All posts by tamtennis

About tamtennis

Retired. Working life split first in molecular biology then as pro tennis coach. Hobbies: playing guitar, cooking, spending time with friends, eating out, attending concerts. Interests: The world all around us- where it's been and where it's going.

Deacon Brodie’s

Looks like I have been falling behind with the idea of a pub a week for 2016. C’est la life! Which is quite an appropriate phrase as we have my local Deacon Brodie’s on left above alongside the one in Ottowa, and as you may well know the French Canadians are not shy about sticking up for their heritage.

Haves and have nots
Deacon Brodie’s Tavern Edinburgh
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Bar front with inscription

My excellent pint of Nicolson’s Pale Ale at 4% abv and man bag  in the foreground.

What struck me when I was trying to select an appropriate photograph, was that to the right of the outside picture can be seen the copper roofed headquarters of the Bank of Scotland. This is on North Bank Street- geddit? For most of my life I didn’t know that such “verdigris green patina” was copper.

With his back against a phone box you can see a guy begging. What you have in that frame is an allegory for rich / poor, excess / deprivation, silver spoon / wrong side of the tracks ( OK, ok, I think they get it! Ed. ) And of course in the middle of it all we get Average Joe just mucking along.

Deacon is a term used in different ways depending on religion but from what I can gather it is someone who is ordained but at a level lower than priest or minister.  Tom Russell has Deacon Black featured in his ballad “The Sky Above and the Mud Below”

” Old Deac he could drink and curse, but he still quoted sacred verse”

I digress. Our Deacon was regarded as a model citizen and was born into a respectable Edinburgh family. William Brodie rose to become the Deacon  ( a secular take on the religious use of the word? ) of the Guild of Wrights. Another digression. When my dad served in the Royal Navy he was a “shipwright”

I have searched for the meaning of Wright and found nothing, but guess that it was a term applied to someone who was practical. A tradesman say. ( OK, “Tradesman!” Anything to keep him happy. Ed.)

Brodie owned a locksmith and cabinet making business and although he was Freeman of the city he liked to gamble, had five children from two mistresses and a passion for cockfighting. And if you don’t know the literal meaning of that last phrase probably best not to go there!

The financial pressure of such a life style led him, with what today we would call inside knowledge, to carry out robberies on premises that he knew through his trade as a locksmith. Eventually rumbled he fled to the Netherlands but was ultimately arrested in Amsterdam.

Now we need to have a look at this scenario. We are talking about the 1780s. How did the Scottish fuzz know he was there? How did they get him arrested? Instagram?  Artists impression?  How was he brought back?     I’m finding it hard to accept that less than three centuries ago extradition such as this was possible. However it worked, Brodie was eventually, with yet another wonderful irony, hanged on Edinburgh’s Tolbooth gallows.

Which he had built.

Last but not necessarily least on Deacon Brodie. He was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s ” The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”

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Deacon Brodie’s Craft beers on offer

 

Ok, I’ve decided to start a new political party!  No joking! ( no shit! Ed. ) Well actually it’s not going to be a party with a constitution like Labour, Tory,  etc. It will only exist in the ether. Unlike most of our major parties it will be founded not on self interest but on some of our better human values.

What might they be you might be asking yourself?

Your choices will no doubt be different from mine but the plan is to contact everybody in the world and ask them what five human characteristics they value the most.

Avarice, ( just joking) compassion, fairness, etc, etc, etc.-?

Once I’ve got all the answers I’ll ignore them all and write the manifesto based on my own preferences!

What should we call this new party?  Well I’m going for PPP.

That is ” People’s Party for Proportionality”

Now I think proportional representation relates to the number of votes cast in an election and how that is reflected in the number of ” your ” candidates that are elected.

It isn’t used in US or UK elections but was introduced in some form for the Scottish Parliament. One of the main arguments put forward in it’s favour was that it would stop one political party becoming overly dominant. Ha blinking ha! Yet another example of our political leaders not having a clue.

But then how many of us do?

My thinking on proportionality is coming more from a how much is far more than enough c.w.how little is not nearly  enough.

Billionaire Philip Green versus the beggars I see on Edinburgh’s streets as I walk down to meet my wife for lunch in the Cafe Royal . — Well we have a bit of a challenge to proportionality right there as that pub is definitely m.c.w. territory!

