A BIT OF THIS AND A BIT OF THAT
BUILDING/STRUCTURE OF THE MONTH
This month we feature the Forth & Clyde Canal. It's clearly not a
building, but it is a structure of sorts. Someone built it, long long
ago. It was at one time a major artery for the transportation of goods
before we had railways and decent roads. Horses used to pull barges
laden with coal and what have you. It was a thriving waterway. These
days it's not thriving just so much, but still there are a few barges
and craft moving slowly along its length. It also has a good footpath,
all the way from the River Clyde at Bowling to the Union Canal at the
Falkirk Wheel or on to the River Forth. A truly wondrous structure.
TRAVELLING TIPS FROM THE GOOD SOUP GUIDE - RAIL TRAVEL
1. If you wish to use the train toilet and someone's already in it,
knock loudly on the door, shout 'TICKETS PLEEEASE!', then retire to a
2. If you're sat at a table-seat on the train and a small child sitting
opposite keeps kicking your knee-caps, reach casually under the table,
grab them by the ankles, and pull forcibly in one swift action so that
they suddenly disappear as if by magic into that horrid dirty space
under the table. This manoeuvre is best followed by a verbal, 'Oops.'
3. If the ticket-examiner on the train sneaks up on you and is suddenly
standing at your side with drumming fingers of impatience, say, 'Coffee,
black, two sugars.'
4. This tip should be used when you want to keep a window seat and table
all to yourself when the train you are already on pulls slowly alongside
a crowded station platform. Grin maniacally at
all those standing waiting to get on, and allow a small dribble of
saliva to run down your chin.
5. To make a long train-trip more exciting, go round all the seats in
all the carriages and gather up the fluff that lurks in the seat-folds.
Form this into a huge ball, and when the ticket examiner comes around
bounce it off the ground in a playful fashion while asking him how often
they hoover the trains.
6. If the train is full you may lie down in the overhead luggage rack,
which can be accessed by standing on someone's head.
7. Always travel with a mop, bucket and Domestos in case you need to use
the toilet on the train.
8. When approaching a ticket barrier manned by a gaggle of eager staff,
always smile, say 'Hi', wave extravagantly, and take five minutes out to
shake all their hands and ask after their wellbeing.
9. Hoots of laughter may be had when at the front of a large queue of
travellers waiting to put their ticket through an automatic ticket
barrier by putting your ticket in upside down and the wrong way around.
10. If you can't find a seat on the train because selfish lone
travellers are trying to occupy two seats by placing their bag on the
seat beside them, simply sit on their bag, adjust your buttocks, and
fall into a snorty snooze.
QUEUE? - YOU CAN BANK ON IT
In today's world we spend a lot of time queuing. Everywhere we go
there are signs with arrows and squiggly rope corridors that lead us
on a merry jaunt whose route has clearly been thought up by a
Banks are particularly fond of queues, although they
try their best to persuade us that they are doing their utmost to
reduce them in size by adopting various new measures. In one you are
not allowed to queue for a withdrawal of less than £30.01, its staff
pointing any such miserable impoverished person towards an autobank.
In another they don't give out change to any queuer who is not a
customer. And most thwart big queues by discouraging people from
bringing in the contents of their piggy-bank for counting and
But what few of us seem to realise is that the real
reason we are faced with such lengthy queues in banks is because the
tellers are constantly in super-sales-mode. They are not serving,
they are selling. They pretend to engage the customer in idle
friendly chat, and thus armed with a few snippets of information,
then try to persuade them to buy some new
service like home insurance, credit card, loan, or any number of
things. These days they are not so much bank tellers as target and
That is why there are queues in banks, not
because Missus Smith wants to withdraw £28.57 and help ma boab but
we better call the manager to deal with this! It's quite incredible.
I've been in an enormous queue in a bank with other very patient
people while we all listen to the teller home in for the kill with
that well-used phrase, 'Have you considered our special
buy-one-get-one-free-ISA offer Mister McGillicuddy?'
I think the sooner us paying punters started shouting the odds
with cries of, 'Would you get a flamin' move on there!' the
better for us all.
