October 2011
Leaf imprint on double-yellow road lines
This month we feature the ghost of a leaf. Not a building, we know, but it is a structure fashioned by nature. When they painted the yellow lines at the side of the road there was obviously a leaf on the ground, and instead of removing it they just painted over it. When the leaf rotted, the paint on top of it flaked away, leaving a perfect imprint. Nature at its best.
October 2011 News cartoon
Government Pension Reforms
Last month Glasgow witnessed unprecedented scenes as crowds gathered to welcome the first batch of resurrected old folk. The parade through the city centre followed on from recent changes in the government's pension plans. After much debate in the House of Commons it was decided to pass new legislation that will affect us all. Clause 3e and 3f are of particular importance, and we make no apology for quoting them in full.

CLAUSE 3e - The retirement age, and the age at which members of the public shall collect their state pension in the UK, is to be extended to 90.

CLAUSE 3f - Any member of the public who dies before they reach 90 will be dug up, resurrected in new government laboratories, and put to work.

'It was felt,' said a government spokesperson, 'that we couldn't afford to lose the skills that many of these old folks have. This, combined with a need to tighten our belts and tackle the ever-growing pension shortage, meant that this was the only realistic solution we could come up with.'

Public opinion is mixed. 'Dug up and resurrected?' said a wee old woman in Partick. 'Ah'll instruct ma pet hamster tae eat me. They'll no' get me tae work when ah'm deid!'
Blind Leading the Blind

I was in a supermarket recently. There was a foreign chap ahead of me in the checkout. I knew he was foreign because his skin was black and he barely spoke a word of English. To pay for his purchases he handed the checkout woman a card.
The checkout woman was also foreign. I knew this because while her skin was not quite as black as the foreign customer, it had a swarthiness that was not of these lands. She also spoke with a strange accent. Mildly Spanish, perhaps. Perhaps not.
'I've no' seen wan o' them afore,' she said, on scrutinising the card.
The foreign customer gave a wave of his hand. It was a mildly impatient gesture. 'Try it,' he said.
And so she tried it.
It's at times like this that you wonder about supermarket rules and regulations and surely they must have a list of what credit and debit cards they can and cannot accept. Perhaps she was unable to read such regulations, if they exist, because she was foreign.
She tried it again. Swipe, swipe, and swipe. No luck. The customer sighed and paid with cash.
Next time I'm in a supermarket I'm going to try to pay for my goods with something I'll cut out from a cardboard box.
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Why do TV presenters make such a big thing of the weather, when their five-day forecast is invariably wrong?
Many of us pay for things online these days. In most cases the online paying procedure runs smoothly.
But - and this is a big but - sometimes, for whatever reason, the online payment fails. It is usually just down to some sort of glitch in the system. Maybe the broadband connection grew weak at a crucial moment in the transaction. Not our fault.
However, the amount of money that the failed payment was for now becomes unavailable to us. If that was the only funds in your bank account and you then tried to withdraw it, you would be unable to do so, usually for around three days.
During that three days period someone has that money. Someone is making use of that money. It is not merely floating around in an e-ether of nonexistance.
At the end of the day it is usually poor people who suffer. You might just have twenty pounds in your account, the first ten was used up in the failed transaction, and you used the second ten in a subsequent successful second transaction. You need that first ten pounds for food, but you can't get at it. You have to wait three days.
In my opinion, that is nothing short of criminal activity by the banks or some holding firm, and it really is about time the government sorted this out.
Real Ale Festivals
Real Ale Festivals in October

6th - 8th - TROON - This the 12th Ayrshire Real Ale Festival. It takes places in Troon Concert Hall. Opens at 5pm on the Thursday, and 11am on other days. In addition to over 100 ales, cider and perry, there will be food, entertainment, and a quiet room where you may sit and gurgle with contentment.

21st - 22nd - ALLOA - This is the 20th Alloa Octoberfest. It takes place in Alloa Town Hall. Opens 1pm Friday, and noon on Saturday.
There has been much in the Press of late about Irish travellers at Dale Farm in England. The problem appears to be that they're not travelling, and wish to stay put. Something slightly ironic there, methinks.
I suspect that there exists within us all a hint of jealousy in that these folk appear to get on with their lives and do pretty much as they please. They seem not to live within the constraints that bind most of us, getting up and moving when the mood takes them, or staying put when the mood  takes them.
It seems as if they have built homes without planning permission. Seems to me that planning permission has for far too long been a rather lengthy pain in the butt. They've built their illegal homes right beside other legal travellers' homes. So, what's the ploblem?
Well, the ploblem is that Homo sapiens is by and large a pack animal. He sticks together, lays down rules, and dislikes anyone who is different; anyone who disobeys the rules. I mean, we need rules. We need them to keep us happy, keep our days regulated and controlled and watched over. Irish travellers do not appear to be into rules, although I dare say they will have their own perhaps unwritten set of rules.
To be honest, I'm not too fond of rules myself. There to be bent and twisted and keep lawyers in business.
I suspect the Irish travellers have experienced so much hassle over the centuries because they do not like our rules, they talk funny, and live lives that are outwith ours. We dislike them because they are different, in the same way that we may dislike Muslims who swan around UK streets wearing white sheets for clothing. Different. But I respect difference. I respect the right of others to be different to me, to perhaps flout our laws now and then, and live their lives as they see fit. Why should I hate such a thing? Why should I hate so much the idea of an Irish traveller who is neither in Ireland or travelling?
It's because I'm human. We all are, even the Irish travellers.

