Fun times

I have to say that my new job as a tour guide is a bit of a blast. I am not entirely sure though that all my clients would quite affirm so positively, but I do seem to be getting on ok on the review front (albeit I am below average on the number of 5 star ratings as a proportion of tours on the Tours By Locals site). Ho hum.

It’s a privilege though to be given the opportunity to spend time with so many very interesting and fun people. And I am getting paid for this. I mean it beats being a trainee chartered accountant auditing title deeds in Mortlake. All day actually.

I must admit that I have no formal qualifications for my new role though. In fact I failed to get onto the illustrious Scottish Tourist Guide Associations blue badge course.

Yes I have rather bad memories of that final weekend interview with some uninspiring tutors, alongside a prevailing sense of being back in a primary 7 classroom.

In fact it drove me to having too many beers with an old pal in Glasgow, missing my last bus in Glenrothes and spending a night in a shrub next to the bus station (somewhere to rest my head but not exactly the Coco Chanel chanel suite in the Paris Ritz)

Albeit I do feel a kind of relief at this as it would have stung me the best part of ten grand and I am not referring to the Coco Chanel suite in the Ritz (that’s 12k I believe) I mean that blue badge course, of course. But I am fond of that parallel. It is a good parallel.

Anyway hang course work. Hang the blue badge.

I had my fill of all that in attempting to get my professional accountancy qualifications and I’ve kind of been through the mill and back.

I am doing my own study of scottish history and the like and that’s better and a whole lot cheaper. Anyhow, tour guiding is largely about entertaining and engaging people and I figure you just can’t teach that.

St Andrews is wonderful at the moment by the way. I have taken to swimming in the sea regularly and am really feeling the benefit. My weight is going down as a result of my new zero alcohol policy and a better diet.

I don’t think a lot of people quite believe me on this one though! The drink I mean. I came clean on social media about it and not one person commented. Shame.

Nevertheless on the drink/golf front I have achieved two monumental things (not that going dry is not monumental may I say).

Thanks to my critical Trip Advisor review, Sheena and Jack finally saw the light and Tennents is back again in The Dunvegan (even though I am manifestly not!) and the wine committee at Mortonhall Golf Club in Edinburgh is now seriously contemplating putting a claret on their list. I have been badgering them for a long time about this.

A club of this standing without a claret! What ho!?

I do hope it’s a good one though.

Fare forward passengers.

The old caddie lark

This old caddie lark is a bit of a lark.

I mean I hang out a wee bit in St Andrews these days and have my ear near to the ground (sometimes a bit more near to the ground than others if you get my drift!)

Anyway I was in Taste just now and bumped into a caddie who works at the Old who has just informed me that the Links Trust are now allocating caddies for the Dunhill, which means that if you have had a client for the past few years then tough, because you ain’t going to have them this year.

These blokes who run the Links Trust have again got above themselves. Of course I have a personal axe to grind with them when they dictated that I should show them every article I wrote before it got published! Who do you think you are guys?

You who have no real feel for the history of our game here either. You changed the name of the Old Tom Morris Shop where he had his workshop to the ‘The Open’ !

Yuk. Why?

Moreover they have run roughshod over employees with respect to their pensions, pay terribly low wages to their workers when they (the chosen few fat-cat directors) walk away with stratospheric sums, have put up the yearly residents ticket this year by over 40 per cent on the pre-text of having to recover from covid after they somewhat milked the government for furlow dosh. Tenuous what?

Some charity.

I shall be looking at the accounts with particular interest this year.

However the caddies are ripping it this year. I met a nice chap yesterday just off the Old. He showed me his gains from the round. A hundred and seventy quid!

Now I am in the wrong job like.


I did my first tour of Dundee on Saturday and I’m a bit cock-a-hoop about the place to be honest.

My lovely guests from the Midwest (America) just arrived that morning on the first ever cruise ship to roll into town.

Yes folks. Dundee is now a veritable tourist destination. Would you believe it?

Well you wouldn’t have a few years back before the start of the £1 billion bucks investment into the waterfront and the new Kenzi Kuma designed V&A now sitting majestically next to the RRS Discovery.

