John “Where now UK?” Leslies

If you’re here for the pub it’s a long scroll!

Following the, why the fuck was a referendum called on our EU membership, I have been giving it a few days before putting pen to paper ( he’ll be telling you that pigeon post might become redundant soon, Ed. )

Like Tommy Roe I have been “Dizzy”

Or “On a Carousel” Hollies ’67.  —  ( a clue to why Nash jumped ship? )

I have been on a bit of a “Rollercoaster” Justin Bieber ( WTF! Ed.)

“Come here, I don’t know what happened. Where did they go?”   Justin, that’s just what most of us Scots are asking our English neighbours.

Hard as it is to believe I have been to JB’s home town of Stratford  to pay homage many times.  Ok hands up, over the years I have been to Stratford, Ontario, Canada to visit with family ( notice how he slips seamlessly into the local vernacular, Ed. ) five times.

Richard Manuel of The Band  was also born there. Hard to tell the difference musically eh?

One thing in common though, as both of them into excess I think.

This afternoon when out for my constitutional I was thinking about that very subject and how much I liked Neil Young’s “Thrasher”

It is written in a knowingly “canyons  of your mind” hippy lyric style but is, I think, a cautionary tale. Too much of a good thing? And how relationships get ruined. So on that very subject—

Our EU in/ out referendum:

I was gutted. And I’ve now had some time to get my head round it.  I’ve read lots of different and differing articles from left right and centre.

This is my take on it as from today.

It was a sop to the Tory eurosceptics which not only misfired badly but shattered the blunderbuss ( appropriate starting adjective!) into shards which have ripped through our society.

About 75% of 18-25 year olds wanted to stay. One article blamed the baby boomers. Hey it wasnae me!

To say the Labour backing to stay had a low profile would be to give it more credit than it deserves. To have a profile you first have to stick out at least a bit. I think a negative profile might be an oxymoron, contradiction or whatever but certainly appropriate in this instance.

The Remain group lacked cohesion and an inspirational leader.

The Exit group had no vision for the future, none, but two figureheads one of whom had been fired from two different posts for lying, and another who has failed to win a seat in UK parliament on 7 separate occasions.

One of the newspapers which targeted it’s mostly lower working class readers to vote for out has an editor with a shooting estate in Scotland.

If those very readers think they are going to be better off  as a result of this outcome they are going to be bitterly disappointed.

And of course the murder of Jo Cox who by all accounts was a person who devoted her life to improving the lives of others. The guy will probably be judged to be certifiably insane. I hope so– he was aware of the issues however —?

It would have been far easier to accept the result had it been based on arguments re. health and safety, workers rights, benefits to business etc. but my assessment would be that it was won partly on the perceived loss of control but mainly on a fear of loss or dilution of English national identity due to immigration. Farage himself has said that this is what won it. He also said there were more important things than the economy. He was bang on with that.

A stand out of course is the despicable Breaking Point poster. At a time when we are facing the biggest human migration probably of all time, when tens of thousands of poor souls are fleeing countries ripped apart by various factors but primarily by religious fanaticism, English yeomen want to pull up the drawbridge and lower the portcullis. It makes me feel ashamed to be human, it really does.  Would ” the mainland” have accepted/ welcomed families fleeing from the not too distant sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland if it had escalated into outright war?

The clever way Brexiters lumped refugees who fled their homes in war ravaged areas like Syria and Iraq with economic migrants as if they were a common problem. We didn’t need to jump ship to sort out the latter. They are two totally different situations but both were presented as here comes Johnny Foreigner to rip us off. Folks who swallowed that and voted leave to protect their national identity can now add lack of compassion to the list of characteristics that define them.

It’s in the nature of the beast to look out for our own first and foremost. I get that 100%. However, thankfully we have many selfless human values as well. Pity we didn’t see more of them. Much of the argument was based not on facts but conjecture and where facts weren’t available outright lies and deception sufficed.

In other circumstances it would be funny watching the victors slithering around in their snakepit trying to continue to gain access to the single market, to justify how they won’t be able to control immigration as they boasted and how the blatant lie about how much we pay into EU coffers will be spent on the NHS.

Manipulated and deceived. We have sunk to a new low where the end justifies the means.

I have been doing my head in with all the thoughts that this has brought up. If you have got this far you’ll need a break too!

However Hope Hovers on the Horizon ( plagiarised from helplessly hoping her harlequin hovers nearby, Steven Stills lyric ) so maybe we can look at this again in a week or so as events unfold?   ( Please God no! Ed. )

Schadenfreude:  I’ve always thought of it as one of our least attractive human characteristics ( after I learnt what it was ! ) I must admit I was not immune to it last night when England were knocked out of the Euro football finals by Iceland.

Well done to the underdogs and as England had voted to be out of Europe well done to them for making the exit quicker than expected.

