Saturday, December 21, 2013

US Misses the Point on Indian Diplomat

It seems to me that the US is missing the point on the current outrage in India over the strip and cavity search of a female Indian diplomat. They are of course covering up and standing firm closing ranks etc. and their plaintive cry is "well the maid was abused".

They are missing the point that this case encompasses the rage of a huge country whose people have continually been the subject of bad treatment at US immigration, this is just the point of impact, the female diplomat is just a very good example of a lovely Indian girl stripped in front of callous US Homeland guards and violated.

Claiming the guards "had the right" is foolish and helps no one. Basically why would you strip search and cavity search an accredited Indian diplomat whose supposed crime is she underpaid her worker? How does this justify such a search? Is there any, any at all, reason for the search? Was she suspected of anything...of course not, I know exactly what happened and so do you. She was protesting and the guards said "we we'll show you miss uppity n word".

The US should apologize and discipline all the guards and the senior man who instigated this outrage. Its the least they can do to correct this error of judgement.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cows are the problem?

The ongoing debates and upsets about ECO global warming and such has me much amused. Today I read that the big problem that the climate scientists failed to understand was cows. Why? Well cows fart a lot and that is the very gas that is supposedly destroying the globe.....believe it or not. So don't sheep and deer fart too? Is Scotland at the forefront of global warming, has this been considered in the debate on Independence? I am sure, if they knew, Cameron and Osborne the terrible Eton twins would tell Scots that if they vote for independence the world will fine them for too many farts...and not just in parliament.

I sit and shiver in the cold Scottish winters which is why their are only 5 million people living in a beautiful land almost as big as England. I seriously don't believe in global warming. I think its all a lot of fuss about nothing, and that the same scientists who made us all stop eating eggs for 20 years will one day say "Ooops we got it wrong...sorry" and return to their cozy funded research, isolated form the real world as they are.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Best White Bread

Well I didn't ever expect to have to award the "Best" to two different bread shops but the reality is that this is true. The bread shop in Peebles I think its called Forsyth but its close to the gas station on the same side makes the finest tasting white bread I have had for a long time. Their wholewheat sucks though as its one of those crumbly loaves and not a good taste.

Fords in Berwick maintains its crown as by far the best brown bread and a very good white and excellent Scottish bread, but Peebles white has a magic taste that reminds one of childhood somehow.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Visit to Barcelona

Our family visited Barcelona and found it a lovely sophisticated little city, we had a great vacation, even our teenage sons admitting reluctantly they enjoyed it!. We stayed on a boat in the Yacht marina among the super yachts, quite an experience, picture of me eating breakfast on deck wow felt a million dollars. The yacht is really great mainly because the host and owner Cas is just the best, he makes you feel at home and caters to your every whim. Their web site is one of the nicest ways to visit a city.

The city reeks of Gaudi, he really is Barcelona in many ways as his vast artistic genius fills the city and affects everywhere.

We had the most fun however around Montjuic the hilly North of the city where the architecture and feel of the place is splendid. There are good restaurants everywhere serving the best of Spain and around the globe

Fish and Chips Kelso - The Town House

Had a late night fish and chips from this fairly new chip shop in Kelso. The other one is not very good at all but this one is not bad. I would rate it about a 5/10 The chips were big and chunky which was good , the batter a bit oily but ok. The mushy peas were awful and sweet tasting, no idea where they came from never tasted mushy peas like them before. Just like many of these place a menu that is so extensive its obvious they can't cook it all properly. Why do the new breed of chip shops think they must cook 500 dishes??

