Craigellachie Hotel

Craigellachie Hotel

Craigellachie Hotel

I recently stayed at the newly refurbished Craigellachie Hotel on Speyside. Under the new ownership of London based private club owner Piers Adams the hotel, which had reached the sad and forlorn stage with an indifferent reputation, is enjoying a fresh rush of investment and enthusiasm. That manifests itself throughout the operation, for it is a drilled operation, in a designer-evident interior rebuild, menu’s and service. All though, is not yet perfect.

Without wanting to be trite or sour one or two pretty fundamental issues quickly came to light on arrival. No television in the room, (“awaiting delivery” although a small one was later found),  only one bathrobe in the bedroom, sketchy and intermittent WiFi, ("persistent BT problem, we’re using a dongle,”) nowhere for guests to relax before dinner, (“the refurbished whisky bar will be opening soon), a fine 2 metre view of a skip from the “garden bedroom,” and a radio with Chris bloody Evans blaring away every morning at breakfast, (although the staff did kindly turn it off when I objected to listening to the traffic report from Uxbridge while enjoying my bangers & bacon.

The staff seem to have been almost entirely recruited from Glasgow. No doubt some hospitality consultant has stuck his oar in about the highlander and the highlander’s approach to service. They may or may not have a fair point but it’s a bit of a central belt cliché and it would be good to have more local staff to inculcate a local feel. Nonetheless, the well rehearsed staff are trained, hard working and anxious to please if somewhat uncertain when hit with something non standard but issues are dealt with very quickly and efficiently so. In fact, the guest ends up hoping for them that quick resolutions are found to small problems and that’s good because it creates a “can do, will please,” atmosphere from both sides.

There was no fine dining room when I stayed and I understand that options for that remain under consideration. Eating then was in the ground floor “Copper Dog,” which is best described as “gastro pub,” dining. Nothing wrong with that when done well and its done very well here. The menu is simple, fair value and in their words, (locally sourced, sustainable etc etc). The wine list mirrors the food and is perfectly acceptable. The average table is goiing to do far more damage to their credit card with over effusive ordering of obscure whiskies than they will with the wine. Dining there is very casual and very busy, (160 covers one night we were there which is pretty extraordinary locally). Indeed, the Copper Dog is so popular with locals that guests would be advised to book before arrival. Inviting the ghillies from the river can’t have harmed the cause and echo’s the inviting London cabbies to new clubs and restaurants thing to jack up referrals. On one evening a live country singer started belting out some songs of the seventies and initially I contemplated stabbing myself with my fork or applying for an emergency ASBO. Actually, a couple of hours later I’d made some new best friends with some bearded Austrians and was well on the way to drinking too much Aberlour and starting a new chapter of the Dead Country & Western Singers Appreciation Society.

Despite a few odds and ends of fishing paraphernalia on the walls, the hotel isn’t really a fisherman’s hotel in the style of Burt’s and the Townhouse in Melrose or the Ednam House in Kelso; at least not yet. Its somewhat understandable given many, if not the majority, of rods on the Spey rent houses or lodges, (many having done so in the same spot for generations), although they frequently eat out. The hotel’s real economic market is the Whisky Trail market. That is the earnest American, Japanese and European tourists tramping up and down Speyside visiting the distilleries, which are quite flash these days and fully geared up for the sector, and tasting. I could tell them that many of those distilleries add caramel colouring to the whisky to make it more appealing to what their eyes think a good whisky should look like but why spoil their fun.

Fiddichside Inn

Rods looking for a fisherman’s rest to repair to for a blether and dram really need go no further than the  Fiddichside Inn at the other end of the village. Run by Joe, an ex ghillie on the river, the place has been in his family for about 100 years. It’s small, with no music, no machines well actually, not much at all apart from the booze, Joe and a wealth of dubious tales of fish, fishing and fisherman. The Fiddich is easily, one of the top ten pubs in Britain and if you happen to have caught a salmon that day, probably the best pub in the world. Unfortunately, some dullard has added the Fiddich to a Whisky Trail app so you are actually just as likely to see the bearded Austrians there as you are at the Craig.

Back to the hotel and all in all, there is little significant criticism  and one can see they have the will and drive to iron out teething problems, “it’s not the problem, it’s how you react to it.” There is a lingering thought though that by booking over the web without knowing these niggly things one is somewhat oversold the value proposition. Mr Adams is no Mrs Carmichael (previous legendary proprietor of old), and they haven’t got it quite spot on but they will do and I expect in twelve months’ time, if not before, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get rooms there. It’s professionally managed and run, the Craigellachie now just needs to discover it’s own charm and soul and that only comes with time. There you go, who needs TripAdvisor?

Come On Down Anne Lundon!

