Wednesday, November 30, 2022


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



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 :

Animals you've never heard of :

A different perspective :

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 :

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 :

Friday, November 25, 2022

Pink flamingos.

The bay is busy this morning with supply vessels heading out to the new windfarm that they're building twenty or so miles offshore. This is of no interest to Sophie who has headed off across a ploughed field in search of adventure. She ignores the village Jack Russells who rush out to say hello. Having said hello, and been ignored, they rush away again. 

Out here on the edge of civilization we see delivery drivers either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. There must be an algorithm  that dictates remote houses get done first .... or last. This morning we meet the Amazon guy who's dropping off a new book we've ordered - 'The Fall of Boris Johnson'. For some reason all the drivers who come to the house are cheerful and polite in a way that I can only admire after they've bounced down an unpaved farm track for half a mile.

Sophie and Angus are early into town. This makes ordering at the coffee shop easy. I pop my head through the door, shout out my order and voila ! - coffee and pain au raisin appear. A bowl of water is already awaiting my fluffy companion. There was a nationwide strike by teaching staff yesterday. For some unknown reason a small crowd of junior lecturers were standing outside the university dressed as pink flamingos. To the delight of the local teenagers the  school teachers were also on strike. 

In the run up to Christmas the train drivers and the postmen are planning (more) stoppages. The radio says the nurses may also be about to take industrial action. Private sector workers can get pay hikes but public sector employees suffer from the fact that the government has shambolically run out of money.

A couple of days ago we marveled at the green up-lighting on the tree outside the biochemistry building . Today we notice more creative lighting. The arches by the old chapel are glowing deep red in a Hammer House of Horrors way. Perhaps this is meant to convey a touch of  seasonal cheer ?

Out here on the coast this week has seen an uptick in the tempo of tradesmens visits. The plumber  comes and promises faithfully to have a firm plan of action by close of business today. 'It's been two months since you said you'd get it fixed ' I tell him. " Don't you worry Angus. I'm on it now " comes the reply. The electrician fits new garden lights, the gas man mends the boiler and the carpet layer measures the staircase and orders the new carpet. At this rate the wee cottage might be close to habitable by Christmas. 'The Font' thinks this enthusiasm on the part of the local artisans may reflect pre-Christmas present buying cash flow 'issues'. 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Mechanical elves


Lots of activity this morning. The 30 something New Zealander with dreadlocks is up and about in the pre-dawn with his family collecting seaweed. He's driven his (very ) old Land Rover and equally old trailer down to the shore. The collapse of the farmers gate has enabled him to gain access to this stretch of beach which is an unexpected and presumably welcome commercial opportunity. The wet suited New Zealander wades into the sea while  his Scots wife and three (very) young children sit on the shore with torches and shout out encouragement. Angus can't help but think that any rational soul would need ample doses of Gods ambre nectar to walk into the North Sea in November in the half dark. We understand that the New Zealander ( accepted by the locals as a de facto Scot ) and his wife have a small company that produces sea weed relishes. This seems to be a highly improbable niche market.

In town we stop to chat to a very sad looking fellow waiting for his mistress outside the Post Office. By Starbucks we pass a man at a pavement table deep in conversation with his Labrador. ' Isn't it great ! We're both dry' says the man. At  Cafe Nero another man is chatting happily away to his 'mutt'. Angus isn't the only dog conversationalist in town. 

We head off down the coast to see the Christmas window displays. We take our excitement where we can find it.. 

The local furniture shop has set up a RNLI inflatable in the shop window. This is populated with mechanical elves singing ' Can you see what I see ?' A group of six foot tall mechanical penguins off to the side are swaying happily and singing 'O Holy Night'. This mix of music makes for a very seasonal - if atonal -  sound. 

The local art gallery has its Christmas show. The show is big ( I mean BIG  ) on pictures of Highland Cattle. Angus can't help but feel that the artist has thrown a plate of spaghetti over his subjects.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Life choices.

A new day. New choices.  Walk through the puddle or go around it ?  The PONette pauses, weighs up the relative merits of her options and then heads straight for the middle. Every diva knows that the only way to live life is full speed ahead. Let the fearful go through life with dry paws - the brave will be wet .. and muddy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022


The heavy rain has undermined the foundations of one of the gate piers on the edge of the field that runs down to the sea. Sophie sets off purposefully to examine the pile of rubble and the fallen gate. Satisfied that there is nothing more she can usefully accomplish she wanders purposefully back home. Supervising and organizing are just a routine part of her day.

It's getting dark by four now. It's also getting colder. A bracing 2 degrees when we head off into town last night to see the Christmas lights. These are underwhelming although Sophie is intrigued by the scents in many of the shop doorways.

The old tree outside the biochemistry building has been illuminated from underneath. Green on green gives it a 'Christmas on Acid' look. We agree that it's quite memorable.

Christmas lights have appeared on some of the town trees . These don't just flicker on and off but periodically switch off and then 'star burst' into life. There must be a name for this. We stand in the middle of the street for a good minute and watch the lights do their thing. 'We must get out more' says 'The Font' , delphically.

Time, and cue, for a pre-dinner drink. Most eateries refuse dogs. We find a place that will let Sophie in  and order two glasses of wine. 'What have you got ?'  I ask the ginger bearded barman. " Red or white. The white's a Chardonnay and the red's a Malbec. Both are good choices " says the  young man in what is presumably a sales pitch. We order one of each. Sophie is brought a bowl of water , or, to be more precise she's brought a silver foil baking tray full of water. 'What does your wine taste like ?' I ask The Font expecting an answer along the lines of fruity and light. " Hops " comes the reply. 

