Local elections

I was perusing the Mail site and was struck by a comment made by some bloke who couldn’t understand how Labour got into Wandsworth. Has the chap never heard of a Mr Boris Johnson?

Besides that, even Boris Becker got into Wandsworth!

His problem though is that he can’t get out.

But surely the Tory mob must now know that Bojo is such a liability that it’s curtains until they get rid of the oaf.

Stubborn lot. What?

Now I’m back on the job market again and looking for a wee niche number. I will try and get my pal Pete at the Beeb to get me in to carry the mobile camera battery again at The Open. That was a rum little job, scurrying about amongst the players and not having to pay 300 bucks for a daily ticket. Yes I know someone who paid that the other day! By all accounts you can pay up to 600. Ouch.

Unfortunately though, the Beeb’s coverage has been massively scaled down since the R@A succumbed to the huge lucre offered by Sky and gave them the main coverage contract.

Sad! Next it will be Wimbledon.

Going going.

Anyway at least my goff is getting there. I was 2 under after five holes in the medal on the Jubilee last week, until I engaged my brain and hit usual form and a solid 88.

But dare I say watch this space.

On encountering some gruff locals

I was out practicing the other morning on the Strathyrum and was having some major problems with a hook. Now the Strath runs parallel to the Eden Course for a few holes on the way in. On the 14th of the Strath I hit two monstrous hooks which ended up on the 16th fairway of the Eden, a par 5, amidst a group of four gentlemen’s drives who all looked a bit less than inviting, let’s say. So I thought I’d try a bit of humour to help along the situation by quirping ‘Which course are you guys playing?’ Unfortunately this was not taken that well by at least three members of the group who maintained rather stern looking faces. I think the other chap muttered something along the lines ‘not the one you’re playing’.

Anyhow, I made haste back to the Strath and onto the 15th tee, a short par 4. This time I again hit two monstrous hooks which now ended up on the 16th green of the Eden and again amongst the balls of the same four gentlemen who were now trying to play-out that hole, except one of my balls was about 6 feet from their flag. I ventured across and thought I’d try some humour again to help me out the predicament. In a sense this was really all quite amusing I reasoned. It’s not exactly that I was aiming their way.

Anyway, I sauntered onto their green, waited till a few of them putted out, got a few glares and then quickly picked up my errant balls while venturing the long shot ‘I’m sure you guys are on the wrong course’

No laughter ensued.

I did have a lovely round the following day though when I bumped into Gerard from Florida at the New Course. He is across for a week and playing 7 rounds, including a trip down to North Berwick. What a delightful man. We had a great chat and game and it showed me again what goff can offer in the beaten way of aquaintance.

Not what these guys on the Eden were reflecting when they stumbled across moi though! I imagine they would be uttering less poetical musings.

But heho it takes all sorts. And I’ll stick with the Gerard’s of this world. All day!

On Saturday I went down to Edinburgh to play in the Mortonhall monthly medal. I left St Andrews at 8.25am and got home at 6.49pm (the wonders of Stagecoach!), having played the medal and then walked back into the West End from my old patch at the Braids! (I haven’t got my blue card yet and it was a beautiful evening and I was feeling a tad nostalgic).

On the 11th green at Morty I noticed that someone on the 8th tee was looking across at me with some recognition. He had a tammy on and I didn’t know who it was. I ventured across after putting out and hey, it was Cammy my old caddie-master at the Fairmont who now lives in Edinburgh and has joined Morty! He was playing with Bob Ellis who gave me a big hug which was kind of endearing of him. I suppose it has been 7 years since I left. Small world though with Cammy. In fact it’s a small world all round. The chap I was playing with, James Kidd, is starting a new job on Monday morning in Melville Street. And his boss is none other than Dave’s son, Jack Ferguson.

A small world indeed!

Charity at The Links Trust and more

I just paid my yearly residents ticket for my goff in St Andrews and am reeling a bit and picking myself off the floor somewhat. It’s gone up by 41.666666… per cent. In fact let me take the liberty of rounding that up, 41.67 per cent. That’s a lot.

The girl behind the counter at the Links Trust office tried to give me the tenuous explanation that it was because of covid. I hope she has not been told to say that as the party-line by the way. Because that’s about as convincing as hearing Boris say that he didn’t appreciate that he was at a party. It’s utter nonsense.

