Joining the Dots?

A few years ago I was in the Australian Northern Territory camping on Aboriginal land south of Katherine.

The guide Mike pointed his high power flashlight to the twinkling heavens and said “ Can you see the Aboriginal constellation of the emu?”

I tried joining combinations of the myriad stars in the sky without any success

“Stop joining dots and try to see what’s actually there!”

I gave up.

I guess I have been so preconditioned by joining up dots in the books of my childhood that I would never have spotted the shape of the emu stretched out across the sky, made up of the darkest parts of the firmament, without it bring pointed out.

From that moment I felt inadequate to make any judgement on a culture of such antiquity. I could not see what was staring at me in the face !

Can a tiny vegetable emporium, with an unbelievable selection of the freshest vegetables really be in Scotland?

One of the stereotypes readily applied to the Scots is that they are an unfit, unhealthy lot!

The more sensational reporting of the problem is typified by a piece in the UK’s Sun Newspaper (11/6/2013)

“Scotland is a slob nation…
The Scots are a nation of unfit, overweight smokers and drinkers who binge on junk food”

Even the Hindustan Times (14/12/2007) felt drawn to mention an Edinburgh University study which highlighted that immigrants from the Sub Continent health worsens after moving to Scotland.

“People of Indian, Pakistan and Chinese origin who move to Scotland soon contract heart diseases because they are quick to adopt the bad lifestyle habits of the local Scots, such as poor diet and lack of exercise. The report noted that people from India and China still residing in their native countries typically had a low risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

It was deeply alarming that Scots of Asian origin, especially those from India and Pakistan, were now displaying equally high rates of cardiovascular disease as the indigenous population. Apparently this is not true of English moving north. A possible explanation might be that those relocating tend to be professionals and we can speculate they are not taking on Scottish lifestyle.”

The Scotsman (20/8/2012) concurs that there is a health problem and explains that there has been an explosion in the number of type II diabetes cases in recent years.

“Ten thousand people in Scotland develop diabetes every year with growing obesity rates blamed for the rise, new figures show. Just under 250,000 people are now living with the illness – one in 20 people in the country. Official figures show the majority of people with the illness in Scotland, 88 per cent of sufferers, have type 2 diabetes which can often be caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices and is linked to obesity. Scotland’s chief medical officer, Harry Burns, said: “The increasing number of people with diabetes is directly related to the ageing of the population and unhealthy lifestyle factors causing obesity.

One in four people in Scotland are overweight and a growing number of children are now medically ‘obese’ by the time they start school, figures show.”

In the interests of fairness it should be noted that the more deprived regions of England, particularly the metropolitan North West suffer equally.

From my trips to the USA, it is clear that social deprivation can be an indicator in the obesity stakes. I recall that the body shapes of those visiting the Philadelphia Art Museum were very different from those visiting the King of Prussia Mall only 20 minutes away.

So what has this to do with a small greengrocer in Auchterarder?

In a recent health map charting levels of fitness and obesity in Scotland Auchterarder’s near neighbour, the city of Perth, was singled out as a city with a particular problem.

But good vegetables are available if you can afford them and the time to track them down.

In the village there is a store is barely 9ft wide x 12ft deep and whose culinary contents spill over onto the pavement outside. A veritable veggie Aladdin’s cave!

Alexa has stocked such a variety that would put in a mainstream store to shame


  • Carrots: yellow ones and purple ones with an orange core
  • Aubergines(eggplants): the regular version, the small Thai purple version and the original type that got the plant its US familiar name, small, white and egg shaped
  • Beetroots: recognisable beets plus others that don’t even look like beets to the culinary challenged. Small golden beets (Burpees Golden) and a small pink striped variety often called Candy Beetroot but more properly named Beetroot Chioggia.
  • Tomatoes called Tomberries which are no bigger than a 5p piece or US dime, take your choice of red or yellow, or better still a mixture of both.

A whole range of micro-herbs and sea plants that usually get used by the professional chefs of which Red Amaranth and Thai Basil were our top picks. Check out everything on offer at

Every oil, purée and sauce imaginable with our particular favourite being a small jar of Edible Rainbow Mix comprising a variety of coloured flower petals. Alexa’s Edible Rainbow Petals come from Uncle Roy’s Comestible Concoctions of Moffat in Southern Scotland which is not far from Lockerbie, notorious as the final resting place of Pan Am Flight 103.

And all of these vegetable choices are available in a village store within short drive of a city with real health problems. Sadly I guess the some inhabitants of that city might not have the funds or the interest to search out this fantastic little shop. But for the more fortunate………

Seek and ye shall find, even in the Highlands of Scotland!

Unacceptable Behaviour

Sorry but this is a rant…

I am used to people walking into me in the street whilst texting or face booking. I am used to people sitting in restaurants in silence so they can communicate with people elsewhere. I am used to people answering a text in middle of a conversation.

Sadly good manners seem not to matter too much to the majority of mankind.

This morning the guy next to me in the gents at the motorway rest-stop was using both hands to text while attempting to pee.

I do not want to have to take avoiding action at the urinal just so he post rubbish on-line!

Enough is enough !