A secret corner of Scotland…

Lady of the House achieved yet another birthday last week. Nothing unusual about that, and we usually go somewhere quite conventional for a nice meal…you know the kind of place….a country house hotel, a specialist Italian restaurant, the place where we first had a meal when courting, or have a meal in-house. But this year was different. However I’m getting ahead of myself……

You will already know of our great love of the County of Argyll in the west of Scotland. There is no question that within a travel distance of about 90 minutes from our house, some of the most dramatic and interesting scenery, along with travel-friendly roads, is available. We’ve travelled most of these roads before, but some were when the children were small (a not-inconsiderable time ago) or on business (when the minimum time required to transverse said roads was important)

Now that retirement is reached, and the weather is brilliant, time takes-on a new dimension. It is something to be enjoyed because of what it allows you to do, and permits seeing scenery with new eyes. A measure of how little I took in many of our previous experiences was the number of times Lady said we had been at a certain tea-room with the children, or stopped at a certain view-point for a picnic, but it had failed to make a lasting impression because of the haste with which such weekend visits were made. We now had more time just to enjoy doing things with no need to entertain others in the process.

We left Lenzie, and curved round the south end of Loch Lomond, past Duck Bay, over the A818 hill to Helensburgh. Once a thriving seaside/holiday town, the seafront shops have been blighted by the council up-rooting the main road so it is difficult to stop there…so we passed through without stopping, and all the small shops suffer!

Because of the deep water Gare Loch in the lower reaches of the Clyde, there are military establishments in this area. The first is the Faslane Submarine Base where nuclear subs are serviced, opposed by the Faslane Peace Camp. The construction is spectacular and secretive, and therefore photography near the base is not exactly encouraged! Travelling further north on the A814 we meet the township of, (not surprisingly) Garelochhead and turn southwards into a peninsula, one of the hidden gems of Scotland. with a lovely narrow road (B833) which hugs the coast, down to the area of Rosneath. It has an attractive centre and Church, and the views of the Gare Loch across to Greenock are spectacular.

We ate, on the advice of locals, at (perhaps, surprisingly) the local caravan site http://www.rosneathcastle.co.uk/.


We are not caravaners by nature or practice, but the welcome at the bistro, the courtesy of the staff, the quality of the food and the walk we did round the impeccable site might have swayed us a little! We even had a mother duck and six little ducklings accompany us on our walk. The photo shows the lovely view from the Caravan site, across Gare Loch to Rhu and Helensburgh.

Heading clockwise through Kilcregan and Cove, (again with beautiful views) we came upon another great surprise. The houses here are built on a grand scale….many are colossal! Some take on the image of castles. Most of them were founded on the proceeds of the tobacco trade, at which Glasgow excelled. The owners were known as Tobacco Barons and fortunately the present owners seem able to keep the buildings in a good state of repair. It is difficult to drive safely around here as wonderful new sights are pointed-out as they appear round each corner.

Further north up this little road is RNAD Coulport, where nuclear warheads are stored in the

Coulport Roundabout - geograph.org.uk - 160841.jpg

hillside, and docking is provided for visiting submarines. All a bit spine-chilling, especially as you are in this idyllic setting. The photo shows the roundabout at the gates. In order to transport this rather strange cargo from the midst of the country-side, a brand-new road was built to the centres of population, and luckily there were suitable stopping-places provided to view the vistas.

There is a debate about what would happen to both Coulport and Faslane bases (with repercussions on the employment of the indigenous population) should Scotland demand, and be given, independence.

Our trip ended by returning through west Dunbartonshire’s Gartocharn, Croftamie and Dumgoyne. Any enquiry via Google will show all of these places to be delightful villages. We are SO lucky, to have all this on our doorstep!

….pass it on!

I have been recently having fun on Facebook, talking about a mythical character or animal called Herman, whom we have been looking after for the last 10 days for our neighbour’s children. The amount of guessing by respondents has been fantastic, and the secret is now out.!