G20 summit recently finished and British Prime Minister returns saying that, hurrah!  six countries might make a trade arrangement with us – once we have exited. That brings up thoughts from Johnny Saxon like, who are the other 14 bastards that will have nothing to do with us? And if you want to avoid trouble probably best for you not to host the the next Euros. Know what I mean!

Also my campaigning websites assure me that TTIP is dead so why was Obama giving the impression that it was going ahead?  To show the UK what a bad decision it had made?   Yes probably,  but mostly to show himself in a good light.

Seems unlikely that the non Mother Theresa will be made a saint-?

CETA ( EU/Canada trade deal) has been finalised since 2014 but not yet ratified by all EU member states. I think it stands for comprehensive economic and trade agreement though why they need comprehensive I’m not sure. Possibly to let us know how thorough and inclusive they have been? ( Or maybe because there is no way Spain would sign an agreement with ETA? Ed.)

In my simple way I don’t know why we need to have all these trade agreements. If I have or make something that you want and vice versa why can’t we just do business?

Well what has our government been up to recently apart from making no progress on Brexit?

It is busy buying votes. Buying, in the metaphorical sense not the literal one, as we all know that would be illegal and politicians never knowingly tell lies to win us over. Hold the front page! Brexiters have officially abandoned the lie of giving £350 million a week to the NHS. A lie that probabably was enough to swing the outcome.

I was educated in a grammar school and kids of the town from all backgrounds attended.

Apart from our headmasters kids that is, they were sent to private schools in the city! I have always thought there was a wonderful irony in that situation.

In England grammar schools are in the news because the plan is to reintroduce academic selection. If you should think about reading how the government proposes to improve our education system my advice would be – don’t. Waffle, no vision, divisive, crackpot. You just end up getting angry. Comprehensive- that word again- Education has been in place since mid 1970s and is a more inclusive and less divisive option for society as a whole. To me it would be better to be concentrating on making teaching a more attractive and higher valued profession. Without wishing to offend any teachers stumbling into this blog you do not need to be a rocket scientist to be a good teacher. In fact other qualities are far more important than the amount of knowledge you have. It is a sad reflection on our society that we are still bickering over how best to educate our future generations.

Good teachers good facilities and good governance. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation!

More anger. The UK government are once again selling off social housing.

Back to grammar schools, selling off council houses, it’s like Maggie Thatcher has come back to haunt us.

Maybe Scotland should build a wall. Everyone else seems to be doing it. Netanyahu, Trump, Hollande. I’m starting  to think  it may be genetic. If your dominant gene tells you that your dome would benefit from a wrap- over then the recessive gene forces you to build a wall. Yes it’s coming back to me now. The first law of genetics, I remember.

I think the second was that if you are born an asshole —–

No recessive gene for that one as I recall.

Maybe they will become known as the Mr Thatchers?

If the Scots do decide to build a wall everyone involved in the construction will have to wear a Jimmy hat to bolster the dodgy hairpiece gag. It wasn’t me who called Trumpet shredded wheat heid.

Since we have been distracted by walls. When was the Berlin Wall knocked down?  You know? All right smarty pants! When was it built then? And nae cheatin’

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The Gin Selection

 

We are definitely not going to tackle the housing sell off this week though, as I need to calm down. What day is it again? It’s Saturday apparently so that means it’s champagne pre prandial. Did I tell you about my spanakopita? They go great with some bubbly. BP is below 120/80 just thinking about it.

Coincidentally I’ve just found out today that Israel is building a wall round their Gaza border at a cost of $530 million. It is going underground too! This to stop Hamas infiltration via tunnels we are told. Why can we not get on with each other? You know the answer. And is a wall not always built up the way?

Next blog some thoughts on seeing, totally unexpectantly, a pod of dolphins at Dunbar.

To nearly finish, a quote from a comic at the Fringe who was commenting on the Brexit thingy.

“We will be creating beacons and roundtables of organisations. Everything will basically be fine once we’ve got round to thinking about it with the brightest and best minds in Whitehall though obviously there can be no room for complacency”

You probably didn’t fall for that but the quote is from a parliamentary debate last week more than 2 months after the referendum. Made by the Brexit Minister.

All you pub quizzers will know the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989 but maybe don’t know it was built in one night! In August 1961. No wonder the West was terrified of the commies back then!

Cheers!

Sandy Bell’s

Ok, my ramblings were on hold during Canada Calling but we are now on home ground so back to normal.  ( Normal? Ed. )

Our ex Prime Minister’s list of honours nominees has been announced. I don’t really know exactly how the honours system works but always imagined it existed to mark an outstanding achievement or contribution to society.

