The Royal Mile

Cheek by jowl with the Mitre. Another strange expression already and I’m not even into my stride yet. I am in my strides though, as it’s officially autumn here which is confirmed by our female tortoise Toby settling down to hibernate. Their heartbeats can go down to two beats a minute during hibernation.

I have never been in this pub before. Lots of rough stone on walls covered by pictures of old Edinburgh and large bevvy  advertising mirrors. I’ve got my hearing aids in at the moment and the music is deafening.    WHAT??

The Royal Mile then. How many other streets have a castle at one end and a palace at the other?

It’s “Prost” quite soon as I start talking to a group of Germans all of whom are a lot younger than me.  Prost is a “salutation accompanied by beer” What a great idea!!

Proster however is an annoying person on the Internet or nerdy loner in college. The reason I know that is because it cropped up when I was checking out ” Prost” . I thought that maybe the o had a dipstick or was that a dipthong on it, or some other letter embellishment that can get you into acute and grave trouble. I then find out that that is bollocks and I get umlaut and diaeresis ( “diapers is” in predictive text! ) . Getting into deep shit here so let’s leave the behinds behind us.

Their generation seem happy that the European cooperation of the last 60 years or so has kept us from war. All my siblings were “war children” and I count myself lucky that I never had to live through that.

Royal Mile Bar

Is that not an inviting scene? No wonder it’s so easy to become an alcoholic in Scotland.

This week has seen the UK government giving the green light ( strange choice of phrase, Ed ) for fracking in Lancashire. Quoting from a BBC report, ” for first time UK shale rock will be fracked horizontally”

Which is definitely a far more comfortable alternative to being fracked vertically.

Today the Scottish government has quashed the possibility of Undersea Coal Gasification in the Firth of Forth. In June the Scottish government voted to ban fracking. The Greens, Labour and Lib Dems voted for it. Tories, unsurprisingly against and the bold SNP  abstained! How is it that every single one of our biggest political group can’t  come to a decision one way or the other??    Not proven.

No UCG  is just great news.    Because:

On Thursday we attended a lecture on “Puffins, past, present and future” Held in Napier University, where I once took 6 years to gain a qualification which should have taken 4, ( actually a college of science and technology in those days, Ed.)  what struck me most was that due to global warming it was expected that they were going to have to move further and further North. Seems the North Sea is getting warmer and sand eels which are the major source of food for puffins, (in particular) may have to move house. You may have seen in the news this past week that puffins have had a particularly good season in the Forth thanks to efforts to remove the invasive tree mallow. This programme has been running for six years and we have been putting our tuppence worth in. Good to make a practical contribution rather than just sit on your backside, complain and do nothing. Is it right we are doing away with the penny soon? So we will then buy stuff that is £9.98! And then the progression will no doubt be to 2p or not 2p.

PS for pub quizzers: Puffins northern hemisphere only.

More on fracking in literal and metaphorIcal sense:

In England your government takes the decision to ignore the wishes of the local council and allow exploratory  ( thinks he’s being smart with the Tory ending. Ed. ) fracking. Our new chancellor, (who from your bloggist’s point of view ) unfortunately voted to remain. It would have been so good to have been able to call him the Chancellor of the X Checker.

Anyway,  he seems to have binned the idea of us living within our means. So pass that problem down to future generations. Problem solved.

Looks crystal clear that this Brexshit is going to cost us an absolute fortune but we can say stick it to our environmental obligations and let’s go fracking which is good for 40-50 years “play” according to a heid yin at Cuadrilla.

What other of the Earth’s resources do we “play” with once that source goes the way of North Sea oil?

The Scottish government has not exactly welcomed the first super tanker of fracked ethylene from the U S into our petro chemical hub at Grangemouth. Quelle surprise.

We have to get our energy from somewhere though.

Is a mix of wind / renewables going to cut it or are we going down the nuclear yellow brick road again? Possibly, if we let the Chinese build it. I honestly didn’t set up that colour link. It just happened!  And I’m not PC enough to edit it.

Ontario has eight nuclear facilities and if you have been paying attention you will remember they have the biggest operating plant ( puts a triffid to shame ) in the world. Bruce is the name of it, but that is not enough to keep my retired Canadian sister in the country in the winter. She has been in Darwin for 5 days where it is 35 degrees. One extreme to the other?   They usually spend the Canadian winter in Florida but missed hurricane Matthew by going to Oz and NZ this year. Good call Sis.

What I have found through writing these blogs that it is very easy to get into that pointy finger judgmental type of mindset and I don’t like myself when I go there. Having said that — Great to see today though that Trump’s Scottish golf courses are making a loss!   I continue to look for one good human quality in him but—

Ok last thing. Since we have been in Royal Mile seems appropriate that we have been giving out honours this week and Rod Stewart has been knighted. Some sort of civil list to acknowledge people who really have done something exceptional sounds like a good idea for PPP manifesto. Not actors, singers, people who have been in soap operas for 50 years.

Time for the snooze switch I think.

So where to next I wonder?







The Mitre

Last week I was out walking round the cliff top promenade of my home town with my life long friend Jim. Hirondelles were amassing in readiness for their southerly migration. Autumn coming round.

Just off the skerries, the surface of the Forth as calm as a mill pond we see unusual activity in the water and it is not s.u.p.