 I've walked by this house many times. English medieval meets California. Now there's a chance to see the inside :

Monday, November 21, 2022

The 99% rule.

The electrician and the joiner have promised to be here some time today. The carpet fitter may also show up to measure the staircase but after an initial display of interest he seems to be hibernating and isn't responding to texts. At ten last night a cheerful Amazon delivery driver showed up at the front door with 'The Fonts' new electric tooth brush. Coming down an unlit farm track late on a Sunday must surely be devotion above and beyond the call of Amazonian duty. 

Blue sky this morning. Despite getting momentarily entangled in a rose bush Sophie completes her tour of the village still looking vaguely like a dog. She ignores the Jack Russells. The leader of the Jack Russell pack ( recognizable for having a brown patch on her back ) is called 'Doreen'. Sophie resolutely ignores Doreen.

Village checked and safe, we head off into town. The ruins of the cathedral still cordoned off to stop wayward masonry falling on passing tourists. We park by the cinema, walk along the road to the good coffee cafe and share a pain au raisin. Angus is of the opinion that the croissants are irredeemably bad so in future  pain au raisins it shall be. The pain au raisin is de-raisined for my companion who thinks this a stylish and tasty way to start a Monday morning. Sophie snorts with delight when she finds that her treat has been dusted with icing sugar. I explain that snorting with delight is unladylike. It's apparent from the look I get in return that there are some emotions a girl simply can't hide.

The wind has picked up by the time we've made it down to the shore. Angus wishes he had brought warmer clothing with him. Sophie trots off. She gets close to the edge of the pier so is hastily harnessed up. Even with her advancing years I'm not entirely sure that Sophie won't seize the moment and leap in after something that's caught her eye. With PONs 99% of the time it's safe  - it's the 1% you need to worry about . There is a PON spirit that moves them in mysterious ways.

This boat may have better facilities than last weeks offering.  I'm not sure about the state of her below the waterline.

The wind is blowing from behind us as we make it back to the car. Dried by this east coast gale  Sophie's hair is fluffed up and standing a good 3" proud of her body. This is what is technically known as the electric shock look.  The move from the warmth of France to the chill of Scotland seems to have triggered something in her DNA that's making her fur grow as if it's going out of fashion. At this rate by Christmas she will look like a bundle of fluff.

After 30 years our last trug died a death from overuse in France. These people still make them.  :

Sunday, November 20, 2022


Drier this morning and much less windy. Sophie returns from her start of day 'comfort break ' looking only partially shaggy. 

At the cafe a gaggle of half a dozen students are standing on the pavement. They talk to Sophie. The girl students tickle her ears and call her 'Sweetie'. The male students are somewhat more reserved. Once again Angus is reminded that wherever you go in the world and whoever you meet the topic of conversation always swings round to what's truly important in life --- dogs. Sophie accepts the tickles with diva like equanimity but is disappointed in the lack of Jaffa Cakes. This disappointment is partially offset by the barista providing her with a sliver of shortbread.

We are trying to chose new stair carpet. This broad stripe by a small ethical British manufacturer is very brave. Now that we've moved from a more than 10,000 square foot house into one that's barely 1,800 we've decided to go for things that we would never have done before. Reaching empty nester age means having the luxury to adopt a certain adventurism. Beige is out.

These two samples are less challenging. The one on the left is probably going to be the one we go with . The one on the right is deemed not 'adventurous' enough. The broad stripe would be the 'wild' choice.

New movies at the picture house. They seem to change them twice a week. Covid rates seem to be under control so perhaps we'll start going again . Amid last weeks heavy rain we drank champagne and watched the latest series of 'The Crown'. This was enjoyable fiction although the royal family might not agree. 'The Font' has now started to watch '1899' - a thriller set on a boat. It is broodingly Danish with dark plot twists that leave non-Scandinavians confused. Angus finds it completely impenetrable and sufficient reason to head into the office and deal with the unanswered e-mails from the French tax authorities.

It's still dry as Angus and Sophie head back to the car. Scottish Sunday mornings have a peculiar calmness to them.

Lot 4 looks like a modern sculpture so does lot 44 :

Saturday, November 19, 2022


A hearty good morning from all at the wee coastal cottage. The weather forecast says it's going to be drier today. Over the last couple of days even Sophie found the combination of 'power shower' rain and the 60 mph winds that drove it horizontally into her face to be 'daunting' . 'Daunting' means she was happy with frequent half an hour trips outside rather than heading off across the fields for a full hour. It was the first outing for her humans and their newly bought water resistant 'yachting' wear. The combination of  Wellington boots and plastic over trousers may not be stylish but it is practical. The trousers are truly voluminous in a Michelin Man sort of way.

Today, despite the early hour and the piercing wind, we find that we're not the first villagers up and about. There's a small group of humans and Jack Russells standing on the foreshore. On the rare occasions when there's a combination of a high tide and a 90 degree wind  from the North Sea the water is funneled into the Bay. This causes twenty foot waves to form. Today is one of those days. From down here on the beach it looks as if the water's higher than the land. An unusual enough sight for this small gaggle of onlookers ( and their dogs ) to be out in the half light. Sophie ignores the yapping Jack Russells. She clearly considers them to be noisy oafs.

Five swans stand in a circle in the field that was recently planted with grass. It's too windy for them to take flight so they contentedly munch away. Flight delays have their compensations. The cormorants and the seals are nowhere to be seen.

This mornings croissant a disappointment. Cold, stale and made of dough that would shame even a supermarket loaf . 1/10. Sophie of course thinks that it's wonderful.  It goes without saying that the staff in the coffee shop now greet Sophie by name. Angus is ignored.