Friday, December 2, 2022

Calm.


'The Font' is invited to the village council meeting. 24 of the villages 80 inhabitants show up . The village hall - constructed for the Coronation of Edward VII - is unheated. Topics are wide and varied . Will the fresh coat of varnish on the two village benches outside the church last five years or will they need to be revarnished every year ? If so what is the likely cost ? Will the construction work at the golf course upset the newts in the Site of Special Scientific Interest on the sand dunes ? The man with the caravan in his back garden is suspected of letting it out to visitors. A letter will be sent to remind him that permission for non-approved caravan occupancy is required from the tax and planning authorities. A local farmer complains about people driving through the village at excessive speed. ' These towns folk don't have leaf springs on their rear axles and can't handle the corners or the bumps' . 


This morning all is quiet. The migrating birds are long gone. We pass five swans paddling happily on the salt lake. A group of herons look at them with, what appears to be, avian irritation. Out on the bay two lobster boats are progressing slowly along the coast from creel to creel. We stop and wave to the fisherman who sells us his surplus langoustine. He waves back.


It's 9 degrees here. Back in the wee village in France it's only 3. A few hardy souls are still up and about after the winter graduation parties. The boys wear white ties, the girls evening dresses. Small hallmarks of this rite of passage. The innocence of their happiness makes me smile.


While Sophie sits patiently in the cloisters I wander -briefly-  into the chapel. The morning sunshine through the stained glass speckles the wall with colour. A visit to the church was part of our morning routine in France to see the sun through the stained glass . Plus ca change .


After a coffee and a shared pain au raisin Angus and his shaggy companion make their way to the harbour. A dozen fresh langoustine await. Sophie finds the scents of the quayside to be 'riveting'. A few parents are up and about - stretching their legs and passing the time before their taxis come and take them to Edinburgh airport for the noon flights to Chicago and New York and Berlin or the Qatar Air connections to all places East.

All, it seems. is well with the world.

 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

'Favourite' airline.

Sophie seems to know that I'm going away. I get the 'accusatorial ' look.

Down to London for the night on Scotlands 'favourite' and indeed  'only' airline.

The Christmas decorations in the departure lounge are of the less is less variety.

London hotels continue to be booked solid by bargain hunting Americans and Asians enjoying the recent weakness in Sterling. Angus finds all his favourites sold out and opts for a new high rise hotel near the bright young things at the AI company. 'You'll love it. It's so cool ' they say.  Rule #5 in life. Never accept a recommendation from anyone who is 40 years younger than you. They inhabit a different universe.

Angus does not find the hotel 'cool'. The reception area is approached through a snaking wicker tunnel festooned with fake apple blossoms. This leads into a large circular area lined with red curtains and lit by purple spotlights. To begin with I think this must be the bar. Check in, when I find it in a dark and unmarked corner,  is staffed by an unsmiling young lady wearing what appears to be a pair of red silk pyjamas covered by a black silk dressing gown that is held in place , at the throat, by a gold clasp the size of a small cat. ' I trainee' she says by way of greeting . She then points to a sign on her pyjamas that says 'Trainee'. This is followed by an accusatory 'What your name ? Where your passport ?'  The young lady is not a native English speaker and it takes some time to explain that I've come from Scotland and don't have my passport with me. ' It's all part of the same country ' I explain. This comes as a surprise to the young lady who eyes me suspiciously and calls 'management'. 'Management' also seem to find this unlikely but we settle on my driving license as proof that I'm who I say I am. ' I'll accept it this time' says a stern young management man in a manner I find mildly irritating. "That's so very kind of you " I reply.

The hotel does not have keys. Instead it has an ap to download that opens your room, turns on the television, contacts room service and allows you to call the lifts. One entire wall of the bedroom is taken up with a tv screen that must be all of nine feet by eleven . It takes Angus some time to learn how to use the 'ap' to get the tv started. Somehow this new hotel already looks old and scuffed. It must be a style that appeals to hipsters. Angus particularly disliked the window which was a glass 'slash' that ran at a 45 degree angle across the back wall.