As far as I heard, the Links Trust got furlough money. And quite a lot of it I expect. Outwith salaries the Links Trust does not have seriously onerous overheads.

Now let me be straight here. Golf in St Andrews as a resident is still a very good deal indeed. But the Links Trust is supposed to be a charity. However it’s a charity with an effective license to print money and that takes care of the boys. These guys (I think they are all guys?) who sit on the Board are getting monstrously big salaries. Far too much in my opinion. I will have to look again but well well over a 100k per person as far as I recall. For running golf in St Andrews! I mean let me not beat about the bush here, even I could do that. But imagine all the freebies they’re getting too. It’s a gravy train and a gravy train that I’m not on I’m afraid.

So I don’t appreciate being effectively lied to when they say that they’ve had to put the resident ticket up by 41.67 per cent in a year, giving the line that it is a matter of survival. Which it manifestly is not. For some poorish students who have come here for the golf this is a lot of money guys. Not everyone is on a cushy number earning ridiculous amounts of lucre for organising a piss-up in a brewery.

Now on a different note, the Masters is over by all accounts. I will be honest. I never saw one shot. But what I’m hearing on the street is that the Sky coverage was woeful and largely focused upon Tiger Woods for some reason.

Why? That’s like focusing on some colourful bod at Wimbledon on Court 14 when all the real tennis is getting played and missed out on Centre Court. Tiger is not that big a deal anymore. Show the real bloody golf. That’s what people want and indeed mostly paid to see.

Now, I have never liked the look of Sir Nick Faldo (I better not forget the ‘Sir’ just in case he reads this. By all accounts he doesn’t even like being addressed as ‘Nick’. It’s got to be ‘Sir Nick’. Ok Nick) and I’ve heard from a most reliable first-hand report that he is an arrogant toad. Anyway it kind of amused me that he made that complete faux pas while commentating at the climax of the Masters, as Rory made his charge and holed that incredible bunker shot (ok I have now watched one shot from this years Masters!). Anyhow, the CBS cameras were seemingly focused on Cameron Smith putting on the 13th while elsewhere Rory sank from the sand. Sir Nick Faldo, who was watching Rory on another screen, took the whole drama out of the situation by exclaiming that ‘something amazing has just happened’. They then cut to a short clip of Rory (not even showing any build-up in the set-up for the shot) then holing from the sand. Thus the huge moment was spoiled for CBS viewers. They all kind of knew where that ball was heading.

But something else amazing happened Sir Nick. Someone gave you a knighthood and a commentating job at CBS.

Good on Brian Viner but…

I had heard the story before but not from the horse’s mouth to be honest. I only read the real story in the Daily Mail last week when the man himself recounted the anecdote.

I had heard it on a rather drunken Home Of Golf Society weekend some twenty years back from the captain of the club, Alex Pratt. The HOGS is a society for ex-golfing St Andreans who have a nostalgic annual trip to the auld toon to reminisce, drink and play a bit of goff.

Anyway, Alex recounted how this student chap (who was not a very good golfer) had blagged his way through security onto the practice area in the 1984 Open at St Andrews. Alex said that he had then proceeded to take up a position in the driving range and started hitting very wayward shots, to the amusement of his friends and some of the assembled audience.

Brian Viner, the bloke who actually did it (now a Daily Mail journalist nonetheless) however tells it slightly differently. He indeed managed to get through security by employing the services of a friend as caddie and told the security bloke that he was just off the course and desperately wanted to work on his short game (clever ploy all said). He amazingly got through but then his nerve kind of failed him a bit, because there was a free bay next to Severiano Ballesteros. He unfortunately didn’t take it. Kind of bottled it I suppose.

He did however proceed to the practice putting area where he was approached by an American journalist, who asked him for his name and what he thought his chances were of winning! Brian seemingly said that his name was David Ridley and somewhat down-played his chances of winning The Open Championship.

What a shame though that Brian hadn’t had the presence of mind to introduce himself as say ‘Armitage Shanks’ or something along those lines.

Now that would have been a topper!

Nevertheless Brian was treated to free beers all-night in the Dunvegan on behalf of his friends who had bet that he wouldn’t do it.

