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.

the kilted caddie is on a mission

Ok I’ll admit that I’m a tad non-plussed. I was at Nicola’s leaving doo in Charlotte Square last week and was a bit annoyed at the women demonstrating about the destruction of their rights as a result of that GRB nonsense. In principle of course they have a point but what about men’s rights too?

In St Andrews I’m rather up against it on that front, all said. But now I’ve decided to try my hand at getting membership at St Rule’s (for the bridge), The St Andrews Ladies Putting Club (for the putting) and the St Andrews Ladies Bridge Club (for the gossip).

And I’m not going to fill out a gender recognition certificate to change anything. No chance.

Let’s see how this one swings?

However I think there is about as much chance of it as me getting ‘put up’ for the R&A. What?

I’m so glad though that they changed back the old Swilken and taken away the Dobbie’s patio extensions. That sort of thing only works on April the first chaps. It’s Feb.

Now, the next stop gentlemen is to revert the name of the shop by the 18th green of the Old, ‘The Open’, back to ‘Old Tom Morris’ and the poor chap may stop oscillating in his grave somewhat.

Pigs may fly of course. But hope springs eternal and all that.

What is the Links Trust up to now?!

You do wonder sometimes at the mentality of the powers that be at the Links Trust, the body that runs the golf in St Andrews. For now they have put patios either side of the Swilken Bridge. It’s awful. They have totally ruined the most iconic scene in the world of golf. Period.

Of course the Links Trust have a history of doing this sort of thing. A few years ago they renamed the wonderful ‘Old Tom Morris’ shop by the eighteenth green as ‘The Open’!

Sacrilege what?

And of course I do have my personal gripe with them as well for banning from me working down at the Old Course after I wrote a tongue in cheek article on the R@A. I have framed my final letter of warning from them on this matter. That is priceless. And I am rather proud of it. I quite liked that article too mind you. Shame they rather saw the wrong side of it what.

These chaps really have to get with it a bit. But this last act of desecration on the Old Course itself is a real shocker.

I imagine though that, like Dom Raab’s tenure on the front benches now, these Dobbie’s patios won’t be there for long.

In praise of a very good butcher

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 of course.

It’s a topper of a shop with a prime position in the heart of Bruntsfield and has 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 nearly 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. The fringe is full of them. Ten to a penny. Although they are rarely very funny. At least in my experience.

No, far better to get down to the butchers or a similar such place. It’s really rum stuff. And overlooked by the majority living their frenzied lives nowadays.

I love Angus and Bob’s 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. Quite 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 that 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 well below par (above par?!) Shame.

But at least Penman’s is opening up a shop in Anstruther. That means that 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 does not satiate the soul.

God get me a train and get me down 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.


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!