In praise of a very good butcher shop

I have been here before a bit but I really can’t get over how good and important this sort of thing is.

The butcher in Bruntsfield that is. It’s a topper of a shop with a prime position in the heart of Bruntsfield and has now been run for three generations by the Linton family. Angus and Bob are presently at the helm after their father finally stopped working aged 80, having worked fifty years in the business.

You really have to go and visit to see what I mean but this is a place of great entertainment with the wise cracking Angus and Bob. It’s just hugely refreshing to pop in and have a good old chin-wag. And many people indeed just do that from posties to professors to painters and punters and practical jokers and even the odd hotel porter.Yes odd.

Need a tonic or pick me up then this is the place to go. Angus always has a new joke in his pack. Last week’s one I really quite liked.

‘Did you hear about the prawn that went to a disco?’

‘It pulled a muscle’

Of course it’s the way you tell them and Angus can indeed tell them. But that made me laugh. Not for every one of course but I like this light headed stuff more than most conversation. It can get mighty crude at times but wasn’t old Chaucer a bit on the rude and crude side. What ho?!

Anyway I always let off a bit of steam here and come out feeling lighter and happier. A bit of a chortle is very good for the soul. I mean that’s why people go to stand-up shows I suppose. Although they are rarely very funny. At least that’s my experience.

No, far better to get down to the butchers or a similar such venue. It’s really rum stuff. And most underrated.

I love their daily routine when they knock on the wall to the bistrot next door at 2pm and suddenly a couple of pints appear! And also their Tuesday night club when they sit outside with Robbie the bistrot owner and put the world to right.

This is really all tip-top stuff. Good innocent down to earth chat with a lot of laughs. And there is not enough of this these days.

Yes, unfortunately there are very few places like this. I do know a very good butcher shop in Crail but alas the chat is below par. Shame.

But at least Penman’s is opening a shop in Anstruther. It means I can get my hands on a wonderful bridie in under 20 minutes if push comes to shove. And that’s a very good thing indeed.

However, sometimes even a Penman’s bridie is not enough to feed the old soul.

God get me a train and get me to Bruntsfield again.

A caddie’s lot

It’s remarkable all said what a caddie can earn up here in the Kingdom.

I bumped into a chum the other day who has just had a ripper of a season on the links at Kingsbarns. He said that he cleared 30k in six months.

Now that is not to be sniffed at. Ok, that’s six days a week slogging it out and two rounds most days. But it beats working for a living.

There really is a lot of money to be made in the old goff industry. Some of the most remunerated guys are the drivers who take groups around Scotland on their tours. It’s well known that they often make a grand a week in tips. Now that’s not too shabby.

I heard a good one the other day though. A concierge colleague was asked by a pal (an Old Course caddie) if he wanted a job at this year’s Dunhill for some American bloke. He declined for whatever reason and Paul got some guy from Anstruther to do it instead.

The American chappy turned out to be one of the founders of a search engine and he was obviously more than happy with his Ainster caddie as he gave him 7 grand at the end of the week as a tip.

That’s a very fair deal. And I’m sure it’s the talk of the East Neuk!

Now where is my caddie bib?

End of the year and another career change

At the close of another year in which I managed to reach the ripe age of 60, I have much to ponder.

I have a new job by the chance of playing a Mr Martin Keith in the quarter finals of the St Andrews Club Championship. His son is now my boss at the Fairmont and it was by talking to Martin that made me think about trying my hand at being a concierge amd making contact with his son.

Another bit of fortune was to strike up a conversation with Johnathan Trew while working at the Fairmont one day. He is a blue badge guide and gave me a contact which lead to my present little gig working as a guide for eat/walk tours in St Andrews.

Another opportunity came my way by getting on the number 11 bus in Edinburgh one day in the summer with my golf clubs in tow and sitting opposite a man with a kilt on.

This chap and I struck up a conversation. Well as far as I remember he struck it up, along the lines of ‘are you going to play golf?’ Which was not a bad starter for 10 as old Bamber used to say.

Anyway, we got chatting and he turned out to be a nice chap too and also a tour guide. Martin works for an outfit called Tours by Locals. I had coffee with him next week at the Royal Scots Club in Abercrombie Place and thereafter took the proverbial bull by the horns, applied to Tours by Locals and they are putting me up on their site to offer Edinburgh, St Andrews and Dundee walking tours.

