Monthly Archives: November 2011

The quest for the Ragged Trousered Philanthropist

Christmas shopping for my husband is normally frustrating and challenging – but not this year.

Combining his love of books and politics I set off on a trawl of the West End’s second hand bookshops in search of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist .

Alba Musik – rare books and music lovers

First stop, Alba Musik on Otago Street , a shop ‘run by a musician for musicians’ that stocks rare books and sheet music.  Calm instantly washes over me as I’m greeted by a tangible house of books – the wall is a neatly stacked masterpiece of words and wonder. The owner is lovely and incredibly helpful, trying to help me in my quest for The Philanthropist.  And although, in the end, we don’t find it, I’ve discovered a magical solitude and managed to pick up another Christmas present just the same. 

Voltaire and Rousseau – welcome to the world of discovery

Voltaire book shopEncouraged, my next stop is Voltaire and Rousseau on Otago Lane.  This enchanting hide-away is to be admired.  Around since the early 1970’s, there’s piles of books balancing precariously on each other – everywhere you turn another book – really barely room to move.  

You can’t rush in a place like this and really why would you want to.  Instead dive in –  bury yourself in the wonderful world of books; there’s hours of searching and discovery at your fingertips.   To my delight I’m told they recently had a copy of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist – to my dismay, someone has beaten me to it.  I leave my name and number just in case another resurfaces.

Caledonia Books – literary lounge heaven

Undeterred I’m onto Caledonia Books.  This quaint bookshop has been around for the last 25 years and the owners have successfully created complete comfort in the wee lounge area tucked away from piles of books that guard the wrought iron spiral staircase.  As Kafka says “A good book is the best friend there is.”  And in this solace I am truly surrounded by friends – though unfortunately The Philanthropist is not among them.   And so I move on.

Create your own tale – this Christmas support your local bookstore

Admittedly with a few clicks of the mouse I could probably find The Philanthropist online – but the utter joy and satisfaction in finding it tucked between the shelves of one of these captivating bookshops is worth so much more.   And of course there’s also the story of the chase! 

I may not have found the book (yet) but I have managed to lose myself in magical world of discovery for the afternoon – in fact  it’s some of the most pleasurable Christmas shopping I’ve done, even if I’m still two steps behind The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist.

The quest continues.

– B


Silent Sunday – 27 November

Loo wall philosophy….

love not fear on wall of Glasgow loo

Joy to the world – I’ve found the perfect Christmas gift!

There’s less than a month till the big day and usually this countdown sends me into absolute panic.  What and where to get that perfect gift for all the people in your life?

Christmas shopping is enough to drive even the most sane batty.  And I totally sympathise.  So here’s a few of the great places in Glasgow that will set your mind at ease and make your shopping a snap without breaking the bank.

The quirky

De Courcy’s Arcade on Creswell Street is home to a variety of shops and an absolute treasure trove of wonderful things.   The Maisonette is just one of the fantastic shops and is a must for any of those hard-to-buy excentrics.

Describing itself as ‘a gloryhole of unusual homewares, stationery, art, gifts, textiles, music and more’, it truly has something for everyone and even better has treats and trinkets for all price ranges from 1-100 quid!

Christmas tree at Maia shop, Glasgow
Maia – something for everyone

The person with everything

Maia is quickly becoming one of my favorite shops – boasting some of the most unique gift ideas and possibly the friendliest staff and best customer service in Glasgow; this lovely shop is a must stop.  Whether you’re looking for him, her, friends, family, colleagues or the kids, you’ll find it here.

Tucked down the stairs on 21 Bath Street this magical wee shop is stocking stuffer heaven and offers some of the most original and well priced jewellery, books, bags, kids stuff and best novelty gifts in the city.  And so much more – so go, you won’t be disappointed.

The man

As the saying goes, food is the way to a man’s heart – and no more so than in January.  Because once the festive season bubble has busted along with the bank account, it’s nice to have a delicious meal to look forward to – so treat him with a gift certificate to somewhere delicious.  Some of our absolute favorites  are for the semi-traditionalist – Left Bank ; for the quirky cool dude The Tiki Bar  and for the foodie –Two Fat Ladies – possibly serving up some of the best food on the planet – let alone in Glasgow.

Failing that, warm his heart (and body) with a choice bottle of whisky from the Whiskey Shop  in the Buchanan Galleries.  And give him the perfect resting spot in one of the inviting, comfy chairs from Nancy Smillie’s shop in the West End.

