SCOTTISH INNS, BARS AND TAVERNS
This month we feature the interior of The Old Inn in Dunfermline, as photographed in 2012. It is located near both Dunfermline Abbey and Abbot House Heritage Centre.
The Old Inn in Dunfermline. Interior in 2012
March 2013 News cartoon - horse meat masquerading as beef
THE HORSE MEAT SCANDAL
When the story first broke in the Press in January 2013 about horse meat in beefburgers, it all looked like just a little contamination story, and not much to write home about. People do eat horse meat, and through some negligence at a meat processing plant a tiny amount somehow found its way into beefburgers. Or so we were led to believe. But the whole sorry story has swiftly grown from a minor slip-up involving mere traces to a full-blown criminal scandal where some food products have been found to contain 100% horse meat instead of beef. It is quite unbelievable.
It has been suggested that this is not a health issue, but horses are not reared with human consumption in mind, and could conceivably be pumped full of all manner of chemicals and fed all manner of things that could themselves contain substances that might ultimately be injurious to the human body, especially if ingested continually over a period of time.
Fraudulent adulteration of food by substitution with a cheaper alternative often results in the unwitting addition of harmful substances.  We could be ingesting any horrible thing, chemical or poison that you can imagine. [NOTE - See the book, 'It's a bad thing whisky, especially BAD WHISKY', by Edward Burns - available in our shop - which examines food and drink adulteration in the Victorian period.]
In Scotland we have strict controls over all aspects of our food industry. We know what goes in the food we make, and we know where everything has come from. These controls are all too often lacking in other countries, and we can no longer simply put our trust in a firm handshake and hope.
If we cannot say with certainty what any imported meat product contains then we are exposing ourselves to unknown risks that may affect not just our health, but the health of unborn children and generations to come.
I would therefore suggest that the answer lies in banning all foreign imports of meat and meat products. Scotland has quite enough animals that are fit for human consumption. We don't need to either eat, or take, crap.
It should come as no surprise that France, along with what seems like every other country in the world, is involved in this whole sad debacle. In Paris in 1872 and 1873 folk were charged with selling pies and sausages made from the meat of cats, dogs and murdered human beings, so god only knows what'll come our way next. If we let it.
Scotland's Online Tourist Guide
March 2013
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SCOTRAIL - AGAIN
Aberdour railway station is a lovely old thing. It's made of stone, cottage-like, and so typical of the railway stations train companies used to build.
These days we're not so good at building things. In fact, chances are, if you're on a new railway station platform your 'station' will in all probability be nothing more than a glass and Perspex box plonked on a platform, one in which you don't so much relax while waiting for your train but huddle with hunched shoulders in front of a miserably small and rather sad excuse for a heater.
It's hard to imagine that once upon a time in station waiting-rooms station staff tended real coal and wood fires so that the travelling public could indulge in a bit of luxurious warmth.
But the problem with Aberdour's old stone station is that for much of the time it is shut. It was shut when I was there, standing with crossed legs wondering if I might pee my pants before the train arrived.
A little sign in a window said it opened between 6.45am and 10.00am. The toilet was only open between 6.45am and 9.45am.
And while you're standing on that wind-swept platform, shoulder-to-shoulder with the ticket-machine in the hope you can avoid wind-chill, you may peer into the closed wating-room and see awards on the wall: 'Annual Best Kept Station 1990,' and such like.
Is someone having a laugh?
Snippets
I WOULDN'T WISH you to think that I was focussing a little too much on ale in this issue, but... how many times have you bought a pint of ale and found a strange pattern of tiny bubbles adhering to the inside of the glass? Do you know what it means? A dirty glass. Often you can see horizontal lines that echo each lingering slurp made by the person who drank out of your glass before you. Next time you are served such a thing take it back up to the counter and ask for a fresh pint. No one should accept a dirty glass.
WHAT, I OFTEN wonder, is the worst bus station in Scotland? There are many contenders. Bus stations, as a means of entry to a town or city, should echo everything that is good about a place. They should not be the dismal dens that they are on far too many occasions. Falkirk bus station, for example, is an embarrassing den. Ayr bus station is a bit of a den too. And Perth's. Perth has tried to sort its grim bus station out by building another one. Unfortunately, Perth's new bus station is not actually in Perth. Well done guys.
