Irn Bru and Deep Fried Mars Bars….

I was a way for a few days last week in the heart of Scottish Border Country. Where the gastronomic delight of the Deep Fried Mars Bar was invented! And the only place I think on the planet where they drink the revolting ‘taste of girders’ aka Irn Bru. If you get past the bright orange E-number laden look, there’s the taste…

It’s pretty much chips with everything. And melted cheese on chips is better.

Recently the Economist published an article under the heading – Glasgow – No City for Old Mean – you can read the article here. But an extract suggests, “Even in wealthy neighbourhoods mortality rates are 15% higher than in similar districts of other big cities. In rougher parts the difference is starker. A study by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health found that between 2003 and 2007 there were 4,500 more deaths in the city than might have been expected given the age and poverty of the population.”

It’s all a bit odd, because, the Borders, especially, are an amazing place. This really is God’s Country. Miles of rolling hills and some of the best Golf Courses I have played on. In some parts you really do get a sense of isolation – the air is clean (and wet!) and the views spectacular (apart from the wind turbines). It looks healthy! And walking around the course is clearly healthy.

But wander into the towns and you do see the plethora of take-aways and pubs. Galashiels on a Friday night is fight-night. The drunks don’t take long to be looking for a fight!

I didn’t have a deep fried mars bar – nor did I savour Irn-Bru – I avoided Tenants Lager too. As you can tell I have turned to healthy living…

The Scotland Disaster….

I’m back from the Borders. Some call it God’s Country. I call it wet.

We did see a tiny bit of sunshine, but Thursday and Friday were a farmers delight. It poured – and then some. It was also cold. This was not my idea of fun. I have come to the conclusion that I’m a fair weather golfer. Getting cold, wet and muddy is for others.

What I didn’t mention in my blog in the week was that we had a fairly disastrous start. I was getting a lift with one of my golfing buddies. He picked me up and we loaded the car with three grown blokes and their bags (golf / clothes). All was going well until we hit the M! and were around 20 miles into the journey – when his car decided to adopt ‘limp mode’. Restricted to 50mph. We turned back. We swapped for my car – which is not designed for three – as we quickly discovered. So we had to abandon quite a bit of gear.

On the second day, my car developed exactly the same problem! And so we drove around Scotland – and all the way home with the car slipping between normal (fast) and limp (slow). It would reset itself for a little while, but it’s off to the Doctors on Monday for an overhaul.

And if bad news usually comes in threes (ignoring the weather) one of my other mates got a call that his father had collapsed. He had to leave us – and we heard later that morning that his dad had died. This certainly put a dampener on the day.

So perhaps this trip wasn’t meant to be. There were some highlights – but not many.

Will try to lift the spirits next week on the blog. After all – it couldn’t get worse…

Bonnie Scotland

Was it Skegness (‘Skeggy’ to us Nottingham types) that was oh so bracing? I think so, although possibly an ad-mans spin on blustering gales?

As you read this I wake up this morning in ‘Bonnie’ Scotland – yet another phrase which hides the real meaning. What I mean is that I’m in a cold place which generally stops England from fraying. It’s that time of year when a pilgrimage is made to play the ‘good walk spoiled’ game of golf. This has become a regular fixture for the group of us from Nottingham Squash Club – who have our own mini golf society.

And I can confirm that there is some sort of different climate up North. It is several degrees cooler, but yesterday was acceptable. The forecast for today, however, is that the sky is going to be a different sort of angry black. If I’m honest it’s not weather for golf!

We had always assumed that if it rained for four days that would be a reasonable result.

We are staying in Peebles, a nice little place, where there are fewer fights than Galashiels. We are also in a Hotel where we are not banned from. There was a misunderstanding at Burts Hotel a couple of years ago and the delightful and customer-facing Mr Henderson (owner extraordinaire) barred us – not just for Christmas, but rather for life. He muttered something about ‘responsible adults’. In fairness I have never claimed this title. Nor were the various ‘incidents’ anything to do with me!

I love my golf, I just wish the weather would change back – just a little. If you know anyone in charge of the stuff, a little word in their shell-like would be much appreciated!

In the meantime, I’ll put some wet weather gear on and try again today. The cries of “In the hole” or “who’s the daddy” ringing in my ears!


When being English helps?

It is said by my Scottish in-laws that the football team they support is ‘whoever is playing England’!At least I know where I stand.

I was watching the run up to the Masters Golf on Thursday night and I can see why there is some grumpiness about the English.

Commentators in all sports do it, it’s not just the golf ones.

The scenario is that Lee Westwood is quite clearly English. No doubt. Local boy and doing pretty well. English to the bone. Then you have Paul Lawrie, although born in Aberdeen, it seem he is ‘British’. As is the amazingly talented Rory McIlroy – no mention of that little Island where he was born, clearly ‘British’.

