Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Snacking on barnacles.

A quiet morning apart from a gentle conveyor belt of business jets bringing more golfers into town for the Dunhill tournament.

The geese usually settle down in the middle of the wheat field but this morning they're all contentedly swimming in the shallow rock pools on the foreshore. There must be five or six  hundred of them. They ignore us.

Further offshore the cormorants are standing, facing into the wind while waiting for a shoal of sprats to swim by. The cormorants have to be the avian worlds championship swimmers. When not fishing for sprats they spend their days snacking on barnacles. They seem to have weathered the bird flu outbreak - against all the odds three young ones are perched on the rocks drying their wings . This is a good enough reason to smile.

On the beach by the Oceanographic Institute a crowd of sensibly dressed early risers are standing watching the Basking Sharks and Dolphins in the Bay. They are completely absorbed in what they're doing. 

As we pass them I see a small dog. It has noticed the smells of bacon cooking in the Yacht Club cafe. The humans are all looking to the right. It is looking left in the direction of the bacon.

A new store has opened up in town on the site of the greeting card shop that went bankrupt. The new store sells bed linens , womens clothing and ceramics. Locals pause and peer in through the open doors. The shop sign  informs us that this is a 'London' company. That may, or may not, prove to be a selling point in these rural heartlands.

Just in time for the winter the new Scottish galleries in Edinburgh finally open :

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Democratic in their belief.


Every so often a business jet flying low overhead breaks the silence of the village. The aircraft come in from the south, do a long gradual turn over the bay and then settle in for their final approach along the river to the local air base. I'm guessing these are golfers and their teams heading into town after the Ryder Cup in Rome. Some come here by car, others by train and yet others in their Gulfstreams.

In town the students are happily milling around before their first lectures of the day. Being students they are oblivious to passing traffic and are democratic in their belief that the roads belong entirely to them. The students also have the ability to walk through town focused completely on the screens of their mobile phones. This sounds easy but is actually quite difficult to do. 

Off one of the alleyways that bisect the town there's a rather fine door that leads to nowhere. I'm assuming it was the entry to the kitchen garden of a large, long demolished, house. The early morning dew tells me a spider has been busy despite the cold.

Down by the Royal and Ancient we stand a watch four American golfers  and their caddies discuss how to play the final two balls. It turns out that the golfers are two ( highly competitive ) married couples from Phoenix.  Distances are paced out and whispered conversations had. One man lies down on the ground to get a worms eye view of the turf. This is the last hole , the game is evenly matched and all is to play for.

The first woman misses but the second sinks her putt in one. Her husband hollers and leaps like a teenager. He is still hollering and leaping as the caddies gently steer them, hands on backs,  towards the clubhouse. Every so often the husband turns to look back at the green in joyous disbelief.

Back in town a piper is chatting away to a group of tourists. I'm guessing the piper is on the payroll of one of the 5 star hotels. 

Monday, October 2, 2023

The calm before ...


Town is  quiet but down by the golf courses there is hectic activity. Flower planters are being set out in front of the marquees, flags are being run up poles and awnings put up to hide the building works in front of the club house. A small army of workmen are busy checking the seating in the stands. The last moments of calm before the golfing world descends on the town for the Dunhill tournament. I can safely predict that parking will prove to be a nightmare.

We've now seen all the big Scotties but from time to time we stumble across a small one. The fish and chip shop has one outside its front door. This, on inspection, proves to be heavy on advertising and light on design. A water bowl has been placed on the pavement in front of it.

The students are again busy practising for their historic re-enactment. Pikes and spear heads can be seen sticking over the wall of the library garden. This always makes me smile.

The town only has three streets. It does however have dozens of small medieval alleyways that run at right angles to them. These are usually quiet but at eleven o'clock and two o'clock they suddenly throng with students hurrying onto their next lectures. Visiting tourists can find this surprising.

Dog walkers and their mutts would be well advised to steer well clear of the swans and their cygnets on the waters edge. We give the angry looking male a wide berth. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Dinner jackets.

A wonderful full moon last night. The i-Phone camera can't do justice to it. For a brief moment, as it rises,  it illuminates all the mega-structures out at sea. An unexpected moment of industrial beauty. The wind farm is now progressing by leaps and bounds. A couple of months ago there were two turbines on the horizon. Now there are fifteen. Eventually there will be more than hundred . A fleet of huge barges ferry them out to deep water where they are assembled in a slow but constant construction ritual.

A group of village ladies stop to chat. They are up and about early to take their dogs for a walk. We are told that Roe Deer are prone to giving birth to twins. This explains why we see so many groups of three. Another Bronze Age tomb has been found on the hill in the potato field. The farmer wants to plough it but will now have to wait until the police come to examine the bones. Village conversations have their own peculiar dynamic.

Cloudy but mild this morning. We wander through the village and across the car park of the 5 star hotel to get to the closest sandy beach. It's quiet but every so often we pass a group of students returning from their Saturday night festivities. They are dressed with crumpled formality.  Many of the girls are in long dresses and the boys have dinner jackets slung over their shoulders.  It takes an hour to absorb an 8g unit of alcohol ( a 13.5% alcohol wine contains 10 units ) so I think some of them will be recuperating for the remainder of the day. Anyone over the age of 40 is completely invisible to the youngsters so we pass by in silence.

One of the big surprises is the quality of the local food. Some of the big land owners have got together and combined the management of their farms. This lower costs and enables them to experiment with products that can be grown in small but commercial quantities.

Local mushrooms ...

..... just out of the ground Brussel Sprouts are put in the shopping trolley.