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GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL - AGAIN
As a child I recall being taken to Partick's old police station in Glasgow to identify some pervert. There were umpteen volumes of mug-shots to plough through. Partick must have been awash with such folk.
Partick's old police station has been around for a long time. It was built in the 1850s, when Partick was different to how it looked now, with horses and carts instead of vehicles and less tenements lining the thoroughfares. The horses and carts hung on for a long time, and as a boy I remember taking a bucket of water to a horse in a stable near where Morrison's is now, but that's another story.
The police in Partick moved to a new station not that long ago, and their old station was taken over by Glasgow City Council Social Work Services. It is now a Centre for Sensory Impaired People.
The problem is, that while the main police station building has been renovated and is in use, the adjacent cell-block now lies neglected. The last time I passed it there were large plants growing from the brick and stonework. Everything about it screamed 'BUILDING IN TROUBLE'
Given the age of Partick's old police station, and the stone carving of its facade, it is clearly a building worth keeping. The cell-block is very much an integral part of the whole site, and it too should be retained for future generations. The fact that Glasgow City Council appear to have abandoned it is not a good sign.
An inside source tells me Glasgow City Council did plan to remove the plants, but the workmen turned up on a day when the building was closed. We're talking here about an organisation - Glasgow City Council - that makes good noises about architecture but actually cares not one jot.
It is also an organisation with the brains of a fish, one that can't even swim. God help the cell-block of Partick's old police station.
The cell-block of Partick's old police station in Glasgow in 2013
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 REAL ALE OR KEG BEER? BREWERIES MUDDYING THE WATERS
If you prefer keg beer over real ale then you really shouldn't be reading my rantings on this website, so go away. Are you away yet? Don't even think about having a peep, just turn around and go.
Right then, there are some Scottish breweries who have started muddying the waters. Where real ale is concerned, you cannot have muddy waters, no sirree.
By way of a small reminder, I should say that real ale is ale that conditions in the cask; although these days most of it conditions in metal kegs as opposed to wooden casks, but that doesn't make it keg beer. Are you still with me? Keg beer has already done all its conditioning elsewhere - usually in a huge vat - and what you have being served is largely lifeless. It also has reduced taste and aroma when compared with real ale.
In short, real ale generally tastes and smells nicer than keg beer. Real ale also requires a little extra work in the pub cellar to make it ready to serve, and it is this aspect that makes keg beer so attractive to folk who either don't have the time, skills or brain-cells to allow them to stock real ale. The pubs that can't be bothered with the hassle of real ale will probably not be bothered with the hassle of real fires and other real things.
But I have recently noticed some breweries making both real ale and keg versions of the same beer, and from what I can see pump-clips are not always clear as to which version is being served. This is probably not a new thing, but I thought it was a practise that died out decades ago. Personally, I'm inclined to think there should be a law against it.
I may be wrong, but when Edinburgh had its big breweries, like McEwan's and Younger's (both now demolished), there may have been real ale and keg versions of McEwan's 80/-. But where pump-clips are concerned I think it was easy to differentiate between the two. I'm not so sure that you can say the same about these recent muddyings. I have noticed to my alarm that there are keg versions of Harviestoun's 'Bitter and Twisted' and the Williams Brothers' 'Heather Ale.' Both these beers have been very popular as real ales, and to introduce a keg version of them where it may not be immediately obvious what it is you're buying is really not acceptable. In fact, it gets my blood a-boiling. As far as I am concerned it is nothing but a rather shoddy attempt to dupe Joe Public. I was so-duped a few months back, and it was only when I tasted what was in my glass that I thought, 'Wait a minute... what on earth is this?' It was a keg version of 'Heather Ale'. It lacked flavour and even tasted a tad acidic. It was a poorer product.
So, what can be done about all this?
Well, I think if breweries are not willing to make it clear on the pump-clip whether a particular beer is the real ale or the keg version, then trading standards should become involved. You can't have muddy waters, especially where beer is concerned.

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SCOTLAND'S SLOP ALE SCANDAL