IMAGES OF SCOTLAND
This month we feature Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven. When you approach this castle on foot it's hard not to feel very very excited. The scenery is outstandingly pretty. [See 'Stonehaven - Other Stuff' page for more on Dunnottar Castle]
Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven, in 2012
August 2012 News cartoon - shop assistants
Customer Care in Shops
Shopping is an activity that has up until this point in time failed to do anything for me. It is just a necessary chore that allows me to obtain a new shirt or a pair of pants.
At times, shopping not only does nothing for me but actually annoys me. Clearly the whole process that will culminate in me arriving home with a shirt or pants has at some point to include annoyance or irritation. During the procedure I expect to mutter under my breath and wonder if my old shirt and pants might last another five years.
It's the shop assistants, you see, a rather peculiar breed of people who inhabit a world that is parallel to our world yet not quite in it. I can walk into a shop and instantly sense the position of each and every shop assistant. I know this because they are all, to a man, or woman, heading in my direction from every angle. And they all share a common goal: to ask after my wellbeing. They are not interested in selling me something, or helping me out in any sane way.
They all want to know if I'm alright. 'Are you alright?' they will each ask in turn. And each time I am asked this question I feel a response tickle my tongue along the lines of, 'What do you mean am I alright? What on earth are you talking about?' Or I might be tempted to reply,' Oh I'm sorry, it was a new shirt and a pair of pants that I was after; I hadn't appreciated that I had mistakenly wandered into a health clinic.'
Sometimes I am even tempted to clutch my head and swoon theatrically to the ground.
There surely cannot be a more inane and inappropriate question than, 'Are you alright'? If this is the total sum of all their customer care skills then perhaps the reason High Street shops are struggling has less to do with the economic climate and more to do with staff who inhabit another galaxy.
The way to properly put these people off your scent is to be just as daft as they are. One way to do this is to ask if you might try on a pair of pants. 'I'd like to try those Y-fronts,' you should say with authority, to which the shop assistant will in all probability reply by running away.
Scotland's Online Tourist Guide
August 2012
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PINK DOGGY DOO
There was a story in the Press a month or so ago about West Dunbartonshire's unusual steps in trying to tackle dog mess. Their answer was to spray such offending mess with pink chalk-based paint, the idea being that the offenders would be embarrassed and shamed into changing their habits. It is an unusual step that warrants a high score on the clap-o-meter for originality, but one that will unfortunately make not one jot of a difference.
There is no doubt that there is far too much dog faeces on our streets. When walking in my local area I have to watch where I'm going to place each and every step, because one moment's lapse of concentration will invariably see me up to my knees in canine jobbies. And it's worse at night. And even worser (not a word, I know, but I like it!) in autumn when fallen leaves hide all manner of pooish swirls and coils.
The main problem, from what I can see, is that there are far too many dogs in society. I can be out walking in parks or even in forests in the countryside and come upon one person walking a whole pack of up to ten or so dogs belonging to other people. What's the point in having a dog if you can't even manage to walk it? (That's almost the same question as 'Why have babies when you can't manage to look after them during the day?' - but we'll not go down that road; at least not now).
Is there an answer? There's always an answer. Corks is an answer, perhaps corks with little bits of string attached to allow you to uncork your dog when he is in a designated dog poo area. And you could have a range of corks. The more sophisticated ones would have pressure sensors and would bleep when cork removal comes with the risk of an explosive outpouring of shit, whereupon you could tug on the string from a safe distance.
Snippets
SCIENTISTS HAVE PEELED back another layer from the mystical veneer that coats our existence and discovered a particle. Some are calling it the GOD PARTICLE. 'We believe,' said a spokesperson, 'that we have found the tiniest teensiest crumb from a very early, and possibly prehistoric, cheese and onion toastie. The implications are immense. We can now categorically confirm Einstein's 'Theory of Cheese & Onion Toasties', and say with total conviction that cheese and onion toasties are the building-blocks of life.
LONG LONG AGO ironing-boards were useful things to have around the house. They had a flat bit at the end upon which you could place the hot upright iron while you were rearranging a shirt collar or whatever. Nowadays, that flat bit has been replaced by a hole with sloping bits, none of which seem happy to accept a hot upright iron. Just what is going on, I really do not know but suspect we are dealing yet again with some Far-eastern-made crap. Can we in Scotland no longer make decent ironing-boards?
ONE DAY, NOT long ago, I was wandering along Argyle Street in Glasgow, lunch-time sandwich in hand, when a strange thing happened. Something brushed across the top of my head. I looked up to see a seagull the size of a Boing 737 flapping skywards. I looked around, but no one was looking in my direction. Nothing, it appeared, out of the ordinary had taken place. Then I noticed a bit of my sandwich was missing. I had been mugged by a seagull, and no one cared or blinked an eye. That's life in a big city.
OLYMPICS ALE
Further to an Olympics opening ceremony in which all that is great about Britain was put across in an utterly stunning manner, it comes as something of a disappointment to find that the Official Olympics Beer is Heineken, an alcoholic brew that is about as British as the pyramids. Heineken is a huge Dutch monster that has in fact closed down quite a few British breweries in the past, and made profit from doing so. Whoever made the decision to have Heineken as the Official Olympics Beer has clearly either been given a large brown envelope full of cash or is a madman. Or maybe someone's having a laugh.
THE DEVIOUS DOINGS OF BAR STAFF
In my whole life, I have been short-changed in bars on many occasions that I am aware of. I'm sure there have also been many occasions when I have been unaware of such a thing, probably when the beer has taken my brain. Most bar folk are good people, but there are a few out there who take advantage of an alcohol-addled mind to effectively steal.
Nowadays, in bars or indeed any type of retail outlet, we rarely find the assistant counting out our change into our hand one coin at a time. This used to happen, and as they did so you could instantly see that the correct change was being given to you. Nowadays they just chuck a whole lump of money at you and instantly turn away to serve someone else. You are then left to look upon your own palm and check that what you have been given is the correct change.
The old £10 note trick is I'm sure a favourite with crooked bar persons. They might sense that you've had a few beers and might not be up to the task of coin-counting. You hand them £20, and they give you change of £10, thus pocketing £10 for themselves. This happened to me once where the barman was adamant that I had handed over just £10. He even went through the motions of opening the till to show that there were no £20 notes in there. But I knew I was right as I had made sure to check the note before handing it over. After a lot of bleating from yours truly he eventually gave me the other £10 that was due. He would not have conceded if he were honest. On that occasion I was in no doubt that the ploy had been a deliberate one.  Had I not received the correct change, I would have contacted the police, although there would probably have been nothing they could have done. But yeh, that guy was a crook.
In every country in the world there are always people who are at it, people who take every available opportunity to fleece others of money. Scotland is no different in that respect. On a recent visit to Arran I came upon two bar persons who attempted to short-change me. In one day. Instinctively, we always know when the short-change manoeuvre is deliberate. Both occasions during that day out were in my opinion intentional.
So take care out there folks. Trust no one, always watch your back, and never drink that much that you can't check your change.
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TRAIN OVERCROWDING
I got on a train at rush hour a while back. It's not something I'm generally keen to do, because the sad thing about crowded trains is that they are full of folk who are all, unfortunately, breathing. And rubbing knees; other people's knees, that is. There's not enough knee-room. Folk were sitting with their knees touching those of others. It was all a bit unseemly, if you ask me. The degree of knee overlap was in some instances so severe that private-parts were almost touching. That's trains for you.
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