Here we feature the Old Toll Bar, in Paisley Road West, Glasgow. Put quite simply, it has one of the best preserved Victorian pub interiors in Scotland, full of old dark carved wood, advertising mirrors, stained glass, and the work of true craftsmen. As I type, this pub is under serious threat. Some utter idiot thought to remove what turned out to be a major supporting wall, with the result that the stability of the whole building was put in some serious doubt. The pub and the building have now been abandoned, and unless steps are taken to stabilise and sort the structure, we will lose something very very special.
Old Toll Bar, Glasgow - Victorian gantry detail
January 2015 News cartoon - the charging for bags in shops and other retail outlets
YOU MAY HAVE noticed that shops now charge for a bag to hold and take away the goods you have purchased. The ruling was felt necessary because we were all being a tad irresponsible with these bags, plastic ones mainly, and they were finding their way out of landfill sites or out of our bin-sheds and landing in bushes, trees, and other bits of the countryside. I'm inclined to think the problem did not so much lie in our irresponsibility but rather in the idea that we maybe don't employ enough folk to clean our streets and countryside.
I bought a pair of shoes recently. They were not boxed, but loose. At one stage during the transaction the shop assistant said, 'Would you like a bag for these shoes?' It seemed such a ridiculous thing to say. The very idea that I might leave a store clutching a loose pair of shoes, then cart them through wet sodden streets without a bag was clearly absurd. The assistant was, of course, merely being polite. I might have had a bag secreted about my person, in which case I would not need to purchase - PURCHASE! - a bag, a bag that carried advertising for that very store!
Scotland's Online Tourist Guide
January 2015
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I recently walked from Milngavie to Killearn. The route I followed was a somewhat higgledy-piggledy one that took me by Mugdock Castle, Mugdock Country Park Visitor Centre (great soup!), Dumbroch Loch, then joining the John Muir Way at The Boards and on to the West Highland Way by Glengoyne Distillery, the hill of Dumgoyne, and on and on, arriving finally in Killearn in a somewhat pooped condition. There, I found The Old Mill inn closed down. So, I dragged my weary body to the Black Bull Hotel to find it was no longer the Black Bull. It was now the Killearn Hotel. With a pint of ale in great condition at hand, I retreated to a seat by a real log fire in the lounge and relaxed in splendid isolation.
I highly recommend The Killearn Hotel. Especially the lounge.
I HAD A 'schooner' of beer the other week. It was served so cold it was a smidgeon away from being an alcoholic ice-lolly. What on earth is this strange habit adopted by bar-staff where they keep glasses in what is to all intents and purposes a freezer? I don't want beer in a frozen glass. Apart from anything else my fingers get frostbite if I hold it for too long. It also gives the beer no flavour whatsoever. It's just cold liquid, and about as refreshing as an ice-cube served in an igloo.
AND WHILE WE'RE on the subject of 'schooners', what is a schooner? It was once the case - and I know you'll find this hard to believe - that glasses used in bars had marks on them. These marks, whether to denote a pint or half-pint, were there to inform you that you were being served beer in a glass that held a standard measure. You could be assured of the quality of the measurement. This was not a glass blown by the guy next door; it was a proper glass.
So, what is a schooner? Some so-called schooners I've had did not appear to have any standard markings to tell me what volume they might contain. The dictionary definition for schooner' is 'a large beer glass'. This, is not, to my knowledge, a standard measure. Some pubs may say it is two-thirds of a pint, yet where are the recognised government markings to tell consumers that this is indeed the case? Have standards in public houses in Scotland fallen so far by the wayside that they use unmarked glasses that could contain any volume under the sun? Would Trading Standards like to comment? Because from where I'm standing I might question whether a so-called 'schooner' is even legal!
We live in strange times where consumers are rarely satisfied yet with every blink of an eye we are being asked to complete satisfaction surveys. It seems at times that I can be literally seconds into an online newspaper, hardly enough time to even focus on a screen, before a box pops up and I am expected to reveal how satisfied I am with the whole experience. Well, not very satisfied at all, to be honest.
If I make contact with the customer care section of a huge firm I am not allowed to escape the interaction without filling in a satisfaction survey. I mean, what on earth is going on?
As consumers we are probably experiencing the worst levels of service we have ever had to face, what with lengthy phone calls to customer service or shop assistants whose sole level of expertise lies in the ability to say, 'Are you alright?' or 'No problem sir,' every two seconds.
If you ask me, the whole thing's got right out of hand. It's only a matter of time before you buy the morning milk to find yourself surrounded by security guards who will all say in unison, 'Are you alright sir? Little survey required. There you go. No problem.'
Mugdock Castle in mist. The tree on the right has since fallen down and died.
A Highland Cow near Dumbrock Loch in Mugdock Country Park
View in Mugdock Country Park, looking towards Deil's Craig Dam and the Campsie Fells
Winter colours by the Allander Water in Mugdock Wood, in Mugdock Country Park
The remaining tower of Mugdock Castle. A few days after this photo was taken, most of the large tree on the right fell down.
A well-disguised Highland cow in the countryside around Mugdock Country Park.
View towards Deil's Craig Dam and the Campsie Fells.
Winter colours by the Allander Water in Mugdock Wood. The West Highland Way runs through this wood.
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