No title

I’m afraid that I’ve had zero inspiration in digging up a title for this post but thought I’d go with the flow as I’m sitting in Starbucks of a morning as is my Edinburgh want, having just had my bacon breakfast deal in Greggs, which is four bits of decent bacon and a morning roll plus a very reasonable cup of coffee for a very reasonable £3.10.

Now, I always thought that the scottish rugby captain, Stuart Hogg, had the look of a painfully arrogant and self-absorbed man who believes he’s a bit above the rules and a bit above his fellow men. A bit like Bojo in fact but probably, by the looks of it (and yes I mean physical) lacking a good deal of Bojo’s mental faculties.

And indeed, it was borne out last Saturday when he, the captain, and four other team members thought it ok to go into an Edinburgh bar after coming back victorious from Rome. Which of course was against protocol and a pretty dumb thing to do if they believed they could get away with it. Maybe Hoggy thought he could frame it as a ‘meeting’ and that that argument may hold tight if push came to shove. Ok there were a few drinks getting splashed around but who cares about that.

But most likely he just believes that he’s above the rules because he’s such a good rugby union fullback, has macho tatoos, a pretty cute haircut and a very high opinion of himself.

Again just like Mr Bojo, who clearly thinks that he can do anything because he has such, such beautiful golden locks (yes that emphasis was important here!), is a major sex deal, a somewhat PM and can quote argument-deflecting Greek stuff, ‘hecatombs of pigs’ nonetheless.

It seems clear though that this is what a bit of power, vanity and mass idolatry can do to people. I mean on the back of that, let’s face it, even that most nauseating of little twits, Matt Hancock, was able to bag a fairly attractive bird. Although what she was quite thinking about one will never know.

Isn’t it a shame that there aren’t more humble and decent role-model leaders floating around these days.

Hirsutely challenged ones even.

On Meeting Hugo Ticciati

I didn’t know at the time who he was as I’m not that much up on the modern day classical musical scene to be honest. But while working the other night at Deans Banks at The Pompadour, I overheard someone in the kitchen saying that there was an eminent violinist sitting at table 2 (I think Benita had googled him).

Curiosity of course got the better of me and I decided to go and have a chat. I told him my story of taking up the violin at the age of forty, remarkably finding that I had a good ear for it and realising my artistic ambition of getting a place in second strings of the The Really Terrible Orchestra, through sending Alexander McCall-Smith a bouquet of flowers.

Hugo had actually heard of the RTO and indeed had played alongside them at the same music festival in Sweden a few years back. Small world. And what a very nice and inspirational chap he is.

This is a lovely facet of the job of course. You really don’t know who will be walking through the restaurant door on any night. It adds a huge interest factor to be honest. Spices it up somewhat. And things develop from these meetings too. I am now going to Hugo’s Scottish Chamber Orchestra concert in the Queen Hall next week and he mentioned to say hello after as well. I may even get back to my violin.

However, I must say that there are some people I wouldn’t want to walk through the restaurant door though. Only a handful mind. To illustrate my point, I will quote my friend Lisa Radford (lovely wife to Andrew who owned and ran The Atrium and now the highly-acclaimed Timberyard) as two of these individuals walked into The Atrium one evening when she was hosting;

‘Oh no! the Elliot’s are here’

These are the clowns who own Montpeliers that tried, along with co-owners David and Ruth Withers, to actually add tips to staff wages to make them up to the minimum wage! Luckily, they were exposed in the Sunday Mail for trying to do so.

To this end I really admire Dean Banks, who mentioned to me the other night that he had stopped taking tips from the restaurant a few years back. Tom Kitchin and wife take note please! Although I believe Mr Kitchin and his missus have at least now been forced into taking ‘an equitable’ share of the tips, ever since they were rather exposed by leaving an excel sheet open one day and the shocking and real truth of their greed got out.

Fortunately though, such nauseating individuals are few and far between and most people that I’m acquainted with in Edinburgh are lovely, good and decent people. I’m very lucky though.

However it’s again been borne out how very small this place is. You really can’t do much here without the whole of the toun knowing about it. And that’s good and bad. But mostly good.

And of course for the real hotbed of all up-to-date gossip get yourselves down to the butchers in Bruntsfield. The boys in Wm Christie will tell you everything with their immense quickfire chat, warts and all. Don’t get Angus started on his jokes though.