When  Chip shop brochure says they also sell cat food and aspirin one has to wonder where chip shops are going frankly!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Our Own Ooft! hot sauce

My wife and I have spent two years developing a family daily recipe into a product. Our table always had hot sauce based on my wife's fathers recipe. Friends begged for a bottle and in the end we decided to make it for sale. Well two years on and we have learned a lot but now we do have a product to sell.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kweilin - Edinburgh

This friendly little Chinese on Dundas St is the best Chinese I have eaten in Scotland. It is expensive, as four of us was nearly 150 pounds. But in fairness we had a whole lobster in black bean which was very nice indeed. Do not choose sweet and sour fish as its a bit fishy I found ( menu said sea bass or monkfish but I think we were served a lesser fish), and the char sui was a bit dry, but the rice, noodles and choi sum was top class. It is noted for fresh seafood so i would suggest sticking to that, but they can cook. Seriously good Chinese in a nice room.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The true horror of British Restaurants

In the 1960's and 70's British restaurants were known all around the world by travelers as the worst. They served up awful food using microwaves, and this period has been epitomized in many cooking programs as the "scampi and chips" generations.

Unfortunately despite the efforts of the Roux brothers in the 70's until today and of many many chefs down to Jamie Oliver today the real problem has not been uncovered until my visit to Siamese Kitchen in Duns this week made me realize.

The big problem is the British people themselves who put up with rubbish and say "oh well it wasn't bad really..." when it was in fact awful. The lack of understanding of real cuisines (what can one expect from British travelers who go to Spain and order fish and chips)  has led them to accept totally awful Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants who produce to rote their bland boring chop sueys and rogan joshs, cooked below par, with little flavor and very few original or fresh ingredients.

The number of times we have been recommended restaurants by people and when we tried them we were shocked at how bad they were is almost 100%.  In this blog I have tried to be very fair to all the restaurants reviewed but if you read them there are VERY few who have not had serious problems. You get what you pay for is not true. You get what you deserve is maybe closer to the truth, if we don't complain and ask questions we will get this rubbish forever...think about it!

Siamese Kitchen - Duns

Oh dear what to say about this, the only Thai restaurant in the area? Two lovely ladies run it and they have spotlessly clean kitchens and are lovely people. Unfortunately they have either allowed their cooking to deteriorate to locals tastes, or they fail to cook properly. I think the latter as the pad thai had echoes of the real thing, but sadly lacks all flavor. Thai cooking is all about the use of FRESH herbs  peppers and they have eliminated all that. Also the chicken with basil and peppers has no basil and no peppers so as you can imagine is pretty bland! What a shame, they are both Thai I think and they probably cook great food for themselves but serve up this watered down bland concoction for guests. I cannot recommend it which is a great shame as the Borders desperately needs alternatives to haggis and neeps!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Amazing Elephant - go to France to see!

Our family have just returned from a 3 week trip to France and visited Les Iles de Machines in Nantes which is a life changing place. Art is very definitely alive and well in this commune of artists designers. What incredible steam punk vision of the world of Jules Verne (born in Nantes). The elephant is over 30 foot high and walks the streets with you on its back in a cabin of polished mahogany and huge pistons and rods all working as its huge frame moves ponderously along the streets. It is a great life experience. The artists vision which is now in the making for 2019 is a world tree, all made of metal with creatures alive in the tree is breathtaking. They have a scale model and the elephant can walk beneath the branches, which have caterpillars and birds that fly. Awesome and well worth going to France just to see this vision coming alive!

Website address for the Elephant

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Jehovah's Witnesses good tenants

I was surprised this week while talking to a manager of a large estate in the Borders with some 100 houses rented out. He told me that many of his tenants were Jehovah's Witness and that he liked them as tenants because they were law abiding and good tenants often spending their own money to improve properties rather than expecting the landlord to do it all. "We get no trouble from these tenants at all and as every landlord knows a bed tenant can can cost an estate a lot of money, not just in fixing up the house after they leave but even in getting them out in the first place. Plus bad tenants breed problems with other nearby tenants when the house deteriorates and they often have unkempt and overgrown gardens". Overall we find this group to be ideal tenants, they are quiet and even their children are well behaved.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rogano Restaurant Glasgow