I chanced to find the most amazing cafe I have come across in years. Empire State sits in the very heart of town in a lovely curved Victorian street which left me awestruck. An oh so cool cafe.

I mean this felt like being in Borough Market or Left Bank Paris or West Village, NY. But no it was down-town Dundee. Wow!

But more than this Dundee has a wonderful down to earth quality and is very happy in its own skin. It is the UNESCO design capital of the UK. It is the home to the Broons and Oor Willie and Desperate Dan. It has the stunning McManus Gallery and the most pretty Howff Cemetery, epic views from Dundee Law, a Tailend fish and chips shop, a Fisher and Donaldson and one of my favourite bars this side of Tokyo, The Phoenix. It’s kind of like The Canny Mans in Edinburgh but without the stuck-up owners and that awful, awful pretentiousness.

Modest and real just like Dundee. A city that is so very much happening.

And so far without any sickly self-conceit.

How refreshing.

On writing bad reviews

I am in the habit of writing poor restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor. Now, this is for no other reason than the meal I had was nearly always worse than I expected.

I went to Ziggy’s in St Andrews the other day to try their fish and chips. I have never been to Ziggy’s but have heard mostly positive reports about it.

My suspicions were immediately raised though when I was told that the fish only came breaded. I asked if it was fresh and was informed that it came in every day. However my hunch is that maybe it did come in every day but it probably came in already breaded.

Anyway, my fish and chips arrived and it confirmed my suspicions. A tiny piece of fish breaded to death in a thick, tasteless hard crust, alongside some bulk processed chips, a tiny bowl of tartare sauce with the highlight being two slices of lemon.

I advised in my review that they shouldn’t really be offering fish and chips if they can only muster up what you’d expect to get in your bog-average, city centre Costco. This is St Andrews.

When I vented my grievance with the waitress she remonstrated that they sold a lot of them. I said I’m sure they did and indeed Starbucks sell a lot of coffee but this doesn’t mean it’s any good.

I tried the new Mowgli street food Indian place in Edinburgh a few weeks back after reading a rave review in the Telegraph, but it was similar. Albeit they used much better ingredients and there were some reasonable flavours in a few of the plates. But on the whole it was a rip-off. Huge prices for very small quantities. We had a poor bottle of red and several plates, got stung £50 each and left feeling we could certainly eat more.

So basically I’m very reticent about eating out nowadays. It’s largely a huge let down. And I’m not going to splash out on any of your bank-busting tasting menus in a hurry, as I’ve worked for one of these joints and have seen that charade from the inside.

This is not to say that I will not be dishing up my tasting tours in Edinburgh and St Andrews soon. But I will make sure that people get enough to eat, the quality is up there and that people will feel that they haven’t been monumentally ripped.

I have invited Jay Rayner (why not at least aim high!) on my first Edinburgh tour which will sample oysters and chablis in the White Horse, some nice tapas in Piggs, a cheeky snifter in the Jolly Judge at the top of the High Street, some venison and a wee claret in The Witchery, Peking Duck in the West Port chinese and then head to the Radford’s at Timberyard and see what they can dish up on the dessert and cheese front?

Check me out on Tours By Locals. It’s going to be a blast.

But no poor reviews please!

Well unless they are justified, constructive even.

I don’t mind that.

Bit of a marathon spell

I am on a bit of a long slog through a two week period of doing tours every day, sometimes a couple.

But boy this is fun. I have met the most wonderful characters recently. Josh the Rabbi from Manhatten and his lovely wife Mia, Maria from New York with whom I explored Greyfriars Kirkyard on a Harry Potter tombstone quest on a rainy afternoon last Wednesday, the irrepressible and fascinating Stuart Rostant and crew from Trinidad. Stuart reeled off some lovely Chaucer and spoke Latin and French and Italian and Spanish and was quite a character. I gave him some Burns and The Windhover which he seemed to rather enjoy. We had such a laugh altogether.

Nancy and her group off the cruise ship were great value too and 74 year old Barbara from North Carolina was remarkable. She walks 5 to 6 miles every day and after our tour around Edinburgh was heading off to climb Arthur’s Seat!


