May 2011
Hucheson Hall, Glasgow
This month we feature Hutchesons' Hall in Glasgow, a glorious old structure which was recently given a lick of paint and looks quite wonderful in the sunshine that we always get in Glasgow.

Many years ago I went on a great adventure into England. I was slightly surprised to find there was no big gate at the Border; nor a man in a peaked cap handing out little pink perforated tickets. I just walked in. Some time later, after many weeks of adventuring, I ended up in Leeds. I was seeking directions for the next stage of my adventure: a quest to find The White Horse. I had heard of a wonderful ancient tavern in Beverley, called The White Horse, where they still have gas lighting. And so I found myself in a tourist office in Leeds...
St Cuthbert's Way at the Scotland-England Border
'Excuse me,' I said to the rather attractive lady behind the counter. 'Can you tell me how to get to Beverley?'
'Beverley?' she replied with a flicker of her eyelashes. 'Get the whole bus, then a connection to Beverley.'
'The what?' I said, not quite catching her words.
'Get the whole bus, then another one to Beverley.'
'The whole bus?'
'Yes,' she replied with a hint of impatience in her voice. 'The whole bus.'
'Right... em... do you happen to have a darkened room in which I might lie down and die for a while?'
She regarded me through furrowing brows. I sensed a finger poised over a panic-button.
The silence that followed was broken only by the sound of wooden cogs in my head. When I next spoke my voice has risen to a peculiar Minnie Mouse squeak.
'But... you mean some of them come in bits?'
'Sir,' she said as patiently as she could, but her brows were now tying themselves in knots and this was clearly a difficult moment for her. 'I'm not entirely sure what you mean, but if you could just get the bus to whole, then everything will be fine.'
And then the penny dropped. Whole. Hull. What a lovely accent. I was off to Whole. A White Horse was waiting.
And the moral of the tale? Probably best to holiday in Scotland. At least you can understand what we say. Ken fit ah mean?
May 2011 News cartoon
Further to the revelation that certain long-distance buses in Scotland are not fitted with public toilets, the Scottish Government has introduced a new series of measures to control who is allowed into the country.
'We felt,' said a government spokesperson, 'that in order to properly look after the needs and interests of tourists visiting Scotland that we had to take action. There are some bus journeys - between Glasgow and St Andrews for example - that take almost two-and-a-half hours, and there is no toilet on these buses. We've had reports of visitors peeing themselves or urinating into carrier bags. Something had to be done.'
When asked how the new regulations will work, the spokesperson had this to say, 'At all airport arrivals desks there will be an additional level of checks whereby persons wishing to enter Scotland will be asked to divulge the Volumetric Capacity of their bladder. Anyone with a bladder with a VC of less than two gallons will not be allowed into the country. It's for their own good, and I hope they realise that.'
Public opinion is mixed. 'Bladder capacity? Bladder capacity?' said a wee woman in Partick, 'Ma tartan trolley hauds a hunner gallon. Who needs a loo?'
Strange cloth-covered booths have mysteriously appeared in post offices up and down the land. If you ask the staff, they will tell you that the booths are something to do with cars and driving licenses or something. But it's a cover. The government has for the past decade been experimenting with futuristic transportation devices, much like those seen in the film, 'The Fly'.
After much experimentation the process has been honed to perfection, and now anyone wishing to be whisked from one town to another can do so within the blink of an eye.
'We felt,' said a government spokesperson, 'that the time was right to bring this research out into the open and offer what is really a first-class service to members of the public. We've been through many years of trials and tribulations with this. It has not been easy. Only last year we thought we had finally cracked it, tried to transport a man from East KIlbride to Milton Keynes, and discovered a small flaw in that when he arrived he was... how shall we say... em... inside out, physiologically speaking.'
The Good Soup Guide understands that only members of the public who have signed up for the scheme will be permitted to travel, and the membership fee involves an arm and a leg.
So, next time you're in a post office, watch the booths; the person that comes out is not the same person that went in!!
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The Question

