July 2011
Oran Mor, Glasgow - interior of bar area
This month we feature the interior of Oran Mor in Glasgow. The photograph only goes a tiny way towards conveying how utterly beautiful the craftsmanship is inside. It is a delight, and not to be missed when in Scotland. (See 'Glasgow - Ale' page for more on Oran Mor.)

Spectacular Jousting at Linlithgow Palace in July

Great event at Linlithgow Palace in July. It's organised by Historic Scotland, and features knights in armour on horseback knocking lumps out of each other with lances. Got to be worth a look.
'As well as the jousting there will be brutal foot combat, instruction on how to be a medieval assassin and presentations about how a noble lady of the time would dress.'
There's also going to be medieval camps where you can see weapons being made, and learn just how it was that knights got themselves dressed and ready for battle.

The event takes place on the 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 10th of July, costs £11 for an adult, £8.80 Concession, and £6.60 for a child. Each day's event runs from 12.30 - 4.30pm, with the main jousting taking place at 1.30pm and 3pm.

Remember to check the 'SOUP' and 'ALE' pages of The Good Soup Guide for those eating and drinking essentials in Linlithgow.
Winning entry for the electricity pylon design competition
Electricity Pylon Makeover
For some people, the electricity pylon is a blight on the landscape, a carbuncle that gets in the way of nice views and wide green spaces. Burying the cables would be better, some might say. Others might say that it would be too expensive to do so.
Given that it will undoubtedly be a few decades before we can come up with an alternative to electricity, man is clearly going to have to put up with big metal things in the countryside that either generate electricity or move it hither and thither throughout the land for just a little longer. Which is why the UK Government has challenged architects to come up with a new design for the country's electricity pylons. The shape of today's pylons has been around for 90 years or so, and looks quite Meccanoish in nature. 'We felt it was time for a change,' said a government spokesperson.
Here at The Good Soup Guide we feel that in years to come we will regard electricity pylons in the same way that we today view the towering red-brick chimney-stacks of the Industrial Revolution. We will come to wonder how on earth we ever managed to live alongside such alien monstrosities.
The National Grid, it seems, 'would give 'serious consideration' to using the winning design in future projects,' and one presumes that the winner will be far removed from the metal skeletons that we are currently lumbered with.
Given the propensity for camouflaging things in the countryside - mobile phone masts cunningly disguised as trees, for example - it is highly likely that future pylons will look very very different. They may indeed look like that shown above. What could be more pleasing and liable to attract great interest than one-hundred-metre-tall gnomes marching over the green horizons of our land? Why, you could even organise it so that their noses glow red at night.
                                 AUTOMATIC BUGS
There are too many automatic doors out there in the big wide world. Their zipping and whooshing is now so widespread that I fear we Homo sapiens may soon lose the power of our arms.
One of the most irritating things about automatic doors is that on far too many occasions they are not automatic. There's invariably some security person somewhere who reckons he might catch a chill and so turns the doors off at a switch. Or maybe they just break down a lot; the doors that is, not the security person. And what most folk don't then appreciate is that a door that is normally automatic is far harder to open that a normal door when it's automatic function has been disabled, with the result that frail old folk have to lurk in the vicinity of the doors with big pleading eyes in the hope that someone will come along and let them in.
And yet, for all their prevalence, in the one place where you truly need automatic doors there are none. I do, of course, refer to public toilets. No matter how long or how rigorously you wash your hands, there is always going to be some numpty who does not wash his hands and who then spreads whatever gubbins he has howked out of his bahookie all over the door handle, the door handle that you then have to touch to get out.
So come on you automatic door sales folk, there's got to be a market in public toilets, surely?
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What can possibly be responsible about placing your dog's poo in a small plastic bag and then hanging it from a bush or tree?
GREENOCK - 9th to 12th July
In Greenock, between the 9th and 12th of July, there will be many ships. Some will be wee, some will be wide, some will be slim, and a few will be fat. They will all - you'll be glad to know - be on the water, as opposed to scraping a merry furrow down the main street of the town.
But what all these ships will have in common is that they will be very very tall. For Greenock is to once again host The Tall Ships Races, and this is an event that, despite my jocularity, you should not miss.
There will be up to 80 'spectacular sailing ships', free entertainment (is a tall ship not entertainment enough? Please don't tell me there's going to be balloons and a bouncy castle!!), fireworks, a parade, music, food (Sausage-roll-a-la-Greenock) and drink, and so much more. In addition, you will be able to board some of these tall ships. Yo ho ho, me hearties.
Real Ale Festivals
Real Ale Festivals in July
Not a great deal happening in July on the ale festival front, and as such this may be a good opportunity to seek out that pub that you've always wanted to visit. I might recommend the Lade Inn in Callander, the Fisherman's Tavern in Broughty Ferry near Dundee, or the Dreel Tavern in Anstruther. Check the relevant pages in The Good Soup Guide for details.

Failing that, there is something taking place in Dumfries...

