Friday, July 28, 2006

China Buffet King, 22-24 West Nile Street, Glasgow

Yet another Friday and yet another try out of a restaurant close to where we work in the centre of the city. China Buffet King is another one of those all-you-can-eat buffet houses with a goodish choice of standard fare Chinese and oriental dishes.

The decor is bright and modern and the staff are friendly and efficient at clearing plates and bringing drinks so no complaints there other than the fact that the tables are little tightly packed in their rows. Prices go up after 6:30 and we went in just after seven so the pre-6:30 customers were starting to thin out a wee bit so it wasn't over busy.

The food was reasonable given that it costs under a tenner a head to fill up at the weekend. There was a good range of starters and main courses on offer with the usual range of more western sweets. I had a bowl of chicken and sweetcorn soup, a good plateful of vegetable spring rolls with crispy shredded duck and hoisin sauce followed by a mix of sweet'n'sour chicken, lemon chicken, kung po chicken and barbecued char siu with yung chow rice and chow mien. I finished off with a dod of chocolate gateau and strawberry cheesecake all covered in fresh cream and I was done - burp!

I can't really fault it other than I thought that there were too many chicken dishes and the chicken in a few of them was a bit overcooked and chewier than I like it. Other than that though, it was pretty much as expected.

Cuisine: Chinese
My rating: 6/10

Monday, July 24, 2006

Flickr Scotland Photoblog

Yay, I've had another one of my pics nominated and posted to the Flickr Scotland Photoblog, which is a great place to see some stunning photographs of Scotland. The picture in question is the one below, which is a sunset shot taken on Skye at the end of June.

Sunset Over Skye

I've only ever had one other photograph (below) posted on there before now so I'm quite pleased that yet another has made the grade and been recognised.

Findhorn Bay

Sunday, July 16, 2006

St. Abbs Head

St. Abbs harbourSt. Abbs Harbour

The weather was cracking and the forecast said the east coast would be better so we packed up a picnic and headed over to St. Abbs on the south-east coast. There's not a lot in the village itself - okay, it's got a quaint wee harbour but the tide was out and there wasn't much water in it.

Anyway, just before going down into the village is the NTS Visitor Centre so, being members, we parked in there and took the footpath out to St. Abb's Head with its lighthouse and National Nature Reserve.

St. Abb's Head Lighthouse

The walk out to the head and lighthouse is about five kilometers there and back and is on a reasonable path along the edge of the cliffs on the way out. There are plenty of grassy slopes to sit on so we had a picnic and a lie down in the sun, listening to the continuous squawking of the gulls. There are quite a few nesting sites along the cliffs so you can see hundreds of gulls and guillimots swooping and soaring along the cliff edges. We walked back along the north-east side of Mire Loch instead of the more recognized path on the other side as it looked a bit too wet and steamy. I'm glad we did as it seemed a better angle for a view of the loch.

The butterflies were out in force and we saw Ringlets, Red Admirals, Graylings, Meadow Browns, Common Blues, Small Coppers, Small Whites, Green-veined Whites and the rarer Northern Brown Argus. Oh, and we saw a fair number of Six-spot Burnet moths. I even managed to get one to perch on my finger.

Mire LochMire Loch

Coldingham Sands

We left St. Abbs and, fancying lying on a beach for a while, we headed down to Coldingham, which has a decent little sandy bay. It's even got a row of beach huts and today, it was pretty busy with a good number of families and kids splashing in the surf and pottering in the rock pools. There were a few hardier souls kitted out in wet-suits and trying to surf but the big waves weren't there today.

Still we had a paddle in the freezing North Sea and then had a laze on the sands for a while, watching the tide coming in and stranding a few folk on a sand bar, not that they were in any danger as it was really shallow. Looks like a nice place to spend a day at the beach - it had a hotel for the required alcoholic intake and there was even a café on the beach.

Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot

We stopped in at Preston Mill in East Linton on the way home as we had a walk in our walk book that mentioned it and it looked worth a visit. However, it was after seven and it was closed but we wandered around the grounds for 10 minutes or so before heading home. The water powered mill dates back to the 18th century and the NTS keeps it running for visitors.

The ineptly named Phantassie Doocot was a bit of a let down, it's a really boring looking piece of architecture. I don't care how old it is our how unique, it's just a big boring old henhouse left over from a time when pigeons were bred for the table.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Bombay Blues, 41 Hope Street, Glasgow

Yet another night when we couldn't be bothered cooking so we thought we'd try the Indian restaurant just round the corner from the office. A couple of the lads in work had been there for a lunch and said it was pretty good so we thought we'd give it a try.

First impressions were that it was pretty bright and a wee bit quiet but it was early. The decor is definitely not Indian but is of a more contemporary feel and that really didn't make it feel very Indian. On top of that it looked like it still needed a bit more work done. Still we came in for the food, the staff seemed pretty friendly and, even better, they had a buffet on for just under £10 a head. Buffets are the best way to try a range of different dishes and there's nothing to stop you pigging out on the starters or sweets.

There was a decent array of starters available - four kinds of pakora, a daal, spiced onions, garlic bread, poppadoms and several other dishes. I filled my plate anyway. Main courses were a bit more limited and were fairly standard fare - lamb and chicken bhoona, chicken korma, chicken jalfrezi, chicken tikka masaledar, a chilli chicken and couple of vege dishes. Nothing out of the ordinary there and all reasonably well prepared but they just didn't hit any pleasure buttons. The sweets were also a bit thin - gulab jamin, a mushy looking carrot pudding and a chocolate gateaux.

It was okay but I doubt if we'd go back, there are too many other places to try first.

Cuisine: Indian
My Rating: 6/10

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Marrow - by Robert Reed

This was a book that was recommended to me on Amazon, given the kind of books I'd been browsing through or buying, and the review certainly sounds appealing. The concept of a giant and unmanned spaceship, hurtling through the universe from an unknown source, certainly lends itself to one of the great mysteries of life - what's out there? here's a brief plot outline…

When a vast spaceship about the size of Jupiter is detected heading towards the Milky Way from the depths of intergalactic space, the race is on to reach it first and to claim any prize of first encounter with what must be a hugely more advanced race. Humans are the first ones there but they soon discover that the ship is a derelict, running on automatic. There's no sign of its builders and no indication of life aboard, if fact, they surmise that it's probably billions of years old.

So where did it come from, where was it going, who built it and why weren't they aboard now? While they pondered those questions for millenia, the new crew steer the ship towards their arm of the galaxy and it soon becomes populated by billions of species either as crew or paying passengers.

When a survey of the interior of the ship uncovers an entire planet at its core, a group of the ship's best captains is sent down to investgate the world they now call "Marrow".

This starts out quite a promising tale. It's set in a far future where humanity has been re-engineered to be almost immortal and other alien races are a well known fact but the mystery is still there regarding the ship's builders, where they came from, why they built such a vast ship and why, when it becomes known, did they secrete a planet at its core.

However, I found the characters uninteresting and the fact that they were almost indestructable makes it a very long-winded tale. That and the fact that the author obviously changed the storyline as the book progressed certainly put me off a bit. The immortality thing is another worry as there's no mention of how the captains could tolerate the tedium of existing for hundereds of millenia and that would surely drive a percentage of any species mad. Maybe that was why we got the seemigly incessant use of the word "Madam" as it was certainly starting to drive me mad.

At the start of the story, as the ship is discovered, it looks like we're going to get a plot with a sentient ship computer trying to communicate with those that first board it but that idea soon vanishes and we hear nothing again of the ship computer but we're suddenly thrown into a story of the ship as a tourist bus, wandering through the galaxy and picking up a lucrative passenger trade. Then there's Marrow and I suppose it got interesting again but only for a short period as the tedium of a 5,000 year wait set in.