Perhaps you can understand why we get some stick from the Scots? We just deny that a place called Scotland exists. If a Scotsman is winning then he automatically acquires ‘British’ status.

On the other hand, last year when McIlroys game fell apart on the 10th hole – he loses that Britishness – at that point he reverted to the ‘unlucky Irishman’…

Listen out next time, it is subtle, but rather frightening!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged British, English, , Lee Westwood, Masters 2012, Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy, Scottish

Scotland Golf Tour – Autumn 2011

It was six months ago that I was last in Scotland – but for the last couple of days I have been in Border Country. Specifically between England and Edinburgh, where they have some fantastic golf courses.

One of the tricky holes at Torwoodlee!

As before we use Freedom of the Fariways tickets – which are great value. We get six rounds of golf for £95. But this time we had some spare vouchers – so my six rounds cost £10!

The six we played were:

Lauder – 9 holes. Wet, windy and horrid conditions. In no hurry to go back – a very poor score!

Torwoodlee – We played 9 holes in the morning and 18 in the afternoon. Conditions had improved – and this was a great course. It’s hilly to say the least! A better score around here.

Innerleithen – 9 holes. One of my favourite Scotland courses. It’s old, tiny and very tricky. A good score (4 over par in 9) so I like it!

Peebles. This is a proper course, it’s big and long. I was hitting the ball well and hit my longest drive here – 282 yards. Conditions were good – and the courses is in superb condition.

Woll – 18. We couldn’t get onto our favoured last day course of Hawick, so Woll was the choice. I was enjoying it until I pulled a muscle in my back – at which point my game was over… It did give me a chance to write this blog!

We stayed this time in Peebles – the Green Tree Hotel. The are really nice people and it’s good value. It’s not 4*, but it’s not 4* prices either. It is clean and comfortable.

So that’s it I guess for my goldf tours of 2011. But we love these courses that I guess we’ll be back in 2012.

It does seem odd that I have played more golf in Scotland this year than in England?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Edinburgh, , , Golf in Scotland, Hawick, Innerleithen Golf Club, Lauder Golf Club, Peebles, Peebles Golf Club, , Torwoodlee Golf Club, Woll, Woll Golf Club

Lessons from golf?

I have never had a golf lesson in my life; my playing friends might suggest that it shows! I can normally hack around a course, but the flashes of brilliance are more than outweighed by some less than brilliant shots. Consistent I’m not…

But this isn’t a blog about golf lessons, but rather about the lessons we can learn from golf. I heard Rory McIlroy before his winning round at the US Open on Sunday being interviewed by the Sky Sports reporter. He was talking about “small targets”.

Small targets was a two-fold technique. The first, in golf, is easy. You aim at small targets – especially the 4 inch diameter one in the middle of a green. Hit it often, in few shots and you will win.

But Rory was talking about a technique of breaking a course down into smaller constituent parts. And this is a great method we can use in our lives. My late Partner in business, Alec Hardy, would always say that it was easier to have a job list of three matters than one of twelve. He could get through three and then start another three, rather than have the distraction of a large number of things. The larger the list, the more distracting the chatter from it all. This was McIlroys point – don’t worry about Hole 17 when you are on Hole five.

It is easy in our modern lives to get caught up in lots of jobs. My professional life is punctuated by hundreds of ongoing jobs – and sometimes trying to prioritise them is harder than the work itself!

So – bin all the long job-lists. Break them down into small targets. Make short wins – string a few together and you might win a US Open!

I am booked in for a golf lesson shortly. That will be interesting!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged , Congressional Country Club, , Rory McIlroy, Sky Sports, small targets, Sports, U.S. Open,

A great golf ‘toy’

As you probably know I like my gadgets… I have a few (most made by Apple) but there are some others too…

Last week I played golf in the Borders in Scotland, as part of the Nottingham Squash Club Society. This was our third trip and seems to have become a regular feature in the Calendar. There are some stunning golf courses and through “Freedom of the Fairways” it’s great value for money.

It also gave me an opportunity to test out one of the very latest gadgets for golf. For some time now you have been able to buy a GPS unit and they have been getting more and more ‘intelligent’. The latest ones have colour screens which show you ‘trouble’ and then greens – with key distances. They are the modern replacement for the Caddy!

I had considered picking one up, but they are quite expensive – around £350.

Mine is a little different – it is in a watch. It doesn’t have a fancy screen, nor is it in colour. It just shows you the distance to front, middle and back of the green from wherever you are on the course! It ‘managed’ my 6 rounds of golf and it was brilliant. The accuracy is quite unbelievable – and the result on screen is instant. It even knows when you have left a green heading for the next tee!

The only issue is that all of my playing partners wanted me to tell them how far they were from the green…

It may seem like a bit of a cheat? I don’t thinks so as it didn’t help me climb any higher on the leader board than 7th place – although I did win at one of the courses!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Borders, freedom of the fairways, Garmin, , golf watch, GPS, Nottingham Squash Club, Peebles Golf Course,

Golf – a most frustrating game!

