News
September 2011
A BIT OF THIS AND A BIT OF THAT
Celtic's football stadium with red-brick structure in front
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...
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Cartoon for Sep 2011 News
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 not birl.
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THE QUESTION
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?
         STREET SCULPTURE

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 think.

What do you think?
Real Ale Festivals
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 something.

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 Scotland
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 questions?
Which castle?
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 then.

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
Glasgow's new Brewdog pub at 1397 Argyle Street
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 it over?
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.
Snippets
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?'
Mediocre photo of the Seaplane landing on the River Clyde in Glasgow in 2011
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 zooming.
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 www.schottlandberater.de.
The Night Knit Pixies strike again
Night Knit Pixies (The SAS of Wool) -
Coming to a mushroom near you
SOON