I bumped into my pal Chris The Prof the other day and we had a fun time walking around town and shooting the breeze. We got chatting to the lovely owner of Leftfield at the top edge of the Meadows and must pop in for their Oyster Happy Hour one soiree. Edinburgh is so beautiful in the spring up there by the stunning Barclays church with the crosuses peeping through and I think at days-end a happy oyster hour would be a very rum thing indeed. I like happy oysters.

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Get to FIFA!

I am struggling to believe FIFA’s decision in attempting to still play the Russia World Cup games against Poland etc. Albeit on neutral territory and all that. But to try and get the game played at all in this critical moment in civilization’s history. To fail to make the proper stance. I am incredulous. Thankfully Poland etc have decided themselves not to play and rightly called the FIFA decision ‘disgraceful’.

I heard David Moyes, the West Ham manager, say that football has such power to make itself heard or something along those lines on the radio yesterday. No David. Your governing body has just acted with a pitiful lack of backbone.

Mind you, I do recall that you were the man who decided to put your cat-kicking striker in the team two days after he had been exposed for his dreadful act. Indeed you started an interview about it by saying that you were an animal lover? An animal lover sans a thing called a brain. (David old boy ‘sans’ is the French word for ‘without’ , marvellously utilized in a speech in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ about the infirmities of old age. And Shakespeare is an English writer)

For the love of Christ David and FIFA get your act together. Somethings in life are serious. And football is not. Even though it’s potentially all you know or indeed think about.

That’s my wee rant over. But really.

On another note, I didn’t overly ingratiate myself with Peter Dawson, the ex-captain of the R&A, in Marks and Spencer the other night. He was in an aisle with me and walked past two items that had fallen on the floor, ignoring them. I picked them up and put them back on the shelf, commenting ‘ok I’ll pick them up then’. Rather taken back he said ‘oh did I knock them over’ and I rather tartly and quickly replied ‘no, but you could have picked them up’

Not massively furthering my R&A hopes on this occasion.

Americans and their Superbowl thing

Ok I’ll admit that I don’t understand American Football like I reckon most Americans won’t understand cricket. But the day of the Superbowl Final seems a bit like Thanksgiving to me when the nation goes a bit stir-crazy about nothing very much. I mean once you take away Tom Brady and the hype and the beers and the popcorn and the cheerleaders, it’s probably got about as much actual interest for the average Joe America as the Queens Speech has for us over here.

I suppose there must be something deep in the American psyche about getting a kick out of seeing a ball flying a long way through the air. Because as far as I can see that is what this game is all about. Ok some bloke has to throw and another to catch it without being annihilated by helmeted and shoulder-bolstered bruisers but in essence it’s all about that ball flying high and far, while all the other team members appear to beat the hell out of each other.

On that note, I see that Tom Kitchin is now trying desperately to defend himself over the accusations of bullying in his restaurant. Indeed he says that some of his old chefs have been phoning up in his defence. Well all I can say is that these chefs probably weren’t in his employ when Tom and his wife were appropriating to themselves the lion’s share of the tips. It was a bit like the Montpelier Group clowns when they tried to include the tips in making up the minimum wage payment to their hard working staff. Honestly, as if these guys didn’t all make enough filthy lucre. Yuk.

Ok I have now heard first-hand from an ex-employee that he didn’t see Mr Kitchin being physically abusive, but mentally yes. And that’s possibly worse. Moreover, it’s a bit like slave labour in his restaurants by all accounts, cleverly offering salaried 60 to 70 hour, 5 day weeks but with little (if any!) breaks and a culture of ‘making or breaking you’. That’s not at all healthy and it won’t make you wealthy either, because at the end of the day you don’t end up getting much more than the minimum wage per hour by all accounts (tips included, even all deserved ones!). However some poor souls are sticking with it. Although there has been a recent exodus and I believe they are struggling to retain new staff. Well good.

To this end I have great respect for the team at Dean Banks who admirably dealt with a situation I was having at work in his Edinburgh Pompadour restaurant. Dean told me that he didn’t want that sort of thing happening in his kitchen and wanted to uphold a positive and enjoyable working environment. Well done Dean.