How come the sound-proofing in so many houses could be vastly improved by replacing dividing walls with rice-paper?
            WASTE NOT...
I found another abandoned piece of furniture in the street the other day. A wooden cabinet with a nice ye olde glass bit on the front. It's exactly what I was looking for to put the TV on. Cost: nothing.
In my living room I now have many items found in the street: the TV cabinet, a small table, an armchair, a book-case, a shelf and a colourful printed work of art depicting knights in armour. All were in good condition, which kinda makes you wonder why they were thrown out in the first place.
We give little thought to the forest's-worth of spent wooden furniture chucked out every day of the year. Yet, with a little thought, they could be reused. The Scottish Government has funded a Waste Aware Scotland programme, and I would highly recommend that you check it out online. There is a specific area that deals with furniture recycling.
Real Ale Festivals
Real Ale Festivals in May
20th & 21st - HELENSBURGH - Helensburgh Sailing Club (on the banks of the River Clyde - make your way to the waterfront and head right, in the direction of Rhu. The sailing club is between Helensburgh and Rhu.)
I recently visited Forfar. Well, you know, someone's got to do it, even if solely to see what those Pictish types are up to, make sure they're not misbehaving themselves, burning a few witches at the stake, and that kind of thing.
When you don't have your own transport, it can be difficult reaching some places. How tourists manage, I really don't know. I stay in Scotland, and should be reasonably au fait with buses and trains and how to get from A to B. Unfortunately, I feel those in charge of our transport system deliberately try to make it hard. They must hold long meeting in rooms earnestly working out how best to make it as difficult as possible for these damn tourists to find their way around. There are also so many barriers placed in the way of a smooth transition from A to B that I feel we may be but one small step away from physical barriers, big wooden gates across roads with signs saying, 'EFF OFF - WE DINNA WANT YE!'
After paying £11 for a return between Glasgow and St Andrews, I half expected a return between Glasgow and Forfar to be similar in price, perhaps a few pounds more. I mean, when you look at a map, the distance, by road, from Glasgow to St Andrews is kinda similar to that between Glasgow and Forfar. So why, I wondered, was I being asked to fork out £24.50 for the latter? TWENTY-FOUR-POUNDS-AND-FIFTY-PENCE!
It doesn't make sense. Okay, at least there was a toilet on the Forfar bus. There wasn't one on the St Andrews bus. But if having a toilet means having to pay an extra £13.50 - more than 100% of a difference - then I could happily forego the toilet facilities in favour of an empty milk carton!
There is just something very wrong with Scotland's transport system. It is a higgledy-piggledy assortment of things on wheels, and nothing more. It is indeed so much of a shambles that I have been informed that Citylink bus drivers are expected to clean the toilets on their buses. Bus drivers cleaning toilets? Struth - they'll be changing tyres and passing around the empty milk cartons next.
But probably the most annoying thing about paying £24.50 for a bus from Glasgow to Forfar, and back, is that the bus doesn't actually go to Forfar. They just sort of kid you on and deposit you unceremoniously some two miles from Forfar town centre, effectively in the middle of nowhere with nowt but a dual carriageway and a McDonald's fast food joint for company (both high on my list of life's greatest pleasures).
And so, to conclude, might I ask Scotland's Transport Minister, whoever he may be, to at least try to correlate and amalgamate all the things we have on wheels, and give tourists a fighting chance to see what it is they want to see and go wherever they choose without either wetting themselves in the process or going bankrupt.

1. When in a queue, be ever mindful of the need to allow space at the rear for other queuees and stand close to the person in front. An acceptable level of closeness is when the tip of your nose is in contact with the back of their head.

2. Sometimes in a queue, especially those found in supermarket check-outs, people fall into another-worldly dream and forget where they are. To prevent this happening to the person in front of you, gently touch the back of their knees with your trolley at least once every ten seconds.

3. As you get near the front of a queue, with only one person in front, do not position yourself behind this person. It is considered great sport to actually stand beside them, shoulder to shoulder, and make jerky movements every so often so as to make it look like you are about to move.

4. If queuing in a post office or bank or some ticket office where rope barriers are involved, take every opportunity to tap the person at the head of the queue on the shoulder to inform them that a serving window has become available. This is best accompanied by a loud shout of, 'THAT'S YOU NOW. GO ON NOW. THAT'S THE STUFF. NEXT!'

5. If in a supermarket queue and the person in front has taken up too much space on the conveyor-belt, feel free to rearrange their shoppping so that it all fits in. If questioned, lecture the questioner on the efficient use of space.

6. Another supermarket tip: if you sense that everyone around is having a boring day, take your full trolley of shopping and try to fit it through the check-out aisle sideways.
Castle Events in Scotland
Castle Events in May
14th & 15th - CAERLAVEROCK CASTLE (near DUMFRIES) - 'Siege & Storm' - It is the year 1640 and the castle is under siege. See a military camp and an assault on the sturdy walls of this wonderful structure.

28th & 29th - DUNDONALD CASTLE (between  KILMARNOCK and TROON) - 'The Rise of the Stewarts' - Experience medieval life, and chat with master craftsmen and members of the King's court as they strive to rebuild the castle.

29th - DOUNE CASTLE (in DOUNE, north-west of STIRLING) - '1645 - The Royalist Takeover' - Meet members of the Marquis of Montrose's army as the soldiers converge on the castle to the sound of gunfire and cannon.