Spliff and chips


Richard Lutz wavers through another inchoate seven days.


A week is a long time in politics. For me, it is interminable as I wait for the weekly fish and chip van to crawl to my village that hugs the southwest  coast of Scotland. 

The father and son team roll up in their road kitchen with a scrawled mobile number scripted on the side of their vehicle. They go village to village and Thursday is our turn. Now, let me explain something. It takes a bit of time for the team to conjure up their meals. They are handmade to order. The fish, as big as a cricket bat, is personally rolled in batter. The onion ring, large as a frisbee, could flatten a cow at twelve paces and is thrown into the bubbling oil just in time to make it crispy and not overcooked. It’s done just right. 

So, in the wait for my dinner, there’s time to shoot the breeze. Where is business best as they make the weekly rounds? It’s Straiton, they say. “They’re crazy for chips up there,” explains the dad over the fryer. “Must be that the nearest chippie is eleven miles away,” the son adds as he continues to wrap the takeaways and add a snowstorm of salt with a torrent of vinegar.

And the town they are unsure of when it comes to the chip van business? It is X.

“Dangerous, just dangerous,” they say as one. I order my fish, my chips, my onion rings, a fried black pudding (10/10) and a large bottle of Scotland’s idiosyncratic orange-dyed soft drink Irn Bru, which is either loathed or loved. Scots myth says a long slug of it cures hangovers . Boy, I love Thursday chip van night.

The earlier part of the week is punctuated by a new movie: Baby Driver. Now, I’m not a regular film reviewer but I have to say that director Edgar Wright (Sean of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) delivers a tongue in cheek winner. It’s a tribute piece to crime thrillers; Tarintino, Bullitt, teen romances and road movies. It’s about a heist team with a cherubic getaway man who can only burn rubber when he plugs into his tailor made IPod tracks.

So, the whole two hours is filled wall to wall with great tunes, from the late sixties to stuff you hear live today or on the radio. Great support from Kevin Spacey as a cartoonesque baddie and John Hamm (Madmen) as a psycho street thug. Recommended…possibly because there is little else around.

Still glued to Ayrshire, I continue my dalliances with the River Ayr. It has a trail that snakes alongside its banks as it tumbles from the Southern Uplands to the sea. Today, the river is full and brown from heavy rains. Salmon leap upstream as canny fishermen line the banks at their special spots. One has a bigtime spliff in his hands as he plays with his line. We walk past and he smiles, takes a long hit ..carelessly, sweetly.

Two big houses loom over the river. One used to belong to the owner of a huge cotton mill. He’s dead and gone, the name all but forgotten. His mill is a pile of brick and is now nothing more than a footnote in industrial history.

The other was built by the laird of the area, the boss who ran a huge estate like a private fiefdom, had a small army work the land, ruling the roost and the lives of his tenants. His mansion, Sorn Castle, has a magnificent site over a bend in the river and is now used for weddings, weekend fishing parties, business conferences …and, well, anything else that’ll raise a buck.

As we head for the village of Sorn, here in deepest Robert Burns country, we walk over a double humpback stone bridge (as above) that has crossed this river for 250 years. It’s guarded by an old church with three doors leading to internal galleries. We make tracks for the pub before re-tracing our steps downriver, following fast moving waters that curve and race through wooded gorges.



3 thoughts on “Spliff and chips

  1. Baby Driver….loved the chase scenes, the music, the characters, the sensibility…

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