August 2011
Pedestrian and cycle section of Clyde Tunnel in Glasgow in June 2011
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.
Cartoon for the August 2011 News in The Good Soup Guide
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 altogether.
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.
                           CLYDE TUNNEL GRAFFITI
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.
Clyde Tunnel graffiti
Clyde Tunnel graffiti (2)
Clyde Tunnel graffiti (6)
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, Dunoon - Massed Pipes and Drums
25th - 27th August 2011

The Massed Pipes & Drums
(between 2,500 & 3,000)
at ~6pm on the 27th.
Real Ale Festivals
Real Ale Festivals in August

                                  None that I can see.
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, 'Ah 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 Scots'?
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.

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 Scotland
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)
Getting steam up in the tiny steam train in Barshaw Park in Paisley
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 swans.
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 2011 - Glasgow, 13th August
World Pipe Band Championships 2011 - Glasgow, 13th August
World Pipe Band Championships 2011 - Glasgow, 13th August
World Pipe Band Championships 2011 - Glasgow, 13th August
World Pipe Band Championships 2011 - Glasgow, 13th August
World Pipe Band Championships 2011 - Glasgow, 13th August
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 believe.'
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 to them.'
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.
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 with interest.
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.
And 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 with.