Monday, October 31, 2022

Shaken not stirred

'The Font' is on the super early flight from the local airport to London. The journey, in one of those little planes with propellers, takes an hour and fifty minutes. This morning it takes a little longer due to headwinds over the Lake District. It is what 'The Font', on landing, describes as a 'challenging' flight. The return flight leaves London at seven tonight. We shall dine 'fashionably' late.

For Sophie it is a 'shaken and stirred' type morning. The North Sea wind is quite unforgiving in the fur department. When it gusts it lifts the PONettes ears vertically above her head. This is a look that you don't see in the Kennel Club photos of PONs.

The local farmer drives down the road and stops for a wee blether. He has a new Mercedes flat bed truck. You never saw these things outside South Africa or Australia. Now they're everywhere. He's happy. He has a turkey farm on an old airstrip inland from here. There was a danger that he'd have to cull all his birds due to the avian flu outbreak. This would have meant large losses ahead of Christmas but he's discovered that the government will let him process the birds now and allow the carcasses to be deep frozen until Christmas. They will be labelled 'fresh' but say in super small print underneath 'deep frozen'. Good news for him, not such good news for the turkeys. He also volunteers that the weather is set to turn much colder after the long mild spell we've been enjoying.

From 1988 but seems like the dark ages. How many of these are in a carton in a garage ? :

Sunday, October 30, 2022

No rest for the wicked.

The clocks have changed overnight. It goes without saying that Sophie is disdainful of time changes and wakes, resolutely, at her usual hour. 

I suggest she goes back to sleep but she's having none of it. The PONette is of the view that it's getting light outside and there are adventures waiting. There may be Jaffa Cakes. 

At a time when non-dog owners are still tucked snuggly up in bed enjoying an extra hours sleep  a gentleman of a certain age and a shaggy dog are the first customers at the little cafe in town.

It seems that we are not alone in having a canine companion that insists on having a start of day comfort break at exactly the same time. Within ten minutes of our arrival the street is beginning to fill with a) students returning after a long night out and b) dog owners with uncombed hair ( almost exclusively male ) escorting their canine companions to the beach. This is the ' I filled the dishwasher, you walk the dog ' division of family labour.

The cafe has new, laminated, menus. Angus observes that Franco-Scots cuisine is indeed a thing.  You can get a large, warm croissant for £4. For 50 p extra you can get it with chocolate sauce. I wonder what the folks in Toulouse would make of that ?

Among this mornings e-mails an invitation from a California motel to 'Come visit '. I had never heard of Cayucos until now . Could it be an alternative to that trendy hotel in Pacific Beach ?  :


Saturday, October 29, 2022


Saturday morning. Another bright start to our day. Near the brow of the hill a dozen grouse burst out of the grass in front of us. After a moments hesitation Sophie gives chase.

A stone wall impedes her progress. She tries to leap over it but those titanium legs provide speed but not bounce. 

At this very same moment a hare decides this is the time to head off to safety. Sophie turns through 90 degrees and sets off in pursuit. This is the real McCoy - a head back, ears flying, full on PON howl type of pursuit. When dogs decide to do something they put their heart and soul in it. The only slight negative is that Sophie has headed off down the hill; the hare has gone up the hill in the opposite direction.

Down by the sea wall the PONette finally pauses, turn and looks at me as if to say ' Where do you think you've been ?' She is congratulated and awarded 10/10 for her hunting style. She gets 0/10 for function. Sophie isn't bothered. As all PONs know the style of the journey is what matters, the direction of travel is unimportant. 

After that there's a quick walk back to the warmth of the wee cottage. Sophie takes the direct - through every puddle - route. Her fur seems to be growing by an inch a month. Come Christmas she will have turned into a bundle of fluff. There again that's no bad thing in a coastal Scottish winter. 


Friday, October 28, 2022

Peak globalization.

Sophie is extremely enthusiastic about some things in life - think Jaffa Cakes. She is much less keen on other things - think grooming. The family diva has reached that age in a dogs life when she deals with things she doesn't like by either feigning deafness or through wilful disobedience.

After a failed attempt at a thorough grooming ( Sophie is in one of her  squirming 'Let's do this tomorrow' moods )  dog and master head off into town for their start of day bacon roll and Jaffa Cake. We sit outside. It's decidedly parky this morning. A few early rising townsfolk and students now recognize us and smile in that patronising way you smile at a man in a bobble hat who talks to his dog and is clearly sixpence short of a shilling. This morning Angus and Sophie discuss Xi's foreign policy goals, the possibility of a new North Korean nuclear test and Roger Stones statement that DeSantis standing against Trump would be 'traitorous'. Soon,  I sense that my companions mind is elsewhere - she's possibly wondering if there are more Jaffa Cakes.  We leave a discussion on whether it was wise for Fetterman to take part in the debate until another day.

Bacon sandwich and Jaffa Cake finished we head off to the beach. Sophie likes the beach but maintains a wary distance from the waves. Experience has taught her that waves are wet and unpredictable. Not a good combination for a routine loving lady.