1. If you cut out a piece of credit-card-shaped cardboard from a cornflakes box, some supermarkets may accept this.

2. As library cards are exactly the same shape as credit cards, you can try to offer this as payment. It is advisable to engage the checkout person in frantic discussion while the transaction is being made, and to position yourself in such a manner that allows a swift exit from the premises.

3. In autumn, it may be possible to offer a flat rigid leaf from a tree as payment. Prior to handing it over, smear the surface with honey and, when questioned, say it is your nectar card.

4. In some instances, for example when the checkout is very busy and the queue very long, you may break a raw egg into the checkout person's hand and say, 'It's my Egg card.'

5. Certain supermarkets will accept empty crisp bags as payment. This is a similar idea to the getting-into-the-cinema-with-a-jam-jar scheme that existed a while back. When the checkout person tells you how much your purchases are, remove the crisp bag from your pocket, smile, and swipe the bag through the card device. Cheese and onion bags generally work better than prawn cocktail.

6. Some card-reading devices are fooled by saliva. So, when paying for your goods, you may lean down and lick the card-swiping area of the card-reading device. If questioned, reply thus: 'Collect vouchers for schools? Oh I'm sorry, I thought you said Gie's yer drools.'

7. If you are very patient, you can sometimes form dust from your vacuum-cleaner into a rough credit card shape. Many supermarkets will accept this. If questioned, say that it is from the newly-formed NBHF (National Bank of Hoover Fluff).

8. Some supermarkets accept socks as payment. Simply place a sock over the card-reading device. If questioned by the checkout person, say, 'What, you don't accept socks? I shall never darken your door again.' Then storm out in a great theatrical manner.
Castle Events in Scotland
Castle Events in October

1st & 2nd - STIRLING CASTLE - 'Michaelmass Merriment'. A great event where we all learn how to properly spell 'Michaelmass' without consulting with our dictionairiesses. This weekend you actually get to witness the sixteenth century Royal Court feasting and dancing and having loadsa fun during the special harvest celebration.

8th & 9th - EDINBURGH CASTLE - 'For King & Country'. It's 1650 and the castle is being attacked. Oh help ma Boab. There will be grand parades of English troops and Scottish troops, although the Scottish troops will parade in a far grander manner than the English ones. Muskets will be fired and there will be much thundering.

14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd - LINLITHGOW PALACE - 'Fright Night'. What more is there to say? This is actually an evening event, taking place at 7.30pm and 9.15pm. IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR YOUNG CHILDREN. Apparently you get to meet U.G.L.Y. (United Ghosts of Linlithgow Yore). It will be dark. It will be scary. Fresh undies should be carried at all times. Book your tickets online at
SIGN OF THE TIMES - I tried to borrow Adele's 'Rolling in the Deep' CD at my local library. Turned out there was a waiting list of some fifteen other folk who also wanted to borrow it. What does this tell us? That Adele is very popular? Yeh. That libraries still have a role to play in today's e-world? Yeh. But most of all it tells us that a heck of a lot of folk are so poor that they can't afford to buy music that they clearly love. And that's quite a telling fact.
SELF-SERVICE CHECKOUTS are growing in popularity. There does, however, seem to be even more stress attached to their use than in regular manned check-outs. If you start fiddling with the bag you want to place the paid items in, the machine sometimes detects a weight anomaly, thinks you're putting something in the bag that you have not paid for, and sets off an audible warning that sees staff rush to your side with accusatory stares. Oh how I love supermarkets!
I HAVE A LIGHT in the hall that makes a noise: a high-pitched whine. I don't want a light that makes a noise. I want a light that illuminates, full stop. If I wanted a light that made a noise I would  buy a firework.
All these noisy and allegedly energy-efficient light-emitting things must use up a lot of energy making that unwanted noise.
I shall stand in the street and shout about it.
Picts versus Scots image for The Good Soup Guide's October 2011 News
PICTS versus SCOTS...

In Scotland at the moment the main political party is SNP, or the Scottish National Party. The Conservatives don't have a look in, and are desperately trying to reinvent themselves. The Labour Party has lost a leader who was about as charismatic as a grape, and appears to have no one prepared to put their head above the parapet.
You know, there are times when I look at people and find myself trying to determine their genetic ancestry. It's not a hobby or anything. In fact, it's probably a bit weird. I know that populations are ever changing, people move, and ethnicity in some areas could be termed a jumbly assortment of mongrels. But I believe that in certain large areas of Scotland there still exists a genetic core whose roots can be traced back to when man first set foot in this place. In the Scottish Highlands, for example, there will be many people of Pictish descent, far more than could be found in the Lowlands. And in Central Scotland, in the west in particular, there are probably a greater number of folk whose ancestral beginnings lie with the Scots who came from Ireland long long ago. (I would mention people from Edinburgh but I still reckon they came by and large from another galaxy.)
It appears to be the case that voters in the Highlands may be more apt to vote SNP, while those in the Lowlands are (or were - SNP is now ruling the roost across the board) more inclined to vote Labour.
And when I look at the faces in the Scottish Parliament I see things. I see those in the SNP, those with fresh rosy cheeks and fine countenances, who look more Pictish than Scots. And when I look at Labour I see dark-haired peelie-wally folk who have the hint of a Scot about them.
Instinctively I prefer SNP folk. Those who are with Labour make me strangely wary.
And so, might it be the case that - whether we realise it or not - this is not so much a political battle between SNP and Labour as an ancient fight between races: Picts versus Scots?