THE DISGRACE OF OUR ROADS NETWORK
Back in January five pedestrians were killed on Scottish roads
in a 24 hour period. At least one was walking along, as opposed to
crossing, a road at the time.
All too often we hear of pedestrians being killed walking on our
roads. We can consider any number of factors that might come into play
here, like alcohol, a lack of light, or the inattentiveness of car
But what we should really be considering is this: these days we are
building roads with no pavement. We are building roads where pedestrians
have no place, where there is not even a meagre car-free strip to allow
pedestrians to walk in some safety. And that is so very very wrong.
A few years ago, for example, they built a new wide road in Stirling,
between Springkerse and a roundabout near Manor Powis. They didn't build
a pavement. I've tried walking on it, and it's dangerous. No sane person
should even consider following in my footsteps.
But why is there no pavement?
There's no doubt that in the past we sometimes built roads where there
was no pavement, but that was in the days when cars were a lot slower
and there were still horses and carts. Nowadays the speed and degree of
acceleration in cars means that trying to walk on a road is an
exceedingly dangerous thing to do. Yet at times you can understand why folk
may try to do such a thing, when they've missed the last bus or whatever.
The Scottish Government simply has to find funds and initiate a
pavement-building scheme for every road in the country. With the
exception of maybe motorways, there should be no road that does not have
a parallel pedestrian and cycle avenue.
Copyright The Good Soup Guide. All rights reserved. CONTACT:
The city of Glasgow, once the Second City of the great British
Empire, is blessed with fine old buildings. Everywhere you go in the
city the streets are lined with white or red sandstone structures,
mostly Victorian or Edwardian, many of which have stone carvings
and statues fashioned by stonemasons long ago.
Many of Glasgow's libraries are also fine old buildings, a
number dating to 1905. While constructed as functional buildings
whose purpose was merely to allow the city's citizens to read
newspapers or borrow books, most are imposing structures whose
exterior is festooned with columns and statues and stone swirly
bits. Their appearance was intended to brighten up people's lives,
to make the daily grind just a little bit more bearable.
The interior of these buildings is no less grand.
Inside you will find ornate plasterwork and glass domes that would
rival anything found in the most majestic stately home.
But these old buildings are struggling. In many the interior
plasterwork is coming away from the wooden lath and falling down. Workmen have set about it with a big hammer to knock
away any dangerous bits and expose the wooden bones of the
buildings. Men and hammers - always a worrying alliance.
A number also suffer from water penetration, resulting in
horrid brown stains and further damage to the delicate plasterwork.
In another, there is even a problem with sewerage, which is why Partick
Library occasionally smells rather alarmingly like a large
Libraries in Partick, Govan and Maryhill are in a sorry state.
One has to wonder how much these buildings can withstand. I am
genuinely worried for them.
Glasgow's libraries are owned by Glasgow City Council, and they are looked after and maintained by an organisation called
Glasgow Life, who use another organisation called City Building to
wield the hammers. Glasgow Life will tell you that in addition to a
repairs and maintenance budget they have a
Planned Investment Programme in place with work being scheduled on
the library structures over a period of seven years, and certainly
work has been done on Govan Library's exterior, is in the process of
being done at Woodside Library, and will be done in other libraries
in due course.
But you have to wonder what sort of maintenance
programme allows these buildings to get in such a sorry state in the
first place. On far too many instances we are witnessing a
sticking-plaster maintenance that deals with issues that would never
have arisen if a regular ongoing programme of maintenance had been
in place. One such measure is the simple cleaning of roof gutters to
prevent the growth of vegetation that ultimately causes water
I have some serious concerns. Because Glasgow Life,
like all large organisations, is far from perfect. This is an
organisation that is unable to maintain small red lift lights, keep clocks on the wall ticking,
or ensure a safe pedestrian access free of damaged and wobbly
paving, in Europe's largest
reference library and Glasgow's architectural pride and joy: The
Worried? You bet.
A Threat to our
Excursion of the Month - A Day in the Countryside
Today's excursion will take us into that green stuff that grows
outside our door. Once there, we will breathe fresh air, hug trees,
and admire clouds of fluffy wonder. Are you ready?