Christmas decorations in London seem to be rather less 'austere' than at the local airport.


Sophie has now discovered the excitement that is Dundee airport and been reunited with her entire flock.


And here is a very happy and relaxed looking Joan Armatrading :https://youtu.be/SqW3oPS0dfw?t=6131

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Flight.


When a girl's really happy she doesn't walk, she flies !

( This, of course, doesn't stop her paws getting muddy ).




Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Champagne and canapes.

It's a beautiful start to the day. Sophie is keen to get out to inspect the village and its inhabitants .  As we pass the doocot  Doreen and her Jack Russell friends rush out of their respective front gates to greet us. Sophie resolutely ignores these five yapping dervishes. The five yapping dervishes just as quickly ignore Sophie and return to their respective homes to await the next passer-by. Peace descends on the village. Tomorrow at the same time and in the same place this scene will be re-enacted. 


The sun is rising as we return home along the path that runs by the shore. The wheat field is covered in layers of spiders webs. These can only be seen when looking directly towards the sun light. Close up, or away from the direct beams the webs are quite invisible. For an area half a mile square the wheat stubble is blanketed by a delicate trapeze of webs.  Try as I might the i-Phone camera is simply not up to the task of capturing this marvel ( and it is a marvel ). In the photo below you can just about make out the blanket of webs if you look across the grass towards the centre of the sun.  


Town is busy. Two days of winter graduation ceremonies are planned for later in the week. University staff are up early doing whatever university staff do ahead of a winter graduation. Large marquees for champagne and canape receptions have gone up on the grassy areas down towards the sea. Gas heaters are being unloaded from a truck. The administration building is open and busy looking people can be seen through the brightly lit windows. We have to park far away from our usual spot.


The telephone box near the castle has had the old payphone inside removed. I guess it is now a listed historic monument . To the current generation of students or anyone under 20 the dark age of a pre mobile phones world must be quite unimaginable.


The town remains full of visitors. I'm guessing from their dress and age range that they're parents arriving for the graduation ceremonies. The cafe where William and Kate used to meet for coffee is already full with Germans and Americans. Two Indonesian ladies are standing outside taking photos of the people inside. The owner of a large hotel chain told me once that there are only 3 places in the UK can that can support more than two 5 star hotels all through the year - London, Edinburgh and St.Andrews. In the case of St.Andrews students ( or more importantly their parents ) provide the off season demand when the high rolling golfers are gone.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Farls.

 

A blustery but mild start to the day. Sophie stands in the courtyard and waits impatiently for Angus to join her. A new week of adventure and excitement beckons. There may be Jaffa Cakes.


In the summer dawn comes early here in the North. Now we're heading to the winter solstice the pre-dawn darkness lingers until it's turned seven. We head out onto the farm track and then up over the hill before turning back down to the shore. Cormorants, seals, the village pig and the coterie of Jack Russells led by Doreen are all glared at. 


There's still a large puddle in front of the good coffee cafe. The weekend rain has overwhelmed the old drainage system in the heart of town.


Margaret Atwood will be speaking at a winter graduation ceremony on Wednesday morning.  Joan Armatrading is also in town to receive an honorary degree. Angus has to pop down to London for a few days but 'The Font' will go to hear both of them. Will Joan Armatrading sing ? One of the reasons we chose to come to this wind blown corner of Scotland is the variety of people who wander through. This is a town where 'something' is always happening.


At the supermarket I look for Tattie Scones. They seem to have sold out but there are  Potato Farls . Angus has never heard of a Potato Farl. It sounds like something out of Anglo-Saxon England - The Beowulf breakfast of Ox, Hog and Farls.


A kind lady wanders into the storeroom and finds the Potato Scones. The Farls are returned.