So the career is morphing once again. Of course I say ‘career’ in the loosest possible sense. Some would say out of one frying pan into another.

However I feel really positive about this one.

This year I also joined the Woodhouse Society and am now formally a Wodehousian. They are purportedly putting up a wee piece of mine in their quarterly Wooster Sauce rag. Which would be a very rum thing indeed. I am very keen to get playing cricket for them and have suggested we might take on the mighty Elie on their sands one summer Sunday afternoon. Tide being out of course.

I am enjoying being back at Mortonhall in Edinburgh, albeit a bit mortified at some individuals in the club who are not happy that I have been playing so much as a country member. Maybe they should try the 5 hours in a bus that enables me to enjoy the delights of Mortonhall? Their attitude is a wee bit sad all said. But heho.

Onwards what.

Apart from all the above I took part in an anti-war demonstration, bought lovely new curtains, met Robbie Williams and Nick Faldo (the latter I wish I hadn’t), had very negative thoughts about Matt Hancock and Megan Sparkle, lost 4 kilos, joined the University library again, met a few interesting people (only a few), started a morning routine, kicked gambling, cut back my caffeine intake and now firmly realize that I’m no longer a spring chick.

However I see that old PG batted through to a 94.

Which says an awful lot for having the odd little chortle what?

On branding

I have been most eager to see the result of the refurb of the old Ryan’s Bar in the west end of Edinburgh into the West End Brasserie. Because this is a tip-top location.

They have ostensibly done a cracking job by the alround decor with a lovely brass external facade and a most pristine and sophisticated chandeliered interior. It’s a real piece of parisienne boutique chic (Les Marmottes springs to mind), all with eager, starched-white preened garcons at the waiting.

But what was the menu like?

At first glance you see that this is not fine-dining but bringing some old favourites to the table with moules et frites and cullen skink, haggis of course for the tourists and then steak et frites etc. They have an ok wine list and have indeed included a veuve cliquot for your aspiring west-enders and the Edinburgh gentry crowd.

However I was dumbstruck at the end of my quick perusal of the menu when I glanced over the desserts. Because there it was for all to see.

After a tonne of investment in this iconic city centre site with all the fine finishings and french waiters and a hefty degree of pomp and panache and eclat and not so cheap brand consultants I would imagine. Yes, at the end came the ice cream.

Di Rollos!!

Sacre bleu! Ooh la la! Di Rollos! Quelle choix! What a faux pas.

Indeed what an own goal in the dying seconds of injury time. Who’s idea was that?

Up to that point it was all going fairly and even substantially swimmingly but then thud. Deary deary me. That’s like putting a Jacob Creek pinot grigio on the menu in the George V !

And I’m afraid that this doesn’t bode well for the establishment. It’s a careless and a grave error, for it undermines and puts a question mark over the whole thing.

I mean if they had just put a Luvian’s or a Jannetta’s on (or even a Luca’s for that mind) then it would have ended this enterprise off with some finesse, some class. And indeed I think the whole project deserves that.

Instead in the very last bar of this epic symphony of a refurb, the conductor has rather somewhat dropped his baton.

Domage.

A snorter of a year

Excuse the Wodehousian title but I couldn’t resist bringing a morsel of PG into the blog as I purchased his Letters yesterday. Pretty ripping stuff. And Plum appears a very rum chap all said.

In some ways a bit like me as he started off in the straight jacket of private schooling and then hopped into finance, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, making an awfully bad job of it. However he really enjoyed all the extra-curricular stuff ie the cricket, the rugger and the goff.

Anyway unlike me, he actually made the plunge and cracked full-time journalism like the good egg that he was.

I did manage to write a regular column (unpaid!) for Hong Kong Golf Monthly for a couple of years, but it all rather ended there with a grand full-stop. Well apart from the blog that is.

I did get my hopes up a bit when I managed to persuade, David Walsh, the top-dog Sunday Times sports writer to hire me as his caddie for the Dunhill a few years back. But of course it came to nothing.