I served my old boss David Ross last week. He got rather a shock though when I said ‘Hi David’ as I presented his hand-dived Orkney scallop. He was indeed rather lost for words.

His is an interesting story though. His dad got him the job at Ivory and Sime back in 1968 when he was a green 16 year old. He believed he was going to work in a garage, so got rather a surprise when he pitched up at One Charlotte Square to find himself as the office boy at an up and coming Edinburgh finance house. After eighteen years though he had become MD. Ivory’s floated and he made a packet with his accrued shares and then a few years later set up Aberforth and Partners and made a further packet. Who needs a Masters in Finance from St Andrews!

Not that I’ve got one of them to be honest. Just my Desmond in economics.

on the benefits of walking

I’m a walker and always have been. Well since I was able to walk of course. But I’ve got Walker blood too. Dad’s mother was a Walker and Uncle Jimmie walked his way over the Braid Hills every day and lived till he was a hundred and three. Walking is obviously good for you too.

And I’m a great fan of it. I walk all over Edinburgh when I hop down there for the day. Edinburgh is such a walkable city. Take the other morning. I left the West End at about 9, got to the infamous butchers Wm Christie in Bruntsfield at 9.30 ish, had a chin-wag and shot the considerable breeze with Angus and Bob for half an hour and then trooped up towards the Pentlands. I got three quarters the way up Caerketten by 11am and took a lovely photo of Edinburgh. I piled back down the road and popped my head through the butchers door again and told Bob where I had been. He was incredulous though and I had to show him my pic that I’d taken to prove it. Some people just don’t get walking. And that’s a shame and their loss.

I bumped into my old boss, Kevin Moffat, just past Mortonhall and had a good catch-up chat and informed him that I was back into Morty as a country member.

Kevin was my boss at Ivory and Sime except he stuck at it. He became head of Blackrock in Edinburgh and now lives rather comfortably in a rather large house across from the golf club. A bright guy though and a nice one to boot. I think I was a bit of a challenge for him mind you.

But this is also the beauty of walking. You meet old kent faces. That morning I had also bumped into Raymond Stark at the foot of the Pentlands. He is another Mortonhall member and an avid walker too. He’s up the hills daily and looks a very trim and fit figure for his 64 years. Yes, who needs to pay for a gym? Give me the Pentland Hills and a few trees to hang off any day. Anyway, I also told Raymond that I was back into the club and he said that some of the old brigade would be rather happy about that. Which was nice.

I also bumped into an old ex and she got the shock of her life. She said I was looking well which is always good to hear and we caught up a bit on the past twenty years which is always a tad hard. Her life has been as non-conformist as they come. She had been a bit of a rebel in her youth and went to school one morning with a one way ticket to LA in her pocket and returned ten years later. Not a copy book St George’s lass by any means. But one with a kind and good heart.

I saw Hutch twice yesterday. Now Hutch doesn’t know me from Adam. Well unless he is pretending not to know me. Some people do you know. But he is doing a remarkably good job if that is the case. I first saw him in Greggs at the West End when he was in for his brekky like me and then later, he was loitering around the corner from Rutland Square and smoking as is his want. I have never seen Hutch without a cigarette in his hand or mouth (well except when in a Greggs queue or doing a shift at Whigham’s Wine bar). In fact mostly it’s in his mouth all said. He is a consummate smoker. Remarkable actually. It’s like watching that West Coast steam engine. I reckon that he must get through at least 60 to 80 a day by the looks of it. He always has one after the other too. Yes two. Talk about addiction there.

Anyway he is a bit of a mystery is Hutch. One person who is not a mystery is my old acquaintance Alison, who I bumped into while waiting for my bus. Her husband Thompo will definitely know Hutch because Thompo was in the same year at Heriots and Thompo knows everyone. A bit like Dave Clark who I saw in the butchers last week. Dave is also a Herioter and a man in the know. Dave looked most relaxed and has just retired from forty years at Standard Life (or was it 40 years life at Standard Death?)

Anyway, he has just won the Seniors Champ at Morty for the second year. Dave is rather defined by championship wins I’m afraid. He won the main championship twice too. Never won the junior champ mind!

So the old gossip machine is about to start churning again I fear now that I’m back in town more. Alison already knew about our wee pad and that is courtesy of Angus the butcher who is the epi-centre of all this. A very nice soul he is but just loves ‘the chat’.