The songs and interviews you will hear were recorded with the 1st World War ex-servicemen at Flanders House in Glasgow just under 30 years ago. 

With the current plethora of Great War documentaries on television it would be easy to become a Great War Grief Groupie, cheek set firmly over to one shoulder and immersed in a constant slaughter / innocents / sad / epoch, social changing loop of evocative “wave the boys goodbye,” nostalgic and theatrical emotional for a lost generation that none of us ever knew but one that we choose to believe we know so well, as if the average Pals Regiment recruit came from next door. It’s true that not a family in the land was left untouched by the Great War and actually, it’s just fantastic to witness the resurgence in interest across all ages in matters historical pertaining to the conflict.

I’ve enjoyed a lifelong interest in the subject and all its geopolitical and social derivatives. The more I learn, the less I realise I really understand.  Just for now though, I would like to share just one wee small part of the massive canvas that is the Great War that utterly fascinates me. That is, the way people talked.

In a time when people could identify one another, their backgrounds, exactly where they came from, (by village, not just general region), by their accents, intonations and slang the sheer richness and depth of speech to me is an utter wonder. What might it have been like to be at Waterloo station as the trains departed for France with the general hubbub all-around of impenetrable fast Buckie voices, deep Hampshire burrs, fast witted cockney, lazy drawling Norfolk………….?  For us, the fantastic diversity of our counties has long been homogenised into approximate North East / North West / South West etc regional groups and as each year passes we lose more of our spoken heritage.

One of the wonders for me then, in watching the Great War documentaries, is to listen to the real voices of Edwardian days. We can though, do better than snatches in a television documentary.

In 1916, an Austrian academic called Alois Brandl made recordings of British prisoners-of-war and their regional accents. By a miracle, they survived the bombing of Berlin in the Second World War while being stored at the Humbolt University and were ultimately tracked down by a linguistics academic called John Adams. Well played John. Treat yourself and take a peek into history by listening to some of these magical recordings.

In fact, the British Library website has literally, a door into another world with various projects such as the Millennium Memory Bank and their survey of English Dialects.

So what can we do? We’re hardly going to adopt an “accent of the week,” and pretend to be Devonshire farmhands from 1912 are we? No we’re not. The BBC are utterly rubbish. Their idea of diversification in being a national broadcaster is to grab the three nearest northerners hanging around their shiny new headquarters in Salford and stick them on the telly but its not really exploiting the breadth that we’re looking for in our wonderful country. ITV though are even worse. They give us bloody Downton Abbey which very much sounds to me as if its cast comes straight from inner-circle-middle-class Fulham in 2014............... well, that's actually what they are but aren't they supposed to be acting as other people? Idle script, idle direction and idle acting. I'd rather spend an hour kissing someone with the Ebola virus than I would watching that drivel.

Crumble then, is here to help.

You can’t get more diverse than the beautifully soft and  melodic accent from Stornaway and that is exactly the sort of thing we need to hear more of to calm us after a stressful day at the office and the bloody awful commute home. Fortunately Anne Lundon, who at present is criminally wasted on BBC Scotland and urgently needs to be brought to the attention of the nation, is waiting for the head honcho’s at the Beep to hear the clarion call from the people.

Let’s celebrate the who and what we are as a country. Come on down Anne, West Sussex is calling.

Thank you Bardarbunga!

Children holidaying from Britain across the azure blue shores of the Mediterranean and beyond will right now be contemplating the closing weeks of the summer holidays. As the skies darken over their little lives with the prospect of going back to Form 5B, hope and help is at hand in the form of Bardarbunga.  No, not a Harry Potter character but an angry volcano in Iceland. Oh and boy is it getting angry and potentially, it could create dark skies for real as we've previously seen, and yes, we're usually quick off the mark with the volcano thing here at Crumble HQ..

Iceland has this afternoon warned airlines that there may be an eruption at Bardabunga which is located underneath Vatnajokull, Europe’s biggest glacier.

The alert level at Bardarbunga was today raised to “orange,” indicating “heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption,” the Reykjavik-based Met Office said.

Over 250 tremors have been measured in the area since midnight. The agency said there are still no visible indications of an eruption..... yet

The volcano is 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) wide and rises about 1,900 meters above sea level. So, it’s a biggie.

You can read more here and here there is a world of resource here and here.

British kids, obviously quick of the mark, will be going to uncommonly great lengths to avoid letting their parents see news reports, listen to the radio, read the papers..... "no Dad, you need to rest and get away from the news," lest Dad gets a flap on, hires a car and drives back before all flights are cancelled and all ferries are booked.

Obviously, I don't want 15 miles of Iceland to erupt as little as does the next man, but the kids... I know what they're thinking and it very much reminds me of this scene from John Boorman's wonderful film, Hope & Glory.