The golf season has started for some of us. Some play through the winter, but I am a fair-weather golfer.

Augusta - easy really?

This week sees the start of The Masters from Augusta. I don’t watch much sport on TV, but I can make an exception for this one! There have been some great moments- Tiger winning in 1997 by 12 shots to become the youngest winner and Faldo winning in 1996 despite going into the final round 6 shots down the Greg Norman – were tow of the best. But the tournament has the ability to demonstrate some stunning golf shots.

And so back to my golf. I finished last season in the Squash Club Society at a 15 handicap. I played in September before hanging up the shoes for the winter. Then last week I played for the first time. It had been my intention to get on the range to hit a few balls beforehand, but work put paid to that as an idea.

So I turned up at Springwater Golf Course with a few minutes to spare and with zero preparation. I shot 84 and came 4th. And so the handicap tumbled to 11. This seems rather harsh, but the Handicap Committee work in mysterious ways…

What I do know with almost certainty is that next time the score will be low 90′s (where it normally is) and there will have been more golf played! There is no rhyme or reason to the game.

But we still love it!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Green stuff Tagged Augusta, Augusta National Golf Club, , Golf course, Greg Norman, handicap, Lee Westwood, Masters Tournament, Sport, Tha Masters, Tiger Woods

Irn-Bru with that haggis sir?

The duck tape holding the bath together was a clue. With another four stars gained this would have been a four star hotel. Scraping two was I think something of an aberration or mirage from the past.

Hawick - where I didn't get a hole in one

Still, it was undergoing refurbishment; we needed to excuse them whilst they did it. That wasn’t a question – more a mission statement.

My second trip to Irn-Bru (they now have diet Irn_bru apparently) Country to play golf this year was punctuated by a stay at the Abbotsford Arms Hotel at Galashiels (pronounced ‘Gala’). Their web site is undergoing ongoing refurbishment. This should also have been a clue. A big fat one.

Trip Advisor people were pretty forthright here. But it was a forgone decision as we had left the sleeping arrangements to my mate ‘Baby Brains Burton’. This won’t happen again. He is just rubbish at choosing hotels.

The Hotel cost £40 per night each. Whilst I don’t advocate wasting money there is a level at which you should aspire in life – and it’s some way above this. Especially for a holiday. It was better than the £24.99 he had originally chosen – that one had a commode in the corner. A tarpaulin strung between two trees would have been better.

The only saving grace at the Abb (as it is lovingly known – “Fab at the Abb”..) were the staff; who were very friendly. Even if the owner did sniff snuff! I think my Grandad used to do this? I declined the offer – it looks vaguely illegal snorting up lines of black powder….apparently they do a white one too. Yeah right.

The Abb staff were accommodating in providing a high chair for Steve. He is 48 (cm from the ground.) We thought it was funny.

The golf was the saving grace – as before in the Spring we played some fantastic courses in stunning settings. The locals are lucky – they have some excellent courses on their doorstep. Innerleithen is a favourite – only 9 holes but very challenging! We enjoyed Duns too and Minto is always good. Hawick, where the day before we played held a Pro-Am to honour the “Voice of Rugby” Bill McLaren. He was a member at the club and scored a hole in one at the 16th hole – which is probably one of the trickiest par 3′s I have ever seen!

So plans are afoot to return next year – and I am booking the hotel… I sincerely hope that my hotel in Shanghai later this week is marginally batter!

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be?

Looking forward is great…but looking back can be fun too?

When on holiday a few weeks ago, I came across that drink of my childhood – dandelion & burdock. The taste is wonderful, but the smell is better! No one else in my house likes it and I can’t fathom that at all! I have no idea what it is really – dandelions? And what is burdock? According to wiki – they are weedy things and the drink dates back to 1265…nostalgic indeed!

Then I bought a new ipod a few weeks ago – the others can’t cope with the enormity of the library – just around 140gB now – so the 160gB gives me a bit of headroom. I have been listening to the ipod on random – using the rather excellent genius results. Bowie, The Jam, The Rats and others. But reminiscing at its best! There were some dodgy songs too – including Dollar…. not cool. And quickly skipped (honest).

My youngest son, Jack, is learning to drive and he has been looking at cars. He is thinking about having a Ford Capri when he passes his test. Now that was a great car in its day. I never had one, until my boss went on holiday and lent me his (conditionally I dropped him at the airport and picked him up two weeks later!).

And then I sat down to watch the Women’s Golf – and the British Open last Sunday. It was at Royal Birkdale. This is close to where I lived for nearly three years – as I blogged about last month. I have very happy memories of this place; not that I ever got to play golf there! I do remember cross country running in those sand dunes – painful!

I am beginning to sound – and feel old.

Right, back to the here and now. Plugged in the new Coral album. Brilliant.