Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Winning Ticket

This was the scene at the river at 8am today. Calm, sunny, and above all, DRY. Alas this wasn’t the scene yesterday when the Coble Boat Race was scheduled.  The first race was due to start at 4P1020484pm and we rushed back from Perth to get there on time. The tide wasn’t in; the beer tent was open; there was this mad, break-your-ankle-for-sure tightrope thingie strung up from the trees and, believe it or not, apparently sane adults were whiling away the time jiggling back and forth  between the branches. I’m just jealous; I can hardly keep my balance walking along a straight road never mind on a tightrope, and it’s a lovely thing to see someone with a bit of poise – or at least, flamboyance – shimmying along.

Anyway I digress. The point is, it started to rain while we were waiting for the tide to come in. And the rain got harder. The more graceful – or flamboyant – of the tightrope walkers approached us with a huge box and asked if we’d like to buy a raffle ticket to boost the funds for the upkeep of the skateboarding park, a pound a strip. And the rain was getting harder. So we bought some raffle tickets and squelched a hasty retreat, promising to come back later to watch the race. But of course we didn’t.

The sun came out, we went out for a walk, and when we camP1020482e back there was this huge, familiar box sitting on the doorstep. We’d won the cake, and here it is: a perfect replica in fondant and ribbon of Newburgh’s skateboard park. How clever is that? Thank you Gloria. I don’t know you, but I believe you are the creator of this work of art, which is even now filling the bellies of the faithful. Good luck to the skateboarders, and here’s to perfect balance. Mind how you go …


P1020464After a wet week we had a glorious Saturday – just what you need for an open-air music festival. Now I’ve never been to T in the Park or any other music festival for that matter and I imagine this one – at Newport-on-Tay – was a wee toty bairn in the festival family. It took place in the car park of the Newport Hotel, which faces right onto the river (or maybe it’s really the sea at this point). Who would have thought there would be room for such a thing in this space? Although it’s such a gorgeous wee site that it’s wasted on car parking. As you stood and watched the bands playing, you could see the RNLI lifeboat racing up and down the river behind.

I was watching the Black Cat Jook Band strutting their stuff and eyeing the Pulled Pork P1020454stall when a familiar body parted the crowd, bearing trays of – well, pulled pork probably – and strode down to the sea wall. I had a tremor of celebrity recognition … I knew I’d seen him before … it was the 2014 Masterchef winner who, as you may remember, came from St Andrews. I remember being xenophobically proud to have a local lad – and a rather bumbling and shy one at that – winning out over all those smooth Southerners. So now I’ve checked on Google and sure enough – Jamie Scott now has his own restaurant – The Newport.

Saturday’s festival wouldn’t have been any kind of culinary challenge for Jamie and in fact the only food obviously on offer (music and beer being the main point) was the rolls stuffed with pulled pork, as previously spotted. The Troubadour eschews eating ‘anything with a face’ so I asked about vegetarian options and of course there was one (so why didn’t they advertise it?) – aubergines and tomato on flatbreads. We had one of each and there was a certain grumbling about the lack of implement for eating the veggie option (none was needed for the pork as it was all snugly wrapped up in the roll). In itself it was tasty but maybe pitta would have made it easier to balance with your beer while you applauded the bands. On the stall there was a tasting menu which looked intriguing and would be well worth returning for. I liked the way all the provender was identified by its place of origin – including ‘Newburgh Chicken’ – I didn’tP1020462 know there was such a thing, and will cause enquiries to be made.

Anyway the festival was great fun and really family-friendly, with the glass walls of the restaurant thrown open to let in the sun. And the music was fantastic. Big congrats to the organisers and I hope there’s another one next year.


What’s this funny spear thing doing on my plate?

P1020383I bought three packets of asparagus for £4 from Tesco this morning, for my elderly tenants, and was feeling a bit guilty about extravagance in a world where mince and tatties are de rigeur. Nobody ever really questions my budgetary judgements – actually I’m pretty thrifty – but I know eyebrows are sometimes raised at some of the ‘fancy’ ingredients I introduce.

Asparagus has to be celebrated though, doesn’t it? Here’s how I celebrated mine last week, in this wonderful Scottish heatwave.P1020387

Still intent on justification for my wanton fanciness, I had a rake through my nutrition books and lo and behold! Here’s all the justification I need: asparagus is anti-inflammatory – brilliant for anybody with arthritis. It also acts as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and keeping the digestive system healthy. And finally, it’s rich in Vitamins C and E, folate, magnesium, potassium and iron. All the good things I need for myself, never mind the tenants. So it’s eggs and asparagus on the menu tonight. Here’s to long life and good health.

The Gin Palace

Old skipping rhyme, dating from the 40s/50s I believe …

RoomP1020424 to Let, enquire within,

Woman put out for drinking gin.

Now drinking gin is a very bad sin,

So Helen goes out and xxx goes in!


A few weeks back, I won a half bottle of gin in a raffle. It was one of those raffles where you choose from what’s on the table. Mine was the second last ticket to be pulled and it was either the gin or the crocheted toilet roll holder. You will guess that this wasn’t one of the posh new gins that Scotland has begun to produce so plentifully in recent years! In fact it was a supermarket own-brand, in the sort of bottle that made you look closely in case it was actually bubble bath instead.

As it turned out, the Troubadour had a full bottle of Gordon’s in his cupboard, and my friend the Rev had been gifted a bottle of Edinburgh Gin. We decided to have a gin tasting, and for hell of it, a blind one. The Troubadour offered to compere the evening as he doesn’t even like gin, so he poured out the measures over ice and added identical doses of tonic, and Rev and I waxed lyrical. It was a very successful evening. One, we agreed, was much, much nicer than the others and one, we denounced sniffily (or maybe squiffily) as ‘very cheap tasting’. Despite all the fancy gins you can get nowadays I’ve always liked Gordons  so we had a bit of debate and eventually agreed on our guesses for all three. The Troubadour had retreated to the kitchen by this time so that we couldn’t see him laughing at us … Yes, reader, we got them ALL wrong!

The one we thought tasted ‘very cheap’ was Gordons; the one we’d agreed was by far the nicest turned out to be the supermarket own brand in the bubble-bath bottle; and the other one – middling, so-so, very pleasant thank you but nothing special, was the Edinburgh Gin. I’m not offering you these findings as any kind of recommendation – your tastes will be different from ours no doubt. Just as a reminder of how very flawed our judgements can be! And not only regarding gin … but that’s a whole other story! Cheers, everyone! And don’t judge the bottle by its label …