SCOTTISH INNS, BARS AND TAVERNS
This month we feature The Royal Arch bar at 258 Queen Street,
. The Royal Arch has an interior that may be described
as 'busy', being crammed full of stuff, framed wall prints mainly.
It has a traditional old pub feel to it, and when not full of folk
watching footie on the telly it's a nice pub.
Och Rone, Och Rone, Och Rone
I like plants. I like their smell, the way they look, and their nice
colours. What I don't like is when they grow out of buildings. This
is not the plants' fault. It is the fault of man. For man has
forgotten the importance of maintaining buildings. He has forgotten
the importance of clearing muck from the rone, or roof-gutter, and
maintaining the down-pipe. Because if you fail to clean out the rone in a
building as part of a programme of regular maintenance then what
happens is plants start to grow. They grow to such an extent that
the roof-gutter becomes blocked and is unable to continue with its
primary function: namely, to direct rainwater away from the
building. Unable to escape along the gutter, rainwater then spills
over the roof-gutter and falls down the front of the building's
stonework. The stone gets wet, and over a period of time green moss
grows on the damp patches, the plants in the rone get bigger, and
all that greenery begins to take over. The external damp and the
plants' roots start to creep inside the building, and as time goes by the actual structure
of the building declines.
As I wander through Scotland towns and cities I see this all over,
and it causes me no end of despair. The photograph above shows an
architecturally magnificent building on Paisley's High Street. It is
so magnificent that it even has a grand statue. And yet it is
clearly festooned with plants. This building is slowly decaying
before our very eyes and no one seems to actually care.
Well, I care. I care because I hate to see failings within town and
city councils with regard to building maintenance, and especially
when that building is of considerable architectural merit.
I also care because I love Paisley. I love it in the same that I
love all of Scotland. And unless whatever council is in charge of
that fine town gets a real grip, then I will have no option but to
send Hamish around. Armoured hippos don't like plants on buildings
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THE DEMISE OF SCOTLAND
I was in Brechin recently. When I visit towns I am unfamiliar with I
like to get off the bus at the town's edge and approach on foot. It's a
good way of getting a real feel for a place. In the case of Brechin, it
was a bit of a shock. As I walked up the town's High Street the road was
lined with closed and abandoned shops. Of those that were boarded up one
had a sign in the window thanking all customers. A recent closure. Two
other shops had a closing down sale. Another Scottish town going to the
dogs. It's probably only a matter of time before Brechin folk follow the
example set by other impoverished Scottish places like Dumfries and
Paisley and paint shops on their shop-fronts to make the place look more
While there are many reasons why small towns in Scotland are struggling,
it may be of interest to pause a moment and look at just one: the
internet and online shopping.
When you buy something on the internet, a book or laptop or whatever,
then the shops in your town that normally sell such things are denied
the sale. But it's not only that, a van is despatched right to your very
door to deliver the book or laptop or whatever. The amount of additional
vehicles that this places on our roads must be astronomical. Ordering
things in the comfort of your home may be convenient and it may even be
cheaper than buying the same goods in a shop, but in the long term it is
actually doing society a great deal of harm. It is causing shops in our
High Streets to close, shop-workers to become redundant, and increases
the traffic on our roads and the carbon footprint to levels that are
destroying us. And thus places like Brechin are turned into urban
wastelands, fun grounds for boy-racers who coast around in a surreal
local version of Grand Theft Auto.
I'VE GOT MY Berghaus jacket. It was made in Indonesia. I've got my
Sainsbury's TU shirt. It was made in Bangladesh. I've got my
Morrison's sardines. They were produced in Thailand. I've got my
Morrison's Fish Paste. It was produced in Belgium. I've got my
Sainsbury's sweetcorn. It was produced in France. Remind me, what is
it we make here in Scotland? Whisky? Cripes, is that not the white
spirit that's flavoured and coloured with foreign spirit? In fact,
where is our Scottish spirit?
MANY JOB VACANCIES in today's jobs market require people who are
good team players and good at handling pressure. If you're not one
of the guffawing guys or galls and dislike steam coming from your
ears then you've had it. But not everyone is a team player, and
there is nothing wrong with that. Not everyone can cope with lots of
pressure, and there is nothing wrong with that either. The amount of
emphasis that is placed on folk being team players and able to
handle pressure is nothing but absurd.
IN THE TICKET office in Glasgow Queen Street railway station there
is a neat little invention. At each ticket window there is a small
device in which folk can place their walking-stick. The device keeps
the stick upright and prevents it from falling over, as they are apt
to do when leant against a smooth straight edge. What a great idea.
But I'd like to see it extended. If the devices were a little
bigger, and in pairs, drunk folk could slot in each of their legs
and be retained in an upright position, secure and safe.
WARNING! WARNING! SCHOOL CHILDREN ARE
I may be alone with this thought, but I am inclined to think that in
areas around large secondary schools a siren should sound at the
start of lunch-time so as to warn folk of the impending bedlam.
I mean, there I was, on Portobello High Street, thinking I might
grab a small greasy thing to keep my stomach going. I saw a place
where I might obtain the said small greasy thing, but between
thinking about it and the relevant signal being sent to my legs a
million school children appeared. It was instantaneous bedlam, and
there was no way I was going to reach the counter of the shop I'd
spied to obtain the small greasy thing I had in mind. And it was
almost impossible to escape from the hoards. They queued out of
shops and blocked pavements, seagulls swooped in the hope of
catching falling crumbs, and the pavements because littered in a
peculiar gloopish delicacy that I understand goes under the name of
'Chips and Curry Sauce'.
I really don't think we should be unleashing such bedlam onto the
streets. Ordinary folk who live in such areas should not have to put
up with this. They should not be frightened to leave their homes
because they know that schoolchildren have generally no respect for
anyone who is not a school child and pensioners are likely to be
elbowed off the pavement as they stomp and shout and spit. No, we
can't have that. We have to provide canteens in schools, and we
can't allow them to leave at lunch, even if that means locking gates
and hiring security guards armed with whips. The behaviour of some
school children is so bad that if they were adults they'd probably
be arrested for breach of the peace. But they're just kids, so we
somehow tolerate their bawdy behaviour and hide behind curtains when
they emerge at lunch.
Of course, I suppose you could argue that many small food outlets
near schools thrive on the business the school children give them.
Many would indeed maybe not survive at all without that daily bucket
of chips and curry sauce. Well so what? Chips and curry sauce might
taste pretty good, but it has about as much nutritional goodness as
the cardboard from a box of breakfast cereal.
And so, to conclude, I know that sirens still exist in many towns,
placed high on certain buildings like police stations or government
offices, and it's time we started using them. When ordinary sane
members of the public hear them sound it would be a signal to get
off the streets and hide for cover in some place where the hoards
have no access. It would be time for... THE PUB!
for a monthly equivalent
of around £6.
* Approximate online visits
during the month of August 2012
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