I tell you what will get people talking though, as I plan to have a bit of a laugh, Zurich style. I’ll get all togged up in my ski gear, boots on and all and troop along by the West End, I’ll drop by Whigham’s or Le Di-Vin first for a little snifter, leave the skis at the door and then go and catch the 4 bus up to Hillend , walk up to the top of the dry slope, have a cursory run and then back down town for a bit of apres-ski.

Now that should get them talking back at the club.

Especially if I pop by the butchers for a wee steak pie on the way doon!

Now Wm Christie steak pies are something to talk about.

On joining the Sheraton Spa

Well it kind of makes sense as we’ve bought a wee pad next door and I’m working just round the corner to it too at Dean Banks’s fab restaurant at The Pompadour (now No 3 on Trip Advisor!). So you could say it’s a no-brainer. Also they dish out fresh towels every time you pitch up and the showers are tip-top and very hot. There is a 25 metre swimming pool which few people seem to use and a rather plush aqua suite. Also it’s open from 6.30am till 10pm. Ok, it’s not cheap but I figure if I can get in there about 4 times a week then it’s justifiable.

However what I’ve forgotten about is that Edinburgh is a wee village. This was proven on my first visit as I bumped into two old acquaintances. Chris Turnbull with whom I used to work with at Ivory and Slime and Smu, who was a fellow ski instructor at Hillend and started up the very successful Edinburgh based school ski trip company, SnoTraxx. Smu got a bit of a major surprise on seeing me in the changing rooms as we’ve had a slightly chequered friendship (long story) but I greeted him with a big smile. The past is the past and we should move on. He was holding a wee toddler and I said ‘wow things have changed’ as I’d known him as Mr Batchelor. He said ‘what do you mean?’ which I felt was an interesting response in the least. I alleviated any misunderstanding by declaring ‘well you’re holding a baby’ (which I presumed was his)

I think he got my point. Smu is actually a very decent guy underneath all the Merchistonian surface facade thing going on.

But this is going to be well interesting now to see who else is a member of the Spa. The issue is that I’ve been quite eclectic in my activities in Edinburgh life and have spanned a few industres in my work, been active in many different sporting and extra-curricular activities (yes I really was a member of The Really Terrible Orchestra), all spanning several interlinking social groups (all Edinburgh social groups are interlinked on some levels). Added to this I’ve been a not infrequent visitor to many of Edinburgh’s drinking dens. All told I know a lot of people. Or let’s say I know who a lot of people are! Even if some individuals care to forget who I am or just suffer from a worrying and deep amnesia. I remember I bumped into Les Rennie, an Edinburgh property mogul (I much prefer the word ‘mogul’ here than ‘tycoon’ as he is rather a good skier) in the Old Course Hotel a couple of years back. Now I swear that he claims he didn’t know me from Adam. But this was the guy who I had met through an old girlfriend and who had personally invited me up to dinner in one of his new chalets in Le Chatelard (Les has three rather nice chalets in Val D’Isere) when I was doing one of my season’s there. I remember the evening very clearly indeed and got rather too inebriated on the back of his very generous hospitality.

Mind you Les has a property developer acquaintance who I sat next to at a dinner many moons back and the conversation went exactly like this;

Me: ‘What do you do?’ Other chap: ‘I’m a property developer’ then there was a momentary pause when I guess he either thought I didn’t know what property developers did or didn’t like the potential non-plussed expression on my face, as he quickly added ‘I sold twelve flats today’

He never asked me what I did which was just as well as I was then an aspiring jobbing gardener.

Anyway he ho. Aren’t people funny.

I’m playing back at Mortonhall next week which will bring back many memories indeed. Like stepping back in time. It’s been about ten years since I last played there as a member. So much has happened in that time.

However I’m sure Morty won’t have changed and I see from the start sheet that there are still some old stalwarts hanging on in there, a lot like me creeping into the Seniors category. Now I think they should reclassify that as the Vintage category, capital V with a well rounded finish like a good Rolly Gassmann Alsace and my new follow through.

Now, they’re all going to be well surprised when they see me pitch up next week for the Seniors Team Tournament.

If they remember me that is?!