I have been caring-for and feeding (at no great expense) a sourdough yeast mixture which they handed-in with a sheet of instructions to ensure that the proper attention was provided. This has now been done for the appropriate time, and I am now the proud possessor of a large amount of starter which I will now pass to appropriate folk with the same instructions. I will be left with a small amount, to which I can add many ingredients and bake myself a a cake.

It is a beautiful example of how we can pass around something quite small and insignificant, generate some fun, give away most of the result, and still have something left with which to make something nice for ourselves.

For those who were not reading the FB status or want more details, click on the link below.


Dens, dentis…


Do you remember when you were a child, how you were told to brush your teeth for a minimum of two minutes…well, I can admit  now, I never did! But yesterday was different!

Anno Domini has taken its toll on some of my gnashers and about a year ago I was forced to admit partial defeat. If I was to continue eating, I needed some more area of contact between the top and bottom halves of said gnashers (a different way to say that I needed a partial upper plate).

Obtained and fitted, they have prevented me scaring away children by showing my gaps and looking like a latter-day Frankenstein (at least I think so!)

A small industry has grown up around the preservation of same dentures with specially-shaped toothbrushes, cleansing tablets and denture boxes….but that’s another story.

….anyway, sometimes I am happy without them and they will be removed for comfort in the safety of the house. They may even be set somewhere safe while our main meal is being eaten.

Therein lies the problem! If the place is sufficiently secure for no-one else to see them, then it can apply to me as well and we may be parted for a short period while I research the recesses of my mind to recall where they might be! This happened the other days and I looked around frantically to recover them before Lady of the House discovered I was hiding a toothy grin.

She was in the middle of emptying the washing machine, and heard a clinking sound. Now this would normally involve calling me over to discover the problem and provide a remedy for an obvious malfunction.

However this time, no great action was required by me, except explaining how my partial denture happened to be rolling-about in the drum of the washing machine!  The only explanation can be that the ‘safe place’ on this occasion had been the breast pocket of a shirt which had then been discarded for washing….quite disgusted isn’t it?

No harm has been caused to the shirt or the teeth, in the writing of this post, and both are sparkling clean!

P.S. If you do not regognise the meaning of the title of the post, go and look up your Latin grammar book….you know every household should have one!

Fabulous four-some!


I recently posted a blog about how bad things come in threes.  Well, luckily, the third never came! In fact we should be pleased that things seem to be going so well just now.

  • I’ve been (un-expectedly) elevated to Fellowship within my profession
  • A nephew has just become engaged to a lovely girl
  • We had a super meal with our daughter at the weekend
  • Our son and his fiancee are enjoying themselves down in London training for a new career

There are some other happenings which look exciting, but I don’t want to tempt fate.

The only one bad thing still in the forefront of our minds, is that we have had to close down our shop dealing with disability aids after only three years. It served the community well, but  many people now come in for free advice and just go on the net to hunt about to look for the cheapest bargain. Then if it is not suitable they come and see what we can do about it!

We’re not alone as many large and small businesses in our area have folded, leaving vacant premises and the whole urban landscape is becoming very depressing.

And of course behind every such closure lies much heartache for employers and employees alike. However we will fight on for as long as we can….and, hey, the next Government will be able to put everything to rights.

Meanwhile we will be happy with our good news!

A serial cereal eater!

bowl of cereal

We must come clean……it had to  come out….we have an addict in the family!

Lady of the House likes a very regular breakfast…prunes, or other fruit (that’s why it is called ‘regular’), followed by a small amount of cereal, and a cup of tea.  Nothing unusual about that, you say!

………but the worry lies within that short paragraph!

I think she must have shares in one of the companies, or a predeliction for the taste of a certain grain from which the cereal is made.

I refer (whisper it) to cinnamon…….she always has to have what used to be known as ‘Cinnamon Grahams’, but the name has now been changed to the strange ‘Curiously Cinnamon’.