A contribution that is away above what people would regard as normal. Beyond the call of duty. Selfless. For the greater common good. Without any thought of self promotion or aggrandisement.

What we get this time is people who by chance happen to be working for the Prime Minister of the day, ( who has to abandon ship leaving us in the hands of the Pirates who have not a clue in which direction to set course from the compass or know where landfall may be )  people who are able to make contributions of £2.5 million pounds to the Conservative Party. One such gentleman was head of Barings Securities at the time of rogue trader Nick Leeson’s shenanigans which led to the collapse of the company. Afterwards he was head of investment and hedge funds and on the list of donors in ” leaders group” who could get access to the Prime and other Ministers.

Money “Can’t Buy Me Love”  but it sure can buy influence in this corrupt so called democracy.

The two biggest recent donors have already been given peerages. The fourth a knighthood. Another investment banker also previously of Barings is a board member of UK Financial Investments which is a group set up in 2008 to manage the government’s – read OUR shareholding in RBS and Lloyds after the financial crisis.

Yesterday RBS announced losses of £2 billion this year. Don’t think the managers are managing to manage very well!

These losses are due to ” legacy issues”       It wasnae me constable!

Departed Dave has given honours to 46 former colleagues. His chief of staff and head of policy unit get gongs simply for doing their jobs.

An OBE goes to his wife’s special adviser though why the fuck  did she need one and why the fuck did we have to pay for it out of our taxes?

Not only is he rewarding people who are simply doing their jobs  ( you may as well just pick folks at random from the general population) but he is demeaning awards made to those who might have truly earned them.

I used to think Dave was a decent man ( though his TV company wasn’t up to much ) but I find myself despising what he has done on this.  Way to go Dave?   Not. What sort of values do you have if you can sink so low?

The Pub:

Sunday pm during Edinburgh Festival 2016
Sandy Bell’s

 

Wi Fi password is Auchentoshan which in Gaelic apparently means ” the field of the corner” –   ( what the heck does that means in English ? )   Bitter and Twisted, Ossian, Innis and Gunn, Guinness, Tennant’s, Addlestones, Joker IPA, Budweiser, Volcan Wolf (?) all on tap.

A huge selection of malts and good range of gins available. Her inside and I are up to 35 different gins tasted. And rising—

Sandy Bell’s is privately owned.

Famous mostly as a folk music venue from the 60s onward, it has also been a gathering place for political debate. Despite me loving music this is my first visit since I came to work in the city 47 years ago!!

My musician friend Tom remembers being at a session here when Emmylou Harris dropped by.

Innis and Gunn lager is good as usual then I ask for the lowest abv beer on tap but it turns out to be Deuchars, which used to be a great pint but they changed the recipe completely, hoping that no one would notice, so I try Volcan Wolf at 4.7% abv which is very dark. ( This is due to the roasted malt. Ed. )

Now pay attention pub quiz people as it is named after the highest mountain in the Galapagos for a German naturalist Theodor Wolf.    Why?     Don’t ask me!

Promo bumf says dark yet light ( huh? ) but they mean colour v taste. First arrived on the market July 8th it is a collaboration of 4 Msc students, Heriot Watt Brewing and Stewart’s Brewery under the banner of  Natural Selection Brewing. Their thing is to promote a particular type of beer for a year then try something completely different. Interesting concept!

And an interesting pub.    Where next I wonder?

Canada Calling

Arachnophobes look away now!

 

National Art Gallery Ottowa
What spider?

Outside National Art Gallery Ottowa.

When in exile Robert the Bruce was supposedly inspired by the perseverance of a spider so here goes again.

Just back from a trip to Canada to celebrate brother-in-law’s 80th birthday. We spent a few days in Ottowa at the hotel below.

 

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Chateau Laurier Ottowa

We got schlossed here every night.    Sorry, couldn’t resist it!

The only hotel we’ve stayed in with marble skirting boards.

Next year Canada celebrates 150th anniversary of its confederation. Happy Birthday –   et Bon Anniversaire!

 

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Deacon Brodies Ottowa

Above we have Ottowa’s version of Edinburgh’s High Street pub.

On a bus tour of the city we passed Craft Beer Market so took a walk there later to check it out.

Only open for a few months it’s main selling point is it’s choice of over a hundred cask beers. Try a six pack sampler for 9 bucks. A great way to try small volumes of lots of different brews.

