A BIT OF THIS AND A BIT OF THAT
BUILDING/STRUCTURE OF THE MONTH
This month we feature public toilets. This old bricked-up and disused
example is located outside Celtic Football Club's stadium at Parkhead in
Glasgow. I am, of course, guessing that this was indeed once a public
toilet, and did not serve some other function like a wee waiting room
for tram-drivers. If it was a toilet, I wonder why they felt the need to
put two doors in such a tiny construction? One for 'IN' and one for
'OUT'? One for men and... emm; I don't think women were allowed to pee
in the old days...
A PLAGUE OF MADNESS AT STIRLING
I was in Stirling recently, and wandered into their bus station to
see how cheaply I might travel to Callander and back, but get off at
Doune on the way. Would I need a single to Doune, then another to
Callander and so on. There was a large glass-fronted booth or office
in the bus station, clearly marked 'TICKET SALES AND TRAVEL
ENQUIRIES'. I put my question to the young woman behind the glass,
and was somewhat surprised when she said that she didn't know. When
pushed further, I discovered that they only have information on Citylink buses. When pushed even further she said something along
the lines of, 'We are not authorized to give out travel information
for First and other buses.'
To say that I was astonished would be a terrible understatement. I
considered - and not for the first time, I might add - to indulge in
a constructive bit of beating my fists against the glass.
I mean, it is utter madness. How on earth are tourists expected to
make any sense of it all? Stirling Council PAYS these folk to sit
here leafing through their extensive book of excuses. PAYS them!
Would it not make more than a little sense if these folk read up on
buses, times and tickets for all the buses that leave or arrive at
Stirling? Or do we actually enjoy making it hard for visitors?
What is wrong with Glasgow?
Glasgow's Science Centre Tower seems now destined to never work
again. It has been plagued by breakdown's ever since it was constructed,
and even suffered the indignity of once having fire-fighters rescue folk
stranded in its lofty heights.
For me, it seems symbolic of what Glasgow is really all about. We're
good with ideas and good at getting things up and running, but once
they're there, we have not got a clue.
It's a back-up maintenance thing, or a lack thereof.
That tower at the Science Centre cost millions of pounds, possibly as
much as eight or nine million. Why are we not suing someone, either the
designer or the firm that built it? It is clearly not fit for purpose.
Why is so much public money being spent and no one checking to see if it
has been spent wisely?
What is wrong with Glasgow?
Meanwhile, I understand that engineers are currently looking at the
possibility of propping-up a circular square mile of land around the
tower and, with the aid of jacks and cogs and pulleys, somehow causing
it to move. The end result will give the impression to anyone in the
tower that the tower is revolving, but it will be the land itself that
is orbiting the tower.
I also believe that the city's motto is to be altered to include the tower. It
will sit with all the other broken and dysfunctional items, like the
bell that did not ring and the bird that did not fly.
The tower that did
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Why is there so much focus on super-broadband when in many cases
cable companies cannot even properly secure their cable
junction-boxes against the weather?
There seems to be this peculiar notion amongst the high heid
yins who purport to be in charge of towns that are facing some sort of
economic decline that the addition of street sculpture will somehow make
everything all right again.
You can see examples of it in the likes of
Hamilton and Kilmarnock, both towns that have suffered badly through
unemployment and what have you and whose streets show signs of decay in
one form or another, whether with boarded-up shops or a general air of tattiness.
Both these towns have street sculpture. In both cases it is as if aliens
have descended in the dead of night and plonked things
on the ground, surreal metal heads peeking up through the pavement or
curious otherworldy shapes that one may read while flying through the
air after tripping over one.
If any of you high heid yins are reading
this: this is not the way to go. Street sculpture is okay in a town that
has sorted all its other stuff out, one where the citizens are
prosperous and the shops full and fat.
In a town that is struggling to
hold its head above water the addition of bizarre arty street sculpture
does nothing but alienate and irritate the local populace.
That's what I
What do you think?
Real Ale Festivals in September
26th August to 4th September - CALLANDER - THE
TROSSACHS BEER FESTIVAL AT THE LADE INN. A ten day real ale event at
the Lade Inn at Kilmahog, by Callander. There will be live music on
the Friday and Saturday evening, and a good range of real ales from
local breweries like Williams Brothers, Harviestoun, Tryst, and
others. You can meet the brewer, taste beer, eat food, sing songs,
and generally have a great time in an inn that sits amidst some
wonderful Scottish scenerey.
SCOTRAIL - HAVING A LAUGH... SURELY?