In fact , the article I wrote about my Dunhill experience with him, which got published in Hong Kong Golf Monthly and which I thought was reasonably ok (even may I say witty in parts) was never acknowledged by the three-times Sports Journalist of the Year, after I sent it to him.

Poor show David.

In truth I don’t think he ever quite forgave me for putting his 7 iron lay-up into the drink on the 10th at Carnoustie when he was doing rather ok, all said.

Now my love of goff is another parallel with PG. Plum played a lot and indeed liked the odd punt too, and I don’t mean on the River Cam. He was apparently rather good on the old gambling front.

He ended up living in Le Touquet which does seem rather a cool place to hang out. Well if you could put up with the French and a little German invasion of course. But Le Touquet had a cricket field of all things. Hard to imagine I know!

The French do play cricket though. I indeed played alongside a French international a couple of years back while representing the St Andrews University Staff/Student Cricket Team.

Cecile was a mean swinger and had the straightest bat this side of Freuchie as far as I recall. Pretty formidable all said. You should have seen her that balmy summer evening under the magical leafy crests in the lap of Falkland Hill.

Ah get me a bus!

Anyway I’m rambling a bit. I have a new career in the pipeline. I’m getting into tour guiding. So watch this space folks.

Ok it might be my 43rd career change to date but heho, a change is as good as a rest in my book. And I do feel I have fairly good credentials for this now, being a St Andrian, an Edinburgher and have a heap of experience under my belt.

I’m brushing up on scottish history and I’ve got my new kilt ordered from Howie at 21st Century Kilts. The rest will be history.

So it’s altogether one snorter of a year as I’ve managed to hold down two jobs for more than 3 months, got some lucre in the bank, have lost 5kg, acquired a wee pad in Edinburgh, bagged a well paid Tam O’Shanter gig with the Rotary Club, haven’t been barred from any pubs (that I’m aware of), steered clear of the police, won the Chisholm Trophy, maintained my single figure handicap and my foursomes’ partners and my wife are still talking to me.

And get this.

They are back serving me in the Whey Pat again.

Whey hey!

Getting on the Old Lady

Working in my job as concierge at the Fairmont I have been asked numerous times over the past few weeks, especially by keen-eyed Americans, about nabbing a tee-time on the Old Course.

The truth is that there is no miracle way, unless your name is Jack Ma and own half of the universe. He immediately got a tee-time allocated after arriving in St Andrews as part of his ongoing golf tour a few weeks back (according to one of his entourage ‘he has played golf every day around the world over the past three months, mostly in Europe’).

Jack nailed a four-ball at 7.30 am on Friday somehow. I won’t tell how. I am in trouble enough doon toon as it is.

Suffice it to say that he didn’t go through the ballot system!

However your average golfing Joe Bloggs is unfortunately not Jack Ma.

Indeed even a Mr Neil Armstrong who remonstrated with a starter that he was the bloke who had walked on the moon, thought he had a chance of winging it.

‘Aye, but you are nay going to walk onto the Old Course sir!’ was the very dogged de-facto reply from an unswayed starter, who maybe did not appreciate the enormity of his underlying humour, but must have certainly known that he’d brought Neil down to earth (apologies for this! smile sign with wink)

Last night about 10.30pm I was approached by two very determined looking middle-aged Americans who asked about getting an early taxi down to the Old.

‘How early I asked?’

‘2am’ came the firm reply.

They had resolved to camp out in the queue. I booked it and said they should definitely get on queing at that time.

I woke this morning to the pouring rain and took my hat off to these two gentlemen.

I just hope they haven’t caught double pneumonia, the rain stops and indeed that they get on!

Stop Press:

Indeed they did get on! It’s now 8pm the following night and I just saw one of the 2am blokes. He said they got off at 6.30am in the first group!

What a sterling performance.

Perchance dollar.

For the love of money and the 5th Amendment

That’s about the long and the short of it I suppose. This LIV nonsense. Not for the good of the game as some of the LIV numpties are glibly declaring.

But what a total shambles and what a total mess. 11 idiots taking the PGA Tour to task in a Californian District Court for rightly suspending them.

It’s all very Trumpian. An utter sham, a pretence and a big lie. And all for money!