So the kitchen smells of cinnamon, we recycle lots of cinnamon-smelling cartons, and every time we are at the super-market for shopping there always has to be a cinnamon cereal thrown into the trolley!

So what’s the attraction? Is she alone in the world with this addiction? Is there a Cinnamon Anonymous where help can be sought and given? Is there a Cinnamon Monthly, where forums can discuss the relative merits of different manufacturers? Is there a helpline in anyone’s phone directory? Does anyone know of a closet website? Is there likely to be a world shortage if this really catches on?

And I haven’t even thought about any possible withdrawal symptoms if the need to cease munching comes to the fore. Will the NHS provide alternatives which can be used to help at this time? Would patches be better than eating some paper-based placebo?

PLEASE….is anyone out there with the same problem, or must we face the dire consequences alone?…..replies on a cereal packet please, or just reply in the Comments section. Your secret will be kept confidential, I promise!

Why go abroad?


Lady of the House, and I have just returned from a marvellous weekend …and under 3 hours by car! I have blogged before about Northumberland, the wonderful scenery, and the endless stretches of empty sands.

This time we stayed at the miniature port of Craster, with a tremendous view over the harbour both from the bedroom and dining-room of our lovely little Bed and Breakfast. ‘Harbour Lights’ looks over the port and is within sniffing distance of the famous Craster Kipper Smokehouse.

Mine host and hostess were in education and both retired to this little haven of tranquility…..so the kiddies’  loss is the tourists’ gain.

But with the wonderful weather we went off to see the massive National Trust property, Cragside House, Gardens and Grounds, with a seven-mile drive round. It had been built by a Lord Armstrong who was a very successful engineer, and who had put electricity into the house using water power. A full-day visit, which includes a labyrinth.

Barter Books is a great place for book-lovers. It is a second-hand bookshop par excellence, and is built in what had been the old railway station for Alnwick.

It’s amazing what you can do in a few days in one small corner of England!!

To relive our weekend, and get some more details about the above, click on…   www.harbourlightscraster.co.uk 




I think that size DOES matter!



I detest shopping….let’s get that straight!

The thought of wandering-about in faceless malls/shopping centres looking at the same things as can be seen in any of these great cathedrals to consumption, does nothing for my mind. I can vividly remember going-into the St Enoch’s Centre in Glasgow for the first time some decades ago. It looked like a large railway terminal with an enclosed glass roof. Several levels of shops looked for all the world like cells or places where monstrous hens would go to lay eggs! I uderstand from those who know these things, that this is where people come for retail therapy…..good grief!

Within the hour, I had seen representatives of all the major shops with household names, selling clothes, mobile phones, coffee, sports gear, holidays, computers etc, etc……

After an hour of this, I had had enough! I felt cooped-in, trapped in a world of jostling people, bored children, even-more-bored shop staff. I think the problem was that there was too much choice. ‘Let’s try next door, they’ll have a better-designed/slightly-cheaper/more-colourful/better-quality/newer-style, example’ was the cry of the dearly-beloved Lady of the House…..and all I needed was a pair of grey socks, or a pair of underpants!

Going to a large DIY store or furniture warehouse brings the same amount of displeasure!

Where have all the small specialised shops gone? We had a very-good local butcher, whom everyone admired, too-few patronised, and then all sympathised when they heard he was closing up due to lack of business. ‘His quality was very good, but he was not as cheap as Sainsbury’.  Of course he couldn’t beat any of the major stores, where the meat comes from anonymous farms, killed in anonymous abattoirs, prepared by rows of anomymous butchers, packaged by clanking machines and stacked in neat rows in polystyrene containers. But that was not what he offered. He would supply a very small amount of meat for an old couple, give advice on how to prepare a stew, and could tell you where the animal grew up.

We still have a sweetie shop, where we can recall the flavours and odours of yesteryear, and perhaps pass on to the next generation some appreciation of the subtle tastes of rhubarb-and-custard sweets, or the black sticky mess on your teeth when you have some licquorice! He will be busy over Christmas but let’s hope he is still there this time next year.