Then there's the ending or un-ending, whatever you want to call it. It just wasn't satisfactory enough and we get no real answers about Marrow, the ship or its builders, just a hypothesis and possibly the answer to life, the universe and everything. There is a sequel available but given the reviews I've seen for that, I don't think I'll bother and I'll be more careful when buying on an Amazon recommendation in future..

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Science-Fiction
ISBN: 1-841-49078-4
My Rating: 6/10

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Graduation Day

Today, my wee girl graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with an honours degree in Accounting (BA Hons. Accounting).

The ceremony was presided over by the current Chancellor, Magnus Magnusson who used to present Mastermind on the BBC, and along with about 800 other graduates she got bonked on the head by him with some blue thing and that was it. Hope no one had lice :)

Now all she needs to do is get out into the real world and get a job…

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Week On Skye - Eilean Donan, Commando Memorial and Home

It was our last day on Skye and time to say goodbye to Fiskavaig and Allt Ribhein, our home for the last week. So, once we'd packed and cleared up, we hit the road.

We driven down to Portnalong earlier in the week for a quick look around but it wasn't that memorable. It does have a small harbour and jetty but it's not very picturesque so the only things we noticed were the hotel and a small art gallery. We'd eaten in the hotel on Sunday so we thought we'd better visit the gallery before heading off. It's called The Little Gallery and has a fair selection of prints and watercolours so if you like that kind of thing, it's worth a visit. Lorna bought a couple of prints, one of Talisker Bay and the other a Sunset from Glen Brittle. We also spotted a watercolour of MacLeod's Tables that we liked but, being an original, it was a bit pricier. Anyway, we asked about the artist and he was based in Broadford and, since we were heading that way, we thought we'd nip in there and see if there was a print of it.

Ken Bryan is a photographer and artist based in the Three Herons gallery in Broadford and he'd painted the watercolour we were interested in back in Portnalong. His main focus is landscape photography so we were out of luck with a print of the watercolour so we ummed and aaaaghed a bit and bought the original, which then had to be shipped back home to Glasgow from Portnalong. I also bought a nice photograph of the Black Cuillin taken from the north in Trotternish, looking down Loch Leathan. I'll get it framed back in Glasgow and it'll make a nice gift for my mum and dad.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan

Instead of stopping off in Fort William on the way down the road, as we did on the way up, we dropped into the car park at Eilean Donan Castle for a pack lunch and a rest in the sun. We've been in the castle before so, given the excellent weather, we didn't fancy getting out of the sun so we gave it a miss and just lazed around on the grass for a while.

The current castle was restored between 1912 ands 1932 but the original dates back to the 13th century and was the seat of the MacRae Clan. There's a fair bit of history tied up with the castle so if you've never been, it's worth a visit.

Commando Memorial

Next stop was at the Commando Memorial just north west of Spean Bridge. It's a nice spot, located in moorland beside the A82 and there's a fair sized car park so it's another good place for a break. The three soldiers look out over the Leanachan Forest to the peaks of Aonach Mòr and Ben Nevis as this is where they trained and there are some fine views to be had.

It commemorates the elite fighting force set up in 1940 known as the Commandos. The plinth of the memorial records the Commando's motto "United We Conquer" and a plaque reads "In Memory of the Officers and men of the Commandos who died in the Second World War 1939 - 1945. This Country was their Training Ground."

Lorna's dad Jim, who passed away in May this year, served in the Commandos so it was a bit of a sad moment for us. I expect we'll think of him every time we pass this place. I liked Jim, he was a quiet man who spoke his mind, didnae suffer fools and often regaled us with tales from his army days and from his life as a farm worker. An immensely strong man in both body and mind - a great character and he'll be sadly missed.

Back on the road again, we got home in time for tea! We'll definitely be heading back to Skye again.