Our bar manager Mauro Kelly tells us the place is doing well and in true Scots fashion we wait ten minutes til 3.0 before ordering food so that we get $3 off each of our snacks!

Guess some of “Mo’s”  ethnic mix?

He tells us that Kelly is the second most common Irish surname. Can you figure out the most common? And whilst we are there what was the most common boys’ name in Glasgow last year?

 

Some of the beers on tap
CraftBeer Pub

 

The White Hart Inn in Edinburgh is famous for a photograph of what is apparently a ghostly hand but Craft Beer Market appears to have two!

 

 

Spot the Sport in the Barrels
CraftBeer Pub Ottowa

 

Beer barrels add to the unusual decor. Note the golf coverage!

Basketball was on another screen and, fortunately for me, tennis was on above the bar.

 

CraftBeer Restaurant and Pub
Beer lovin’ old tennis coach in heaven

 

Now Serendipity can be a fickle mistress but when we went for another “walk along the river” (” Blue Sky ” – Allman Brothers ) we arrived at the Mill Street Brewery. Happy coincidence!  After placing our order the waiter came back to say that they wouldn’t serve my choice as it had only come off the lorry a few hours ago and would not be at a suitably cold temperature. I was mightily impressed by that.

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I made another choice brewed on site as below.

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Ok, the most common Irish surname is Murphy.

The most common name for boys in Glasgow was Mohammed.

 

I have got to congratulate myself for having got through this blog without any political comment. ( Readers may be advised to miss the next few. Ed.)

 

The last photo is the blogger in brother-in-law’s back garden.

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“See you Tommy”

 

Mine’s a Double – The Blind Poet and Captains Bar

Today in Edinburgh we have the UK’s newly non elected Prime Minister on a visit to see if there is a way to keep Scotland in the Union. Interesting times.

This week two pubs for the price of one.

The reason for two will be plain to see

as both can be linked by poetry.

After that wonderfully rhyming couplet it is appropriate to start at the Captains Bar above which for the last few years of his life lived William McGonagall, Scotland’s best worst poet. If you are at all aware of his work you will know that it was indescribably bad. Such that you would think that he was under the influence every time he put pen to paper. However in contradiction to that idea he wrote several articles supporting temperance. One of his  contributions being ” The Demon Drink ”

“If drink was abolished how many peaceful homes would there be, Just for instance in the beautiful town of Dundee, then this world would be heaven, whereas it’s a hell, And the people would have more peace in it to dwell”

Formerly a tailor’s shop supplying uniforms to ship captains of Leith, at one time the pub was linked to what was the Empire theatre by a staircase. Handy for those stage fright jitters!

Today owned by the huge brewing business Heineken don’t expect to find any particularly interesting beer choices but it’s a cozy pub with set and impromptu folk music, nothing fancy but a good ” local ”

McGonagall has probably actually encouraged some people to publish poetry for the first time with the thought that their efforts couldn’t be any worse than his. Here’s mine.

Ye may think it kinda queer, How frae Dundee I got to be here, I’ve heard it said there’s nowt as queer as folk, And if you now expect to hear a funny story, You’d better buy me a pint first.

 

South College St.
Captains Bar

 

A diversion.  ( omg! Ed )

One of the main arguments put forward in favour of exiting the EU  was that it is run by faceless non elected bureaucrats. Anyone with power in EU is either directly elected or appointed by someone who was. Looks pretty much like the structure in the UK to me.

Plenty other events to get us down this week.

As families enjoy a Bastille Day national holiday, in the name of a vengeful God carnage is once more unleashed.

“Hate is everything you think it is” Neil Young.

Looks like many areas of Africa are going to suffer from famine. This when the “West” wastes, depending on your source, between 30-50% of what it produces.

Did you see the programme Exodus tracking migrants from the Middle East, Afghastan and many areas of Africa who were part of the million or so who have tried to reach Europe since 2015. Most of them fleeing terror and torture. Some of them trying to get to Europe to work and send back money to support their wider family. Middle class people in their own communities who could afford to sell stuff to pay the smugglers. The poor?  No chance. That’s the way it is.

We weren’t ready for it. Understandably. And we haven’t come out of it  well, then or now. A harrowing documentary. However there were some uplifting moments when folks showed some real compassion that translated into practical help with a happy outcome.

The migrant situation is to me analogous to all the beggars which we see on our city streets. The scale is incomparable but the problem is very similar. How can we help and support those who genuinely need it and weed out the chancers who don’t?

