FOOD FOR THOUGHT

February 28, 2011

 

West Calder is not a big place. You can walk the length of it in about three minutes. Which is exactly what I did recently. And by the time I reached the far end of the street I was struck by the fact that it’s a place obsessed by food.

Whatever you want in the way of grub you can get easily and quickly in the small town main street. And I don’t just mean groceries. I’m talking about takeaway outlets, restaurants, cafes, and pubs that serve full meals and snacks.

I was so astonished by the overwhelming number of food outlets that I walked back the way I had come and started counting. In the main Street, there are 24 shops, including florists and an ironmonger. There’s one bank and one Post Office.

But from the moment you enter the main street, there is a restaurant that serves full meals, and a pub that serves snacks. A little way on you’ll come across a chippy and a row of restaurants including Italian, Chinese and Indian – you can step straight from one to the other without getting wet on a rainy evening.

A little further on there’s another pub that can provide lunches, suppers and snacks. Then there are two cafes, one directly across the road from the other, before you reach another Chinese takeaway and an outlet that does everything from pizza to burgers and kebabs.

Within burger-throwing distance there’s another pub that supplies meals. And if you leave the town by train, you’ll find another Chinese restaurant at the station.

Wow! For the mathematicians amongst you, that’s over 50% of the outlets providing food in one form or another. And that’s not including a couple of pubs that don’t advertise the fact they offer food… but I bet they do. Oh, and a couple of the retail outlets sell sandwiches, but we won’t include them.

Surely, this has to be some sort of record? One short main street, in a small town, and you can buy meals, snacks and takeaway from more than half of them.

Right, I’m off for something to eat.

Drew McAdam

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BOOKING THE CUTS

February 20, 2011

 

Amidst the swarm of cuts heading this way, our libraries are under threat. Mind you, I would have to admit that it’s been a while since I visited the local library – I have the Internet now.

But like most people I can still recall many special moments. Like the time I happened across a very special book… But before that, we have to start with an advert.

Have you seen the recent TV commercial for YELL.com? It’s advertising an online Yellow Pages service. The commercial tells the story of a gloomy fellow who treks round a number of independent record shops to find a copy of the trance mix track ‘Pulse and Thunder’ by Day V Lately.

Eventually, his daughter tries the online service and finds a copy. He asks the record shop to put it aside for him. “My name?” he gives a little laugh. “It’s Day V Lately.”

Now, older readers will remember a similar commercial for Yellow Pages that ran in 1983. It had a lovely old gentleman trying to track down a book called “Fly Fishing” by JR Hartley. Wasn’t that a wonderful commercial? The old fella’s delight when a bookstore told them they had a copy in stock and he revealed that he was actually J R Hartley was a fabulous TV moment.

It was certainly a good deal better than the new advert with Day V Lately, I think you’ll agree. The new commercial isn’t a patch on the original.

So, what has this to do with libraries? Well – and I swear this is true – when browsing in the West Calder library one day I happened across a book entitled “Fly Fishing” by J R Hartley. Can you imagine my surprise and delight?

Ah, but such moments could be lost forever if we stand silently by and let politicians who didn’t understand basic financial budgeting try to recoup lost billions by cutting back the library service. If that happened, all we would have left is a shadow of the original – a book repository equivalent of Dave wotsisname.

And that’s not right.

Drew McAdam


DIPPY DIRECTIVES

February 14, 2011

I’ve mentioned nutty bylaws in my columns before. But I had some time on my hands recently and I decided to track down some of the really daft regulations that are still on the statute books.

For example, I discovered that it is illegal to fish for salmon on Scotland on a Sunday. Reason? Well, many years ago the Church were concerned that their congregation numbers would decrease; given the choice between 3-hour sermons and a day spent on the river bank… Well, you can see where that’s going. Anyway, the result is that if you fish for salmon on a Sunday you can expect to get your collar felt.

Another one? Because of a complex set of rules involving the Queen’s residences and the 1887 Coroners Act, there is legislation in place that prohibits dying in the Houses of Parliament.

Other barmy bans include a 17th Century edict concerning the eating of mince pies on Christmas Days (you have Oliver Cromwell to thank for that one) and another law makes it illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour. Mind you, these days you’d never get past the security metal detector.

There is also a ban on firing a cannon close to a dwelling house (Met Police Act 1839). Shame. That sounds like fun.

My exhaustive research also uncovered that a woman who is pregnant has the legal right to relieve herself anywhere she wants… though there seems to be some argument over the validity of this one. Mind you, I wouldn’t argue with a heavily pregnant lady who needs to go… and needs to go NOW!

Oh, and shopkeepers at The Centre should be warned: it is illegal for a boy under the age of ten to see a naked shop dummy.

But here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know. There is actually a Statute Law Revision Team. They have been working their way through the statute books and striking out some of the oddities and curiosities. In fact, they have abolished around 2000 laws since 1965. What a great job that would be!

So if you hear of any more ridiculous regulations and dippy directives, please take the time to let me know.

Drew McAdam


IT’S A SIGN

February 7, 2011

Maybe it’s just my twisted sense of humour. But I love funny signs.

As a kid I remember seeing a road sign that stated “Heavy Plant Crossing”. I half expected to see a giant, potted aspidistra crossing the road.

Other signs that have caught my attention over the years include one which said nothing other than: “Warning: this sign has sharp edges.” Eh?

One that particularly appealed to me was: “Warning: Children left unattended will be sold to the circus” And at Table Mountain National Park there is a sign that states “Please look under your vehicles for penguins.”

When I was in my teens we had a family shop in my old hometown. One of the first things my father did when we got the shop was to hang a sign that said “Warning. Shoplifting makes your nose bleed”. It certainly gave a fair indication of what to expect.

But as a student of The Human Condition, I’ve discovered that the signs found in shops, hotels and offices reveal a great deal about the people who work there. Do they take themselves too seriously? Do they have a sense of humour? Signs and notices on the walls of the workplace will giver you a fair indication.

But sometimes the signs tell us about ourselves and our society. For example, I was recently on the train to Glasgow, and I noticed that every window had a sign that sported a big smiley face and the words: “Please do not put your feet on our seats”. Have we become such a feckless society that we actually have to be TOLD that putting your feet up on public transport seats is impolite behaviour?

And then I realised that we must be getting better, because I cannot remember the last time I saw a “No Spitting” notice. It seems we no longer need to be informed that hacking up a grolly and spreading it around is not really acceptable behaviour in polite company.

I guess it really IS a sign of the times.

Drew McAdam