The ticket office in Glasgow's Queen Street Railway Station has
been given something of a makeover. Money has been spent, the rope
barriers are now made of prime quality rope, and the staff smile in a
friendly and courteous manner (Whoaaaaah! Sheeesht... I'm sure a few
pigs just sailed by my window!)
As part of the queuing system, there is an electronic thing in place
where numbers come up on a computer monitor, and the voice of some
invisible person comes over the tannoy.
'TICKET DESK NUMBER THREE HAS NOW BECOME AVAILABLE,' the voice will say,
or something like that. And the member of the public at the head of the
queue is then expected to make for the vacant space and speak with the
man who glowers.
But - and pay close attention here - this system has been altered a
little of late. Instead of the typical irritating flight-announcers
voice of a faceless English woman, we've got what sounds like an elderly
woman from Scotland.
'TICKET DESK NUMBERRRRRR THRRRRRRREE HAS NOW BECOME AVAILABLE,' she will
say. I don't think I've ever heard 'R's rolled with such passion. If she
rolls those Scottish 'R's any more she may well combust and be
mysteriously transformed in a wisp of fog to Janet from that old TV
favourite, Doctor Finlay's Casebook.
But the rather ironic thing about Scotrail's renovated Queen Street
ticket office is that the self-service ticket machines still do not
accept Scottish banknotes. Astonishing, huh? There are times when I get
the distinct feeling that I am actually living in a social charade, one
where everyone thinks everything is hunky-dory, but only because plants
from outer space have got to them in the dead of night.
ALE - TIPS ON HOW TO ENJOY IT
1. Take your pint of ale, open your mouth, and throw it down.
2. There has been some debate over whether one should savour the ale -
sometimes referred to as tasting - when drinking it. Tasting is to be
recommended. To taste your ale, retain it in your mouth for a second or
two, give a small face, then swallow and smack your lips as if eating
3. If on tasting your ale you find a large lump that offers some
resistance to being tasted, dook a finger into your pint and pull out
what you will probably find to be a small dead animal. If the small dead
animal has been in your ale for more than seven days, it will have
absorbed a lot of flavour and so may be chewed and savoured.
4. If on tasting your ale you find that there is no discernable taste,
place your glass on the bar counter, stand to attention and, with one
arm extended so as to point at the offending ale, give a loud wail of
disappointment. (We wish to apologise for any confusion that may arise
through the use of the words 'ale' and' 'wail'. We appreciate that these
words are phonetically very similar, and our intention was not to cause
any upset. If on asking for ale in a public house you find the bar
person bursts into tears, then you may assume that that person has mixed
up his ale with his wail.)
5. If you are enjoying your ale, it is considered to be a sign of your
pleasure and a great compliment to the cellarman if after each slurp you
exhale loudly, smack your lips, and say, 'My oh my - what a fine pint.
THREE CHEERS FOR THE CELLARMAN!' The whole bar will then join in with a
rousing chorus of appreciation for fine ale served well. (Either that,
or you may find yourself being frogmarched from the premises.)
Castle Events in September
Just because you maybe don't see a specific event at a castle does
not mean you should not visit a castle. So, visit a castle. Any
Oh for goodness sake do I really have to take you by the hand and
lead you around Scotland. Is that what you want? Oh well... okay
Right, first castle worth a good long peep: Dirleton Castle.
It doesn't get huge crowds in the same way that Edinburgh or
Stirling does, so you can be pretty sure of having a peaceful stroll
amidst ruins and gardens in a very pretty village.
Second choice - Aberdour Castle - I like this
castle because a huge chunk of it has fallen off and landed on the
ground (it doesn't take much to keep me happy!). Although Aberdour
is not yet listed in The Good Soup Guide, we understand that there
is a very good hotel in the main street that does good ale and good
food: The Aberdour Hotel.
Third choice: no third choice. You're on your own.
OLD FLOOR SEES THE LIGHT OF DAY IN NEW GLASGOW PUB
The very fact that BrewDog has seen fit to retain it marks the
company out as a caring organisation, one that respects old things,
and who perhaps sees the sense in saving money for new flooring.
It's a good strong, easy-to-clean surface - why rip it out or cover
I had a pint of 'Punk IPA', an utterly delicious ale with a fruity,
almost gooseberryish smell. It was served a little too cool in my
opinion, so some of the aroma and taste was lost, but it gave rise
to very tasty burps and is without question one of the best ales I
have tasted in a long time.