Visited Rogano in Glasgow with a friend from Bermuda I had not seen for over 40 years. Excellent old fashioned quality restaurant, even if the waiters are from Morocco!. Its the sort of place the waiters wear full dress and bibs. Wonderful art deco interior by the designer of the Titanic interior. Food was very good. I had fresh asparagus followed by grilled bream and it was perfectly done. I would recommend this Glasgow institution, the oldest restaurant in the City, to anyone who loves fish.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Peelham Farm Organics

I met the people at a Farmers Market in Kelso last weekend and was very impressed by their commitment to good produce and by their friendly attitude. I bought some shoulder bacon which I had today with eggs and mushrooms and it was nice and juicy and obviously home made. I found it a bit porky, i.e. I could taste the pig, but some people might find that nice. But they had an impressive range of products including some nice looking chorizo. THEIR WEBSITE

They also host training days for people who wish to make their own bacon and sausages and butchery and I may well attend as I always wanted to do it myself. They offer a range of farm produced meats and downstream products such as sausages, bacon and speciality products such as carpachio. Well worth a look.

Crolla's Fish and Chips Galashiels

A nice clean shop right on the main drag through Galashiels this shop stands out having a seperate pizza shop. Its clean and nice and the fish looked good, but we didn't buy as they DO NOT SERVE mushy peas!!

I was totally shocked by this, a fish and chip shop not doing mushy peas is like a hamburger joint not doing fries. If this doesn't shock you then you don't understand the taste combination that mushy peas brings to fish and chips.

Abbey Fish and Chips Melrose

Nicely tucked away in a side street just above the town square is this newish fish and chips. Melrose had a fish and chips years ago but it fell on hard times and closed due, I suspect, to Melrose people being too high and mighty to eat such lowly fare. Well this shop won't change their opinion as its quality is well below par. Hard dry nasty chips and dry fish with no flesh. We were most disappointed by this new addition to the fish and chip scene in the Borders. The shop is overly ambitious offering kebabs, pizzas and fish and chips and I suspect doing nothing well, although a man in front of me had kebab and it looked better than the fish. One wonders how they could produce such bad chips frankly. The owner seems aloof and even his own staff look at him, as customers pile up, and he stands there doing nothing, poor customer service as well as poor quality food.

Cannot recommend this shop at all.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Good Bread - Floors Castle Shop

Floors Castle, home of the Dukes of Roxborough sits on the bank of the Tweed at Kelso. Behind the Castle and just off the Kelso to St Boswells back road is the entrance to the Castle garden center, cafe and shop. The shop is part of the cafe and has a good range of specialty home made preserves and baked good produced by the Castle Kitchens. As these kitchens also feed the Dukes family the quality is excellent. If you are a lover of good crusty bread this is a place to buy, and get bread of a quality unobtainable anywhere else in the Borders. They also sell a range of home made pies although the one I bought this week was awful as the bottom of the crust was uncooked dough and spoiled what would have been a lovely pie. Nonetheless for a tourist or family that likes to visit unique and interesting little places this is a must. The garden center is very good and has a wide range of unusual plants and some lovely greenhouses that have been used since the 1800's to feed the family with winter produce.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What a Difference a little bit of sun makes!

For the last few days we have had some sun. Its still cold but oh how the sun has picked up this beautiful Borders countryside and made it suddenly a pleasure to be out and about after the awful summer last year and the 7 month winter!

Self Catering Market Dies in 2013

My wife and I spoke to a lady today who is well established for many years in the self catering business with top of the line cottages and houses for rent. She told us that the whole rental market is dead this year due to the late snow ruining Easter, and the poor economic conditions. I suggested that the tourist office is promoting "staycations" where British people holiday in their home country. Her response was "yes they are, they are staycationing in their own homes not travelling at all, and saving on petrol as well!". What a shame.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


We have had cold wet, snowy and miserable weather since October last year, that is 7 months of the most depressing weather I have ever lived through. At last I realize why depression is the number one disease in Scotland! During the period I longed for my old Caribbean home. 7 months is a long time without a nice week of weather. We did have odd days, like the one we walked the walls at Berwick but they were rare gleans in a uniform grayness  We had thick snow and even were snowed in during late March this year the coldest on record (see picture of 4 foot drifts on our drive).