A pod of dolphins. About 30 of them and they spread over about 4 or 5 hundred metres. The larger in the lead and I wonder about the wonder of their sonar to keep in touch over such a range.

Transfixed. A WOW moment in time. Why is it that Cetacea can do that to most of us?     ( A wee test and at the end of blog, check out your knowledge on Cetacea . Name the other different types. And as ever nae cheatin’ )

We walk round the edge of the golf course and arrive at Belhaven Bay. The wonderfully named “bridge to nowhere” crosses the Biel burn right here and stretches out to what seems like infinity. This is a spot I used to come to with my mum and it was quite scary that that particular day sitting on my mum and dad’s commerative bench was a distant cousin of mine.  Well ok, he wasn’t distant right at that moment because he was right in front of me. The English language can get you into a bit of bovver  if you’re not too careful!  Like a friend of mine who one time in conversation quoted a calm scene as a milk pond!

This week’s hostelry is the Mitre on the Royal Mile and it is another Nicholson pub. Trying the Pale Ale again. I must confess I thought that a mitre was a ceremonial stick of some sort but I now know that it is the ku klux klan like headgear that bishops wear. In the 17th century Archbishop Spottiswood was lord chancellor and primate of All Scotland and lived on this site. If you know your Scottish history you will have heard of Jenny Geddes who caused a stooshy at St Giles Cathedral. This was in response to the bishop trying to impose the Anglican Book of Common Prayer on the Scottish hoi polloi. Big mistake Johnny! Fled the country shortly after.


The Mitre. Royal Mile

Sorry about the Scaffold,  and it was very tempting to 🎤drink a drink to Lily the Pink – but beer  is the saviour of the human race.

After her swim the gin queen joins me, not for a pink one, which would have been scarily coincidental given The Scaffold link, but for Aviaton, an American variety which we’ve never happened on before. Last night on our Thursday date night Brighton Rock was a pre prandial addition. So many gins, so little time!

If you can zoom in, check out the dude in the shades. Could be the best wrap- over ever?  Also turns out that Trump and Netanyahu are to meet. Seems that the comb-over and I have to build a wall gene are dominant and inextricably linked.

10 million souls watch Strictly Come Dancing and they were plugging the weekends programmes as I left home. Our former Secretary of State in Gordon Brown’s government Ed Balls, is (was) on and when picked he said it was a “Dream come true”

No comment.  ( Well actually a lot of comment but it has all been deleted by me, Ed )

Just finished reading Guerra. Hadn’t a clue about the Spanish civil war. Very much second fiddle in school history to, appropriately enough, the Second World War. However the depravity to which mankind can fall is reflected and shared in both conflicts. Yesterday Spain, today Syria.

In the Scottish Parliament you can find, until early December, an exhibition based on the work of a Scottish born press photographer Harry Benson. The theme is the American presidents from Eisenhower onward but it touches on many of the major post war events.

Do you remember the photos of the Beatles pillow fight?    (How major is that?  Ed.)  Ok let me explain, alright?

The young photographer is sent to cover a Beatles tour of France. He is not happy but then follows them on their U.S. trip in 1964. This leads to coverage of Afro American civil rights struggles, Watergate, the Kennedys / Luther King assisinations, Vietnam war, rise of the ku klux klan etc.

Rescue dog getting glucose drip after 9/11. Brought back memories of my 50th birthday when we celebrated one of our nights in the Big Apple with supper in the North tower at Windows on the World.  Shortly after our return home a tourist helicopter came down in the Hudson River and yes we had been on such a flight.  Time and space, right?


Despicable Dave’s former chief of staff who was made a life peer in our craven ex PM’s resignation honours list has been appointed Britain’s ambassador to France. ( That patronage option has to go don’t you think? ) Our Foreign Secretary  Bo Jo the buffoon has said “E. L is hugely well qualified for this post and I look forward to working with him. He will help us make a great success of Brexit while ensuring that Britain is more engaged in the continent of Europe than ever” 

Irony anyone?

Those of us who care what is to become of England’s green and pleasant land ( Eh? WTF!  Ed.) will all have different ideas of how we think our exit will pan out.

Down that pan?

What I’m hearing at the moment from the powers that aren’t is that hey we are now about to be once again in control of our own destiny but that we will still have access to all the benefits of the single market. When we wake up to discover that the chances of that happening has morphed from wishful thinking into total fantasy we may well find that our erstwhile partners have learnt from our Bulldog war time Prime Minister and have decided to give us the V sign.

( Coincidence [Happy!] – our house gin this week is Bulldog!) Today I have also just discovered that a local pub claims to have the biggest selection of gins in Scotland. And it is within easy stumbling distance —

Pub quizzers. Did you get the other types of cetacae?

Porpoises and whales.

Cetacae derives from the Latin, Cetus, meaning whale and the Greek, Ketos meaning huge-fish. Whoever came up with the term must have been some classic scholar freak.

The Labour Party conference is drawing to a close and if re-elected intend to make Britain back into a manufacturing powerhouse. As the gin queen said tonight “They are living in cloud cuckoo land” Couldn’t agree more.

One flew over —-

To the next swallow.  SORRY!


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
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”

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 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’

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!



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.


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!


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.



I made another choice brewed on site as below.



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.


“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?

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.

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.