The supermarket has installed new self service check out systems. With the new system you put the groceries on the right and the empty bag on the left. This is the exact opposite of the previous system. Lights flash and alarm bells ring. Angus is ever so slightly irritated by this and wonders if this is change for changes sake -  another sign that somewhere along the way I've turned into my father.  A forest of Ponsettias have made an appearance in the aisles between the Prosecco and the wrapping paper. There can be no doubting  that Christmas is almost upon us.


Very 1980's. This is the only Joan Armatrading song I remember :https://youtu.be/CEIZv1FzLhM

Animals you've never heard of :https://twitter.com/fasc1nate/status/1596227460781473792

A different perspective :https://twitter.com/TerribleMaps/status/1596596051297075201


Sunday, November 27, 2022

The perfect prelude.

This morning we stop and watch a flock of small birds drinking from the bog at the side of the farm track. Sophie discovers that if she leaps from the track into the bog she can make a very satisfying 'splosh' noise. To add to the fun the birds fly off. This bog leaping / bird scaring routine is repeated more frequently than one might imagine. Sophie is firmly of the opinion that a girl should take her fun where and when she can find it. If fun includes making a noise and getting muddy so much the better.


Back at home there is  carrot to chew....


.... followed by a nap under the small tree in the 'zen' garden. The small tree also provides sterling service as a back scratcher. 


It stayed dry until it was time for last nights St.Andrews Day fireworks. At the very moment the display was due to kick off the rain started. This in no way dampened the enthusiasm of the thousands of students and out of towners who showed up to hear the pipes and party.

This morning at the good coffee cafe we watch a young man drive up and park his car outside the front door. He discovers he's chosen to stop alongside a large puddle . This makes getting out of the the drivers door difficult . Rather than drive forward he contorts himself into a standing position on the the door sill before leaping onto the pavement. He misses. One foot lands in the water  with a loud 'splosh' . Sophie is not alone in starting her day with wet feet.


Armed with a sliver of shortbread Sophie heads off for a quick tour of the town. A walk up one street ( stopping to sniff the doorway of Starbucks, Boots the Chemist and Greggs ) and a walk down another is the perfect Sunday morning  prelude to returning home for a long and well deserved nap. The two street spanning Christmas tableaux are blazing cheerily away. Despite the early hour the street is busy with students returning from overnight revelries.


This is an interesting insight into a rapidly changing part of the world :https://mattlakeman.org/2022/11/22/notes-on-saudi-arabia/


Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Hoolie.


Friday night - Sophie gets a full on grooming. Knots are carefully removed. Paws are washed. Coat brushed until it's as smooth as silk. This Kennel Club appearance  lasts for all of twelve hours. By the time we return from this mornings walk the PONette  is once again modelling her 'abandoned dog' look. Barreling through the middle of puddles will do that. After a walk on the beach the 'abandoned dog' look morphs into a 'never been near a brush in my life' style. When we arrive at the coffee shop the American girl behind the counter looks at my kelp adorned companion and lets out an involuntary but heartfelt ' Girl ! Where have you been ?' A sliver of shortbread eases the PONettes pain.

Workmen are out and about setting up 'No Parking' signs .Tonight is the night of the St.Andrews Day Hoolie . Torches will be lit and the massed pipes and drums will process through the town. If it's not raining there will be fireworks on the beach. The weather looks as if it might be dry - which in these parts in November - is a small miracle.


The book on Boris Johnson is a delight . It's not a lengthy tome.  I start it on Thursday night and finish it after lunch on Friday.  Well written and balanced. At times it's funny.  I'd expected it to be something of a hatchet job but it talks of his strengths ( Covid and Ukraine ) as well as his fatal flaws - self absorption and an aversion to the truth. A politician who sadly believed that what was good for him was good for the country. 


Christmas coming up. This year we shall send a cheque to help the Ukrainian students stranded at the university. Most of the boys have gone back to fight and sadly some won't return to finish their studies. 'The Font' receives this e-mailed tweet which spurs us into doing something :https://mobile.twitter.com/DefenceU/status/1595849732177502210