Man do I ever need a pint!

Right I’ve made it to John Leslies- thank Christ you say! – and am whetting the thrapple with a pint of John Leslies Ale at £2.80

The pub is on the ground floor of what was a four storey tenement and is named after the second landlord.

Lots of wood and brass and I don’t think I can do better than steal from Jack Gillon’s ” Edinburgh Pubs”

” retains most of it’s original features and layout- snug areas, a garlanded lincrusta frieze ( wtf? ) ornate plaster cornices and ceiling roses, stained and leaded glass panels, mahogany timber panelling and a clock by eminent Edinburgh clockmaker Robert Bryson.

John Leslies Public Bar
The barmaid Elaine Black tells me that a Japanese film crew visited in 2014 and the pub was featured in a national TV programme Pubs around the World which has resulted in some Japanese tourists dropping by and a couple of Japanese ladies doing that star struck “is it really you” thing with the landlord John Black, who despite his best effort couldn’t help but be chuffed.

The beers on offer feature 6 different cask ales and 11 keg lines and you have a choice of over 50 malt whiskies.


John Leslies Saloon

But I forgot to mention that Leslies was my local when we got our first flat. In the first few weeks of marriage, when we occasionally fell out, I would storm off to head to the pub which was only 30 yards away. I was impecunious at the time so soon returned home contrite and not emboldened by alcohol. ( not too bad a combination? Ed.)

To finish: A quote from Xavier Dectot from that hot bed of left wing socialism Homes and Gardens. He is the Keeper of Art and Design at the National Museum of Scotland and in response to the question what is Scotland’s greatest asset he said:

The way it mixes a strong national identity with an unmistakable openness to the world.



Sheep Heid Inn

Well this is about on the limit of my 30 minute walk from home but this pub is of historical interest laying claim to being the oldest pub in Scotland. Most of the route to get here comes through Holyrood Park along the track of what was the Innocent Railway, ( some info later) and cuts through some Scottish Wildlife Trust land.

Start of walk into Bawsinch Nature Reserve
The Sheep Heid is in Duddingston village nestled in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat and the Lion’s Head ( nae heid for the Lion! ) which are the volcanic core central to Holyrood Park.

Lion’s Head overlooks Dr Neil’s Garden

A gift of a ram’s head snuffbox from King James VI of Scotland in 1580  is, perhaps, the most tourist friendly explanation for the inn’s  name. Last week we cycled through Dalmeny estate, home to the Earl of Rosebery whose family now own the original auctioned snuffbox with only a sad replica in the bar. It makes claim to be the oldest pub in Edinburgh – 1360 – Aye maybe. Yesterday I had a pint of California Common and today sampling Shropshire Gold in the beer garden. This sounds suspiciously like a twist on  Salopian Auric that I came across for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Salopian brewery being in Shropshire and Au if you can remember your Periodic Table is gold. More research necessary methinks? ( we know it’s old but you don’t need to go all Shakespearean on us, Ed. )

Inside has that faux rustic look in spades. Lots of dark wood and nooks and crannies. Large beer garden and a well used skittle alley.

The Dark Interior

List of medicinal plants

You may have seen the picture of Reverend Robert Walker ( better known as the Skating Minister ) by Sir Henry Raeburn which was set on Duddingston loch. The loch is in the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Bawsinch nature reserve
Adjacent to that is Doctor Neil’s garden. I happened on this garden yesterday and it is an absolute gem. A sanctuary!  Started on a patch of rough ground in 1965 Dr Neil and his wife Dr Neil transformed the area into a nursery for medicinal plants. As per above photo.
Before I forget, more on the Innocent Railway.

  I wasn’t kitted out to clean the board. Sorry. You should still be able to get a bit of the history. Looks like I should maybe improve my camera work as well!

Bonus: No gogisms, Phil O’Sofar or other prejudices and ramblings this week.

Anyway the pub and the whole surrounding area is very much worth a visit. In fact it would take weeks to explore all the paths and byways in Holyrood Park itself.

Join me in the Canny Man’s next.


Bennett’s Bar


You join me this week in Bennett’s Bar, which is right next to the Kings Theatre though I don’t know if it’s frequented by the luvvies. This pub can probably lay claim to being my “local”. By frequency rather than proximity. We often go there for a pre prandial prior to a visit to Indaba, ( Zulu, a council or conference especially with indigenous tribes of South Afica) our favourite tapas restaurant.

High ceilinged with lots of old wood and ornate mirrors, a good selection of beers with seven on cask, four regulars and three guest, an extensive selection of tourist attracting malt whiskies, and a fine choice if you are a “gin goblin”- just saw that phrase today in music shop window and I thought it was neat!  ( only if you don’t add the tonic, Ed.)