Humans Need Not Apply

and while hard working students are reflecting on their examination results and potential university and career options they may wish to consider the clip above.

It's just a fact that the education system does not, yet at least, properly prepare the young for the world which they will face, not today but in three, five, ten and twenty years time. Some studies suggest that up to half of all jobs can or will be computerised or automated within 10 years. At the current accelerating rate of change, its coming down the tracks an awful lot faster than that and for many in the workforce, it's already here.

Governments face many challenges. Two of the biggest are glacial but immovable demographic changes, meaning a smaller working population bearing the burden of supporting a growing and longer living retired population but also how to support the disenfranchised part of the working population whose utility has been replaced by an Intel chip. Theoretically, everyone could be richer and have more leisure time. That's what my Geography teacher foretold when I did my own A Levels but no, what we have for the moment is a bunch of mega billionaires competing with each to throw water over themselves while many of their fellow citizens can't afford the technology that was supposed to change and enrich their lives. It's great that Bill and friends are supporting a good cause but I think you get the point.

So kids, go and learn about chips, coding, nano tech, bio tech and avoid anything that can be done by a bot and just so you know...... that includes McDonalds so don't think that fall back will be there for long.


and how's he taking it?

Good luck to all those who will be receiving AS and A Level results this morning. No point in hiding under the duvet and avoiding the issue, time to man up and face the music. Advice that the youngest Crumble Kid has interpreted in his own way. It's never easy following two elder siblings with a string of A*'s and A's, actually its bloody unfair. Where is Soroya anyway? Having just seen the results myself I reckon I've got about two hours to leg it and join him out of contact before his Housemaster calls at around 10am, "and how's he taking it.........?"


Schools Out

The educational scribes at newspapers have recently been busy sharing their thoughts on the rise in parental fines resulting in school attendance breaks to exploit cheaper term time foreign holidays. Parents have been signing petitions, child psychologists have been chucking their oar in and one person after another expounds his or her view on what “exceptional circumstances,” are.

My view is a simple one. I’m stunned that so many people seem to believe that one or two annual foreign holidays are a right not a privilege. Not the world I inhabit.


Alex Salmond Wins It!

Do you find it slightly odd, as I do, that with just 35 days to go until the Scottish independence vote public and political interest seems muted at best and disinterested at worst? As most have readily identified, a Yes vote would suit the Conservatives politically but as the Conservative and Unionist party, responsible individuals would be forever dammed if it were proved that avoiding engagement in the argument hoping for a Yes vote was their actual strategy.

Moreover, too much engagement would probably have the opposite effect to that intended. I think many Scots have been somewhat taken aback by the tide of bemused detachment of most south of the border which has pretty much thrown Salmond and his cohort of permanently angry nationalists off balance; after all, it’s all about rolling up the sleeves and having a good set to with the English, isn’t it?

Having been denied the soapbox bun fight that so suits his rhetoric, Salmond’s arguments have had to stand on their own merits but have been found wanting by his own constituency. I’ve always felt that at the line Scots will prove to be pragmatic rather than emotional and a recent trip north kind of confirms that in my own mind. From the people I talked to most will be voting from their own perspective of what’s good for themselves, their families and their local communities which is pretty much what voters do the world over. We’ll see what happens on the 18th but just to drive my searing and incisive analysis just a little further, this is what I think will be the scene in Salmond’s battle bunker on the morning of the 19th as last of the 32 local results roll in……

In the smoke filled Nationalist battle bunker just off the Royal Mile, an exhausted and pensive Alex Salmond slumps in his seat and gazes over the table. Friends and advisors quietly sip a Red Bull or coffee, everyone in his own zone, mentally rewinding and playing back their part in the campaign. The vote is close, too close to call. The knock on the door will come soon, then perhaps……. a wee dram to celebrate the historic day then down to see the press with Alex, maybe squeeze into tomorrow’s front page photographs… the door bursts open, 

“Alex, Alex man. We’ve done it, oh bloody hell we’ve bloody gone and done it. Grampian are about to announce and its gone our way , thank God. Congratulations man, you’ve done it for Scotland.” 

Salmond slowly rises to his feet, lifts his head and after a moment, breaks into a deep grin. He hugs his messenger and with moistening eyes works his way around the room to thank his staff. 

 “Bugger boys, that was close……. I don’t ever want to go through that again. We’ve made it though and we’re in the driving seat now. Those idjats in the No camp almost screwed it up and let us win, that would have buggered things up for ever. Now, they win, we get the extra cash and it’s Devo Max all round and the Tories are still stuck with 31 Scottish Labour MP’s at Westminster. Magic! Oh you good thing… Tam! let’s have a dram, where’s the Aberlour?” 

