December 2011
The tower of Glasgow University stands guard over Kelvingrove Park
This month we feature Glasgow University and its magnificent tower. It is a much photographed structure, and from its base fine views may be had over all of the city. The university relocated here from a site on the High Street in the Victorian period, and a good choice they made for its new home.
December 2011 News cartoon - high cost of electricity. The decision about whether to use electricity for heating or cooking.
The UK Government, like governments all over Europe and other parts of the World, is struggling to keep the UK afloat amidst the most stormy financial turmoil there has very possibly ever been. Whole countries are going bankrupt. People are rioting. If this were France in the late 18th century Madame Guillotine would probably be brought down from the attic and given a going over with a shammy. Everyone has a theory about why we're in this muddle, and why, dear reader, should I be any different...

Put quite simply, we are in this pickle because it is where man should be at this stage in his evolutionary advancement. The Industrial Revolution created The Machine, and now The Machine has created a mess. Not enough stuff is being made in the countries that once made near everything the world needed, and too many people are now adept at thumb-twiddling.
The solution remains beyond us. Men in power hang determinedly onto their theories even although they themselves are unsure of the actual outcome. We are up that creek without a paddle, and almost without a boat.
This situation requires some radical restructuring of the way we live our lives, and of the social and economic fabric in which we exist. My theory is that the solution lies in The Village Model, and the time has now come to make our own shoes...
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Merry Christmas from The Good Soup Guide
Merry Christmas

My world is full of cheap cack. Somewhere at the back of my mind I'm thinking it's probably also foreign. Cheap foreign cack.
In my bathroom the new-fangled toilet-cistern flushing-button sticks when pushed. So I have to push it twice; once to flush, and once to unstick the button. Also in that bathroom are cheap self-adhesive floor tiles that clearly are not as adhesive as they should be, for they are slowly making their way across the floor in a direction I do not wish them to go. And in that bathroom, up until a few weeks ago, was one of those last-at-least-ten-year light-bulbs that we all now have to use. Except that it only lasted about one year. Should I write to the Queen?
In my hall I have another of these new bulb things. It not only emits a rather poor level of lighting, but also gives off a high-pitched whine. What sort of undesirable cack is that?
In a cupboard I have brand new cheap foreign hiking boots that I am frightened to wear because I sense that as soon as I pick them up they will fall apart even before reaching my feet.
In my living-room I have cheap foreign headphones that lasted a few months before packing in. How can headphones pack in? It's not like I was swinging them around my head or anything. I also have a door-entry-system device in the living-room. It bleeps when someone presses buttons for anyone in the huge complex of flats. It doesn't bleep in a SOMEONE'S-AT-THE-DOOR kind of way. It's more a bleeping that says US-BLEEPS-UR-GONNY-BURROW-OUR-WAY-INTO-YOUR-HEAD-AND-ANNOY-THE-CACK-OUT-OF-YOU sort of way. Also in the living-room is a smoke detector that is connected to the mains so if it bleeps for no good reason there will be no way I can switch the thing off. Not that it has bleeped without good cause. Yet. I sense that it is waiting on its moment, one that will probably involve harmonies with the light in the hall.
And then there's the remote for the cheap Freeview box. Some buttons on it mysteriously ceased to function mere minutes after the year warranty expired. Now to change channels I have to get up off my seat, position the remote just one inch from the Freeview box sensor, and shout, 'WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU YOU USELESS PIECE OF ELECTRONIC CACK?'
I have other things in my kitchen. A sink-tap which refuses point-blank to be fitted with the thing that prevents the water spraying and splashing all over the kitchen; pots and pans whose lids hold and hide what at times seems like gallons of water, water that chooses the worst possible moment to escape; a radio that likes nothing more than merrily wandering through the airwaves of its own accord; and a radiator that doesn't like an open window and so switches itself on without my permission, even when it is physically switched off.
All this useless stuff is making my miserable existence more miserable than it really should be, and the sooner we in Scotland start making our own stuff the better for us all.
GOVERNMENT SCIENTISTS HAVE discovered that some forms of brain degeneration may be linked to a Scottish vegetable. The term 'vegetative state' may be closer to the truth than we had realised. Further to a research programme that spanned fifty years, it has been found that some people's brain tissue may be slowly evolving into plant matter similar to that found in turnips. The terms 'Dementia' and 'Alzheimers' are to be replaced by 'Turnipification'.
THE FIRST SYMPTOMS of Turnipification may manifest themselves in a strange desire to sit in a bath-tub of haggis and mashed potatoes. If you come home from work one day and find your spouse engaged in such activity then you should call the TURNIPIFICATION HELPLINE. As the illness progresses orange waxy material may be seen emerging from ears. In the final stages the sufferer may be heard to sing, 'Oh ma luv is like a red red rose...'