If you’ve never heard of the Gin Goblins don’t bother checking them out unless you are a punk completist. Punk – what was that all about?- a reaction against the pretentiousness of prog rock?  Tubular Bells, pop operas maybe.  Also an element of reaction against the evisceration of trade unions that was going ahead in the 70s?  ” The unions have been busted their proud red banners torn” ( from Christmas Time in Washington, Steve Earle )

In times past Scottish pubs were often built with a “snug ” area which was partitioned off from the main bar area. Women and children could wait for the menfolk there. (?)  You can check that out in Bennett’s. Presumably the children had to be accompanied by adult females or maybe they sneaked in to sample what was the precursor of alco pops? The snug was probably the forerunner of the ” lounge ” bar. You know, that space where middle class wankers didn’t have to mix with the hoi polloi when their date gives them that I’m not going in there look.

Whisky choice list in the Snug.       Extensive!



What I like about Bennett’s is that it has a mixed clientele of locals, tourists and normal punters and a marked absence of suits.

The staff are friendly and the glassware clean which kept my recent pints of Fairmaid and Good Old Pale in fine condition til the last draught.


View along bar top toward the Snug

Articles that have recently caught my eye:

A Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes for ” insulting Islam through electronic channels” He received the first 50 lashes about a year ago.

Ireland re-introduced blasphemy laws in 2009  ( not very up to date, Ed. ) and some commentators seemed to think that this was a cynical ploy to attract Saudi Arabian investment. Surely not!  Some folks seem to lack a charitable disposition towards politicians. Oh yes and an academic in Trinity College Dublin, has threatened to sue ( suppose that might be better than having your hand cut off or being castrated ) anyone who “insults” Islam. And that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons are legally unpublishable there.

Yesterday the news that the EU has not granted a new licence to Monsanto for glyphosate backs up my thoughts re campaigning websites and their widening influence. Independent tests to be done before a final decision on it’s continuing use or ( hopefully ? ) a ban.

If TTIP had been in place we would be getting sued for millions.

Food security:

Last year we listened in to an Aussie soil scientist ( in a pub near the hippy Findhorn Foundation ) telling his new acquaintance how vast areas of agricultural land worldwide have become unhealthy and under productive. Who is responsible for this? Is it giant corporations? Is it smaller family run businesses? Well this week in the UK a report says that some of our most productive land could be unprofitable within a generation. Notice the emphasis on unprofitable.

The government was also criticised for failing to do enough to keep the country’s soils in good condition for future generations.  Is that not the responsibility and indeed duty of those who farm the soil?  Here in Scotland our environmental protection agency has produced a guide to encourage our farmers to value their soils. I find it amazing that people who live off the land do not care for the land. This could be one of the reasons why the preposterous Common Agricultural Policy is needed. On which subject why the fuck do we have to subsidise the production of food?

I was in one of my favourite shops yesterday. This place has a fantastic selection of mostly local produce. On the counter as I was waiting my turn to pay, my eye was taken by a form which was used to note on a weekly basis which goods went to the waste bins. It also noted the number of each item and the cost. Because of the nature of the shop selling lots of perishable fruit and veg this struck me as clever business practice. Keeping a close eye on income and expenditure is vital. However it made me think ” how much wastage is a business prepared to tolerate as long as it still cuts a decent profit?”  About a month ago I saw our local tramp benefitting from this discarded but still edible produce.

It is probably generally thought that the big supermarkets, who account for 87% of our groceries, are most to blame for the UK’s 14 million tonnes wastage. However it is necessary to look closer to home as household food waste accounts for more than 40% The UK tops the EU wastage league by millions of tonnes. However I don’t think population size was factored in so it’s probably not surprising that we waste more than Malta. Eco tourism, you’ve probably heard of it. How about Eco non- tourism where we don’t visit countries that slaughter migratory songbirds for fun.

Japan ” scientific ” whaling. How about economical sanctions  ( how come you and your missus both have Japanese cars then?  Ed. )

The point I’m trying to get over with these two examples is that if we have the opportunity to change something for the better, then let’s do just that and not sit around girning e.g. about child poverty, in the expectation that other folks will do so.

Over a million people make use of food banks in the UK .

India wastes as much food as the UK consumes, including 21 million tonnes of wheat.

UN Development Programme says about 40% of bought food is wasted.

On a happier note, or two. Last week we were fortunate to attend a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of Pet Sounds. Often regarded as not very successful commercially at the time-although it had several big hit singles lifted from it- Brian Wilson’s masterpiece was hugely influential and inspired many of that eras emerging and established stars such as Clapton ( really! ) Tom Petty, Barry Gibb, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Carole King, Rod Argent, Alice Cooper, Lindsey Buckingham, Pete Townsend and Roger McGuinn amongst many others.

George Martin:  ” Without Pet Sounds Sergeant Pepper would never have happened. Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds”

A wonderful night of music.