Life actually, will be wholly more agreeable when things get back to whatever passes for normal these days.

They're All At It

This recently dropped in my in-box,

This is from a M.D. at Hadassah Hospital in Israel, Dr. Arieh Eldad: A very short read......

The (Muslim) Arab Mentality...

It is really hard for western society to understand this kind of thinking. It is counter to civilized understanding. The (Muslim) Arab Mentality...

I was instrumental in establishing the Israeli National Skin Bank, which is the largest in the world. The National Skin Bank stores skin for every day needs as well as for war time or mass casualty situations. The skin bank is hosted at the Hadassah Ein Kerem University hospital in Jerusalem where I was the Chairman of plastic surgery. This is how I was asked to supply skin for an (Muslim) Arab woman from Gaza, who was hospitalized in Soroka Hospital in Beersheva, after her family burned her. Usually, such atrocities happen among (Muslim) Arab families when the women are suspected of having an affair.

We supplied all the needed Homograft for her treatment. She was successfully treated by my friend and colleague, Prof. Lior Rosenberg and discharged to return to Gaza. She was invited for regular follow-up visits to the outpatient clinic in Beersheva.

One day she was caught at a border crossing wearing a suicide belt. Her mission was to explode herself in the outpatient clinic of the hospital where they saved her life. It seems that her family promised her that if she did that, they would forgive her. This is only one example of the war between Jews and Muslims in the Land of Israel. It is not a territorial conflict. This is a civilizational conflict, or rather a war between civilization and barbarism. Bibi (Netanyahu) gets it, Obama does not.
— Dr. Arieh Eldad

Tough one, right? For the moment, the Israeli's have lost the PR battle over Gaza hands down. When though, one reads something like the piece above the balance of judgement moves from the emotional to the more rational. 

Unfortunately, very little is as it might seem. The disinformation and propaganda war is very real and very sophisticated, covers all aspects of media and social media and is present in every single current conflict across the globe. No side is blameless and all are at it but the world becomes particularly tough to unravel when the game is played by high level players such as we see in the Middle East and in the Ukraine. Traditional reporters with the press and television have a very challenging role to fulfil and it has to be said, they aren't making a particularly good rub of things at present. The BBC for example, appear to have decided a long time ago that Israel are the bad guys and their reports do little to "inform and educate" but simply pass on the individual reporters personal view of the 100 square meters around wherever they happen to be when filming. (and please don't suggest you have free and open access to roam because you don't. You have the narrow view of the conflict that your minders, who are there for your safety, will allow you to have and please don't pretend otherwise).

Back to Dr Eidad

We learn from the internet site, which is very good for checking the authenticity of stories circulating on the internet, that the story is real but historical. It dates from 2005 and was recorded in an interview with Dr Eldad in November 2008. Bits have been added to give it a current context and spin; you can read the details here.

So, bit of a cross look to whoever decided to doctor and disseminate a story that actually would have been more powerful left to its own merits. The key point however, is the Dr Eidad's concluding comment, "This is a civilizational conflict, or rather a war between civilization and barbarism."

I agree with that. 

This is not just about Israel, and or Gaza, (indeed many are concerned, including the current players, that if Hamas was destroyed they would be replaced by extremists of a far more worrying profile), this is indeed about civilisation and I fear we are at the beginning of a protracted multi generational conflict in which we will ultimately prevail but the cost may be so much higher than it need be unless politicians openly acknowledge what their security advisor's are already telling them and have been for some time.

Indeed, and for the little it's worth, I believe we have to ruthlessly engage, suppress and destroy the looney jihadist elements in the Middle East then flood the poor Arab countries with economic aid to westernise them to an extent that it would be insane for them to cripple their families by returning to extremism. We have to find an answer to the huge demographic of unemployed 18-25 year olds in the north African and Middle Eastern countries who are uneducated, unemployed and have no future.... none. They are so vulnerable to radicalisation in fact its a wonder that anything is still standing.

There was a time when Afghan women could have career paths in things like medicine, could go to the movies and study at the university. There was law and order and with outside help the government could implement large infrastructure projects such as the construction of hydroelectric plants and roads.Ordinary people had hope.

On the other hand, we did exactly that in Afghanistan in the fifties and sixties when it was, at the time, an enlightened and prosperous country and quite westernised with modern housing, infrastructure and education. That didn't exactly work out to plan then.

It's a profoundly depressing legacy to leave behind after so much hope and optimism for peace that we briefly enjoyed twenty five years ago after the Wall came down. In breaking down the old order we unwittingly created a breeding ground for other historical prejudices and geopolitical fault lines to reemerge across Europe and the Middle East.

Life was a much simpler affair in the Cold War...... at least there were rules to the game.