All the newspapers and websites agree: Britain faces a crisis—a lard crisis.

Demand in east European countries for cheap cuts of pork has led to a shortage of meat suitable for rendering into lard. ... Somerfield said it had already been forced to limit the number of tubs of lard on sale at each of its stores. It is advising customers to check their local stores to see if another delivery has arrived.



Give the Man Ayr

We Queue in This Country, Part II

There’s not much to see in Ayr, except the sea. (And the air, obviously.) The leftmost bottom-most bit of Scotland is pretty light-on for attractions, other than Culzean with the silent Z, a castle perched on its coastline looking out to the Isle of Arran. Jane and I visited it last month for her birthday, accidentally choosing the wettest day of the month to drive there. When we stopped halfway at the Georgian model town of New Lanark it looked like the rain was clearing up, but by Ayr we were driving through aerial bathwater.

The sea at Ayr in glorious Technicolor®.

Culzean itself had some pleasant interiors and surrounds, but the exterior was a bit disappointing. Turns out that all the publicity photos are taken from a helicopter hovering over the sea, looking towards its perch on the edge of a cliff. From the sea, it’s an impregnable fortress looming o’er the waters; from land, it’s a big house with a cannon in front of it.

But at least it beats Ayr’s other, much more visited attraction: Prestwick Airport. Prestwick, or “Glasgow Prestwick” as it’s laughably called (you’d be more justified calling Edinburgh airport “Glasgow Edinburgh”), is a regional base for Ryanair, so it’s a major hub for tight-arse travel. Jane had already been there twice by the time I got my first look last December, and warned me that it was a hassle to get out to. But even Lothian bus queues hadn’t prepared me for the hassles once we got there.



We Queue in This Country

Ask a dozen Britons what most distinguishes them from other nationalities, and they’ll line up to tell you: the Queue. Even among the rebels, the rabble, the questioners of class and the enemies of aristocracy, the orderly queue is seen as one of the good things about Britain. When the revolution comes, the first up against the wall will be determined by strict social conventions. After you... No, after you.

We interlopers from abroad can find it hard to take, even if our country was founded by a bunch of poms filing off convict ships one by one. It’s not that we don’t believe in queueing in certain situations. It’s just that a healthy influx of non-Anglo stock has relaxed our idea of what those situations are.



The Corn Laws

Dramatis Personae: The English postdoc who studied in America; The American masters student now studying here; The two Australians.
The Scene: A Bruntsfield café.



Three-Part Invection

Three rants for the price of one. Don’t say you never get a bargain at this dot-com.



Swedish Made Easy

Swedish Made Easy



Cheap as Chips

Welcome to the first in a series of Speedysnail recipes for the budget-minded gourmet.† Each week we’ll be showing how to entertain your friends in style without stretching your bank balance—or your waistline! This week, sit back and enjoy the satisfying goodness of that old British favourite, the mushy pea.

Tesco Value Mushy Peas



I’m Your Venus

As we all know, yesterday was the first time anyone alive has been able to see the transit of Venus. I’m no astronomer, but as an Aussie with an interest in the Pacific I couldn’t resist the allure of an event witnessed by Captain James Cook in Tahiti in 1769. The weather this past week has been perfect, with clear sunny mornings every day, so it was looking good for transit-watchers across Britain. It was time to load up the Nikon, ready the pinholed cardboard for safe viewing, and head out into the streets of Edinburgh to witness the historic Transit of Venus.

9 June 2004



Gently Joining

Blended movie pitches, inspired by the revival of a classic Barbelith thread and seeing the director’s cut of The Wicker Man over Christmas.



The Speedysnail April Fool’s Day Kit

Stuck for tricks to play on this most important day of the year? Yeah, me too. Fortunately, I remembered this sign I saw in Dundee last Friday:

Please Don’t Feed the Pigeons



Espanyol ee Inglis para Turists

Inglés para viajar vs. Spanish Phrase Book

“Ekskiúsmi, du iú spíiks pánish?”

A-blo mwee poko espa-nyol. ¿A-bla oosted een-gles?

“Ái iast spíik e litl... uát táim das de tréin lif for Lándon?”

—A medya no-che.

“Dats véri léit.”

—See, es tar-de.

“Uér is e réstrant, plíis?”

Kheere a la de-recha, ee seega todo rekto asta lyegar a la ofee-theena de too-reesmo.

“Oukéy. Kuul. Cénkiu.”

[Él va.]

“Ái javn’t anderstúd énicin.”