And ” Wouldn’t It Be Nice” to have a bar like Bennett’s Bar close by?

Well yes it is so why don’t you come and join me sometime as ” I Get Around”


Canny Man’s

This week we are checking out one of the more notorious bars in the city. Not notorious in the sense of being a drug den or you get beaten up by looking at one of the inmates in the wrong way. Rather because of the reputation that the proprietor had built up.

On this site originally was the single storey Volunteers Rest from at least the 1860s. It opened as a purpose built pub and inn in 1871. Riflemen trainees used to come off Blackford Hill to slake their thirst and Rest was changed to Arms by owner John Kerr sometime after 1901.

Volunteer Arms is a common name for a pub. One named as such was featured in Trainspotting but our one is at the totally opposite end of the spectrum. You are far more likely to have the clientele here talking about rugga‘ rather than fitba

Canny Man’s Exterior


A.k.a. The Canny Man’s—  After delivery of the week’s beer the dray horses used to be left outside across the road morrals on- another word for feed bag, nose bag – don’t know if it is redundant or archaic but I like it- whilst the delivery men had a couple. After a while the horses got restless and started moving off and causing a bit of mayhem.  This would eventually attract the attention of one of the draymen who would come out and shout out “Canny Man” in a vain hope of calming his beast down. Probably apocryphal, but according to Christian, the son of the current proprietor, this is what his uncle told him. More likely to refer to John Kerr. Stealing a quote from the pub’s fact sheets, ” In later life he was to be nicknamed the ” Canny Man” and this he was”

I love that ” and this he was!”

Cat's Seat
Canny Man’s

Can you spot the cat’s seat Sherlock?


I love to cook and am being continually exhorted in my recipes to use kosher this and kosher that, so I did some research to see if I could make some sort of sense of it. Shouldn’t have bothered really. However over the last century numerous rabbinical organisations have sprung up that will certify your new  products, restaurants, etc.  Alright already!

The EU:   Well it’s decision time UK. Are you in? Are you out? How did it ever come to this? Plus we’ll have the Trumpet in Scotland on the day. I think he’s going to build a wall round Turnberry because a Mexican has applied for membership.
Philip Green has just taken possession of a £46 million jet. Shame 11,000 people are out of work with pension black hole from his recent commercial enterprise. ( The word enterprise can have dark connotations and that certainly applies here )

He so wanted to sort out the pension debacle that he sold the business, but only in the literal meaning of the phrase, to a 3 time bankruptee. Goldman Sachs apparently advised him, with no fee, that it was ok to do that!

A couple of phrases used recently by BHS employee who lost her job. Plundered and destroyed. Sickening levels of avarice and injustice are commonplace. That’s good old unfettered capitalism for you.

I wonder if Sir PG Tips after he eats out?

Back to EU vote: Sorry got distracted. This is mirrored in the modern tendency for newspapers ( read owners, media barons ) that instead of allowing an even handed appreciation of events, now take sides and instruct their craven editors to follow the party line. Which party they support. In or out? Etc. They are doing this for the wider common good? Don’t insult our intelligence. Like curdled cream self-interest sits atop this toxic cocktail.  ( Steady son! Ed. )

Never mind, the Tories have learnt from recent events and today propose to allow a failing industry to cut their employees pension without their permission. The government has a ” high level offer on commercial funding” on the table. Tata steel has liabilities of about £15 billion on it’s pension scheme and this costs more than £100 million to support.

What makes me really angry is not that we should be looking at ways to mitigate unforeseen circumstances in longer term viable businesses or that we may need to spend public money to this end. ( potentially up to a billion for Tata ( will it then shortly be thanks a lot and ta, ta UK? ) It is the fact that I don’t  hear anything from those in power about how we stop fat cats from getting fatter especially at the cost of everyone else’s futures being compromised . Wrecked might be a better adjective?

Whilst coincidentally more and more of the general population become fat pigs!

Neoliberalism: Now I’d never heard of that ’til my friend and knee surgeon Malcolm MacNicol gave me a book entitled The  Neoliberalising of Old Age written by his brother John. I was wondering what the definition of the word might be and thought that it might be linked to a laissez faire type of economic model. When I researched it what did I find? Yes two French words right enough. Quite pleased with my old self really! Carte Blanche are another two French words which would imply a similar philosophy.

It ain’t working but for the few. Seems that the third way will never top old blue eyes my way.



A look along the bar front to a wide selection of whiskies

Rick Stein reckons the Canny Man’s is the best pub in the world and whilst it might not qualify for that accolade solely on the well maintained 8 draught beer selection it may well do so on it’s wonderful nooks and crannies, huge selection of whiskies, wide choice of champagne and a magnificent cornucopia of items, each of which has it’s own story, which ” decorate” the walls and ceilings. Long may it last as more and more of our pubs close down or become Wetherspoon clones.

Long May You Run.