed. Thus, if someone farts in your vicinity, the device
may be activated. This should always be accompanied by throwing one's
voice in the manner of a ventriloquist: 'THIS IS THE POLICE - YOU ARE
SURROUNDED - COME OUT WITH YOUR BUM IN THE AIR!'
4. When out and about on a canal footpath, always wear an exceedingly
large rucksack, within which should be housed an enormous hooter of the
type found on old cars, but much bigger. Thus, when a cyclist frightens
you with a little ding-a-ling of their bell, you may get your revenge by
blasting them with the Mother of all hoots. As the hooter remains
invisible in the rucksack, the cyclist will have no way of knowing where
the hoot came from, and you may be satisfied that it will probably play
on his mind for the rest of the day, if not a whole week.
Castle Events in August
6th & 7th - EDZELL CASTLE - 'The Lindsay Legacy'.
Meet the stonemasons and others who were involved in the castle's
construction in the fourteenth century. Remember to slurp lots of
good soup in the fine coffee houses of Edzell. (noon to 4pm)
7th - DIRLETON CASTLE - 'The Devil's Mark'. The
infamous witch-finder, John Kincaid of Tranent, will be in
attendance to answer any questions you may have. But don't annoy
him, or you could be in trouble. (noon to 4pm)
13th & 14th - FORT GEORGE (near Inverness) -
'Celebration of the Centuries'. A bit of a spectacular event here,
with hundreds of performers, a grand parade, and military
performances spanning Roman times right up to the present day.
(11.30am to 4.30pm)
BARSHAW PARK IN PAISLEY - A WONDERFUL LITTLE PARK
But the main thing about Barshaw Park is the sheer variety of
entertainment available to visitors. Never have I seen such a
comprehensive range of things to do, none of which are greatly
advertised. They're just there, in this wee park.
There's the pond, for a start. It is used a lot by folk who sail
model remote-controlled sailing ships. They glide through the water
looking very majestic, occasionally being chatted up by bemused
There's also a cafe, a children's play area, and a small road
network laid out so children can ride their bicycle and stop at
junctions and pretend to be on a big wide road.
In one corner of the park there's a walled garden, a peaceful place
to smell flowers and dream.
In another corner there is what I can only describe as a small zoo.
Okay, it is very tiny and there are no elephants or hippos, but it's
very nice. They've got chickens and rabbits and pigs and even an
ostrich with a squinty wing.
In another area of the park there is a model railway track. When it
is open (probably just the summer and maybe just in the afternoons
at the weekend, or something like that) you can sit on the back of a
model steam train and be chugged along at an exhilarating speed. How
many parks can boast such a thing?
In fact, how many parks can boast so many things? Some of these
things only open in summer and on certain days, but what the heck,
you just can't beat a walk in a little park, even if just for the
peace and quiet and trees and flowers and birds. And Paisley's
Barshaw Park is a gem.
About a year or so ago I used to stay in the Paisley area. My
favourite walk to the town was through Barshaw Park, which sits
about a mile to the east of Paisley town centre. It was one of
life's small pleasures to wander through its green expanse, and
every day would bring some new wonder.
I remember seeing a man lift his dog up so that it could grab the
branch of a tree between its teeth. Once attached, he swung the dog
from side to side in mid-air. The dog clearly loved it, and did its
best to leap up and grab the branch of its own accord. On another
day a small dog was staring nervously into the pond. Something was
thrashing around near the surface. As I stopped and looked in, I saw
the biggest fattest fish you've ever seen. Who'd have thought fish
could grow so huge in such a shallow wee pond.
WORLD PIPE BAND CHAMPIONSHIPS
GLASGOW 13th Aug.
IN JULY, scientists in Dundee managed to unravel and decode the full
DNA sequence for the humble spud.
'It's been astonishing,' said a spokesperson. 'We are starting to see
similarities between our findings and the genome of Homo sapiens.
Certain areas of Scotland have genetic traits that are identical to what
we have uncovered. In particular, people in the Alloa
area may be directly descended from the potato, a Golden Wonder, we
BOUNCERS ARE set to be posted outside certain UK banks. Anyone
attempting to withdraw less than £50 at the counter will have their
arm forced up their back and frogmarched to the nearest autobank.
'The public has to learn,' said a spokesperson. 'We don't want any
poor people in here dirtying up the place. And anyone who is too old
and doddery to be au fait with an autobank... ha.. well... goodbye
SEAGULLS HAVE been seen tap-dancing on grass. Ornithologists say
that this is a trick they have learned to attract worms for eating.
The tapping of their feet mimics the noise of rain, and worms come
up to the surface. But we have discovered that something very
different is taking place. The seagulls are indeed practising their
tap-dancing. Soon they will appear in lines on High Streets, busking
for snacks to the theme from Riverdance.
GLASGOW GANGS AND THE TEENAGERS OF TODAY
I was in Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street a while back, making my
way through a veritable throng of shoppers, when there was a commotion.
About three of four teenagers - looked to be about fourteen or fifteen
years of age - started shouting. Then they started running. It looked
like a gang thing. Two males were chasing a third male. The lad who was
being chased was a cocky wee lad, full of bravado and not going to be
run off or scared away by others from a rival gang; a rival housing
scheme. In his spirited efforts to get away he became a little
desperate, and paid more attention to the act of escaping than to his
surroundings. A pavement A-framed sign went flying. He dodged shoppers
and bounced off the large plate-glass window of a bank. People looked on
Then he fell over and they caught him.
As he lay sprawled in the middle of Sauchiehall Street, one of his
chasers laid into him with kicks. People looked on with more interest. I
was waiting in a queue for an autobank at the time. As I looked over at
the lad doing the kicking, he looked up and caught my eye. His eyes, and
his whole facial expression, clearly announced to the world that he
didn't really want to be kicking the lad on the ground. In fact there
was no aggression in his kicks. He was merely doing what his world expected of
him, acting out a learned and well-rehearsed scene. He actually looked mildly embarrassed, and was
no doubt more than glad when a thick-necked male shopper intervened and
stopped the kicking.
The lad who had been kicked was not hurt. He got up and continued
gesticulating and shouting. He too, was acting out a scene, what was
expected of him. Perhaps these young males had decided to venture beyond
the grey walls of their housing scheme and go on an adventure into
thickest (no pun intended) Glasgow. But once there they didn't know how
to conduct themselves. They knew they wanted to be there, in amongst the
excitement of a bustling street full of people, but the behaviour
learned from their scheme was insufficient to allow them to actually fit
in and blend. So they kicked off and did what they do best. They did
what was expected of them.
You know, deep down I feel we're letting these young men and women down.
I mean, don't get me wrong, there are bad uns amongst them, groups that
might target lone folk and deliberately set out to hurt them, but they
are in the minority. Most of these teenagers are good people. It's us
adults who are at fault. We've herded too many families into vast
housing estates that do indeed have very little in the way of shops and
general facilities. It's the age-old story: there's nothing to do.
while we continue to turn our backs on this generation, a generation
that is almost lost through isolation and unemployment, we risk a
scenario where those that we shun will stand up and shout,
'Hey - we count!' And in standing up to be counted it won't be just
graffiti and fights in Sauchiehall Street that we'll have to contend