Our new PM has selected her new cabinet and picked the universally loathed BoJo as Foreign Secretary. Go figure.

In US the Republicans are set to endorse The Trumpet who has apparently got the Evangelicals on his side. God forbid!     ( That doesn’t work, Ed. )

Ok, The Blind Poet.     Do you get the poetry link now?

I moved into the city in the early 70s and I’m in this local pub for the first time. A lot to choose from around here!

Lots of dark wood,  12 fonts mostly of the owner Caledonian Breweries beers. This is a long established music venue and adjoins The Pear Tree pub. They are amalgamating next year. I try a mid-day pint of Ossian and am the first and only customer in a venue which has been open for an hour. Edinburgh weather is fair and most of the other alcoholics must be imbibing al fresco.

Dr Thomas Blacklock was the blind poet’s name and he lived in two upper floors of the building in the 1770s. His friend Robert Burns had become disenchanted with life in Scotland and Blacklock wrote to him and dissuaded him from emigrating to the West Indies. Burns acknowledged that the letter had roused his poetic ambitions.

But get this! The ship on which Burns had hoped to embark sank on the voyage – – –

If you ever attend a Burns supper you may like to raise your glass in appreciation of “The Blind Poet”

Last Brexiters thingies for today. The biggest donation to the leave budget was £3.2 million. The stock broker donor’s rational? It will make us feel more insecure and we perform better under that stress! His stash has lost £400 million since the result so as a 69 y.o. I hope he feels suitably challenged. Never mind Peter, if things continue to get worse (ha!) there’s always the food banks.

David Cameron’s special advisors are out of a job. Contracted to receive 4 and a half months of their salary in compensation the bold Dave says it is not enough and ups it to 6 months or £70,000. Expect those same ” loyal” workers to be on departed Dave’s Honours List nominations. Yet another example of warped values.

“A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul”.  George Bernard Shaw

The Castle Arms

Scotland goes al fresco
Breakfast at Castle Arms

 

Happy Canada Day on July 1 and US Independence Day on July 4.

Well here in the UK we’ve had our Independence Day and I still am in need of a drink. Actually make that several.

Anyway I’ve decided to try and spare you from most of my prejudices and focus more on the beer this time round. ( you gonna fail boy! Ed.)

Alexander Pope said ” a little beer is a dangerous thing” ( not half as dangerous as a lot! Ed. ) Wasn’t he the Pope before John Paul, —  or was that George Ringo?

Ok apologies already cos I’ve just scanned the next sentence, but here goes anyway.

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the facts – and beer!  Abe Lincoln ( is calling him Abe not a bit familiar?  Ed. )

Well Mr President, we weren’t given the truth, we were given nothing but fucking lies and they never even bought a round!

I was thinking this week about how I have been a member of sports clubs much of my life and reflecting about how my subs were used and how allegorically they reflect the position that we find ourselves in at the present.

They have been used to used to maintain and expand the facilities. ( When I was President of my tennis and squash club I got the beer store stripped out and replaced it with a gym. Go figure! )

Some of it goes to a national governing body to support the promotion of the game in general on the world stage.

And bureaucracy!

Some goes toward junior and youth development. If you are in the 18-25 category and even although 75% of those of you who voted at the last agm wanted to stay in these premises, the club has decided to move. This category has been discontinued as only about 36% of you voted and you should now resign as you are no longer welcome in the club.

Some goes towards allowing the veterans to have a reduced fee because they need to look after their pennies and they won’t forget to attend the a.g.m, vote, and look after their self interest.

Some of it goes to attracting new members. If you do not live close to the club you may have a Country Membership. However, the management committee reserve the right to refuse admission to people from Syria, Iraq or any other similar region from where people flee in fear of their lives. You could try Canada, who have taken in  @ 25,000 new members recently.

Maybe try Toronto, 51% of whose population were not born in the country. But better be a doctor, accountant or similar methinks.

The U S have taken in about 2,800 over a similar period. So I doubt very much if they even have a waiting list.

Our ( still) United Kingdom propose to take in up to 20,000 by 2020.    Well we did before —– ( deleted, Ed.)

Right, apologies,  I’m definitely going to leave that til later.

Time for a few Gogs to lighten my  mood:

“Child on Board”  Whoever thought up that should be hung drawn and quartered.