The grocery van wends its way along the unpaved track to the wee cottage. 'The Font' has received a book of 32% off 'Thank you for your custom' vouchers from the supermarket. Amazingly this applies to everything you order not just selected items. Even more amazingly the 32% discount is applied to already reduced 'special offers '. When it's all added up the real discount works out closer to 45%, probably more as it includes free delivery if you spend more than £100. This tells you a lot about how high supermarket margins must be and how inventories are spiraling out of control.  I don't think I've seen an offer this aggressive - ever. This is what happens when warehouses are stocked to the gunnels for Christmas and people stop spending. Today, 'The Font' notes that our usual coffee has been 'substituted' with something else. Having Japanese coffee as a substitution must mark absolute peak globalization.

 I knew absolutely nothing about this man. He worked from 8 am to 3 am every day :

Thursday, October 27, 2022


The sun is out, the sky is clear, the breeze is on the temperate side of bracing. The stoats have left tasty calling cards in the long grass. Can a day be too perfect ? Later this morning the PONette will be loaded into the back of the car and driven into town in search of Jaffa Cakes.

The kitchen designers have come up with a quote that is eye watering. I'd expected a kitchen to be pricey. I hadn't expected it to be three times what we paid for a much bigger kitchen in France.  It is spec'd to the hilt with appliances that neither of us knew existed - let alone asked for. At some stage dishwashers stopped being free standing and were integrated into hip height drawers. The designers want a 50% deposit but can't start work until late summer. Angus thinks this timetable might change as the economy slows and 'cancellations' occur. Time might make their 'take it or leave it' haughtiness move in inverse proportion to interest rates. 'The Font' will tell them to scale back their proposal. Having an intelligent kitchen is one thing but too much hitech may test the limits of our 'intelligence'. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Layers of delight.


Wednesday morning. There's much to be done. The village has to be thoroughly checked for interlopers, the crows that perch on the bales of hay have to be chased and the pig that lives in a pen by the doocot glared  at..... from a safe distance. Sophie has found that the tracks caused by the tractor tyres provide a smooth path through the barley stubble. She follows them across the fields in a straight line and at an 'enthusiastic' pace.

This dog owner and his 'fluffy' companion are in town bright and early. We're there before the dustbin men. This was a timing error as there are masses of blue refuse bins to sniff. This makes our progress from the back of the car to the cafe a leisurely process. 

This morning we try a new cafe facing the old parliament building. We would go to our usual spot but Sophie will not be hurried past the bins . Every so often she looks up at me as if to say ' Do you know there's a two day old Chicken Korma in here ? '

We take a seat at a table outside. On the other side of the road there's a large shiny black Land Rover. It's pristine. Not a speck of mud on it.  Clearly the owner has never been anywhere near a farm track. Angus orders a bacon roll and a coffee. The lady behind the counter asks if  Sophie would object to being tickled. ' Not if you've got a biscuit in your hand ' I reply, truthfully. A biscuit, and a tickle, follow. Our order arrives. It's at this point the PONettes happiness goes off the scale. There is a bacon sandwich ( can anything match a small piece of bread roll with hint of bacon ? ) and on top of the cardboard coffee cup a JAFFA CAKE !!!! Jaffa Cakes ( with the chocolate removed ) have been the ultimate treat for all our PONs and Sophie is no exception. There are 'I'm sorry but I can't help myself'  squeaks of delight from the family diva.

Our daily routine may now revolve around a new cafe. In fact, as far as Sophie's concerned, our daily routine will revolve around a new cafe. Her tail is still waving as she's encouraged along the road to the bread shop.

The bread shop has gone overboard in making Halloween treats.

Must be a story here but I don't know what it is :

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The 'natural' look.


Another day. Another British Prime Minister. Up here in the north it's dry and breezy this morning. On our start of day walk Sophie disturbs a hare. By the time she's chased it ( ineptly - the hare goes straight on, Sophie goes right ) the wind has picked up and she's developed what can most politely be called a 'natural' look.

While 'The Font' gets ready we head off in the car for a coffee. Seagulls attract the PONettes attention in town.  Seagulls are fun to chase but there is only so much pouncing a girl can do when the prey insists on flying off. At the cafe she gets an oatcake. The waiter takes one look at her and says ' You need a bath '. Angus has to point out that keeping a  long haired sheepdog mud free at this time of the year is a 24/7 task. We agree that Sophie looks ' characterful'.

Back on the coast there is a chance to drink from puddles and search for things that rustle - tantalizingly - in the grass verges. The wind swept look soon gives way to a look that is truly unkempt and which would make a pedigree PON owner lose sleep . Sophie is not bothered. She's happy - mud, water and a stale oatcake. Life is good.

This is not something you see every day :

Monday, October 24, 2022



Monday dawns bright and fair.

Ten minutes later it's clouded over. We may not have a surfeit of sunshine but out here on the coast we have rainbows. Lots of them. This mornings is a stunner.

Today, after a brisk toweling dry in the back of the car,  the family diva looks vaguely like a dog that has had a distant and fleeting relationship with grooming. This is an improvement over her more usual wet and muddy 'wild girl' look.