How much do these bunch of Charlie’s want? For playing golf indeed.

It’s all going down hill fast.

But so is the world at the moment all told. I mean look what’s happening across the pond! It’s unbelievable.

America is split down the middle between incredibly nice and intelligent people and the brain-dead scum of humanity (some who unbelievably sit in Congress)

And it appears professional golf is so split too.

Parlous times.

I must end with a bit of a hoot. Trump’s quote yesterday when questioned under oath about possible business valuation fraud.

‘I have absolutely no choice but to invoke the 5th amendment because the current administration has lost all moral and ethical bounds of decency’

I’m afraid that I have no option now but to invoke the 5th as I’m just lost for words.

A golfer and a gentleman

This week at The Fairmont I had my faith restored in professional golfers as I had the great fortune to caddy in a group that included the South African pro Brandon Stone.

What an absolute gentleman he was.

Avid readers of my blog will know of my lingering doubts about the professional golf ranks after my Dunhill experience with the ignorant rude brat that is Matt Wallace and a recent encounter with a self-obsessed and haughty Sir Nick Faldo.

But the delight of Brandon’s company has now changed all that and rather kicked them and the associated negativity into touch, where they indeed belong.

For there is no cost to being nice and considerate and friendly and open-minded, no matter how good a golfer you are.

Thank you Brandon Stone for showing me that.

And what a golfer you are sir.

Wow! What an Open

It’s really quite incredible what Cameron Smith did on the last ten holes at St Andrews to clinch the Open from a fired up Rory.

With Hovland not getting into gear at all on the final day, Rory must have thought that he had the 150th Open Championship in the bag. However Cammy Smith hit 5 consecutive birdies on the trot after the turn and Rory suddenly realised that his playing partner Victor was not the danger.

Cameron’s par on the 17th was absolutely immense all said. The putt around the Road Hole bunker and then to nail a fifteen footer which never looked like missing was almost beyond belief. That up and down effectively clinched him the Claret Jug. That must be one of the biggest putts in golf history, up and downs for that matter.

Poor Rory. He didn’t do much wrong except maybe rest upon his laurels too much.

But wow what a tournament.

I got down to the 18th fifteen minutes before the end to get a bit of the atmosphere. I have never heard anything like the roar of awe when Cameron Young drove to 12 feet on the amphitheatre that was the last. It was really quite remarkable.

And what a spectacle with the hugely appreciative and respectful crowd basking in the late evening St Andrews Bay sun.

When Cameron Smith putted on the last green there was absolute silence. Quite amazing.

What a fine example to the sporting world the golf crowds have shown us this week in the Auld Toon. Wish that football, even rugby would take note.

Now, I’m well excited as I shall be teeing off in the St Andrews Club Summer Meeting this Saturday and really can’t wait to play the Old Lady again.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to bag back to back Spring Meetings (shall I say Meetings as the St Andrews Club one is the Autumn for some reason!?) as I played badly at Mortonhall in Edinburgh last Saturday. Albeit Dave Cockburn and I progressed into the 4th round of the Mortonhall Foursomes on Sunday morning. That’s really the major at Mortonhall all told. Well maybe outwith the Dewar Hill Race of course!

Apart from that I’m loving working up at The Fairmont as a concierge and somewhat ad hoc caddie. What a great team they have up there.

It’s a joy to work with decent people, well mostly!?

Stop Press

I now know who the mystery celebrity was in my last post!

Bruce came up to me last night in the foyer of The Fairmont with a big grin and said he’d gone back to google famous golfers. And there was the man! It was five times Open champion Tom Watson who’d shot the general breeze with our Bruce for 5 minutes and who probably found it very hard to imagine that Bruce didn’t know who he was!

But Bruce is not a golfer and I guess Tom Watson is not as ubiquitous a brand as say Tiger or the kilted caddie.

What a stormer this Open is turning out to be! What with the weather and the massive hyped crowds and Rory right there at the top of the leaderboard after 2 rounds alongside well out of favour DJ and some amateur college kid with a real funky hat.

My money is on that guy. He’s one cool dude.

Now what’s his name?

Great shame for Tiger though. I saw him limping real bad back into his hotel room after his second and last round.

He is one unhappy chappy.