I suppose in the days before cameras, if they wanted to keep a visual record of an event they may well have had to have had it drawn. Which leads us nicely, but purely coincidentally, into the eleven hads in a row in a sentence which a while ago I promised to tell you, if you were good. Apologies if that was the day in English class that you paid attention.

A teacher was comparing the written grammar of two of his pupils:

James where John had had ” had had”  had had ” had”,  “had, had” had had the teachers approval.

Back to the windscreen stickers ( sometimes I can’t help following JoeDiMaggio’s advice that when you come to a fork in the road you should take it)

I also don’t care a flying duck if your car’s back window tells me:

“Grandpa’s Taxi”

“Little Princess on Board”

“Fill in your own inanity”

Well I finally made it to my destination. The Castle Arms on Johnston Terrace. The bar personnel are Polish and Italians. These people just come over here and take our jobs!

As I sup my pint of Castle No. 3 at £3.95 I’m reading about an upcoming programme on BBC 2  entitled Exodus to be shown on July 11-13. If you are at all interested in the whole immigration/ asylum seeking thing I’m sure it will be enlightening. A lot of it apparently filmed by the refugees themselves. From Turkey to Greece people smugglers were charging ” €2,000 per adult, kids half price, every kid under two and a half goes free” Almost impossible to know where to start with this quote. ( so don’t Ed.)

Take 5 Birmingham MPs.

Two vote exit. Three vote remain.

All vote contrary to how their constituents voted.

Democracy in action, folks.

The bar here has a, what you could call a mural but that wouldn’t be right as it’s on the ceiling!   What’s that called Michelangelo?

Ceiling
Castle Arms

 

On the way home bought a Big Issue for the first time in a while and it is good to read some uplifting stories.

Whatever you do today.   Make a difference.

No Room for the Inn

So I can stay current re. all that is going on in UK I’m not featuring a pub this week.

Right, the shock waves from this EU political earthquake are not going to die down anytime soon. Richter may need to add a few extra degrees to the scale to accommodate the fall out. ( is that not from a volcano? Ed.)

When my team lost on the recent Scottish independence referendum I was really disappointed. By and large ( though not exclusively it must be said ) it was fought, at least in the public arena of the media in a fundamentally fair way with many and varied a subject matter.

” Those were the days my friend we thought they’d never end” ( Mary Hopkins)

Well the next chapter has begun with the main authors getting an advance for a draft which they haven’t even written. These people have not taken electioneering into the gutter, oh no, they have dumped it into the sewer and concreted over the manhole covers. So this time I am not disappointed, I’m devastated and blazingly angry at the same time.

Now – ” hold the front page!”- it would appear our bold BoJo is too busy writing his newspaper column to face up to the consequences of not getting his own way after Article 50 is invoked. This leaves us with the prospect of “the intolerable frog-faced wanker” getting even more publicity.

Always good to have something to look forward too.

If you haven’t seen the link to this American clip re. our decision plus some Trump/ Turnberry re-opening coverage and resulting twitterisms then you may find it entertaining.

Full Frontal is the name of the show but it is a metaphor- you haven’t stumbled onto a sex site!

Samantha Bee Full Frontal

The English football has been kicked into touch but it has been booted back as the violently spinning sphere of a rugby ball which on landing is bouncing off in lots of unforeseeable directions.

Can’t see how this is not going to lead to another Scottish referendum. And quite soon.

Panama papers:

You will know that there has been a marked downturn in North Sea oil production, well I have come up with an idea to make good use of the redundant rigs. What we do is set them up as offshore ( ha! ) tax havens. Philip Green can sail out on his £1 million pound yacht to the rig near the Trumpet’s Menie estate golf course and hide the one pound that he was paid by a three time bankruptee for the sale of British Home Stores. While he is there he can call shredded wheat heid to confirm where it was on the wind farm that Green was to place the limpet mine.

And if the seas are too rough he can drop off the £ 150 million pounds, which should be in his 11,000 former employees pension fund, from his newly bought £46 million pound jet. When he is back home in Monaco we get the SAS to sneak out and replace the stash with Monopoly money so that he doesn’t notice, then we bribe the Icelandic football team to see how we can dump the English.

With my crystal ball burnished up to HD, down the road a few years I can see the Scottish Nationalists convening  a massive clan gathering at Bannockburn, where stands a statue of Robert the Bruce.

On that glorious day in everlasting appreciation of Scotland once again becoming an independent nation they will unveil a 30 foot high statue to the man who finally made it possible.

” David Cameron, Father of the Nation”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

 

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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.