Once upon a time, long long ago, after the dragons and the elves, but before the washing-machines, life was very different to how it is now. For back then every village in Scotland, no matter how small, was largely self-sufficient. There was a butcher, a baker, a blacksmith, a brewer, a candlestick maker who spent his spare moments wondering why he wasn't manufacturing something that began with the letter 'B', and a guy who made shoes. Of course, there would have been a few things imported from outside the village, but by and large the village was a self-contained unit that could grow and manufacture and provide practically everything that the village needed.
But then the Industrial Revolution arrived. And with it came the Age of the Machine. Machines that could plough far more than a horse, do more work quicker than many men.
At first the people moved out of the villages and gathered in big cities to tend the machines, but the machines grew bigger and better and man was no longer required. Homo sapiens became largely redundant.
And with the machines came the ships, vast iron hulks that coasted menacingly over the waters of the world and, like the machines, they too grew bigger. They became like floating continents, transporting metal mountains.
And so it came to pass that man was not just redundant due to the machine, but those few who had managed to hold on to work now found themselves out on a limb. The things we made or produced in Scotland could now be made far cheaper in other lands then transported on the ships. These foreign lands were also experiencing an Industrial Revolution, just a bit later than ours.
Now the coal we use to generate our electricity comes from abroad. Our miners twiddle their thumbs. The gas we use for cooking and heating comes from abroad, as does our food and drink and cars and electrical items like washing-machines. Shoes, too. Even our banks are in the hands of rich foreigners. We have become a nation unable to make much. Unable to do much, but adept at declination.
But what if we were to hark back to those old days, to adopt the village model? Well, for a start, we'd have to make our own shoes. Most of the shoes worn in Scotland are probably made in a foreign land: China or Korea or Thailand. If we made our own shoes then men and women would find work in the shoe industry, and the profits from the new shoe industry would remain in Scotland, not siphoned off to keep some rich foreign person in the manner to which they are accustomed.
We could make other things: our own wind and wave farms (and we would own them - not some foreign firm!), cars, fridges, washing-machines, toys, etc etc. Scottish people would work to make them. Unemployment would fall.
We could do other stuff. We could grow our own food, brew our own beer, eat meat from animals reared in this country. Unemployment would vanish.
All of which begs the question: does a country need to import and export to prosper? What does 'prosper' mean? Does prospering mean that a few folk get rich while the rest of us hold the begging-bowl, or does it mean everyone has work and is happy?
You know, it's not going to be a very merry Christmas for a lot of folk in Scotland this year. Presents (and largely foreign presents at that!) are expensive. Perhaps some folk will be tempted to make their own presents.
In fact, why don't we all try to make something? And let's start with a country that works.
There is said to be a great deal of religious bigotry in the West of Scotland. A lot of this bigotry seems to be tied in with football: Rangers and Celtic; Protestant and Catholic. There have been many meetings between Strathclyde Police, Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Government, and Rangers and Celtic football teams themselves to try to sort it all out. Many words have been spoken, many songs have been sung. The impact of the talks appears negligible. Empty words mostly.
Men who occupy top positions at Celtic Football Club have been targeted in any number of ways, from having bricks thrown at their house, physically assaulted, and even threatened with bombs and bullets. Only a few months ago I noticed anti-Catholic graffiti on a large Catholic church by the River Clyde. It goes on and on.
And yet, I passed Ibrox - Rangers football ground - the other day. Must have been a match on. There were many street traders in the streets around the ground selling scarves and flags. Some of these flags bore images of the red hand of Ulster or King William of Orange, both powerful Protestant images that celebrate Protestantism. Why are they being sold when Rangers are playing? They do nothing but further bolster an atmosphere where Catholics are seen as the enemy. Their impact on the minority of supporters who might be caught up in such hatred can be readily seen in recent headlines that tell us that the bulk of religious hate crime in Scotland is targeted against Catholics.
If we are to have any hope of sorting this long-standing problem out then we have to at least start at the bottom, and eradicate such material from the world of football.
If the police do not have powers to remove such material for sale, then it is up to politicians to give them that power. King William of Orange and the red hand of Ulster should have no place in a game of football.

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NEXT MONTH : How To Make Your Own Shoes - A Step-by-Step Guide