Take my hand, and let's be off...
STEP 1 - First of all, make sure you've
got a little knapsack. Inside, there should be water, a small snack
and, if you're not already wearing it, a light waterproof jacket.
Place the knapsack on your back. Dress appropriately for the
STEP 2 - You should also have a map. Oh
no, I hear you cry, we dinna want a map... we just wanna walk.
Shoosht! Days before you follow this excursion, go and buy a map.
You should buy an Ordnance Survey Landranger Series Map 64, Glasgow,
Scale 1:50000, or one-and-a-quarter inches to a mile. It'll cost you
£7 or therabouts.
STEP 3 - Right now, get yourself
through to Milngavie. You can get a train to Milngavie from Glasgow
Queen Street Railway Station (Low Level) or Glasgow Central Railway
Station (Low Level).
STEP 4 - Are you in Milngavie yet? If
you look at your map you'll see the town near the middle-top, above
Glasgow. See it? You'll also see a red dot that is the railway
station. If you look closely, you will also see a dotted line of
little red diamonds. They lead from the railway station heading
upwards. (In hiking circles we refer to this as heading 'north'.
Repeat it after me.. 'N-O-R-T-H'. And again. There you go, you've
learned something.) That line of little red diamonds is in fact The
West Highland Way, and if you were to follow it all the way, across
a few more maps, it would deposit you, after almost one hundred
miles, in Fort William, which is even further upwards... N-O-R-T-H.
But we're not going there, so relax.
STEP 5 - Follow the West Highland Way
for about 3 miles. At a normal walking speed, this equates to about
an hour of time. At the northern end of Craigallian Loch, you'll
pass under some lofty electricity power lines, and not long after
that there will be a branch in the path, just before some wooden
huts (The Carbeth Huts). Wave goodbye to the West Highland Way, and
take the left-hand branch. The final mile is difficult to describe.
Basically, you're making for what is marked as 'PH' on your map,
about three-quarters of an inch to the left (W-E-S-T) on your map.
You may have to take to a main road for a little while, so be very
very careful of fast cars. When eventually you reach 'PH', you
should find yourself at a public house called the Carbeth Inn.
STEP 6 - Once inside the Carbeth Inn,
warms your toes at the fire, drink fine ale, then get a taxi back to
Milngavie. You can walk back if you wish. Nice cream teas can be had
at the Visitor Centre near Craigend Castle, but can you make your
own way there? Hmm... If you had a big elephant called Charlie, he'd
know the way. Enjoy your day.
Why do people queuing at a street cash-point suddenly find they have
no brains and form a queue that blocks the pavement?
Supermarkets often get their pricing wrong. More often than not
the price label is not replaced or removed when the shelf item to which
it refers has been changed. This causes confusion for consumers,
thinking an item is one price when it isn't.
I brought just such a thing to the attention of staff
in ASDA recently. Oranges at £1.74 with a spurious price label for 69p.
Result? The assistant gave me 'Smiley' vouchers to the value of the
price difference. These were used as 'money' at the checkout.
So, keep your eyes peeled folks. If we're sufficiently
eagle-eyed we might just bankrupt the beast.
MAIN ENTRANCE TO MARYHILL LIBRARY, GLASGOW
CHILDREN'S ENTRANCE, MARYHILL LIBRARY
WOODSIDE LIBRARY, GLASGOW
Some day, I'm going to dress up with a red and black
jumper, a Zorro-type face-mask, and wander into a supermarket carrying a
large black bag marked 'SWAG'.
I suspect the reaction I will get from the store
security guards will be little different to that which I currently
experience when going about my normal daily shopping.
Is it just me, or are supermarket security guards with
peaked caps a tad overbearing? (And I'm thinking Morrison's here.)
I tried to buy some alcohol recently, and had to make my selection
under the careful scrutiny of a guard in a peaked cap who watched my
every move. It was such an overbearing scrutiny - like being under a
Cell-Block H spotlight - that I erupted into a few
words that should not have been said, and in the end made a bit of a
prat of myself.
Now they really watch me. Sigh. It's just no'