15th to 16th - DUMFRIES - The Dumfries Folk and Ale Festival is taking place in various pubs in the town. There will be lots of ale, lots of singing, and lots of woolly jumpers and big beards...
'Ohhhhh... drillymearreeooreeaigh...  '   [NOTE - For those of you unfamiliar with the language in Scotland, 'drillymearreeooreeaigh' is Gaelic for 'Another pint of your best bitter please barman.']
Recently, during a day out to Kilwinning, I found myself in a brand, spanking new train carriage. I knew it was new because the act of sitting down was not accompanied by a cloud of stoor. (Train seats are hoovered so infrequently these days that youngsters are growing up with the firm belief that clouds of dust are part and parcel of the Train Experience, and that without a covering of grime the whole thing would just not be the same.) It was wonderful, all shiny and gleaming.
But, there was a problem. Most of the seats in the carriage were not in sync with the windows. In each carriage there was just one pair of window seats with a table that properly lined up with a full window. The others didn't quite manage it, and in most cases the window view was hampered by a portion of the carriage body that was about as translucent as a brick.
In the old days each set of four seats around a table lined up perfectly with a window. It made for good views, and was one of the things that made a ride on a train so attractive. I mean, what pleasure is there to be found in a train journey where you are struggling to catch a view and have to spend all your time trying oh so very hard not to look at the carriage starer?
Perhaps when they build train carriages the windows and seating are made in different places, and the men who engage in such work do not talk to each other. Perhaps the designers of modern trains sit down at a big sloping desk for a few hours and then when it comes to tables and seating they get bored, say 'Sod it!', and slope off down the pub for a few ales. Perhaps in the Tables and Seat-Fitting Department they are handed an empty carriage with instructions thus: 'PUT THE SEATS AND TABLES ANYWHERE YOU EFFIN WANT!'
It is surely not hard to design a carriage where the tables and seats line up with the windows?

It's that moment when you open the door to the dining-room in an unfamiliar guest house or hotel. What to expect? 'Tis a moment of fearful trepidation where you wonder if you will manage to get a spoonful of cornflakes to your mouth without shaking the whole spoonful onto your lap. It's... BREAKFAST...

1. When you first walk into the dining-room at breakfast lots of people will all stop eating and turn around in their seats to look at you. The Germans will all scowl at you over the rim of their evil oval glasses, the French will shout in unison, 'Good Morneeeng!' with such happy enthusiasm that you will want to run away, and the Japanese will give a small bow as if during the night you were promoted to Emperor. To avoid the dilemma that comes with trying to please them all, simply put your head down, ignore them, and make for an empty table.

2. To avoid the shame that comes with going up for seconds in a self-service buffet situation, you may stack your plate with at least three helpings in the following manner: line your plate with rashers of bacon. Place some hash-browns, haggis and black-pudding around the edges to act as a retainer, and fill the interior with mushrooms, sausage, egg and tomato. If done properly, you may return to your table with a plate that is piled at least three foot high.

3. If you are staying in a room that is directly above the kitchen, you may hear the chef banging pot and pans around and burping and farting extravagantly in the way that you do when you reckon no one's around. Should this happen, just take toast and coffee.

4. If on sitting at your table you are approached by a waiter who asks, 'What you ate brekfass?' - leave immediately.

5. If you are halfway through your plate of greasy stuff and still no one has brought your toast or coffee, stand up, and jump up and down on the spot in the manner of a child in a serious tantrum.

6. Finally, if you are eating your breakfast at a table and someone starts hoovering the carpet around your table, approach them and flick their ears with your fingers.
Castle Events in Scotland
Castle Events in July
2nd & 3rd & 9th & 10th - LINLITHGOW PALACE - 'Spectacular Jousting' - as described above.

23rd & 24th - STIRLING CASTLE - 'A Child of the Royal Court'. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned queen when she was just a year old. Learn what it was like growing up without Lego and Power Rangers as a child queen. [NOTE - Remember to check out the Darnley Coffee House down in the town of Stirling for outstanding soup - see the 'STIRLING - SOUP' page for details.]

24th - ABERDOUR CASTLE - 'The Lords of Misrule'. Oh oh... David Rizzio's in trouble. There will be a colourful royal entourage with Mary Queen of Scots... and trouble too. DAVID - LOOK BEHIND YOU!

28th to 31st - CAERLAVEROCK CASTLE - 'Medieval Mayhem'. This is where, one hopes, you learn how to both spell and pronounce Caerlaverock without looking down to see your tongue lying exhausted on the carpet. Said to be a fun event with some fighting, archery, and 'jubilant jousting.'

31st - BOTHWELL CASTLE - 'Bannockburn to Bothwell'. A display of combat as Bothwell Castle comes under siege by English knights under the command of Edward Bruce, brother of King Edward II. Can Robert the Bruce see them off?
There's a lot of abbreviating going on in the National Health Service, or NHS, as we like to call it. So much so that they probably have a special department where folk spend every waking moment thinking up abbreviations for the many very long words and phrases that exist within that organisation.
I recall a visit to a nurse in a health centre a few years ago. As I sat down on a small seat in the middle of a small room, it was with no small amount of trepidation that I glanced up to see a cabinet with many labelled drawers. The labels were along the lines of 'ASS FORCEPS', 'ASS PROBES', 'ASS SYRINGES', and such like. Clearly the nurse was something of a specialist in procedures involving one's bottom, which was more than a little worrying as I'd only come in for some inoculations.
'What,' I wondered, 'is this woman going to do to me?'
As it turned out, 'ASS' was an abbreviation of 'assorted'. I suspect the nurse was aware of the potential for fearful confusion with her patients, and that it went some considerable way towards brightening up her days.
More recently, I received notification of an appointment at a hospital. The notification informed me that I should attend at the ENT. 'Hmmm' (or 'Hroom'), I thought. 'I wonder what 'ENT' is.' Turns out it was the Ear, Nose & Throat Department. But my initial thought was of the large walking talking trees found in Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'. They're called Ents. I fully anticipated a consultation with a big tree, and was more than a tad disappointed when the true meaning came to mind.
But, you never know. Perhaps the NHS is saving money by utilising oaks and larch instead of doctors. Then again, maybe not. Hroom. Hrrrumm.