Further exploration of the kitchen catalogue unearths this :  A rather expensive way of filling a water bottle ? 

Saturday, September 30, 2023


An exceptionally high tide this morning. The farmers wife can be seen doing breast strokes out in the bay. Her practical orange swim cap stands out against the grey blue of the sea. The three Jack Russells , averse to water ( or averse to water this cold ) are busy seeking out adventure on the rocks by the foreshore. A doe and her fawn look at us. Further down the track a doe with two fawns does the same. You know you're in the country when you recognize the local deer. No geese this morning but hundreds and hundreds of crows. They do artfully wondrous things as they surf the wind. Every so often they rise en masse , fly off  together and then settle on the stone field walls. The purpose of this repeated routine  is a mystery.

To start with we have the beach to ourselves ...

... but soon a group of students from the oceanographic centre arrive and set up theodolites.  They're learning to measure coastal erosion.  Dog owners start to appear and with them  a young lady in a black track suit who does that Chinese thing that the Beijing authorities don't like.

The supermarket has suddenly gone big on orchids. Perhaps this is when early shoppers buy them for Christmas. 

The multi-coloured Scottie outside the Divinity school battles with the flower beds as the locus of colour. It's rained overnight and puddles dot the courtyard. We detour round them in a zig zag fashion.

So starts a quiet and comforting Saturday morning in a small town North Sea town. 

 Would you want this in your kitchen ? :

Friday, September 29, 2023

Foregoing sleep.


Edinburgh is a windy city. When the wind is powering in from the north it's doubly windy. This is one of those days. The hotels are full of cheerful Americans and Canadians who have cannily worked out that hotel rates are 50% lower than they were in peak season. In the hotel lobby we hear two couples from Chicago list all of the things they've done in a three day bargain break.  They seem to have foregone sleep. Perhaps the secret to Scotland in the autumn is to cram a weeks worth of sightseeing into an extended  weekend.

We go to Old Saint Pauls to see the Alison Watt artwork. We've been told that it's ethereal in the sense of being other worldly. . It isn't there or, if it is, we can't find it. We arrive just as the eight am mass is starting. This is the old Episcopal church in Edinburgh and history haunts this largely unknown and rarely visited spot. Four ageing clerics and a man in a black track suit with a heavily tattooed neck are the only attendees. The clerics sit in pews by the brightly lit altar. The tattooed man wanders around.

The nave is unheated and there's no music so we opt to leave. Why do church doors always make a loud, guilt inducing, creak when you try to make a silent exit? By four minutes past eight we're out and back on the Royal Mile. 

We pass a  shop selling kilts. Angus is delighted that there's not a bow tie or jacket with silver highlights to be seen. He's less enthused about putting buttons on pocket flaps and up sleeves. Why ? What earthly purpose can they serve ? When it comes to highland wear restraint is a virtue. The Brigadoon look can all too easily beckon. 

St.Giles doesn't open until ten. Outside there's a group of Canadians debating whether to go to Starbucks or Pret a Manger. They opt for Starbucks . 'You can't go wrong there' says a man whom the others defer to. They're joined there by a Japanese gentleman in a kilt and a bunnet.  Life is full of the improbable.

On the other side of the square the Auld alliance seems to be alive and not just kicking but thriving. The French have set up their Institut Francais in a very fine Georgian building next to the High Court. There's a cheeky hint of Versailles in the first floor windows.   

Behind a door in the hotel room we find a turret. This has an upholstered  banquette that runs round the walls with a small marble table in the centre. The banquette is much higher than an ordinary chair so you have to hop up onto it. 

From the turret we can look south all the way across the Forth towards Kirkcaldy. Or, we could if only the low clouds would lift. Eagle eyed readers will note that the banquette uses the window surrounds for back rests. This is not a 'comfortable' design feature.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023



Popping down to Edinburgh for a medical once over.

In the meantime here's a photo of the 'Strawberry Tart' Scottie in the bakers window.

Back on Saturday.

Red swim caps.

As we set off from the village we pass the farmers wife heading down to the shore with the three Jack Russells. Puppy leads the way, her two sisters follow on behind. Four deer watch them from the far side of the field. Puppy is too engrossed with something in the tall grass to notice them. The elder sisters, being sensible farm girls, have long ago discovered that chasing deer isn't worth the effort.

' The Chariots of Fire ' beach completely empty this morning apart from three ladies enjoying an early morning dip. The beach here is very shallow. Ideal if you have young children but it requires a long, long walk through the cold water before it's deep enough for an adult to swim in. The three ladies seem oblivious to the discomfort. The sound of their laughter drifts back to the shore. All of them are wearing identical red bathing caps. Perhaps they're part of some sort of club ?

I'd thought we'd seen all the Scotties but there's another one on the grass by the Abbey walls. This is a place where it's seen by commuters into town and by school children heading off to their morning classes.

This Scottie has been sponsored by a banana importing company. It's a quiet design bordering on the sensible although why the dog has a purple moustache escapes me.

All through the peak tourist season the cathedral has been  fenced off. A piece of stone from one of the remaining 14th century towers fell during a storm. Health and Safety immediately got to work and closed much of the place off to the public. Weeds grew everywhere. Now the tourists have gone the grass cutters have returned and work has started on securing the fabric. A large crane with an extendable arm is now parked in front of the 'dangerous' tower.  Even more fencing has been put up.

The room where the Scottish parliament used to meet has been hosting a conference . Although it closed last night the signs are still out this morning. Could it be the philosophers were partying until late ?  There's always something going on in a small town like this.