Over much of my working life I have been involved with small independent businesses. These are often made up of one or two people who have a speciality knowledge, who know a lot about their customers, and are able to give advice. Also, a £100 order to a supermarket may not mean much, but spend that in a one-man  business, and you will make a very-happy shopkeeper, and let him (or her) live another day.

But if you don’t use them, you will lose them. Why not see if you can buy some of your Christmas presents (and maybe even the turkey, or licquorice comfits) locally. You will be saving petrol, hassle, putting back some money into the locally economy, and perhaps saving a local business and his family from ‘going-under’!


P.S. The photo at the top is a Russian supermarket….exciting isn’t it!

Birds and the bees

Yesterday, on our 41st wedding anniverary, Lady of the House and I were determined to find out about the Birds and Bees. ‘What?’ I hear you say, ‘Only now?….after all these years?’

Well, it’s not really as simple as this, or even what you think. We were going out for a meal to celebrate this lifetime together (well, we have to eat!), and were not sure where to go. Daughter, and friend, mentioned that they had recently been to a very pleasant restaurant on the outskirts of lovely Stirling, only a short walk from the lofty Wallace Monument.

‘Seems pleasant,’ we said and got the details. So off we went last night to find this epicurean centre, and arrived at the Restaurant, surprisingly called ‘The Birds and the Bees’.

Great ambiance, even for a Tuesday evening, with a pub quiz in the bar, and very mellow, gentle un-obtrusive music in the background. Decoration was un-deniably dedicated to birds, and bees, but we were also met by a sheep (not real!) in the reception area, and a couple of mangles (remember them?) beside the bar area.

There were several ‘cubicles’, big enough to seat 4-6, and we had one to ourselves. Wonderfully private, but prevented me hearing the conversation of a French couple who were obviously touring the area.

Food available was eclectic, with Indian, Italian, ‘good old British’, and ‘even-better Scottish’, dishes from which to choose. We shared spring rolls, then Lady had pork loin, while I had Oriental stir-fry…impeccably served and presented on un-usually-shaped plates. Unusually I chose a Chilian heavy red wine (14 %), which actually worked well.

After an appropriate rest, Lady had home-made banoffee pie, and I had caramel apple pie…….followed by wonderfully hot coffee…….before heading into a perfectly-clear evening with stars twinkling a welcome to winter.

I know not everyone is lucky enough to live near here, but I’ve put a link below so that you can simulate our delightful meal or pick your own.


P.S. As I was driving, I could only take a 1/2 glass of wine, so brought it away to have tonight!

P.P.S So now you too know about the Birds and the Bees!

Now, that’s eating!

Daughter celebrated a rather important birthday yesterday, so as a family we all went out for a meal last night.

It was in a lovely town in Perthshire called Auchterarder (quite difficult for non-Scots to say!…..think of it as Och..terr…arr…dur…). It was at one time, on the main road from Dunblane to Perth, but now is by-passed. It was a good example of ‘ribbon-development’ where houses and shops were strung along both sides of the lovely wide road for over a mile.

In some ways it is a rather un-remarkable town (it does have the snooker player Stephen Hendry as an inhabitant!). But there is a wealth of lovely shops, as it is really the market town for the area, and they are well-worth seeing.

However, a few years ago, we were up seeing Daughter there and I suggested she look for a nice eaterie. She knew that we liked Italian food (but not excluding food from anywhere else!) and discovered Cafe Cento. For those with a classical background (or even a bit of common sense) Cento means 100, in Italian, and the address is at 100 High Street….so it is really easy for me to remember the name and the address at the same time!

The couple who run it are obvious very enthusiastic about it and it deserves to be well used as the food, ambiance and the service are second to none. (Which reminds me, I must give Gordon Ramsay a phone to tell him he has some stiff competition up there)

So if you are heading north and see the sign for Auchterarder, take the time to have a nice evening meal at Cento……honest I have no shares there….would just wish them the best of luck!….Buon Appetito…….