The fashionista

Also located at De Courcy’s Arcade on Creswell Lane, Miss Lotti Lou’s specialises in creating beautiful made-to-measure 40’s and 50’s inspired fashion – that much more authentic because it’s all created from vintage and repurposed materials.  You’ll definitely be on the top of the best gift of 2011 list.


Yes, don’t forget to treat yourself – especially as you’ve been out pounding the pavement for everyone else.  You’ve scoured the shops – and you know where to get the most wonderful gifts – so go for it,  you totally deserve it!


Introducing….the lion tamer

I have curly hair.
But not glorious, lush curls – more of an uncontrollable mane.  Fine, disobedient spirals that can never be brushed.  In fact, my hair devours and dismantles a brush.  And even worse, my temperamental locks take forever to grow.  If the haircut is horrid – unfortunately I’m stuck with it.

And I’ve had so many bad haircuts that admittedly I leave it for months before having to reluctantly try another hairdresser.  Typically the result is the same – an empty wallet and hair fit for a hat.So this time I did my research* – and found Elaine at Alan Edwards Salon in the Merchant City.

Elaine – Zen hair warrior

Elaine has curly hair.  And  so I am hopeful.   Still, I arrive at the salon nervous.   It’s bright, boisterous with colourful bottles of product everywhere – a typical salon.  And then I speak to Elaine.  And it’s different.

Elaine is not typical.

She doesn’t spend the first 15 minutes asking me if I’ve ever straightened my hair or insisting that she force it into submission.  Instead she asks me questions about my hair, detailed questions.   She assesses and identifies things about my hair.  She banishes the photos that I’ve brought with me of women with hair that is curly – but nothing like mine.

And after we discuss my hair at length,  it’s washed and I’m fed a stream of crucial information about what’s being put in my hair and why.  And then Elaine gets into the zone.  Initially she moves my hair this way and that with Zen like communication between her and each follicle.  I don’t interrupt.

And then the magic truly begins – she cuts my hair twice – once wet, once dry –  because as she logically points out – hair is so different when wet and dry.  It makes perfect sense, even though I’ve never experienced this before.

Welcome to the 21st century

She cuts it,  she twists spirals through it, adds magical product and coaxes it all into profection with a diffuser.  And my hair looks amazing.  And then she cuts some more – including that annoying straight bit at the back.  And it looks even more amazing.

curly hairMy hair is transformed – suddently it’s thick, defined and my face had changed shape.  I have cheekbones again.  I am youthful.  According to my eldest son – I am “more 21st century”.

Goodbye 80’s throwback horror haircuts.  Goodbye fear.  Goodbye hats.  I have found my hairdresser, I am woman hear me roar (without the unruly mane of course).

– B

*Thanks to all of your who shared your experiences, sympathy and suggestions. Hopefully this sets you on the road to wonderful curls too!

Silent Sunday – 20 November

It’s beginning to feel a lot like…..

Christmas light up reigndeer on Argyle Street, Glasgow

Ward off winter with the perfect Chai

I have a confession. I don’t like tea.  And I don’t like coffee. 

But living in a city where cold, dark nights can take over half of the year, a hot drink is a must.  My rescue is chai latte!

hands holding a cup of chaiSpicy, sweet, soul-soothing

A good chai latte lifts my day, revives my spirits and sends me out into the cold ready for whatever.   Great chai is spicy, sweet, hot, milky not watery and leaves a pleasant aftertaste that teases  the tongue.  I have invested time and money discovering the best… and worst.

Now I know this is where you’re waiting for the tip about the cool, independent cafe with funky staff and worldly music lulling me into comfort as I sip on sweet, scented hot delights.  If you know such a place, let me know as I’ve yet to discover it.

 Bothwell Street Chai gets it so right

 Quite simply for me there is only one contender. Starbucks on Bothwell Street. Now before you roll your eyes and turn up your nose, hear me out. 

Not all Starbucks are equal.  So don’t turn up on Buchanan Street or Charing Cross and expect the same great knock-your-socks of service and  chai perfection.  Because, frankly it ain’t gonna happen.  Bothwell Street with it’s friendly, savvy staff is tops. 

But the ultimate chai requires careful consideration and strict instruction (I’m lucky in that the lovely staff at Bothwell don’t know my name but do know my preferences – and so I don’t even have to run through the list each time).

 So how exactly do I experience the ultimate chai latte you wonder – simply ask for the following:

  • Chai Tea Latte
  • Extra hot
  • Skinny (doesn’t dilute the taste, just the calories)
  • No water (this is key)
  • And if you want a full-bodied flavour sensation – ask for extra chai.  This can be a tricky one and depends on the barista – because some are more generous with the chai then others.  But you’ll figure it out.