I managed to squeeze in a golf match at Mortonhall on Friday. Although I conclusively lost it was lovely to get back to my old haunt and chat with Dad’s old friends.

I am down to Edinburgh this morning on the 8.20am bus for two food tours and then back up on the late train as I have eight ladies to pick up from Rusacks at 8am tomorrow, who want a wee St Andrews tour before they pile down to Crail for their golf.

I am working on my very own food tours now in Edinburgh and St Andrews. The Edinburgh one is going to be called The Rather Whacky Food Tour.

Because it’s going to be whacky.

It’s what people want as far as I can see.

I have had a rather whacky request to give a wee speech about St Andrews and the gowf here to a family party who are over staying at the Old Course Hotel at the end of the month.

That could be very interesting.

I hope they realise what they have got themselves into!

However I was rather happy they chose me over Bo, the other guide on the Tours By Locals site in St Andrews.

As she is a Blue Badge Guide!

The Scottish Tourist Guide Association rather rejected me as far as I recall.

Ho hum.

Anyway there is hope for me yet as I have just found out about Samurai Joe from Kyoto. He is 94 and still guiding, supposed to be great fun and a wee bit partial to bit of Sake.

Wonderful stuff Joe. Maybe see you in Kyoto.

Stop Press: Just to say my group of lassies from America (well one from Barcelona) turned out to be a real fun group. They were on tour from the Fore for Ladies organization and if they are a representative sample then that’s one great outfit. Rebecca was a delight to deal with.

Now I fired off a wee email to Rick Steves the travel guru about trying to get some promotion for my tours on his site and I just got a very nice and positive email back. Let’s see how that one flies? He seems a cool and very interesting gent.

Fare forward passengers.

A busy week indeed

Started off last Sunday at my old patch the Fairmont with a very enjoyable caddying round. Four lovely guys from Colorado. There is no question that caddying is one of the most lucrative gigs out there. I had forgotten about that. But I prefer tour guiding now.

Monday, I met Barbara and Larry from North Carolina off the bus in St Andrews for a wee morning tour. We finished off in the Dunvegan in Tip Anderson’s old seat. It was a great morning and I suggested we all get a taxi to Leuchars for the 1.30pm train back to Edinburgh as I had an afternoon tour there. Except, we got in the taxi and I was informed that the train had been cancelled. So back into the Dunvegan.

We finally got back to Edinburgh where I said farewell and ran up the steps to meet my next guests at the Carlton Hotel. I was now almost an hour late. Luckily my two guests were as mellow as could be and we had a splendid afternoon in Auld Reekie. I bought them coffee and cakes in Black Medicine and all went rather swimmingly thereafter.

Things didn’t go swimmingly the next day though for my two food tours in Edinburgh. I was supposed to have 11 guests including 2 French people. However 3 couples from Sancerre had pitched up as well as lovely Emilie from Italy and her daughter, three ladies from Boston, Adriano from Quebec and a brother and sister from New York who run the blog, TravelGumbo.

On the French front however, not only was this four more people than I had expected, but they were under the impression that the tour was going to be carried out in French. Ooh la la.

Fortunately, I have some of the lingo and I was able to extricate myself slightly from the awkwardness of this situation and the whole group ended up working surprisingly well. The French contingent didn’t quite get the import of my rendition of Tam O’Shanter over the whisky though. So I cut that a bit short. Tant pis.

In the evening I had a group from the States attending a Life Sciences Conference at the EICC. God they were fun.

The only issue was that when I phoned ahead to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society to confirm our booking for our whisky tasting they said that they couldn’t accomodate us. This left me in a bit of a panic as we headed along George Street. I remembered that the Alchemist had just opened their new whacky bar there and the idea of chemically-inspired cocktails for this group of Life Scientists from California from The Alchemist was not a shoddy one. They were a trendy young lot too. And in fact they loved it and we had a great evening, finishing off with a lot of delicious small plates and a rave cocktail in Under The Stairs (one of my favorite places)

On Wednesday morning I had a really lovely group from Colorado who were on a cruise around Britain. They were all ex- music teachers and a most appreciative and sympathetic lot. We had many laughs strolling around the Old Town in the warm sunshine. They said that my tour was the best thing they had done all week and that was sweet of them.