Yesterday was the first day of good weather and I mowed the lawns for the first time, today heavy rain again.

Kelso Butcher revisited

Sorry to say my visit to the main butcher in Kelso (next to W H Smith) was just a trip back to my last. While the meat looks lovely the prices are shockingly high £8.50 for a chicken I would have got at my butcher in Earlston for £4.50. Even the lady on the counter winced at the price as she must have known it was too high and asked me did I want to change my mind when I complained.

I did notice a new antique store on the same street, owned by a couple who have returned from France to live closer to relatives in Selkirk and Edinburgh. Nice little shop and well worth a visit.

Thoughtless Planning

It seems to me driving around the Borders that planning officials after the war made a pact to make Scotland ugly. It must be so as to this day they approve only houses covered in an ugly cement wash that gets uglier as it gets older, unlike Scotland's history of stone houses which get nicer as they age.

Below is our house a good example of ugly. This is what almost all newer Scottish houses look like and I can see no reason for it other than its cheap to do. But that is no excuse for PLANNERS. They should be considering the look of the countryside, which is blighted by these ugly houses.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Boost for Local Butchers

The horsemeat scandal is doing wonderful things for local butchers, where the provenance of meat is unquestionable. I was in our local last week and the butcher was saying to customers "what you see is what you get, all our sausages are made from the beef and pork from local farmers delivered fresh every week". I think we will see a great move in the UK to "buy local". I know from observation that each local butcher in the Borders gets a sheep and half a cow delivered from local farms every week, that makes up what they sell, so if you want sheeps liver or a particular cut you may find someone else bought that this week and you have to wait. Our family stopped buying supermarket meat a while ago.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Halliwells Butchers Selkirk

Right on the market Square is a local butcher that matches St Boswells. Their beef sausages are good and the whole display is wholesome and good quality. I particularly like the board naming the farms where their produce comes from. This is the only butcher in the Borders that does this and it should be rewarded!.

They carry a wide range of pies including fruit all home baked and jams and preserves. The staff wear striped aprons and the are clean and look good.

Borders Supermarkets

There are major supermarkets in Galashiels, Berwick, Hawick and Kelso.

Morrisons are in Hawick and Berwick, good stores but pricey we find. However they do have good home baked bread, in fact the only supermarket that has good bread. Their spelt and wholewheat is excellent even by artizan standards.

Sainsbury is only in Kelso a new store and quite small. They do have good quality meat and their fish counter is the only one in any supermarket to carry Hake as a whole fish, important for curry lovers.

Asda is only in Galashiels, its a good store, huge and full of produce. I think it may price compare to Tesco but we find it a bit confusing in layout.

Tesco is in Hawick, Galashiels (A superstore) and Berwick. Tesco is good for people who appreciate foreign food as they have the best selection including from our needs salt fish which we use weekly. No other supermarket carries it or giant papaya. So if your Portuguese or Spanish or French or West Indian or African you use Tesco!

There are no Waitrose in the Borders which is a shame as it might help with variety.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Berwick Walls

My wife and I took advantage of the wonderful weather on New Years Day 2013 to walk right around Berwick upon Tweed ancient walls. Built in Elizabethan times these walls dominate the town. Its a lovely but windy walk of about 1.5 miles on good ground well maintained. There are impressive views of both the town and the water, from the mouth of the Tweed to the sea. During the walk one sees the scale of fortifications with hidden gun emplacements set to rake invaders from the sides as they supposedly stormed the walls. Unfortunately for the English builders any Scots with ideas of invading England just ignored Berwick and drove down through the land side. The fortifications were never tested.