Lastly, enjoy that everything-is -right-with-the-world moment in your warm cup of  frothy wonder.


Silent Sunday – November 13

Today 11am – 5pm



Left Bank – pleasing even the most pernickety of appetites

What to do with fussy, pernickety guests?  Guests with pre-conceived ideas about my city.  Guests whose mother tell them to be ‘very, very careful’ when venturing out in treacherous Glasgow.   Guests from Edinburgh*. 

left bank menu, GlasgowI opt for Left Bank  in the West End – edgy enough without being uncomfortable, and cool without being pretentious. 

And of course there’s the menu.  This is the kind of place where food is not only eclectic, but excellent – you will love whatever you get.  Inevitably you will also find yourself looking longingly at other people’s food, and rightly so.  Everything is really that good.  You can’t go wrong.

 Welcoming, attentive staff 

Left Bank Burger and Chips, GlasgowThe left bank burger with handmade chips (7.95) or fish seafood curry (11.95) and baked chocolate pecan and raspberry brownie (4.95) are all heavenly.  And the wide selection of beer and cocktails top everything off nicely.  

Sharing the same name as the area in the southern bank of the Seine in Paris, Left Bank has all the whimsy without the attitude.  And unlike Paris, your waiter or waitress doesn’t actually mind you being there and will come back to ask if everything’s ok and whether you need anything else… like say another drink!

 Charming waiter to the rescue 

But of course even in an ideal setting with lush food, Pernickety finds something.  Having finished the most wonderful meal, and dusted off a few desserts and drinks in the process, it’s time to move onto coffee.   And here it comes – the death of a perfect evening.  The decaf’s (gasp) instant!   Apparently detectable by the scent alone.  

I cringe as Pernickety complains to our waiter about the coffee – but there’s no uncomfortable stand off.  There’s only laughter; our charming waiter instantly restores harmony to our table with his honest and rather funny admission  ‘I know, we ran out of decaf so it’s instant and it’s crap, right.  Not to worry, I’ll get you something else.’  And voila, everything is perfect again. 

Left Bank – where the atmosphere and food are always extraordinary and the service is with a sly smile.   Well worth checking out!  In fact I’m already thinking of when I can get back to have what the guy at the table next to me was eating.

* Don’t get me wrong – I love Edinburghers, these pernickety ones in particular, – but all Capital dwellers should venture to good old Glasgow for a bit of fun.  In fact, like my friends, they’ll find they don’t need those stab proof vests, they’ll eat well and have a damn good time.


Persian perfection – food to rival grandma’s cooking

Persia restaurant in GlasgowWe’re walking along Great Western Road in biting wind looking for the restaurant when I spot the sign. I’m not sure what to expect from Persia , but I know I’m cold and I’m hungry.  

I love Middle Eastern food and have high expectations.  Smiling, attentive, staff  greet us and any anxiety melts away.  We’re taken to the perfect table in the mezzanine, which somehow manages to be cosy and spacious all at the same time – with glass windows from top to bottom, great for people watching. 

We sit down to enjoy a rare night away from the kids.  The menu has a good selection but isn’t overwhelming.   My husband’s instantly drawn to the Dolma but as a bit of an expert (thanks to my grandmother’s  love of the stuffed dish) I warn him that it will be cold and he won’t like it.  And it won’t be as good as my Nan’s.

How wrong and jealous am I.  It is pure perfection.  It is as good.

A true taste sensation

My hummus starter is equally delicious and plentiful, but admittedly his Dolma is truly amazing – a warm, gorgeous combination of spices.  And tasty – the sort of tasty that has you happily making inexplicable noises in public. 

Rule number 1 – don’t base your menu choices on your grandmother’s stellar cooking.  In this case, she’ll understand.

Lamb at Persia restaurant in Glasgow

Lamb perfection!

For a main course my husband suggests one of us get lamb and the other chicken. And he trumps me again.  My food is delicious but his lamb is divine.  Rule number 2 – order whatever you want – but at Persia that should be lamb.

At the end of two courses we are pleasantly stuffed so pass on dessert.  And at under £50– for starter, main and drinks – our bill is the perfect pain-free finale to the night.

Driving home we quickly discover we’re not the only ones out for a good time.  We stop the car to help a rather robust drunk woman lying on all fours in the middle of the road.  It takes both of us to get her to her feet. Thankfully we’re feeling mighty after our tremendous meal. 

Rule number 3 – be kind to strangers in need – even on a full stomach.

So go to Persia, you won’t be disappointed. Except maybe if you don’t get the lamb.

– B

Silent Sunday – 6 November

change world protest in Glasgow