By the time we've made it to the cafe on the sea front the mist is rolling in. It seems that the golf club is having a total rebuild. The area around it is being excavated to create room for a large underground leisure centre for the members. From the look of the car park the golf club must pay well. Despite the fact that it's barely dawn there's already a steady stream of builders and electricians arriving to start work. We opt to park elsewhere. The cafe owner says the work is scheduled to take eighteen months. He thinks three, possibly four, years is a more likely timeframe.

At this time of the morning there are parking spaces in the centre of town. Give it an hour and they'll be hard to find. The first students are heading off to the library. The students ignore Sophie but the Polish cleaning ladies take time off from their cigarette break to greet her. The family diva is walked, on her lead, down the road to the hotel where the French breakfast chef works. She is rewarded with a lukewarm sausage. This has been left unfinished on the plate of a Canadian golfer . Sophie is a firm believer in the benefits of recycling. I'm less sure. The chef says that all the hotels are full. He puts this down to the 30% collapse of the £ against the $. ' We're booked full with Americans all the way through to New Year ' he adds. Sophie's future may contain more sausages to be recycled.

Sunday, October 23, 2022



A mild start to the day. The pair of oyster catchers that call the shoreline here their home  are particularly 'talkative' this morning. Sophie can pretty much deal with Skuas, larks and crows but the shriek of an  oyster catcher infuriates her. 

The family diva gives chase across the fields down to the water in pursuit of these noisy birds. By the time she returns her undercarriage has collected a coating of mud , grass and twigs. It goes without saying that no oyster catchers were harmed during Sophie's 'outing'.

Back at home she heads straight into the kitchen where she tries to convince 'The Font' that we forgot to give her dinner last night. This is recognizable as the ' I'm a poor orphan girl that's never been fed' look.

The bookstore in town opens early. Their systems went down last night so the staff are in at the crack of dawn restocking shelves. They have a dog bowl and sometimes a collection of dog biscuits.

The biography of Harold Wilson is found under 'W'....

....... but Lord Northcliffe is harder to find. It takes three people to track it down. It is finally found under 'C' .

The material for the curtains in the drawing room will come from a farm in Wales. We wanted to find a Scots company using the old weaving techniques but Scottish wool seems to go for blankets and knitware.  The farm in Wales has a sheep rearing history going back to the 14th century and is seeing demand for fabrics that don't have to be shipped from the far side of the globe. A few years ago you couldn't give away local sheeps wool and the future of many breeds was in jeopardy. Now a new industry is being built as the costs of shipping from the Far East soar. Reshoring is a thing :

We are thinking of heading off here for a few days. The hotel has 4 rooms with direct access to its gardens - a small but vital issue for dogs and their companions. There's been a definite change over the last two years. Not so long ago it was difficult finding a good hotel that would take dogs. Now most hotels are keen to take them ... and their grateful owners and their £15 a day supplement :

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Sweet and happy.

The joys of having a long haired dog as a Scottish autumn transitions into winter are not immediately apparent. Thank heavens the hallway is paved in water resistant slate. The family diva, of course, thinks that mud and water are pure, unadulterated, heaven. She does her best to bring them back with her into the house. 

Sophie and Angus head into town for a coffee, a bowl of water and something that is labeled 'Croissant' .... but isn't.

The canned wine arrives. It was sent by post and there's been a postal strike. The cans are not like your standard soda cans. The quality of construction is altogether different. These are high class cans with art work to match. These babies would win the can of the year award at the can makers convention. The wine inside is good but equivalent to only one pre-dinner glass.... or two small ones if you want to be abstemious. 

Down the road to the farm for some cheese. The farmers wife tells me that cheese made in October is the best. Late autumn grass is the softest and easiest to digest which makes the milk.... and the cows .... 'sweet and happy'. It would be hard to think of a better recommendation. Sophie chats to the farm dogs - two Jack Russells and a black Labrador - while I talk to the farmers wife. This morning we settle on some Lanark Blue and some fresh cheddar.


Friday, October 21, 2022

Yon liar.

The weather is demonstrating its Scots pedigree. Co-joined drizzle and wind.  Sophie has never been happier.

In the the twenty years we've been away Scotland has been through a culinary revolution. Every other village seems to have a small farm store selling local produce. We have half a dozen of them within a ten minute drive. Many have branched out and have polytunnels supplying exotics like strawberries and peppers out of season. 'She's gone then ' says the taciturn farmer from behind the cash till in reference to the political shenanigans down south.  He pauses and then adds ' Let's hope yon liar no comes back'. There is not much to be usefully added to this political exegesis so I pay for my Brussels sprouts and leave.

Sophie and Angus walk in the morning sunshine. This is a drink from every puddle morning. We're joined by the retired GP from Glasgow who lives in a house on the hill. His Labrador also likes to drink from puddles and refuses to touch the fresh water in the bowl at home. Of 80 odd souls in our wee village a good quarter are GP's, retired GP's or surgeons at the big hospital twenty miles away. This must be some sort of record.

Yesterday both the builder and the decorator phoned to say they would be able to start work before Christmas.  Just two weeks ago they said they were booked solid until Easter. This can be counted as the first sign of a slowdown in the economy.