The choice of ales is incredible. You can have 'Trashy Blonde' (4.1%
ABV), '77 Lager' (4.7%), 'Zeitgeist' (4.9%), 'Punk IPA' (5.4%),
'Hardcore IPA' (9.2% - £2.50 a half-pint), 'Imperial Wheat' (10.27%
- £2.50 a third-pint), and numerous bottles of ale, most of which I
had never before seen.
Some ales were seriously strong. For example, there was BrewDog's
'Tactical Nuclear Penguin' (32%!!) and 'Sink the Bismark' (41%!!!).
Both these were only sold in 25ml nips, costing some £5 per nip.
While it would be easy to jump on board the bandwagon of criticism,
I would say that these drinks are only sold in tiny measures and all
I could see was the firm and sensible hand of responsibility.
At the end of the day, this is a good pub. And an exciting pub. I'm
not sure what it is that makes it exciting, but it is. It's an
atmosphere thing, an intangible something that will certainly makes
yours truly want to come back again and again and again.
Well done to BrewDog. [See
the Glasgow Ale page.
BREWDOG has opened a new pub in Glasgow. It is located at 1397
Argyle Street, directly opposite Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.
I checked it out during August, and it is, I have to say a very fine
pub. It is modern in appearance, with bare brick and metal and a
futuristic feel. But - and here's the thing - they have retained old
flooring discovered during renovation of the premises. You can see
it in the photograph above, a wonderful yet simple design used some
time ago. I'm not sure how old the flooring actually is. The
premises have been occupied by various businesses over the years,
and in more recent times, from around 1960s was the Calypso Bar. My
gut feeling is that the flooring precedes the Calypso Bar.
BACK IN AUGUST I popped into Partick Library in Glasgow for some
music to take away and listen to. It was raining outside. It was
raining inside. Water was pouring down the walls. There was also a
smell of sewerage. Up on the once-wonderful ornate ceiling there
were patches of bare wooden lathe. How can this be allowed to
happen? Let's all gather outside Partick Library, join hands, and
say a small prayer. It's got to be more effective than anything City
Building can do.
IS IT NOT about time someone in authority took broadband providers
to task for all the crap they print on their promotional literature?
We are blasted with this offer and that offer, most of it claiming
to provide this, that and the other for an initial few months at a
cheaper rate. But in this price there is no mention whatsoever about
the phone line. It is usually mentioned elsewhere, and can cost an
extra £14 or so on top of the quoted monthly price. It's got to be,
at the very least, misleading.
VISITORS TO GLASGOW'S Science Centre are being asked to help out.
Groups of up to twenty at a time will be taken outside to stand at
the foot of the broken tower, where they will be asked to huff and puff
in the hope that the tower may move a little bit.
'We feel that involving people is important,' said a spokesperson.
'All we're asking is that they blow for Glasgow.'
'What about burping?' said one visitor. 'Would that work?'
PHOTOGRAPHY - A VERY HARD THING TO PULL OFF
Most of us have cameras these days, whether real cameras or as part
of some other device, like a mobile phone or a microwave oven.
(What... you mean microwave ovens don't have cameras?) Taking
photographs is without doubt an enjoyable pastime, a constant quest
to capture that ever elusive shot. It's not easy taking good
photographs, and you don't need expensive equipment to try. My own
camera is a cheap digital effort. It once fell into a pint of beer
when I rather foolishly tried to rest it on a glass to take a shot
of a jazz band in a pub. Now it no longer zooms. My legs do the
I am not a good photographer. I can, however, recognise a good
photograph, like most folk. A good photograph is something that
instantly tugs at some invisible strings in your heart, a quality
that a photograph either has, or hasn't. My way around my failing is
to take lots of photographs. I sometimes recognise a particular
scene as offering the potential for a good photograph, so I take
shots of it from every angle, every distance, in the hope that when
I get home there will be one that will, just by chance, have
captured what I sensed was there all along. Most of the time the
perfect shot eludes me. But sometimes I am lucky. And it is luck.
I was wandering along the banks of the River Clyde a while back,
watching the seaplane landing and wondering if I had enough time to
dig out my camera. I didn't. When I turned around there was another
chap behind me, camera already out, doing his utmost to capture that
unobtainable thing. We got chatting, and it turned out that he also
had a website to do with tourism in Scotland. His was a German
website. In fact he was German. I'm reluctant to mention it as it
looks like a good website, more professional looking than mine, but
what the heck. Check it out at
Night Knit Pixies
(The SAS of Wool) -
Coming to a mushroom near you