I had another food tour in the evening which all went rather smoothly which was rather nice. Andrea and her daughter who were trying to decide between St Andrews and Edinburgh University. Andrea told me at the end that they had loved the Tam O’Shanter and it helped reaffirm her daughter’s decision to come to Scotland to Uni!

Wednesday, I played golf in Edinburgh in my Wessex Bowl MCBA match, beating Bones. It was a beautiful evening at Mortonhall. I love Mortonhall and the Braid Hills in Edinburgh. It’s rather beautiful up there. In fact it’s altogether stunning on a fine summers evening. Siegfried Sassoon thought so too. Not that he was there on Wednesday (obviously).

Friday, I was going back and forth to Edinburgh on the X59 like a yo-yo, as I forgot that I needed my kilt for my Sunday tour in St Andrews and I had forgotten to take it back up the road in the morning.

Saturday, I had a food tour in St Andrews with two American families who had just arrived. It was fun but I was pretty glad to close out a fairly hectic week on the whole at 8pm.

Fare forward passengers.

The Pottery in Crail

On a fresh summer’s day when the warm breeze willows over the seafront in Crail and happy tourists wander around the harbour and lanes of this idyllic little place, Steve the potter, benignly smiles and welcomes all to his little heavenly home in the heart of this sweet, teeny nook.

He is old now but most tranquil. No wonder of it. Amidst such beauty, this wee paradise, ablaze with red-potted geraniums and his kiln-fired ware.

The place is remarkable. Stunning actually. And so is Crail and the East Neuk. ‘This is heaven’.

Steve’s words.

And I cannot argue with that.

I met his son, Jake, the other day. Lovely chap. Just back from skiing in Saint Martin where he has a chalet. He says he skis about 6 weeks a year.

Now that’s the life.

A wee update

Hello folks and welcome back.

I must try and keep up the old blogging you know as it’s good for the soul and helps me to see where I am so to speak. Not that I’m on a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy at the moment but it kind of feels a bit that way as the tour guiding has rather blasted off.

It’s a shame though that I’ve presently had to stop working with the awesome concierge team at the Fairmont because they are fun. Hopefully I can go back and do a few shifts at some point.

However at the moment it’s just not possible. What with the gowf as well. I played in the Thistle Club Spring Meeting on the Old yesterday after doing a tour with some lovely Americans around St Andrews in the morning. The sun shone and it was all quite idyllic with a soft and warm breeze coming off the bay. The delightful scent of the cherry blossom and early furze in the sea air.

It’s hard to beat. St Andrews.

I did rather beat myself in the Spring Meeting mind with 6 three putts. Albeit I played some rum golf and believe I’ve cracked this game. As I said ‘the secret’ will be advised at the season’s end and will be a snip at 10000 bucks! I don’t think that is a lot. Golf has cost me a lifetime in sanity remember. Ask my friends.

Now, as I said I’m rather busy which means my calendar is pretty full. So I didn’t overly appreciate the text the other day from my challenger in the Seniors knockout giving me an option of two days out of the next four to play our tie before the deadline. One, you are supposed to give 3 days with reasonable notice and then you are not supposed to explain that you are going to the Hearts match so Saturday is out. I explained that I wasn’t a Hearts supporter (well I didn’t actually but was sorely tempted to) and just couldn’t make these 2 days and the chap responded that ‘we are in trouble here’. I’m sorry old chap but I don’t get the “we’ bit in this.

How hum.

Anyway, after today’s Eat/Walk tour in St Andrews I head to Edinburgh for the MCBA championship qualifying at Mortonhall tomorrow which will be a blast. What a group of characters we have down at my old track in Edinburgh. Fun what! Yes.

I pile back up to St Andrews for a tour on Monday and then am down for six tours in three days in Auld Reekie.

But it’s so interesting to meet some great people on these tours and I count myself incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to do it. It’s all right up my street all said.

Tips for the week.

Under the Stairs gastro bar in Merchant Street, Edinburgh. Run by the delightful Gavin and Debs and having their 15th anniversary this week. Awesome establishment. Sweetdram French tonic cocktail is to die for.

Take care folks and keep it simple.

A bit of a balancing act

Life has got a bit tricky. A bit of a balancing act I mean.

You see I am now a member of four golf clubs and also trying to fit in working at the Fairmont with my new venture into the world of tour guiding. I work for Eat/Walk Tours now and am also starting my own little number on the Tours by Locals site. It’s all really quite kicking off somewhat.

Now the goff is a big issue. I’ve suddenly hit prime lifetime form at the slender age of 60 and am up for as many competitive games as I can get my hands on. I scraped into the matchplay of the Jock Hutchison last week which is a great fun and prestigious St Andrews Club tournament where all the matches are played over the Old Course. I suppose it’s one of our club’s Majors. A bit like the Masters but without the pomp and the press.

But in addition to this I’ve a mountain of other comps to play in with Mortonhall and the MCBA in Edinburgh and the St Andrews Thistle. They all have their championships and meetings and greensomes and knockouts and medals and stablefords and Texas Scrambles and Shotguns and …

And yes social games too!

To this end I must say Whats App is a life saver. But there are simply not enough days I’m afraid for all this goff and indeed work. I need a good PA for sure.

So I will have to be a bit choosy and organised and attempt to bring the whole thing together while maintaining my sanity in the process.

Nevertheless, this summer should be a bit of a blast. I have high hopes on many fronts. Even though my handicap somehow went up to 9.2 after my medal on Thursday over the Eden!

And I swear that I played one of the best games of my life. Hard to believe I know. But my 4-iron shot into the par 3 tenth will forever be etched in my memory as the pivotal moment my relationship with golf fundamentally changed. It was a once in a lifetime.

It’s a bit like what the knocking off of the 7-year old Maid of Norway in Orkney did to the course of scottish history. Absolutely massive.

A few little tweeks and hey presto. I was a different golfer and man walking off that tee as indeed Scotland became a very different country. Not as I walked off the tee obviously. I mean here the sudden death of the Maid of Norway in Orkney. Often overlooked you know.

Dramatic me?!

No this is all true. Ask Neil Oliver or Tom Devine or Azzie Paton or Ed Russell.

Now the tour gig is fun. Albeit I’ve rather had to immerse myself in a thousand years of scottish history, which is not the straightest forward thing in the world. In fact it’s a bit like my tee-shots before I discovered the secret.

The ‘secret’ will only be disclosed at the end of the season by the way. It’s a bit of a beauty though and has really made a difference to my ball-striking. Although it’s been very hard earned may I say.

So watch this space over the summer and I will try and keep you posted with my progress.

Life begins at 60 for sure.

Well apart, of course, from the old hip and right knee and the memory and a few other little bits and pieces.

But heho. We can’t have it all you know.

Well, unless you are Gary Lineker or Tom Brady or Miguel Jimenez or that cute girl who gets to do the weather forecast.

But I’m unfortunately not.

I’m a Lobby Ambassador at The Fairmont.

Mr Poulter come on now

I have never liked the look of the chap to be honest and I remember him making some idiotic televised reply to a serious question about the LIV tour and its Saudi owners, which was remarkable for it being so cliched and of the utmost drivel. At one point he was asked whether he would play golf in a tour run by Mr Putin? Ian replied that this was a hypothetical question and he therefore couldn’t answer it!

Good God Ian!

Maybe don’t enrol into any philosophy night-school modules old boy.

Anyway, he has now carried on his dumbness in attempting to justify his joining the ranks of LIV, stating that he has to consider his family! And self-pityingly adds that he took to over-eating because of all the flak he was being dealt out.

Poor Ian. Over-eating.

I would suggest Mr Poulter that you should probably just keep your head down and concentrate on hitting the ball than attempting to verbalise stuff.

You just ain’t too convincing old horse.

And sorry for giving you more flak, but these are such rich pickings for us poor old hacks.